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Serialised in The Saturday Evening Post, 17 Jun-5 Aug 1933 (8 parts)

First book edition:
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1934
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1934

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2020-06-05
Produced by Hugh, Paul Moulder, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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The Saturday Evening Post, 17 June, 1933, with first part of "The Portcullis Room"

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"The Portcullis Room," Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1934

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"The Portcullis Room," Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1934


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



AS they cleared the harbor mouth of Port Phadric on the mainland, Hans, chef of the S.Y. Ariel, was putting on the fresh herrings to grill for breakfast. Now the sun of a wan September day was high in the heavens and the smoky blue cloud on the horizon for which the Ariel's bowsprit was pointed had sharpened to the gray hogback of Toray rising stark and steep out of the sea.

For more than four hours Shamus the pilot had shared the bridge with Captain McKenzie in a stony silence. Philip Verity, Stephen Garrison's European manager, to whom Garrison had entrusted all arrangements for the cruise to Toray, was responsible for Shamus. He had picked him up on the quays at Port Phadric and, on discovering that his home was at Toray, had engaged him on the spot to take the yacht across to the island. An undersized, Gaelic-speaking fisherman, monosyllabic and shy, "the English," as he called it, was evidently a foreign tongue to Shamus. His guttural, singsong utterance, his awkward way of framing his sentences, had rung strangely in the ears of the party of New-Yorkers when Verity brought him to the saloon to present him to Garrison. They found his English not even as intelligible as the cook's Hoboken variety, and much less fluent.

Middle-aged and modern-minded and, through long expatriation, probably more sophisticated than the bulk of his fellow Americans, Philip Verity was not in the least inclined to the metaphysical. But in the deep-set, ultramarine eyes of this secretive stranger he seemed to discern an inner light that spoke of second sight and a belief in pookas, pixies, banshees, and other manifestations of the supernatural with which Gaelic folklore is filled. From the first Verity had set his face against this harebrain adventure of Garrison's, urging the extreme danger of navigation along those perilous shores at the season of the equinoctial gales. Although it was he who had brought Shamus on board, he found something vaguely ill-omened in the appearance on the Ariel of this eldritch creature. Shamus was their first contact with the mystic islands for which they were headed and which, strung out along the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands, seem, behind their perpetual curtain of mist, still to dwell in the Celtic twilight. In Verity's uneasy mind the pilot's arrival on board seemed to stress the fact that they were turning their backs on the trolley-cars, telephones, and automobiles of the mainland for the primitive isolation of the outer isles.

In and out of the swiftly moving cloud-wrack a sun of pale primrose slanted down upon the Ariel laboring in the choppy seas of Toray Minch. Since the white cabins and brown nets of the little fishing port had dropped in their wake, Shamus had opened his lips only to give a curt direction to the helmsman at his elbow or to squirt a stream of tobacco juice over the rail. But Captain McKenzie, the sturdy Nova-Scotian who skippered the Ariel for Stephen Garrison, was in nowise disconcerted. Highland himself by origin and habituated to the ways of mariners by a life spent at sea, he appeared to find nothing extraordinary in the spectacle of a man remaining silent who had nothing to say. And so, eyes fixed on the yacht's bows as she shipped it green in the foaming tide race, captain and pilot, two identical silhouettes in sou'westers and oilskins, stood side by side in silent harmony.

Installed in wicker chairs under a shelter abaft the bridge, Garrison and Verity smoked their pipes in the thin sunshine and watched the rugged outline of Toray slowly harden through the haze. For the hundredth time since his employer had first broached to him his crazy idea of leasing or even buying Toray Castle, Verity, listening to the melancholy whistling of the wind in the stays, wondered for how long Steve would put up with the utter remoteness of the fastness they were approaching, one of a chain of similarly savage islets scattered among the boiling Atlantic combers. To a fellow with an income of five thousand dollars a day, of course, all caprices were permitted; but, "if I had a tenth of Steve's money," Verity, with a shake of his grizzled head, reflected, "Newport and Miami would be good enough for me!"

The voices of sea birds crying shrilly in their wake seemed to enhance the brooding silence of the coastline they were nearing. The sun went in and a brisk mizzle of rain enveloped them. Islands, such as these, Verity remembered, were the Ultima Thule of the ancients. It was not hard to imagine, he mused as he gazed at the cloud of spray marking the shore and at the beetling mountain looming above, that the world ended on the far side of that desolate rock. The air was full of noise—the boom of the breakers, the screaming of the birds. With nature so harshly vocal, it was not surprising that man was given to moody silence. Instinctively his eye shifted to the bridge.

Noting the direction of his companion's glance, Garrison laughed. By contrast with Verity's brand-new yachting cap, immaculate blue serge and brown-strapped deck shoes, his attire was lamentably disreputable. An old reefer jacket gaped open upon a grubby white sweater and, as he sprawled in his chair, the peak of his battered cap was tilted forward on the bridge of his nose. As though reading the other's thoughts, "I don't believe your friend Shamus has addressed a solitary word to the skipper since we pulled out of Port Phadric!" he said.

Verity shrugged. "Mac won't notice the difference. Come to think of it, he's not such a chatterbox himself!"

Garrison yawned vastly. "They might do worse than recruit barbers from the Hebrides," he observed flippantly. "Why don't you do something about it, Phil? Come back with us to New York and open the Hebridean Tonsorial Parlor—Silence Guaranteed. I'll stake you."

The other smiled indulgently. Steve could rag like a college boy—it wasn't always easy to remember that he was thirty-two. "I'd rather have Shamus pilot me than shave me. If you think I'd trust a wild man with a razor, even a safety!"

With a grunt his companion shifted his position. "There's something in it, all the same! I've a good mind to fire Dwight and take your Gaelic pal home in his place. Dwight talks too much, anyway. He started telling me all about King Haco and the Vikings when he was shaving me this morning—mugged it up out of one of Mrs. Dean's guidebooks, I guess!" He yawned again, stretched and sat up. "I wonder where Phyllis and her mother are!"

Verity laughed. "I fancy Toray Minch was too much for Mrs. Dean—at least I saw Marie bringing away her breakfast tray untouched. I haven't seen Phyllis yet this morning."

"Then find her for me like a good chap, will you, Phil?" said Garrison with a smile as he stood up. "I'm going on the bridge. We ought to be in pretty soon. Gosh, will you look at those birds!"

The mouth of the loch was opening up between lofty dark brown crags. The rocks were alive with sea birds. At the yacht's approach they swooped aloft in dense white clouds, shrieking wildly, their wings glinting coral-pink against the light. Verity staidly descended the companion to fulfill his errand while Garrison mounted to the bridge.


THE bridge of the Ariel was essentially Captain McKenzie's domain. In acknowledgment of this disposition of values the owner's crisp "Good-morning, McKenzie!" was shaded with a certain deference. Stephen Garrison would not have admitted it, but he never trod the bridge when the yacht was at sea without an uncomfortable feeling that, in this dour Nova-Scotian's eyes, he was merely a passenger, so strong was the atmosphere of discipline the man's personality radiated. To Wilson the mate and the rest of the Ariel's company Garrison was, to the exclusion of all else, the owner, and a millionaire owner at that. But Captain McKenzie was a tougher proposition.

To tell the truth, Stephen, like everybody else on board, stood somewhat in awe of the captain. McKenzie's natural dourness of mien was enhanced by the effects of a war injury, sustained in a 'dog fight' with an enemy submarine in the North Sea, which had wrecked one side of his face, leaving it puckered and partly paralyzed—Phyllis Dean, who cordially disliked him, told her mother's maid that he looked like a totem pole. He had none of the social graces and, from the moment he joined the Ariel at Newport, had shown no disposition to curry favour with the owner's guests. He left them severely alone unless they chanced to wander uninvited on the bridge, when he would speak his mind, politely but plainly.

As to Phyllis Dean, for instance. She had flown with her complaint to her host. But Stephen had merely laughed in that provoking way of his and said the captain was quite right—the bridge was no place for cocktail parties. Phyllis confided to Verity her indignant opinion that the captain was too big for his boots and that it was high time Steve asserted his authority. The incident had occurred five weeks before, a day or two out from New York, but Miss Dean was still extremely distant toward McKenzie.

Her host did nothing about it. Stephen did not consider that his authority was in jeopardy. Of course, no fellow would ever get to know McKenzie well, he was not that kind of man; but he felt that he and the skipper understood each other perfectly. Apart from his appreciation of McKenzie's fine seamanship, he admired him as an individual and was proud to think that, in the short time they had been sailing together, his liking was reciprocated. He paid the captain a good wage, but he was well aware that the latter would unhesitatingly throw up his job sooner than surrender a single one of his principles. Brought up, as he had been, to believe that every desirable object has its price, this point of view intrigued Stephen. It flattered him, too, to find someone whose esteem for him went, not to the millionaire and employer, but to the man.

At Stephen's greeting the captain turned his crabbed, purplish face in his direction and punctiliously touched the brim of his sou'wester, as did the pilot. The shores of a little bay were unfolding before them in the drenching rain. Through the flying spume of the breakers thundering upon the rockbound coast they had glimpses of a dazzling white beach with huge boulders of dark red sandstone piled up behind. The loch, narrowing as it went, wound out of sight, driving deep into the heart of the island. It was ringed round with heathery slopes canting upwards from the edge of frowning, savage cliffs and dominated by the stupendous mass of the mountain, on whose shoulders swollen rain clouds pressed down upon the very crests of the tall, dark firs.

"They should have sighted us by this," Stephen remarked, reaching for his binoculars which hung from a hook. "I daresay they'll be sending a launch or something to show us our anchorage. Of course, they expected us yesterday." He raised the glasses to his eyes.

Captain McKenzie brushed the moisture from his shaggy moustache with his hand and shook his head dubiously. "Too bad about that bearing seizing up, Mr. Garrison." His definitely Canadian way of speaking retained a marked inflection that betrayed his ancestry. "We'd have done better to have crossed yesterday, I'm thinking. It's beating up for dirty weather, sir. It'll be blowing great guns before twenty-four hours are up, I shouldn't wonder, and, with the wind in the quarter it is, the Lord knows, should you be wishful to return tomorrow..."

Stephen laughed. "Don't worry, McKenzie! We shan't be coming back as quick as all that. We may stay a week, or even a month it all depends on what we find at Toray!" The captain said no more, but gazed straight in front of him as though to make it clear that the responsibility was not his.

In his elfin, lilting voice the pilot suddenly broke his long silence. "Wull ye pit her tae half speed, Cap'n?" he requested mildly.

As the telegraph clanged, Stephen took down his glasses. "It's odd," he said. "There's no sign of any boat. They should have had our telegram; Verity wired last night."

"There's nae tallygraft tae Toray, whateffer!" the pilot announced with owlish solemnity.

Stephen rounded on him. "No telegraph? But the post-office at Port Phadric accepted the message!"

Shamus was unperturbed. "The tallygraft, see you, mister? she's tae Ansay, an' they'll aye be deliverin' tallygrams an' such across th' Flow tae Toray. Mussus Campbell's Jamie awa' tae Ansay wull aye hae' to be waitin' on low watter wi' tallygrams for th' castle, see you?"

Stephen turned a bewildered face to McKenzie. "Can you make out what he's saying?" he asked fretfully. "What's a flow, anyway?"

The ghost of a smile played about the captain's hard mouth. "Toray Flow, he means. Ansay, where the telegraph station is, is the next island and Toray Flow's the arm of the sea separating it from Toray. Many of these flows, as they call them, are fordable at low water—they cross them in high-wheeled carts. What he's trying to tell us is that the messenger with your wire had just to be waiting for low water before delivering it!"

The owner chuckled and picked up his glasses again. "It's a grand spot for a rest cure, it seems to me!" he remarked cheerfully, as he adjusted the sights.

McKenzie was speaking to the pilot. "We tie up at the castle moorings, I suppose?" he queried.

Shamus shook his head and, pursing up his lips, ejected a dark stream over the side. "There's nae ower much watter forninst th' castle for what a muckle beg shep like this'll be afther dhrawin'!" he chanted. "Ye'll dae better lyin' up in th' bay, the way her'll be safe when she wull be comin' on tae blaw!"

With the wind and tide behind them they were entering the bay. Patches of bright green grass glinted on the top of the basalt cliffs but soon gave way to the misty purple of heather and, yet higher, to the somber verdure of fir. Under the persistent drizzle the island wore a forlorn and abandoned air, the naked gray mass of the mountain, girt with vapory clouds, hanging like a constant menace above it. Sea birds were everywhere, gulls and guillemots that hung poised above the yacht under the lowering sky or bobbed serenely in the dark green swell, flocks of little puffins skimming the water and here and there, on post or rock, a solitary cormorant with ruffled plumage misanthropically humped. The soft air was continually astir with the flutter of birds' wings and against their strange cries and whoops the silence seemed to come off the land in long, undulating waves. A faint odour of burning peat was mingled with the strong tang of the drifting tangles of seaweed.

As the Ariel, long and white and graceful, majestically steamed into the loch, a tower, dark red like the crags that sentineled it, began to lift above a bluff round which the loch wound itself out of sight. With the yacht's advance, crenellated battlements, and chimney-pots, and lines of windows began to appear, a crazy huddle of buildings clinging about the squat central tower, until the whole mass of Toray Castle stood disclosed. Stern and rugged as the rocks from which its stones were hewn, its somber silhouette gave the crowning touch to the spectacle of desolate majesty which the glassy, dark loch, ringed with its solemn hills, presented.

A splash of vivid blue was visible below on the deck. Phyllis Dean in a bright pyjama suit with a striped vest and a French matelot cap with a scarlet pompon atop appeared, accompanied by Verity. With a glance to secure the captain's permission Stephen hailed the girl.

"Hey, Phyllis," he called, "come up and see the castle!"

The girl's arresting loveliness seemed to lighten the strictly utilitarian setting of the bridge—here was the sort of blond beauty that glows with the vividness of bougainvillea in flower. Stephen slipped his arm into hers. "There it is!" he proclaimed with finger pointing. "Isn't it a marvelous old place? And did you ever see such a gorgeous setting?"

"Quaint old dump!" said the girl. "Do you suppose they have a bathroom?"

Stephen laughed quietly. "I should think it very probable. The laird is quite civilized, you know. He used to be an officer in one of the Highland regiments!"

Phyllis shivered. "Any four walls and a roof that don't keep pitching about are good enough for me. That goes for Mother, too. She's been frightfully ill; I thought she'd pass out on me." Her tone was fretful. "Does it ever stop raining here?"

"Sure," Stephen cried gaily. "We've just hit a wet spell, that's all. The climate in these islands is the mildest in Britain, the guide-book says!"

"That's the hell of a recommendation," the girl remarked disgustedly. "I think you're simply goofy to want to come to a gruesome spot like this, Steve, when we could have gone to Gleneagles and had a simply swell time playing golf and dancing. That reminds me—that wretched Marie left my face cream behind in the inn at Port Phadric. Could you have Dwight telephone back and ask them to send it on?"

"I don't believe they've got the telephone on the islands..." His glance consulted the pilot. "Have they, Shamus?"

"There's nae tallyphone tae Toray, whateffer!" was the phlegmatic rejoinder.

Phyllis pouted disgustedly. "What a place! Then Dwight'll have to wire. Will you tell him, please, Steve? It's urgent. Every scrap of cream I brought with me from New York is in that case of mine!"

Her host looked embarrassed. "The only thing is, honey, that the telegraph doesn't seem to be working!"

"Not working?" she exclaimed sharply. "Then how am I going to get my cream?"

"It doesn't make a scrap of difference whether the telegraph is working or not, Miss Dean," the captain now struck in. "The boat from the mainland calls with the mails at Toray only twice a week—Tuesdays and Thursdays—and the post office at Port Phadric is likely to be closed before the inn people would have time to act on your wire and catch the Tuesday boat tomorrow and they'll dispatch your cream by Thursday's boat."

"And what am I to do in the meantime?" the girl demanded indignantly. "Madame Jeannette makes up this cream especially for me and I can't use any other; my skin won't stand it. Steve, you've got to do something about it!"

Stephen patted her shoulder. "That'll be all right, honey. They'll fix you up at the castle for a day or two or tell us where we can get you some cream at one of the shops." At this the captain turned his head and looked sharply at the speaker. But he said nothing and Stephen went on, "You cut along now, sweetheart, and get dressed. Phil and I are going ashore to investigate!"

"I suppose I'll have to use that foul cream of Mother's," Phyllis ejaculated crossly. With an expression of unconcealed dismay upon her smooth young face she let her glance travel round the mournful panorama of sky and mountain and water. But no one was paying any attention to her. The engine-room telegraph had clanged, the yacht was slowing down. The captain and Shamus were in conference; Stephen was giving Verity instructions. With a woebegone air the girl left the bridge.


STEPHEN GARRISON was a restless soul. He hated to be kept waiting, when he wanted anything, it had to be done instantly, as Dwight, his long-suffering manservant, knew full well. Verity would have liked to go ashore comfortably in the very elegant power boat which the Ariel carried slung on her after-deck, with the pilot to show them the channel. But this did not suit the owner's impatient nature at all. They had reached their destination: he must go ashore. He would not wait for the power boat to be launched, he would not wait for the pilot, still occupied with the task of bringing the yacht to her anchorage. Nothing would suit him but that he and Verity should put off in the dinghy without an instant's delay; they could come to no great harm in the little dinghy, he told Verity, whose mind was filled with visions of shoals and currents and whirlpools. So the dinghy was lowered and towed round to the accommodation ladder and they set off, Stephen, as excited as any schoolboy, at the oars.

Beyond the bluff the loch opened up again and they came in view of the castle mirrored at full length in the darkling, unruffled water. It stood right on the edge of the loch, rising from a rocky platform washed by the high tide and protected from the fury of storms by a lofty rampart. The rampart was pierced by a low arch with a flight of worn steps leading down to the water.

Between the channel they were threading and the castle, a battered wooden jetty was thrust out from the shore. Here three or four tiny whitewashed houses with thatched roofs were huddled above the beach with sign-boards above their narrow entrances, from his seat in the stern of the dinghy, Verity read Post Office and Donald McDonald, Grocer, thought of Phyllis and her face cream, and smiled. Some ragged children lined the quay, staring at the intruders in a frightened silence. The four or five hundred yards separating the jetty from the projecting rock on which the castle was built was spanned by a rough track where a few miserable cabins, each with its brown peat stack and line of nets hung under the eaves, were strung out. The two Americans were conscious of faces peering at them out of the dimness of low doorways, as the boat, with rowlocks, softly thudding, glided by.

In the comparative shelter of the landlocked sea, the thunder of the waves upon the rocks in the outer bay was now no more than a deep murmur in their ears. Little sounds were wafted to them from the misty shore—the barking dog, the bleating of sheep high up among the heather, the distant clatter of a cart.

The dark mass of the castle, however, remained inhospitably silent. No smoke arose from its innumerable chimneys; the flagstaff that crowned the top of the central tower was bare; and most of the windows visible appeared to be shuttered.

Such details Verity made out as, to Stephen's vigorous pulling, they neared the steps. Contemplating the rugged pile the man in the stern marveled to perceive how cunningly it was disposed to withstand surprise attack by foes. In front was the loch, behind the soaring sugar-loaf of Ben Dhu, rearing its grizzled head so steeply that it seemed a man from its summit could look straight down the laird's chimneys. Tall firs, with gaunt white herons perched on the topmost branches, screened the house from winds blowing up and down the loch and from the mountain. From the slopes behind, the thin blue smoke of heather fires, where the land was being cleared, strayed under the low ceiling of mist, the only sign of human presence. The silence was so profound that Verity could hear the plovers shrieking on the mountain-side and the hollow sound of the row-locks, and the quiet drip of the water, as Stephen dipped his sculls. In the deathlike hush of the place he found himself once more invaded by the unaccountable misgivings which had beset him ever since their departure from Port Phadric.

It was high water and the lower part of the steps was awash. They fastened the painter to a huge rusty ring riveted in the rock and mounted the stairs, scooped out with the feet of the centuries and slippery with kelp and barnacles. From a landing under the archway a short flight, which showed signs of repair with concrete, led up to an immensely solid, iron-studded door. A bell-handle, eaten with rust like all the ironwork they saw, hung down beside it. Stephen tugged it vigorously. A chain squeaked and a bell, as solemn as a convent's, clanged twice.

There was no response and, after an interval, Stephen rang again. Once more the bell tolled through echoing emptiness. Still no one came. Verity doffed his smart new yachting cap and tugged at his ear. "Well, there you are!" he said. "There's nobody home. We'd have done better to have sent Shamus ashore with a note in the launch and lunched comfortably on the yacht, as I suggested."

"Damn it, there must be servants about!" cried his companion and plied the bell-handle again.

"You're a real American, Steve," Verity remarked complacently. "Always in such a hurry to go places!" And, surveying him scathingly, he added, "And a nice sight you look, I must say, to go calling on a Scottish chieftain! That jacket of yours is a disgrace and your sweater's filthy! Of course, you couldn't even spare the time to change! I made Dwight buy you a new yachting cap at Southampton—he promised me to throw that old one away. Why on earth couldn't you wear it?"

Stephen laughed good-humoredly and ran his eye over his costume. "I suppose I do look a bit of a bum!" he agreed with equanimity. "But I do love old clothes. Never mind, Phil, I'll tip the laird a dime and he'll think I'm John D. Rockefeller!" He broke off. "Say, are they all dead in this blooming castle or what?"

He had just laid hold of the bell-handle again when a hollow voice resounded close at hand. "What wad ye be wantin'?" it boomed. The visitors then perceived that a grille had opened in the door and a pale, bearded face was looking out.

It was Verity, who was wont to call himself, jestingly, Stephen's "contact man," who responded. "This is Mr. Garrison, Mr. Stephen Garrison," he announced importantly. "He'd like to see Mr. McReay!"

The door remained immutably closed. The face at the trap—it was the face of an old man with an immense spread of gray beard—replied sternly, "The McReay's fra' hame!"

He was about to close the trap, but Verity stopped him. "But Mr. Garrison wired Mr.—er—the McReay, from Port Phadric yesterday that he was arriving today. Didn't you receive his telegram?"

"I dinna ken annything aboot it," was the uncompromising reply. "The laird is nae here!"

"Then where can we find him?" Stephen now struck in—perceiving that the old man was about to shut the grille, he had thrust his fingers between the bars.

"Ye micht be askin' after him at the factor-r's?"

"The factor's?" Stephen repeated, puzzled.

"He means the bailiff—Mr. Jamieson." Verity explained in an undertone. "McTaggart, McReay's lawyer in London, mentioned his name." He turned to the trap again. "And where do we find the factor?" he demanded.

"'Tis the big stane hoose ahune th' vullage!" was the curt answer. With that the trap was closed so swiftly that Stephen had a narrow shave of having his fingers pinched.

"Well, that's that!" Stephen observed with his imperturbable grin. "We'd better go and hunt up this factor guy." He broke off. "Hullo, what was that?"

The sharp crack of a shot had come rolling down the mountain, followed, almost immediately, by a second report. "I bet the old boy's up there, taking a pot at the grouse," Stephen declared positively. "I'm going to find him. The sooner he knows we're here, the better I shall be pleased. The old beaver behind the bars doesn't seem to know it, but McTaggart told us the laird would be glad to put us up and I've no intention of letting Mrs. Dean and Phyllis spend the night on the yacht if, as McKenzie says, it's coming on the blow."

"Aw, pshaw, Steve, you're crazy," Verity replied. "How do you know it's McReay shooting up there? We'll only get lost in the mist!"

"Don't worry," his companion told him placidly. "You're going to dig out the factor. Whichever of us first comes across the laird, brings him here. There's a patch of beach beyond these steps where you can land me. Come on, boy, let's step on it!"

With Verity still protesting that Stephen had much better accompany him to the factor's, they descended the stairs to the dinghy.

To reach the grassy slopes above the beach Stephen had some rough scrambling to do among the boulders of the foreshore. A sheep track upon which he blundered, after he had made various ineffectual attempts to burst a way through the heather, eventually brought him out upon a path which, above him, coiled itself about the flanks of the mountain and, below, disappeared in the belt of trees screening the rear of the castle.

With scratched hands and sopping shoes, bathed in perspiration and panting for breath, he paused to rest. He always prided himself on being fit, but, as he felt his heart thumping against his ribs, he realized that shipboard life had made him soft—for five weeks he had not thrown his leg across a saddle or touched a squash racket. He sat down on a rock and, surveying the view, discovered that the rain had ceased and that, under a warm sun and a blue sky, the waters of the loch had turned from a blackish green to a deep azure. The birds were singing, there were butterflies among the heather and bees made drowsy noises in the air. He was suddenly conscious of a great joy at being alive, at having come to Toray. He was glad that the weather had cleared up on Phyllis' account; he wanted her to have a good time. A sweet kid! He wagged his head approvingly and groped in his pocket for a cigarette.

The sound of whistling coming from behind, as he sat with his face to the loch and his back to the mountain, reminded him that he had heard no more shots. He looked round, then stood up. A boy in plus fours, whistling rather discordantly, came swinging down the track.

It was a mere lad, who carried a double-barreled gun on his shoulder and a stained canvas haversack slung at his side. He wore a disreputable old tweed hat with salmon flies stuck in the band and a shabby shooting coat of brown Harris check several sizes too large for him. His thin legs were encased in tartan stockings which ended in a pair of well-worn and well-greased brogues. A red setter rambled at his heels.

His eyes cast down as he picked his way along the broken path, the youth did not see Stephen until the latter hailed him. "Excuse me," the American said, "is Mr. McReay up there?"

The lad had abruptly stopped his whistling and was considering the stranger with every evidence of extreme suspicion. Stephen told himself he had never seen a pair of eyes so brightly blue—with their long, closely set black lashes and slight, delicately penciled brows they gave the smooth, young face quite a girlish expression. Then, as the newcomer spoke, he had a sudden shock of surprise—the timbre of the voice made it apparent that the speaker was a girl.

"Then you got my telegram?" he replied eagerly.

She shifted her gun to the other shoulder prior to resuming her descent. "It's no use your trying to see the McReay," she answered coldly, "because he won't see you!" And with a wriggle of the shoulder to readjust the position of her haversack—the speckled plumage of a grouse was visible under the canvas flap—she stepped past him.

"But wait a minute, can't you?" Stephen protested. "The laird's expecting me!"

"I know all about that," she retorted with the same air of unyielding hostility. "But you'll no see him. And the sooner you and your friends take yourselves back to the mainland the better!"

The American laughed. "Correct me if I'm wrong," he said pleasantly, "but I get the impression that we're not welcome at Toray!"

As he spoke he let his quizzing glance rest on the blue, angry eyes. She was quite young, he judged, not a day over eighteen, and slim and straight as any of the young birches that grew about them. Her voice was low and warm and plaited with the faintest Scottish inflection that he found infinitely pleasing. She was obviously gently bred, too, for all her funny clothes—the small brown hand that clasped the gun butt was well-kept and finely made.

Her face whipped into color by the morning's rain, was evenly browned, but the glimpse of arm he had under the sleeve of her shooting coat was milky white. A wisp of hair that straggled from under the brim of her woeful hat was raven-black and lustrous—blue eyes, black hair, this was the true Highland type. He wondered who she might be. McReay had had a son, now dead; but there had been no talk of a girl—perhaps she was the factor's daughter. Whoever she was, he was prepared to like her—there was a little haughty expression stamped upon her small grave features which stirred some far-off, untouched hunter instinct in his blood.

With a scathing air she looked him up and down. "Will you please understand," she said—try as she might, her voice was not very firm—"that there's nothing left here for you and your sort to plunder. Good morning to you, Mr. Berg or whatever your name is!"


"There's nothing left here for you and your sort to plunder."

So saying she clutched her bag of grouse to steady it and started running down the steep path. "Come back!" he shouted. "My name's Garrison!" As she paid no heed, but went on scrambling down in and out of the boulders, he set off in pursuit. She had him soon outdistanced—on the stony, broken track she was as nimble-footed as any chamois.

He was standing there, looking after her, when he heard his name called. Turning about he perceived Verity up to his middle in the heather on the high ground above him, with scarlet, irascible face, waving frantically to him.

"My goodness, Steve," Verity observed fractiously, when the other had joined him, "what a dance you've led me! I've been almost to the top of that damned mountain looking for you! Listen, the laird's away on the other side of the island until this afternoon. But I've seen Jamieson and it's all right; they're expecting us up at the castle. We're to go ashore for tea; Jamieson's coming on board to fetch us at four o'clock. He'll have a cart at the jetty for the baggage. Is that okah with you?"

But his friend disregarded the question. "Phil," he said suddenly, "do you know whether McReay has a daughter?"

"I don't believe he has any children. His only son's dead."

"I know that. Has Jamieson, or whatever his name is, a daughter?"


"Rather tall and slim, with——"

Verity laughed. "I can't tell you how tall she is. She was in her perambulator when he introduced us. Are you aware that it's half past two and that we haven't had lunch yet? Don't you think we might go back to the yacht and Hans to fix us a snack? Or do you propose to spend the afternoon here and lunch off heather like the sheep?"

The other sighed. Oh, all right. Lead on! The trouble about you, Phil, is that you have no soul. Just another Babbitt! The sordid commercial existence you lead has crushed all the romance out of you."

His companion chuckled tranquilly. "Oh yeah? Well, if it wasn't for my sordid commercial activities and the sordid activities of a couple of other Babbitts like me in New York and Chicago, you'd be selling apples, Steve, my boy!"

And a darned good job of it I'd make!" Stephen declared.

Verity laugher uproariously. "You! Why, you couldn't land a first payment on a fire extinguisher in one of those villages on Vesuvius!"

Thus amiably sparring, as was their invariable wont, they descended to the beach.


FOR their meeting with the laird Mrs. Dean had put on the new and very smart check tailor-made she had bought in Edinburgh on their way through and her two strings of pearls. "You can't go far wrong with tweeds in Scotland, I always say," she told her daughter, as she stood before the mirror in the cabin they shared, and tried the effect of the natty little scarf that went with the suit, "although, I suppose, being in a castle, we'll have to put on all our fal-lals in the evening. I wonder if he'll wear a kilt. I looked up the McReay tartan in that book they gave us at the tweed shop and it's most becoming. And that reminds me, darling," she went on, surveying her firm, pleasant face in the glass, "I do hope you are going to try and be a little more enthusiastic about the Highlands while we're at the castle. Really, ever since we left Edinburgh, you've done nothing but grumble. I'm afraid Stephen will begin to notice it."

"You weren't so madly enthusiastic about the Highlands yourself during the crossing this morning, as far as I remember, Mother," Phyllis retorted, scanning her nails, manicure pad in hand.

"When you get to my age, darling," Mrs. Dean replied placidly, "you'll realize that nothing worth while in life is achieved without sacrifice. I loathe the sea and even the sight of a ferry makes me feel queer; but do you suppose I think of that when my daughter's happiness is at stake? In my young days, of course, girls were better disciplined. Why, when I was your age, if an attractive bachelor with all Stephen Garrison's money had invited Mamma and me to go on a cruise with him, do you imagine for a minute, however bored I might sometimes be feeling, that I'd have ever shown it!"

Phyllis sighed heavily. "Are we going to have all that over again?"

"No, but, honey, I must just say a word to you—I've been meaning to for several days. For the moment Stephen's got this fool idea in his head that he would like to have a Highland castle. Men get these crazy notions—I remember that at one time your poor father was always talking about going out to the South Seas and settling down—and they have to be indulged. I wish you'd remember that men hate to be snubbed."

The girl put her manicure pad in her bag and snapped the lid briskly. "You don't have to worry about Steve, Mother. I can handle him all right."

Mrs. Dean's eyes narrowed anxiously as they sought her daughter's face in the mirror. "He hasn't asked you to marry him yet, has he, Phyllis?"

A spot of color crept into the lovely face. "I do think this matchmaking business is abominably vulgar. There are other men in the world besides Steve Garrison, aren't there?"

"Of course, darling. But you do like Steve, don't you, honey? And he's simply crazy about you—I've noticed the way he watches you. And I do hope"—her tone was suddenly apprehensive—"that there's not going to be ant hitch. I mean, after all, I gave up the most attractive invitation to the Wakefields' camp at Lake Placid to chaperon you on this trip, so I think I'm entitled to just a little consideration."

"We'd better go," Phyllis broke in. "They sent down to say the launch was waiting ages ago!"

The Ariel's luxurious motor-boat halted at the little jetty to deposit Dwight and Marie, Mrs. Dean's French maid—both somewhat disapproving—with the visitors' luggage. As the tide was only an hour or so past full, landing the luggage at the sea gate, as he called the entrance to the castle from the loch, might prove awkward, the factor said, with a glance at the array of suitcases. Mr. Jamieson was full of apologies for the unfriendly reception accorded to the two Americans that morning. The usual approach to the castle, he explained, from the land side, in the rear; the sea gate was little used. Old Duncan, the laird's major-domo, was a privileged servitor, a "verra independent" man, who waged a relentless warfare against the trippers who sometimes visited the island in the summer; Mr. Jamieson hoped that Mr. Garrison would realize that no discourtesy was intended. The islanders were "verra peculiar" people, it was not the "fairst" time he had had occasion to complain of old Duncan's crotchety ways.

A friendly, albeit desperately serious, little man, Jamieson, who, as a Lowlander—he was "fra' Peebles," he explained—and appeared to regard all Highlanders with cold reserve; indeed, he wore the rather aloof air of one whose life is cast in heathen places, but who is resolved to make the best of it. They would land at the sea gate, he said, because he was anxious that the party should receive its first impression of Toray Castle from its most ancient part, the thirteenth-century keep, which he pointed out to them as the launch nosed its way down the loch, as the massive pile that arose foursquare behind the protecting sea rampart.

This time the great iron-studded door stood wide, Stephen observed as he turned from helping Phyllis and her mother from the boat. A gaunt old man clad in rough brown tweeds stood in the entrance. He had a great spade-like gray beard and to protect his bald pate against the damp air of the passage where he waited wore a battered Glengarry cocked on one side of his hoary head. As the women came up the steps, he doffed his bonnet, flattening himself against the wall with features impassive and eyes coldly vigilant.

Spry as a sparrow, little Jamieson led the way under the hoary arch. The passage beyond was dank and forbidding, the rock from which it was hollowed streaming with moisture. He pointed out the timber hatch masking the mouth of the well which at one time supplied the garrison of the castle with water and showed them, beneath the vaulted doorway at the end of the passage, the wall deeply grooved on either hand for the portcullis. A door now replaced the portcullis, opening upon a square stone lobby dimly lit by arrow slits and decorated with trophies of arms and sundry cases of stuffed birds. Here the major-domo, with grave dignity, relieved them of their outdoor things, on which the factor, with a hasty glance round to make sure that the party was complete, opened a door in the wall and motioned to Mrs. Dean to precede him.

A long chamber, so high that its rafters and the dusty banners they displayed were almost lost in gloom, unfolded itself before them. To a height of about twelve feet it was paneled in oak blackened with age, the smooth stone walls that rose above the wainscot hung with panoplies of targets and claymores. Down the right-hand side of the room a series of windows, hollowed out of the enormous thickness of the walls, commanded views of the loch. In the opposite wall other casements framed glimpses of a neglected garden whose weed-choked flower-beds swayed sadly in the eternal sea-breeze.

This was the great hall of Castle Toray. Here, in days of yore, the chieftain had feasted his followers by the light of pine torches, whose sconces of rudely beaten iron, as Jamieson pointed out, still remained round the hoary stone walls. It was a somber, darkling place even in the afternoon light with its massive oak furniture, as black as the wainscot, and its vast stone fireplace, carved with the McReay arms and colored, like a meerschaum pipe, a rich creamy yellow by the smoke of centuries. Everything spoke of the unarrested process of decay—the worm-eaten oak, the curtains of faded red rep that trembled to the wind plucking at the casements, the threadbare rugs strewn at intervals upon the immense flags, polished with age and darkly shining, of the floor. That it was still the chief living-room of the castle was shown by the flowers and books that were ranged about, by the refectory table set for tea and by the gramophone cabinet—almost the only modern note—between two windows. Despite an enormous peat fire leaping on the hearth in a great iron, basket, the atmosphere was chill and acrid scent of the burning turf could not banish a faint odor of mustiness.

A couple of red setters that had been snoozing before the fire sprang up as the party entered, rending the air with their furious barking. At the far end of the hall was a gallery from which a stone staircase with an elaborate, carved balustrade descended. A sharply commanding voice now rang out, "Down, Laddie! Down, Rover!" as a figure was seen coming down the stairs.

It was a slightly built man in a kilt, whose face was of an ivory pallor, with light lashes and sparse reddish hair turning white. The features, especially the long, dipping nose, were lean and aristocratic and he wore the Highland dress with splendid dignity, a jacket of light tweed and kilt of the McReay tartan, in which dark green predominated crossed with lines of red and yellow.

With quite a regal air he waited while Jamieson, a little flustered, presented the visitors. "I owe you an apology, Mr. Garrison," said the laird, giving Stephen a limp hand, "for being from home when you and your friend called this morning. But telegraph facilities on the islands are restricted and I've only just received your telegram. There's quite a sea running in the Minch today, they tell me, and in the circumstances I believed you'd repented of your intention to come to Toray. Now that you are here, however, will you let me bid you welcome and say how much I hope that you and your friends will enjoy such meager hospitality as the castle is able to offer you for as long as you see fit?"

He made his little speech in a formal, precise English, with a faint Scottish burr, at the same time caressing the head of one of the setters which nuzzled at the hem of his kilt. "I don't know," he went on with a smile, "whether tea is in your American habits, but it's quite a rite with us. I thought we might take a cup together and then I'll show you your rooms!"

Mrs. Dean laughed. "We don't have to be converted to Scottish teas," she said. "We all think those scones and bannocks and things you serve are simply divine. I don't know about Phyllis, but I've put on at least ten pounds since I arrived in Scotland and Mr. Verity there is just as bad." She paused. "But before I sit down I must ask you a question how does one address a Scottish chief?"

The laird smiled. "That's simple. In the Highlands we derive our title from our landed possessions. I am the McReay of Toray, and so I'm usually addressed simply as 'Toray.'"

Mrs. Dean simpered. "It sounds very familiar!"

The laird shrugged. "Nevertheless, it's the custom!" He broke off. "But here's my daughter!"

A young girl with rather a heightened color emerged hastily from under the gallery. Her lustrous black hair was gathered in a small knot on the back of her white neck and she was wearing a little blue frock. "You've taken us all unawares," the laird explained to Mrs. Dean. "You must forgive Flora for being late, but she was out on the mountain walking up the grouse."

Stephen, who was scrutinizing one of the panoplies of arms, was oblivious of the new arrival until Jamieson plucked his arm and he found himself staring into a pair of very blue, rather puzzled eyes. He heard Toray's smooth, rather precise voice introducing him and took the small, brown hand the girl offered in silence. He could not resist the temptation, however, to give her a humorous glance. Seeing which, she coldly withdrew her hand and went to the table where the major-domo and an elderly maid in cap and apron were setting forth the tea.


IT WAS evident that the factor had made the history of Toray Castle his especial subject. Seated at the long table where they were gathered about an imposing spread of hot scones, and oat-cake, and shortbread, and bannocks, between Mrs. Dean and Stephen, he held forth in his dry, rather grating voice. Romantic names rolled sonorously from his tongue—Ranald Dhu or Dark Ronald, the doughty warrior who had built the keep, the original castle, even the very hall in which they sat; Red Calum, who had added the tower; and that later Calum, head of the clan McReay, massacred at Culloden with the greater part of the hundred followers he had put into the field in support of the ill-fated Charles Stuart.

The little man had the air of licking his lips over the record of rapine and bloodshed of which the family history seemed to be largely made up. Verity, listening quietly from his place at the end of the table beside Flora McReay, who presided at the silver tea-service, was diverted to hear him dramatically proclaim, "And the laird pit tae the sworrd every one of the McNeils, man, wumman, and child!" or introduce some fresh episode in the annals of Toray with the words, "One of the bluckest deeds in the whole annals of the Hielands."

He would have preferred to hear the laird on the family history, the American told himself. A slightly cynical bachelor of fifty-five, Philip Verity liked to study types. He found himself keenly interested in the personality of their host. Covertly he observed Toray as Jamieson droned on, noting the evidence of ancient lineage and centuries of inbreeding in the long, pointed features, the curiously elongated chin, the flossy, silken texture of the hair.

As he scrutinized the laird, he was gradually aware that Toray was laboring under some extreme nervous strain. Verity knew from McTaggart, the McReay representative in London, that Toray was seriously embarrassed for money and that only his extreme financial straits had induced him to consider leasing or selling the castle. As his eye rested speculatively upon the pallid, harassed countenance across the table, the American asked himself whether money difficulties alone would account for the desperately anxious look that, from time to time, flitted like a shadow athwart the reddish-brown eyes. Toray was not merely content to let his bailiff monopolize the conversation, Verity perceived; his mind was miles away. He fussed with his teacup without drinking; he crumbled a piece of shortbread in his saucer without eating; he took a cigarette from Stephen's case and let the factor light it for him, only to lay it down at once: and when Stephen put some question to him about the castle dungeon upon which Jamieson was dilating, started violently before replying.

Practical man of business that he was, the American might have been willing to disregard his first impressions of the host, had they not been in a measure corroborated by the deportment of the daughter. The girl scarcely opened her lips as she manipulated the old silver teapot. In face of Jamieson's determined volubility, there was little opportunity for general conversation. But Verity, who was her neighbor, tried to draw her out with a remark about the shooting, without, however, any very promising result. She replied in monosyllables in a low tone. Noticing that her voice was unsteady, he glanced at her more closely and saw that she, too, was highly strung—indeed, he thought he could discern about her eyes signs that she had been weeping. In the circumstances he forebore to thrust his conversation upon her further and she remained in a forlorn silence behind the tea things, eating and drinking nothing, apparently content to observe Phyllis Dean, from whom she seemed scarcely able to take her eyes. In a chic little Paris-tailored suit of pale gray Shetland with the nattiest white hat, Phyllis was, indeed, at her loveliest, even Verity, who was not particularly friendly to her, had to admit. Her flowerlike beauty was like a shaft of sunlight in that somber place.

An angry sky was reddening the windows overlooking the loch. The wind went whistling round the castle. Within the great, dim chamber the dusk was beginning to fall and presently old Duncan, the major-domo, stalked in with a taper to light the candles in the massive silver candelabra which stood on the table. Letting his glance shift from one to another of these two, father and daughter, only survivors, as he knew, of an ancient and illustrious line, Verity found himself wondering what secret drama was being enacted in that ancient house, far removed from the hurrying life of the modern world. Was it, he pondered, the aftermath of the tragedy of young McReay, whose premature death had extinguished the laird's last hope of succession?

Jamieson's interminable lecture was at length interrupted by Duncan who informed the factor in a hoarse whisper that someone called "auld Jamie" was asking for him. On this the little bailiff bustled away and the laird, recollecting himself as though with an effort, suggested that his guests would like to see the castle before being shown to their rooms. With that he picked up one of the silver candlesticks and led the way out of the door through which they had entered.

In a pitch-black windowless chamber off the lobby he showed them the heavy flagstone, set with a great iron ring, that sealed the mouth of the oubliette or dungeon where the lairds of other days were wont to imprison their private foes. It was a well-like hole in the ground, he explained, sixteen feet deep and excavated out of the solid rock upon which the castle was built.

"But how did the jailers get down to them?" Phyllis demanded.

The laird shook his head. "They didn't!" he said.

"Then how did the prisoners get their food?" the girl asked again.

Toray smiled. "I'm afraid we must infer that any food flung down was merely intended to prolong the prisoner's sufferings. I doubt if any captive of the McReay ever saw the light of day again, once he had disappeared down this hole. For a century or more the place was lost sight of. It was discovered again in my grandfather's time and my grandfather had himself lowered by a rope. It's said that three skeletons were found at the bottom of the pit!"

Mrs. Dean shuddered. "How perfectly ghastly!"

Toray was impassive. "The McReays were always good haters," he remarked in his gentle way.

Returning to the hall, they crossed it and, passing under the gallery, followed a stone passage which brought them to what Toray said was the east wing, added in the eighteenth century. Here in succession they looked in upon a tomblike library, smelling of moldering calf, with tall bookshelves ornamented with busts and a vast and frigid drawing-room, with its statuary and gilt furniture and ottomans a strange jumble of Louis Quinze and Victorian frippery. Beyond the drawing-room a series of closed doors gave on rooms which, the laird said, had been dismantled. But there was little indication, it appeared to Verity, that any part of the wing was in daily use—the corridor struck bitterly cold and the whole place reeked of dry rot. He looked about him for Flora to sound her on the subject, but discovered that she had not accompanied the party.

She was waiting for them, however, in her simple blue frock with her oddly sorrowing eyes, as they emerged from the end of the corridor into a small inner courtyard open to the air. Across the court the lofty mass of the central tower mounted to the lurid evening sky—"Red Calum's Tower," Toray called it, erected as it had been in the sixteenth century by that "bonny fechter," as the laird described his ancestor, renowned harrier of the McNeils, hereditary foes of the McReays, whose ancient Gaelic patronymic of Calum or Malcolm, had descended through a long line of chiefs to the present head of the clan. Verity could not help stealing a glance at their host's tawny coloring—the ruling McReay, it was evident, was another Red Calum.

Flora had slipped off to fetch the key of the tower, a fantastically large key jingling with others on a rusty iron ring. Toray entered first, his candlestick held aloft to light the party up the dark and winding stair. They came to a landing and a door which he unlocked with another key on the same bunch.

Loopholes enlarged to windows, diamond-paned, shed the light of evening upon a bare chamber with a groined roof and oaken chests ranged round the walls. The chests, the laird said, contained the castle archives. He opened one at random and encouraged a somewhat reluctant Phyllis to pick out one of the rolls of sheepskin piled there under a layer of dust and cobwebs. A marriage contract of 1578, between Ian McReay and Margaret Ogilvy, of the house of Airlie, he pronounced, after a glance at the ancient scroll with its great dangling seal and ornate, pointed handwriting.

The tower, he told them, when the parchment had been put back, was no longer used for residence. The chieftain's apartments, he said in answer to a question of Stephen's, were in the keep: the Portcullis Room, which they would see, must be one of the oldest bedrooms in Scotland: generations of chieftains had slept there.

"And do you sleep there yourself, Toray?" Mrs. Dean asked.

The laird shook his head. "No one has slept in the Portcullis Room for many years," he replied. "But, come," he went on briskly, "let me show you the family heirlooms!"

So saying, he led them across to where, on the far side of the room, a glass case stood against the wall. Here they saw hanging upon faded red baize a great, battered cow-horn, set with elaborately embossed silver; a rusty claymore; and, upon a shelf below, various objects such as a large silver bowl, a gold brooch, a pair of old paste shoe-buckles and a knot of black velvet ribbon.

Toray unlocked the case and took down the horn. It was very ancient, he said, while it passed from one hand to the other—the silver was probably old Irish. The legend was that it had been given to Ranald Dhu by an old woman who had appeared to him in a dream, and it was reputed to have rendered the chieftain invulnerable to danger in battle and at the chase.


The legend was that it had been given to Ranald Dhu
by an old woman who had appeared to him in a dream.

The horn restored to its place, the laird showed them the rusty claymore, its blade notched and encrusted with darkly purple stains and told them it had been taken from the cold hand of the chief on the fatal field of Culloden. The silver bowl—a punchbowl—had been given to Ronald McReay, the dead chief's heir, by Charles Edward, by reason of the love he had borne his father; the brooch, the buckles and the hair knot had been worn by Ronald McReay who had lived and died in exile at Saint-Germain.

In a glass-fronted cupboard that flanked the case of heirlooms there were war medals and sundry weapons—the Waterloo medal and sword of Hector McReay, who had been with Pack's Highland Brigade at Waterloo; the sword and medals of the present laird's father who had fought as an ensign of Highlanders at the Alma; Toray's own leather-covered infantry sword and South African war medals from the Boer War—he had been shot through the lungs at Magersfontein with his father's old regiment when Wauchope's Highlanders had been cut up, he explained rather apologetically.

Among the other trophies the cupboard displayed were a khaki infantry cap decorated with a grenade and a very long, old-fashioned bayonet.

Stephen was staring at the cap. "That's a French képi, surely?" he said indicating it with his finger.

Verity, who was glancing idly round the group, found his eyes suddenly arrested by the expression on Flora McReay's face. The blue eyes were bright with a sort of tremulous expectancy—she was staring fixedly at her father.

It was as though a cloud had passed across the laird's thin features. "Yes," he replied impassively. "It was my son's!"

"I didn't realize that your son had served with the French in the war?" Stephen said.

"It was not in the war—for that he wasn't old enough. It was after. Ronald was in the Foreign Legion—he was killed last year in a brush with the tribesmen near Taroudant, in Morocco!"

Stephen had colored up. "I'm terribly sorry, sir. I'm afraid I've stirred up sad memories. I do beg of you to forgive me!"

The laird was unmoved. "There's nothing to forgive, Mr. Garrison. Death in battle is, as it were, a tradition of our family. And the boy died bravely. They found him in a circle of six dead tribesmen, his officer wrote me!" He paused. "But now I must show you to your rooms!" He turned to his daughter. "Will you lock up, Flora?"

He picked up his candlestick where the candles guttered in the draught from the stairs. Kilt swinging and very erect, he led the way from the room.


THE girl, busied with the locking of the cases, did not notice that Stephen had remained behind until she turned and saw him loitering there. At the sight of him, she fell back a pace, her eyes hostile.

"I do hope you'll forgive me, too," he said contritely. "I knew that your brother was dead, of course, but I'd no idea that he was killed with the Foreign Legion képi!"

"Please don't say anything more about it," she told him coldly and moved towards the entrance.

But he barred the way, propping himself against the door and regarding her in the gathering dusk. "I've been thinking over our meeting this afternoon," he said. "What gave you the idea that my name was Berg?"

Her brown cheeks colored. "It was just a mistake," she proffered lamely.

"But you said you'd had a telegram. And my telegram arrived late. Who's this fellow Berg and what did you mean by saying that there's nothing left to plunder here?"

"I prefer not to talk about it!" Her manner was icy.

"It's not mere curiosity on my part. You look perfectly miserable. I was wondering whether there was anything I could do about it!"

Her eyes flashed. "You can take yourself and your friends away from here, Mr. Garrison!"

His eyebrows lifted. "I can hardly do that. Your father has asked us to stay for as long as we like!"

"Is it your intention to buy the castle?" The question was abrupt.

He moved his shoulders. "If I like it, yes. At present, I'm liking it enormously. I think it's the most picturesque old place I ever saw!"

"It's hateful," she broke out suddenly, "you Americans and your money! You think you can buy up everything, don't you?" Her tone was scathing.

He gave her a whimsical glance and, with a vaguely deprecatory gesture, ran his hand over his crisp, dark hair. "Not with the same conviction as formerly," he remarked drily. "You've heard of a thing called the depression, perhaps?"

But she disregarded this mild sarcasm: "Of what good is a place like this to you, falling to pieces and miles from anywhere? Your dollars can give you possession of this tumbledown ruin and a few hundred acres of rock and moor. But they can't buy the spirit of the place. What's Toray without the McReays? You're an intruder—you'll always be an intruder!"

