After the reconciliation between the lovers nothing remained but to go
into the garden and announce that Mademoiselle Zara’s errand had been
wholly successful. Gwen was now quite amiably disposed towards her
rival, and was indeed very thankful to her for the peacemaking
explanation. Along with Hench she went into the hot sunshine, and as
they walked across the lawns towards the glade where they were likely
to find the others, Owain warned Gwen that Zara was wholly ignorant of
her mother’s schemes. “Only you and I, Mrs. Perage and Jim Vane, know
about her accusation,” said the young man seriously. “So don’t hint a
word of the business to Zara.”

“Of course I won’t,” agreed Gwen readily. “But what steps are you
going to take, Owain, in order to counterplot her?”

“Madame Alpenny? Well, I haven’t any idea in my head just now, and, at
all events, she has given me a week to think over things. Let us leave
matters as they are until to-morrow, and then we can call a council of
war and see what is best to be done. There’s no doubt that Madame
Alpenny has me in a tight place.”

“She has,” said Gwen cheerfully. “But we may be able to turn the
tables on her.”

“In what way?”

“I don’t know,” mused the girl. “It seems to me that this woman knows
more about the death of my father than she will admit. She may be
guilty herself.”

Hench shook his head. “I have some such idea myself, and yet it seems
impossible. What had she to gain?”

“A fortune through you,” said Gwen promptly. “By means of that
advertisement which brought you to the Gipsy Stile, she implicated you
in the murder, which she may have executed before you arrived. Once
under her thumb, she hoped to compel you to marry Zara, and so would
have gained control of the money.”

“I am not under her thumb yet,” said Hench grimly. “And what is more,
I don’t intend to be, strong as is her position. Whether she is guilty
or innocent I can’t say, as I am ignorant of her doings on the night
of the first of July. But I should like to know, Gwen, why your father
put that advertisement into the papers, and why he appointed the Gipsy
Stile as the place of meeting?”

“I can’t explain,” she answered doubtfully. “My father never said a
word to me about the advertisement, or, indeed, about Madame Alpenny’s
visit. I asked him who she was and he told me to mind my own

“Well, Madame Alpenny can explain, as I believe she suggested the
advertisement dodge herself.” Owain reflected for a moment. “There’s
something queer behind all this, Gwen, and when we learn what that
something is, I daresay we will find out who murdered your father. And

“Hush,” said Gwen suddenly, as they turned round the corner of a green
alley which ran between high box hedges. “Here they are.”

As a matter of fact the lovers stumbled right into the centre of a
group consisting of Mrs. Perage and her guests. They all appeared to
be smiling, and the smiles grew very broad when the reconciled couple
came towards them. Mrs. Perage caught Gwen by the shoulders and looked
into her tell-tale blue eyes.

“Is it all right, you nuisance?” she demanded gruffly.

“All right!” assented Gwen, giving her a kiss. “Thanks to—-”

“To me,” cried the dancer gaily. “I am the goddess of Peace.”

Hench took her hand and kissed it. “I can never thank you

“I don’t require thanks, Mr. Hench. But did I not tell you that when
you really fell in love you would understand how wholly different it
was to your feeling for me?”

“You did, and I have learned the difference. Admiration is moonlight,
and love is the most glowing of sunshine.”

“How poetical,” said Vane with a shrug.

“And how true. Jim, I have to thank you for bringing Mademoiselle Zara
with the olive branch. Bless you, as a friend in need.”

“Bless Aunt Emma, rather, old son. She suggested the idea.”

“It seemed the only way of convincing a stupid man,” said Mrs. Perage
lightly. “However, all’s well that ends well, so let us go in and have
some tea. Our visitors have to leave in an hour.”

All this time Bracken, silent according to custom, was smiling amiably
at the man he had at one time considered his rival. Now he advanced
and shook him by the hand, much to the approval of Zara, for Bracken
had given her considerable trouble over Hench’s attentions. Mrs.
Perage, still holding on tightly to Gwen, was walking in front,
together with Vane, so Owain had the pleasant task of escorting Zara
and her lover to the house. He was glad of this, as he wished to say
something and repay the dancer for her kindness.

“When are you two going to be married?” he asked abruptly.

Zara sighed. “I don’t know,” she confessed sadly. “Ned expected to get
some money from his mother, but she died without leaving any. Neither
I nor Ned make enough money to keep ourselves and my mother, so we
can’t think of marrying for a long time.”

“Madame Alpenny seems to be the stumbling block,” mused Hench

“She is,” declared Bracken in a gruff, rough way. “Zara and I could
manage by ourselves on what we earn, if it wasn’t for that cattish old

“Ned! Ned! Don’t call names. After all, my mother is my mother.”

“She is very selfish, and makes you miserable to please herself,” said
Bracken crossly. “I shall never make much money as I am not a genius
as you are, Zara. If you could only get the engagement you deserve you
would make sufficient to settle your mother, and then we could get

“Allow me to see to that,” said Owain quickly. “See here, Bracken, and
you, Zara, you may not know it but I am a rich man.”

“I am very glad,” said the dancer honestly. “You have made money,

“I have inherited money–a large income. I owe you much, as but for
you things would not have been squared.”

“It was the least I could do, Mr. Hench.”

“It was a very great deal to do, as the task was a delicate one.
However, what I mean is this, that as you have been my friend you
must allow me to be yours. Therefore”–Owain spoke slowly and
deliberately–“I wish you, with Bracken’s approval, of course, to
accept one thousand pounds.”

“Oh!” gasped Zara, flushing as red as her cloak. “I couldn’t think of

“Nor can I,” said Bracken resentfully. “I can keep my own wife.”