His face was blank as he stood away from the door. "I'm sorry," he said, regarding her intently. "I'd no idea of this!"

"My father kept it from me," she responded in a tone of bitter anger. "He was ashamed to tell me, and no wonder. It was only this afternoon, when he heard you'd arrived, that he confessed the truth. It isn't his idea, I know that; it's that wretched McTaggart in London who forced it on him. If I'd heard about it sooner, you'd have had no invitation to Toray, Mr. Garrison! And I give you fair warning, if I can prevent this sale from going through, I mean to do so!"

But he only smiled imperturbably and said: 'Okay. It makes the position clear, at least. But seeing that, inevitably, I have to spend at least one night under your roof, don't you think we might suspend hostilities in the meantime and meet as friends?"

On the sudden she was conscience-stricken. "I was very rude," she avowed in a husky little voice. "I said more than I meant to; I'm sorry. I was forgetting that you're our guest. Please excuse me!" She stepped to the door and Stephen opened it for her.

"Touching this chap Berg," he questioned casually, "does he want to buy the castle, too, or what?"

She stopped abruptly on the threshold, turned. At the look on her face he shed his flippant mood. "I don't know what he wants," she answered in a whisper made tense by fear. "The trouble is that my father seems determined to see him!"

"It's no affair of mine, of course," he broke in. "But if it's a business matter and I or Verity can do anything—Verity's a first-class business man."

Sadly she shook her head. "There's no need to inflict our private troubles upon you," she answered, not without a certain wistfulness. She had raised her face to the light and, as the glory of the sunset bathed the proudly sensitive features, he saw how forlorn, how desperately perplexed, she looked.

"I hate to see people unhappy," he said rather self-consciously. "And you are unhappy, aren't you?" She made no answer. But her lip trembled and a dry sob seemed to shake her. "About this man Berg——" he resumed.

She did not let him finish. "Why should you interfere?" she cried, rounding on him passionately. "What are we to you? Can't you leave us go to ruin in our own way?"


'What are we to you? Can't you leave us to go to ruin in our own way?'

A solemn voice that spoke unexpectedly behind them made them jump. "The laird is asking for you, Miss Flora!"

They whipped around like a pair of conspirators. The major-domo's gaunt frame seemed to fill the doorway. Wrinkled and yellow with age above the patriarchal beard, his countenance was gloomy and charged with suspicion as his glance swung slowly from the girl to her companion. "He's in the Long Gallery!" he told her.

The darkness of the stair engulfed him.

They came to the Long Gallery by way of the grand staircase that mounted to it from the hall. The gallery ran its length above the hall, a ghostly place with its low roof and solemn family portraits and tapers in sconces dimly gleaming on black wainscot. Sundry gaps in the line of ancestors brought to Stephen's mind a chance remark of McTaggart's that the laird had been obliged to part with the best of the Toray pictures.

A door stood ajar and, hearing footsteps, Dwight, Stephen's man, looked out.

"Where's everybody?" Stephen demanded.

"The gentleman took the ladies and Mr. Verity to show them their rooms," the man replied.

With a muttered ejaculation the girl went flying down the stairs again.

"You're in here, Mr. Garrison," Dwight said, "alongside his nibs!"

From the doorway Stephen surveyed the large bedroom, furnished in rather heavy Victorian style, with two spacious windows giving on the loch. "I doubt if your peculiar sense of humor will go over very big up here, Dwight," he remarked crisply. "So have the goodness to refer to our host as "the laird," will you?"

"Very good, Mr. Garrison!" was the imperturbable answer. Dwight was unpacking Stephen's suitcase. "Nice room, sir," he observed, "though I don't know as how I would class the haspect as very cheerful. But there, I was never one for the water meself. You'll wear a black tie tonight, I suppose, sir?"

"I guess so," said Stephen. "What in God's name is that thing behind the screen?"

The servant sighed. He was a tall man, lantern-jawed, with heavily marked, black eyebrows reminiscent of a vaudeville comedian and a shining bald pate. "You may well harsk, sir. I ain't seen one of them since I was first in service. That's an 'ip-bath, that is. I hadn't hardly set foot in the castle afore I passed the remark to Marie, "Marie," I sez, "if there's a bathroom in the place," I sez, "then I'm Robert the Bruce and you're Mary Queen of Scots!"

A voice from the doorway interrupted further sprightly reflections. "I hope you've got everything you want, Mr. Garrison!"

The laird was there with Verity, who looked slightly fussed. "I'm afraid the accommodation's rather primitive," said their host, "but we don't keep up the state we used to at Toray. In fact, with so many of the bedrooms dismantled, we're somewhat cramped for space, particularly as I have other guests arriving tomorrow."

"Other guests?" Stephen echoed in surprise.

The laird veiled his eyes. "Friends of my son." He paused. "Mr. Verity," he went on, "would have liked to be nearer to you—he says you have a lot of work to get through together. He's in the east wing with the Deans—rather a long way off, I'm afraid, but it couldn't be helped! This room and mine are the only bedrooms in this part of the castle!"

Verity had grown rather red. "I only thought, if I had a room somewhere handy, I could pop in at odd times," he explained, "after the others have gone to bed or before you get up in the morning, and have a go at those accounts. You've sidestepped all work on the trip so far and the Manchester office is howling for them!"

Stephen gave him a withering glance. "Obviously, the best room for you is the dungeon with the flagstone rammed down tight! And to think I took you along as an agreeable holiday companion!"

The laird, who had been glancing round the room now approached. "I was going to show you the Portcullis Room, wasn't I?" he said. "And then it will be time to dress. Here are the ladies now! I wanted them to see it!"

Mrs. Dean with Phyllis and Flora appearing at this moment from the staircase, the whole party followed the laird, who bore a lighted candle, to the end of the gallery where a shallow flight descended to a paneled door. "It's called the Portcullis Room," he explained as they went down the stairs, "because it's immediately over the seagate where the portcullis used to be!"

A key was in the door. He turned it, and the door opening, revealed a couple of steps leading down. The boom of the sea and the howling of the wind drifted across the threshold as they descended. Toray's candles flung a sickly light upon the great state bed which, high and pompous as a catafalque, reared its four posts and canopy from a platform set against the wall with steps leading up.

A single window, sunk in the enormously thick masonry and heavily barred with iron, commanded the dark prospect of the loch. The ceiling was low and in the yellow candlelight the figures of the party sent huge shadows dancing athwart a variety of grotesques molded, in the Tudor manner, in the plaster—grimacing heads, weird birds and beasts. Faded blue tapestry hangings, matching the looped-up curtains of the bed, clothed the walls, disclosing through sundry rents paneling as glossy black as the rough-hewn beams of the floor. Such furniture as there was was on the grandiose scale an enormous oak press; a Florentine chest; some pompous Spanish chairs in tooled leather—and before the empty stone fireplace a very decrepit-looking leather armchair and a worm-eaten oak table.

Upon this table the laird set down his candlestick, then faced his guests. "On the feast of Michaelmas in the year 1739," said he, "this room was the scene of one of the blackest deeds in the history of my family. On that day Hugh McNeil, from one of the adjacent islands, was wrecked in a great storm on the coast of Toray and sought refuge at the castle. According to the best traditions of Highland hospitality, notwithstanding the fact that for centuries a deadly feud had existed between our family and the McNeils, the laird gave him his own room, this very room in which you find yourselves. When day came, however, the guest was discovered lying dead there"—he turned and pointed to the floor in front of the fireplace—"with his own dirk driven into his back!"

Stephen pursed up his lips in a silent whistle.

"You were certainly right when you said that the McReays were good haters, Toray!"

"On the discovery of the body," Toray replied gravely, "the laird of those days, my ancestor, Ian McReay, drowned himself in the loch. The assumption is that, in the face of such treachery, he felt he could no longer hold up his head among his fellow clansmen!"

"Then who was the murderer?" Mrs. Dean demanded.

Toray shrugged his shoulders. "His identity was never established—the islanders believe it was some retainer of the McReay whom Hugh McNeil had wronged."

Now Verity intervened. "Mr. McTaggart spoke of some family secret in connection with one of the rooms in the castle—a secret that's handed down from father to son. Is this the room, by any chance?"

The laird nodded composedly. "It is. . ." Then, as though to change the subject, he turned to Mrs. Dean and said, "If you look at the floor before the fireplace you will see a dark stain there—it's said to be the mark of Hugh McNeil's blood!"

They crowded round the fireplace and scrutinized the shadowy patch that seemed to darken the glossy surface of the planking. No one spoke and in the impressive rush they could hear the wind shrieking in the chimney and, like a bass accompaniment, the deep bourdon of the waves. Phyllis Dean was the first to draw away.

"This house scares me," she said in an undertone to Stephen. "You should see our room, like a vault, in a long corridor of empty rooms. I shall never dare to go up there by myself after dark, I know I shan't. And there's no bath, and the old woman who waits on us can scarcely speak English and—— Oh, Steve, don't let's stay long! Let's beat it at once—tomorrow!"

He had taken her dainty hand in his and was fondling it, gazing down at the blood-red nails. "Why, honey," he said caressingly, "you ain't seen nothin' yet! Wait until tomorrow morning when the sun shines and we can get out on the moors and you'll realize what a glorious old place it is!"

"'Old' is the word!" she retorted crisply. "And I guess that goes for the plumbing, too. This house'd give Ed Wynn the willies. You can have Toray, Steve! The way I'm feeling right now, I don't care if I never see the damned place again! I may be unromantic, but there it is!"

Glancing up, Stephen found Flora McReay's grave eyes upon them. Rather sheepishly, he relinquished Phyllis's hand. "Oh, come, sweetheart," he encouraged her, "it's not so bad as that, surely. You're cold and tired and it's all a bit strange at first. But wait until you've had a cocktail and a good dinner and you'll feel like a million dollars!" He gave her his cheerful smile.

"Only a dose of poison would make me feel right in this old barn," she rejoined disconsolately. But she returned his smile and, tucking her arm in his, he led her out in the wake of the others.


DINNER that night was a gloomy affair—until Rory's appearance, that is. There were no cocktails, only sherry served on a table before the fire in the great hall where they dined, and the fare was indifferent—a thin barley broth, some boiled fish and a leg of stringy mountain mutton. The factor and his wife, a thin woman overcome with shyness, were invited and little Jamieson tried valiantly to keep the conversation going.

He did not receive much help from the laird and Flora. In honor of his guests Toray had donned Highland full dress and a magnificent figure he presented in the short Highland jacket of black velvet with jabot and ruffles of old lace and a kilt which, mainly scarlet and white, was much more showy than the kilt he had worn that afternoon—it was the McReay dress-tartan, he explained to Mrs. Dean. He had a grand sporran—white goat's hair and stockings lozenged in red leather bound in silver—and white, with the jeweled head of a dagger flashing in the right leg, and buckle shoes. As he sat behind the candelabra at the head of the long table he looked like some ancestor descended from one of the portraits in the Long Gallery.

Toward the end of dinner they heard the skirl of pipes outside and from under the gallery a rosy-checked old man, in bonnet, plaid, and kilt, appeared, blowing lustily upon his bagpipes. Three times, in a solemn silence, with kilt tossing, the piper marched round the room while the rafters echoed to the stirring music, then he disappeared under the gallery and the strains abruptly ceased.

"It's just a custom in the Highlands," Toray said with his apologetic air to Mrs. Dean who was on his right. "You may have heard of it?"

"Indeed I have!" Mrs. Dean cried enthusiastically. "But this is the first time I've seen it. Does the piper play for you every night?"

"Oh, yes. Old Rory's the house piper. He and his forbears have been hereditary pipers of the McReays for more than a hundred years. Old Rory's quite a figure in the pipe world. He was taught to play by his father who was a pupil of the celebrated Donald Ruadh McCrimmon, the last of the hereditary pipers of the McLeods, who have Castle Dunvegan in Skye. You've heard of the famous piping school of the McCrimmons at Borreraig, of course?"

"I—I believe so," Mrs. Dean said vaguely.

"Ah," the laird remarked, "they took their piping seriously in those days. The course lasted seven years." And he began to discourse learnedly of the so-called "ceol mhor" or "big music," with its "laments" and "salutes" and "war songs," much superior, he added with a sigh, to the present decadent era of piping which knew little else save marches and strathspeys and reels—"tinker's music," as old Rory called it. Verity, who was listening from the other side of the table, was interested to note that once again it was the past that came to the laird's aid to rouse him from his morose and brooding taciturnity. He could play the pipes a bit himself, he told Mrs. Dean, but only as an amateur, a dilettante, and so could Flora. But Flora's forte was dancing—maybe Mrs. Dean could persuade her after dinner to show them a fling or two. He was still talking eagerly when old Duncan gravely plodded up to the table, bearing in his hand a salver on which stood a decanter of whisky and a small tumbler.

He spoke a phrase in Gaelic to Toray, who bowed ceremoniously, upon which the piper was again introduced. He in turn marched up to the table and waited, his hale and ruddy cheeks glistening in the candlelight, while Toray filled the tumbler to the brim with whisky and handed it to the piper. The old man seized the glass and, with head erect and eyes to his front, cried a toast in Gaelic, drained the glass at a gulp, set it down, and, laying his hand to his bonnet, marched out again.

Dinner over, they moved across to the big fireplace and had their port and coffee in a circle about the blazing peat fire. The talk turned to piping again and the laird suggested that they might be interested to hear different examples of pipe music. "And I think, Flora, my dear," he said to his daughter, "that our friends here would like to see a real Highland dance!"

"Would you mind frightfully?" Mrs. Dean cried rhapsodically to Flora. "We'd simply love to see you dance!" The others echoed her with enthusiasm.

The girl smiled in her grave way. "I haven't danced for a long time, I'm afraid," she said, "but I'll do what I can. I'll need to change my dress, though!"

"Do that," her father bade her. "And tell Duncan to send Rory in with his pipes!"

The piper came back, and presently the hall resounded to the sobbing notes of the chanter. The pipes flung to the rafters the wild war music of the clans—the War Song of the McReays, famous pieces like The Gathering of the Clan Chattan and The McIntosh Salute. The savage melody crying out plaintively above the snarling whine of the drones hammered at their nerves as the stocky figure strode slowly up and down the flags in the trembling candlelight. It seemed to Verity that the call of the pipes was summoning from the shadows thickly clustered in the corners of the hall the wraiths of dead and gone clansmen who had feasted there and, glancing round the rapt faces of his companions, he fancied that similar thoughts were in their minds.

On a word in Gaelic from Toray, the music changed and went into a slow and plaintive strain. It was The Lament for Toray, the laird explained, composed by one of the McReay pipers who had escaped the massacre of Culloden in memory of the chieftain who fell that day. Then it was the celebrated McCrimmon No More, and after that, the lovely and haunting Flowers of the Forest. After a little, Toray ceased to prompt and Rory went unbidden from one piece to another—marches that set the feet tapping, gay, little airs that seemed filled with the song of the burn rippling over its stones.

At last he stopped and they all applauded—all save the laird, that is, who sat impassive behind his cigar. Old Rory paid no heed to the applause. Without warning, the pipes began to drone once more and he resumed his stately pacing while the chanter broke into an eerie, plaintive strain. Jamieson, who sat between Stephen and Verity, removed his cigar from his mouth. "Ah," he said, "I'm glad ye wull be hearing this. It's one of the most beautiful of all Hieland laments. They call it in the Gaelic 'Cumha an Aona Mhic'—that means 'Lament for an Only Son!'"

Verity caught his breath and looked at the laird. Toray had laid his cigar aside and was staring in front of him, his face as gray and unyielding as the stone walls about them. At that moment a loud cry rang out from under the gallery and Flora burst into the hall. She was in Highland dress—a black velvet jacket with a plaid of the McReay tartan across the shoulder, a kilt of the same, a bonnet with an eagle feather. In passionate tones she cried out in Gaelic to the piper, pointing to the door.


In passionate tones she cried out in Gaelic to the piper, pointing to the door.

The music stopped abruptly, died away. Old Rory shrugged, and with set features stalked out. The laird had risen to his feet and was addressing his daughter angrily in Gaelic. She answered him in English, emotion stressing her accent.

"I'll not dance!" she cried, stamping her foot. Then she burst into tears and ran from the room.

With troubled face Toray turned to Mrs. Dean. "That lament he played," he said stonily, "reminded my daughter of her dead brother. You must excuse her, Mrs. Dean!"

Soon after that, the party broke up.

Next day was again wet and squally. The women did not appear at breakfast and the laird was out riding over the estate. Stephen and Verity were sitting over their eggs and bacon when Captain McKenzie appeared. They were in for a blow, he announced, and he was "no verra" satisfied with the position of the yacht: he would like Mr. Garrison to come out to the Ariel and look things over for himself.

So the two men went out into the pitiless drizzle with McKenzie. Once on board Stephen approved, as he was expected to do, the measures which the captain had taken for the yacht's safety, after which Verity, seizing the opportunity, cornered Stephen in the saloon and forced him to go over the overdue Manchester accounts. One result of this conference was that they missed the arrival and departure of the Highland Mist, the little steamer that twice weekly waddled between the mainland and Toray; another that, discovering it was past two by the time their session was over, they decided to have a sandwich on board. Consequently, it was getting on for four o'clock when the Ariel's launch deposited them at the jetty.

The first thing they heard on entering the castle was Phyllis's ringing laugh resounding from the hall. She was lying full length on the couch before the fireplace, laughing merrily at something a strange young man was saying as he lounged against the tall fireplace. He was a dark young man in faultless gray tweeds, with rather sharp features and a pair of small, very quick, black eyes.

"Oh, hello, there, Steve!" the girl called gaily as the two men appeared. "Come and meet a French chieftain, for a change. This is the Vicomte——" She gazed helplessly at the man at the fireplace. "I'm blessed if I haven't forgotten your name again!"

The young man was staring very hard at Stephen. "D'Arenne is the name," he said smilingly in very fluent English.

Stephen's face had suddenly hardened. "I think I've met this gentleman before," he observed stiffly.

"Sure," said the stranger cheerfully. "How are you, Garrison?" He held out his hand.

The American ignored it. "Where's Toray, Phyllis?" he asked curtly.

"In his study with Mr. Berg and the others," the girl replied, stifling a yawn.

Stephen scowled. "With Mr. Berg?" he echoed.

"My friend who has come with me to Toray," the vicomte explained with a flash of very white teeth.

"I see," said Stephen. His tone was extremely blunt. He turned to Verity who had been a silent and somewhat bewildered witness of the scene. "Coming, Phil?" he said, and strode out.


IT was obvious to Verity that Steve was furiously angry. His gray eyes smoldered and his face was oddly white as he led the way blindly across the hall and up the main staircase—he was evidently making for his room. Trailing obediently after him, Verity was suddenly struck by the thought that he had never seen Steve in a rage before.

It was at moments like this that he realized how widely the relationship of employer and employee sundered them, however much Steve, in his good-natured way, was pleased to thrust it into the background. For all the unclouded cordiality of their personal contact, there was little real intimacy between them. Verity, in his staid, Victorian way, would not have had it otherwise. He had served Steve's father as European manager of the Garrison Company and he realized that, in Steve's eyes, he was still "old Phil" who had escorted a small and very chatty American boy to Westminster Abbey for King George's coronation and given him lunch at the club afterwards, and later on had extricated the Oxford undergraduate from sundry small scrapes, financial and otherwise. He was quite content to accept from Steve only such measure of intimacy as the latter was willing to grant—it would have been more, he was wont to reflect in his philosophical way, had they not belonged to different generations.

He asked no questions, therefore, even after they found themselves in Steve's bedroom with the door closed. Still fuming, the younger man strode to the window and remained there, staring out.

"Did you hear him?" he ejaculated savagely, then whirled round upon his companion. "'How are you, Garrison?" Can you tie that for nerve? I don't know how I kept my hands off him. And did you see the way he was fawning over Phyllis?" He snorted. "Well, I'll soon run him out of this, the cheap crook! Where's Toray's study, do you know?"

"What do you want with Toray?"

"I'm going to tell him a few things about his friend, the Vicomte d'Arenne. Come on, Phil, let's go!"

"Wait a minute, can't you? You're always in such a hurry!"

"You're damn right, I'm in a hurry! The fellow's a card sharp, a gigolo, and worse! And he's going out on his ear! Come on, Phil!"

"Toray can wait, and, anyhow, you heard Phyllis say he had people with him. Who is this vicomte? You'll not go out of this room until you tell me!"

"He's the fellow who challenged me to a duel at Cannes two years ago. I must have told you about it!"

Verity shook his head solemnly. "Not me!"

"It was one night at the Casino, pretty late, at the big table in the private room. I was there with Hazel Waverton. You remember Hazel?"

There had been many Hazels in Steve's life and Verity's gentle sigh said as much. "Sure," he replied.

"This D'Arenne fellow tried to grab her winnings. When she objected he called her a foul name in French. It was a new one on me, but an old French buzzard at the table told him he'd no business to insult a lady, so I asked him to repeat it. On that he called me something in good American, and he didn't smile, either. So I pasted him the loveliest uppercut you ever saw. I was waiting for him to get up to sock him again when a perfect cloud of frogs descended upon me from all sides—detectives and bouncers and croupiers, and I don't know what—they seemed to come out of the ground. They ran us out by separate doors." He grinned reminiscently. "But his face was a lovely mess!"

"And he challenged you to a duel, you say?"

Stephen grinned. "Yeah. The next day a couple of Frenchmen all dolled up like undertakers called on me at the Carlton where I was staying, said they'd come to demand satisfaction on behalf of their friend, the Vicomte d'Arenne. I told them, sure, but it would have to be in the American way. 'With derringers?' one of the Frenchmen asked—he'd been reading Bret Harte, I guess. 'No,' I said. 'With fists. Ten rounds under Queensberry rules. And just in case your friend the vicomte isn't up in the Queensberry rules, we'll ask my friend, the Vicomte Tunney'—Gene was at Nice at the time—'to come along and see fair play!' That made them mad. 'You insult us, Monsieur?' one of them said. 'Gladly,' I told them." He chuckled. "And that was that!"

"And you heard no more?"

"Not a word. But I made some inquiries about our young friend. When he wasn't being kept by old ladies or pinching women's winnings at the table, he made a dishonest living at card sharping. They knew all about him at the Cercle Nautique. He'd been run out of most of the clubs on the Riviera, they told me—nothing proved, you understand, but just a whisper"—he laughed—"the sort of whisper that runs round when a fellow catches leprosy."

"Phony title, of course?"

Stephen shook his head. "No. Curiously enough, he's a real vicomte, of very good family, they tell me. His father threw him out over some foolish marriage he made and he's been living on his wits ever since." He paused and looked severely at his companion. "This is a decent house, Phil, and we can't have a grand old boy like Toray imposed on. I can't help it if D'Arenne was a friend of his dead son's; the old gentleman's eyes must be opened. And apart from that, I object to this horrible gigolo thrusting his beastly attentions on Phyllis, damn him!"

The older man suppressed a smile. He was beginning to understand Steve's outburst now. It was Phyllis, then. He had often asked himself how deep Steve's feelings for Phyllis went. Of course, she was in a different category from the Hazels who had continually flitted through Steve's life. She, or, more precisely, her mother, meant business—marriage. Certain it was that Steve's interest in her had lasted longer than in the case of any other of the innumerable candidates who had loomed up on the matrimonial horizon.

"I can't imagine what he wants here, of all places," Stephen went on. "What I can tell you, though, is that the man who came with him—a fellow by the name of Berg—is just a pain in the neck as far as little Miss Flora's concerned."

"What's she been telling you?"

"Nothing, we were just talking!" His tone was airy. "But, look here, Phil," he added as though to change the subject, "I think we ought to go to the laird at once."

Verity nodded briefly. "I guess you're right. But, Steve, hadn't I better handle this? You're so violent!"

"You bet I'm violent! My foot itches every time I think of that nasty piece of work. Do you know what he called me?"

"I could make a guess. He employed an expression in the vernacular reflecting not only upon your nationality but also your parentage!"

Stephen grinned. "You ought to have been a professor, Phil. I didn't know that anyone could think up so many words for saying one man called another a——"

The door was discreetly rapped. Dwight's melancholy countenance appeared. "Hexcuse me, Mr. Garrison," he announced in his customarily confidential manner, "I think the laird's looking for you." The two Americans exchanged a pregnant glance. "The seneschal just asked me——" Dwight went on.

"The who?" Stephen snapped.

The man outlined his deprecatory smile. "The aged retainer—Duncan, sir. Wanted to know if you was back from the yacht. He said the laird was inquiring."

"Where is the laird?"

"In his study, sir."

"Where's that?"

"It's off the corridor leading to the east wing—I'll show you, sir."

"I'll tell you what it is," Stephen declared irately, as they followed the valet downstairs. "That rat has been to Toray already with some garbled story about me, you see if he hasn't!"

"Let's first find out what Toray wants, shall we?" Verity rejoined soothingly. "And, Steve, don't go flying off the handle until we hear what he has to say."

As they crossed the hall to gain the door under the gallery, they heard the rattle of dice. Stephen's glance traveled swiftly to the far end of the room. Chatting gaily, Phyllis and D'Arenne were seated on the couch playing backgammon—Phyllis had brought her board with her from the yacht. Stephen scowled, but said nothing, and he and Verity passed through into the corridor. Here a red-baize door brought them, through a short passage, to the laird's study.

It formed a corner of the castle, they perceived on entering, jutting out like a bastion into the loch, with full-length windows giving on a small, semi-circular terrace, a pleasant room, with its antlers and sporting prints and gun-rack. Toray, in riding-breeches and leggings, sat behind his desk with his back to the window, facing them. He was slouched in his chair, his head sunk on his breast, his balled fist resting on the blotter.

As he paid no heed to their entry, Stephen spoke to him. "Were you asking for me, Toray?" he said.

The laird started, raised his head, staring at the visitor with a vacant, uncomprehending expression in his eyes. Then he appeared to recollect himself, sprang up hastily, offered chairs. "I'm glad you came, Mr. Garrison. It's about the yacht." Verity felt Stephen's eyes on his.

They were in for a spell of bad weather, Toray said, with a glance at the streaming window-panes; the glass was falling rapidly. He did not wish to alarm Mr. Garrison, but it might not be safe for the yacht to remain where she was. There was no danger at present and the contingency might not arise; but he thought the captain should realize that, in stormy weather, the bay was very exposed. The harbor at Ansay, the adjoining island, was much more sheltered. On this he waxed technical on tides and currents, and pulling down, from a case of maps on the wall, the full-scale ordnance map, showed them the exact position of Ansay Harbor. They were all gathered round the map when the door was abruptly thrown open and a man strode in.

"So you put my friends to sleep in the pig-sty?" he cried from the threshold in a harsh and hectoring voice. "Raoul gets a fine room in the castle, because he's a vicomte, no? But an outhouse among these savage Highlanders of yours is good enough for Mansard and Boldini! Well, they don't see it, ol' man—no, by Joe, and they're cutting up rough about it!"

The laird glanced uncomfortably at the two Americans and gave a nervous cough. "If your friends are not comfortable where they are, of course the matter will be looked into," he rejoined stiffly. "But now I want you to meet two of my guests, Mr. Stephen Garrison and Mr. Verity." He turned to Stephen. "Mr. Garrison, this is Mr. Oscar Berg!"

Mr. Berg's English, though fluent, was palpably foreign, hard and clipped and laced with the flat singsong peculiar to the Scandinavian peoples. The ashen blondness of his close-cropped hair corroborated this impression. He was a powerfully built individual with the swelling arms and barrel-like torso of the professional strong man, but of the strong man run to seed. His broad shoulders to some extent masked his corpulence, but his face was pasty and his heavy jowl drooped upon his low collar in loose rolls of fat. Eyes set too close together and a broad, tip-tilted nose lent his whole countenance an indescribable air of impudence and cunning. He wore a blue suit, and across his swelling paunch a heavy gold-chain with a coin dangling from it was tightly stretched.

His greeting to either American was identical, with hand raised and a jaunty "How are you, ol' man?" Then he turned to his host again. "Ja. since we're likely to see a lot of each other during the next few days on this damned island of yours," he said familiarly, "there's no sense in your putting on frills before our Yankee pals, ol' man. I've been having a quiet look round this ruin and there's rows of empty rooms. You move my friends in quick like I tell you, see?" So saying, he yawned like a wild beast and stretched prodigiously. "That old tub, she jomped so moch she pretty well shook the guts out of me coming across this morning," he went on. "My stomach's all upset. I think, maybe, I take a little snooze before dinner. Tell old Skin-and-Bones to bring me a bottle of whisky to my room, will you? And listen, have those lads of mine shifted pretty damned quick, or they'll burst in maybe and pick their own place to sleep!" He chortled. "And that might be awkward for the ladies!" He raised his hand in salutation. "A toute à l'heure, gentlemen!" He swaggered out.

An embarrassed hush succeeded his departure. The laird's face was inscrutable. After a moment's thought Stephen remarked slowly, "I hope you won't mind, sir, if I tell you something about one of your guests."

Toray's hand went out in a vague gesture towards the door. "You mean, about him? Mr. Berg?" he questioned hoarsely.

Stephen shook his head. "No. About Vicomte d'Arenne!"

The thin features contracted. "Well?"

"The fellow's a notorious crook and a card sharp. He's not fit to be in your house."

Toray hesitated. "He was my son's friend, Mr. Garrison. I've heard that he was—well, wild. But any friend of my son's is welcome to my house, you see that, don't you?" The tawny eyes ferreted uneasily in the American's face.

Stephen shrugged, his mouth obstinate. He had his father's habit of sticking his chin out when anything vexed him, Verity had often noticed. And Stephen Garrison II could be every bit as blunt on occasion as old Stephen himself.

"It's not for me to dictate to you about your guests, sir," Stephen now replied stubbornly. "But this D'Arenne's no good and, frankly, I see no good reason why I or my friends should be expected to associate with him."

The laird heaved a deep sigh. "I must apologize for having let you in for this. Unfortunately, I have important business to discuss with Oscar Berg and Raoul d'Arenne—business which involves, which involves——" His voice trailed off. "If it had been possible I would have arranged matters so that their visit would not have coincided with yours. Unfortunately, my daughter did not show me Mr. Berg's telegram announcing his arrival."

Stephen shrugged. "In the circumstances," he said stiffly, "I'm sure you won't mind if I curtail my visit!"

The laird's hand shot out appealingly. "But, Mr. Garrison, our negotiations! I was reckoning on bringing them to a satisfactory conclusion while you are at the castle. No, no, I beg of you, don't let these gentlemen drive you out, besides, you cannot possibly expose the ladies to the discomfort of the crossing to the mainland with this sea running. There's no need for you to meet these—er—individuals except at meals and they're returning by Thursday's boat. Won't you please, as a favour to me, accept a situation which, I promise you, is none of my making?"

"But it's ridiculous!" the American burst out. "These men aren't your class, Toray—anyone can see that. I don't know what's back of all this, but if you're in a jam and there's anything we can do——"

Furtive on the instant, Toray shook his head, pursing up his thin lips. "No," he said—"no! I must deal with them alone." His eyes, half-veiled, glinted, oddly menacing, through their light lashes. "I shall know how to deal with them!" He paused and looked at Verity. "I am grateful for your interest, Mr. Garrison, but we need not discuss the matter further." He paused. "Or allude to it again, if you please!" He spoke with his old, authoritative air so that Verity had the impression of a door being firmly closed in their faces.

"And now," he said, "if you would excuse me, I have some important papers to look over!" He added, as an afterthought, that he had ventured to send Jamieson on board the yacht to draw the captain's attention to Ansay Harbor as a safe anchorage in the event of the weather getting worse.

The sound of rain drumming upon glass, of windows rattling in the wind, filled the ears of the two Americans as they retraced their steps along the corridor. Dusk had fallen early and an oil lamp burned there.

"Will you listen to the wind!" said Verity. "I guess the old boy's right about the crossing, Steve. The Ariel would take a proper dusting if we tried to leave tonight, even if Mac would attempt the trip!"

His companion nodded morosely. "We're stuck here, I guess. Till morning, at any rate. But that French swine had better not try any of his monkey shines on me. Or Phyllis, either! . . . Hullo, where have they got to?"

They were back in the hall again. The elderly parlor maid was alone there, setting tea. "The laddy," she said in her quaint English, had gone to her room to rest.

"No tea for me," Stephen announced. "I'm going upstairs to see how much of me will fit into what Dwight calls a hip-bath!"

"You'll hold yourself in hand tonight, Steve?" said Verity as his companion moved towards the stairs. "You don't want to go starting anything in front of Phyllis and her mother!"

"Okay. That Berg's a tough egg, a regular ward-heeler. I wonder what he's got on Toray!"

Verity grunted. "Young men of good family don't join the Foreign Legion for fun."

"You mean it's something to do with the son—with Ronald McReay?"

"I shouldn't wonder!"

"I guess you've hit it. Coming up with me?"

"Not me. I'm going to have my tea!"

The ill humor vanished from Stephen's face. There was affection as well as humor in his glance. "You and your afternoon tea! I always said it—you're a regular limey!"


"HIP-BATH'S the word," Stephen remarked aloud to himself. Gently he heaved, long legs dangling, at the lower part of his anatomy inserted in the curiously shaped brown tin tub that stood before the fire. But all that happened was that he slopped a certain amount of soapy water out upon the rubber mat.

"Dwight!" he bellowed from behind the screen that hid his ablutions from view. "Dwight!"

Receiving no answer, with a resigned air he considered his knees which were removed but a few inches from his chin and, feeling the heat of the peat fire behind him agreeably warm on his back, indulged in a luxurious wriggle and spilled some more water. The big bedroom, its chintz curtains drawn against the wildness of the night, was cozy in the light of its candles and the leaping flames of the hearth. Groping for the soap, Stephen began lazily to lather his shoulders, at the same time bursting into song. With great soulfulness, if something off key, he was warbling:

Take me in your arms before
You take your love away

when he heard a step at the door.

"Is that you, Dwight?" he shouted.

The long face of the valet appeared round the screen. "Yes, sir."

"What a time you've been! Well?"

"Miss Dean'll do her best to meet you in the hall at eight, sir!"

"Good. What did I do with that drink?"

"It's in the bag the same as you brought it from the yacht, Mr. Garrison!" He hoisted a bag from a chair to the centre table.

"Just make sure that Mr. Verity didn't forget anything—shaker, gin, two vermouths, absinthe, and the lemons. They're out of lemons on the island, your friend the seneschal told me. Oh, and the angostura we mustn't forget the angostura, Dwight."

The man had opened the bag and was examining its contents. "All correct, sir! Is it your wish that I should convey it to the Great Hall?"

"Presently will do. Come and pull me out of this damned bird bath! You would go off and leave me in it. I had a vision of myself having to go down to dinner with this infernal dingus still firmly glued to my fanny. Easy does it! Whoops!"

He gave the valet a soapy hand and was unceremoniously lugged out upon the mat. "Ah, Mr. Garrison," said Dwight solemnly, handing Stephen one of the towels that were warming on the horse before the fire, "an 'ip-bath now—that requires technic. In houses where I was in service in my young days in England, before bathrooms was de rigueur, as the saying is, we'd clear away as many as a dozen baths of a morning an' the mats as dry as dry. At Lord Dancaster's, where I was second footman, there was a gentleman as came down reg'lar for the shootin'—going on for sixty, he must ha' been. A very strange habit, he had! When he'd finished his bath, he'd up with his legs and stand on his head in the water—said it was good for the brain—and, as true as I'm telling you, he wouldn't spill a drop."

Stephen laughed, toweling himself vigorously. "The indoor sports of the aristocracy, eh? Well, none of us is quite sane, they say!"

Lugubriously the valet nodded and, going to the wardrobe, began to put out his master's evening clothes. "Aye, that I have, Mr. Garrison! But the queerest lot that ever I set eyes on is right here in the castle!"

His employer chuckled good-humoredly. "You lay off the laird, d'you hear, Dwight? He's a friend of mine."

"I was not halludin' to the McReay," Dwight replied with dignity, "but to his friends."

Stephen rubbed his nose. "Well," he remarked, "this guy Berg isn't much to look at certainly."

"I haven't seen the parties in question," the man retorted. "I was judgin' by their servants. I should tell you, Mr. Garrison, that it's our habit in service to form our opinion of guests invited to the house from the character and be'aviour of the gentlemen who wait on them. I can only describe the two hindividuals as have accompanied Mr. Berg and his party to look after them as 'ighly unsootable—'ighly unsootable, Mr. Garrison!"

Stephen was getting into his underwear. "In what way, Dwight?"

"Well, sir, I slipped down to Mr. McDonald, the grocer's, as has the hon-licence, for a pint o' bitter after lunch and, mebbe, a bit of a chat to get acquainted with the peasantry, so to speak. These two beauties was in the shop. Old McDonald told me they was with Mr. Berg's party and introduced us. One, who didn't look rightly sober to me, said he was Mr. Berg's vally." Dwight snorted as he slipped the studs into Stephen's evening shirt. "A fine vally, I must say, with his broken nose an' dirty hands! The other was a small dark chap—said he was the shoffeur. They're both foreigners, I reckon—they looked like a couple of Chicago gunmen to me!"

His employer was suddenly immobile, one arm half thrust into the sleeve of his shirt. "Gunmen, eh?" he observed with quickened interest. "Are they staying at the castle, too?"

"I don't rightly know, sir. They said as how they was waiting at McDonald's for orders."

Stephen nodded absently. "All right, Dwight, you can take that drink down now. And you might ask old What's-his-Name to let us have some cracked ice!" With a thoughtful air he went on with his dressing while Dwight pattered out with the bag.

His sharp eye had not missed the slight air of dudgeon with which Phyllis had refused her glass of sherry on the previous evening. He was not unaware that to the young women of her world, brought up in the Volstead era, a dinner party without its preliminary Manhattan or Bronx is as an egg without meat. Apparently cocktails were not in the scheme of things at the castle. "I'm afraid we're not so modern as that," the laird had said in his wistful way when Stephen sounded him on the subject, "and I doubt if there's such a thing as a bottle of gin on the island. However, if, as you say, you have the ingredients on board your yacht——"

Stephen had not mentioned to Toray that the cocktails were intended as a surprise for Phyllis. He had blamed it all on Phil. Mr. Verity, he explained, was one of those Americans so inured to the cocktail habit that, without its gentle stimulus, his gastric juices simply refused to function. With a man of his years, the laird would understand.

Leisurely descending to the deserted hall on the stroke of eight, Stephen found his bottles arrayed upon a side-table, flanked by a bowl of ice, with the shaker and a round dozen old-fashioned champagne glasses of cut crystal set out in line.

He was rousing all the echoes of the roof with his shaker vigorously plied when the glint of gold in a mirror on the wall caught his eye and, turning, he saw Phyllis serenely regarding him. She looked perfect and she knew it—he could tell by the way she stood there, her shapely hands folded in front of her, waiting for him to notice her. She was flawless as ever, without a tendril of her glorious hair out of place, in a cloth-of-gold frock he had never seen her wear before, with bodice plainly cut, baring the sloping sheen of her shoulders and full skirt reaching to the floor.

"Phyllis!" His gasping cry was so expressive of admiration that a delighted smile lit up her face.

"Do I look all right?" she asked archly.

"Do you look all right?" With a resolute air he put the shaker down. "You look like a million dollars. In twenty-dollar gold pieces." Laughing happily she executed a stately twirl while he gazed at her in rapture. "Are you an eyeful? Listen, honey, you put on that frock at the next Beaux Arts Ball and go as the gold standard and you'll knock 'em cold!"

She stopped in front of him and, with a little possessive air, straightened his tie. "Dear Steve! You say the cutest things." His arms went out to her, but she drew away. "You'll muss my hair. Marie's been at it for ages—this sea air ruins it! There!" She held up her curved and pouting lips and let him, leaning forward, kiss her gingerly. Then, gazing over his shoulder, she cried, "Oh, Steve, cocktails! Wherever did they come from?"

Her companion laughed and picked up the shaker. "You didn't know I was a mind-reader, did you?" With a flourish he filled two glasses and handed her one.

"Cheers!" she retorted, sipped and nodded her approval. Bearing her glass to a chair she sat down. "Why did you want to see me before the others got here?" she demanded, prettily curious. "To give me a cocktail, was it?"

"Not altogether," he replied as he held a match for her. "I wanted to have a word with you about——"

Her hand sought his shoulder caressingly and drew him down to the chair beside her. "About the vicomte. I know! He told me you and he had had a run-in at Cannes or some place. Over a girl, wasn't it? He says he was pretty tight at the time. He seems to think you're still angry about it. You're not, are you?"

He shrugged. "It's not a question of being angry. The fellow's a card sharp and a gigolo who insulted the lady I was with so I hit him. That's the end of the incident as far as I'm concerned. We happen to be staying in the same house, but I don't intend to associate with him and I don't want you to!"

"I think it's silly to keep up old feuds—why, you're as bad as the McReays and the McThingummys! We're all guests of the laird and you know perfectly well you can't ignore him. Besides, he's really quite a nice boy and frightfully amusing."

Stephen put his hand over hers. "See here, honey, I know what I'm talking about! This vicomte is out! I suppose you can't help being civil to him when you meet, but that's all! No more tête-à-têtes!"

She drew her hand away. "I think you're being very narrow-minded. You must admit that they're a pretty dull lot in this house. And I'm expected to cold-shoulder the only presentable young man simply because you and he got mixed up in some drunken brawl on the Continent!"

"That's nothing to do with it. He's a professional gigolo and it's his job to be presentable, as you call it. But I'm not going to have him playing round with you!"

She flushed rosily. "I think you're being very tiresome!"

"I'm merely being sensible. I happen to know all about this bird. You don't!"

"I know jealousy when I see it!"

"You're not suggesting, surely, that I'm jealous of this rat?" His tone was dangerously cool.

She ignored his question. "You happen to be interested in Highland antiquities; I'm not. It's nothing to you, I suppose, that I'm bored to tears with your lairds and your bagpipes. And simply because I'm decently civil to a young man who's introduced to me by my host, there's a row. You're impossible!"

He was about to make some heated reply when there were footsteps under the gallery and Mrs. Dean came into the hall. With her was D'Arenne, looking very trim in a double-breasted dinner jacket. "But I know the princesse very well," he was saying to Mrs. Dean. "Toto de Warlencourt used to come to our place in the Loire before they were married and I've met them at Monte Carlo."

"Just imagine, Phyllis darling," Mrs. Dean exclaimed to her daughter, "the vicomte knows Mimi de Warlencourt!" She turned to Stephen. "You must know the Princesse de Warlencourt, Steve—Mimi Price, that was—the Wilmington Prices, you know."

The vicomte had stopped dead in front of Phyllis and was regarding her critically. "Charmante, charmante!" he murmured, then, putting out his hand, "Give me your—how do you say 'houppette'?" She took her powder-puff from her handkerchief and passed it over. "You have a little too much rouge on the pommettes—the top of the cheek, Mademoiselle. Permettez!" Dexterously he dabbed with the puff and stood back in admiration. "Voilà! So shall your so bright eyes have their full value!"

At this moment Stephen, who had picked up the shaker again, stepped between them, unceremoniously elbowing the vicomte aside. Some of the contents of the shaker were spilled upon the Frenchman's coat. "Zut!" D'Arenne exclaimed furiously, springing away. "You might look where you go, I think, my friend!" He dabbed at his lapel with his fine cambric handkerchief.

"Then keep your hands to yourself!" the American growled and strode to the cocktail table.

"If you think you can give me orders——"

The vicomte was in the act of advancing upon the American when he found Berg, who had entered unobserved, solidly planted in his path. The big man had changed into evening dress, but he wore a ragged brown cardigan under his jacket and his hair was unbrushed. Verity's gray head was visible behind him.

"Aren't you going to present me to the ladies, Raoul?" Berg asked the Frenchman, his bold eye ranging from Phyllis to Mrs. Dean. The vicomte, who looked rather white, shrugged and murmured an introduction.

Then Phyllis went to the rescue. "Come on," she said hastily to D'Arenne, taking his arm, "I'll play you a game of backgammon before dinner!"

Verity had gone to Stephen who, with a raging air, was mixing another round of drinks. "Have you forgotten your promise?" he demanded indignantly under his breath.

Stephen snorted. "Did you see the little swine?" he muttered furiously.

"I saw him, but you've got to control yourself!" Verity was about to add something when he perceived Berg eyeing them intently. "Hurry up with those drinks, Steve!" he said aloud. "Mr. Berg looks as though he could do with a cocktail!"

The big man overheard him. "You are right!" he remarked stonily, his glance hard and unfriendly. Two men had joined him. One was a sallow, Italian type, who, with his stolid, self-effacing manner and evening clothes of foreign cut, suggested a croupier; the other, a raffish-looking, sun-dried individual with a monocle, was palpably an Englishman. With a challenging air the trio stood and glared at the two Americans.

But now the white and scarlet of the laird's kilt appeared on the staircase and Berg turned to present his two companions: 'My friends, Mr. Boldini and Major Mansard." Verity saw their host's eyes rest inquiringly upon the oddly matched pair. Then, in his courtly way, he asked if they were comfortable.

"My daughter believed you would be better off in the rooms above the coach house," he explained. "But Mr. Berg seemed to think you'd prefer to be near him, in the garden suite!"

"Na ja, we're pals," Berg agreed heartily, "and we like to stick together!"

But the laird had turned to speak to Mansard. "An old army man like myself, I presume, major?" he said. The major laughed. He was past his first youth and his face was colorless and grained like a piece of dressed pigskin, the eyes agate under heavy, drooping lids.

"Yes," he drawled, faintly insolent. "But not in the same army. I was on Villa's staff in Mexico!"

Verity's sense of uneasiness slowly deepened. What did these men want at the castle—Berg, with his clumsy clothes and vulgar manner; D'Arenne, gigolo and card sharp; this soldier of fortune and his nondescript companion? He was still racking his brains for a solution of the mystery when old Duncan's voice resounded through the hall: "Dinner iss sairved!"


THE open hostility between Stephen and the vicomte lay like a thunder-cloud over dinner that night. From his place between Boldini and the Major at the foot of the table, Verity was constantly aware of Steve, next to their host at the head, glowering at D'Arenne who, seated between the Deans, was evidently doing his best to produce an impression on Phyllis. Verity noticed, too, that Toray refrained from addressing any remark to the vicomte and that his glance, as often as it rested on the Frenchman, was charged with cold unfriendliness. Berg and his other two companions had wrapped themselves in an enigmatic silence which intensified the atmosphere of suspense. Only D'Arenne rattled on.

Phyllis laughed a good deal—Verity had the impression that she was deliberately trying to provoke Stephen. He could have shaken her, falling for such an obvious adventurer! One knew the type. The black sheep of good family. Three-ply culture—veneer of London and New York upon a Continental foundation—speaking a species of universal English, a blend of modern English jargon and American slang. In Paris young Latins of D'Arenne's stamp, with their easy manner and weak mouths, were three a penny—well-educated and well-dressed, they had a superficial polish with thinly veiled morals to make a monkey blush and the frigid ruthlessness of a medieval assassin.

As far as Phyllis went, the vicomte's game was obvious. She was pretty, well-connected, chic: American, and, therefore, in Continental eyes, rich—a prize for any fortune-hunter. Verity, who had made it his business to inquire into the finances of the Dean ménage, smiled foxily to himself—as far as he was concerned, D'Arenne was welcome to make Phyllis his vicomtesse. Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing for old Steve to see her in her true colors for once. But there must be no more brawling—he would have to have a word with Mrs. Dean.

Dinner dragged on its way mournfully. Even old Rory's entry with his pipes did not enliven things. With the fall of dark the wind had increased in force. Long gusts, sweeping round the castle, went reverberating under the high roof of the hall and the noise of the sea was as a faint, persistent drumming of wheels. Old leather screens had been drawn about the bays overlooking the loch to exclude the draught; but the candles continued to drip and gutter in the stray airs that were wafted about.

Stephen, the laird, and Mrs. Dean kept up a desultory, three-cornered conversation. Little Miss McReay, after one or two ineffectual attempts to talk to Berg, who was her neighbor, had relapsed into silence, her grave eyes constantly on Phyllis and the vicomte across the table. She was wearing the same little black evening frock they had seen her in on the previous night; one scarcely noticed her clothes, Verity decided, for the proud way she bore herself.

This evening, when dinner was done, they remained long at table. Old Duncan removed the lace mats and set a heavy cut-glass decanter before the laird. The port went round, the coffee was served and presently the fragrance of cigars was in the air. Outside the wind shrieked like a myriad souls in pain and behind the screens the curtains rustled fitfully.

Mrs. Dean had brought a wrap to the table. Drawing it about her shoulders she shivered slightly and said, "What a noise the wind makes! To hear it, you'd think it'd bring the castle about our ears!"

Toray gave her his gentle smile. "Those walls are nine foot thick, Mrs. Dean. They've stood worse. They'll stand worse tonight, if I'm any judge." He turned to Stephen. "I'm a little concerned about that yacht of yours, Mr. Garrison."

He broke off. The major-domo was at his elbow, whispering. "Your captain's here," the laird informed Stephen. "Jamieson tells me Captain McKenzie's a Highlander by origin, he went on. I'd like to meet him. Would you mind if I invited him to take a glass of wine with us?"

Stephen smiled. "Not in the least. Only I don't know whether he'll accept. The skipper isn't very social, laird. One of your dour Hielanders!"

His host chuckled. "A mon after my ain hairt!" he declared in broad Scots and spoke to Duncan over his shoulder. "What part of the Highlands is he from?" he asked Stephen.

"From Oban, I think," was the reply. "The family migrated to Canada when he was a small boy.

The laird sighed. "Ah, emigration! It's depopulating the Highlands, Mr. Garrison. Has he still the Gaelic?"

The other laughed. "I doubt it, although he could understand the pilot's English, which is more than the rest of us could. He's been more than forty years away, he told me, except during the war, when he was with the Grand Fleet at Scapa. I don't know much about him, really. He's not my regular captain, you know. Murray, who's skippered for me for the past five years, was injured in a car smash earlier in the summer. As I had this cruise in mind I thought I'd replace him temporarily by a man who knew something about these waters. A friend of mine at Halifax found McKenzie for me." He broke off as Toray rose. Old Duncan was ushering the captain in.

If McKenzie had any feeling of diffidence at being thus thrust in upon a formal dinner party, he did not show it. His scarred face was impassive as Stephen presented him.

"It's always a pleasure to welcome a Highlander home," said the laird with cordial dignity, as he grasped the captain's hand. Then he spoke a phrase in Gaelic. Stolidly McKenzie shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir, but I've lost the hang of it," he said laconically.

Toray sighed. "Too bad. But if you were born at Oban," he added, brightening up, "you should know our island here?"

Once more a grave headshake. "I mind hearing my father tell of the McReays of Toray, laird. But he's in his grave these many years. And I was no more than a bairn when the family went away to Canada!"

"We have some McKenzies on the island," Toray persisted. "One of them, old Christine, was housekeeper here at the castle in my father's day. They might be kinsfolk of yours?"

But he received no encouragement from the captain. "There's no par-rt o' the wor-rld where you'll no meet up wi' a McKenzie," he replied sententiously. "But I've no kin, laird, either here or anywhere else!"

On that Toray, in his stately way, presented him to the company. "My daughter, Flora. . . . These ladies and Mr. Verity you know—the Vicomte d'Arenne, Major Mansard, Mr. Boldini, Mr. Berg."

It had not escaped Verity's keen eye that McKenzie had been staring rather hard at Berg and his companions. His slow, stern glance shifted from D'Arenne and the Major on one side of the table to Boldini and Berg on the other, it was clear that the captain's sense of decorum was not a little shocked at finding guests of their stamp at the castle. But his rugged countenance registered nothing.

With a stiff bow that embraced the whole company he took the chair that Duncan placed between Stephen and the laird and, refusing a glass of port—he was teetotal, he told Toray—plunged straightway into the errand that had brought him.

A gale was blowing up—already the waves were running so high in the loch that he had come ashore in the whaleboat delivering stores from McDonald's shop rather than risk swamping the launch: McDonald and his two sons would take him back. The captain wanted Mr. Garrison's permission to use his discretion about running for Ansay during the night if the weather grew worse—the pilot was on board again and would show them the passage. In a moment the three men were deep in discussion.

Under the influence of the wine the tension at the table had relaxed. At Verity's side the Major was explaining across the table to Boldini the old custom by which the port circulates from right to left, according to the path of the sun.

"A lot of tommy-rot!" Berg growled, taking the decanter from Boldini and refilling his glass. "The only way for port to circulate is down—down the t'roat!' He guffawed. "Pay no attention to him, Nick, ol' man he's as full of superstitions as you Neapolitans."

"Talking of superstitions," D'Arenne, who was listening, now chimed in peremptorily, "I tell you what happened to me this afternoon, hein? I take a little walk round the castle and up there in the gallery I come to a room—such a dark, old room—with a bed in it so big like the bed of state at Versailles. What is this room, please?' He glanced inquiringly round the table.

"It's called the Portcullis Room," Mrs. Dean confided officiously. "One of the McNeils was murdered there. You can still see his blood on the floor!"

The Frenchman chuckled. "So that explains it!"

"Explains what?" said Phyllis.

"One of the maids was in the gallery with a candle. I call to her to bring the light. But she only scream and run downstairs!"


"One of the maids was in the gallery with a candle. I call to her to bring the light."

The laird had broken off his talk with the captain and Stephen and was listening, a frown on his face. He turned to the major-domo who was behind him with a tray of liqueurs. "I thought they'd got over that nonsense," he observed severely.

The old man gave him a sullen glance. "Wad ye no ken the day it iss, laird?" he grumbled.

Toray drew down his bushy eyebrows, swung to Stephen. "What is the date?"

The American laughed. "The twenty-ninth of September, isn't it?"

The laird's face cleared. "Ah!" he remarked serenely, as though that explained all.

"Is there any particular significance about the date?" Stephen questioned.

Toray hesitated. "No-o! That's to say, it's the feast of Saint Michael."

Mrs. Dean seemed to pounce. "But, my gracious, that's Michaelmas!" Her slightly prominent eyes roved awestruck round the circle. "It's the very night that Hugh McNeil was murdered!"

Toray laughed quietly. "You're a very attentive listener, Mrs. Dean!"

"I knew it, the moment I set foot in the place, and so did Phyllis," the lady proclaimed categorically. "That room's haunted!" She rounded on the laird. "Now, isn't it?"

The host paused and with a thoughtful air shaved the ash of his cigar into the saucer of his coffee-cup, he seemed to be waiting until old Duncan, who had taken round the liqueurs, had left the hall

"Our islanders are highly superstitious folk, Mrs. Dean," he remarked when the major-domo had withdrawn. "It's not easy at any time to induce a servant to enter the Portcullis Room—even old Duncan, who went through the South African War with me. And on the very anniversary of the murder——" He shrugged and drew on his cigar.

"Tiens!" D'Arenne struck in suddenly. "I just remember something—something that your son Ronald once told me—how once, as a boy, he was frightened almost to death in a room of the castle. Is this perhaps the room?'

Toray was frowning down at his fruit plate. "There was some such incident, I believe," he rejoined with disfavor.

"Oh, but it's too thrilling!" Mrs. Dean exclaimed. "Tell us, do!"

Once more the laird shrugged, removed his cigar. "Ronald was about twelve at the time," he said in carefully measured tones, "and a high-strung, nervous youngster—he used to walk in his sleep. One night as it happens it was this very night of Michaelmas—the whole castle was roused by piercing shrieks. We found Ronnie in the Long Gallery—well, he was pretty scared. It seems he had wakened up to find himself in the Portcullis Room."

"But what scared him?" Mrs. Dean demanded breathlessly. "Did he see a ghost?"

"All that we could get out of the boy was that there was something in the room that had frightened him. He kept raving on about "that horrible thing," without ever saying exactly what he'd seen. He'd obviously had a shock and his mother and I had to send him down to friends in Edinburgh for a complete change. He'd probably dreamt it, you know, and, of course, from the cradle up, he'd heard of the secret of the Portcullis Room which, according to immemorial custom, would have been revealed to him on his twenty-first birthday."

"And was he ever told?" D'Arenne put in.

Inscrutably Toray shook his head. "My son's coming of age was not celebrated. He was abroad at the time..." He broke off, toying with his wine-glass.

Mrs. Dean rushed into the breach—it was evident she sensed the tactlessness of the vicomte's question. "But it's positively too exciting!' she exclaimed with an ecstatic shiver. 'You mean something walks in that room? Is that the family secret?"

The laird evaded the question. "The Portcullis Room has always had the reputation of being haunted," he observed judicially.

"What did I say?" Mrs. Dean cried triumphantly. She leaned forward to the laird. "McNeil's ghost, is it?" she questioned coaxingly.

Toray shrugged.

"So the islanders say. He's supposed to have been a man of notoriously evil life and the legend is that he's doomed for all eternity to visit the Portcullis Room on the anniversary of his murder."

With a little clatter one of the candles that had been steadily guttering dropped upon the table. Everybody jumped and in the little pause that ensued as the vicomte restored it to its place they heard the high, desolate moan of the wind outside. Captain McKenzie glanced at his watch.

"Well, seeing that tonight's the night," Stephen remarked drily, "they ought to be just about paging him in Hades or wherever he is." He paused. "Apart from your son, Toray, is there any record of anyone else having seen him?"

"My grandfather," said the laird, "used to tell a story of a visitor to the castle who slept in the Portcullis Room for a bet at the beginning of the century being awakened by an evil face that peered at him out of the wall. And any crofter will tell you of the mysterious blue light that fishermen in the loch have seen shining from the window above the seagate on Michaelmas night."

Mrs. Dean cast a fearful glance behind her at the tall shadows quivering on the wall. "I shan't dare to go to bed tonight, I know I shan't!" she wailed.

Phyllis had turned to D'Arenne. "Would you dare to spend a night in that room?" she demanded, her eyes sparkling mischievously.

He smiled at her through his long lashes. "It would depend whether I were alone," he said purposefully.

She gave a crooning laugh. "I'd rather die..."

He made a little grimace. "You are not very complimentary, ma petite!"

She rapped his hand. "Idiot! I meant the ghost, not you!"

He laughed. "And I who think always that American girls are afraid of nothing. You don't believe the old man's nonsense, surely?"

"Of course not!"

"I bet he's as superstitious as the rest of them." He raised his voice. "Dites, Toray, have you ever seen the ghost?"

"Oh, yes, have you?" Mrs. Dean chimed in, leaning towards her neighbor.

The laird shook his head placidly. "No. I can't say I have."

"But have you ever tried sleeping in that room?" Mrs. Dean persisted.

He gave her a pawky glance. "Not I," he answered, smiling. "In the Highlands we have a very healthy respect for bogles and such things, even when we don't believe in them!"

Captain McKenzie had stood up. It was time he was getting back, he announced. He took his leave and the company rose from the table.


MRS. DEAN liked her rubber of bridge after dinner. But she had to forgo it that night. It appeared that neither Toray nor his daughter played contract and Phyllis announced that she was going to play backgammon with the vicomte; Stephen standing aloof, took no part in the discussion. They might have secured Berg or one of the others as a fourth, only the major and Boldini forestalled them by proposing to Berg a three-handed match at billiards—it seemed there was a billiard room near their quarters in the so-called garden suite.

Verity felt relieved—he did not relish the idea of sitting down to cards with any of the quartet—and suggested a game of cribbage to Mrs. Dean—a game they had often played together on board the yacht.

Berg and his friends lingered on for a while. They were listening to D'Arenne who, hands in pockets before the fireplace, was greatly interested in their host's Highland dress.

Toray had to explain each component part in detail—the plaid with its rich brooch, the sporran with its silver-mounted tassels, the traditional dagger, or skean dhu in the stocking. The young Frenchman seemed quite unconscious of the obvious reluctance with which the laird submitted to this scrutiny—he even plucked the dagger out to show it to his friends.

It was a gaudy thing with its amber cairngorm set in the hilt. Berg unsheathed it and showed the McReay escutcheon and the family motto, "Aut honor aut nihil," engraved on the worn, sharp blade.

It was not a plated affair for show, as so many of these dirks were nowadays, Toray explained as the dagger passed from hand to hand: it had been for centuries in the family and had no doubt in its time slit many a MacNeil weasand.

The laird would have taken the dirk from the vicomte to restore it to its place. But D'Arenne, waving the dagger in the air, began to stalk about the hall, chanting at the top of his lungs the Offenbach refrain:

Voici le sabre, le sabre, le sabre,
Voici le sabre, le sabre de mon père!

Then, snatching up an antimacassar and draping it about him for a kilt, he struck a melodramatic attitude and intoned in a hollow voice:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee!

thereafter, with cheerful inconsequence, going into a declamatory speech in French—Racine or Corneille, Verity judged. At any rate, he recognized the stilted singsong diction, delightedly parodied, of the Comédie Française.

D'Arenne possessed a Gallic gayety, a lightness of touch, a sense of the ridiculous, which were irresistible. Presently he had them all laughing at him, he was so absurd—all except Stephen, who remained apart, smoking in sullen silence. Suddenly the thump and rattle of a Cuban orchestra resounded through the hall—Phyllis, who had been rooting about in the gramophone cabinet, had put on a record.

"Tiens!" cried the vicomte, "I show you now how we dance Le Béguin in Martinique!" So saying, he laid the dirk aside and hurled himself into a grotesque travesty of the rumba. His face, his hands, his hips, his legs were all in action; it was a masterpiece of comic miming. Phyllis, springing forward, began to dance with him. She was graceful a beautiful dancer, with a good ear for rhythm and a great sense of fun. Side by side, they pranced up and down, arms weaving, hips wriggling, feet tapping, while Berg and his friends applauded.

Suddenly the major-domo, his face a study in outraged dignity, was in the hall. "The factor-r was wishful tae speak wi' ye, laird!" he said, eyes scathingly averted, to Toray.

The laird went out and the record, at that moment running down, D'Arenne and Phyllis broke off and flung themselves, breathless and laughing, upon the couch.

Someone turned off the gramophone. Berg and his two companions drifted away to their billiards. Out of the corner of his eye Verity saw that Stephen was speaking to Flora McReay.

"I wonder if you'd show me the library," Verity heard him say. "I'm always interested in books!"

His friend's eyebrows went up. In all the years they had known one another, Stephen, it seemed to him, had concealed his interest very effectively. Still, it was all to the good to have him out of the way, with Phyllis playing up as she was. With a contented air he watched Stephen follow Flora out.

Once inside the solemn, cheerless library the American closed the door and advanced to where, having put the candle down upon the table, the girl was halted, gazing round at the shelves. "I'm afraid most of the first editions have been sold," she said. "Still, there are some quite interesting books left."

"I don't care anything about the books," he told her resolutely. "That was just an excuse because I wanted to talk to you alone. . . . What are those men doing here?"

From head to foot her haughty glance measured him. "And who are you," said she, "to go speirin' into our private affairs?"

He shook himself unwillingly. "I'm only speaking for your good. I met one of these men before—D'Arenne. He's a waster. How is it possible that a cheap crook like that could have been your brother's friend.

Her face darkened. "Because like goes with like." Her voice was low and tense.

He stared at her. "I don't understand you. I thought you were so fond of your brother. Didn't you stop the piper from playing that lament last night because you couldn't bear to be reminded of his death?"

"I stopped him because the Cumha an Aona Mhic's a holy thing," she retorted passionately. "That lament is played only in the hour of the blackest grief. Rory wouldn't be knowin' it, the old bodach, but to play it for Ronald McReay is just desecration!"

He looked at her blankly. "Still, your only brother——'

"Aye, he was my ain blood," she answered somberly. "But, for all that, "twas a bitter day for the McReays of Toray, the day he saw the light, and I say it that loved him." Her voice broke. "But for Ronnie," she added, in a sudden burst of anger, "you'd no be here, Mr. Garrison!"

"I don't see what he had to do with it," the American objected stoutly. "It was a real estate firm in London who put me in touch with McTaggart, your father's lawyer."

"There's many things at Toray you wouldn't be seein'," she flared back. "Pillows wet with tears, and two broken hearts! You may buy the castle, but God help you if you buy the grief that goes wi' it!"

"Perhaps I see more than you think," he said soberly. "I know, for instance, that a fellow doesn't join the Foreign Legion until he's at the end of his tether. I know, too, that a man of your father's fine character would never tolerate people like Berg and his friends in the ordinary way. And that goes for you, too!"

She caught her breath forlornly, her eyes less hostile. "You're right there."

"And that the business which has brought them here has to do with the tragedy of your brother. It was a tragedy, wasn't it?"

She nodded. "Yes. But his death was the best thing that could have happened."


"Didn't Angus McTaggart tell you?"

"All he said was that your father had sustained severe financial reverses. He gave no reason. Your Mr. McTaggart's a verra cautious gentleman." He smiled into her eyes. "Can't you see I'm anxious to help? It's not easy if I don't know the facts."

"Ronnie—my brother—was the reason," she responded reluctantly.

She was calmer now, her English limpid and precise again, it was only in moments of emotion, he perceived, that her Highland blood came out in her speech and accent.

"Ronnie always gave trouble," she said. "I think he was a little mad, a throw-back to some wild ancestor. He was a subaltern in my father's old regiment of Highlanders and had to send in his papers—he gave out a lot of bad checks. He'd have been cashiered but for my father. Father paid up for him and he went abroad. He was always writing for money, and bills kept coming in. My father, who idolized him, always paid, even if it meant selling the pictures and books. Then a letter came from him at Cannes; if he didn't have three thousand pounds in a week, the French were going to put him in jail. Daddy sold the Raeburn and sent him the money, but it didn't make any difference. It was nothing but debts and writs and scandals of all kinds. Once he forged father's name to a promissory note and daddy paid up again to save him from prison. McTaggert and Jamieson—all of us told daddy—it was like throwing money into the sea. But he was always weak about Ronnie—besides he's so proud of the family name." She paused, her blue eyes brooding. That was the first time we heard of Oscar Berg. It was he who held the note."

"Who is this man?"

"He's head of a big gambling syndicate on the Riviera. Major Mansard and Mr. Boldini are in it with him."

"What do they want here? Another forgery, is it?"

She hesitated, her steady gaze considering him; he could see she was struggling with her natural reserve. Then she shook her head. "Berg holds checks of Ronnie's which the bank dishonored."

"But your brother's dead. He can't collect on them. How much are they for?"

"Nearly seventeen thousand pounds in all!"

He emitted a soundless whistle. "Round about eighty-five thousand dollars! But your brother was killed last year, wasn't he? Why has Berg waited until now to make this claim?"

She shook her head. "I can't tell you. All I know is that, about eighteen months ago, Ronnie stopped writing. Then, last December, a letter came from the French War Office to say that he had been killed with the Foreign Legion. He'd enlisted in the name of Ronald Ghillies—that's old Duncan's name—but they had found his real name from papers on him. About two months ago, Berg suddenly wrote to my father about those checks. McTaggert was staying with us at the time. He told daddy that he couldn't enforce his claim and persuaded him to do nothing about it. Some time later, another letter came. My father wouldn't show it to me, but I was pretty sure he didn't answer it—now I'm not so certain. Then, the day before you arrived, Berg wired from Edinburgh to say he was on his way up here. Daddy was out at the time and I kept the telegram from him. I wired back to Berg to say it was no use coming, that daddy wouldn't receive him, and signed my father's name to it.

Stephen grinned. "Good for you!"

"But it was no use. The next thing I knew they'd arrived. Only D'Arenne appeared at first; the others stayed down at McDonald's. He saw my father alone in the study—it was when you and Mr. Verity were away on the yacht this afternoon. There was a terrible scene. I heard them shouting at one another through the door

"But what's D'Arenne doing here?" Stephen interrupted. "He's not in the syndicate, surely. I mean, he's known as a card sharp all along the Riviera."

She shook her head tensely. "I don't know what he wants. He was a great friend of my brother's; Ronnie used to mention him in his letters."

With a dubious air he rubbed his chin. "I don't like the look of things a bit. This fellow Berg's a tough customer and he means business. He has a couple of his bullies down at McDonald's, my servant tells me."

She nodded forlornly. "I know. I saw them. Awful-looking men!"

He patted her shoulder. "Don't worry. I've got a nice mixed collection of huskies of my own on board the Ariel. I've never seen them in action, but I have an idea that, if it came to a mix-up, they might be quite rough!"

She was considering him intently. "You're different from what I thought. You make me feel ashamed of the way I've behaved to you, the things I've said. You must think me a perfect savage!"

"That's silly. You have every right to object to an American intruding."

"I don't want you to think me uncouth. After all the luxury you're used to in America, you must find us very uncivilized. But I was away for five years to Saint Leonard's—that's a very good school near Edinburgh—and I'd have gone on to Paris but for all this trouble with my brother. I didn't want to leave Daddy, even if we could have afforded it." She broke off. "I never see anyone of my own age up here and it makes me brood. It's bad to brood. You've never been very unhappy, have you?"

He had fallen into a reverie, absorbed by the unconscious charm of her oval face, the crystalline cobalt of her eyes. He started now and laughed. "Me? I don't know. Unless it's to be always discontented."

She gazed at him in wonder. "Discontented? What about that girl with you? You're going to marry her, aren't you?"

He shrugged, regarding her whimsically. "I don't know. What would you advise?"

"She's beautiful," she said impressively. "And she knows how to wear clothes. That gold dress she's wearing tonight is the loveliest thing I ever saw." She gave a little sigh.

"Has anyone ever told you how lovely you are?" he asked abruptly.

She colored suddenly. "Now you're making fun of me," she told him huskily.

He shook his head. "I'm dead serious. And I'm not paying you compliments, either. More than that, you've got an air about you that's worth all the gold frocks that ever came out of Paris. Don't you ever forget, little Flora, that breeding is one of the rarest things in the world today—much rarer than gold frocks, for example."

The smile she gave him had an undefinable quality, wistful, grateful, yet entreating, as though she still doubted whether he were in jest or earnest. She picked up the lighted candle. "I must be getting back," she told him in her sedate way. He said no more, but followed her out.

In the dim corridor the lamplight danced to the savage buffeting of the gale outside. At the red-baize door she left him: he was going to say good-night to her father. Stephen went through into the hall. Verity was alone there, asleep in a chair, a book open on his knee. Stephen glanced at the book. It was Shakespeare's tragedies, open at Macbeth. He smiled—old Phil working up local color, eh?

The other stirred, blinked sleepy eyes. "Hullo!"

"Where's everybody?"

"Phyllis and the vicomte went off to play billiards. Mrs. Dean's gone to bed. I must have dropped off. Whatever time is it?"

"After eleven. I've been talking to Flora. Listen!" Perched on the arm of the chair, Stephen told briefly of the girl's disclosures.

Verity yawned. "I don't see what we can do about it. Seventeen thousand pounds, eh? That's just about what this old ruin'll set you back if you're still crazy enough to want to buy it." He stood up. "I'm for bed. How about you?"

"I'm going to take Phyllis away from that gang in the billiard room. Where is it, by the way?"

"Down at the end of the east wing corridor—I was in there after tea. Say, what did you do with that Chicago balance sheet?"

"It's on the table in my room. Shall I get it?"

"Don't bother! I'll fetch it!" His book tucked under his arm, Verity moved towards the staircase. "Good-night, Steve!"

"Night, old boy!"

Verity went up the stairs, while Stephen, with a resolute step, disappeared under the gallery.

In the trembling illumination of taper and firelight the great hall remained empty.

It had been the vicomte's suggestion that they should join the others in the billiard room. Phyllis was agreeable. As they pattered along the east wing corridor, past the tall white doors of the library, they heard Stephen's voice inside.

D'Arenne shot a sarcastic glance at his companion.

"Still there, eh?" he sneered. "I'd no idea that your friend Garrison was an intellectual!"

Phyllis had stopped short, irresolute. "He'll be wondering what's become of me. We'd better go in for a moment!"

The Frenchman lifted a scornful eyebrow. "Scared?"

"What do you mean?" Her tone was imperious.

He shrugged. "Didn't you tell me he'd forbidden you my company?"

She reddened. "That's nothing to do with it." She took his arm. "Come on, let's go and play billiard." She paused. "That's to say, if you know where the billiard room is. This old castle's a perfect maze. I lost my way coming down to dinner tonight and found myself in the picture gallery."

He nodded sagely. "I know. You're in this wing, aren't you? On the floor above this, with old Verity and your mother? Eh bien, there's a door in that corridor that leads into the Long Gallery!"

She laughed. "You haven't lost any time in getting acquainted with the geography, have you?"

"Trust this baby!" he chuckled. "Whenever I find myself in a strange house, always I like to know my way about. You never can tell when it may not come in useful. Par exemple"—They were approaching the end of the corridor where there was a door with a glimpse of a lantern through the fanlight—"Through that door is the inner courtyard with the old tower you tell me you have seen yesterday. Here on our left"—his hand brushed a low, iron-studded door—"is a way out to the garden with a—how do you say?—a corkscrew staircase that leads up to your floor. And round here, where the corridor turns, we arrive at the garden suite, where I and Boldini are lodged, with the billiard room at the end."

He indicated a band of light under a door at the extremity of the gallery, whence voices and the click of balls were faintly audible. "Dites, ma petite Phyllis," he chuckled, "this old Raoul doesn't waste his time, hein? This is my room! Do you mind if I fetch some cigarettes?"

He had opened the first door where the corridor bent at a right angle. An oil lamp suspended from the ceiling threw a sickly light over a sparsely furnished ground-floor room with French windows. Phyllis stopped on the threshold.

"Hurry up and get your cigarettes!" she said nervously. "Steve would have a fit if he found me here!"

A door closed in the distance. D'Arenne popped his head out. "Don't worry," he told her lightly. "He and the little McReay have just gone back to the hall." He gazed at her meditatively. "Ecoutez, now that we're alone, with no Steve or Verity to spy on us, I want to tell you something. I have a great idea, a marvel, an inspiration." He broke off. "But no, you're scared of the good Garrison. I won't tell you."

She turned on him indignantly. "Me? Scared of Steve? Don't be absurd! Let's hear this idea of yours."

He shook his head despondently. "No. I'm sure he wouldn't approve."

"I tell you I don't care whether he does or not!"

He laughed. "Pooh! You know he dominates you!"

"He does not. Let's hear your idea!"

He shrugged. "As you will. But somehow I don't see you going through with it."

He leaned forward and began speaking in a low, caressing undertone. Mischief, and with it a look of awed incredulity, crept into her face as she listened. As his voice, sleek and cajoling, rustled on, she broke into a volley of little, gurgling laughs, murmuring now a faint objection, now a pleading protest. His eyes, black, twinkling pin-points, bored into hers: his hands fluttered in rapid, nervous movements.

Suddenly she caught his arm. She spoke no word, but they both heard the faint creak of a board in the corridor. Swiftly he drew her into the room, closed the door. Spellbound they listened. But only the eerie cry of the storm came to their ears.

Noiselessly he swung the door back, glanced right and left, peered round the corner. There was no one there, from the end of the corridor the cheerful sounds of the billiard players were wafted.

With a shrug he turned back to her. 'These old houses at night——Eh bien, ma petite Phyllis, what do you say to my plan?"

"I don't know," she answered uneasily. "Let's go now, shall we?"

But he barred the way and, taking her hand, began to reason with her again. "I'll not have another chance to talk to you alone."

Once more a sound without sent them flying apart—a firm tread was approaching along the east wing corridor. Swiftly D'Arenne craned his neck again, veered about to show a terrified face. "Garrison," his lips formed almost noiselessly. "I believe he's coming here." He slipped through the door. It closed, shutting her in.

Swinging round the turn of the corridor, Stephen all but collided with the dark form that stood there. Recognizing D'Arenne he recoiled, scowling.

"Where's Miss Dean?" he rasped.

"She went to bed," was the bland rejoinder. "I was just going to join the others in the billiard room. Coming?"

The American ignored this invitation. "Listen, D'Arenne!" he said sternly. "Miss Dean's a friend of mine and I object to your associating with her. Is that clear?"

D'Arenne shrugged. "Isn't that a matter for her to decide?"

Stephen's hand shot out and grabbed him by the lapel. "Lay off, do you hear? Or I'll break your neck!" Contemptuously he flung the Frenchman from him and strode off in the direction of the hall.

A hoarse chuckle resounded. Berg stood there in a stream of light from the open door of the billiard room. The vicomte was chattering with rage. He clutched Berg's arm. "Did you hear that? He threatened me!"

The big man laughed. "Na ja, it sounded to me like good advice," he retorted blandly. "Come into the billiard room. I want you!" Then Mansard calling from the lighted threshold it was his turn to play, he went back to his game.

Alone once more, D'Arenne opened the bedroom door. Phyllis stepped out quickly, her eyes blazing. "That was Steve we heard creeping about before," she exclaimed furiously. "He must have known I was here; he heard us talking. Well, I don't care. I won't be spied on."

"It's best you go to your room now," said the vicomte. "Wait, I show you the quickest way."

The iron-studded door he had pointed out before opened on a small lobby from which a winding stair mounted. Her narrow gold slipper posed on the bottom step, she paused, turned to him. "About that idea of yours——" she said slowly.

His face lit up. "Eh bien?" he questioned eagerly.

"It's a go," she told him.

"Ah!" His tone was triumphant. "A true American girl, afraid of nothing!"

She made no answer, but ran lightly up the stair.


VERITY had never heard such a wind. Now that the last sound of revelry from the billiard room had been hushed, the last good night spoken, the last light extinguished, the gale seemed to have taken possession of the castle, filling the labyrinthine passages with its sound and fury. The outer air was shrill with a thousand crying voices; the chimney rumbled as with the passage of a train; windows rattled and doors strained. Water was gurgling all about, and every lull in the tempest was a symphony of gutters spouting and the savage lash of the rain.

Long he had lain awake in the high four-poster, watching the firelight flicker on the old black wainscot and listening to the clamor of the storm reverberating as from a sounding board against the emptiness and silence about him. A long array of deserted apartments separated him from the main corridor where Mrs. Dean and Phyllis had adjoining rooms. It gave him a snug feeling to lie there in the cheerful gleam from the hearth and picture those desolate bedchambers. On his way to bed he had pushed a door or two at random and seen in the beam of his torch the dust spread thick on ragged hangings, moldering furniture, and sniffed the sour, sad odour of the years.

A tragic house and a tragic line! Bloodshed, rapine; and now ruin, extinction. His mind went racing backward from the pitiful story Steve had heard from Flora to those relics in the tower—Ranald Dhu's horn, Calum's broadsword. Poor young McReay! A wasted life. But there was such a thing as an old family lingering on too long. Well, the boy had died in the McReay tradition, as the laird had so bravely said. He had a sudden vision of the young legionary, face to the stars, in that circle of fallen tribesmen, like Calum among Cumberland's redcoats at Culloden.

The storm made sleep impossible. At length, with a sigh, Verity groped under his pillow for his torch, found the matches, lit his candle. His volume of Shakespeare reposed on the bedside table. He drew it to him, turned up Macbeth once more.

He had been hunting for a certain quotation when he had fallen asleep before the fire in the great hall—some line about a night of storm, very apt to existing conditions, which the vicomte's fooling with the dagger had stirred up in the recesses of his memory. He began to browse through the play, smiling contentedly to himself. Grand stuff! And how gorgeously appropriate in that setting. Why, all these bloodthirsty chieftains—King Duncan, Macbeth, Banquo, Macduff—were so many Ranald Dhus and Red Calums!

Ha! Here it was! Lenox was speaking, after the murder of the King. Drawing the candle nearer and lowering the book to catch the light, Verity began to recite under his breath:

The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air; screams of death,

He broke off abruptly, raising his head towards the door. Someone was knocking softly, urgently.

He put down his book. "Who's there?" he asked sharply.

The door handle was rattled and now he remembered that he had shot the bolt. A voice spoke in an agitated whisper, "Phil! Phil!"

It was Phyllis. "Wait, I'll open!" he told her. Springing out of bed, he flung on dressing-gown and slippers and, snatching up his torch, went to the door.

Phyllis stood there in a flowing white wrap. Her eyes were staring: upon the chalky whiteness of her face her lips made a vivid scarlet smear, like a clown's. They moved now, but no sound came forth; with one hand she was pointing vaguely behind her.

"Phyllis!" he exclaimed, aghast. "What's the matter? What's happened?"

The sound of his voice seemed to snap the spell that bound her. She said thickly, swaying towards him, "Back there. . . . D'Arenne . . . in the Portcullis Room!" With that she seemed to crumple up, but for his quickness she would have collapsed in a heap at his feet.

Lifting her in his arms, he bore her swiftly along the passage to the main corridor, lighting himself as best he might with his torch. Mrs. Dean was easily aroused, but it was more difficult to persuade her to unlock her door. "What is it? I'm in bed! What do you want?" she kept on saying while Verity hammered on the panel, telling her to open at once, that Phyllis had fainted. When at length she understood and undid the door, he grasped her reluctance to admit him; Mrs. Dean, as arrayed for the night, with her hair scraped back, a wrinkle plaster between the eyes, and a chin strap, was barely recognizable as the comely matron of her daylight hours.

At the sight of Phyllis, unconscious in his arms, she cried out, broke into a flood of questions. He carried the girl into the room, placed her on the bed, she lay motionless, breathing fitfully, her eyes closed.

"She's fainted," he said.

"But what's happened?" cried Mrs. Dean aghast. . . . "Phyllis, darling, it's mother!" She was rubbing her daughter's hands feverishly. "She said good night to me ages ago," she declared. "Where did you find her?"

"She knocked on my door. She's had a fright, I think." He was gazing anxiously at the pallid figure. "She's been exploring in the Portcullis Room, I fancy. With D'Arenne."

Mrs. Dean gasped. "With the Vicomte d'Arenne, at this hour? Impossible!"

"Have you any brandy?" Verity asked. Mrs. Dean flew to her dressing case, came back with a flask. They forced a little between the carmined lips. The girl moaned, opened her eyes, looked about her wildly and screamed, "No, no! It's too horrible!"

Mrs. Dean put her arms about her. "Phyllis, honey, it's all right now. You're with mother. Tell mother what happened."

But she only moaned again, murmuring like one distraught, "Horrible, horrible!"


"Tell Mother what happened!" But she only moaned again.

Verity turned to Mrs. Dean. "I'll leave you to look after her. I'll be right back!" He darted out.

The Portcullis Room! Something had happened there—something to do with Phyllis and this Frenchman. What fresh prank was this? As he sped along the corridor towards the stairs, he was conscious of a sharp pricking of anger against Phyllis. Well, he wasn't going to spare her this time. She was Steve's guest: this was Steve's affair. Fortunately, Steve's room wasn't far from the Portcullis Room—he'd rout him out and they'd investigate the mystery together.

The stairs descended to the east wing corridor, close to the entrance of the great hall. As he clattered down he could not rid himself of a dire sense of foreboding. The laird's story at dinner was vivid in his mind: he was unpleasantly aware that this was the appointed night for the ghost's appearance. He told himself in vain that it was superstitious rubbish. The picture of that sinister room, perched above the seagate and invaded by the dull boom of the breakers, kept rising in his mind. He wouldn't be sorry to have old Steve for company.

The whole castle re-echoed to the violence of the gale with windows clattering and shutters jarring. The torch fended a clammy, musty darkness until he found himself in the great hall where the night sky spilled a faint grayness through the tall windows. He took the grand staircase three stairs at a time, ran full speed to Steve's door, stopped short in dismay. The door stood ajar, the room empty, the bed unrumpled.

For an instant he thought of rousing the laird who slept next door. But this idea he rejected—better not stir up a scandal until he had ascertained the facts. Away to his left the gallery ran, dark and silent. It made a rectangle, he knew, he must turn left twice before the stair descending to the Portcullis Room came into view.

He lingered an instant, staring along the gallery, overwhelmed more strongly than before by an unreasoning sense of fear. A sort of stealthy hush underlay the noises of the gale and out of it came creeping the faint creakings that old woodwork gives forth at night.

With a dogged air, gripping his torch more firmly, he set out along the gallery, the white beam summoning forth the faces of dead and gone McReays that lined the wall. He made the first turn and saw the gallery stretching away in emptiness before him, turned again and perceived a glimmer of light. He realized that it came from the Portcullis Room.

Halfway down the stair he discovered that the door of the Portcullis Room stood open and that a light burned steadily within. It was a candle that dripped a pool of wax upon the table beside the fireplace. He paused an instant on the threshold to peer inside, the thunder of the sea, the discordant trumpets of the gale, beating against his ears.

The flashlight swung from side to side, disclosing the mighty bed, the hoary walls, the barred window. As the dazzling beam traveled across the room it picked out something that gleamed and sparkled close to the floor.

It was the amber cairngorm of Toray's dirk. And the dirk was plunged up to the hilt in the back of a form that sprawled face downward before the fireplace.


IT was D'Arenne. That glossy black head pillowed on an outflung arm was unmistakable. Verity remained rooted in the doorway. Gingerly his light explored the prostrate figure.

Now that his presentiment of disaster was fulfilled, his unreasoning fear justified, all kinds of arguments were rising in his mind to dispute it; face to face with the inescapable, human nature finds refuge in such evasions. It was just another one of the vicomte's jokes; D'Arenne and Phyllis had planned this hoax between them; taking advantage of the laird's ghost story, of the fact that it was the night of Michaelmas, to pull this stunt. In a moment the Frenchman, with that impudent laugh of his, would be on his feet, dusting his knees, while from the gallery Phyllis would burst in joyously to enjoy old stick-in-the-mud Verity's discomfiture.

But even as he strove to blind himself to the truth, Verity knew that D'Arenne had clowned for the last time. Five minutes hence by the watch on his wrist, ticking away in the ghastly silence, that solitary candle would still be burning, that flaccid puppet still bury its face in the empty hearth. No trick could counterfeit the way the dirk driven inward pinched the fine cloth of the dinner jacket into a cavity where the hilt with its massive gem was wedged: no miming simulate the limpness of that pose, the agony of the stiffly clutching fingers. One had not been with the Red Cross at Verdun for nothing; on those corpse-strewn slopes the stretchers had passed by men who lay like that.

Some reflex stronger than his volition carried him across the threshold to gaze down with fearful, incredulous eyes upon the dead man's face—it was presented almost in profile as he stood beside the decrepit table. Not hard to read the portent of those glassy pupils, those lips still parted as though in an inarticulate scream—death had struck swiftly, instantaneously. So must that other have looked who, two centuries before, had sprawled on that selfsame spot.

Some noxious influence reigned in that sinister, dark chamber—one felt it in the air—like an emanation given off by the tapestried walls saturated with the emotions of generations of human beings. He thought of the horror that had overtaken that venturesome guest, that had scared a small boy almost into convulsions, and the perspiration broke out on his face. No ghostly hand could wield a knife; yet could history repeat itself thus? Suddenly his gorge rose at the atmosphere of the place. The furtive hush, the dirge of wind and sea, the motionless candle-flame—these were all of a piece with the thing on the floor. Panic gripped him and, turning, he fled headlong from the room, up the stairs and along the gallery.

As he came in sight of the grand staircase, a light wavered before him and his torch picked up a tall figure which, with stealthy, noiseless tread, emerged upon the landing and began to move away from him along the gallery. Verity's heart leaped—it was Steve. He sprang forward. The other caught the tap of slippers on the bare boards and spun about in alarm. The blinding beam of a flashlight enveloped Verity.

"Phil, what on earth——" The question, rather querulous, died on Stephen's lips. "Man, are you sick? You look ghastly!" The other was beside him now, his plump face ashen in the torch's glare.

"Thank God, I've found you," Verity's rapid undertone rustled. "Listen, Steve, D'Arenne's back there in the Portcullis Room. He's dead!"

"Dead?" Stephen's tone was short, incredible. "Drunk, do you mean?"

"I tell you he's dead. He's been stabbed!"

Stephen had switched off his light and they were whispering in the reflected radiance of Verity's lamp which the latter had deflected to the floor. "Stabbed?" Stephen repeated in a husky, awed voice. "Who should have stabbed him?"

"It's the laird's dirk—that dagger D'Arenne was fooling with after dinner. It's planted in his back!"

"Good God!" The ejaculation rang sharply in the quiet of the gallery. "In the Portcullis Room, you say? What in heaven's name was he doing there?"

"I can't tell you. Phyllis found him."

"Phyllis?" He was aghast. "Phyllis in the Portcullis Room at this hour of the night! Do you realize what time it is?" He lowered his wrist to the light. "It's five minutes to two."

"I can't help that. She came and knocked on my door and blurted out something about D'Arenne and the Portcullis Room, then fainted. I left her with her mother and went off to find you, but you weren't in your room."

"But d'you mean to tell me she'd been there—with him?"

"I don't know anything about it, I tell you. Don't waste time, Steve. We must decide what we're going to do." As he raised his eyes inquiringly to his friend, he suddenly realized that Steve was fully dressed and that, for some unaccountable reason, he had the collar of his dinner coat turned up. The beam of the torch shifting upward corroborated the conclusion which this detail prompted. Beads of moisture gleamed on Steve's shoulders—he had obviously just come from out of doors.

"We'll have to wake the laird," said Verity.

"I'd better take a look at him first," was the somber answer. Under the other's silent scrutiny he shook himself, pulled down his coat-collar. "Time enough to tell the laird when we've heard what Phyllis has to say." His tone was grim. He turned on his heel and at a rapid pace led off along the gallery, Verity's torch lighting the way.

But, as they approached the head of the stairs, Stephen stopped dead and, with a violent motion of the hand, signed to his companion to switch off the light. Verity obeyed on the instant. In the clammy darkness that dropped about them, they both heard the sound of someone moving in the hall below.

No chance glance cast upward, they knew, could pierce the utter blackness enshrouding them. But the high windows of the hall lightened the gloom beneath sufficiently to enable the two men to make out the outlines of the chamber. In this faint visibility they were now aware of a tall, cloaked figure that unfalteringly made its way across the hall from the outer vestibule towards the staircase. It was Duncan. He wore his ancient Glengarry; the outline of bonnet and the spread of beard beneath were laid against the gray pallor of one of the long windows in a silhouette which was unmistakable. Midway across the room the major-domo paused and they heard the scratch of a match. In the flame of the candle he lit they saw that he was muffled in a Highland cloak. Picking up the candle he plodded across the hall and passed out of their sight under the gallery.

The gilded frame of a picture gleamed in a shaft of light. Without comment Stephen had produced his torch and was striding off along the gallery. And so they came to the Portcullis Room. The candle still burned steadily, still the waxwork image that had been D'Arenne buried its face on the flags of the hearth. Once more Verity felt a long, sharp stab of fear.

Something of his emotion seemed to communicate itself to his companion. At the sight of the body prone there in the candlelight, Stephen recoiled sharply and sought his friend's eyes in a slow, bewildered glance.

"It's the story of Hugh McNeil over again!" he whispered

"The same night, the same room, the same manner of death, even the same spot! It's uncanny! Steve, what does it mean?" For once the placid Phil was shaken out of his unalterable serenity.

"He's dead right enough!" said the other. Going forward, he dropped on one knee beside the corpse; his flashlight, weaving to and fro, as he scrutinized the dead man, cast fantastic shadows athwart the grotesques of the ceiling. He did not touch the body. Presently he raised a sphinx-like face to Verity who stood by the table watching him.

"It's the laird's dirk all right," he said hoarsely. "This is a police job, Phil." Their eyes met.

"Then you think, too——" the other began.

But Stephen, rising, cut him off. "We'll not go into that until we've heard what Phyllis has to say," he declared shortly. "Nothing in this room must be touched until the police have seen it." He was at the door, working the key that was in the outer lock. He pointed at the candle. "Better put that out! We don't want to risk the place catching fire."

Prompted by some instinct for which he was unable to account, but for which he was destined to be thankful in the days that stood before, Verity glanced at his watch before complying. The hands stood at eight minutes past two. Then he felt for the catch of his flashlight and blew out the candle. The musty darkness was loud with the clamor of the storm as he followed his companion out.

Stephen locked the door and thrust the key in his pocket. They hurried back along the gallery.

There were footsteps and voices on the staircase; they heard them even before they turned the corner. The laird, fully dressed, was mounting slowly, supporting himself on his daughter's arm. The girl was in a dark kimono, her black hair hanging about her shoulders.

Her face changed as she recognized the two Americans; in succession, surprise, suspicion, and fear were depicted there. She said, rather self-consciously: "My father is not well. He's been working late in his study and was taken ill." Then, perceiving for the first time the strained and awkward mien of Stephen and his companion, she exclaimed nervously, "But what are you both doing here? Is anything the matter?"

Toray had disengaged himself from Flora and was leaning against the wall of the staircase, gazing at them. "Something's happened. I can read it in your faces." He looked from one to the other. "What is it? Tell me!"

By way of answer Stephen drew the key of the death chamber from his pocket and laid it in Toray's palm. "It's something rather terrible, I'm afraid, sir!" he said in a toneless voice. "The Vicomte d'Arenne was murdered in the Portcullis Room tonight!"

The laird said nothing. But he pursed up his mouth in a hard, relentless line and drew down his shaggy eyebrows; under their tangle the strange cornelian eyes were, for one fleeting instant, terrible in their exultance. Before he could speak, Flora had snatched up the key from his hand and fled along the gallery in the direction of the Portcullis Room.


STEPHEN would have gone after her. But Toray clutched him. "Don't leave me," he gasped feebly. "It's just this passing weakness. I shall be all right in a minute." He closed his eyes. His face was ghastly and he leaned with his full weight on the other's arm.

"Quick, Phil!" Stephen said to Verity. "There's a flask on the dressing table in my room! I think he's fainted!"

The other dashed away, leaving them in total darkness. The next moment Stephen, who had his back to the landing as he supported the laird, was aware of a glimmer of light behind him. Glancing over his shoulder he saw that it was old Duncan. The major-domo was collarless, in shirt and trousers, and carried a lantern. A door that stood ajar in the wainscot behind him explained his sudden and noiseless appearance.

At the sight of his master propped up against the wall, with features pallid and eyes closed, the old man uttered a harsh cry of dismay and leaped forward. He thrust his lantern into Stephen's hands and, putting his arms about Toray, burst into a flood of Gaelic. At the familiar sound, the laird opened his eyes and murmured something in the same language. With hands upraised in horror, the butler reeled back a pace, at the same time casting backward a slow and terrified glance along the gallery. Then, with a rapid gesture, he made the sign of the cross.

Now Verity was back with the brandy. But the laird waved him aside. "I must apologize. It's my heart—the doctor warned me." He drew himself up; his voice was stronger now. He looked from one to the other of the two Americans. 'You say that the Vicomte d'Arenne has been murdered in the Portcullis Room? How is that possible?'

Verity shrugged—his air was embarrassed. "I can only tell you, laird, that he's lying there dead. He's been stabbed."

Toray stared at them blankly. "But this is terrible! What was he doing there? You found him, you say?" He looked at Verity.

"No, it was Miss Dean," said Verity.

The laird's eyes suddenly narrowed. "Miss Dean?" He seemed to check a further question which was on the tip of his tongue. "Let's go to the Portcullis Room, gentlemen!" He paused, glancing about him. "But where's my daughter?"

They had all forgotten Flora. With a muttered ejaculation Stephen sprinted off along the gallery. Toray and Verity hastened behind, the major-domo with his lantern bringing up the rear.

Stephen came upon the girl just outside the door. She had a candle in her hand and was staring straight in front of her. The massive door, iron-bossed, stood open with the key sticking in the lock. The room beyond was dark, as they had left it.

At the sound of Stephen's foot upon the stair, she looked round and ran towards him. "That's my father's dirk," she said in a low, tense voice.

"I know," he answered laconically.

His tone affrighted her. "You don't believe him capable of a thing like this?" she cried. "D'Arenne had that dagger after dinner: you were there yourself and saw him with it. Besides, for the past hour or more my father hasn't stirred from the study." Her dark eyes implored him. "Can we no' get rid of that dirk before Berg and the others see it?" His warning hand silenced her—the laird was descending towards them.

On reaching the door he stood back. His curt gesture bade Duncan advance and light the way. Verity felt that the major-domo would have liked to refuse; seen in the thin radiance thrown upward by his lantern, the old man's features were ragged with doubt and fear. However, muttering to himself in Gaelic, he plodded slowly forward and, lowering his grizzled head to clear the lintel, crossed the threshold. His sharp, wailing cry, telling that he had caught sight of the body, drifted out to them above the bluster of wind and wave.

Flora remained outside and her father and the two Americans entered on the retainer's heels. For a full minute Toray stood and, with features hard as granite, gazed down at the lifeless object at his feet. Duncan had begun a long harangue in Gaelic, shrill with protest and lamentation, pointing at the body and rolling bloodshot eyes. Verity caught the words skean dhu and knew he spoke of the dirk. A brusque order from the laird silenced the major-domo at last, and, setting his lantern down upon the table, he folded his arms and retired to a corner, a gaunt, forbidding figure.


Verity caught the word 'skean-dhu' and knew he spoke of the dirk.

While his host was thus rapt in contemplation of the dead man, Verity found himself the victim of what he at first believed to be an optical illusion. His was the photographic type of mind that registers and retains the smallest detail of anything once seen. Thus, he remembered very clearly that, when he had first entered the Portcullis Room, the dead man had reposed with right cheek flat on the floor so that half the face was exposed to view, the side of the head reclining on the right arm outstretched, the left hand, with its turquoise and gold signet ring, lying palm downwards, with arm slightly crooked. As he viewed the body now, the face was almost completely hidden and the left arm hung straight down.

Unobtrusively he sidled towards the table until he had reached the spot where he had stood before. It was no good—the effect was the same. Then his sharp eye picked out a detail which told him to his own satisfaction that this was no illusion. Something blazed and sparkled below the cuff where the left hand was flung out. It was one of the vicomte's diamond cuff buttons—vulgar, expensive things; Verity had noticed them at dinner. If the cuff button had been visible before, he must have remarked it, the American told himself; on the contrary, he was very certain that the cuff had been concealed by the sleeve. Now, however, he perceived that the sleeve had been pulled up so that the whole of the cuff with its glittering link protruded. There was no doubt about it—if only so slightly the body had been moved.

But who could have moved it? He had carefully refrained from touching it and so, with great exactitude he remembered, had Steve; and on quitting the room they had locked the door. As he cast a furtive look around, his eye fell upon the pale face of Flora McReay framed in the doorway.

Her regard, compassionate and, as it seemed to him, strained, was directed towards her father. Verity repressed a start. He remembered now that the girl had snatched up the key of the room and run ahead of them. So it was she! But why?

The laird had advanced to the body. Kneeling, he gently raised it to scrutinize the face. There was blood on the pallid lips and blood on the flags of the hearth, spreading on to the black beams of the floor. There was no abrasure or trace of any fight or scuffle apparent, no sign of any wound save that which the projecting dagger concealed.

Stephen had dropped to his knees on the other side of the body. He and the laird stooped over it so that neither saw Verity's slippered foot slide out to cover something that lay on the ground nor how, the foot being stealthily withdrawn, the man at the table stooped swiftly and transferred some object to the pocket of his dressing-gown.

With an expressive shrug Toray lowered the body again. So firmly planted was the dagger that it did not even quiver to the movement. Toray was staring fixedly at the dagger, his face clouded with perplexity. He was still looking at it when, kilt swaying, he rose mechanically to his feet.

"That's my dirk," he said, fingering his lip and casting a sidelong glance at Stephen who had likewise stood up. "I daresay you recognized it?"

"Yes!" said Stephen. His tone was blunt.

"He had it after dinner and forgot to give it back to me. I asked him what he'd done with it and he said he'd left it in the hall. I made sure that Duncan had put it away." His voice trailed off. Once more his gaze was drawn to the figure at his feet. "But how in heaven's name does he come to be here?" he demanded tremulously.

Stephen frowned and thrust out his chin. "Only Miss Dean can tell us that. We'd better go to her, laird." He paused, considering him. "I'm anxious to spare her all I can, of course. . . . You'll have to notify the police, I suppose?"

Toray nodded. "Yes. But it's not so easy. There's no police station on any of the islands; the nearest is at Port Phadric. We shall have to send across the Flow to the telegraph at Ansay. I only hope the police will be able to cross from the mainland.

"In the meantime, we should call in a doctor, shouldn't we? To ascertain the exact cause of death."

"By all means, but we shall have to send for Dr. Loudoun at Ansay. You see, there's no doctor on Toray. In any case, there's no immediate hurry—I mean, no one can cross Toray Flow till low tide and that's not until morning—it's low water about eight, so far as I know." His glance ferreted anxiously in the American's face. "In the meantime," he said, "there's Berg—he'll have to be told."

"He can wait until we've heard Miss Dean's story, surely?" the millionaire rejoined rather sharply.

Toray fidgeted with his hands. "Mr. Garrison, I'm as much in the dark as you are about this shocking business. I parted from the dead man and his friends in the billiard room at one o'clock. At that time they were all considerably the worse for liquor. Whether some drunken brawl ensued, I cannot say. But I do know that, until the murderer is discovered, suspicion rests upon every one of us in this house."

"I beg your pardon!" Stephen broke in hotly.

"Don't take offence! I'm only speaking generally. But, in the circumstances, I do feel very strongly that Mr. Berg should be associated from the outset with any inquiries we set afoot pending the arrival of the police. After all, the vicomte was his friend; it was this young man who brought him here."

The American gave him a cold look. "A lady's reputation is involved, laird, an unmarried girl. If it's all the same to you, we'll have no outsiders butting in at this stage—at least, until we know where we're at!"

His host cleared his throat. "What you say is very true. But there are reasons—urgent reasons—" He checked and, lowering his voice, went on, "We don't want to give him the impression that we"—he stressed the pronoun—"that we have anything to hide. Not to inform him promptly of what has occurred would be to risk——"

"Speak for yourself, laird," Stephen sternly interposed. "I've nothing to hide and I don't care who knows it. You're my host and you're fully entitled to hear any explanation Miss Dean has to give. You must decide for yourself whether to tell Mr. Berg straightaway what's happened. But he's not coming with us to Miss Dean. And that's flat!" His chin jutted. He looked around for Verity and saw him poking about in a corner of the room. "Come on, Phil," he said. "We'll go and find out how Phyllis is."

While Stephen and his host were talking, Verity had been subjecting his surroundings to a rapid scrutiny. His strictly practical mind had not been slow to draw certain deductions from the laird's warning that the police on the mainland might be delayed in reaching the scene of the crime. Notwithstanding the confusion of spirit into which the experiences of the night had thrown him, he had a very definite idea that someone should look about for any clues the murderer might have left behind. One such clue—or so, albeit with a feeling of bewilderment, he surmised it to be—was safely reposing in his dressing-gown pocket; and now he started hunting for others.