“My dear people,”–Owain being between them took an arm of each,–“if
you like you can pay me back on some future occasion. Zara, your
mother will bother me to marry you until some barrier is raised which
will prevent your being my possible wife. At present, as you have
stated, you are not able to marry for want of money. Now if I give you
this thousand pounds, which I can very easily spare, I want you to get
married quietly. When your mother learns that you are Mrs. Bracken she
will leave me alone. Then you can give her a sum of money to live on
in the meantime and will be able to rest on your oars and look about
for a better engagement. You see?”

“Yes,” said Zara gratefully. “I see, and I am very much obliged. If I
can give my mother half the money she will go to her people in Buda
Pesth and amuse herself with gambling. Then with five hundred pounds
Ned and and I can manage to get to the West End. Money always brings
money, and I am sure that I could get an engagement.”

“Didn’t your mother go in search of one for you?” asked Hench,

Zara’s lip curled and she looked more disdainful than ever. “My mother
said that she went, but she never did.”

Hench started. “She was absent for a few days, I remember.”

“Yes. On business, she told me. But what her business was I never
knew. It had nothing to do with an engagement, however, or I should
have known.”

Of course Owain knew very well on what business Madame Alpenny had
been engaged, but he was wise enough to make no remark. Also at the
moment his attention was distracted by Bracken, who had been thinking
in his heavy way.

“If you will allow Zara and me to pay you back the money with interest
at five per cent,” he observed, reflectively, “we don’t mind–eh,

“No,” she rejoined promptly. “I shall take the money with pleasure
then, as it will certainly help us to get married in spite of my
mother’s opposition. I am very grateful for your kind help, Mr.

“I am only doing what I ought to do,” said Owain frankly. “You have
done me a good turn, so it is only right that I should do you and
Bracken one. I shall see my lawyers next week and arrange for the
money to be paid to you by cheque, or in notes, or gold, whichever you

“Say a cheque, Hench,” remarked Bracken, with a sigh of relief. “I
have a banking account. It’s a very small one–still, it is a banking

“Good. I will call at The Home of the Muses some day next week with
the cheque, and meantime you can see about getting married.”

“Oh, Ned!” cried Zara.

“Oh, Zara!” cried Ned, and they embraced, even though they were in
sight of the drawing-room windows.

“Well,” said Hench philosophically, “I have made two people happy,

“We will be happier if you are happy yourself, you generous man,” said

“Oh, that’s all right,” replied Hench hurriedly, for he did not wish
to be thanked or praised. “Come and have some tea. We’ll keep this
little arrangement to ourselves.”

The visitors were very pleased at the result of their visit, which
they had been far from expecting, and the tea was unusually gay. Gwen
could not show enough attention to Zara, and Mrs. Perage, who had
taken a fancy to the honest dullness of Ned, looked after him in her
brusque way. Owain and his beloved were silent from sheer happiness,
in spite of the thunder-clouds which still obscured the sun, so it was
left to Jim Vane to brighten the party with chatter and gaiety. He was
entirely successful, and the visitors left with a sense of great
enjoyment. Zara looked younger, less fatigued and unapproachable than
usual, while Bracken’s stolid good-looking face was wreathed in
smiles. And Hench saw them off at the station with a sense of
thankfulness that he had been able to help them. He was so happy
himself in having gained Gwen’s love that he wished every one else to
be happy, and moreover was delighted that he had been able to repay
Zara for her good work. He returned to his lodgings to dress, and then
went to dine at Mrs. Perage’s hospitable board.

Gwen wished to hold the council of war after dinner, but Hench
refused. He considered that the day had been quite sufficiently filled
with events, and did not wish to start a discussion which was likely
to be prolonged into the small hours. Gwen looked tired after all the
excitement she had undergone, and Hench himself felt rather weary. The
true fact was that a sense of anxiety lay beneath their surface
gaiety, and they were feeling the suspense more than they thought.
Mrs. Perage and her nephew were also rather silent; so in spite of the
reconciliation of the lovers the evening was rather a failure. With
her usual prompt way of dealing with things, Mrs. Perage sent Hench
away at half-past nine o’clock.

“We are all worn out with bother,” she said briskly. “So it is best
for all of us to have a good night’s rest and then we can deal with
other and more serious matters to-morrow.”

“One serious matter has been put right, thanks to you,” said Hench,
looking fondly at Gwen. “It was just as well to take the bull by the
horns,” said Mrs. Perage candidly. “And I am glad that Zara proved to
be so sensible a creature. And when you tell Gwen what–what—-” she
hesitated, not knowing if it was wise to speak.

“What peril I am in,” finished Hench. “Oh, I’ve done that this

“The deuce you have!” cried Vane, turning from his friend to Gwen.
“And what do you think of the matter, Miss Evans?”

“I don’t know what to think,” said Gwen promptly. “Save that I believe
Owain to be innocent, and I will stand by him to the end, whatever it
may be.”

“Good. And the accusation of Madame—-”

“Jim,” commanded his aunt sharply, “do hold your tongue. This is not
the time to begin a discussion. To-morrow, when our wits are clearer,
we can talk. Owain, go home to bed. Jim and I will turn our backs
while you take leave of Gwen.”

This was not necessary, as Gwen accompanied her lover to the door and
kisses were exchanged in the twilight of the summer night. But the two
were so long in parting that Mrs. Perage had to come on the scene and
fairly shut the door in the face of this lingering lover. Hench went
away, feeling that the sun had vanished from the sky, which was
exactly what the sun should do considering the time. He sauntered home
leisurely, thinking of Gwen and picturing his future life with her. By
the time he reached Mrs. Bell’s cottage it was striking ten from the
church tower, and he entered the house yawning with the intention of
going at once to bed. There he could dream of Gwen.

But Owain did not get to his repose so speedily as he expected, for he
found a visitor sitting in his parlour–and not a visitor he was
exactly pleased to see. From an armchair rose the smartly dressed
figure of Mr. Cuthbert Spruce, who smiled amiably when he saw the
astonished look on the face of his host. Hench frowned, very

“What the deuce are you doing here, Spruce?” he demanded sharply.