Spry and inquiring, his gaze first sought the candle which stood, beside Duncan's enormous lantern, on the table before the hearth. The candle, set in an old pewter candlestick, had not been relighted. Verity's original assumption was that the murdered man had brought the candle with him from his bedroom. Now, however, as his glance traveled round the room, the American espied the fellow of the pewter candlestick standing on a high chest against the wall. The fact that the candle in this candlestick was new and had never been lighted suggested that the other candle, which was not more than a third consumed, had been in the same state on D'Arenne's entry. A yellow match with burnt head, which lay on the floor by the chest and which Verity promptly pocketed, went far to corroborate this theory.

There was a drawer in the table at the fireplace. Making sure that he was not observed, Verity opened it and slid the candlestick, candle and all, inside. Then, very quietly, he closed the drawer. Toray and Stephen paid no attention to him and Flora, he noticed, was absorbed in a whispered conversation with the major-domo at the door. Remembering the importance of fingerprints, he did not grasp the candlestick with his bare hands, but used his white silk handkerchief.

This matter of finger-prints was still on his mind as he next surveyed the dirk. A hundred to one, the solution of the mystery was there, where the gilt handle with its garish stone gleamed against the black cloth of the dinner coat! Alas! The science of fingerprinting had not been inscribed in the Princeton curriculum; he realized they must await the arrival of the police for enlightenment on this point. Contemplating the dagger, he noticed that the hilt projected more on one side than the other. It seemed to be askew—he switched on his torch—it was askew! It looked as though it had been driven home left-handed.

Here was a clue, if one knew what to make of it. With a disconsolate air he looked the body over again; he could find nothing meriting closer scrutiny. In his double-breasted dinner jacket the vicomte was dressed as they had seen him at dinner and after. Evidently he had come to the Portcullis Room just as he was. The hearth was empty and, where the flags joined the woodwork, the flooring, darkly gleaming, was bare. He noticed that the Portcullis Room was not entirely given over to neglect, like the bedrooms he had peeped into in the east wing. At any rate, it was swept and dusted at intervals, although he noticed a certain amount of sand on the floor, blown in, he surmised, under the door.

Turning his back on the body, he surveyed the chamber, trying to picture D'Arenne entering it. There, in the left-hand wall as you looked from the fireplace, was the door by which the doomed man had come in, with the great bed beyond it. Opposite the door the single window with its massive grill; facing the fireplace the high chest with the other pewter candlestick, on the left of the door as you entered. He could visualize the vicomte halted on the threshold to inspect the place with his flash light—he must have had a flashlight to guide him through the dark passages; it was probably in his pocket—and, catching sight of the candles, advancing to the chest and lighting one, which he then bore to the table at the fireplace. Perhaps he had been in the act of setting it down when the murderer, slipping unobserved through the door and sneaking up behind, had knifed him in the back.

He was aimlessly switching his torch about the floor when he made a curious discovery. He remarked that the sand he had noticed before was scattered only in the corner of the room between fireplace and wall and that none was to be seen in the place he should have expected to come upon it, namely, immediately in front of the door. Here and there, it lay in small coagulated lumps, with sometimes a blade of grass attached. He fingered one of these lumps. It was damp.

At this moment Stephen called to him. As Verity swung about at the summons, his torch beam momentarily brushed old Duncan's feet, enormous, splay. For an instant Verity held the beam steady. The heavy black shoes were smeared with white sand and so was the lower part of his black evening trousers.

Verity switched off the light. Stephen was saying they were going to Phyllis. He was already at the door and Verity, seeing that the laird had not moved, went after him.

As he faced the blackness of the landing and turned on his torch again, Stephen was mounting the stair in front of him. In the bright beam Verity perceived that Stephen's shoes bore traces of the same white sand.


LEARLY Mrs. Dean had no intention of being caught a second time unawares. "In a minute," she told them, in answer to their knock—her voice behind the door sounded scared. The minute became so prolonged that Verity slipped away to his bedroom for a candle to light their wait in the dark corridor. The laird did not appear and Stephen, in a glum, black mood, paced restlessly up and down.

"It looks damned bad for Toray," was the only remark he had vouchsafed since they had left the Portcullis Room, wrapping himself in a stubborn, sullen silence which his companion knew better than to intrude upon. Inwardly, Verity was inclined to agree with Stephen. He had not forgotten Flora's disclosure regarding the violent scene which had taken place between D'Arenne and her father immediately on the vicomte's arrival that afternoon. On top of the prima-facie evidence of the dirk, undoubtedly the weight of suspicion was against their host.

Not that there were not other potential suspects. Berg and his friends had still to be heard from, not to mention his gangster myrmidons down in the village. In the meantime, there were Flora and old Duncan, both of them devoted wholeheartedly to the laird. That incident to do with the moving of the body had yet to be explained. As for Duncan—well, the presence of damp sand in the Portcullis Room would take some accounting for.

But what about Steve? He, too, had sand on his shoes—as he stalked to and fro one could see his heels white with it. "Surely you're not going to start suspecting Steve?" Verity asked himself. Nevertheless, it was odd, very odd. Both Steve and old Duncan had obviously been outside. Why on earth should anybody want to go out of doors in that weather? And where had they been? The sand suggested the beach. The old tag from Alice in Wonderland crept into his mind: Curiouser and curiouser.

The sound of a bolt being withdrawn grated upon his musings. In a rich silk kimono embroidered with large white flowers Mrs. Dean was softly closing the bedroom door behind her. Verity perceived that his surmise had been correct; she sported a coquettish boudoir cap and her firm, capable face had been restored to something of its wonted hard and most expensive sheen. "Well?" she cried expectantly at the sight of Verity.

The movement of his hands and shoulders gave her her answer. "You mean—you mean that Phyllis didn't dream it all? That he's dead—stabbed?"

He nodded. "I'm afraid so!"

"But it's unbelievable!" she gasped. "Whoever could have done it? One of those awful-looking men who came with the poor boy, of course! You can imagine the terrible shock my poor Phyllis got!"

"How is she?" Stephen had emerged from the gloom.

Mrs. Dean started. "The poor child's calmer now," she replied. "Oh, Steve, if you could have seen her! I don't think she should be encouraged to talk any more for the present," she added, as he was about to move to the door.

"I'm sorry," was the inflexible rejoinder, "but there are certain questions I have to ask her." He made to pass her.

"Just a minute before you go in, Steve," Mrs. Dean entreated, catching him by the arm. "This was nothing but a childish prank of hers, I do want you to understand that." Her manner was conspicuously nervous. "She took the vicomte up on a dare. It was a crazy thing to do, but you know how headstrong the child is. She meant no harm. Oh, I know you're angry with her, and I don't wonder—I've told her myself exactly what I think of her. But I do beg of you to reflect that she's young and—and high-spirited. Don't say anything you might regret afterward." Her rather bulging eyes hung imploringly on his.

Stephen had been waxing more and more impatient during this harangue. Without replying he dodged past Mrs. Dean and rapped imperiously upon the door behind her. Verity would have hung back, but on a somewhat hesitant "Come in!" Stephen signed to him to enter with him. With a very worried air Mrs. Dean followed after.

Still draped in her long white robe and looking pale and upset, Phyllis was seated in a big armchair before the dying fire, a quilt about her knees. Stephen walked across to her. She raised sullen, frightened eyes.

"I'm afraid you've had a dreadful shock," he said awkwardly. "I hope you're better now!"

Her regard searched the impassive face. "It's true, then? He's dead?" she asked uncertainly. Stephen nodded. "But who——" she was beginning when the sound of a scuffle in the corridor interrupted her. The next moment the bedroom door was violently flung open and a tousle-headed man burst in.

It was Berg. He was in slippers and a gaudy purple dressing-gown over pyjamas and his heavy face was congested with anger. "You bet I'm going in!" he was bellowing to Toray, who, with a distracted countenance, was trying to restrain him. "A pal of mine gets murdered and I shall sit so quiet like a mommy outside while you and your friends cook up a tale for the police!" He snorted and swore an oath in his own tongue. "Satan osse!" he cried.

He brought up short between Stephen and the girl at the fire, casting furious glances from one to the other, head down, like an angry bull. "So you're the decoy, are you?" he snarled, glaring at Phyllis.


'So you're the decoy, are you?' he snarled, glaring at Phyllis.

Stephen stepped up to him quickly. "Will you have the goodness to get the hell out of this lady's bedroom?" he growled between his teeth.

But the big man, narrowing his small and roguish eyes, only laughed gratingly. "Onderstand this, Mr. American," he drawled and tapped Stephen's shirt front with a pudgy finger, "from now on Oscar Berg, Esquire, is in charge of this inquiry, see? Yes, by Joe! Now get out of my way and let's hear what the little lady has to say!"

For the moment Verity, who knew his employer's hasty temper, made sure that Stephen was going to strike the intruder, and moved apprehensively nearer. But, with a visible effort, the other controlled himself and turned to Toray.

"Are you standing for this?" he demanded hotly.

It was Berg who answered. "He's standing for it, all right, and I'll tell you for why. Joost as moch as me he's interested in the little lady's story, before she's coached by you, that is, Mr. American!"

"You've no right to say such a thing," the laird broke in indignantly, and turned to Stephen. "Mr. Garrison, I assure you——"

"Cut the cackle, will you?" Berg bade him. With an ironical expression he contemplated the millionaire. "So, I shall get the hell out of here and let you and the girl friend frame up soch a nice fairy story between you! It's you I'm talking to," he roared suddenly, as Stephen, shrugging, turned away. "I heard you t'reaten young D'Arenne tonight! I haven't forgotten how you half-strangled him!" And perceiving the incredulous bewilderment depicted on the faces of both the laird and Verity at this statement, he went on: "Ja, and he'd have done it, too, I believe, if I hadn't come out of the billiard room in the nick of time. Had him by the throat and was shaking him like a rat. Put that in your pipe, Toray, and you, too, Mr. What's-your-Name!" The last epithet was hurled contemptuously at Verity who, between indignation and dismay, had gone rather red in the face.

"But that'll keep!" A nonchalant gesture of Berg's enormous hand stressed his words. "Let's hear Miss Dean!" Once more he directed his baleful glare at the girl. "What were the two of you wanting in that room tonight?" he rasped.

Phyllis hesitated—her glance appealed to Stephen.

The latter said with a shrug, "You'd better answer him, Phyllis!.

"The vicomte dared me to meet him there," she replied in a nervous tone. "It was only a joke. We were to sit up together and see if the ghost appeared—the vicomte said he'd go if I would." She flashed a sullen look at her mother. "I didn't think there was any harm in it."

"Harm?" Stephen exploded. "If you think there's no harm in compromising yourself with a cheap chiseler like this D'Arenne, you must be crazy! It's not as if I didn't warn you!"

Her pale face flamed. "That's precisely why I went," she retorted with spirit. "It's just because you carried on so absurdly about this boy and—and spied on me. He kept on telling me I was scared of you and that the way to show my independence and to prove I was afraid of nothing and nobody was to meet him in the Portcullis Room after everybody else had gone to bed. If you want to know, I hadn't the least intention of going and told him so, until we heard you snooping about in the dark corridor, eavesdropping and spying on us."

"Am I supposed to have done this?" Stephen exclaimed in astonishment.

Her eyes were scathing. "You're not going to pretend you didn't know I was there with D'Arenne outside the billiard room tonight?"

Stephen gave her an icy, black look. "No, I'm afraid I knew nothing of the kind. He told me you'd gone to bed."

"And you didn't creep up on us, I suppose, while he was whispering to me and trying to persuade me to keep this date with him?"

"I certainly did not! He was coming out of his bedroom when I met him. Where were you?"

She uttered an exasperated ejaculation. "What's the idea of pretending? You know very well I was there while you were talking with him!"

"Where, may I ask?"

"Behind the door!"

"You mean, you were in the fellow's bedroom?"

Mrs. Dean broke in swiftly. "Don't pay any attention to her, Steve! She's upset, she doesn't know what she's saying."

"I know very well what I'm saying," Phyllis retorted indignantly. "I've nothing to hide. If I told him how I happened to be in D'Arenne's room while he was snooping around outside, he wouldn't believe me."

"I wasn't snooping around, as you call it," Stephen exclaimed angrily. "I came straight along the corridor from the hall."

"That was later, when you decided to show yourself!"

He shook himself impatiently. "Oh, you're impossible!"

"Do you still deny that you crept up on us while the vicomte and I were talking at the door of his room? And didn't you vanish somewhere when the vicomte put his head round the corner of the corridor?"

"Certainly I deny it. I tell you again I didn't know you were there!"

"And you didn't overhear D'Arenne worrying me to meet him in the Portcullis Room?"

"For the hundredth time, no!"

"Then why did you threaten to break his neck if you caught him speaking to me again? Or are you going to deny that, too?" Her air was triumphant.

"That was on account of the way he had been carrying on with you earlier in the evening. I'd warned him once already!"

Phyllis shrugged and pursed up her pretty lips, her manner incredulous.

The laird intervened rather hastily. "I cannot see that this is getting us anywhere," he observed. "The matter's of no importance, anyhow."

"Just a minute," Berg interposed. He looked at Phyllis, his small eyes glittering dangerously. "Na, so Mr. Garrison knew that you were going to meet young D'Arenne in the Portcullis Room, is that it?"

She did not reply, but with a nonchalant movement of the shoulders, averted her gaze.

"Miss Dean's mistaken," said Stephen firmly. "It must have been someone else. I overheard no conversation between her and D'Arenne—either about meeting in the Portcullis Room or anything else!"

The big man laughed unpleasantly. "You can tell that to the police!"

Stephen bristled. "Are you suggesting——?"

Berg laughed and pointed at Phyllis. "It's she who did the suggesting, it seems to me!"

"Steve!" The girl had sprung up. "You know I never meant anything of the kind!" She rounded furiously on Berg. "You've no business to put such things in my mouth. Mr. Garrison and the vicomte didn't like one another, but to say that Mr. Garrison murdered him is——"

She was vibrant, hysterical. Now she found Verity gently thrusting her back in her chair. "That's all right, my dear," he calmed her. "Don't say anything more now! You'll only make things worse."

"He can't tell me that Steve killed D'Arenne!" she protested tremulously.

Stephen's quiet laugh sounded soothingly in her ear. "Don't pay any attention to him!" he drawled. Her mother was fussing about her with the smelling-salts.

Toray had taken Berg aside and was talking to him in an insistent undertone. The other listened indifferently, his gaze riveted suspiciously upon the group about Phyllis. He hoisted his enormous shoulders.

"Have it your own way!" he growled. "But no monkey business or——"

The laird turned his back on the implied threat. With an air of apology he addressed himself to Phyllis. It had been a cruel ordeal for her, he knew, but it was important to establish the facts. If she could bring herself to tell them about the finding of the body——In the first place, at what time had she arranged to meet D'Arenne?

There was no time specified, she said. It was to be as soon as everybody had retired for the night; the vicomte had promised to slip a note under her door to let her know when the coast was clear. Yes, she still had the note—she fumbled in the pocket of her wrap.

Berg snatched the half-sheet of writing-paper from her hand before Toray was able to take it. In French, Verity noted, reading over Berg's shoulder. Obviously, a precaution against the missive falling into a servant's hands—Phyllis, like her mother, knew French well

The note ran:

Tout le monde ronfle. Je m'en vais là-bas vous attendre. Allez, pas de frousse!
Venez vite m'y rejoindre, dire gentiment bonjour au 'bogle.'

R. d'A.

With impeccable accent, Berg read it aloud, then translated for the benefit of the laird and Stephen. His version was halting, literal, with little relation to the slangy, cynical tone of the original. Verity, who was a good French scholar, pondered. The note was D'Arenne to the life one could see him dashing it off in his pointed, artistic hand:

Everybody snoring. Just off there to wait for you. No funking now! Buck up and join me and say howdy prettily to the 'bogle!'

"Bogle?" said Berg, frowning.

"The ghost." Verity explained.

Toray would have taken the note. But, with his menacing air, Berg folded it and stowed it away in his pocket. "On receiving this," he asked Phyllis, "did you leave your room at once?"

She shook her head. "No. I couldn't make up my mind whether to go or not. I stood at the door for ages, trying to screw up my courage, the castle was so still and ghostly——"

"When you finally went alone there, did you happen to notice the time?"

She shook her head again. "I'm afraid I didn't!"

"It must have been around a quarter to two," Verity interjected. "It was about five to when I got there and I was a good five minutes looking after Miss Dean when she fainted. That is," he said to Phyllis, "provided you came straight up to me on finding the body?"

"Oh, but I did!" she affirmed.

"That don't tell us what time he went there," Berg grumbled. "It was one o'clock when we broke up in the billiard room and I said good night to the boy at the door of his room a few minutes later. That was the last I or any of us saw of him."

The laird now interposed with a question. "How did you go to the Portcullis Room and back?" he asked Phyllis.

"D'Arenne told me of a door at the end of this corridor that leads straight through into the Long Gallery—it opens in the paneling. He said it was far shorter than going downstairs, through the hall and up the main staircase, and it was. I went back the same way."

"When you reached the Long Gallery, did you hear anyone moving about?"

She shook her head. "No. There wasn't a sound. The gallery was in darkness; the hall, too!"

"Tell us exactly what happened, can't you?" Berg rasped.

She suppressed a little shudder. "As I told you, the gallery was dark. But I had my torch—Dwight gave mother and me one each when we were leaving the yacht; he said he felt sure there'd be no electricity at the castle. I had a sort of idea that Raoul d'Arenne might be waiting for me in the gallery, but there was no sign of him so I went on along to the end. When I reached the stairs leading down to the Portcullis Room I saw that the door was shut—for a moment I thought that D'Arenne hadn't turned up. But going down a step or two I noticed a light under the door and when I reached the door there was the key sticking in it.

Berg turned to the laird.

"Was that room kept locked?" he inquired.

"No," Toray replied. "That's to say, it was locked from the outside, but the key remained in the door."

The other nodded. "Go on, Miss Dean," he told Phyllis.

"I opened the door," she said, "and the first thing I saw was a lighted candle burning on the table by the fireplace, so I knew that D'Arenne was there. As he was nowhere to be seen, I thought he was hiding. I told him not to be an idiot, but to come on out, that I was scared enough already—and I was scared; there was something unutterably creepy about the noise of the wind and the sea under that low roof. And then"—her voice faltered—"and then I saw him lying there on the floor. I still thought he was playing the fool. "Get up," I told him. "It isn't funny. This place gets on my nerves. There's no ghost. I'm going back to bed." And then—and then, I caught sight of the dirk." With that she buried her face in her hands. 'It was horrible, horrible!" she wailed and began to sob bitterly.

Mrs. Dean flew to her side. The girl's heart-rending sobs filled the room. Casting an indignant glance over her shoulder, Mrs. Dean said: 'This has lasted long enough. If you have any more questions to ask, you'll really have to postpone them until morning." She appealed to Toray. "Won't you please take them all away and let this poor child get some sleep?" With that she turned her back on the four men and once more occupied herself with her daughter.

"Mrs. Dean's perfectly right," Stephen declared to Toray. "And I'd suggest that if your friend Mr. Berg insists on continuing this third-degree business of his, he should do so by daylight, in the presence of the police. I'm going to bed. Good-night!"

He nodded stiffly to the laird and strode out.

Toray was gazing anxiously at Berg, as though doubtful as to how the latter would receive Mrs. Dean's invitation. Berg, however, merely shrugged and followed Stephen and Verity to the door.



BUT Stephen was not allowed to go to bed. Their host overtook the two Americans in the corridor. "One moment, please!" His tone was flustered. "It's about that dirk of mine. I wish to make it quite clear that it was out of my possession throughout the evening. You two gentlemen saw the vicomte with it in the hall after dinner. You must remember that I was called away while he was still playing the fool and that he never gave it back to me?"

Berg had slouched up behind them. "Ja, we all saw him with it," he growled. "Nobody's denying the kid had the knife. The point is, what became of it after?"

"I've told you already," the laird returned without heat, "that I asked D'Arenne, when I saw him in the billiard room at midnight, what he'd done with it, and he said he'd left it in the hall."

"That's right, too," Verity struck in. "I've just remembered something. The vicomte put the dagger down on a side table when he started to dance. It was still there when I went up to bed soon after eleven o'clock." He turned to Stephen. "You saw it, too, didn't you? It was on that table where you mixed the cocktails."

The other shook his head. "I'm afraid I didn't notice it."

"It was nowhere about at midnight, when Boldini came to the hall to say you wanted to see me in the billiard room," Toray affirmed to Berg, "because I looked for it. Mr. Garrison happened to mention that Mr. Verity had been reading Macbeth—that brought the vicomte and his acting of the dagger scene into my mind, and I suddenly remembered that he hadn't returned my dirk. When he told me he'd left it in the hall, I assumed that Duncan had put it away. But I've questioned Duncan and he says he never saw it."

"Na ja, nobody saw anything, I know," Berg retorted with marked sarcasm. "The boy put that knife into his own back, I shouldn't wonder..."

The laird drew himself up. "If you doubt my word——"

Berg's harsh laugh grated. "Sure, I doubt it. Somebody's lying."

"If D'Arenne had given me back the dirk, would I have asked him what he'd done with it? Besides, you heard what Mr. Verity said."

The pasty face was inscrutable. "I heard."

"Boldini was with me when I questioned D'Arenne. I'll fetch him."

"Stay where you are!" the other barked, and called softly, "Pete!"

Something stirred in the shadows of the corridor and a man shambled into the rays of the solitary candle that still burned there. Swelling muscles under the cheap store suit and a twisted and flattened nose suggested the ex-heavyweight; there was something simian about the low brow and the way the long arms dangled from the enormously powerful shoulders.

"Get Nick! He's in the Portcullis Room!" Berg ordered.

"Okay, boss." With a velvety tread the man slouched away.

Verity nudged Stephen. "One of his gorillas!" he murmured under his breath.

"'Gorilla' is the word," Stephen answered succinctly, staring after him.

"This damned passage is as cold as charity," Berg grumbled. "Can't we get to a fire?"

Verity proposed his room and went on ahead to stir the glowing embers on the hearth into life and throw on fresh sods.

Boldini, in a raincoat over faded pink pyjamas, confirmed the laird's story. On reaching the billiard room Toray had gone straight up to the vicomte and asked him what he had done with the dirk. The vicomte replied he had left it in the hall. "Iss right," the Italian volunteered. "The dagger, I seena heem on da table when we go to play billiards."

"That was round ten o'clock," said Berg. "And an hour later, according to you"—he looked piercingly at Verity—"the dagger was still there. Yet at midnight—or so he says"—a jerk of the bullet head indicated their host—"it had disappeared." He addressed Verity again. "Garrison was with you when you saw the knife at eleven o'clock, you said? Anyone else?"


"Then you left him alone in the hall when you went to bed?"

"No. He went off to the billiard room to look for Miss Dean."

"That's to say, you were both bound for the east wing corridor? You left the hall together, yes?"

"No. I had to fetch some papers from Mr. Garrison's room in the Long Gallery. He went off by himself."

"Leaving the hall empty?"

"Leaving the hall empty."

"When you came down to the hall again, on your way to bed, was the dagger still there?"

"I can't say. You see, I didn't go down to the hall. I happened to notice this door in the wainscot that Miss Dean spoke of and found that it led through into the first floor of the east wing. So I went that way."

The bulbous lips framed a sneer. "Soch a pity!"

Verity stiffened. "I don't know what you mean."

"Is that so? Was there anything to prevent your friend from sneaking back and taking that knife once you were out of the way?"

A swift change came over the American's pink and plumpish physiognomy. He flushed a dull brick-red and his lower jaw dropped.

"Well," Berg reiterated more loudly, "was there?"

Under pretext of fumbling for his pince-nez, Verity regained his composure. Putting on his glasses, he surveyed the speaker. "And there's nothing to prevent you from making lunatic charges, apparently!" he observed severely.

"We see who makes lunatic charges," was the threatening rejoinder. Berg turned to the laird. "You say joost now that when Nick came to the hall to fetch you, the dagger was missing. That was around midnight. What time was it when you first reached the hall?"

Toray paused to consider.

"Let me think. Jamieson was with me in the study until half-past eleven. I offered him a nightcap, but he refused. I waited only to put my papers away and then went along by myself to get a drink. It would have been about twenty minutes to twelve, I dare say."

"Who was in the hall when you came in?"

"Mr. Garrison."


"Yes. He was smoking his pipe in front of the fire. We chatted until Mr. Boldini fetched me out. I went off with Boldini and Mr. Garrison went up to bed."

"How long had he been there before you arrived?"

"I'll answer that myself," Stephen interposed sternly. "On leaving Verity I went to the billiard room to find Miss Dean. On the way, as you know, I met D'Arenne who told me she'd gone to bed. I returned to the hall and, finding nobody there, poured myself a drink and sat down to smoke a final pipe before turning in. It was then twenty minutes past eleven—I remember looking at the time. I'd been there all by myself for about a quarter of an hour, I suppose, when the laird showed up. We talked a bit, then Mr. Boldini blew in, and I went upstairs. And you may as well understand, here and now," he concluded emphatically, "that I didn't see the dirk or handle it—in short, that I know nothing about it!"

"I'd like to make the same statement on my own behalf," Toray put in quickly.

"Ja, and I suppose the pair of you sleep in your clothes, too?" Berg hazarded drily.

Reddish eyes shot a probing glance at the ribald, jeering face and Toray answered at once: "As far as I'm concerned, that's easily explained. I frequently work late at night—I find my mind is clearer then—and this evening, when we broke up in the billiard room, I returned to my study. My daughter will tell you that I didn't leave there until I went up to bed. And that was some time after the murder because these two gentlemen met me on my way upstairs with the news of the tragedy."

"Your daughter?" Berg sneered. "Was she, too, ronning loose about the house?"

"My daughter was in bed," the laird replied with dignity, "but she was not asleep. Her room is immediately above the study and, noticing my light, she came down to tell me it was time I went to bed, too. She found me in considerable pain. I had one of my heart attacks tonight. It was my own fault—I took a glass of port after dinner against the doctor's orders and it always upsets me. She stayed with me until I was better and then helped me to my room." He broke off, watching the other narrowly.

Erect before the fire, a burly, unkempt figure, Berg made no comment. His gooseberry eye shifted appraisingly to Stephen. "How about you?" he questioned tonelessly.

Stephen shrugged. "I'm a late bird always. I never go to bed before two or three. As a matter of fact, I went outside tonight to have a look at the weather."

Instinctively Verity drew nearer. Here was the explanation of the sand on Steve's shoes.

"You went outside in all this rain, yes?" Berg echoed incredulously.

"Actually it had stopped raining. I'd only intended to peep out of the door. But it was blowing so hard and the breakers were making such a row that, seeing that the rain had ceased, I thought I'd like to take a look at the sea. So I went out."

"At what time was this?"

"At about half-past one."

"Where did you go?"

"Just out in the garden and up a sort of summerhouse that overlooks the loch."

"What door did you go out by?"

"The main door. Not the seagate, the land entrance."

Berg made a reflective pause, staring down at the gleaming points of his shoes. "So! Then you were outside in the gardens at the time of the murder?" He raised his head and gazed fixedly at the American.

With perfect equanimity Stephen met his regard. "I guess so! I had just come in when I ran into Verity who told me D'Arenne had been murdered!"

A lump of turf that dropped blazing on the hearth fended the tense silence that ensued. The sound merged in Berg's heavy tread as, quitting the group at the fire, he crossed to the door, opened it and beckoned. The square-set figure of the guard was silhouetted against the faint radiance of the corridor. Berg's hoarse whisper rustled. The man withdrew and Berg, calling 'Nick!" over his shoulder, strode out. With alacrity Boldini followed him.

Murmuring, "I'd best see what they're up to," Toray hastened after them.

With a resolute air Stephen was buttoning up his jacket. "Well, we'd better get what sleep we can," he remarked.

"Don't go for a minute," said Verity. "Tell me about this rumpus you had with D'Arenne tonight."

The other frowned. "I lost my temper, I guess," he answered briefly. "Don't unpack any more, Phil. We're off just as soon as I can get the women up in the morning and I've told Toray so. I've had all I intend to take from this Berg."

"It mayn't be as easy to get away as you think. I suppose you realize that he suspects you of killing D'Arenne, Steve?"

"Sure!" The tone was ironical. "I'd like to see him try and stop us. If there's any trouble, we always have our fellows on the Ariel to fall back on, remember."

Verity nodded—he was fumbling in the pocket of his dressing-gown. "In the meantime," he remarked, "I'd like to show you something I picked up in the Portcullis Room. It was on the floor under the body when you and Toray were examining it." With that he placed a green folder of matches in the other's hand. "I thought that was safer out of the way," he explained.

There was a smear of blood on the folder. Stephen opened it and a row of yellow matches with pink heads was displayed, about half of which had been torn out. "There's nothing out of the ordinary about a fellow having matches with him, is there?" he questioned nonchalantly.

With finger and thumb Verity folded down the cover and his nail underlined the name printed upon it in black. "Hotel McFarlane, New York," Stephen read out and gazed blankly at his companion. "I never heard of the place!"

"Where are your brains, Steve? How many match folders distributed by a New York hotel are to be found at Toray in the normal way, do you suppose?"

Stephen was aghast. "Gosh! You mean——"

"I mean that the yacht is full of these New York match packs, advertising hotels, restaurants, speak-easies, and the Lord knows what! You know the way one accumulates them, knocking around New York. I've a drawerful in my stateroom and so, I bet, have you. What happened, of course, is that one of us—you or I or Phyllis or even Dwight—left these matches lying around some place and the vicomte picked them up. Or he may have borrowed them, I don't know. But the fact remains it might have been darned awkward if the police had discovered them. Or still worse, Berg!'

Stephen, who had been sunk in a brown study, nodded somberly. "Berg, eh? I guess you're right!" He shook off his lethargy. "Well, me for bed! If you're awake early, you might drop round and get me up. I didn't give Dwight any orders about calling me."

"All right. . . . Steve," Verity added, as the other turned to go. "Do you think that the laird killed him?"

He shrugged broad shoulders. "It certainly looks that way, doesn't it?" He regarded his companion stolidly.

"I was only thinking that old Duncan was up and about—Flora, too, from what Toray told us."

"I hope to God you're not going to put into people's heads that Flora did it, Phil," Stephen retorted irritably.

Verity gazed at him in surprise. "Of course not," he replied rather huffily. "Although, whoever actually did the killing, Toray was at the back of it, I guess. What beats me is how he could have connived at anything of the sort—I mean, after telling us about this ancestor of his drowning himself in the loch over Hugh McNeil's murder." He broke off, perplexed. "By the way, Steve, before you go," he went on, "I want to ask you something. You remember when we parted in the hall and I went up to your room to fetch that balance sheet? Did you come back for anything?"

"Did I come back into the hall, do you mean?"

He shook his head. "Not me. Why?"

"Because, as I was leaving your room, I thought I heard someone moving in the hall. I felt sure it was you—I thought you'd forgotten something. That was why I didn't mention the incident in front of Berg."

He yawned. "It wasn't me. What does it matter, anyway?" He pulled out his torch and tested it.

"It matters this—that when I left the hall the dirk was there and an hour later it had vanished. That is, unless the laird's lying."

Steve shrugged. "Why not let Oscar Berg, Esquire, straighten it out? I'm for bed. Good-night, Phil." He turned on his heel abruptly and walked out.

Verity scratched his head and, going to the door, locked it. With a sigh he peeled off his ancient camel's-hair dressing-gown, trusted companion of much travel. A pity Steve had taken him up so hotly about Flora, he reflected, as he pattered to the window. He had wanted to drop a hint about the girl and the indubitable fact that the body had been moved; he remembered now that Stephen had bolted after her and wondered what had passed between the two in the brief interval before he and the laird had appeared on the scene. Well, if Steve were going to be like that about it—He drew back the curtains, flung up the window.

A tempestuous gust of wind almost knocked him down, flattening his pyjamas about him, flapping the hangings madly in his face, causing the candle on the other side of the room to flare and gutter. Chilled to the bone he slammed the window down and contented himself with lowering it from the top. Br-r, what a night! He shivered as he darted for his cold and rumpled bed. Kicking off his slippers, he crept in. He was about to extinguish the light when he was aware of a measured footfall in the corridor. Thinking it was Stephen returning, he waited, his lips to the candle. But the step passed the door, died away along the echoing corridor.

He had turned to the candle once more when he heard that ominous tread creaking back, cautious, unhurried. His eyes grew round and his mouth pleated itself into folds of stubborn revolt. So that was it? Berg's gorilla was still on the job, eh? Oscar Berg, Esquire, was taking charge with a vengeance. He reddened at the thought and blew out the candle with an indignant puff as though thereby to dispose for good and all of that objectionable individual.

But even as he snuggled under the bedclothes he knew full well that the man was not so easily disposed of. On the contrary, out of the coming day, now no more than a few hours away, the burly figure of their fellow guest obtruded itself into the last of Verity's waking thoughts, a question mark of the largest size.

He scarcely seemed to have dropped off to sleep when a hand on his cheek and a light that waved before his eyes startled him into affrighted wakefulness. A voice, urgent and hushed, called, "Mr. Verity—Mr. Verity, sir!"

Unwillingly, he raised himself upon his elbow. Dwight, carrying a lighted taper, was at his bedside, sleek and freshly shaven, in the discreet dark broadcloth which was his daytime wear. The room was crimson with the sunrise which barred the windows with flaming bands.

The man in the bed grunted, rubbed his eyes. "Dwight! Whatever time is it?"

"Gorn seven, sir. Mr. Garrison says for you to dress yourself and come along to his room as quickly as possible while that Berg, or whatever his blessed name is, is out of the way."

"Berg? Why, where is he, Dwight?"

"Gorn down to the village, Mr. Verity, with his two friends and the laird. And those two beauties of his—his vally and shoffeur, so-called"—Dwight's tone was scathing—"are back in the kitchen getting their breakfast. They were roaming the castle all night, Mr. Garrison says."

Verity nodded. "There was one right outside this door."

"And t'other was down in the gallery. Tried to stop Mr. Garrison from coming to find me, first thing. Said nobody was to leave their rooms—not without Mr. Berg give his permission." He sniffed. "Nice goings on at a family seat, Mr. Verity, sir! Things has suttinly changed since I was in service in the old country." His face became mysterious. "If it's the murderer they're after, they don't want to look no further than that there vally of Berg's, if I'm any judge. But you'd best make haste, sir! I think Mr. Garrison wants you to go out to the ship."

Verity swung his legs out of bed. "Give me three minutes."

Dwight nodded solemnly, his lips compressed. "I'll tell Mr. Garrison." With the air of a conspirator he tip-toed out.



"IT'S the limit, Phil," Stephen declared hotly. "This greasy wop Dwight says he's Berg's chauffeur, but he looks like a hired killer to me—had the crust to pull a gun on me. Damn it, I believe the rat would have drilled me if our friend Boldini hadn't happened along. He told me I had his permission to go and dig out Dwight. His permission—can you beat it?" His indignant hands rumpled his hair.

"Now, listen," he resumed, with a glance at the door, "this is my plan. Toray's gone down to the post-office with Berg and the other two to notify the police. I was able to get a word with him in private before they set out. I tried to make him see that the only way to take matters out of Berg's hands is to get the police on the scene as quickly as possible."

Verity smiled. "Well, well, well, we are being bright this morning."

But Stephen's face had clouded. "It's obvious, I know. But Toray's reluctant to call the police in. He produced all sorts of objections when I first raised the question last night. But anyway, I'm not waiting for the police. As soon as Toray returns, I shall see him and tell him we're leaving right away."

"But, look here, Steve, I've been thinking this over. I don't see how we can do that. Phyllis is a material witness."

"If you think I intend to have this miserable story dragged all though the newspapers, here and at home—— By the time they're looking for Phyllis we'll be halfway across to Bergen. But you're wasting time. Toray won't try to stop us, But Berg will. And that's where you come in. I want you to beat it out to the yacht as fast as you can, collect ten of our huskiest fellows, give 'em a gun apiece, and bring 'em here at a run. If McKenzie wants to come along or send Wilson, that's all right with me, but he's got to understand that the Ariel must be ready to leave within the hour." He smiled rather grimly. "Then if Oscar Berg, Esquire, wants to get rough well, he can get rough!"

Stephen was in exultant mood, pacing the big bedroom in shirt and trousers. Already the vermilion was fading from the sky leaving the russet of another unfriendly day to peep in at the windows. "See that Ivar, that big Swede, is with the party and—wait, they tell me that Hans the cook used to be quite handy with his dukes—he'd better come, too. And if one of the lads should happen to have a run-in with Pete or this Sicilian dishwasher who picked on me, why, it'd be just too bad!" He laughed boyishly and clapped Verity on the back. "Step on it, Phil! This is going to be fun!"

"And how," Verity wanted to know, "do I get out to the Ariel?"

"Didn't McKenzie tell us that the grocer had a whaleboat? Anyway, by the time you get down there the launch may be ashore for supplies!"

"Yes, but what about the weather?" Verity had strolled to the window and drawn back the curtains. "Suppose the yacht isn't there? You know what McKenzie told us last night."

"Lord, you're as bad as the laird for raising difficulties! Of course, she's still there. That boat of mine will ride out anything!" He spoke with growing impatience.

"Take a peek at this!" said Verity quietly. With a vexed air the other joined him at the window.

Under a lowering sky the loch was a jumble of foaming white horses. Its piled-up waters, in color a slaty gray, stretched tossing to the farther shore where dark hills, dimmed by haze, thrust their heads into clusters of full-bellied rain-clouds. Below the window sea birds shrieked and swooped and hovered above the boiling combers which, with a force that made the panes start and quake, thundered among the blood-red crags and boulders at the foot of the castle. Like clouds of steam the white spray hung, then came hissing down.

"It's choppy," Stephen agreed with nonchalance, "but hell, what's a puff of wind to the Ariel?"

He turned on a discreet rapping. Dwight's lantern jaws appeared round the door. "Captain McKenzie to see you, Mr. Garrison."

Stephen's face lit up. His glance gloated at Verity. "What did I tell you, you old pessimist?" He broke off to hail the captain who, overcoated and firm of tread, entered, removing his cap. "Ah, McKenzie," he cried jubilantly, "you're a sight for sore eyes. The very man I wanted to see! How soon can we pull out of here?"

The captain shook his head gravely. "You'll not get away today, Mr. Garrison!"

On the instant all the sparkle evaporated out of the owner's mobile countenance. He frowned Olympically. "Don't tell me it's engine trouble again! I thought Mr. Randolph undertook——"

"The yacht's gone!" said McKenzie bluntly.

"Gone?" The question rang out like the crack of a whip. "How? When?"


"Gone?" The question rang out like the crack of a whip. "How? When?"

"Last night while I was ashore to see you."

"But where?"

"To Ansay, probably. It was blowing terrible hard from the sea. I reckon one of her anchors parted and Wilson was fearing they'd be driven ashore. I wouldn't be blaming the mate, Mr. Garrison; it was his responsibility. And 'twas a wild night for sure; we well-nigh foundered going out in the whaleboat. It wasn't till we rounded the point we found she was away."

"How do you know she wasn't sunk?"

McKenzie rotated his cap in his large hands. "I wouldn't be certain of anything. But a crofter who lives on the cliff was at McDonald's last night with a story that he'd seen a vessel—a big one by her lights—headed down the coast for Ansay. She was taking it green, he said, but making good headway. Of course, the pilot's aboard."

Stephen swore under his breath, nibbling a finger. His brow was thundery. "Why wasn't I informed of this sooner?" he demanded crisply.

"There was naught to be done last night," the skipper replied with his usual imperturbable air, "and where was the good of disturbing you that late? Besides, I was thinking maybe the gale would let up before morning and the yacht back before you were astir. But," he went on, squaring his jaw, "by the looks of it, she'll not be back this day, or tomorrow, either, unless the weather slackens."

In consternation Stephen glanced at Verity. "This is a fine mess!" he exploded bitterly. He pounded his palm with his fist. "Well, we'd better tell Toray and see what he suggests."

"The laird is already acquent with the situation," McKenzie pointed out sententiously. "I met him in the village as I was corning up." He found himself addressing the back of the owner's head—with a raging air. Stephen had turned on his heel and was staring out of the window.

Verity felt sorry for the captain. He and Mac were by way of being cronies, as far as any human being could get on terms of confidence with that taciturn mariner, and he felt distressed to see him called to account for an event for which he was certainly not to blame. With a jerk of the head he beckoned the skipper nearer. "Don't mind him," he said in an undertone. "He's upset. You heard what happened up here last night, I suppose?"

Even murder, the American remarked, failed to penetrate McKenzie's unshatterable Highland phlegm, reinforced as it was by the inflexible rigor of the mutilated face. "Aye," was the stolid answer, "the laird was telling me."

"He's worried about the women," Verity whispered. "We were counting on getting them out of the atmosphere of this shocking business as quickly as possible."

The captain nodded solemnly. "Aye. But there's no telling when we'll be getting away with the weather that is, even if the Ariel were here!" He broke off, for Stephen had turned and was contemplating him glumly. McKenzie straightened up. "If you have any orders for me, Mr. Garrison," he said with formal precision, "I'm lodged at McDonald's." He made a little stiff bow. "I'll be saying good-morning to you, sir!" With that he put on his cap.

Garrison roused himself from his reverie. "Stop!" he cried. The captain turned, gravely expectant. "While we're waiting for the Ariel to return," said Stephen in a much more considerate tone than he had employed before, "I'm sure the laird would be happy to put you up at the castle. It can't be very comfortable for you at McDonald's."

Although the purplish mask remained unalterably dour, the skipper was perceptibly embarrassed, fiddling with his cap, shuffling his feet. "You're verra kind, Mr. Garrison, but if it's all one to you I'll just be staying where I am."

"Nonsense, man, Toray'll be delighted to have you."

McKenzie shook his head cautiously. "I'm no verra great for society, as you know, sir. Thanking you kindly just the same."

Stephen considered him gravely. "There's no question of society now, Captain McKenzie. I can use you here; I want you to be in the house. There are reasons."

The door opened unexpectedly to admit Toray. His flat Kilmarnock cap, the plaid wound about neck and shoulders, suggested that he had just come in from outside. He was unshaven, with whitish stubble glistening, and about his eyes and mouth were lines of strain. At the sight of the three men standing there, he halted.

Looking from skipper to owner, he said to the latter, "I see the captain has told you about the yacht." He shook his head sagely. "Your first officer acted wisely, Mr. Garrison. The seas last night smashed half the jetty, and at least half a dozen fishing boats that broke from their moorings were pounded to pieces on the rocks. We shan't be seeing the Ariel back here for a day or two, I'm thinking. These autumn gales are apt to last for three or four days at a time."

Stephen, who was thinking ahead of their host's rather staid utterance, now shot a question. "Does that mean the police can't get over from the mainland?" he asked abruptly.

The laird spread his hands. "They have a good boat and, in the circumstances, they'd take considerable risks to get here. And I won't conceal from you the fact, Mr. Garrison, that in weather such as this to attempt to cross Toray Minch even with the most seaworthy craft is to take your life in your hands. But that, unfortunately, is not the point. We can't reach the police to notify them."

Stephen stared at him fixedly. "Is that so?" he said drily and glanced at Verity—Verity felt that the glance was full of suspicion.

"We can reach the police only through the telegraph office at Ansay," Toray pointed out. "But we're cut off from Ansay. The Flow's impassable!"

"And do you mean to tell me there's no other means of communicating with the mainland?"

"None, except by the open sea. And there's no craft on the island fit to make the trip."

"But the Flow," Stephen persisted obstinately—"it's only a passage between the islands, isn't it? Surely with a strong boat and a good crew——"

"You don't know the Flow, Mr. Garrison," said the laird in his quiet way. "Save at low tide, when normally one may cross almost dry shod, the place is a death-trap, with a swift and ever-changing current and treacherous, shifting quicksands where many an islander has lost his life. The men were down there shortly before low water and the Flow, they say, was then still practically at flood level and the channel like a mill race. Of course, our people are excitable and apt to exaggerate and I propose to go and examine the situation for myself. If there's any prospect of getting a messenger across, you may be sure——"

"And if there isn't——" Stephen's manner was tense. "It means we're cut off from the outside world, is that it?"

"I shall be able to answer your question better when I've had a look at the Flow," Toray replied. "Come with me if you wish; it's only at the back of the castle."

Verity had little idea of how they reached the grounds. Mechanically he had followed the others out, stunned by the clear realization of what this latest development portended. Once again the menacing figure of Berg thrust itself into the very forefront of the picture. The fellow was rabid to avenge the death of his friend: with his armed bullies at his back and no police within call, he was free to set about it at his own sweet will. Verity raged inwardly. There was the yacht at Ansay with the radio and at Port Phadric, across the tossing waters, the tiny post-office where, three days since, under the goggling eye of the postmistress, he had heard the taxis honking on Lower Broadway as he chatted with Stephen's office in New York. And neither was within reach—it was maddening!

In Indian file they were trailing behind their host through windswept gardens, a melancholy vista of unkempt hedges and neglected rosebeds under the weeping sky. A path, circling the tower which was the most prominent feature of this part of the castle, brought them in sight of a bleak shrubbery beyond the surrounding wall, whose sparse trees, permanently leaning forward according to the direction of the prevailing wind, scrambled steeply up the lower slope of Toray's guardian mountain. They went through a gate in the wall and were presently wheezing up a stiff incline among stunted bushes and clumps of heather. The rain had stopped, but everything dripped moisture. The air was raw and saturated with damp.

Topping a shoulder thatched with pale, coarse grass, they came to a low cliff with wooden steps leading down to the strand. Between it and the opposite shore, a good thousand yards away, a sheet of water, lapping softly among the stones, was spread out. Towards the middle it was all in movement with flurries and miniature whirlpools that betrayed the swiftness of the current. A rough and rutted cart-track which wound itself from the spit of land upon which they stood to end where a decrepit post emerged from the water told them that this was Toray Flow.

It was a desolate spot. No cry of bird broke the brooding solitude, the susurrant gurgle of the tide the only sound. On either hand the sands, gleaming mauvely in the hard morning light, stretched away, and the distant shore of Ansay, with no human habitation anywhere in sight, was no less savage and inhospitable. Under the leaden sky the wind tore blusteringly across the flats, ruffling the feathers of a dejected cormorant which perched on the timber baulk at the water's edge.

The three men looked expectantly towards Toray, but found no hope in that weary face. "We're out of luck," he pronounced and glanced at his watch. "The tide is just on the turn. In the normal way the Flow can be crossed during a period of about three hours round low water, by cart or on foot, according to the time. I know of cases where a native, thoroughly familiar with the passage, has waded it nearer to the full than this; but several of our islanders have lost their lives in attempting this foolhardy feat. In prevailing conditions to venture the crossing at all would be sheer suicide. Do you see that post where the cormorant sits? At this stage, properly speaking, it should be completely out of water. Look at it now!" His eyes consulted McKenzie. "You agree with me, Captain?"

The skipper pursed up his lips. "Yon's an awfu' current!" he observed with characteristic brevity. Stephen said nothing but, with set face, kicked a pebble away.

A shout drifted down to them from the bluff behind. Old Duncan was there, the ribbons of his glengarry fluttering in the wind, with Berg's man Pete. The major-domo hung back while his companion came scrambling down the path. With surly mien he addressed Toray. "The boss," he mouthed hoarsely, "says for you to come immediately."

Toray plucked at his moustache, glancing from Stephen to Verity. "We'd better go," he said and, without waiting for an answer, set off after the messenger. Verity had grown suddenly still and, after a look at his face, the captain, as though divining that the two Americans wished to be alone, strode away in the wake of the laird.

Stephen laughed rather shrilly. "Obviously old Squarehead has heard the news."

Verity did not smile. "It's the crack of the whip!" he said somberly. "But Toray's right—for the moment at least we'd best obey."

In silence they started to walk back to the house.


NOW that their faces were turned homeward, they perceived that their way back lay along the top of a narrow neck of land connecting the house and the rock on which it was built with the main body of the island. On gaining the crest of the spur from which the major-domo had hailed them, they came in sight of the castle, surrounded on three sides by the loch and sheltered from the east wind by old Ben Dhu's fir-girt flanks, which rose precipitously from the miniature peninsula on the one side to drop sheer to the loch on the other. Between loch and Flow the castle seemed to crouch, its neglected gardens, behind the high gray wall, spread out in rear at the foot of the eminence from which the two Americans looked down.

By tacit accord both halted to contemplate the hoary buildings clustered about Red Calum's tower, proudly rising from the centre of the foreground. Only from the rear, Verity observed, was it possible to discern how radically, in the course of the centuries, the original character of the castle had been modified. An old plan which McTaggart had given him showed a lofty wall with turrets and battlements enclosing the whole enceinte on the land side, as was customary, McTaggart had learnedly explained, in this type of fortalice dwelling, as he called it. The battlements having fallen into ruin, the ruling chieftain, in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, with a vandalism worthy of the epoch, had demolished them, turning the wide, open court they had enclosed into a formal pleasure garden and surrounding the whole with a new stone wall.

Time had weathered this, as it had weathered the eighteenth-century east wing, to a pleasing patina which did not conflict with the rich sang de boeuf of the Great Hall, with which the east wing made an angle. The architecture of this later addition, product of a polished age, was discreet, and its corner turret, on the ground floor of which the laird had his study, was slender and charming. By contrast one divined the hand of the Victorian vandal in the graceless and abundantly crenellated stucco of the garden suite, occupying the left foreground—the flat roof of the billiard room at the end identified it.

The rear aspect of the castle stressed the atmosphere of decay and fallen grandeur which brooded over the ancient seat of the McReays. A tangle of greenery, criss-crossed by paths so white that the weeds stood out in verdant patches, the grounds were divided by the projecting mass of the tower. On the far side the formal garden filled the deep rectangle made by the junction of the east wing with the Great Hall, with fountains, statuary, and flower-beds after the manner of Versailles. But now the fountains were dry, the statues broken or overthrown, the flower-beds choked with dandelion and thistle.

A gate in the surrounding wall opened upon the shrubbery and the path up the mountain. Past the tower a ragged box hedge enclosed what must once have been a rose garden, as the masses of autumn blooms scrambling in wild profusion among the broken pergolas attested. Upon this enclosure, set between its hedge and the surrounding wall of the castle, the French windows of the garden suite looked out.

To Verity it seemed to be the saddest corner of the grounds. Great rents in the stucco, gutters lamentably pendant, and moss-green blotches where the rain had dripped down the walls accorded well with the desolation of that wilderness. Between the high ground on which they stood and the wall a little belvedere crowned a hillock to which an iron gate set in the wall gave access from the rose garden. Like everything else, the belvedere was in ruins, with branches of trees pushing through the roof.

With a shrinking of the spirit Verity gazed down upon the castle, high above its ring of storm-tossed waters, yet not so high as they upon the mountainside. Enormous rain-clouds, sullen and ominous, kept piling up on the slopes of Ben Dhu, and he seemed to see the mystery of the vicomte's death rolling down, like one of them, to add its pressure to the atmosphere of doom resting over Toray. For two hundred years the mystery of the murdered McNeil had remained inviolate; contemplating the castle poised on its rock, its angles jutting out into the loch, Verity found himself thinking of it as of some prehistoric monster couched there, paws spread, jealously guarding its secrets, old and new. The Ariel was gone, the island cut off, and they were stranded there, cheek by jowl with that waxen figure in the Portcullis Room.

They resumed the descent, Stephen leading. The path they were following passed the ruined belvedere which commanded a wide view of the loch and the hills of the opposite shores. Below, the iron gate in the wall furnished a glimpse of the rosery with the windows of the garden suite beyond.

Stephen stopped, turned about, with finger silently pointing. Figures moved to and fro across the opening; as Verity looked he descried Berg's massive torso framed in the riot of roses. "Sherlock Holmes on the job," he remarked drily. But Stephen had no smile for the jest. In silence they reached the rusty gate and entered the garden.

A stone sundial marked the centre of a rectangle of turf enclosed by a walk which once the roses, clambering over rustic posts, had roofed. Now most of the posts had collapsed and the arbors were in ruins. A path ran parallel with the house and beyond it turf stretched up to the French windows. There were four windows on the garden level and four above. Those above were shuttered and, of those below, two were similarly blank and one—that nearest the tower—was open, revealing the outline of a four-poster bed. A slightly built, swarthy little man was planted solidly before it. D'Arenne's bedroom, Verity surmised.

The laird, in bonnet and kilt, stood by the sundial. Flora, bareheaded, in a suit of blue Harris tweed, was with him, and, at a respectful distance, Duncan. They were watching Berg who, head down, walked slowly along the margin of the path that ran past the house, scrutinizing it closely. Pete, his apelike acolyte, was at his elbow and from the other side of the path the major and Boldini followed their leader's movements with a sort of fascinated interest which made the atmosphere in the forsaken rosery markedly tense.

All the garden walks, Verity remarked, were surfaced with shining white sand—it was, he noted, the same powdered cockle-shell of which the beach was composed and he realized where the smears on Stephen's and Duncan's shoes had originated. Despite the night's rain the path was already dry. Their feet grated on it. Berg heard and whipped about as they stepped on the grass.

There was a moment's pregnant pause. All eyes were on them. The laird quickly averted his gaze, but Flora, the observant Verity perceived, let her regard dwell on Stephen. There was an awesome expectancy about her which was puzzling.

Berg's look was black, his tone harsh with unspoken menace, as, without ceremony, he addressed Verity's companion. "When you came out for your walk in the grounds last night," he rasped, "joost where did you go?"

The American turned and pointed to the conical roof of the belvedere protruding above the wall. "I went up to the summer-house there," was the stolid answer.

"By what exit did you leave the castle?"

"I told you already

"Suppose you show me the exact route you took!"

Stephen shrugged. "It mayn't be so easy. It was pitch dark at the time!"

"You can show us all right if you want to. The front door, you say? That's on the other side of the house. You, Nick," he ordered Boldini, "start in on that job I gave you. And make it t'orough, d'you hear?" Silently the Italian nodded and disappeared through the open window into the house. "Marcou'—the swarthy man was all attention—"you stick where you are and let no one by till Nick's t'rough! Carlos'"—he turned to Mansard—"you come with us. Now then, Garrison——"

With extreme deliberation Stephen was lighting a cigarette. Snapping his lighter to, he said nonchalantly, "You're not trying to give me orders, by any chance, are you?"

Stepping close, Berg thrust his face into the American's. "You do as you're bid before you get hurt!" he snarled.

Stephen's recoil and the backward draw of his clenched fist were simultaneous. But he was not swift enough. Before he could strike, he was adroitly bunted aside and sent sprawling on the grass. He was on his feet again in a second. But now Pete confronted him, one enormous thumb slipping down the safety catch of the automatic he leveled.

Verity sprang between them. "For God's sake, Steve!" He caught the other's arm. Stephen shook him off. "All right—all right." His face was white.

Looking up, he found Flora beside him. "You haven't seen the grounds properly, have you?" she said rather breathlessly. "Some of the statues came from Greece. One of our ancestors collected them when he was making the grand tour. There's an Apollo we always like to show our guests—Daddy declares it's a nineteenth-century forgery"—she smiled affectionately at the laird—"don't you, darling? But I prefer to think of it as a Phidias or a Prax—Praxiteles—did I get that right, Mr. Verity?' She laughed crooningly. "Come along, all of you, and let's see how many statues Mr. Garrison knocked over in the dark. Anything's better than standing about in this wind and none of you is properly wrapped up, except Father in his plaid." So saying, with her grave, old-fashioned air, she led off across the grass towards the opening in the hedge that connected the two gardens.

The diplomat in Verity responded gratefully to her intervention. Nothing, he knew, would deflect Berg from his purpose; but he perceived that the girl, like himself, recognized the imperative necessity of keeping the peace at all costs. Young and inexperienced as she was, she had her wits about her—in their present plight he saw himself relying on her to help him restrain Steve, the crazy hothead. Even Berg, he noticed, was thrown a little off balance by her well-bred composure. At any rate, with a grudging gesture, he signed to Pete to put up his gun before following the rest out of the rosery.

Apparently Stephen, too, had decided to act reasonably, Verity remarked with relief. At any rate, the Apollo having been duly admired, the party presently found itself outside the garden, grouped in front of the angle tower which constituted the main entrance of the castle on the land side, with Stephen answering Berg's questions with unruffled, if somewhat sardonic, good humor. Before them a stony avenue wound its way to the front gate through a vista of boulders and whinnies and stunted trees, bounded on the right by the garden wall with a wooden door from which, under Steve's guidance, they had just emerged.

When he had quitted his bedroom the exact hour was 1:30—he had looked at his watch—said Stephen. No, the front door had not been bolted. Berg promptly fastening on this point, the laird intervened to explain that the door was never locked at night. How had he found his way into the gardens and why Berg wanted to know? Because it was evident that the avenue ran inland, Stephen pointed out, and he had in mind this idea of going to look at the loch. He had struck across the open, bearing right-handed towards the sound of the breakers, and seen, by the light of his torch, the door in the wall. The door was only latched and he had passed through, to find himself in the gardens. And once in the gardens, which way had he gone? Straight across to the wall, to try and find a lookout upon the loch, he would show them.

A stocky figure in bonnet and kilt held the door for them. It was old Rory. The shears he grasped and the twist of bast that hung about his neck suggested that he combined the duties of gardener with those of house piper. Within the gardens a path ran straight to a central fountain, circled it and joined a walk that paralleled the wall. "I remember turning right after I passed that fountain," said Stephen as they went along, "and following the wall. I remember that gate, too," he observed, as they drew level with the gate leading to the shrubbery. "I disregarded it, as it seemed to take one up the mountain. Then I made out the outline of a roof against the sky and, thinking I might get a view over the loch, I climbed up there through this gate."

They had reached the rusty gate at the foot of the path below the belvedere. "So," said Berg, thrusting forward, "you went op there to the sommer house, ja?" He pushed past him and, with the Major and Pete at his heels, clambered rapidly up the ascending track. With a resigned air, Stephen leaned against the gatepost and drew out his cigarette-case which he offered to Flora and Verity in turn. Both declining, he helped himself to a cigarette. Then Berg and his companions came back.

"You smoked a cigarette op there, no?" said Berg. Stephen hoisted listless shoulders. "I shouldn't be surprised. The only time I'm not smoking is when I'm asleep!" A large palm shot out, displaying the frayed-out butt of a cigarette. "Is that one of your cigarettes?"

The American yawned and his finger turned the trophy over. He pointed at two blue lines encircling it below the maker's monogram, then, taking his long amber holder from between his lips, silently showed the same marking on the cigarette it held.

"Your own brand, eh?" said Berg. Stephen nodded. "Imported special for you, I shouldn't wonder."

"You needn't. They are."

Berg's fingers closed upon the butt. "And how long did you stay in the sommer house?" he asked.

Stephen hesitated. "I really can't tell you. It was grand out there in the storm and I could hardly tear myself away, although it was so dark I could only make out the white tops of the breakers."

"When you left the sommer house, what did you do?" Berg interrupted harshly.

"I went indoors."

"By the way you came?"


"You didn't go into the rose garden here?"

"What on earth should I do that for?"

"Don't fence with me," the big man barked. "Answer the question!"

The American expelled a puff of smoke and delicately shook the ash from his cigarette before replying. "I've already answered it. I went straight back the way I came. Would you like me to show you again? I mean, I've nothing particular on this morning and I daresay the exercise would be good for both of us."

Berg stared at him fixedly. "Someone was in the rose garden last night—Nick Boldini saw him/"

Verity spoke up quickly. "At what time was this?"

"At about a quarter to two. We broke op in the billiard room around one o'clock, when the four of us went to our rooms, D'Arenne and Boldini to the garden suite—you can see their rooms next door to one another from here"—his finger pointed—"I and the major to the east wing, on the other side of the billiard room. At ten past one Nick puts out his light and a minute or two later, he says, Raoul's room goes dark. The next thing he knows he's aroused by a noise—there's a window that bangs in the wind. It's D'Arenne's. After a bit Nick gets up and goes to Raoul's room. That's at a quarter to two. Raoul isn't there and the window's open. As Nick goes to shut it, he sees a light in the garden outside. He t'inks it's Raoul, but it isn't Raoul.

"I don't see why not," Verity put in. "He could have gone to the Portcullis Room by way of the gardens and the front door, couldn't he?"

"Why not?" was the sneering rejoinder. "And he could have walked through a sopping garden and not wet his feet, too, ja? No, my friend, it wasn't Raoul and it wasn't me, and it wasn't the major here, who was that dronk he couldn't haf got up if you'd set fire to his bed, and it wasn't Pete or Marcou, either. So what about it, Garrison?"

Stephen shrugged. "Nothing about it. I've given you my answer."

"Ja, ja," Berg mocked. "You go out and tomble about here for half an hour in the dark joost to look at the weather! And you never go nearer young Raoul's room than this path, yes? Is that what you want me to believe?"

Stephen flushed angrily. "I don't give a damn what you believe!"

"Now, just a minute, Steve," Verity interposed hastily. But an explosion from Berg cut him off.

"Satan osse! What kind of mugs you t'ink we are? He overhears the kid and this Dean girl arranging to meet later and comes here to Raoul's room to head him off. When he discovers the boy is gone, he follows him to the Portcullis Room and kills him. It sticks out a yard!"

Stephen's rejoinder was an indifferent shrug. Verity, however, returned to the charge. Stammering a little, as was his habit when excited, he said, "This is a very se-serious allegation, Mr. Berg! What proof have you that Mr. Garrison is not speaking the truth?"

"We bring the proof all right, don't worry!" the big man answered darkly.

"We don't," said Stephen pointedly.

Verity signed to him to be quiet. "If you're basing this very grave accusation on the mere fact that Mr. Garrison was out in the grounds last night," he told Berg, "you may just as well charge Duncan with the crime."

The major-domo, who stood outside the circle, behind Flora and her father, moved unwillingly, rolling rheumy eyes.

"Duncan!" exclaimed Toray, swinging out to survey the butler.

And "Duncan!" Berg echoed, flashing a suspicious glance from Verity to the laird.

"Certainly," said Verity. "He, too, was out in the grounds last night. Unless I'm very much mistaken, Mr. Garrison and I saw him coming in."

"At what time?" Berg demanded.

"Immediately after I discovered the body—round two o'clock, say!"

A wheezy voice interrupted him. "The gentleman iss mistaken!" The major-domo had taken a pace forward and stood before them with impassive visage, staring to his front.

"But—but we saw you," Verity protested with a glance at Steve. "You were wearing a cloak and there was mud on your shoes!"

"I didna set foot oot of the castle the nicht!" the old man affirmed inflexibly.

"But at least you came through the hall in your cloak and Scotch cap," Stephen affirmed.

Duncan shook his head. "The gentleman iss mistaken. I wass to my bed before midnight and didna stir-r oot until I heard talking and footsteps in the Long Gallery."

"But, damn it, we didn't dream it," Stephen protested. "I mean to say——" He was going on when his eye fell upon Flora. She was regarding him with a glance so entreating, so full of horror and fear, that the words died on his lips. "Of course," he went on feebly, "it was pretty dark at the time; it might have been one of the other servants."

"But, Steve——" Verity was beginning when a painful kick on the ankle silenced him.

"I don't know who it could have been unless it was old Rory, the piper," said Toray with a puzzled air. "But I'll certainly make inquiries." He caught Berg's glance, brooding and suspicious, and flinched.

Flora took her father's arm. "If Mr. Berg can spare us, I think we'll go in now," she observed quietly. "Breakfast has been ready this half-hour."

A loud "Hey!" resounded across the garden. Boldini was standing in the open window waving. With an inscrutable glance which embraced them all in its slow trajectory, Berg turned on his heel and strode swiftly off to the house. Stephen and Verity followed Flora and her father through the box hedge to the small door in the tower which was the nearest way into the castle.


"IF the processes of inductive reasoning count for anything——"

Verity seemed to lick his lips over the phrase. In the favored stance of pontificating middle age, back to the fire, tails of his jacket cocked up to allow the heat to spread over the generous surface below, he was addressing Stephen who, face lathered and razor in hand, stood before the mirror making preliminary passes preparatory to shaving.

"Meaning what in plain American?" Stephen inquired sarcastically over his shoulder, with razor poised.

For once in a way he was shaving himself, Dwight having been dispatched in search of breakfast. Breakfast was awaiting them in the hall on their return from the gardens; but Stephen had carried Verity upstairs with him, protesting that both were unshaven and unfit to be seen; Dwight could bring their breakfast to the bedroom. Flora had seemed relieved when Verity, lingering behind, told her not to expect them in the hall, as though, like himself, she were apprehensive of a fresh clash of temperaments as long as Stephen and Berg remained in one another's company.

"Meaning that if things are as they appear to be," Verity elucidated with equanimity, "young D'Arenne fell a victim to what was nothing more or less than a conspiracy to put him out of the way!"

Stephen made no comment, but, smoothing the lather out beside his ear with his finger, began to shave. He was in his most elusive and arbitrary mood. Verity had wanted to discuss the murder, to find out towards what conclusions Stephen's mind was tending. But Stephen was not to be drawn, taking refuge in a sort of semi-flippant reserve which exasperated his friend. So the other was reduced to what was virtually a monologue.

"Consider these points," he said. "Berg holds these cheques, on which he may or may not be able to collect. Berg seems to have had doubts about it himself or why did he wait so long before applying to Toray? Shall I tell you what I think? I think D'Arenne heard about these cheques and undertook to collect on them for Berg—of course, for a consideration. . . . Are you listening, Steve?"

"Go ahead! I hear you!"

"This row between the laird and D'Arenne," Verity resumed fretfully, "suggests to me that D'Arenne came here to blackmail Toray. As young McReay's friend he might easily have got hold of something to the family discredit. Toray's as proud as the devil; he's the sort of fellow who'd put down his last dollar to prevent the McReay name from being dragged through the mud. I can't help feeling that this business with D'Arenne, whatever it is, was at the back of his readiness to sell the castle. Don't you agree?"

"Uh-huh!" Stephen mumbled, scraping away.

"Now, then," the other went on, rocking on his feet and sticking out his stomach, "there's this! The fact that D'Arenne was murdered indicates that he'd kept his knowledge to himself. Let me explain that! If Berg and the others were in the secret, D'Arenne's death would make no difference; they could go ahead and blackmail the laird into paying just the same. Do you follow?" A grunt from the mirror. "But if I know anything of D'Arenne, he was taking no chances with our friend Berg and I'd lay a small shade of odds he carried his knowledge to the grave with him. With the vicomte dead, Berg and Company can whistle for their seventeen thousand pounds and Toray doesn't have to sell the castle. Do you begin to see the laird's motive?" But now Stephen had his face in a towel. "The only remaining point, said Verity, "is who actually killed D'Arenne? At present, the whole weight of the evidence points to Duncan. It was obviously he who was seen in the grounds outside the garden suite last night. . . . Oh, and, by the way," he went on, ruffling up his brow, "what was the idea in letting them think it wasn't Duncan we saw in the hall? You know damned well the old rascal was lying to cover up Toray. . . . for God's sake, Steve, I'm talking to you!'

But the other, who was scrubbing his teeth, was saved from the necessity of replying by the appearance of Dwight, breathing hard, with the tray. "There you are, Mr. Garrison, sir," he remarked, setting his burden down upon a chair. "After the remarks you passed about the cawfee yesterday, I thought I'd best bring you tea. Which, if you'll pardon the observation, gentlemen," he went on, clearing the table, "you'll find better tea in the old country than ever you'll get in America. As an acquaintance of mine, a fellow Briton who's in service on Long Island, wittily remarked, the original parties as threw the tea into Boston Harbor must a' bin visitors at the local 'otels!" He simmered discreetly at his joke and began to lift dish-covers at hazard. "Fresh 'errings. . . . kidneys an' bacon—porridge, parritch as the natives term it—oat cakes—the amount of oatmeal they consoom in this country, gentlemen, you'd think they was a lot of race 'orses—and marmalade, which you'd 'a thought it was caviar I wanted, the look the cook gave me when I asked for orange juice. "There's nae or-ranges on Toray whateffer!" sez she." He smirked. 'They don't appear to have heard of the importance of citrous fruits in diet up here, Mr. Garrison."

"You seem to be full of pep this morning, Dwight," said Stephen, coming forward and sitting down at the table.

"Well, sir, someone has to keep their sperrits up. You never saw sich a way as they're going on in the servants' 'all, setting round an' whispering in their own language. It give Marie and me the fair creeps when we were having our breakfast!"

"How's Miss Dean, have you heard?"

"Much better, sir, Marie sez. She was sleeping when Marie left her."

Stephen glanced across the table at Verity, who was boning a herring. "I wonder what they've done about the body," he remarked, frowning.

"They took it down, when you were out, sir, to one of those rooms near the billiard room," Dwight interposed.

"To his own room, do you mean?"

"No, sir, to one of the empty rooms near by. There's a grand hunt going on in the vicomte's room just now, you see."

"What do you mean—a hunt?"

"Well, they've got all his bags and suitcases open and shirts and collars and papers strewed all over the place. I glanced in just now when I come by, but they chased me away. They're all there—Berg and that vally of his and the two other gentlemen. And a fine row that Berg was making—you wouldn't hardly credit the language he was using."

Stephen nodded, his features set. "All right, Dwight. You needn't wait. Go up to Miss Dean's room and say I was asking how she is, and if you see Captain McKenzie, send him upstairs to me."

"Very good, sir." The man lingered. "Is it true what they're saying in the servants' 'all, Mr. Garrison—that we're marooned here?"

His master laughed drily. "That's about the size of it, Dwight."

Dwight shook his head. "Miss Dean won't be pleased to hear that, Mr. Garrison."

"Well, we're all in the same boat, aren't we?" said Stephen sharply. "Or rather, the trouble is there isn't any boat. Or likely to be, while this weather lasts!"

"I was thinking of Miss Dean's cosmetics, sir. Marie asked me, when I was going down to the village yesterday afternoon, to see what they had at the store. But oh, dear, oh, dear, Mr. Garrison——" Laying his hand against his cheek, he tittered shrilly. "Pardon my laughing, sir, but reelly, it was so hextremely comical!" He cackled again. "I asked McDonald if he carried any face grease; but he didn't rightly understand me, I reckon, 'cos he slapped a tin of axle grease on the counter. When I told him it wouldn't do, he said they didn't have any other kind of grease on the island, barrin' mutton fat to lubricate their shoes. You should have seen Marie's face. She hasn't dared tell the young lady yet!"

"Then she needn't. If Miss Dean wants face cream, Marie can borrow some from Miss McReay, I daresay. That'll be all now."

"Very good, sir." The man withdrew.

"This is the devil of a situation, Phil," Stephen observed.

Verity had fallen silent. Now he raised troubled eyes to his friend. "They're hunting through D'Arenne's things, Steve! Do you realize what that means? It means that D'Arenne must have had proofs of what he knew about young McReay, letters or papers."

"And Berg and Company are looking for them?"

"Exactly!" He glanced at his watch, then, pushing back his chair, went over to the fire and began to cram his pipe. Stephen said nothing, but finished his breakfast in silence. Lingering at the table over a cigarette, it struck him that Verity was very fidgety, continually glancing at the door and consulting his watch.

"What's the idea, always looking at the time, Phil?" Stephen said at last. "Got a train to catch?"

The other laughed a trifle nervously. "Scarcely that." He paused. "Steve," he said, oddly earnest, "I want you to help me in a little experiment, will you?"

"Of course!" The millionaire stood up, stretched, sauntered across.

"Get down on the floor!"

Stephen grinned. "What's this? A parlor game or a feat of strength?"

"I want to reproduce as nearly as possible the position in which we found D'Arenne."

"Reconstruction of the crime, eh? But why should I get my clothes all messed up? I tell you what—you lie down and I'll be Hawkshaw!"

"Don't be an ass and get down! I'm serious!"

"Okay, Mr. Chan!" He flung himself on the ground in front of the fireplace. "Now what do I do?"

Verity began to lug him into position. "Ugh," he grunted, "you're a weight! Relax, can't you? The right arm forward—so! The left arm hanging loosely. . . . Hang it, Steve; can't you ease up? You're dead, remember! . . . The face a little more this way—that's the idea! Now will you oblige me by remaining absolutely still? Not rigid—relaxed. . . . That's better! Wait, have you anything in your inside pocket? A letter or your wallet?"

"I dressed in such a rush I haven't a darned thing on me except my cigarette-case! That's there!"

"Fine. For the love of Pete, don't move! You're just right as you are."


"Fine. For the love of Pete, don't move! You're just right as you are."

"But, Phil, what's the idea?" He tried to lift his head to look round, but Verity's hand descended firmly, pressing his face to the floor. "Keep still, will you?"

Inserting his hand inside the lapel of the other's jacket, Verity dipped gingerly into the inner pocket and began to draw out the heavy gold cigarette-case, his left hand still keeping Stephen's head pinned to the ground.

"Let go my head, you idiot," Stephen whispered sharply, "there's someone at the door!"

In effect, a soft tapping was indeed audible. "Come in!" Verity called out and then went on, "Don't budge, old boy, I'm just done." He raised his voice and said, loudly and clearly, "I put my hand inside your coat like this and draw out the case—so."

There was a faint, gasping cry behind them and the sound of the door softly closing. With an angry exclamation the man on the floor flung the other from him and scrambled to his feet. Besides themselves, there was no one in the room.

"What kind of an ass do you suppose I look, groveling on the carpet?" Stephen demanded irately. "Who was that?"

"I rather fancy it was little Miss McReay," said Verity calmly.

Stephen bounded. "Miss McReay?" His tone was aghast.

"Exactly. I asked her to be here at nine." He glanced at his wrist. "It's just that now!"

"And you staged this performance for her benefit, is that it?"


Stephen had grown very thoughtful: his eyes questioned his companion morosely. "Why?" he asked huskily.

"Someone disarranged D'Arenne's body after I first discovered it," Verity replied alertly. "The left sleeve was pulled up. It could have been no one else but the McReay girl. If you remember, she snatched the key from her father and reached the room before you or any of us. It struck me only just now, when Dwight told us of the hunt going forward in D'Arenne's room, how that sleeve might have become disarranged. Someone went to the inside pocket of his jacket as he lay there on the floor.

"Flora, do you mean?"

The other nodded briskly. "You know it can't have been anyone else. And I'll tell you what she was after. It was these papers or whatever it was that gave D'Arenne his hold over the laird."

"Good Lord!" Stephen fell silent.

"And the proof is," his companion resumed in his matter-of-fact way, "that, walking in just now on my little experiment, she realized that she was found out and bolted." He paused. "When you reached the Portcullis Room last night, what was she doing?"

Stephen seemed to start. "What was she doing? Nothing—just standing outside the door with her candle!"

"Outside the door?" Verity fingered his chin. "Still, she'd have had time; she was a good five minutes ahead of us. Did she say anything?"

"Only that it was her father's dirk and couldn't we get rid of it before Berg saw it."

His companion's plump face lit up. "She said that?"

"Yes. But, Phil, it was quite natural. She wanted to cover up her father. I remember her telling me that, for an hour or more, he hadn't stirred from his study."

"She was bound to try and establish an alibi."

"Are you suggesting she killed D'Arenne?"

Verity was examining his eyeglasses. "For the moment, the point's immaterial. It's becoming increasingly clear that the three of them—Toray, the girl, and old Duncan—were in it. Personally, I believe Duncan did the job and that, when we ran into the girl and her father, they were on the way to the Portcullis Room to get those papers, or whatever it was, off the body."

Stephen had colored. "I don't care what you believe. You've got to leave the girl out of it."

The other donned his glasses and stared at him. "Aren't you overlooking the fact," he remarked with lifted eyebrows, "that our friend Berg is trying to pin this on you?"

"I can take care of myself. If you think I'm going to clear myself at the expense of a nice kid like Flora McReay, you're mistaken. And I'm not going to have you doing it, either." He turned away to the fire and, with a savage scowl, kicked a blazing sod into place. "Have you got a gun, Phil?" he asked over his shoulder.

"I never carried such a thing in my life!" Verity's tone was rather reserved.

"Hell!" growled Stephen and booted the fire again. "And mine's on the yacht. I wonder if McKenzie's got one." He swung eagerly to his companion.

Verity was scandalized. "You don't seriously propose——"

"Toray must have a revolver," Stephen went on rapidly. "And Flora has a shotgun. We've got to organize, Phil!"

"You're out of your mind," was the scathing rejoinder. "This isn't the Wild West. The only way to treat Berg and his gun-play is to ignore it."

"Ignore it? Ignore it, my hat! No one's going to pull a gun on me and get away with it!"

His companion's laugh was scornful. "Bah, threats!"

At that moment, with an ear-splitting reverberation, a shot crashed outside in the gallery.


AN instant later the door was flung back with a bang and Dwight toppled in backwards, his arms upraised to ward off the menacing figure of Pete, who brandished a smoking pistol on the threshold. Dwight, with livid face, was screeching like a parakeet: "I'll have the law on you! This isn't Chicago! Put that gun down, you grinning chimpanzee, and I'll learn you how gentlemen settle their differences in this country!"

At this point he collided violently with Stephen, who broke in angrily, "What's all this?"

Hastily Dwight got behind his master. "He wanted to force his way in here, though I tell him you was engaged, and when I tries to stop him, he fires at me." He raised his voice: "Come on, you murdering marmoset, I ain't afraid of you!"

"Are you wounded?" Stephen demanded.

The valet patted himself cautiously. "I don't think so. Though how he missed me——"

"Then shut up!" Stephen swept the man aside. Berg, pistol in hand, and followed by Mansard and Pete, both carrying guns, had entered the bedroom. He stalked up to Garrison.

"Where's that wallet?" he demanded in a stifled voice—he made it sound like "woillet."

Stephen's glance was full of contempt. "What wallet are you talking about?"

"D'Arenne's—what you took from him."

The American shrugged and shook his head. "I know nothing about it."

The pasty face blazed. "Ja, so!" He rapped an order between his teeth: "Search them, Carlos!"

Slipping his gun into the pocket of his tweeds, Mansard lounged forward. Jaunty in his neat black and white checks, with his monocle and fair, slightly drooping moustache, he put Verity in mind of a sporting major out of the back numbers of Punch. A certain languor in his movements sought to convey that his mission was distasteful to him.

"Just a formality, doncher know, old boy," he murmured, with a feeble attempt at jocoseness, as his fingers explored Verity's pockets.

Verity's eye was on Steve. Much to his relief he found his friend impassive. With an indifferent air, Stephen submitted in turn to the perquisition. The search was not fruitful, yielding only Verity's pipe and pouch, which he was allowed to keep, and Stephen's cigarette-case and lighter. On a sign from Berg, the Major handed these over. Berg glanced inside the cigarette-case, then kept it in his hand, giving the lighter back.

"And now his loggage!" he barked at Mansard. "Open everything! Go on! Jomp to it!"

He spoke sharply, for Mansard was palpably hesitant. Sullenly veiling his lizard eyes he said vaguely, "I shall want his keys, shan't I?"


At Stephen's summons, the valet came forward. "Show the major anything he wishes to see," Stephen bade the man, and added, looking hard at Mansard, "Better make sure that those pearl studs of mine aren't missing after he's through."

Dwight tittered audibly. "Yes, sir."

The major flushed. "That's a damned offensive observation," he drawled.

Stephen laughed. "This is a damned offensive business."

Mansard cleared his throat. "At least, a fellow can be a sahib about it!"

"If a fellow knows how."

The major glared through his monocle; he was bristling. 'Meaning that I don't, I suppose?"

Stephen shook his head. "No," he replied, with a purposeful look, "merely that you've forgotten." The color slowly ebbed from the other's face. He said nothing, but turned away to Dwight who was waiting. Stephen cocked a facetious eye at Verity. "Strike one!" he murmured, then added, "But let's get out of this. I want to find Flora."

"Joost a minute, Mister American!" Berg's broad frame blocked the way. "About this woillet——"

Stephen wriggled his shoulders impatiently. "You ought to have your ears seen to. How many more times do you want me to tell you——"

"Na, na, quietly. Many t'ings you've told me, yes, by Joe! You haven't seen this woillet, joost like you weren't under Raoul's window last night. Na ja, but suppose I told you you were?" He made a deliberate pause, his eyes, glinting hard and cold like an iceberg, hanging on the answer.

"At the risk of imperiling our friendly relations," the American retorted cheerfully, "I should call you a bloody liar."

His face a mask, Berg nodded stolidly. "Ja, you like to make wisecracks. But this is no joke, my friend. You were outside that window last night and for proof——" With that he groped in the pocket of his capacious waistcoat and, dredging up something in his fingers, unclenched them to display a bedraggled cigarette end. "It lay at the edge of the path in front of D'Arenne's window onder the overhanging grass," he announced in the same stolid manner. "T'ree witnesses saw me pick it up. You won't deny it's your cigarette, I t'ink! See the two blue lines—your own brand! There's not another cigarette like it on the island." With his free hand opening Stephen's case, which he still grasped, he compared the row of smokes it contained with the stub reposing in his palm.

Stephen laughed. "That's one I threw away when we were all out there just now."

Impassively Berg shook his head. "Nay, nay, this cigarette end has lain out all night. Look, it's soaked with damp, like that other you t'rew away in the sommer house." With a menacing air he pitched the cigarette-case on the table. "Well"—his voice grew louder and angrier—"will you still deny it?"

Verity was feeling decidedly uncomfortable. It struck him that a pretty formidable case was building up against Steve. He would not have let Steve know he thought so for the world, but he could not deny it to himself. Bit by bit, little scraps of evidence were slipping into place, forming themselves into a pattern, like the pieces of colored glass in that toy of his youth, the kaleidoscope. He recalled their parting in the hall, the footstep he had heard below as he was leaving Steve's room with the balance sheet—Steve might easily have come back and possessed himself of the dirk lying unheeded on the side-table. He himself was beginning to suspect old Steve again—it was sheer madness. And yet—and yet——

Odd looks that he had intercepted, looks that had meant nothing at the time, but were vaguely disturbing now that he put his mind back; Phyllis's charge that Steve had known of the rendezvous in the Portcullis Room; Steve's inexplicable championship of the little McReay girl. Verity caught himself wondering once more about Flora. Suppose she had taken Steve into her confidence regarding D'Arenne's attempt to blackmail her father? Suppose she had told him of the vital importance to them of the contents of the missing wallet? Steve was full of chivalrous impulses; he might well have offered to get it for her. Suddenly Verity remembered that white sand in the Portcullis Room—his mouth went dry.

Steve was unconcerned—too unconcerned. Here was Berg accusing him in so many words of murdering the Frenchman and he was smiling—actually smiling—about it.

"Of course, I deny it," he retorted, more nonchalant than ever. "I tell you again I wasn't within a hundred yards of the garden suite."

Berg glared at him, but before he could speak Boldini was in their midst, breathless, inarticulate. Berg sprang towards him eagerly. "You've got it?" he snapped, at the same time flashing a glance at Verity. Boldini, too, was surveying the American. He had rather a guilty air—suddenly Verity divined that they had been searching his room. Confound their impudence! All his papers would be mussed up! This was the limit.

Stolidly, the Italian shook his head. "No!" he said in his liquid voice. "But inna da pocket of hees dressing-gown I finda—dess!"

Verity's heart was in his mouth. Even before the outstretched hand, slender and not very clean, opened, he knew what it would disclose. Good God, that match folder! How could he have been so careless—he had completely forgotten it! Simultaneously he was overwhelmed by the inescapable realization that here was another piece of evidence against Steve—perhaps the most damning of all.

Boldini's black-edged finger nail was pointing to the smear on the cover. "Blood!" he said in a stage whisper, then turned the matches over and showed the hotel name printed on the back. "From New York!"

Berg took the matches. His large mouth was pinched in tight pleats on either side of the jutting jaw as he examined them. "Hotel McFarlane, New York!" he read out softly. From beneath their heavy lids his eyes questioned Verity. "How did this blood come here?" he asked.

Verity was still reeling under the shock of this disclosure. He had to make an effort to pull himself together. "That's quite simple," he said as easily as he could manage. "I cut myself shaving on the yacht the other day. I usually smoke a cigarette while I'm dressing. I guess I must have bled a little on those matches. Let me have a look."

But Berg's thick fingers closed on the folder and he thrust it in his pocket. His hand trembled and the pupils of his eyes were contracted. It suddenly dawned upon Verity that the man was afraid. Now that he saw him fumbling at his pocket and rolling wary, sidelong glances around, he began to realize that Berg's manner was mainly façade. His bluster was as false as his rather boisterous geniality, the one assumed to bolster up his courage, the other to mask a crafty, cruel nature. His excitability, his parade of armed force, were now explained. He saw D'Arenne's death as a danger signal, a warning. He was much less concerned about avenging the murder or even recovering the missing wallet than he was for his own safety.

The major had joined the group. "Not a sign of it here, old boy," he said to Berg, indicating with his hand cupboards and drawers open all about and the bed strewn with articles of clothing.

"But it must be there," Berg chattered excitedly. "The laird hasn't got it, the girl, either. I searched them myself; their rooms as well! Satan osse, it must be found!"

"Look for yourself!" said Mansard sullenly.

But Berg had relapsed into silence, plucking at his heavy toothbrush moustache. "Come on, all of you," he said at last, addressing his companions. "We've got to talk this over." He turned to Stephen and Verity. "And you two, don't attempt to leave the castle unless you like to be shot!" He strode out and his three associates followed after.

Dwight was collecting the various objects of apparel piled on the bed. "All right, Dwight, you needn't stay," Stephen told the man when the door had closed.

"But your things, Mr. Garrison."

"You can put them away later."

"I'll just set the room a bit straight."

"Will you do what I tell you and get the blazes out of here?"

Dwight jumped at Stephen's irate bellow. "Very good, Mr. Garrison." He departed silently.

"Did you hear what that filthy brute said?" Stephen burst out to Verity when they found themselves alone. "He searched her!"

"Searched who?" the other put in ungrammatically.

"Flora, of course. Her room, too. Pawing her about, grubbing among her things. It's damnable, and I won't stand for it. Phil, we've got to do something, do you hear?" He stalked to the fireplace and remained there, staring down at the leaping flames.


"Flora, of course. Her room, too. Pawing her about, grubbing among her things."

Verity cleared his throat. "Before we discuss that, I'm going to ask you a question. You don't have to answer it if you don't want to, but if you do, I want you to tell me the truth. Were you outside the garden suite last night?"

The rumble of the gale in the chimney reverberated in the silence that ensued.

"Were you?" Verity persisted.

"All right, then," said Stephen somberly, after a long pause, "I was!"

He did not turn about and the other waited for him to go on. "I didn't tell you," Stephen said after a further pause, "because—well, what I did wasn't so hot. I wasn't exactly proud of myself."

Verity felt himself growing cold all over. What revelation stood before him? "Steve, old man," he faltered, "you're not going to tell me——"

To his enormous relief the other swung about and showed a laughing face. "No, you old mutt, I didn't kill him. But I went to his room."


The sunburned face flushed. "To find out if Phyllis were there." He paused. "I knew his bedroom gave on the gardens and I thought I might be able to see from outside whether he had anybody with him. I felt pretty much of a cad afterward—I mean to say, Phyllis likes to step out and all that, but I should have known she wouldn't do a thing like that."

"Then you didn't know they were going to meet in the Portcullis Room?"

"Why, Phil, I've said half a dozen times I didn't!"

"Then who was it they heard creeping about in the corridor?"

His expression changed and he looked back at the fire. "It wasn't I; I can tell you that."

"Was D'Arenne in his room when you got there?"

He shook his head. " D'Arenne had already gone to the rendezvous, I guess."

"Then why lie to Berg about it? After all, there's no question of shielding Phyllis's reputation now. Why not have told him the simple truth, that when you reached the room it was empty?"

He shook his head again. "That's just the point. It wasn't!"

"What do you mean?"

"When I first came into the rose garden the room was dark. I thought D'Arenne was in bed and asleep. But as I drew nearer I saw a shaded light, like a torchlight, moving about inside, and I discovered that the window was open and banging in the wind. I drew back behind the pergola, thinking it was Phyllis. I couldn't imagine what she was doing, prowling about in there with a flash lamp, and it suddenly occurred to me that it wasn't Phyllis, but the laird."

"Hunting for that wallet, do you mean?"

"Yes. But it wasn't the laird!"

"Old Duncan, was it?"

He shook his head. "No. It was Flora!"


"FLORA?" Verity's tone was sharp. "Then I was right. You're sure it was she?"

Stephen nodded. "She passed within a foot of me, running like the devil. She slipped through that opening in the hedge and disappeared round the tower. I guess she went in by that little door we came in by just now."

"Didn't you follow her?"

"What good would it have done? It was none of my business. I knew what she was after—at least, I thought I did—those cheques of her brother's. I hadn't heard about the wallet then. I stayed there behind the pergola for a bit, watching the room to see if anything further would happen. As all remained quiet, I climbed up to the summer-house to look at the sea."

"What time would it have been when you saw her?"

He paused to consider.

"I left my bedroom around 1:30—oh, about five minutes later, I guess."

"And Phyllis found D'Arenne dead at a quarter to two! It all fits in."

Stephen raised dubious eyes. "Phil, I swear she never killed him!"

The other nibbled his finger tranquilly. "I'm leaving that out of account for the moment. But everything is gradually becoming clearer. In the first place, it must have been the McReay girl Phyllis heard creeping about in the corridor."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because obviously Flora knew that D'Arenne would be out of his room. From what you say I take it she crept out to the rose garden, hung about the garden suite until D'Arenne's room went dark, then nipped inside to look for the wallet. Evidently she didn't find it, for the first thing she does, on hearing that D'Arenne's dead, is to dash off to the Portcullis Room and go through his pockets."

"But don't you see this clears her, Phil? If it was she who killed him, she'd have got the wallet; there'd be no need for her to come back to look for it."

With his most judicial air the other nodded. "I guess you're right at that. Then who did kill him?"

"Either the laird or Duncan, for a cinch. Duncan, I'd say."

"In the meantime, she's got hold of that wallet."

"No. The person who got that wallet is the person who did the job. And the fact that Flora went through D'Arenne's pockets afterwards means that she doesn't know who that person is."

"In other words, she must suspect you."


"Certainly. She's no fool. She knows that if either her father or Duncan killed him, one or the other of them, whichever it was, would have hooked the wallet. And you're the only other suspect. You may as well realize, old man, that they've got a mighty strong case against you."

"I'll soon see whether she suspects me," Stephen promised darkly and made for the door.

"Wait a minute, can't you?" Verity called after him.

But Steve had vanished into the gallery. With a thoughtful air Verity drew forth his well-seasoned briar and began to fill it.

Berg and Company were in conference, therefore in all probability safely out of the way in the garden suite, was Stephen's reflection as he plunged headlong down the main staircase. In the hall breakfast had been cleared and the elderly parlormaid, silently plying her duster, was the only occupant. The east wing corridor was deserted, but Stephen did not follow it. Instead he opened the red-baize door on the right, which was the way to the laird's study. He remembered Toray's saying that Flora's room was immediately above the study. He considered it quite likely that she might be there, repairing the ravages of Berg's perquisition.

Signs of this met his eye on both floors of the turret where Toray had his den on the ground floor, where the open door of the study showed the room empty with drawers and cupboards gaping and papers flung about, and also above, where, on emerging from a stair in the wall, he found himself looking in upon the girl's bedchamber, where a very young maid servant in pink print was attempting to restore order in a similar scene of confusion. It was a charming room with its blue chintz curtains and white enamel furniture and entrancing views all round of the loch. A glass tray lay in fragments on the floor; a box of powder had been spilled over the carpet; and garments were scattered on all sides. The man at the door frowned and gritted his teeth.

Probably his impotent anger made his manner brusque as he asked the servant where Miss McReay was. The little maid, who had not heard him approach, whipped about with a faint scream, turning terrified eyes upon him. He had to repeat his question twice before she muttered an almost unintelligible phrase in which "library" was the only word he caught.

As he came through into the east wing corridor again, he had a glimpse of Marcou sauntering round the corner at the end. Stephen remembered that the tower exit to the gardens was there, told himself that Berg was as good as his word—they were prisoners in the castle. Damn the fellow's impudence! He hurried on to the library.

At first he thought the big room was empty, so cheerless it was with its fireless hearth, and so still. But immediately a salvo of barks assailed him and the two setters, ears flapping, tails wagging, were leaping about him. Then the girl's voice rang out, "To heel, Laddie! Rover! Down!" and she rose up from behind a desk in one of the two windows where a nest of pigeon-holes, surmounting the desk, had concealed her from view. The dogs ran bounding to her and, cuffing them gently, she made them lie down.

Her face was rosy with confusion; she seemed astonished to see Stephen. "I was just doing the bills," she explained, indicating the papers that strewed the writing-table.

"You must be perished in this mausoleum," said the American, looking about him. "Don't you think we might light the fire, as it's laid? I want to talk to you."

His easy tone reassured her. "I'm afraid I don't notice the cold much," she said, smiling. "I expect I'm acclimatized. But you like your houses warm in America, don't you? . . . Have you a match?"

But already, on his knees before the hearth, he was touching his lighter to the paper and fir cones heaped under the peat. With thoughtful eyes he watched the flame come curling forth among tendrils of smoke.

Suddenly he heard her voice behind him. "Mr. Garrison, I want to ask you something."

A glance over his shoulder showed her standing there, twisting nervously at the little signet ring which was the only jewelry she wore. "I wouldna have you incriminate yoursel'," she said, the Scottish burr in her speech stressing her emotion. "I only want you to tell me what you did with that letter-case." And as he was about to speak she went on, "You can trust me, truly you can. Those papers mean nothing to you. But they mean everything to us. Won't you give them to me?"

"You believe I killed this man?" he said.

She wrung her hands despairingly. "Please! We don't have to discuss that now! Won't you gi'e me that letter-case? Any moment we may be interrupted. I mayn't have the chance to speak to you alone again."

Silently he put up his hand and, taking her arm, drew her down beside him as he knelt before the fire. She crouched there beside him, gazing into the flames. "If I had that wallet you should have it," he told her. "But I haven't got it and I didn't kill D'Arenne." And, as she was about to speak, he went on, "No, let me finish. I'll tell you the facts and you shall judge for yourself."

He paused to light one of his eternal cigarettes—she shook her head mutely as he offered her his case. "I know that appearances are against me, but wait! It's true that I'd no use for D'Arenne, that I objected to his presence here and to the way he was playing up to Miss Dean, and that last night I lost my temper and threatened him. But look at it in this way: You're British and I'm American, but your people and mine think alike on a great many points. We Anglo-Saxons settle our differences in the same way—with our fists or, maybe, with a gun. But not with a knife, and particularly not a knife in the back. You've seen the body and you know there's no sign of a struggle on it. If you look at my hands and face, you'll find them unmarked. You haven't known me very long, but I'd like you to answer me this, do I strike you as the sort of fellow who'd revenge himself on a man who'd done him an injury by stabbing him in the back?"

She shook her head tensely. "No," she answered, "no. And yet——" She turned her cobalt eyes, wide and trusting as a child's, to his. "You were outside the garden suite last night, Berg says."

His nod was brisk, his glance tinged with mischief. "Yes. And so were you."

Her face blanched and she shrank away from him. "How did you know?" she whispered.

"I saw you come out of his room."

She made no reply, but, taking the poker from its stand on the hearth, stirred the fire with an absent, brooding air. His hand clamped itself on her free hand as it rested on her knee. "Won't you tell me about it and let's see if we can't throw some light on this business?"

"If you didn't kill him," she said, and stopped

"It was your father or Duncan. I know."

"My father?" she echoed blankly.

He slid an arm about her shoulders. "Neither of us thinks any the worse of him for that, it's agreed. But if we want to proceed without making mistakes, we've got to know the truth. Now tell me, what was in this wallet?"

She sighed, staring into the firelight, and shook her head. "Even now my father won't tell me. All I know about it is that yesterday afternoon, after the vicomte arrived, he was shut up for ages with Daddy in the study. There was a violent scene between them—I told you. At last I decided to put an end to it, so I went in to them. The vicomte had a blue leather letter-case in his hand and a big leather portfolio in front of him on the desk. "You can have the letters at any time," he was saying, or words to that effect, and shook the case at Daddy. "But remember, they'll cost you seventeen thousand pounds!" And with that he put the letter-case inside the portfolio, strapped it up and went off to his room."

"You didn't tell me of this when we were talking in here last night. You said you didn't know what the vicomte wanted."

She colored. "That was because I knew there was bad blood between you. You were both staying at the castle and I didn't want to make things worse. Besides, this was a very private matter. I begged my father to tell me what was in these letters D'Arenne spoke of, but he refused."

"And you still don't know?"

She shook her head and her limpid gaze sought his face. "No. That's true. You've got to believe me!"

He put his arm about her. "Let's agree from now on to believe everything the other says. Is it a go?"

She smiled wistfully. "All right."

"Good. Now, then, you went to the vicomte's room last night to look for the letter-case, is that it?"

She inclined her head. "Yes. But remember, Daddy knows nothing about it."

"He didn't send you?"

Her laugh rang scornful. "You don't know Daddy if you think that. Why, he'd be horrified!"

"And you didn't tell him you were going?"

She shook her head vigorously.

"You mean to say, you went of your own initiative?"

He was leaning back on his heels, the better to consider the piquant freshness of the face at his side. A tenderness which no woman had ever inspired in him before overcame him at the thought of this mere child, so young and so friendless, undertaking singlehanded to grapple with the trammels of this monstrous conspiracy. She caught his glance and a wave of color warmed the rose-leaf texture of her cheeks.

She looked into the fire again. "It was the only thing to do," she answered very simply. "Daddy was beside himself with worry; somebody had to do something." she paused. "I gave D'Arenne that room deliberately. You see, the window catch is defective. Ronnie smashed it in a rage, oh, years ago, and it's never been repaired; it wants only a little shake from outside to open it."

"You mean you planned it all out in advance?"

"As soon as I knew about the letters, yes. Originally, D'Arenne was in the east wing, but I had an excuse to move him when Mr. Berg insisted on his friends the major and Mr. Boldini being brought in from the coach-house."

Stephen laughed contentedly. "Quite a strategist, aren't you! Marshal Foch had nothing on you, my dear."

She smiled her appreciation. "Duncan helped, of course."


"I posted him in the garden to let me know as soon as D'Arenne put out his light."

"To go to the Portcullis Room, you mean?"

"I didn't know he was going to the Portcullis Room."

"You didn't? Then it wasn't you who were out in the corridor when D'Arenne and Miss Dean were arranging the rendezvous?"

Blankly she shook her head. "I didn't know that D'Arenne had gone to the Portcullis Room until I met you."

"Then where did you think he'd be?"

"In bed and asleep, of course. At a quarter past one Duncan came to my room and reported that D'Arenne's light was out. I waited a quarter of an hour—it should have been longer, but I couldn't sit still—then went along there——"

"Wait! These times are important. That would have been around half-past one, eh?"


"Then you must have got there just before I did?"

"I suppose so!"

"What happened to Duncan?"

"He wanted to go with me, but I sent him off to bed."

"And you mean to say you were willing to break into this man's room at dead of night and hunt through his papers, knowing that he was there?"

She shrugged. "There was no other way."

He took a deep breath. "If you only knew what I think of your pluck!"

"There was no risk really." She reddened slowly. "My father told me, when I said good-night to him, that D'Arenne, like the rest of them, had been drinking heavily. And in any case when I got there the room was empty; I thought he was with Berg or one of the others. I found the portfolio, but it contained nothing but a railway time-table and some magazines, the letter-case was gone. I knew then that D'Arenne must have it on him. And yet——" She hesitated.

"Yet it wasn't on him when you went through his pockets, isn't that what you were going to say?"

She nodded. "Your friend Verity found that out, didn't he? I thought he looked at me suspiciously in the Portcullis Room last night. When I went into your room just now and saw you lying there, just like that other, with Mr. Verity stooping over you, I was so scared that I ran away."

Stephen laughed. "Old Phil rather fancies himself as Sherlock Holmes or one of those chaps. But, tell me, where was your father all this time?"

"In the study. I heard him come in from the billiard room at one o'clock and went down in my dressing-gown to say good-night. His light was still on when I got back from D'Arenne's room."

"Did you go in to him?"

"Not then. I went to bed. I read for a bit and then, when I put out my candle, I saw that his windows were still bright. So I ran down again to tell him to go to bed and found him groaning in his chair with one of his heart attacks."


'I ran down again to tell him to go to bed and found him groaning in his chair.'

"That was just before we met you—say, around two o'clock?"


Stephen grunted. "It amounts to this, then," he said after a pause. "As between the hours of one o'clock and two the only grounds you have for inferring that your father was in his study is the fact that the windows were lighted?"

She caught her breath. "Yes, but——"

"Someone was outside the garden suite at a quarter to two," he remarked gravely. "At that time, Boldini went into D'Arenne's room to close the window and saw a light in the grounds. It wasn't I, for by that time I was up in the summer-house out of sight from the house and, in any case, I was standing in the dark."

"It was Duncan," she said in a low voice. "He admits he didn't go to bed, but followed me. As he came round the tower, he says, he saw somebody moving in the rose garden and recognized you by your height. He watched you go up to the belvedere and waited, hidden behind the hedge, until you came down and returned to the house. He came in after you."

"If this is true," Stephen told her, "it lets old Duncan out, for, by your showing, he was nowhere near the Portcullis Room during the period in which the murder must have been committed. D'Arenne was killed some time between one-ten when the light went out in his room and one-forty-five when Miss Dean discovered the body. What time was it when you sent Duncan out to keep watch on D'Arenne's window?"

"As soon as my father came back from the billiard room."

"Around one o'clock, that was. Therefore, from one o'clock until five minutes to two, when we saw him in the hall, the old man was either outside the garden suite or with you. Or so he claims. The question is: Is he speaking the truth?"

"Duncan would never lie to me."

"Not even to shield your father?"

The way the color ebbed from her face gave him his answer. "But my father would never do a thing like this," she declared passionately. "Besides, he's old and D'Arenne was young and strong."

He nodded briefly. "I'm inclined to agree with you there. But it brings us back to Duncan, doesn't it? He'd have had plenty of time to go round to the Portcullis Room while he was supposed to be in the garden watching me."

"But in that case my father would have the wallet."

"Well, hasn't he?"