“I have come to have a serious talk with you,” said the Nut coolly,
and resumed his seat with the air of a man determined to stay where he

“Then you can clear out and come to-morrow, my friend. I am much too
tired to talk just now.” Hench glanced at his watch. “There is a train
at a quarter to eleven which you can catch.”

“I am not going back to town this evening, Hench.”

“Well, that’s your business, not mine. Anyhow, I want you to go now.”

“I am staying at the Bull Inn,” went on Spruce significantly. “It is
necessary that we should speak now. Better be sensible, Hench, and

Owain looked at this meddlesome marplot searchingly. He was staying at
the Bull Inn, and that was a place which Hench had carefully avoided
lest he should come into contact with the girl who had seen him as a
tramp. It occurred to him from the significance of Spruce’s tone that
the Nut had been making inquiries, and had come to make himself
unpleasant. However, Hench was not the man to be frightened into doing
what he did not wish to do, and he threw off his coat and hat, still

“I don’t know why you have come here,” he said coldly, “or how you
found out where I was living. But—-”

“Madame Alpenny told me,” said Spruce quickly, and brought out a

“Hang her impudence! Don’t smoke. I don’t want you to stay.”

“Very good.” The Nut rose and carefully lighted the little roll of
tobacco. “As you please. But don’t say that I did not give you your

“What the devil do you mean?”

“If you send me away how can I explain?” asked Spruce, with a
supercilious smile. “I have been waiting for quite an hour, and it was
only after a great deal of persuasion that your landlady allowed me to
enter. I believe”–added the Nut, stretching his arms and yawning–
“that she is waiting up, so as to be sure that I have not come after
the spoons.”

Hench looked at him hard, then abruptly left the room to assure Mrs.
Bell that everything was all right. After he had sent her to bed, at
rest in her mind about the stranger, he returned to the parlour and
closed the door in an ostentatious manner.

Spruce laughed.

“You are going to let me stay, then,” he remarked coolly and sitting
down again.

Hench sat opposite to him with a resolute air. “You don’t leave this
room until you fully explain what the devil you mean by dogging my
footsteps in this way,” he said sternly.

“Dogged is a good word, or was it dogging? Both are good words. You
will have to be dogged so far as your courage is concerned. And as to
dogging, it is better that I should do that than the police.”

“Oh, hang your fantastical chatter!” snapped Hench with a lowering
brow. “Come to the point.”

“Can’t you see my point now that I have mentioned the police?”

“No,” said Hench briefly and obstinately.

“Curious! You are not usually so dense.” Spruce puffed lightly at his
cigarette and smiled blandly. “The fact is I am here on behalf of
Madame Alpenny.”

“What has Madame Alpenny to do with me, may I ask?”

“Oh, you may ask, and I shall reply with great pleasure. Madame
Alpenny has done me the honour to make me her confidential friend, and
I am now in possession of all facts connected with your gaining of a
large fortune. Most people would be glad to get so much money, but few
people would be ready to gain it at so heavy a price.”

Hench winced inwardly but not outwardly, as he did not intend to show
fear in the presence of this little reptile. He saw from the very
audacity with which the Nut spoke that he knew all about the matter
connected with the death of Madoc Evans, and knew also that the
creature had come at this untimely hour to profit by his knowledge.
“You speak in riddles,” he said coldly.

“Oh, I think you can guess them,” retorted the other man.

“Perhaps I can and perhaps I cannot. But as you hint at mysteries it
is for you to explain them. Be as brief as you can. I can’t wait up
all night listening to your twaddle.”

“Very bravely carried off, Hench,” taunted Spruce, his eyes looking
angry. “But such bluff doesn’t deceive me. I know too much for you to
pretend ignorance.”

“What you know I am waiting to learn,” said Hench, setting his teeth.

“Why give me the trouble to explain?”

“Stop your fencing and come to the point. You want money?”

“A great deal of money. The price of my story is costly.”

“Really!” said Hench sarcastically. “Well, you were writing a story at
Bethnal Green. At least that was the lie you told me to account for
your presence in the boarding-house.”

Spruce laughed, in no wise offended, as his moral perceptions were
very much blunted. “I am writing a much better story than I
anticipated. I told you that I came to Bethnal Green to find material.
Well, I have found material of the best. I shall sell this story for a
good price,” he concluded, looking meaningly at his listener.

“And the price?”

“Well, I think about two thousand a year.”

“Moderate,” said Owain shortly and not quailing.

“I think so myself, seeing that I shall have to pay Madame Alpenny at
least two hundred a year out of it.”

“And keep one thousand eight hundred a year to yourself?”

“That is my intention,” rejoined the Nut coolly. “Spruce, you
are–what you are, as it is impossible to find a name low enough to
suit you. And how am I to pay this two thousand a year?”

“Out of the ten thousand per annum your uncle left you.”

“Humph! You seem to be well informed.”

“Madame Alpenny informed me, so naturally I am in possession of many
facts which you would prefer to keep secret. Come, Hench, it is no use
our beating about the bush, as we understand one another, so—-”

“Pardon me, we don’t understand one another. What am I to get for this
two thousand a year blackmail?”

“Don’t use nasty words. It won’t help you to be nasty. I’m top-dog,
Hench, so you had better give in.”

“Two words go to a bargain,” said Hench calmly. “What am I to gain in
return for this two thousand a year?”

“My silence.”

“About what?” Spruce started up, looking peevishly angry. “Don’t try
me too far, Hench. You know quite well what I mean. A word from me to
the police and you will be arrested straight away for the murder of
your uncle.”

“Oh, indeed. You seem to be very certain of my guilt.”

“Whether I am certain or not doesn’t matter,” retorted the other. “I
hold you in the hollow of my hand.”