Her head-shake was very positive. "No. I asked him."

"He could scarcely admit it to you!"

She shook her head again. "If he had it I should know. He never shows his feelings much. But I can see that he's distracted. That wallet contains something terrible about Ronnie, I'm certain of it!"

Stephen shrugged. "Besides Berg and his friends, your father's the only person who's interested in getting possession of it. Moreover, apart from Berg and Company, you and he were the only persons in the castle to know of its existence."

She had grown suddenly thoughtful. "Wait, I've just remembered Andrew Jamieson knew about it, too!"

"Andrew Jamieson?"

"You know—the factor!"

"By George, I'd forgotten about him. He was up at the castle last night after dinner, wasn't he?"

"He was with my father when I went to the study after I left you. Daddy told him all about his interview with D'Arenne!"

"How do you know this?"

"Father as good as admitted it when I tackled him after Jamieson had gone. Besides, he tells Jamieson everything."

Stephen rubbed his chin reflectively. "It's certainly an idea. Jamieson didn't leave until half-past eleven, your father said!"

"I'm not accusing the poor little man," she put in hastily. "I'm merely pointing out that there were other people out and about late besides poor old Duncan. Why, Rory the piper didn't go home until past eleven last night."

"Doesn't he live in the castle?"

"No. He keeps the lodge at the main gate." She paused. "There's Berg and his friends besides. They were all more or less drunk last night, daddy says. How do we know that one of them didn't quarrel with D'Arenne?"

He nodded rather helplessly. "We don't know anything, really—that's the trouble. But one thing I can tell you—Berg means mischief. And that reminds me, how is the castle off for arms?"

"I had my shotgun and father had two pistols and a rack of guns. But those two men of Berg's came round first thing this morning and carried off the lot."

Her companion knit his brows. "That's bad. It leaves us virtually helpless. Is it true he searched you?"

She nodded, flushing.

"Then let me tell you," said Stephen, "that he's down for the biggest hiding a man ever had. And that's not a threat: it's a promise!"

"He's armed, he'd shoot you," she replied in a low voice. "You mustn't run any risks on my account."

"I can bide my time," he told her. "But when I'm through with friend Berg, he won't want to lay hands on you again, I fancy."

She gave him her wistful smile. "You sound so fierce when you talk like that."

"I mean it, every word."

Her small hand found his. "I know. That's what I like about you. You mean everything you say."

"That's what I like about you. You're honest."

She shook her head. "Not really. I pretend I want you to go away and all the time I'm praying inside for you to stay."

He folded her hand in his. "I know what an ordeal this has been for you," he said rather huskily.

Her head-shake was demure. "It isn't altogether that. You see I've always had my own battles to fight. It's rather thrilling to find somebody willing to fight for one."

The leaping up of the dogs, barking furiously, sent them swiftly apart. Phyllis stood in the doorway.


FLORA jumped to her feet and called off the dogs who were fawning joyfully on Phyllis. Phyllis did not appear to relish their demonstrations of affection. With a somewhat peevish air she brushed away a paw-mark from the skirt of her light gray suit. "I'm not butting in, am I?" she said. "I just wanted a word with Steve!"

"I'm going," Flora blurted, confused, holding the setters by their collars. "I've a million things to do. I hope you're better this morning," she added shyly.

Phyllis sighed, her lovely face listless. "I'm all right again, thanks."

"I'll see you both at lunch," said Flora hastily and, sending the dogs gamboling ahead of her, went out and closed the door.

"Is it true what Dwight told Marie, that the yacht's gone and we're stranded here?"

Phyllis's tone was strained and almost tearful. Stephen nodded. "I tried to go out in the grounds just now to get a breath of air," she went on plaintively, "and one of those awful-looking men stopped me. He said no one's allowed to leave the castle. What does it mean, Steve?"

He shrugged. "Just that, I'm afraid, honey. This man Berg has taken charge until the police arrive from the mainland. And that can't be until this gale has blown itself out."

"But they've no right to keep us prisoners like this. Are you going to stand for it?"

With another shrug he turned away to the fire. "They're armed and we're not. What do you want me to do?"

"Is it true what Dwight says—that they suspect you of killing the vicomte?"

He laughed shortly. "It would seem so."

"But it's fantastic."

He did not miss a certain shade of doubt in her voice. "The only way to convince Berg of that is to produce the murderer," he replied rather stiffly.

"But who is it?"

He hoisted his shoulders.

She stamped her foot. "I hate this place! It scares me. I want to get away. There must be some means——"

"The moment the weather improves the yacht'll be back."

"These gales last for days, the laird said. This old ruin gives me the horrors. I never wanted to come and you've got to get us away."

Her voice trembled; she was very near tears.

"Oh, for pity's sake, Phyllis," he broke in impatiently. "I know you've had a shock, but you must try and control yourself. We're doing everything we can."

"Then why are you sitting around talking to this girl when you might be helping Phil?"

"Why, what's Phil up to?"

"Didn't you know he's persuaded them to let him take charge of the investigation?"

"Phil has?"

"So the laird told Mother. Phil's in the Portcullis Room now!"

"By George!" He buttoned up his reefer jacket and moved to the door. "Don't give way, honey," he said to Phyllis, pausing. "You've had a raw deal and I'm truly sorry about it. And if I said some hard things to you last night, I'm sorry for them, too."

She sniffed rather forlornly. "It was all my fault, I guess. I did a crazy thing last night. But you made me mad. Mother says you'll never forgive me. Is that right?"

He patted her shoulder. "Forget it. I know you didn't mean any harm. I must go to Phil now." He gave her hand a little squeeze and hastened out.

The major was lounging in the Long Gallery, smoking a cigarette. Sprinting up the main staircase from the deserted hall, Stephen caught sight of the dapper figure in check advancing to meet him. The American would have passed him, but the other spread his arms.

"No thoroughfare," said Mansard briefly.

Stephen halted, eyed him. "I'm going to the Portcullis Room," he explained.

The Major shook his head. "Nobody allowed in the Portcullis Room."

"But Mr. Verity's there!"

"He has Berg's permission!"

The blood rushed to Stephen's face. At the foot of its shallow stairway at the end of the gallery the Portcullis Room was in a cul-de-sac; there was no other access to it except along the gallery. "To hell with that!" cried Stephen. He brushed past.

Mansard grabbed his arm, was flung aside. "Oh, Pete!" he sang out. Stephen springing forward was brought up short. Gun in hand the sinister figure of the guard confronted him at the turn of the gallery.

The major came running up

Stephen swung to him. "Where's Berg?" he demanded in a voice suffocated with rage.

"Gone to the village," Mansard retorted sullenly—it was obvious that he had not forgotten the American's sarcasm at his expense.

"When do you expect him back?"

"He didn't say."

"Where's Boldini?"

"He went with him."

In a towering temper the American turned on his heel and descended to the hall. He went as far as the vestibule leading to the front door and tried the door. It was locked and the key had been removed. And the door communicating with the seagate was likewise fast.

He returned to the hall. He must have waited an hour there, pacing up and down and smoking innumerable cigarettes, before he heard voices outside and Berg and Boldini in hats and raincoats appeared from the vestibule. Stephen made straight for Berg.

"Why am I prevented from joining Mr. Verity in the Portcullis Room?" he demanded hotly.

Sedulously the big Scandinavian gazed past him. "Because he asked particularly that he should not be disturbed," he replied carelessly.

"Do I understand that Mr. Verity requested that I should be kept out?"

Berg indulged in an oily chuckle. "A leetle precaution of mine, Mr. Garrison. But I'm going now to see what progress our friend is making. If you like, you shall come with me."

The three men mounted to the gallery where the Major joined them. Farther along the gallery they picked up Pete and took him with them. At the head of the steps leading down to the Portcullis Room, Berg, who went first, stopped abruptly.

"Hallo," he growled, "where's the key?"

"It was sticking in the lock when he went in," said the major. "I saw it there myself." He ran down the stairs and pressed down the latch. The door did not budge. "He's locked himself in." he remarked over his shoulder. He banged on the panel with his pistol. "Hi, open the door, will you?" he called. "Verity, it's Berg and Garrison. They want to come in." His voice rang hollow under the vaulted roof. There was no reply.

With an exasperated ejaculation Berg shouldered him aside. "Hey, you!" he roared, pounding the massive oak, "Open this door, d'you hear? Hallo, Verity, are you asleep? Satan osse, will you open?" While he shouted, he kept rattling the latch and kicking at the lower panels of the door. But within all remained silent.

"Let me try," said Stephen, and took his place. He was feeling considerably bewildered. What trick was this of Phil's? "Phil," he called, "it's Steve. Open up and let us in, can't you? Phil!" Still no answer.

Stephen stepped back. Clearly, Phil was not there. None of Berg's people, he reflected, were to be relied upon. No doubt, Phil had availed himself of a moment when both sentries' backs were turned to slip away along the gallery, taking the key of the place with him.

The major had stooped to the keyhole. "There's a candle burning on the table," he announced. "But I don't see any sign of Verity. And the key's not on the inside of the door."

Berg elbowed him out of the way. "Let me have a squint!"

"There's no movement within, that's certain," Berg rumbled, straightening up. He looked at Mansard. "How do we know he didn't come out already?"

"Because Pete and I would have seen him," the major retorted in his sullen way. "We haven't budged from the gallery since he went in. That's on oath. And there's no way out of the place except by the door, you know that as well as I do."

"He never come by me," Pete said hoarsely. "If he don't answer, it's 'cos he's croaked like the other."

"Santa Maria!" The cry, shrill and sharp, came from Boldini. The Italian's teeth were chattering; his face was yellow with fear.

"You, Nick," said Berg abruptly, rounding on him, "find the laird and see if he has another key! If not, bring an axe! Horry!" With terrified eyes Boldini sped away.

Despite himself, Stephen felt the chill of an unreasoning fear. He could see it gaining upon his companions. Berg had doffed his hat and was mopping his streaming face; with skinny fingers the major fiddled with his tie, turning his head from side to side in what was evidently a purely nervous reflex; while Pete, with lower jaw pendant, was staring stupidly at the door. So they waited a good five minutes with the rhythmic diapason of the sea arousing all the echoes of the ancient keep. The backward swish of water, the shattering crash of the breaker, the long-drawn-out hiss of the spray—their straining ears could distinguish each successive sound in the silence that seemed to well out to them through every chink of the locked door.

At last voices and hurried steps in the gallery. Boldini appeared, bearing an enormous key. Berg snatched it from him, thrust it in the lock—the door swung inward.

A lighted candle that stood on the table mingled its pale rays with the grayness of the unfriendly day.

The room was empty.


AFTER Stephen had left him, Philip Verity remained in front of the fire, warming his back and listening to the wind in the chimney. He was not sorry to be alone with his thoughts for a spell. This was a situation, he reflected, that called for constructive thinking and he was conscious that his mind was at present cluttered up with a tangle of irrelevant issues.

Whoever had killed D'Arenne, it was not Steve. To establish that fact beyond possibility of challenge was the only important consideration. For this, it would be necessary to discover the identity of the murderer. Whether this were the laird or Duncan or Flora or a combination of all three was beside the point; he was not Steve, Verity reminded himself, and he had no intention of allowing romantic or sentimental influences to impair his judgment.

Steve was ardent and impulsive. He never looked ahead. Verity's sigh was as a panegyric for his lost youth. His was the cautious, disillusioned outlook of middle age that is over the brow of every hill, on the far side of every bridge, before youth has even sighted it. In his mind's eye arose a vivid and rather harrowing picture of the inevitable results of letting suspicion rest unchallenged upon the millionaire. He saw the police arriving, Steve a prey to suspicious and quite possibly prejudiced cross-examination, a flood of publicity, newspaper headlines in London and New York, scandal. Mercy, what a gift for the tabloids! How the front pages would flare: U.S. Playboy Slays Titled Rival; Pretty Deb's Fatal Love Tryst. He shuddered. Awful!

No, the only way to protect Steve's good name and the name of the Garrison family was to probe this dark and mysterious affair to the bottom without further delay. The laird, Flora, Phyllis even, would have to take their chance. But how to set about it? How to secure a free hand to pursue to the bitter end, heedless of what they should bring to light, the first faltering investigations he had undertaken at the scene of the crime? Berg was the obstacle. But Berg could be handled—one did not reach the half-century mark without learning that the human being does not exist who cannot be swayed if rightly approached. A faint smile playing about his clear-cut and good-humored mouth, Verity flattened the glowing dottle of his pipe with his finger and turned his mind back to Berg.

A knock at the door and the appearance of Captain McKenzie interrupted his musings.

McKenzie's expression was even dourer than usual. "I was just looking for Mr. Garrison," he observed, eyes somber. "He sent for me."

"Come in, Mac," said Verity, knocking out his pipe. "Mr. Garrison's gone off somewhere. I expect he wanted to ask whether you're fixed up with a room in the castle."

Big as a bear and almost as shaggy, the skipper had lumbered across to the fire. Glumly he stared on the ground. "The laird had Duncan show me a room," he said shortly, "but, as I told Mr. Garrison, I'd rather stay where I am at McDonald's."

"Quite," Verity rejoined easily, rocking to and fro on his toes. "But I've an idea that Mr. Garrison wants you here on the spot. The fact is there's trouble brewing over this shocking business that took place last night."

The captain nodded, his mouth set in a hard line, "Aye, auld Duncan was telling me. I wouldn't be here at all only that a tough-looking chap pulled a gun on me as I tried to leave by the tower door a while back." He lifted smoldering, irate eyes to his companion. "What sort of behavior do you call that, Mr. Verity?"

The other shrugged. "We're all in the same boat, Mac, old man. Berg has seen fit to take charge until the police can get over from the mainland. You know the type of fellow he is; you saw the way he carried on in the grounds this morning."

McKenzie shook his head. "I didn't wait—I went on into the castle."

"So you did. Well, if you'd stayed, you'd have seen some fireworks. Berg practically accused Mr. Garrison of the murder."

The wilted face gave no sign

"This D'Arenne was a crook and a card sharp. Mr. Garrison had met him before. They had words after dinner last night." Verity spoke somewhat impatiently. This Highland equanimity was all very well, but McKenzie might at least display some indignation, he thought. Feeling that the conversation was dangerously impinging upon Phyllis's part in the tragedy, which he had no intention of discussing with the captain, he hastened to change the subject. "By the way, have you got a revolver?" he asked.

McKenzie shook his head. "Mine's back in the ship. If I'd had it with me just now, yon whippersnapper on the door wouldn't have tur-rned me back, I give you my wor-rd." He pulled down his tufted eyebrows in a heavy frown. "With all respect to Mr. Garrison, sir, I've no desire to mix myself up in this business. I'd be wishful he'd make representations to the laird that I'm no verra used to having my pairsonal liberty restricted."

Verity's laugh was faintly sarcastic; he was tickled at the idea of the captain or any one of them standing on their rights in face of Pete and Marcou—hired killers, both, if he had ever seen one—and their leveled guns. 'That goes for all of us, I guess," he remarked drily. "However, if you'd like to stop and speak to Mr. Garrison yourself, sit down and make yourself at home. He'll be right back, I expect. I'll have to run along and get dressed. Had breakfast?"

Thanking Mr. Verity kindly, the skipper had breakfasted. With a slightly ominous air, he seated himself in the big saddlebag chair that stood before the fire and, folding his arms, prepared to wait for the owner.

Summarily attired and unshaven as he was, nevertheless Verity did not go to his room. Instead, he made his way to the laird's study. An unfamiliar voice responded briskly to his tap. Mr. Jamieson was there alone. The factor was engaged in gathering up the papers which strewed the room in all directions. "If you're looking for the laird, Mr. Verity," he said on recognizing the visitor, "he went to his room just now for a bit of a lie-down!"

Verity was glad to see Jamieson. With his alert, birdlike eye, his precise speech, his prim and desperately serious air, the factor, he felt, was an element of sanity, of stability, in the turbulent atmosphere of the castle. He realized that he had forgotten Jamieson. The oversight was not surprising. There was nothing about the little man to impress. In his dark suit and high stand-up collar, with his straggling moustache, bad complexion, and worse teeth he suggested some underpaid hireling of a city corporation. To complete the illusion he was wearing a black bowler hat, which, at the sight of Verity, he hastily removed and placed on the desk in front of him. The action revealed a crop of rather fuzzy, pale brown hair combed up into a sort of pompadour from the sloping forehead. His coloration was as neutral as a shrimp's, the observant Verity decided—holding him up to the light, one might almost expect to see through him.

Wondering irrelevantly just how the little man would react to such an experiment, Verity came into the study and closed the door. "I'm not sorry to catch you alone, Mr. Jamieson," he said. "I wanted a word with you."

"Always at your sairvice, Mr. Verity. If you don't mind, I'll just go on wi' my clearing-up. They left the room in an awfu' mess!"

"Looking for this wallet, eh?" the American remarked, glancing about him.

With a preoccupied mien the factor had resumed his task of scrutinizing and sorting the papers with which his hands were filled. "I would so infer-r," he replied dispassionately.

Verity looked towards the door, then leaned forward to the man behind the desk. "What was in it, do you know?" he asked, lowering his voice.

"Ye'd better ask the laird that," said Jamieson and carried a file across to a bookshelf.

"Sure. But I'm asking you. Come, come, Mr. Jamieson. You're the laird's man of affairs. I'm very sure he'd consult you before he considered parting with such a sum as"—he made a little break, his eyes on the factor as the latter came back to the desk, and added purposefully—"seventeen thousand pounds!"

"That may be," Jamieson retorted stolidly, stooping to gather up some parchment deeds from the floor, "but the fact is, the laird did not."

"You knew that the vicomte tried to blackmail him, didn't you?"

The insignificant face was inscrutable. "I knew there was a question of cer-rtain cheques——"

"Which, legally, the laird could in all probability have repudiated. You must have drawn your own conclusions as to why he should have consented to treat with these hoodlums."

With rather tremulous hands the factor was stacking the deeds in a pile. "My duty is to look after the Toray policies—the tenants' holdings. It's no pair-rt of my duty to go speirin' into my employer's private affairs, or, with respect to you, Mr. Verity, sir, to discuss wi' strangers matters that do not consairn me."

"Don't concern you?" Verity exclaimed. "Don't you realize that every member of this household is concerned until this murder is cleared up? Haven't you heard that this man Berg has had the nerve to accuse a gentleman of Mr. Garrison's high character and standing of killing this Frenchman? You, for instance, what were you doing last night? You were up at the castle late, weren't you? You didn't leave until half-past eleven, didn't Toray tell us?"

The factor swept a mass of documents into a drawer. "I don't see that my movements are of interest to anybuddy," he answered.

"That's just where you're wrong. Or wait, we'll soon find out. When you left the castle last night, where did you go?"

"I went home."

"What time was it when you got in?"

Jamieson shrugged. "I didn't mind the time verra well."

"Berg'll want to know."

He marked an imperceptible pause. "I was in my bed by twelve, anyway."

"Of course, your wife can corroborate this?"

"Mrs. Jamieson didn't hear me come in," he said slowly. "She was sleeping in the bairn's room that's sick." He broke off, his sharp eyes fastened on the American's face. "I don't verra well comprehend the pur-r-pose of these questions," he added huffily.

"I'm trying to make you see that anyone without an alibi will inevitably come under this man Berg's suspicion. Now, then, you have an alibi, but you can't prove it. What's to prevent Berg from saying that you didn't go home until much later than you claim?"

Jamieson was taping a bundle of leases together. "He can hardly say that," he remarked.

The American laughed. "Oh, can't he?"

"Because I have a witness. Captain McKenzie met me leaving the castle. He walked a piece of the way home wi' me."

"McKenzie, eh? Now we're getting somewhere. But wait a minute, McKenzie left the castle long before half-past eleven."

"He came back to acquent Mr. Garrison wi' the news that the yacht was gone. I met him in the gairdens."

"In the gardens? I thought you were going home?"

"The shor-rtest way from the castle to the vullage is by the road that skairts the Flow. I always leave the castle by the tower and take the wee path that leads past the belvedere. The captain went wi' me as far as the top of the steps that descend to the Flow. Then he told me he'd best go back and see was the owner still about and wi' that he bade me good-night."

The last paper was restored to its place. Jamieson was closing the desk-drawers. "Well," said Verity, "that's easily checked up on." He broke off, his expression suddenly watchful, his eyes on the man at the desk.

The factor had put on his hat. "If ye'll excuse me now, Mr. Verity," he observed staidly, "I must just take the laird back his keys." His glance questioned the other. "Unless you were wishful to stay, sir, I think I'd best lock up."

"It's all right. I'm going along, too."

Together they went out into the vestibule. Verity waited while his companion, selecting a key from the bunch dangling on his finger, locked the door.

It was evident that Jamieson was left-handed. Eyeing him surreptitiously, Verity perceived that he manipulated the key, as he had put on his hat, with his left hand.


FOR a moment that lasted until they found themselves together in the great hall, Verity lost all consciousness of his companion's presence. He was vaguely aware that the factor, murmuring something about having to deposit the laird's keys with Duncan, had left him. Verity's mind—the trained mind of the business executive—was groping back. An instant it hovered among the pigeon-holes of a well-ordered memory, then drew forth the record it was in search of.

He drew a deep breath and stirred from his reverie. The factor was disappearing behind the screen that masked the way through to the servant's quarters. Moodily, he watched him go. Why had neither he nor Steve thought of Jamieson? The fellow claimed to have an alibi, of course—the first thing to do was to check up on it. If Mac were still in Stephen's room——

The captain had not budged from his armchair by the fire. Pipe in mouth he was reading a magazine. Stephen had not returned.

"Oh, Mac," said Verity, "when you were here last night did you happen to run into Jamieson in the grounds?"

McKenzie looked up from his reading. He did not answer at once; his scarred face made it impossible to tell whether he had heard the question or was merely considering it. "You know Jamieson," Verity prompted. "The factor."

"Aye, I heard ye the fairst time," the skipper now answered with dignity. "I was just trying to remember. . . . aye, I mind now, I did meet him."

"You walked as far as the Flow with him, didn't you?"

"Aye, as far as the steps."

"Did you happen to notice which way he went when he left you?"

"He took the road to the village. He said he was going home."

"This would have been around 11:30, eh?"

McKenzie paused in his cautious way. "Eleven-thirty or maybe five minutes later."

"You're sure of this?"

The skipper shot him a glance from under his shaggy eyebrows. "Why wouldn't I be sure?"

"I didn't know you came back again last night, that's all. I thought you told Mr. Garrison you decided it was too late to disturb him?"

"So I did. But I came as far as the gardens. When I saw by my watch that it was getting on for twelve and that the castle was all dark from the rear, I thought maybe my bad news could bide until morning, so I went back to McDonald's."

"You didn't catch sight of anybody hanging around as you left, did you?"

The captain frowned. "I'm no verra good at conundrums, Mr. Verity," he observed with asperity. "Do you mean, did I see Mr. Jamieson again?"

"Well, yes."

"I did not!" With a disapproving air McKenzie picked up his magazine. "And if you'll take my advice, sir, you'll no go spreading suspicions against Mr. Jamieson, who strikes me as being a verra decent, sonsy body!"

Verity laughed rather nervously. "Okay. I was just checking up on something he told me. If you say he went home——"

"Aye, he went home all right," declared the skipper ponderously. "I mind now he was telling me he was anxious to get back on account of his wee girl was ailing." With a finite air he returned to his reading.

Here was Jamieson's corroboration, was Verity's unspoken thought as, leaving the skipper before the fire, he went out into the draughty gallery. Here was corroboration, yet he was not satisfied. The alibi still rested on the factor's word alone. Hidden behind a bush, Jamieson might easily have waited until he had seen McKenzie pass on his way back to McDonald's and thereafter returned to the castle without the captain being any the wiser. The appearance of Dwight at that moment, wheezing gently up the stairs, gave Verity an idea.

"I thought I'd jes' put the room straight while the guv'nor's out of the way," Dwight remarked confidentially.

"Just a moment," Verity stopped him. "Do you think you could do an errand for me in the village, Dwight?"

Very firmly the man shook his head. "Nobody's allowed to leave the castle, Mr. Verity."

"Not even you?"

"Not even old Duncan, sir."

Cautiously the other glanced around. "You're a knowledgeable sort of a chap, Dwight."

The valet tittered, deferentially massaging his palms. "Well, sir, knowledge is about the only commodity as isn't depressed these days."

"This old castle's a regular rabbit-warren. Don't you think you could find a way out unobserved?"

"I might, sir. But what's the idea?"

"I want you to inquire in the village as to what time Mr. Jamieson reached home last night."

Dwight had plenty of Cockney sharpness. He caught the implication of the remark immediately. "Mr. Jamieson?" he repeated in an awed voice. "But, Mr. Verity——"

"I'm not saying a word against Mr. Jamieson. All I want is independent evidence as to the hour at which he got home last night. Will you try and find out for me whether anyone in the village saw him?"

The servant nodded. "I get you, sir. An alibi—that's what you're after, eh?" He scratched his head. "I'm not taking any more chances with them gunmen, that's flat. They couldn't miss me again—not by the law of haverages, they couldn't. And as fer as I know, all the other doors of the castle are locked, the servants' entrance as well. 'Owsomever, I'll see what can be done."

"Thanks a lot, Dwight. I knew I could depend on you. But, remember—under the hat, eh?" By way of reply Dwight, with an extremely knowing air, laid his finger along the side of his empurpled and somewhat protuberant nose. He was moving towards the bedroom when Verity called him back. "Oh, Dwight," he said, "let's have your tape measure, will you?"

He did not say, "Have you a tape measure?" No need to put a question like that to Dwight. You did not say, "Dwight, have you any sealing-wax?" or, "Dwight, I suppose you haven't such a thing as a finger stall?" You just asked for it and Dwight produced it. Usually from his pocket. A great man in an emergency, Dwight.

"Tape measure? Yes, sir." Dwight fumbled and in succession deposited upon his waiting palm an envelope of court plaster, an umbrella ring, three poker dice, some toothpicks robed in paper, a pair of nail scissors, a crumpled cigarette, some rather dingy aspirin tablets, and lastly the required object, a chaste affair in pink celluloid inscribed in gilt A Present from Asbury Park. "There you are, sir," he said, passing the tape measure over. Then, with the slightly self-conscious air of a public benefactor, he entered the bedroom, and Verity, slipping the tape measure in his pocket, went downstairs.

The numerous London friends and acquaintances of Philip Wendell Verity would have been amazed and slightly scandalized by the spectacle that popular Londoner-by-adoption presented. Bruton Street, where he had his bachelor chambers, the Reform Club, Bush House, where his offices occupied an entire floor, would scarce have recognized the spruce and dapper figure of Verity of Garrison's in the unkempt individual that scurried through the hall. Verity, catching a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror, was taken aback himself—with his chin all bristles, his sparse graying hair on end, and the top of his Jaeger pyjamas visible under his jacket he looked a desperate ruffian, he decided.

Nevertheless, he still avoided his bedroom. This time his slippered feet carried him the length of the east wing corridor. The swarthy man called Marcou, posted gun in hand over the exit at the end, glared, but let him pass without hindrance. Turning into the corridor of the garden suite the American was out of sight. Noiselessly he ran along the passage to the billiard room door where, hand raised to knock, he paused.

Angry voices, all talking at once, drifted out. He heard Boldini chattering like an infuriated ape, Mansard's drawl, mocking and provocative, Berg's rumbling basso seeking to outdrown the two. "Maledetto!" the Italian was squealing. "You heara heem, I heara heem! Is he to say I keel Raoul? Basta cosi! Eet ees enough!" while the major's metallic tone cut across Boldini's protests: 'I didn't say you killed him. I merely remarked, find a knife, look for a dago!"

In the meantime, above the din, Berg's voice was audible, shouting, 'Shot op! Stow it, you two! Satan osse, will you lay off?" Then Verity knocked and instant silence fell.

A saffron face appeared in the chink of the door. "Tell Berg I want to see him," said Verity. His manner was brisk and fearless; he held his head high. As Boldini was about to close the door, the American, stemming it with his foot, sent it flying back and strode in.

The low-ceilinged room, musty with stale tobacco fumes, its walls splotched with damp, was filled with a cold light from diamond-paned casements that on three sides commanded views of the loch. Berg, cigar in mouth, sprawled on a shabby leather bench under the wooden marker. Glass in hand, elbows propped on the cushions of the billiard table, the major faced him. The place was in disorder with match-ends and tobacco-ash scattered on the linoleum, a broken tumbler recumbent in a spatter of glass athwart a great stain on the faded baize of the table, bottles on the floor.

Mansard's monocle caught the light as he turned his head to survey the intruder. Verity ignored him. "Can I have a word with you?" he said briskly to Berg.

With a languid air the big man shifted his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other and, hoisting his enormous arms to his head, folded his hands at the back of his neck. "Go ahead!" he remarked and closed his eyes.

"In private," said the American.

The man on the settee opened a sleepy eye at the major, who, with his legs stretched out in front of him, was somberly regarding the visitor. "All right, Carlos."

The major eased his elbows. "If it's all the same to you, I'll stay."

"Iss right," cried Boldini tensely, coming forward. "No secrets!"

The floor shook as, with a crash, Berg's legs swung down and he scrambled to his feet. His hand pointed at the door. "Get out, the pair of you!" he trumpeted. "Allez! Ouste!"

For a moment Verity thought that Mansard was going to stand his ground. But there was such menace in Berg's attitude, such a spark of rage in the ice-blue eyes, that the major wilted. He drew himself erect, glancing at his glass as though debating whether to drain it or set it down, and shrugged. "Oh, all right."

"Get out, the pair of you!" For a moment Verity thought that Mansard was going to stand his ground.


'Get out, the pair of you!' For a moment Verity
thought that Mansard was going to stand his ground.

Carefully nursing his glass, he swaggered out. Seeing him go, the Italian, not without a backward glance from his snakelike eyes, followed after.

From a bottle on the low stand before the settee Berg splashed himself a drink of raw whisky and sat down. "Wermin!" he growled disgustedly. "Each t'inks the other is holding out on him. They drive me out of my mind!" He drank. "Well, my friend," he went on, critically surveying Verity, "you bring me the woillet, yes?"

The American shook his head. "Wherever that wallet is, we haven't got it. My friend Garrison knew nothing of your dealings with Toray. He didn't kill D'Arenne, but if he did it was, by your own showing, out of revenge, not to rob him. You can't have it both ways. Now we're both business men, Mr. Berg, and I've come to talk this matter over with you on common sense lines. I take it you want to get that wallet back; is that it?"

"Ja!" said Berg. With eyes half closed he was leaning back on the leather seat, puffing at his cigar and following the other intently.

Remarking it, Verity took fresh heart. "The wallet is in the possession of the murderer, you'll agree to that, I suppose?" he remarked, dropping onto the bench at Berg's side. "Therefore, the only way to recover it is to find the murderer, am I right?"

"Ja!" said Berg again.

"What I propose, therefore, is that you should let me take charge of the investigation."

The big man stirred, opened his eyes. "You?"

"Isn't it to my interest to elucidate the mystery? It's the only way I can clear my friend. Besides, there's this." He paused and flashed an unobtrusive glance at the heavy face at his side. "Don't you realize that, until we've laid the murderer by the heels, your life and the lives of your two companions are in constant danger?"

Uneasily the great torso heaved. "How shall that be? You say Garrison didn't kill Raoul because he'd have had no use for that woillet. Na, good! Then it was Toray who did the job."

"Or Duncan, or old Rory the piper, or anyone on the estate. You don't seem to realize that the laird's king on this island."

Berg pawed the air in a deprecatory gesture. "What the hell does it matter? The point is they've got what they wanted. They t'ink they don't have to bother about us any more, ja, by Joe!" He snarled the last phrase ragingly and his teeth clamped themselves hard on his cigar.

Verity leaned towards him. "Until we've found the murderer, we'll never know what's become of that wallet," he said, marking each word. "And until we know definitely that it's in the laird's possession, I wouldn't give that" he snapped his fingers—"for the lives of any of the three of you!" And observing that Berg said nothing, he went on quickly: "You three are in this together, aren't you? Are you so sure of the major and Boldini? The contents of that wallet are worth seventeen thousand pounds, remember. What if one of them is double-crossing you?"

Berg's laugh was mocking. "Nay, nay," he rumbled, "the boys didn't kill Raoul. Carlos was too dronk that night and Boldini hasn't the guts!"

"I'm not suggesting they murdered him. But Boldini was in D'Arenne's bedroom that night." He paused. "Don't you see that if, for any reason, Toray hasn't got the wallet, he's quite capable of serving you as he served D'Arenne?"

By God, the man was yellow! The look of utter panic that momentarily leaped, flamelike, into the merciless eyes proclaimed it. The big man indulged in an unwilling wriggle. "Na ja, we can protect ourselves, I t'ink," he growled. He laughed rather boisterously; but there was no mirth in the laugh.

"Against fanatical savages like this Duncan? Or—or Rory the piper? Don't you know that here on this lonely island we're back in the Middle Ages? Toray has only to speak the word and the three of you will have your throats cut from ear to ear." He laughed scornfully—he was working himself up nicely. "Protect yourselves, my hat! An old place like this is full of secret passages. They only need to put a shot of something in your drink before you go to bed and it's as easy as pie! And there's the loch right at the front door for the disposal of"—he was about to say "bodies," but substituted "corpses" as being more gruesome—"of the corpses!"

Berg had fallen silent. His cigar had gone out. "I've already made certain tentative investigations in the Portcullis Room," Verity went on. "Why not let me carry on? The wallet's not hidden there: if it were you'd have found it. I bet you've searched the place thoroughly, haven't you?" The other nodded. "Well, then! Give me a few hours undisturbed in the Portcullis Room and let me go down to the village to make certain inquiries and I'll guarantee to produce the murderer." He stopped expectant.

"No one's leaving the castle," his companion mumbled, relighting the stub of his cigar. "But if you want to go to the Portcullis Room, na ja——" His hand went to his pocket, drew out an enormous iron key. Verity made to take it, but Berg whipped it out of reach. "Nay, nay, he growled. "The major or one of them will escort you..."

Verity laughed. "I don't want to say anything against your friends, Berg, but this job requires concentration. If you think I can concentrate with a pot-walloping Mexican insurgente standing over me——"

"He can remain outside," said Berg tranquilly and rose. "Come."


STANDING just inside the Portcullis Room, Verity listened to Mansard's reluctant footsteps receding up the stair and dying away along the gallery. He had had a little trouble in getting rid of the major. The major appeared to harbor no grudge against the American for having been the instrument of his brusque dismissal from the billiard room; on the contrary, he evinced a decidedly embarrassing disposition to attach himself to Verity.

He was fed up with Berg and Boldini, he confided as he escorted Verity along the gallery. The idea of suspecting Garrison when it stuck out a mile that the laird had done the job! And if it weren't the laird he had a pretty good notion whom he'd pick on—Raoul owed Boldini five thousand francs: they had been bickering about it for months. But apart from this, Mansard complained, the other two weren't his class. "What I mean to say," he drawled to his companion, "a feller can talk to a feller like you. What I mean to say, you're human, what? Not a blasted, browbeating bully like Berg or a belly-aching wop like that rat Boldini. And you don't give yourself airs, either, like some gringoes I could mention!" He bared very white teeth in a snarl—it was evident that Steve's thrust still rankled.

When they reached the Portcullis Room, the major was anxious to stay and watch. He'd sit in a corner as quiet as a little mouse, so help him; he was sick and tired of seeing nothing but Berg's ugly muzzle all day. Pete could pop along for a bottle of Scotch so that they might have a small snifter whenever they felt like it. And the major would tell about the time he was out with Pancho Villa—the damnedest yarns Verity had ever heard.

That would be swell, said Verity, edging him firmly towards the door; they must absolutely get together for a good long talk. Perhaps later; just then he had a job of work on hand and he would hate not to give the major his undivided attention.

"Oh, but I'd wait until you knocked off for a drink!" Mansard put in hopefully.

"No, positively," said Verity. "I want to enjoy this. I must have my mind free so as not to miss a single word."

By this he had propelled his companion as far as the threshold. "All right, this afternoon, then," the latter proposed.

"That'll be just fine," said Verity, hustling him gently.

"Don't let me forget," the other stayed him, turning round—"don't let me forget to tell you about the time we roasted the station-master's feet. It's one of my best stories."

"You may be sure I won't!"

"You'll enjoy that one. It's a scream!"

"It certainly sounds like a lula to me!" Clank. The door closed on the major. At last Verity was alone.

He drew a long-drawn sigh of relief. When all was still outside, he cautiously opened the door and, finding the key still there, removed it and, locking the door on the inside, slipped the key in his pocket. This done, rubbing his hands briskly together, he advanced to the fireplace and, turning about, through his rimless glasses surveyed the ancient chamber with a hopeful eye. Still it wore its expectant air of tragedy in the sparse light of its barred window lozenged with glimpses of drifting cloud; always there was the boom of the sea, the scream of the wind, the cry of the gulls; and on the floor before the hearth a lighter stain, like a coat of varnish, rested upon the deeper shadowing of the timbers that spoke of an earlier deed of blood.

But Verity had a task awaiting him which challenged all his native intelligence. It intrigued him thus to match his brains against the brains of the unknown assassin. Volatile, American, his spirits, at the prospect of this test of skill, soared free above the macabre atmosphere of his surroundings.

He lost no time in getting to work. His first action was to open the drawer of the table at his side and look for the partially burnt candle he had put there. Good! It lay, pewter candlestick and all, as he had left it. He took it out and stood it on the table. Then, from its place on the high chest across the room, he fetched its fellow. He perceived with satisfaction that this second candle was still intact. Identical with the other, it was of solid white wax, of the type found in churches, and the same diameter top and bottom. Taking Dwight's tape measure from his pocket, he measured it—seven-eighths of an inch.

Thereafter he measured it lengthwise along its length. Twelve inches exactly. He made a note on the back of an envelope. Then he measured the first candle. Eight inches as near as mattered; that is to say, four inches had been consumed. He jotted the figure down. On that he drew the second candle—the intact one—from its candlestick and, laying it flat on the table, with tape measure and pencil, marked it off in inches and half-inches the whole of its length. The pencil did not mark very well on the hard, shining wax, but the scratches were recognizable.

Replacing the candle in its candlestick, he unstrapped his watch and put it on the table. The time was exactly 10:17. He made another note on the envelope, then lit a match and touched it to the virginal wick of the marked candle. The first candle he returned to the drawer.

This business accomplished, he left the table and directed his attention to the floor. It was the section of the floor between the fireplace and the wall on the right of it, where he had seen the traces of sand, that now seemed to interest him. The sand was still there, though dry now and crumbling. A fragment of the coarse seaweed called kelp which, they had told him at Port Phadric, the islanders burned for potash, still clung to one lump. It was while poking about among the clusters of sand that he came upon the splash of wax on the floor. He found it by touch really, for the room was ill-lighted in the corners and the diaphanous wax barely visible against the jetty blackness of the oak. But thus advised he easily discovered that a trail of such splashes led over to the wall. The last was within a foot of the ragged blue tapestry that hung loosely down in front of the wainscot.

Save in this corner, between fireplace and wall, no wax drippings were discernible. The indication was that D'Arenne, having lit the candle, had carried it across from the table to the wall. But wait; D'Arenne had lit the candle at the chest on the far side of the room where it had stood with its fellow—there had been that match lying on the ground before the chest to prove it. D'Arenne must, therefore, have had the lighted candle at the table when, for some reason, he had decided to go, candle in hand, from the fireplace to this particular corner of the room.

Why? Had it been to hide? Verity shook his head. The hangings were flush with the wainscot; a child could not have found concealment there. He parted the tapestry to make the experiment himself. One section of the stuff, caught on a nail or something, resisted, then came away. Out of the question, he decided, contemplating the glossy paneling beneath.

He was about to let the hangings swing back into position when his eye detected a morsel of blue fabric projecting from the lower part of the wainscot. He held up the tapestry to investigate and perceived that a few threads were nipped between the smooth edges of the paneling. He pulled. They were held fast; but, his fingers slipping as he tugged, his knuckles rapped the panel. It gave out a hollow sound.


His eye detected a morsel of blue fabric
projecting from the lower part of the wainscot.

In a moment he had his head under the tapestry. Gingerly he sounded the wall all over. Only the one panel rang hollow, the rest of the woodwork was solid.

He stepped back, aghast. There must be a secret exit to the chamber. The hollow panel was the door. In closing, it had pinched a minute fold of the hangings which, tattered as they were, had torn free under his grasp.

This, then, was how the murderer had gained access to the Portcullis Room.

In a flash he pictured the scene: the assassin in ambush behind the wainscot; D'Arenne, at the table, hearing a sound and advancing, candle in hand, to investigate; the noiseless opening of the panel; the murderer and his victim face to face; D'Arenne's terrified recoil, step by step with candle sagging, spilling wax; the upward whirl of the knife; the shriek lost in the clamor of the storm; the panel closing stealthily upon the assassin's retreat.

The healthy color had fled from Verity's rosy cheeks. With a trembling hand he fumbled at his glasses. So, too, no doubt, the McNeil had met his death. For two hundred years that secret door had been shut fast upon the mystery. One man, however, knew the secret.

And that man was the murderer!

The laird! The thought leaped to his mind, leaving him shocked and bewildered. The secret passage, convenient means of escape during the internecine struggles of the clans, was the secret of Toray Castle, jealously guarded and religiously handed down from father to son. All the doubts that had plagued him were instantly resolved, crystallized into one hard core of conviction.

Toray was the man!

It was as clear as daylight. At his wits' end to wrest from D'Arenne the evidence of his son's disgrace, prowling about the east wing corridor he had overheard the Frenchman fixing the rendezvous with Phyllis. Father and daughter had put their heads together. Duncan was posted to keep watch outside the vicomte's room and, the major-domo reporting that D'Arenne had extinguished his light, Toray had waited while Flora went there to look for the papers. On her returning empty-handed, the laird had gone off to the Portcullis Room, entering and leaving by the secret passage.

Verity felt for his torch in the breast-pocket of his pyjama top where he had placed it on retiring to bed, took it out and switched its beam on the panel.

The wainscot ended on a level with his eyes where it jointed the unclad stonework of the wall. All along the top of the wainscot ran a dado of roses rudely carved in shallow relief. He passed his fingers along the carving, searching for some button to press, some catch to slide, but in vain. From the dado his hands traveled down the sides of the panel with no better result. The panel did not yield. In the same way he investigated the woodwork on either side—obstinately the gleaming black wainscot defended its secret.

At length he stood back, dusty, disheartened, disgusted. To be thus on the very threshold of discovery without the power to advance farther—it was maddening! Time was passing and he had no idea how long he would be left undisturbed. He craned his head forward to look at his watch. Already, he saw, he had been there for more than half an hour.

For an instant the lighted candle diverted his attention. The markings on the wax showed that practically the first inch had burned away. He glanced at the envelope. He had lit the candle at 10:17 and the hands of the watch now stood at 10:44—the candle burned then at the rate of one inch in twenty-seven minutes. One inch? He puckered his brow. There was the tapering at the top, to allow for—say three quarters of an inch. Leaning forward he scratched a note, then put the envelope in his pocket and gathered up his watch, which he fastened about his wrist.

Still frowning, he once more approached the wall. Holding the tapestry aside he stared at the panel as though the very fixity of his gaze would pluck its secret from it. Where did the door lead? To the seagate, by way of a stair in the thickness of the wall? To the grounds? He hoisted his shoulders while his hand stole out to finger absently the satin smoothness of the oak.

The panel gave to his touch, swung inward.

He guessed what had happened. Unknowingly his fumblings at the woodwork on either side of the moving panel must have found the hidden catch, released it, so that the door was waiting to open at a push. A current of dank air smote his face and he sniffed the tang of the sea.

The opening was like the mouth of a cave, low and dark with a rocky floor. He had to stoop to enter. It was just a cavity in the thickness of the wall with the head of a flight of stairs, very narrow and cut out of the living rock, leading down.

Once through the panel there was headroom. Cautiously he raised himself erect and, switching on his flash lamp, gazed about him. The first thing he saw, on a level with the top of the door, was a short, rusty chain dependent from a staple. The click as he pulled it told him that here was the reverse side of the secret catch.

And now he came face to face with a difficult decision. He was in no mind to be disturbed until he had explored the secret passage, on the other hand, by closing the door behind him he ran the risk of becoming entombed there. He worked the latch again—now he could see the metal tongue that shot out of the face of the rock as he tugged the chain. With sudden resolution he pushed the door to, heard the bolt click, then, with bated breath, pulled the latch, saw, in the light of his torch, the door tremble, drew it towards him. It opened!

He exulted. At present, for as long as he liked, he was free from interruption. Softly he swung the door to, then, turning his back on it, let his light travel round the rocky chamber, bare and quite small.

Now that the daylight was excluded, it was pitch black within the cavity. In the ray of his flash lamp the floor was dry and sandy. Burnt matches were scattered about and——Wait a minute wasn't that a pool of wax beside the door? Torch in hand, he stooped to investigate. It was, sure enough.

All the matches were of the same type—yellow paper matches torn from a strip. He counted—there were seven of them, dropped there as though by someone groping his way in the dark. The match he had picked up in the Portcullis Room was yellow; the matches in the Hotel McFarlane folder were yellow, too. Were that single match and now these seven all from that Hotel McFarlane strip? It certainly looked that way.

In the clammy darkness he paused to consider the point. It must have been the murderer who had lit that candle, then; the match-ends, the wax-drips, suggested that he had fetched it from the room to light him while he waited behind the wainscot. Revolving this conclusion in his mind, the American began to feel his way down the narrow stair, the beam of his light wavering before him.

He counted fourteen steps before his feet struck the level. Low above his head a narrow tunnel arched, the floor strewn with loose stones which, his light revealed, had dropped from the rough-hewn roof. Here, by contrast with the stuffy atmosphere at the top of the flight, the air was fresher—it was evident that the passage led into the open.

And so, in the upshot, it proved. He had counted above a hundred and thirty paces when he discerned a pin-point of light in the distance. A minute or two later he emerged into a cave blocked, as to more than two thirds of its height, by a partial collapse of the roof, with a glimpse of the sky above the tangle of bushes that crowned the obstacle.

Scaling the pile he parted the bushes. He found himself looking down from a shallow cliff upon a dazzling white beach lapped by a sheet of dark, swift water. Something about the scene seemed familiar—the cormorant hunched on a post, the barren brownness of the opposing shore.

It was Toray Flow.


THE mouth of the passage was well hidden. The cave was scarce head-high—behind its frieze of bushes, Verity conjectured, the opening must be practically invisible from the beach. Over to the left, where the cliff sloped up, was the path from the castle with its steps descending to the shore; immediately below ruts in the firm sand denoted the cart track from the village winding past the foot of the cliff to strike off across the beach to the ford over the Flow. Clearly, access to the secret passage, tucked away under the lip of the bluff, was feasible only from the strand, by means of the boulders strewn at the base of the cliff—anybody coming from the castle, for instance, would have to descend the steps and walk along the foreshore.

But the cart track, passing in front of the cave, carried on its flanks the prints of innumerable feet. Beyond it the beach, dotted with dark clusters of kelp, stretched immaculate to the water's edge. Useless, Verity decided, to look there for further clues. But his eye rested meditatively on the kelp.

He had picked up four more of the yellow matches in the tunnel and now he came across two others on the floor of the cave. They seemed to offer conclusive proof that the murderer had gained the Portcullis Room by the secret passage. There was nothing to be achieved by waiting there, Verity told himself; moreover, anxious to keep his discovery secret until he had fully plumbed its purport, he was harried by the fear lest Mansard or one of the others should come to the Portcullis Room and find him missing.

Accordingly, he retraced his steps along the tunnel. He paused an instant at the panel and hearing no sound, pulled the latch. At the sight of Berg, towering there beside the lighted candle, he would have drawn back. But it was too late. With a shout the colossus sprang forward.

Verity, as Stephen told him afterwards, had walked in upon the dumbfounded silence which had greeted the discovery that the Portcullis Room was empty. "Death and pain!" Berg trumpeted—he made the odd expression sound like an oath, as it probably was, Verity irrelevantly reflected, a Danish oath—"a secret door!" Blindly his great hands seized the American, flung him aside. Then, at the sight of the yawning blackness the panel disclosed, he snatched Verity's torch from him and disappeared into the cavity.

The others went jostling after. The major, Boldini, Pete—their shouts and the hollow reverberation of their feet welled into the room.

Verity found himself face to face with Stephen. "Gosh," said the latter, smiling at him affectionately, "you certainly gave us a fright. Well, what does it mean?"

Verity shrugged. "You can see for yourself. It's a secret door. It leads through a tunnel to the Flow."

Hesitantly Stephen looked from Verity to the open panel. "And you found it? How?"

"I stumbled on it by accident. If you fellows had arrived five minutes later, I'd have had the panel shut and no one the wiser. Now the fat's in the fire!"

"You mean—Toray?"

Verity nodded. "Yes. This is obviously the family secret he spoke of."

Stephen was aghast. Turning from his companion he darted through the open panel. Left to his own devices Verity sat down composedly at the table and drew pencil and paper from his pocket.

Berg was the first to reappear. He walked over to the table and slammed the torch down so violently that the lighted candle jumped and spilled some wax on Verity's sleeve. "You were right!" Berg roared, "You say you'll produce the murderer and you do it, by Joe! Good work, old man! Now we've got him!"

With extreme deliberation Verity blew out the lighted candle and, taking the other candle from the drawer, wrapped the pair in the paper lining the drawer and thrust the bundle in his pocket. "Not so fast," he observed tranquilly. "The investigation isn't finished yet."

The other members of the party, as each entered through the panel, gathered round. "I found traces of wax in that passage," said Verity, "and these matches." Dipping into his pocket he showed the match-ends he had collected. "And I've conducted certain experiments with the candles that have yet to be worked out."

Berg clenched his fists and glared about him.

"And what furder evidence do we want? He was the only one in the castle to know about this passage, you all heard him speak at dinner of this secret handed down from fader to son!" He raised his voice to a shout. "Death and pain! Toray'll answer to me for this!"

A quiet voice inquired, "For what, Mr. Berg?"

The laird, an impassive kilted figure, stood in the doorway; the major-domo's spade-like beard was visible behind him. With a faint hauteur Toray glanced round the sickle of faces. "Duncan told me," he remarked, his eyes returning to Berg, "that you'd sent for the spare key of this room. So I thought I'd come along and see if I could be of any assistance. You were saying I was to answer to you for something?"

The big man ground his teeth and rolled bloodshot eyes. "Oh, ja!"

"For what?"

"You know for what, I t'ink!" With a movement of his flail-like arm he swept Boldini and Pete, who flanked him, aside so that the open panel was visible from the door. "For the murder of Raoul d'Arenne," he said thickly.

Toray had advanced into the room. From where he halted he could see the secret door swung back on the darkness beyond. As he moved forward he disclosed Flora who had entered with him. She looked as disconcerted as her father was composed.

With complete unconcern the laird surveyed the panel. Then he slid finger and thumb in a waistcoat pocket and, drawing forth a flat silver box, helped himself to a pinch of snuff. He performed the whole operation with extreme deliberation, applying the snuff delicately to his nostrils, shaking the flakes from his fingers and pausing to brush a speck from his tie before remarking nonchalantly, "So you found the secret passage?"

"It was Verity who found it," Berg growled. "What about it, Toray?"