“Explain how you do that.”

“Oh, very well,” said Spruce, sitting down again. “If you will have
chapter and verse I am willing to oblige you, although I think you are
wasting my time.”

The Nut drew a long breath and then proceeded to inform his host of
his discoveries. These had to do with the insertion of the
advertisement, with the visit of Hench on the fatal night to Cookley,
and with the inheritance which the untoward death of Madoc Evans had
brought the young man. “So you see,” concluded the Nut, “that I have
only to go to the police with this tale to ensure your arrest.”

“I quite admit that, Spruce. In fact, I admit the truth of all your
story. I should like to know how you found out all about the business.
You could scarcely go to Madame Alpenny and force it out of her
without some previous knowledge.”

“Well, it was my clever brain that gave me the tip,” said Spruce
coolly. “That conversation in which the word ‘Rhaiadr’ was used gave
me the idea that the old woman knew something about you. I watched her
and followed her when she went away. She came down here and saw Evans
at the Grange. I waited until she got home later, and then told her
that I had followed her. She was so alarmed lest you should know of
the visit–as your doing so would have upset the apple-cart–that she
told me about the advertisement. When it appeared I saw it and made
sure that you would obey it. I followed you to that hotel near the
British Museum, but you left there and I lost sight of you. Therefore
I lay low until I got evidence of your visit to Cookley on the night
of the first of July. I saw all about the murder in the newspapers and
believed that you were guilty. But I was not sure until I went to-day
to the Bull Inn and questioned that girl about the supposed tramp.
From what she said, vague as her description was, I knew that you were
the tramp in question, so came on here to let you know. I believe that
you asked the way to the Gipsy Stile and went straight there to murder
your uncle.”

“Oh!” said Owain, unmoved. “Am I the sort of person to murder an old

“I don’t say that you killed him in cold blood,” replied Spruce
hastily. “You doubtless had a quarrel and stabbed him before you knew
what you were about.”

“One moment, Spruce. I am not in the habit of carrying about
carving-knives to kill people. And I had no reason to kill my uncle,
as at the time I did not know that he was any relation.”

“Oh, he told you that at the time you met him.”

“I never met him. I found him dead.” Spruce started up in a fury and
snatched at his hat. “What’s the use of your dodging in this way. I
say that you murdered him, and if you don’t promise to pay me two
thousand a year and secure the same to me by deed, I shall go to the
police and procure your arrest. You know I can do it.”

“You can. I fully admit that just now you are top-dog,” said Hench in
quite a bland way. “And you are willing to condone my felony for the

“Yes! You can kill the whole population of Cookley for all I care.”

“Oh, I quite understand that. Well, to-night I shall say nothing. You
must give me one week to consider matters.”

“I don’t mind,”–Spruce made for the door with a shrug,–“but don’t
you try and bolt or I shall put the police on to you.”

“Naturally! You have made everything perfectly clear to me.

Spruce walked into the passage and opened the outside door.
“Remember,” he said.

“Good-night,” repeated Hench, and shut the door in the face of the

Contrary to his expectations, Owain passed a very good night. By this
time he was so accustomed to trouble that it did not seem sensible to
worry over anything until he could meet the same fairly and squarely.
Dangerous as Madame Alpenny and Spruce were, he had no reason to fear
them for a week, since they gave him that period in which to assent to
their terms. The woman wished him to marry her daughter; the man
desired to obtain an income of two thousand a year, secured by deed;
and if he satisfied both, they would hold their peace and trouble him
no longer. But Hench by no means intended to purchase immunity at this
price, as to do so would imply that he was guilty. As he was perfectly
innocent such a course was not to be thought of, and it was necessary
to think of some other means of settling the difficulty. And since
Owain could not decide his course of action on the spur of the moment,
he put the matter out of his head for the time being and retired to
bed immediately. After a good night’s rest, he rose greatly refreshed,
and sent Giles to bring Vane to breakfast.

Guessing from the unexpectedness of the invitation that something was
in the wind, Vane speedily arrived, and was waiting in the little
parlour when his friend made his appearance. Hench refused to give any
information until the meal was ended, saying that to mix up business
with pleasure was to spoil both, so the barrister had to possess his
soul in patience until they were enjoying their morning smoke. Then,
as Hench still held his peace, Vane asked him a down-right question
with considerable impatience.

“Why did you ask me to come to breakfast, Owain?”

“To talk over a further complication of this trouble.”

“The murder of your uncle?”

“Yes! When I came here last night, Spruce was waiting for me.”

“Spruce!” echoed the other curiously. “That crawling little cheat. How
did he find you out, Owain?”

“Madame Alpenny told him where I was, and Bottles told her, and Peter
told his brother. That is how the screed runs.”

“Why the deuce couldn’t Peter keep his knowledge of your whereabouts
to himself,” growled the barrister. “We don’t want Spruce here.”

“Oh, Peter didn’t think he was doing wrong in telling Bottles, as he
knew how his brother was devoted to me. It is Bottles I blame in
giving me away. I don’t think he is so devoted to me as I thought. And
I certainly don’t want Spruce here, especially as he has come to
blackmail me.”

“What’s that?” Vane sat up very straight.

“Listen!” and Hench related what had taken place in that very room on
the previous night, so that the barrister was soon placed in
possession of all facts connected with the accusation. Vane sat silent
when his friend ended, digesting the uncomfortable knowledge.

“Little beast!” he said at length. “I knew that he was after no good
in going to Bethnal Green.”

“Oh, that was mere chance, Jim. But his cleverness led him to suspect
what Madame Alpenny knew, and he watched her day and night until he
wormed her secret out of her. Well, you have heard; what is your

“I should give Spruce rope enough to hang himself,” said Vane quickly.

“In what way?”

“By promising him the money. If he accepts he will be condoning a
felony and in that way will get himself into trouble.”