The patrician face was masklike. "As far as I am concerned, nothing."

"This passage, it's the family secret you spoke of, yes?"

Flora sprang forward. "Daddy, he has no right to ask you questions! Don't say anything! Wait for the police!"

"Hush, my dear!" said Toray. He turned to Berg. "It is."

"And you were the only person in the castle to know of its existence?" the big man demanded.

The laird inclined his head, his eyes veiled. "I was."

Berg took a pace towards him. "You found out about the rendezvous last night, you entered this room by that passage and killed Raoul!" he vociferated.

Toray seemed to stiffen. "I did not know about the rendezvous and I did not set foot in this room last night until after the murder. And I did not kill the Vicomte d'Arenne." His tone was freezing.

"Lying won't help you," was the savage retort. "You killed our friend Raoul and you know it! Do you wish me to hand you over to the police as D'Arenne's murderer?"

The laird eyed him politely. "It's a matter of complete indifference to me what you do, Mr. Berg."

Berg laughed. "You like to bluff, yes? But nobody bluffs me. You have D'Arenne's papers—you already have destroyed them, I t'ink, no?—but we have you. You will honor those cheques of your son's, Toray?

Toray's face hardened. "We need not go into all that again."

"You will honor those cheques," said Berg again with suppressed rage. "You pay me that seventeen thousand pounds or——"

"I'm not making any bargain with you, Mr. Berg. I didn't kill this man and that's all there is about it!"

The big man lurched closer. "I fix my friends, you fix yours," he said in a hoarse whisper. "We put the body in the loch and tell the police there has been an accident. Come, my friend, be sensible. If you have not the money, Garrison will make you an advance against the purchase price of the castle."

"And if I refuse, you denounce me to the police as D'Arenne's murderer, is that right?"

Berg laughed craftily. "Na, I t'ink you will not refuse."

"You're mistaken," said the laird. "I do. We will not refer to this matter again, Mr. Berg!" And he turned his back on him.

With a shout of rage Berg grasped him by the shoulders and spun him round. "Ja nay, but we will. Joost as soon as the police arrive. I give you until noon tomorrow to t'ink it over. . . . Carlos," he barked over his shoulder, "lock up here and bring me the key!"

Lowering his head like an angry bull he stormed out.


ON leaving the Portcullis Room the two Americans made their way by tacit agreement to Stephen's room at the end of the Long Gallery. McKenzie had taken his departure; the big bedroom was empty. It had been set in order, the fire made up, the hearth swept. Streaming windows and the gurgle of water greeted them. Fiercely the rain lashed the panes; in a moment the whole panorama of the loch was blotted out.

Stephen walked to the fire and threw on some turf. "Well, Phil," he said briskly, helping himself from the box of cigarettes on the mantelpiece, "this settles it, I guess. There was never much doubt about it from the first, really. Poor old fellow." With a compassionate wag of the head he paused to spring his lighter.

"My gracious," he went on, "I certainly liked the way he stood up to Berg! Didn't you?"

Receiving no answer, he swung about and perceived that the other had installed himself at the desk against the wall, with his back to the room. Pencil in hand, he seemed to be reckoning, jotting down figures on a piece of paper. Freed from their wrapping, the two candles he had brought from the Portcullis Room lay on the desk beside him.

"Phil," said Stephen, "I'm talking to you!"

Verity did not look round. "Not now, Steve, I'm busy."

"What are you up to?"

"Working something out."


"I'll tell you presently. I'm on to something devilish odd." He relapsed into silence.

Disconsolately his companion shrugged, then cried sharply, "Who's there?" for the door, which they had left ajar, was slowly opening.

It was Flora. "Do you mind if I come in?" she said rather breathlessly.

"Of course not."

Bright-eyed and tense she slipped inside and closed the door.

She had come, of course, to enlist their help on her father's behalf was Stephen's first thought and it laid a certain embarrassment over their meeting. Nevertheless, he felt enormously glad to see her there. He discerned something precious and vital in her personality; in the gloom of that ancient stronghold, whose every stone, you might say, was mortared with blood, it gleamed like the fire Prometheus brought down to a cold, gray earth. Tomorrow or the next day, he caught himself thinking, the yacht would return and carry him back to the clatter and life of big cities. But the girl would still be there on her misty island, lapped in the unending mutter of wind and sea, brightening with her hope and courage the unchanging somberness of the castle. As he confronted her now, he was aware of a curious sensation of foreboding. It seemed to tell him that sail away though he might, the intangible bond established between them would endure.

Without speaking she crossed to the fire. The little gold ring on her finger glittered as she held her hands to the blaze. Verity, absorbed at the desk, paid no heed to her. The only sound in the room was the drumming of the rain.

At last she broke the silence. "The gale's blowing itself out. They sent up word from the village just now that at low water this evening they're going to try and send across the Flow with a message to the police."

"Does Berg know this?" Stephen asked.

She shook her head. "No. I saw auld Jamie myself. Boldini was there, but we spoke in Gaelic. I told Boldini it was a message from McDonald's about some stores."

He nodded. "Just as well. It'll be time enough for Berg to know about it when the police arrive."

She glanced towards the rain-washed windows. "The wind's shifted. At this rate the police will be here in the morning and my father will be arrested!" Desperately she wrung her small hands. "I wanted him to stop that message going, but he won't have it." She rocked herself to and fro. "Oh, why couldn't your friend have let things alone? I wish you'd never come here!"

Stephen gazed at her in a silence that endured until she had lifted her eyes to his. The color crept into her face as their glances met. "If it were merely a question of money——" he began awkwardly.

It was characteristic of her simple honesty that she mistook his meaning. Her answer conjured up a picture of that remote island with every man, woman, and child committed to the service of the chieftain. "My father would never consent," she retorted quickly. "He won't hear of this thing being hushed up, as Berg proposed." She paused. "You believe him guilty, don't you?" she added in a low voice.

Stephen moved his shoulders unhappily. "My dear, it's hard to come to any other conclusion. I'm not saying that your father wasn't abundantly justified——"

"My father's innocent!" she cried. "He's incapable of such a horrible crime himself, and no one who loves him, as we all love him here, will ever believe that he'd countenance anything of the kind!"

"But the murderer used that passage and your father was the only person on the island to know of its existence, wasn't he?"

She nodded on a dry sob. "Yes. But he's innocent. My father never told a lie in his life."

He motioned her to silence, for someone was at the door. It was the laird. "Might I trouble you for a minute, Garrison?" he said. "There's something I wanted to say to you."


Toray came in and strode over to them. He was quite composed. He made no comment on seeing Flora there. Rather shyly she slipped her arm in her father's and the two of them, with their backs to the leaping flames, faced the American. Verity in his corner did not move; he seemed unconscious of all that went on about him.

"I don't know what decision you've come to with regard to the castle, Garrison," said the laird, smoothing out a fold of his kilt, "but I wish to tell you that my offer is withdrawn. By this you're probably aware that, in the event of this deal going through between us, I intended to apply the purchase price to satisfying certain claims which Mr. Oscar Berg has brought against me. These negotiations are now broken off. Mr. Berg and his friends will be leaving the castle tomorrow or as soon as the steamer arrives." Stephen was about to speak, but Toray's raised hand stayed him. "You've not known me long," he went on in the same level tone, "but I believe you to be a man of the world. You were at Oxford and you're doubtless aware that there's a certain code of honor among gentlemen who've had the honor to hold the King's commission"—he broke off and amended unflinchingly—"among the great majority, at any rate!"

Stephen felt his heart swell, for he knew that the laird was thinking of his dead son. "You don't have to tell me that, sir," he put in warmly.

"I'm a man of honor, Garrison," Toray continued, "and I think I may say I've had an honorable career. I'm not conscious of ever having borne false witness against my neighbor or of having broken faith with him. I have to say these things because I wish you to realize that my word is not an empty phrase." He lifted his cold, proud eyes to the American. "I give you my word of honor that I didn't kill this Frenchman nor did I, wittingly or unwittingly, have any hand in his death. Neither do I know who is his murderer. I don't ask you to accept that assurance because I know that appearances are heavily against me. I merely make the statement. That is what I wished to say to you." He dropped his eyes to his kilt.

Stephen was greatly embarrassed. In perplexity he looked from the laird, who, with an unruffled air, was taking snuff, to Flora. The girl was smiling at him. She did not speak, but her blue eyes shone with a sort of triumphant confidence and she seemed to cling closer to her father. Before Stephen could answer, Verity had stepped between them. He held an envelope in one hand and his two candles, one short, the other long, in the other.

"I accept your word, sir," he said crisply to Toray, "and so does my friend Garrison."

"Of course I do," Stephen put in hastily, "but, Phil——"

"Don't interrupt, but listen to me!" Verity's voice shook with suppressed excitement and Stephen stared at him in surprise. Showing the two candles, "When I discovered D'Arenne's body," he said, addressing his audience of three collectively, "these two candles were in the room. They're quite obviously of the same shape and size."

"That's right," Flora interposed. "I put them there myself a week ago. You know," she added confidentially, "I always keep the Portcullis Room in order, as the maids don't like going in there."

"Very good," said Verity. He held up the shorter candle. "This candle, alight on the table, had obviously been burning for some time; the other"—he displayed it—"new and unlit, stood on a chest against the wall. On the assumption that the burning candle was lighted by D'Arenne when he first came in, I made a note of the hour when I extinguished it, knowing that a simple experiment with the intact candle should give us approximately the time at which the dead man entered the place. This experiment I made in the Portcullis Room this morning before you arrived.

Showing the longer candle, he resumed, "I marked this candle off in inches and half-inches, as you can see, and lighted it. Timed by my watch roughly three quarters of an inch was consumed in twenty-seven minutes which is at the rate"—he glanced at the envelope which was covered with calculations—"of one inch in thirty-six minutes." Then, holding out the shorter candle again, "Measurement with the tape demonstrates that four inches of this candle have been burnt away. That's to say, at the rate of one inch in thirty-six minutes, it must have been alight for one hundred and forty-four minutes or two hours and twenty-four minutes. In the circumstances I believe we are justified in assuming that it was burning continuously. Now, it was exactly eight minutes past two when I extinguished it. If it had been burning for two hours and twenty-four minutes, this means that it was lighted at 11:44——".

"That's not correct, surely," Stephen broke in. "When I met D'Arenne outside his bedroom around a quarter-past eleven he was on his way to the billiard room. And he didn't leave there until one."

Toray nodded. "He's right, Verity!"

"Exactly," Verity agreed. "Because, you see, those matches and traces of wax I found in the passage show that it wasn't the vicomte who lit that candle. It was the murderer." The laird shot the speaker a rapid, puzzled look, but said nothing. "He entered by the secret passage," Verity went on, "after groping his way along by the light of matches, leaving sand and seaweed off his shoes on the floor in proof that he came from the beach. Once inside the room he took one of the candles from its place on the chest, dropping on the ground the match with which he lit it, and retired through the panel to await his victim. When he heard D'Arenne arrive, he came out, candle in hand. When, having killed D'Arenne, he fled, he left the candle burning on the table."

"Then, according to you, this crime was planned, deliberate," said Toray. "It's cold-blooded; it's—it's ghastly. Who could have done such a thing?

Verity eluded the question. "At 11:44," he replied in his precise way, "Berg and his friends were in the billiard room, I had gone off to bed, you"—he turned to the laird—"and Garrison were chatting in the great hall. But I draw your attention, laird, to the fact that you had a late visitor last night."

Toray deflected tawny eyebrows in a swift frown. "You mean Jamieson?" he questioned sternly.

"Jamieson, no less. Look here! He left the castle at 11:30 and five minutes later Captain McKenzie met him in the grounds. McKenzie walked with him as far as the steps leading to the Flow"—he made a significant pause—"a stone's throw from the mouth of the cave which is the entrance to the secret passage. Jamieson said he was going home. He declares he was in bed by midnight. But we have only his word to go on. He admits that nobody heard him come in."

"But Jamieson!" Toray exclaimed. "It's fantastic!"

"But is it? You'll not deny that he was better acquainted with the history of the castle than anybody, even including yourself?"

"True enough. But he didn't know about the secret passage, I swear. I myself visited it only once and that was on the night of my twenty-first birthday when, according to tradition, the major-domo—that was Duncan's father—escorted my father and me by torchlight to the door of the Portcullis Room and left us there. And as far as I'm aware only one person other than the ruling chieftain and his heir has ever been credited with this knowledge."

The laird shook his head. "Since the family secret is out, I won't deceive you further. The chief himself was the murderer—the McNeil had seduced his daughter. My ancestor drowned himself because he had violated the laws of Highland hospitality. No, the person I'm alluding to is a small boy. And that was in all probability just an old wife's tale.

"When is this supposed to have happened?" Verity inquired.

"A good many years ago. I was a subaltern at the time, home on leave from India, and I came up here for a few days after the grouse. My father had been dead for some years and the castle had been left in charge of old Christine, the housekeeper. She was great-grandmother to Christine, the little maid who looks after my daughter. Perhaps I should explain," he added with his wistful smile, "that nearly everybody on the island is related and that half the women are called Christine. Well, old Christine had recently died and the woman who had taken her place had some story about a small nephew of Christine's, who was visiting his aunt, having found a secret entrance to the Portcullis Room while playing about in the castle."

"A youngster from the village, eh?" said Verity.

"No, from Port Phadric or some place across the Minch. I made some inquiries at the time, but no one knew anything about the story and I've no doubt it was just one of Janet's innumerable yarns."

"All the same," Verity persisted, "Jamieson may have heard it somewhere and investigated. He might have stumbled upon that passage by accident, just as I did."

"If he had he'd have told me," Flora interposed briskly. "He and I are always discussing the history of the castle. Why, we even spoke of starting excavations on the site of the old courtyard, to look for weapons and things like that. Daddy doesn't like anyone even mentioning there is such a thing as a family secret, but I don't mind telling you that Jamieson and I have often speculated about it." She shook her head at Verity. "It's no use your suspecting Andrew Jamieson, Mr. Verity. He didn't know about the passage, that's certain. Besides, he wouldn't harm a fly, the poor wee man!"

But Verity was tenacious. "Did he know about this wallet of D'Arenne's?" he asked the laird.

Toray's nod was impassive. "He did."

"The nature of its contents, too?"


The American hesitated. It was on the tip of his tongue to question his host about those papers of D'Arenne's. But the laird, seeming to divine the reason for his hesitation, stared at him so coldly that Verity forbore. He contented himself with a shrug. "When I was with him in the study earlier this morning he denied knowing anything whatever about it," he observed stiffly. "Is he still at the castle?"

"He went home," said Flora.

Toray took a pinch of snuff. "Might I see one of those matches you picked up in the passage?" he remarked to Verity. "We don't use matches like this on the island," he said, examining the yellow paper match-end which the other had laid in the outstretched palm.

"Quite," the American rejoined. "As far as I know, these matches were torn from that Hotel McFarlane folder I picked up on the floor in the Portcullis Room."

The laird looked at him in surprise. "You found that folder in the Portcullis Room? I thought you told Berg you had had it in the pocket of your dressing-gown on board the yacht?"

Philip Wendell Verity was not a good liar. He blushed to the roots of his scanty hair and coughed to cover his discomfiture. "I'm afraid that was a slight prevarication on my part, laird."

"He lied about that folder because he saw that Berg suspected me," Stephen put in with characteristic bluntness. "It had nothing to do with him. As a matter of fact, it was on the floor under the body."

"Where unquestionably the murderer dropped it," Verity supplemented.

Toray balanced the match-end in his palm. "In the circumstances this evidence is not without importance," he remarked rather severely.

"Can we send for Jamieson?" Verity was speaking. He glanced towards Stephen. "I look a perfect disgrace," he murmured. "I must absolutely go and clean up."

"There's a telephone line from the castle to the factor's house," said Toray. "The instrument's in the study. I can ring Jamieson from there, though whether Berg will let him into the castle——" He broke off, looking hard at Verity. "You know, Mr. Verity, I'm very certain you're making a mistake. Whoever killed the vicomte, it wasn't Jamieson!"

With a meditative air Verity fingered his stubbly chin. "When you examined the body, sir," he asked quietly, "did you happen to notice the way the dirk was driven in?"

Toray bent his brows at him. "It was aslant, as far as I remember."

"As though the blow had been struck from left to right, wouldn't you say?"

The laird started, frowned. "I see," he murmured, suddenly thoughtful.

With a satisfied air the American turned towards the door. "I'll be right back," he told Stephen.

"But the other caught his arm. "What's all this about the dagger?" he demanded swiftly.

Verity lowered his voice. "Jamieson's left-handed," he said. He pointed to their host, who, sunk in thought, was staring out at the beating rain. "And he knows it!" his triumphant whisper added.

He scurried out.


STEPHEN turned to Toray. "Is it true what he says—that Jamieson's left-handed?" he demanded eagerly.

It was Flora who answered. "Yes. But I'm sure you're making a terrible mistake."

"I shall send for Jamieson immediately," said the laird with authority. "In the meantime," he added, his eyes resting tentatively on the American's, "if this match"—he showed the match-end which Verity had given him—"was really torn from that Hotel McFarlane strip, surely it points back to someone on the yacht?"

"Phil and I have already discussed that point," Stephen answered quickly. "He says quite rightly that thousands of such folders are given away every day in New York; they're lying all round the yacht. Most of us brought some ashore, I guess, and anybody may have borrowed that particular one or picked it up in one of the rooms. . . . Look, there's one right here now!"

A low table flanked the armchair that stood beside the fire with an ash tray in which a green match pack was lying. Stephen took it up and his tone changed. "Hello," he murmured, "how's that for a coincidence?" He displayed it. It was identical with the strip they spoke of, grass-green and inscribed in black lettering Hotel McFarlane, New York, the matches yellow with pink heads.

Toray took the strip and laid it open beside the match end in his hand. Then he glanced at the ashtray. A number of burnt match-ends, yellow like that in his palm, were visible among the blackened ashes. "I'd scarcely call it a coincidence," he observed drily, with eyebrows raised.

Stephen was palpably taken aback. "It's certainly strange, he commented, "especially as I never carry matches. I use a lighter."

The laird's finger poked among the ashes. "That's pipe tobacco," he pronounced.

Flora's cool eyes considered Stephen. "Mr. Verity smokes a pipe, doesn't he?" she said tentatively.

"Sure," was the rather sharp rejoinder. "He's been in and out of here all the morning. But those aren't his matches or he'd have noticed them and spoken of it. Let's see what Dwight knows about it." So saying he tugged the embroidered bell pull which hung down beside the fireplace.

A bell jangled in the distance. The patter of the rain, the reverberation of the wind in the wide chimney, bridged the pause that ensued. Toray relieved the tension. With a glance at the window he remarked, "The wind's going round to the west. With luck you should have the yacht back by morning, Garrison."

"Do you think they'll manage to get that message across to the police this evening?" Stephen asked.

The laird's expression was unrevealing as he tapped his snuffbox and helped himself to a pinch. "There's a good chance if the wind stays in this quarter. I shall know as soon as the messenger has crossed." With a little flourish of eighteenth-century elegance he carried finger and thumb to his nostrils. "You'll oblige me, however," he added with an air of command as he shook the flakes from his fingers, "by not saying anything about it for the present."

"Of course." Stephen pulled the bell again. "I can't imagine what's become of Dwight," he exclaimed irritably.

"Meanwhile," Toray observed, "I'll speak to Jamieson." He turned to his daughter. "Come, Flora." The girl looked as though she would have liked to stay and her glance appealed to Stephen. But he gave no sign and, without speaking, she and the laird went out.

With a fractious air the American remained by the table, staring down into the ash tray. He was still standing there when a tap at the door disclosed Dwight. His hatchet face was even redder than usual and a long wisp of hair was plastered dankly across his high and gleaming forehead.

"Why the dickens can't you ever be around when you're wanted?" Stephen demanded crossly.

The man contemplated him with owlish solemnity out of glassy eyes. "Mr. Verity sent me on an errand—a secret errand. To the village."

"What errand?"

"To verify that there Jamieson's alibi."

"Stephen's face lit up. "Well, and did you verify it?"

Dwight shook his head impressively. "No, sir. No confirmation no confirmation at all." Surreptitiously his two hands went out behind him and gripped the table.

"Where did you go?"

"To McDonald's. . . .Pardon!" He suppressed a slight hiccough.

"McDonald's? That's the public house! Damn it, you've been drinking!"

The servant leered engagingly. "Mr. Garrison, I wouldn't tell you a lie. We had one small whisky."

"'We'? Who's 'we'?"

"Me an' the captain."

"McKenzie? You must be drunk! You know he never touches liquor. What was he doing with you, anyway?"

"It was him as came to the rescue."

"What do you mean 'came to the rescue'? Will you talk plainly?"

"It was the captain as found the way out of the castle."

"How? Where?"

"Through the cellars an' out through a grating taking our lives in our hands!"

"What does McKenzie know about it?"

"A very knowledge—knowledgeable man, Mr. Garrison, sir. A true son of the sea."

His employer swore under his breath and held out the green match folder. "These matches were in the ash tray. "Where do they come from?"

Dwight goggled at him. "I dunno, sir."

"Have you ever seen any like it before?"

"Not as I know of."

"Have you any matches on you?" Dwight fumbled, produced a folder, advertising a brand of aspirin. "Got any more?" Stephen demanded. The man presented a black strip inscribed The River Club. "Give me all you have! Step on it! Turn out your pockets!" his employer ordered. Five or six more packs came to light, but one with the name of the Hotel McFarlane was not among them.

"Who's been in this room this morning besides yourself?"

"No one, only Mr. Verity. And the captain looked in. You sent me to fetch him."

"Did Captain McKenzie leave these matches here?"

"I can't really say, sir. There's a lot of them paper matches on board. All the crew has them."

"Where did you leave McKenzie?"

"Down at McDonald's, talking to the fishermen about the weather. But he'll be back for his luncheon."

"I want to see him as soon as he arrives."

"Very good, sir. . . . Pardon!" A more violent hiccough shook him which he sought gracefully to smother with his hand. But this action compelled him to release his grip of the table and he reeled slightly. Stephen seemed to leap forward. "Damn it, you are drunk!"

Dwight tittered. "On one small whisky? Reelly, it's pre—preposhterous!' He grabbed the table to steady himself.

His employer glared at him. "This settles it! You're fired, do you hear? Now get out and don't come back till you're sober!" Grasping him by the arm Stephen thrust him into the gallery and slammed the door. Ragingly, he strode to the window. "If this isn't the absolute pay-off!" he ground out between his teeth.

"Can I come in?"

Phyllis was in the doorway. "What's the matter with Dwight?" she asked.

"He's been boozing in the village," Stephen retorted furiously, "and he's plastered to the eyeballs. As if I hadn't enough on my hands already without my servant going out and getting fried! I wish to goodness I'd taken your advice and gone to Gleneagles!"

Phyllis sat down in the saddlebag chair and, hoisting her narrow skirt, exposed her shapely knees to the fire. She laughed quietly, "Do you, Steve?" She paused. "I've just heard about this secret passage Phil discovered." Then she made him sit down on the arm of her chair and tell her about the morning's events.

"But if the laird isn't the murderer he must know who it is," she said when he had finished.

"Logically, you're right. D'Arenne was blackmailing him. But somehow, if you'd heard the old boy giving us his word of honor——" His voice trailed off. "Phyllis, did D'Arenne say anything to you about his friend, young McReay?"

"Only that he was a crazy Scotchman."

"Did he tell you why McReay joined the Foreign Legion?"

"He said the French were going to put him in jail."


"It was something to do with his being a spy."

Stephen sat bolt upright. "McReay a spy! For whom?"

She shrugged. "The vicomte didn't say. All he told me was that if young McReay hadn't disappeared, the French would have sent him to Devil's Island as a spy."

Her companion whistled. "So that was what he knew! My God, Phyllis, why didn't you mention this before?"

"I didn't think of it. Nobody asked me."

He sprang up. "I must find Phil! Don't go! I'll bring him back with me!"

But when he presently reappeared, he was alone. Phil was not in his room, Stephen announced; he had sent old Duncan to find him. Phyllis had taken her vanity-case from her bag and was touching up her face in the mirror.

"You know, Steve," she said presently, I'm terribly sorry for getting you into this jam."

"That's all right, Phyllis," he answered shortly. "I know you didn't mean any harm."

She shook her head. "Oh, yes, I did. I wanted to make you jealous. It didn't succeed so well, I'm afraid."

"Oh, didn't it?" he rejoined meaningly.

She shook her head again. "No, Steve, you weren't jealous. You were only mad because another fellow had the nerve to try and steal your girl."

"Well, isn't that jealousy?"

"No. That's only pride. To be jealous you have to be in love with someone. If I were in love with you, I wouldn't have acted as I did last night. You realize that, don't you?"

He smiled at her now. "I'd no idea you were such an honest person."

She laughed and looked for her lipstick. "I'm not as a rule. But a tragedy like this makes one stop and reflect. I'd never seen anyone dead before last night. It's frightening because it's so—well, so final. Death at close quarters like that makes money and frocks and having a good time—all the things we spend our lives worrying about—seem so futile." She paused to outline with unfaltering hand a perfect cupid's bow. "Have you ever been in love?"

He wagged his head at her. "Well, I used to think I was in love with you."

She looked up soberly. "You think I'm attractive and fun to run around with. But don't kid yourself, Steve. You're not in love with me and you never were. To be in love is a kind of madness. I'm in love and I know."

"But not with me?" His tone was faintly mortified.

"No, Steve. With someone who's too poor to marry me. Or so mother says. I've been catching hell from her all morning. Did you know that mother had it all planned out for me to marry you? Or did you? Don't let's have any pretence about it, Steve! If I were to tell you that I'm practically engaged to the nicest and quite the most unsuccessful architect you ever met, would it break your heart?"

"I'd say he was a darned lucky fellow."

"Bunk! Answer, Yes or No!"

He laughed. "All right then, no."

She brandished her lipstick. "What did I say?" She began to gather her scattered possessions into her bag.

Stephen was considering her whimsically. "It's funny," he remarked, "but I feel as though I'd never known you properly before."

"Don't fool yourself! You know me all right. I'm spoilt and extravagant and flip. That's always the effect that money has on me. You'll never reform me, darling. You're too rich. If I'm ever going to amount to anything, I'll have to be poor."

"If anyone had told me when we started this trip that I'd have heard you talking like this——"

She laughed merrily. "I wouldn't have believed it myself. That's why I'm giving it to you good and hard while the fit's on me. Where did that handkerchief of mine get to?" She stood up and began hunting round between the cushions of the big chair. Then she turned to him and he saw that she held a slim leather case in her hand. "Is this yours?" she said. "It was jammed down behind the seat."

She was about to give the case to Stephen when it was snatched from her. Flora stood between them, her pale face flushed, her blue eyes blazing. "Where did you get that case?" she demanded in a trembling voice.

Phyllis surveyed her haughtily. "I just found it in the chair," she replied with nonchalance. "Why?"

"It's D'Arenne's!" said Flora.


VERITY liked his creature comforts, even such Spartan comforts as the laird's hospitality provided. On reaching his bedroom he was glad to find his "hip-bath" placed in readiness before the fire and sundry Brobdingnagian brown cans of water, still reasonably warm, standing in the hearth beside the rack of towels. He bathed and shaved in great tranquility of spirit. Of course, the case against Jamieson was far from being complete; but he considered he had provided the authorities with an adequate number of indices from which to establish the factor's guilt. The satisfactory thing was that there was no longer any danger of the yacht being detained on its return which, if the weather went on abating, might be tomorrow: even more important, Steve's cracked idea of becoming proprietor of a Highland castle was definitely knocked on the head. No doubt, the laird was speaking the truth and Jamieson had acted independently, from an idea that he was serving Toray's interests; in the circumstances one couldn't help feeling sorry for the fine old gentleman—for that sweet girl, too. But self-preservation was the first law—dabbing at his thinning locks with his hairbrush, Verity felt a glow of anticipatory satisfaction at the prospect of turning his back for good on the island and its inhabitants.

He was knotting his tie when he heard Mansard's voice at the door. Berg would like a word. Verity reflected rapidly. He had handed over to Toray all the evidence he possessed; the matter was out of his hands now; there was no reason why he should take Berg into his confidence, though he had no objection to the laird's doing so if he saw fit.

But on following the major into the billiard room, he perceived at once that Toray had already spoken. The first person he saw was the factor. In a stiff and voluminous oilskin coat, many sizes too large for him, that trickled a steady stream of water on the linoleum, his peaked features warped in a sullen and obdurate look, Jamieson faced Berg and Boldini, who were seated on the leather couch. The laird and Flora were there, too, and a very young and very scared maid-servant in pink print; and, out of the corner of his eye, Verity was conscious of old Duncan, a massive figure silhouetted against a window in the background. Berg's great fists were planted on the table before him and his wrathful, suspicious stare shifted alternately from Jamieson to the maid.

The atmosphere of the billiard room was taut as a violin string. Verity, always sensitive to external influences, was instantly aware of it. More than this, he had the uncomfortable sensation that the sentiment of the meeting was somehow hostile to himself; the sudden hush that greeted his appearance and the way in which all glances simultaneously sought him out said as much.

The factor who was speaking waited impassively until the newcomer had found a chair and then resumed. "I didn't remember the circumstance when Mr. Verity questioned me this morning," he said primly. "But it occurred to me after. I minded that, as I let myself in with my key, the light was still bur-rning at the Widow McKenzie's butt and ben. I have since had a wor-rd wi' Christine here and she tells me she saw me come in. That was just before midnight!" He cast a defiant glance at Verity.

"But didn't you say that this girl is your personal maid?" Berg growled irately at Flora. "She sleeps in the castle, I suppose? What then was she doing out at that hour?"

"Christine goes home every night," Flora replied. "Her father was killed in the war and she's the only child left at home. So, as her mother doesn't like being alone at night, I let her sleep out. They have the cottage up the hill above the factor's house. Christine was later than usual last night as we sat long over dinner and she helps with the washing-up——" She turned and said something to the maid in Gaelic.

"Speak English, will you?" Berg shouted. "How shall I know what you cook up between you if you talk your damned dobble Dotch?" He glowered at the small figure in pink. "At what time did you leave the castle last night?"

Christine wriggled, squeezing her hands together. "At eleven, sor-r," she answered in a small, husky voice.

"Did anybody see you go?"

The child shook her head. "They wass all awa' to their beds. There wass only me left in the kitchen."

With a crash Berg brought his fist down on the table. "Of what use is soch evidence to me?" he roared at Toray.

"You'll only frighten her," said the laird composedly. Saucer-eyed, the little maid was casting terrified glances about her—she was like some woodland creature caught in a trap. "Let's hear her story, at any rate." He turned to the girl. "Don't be frightened, Christine. Just tell us what happened.

She had reached home about a quarter-past eleven, Christine said, in her strange, high-pitched English, and made herself a cup of cocoa before going to bed. As she was undressing she happened to look out of the window and saw the factor coming up the path of his house with his lantern. He let himself in with his key and a moment later the light above the front door went out. That was at about five minutes to twelve—she had noticed the time as she set the alarm clock Miss Flora had given her.

"Your mother can confirm this, of course, Christine?" said the laird in his gentle way.

The girl did not understand the question and Flora had to explain it to her. No, said Christine. She had undressed before the fire in the kitchen—her mother was asleep in the other room and had not woked up.

Berg threw up his hands. "It's as I say!" he trumpeted. "You're all in this together! First, it's the American t'rowing dust in our eyes with his candles and his nonsense and now it's this girl with the pack of lies you've taught her between you! How do we know that she even went home at the time she says?" With a raging air he began to root about among the papers with which the table was strewn.

Verity was appalled. The girl was unquestionably speaking the truth. With a sense of panic he realized that she had completely shattered the case he had so painstakingly reared against the factor. What now? They were back to the laird or Duncan—or even Flora.

Flora was speaking to Christine in Gaelic. The soft, slurring sounds rustled through the room. "Christine's telling the truth," said Flora indignantly, turning from the maid to Berg. "You can easily establish the fact that she left the castle at eleven because she met Captain McKenzie going down."

Berg scowled. "So? What was he doing there?"

"He was on his way up from the vullage," Jamieson put in eagerly, "to acquent Mr. Garrison wi' the fact that the yacht was gone. I met him soon after myself."

"Send for him," Berg told Toray. The laird signed to Duncan who stalked majestically out. "Mr. Verity," said Berg suddenly, frowning down at his papers, "we haven't heard yet how you discovered the secret passage."

Verity came forward. The drumming of the rain on the flat roof was plainly audible in the expectant hush. He was again aware of an atmosphere of veiled hostility. The factor's outraged stare, Toray's coldly inquiring glance, the way Flora's blue eyes fell away from his—it was all highly disconcerting. Rather self-consciously he began to speak. "It was a pure fluke, really——"

In a dead silence he described how the traces of sand on the floor had led him to the wainscot and how an accidental touch on the woodwork must have released the catch of the secret panel. He was going on to tell of his experiments with the candles when Berg checked him.

"Those matches you found in the passage——" he began, and paused.

With a sudden sinking of the spirit Verity perceived that Berg was displaying a burnt yellow match-end. Then to his horror he saw in Berg's other hand the blood-stained match pack he had picked up from under the body. That rash lie of his, uttered on the spur of the moment to save Steve, rushed into his mind. Had Toray betrayed him? On his guard at once he flashed a glance at his host and found him cool and inscrutable.

"They are the same as these, no?" said Berg, showing the green folder with its row of pink-headed matches.

"They're the same type, certainly," Verity admitted.

"American matches," Berg pronounced. "There are none like them on the island."

"Except those we brought with us from the yacht," Verity amended.

"Except those you brought from the yacht," Berg repeated stolidly.

At that moment the door opened and Duncan ushered Captain McKenzie in.

The captain came to a standstill in the doorway, all six foot of him, staring so fixedly at the little maid, to the exclusion of everybody else there, that a vague doubt swam to the surface of the American's mind. McKenzie was Highland, like the laird—what if the child's evidence had been suborned and McKenzie appealed to by Toray to substantiate it? But Verity rejected the suspicion as unworthy almost as soon as it arose. Mac would never lend himself to anything of the kind: if Berg even ventured to suggest it, they would see the fur fly.

The laird said something in Gaelic to Christine, who, gazing like a frightened doe at McKenzie, answered in the same tongue. "The wee lass needn't be scairt, laird," said the captain in his deep voice. "It was five minutes of eleven when I left the jetty to walk up to the castle and maybe ten minutes later when I saw her wi' her lanter-rn coming down the steps to the Flow."

Toray turned to Berg. "That disposes of the matter, I imagine," he remarked frigidly.

"Aye," said McKenzie, "an' I will be hoping there'll be nae more suspicioning of innocent per-rsons!" He glowered at Verity. "Was there anything else you'd want to hear from me?" he observed to Berg.

"No," the big man snapped,

As the captain turned to go, Verity said, "Just a minute, Mac! I'm coming with you."

"You stay here!" Berg rasped at the American, and McKenzie without looking round plodded out alone. "The girl can go," said Berg. "The rest of you remain." He began hunting through his papers. "And so, Mr. Verity, he remarked as Duncan showed Christine out, "you found the secret passage by a lucky chance, yes?"

"That's right," Verity replied stoutly.

"Then what have you to say about this?" Berg demanded and thrust a paper at him.

Verity took the paper and repressed a start. It was the plan of the castle which McTaggart in London had given him.

"Is that your map?" Berg asked Toray. "Boldini found it"—he jerked his head in Verity's direction—"in his room!"

"Let me see," said the laird and took the map. "It's the eighteenth-century plan of the castle. No, it's not mine! The only copy I have is not so well preserved as this. Where does this come from?" His keen glance questioned Verity.

"McTaggart lent it to me," said the American.

Toray nodded. "My great-grandfather died in London. McTaggart has a lot of his papers in a box at his office. No doubt this plan was among them." He swung to Berg. "What exactly is the point about it, Mr. Berg?"

Without speaking, the big man snatched the plan away and spread it on the table. His finger pointed to the legend Ye Portcullis Roome printed in old-fashioned character in the centre of the conventional designation of the apartment in question. Then, picking up a large reading-glass, he held it over the plan and signed to Toray to approach. Flora and Verity went forward with him—the three peered through the glass. A diminutive cross in red ink, very faint, preceded by a query mark, was just discernible, cutting the upper left-hand side of the square denoting the position of the Portcullis Room.

Toray glanced over the plan. "There's no explanation of this, I see," he remarked.

"Explanation?" Berg thundered. "What explanation do you need? It marks the secret panel, doesn't it?"

"Inna da corner," Boldini vociferated excitedly, underlining the cross with a rather grimy fingernail—by the pride in his voice he seemed to be the author of the discovery—'just laika he found it!"

With a shrug Verity turned to the laird. "Mr. Berg is perfectly right. But, believe it or not, I never noticed that cross until this moment."

Berg pulled the map away and, folding it, thrust it in his pocket. "Didn't you yourself tell me of secret passages in the castle?" he screamed at Verity. "Na ja! You were the last to see the dagger, no? Na ja! You say you went to bed directly after, but what proof is there?" He brought his fist crashing down on the table. "Death and pain, you're all in it together! You knew that this passage existed and he"—he wagged a furious, pudgy finger at Toray—"he showed you where it was. Ja, and your friend Garrison, who acts always like he knows nothing, he was outside in the rose garden to make sure that Raoul left his room! You were leaving no'ding to chance, no, by Joe! I don't know which one of you killed him, and I don't care!" He paused for breath. "Na, you heard my offer to him." Once again his denunciatory finger singled out Toray. "Arrange it as you like, but settle my claim or I hand the lot of you over to the police!" So saying he crammed his hat on his head and, butting the table out of his way, was about to rush off when the laird stepped in front of him.

There was a moment's electric pause. Berg had brought up short, head down like an infuriated steer, contemplating out of blazing eyes the slight but very dignified figure that confronted him. Toray did not speak at once. His glance, level and fearless, seemed to drill the other through. There was no anger in the spare, aristocratic face, only the icy determination of one habituated to command. Berg could not withstand the authority of that glance. Irresolute, he hesitated, turning his head from side to side as he looked to his companions for support. But he no longer attempted to stare the other out.

"Mr. Berg," said Toray in a voice that rang like chilled steel, "you are under a misapprehension. I am the head of this house and any communication to the police will be made by me in person. A man has been killed; the mystery of his death will be cleared up, rest assured of that. In the circumstances I am compelled to accord you hospitality until tomorrow when the steamer from the mainland calls, but then I must ask you to remove yourself and your friends from this house immediately. In the meantime, I would ask you to remember that you do not intimidate me and you shall not intimidate my guests!" With that he raised his voice to a sharp, metallic pitch. "Take off your hat, when I speak to you," he cried. "Don't you see there are ladies present?"

For one tense moment Berg did nothing and it looked as though he would defy the order. Toray made no attempt to enforce it by violence, but remained rooted to the spot, waiting with a rocklike impassivity which proclaimed as clearly as though he had spoken it that he expected to be obeyed. Hesitantly Berg's shifty gaze returned to the pale, unyielding face confronting him: he shrugged and snorted; but his hand went up and grudgingly he removed his brown fedora. Then, hat in hand, with a muttered imprecation, he stormed from the room.

The laird shook up his snuffbox and composedly snuffed. Closing the box, he turned to his daughter, "Come, Flora," he said.

With unseeing eyes Verity, standing by the billiard table, was vaguely conscious that the room was emptying. From sheer automatism his fingers groped for pipe and tobacco. He was numb with the sense of disaster. He could admire their host's spirit in putting Berg in his place, but where did it lead them? Steve would pay no hush-money to the blackguard, and rightly. But the alternative was the police. Both he and Steve had lied—he was hot all over at the thought. Stalling Berg off was one thing—to attempt to hoodwink the highly efficient Scottish police was a very different proposition. It was a mess all right, and still the only way out was to find the murderer before the police boat could reach the island. It meant starting all over again.

With sudden surprise he discovered that he was alone. Well, he supposed he would have to find Steve and put him wise to this last disastrous development. But he must have some plan ready to hand; the emergency called for quiet, constructive thought.

He lit his pipe and, sitting down on the leather couch, proceeded to give himself over to his reflections.



THERE are moments in life which emotion bites into the memory as deeply and enduringly as the engraver's acid sinking an etching upon the copper plate. As Flora, wallet in hand, confronted Phyllis and Stephen in the big bedroom, some instinct told Stephen that he would carry with him to the end of his days the mental picture of the scene. For the briefness of a pulse beat time seemed to stand still and he had the curious sensation of looking backward out of the dimness of the years ahead upon the gloomy room, of sniffing again the acrid scent of the peat fire and hearing the drumming of the rain, and of seeing the frail, appealing figure standing there. The rigidity of her pose, the raw fear in her voice, the swift transformation of mood the limpid eyes revealed, from bewilderment to awe, from awe to proud and blazing anger—if all memory of the castle should fade, these things he knew he would remember.

It was well worn, the wallet, of black or dark blue leather, and very slim. Even as she cried D'Arenne's name the girl dropped her eyes to it, turned it over in her hands, and found it empty. As she now lifted her gaze to Stephen again, it was bitter with reproach and contumely. "And you told me," she ejaculated in a voice that was cut by a dry sob, "that you didn't have it!"

Hand flung wide in protest, Stephen sprang forward. "But I swear to you——"

She had turned, however, with an imperious air to Phyllis. "Where did you find it?" she asked tensely.

Phyllis was very cool. "But I told you already. It was hidden in the chair."

The girl swung back to Stephen. "What have you done with the papers?" she demanded, dangerously calm.


"What have you done with the papers?" she demanded.

Frayed nerves lent a sharp edge to his rejoinder. "I know nothing about them," he retorted impatiently, "I tell you now, as I told you before, I never had that wallet. I never saw it before this minute."

"That's not true, and you know it," was the passionate answer. "Who should have hidden it in that chair if it wasn't you or your friend Verity?" Her tone was scathing. "Unless it was you?" She rounded on Phyllis once more.

Very composedly Phyllis picked up her bag. "You're being rather absurd, you know," she remarked demurely to Flora. "Why on earth should any of us have robbed the vicomte, let alone killed him? I don't want to be unfeeling, but, really, isn't your father the proper person to question about it?"

Stephen stepped forward quickly. "Phyllis, please!"

Flora was white with anger. She stamped her foot. "How dare you say such things to me? My father's not a murderer!"

With an elegant hand Phyllis tucked a strand of golden hair into place. Her lovely face was unruffled. "All the same," she remarked crisply, "you must admit that he's the only person who had any interest——" She broke off, for Stephen had taken her by the arm. "Leave me to settle this, will you, please, honey?" he said in an undertone, drawing her towards the door. Phyllis shrugged. "Oh, all right." As Stephen was letting her out, she turned towards Flora. "I know Steve better than you," she reminded her. "He's terribly spoiled, but at least he doesn't tell lies. Her glance, comradely and trustful, rested affectionately on his dark and troubled face, for an instant her hand was laid on his arm, then she went out.

Wallet in hand, Flora was gazing darkly into the heart of the flames. Stephen went and stood beside her. "I'll answer any questions you like," he said in a matter-of-fact tone. "But first let's get rid of that wallet. It's empty, it's no use to anyone and it's dangerous. If you'll take my advice, you'll pitch it in the fire!"

She sprang to one side as though he had attempted to snatch it from her. "You would try and protect your friend!" she told him in a voice suffocated with anger and indignation.

He shrugged. "Take it from me, Phil Verity knows no more about that wallet than I do."

Her eyes flashed as she faced him. "Didn't you tell my father just now that Mr. Verity has been in and out of this room all the morning?"

He laughed, watching her narrowly. "Yes, but——"

"Perhaps you didn't know he had an old plan of the castle with the secret passage shown?"

"Oh, yes, I did. But there's no secret passage marked on it."

She stamped her foot. "What's the sense of denying everything? The passage is marked. Berg showed it to us in the billiard room just now."

He frowned quickly. "There must be some mistake."

"There's no mistake—ask Mr. Verity. There's a little cross—the magnifying glass shows it plainly. And that's not all! What about those matches? No matter what you may say, that green strip you showed daddy in here this morning was left behind by Mr. Verity. Isn't it perfectly obvious that it was he who dropped that other strip on the floor of the Portcullis Room?"

"No," said Stephen firmly. "Because if he had he wouldn't have told me about it in the first place."

"Then why did he lie to Berg about it?"

"That was to shield me, as you know!"

"Aye, to shield you!" she cried indignantly. "And to shield himself as well! That was the reason he tried to throw suspicion on poor little Jamieson."

The American's eyes snapped wrathfully. "Bunk!" he pronounced curtly. "Phil has nothing against Jamieson. It simply happened that he was able to accumulate a certain amount of highly incriminating evidence against him."

"He's innocent, I tell you. He was home by midnight. And there's a witness to prove it. Christine, my maid, who lives close by, saw him come in." Before the honest anger of his regard, her expression seemed to change. Gazing at him dubiously out of her deep blue eyes she said rather hesitantly, "If you tell me you know nothing of all this, I suppose I must believe you."

"Thanks," he said ironically.

"But you can't deny," she went on breathlessly, "that there was bad feeling between you and the Vicomte d'Arenne. Mr. Verity's devoted to you—you're his employer, aren't you? How do you know he didn't take the law into his own hands?"

The mobile face was very stern now. "Because he's my friend and I know that he's incapable of killing a man in cold blood." He paused, contemplating her coldly. "You see, I happen to believe in my friends." The blue eyes were suddenly contrite, but his expression lost none of its severity. "And you and I," he added with a dry laugh, "agreed to believe everything the other said!"

"That was when I thought I could trust you," she replied in a low voice.

"And don't you any more?"

She shook herself unwillingly. "Why should she"—she tossed her dark head towards the door—"why should she say such things to me unless you told her you believed my father guilty? Oh," she cried despairingly, "I would I'd never set eyes on any one of you!"

"You've said that before," he told her steadily. "But you don't mean it."

"I do—I do!" She would not meet his eyes.

"You don't," he retorted. "If you did, don't you suppose I'd know it?"

"Why?" Her tone was hesitant.

"Because from the first moment I saw you, that afternoon on the mountain, I knew we were destined to be friends. You're different from anybody else I've ever met."

The sentiment was trite—he recognized it, even as he uttered it. But it was true. He had known her but three days, yet he had the curious sensation of having waited all his life for the dispensation of fate that was to land him in her presence on that forgotten isle. In a matter of hours, maybe, they would part and he would certainly never see her again. Then what the devil had happened that he should feel as though this strange, untamed child were already the inevitable complement of his happiness? Why was he trembling like this and why this sudden pang, like a knife driven through his heart, at the spectacle of her receding from him into her old aloofness, like old Ben Dhu hiding its hoary head behind its curtain of rain?

He caught her little hands in his and drew her to him. "Oh, Flora," he said hoarsely, "don't let this thing come between us!"

Her hands were cold—cold—in his warm grasp. Wave upon wave he felt the emotion that gripped her traveling up his arms to shake him in his turn. Very gently he drew her to him. Reluctantly she followed, then at long last raised her eyes to his. They were bluely misty, even as the loch spread out beneath the windows, but a great tenderness shone behind the tears that lurked there. She brought her hands, trembling in his clasp, together across her breast. "Steve," she whispered in her warm and thrilling voice.

A sudden sound sent her flying back. She snatched up the wallet from the mantelpiece where she had left it and thrust it behind her back. The door was swinging inward and Toray's quiet "May one come in, Garrison?" was carried in to them above the noise of the rain.


FOR a full quarter of an hour after the others had dispersed, Verity remained smoking placidly on the couch in the billiard room. Then he caught sight of Major Mansard's lean and leathery countenance peering at him through the glass door. Recognizing the American, the major strolled in and, advancing to the table, briefly indicated the whisky bottle.


Spirits at that hour was not in Philip Wendell Verity's habits. But the incessant rain depressed him, the shabby room with its damp-blotched walls struck cruelly chill, and, after the morning's various excitements, he felt the need of a gentle stimulant. "A small one," he agreed.

Mansard poured drinks into two of the old Waterford rummers, handed his companion one and, briskly exclaiming, "Here's good huntin'!" lifted his glass. The unexpected aptness of the toast somewhat disconcerted Verity who could only murmur in response—rather inappropriately, as he immediately reflected—"Happy days!"

They drank. With a grateful sigh the major set down his glass and, wiping his neat moustache with his handkerchief, dropped on to the couch beside the American. Removing his cigarette to eject a flake of tobacco adhering to his lip, he remarked jauntily, "Why don't you get your pal Garrison to settle with Berg?"

Verity expelled a nonchalant smoke spiral. "Why should he?"

Mansard's thin hand stayed him. "We needn't go into all that again. What's seventeen thousand quid to a feller with all Garrison's money? Or fifteen thousand, for that matter? Or even twelve?" He tapped the American significantly on the thigh. "Berg'll listen to reason, you know."

The other laughed. "You bet he will! To that sort of reason."

The major drank reflectively. "If I were authorized to treat, I believe I could get him to settle for ten and expenses."

"Fine," said Verity. "Why not tackle Garrison yourself and see what he says?"

Mansard scowled. "It seems I'm not good enough for your bloated millionaire. Did you hear him this morning? Called me a thief or as good when I went through his traps. And then told me I'd forgotten how to behave like a gentleman.

"Oh, pshaw, major," Verity put in, "he didn't mean it. He was just mad at being searched."

"No gringo's going to insult me!" the other declared pugnaciously. "I can't afford to quarrel with that swine Berg, but I'm as good a gentleman as your friend Garrison—aye, and that blasted, sneering Toray, too. Are you aware I used to be a British officer?"

"You didn't admit it to Toray."

The lizard eyes grew sullen. "I had my reasons. There was a spot of trouble over my resigning my commission and I changed my name. But that's neither here nor there. I've never set up to be anything I'm not. I'm a professional soldier and anybody who wants can hire me. When I'm not fighting I'm playing cards and any sucker's my meat. But no woman's ever kept me and there are still some jobs too dirty for me to handle."

"Meaning D'Arenne?"

Mansard shrugged and drained his glass. "If you like."

"He was a gigolo, wasn't he?"

The major pointed with the whisky bottle towards Verity's glass and, on the other's head-shake, carefully poured himself a second drink. "Gentlemen of his profession aren't particular about how they make a living," he remarked.

"What was his profession?" Verity asked.

With a secretive air Mansard stared at his glass.

"Ever heard of the Deuxième Bureau?"

"I can't say I have."

"It's the French Intelligence Service."

"And D'Arenne worked for them?"

The major nodded briefly, paused and drank.

"You mean, he was a spy?"

Mansard gave his nasal laugh. "Not he! That would have been much too dangerous. He was what the French called a racoleur. His job was to recruit spies. He had the nerve to tackle me once, but I threw him down two flights of stairs. Nick Boldini saw me do it—that's why he keeps on suggesting that it was I who made cold pork of the little swine."

He paused, idly rotating his glass. "I've stood for some pretty tough things in my time, what with campaigning with Turks and Riffs and spig insurrectos, and if fellers insist on playing cards with strangers, that's all right with me, too. But when it comes to spying against your own country, I mean to say——"

He wagged his head deprecatingly and drained his glass.

"Do you mean to say he wanted to hire you to spy against the British?" Verity demanded incredulously.

"That was the idea."

"But how? Where?"

"Malta. Submarines. And a new aircraft carrier. And I'll tell you something else, if you keep it under your hat. I suspect that when I kicked him out he landed his friend young McReay with the job."