“I will get into trouble also.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” said Vane, looking out of the window in a
musing manner. “Spruce says that you are guilty, to suit his own ends.
But I should not be surprised if he knew the name of the true

“Madame Alpenny?”

“I think so. No one but you and that woman knew of the appointment at
the Gipsy Stile. You are innocent, so she must be guilty. And we have
agreed that she had a strong motive to place you in possession of the
property straight away. Yes, I truly think that she struck the blow,
thus giving you the money at once and getting you under her thumb. She
killed two birds with one stone.”

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” said Owain dryly. “The appointment was
advertised in the newspaper shown to me by Madame Alpenny. Other
people may have gone there on the chance of getting something.”

“Other people had nothing to gain by keeping the appointment, Owain,
much less by murdering the old man. No. Some one who knew what his
death meant to you is the assassin, and Madame Alpenny alone possessed
that information.”

“True enough. Well, and what do you propose?”

“Send that man you sent to me for Spruce, and ask him to come here at

“For what purpose?”

“We can make a bargain with him. Instead of giving him the money to
hold his tongue, offer it to him on condition that he reveals the

“He won’t. He’s a born liar.”

“Oh yes, he will. The chance of getting two thousand a year will
unlock his tongue. He’d sell Madame Alpenny or a dozen like her to
line his own nest.”

“It’s not a bad idea,” said Owain, as he left the room to speak to
Giles. While he was absent Vane began to think of Peter, the page, who
was the brother of Simon, surnamed Bottles. It seemed to him that
these two boys knew of something in connection with the matter, as
they appeared to take a great interest in the doings of Hench. The
barrister resolved to speak to Owain on his return, and did so
immediately he came back with the information that Giles was now on
his way to the Bull Inn. “You say that Bottles was devoted to you,
Owain,” said Vane reflectively.

“I thought so, but since he has given me away to Madame Alpenny I have
my doubts of his honesty.”

“Hm! I don’t know. A hero-worshipper doesn’t throw off his allegiance
so lightly. Bottles promised to hold his tongue?”

“Yes! Really, though, Jim, there was nothing for him to tell.”

“Not when you left Bethnal Green, I admit. But there has been
something to tell since, and he has told it, to wit your whereabouts,
which you did not wish to be known to that old hag. Bottles must have
some reason for acting as he has done. If I were you I would go up to
town and see him.”

Hench nodded. “I intend to, and to see Madame Alpenny at the same
time. Our conversation ended rather abruptly in the churchyard, and I
want to make it quite clear to her that I suspect her of being the
guilty person.”

“Quite so. And if we succeed in frightening or bribing that little
animal Spruce, you will have more grounds to present to her as to the
truth of your accusation. We’re travelling along a dark path, Owain,
and the deuce knows what we will find at the end of it.”

“A gaol for Madame Alpenny and a church for me and Gwen to be married
in, Jim,” said Hench promptly. “But it is a dark path as you say, and
I have got on to it in the most unexpected manner. I wish I had called
to see you before coming down here on that night. Had you been with me
all this trouble would have been avoided.”

Vane quite agreed. “In dealing with people like Madame Alpenny and
Spruce it is always best to have a witness. That is why I think that
the wisdom of seeing Spruce in company is apparent. Hullo! here he is.
Doesn’t he look like Solomon in all his glory, the slimy little

It was indeed Spruce who had just clicked the gate and was sauntering
up the short garden path. As the day was very warm, he was
appropriately clothed in a suit of cream-coloured serge, with brown
shoes and a straw hat. His whole appearance was spic and span, and he
looked more like a cherub than ever with his pink and white face. No
one would have thought that this innocent blue-eyed youth was such a
despicable little scoundrel. His purple necktie, his purple scarf, his
purple socks, and the purple band round his hat, were all in keeping
with his quality of a Nut. He even wiped his heated face with a purple
bordered pocket-handkerchief, and when he came into the room the same
wafted a delicate perfume abroad which made Vane growl with disgust.

“What the dickens do you use scent for?” he asked irritably.

“Vane!” said the Nut, not very well pleased to come across one who
knew all about his card-table delinquencies. “You here?”

“A pleasant surprise, isn’t it, Spruce?” sneered the barrister, who
ardently desired to kick the creature into a dusty heap on the road.

“Oh, I don’t mind meeting old friends,” said Spruce, recovering his
impudence. “I’m not your friend, neither is Hench.”

“Well,”—Spruce shrugged his elegant shoulders, “let us say old

“You are a disgrace to Winchester!” raged Vane, scowling. “A cheat and
a sneak, a liar and a thief. That’s what you are.”

“Thanks. Any more names?”

“I may as well add blackmailer,” observed Hench coldly.

“In that case I can call you a murderer, which is a worse name!”
snarled the Nut, looking very ugly.

“I am not. You are lying as usual.”

“Don’t insult me too much, Hench. You seem to forget that I am

“So far you certainly are. Top-puppy, I should say. Sit down and let
us get to business.”

Spruce still stood by the door in what he considered was a haughty
attitude, and frowned impressively. “I don’t see what Vane has to do
with any business between you and myself,” he said sharply.

“Vane is my friend, and I have asked him here to deal with the matter
about which you spoke last night.”

“You seem ready to take the whole world into your confidence,” said
Spruce insolently, dusting a chair with his handkerchief before taking
a seat. “If you act in that way I can’t protect you.”

“Wait till you’re asked,” said Vane tartly. “Good Lord, the idea of
your protecting any one; unless,” he added significantly, “it is
Madame Alpenny.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked the Nut, visibly discomposed.

“Oh, I think you know quite well what I mean, Spruce. You accuse Hench
here of murdering his uncle?”

“Yes, I do. And I’ll tell the police as much if he doesn’t pay my
price. The police would give a good deal to find the tramp who asked
the way to the Gipsy Stile on the night of the first of July.”