The major had taken the bottle again and was gravely inspecting its level of whisky against the light. Thus he failed to see the sudden interest that quickened in his companion's pink, smooth-shaven face. Glancing at the window, he shivered. "Br-r," he grumbled, splashing whisky into his tumbler, "you'd have to be a seal to relish this climate. . . . How about you?" he demanded with bottle poised. "Can't you be sociable? You're as stand-offish as Garrison!"

Obviously, Verity reflected, Mansard was one of those men upon whom whisky, save in its cumulative stages towards bedtime, has little visible effect. He had apparently been drinking steadily since breakfast, yet the only manifest sign was a tendency towards garrulousness which did not escape the American's vigilant attention. Verity had not reached the age of fifty without discovering the chronic toper's inherent dislike for drinking alone in company. So, with his most amiable smile, he said he would take two fingers and they toasted one another again.

But Mansard's loquacity had its limits. "I suppose," said Verity with careful unconcern as he filled another pipe, "I suppose D'Arenne was threatening Toray to expose the son unless he cashed up?"

At once the hard eyes were veiled. "I'll say this for the little rat," the Major growled, "he knew how to keep his mouth shut about his own affairs." And not another word in that direction could Verity extract from him.

Instead, the major began to rail once more against the vicomte. Berg and his gang were bad enough for a gentleman to have dealings with, but, compared with D'Arenne, so help him, they were a lot of ruddy little Lord Fauntleroys. "To show you the sort of skunk the feller was," he proclaimed stridently, "let me tell you about his wife. To hear him talk you'd think he'd made the most enormous sacrifices for her because his old man kicked him out for marrying beneath him!" He snorted.

"As if a feller like D'Arenne could find any woman that was beneath him. The facts are that he was flat broke and shut out of his hotel at Monte when he met poor Chris, who was companion or something to some old Canadian dowager, a friend of Ronnie McReay's, and he married her for the few thousand francs she had in the savings bank. When he'd spent the money he walked out on her—left her flat in a Marseilles lodging-house with a baby on the way and bolted to North Africa—Algiers, or somewhere.

"And what happened to her?"

"She died," said the major, staring somberly down into his glass. "The kid, too. I didn't know until months afterwards. Then it was too late." He shook his head and drank. "She was with him at Cannes for a bit and we were pretty good pals. She was alone a good deal and I used to take her for walks. She seemed to cotton on to me; she thought she'd reform me, I guess—you know what women are!" His voice trailed off. "She was a grand girl. If I'd known that D'Arenne was going to run out on her——"

He broke off and, with rather a shaky hand, fumbled for the whisky bottle, and, finding it empty, slumped back on the settee, his hands dangling between his knees. "Chris, that's what I called her," he said, gazing moodily in front of him. "Her name was Christine."

With a purely automatic movement Verity took his blackened briar from his mouth and as soon replaced it.

He did not interrupt his companion, who went on musingly: "It's odd, but that little skivvy we saw in here just now put me in mind of her. Chris had the same coloring—you know, pink cheeks, dark hair, white skin. Funny, their both being Christines." He relapsed into a brooding silence.

"English, was she?" said Verity.

Mansard shook his head. "Canadian."

"What was her name before she married D'Arenne?"

He shook his head again. "I can't tell you. She was a companion to old Lady Inverarnan. A widow, with a villa at Monte, and fairly rolling. She brought Chris with her from Canada and more or less adopted her. The old girl never forgave her for running away with Raoul, Chris told me." He broke off. "But, hell, what's the use of talking about it? Never look back—that's my motto—and you'll never meet any ghosts!" He shivered, and with an air of turning his back on the specters of his stormy past, painfully dragged himself to his feet. "Caramba, it's as cold as a morgue in here!" he growled. "What say we toddle along to the hall and scare up another bottle?"

Monocle in eye, with hopeful mien he contemplated his companion. But the other did not seem to hear him. His pipe had gone out and he was staring into space. From the distance, above the drip and gurgle of the rain, the faint skirl of bagpipes seeped into the silence from some barn or stable where old Rory was practicing.

"Will you listen to that dreary caterwauling?" said Mansard plaintively. He shuddered again. "This cursed ruin gives me the fair creeps. Come on, if you're coming. Let's find the boys and we'll all have a little drink together."

Verity started and lifted a perfectly vacant face. "Not for me, thanks, major," he murmured vaguely. "You go along. I believe I'll stick around here for a bit."

Compassionately the major shrugged. "Okay." He sauntered out.

Verity sat on alone, sucking at his cold pipe and staring before him while old Rory's distant piping weaved in and out of the stillness. He recognized the piece as that which the piper had started to play for them, after dinner on the day of their arrival, when bidden by Flora to desist. It was the Lament for an Only Son—the solemn, wailing measure beat gently upon the quiet of the room.

At last on a sobbing note the piping ceased. With a resolute air Verity rose and went to the bell. He asked Duncan who answered it whether he could find Dwight and send him to the billiard room forthwith.


UNCHANGING as the porphyry on which the castle was built was Stephen's unspoken thought as he saw the laird enter the bedroom with his air of courteous deference, pausing to drop the latch into place behind him with the unhurried attention he brought to everything he did. There was a polish and elegance about the slight, well-knit form in the brown tweed jacket and gay kilt that suggested a Dresden china figurine. Kilt swaying, shoulders back, proudly erect as though he were still stepping out at the head of his company of Highlanders, he crossed the floor. Features chiseled in marble, cornelian eyes cool and unflinching—if, at their first meeting, with the prospect of Berg's arrival hanging over him, he had appeared restless and ill at ease, there was no trace of it now.

Flora had said he was distracted with worry—impossible, however, to read in that untroubled countenance any hint of the menace resting like a miasma over him and his household. It was as though the very urgency of the crisis had keyed him up to the highest pitch of impassivity.

Watching him approach, Stephen found himself listening to the ceaseless crash of the breakers far below the window and thinking that, outwardly at any rate, the critical happenings of the past few days had left as little mark upon the last of the McReays of Toray as the waves upon the nine-foot walls of the castle.

Flora waited until her father was beside her, then, drawing forth the wallet from behind her back, silently extended it. For a fleeting instant the laird's rigid calm forsook him. The staunch eyes gleamed, and he cried in a voice husky with emotion, "You have it, then?"

She nodded and opened the wallet as it lay in his hands. "It's empty," she said and placed her hand on the saddlebag chair. "It was hidden in this chair. Miss Dean found it."

"Empty," the laird repeated in a shocked whisper. His tawny brows contracted as his glance, somber and speculative, shifted to the American.

The question in his mind remained unspoken, for Stephen forestalled him. "Somebody planted that wallet there," said Stephen. "And it wasn't Verity, either."

Toray looked interrogatively at his daughter and back at Stephen. "You've heard what happened in the billiard room just now, then?"

The American nodded. "Yes. But these charges against Verity are ridiculous."

The laird examined his nails. "You realize at least that your friend is a potential suspect?" he asked nonchalantly. Stephen shrugged but did not answer. "You were out in the grounds that night, weren't you, Garrison?"

Stephen nodded. "Yes."


"I wanted to make sure that Miss Dean wasn't there."

"Why should you have misled Berg about it?"

"I didn't care to let Miss Dean and everybody know I had such a poor opinion of her."

"That's not true," Flora broke in quickly. "He said nothing about it because he didn't want to give me away. He saw me leave the vicomte's room by the window that night—I'd been to look for the wallet."

Anger flared suddenly in the laird's eyes as he gazed sternly at his daughter. "You went to his room? You had no right to take such a risk. At least, you should have told me."

"Don't be angry with her, sir," said Stephen. "I think it's the pluckiest thing I ever heard of."

But the girl had burst into Gaelic, moving her hands and talking rapidly. Her father listened impassively, head cocked on one side, eyes on the American, now and then interposing with a question. Presently he said in English, addressing Flora, but looking at Stephen: "You'd better leave us now, my dear. I want to talk to Mr. Garrison. And you might find Mr. Verity for me and ask him to come here at once." He spoke gently, with no trace of vexation now. The girl nodded and, without glancing at Stephen, went swiftly away.

Contentedly the laird regaled himself with a pinch of snuff—he had completely recovered his attitude of studied unconcern. "My dear fellow," he observed to Stephen, "I perceive we're quits. You were chivalrous enough to hold your tongue about this mad escapade of my daughter's and I, for my part, considered it wiser not to inform our friend Berg of Mr. Verity's small prevarication in the matter of that match folder.

"Why?" asked Stephen bluntly.

Nonchalantly Toray brushed a speck of snuff from his jacket. "I thought your friend should first be given the opportunity to answer certain questions."

"It's absurd," Stephen broke in. "There's no question about Phil's innocence, I tell you."

"The secret passage is marked on that plan of his, certainly," the laird went on tranquilly. "Against this, however, there's nothing to show what that cross signifies. As far as we know—as far as we know, I repeat—I was the only person who could have told him. But the fact is that he didn't ask me."

"If it's true that the murderer used the tunnel, it's quite evident that someone besides yourself, laird, knew of its existence. Jamieson's cleared, Miss McReay tells me. Who was this person, then? Was it Duncan?"

Shrewdly the laird shook his head. "My daughter has just told me that Duncan was outside in the grounds last night. That renders him suspect, of course; but without a direct order from me Duncan would never have killed this man. Psychology counts for something, you know, and Duncan is the perfect type of feudal retainer who looks to his liege for protection and shelter and repays him by blind obedience and devotion. If I told him to jump into the loch, he'd do it, no doubt, but he's incapable of any action independent of my will and authority." He paused. "One doesn't soldier with a man for years without getting a certain insight into his character." He paused again. "Without wasting our energies on problems which are for the moment unanswerable," he proceeded composedly, "let's examine such clues as we possess. These are that strip of matches which Verity found under the body and this wallet. This folder"—he lifted the green match strip from the ash tray—"identical with the other, and the fact that the wallet was hidden in that chair strongly suggest to me that the murderer has had access, direct or indirect, to this room. Now, then, who has been in here this morning? Mr. Verity, for one.

"Yes, but——"

"Who else?"

"My servant, of course."

Toray paused. "There, to begin with, is another thread leading back to these American matches and the Ariel."

Stephen sighed rather helplessly. "I questioned Dwight about that folder and he professes to know nothing about it. It's true, he wasn't very sober—in fact, he was very drunk. He'd been soaking in the village. Verity sent him down to investigate Jamieson's movements."

The laird pursed up his lips; it was evident that Verity's interference was not very palatable to him. "But all exits to the castle are locked and Berg has the keys. How did your man contrive to leave the castle?"

"He and McKenzie found some way out through the cellars. It seems that the pair of them were drinking together at McDonald's. I can scarcely believe it because McKenzie's always been rigorously teetotal."

"He was perfectly sober in the billiard room just now."

Stephen leapt forward. "He's here? I told that drunken fellow of mine I wished to see him as soon as he came in. Where is he? What was he doing in the billiard room?"

"Berg sent for him to question him about Jamieson's movements."

"But I want to see him! If he thinks I'm standing for my skipper going off boozing with my servant—— He knows that Dwight's given that way, too—he got plastered one night coming across in the yacht. Come on, let's find him."

The laird smiled at his impatience. "Just a moment, Garrison. I believe I can explain the mystery. In the billiard room just now the captain was very indignant at what he called 'the suspicioning of innocent persons'" He paused. "That was meant for your friend Verity. I have a notion that McKenzie deliberately made your servant drunk to prevent him from making trouble for Jamieson."

Stephen stared. "Well, I'm——" With a baffled air he ran his hand over the back of his head. "I don't see what it has to do with McKenzie, do you? But I want to talk to him, anyway; I'd like to ask him if he knows anything about that match pack. He was in here to see me this morning when I was out, Dwight says. And, of course, he smokes a pipe."

The laird looked meditative. "Another thread leading back to the yacht."


"And then there's the wallet?"

Stephen laughed. "Let me tell you that my eminently respectable skipper is every bit as likely to have hidden it there as Phil Verity."

The other had grown meditative. "I'd like to see both of them. One of them might be able to tell us whether anybody came to the room while you were out of it."

Stephen looked at him quickly. "Berg or one of his lot, do you mean?" He paused. "Has it occurred to you, Toray, that all these three are at daggers drawn? What if one of them is the murderer?"

"But how should they know about the secret passage?"

The American took him by the coat—he was rather excited. "Suppose your son had found out about it and told D'Arenne? Suppose it was D'Arenne who was in the passage investigating and that those matches, those drippings of wax, were left by him? And the murderer arrived in the ordinary way by the Long Gallery and killed him?"

"Which of the three do you suspect?" the laird inquired dispassionately.

Stephen shrugged. "It's impossible to say. I noticed at dinner the first night they were here that D'Arenne and Boldini weren't on speaking terms. It was perfectly evident, too, that Mansard had the greatest contempt for the Frenchman. For all Berg's bluff, I'm convinced that each suspects the other of having double-crossed the other two and killed D'Arenne in order to keep hold of those papers."

The laird's manner was immutably staid. "The theory is interesting." He glanced at his watch. "As your friend Verity doesn't seem to be coming, let's find him and Captain McKenzie and hear what they have to say."

Stephen pointed at the wallet. "In the meantime, hadn't we better get rid of this?"

Toray shook his head.

"It's dangerous," Stephen persisted.

"It's evidence," said the laird, and put the wallet in his pocket. "Blood has been shed in my house, Garrison. It must be avenged."

"No matter what may come out?" the American asked quickly.

"No matter what may come out!" the McReay reiterated.

But the captain could not be located. More baffling, Verity was missing, too. He was no longer in the billiard room, where, half an hour earlier, Duncan, going to answer the bell, had found him alone—Verity had requested the major-domo to fetch Dwight whom Duncan had discovered asleep on his bed and with considerable difficulty aroused—he was not in his bedroom or the great hall, the library or the drawing-room. And neither Mrs. Dean nor Phyllis knew anything about him. When Duncan had gone to the billiard room for the second time, to tell Verity that Stephen wanted him, the room had been empty, the major-domo stated.

Actually Flora seemed to be the last one to have seen the missing Verity. While Dwight was being sent for, she told her story. On going in search of Verity to give him her father's message, she had met Dwight; he had just left the gentleman in the billiard-room, he informed her. She had found Verity alone. He had seemed so distrait that, to impress upon him the urgency of the summons, she had told him of the discovery of the wallet. But he had continued to stare at her blankly so that, noticing the glass of whisky in front of him, she had wondered whether he were quite sober. Had the papers been recovered? he wanted to know at last, and when she answered that the wallet was empty, he had merely grunted, and said he would be right up. Not knowing what to make of him, she had left him there.

Dwight, his scant hair glistening as though from recent immersion, was more informative. He was shaky but coherent. In his opinion, the gentleman had hopped it to the village. It appeared that Dwight had told Verity of the way out through the cellars which Captain McKenzie had discovered. On which the American had demanded to know where McKenzie was, obviously intending, according to Dwight, that the captain should let him into the secret, too.

Mr. Verity had seemed much put out on learning that McKenzie had already left the castle again; Dwight had met McKenzie emerging from his interview with Berg and the skipper had said, very hotlike, that he was not remaining at any price, and this despite the fact that Dwight had told him Mr. Garrison wished to see him. On that Verity had wanted Dwight to show him the way to the cellar himself. But Dwight had demurred—already once that morning he had got into hot water on Mr. Verity's account and he was not taking any more risks. He had, however, described to Verity the exact location of the cellar—you went to it down a stair in rear of the Seagate—and the position of the grating: once you knew the way, it was as easy as pie. Mr. Verity had seemed 'ighly flustered, hagitated, as you might say, and him as calm as calm as a rule. The gentleman had gone down to the village—not a doubt of it—to conduct his inquiries for hisself. And with that Stephen, considerably puzzled, and the laird, phlegmatic, as before, had perforce to be content.

At lunch, which was served soon after, Verity's place was vacant. Though Berg and his friends no longer ate with the family—their meals were now served in the library—their mere presence in the castle seemed to hang like a poised sword over the luncheon table. Nobody spoke much, and Stephen, in particular, torn between the impulse to set out after Verity and the fear of running counter to the other's designs, scarcely said a word. He informed Mrs. Dean muffled in her mink coat and assuring the laird, with teeth chattering, that she was not really cold, that Phil had felt a chill coming on and had retired to bed.

This was the story which, at his suggestion, he and Toray had agreed to tell Berg in the event of Verity's absence being remarked. In his noncommittal fashion the laird had acquiesced in this subterfuge; but Stephen was acutely conscious of a sort of latent reserve in his voice and it seemed to him that, since learning of Verity's disappearance, their host had grown strangely taciturn on the subject of the murder. Flora, too, ate her lunch in silence and, although once or twice Stephen felt her eyes on his face, he found himself at a loss to tell from her expression what she was thinking. And he was given no chance of resuming their interrupted tête-à-tête, for, as soon as the meal was over, father and daughter, excusing themselves, left the table and did not return.

The long wet afternoon wore on and Verity did not appear. Stephen, playing endless rubbers of three-handed auction with Phyllis and her mother before the fire in the great hall, felt his spirits slowly sinking to zero. In vain he tried to concentrate on his hand. He had looked forward to getting a word with Flora, but she had eluded him, and he was more worried about Phil than he would have cared to admit.

They were assuming that Dwight's theory was correct and that Verity had escaped to the village. But the laird had made inquiries and no one in the castle had seen anything of the missing man after Flora had spoken to him in the billiard room. What if Phil had never left the castle? If Berg or one of his ruffians had killed D'Arenne, as the laird had suggested, Verity's activities might well have decided the murderer to put the interfering Yankee out of the way for good.

The notion became so intolerable that at one moment Stephen quitted the bridge table and slipped away to the billiard room, resolved to wrest the truth from Berg. But at the sight of the big Dane playing poker in his overcoat with the others under a pall of tobacco smoke, his reluctance to risk upsetting Phil's plans by precipitate action got the better of him again and, blurting out something about looking for Toray, he returned to the hall.

Dinner came and brought no Verity. As if by tacit agreement no one spoke of the topic that weighed leaden on them all. It seemed to Stephen, however, that the laird's eyes rested upon his face with fresh doubt shadowing their coppery depths. Flora evaded his glance. He had the impression that she was avoiding him—perhaps by her father's orders. When, dinner over, she excused herself and, pleading a headache, went off to bed. Mrs. Dean and Phyllis took advantage of her example to disappear in turn, leaving Stephen and the laird alone over their wine.

Toray had been telling them at dinner of the bird life of the island which he had studied in long hours spent on the mountain-side—of folmar and gannet and razorbill that inhabited the desolate crags. Now with unfaltering self-possession he returned to his theme. He was speaking of a bird he called the fork-tailed petrel when Duncan, appearing through the service door, approached his chair and whispered impressively in his ear. Toray inclined his head, then nodded imperturbably and turned to his guest.

"The message for the police was sent safely across the Flow at low water tonight," he announced impassively. "And Mr. Verity went with the messenger."

Stephen smote the table—he was radiant. "Good old Phil! I might have known it—he's gone to fetch the Ariel back, for a cinch! This means we shall have her here in the morning!' With a sudden pang, he thought of Flora. This was farewell. He felt his gladness ebb.

His host's sculptured features did not relax. "Let's hope so," he said briefly. For an instant his glance, razor-edged and penetrating, searched the face at his side. Then, leaning back in his chair, he gave the major-domo an order in Gaelic. With a comprehending nod old Duncan strode out.

The laird's eyes had dropped to his plate. With a thoughtful air he shaved the ash from his cigar against the rim. Then, in his agreeable voice, he resumed his discourse on the island birds.



NEXT morning the castle awoke to a gray and windless world. Mist, wet and clinging, draped the gardens. Fissures in the curtain revealed the loch spread out beneath the windows with scarcely a ripple to break the surface.

Feeling that the day was big with possibilities, Stephen had meant to rise early. But he had reckoned without his diminished ration of sleep on the preceding night and it was half-past nine when he awoke to find Dwight at his bedside with the news that the laird was asking for him. Hurrying through his dressing, he went out into the Long Gallery where Duncan was striding restlessly up and down. At the sight of him the major-domo crossed to the door of Toray's bedroom and knocked, then beckoned to Stephen.

Toray and Flora were there. The bed had been made and there were the remains of breakfast on a tray suggesting that the laird had been up for some time. Flora in biscuit-colored tweed was nursing her knee in the window-seat and watching her father who was pacing to and fro between door and window.

There was a moment's silence as Stephen entered. His first glance was for Flora, but she did not take her eyes off her father. Since neither spoke, Stephen addressed the laird, "You wanted to see me, sir?"

His host nodded briefly. "The Ariel has entered the loch," he said, and paused. "Mr. Verity is not on board," he added slowly.

Stephen started. "Not on board? Are you sure? When did she arrive?"

"She rounded the point about twenty minutes ago. I gave instructions last night to Malcolm Dugald, who has a cottage on the cliff and who used to be in the coast guards, to flag her as soon as she was sighted and put the question. Well, Jamieson has telephoned. He has heard from Dugald who signaled the Ariel as ordered. Mr. Verity is not on board."

Stephen stared at him in perplexity. His fears of the previous day returned in full force. "But what can have become of him?" he questioned blankly.

"Mr. Garrison," said Toray stiffly, "I will no longer hide my mind from you. I believe that Mr. Verity is in flight. There is no lack of opportunities for escape at Ansay, what with boats calling for timber and kelp, and a Scandinavian tramp or two."

The American froze. "Are you seriously suggesting that it was my friend Verity who killed D'Arenne?"

The laird spread his hands. "In the circumstances I find it impossible to arrive at any other conclusion."

"Based on the discovery of the wallet, I suppose?"

"On that and other indications—the plan, those matches——"

Stephen laughed angrily. "As to that, Captain McKenzie might equally well have hidden the wallet in the chair and, incidentally, left those matches, in the ash tray. He was in my room too, you know. And what's become of McKenzie? Is he in flight, as you call it, as well?"

At that moment the door opened and, pushing past Duncan who held the handle, Verity darted in. He was hardly recognizable, grimy and unshaven, his blue serge daubed with plaster and mud, his deck shoes sodden with sea water. His manner, nevertheless, was exceedingly alert and he wore an air of suppressed excitement most unusual in one of his unemotional temperament.

"Phil!" Stephen sprang forward. "Where in the world did you get to?"

"Village," was the laconic rejoinder. "Sorry, old boy—no time to let you know. I crossed with McDonald's messenger to Ansay—had to see Wilson on board the Ariel. She's on her way back—ought to drop anchor within the hour. Wilson wanted me to return with them, but I thought the Flow would be quicker. I crossed just now with the telegraph boy from Ansay. Pretty thrilling—water over the hubs, but we managed it. . . . I brought a telegram for you, laird.

A massive key came out with the reddish-buff envelope which he handed to Toray.

"The key of the Portcullis Room," said Verity, laying it on the table. "I found I still had it so I entered the castle by the secret passage, so as not to attract attention; it seemed less risky than the way I got out—through the cellars."

The laird had opened the telegram. "From the police at Port Phadric," he announced. "They were going to leave at seven this morning; that should get them here about ten, unless they run into thick weather in the Minch." He lifted haggard eyes to Verity. "And what am I to tell them, Mr. Verity?" he asked tensely.

"That I've found the murderer," was the matter-of-fact rejoinder.

"You've found the murderer?"

Toray's strained ejaculation was merged in a little commotion at the entrance. Everyone looked towards it. The door had swung inward and old Duncan's bearded face was projected in the gap, behind it the broad shoulders of Captain McKenzie. In sight of them all the skipper unceremoniously brushed the major-domo aside and strode in.

With his disfigured face, shaggy moustache, and stiff crop of iron-gray hair, the skipper of the Ariel had never qualified as one of the sprucer type of mariners who wears his cap at an angle and keeps his buttons unfailingly bright. But Stephen could not remember having seen McKenzie otherwise than freshly shaven and with uniform well brushed. As he now appeared, however, the lower part of his face was darkened with stubble and his trousers and shoes were covered with mud and leaves.

"If ye'll excuse me, laird, and the young leddy," he said in his deep voice with a curt nod to Flora, "they told me Mr. Garrison was here and I was wanting a wor-rd wi' him..." He turned to Stephen. "The Ariel's just dropped anchor, sir," he went on. "I thought I'd wait for her return before speaking to you." He paused. "I'd be wishful to be paid off, Mr. Garrison, if it's all the same to you."

Stephen stared at him rather sternly. "You mean you want to quit, McKenzie? Is that it?"

The scarred face was inscrutable—that grotesque mutilation was an absolute bar to reading the man's thoughts. "Aye," said the captain briefly.

"But what's the idea, walking out on me this way? Aren't you satisfied with the way I've treated you or what?"

"I've nae quarrel with you, sir," was the stolid answer, "You've aye shown yoursel' a verra considerate employer. But I'm quitting."

"That's all very well," said Stephen, nettled. "But you can't leave me in the lurch like this!"

"Mr. Wilson's a verra competent man," McKenzie replied. "You couldn't have a better captain than George Wilson, sir. Me, I'm through."

"But what's happened? You must have some reason."

"I'm givin' no reason, with respect, sir." He hesitated, then turned on his heel and made for the door.

He found himself face to face with Verity. "Before Captain McKenzie leaves us," he said briskly, "I'd like him to answer a few questions."

"Yes, and so should I!" Stephen broke in irately and rounded on the skipper. "What do you mean by disappearing like this when Dwight told you I wanted to see you?"

"Just a minute, Steve," Verity interposed suavely.

"And what does he mean by taking my servant down to the village and filling him up with——"

Verity's hand fell heavily on the millionaire's shoulder. "Let me handle this, will you? Please, Steve." With an angry shrug the other desisted, and Verity turned once more to the captain. "Captain McKenzie," he observed, glancing at his nails, "when you came up to the castle the night before last to inform Mr. Garrison that the yacht was gone, you met one of the maids coming down, didn't you? That was at about five minutes past eleven, you told us. Is that right?"

"Aye," said McKenzie.

"But you didn't meet Mr. Jamieson until nearly half an hour later, did you? Eleven-thirty, to be precise. What became of you in the interval?"

The captain hesitated. "I was looking to see was there anybody about in the castle."

"You didn't go into the house, by any chance?"

McKenzie nodded. "Aye, I went into the house."

"By what door?"

"By the wee turret door in rear."

"That leads into the east wing corridor near the Vicomte d'Arenne's room?"


"And from there you went on as far as the great hall to look for Mr. Garrison, didn't you?"


"The great hall was empty. But the laird's dirk was lying on the side-table, wasn't it?"

The skipper hesitated, but at last said as before:


"And you took it?"

This time the captain did not reply.

"But, Mr. Verity," the laird exclaimed.

"Wait!" the American cut him off, and addressed McKenzie again. "Where do you stay when you're in New York?" he asked.

The question seemed to puzzle the skipper, for he drew down his bushy eyebrows and looked intently at the speaker before answering. "The Hotel McFarlane, Broadway at One Hundredth Street," he rejoined slowly.

There was a gasp from Toray, but Verity persisted with his cross-examination.

"You told the laird you'd forgotten your Gaelic, didn't you?" he next asked. And when McKenzie remained silent, added, "But that's not exactly true, is it? At least, you understood something the laird said in Gaelic to Christine in the billiard room this morning, didn't you?"


"That's right," cried Flora excitedly. "I didn't think of it at the time, but I remember it now!"

A look from Verity silenced her. "You've been to Toray Castle before, haven't you?" he said to the captain.

McKenzie nodded impassively. "I have."

"In the days of old Christine McKenzie, the housekeeper, wasn't it?"

Another inscrutable nod.

"She was your aunt, I think?"

"My great-aunt."

"Merciful Heaven," Toray broke out, "then that story was true!" He swung to the captain. "And you were the boy that discovered the passage?"

"Aye, laird," McKenzie answered with a sigh, "I was that bairn."

Toray was silent for a spell, toying with his heavy signet ring, his glance bent sternly on the captain. "Do I understand that it was you who killed the Vicomte d'Arenne?" he demanded at last in a hard, metallic voice.

But McKenzie remained mute, motionless as a statue, staring down at his hairy hands clasped in front of him. The blood mantled in the laird's pale cheeks and he seemed to bristle. "I am waiting for your answer, Captain McKenzie," he said with an air of command. Still the stalwart figure gave no sign. In the breathless hush that fell they could hear the mournful cries of the sea birds wheeling above the rocks below the windows.

Verity's level tones fended the silence. "I'm quite sure that Captain McKenzie won't be able to resist the weight of evidence against him," he pronounced authoritatively. "What first directed my suspicions towards him was the fact that he was sufficiently acquainted with the geography of the castle to be able to show Dwight a way out through the cellars—that plus the discovery that, contrary to what he told the laird at dinner that night, he could understand Gaelic. This brought to my mind your story of old Christine's nephew who was supposed to have found a secret passage leading to the Portcullis Room and I immediately remembered that the housekeeper's surname was also McKenzie. I've since had a talk with Mrs. McKenzie, the mother of Miss McReay's little maid and old Christine's granddaughter. She tells me that old Christine had a nephew, Ian McKenzie, who lived at Oban and had a son called Donald the same as the captain here.

Toray nodded. "I knew Ian. Many a night I spent with him as a youngster on the fishing grounds. I heard that he emigrated with his entire family—some time in the 90s, that would have been."

"Yes, sir. To Nova Scotia."

McKenzie said nothing, and the laird went on, "But I remember old Ian well. If this is really his son, I see no resemblance."

Verity cleared his throat. "Captain McKenzie sustained certain facial injuries in the war—no one in the village connected him with old Christine's family." He paused as though to collect his thoughts. "It was clear to me from the start," he said, 'that whoever killed D'Arenne must have known of the rendezvous in the Portcullis Room. D'Arenne proposed it to Phyllis Dean while they stood chatting at his bedroom door at about a quarter-past eleven, just about the time McKenzie entered the castle by the turret door, as you heard him admit. This suggests irresistibly that it was his step they heard in the corridor and not Stephen's, as Phyllis thought. Captain McKenzie does not admit taking the dirk, but he agrees that he went to the great hall to look for Mr. Garrison and saw the dirk lying there. Furthermore, the match strip I found under the body bears the name of his New York hotel, and lastly, let me tell you that this morning I left him sitting in Mr. Garrison's room in the very chair in which the wallet was found." He paused and shrugged. "I submit that the case is complete!"

The laird had not taken his eyes off McKenzie. "But the motive, man—the motive!" he murmured to Verity.

The American gave him a shrewd look. "I believe the captain can tell us that better than I can," he answered meaningly. And when McKenzie still guarded his obstinate silence, he added, "Unless I'm very much mistaken, D'Arenne married his daughter Christine."

It was Stephen who first recovered from the shock of this surprise. "My dear fellow," he exclaimed in a voice warm with compassion, "it's not possible?"

At last the captain stirred, lifting his head to gaze dully round the circle of faces. His dark eyes were raw with pain. "Aye, I killed him," he said. "Ever since yesterday noon I've walked the mountain wondering what I would do. When I came here just now, my mind was made up. I'd resign my job, let you and your friends get clear, Mr. Garrison, and then gi'e masel' up."

"Tell me about D'Arenne," said the laird gently.

"He met Christine—that was my gairl—at Monte Carlo where she had a good position with Lady Inverarnan and persuaded her to run away wi' him. I was in the China trade at the time and I didna get Her Leddyship's letter for months later, saying Christine was gone. Then came a letter from Chris hersel', telling me she was happily married and for me not to worry. I wrote in answer, but she'd moved from her address and my letters all came back. Then, sailing into Halifax one day, after three months at sea, there's a letter from her. From Marseilles she wrote, saying how she's going to have a baby and her husband's deserted her. When I look at the letter, I see where it's six weeks old. I cabled to the address she gave me, but there was no reply. Then I cabled the Consul prepaid and the answer came back." His voice rang deeper: "She and th' bairn were dead."

He made a little pause and then resumed: 'There was naught that I could do then. But she had spoken in her letter of young Mr. McReay, son of the McReay of Toray, who was friendly wi' her husband. And so, when I heard in Halifax that an American gentleman was looking for a skipper to take a yacht out to Toray, in the Western Isles, I applied for the job. I thought, mebbe, that you, sir," he said to the laird, "or your son—for I didna know then that he was dead—might be able to tell me where to find this Vicomte d'Arenne who had broken my bairn's heart. For, night and day since my poor Christine's last letter came, I've waited for the moment which should bring us face to face! When I came to your table that night, laird, and heared his name and saw him standin' there, I was like to fall down on my knees wi' thankfulness and say wi' Simeon, 'Lorrd, now lettest Thou Thy sairvant depart in peace.'"

He spoke with a simple dignity that held them all in its ban. "When I left the castle that night to return to the ship," he went on, "I'd no plan in my head save to have an accounting wi' the young sprig in my own time. But later on, when I came back to look for you, Mr. Garrison, I heard him and the young leddy whispering about meeting in the Portcullis Room and I knew that the Lor-rd had delivered him into my hands. For that very afternoon I'd walked by the Flow and noted the cave leading to the Portcullis Room that, as a youngster playing on the shore more than forty years syne, I'd discovered. The laird's talk at table reminded me of the auld legend of the McNeil and when I went into the great hall and saw the dir-rk lying there, my mind was made up. It seemed to me like the dispensation of Providence that, on the very night of the McNeil's death, another black-hearted villain should go to his Maker wi' his sins on him."

He broke off and said moodily: ''Twas deliberate, I know, and they'll hang me for't. But death has no fears for me, gentlemen, and it's been lonely all these years without my Christine."

"Then you made your way to the Portcullis Room from the beach?" the laird questioned.

McKenzie nodded. "The night was dark and blowy and I'd no torch. I'd never have found the entrance but that I'd marked it down that afternoon. As I was fearful of my matches giving out, I opened the panel and brought a candle into the hole that way I'd be able to find the catch when he came. It was a long wait, but at last I heard him. He was there wi' his torch. He turned it on my face as I came out. "Who's that?" he screams in a sort of choking whisper—he was scairt out of his wits. 'It's Christine's father,' I told him, and with that I showed him the dir-rk. Wi'out a wor-rd he spins about to make for the door. But it was too late—I was on him! I held the candle in my right hand—I didna even wait to change over, but struck him wi' my left. He never spoke or screamed!' His head dropped on his chest and he fell silent.

The door was suddenly rapped and old Duncan showed a panic-stricken face. "McReay, McReay," he clamored in a cracked and tremulous voice, "the police-boat's afther laying to at the seagate!" At the same instant the wheezing clank of a bell mounted from below.

Not for one moment did Toray lose his calm. "It's Sergeant Todd, I suppose?" he queried unconcernedly.

"Aye, laird. An' there's Tammas McBeagh an' anither constable wi' him!"

"Where's Mr. Berg?"

"In the billiard room at breakfast wi' his freends. But I doot they wull have heerd the bell."

Toray nodded composedly. "Show the sergeant to my study, he said, "and you'd better tell Margaret to get him and his men some breakfast; they'll want it after their crossing. I'll be down directly.

"But, laird——" the major-domo cried aghast.

"You heard my orders, Duncan," was the unruffled rejoinder. "You needn't wait." The door closed.

All glances in the room save McKenzie's hung upon Toray, the captain still stood immobile, staring down at the floor. Head up, the laird crossed to him. "What did you do with those papers the wallet contained?" he said crisply.

McKenzie raised his head and looked fixedly at the speaker. "I bur-rnt them, laird, in the fire in Mr. Garrison's room. I hid the wallet in the chair because I was afraid the smell of the leather bur-rning would be noticed."

The McReay said nothing. His hands alone betrayed his emotion. Slowly he brought them together in a clasp so tight that the blood glowed in his fingertips. For a long moment his glance dwelt upon the bowed figure that confronted him. Then with a tentative air he picked up the great forged iron key of the Portcullis Room from the table where Verity had laid it and turned it over in his hands, his eye still fixed on McKenzie. At last he spoke over his shoulder. "I'd like a word in private with the captain!" he said in the tone of voice in which he gave commands.

They left him there, idly balancing the great key in his palm and considering the rugged, mutilated features of the man before him.


AS Flora and the two Americans reached the head of the stairs, Berg came storming up. Swiftly Stephen stepped forward to confront him. Face congested with anger, barrel chest heaving, Berg halted. "Where's Toray?" he demanded, screwing up his eyes.

"He's busy," said Stephen.

"But the police have come!" Berg cried excitedly. "What's he going to do?"

The American laughed noiselessly. "Why not ask him yourself?" As Berg attempted to thrust past him, he pushed him back with his hand and added, "But not now. He's engaged."

"I've come for his decision!" the Dane roared. "Satan osse, do I get paid or don't I?"

Shrewdly Stephen slanted his head. "If you want my private opinion, I'd say your chances weren't worth a nickel. But don't let that deter you."

Berg snorted. "We soon see about that!" he growled, and, lowering his head like a battering-ram, made to thrust his way by. But the point of Stephen's shoulder, adroitly interposed, brought him up with a jolt and he discovered that the two Americans barred his further progress. "Let me pass!" he shouted, and once more essayed to squeeze by.

Stephen's black eyes snapped. "I don't like your manners and I don't like your language, Mr. Berg," he said succinctly, and then, as the Dane still came on, with lightning speed smashed his left fist home on the broad and flabby face. The blow glanced off the chin, which was its appointed mark, but landed heavily on the cheek, toppling Berg over sideways so that he slithered to the bottom of the flight. Stephen glanced over his shoulder at Flora and found her just behind him, her blue eyes very bright. "He had that coming to him," he remarked and, with a very contented air, descended to the great hall.

The place was in a flurry. The major and Boldini had picked up Berg, who, with his handkerchief clapped to one eye, was leaning against the balustrade. A massive sergeant of police, sandy-haired and abundantly freckled, in a blue uniform and blue puttees, whom Duncan had just helped out of his oilskin coat, came hurrying across the floor.

"What's all this?" he demanded sternly.

"That man," Berg shouted, pointing at Stephen, "assaulted me. You're my witness, Mr. Policeman, that I and my friends go in fear of our lives in this house."

The sergeant, who had subjected each member of the group in turn to a long and searching stare, now espied Flora and deferentially touched his cap. "I didna see ye, Miss Flora," he explained apologetically. "Wull ye no tell us just what's going on here?"

But Berg would not let her speak. Like a tornado he fell upon the sergeant. "It is time you come. Two nights ago the Vicomte d'Arenne was murdered in a room of the castle!"

"Aye, so the McReay's tallygram said," the officer observed imperturbably. "But wha's amiss between you two gents?"

Beside himself with spite and rage, Berg grabbed his sleeve. "You come with me to where the body is, yes? I show you the dead Frenchman with the laird's dagger in his back. It was a plot. They were all in it—the laird, those two Americans, ja, and the girl, too, I t'ink. You take the finger-prints and you find out which of them killed him. I give you the evidence. I have notes—everything tabulated, yes, by Joe!"

The sergeant looked thoroughly bewildered. Firmly withdrawing his arm from Berg's grasp, he assumed a sternly official face, and, with a gesture which obviously through long practice had become purely mechanical, unbuttoned one of his pouch pockets and began to haul forth a bloated leather notebook. But now Verity intervened.

"This is Mr. Stephen Garrison, sergeant," he said, "owner of the yacht Ariel which must have entered the loch just about the same time as your launch did."

The sergeant was impressed. "Aye, she come up behind us. I mind she wass at Port Phadric three days syne."

"That's right," Verity replied. "All that happened just now was that Mr. Berg so far forgot himself as to use bad language in front of Miss McReay and Mr. Garrison resented it. Very reprehensible, if you like, and a technical breach of the peace, but there you are! You mustn't allow Mr. Berg's vindictiveness towards Mr. Garrison to mislead you, however. There's no mystery about the murder of the Vicomte d'Arenne. The murderer has confessed. It's McKenzie, captain of Mr. Garrison's yacht!"

"It's a lie!" Berg screeched. "Don't believe that Verity, Mr. Policeman! He t'row dust in your eyes as he did in mine."

"It's the truth!" spoke a level voice behind them. "And I hold his written confession!"

Toray had appeared on the stairs. At the sight of him the sergeant came smartly to attention. "Ah, Todd," said the laird, nonchalantly acknowledging the salute. He came slowly down the flight, an envelope in his hand. "He had his statement all ready," Toray explained, handing the envelope to Sergeant Todd. "He meant to give himself up as soon as you arrived, anyway. You'd better glance it over before you take him."

"Where is he, sir?" asked the sergeant, drawing a sheet of foolscap from the envelope. The laird motioned with his head up the stair. "Above in my room."

With an inarticulate roar Berg sprang for the stairs and dashed up, three steps at a bound. Mansard and Boldini sped after him. Their feet thundered along the gallery. Looking instinctively at Toray, Verity saw him suddenly grow rigid, though the glance he sent after the flying figures was no more than mildly curious. A second later, Berg's face, livid with wrath, peered down from the landing.

"He's tricked us, Mr. Policeman," he vociferated in a sort of strident scream. "There's no one there!"

The laird shrugged and contentedly took a pinch of snuff. "He was there just now," he remarked, "as these gentlemen"—he indicated Stephen and Verity beside him—"will bear witness."

"The room's empty—Garrison's room, too! And the door through to the east wing's locked!" Berg was haranguing the sergeant. "Come op and see for yourself!" he shouted.

The police officer glanced interrogatively at Toray and the two men went quickly to the stairs and began to mount. Stephen and Verity waited for Flora, but she did not give any sign of following her father. Instead, she turned suddenly and ran blindly across the hall, disappearing into the vestibule. There was that in her look and manner which made the two Americans, pausing only to exchange a glance, set off in pursuit.

Among the stuffed birds and fishes of the vestibule two solemn policemen waited. The front door was open. The avenue leading up to it was deserted, but across the grass the gate in the garden wall stood ajar. Stephen and Verity made for it and found themselves in the gardens.

Billow upon billow, like smoke from a fire, the mist came rolling down from the mountain. The castle walls melted into nothingness, turrets and pinnacles lost in the nebulous obscurity, with here a gilded wind vane and there a crenellated battlement showing through the haze: even the barren flanks of old Ben Dhu were blotted out. In swathes the mist drifted across the gardens. The crumbling statues, gleaming with moisture, loomed up like ghosts, every bush was silvered with sparkling gossamer; and the morning air, rain-washed and very mild, carried with it a fragrant breath of sweet briar and roses.

Running like a young deer and as sure-footed on the slippery, mossy paths, Flora was visible headed for the gate which gave access to the summer-house—in her pale tweeds a streak of gray fending the all-pervading grayness. When they were halfway across the gardens, she saw them and waited.

She did not give them time to question her, but, while she hurried them along, turned eagerly to Verity. "When you crossed the Flow this morning," she said, "what became of the cart?"

"It went back," Verity replied. "The driver wouldn't wait. He said it was too dangerous. He told the telegraph boy he'd call back for him at low water this evening."

She caught her breath and her eyes were deeply troubled. "He'll never be crazy enough to try it on foot," she murmured as though to herself.

Verity started. "You mean McKenzie?" he said, and broke off aghast.

She nodded. "My father must have given him the key of the Portcullis Room—I thought he meant to, when he sent us away."

Verity had a sudden picture of Toray, as they had seen him upstairs, gazing meditatively at the captain while he balanced the great iron key in his hand.

"There's a Norwegian tramp at Ansay just now," Flora went on, "the Anna Erichsen. She's been coming to the islands for years. Jamieson was talking about her the other afternoon. The skipper's an old friend of daddy's—he'd do anything for him. If daddy gave McKenzie a word for Captain Larsen, Larsen would smuggle him away. The only question is, can McKenzie cross the Flow in time?"

"Do you think he has a chance?" Stephen asked.

"My father must have thought so, or he would never have given him the key," was the proud answer.

They had passed through the iron gate and had to slacken their pace to negotiate the stiff climb through the heather to the steps descending to the Flow. But as they topped the bluff and the long, flat seascape of the tide race was unfolded before their eyes, an involuntary cry rose to the lips of each. From shore to shore the Flow was enveloped in white, clinging mist. A deathly silence rested over the flats; the mist seemed to blanket sound as it blanketed sight.

Between the sopping whins and heather clumps they raced down the slippery path to the head of the steps and, hot and breathless, halted there, straining their eyes to penetrate the haze. They stared and saw no more than a gray pall resting upon the water; they listened and to their ears came only the faint murmur of the tide.

The mist was tenuous and patchy. Like a curtain flapped by the wind, here and there it lifted a corner to show the curling crest of a wavelet or a glimpse of the dappled beach of Ansay opposite.

Suddenly Flora extended a trembling hand. "I saw something dark in the water just now!" she cried in a low and vibrant voice. "Look!" Her tone was ecstatic. He's halfway over! Oh, can't you see him?' In her excitement she seized Stephen's arm. 'There! Where I'm pointing!"

Then they both descried the sturdy, solitary figure, waist-deep in the flood, with swirls of mist blowing about it. He seemed to be making headway, striding imperturbably forward, arms held high. "I believe he's going to make it!" Stephen exclaimed.


"I believe he's going to make it!" Stephen exclaimed.

With a faint cry the girl averted her gaze. "I can't bear to watch him," she murmured. "It's—it's madness. One false step and he's in the quicksands! How can he remember the passage after all these years?"

"McKenzie forgets nothing," said Stephen. "He's the strangest blend of courage and caution I ever saw in a man. And he's a born fighter. If he's to die, he'll fight every inch of the way. If anyone can make the crossing he will! Gosh, he's stopping!"

For an instant the remote figure seemed to falter. Then the mist dropped down like a curtain and it was lost to view.

Voices now resounded from the beach below. Berg and the major came running into view from under the cliff, then Sergeant Todd and his two policemen, Boldini and the gunmen, and lastly Toray, with Duncan bringing up the rear. The mouth of the cave giving on the secret passage was hidden from the view of the watchers on the steps, but it was evident that the party had just emerged from the tunnel. Their shouts and cries mounted in the still air as they spread themselves, in and out of the drifting masses of vapor, along the foreshore at the edge of the Flow.

The fog seemed to be growing denser. In opaque gray clouds it came rolling over the flats so that, at one moment, even the figures moving on the strand were hidden.

"They obviously haven't seen him," said Verity, peering down at the beach. "See, they're coming towards the steps!" In effect, the whole party was streaming up the beach.

Then, in a strangled voice, the girl whispered, "Look!"

Sooner than either of her companions her sharp eyes had caught that momentary rent in the ever-thickening haze. It was only for the fraction of a second that the curtain had parted, but it was long enough for the three of them to snatch a fleeting glimpse of the distant figure, arms extended, still resolutely breasting the flood. Then, denser and more impenetrable than ever, the mist dropped down again, and Flora, putting her hands to her face, burst into tears.

The fog had settled all about them now. It hid the top of the stairs from their view, so that the ascending party was no more than a confusion of voices and of footsteps ringing on the planks. It hid from Verity who had moved to the head of the ladder the vision of the girl sobbing convulsively in Stephen's arms.



WITH the capriciousness that marks the weather in the Western Highlands, noon past, the mists began to melt. Seated on a boulder high up on the mountainside whither she had fled from the commotion of the castle, Flora watched the different features of the familiar scene slowly sharpening through the haze. She saw the sweep of the road that flanked the shore to the village, the white cabins, each with its turf-heap and fringe of brown nets, the little dilapidated jetty.

From the Flow she had returned to the castle with the rest. None of the party on the beach, Verity told her, had as much as caught a glimpse of McKenzie. Sergeant Todd proclaimed the belief that the fugitive had saved the county the cost of hanging. Nevertheless, the man hunt was on, and it revolted her. Until the fog had lifted, the police-boat could not set off in pursuit, but the Ariel was to wireless Port Phadric which would flash the news back to Ansay.

Conferences in the study and an unforgettable impression of Berg, glimpsed through the door, furtive and now thoroughly cowed facing the sergeant and her father; policemen tramping to and fro; yacht hands in blue jerseys with unfamiliar accents swarming in the grounds; voices ringing under the high rafters of the great hall; Duncan and Dwight bringing down luggage—she had fled from it all to the mountain she loved.

From her eyrie she could survey all the activity of the loch and the road that ran beside it. With the scattering of the mist first it was the police launch that went spluttering down the loch. Next was the arrival of the steamer from the mainland, the little Highland Mist. Five tiny figures, suitcases in hand, trooped on board and she recognized Berg and his friends. They went below at once and did not appear when, presently, in a vast flurry of paddles, the ancient tub waddled out into the loch.

A little later and Duncan's voice calling her came from the path below where she sat. She did not move nor did she budge when, after a while, the major-domo's gaunt form was visible plodding up through the heather. Then she rose to her feet and waved him back.

"Go away!" she cried furiously.

Duncan halted, blinking at her. "But Miss Flora, yer faither—— "

"You havena seen me! I'm not comin' in!' she said, and the old man strode away.

The luggage cart went rattling down the shore road, piled with luggage glossier than any the castle boasted—a pale sun gleaming from behind a cloud touched high lights on the suitcases and hatboxes. Then after an interval a group came walking. Mrs. Dean and Phyllis with Verity between, then Stephen and her father, and the maid and Dwight in rear. There were handshakes on the jetty, where the Ariel's glittering power boat gently rocked, the roar of the engine, a long white wake. Springing to her feet, the girl turned her back on the scene and, head bowed down, began to climb higher up the mountain-side.

She moved very slowly and, as she went, the tears rolled unchecked down her cheeks. Once she stopped to doff her old felt with its grouse wing and brush her sleeve, like a boy, across her eyes. Still the tears came and she swore under her breath. "Damn," she said, "oh, damn!" Then sobs choked her and, propping her elbow against a lichen-gray rock, she wept unrestrainedly.

A hand was laid on her shoulder and a quiet voice said, "Please don't do that!"


She sprang round in a panic. Stephen was there, his cap in his hand. He was breathing hard and looked very hot.

She was fumbling for her handkerchief. He watched her pat one pocket after another, then silently handed her his. "But—but didn't you go off with the yacht?" she said brokenly, dabbing at her eyes. "I saw you go down to the launch and I thought—I thought——"

"The yacht's gone all right," he said, looking at her fixedly.

"But you?"

"Oh, I decided to stay! The Ariel can come back for me!"

"But why? What's happened?"

"You didn't imagine I'd leave without saying goodbye to you, did you? Why did you run out on me like that?" he demanded severely.

A hard sob shook her. "I wanted to get away from it all. . . . What about McKenzie? Did they wireless to Ansay?"

He shook his head. "No; as it happened the Ariel's radio was out of commission." A faint smile played about his lips. "And," he added meaningly, "the Anna Erichsen was due to sail at noon."

Her pale face lit up. "Oh, Steve! Do you think he made it?"

"I told your father what we saw and he thinks he crossed safely." He paused. "But you haven't answered my question. Why didn't you want to see me again?"

She caught her breath. "I failed you. Besides, what was the good? You were going away. And—and there was Phyllis!"

"There isn't any Phyllis, Flora, darling!" he cried. "There never was any Phyllis as far as I'm concerned. She and I had it out together. She says I never was in love with her. And she's right!" He paused. "I'm thinking of making your father an offer for the castle, but on terms. I want you to give me your advice. Will you?"

Shyly she raised her eyes and saw him standing there, his hands held out beseechingly. The color mantling under the roseleaf of her cheeks was like a seagull's wing glinting pink against the sun.



Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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