“How can you prove that Hench is the tramp?”

“By his own admission.”

“And if he does not make that admission in open court?”

“Then I’ll leave it to the barmaid at the Bull Inn. She cannot
describe our friend’s appearance very well, as she is stupid and the
tap-room was badly lighted when she saw him. But she declares that she
would know his voice. Mr. Owain Hench would then have to prove what he
was doing on the night in question, and I don’t think that would be

“It certainly would not be easy,” said Hench coolly. “I have admitted
that you can make out a very good case for the prosecution. All the
same you are perfectly aware that I am innocent.”

“What makes you say that?” asked Spruce quickly and–as Vane
thought–in a somewhat anxious manner.

“Because I think you know who is the guilty person.”

“Do I? That remains to be seen.”

“Spruce,” said Vane in a menacing manner, “you are playing a very
dangerous game, and let alone the fact that you are trying to
blackmail Hench, you run the risk of condoning a felony.”

“Ah!” said the Nut quickly. “Then you suggest that our friend is

“Nothing of the sort. I suggest that you pretend to believe him guilty
to get this money. But you know perfectly well that he is not.”

“Do you mean to insinuate that I know who murdered the Squire?” asked
Spruce, with a fine show of indignation.

“Certainly I do,” retorted Vane smartly. “Don’t put on frills. In my
opinion Madame Alpenny, who knew all about the advertisement and the
property, is the guilty person. But, as she isn’t worth powder and
shot, you are trying to fasten the crime on to Hench’s shoulders.”

“And I can, Mr. James Vane, as you and he shall find.”

“Oh!” said Hench cynically. “And you really expect me to pay you two
thousand a year to refrain from doing so? I won’t.”

“You won’t?” Spruce was plainly taken aback.

“No. Rather than do so I shall go to the police and tell my story.
Better be in the hands of the authorities than in yours.”

“You won’t dare to do what you say.”

“Oh yes, I dare. My conscience is clear, so I am willing to stand the

Spruce was plainly embarrassed by this defiance and did not very well
know what to say or do. If Hench acted as he threatened to do, there
would be no money for the Nut, and perhaps an action against him as a
blackmailer. He was shrewd enough to see this, and therefore shuffled
his cards so that he might not drive his proposed victim to
extremities. “What do you wish me to do, then?” he asked sullenly.

Before Hench could reply Vane, who was looking out of the window,
turned round sharply. “There is Peter,” he said, glancing at his
friend. “What the deuce is he hanging round your cottage for?”

The answer came from an unexpected quarter. “Peter is waiting to see
me,” said Spruce with dignity. “He was at the Bull Inn when your
messenger came and I told him to wait until I returned. I expect he
has followed me here and expects me to come out soon.”

“What are you seeing Peter about?” questioned Hench sharply.

“That is my business,” snapped the Nut sulkily.

“Mine also. Peter is the brother of Bottles, who is employed by Mrs.
Tesk, and both the boys are meddling in matters which do not concern
them. What does it all mean?”

“You had better ask the boy in and question him,” sneered Spruce

“I shall do so after we have dispatched this affair,” said Hench
sharply. “You ask me what I wish you to do. I reply, clear my

“How can I do that?”

“In a way best known to yourself. But you are well aware that Madame
Alpenny is the guilty person.”

“I am not.”

“Don’t tell lies. It is better worth my while to pay you two thousand
a year to prove her guilty and me innocent, than for me to give the
income to you merely for the sake of your holding your tongue. That’s
a thing you never did and never will do.”

Spruce considered. “If I prove Madame Alpenny to be guilty,” he said,
with a greedy gleam in his eyes, “will you pay me the two thousand a

“I’ll think about it.”

“Then I do nothing. To be quite plain, I _can_ clear your character in
the way you say—-”

“Ah, I knew you were lying.”

“—-But I shan’t do so unless you agree, in the presence of Vane, to
give me my price.”

“It is too large a price,” grumbled the barrister. “GLarge or small, it
is what I want.”

“I’ll give you one thousand a year if you—-”

“Two thousand.”

Hench looked at Vane and Vane at Hench, as both were uncertain how to
act. A very difficult question had to be threshed out. Owain was
unwilling to pay blackmail, yet if he did not there was bound to be
trouble. If he did he was quite certain that Spruce could clear his
character. For an honourable man the position was very trying, but
there seemed to be only one way out of it.

“Very good,” said Hench with an effort. “You must have your price,
Shylock, as my life and liberty are more to me than money, and there
is no denying but what you have me in a cleft stick. I promise to give
you two thousand a year if you remove all danger from me of being

“I can do that.”

“Then you know who murdered my uncle?”

“I do. Madame Alpenny is guilty, as you thought. But I alone can prove
her guilt. I have your promise in Vane’s presence to give me the

“Yes,” said Hench with another effort, for he hated giving way thus
ignobly to this scoundrel. “You have my promise.”

“You hear, Vane? I shall call you as a witness in case of

“I hear,” said the barrister, smoking phlegmatically. “I am surety for
Hench’s good faith. You shall be paid, you rat. Now prove to us that
you can have the woman arrested.”

Spruce drew a long breath of relief, as things were now going exactly
as he wished. Like the traitor he was, he gaily went to work and sold
Madame Alpenny’s secret to gain the money. “She came down to see Evans
after she knew that Hench was his nephew.”

“I know that,” said Owain quickly. “Tell us something new.”

“All in good time,” said Spruce smoothly. “I made her confess how she
arranged with Evans about the advertisement and how to draw your
attention to it.”

“Why was the appointment made in Parley Wood instead of in the house?”
asked Vane, whom the problem had frequently perplexed.

“I can’t tell you. Madame Alpenny never explained that to me. All I
know is that she laid the trap for Hench to fall into, and he did.”

“Only to find that my uncle was dead.”

“Of course,” said Spruce, turning towards Hench with raised eyebrows;
“that was the trap. She intended to accuse you, and thus force you to
marry Zara so that she could handle the money.”

“That I also know, and she did accuse me. Well?”

“Well, she came down here by the same train as you did, and while you
were at the Bull Inn she went on to Parley Wood and murdered the

“How can you prove that?”

“Very easily.” Spruce rose from his chair, and going to the window
beckoned in the page. “Come here, I want you!” he cried.

Peter started and seemed very much inclined to run away. But after a
pause he braced up his courage and entered the house. Shortly he was
standing before the three men, twisting his cap and looking very
nervous. His likeness to his town brother was more apparent than ever,
and Hench winced to think how Bottles had betrayed him. He had always
believed that he could trust the boy to the uttermost.

“Peter,” said Spruce, sitting down again and enjoying his position of
dictator, “you must tell this gentleman what you told me.”

“If Simon wishes me to,” blurted out Peter.

“He does wish you. I brought you that letter from Simon telling you to
do whatever I asked you. Isn’t that so?”

“Yes, sir.” Peter flushed and quivered, and wriggled in a most uneasy
way. “Well, then, tell them what you told me about Madame Alpenny
coming to Cookley on the night when Squire Evans was murdered.”

“Simon sent me a telegram telling me to watch for her,” said Peter,
speaking to the three generally. “And as I knew how she was dressed I
easily did so, even though she wore a veil.”

“How did you know her dress?” asked Hench sharply.

“Well, sir, when Simon came down here for his holiday he told me as
he’d follered Madame Alpenny, who was up to some game. I met him then
at the station, when he told me, and he follered her to the Grange. I
follered him and hid in Parley Wood outside because Simon told me to.
He watched at the gate. She saw the Squire and then came out, and
after passing Simon she went into the wood follering the path to the
Gipsy Stile.”

“What did she go there for?” questioned Vane.

“To see the Squire.”

“But she had seen him in the house.”

“So she had, but he came to her at the Gipsy Stile afterwards. Both
Simon and I follered and hid to listen. The Squire said as he would
put in an advertisement asking ‘Rhaiadr’ to meet him at the Gipsy
Stile, and said as he brought her there to see the meeting-place. When
Madame Alpenny examined it and the Squire showed her how to get to it
from the church she went away, and the Squire he returned to his
house. Simon and me saw Madame Alpenny go to the station and catch the
train to town. That was all that happened at that time. So you see,
sir, how I knew how she was dressed.”

“I understand, though it is difficult to know why your brother
suspected her.”

“Oh, Simon is sharp, sir, and he saw she was up to some games. He’ll
tell you all about it.”

“I’ll see to that,” said Hench grimly. “I’ll have on more of this
underhanded work. Well, go on. What about the second occasion when you
saw her?”

“Simon sent me a telegram saying as she was coming by a perticler
train and to watch her at the station. I went there and saw her in the
same dress, so I knew her in spite of the veil. Simon was there too,
but he couldn’t wait to speak to me, but just follered her, waving me
back. I follered them as far as the church and waited there. Madame
Alpenny, with Simon after her, went into the wood, and after staying
there for a long time she came out and ran for the station.”

“Was Simon following her then?” asked Vane, alertly.

“No, sir. He was still hiding in the wood, I think. I hid in the
churchyard behind a tomb, and Madame she ran past me. I waited in the
churchyard for Simon, and later I saw you, sir.”

“Me!” said Hench, starting up. “Yes, sir. You went through the
churchyard and along the path. When you got into the wood Simon came
running out as white as death, and told me as Madame Alpenny had
murdered the Squire. He made me swear to hold my tongue, lest I and
him should get into trouble. Then he went off to catch the train to
London and I went home.”

“Why didn’t you tell the police all this?” asked Hench, frowning.

“Oh, I couldn’t, sir,” replied Peter in a most ingenuous way. “Simon
made me promise not to in case we’d both get into trouble. But as he
wrote saying I could tell Mr. Spruce I have done so, and as Mr. Spruce
says I can tell you I have—-”

“There! There!” Spruce waved the boy into silence. “That is enough.
You can go, and hold your tongue. Simon’s orders, remember. Well,”–he
turned to the two men,–“do you see how I can prove your innocence and
Madame Alpenny’s guilt?”

“Yes,” said Hench thoughtfully. “As Peter here saw me when I entered
the wood, and Simon told him that the Squire was already dead, I see
how my character can be cleared. Well, Spruce, I shall go to town and
see the woman and the boy. When I settle with them I shall see you
about your reward.”

“Don’t you try and sell me,” threatened Spruce, putting on his hat.
“If you do it will be the worse for you.”

“Pah! Get out, you little swine,” said Vane contemptuously, and the
Nut departed considerably pleased with himself in spite of the
scornful epithet.

Peter lingered behind. “See Simon, sir. He’ll explain,” he said in a

“Oh, I’ll see him. But he’s a little Judas,” said Hench angrily.

“No, sir. He ain’t a Judas,” said Peter, speaking grandiloquently.
“Simon’s as true to you as a needle is to the North Pole.” And then he
ran away hastily, evidently afraid of being questioned further. Hench
let him go.

On the day after the interview with Spruce it was necessary for Owain
to travel to London for the purpose of having an interview with Madame
Alpenny. Vane at first wished to go with him, but on second thoughts
decided that it would be best for him to remain in Cookley and keep a
close watch on the Nut. That traitor, having behaved treacherously,
was as pleased with himself as if he had acted in a most honourable
manner. He was now certain of an excellent income, and determined to
go abroad for a year or so to enjoy himself until such time as his
West End friends forgot his little mistake at cards. Meanwhile he
remained at the Bull Inn waiting for the arrest of the Hungarian lady,
when everything would be put ship-shape. Spruce was very pleased with
every one and everything since matters had turned out so well. That
they had turned out badly for Madame Alpenny did not worry him in the
least. He was much too busy building castles in the air to trouble
about her.

Owain had given Mrs. Perage and Gwen a full account of the discovery
of the old woman’s guilt. They were naturally shocked, but scarcely
surprised, as for a long time circumstances had tended to make them
think that Madame Alpenny had murdered the Squire. At the same time
Gwen pleaded with her lover to deal gently with the wretched creature
as she was Zara’s mother, and they both owed a great deal to Zara.
Hench admitted as much and promised to be as lenient as he could.
Nevertheless, he pointed out that to save himself he would have to
inform the police about the woman’s guilt. Unwilling as he was to act
so drastically, there was no other course to be taken. All the way to
London the young man argued out the matter in his own vexed mind, but
was unable to see how he could shield Madame Alpenny. It was a pity
that Zara, who was innocent, should suffer for the wickedness of her
mother. All the same, it was impossible to spare her the shock. Owain
hated the idea of saving himself at the expense of a woman, but in
strict justice to himself, and considering that his liberty and life
were at stake, he could not see what else he could do. When he was on
his way to Bethnal Green he fully made up his mind to act as justice

The Home of the Muses was much in the same state as Hench had left it,
although there were several new boarders. Mrs. Tesk received him
joyfully, and conducted him to her sanctum saying that she wished for
a private conversation with him. Madame Alpenny, it appeared, was in
the drawing-room along with Bracken and Zara.

“For a surprising thing has occurred,” said Mrs. Tesk, who looked more
like a retired school-mistress than ever. “They are now man and wife.”

“Oh!” Hench expected something of this sort, but was astonished to
learn that the young couple had got married so promptly. “Man and
wife, are they?”

“Yes! They have entered into the bonds of matrimony, and are now
breaking the news to Madame Alpenny.”

“She won’t be pleased,” observed Hench, with a shrug. “Oh, I am sure
she will be very annoyed indeed!” cried Mrs. Tesk, clasping her hands
with a look of distress. “She intended you to be her son-in-law. She
told me so several times.”

“Ah! There is such a thing as counting your chickens before they are
hatched, Mrs. Tesk,” was the young man’s dry reply.

“But you loved Mademoiselle Zara–or rather I should now say Mrs.

“I admired her,” corrected Owain. “I never loved her. She quite
understood my feeling. I wish her and Bracken all manner of luck.”

“So do I, Mr. Hench. After all, if two people are tenderly attached,
why should they not wed?”

“Why, indeed? When were they married?”

“Yesterday, at a Registrar’s office. I scarcely look upon such a civil
contract as a marriage myself, Mr. Hench, as such a ceremony should
surely be sanctified by the blessing of the Church. But married they
are according to the law of the land, and I expect they will leave me

“Why should they?”

“Because Madame Alpenny will never allow them to live under the same
roof as herself. She is a very determined woman, Mr. Hench. I shall be
sorry to lose the company of the bridal pair,” said poor Mrs. Tesk,
wiping away a tear, “as I highly approve of their young affection.
It’s so romantic. Ah!” she rose suddenly and opened the door. “They
have broken the news. Hark!”

Madame Alpenny certainly was not pleased. She stood at the head of the
stairs anathematizing the bridal pair as they descended arm in arm.
Zara was weeping and Bracken’s stolid face wore an angry expression.
Moved to the depths of her being, Mrs. Tesk was about to rush out and
console them when her skirts were plucked by Hench.

“Don’t say that I am here,” he whispered, and the landlady nodded
comprehendingly as she disappeared.

While Mrs. Tesk was accompanying Bracken and his wife to the door
Madame Alpenny still stood at the top of the stairs raging wildly. She
was fat and homely in her appearance, and still wore her eternal
orange-spotted dress, bead mantle and picture hat. But furious anger
made her look quite picturesque as she poured out a torrent of words,
shaking her fists and with flashing eyes. “Never come near me again,
you miserable girl!” she shouted after her daughter. “Ah, but what a
wicked child you are to throw yourself away on a fool. As to that man
Hench, who has bribed you into deceiving me, he shall suffer for his
evil doings. Take my curse with you, Zara, and may you—–” Sheer
wrath choked her further utterance, and perhaps the fact that the
happy pair had stepped out of the front door. Even Atê cannot waste
her fury on nothing, and Madame Alpenny looked very like Atê indeed.

Luckily the boarders were all away and the servants were downstairs,
so there were no spectators of the scene but Hench and Mrs. Tesk. The
landlady parted with Zara and Bracken quite tenderly, for their
romance appealed to her ever-young heart. While she was dismissing
them on the doorstep, with a blessing which she hoped would neutralize
the maternal curse, Hench ran up the stairs and into the drawing-room
as quickly as he could. Madame Alpenny had staggered into the same a
few moments earlier, and was sobbing violently on the sofa when Owain
entered and closed the door. At the sound of the closing she looked
up, and her face became purple with rage when she saw who had
disturbed her.

“You dare to come here, you–you–you?” she stormed, rising promptly
and shaking her fist. “You who have ruined my hopes for Zara.”

“As those hopes were connected with a possible marriage between myself
and your daughter,” said Owain suavely, “I told you long ago that they
could never be realized.”

“You told me. What do I care what you told me?” Madame Alpenny was in
such a rage that she could scarcely get the words out. “And you smile,
do you? Ah, yes, you can smile at my shame.”

“Don’t be a fool,” said Hench brusquely. “Your daughter has married an
honourable man, whom you ought to be proud of as your son-in-law.”

“But I wanted you,” sobbed Madame piteously, and suddenly passing from
anger to pleading sorrow.

“I know, and I pointed out to you that the thing was not possible.
Zara loves Bracken, and I have arranged for money to be given to them
so that they can make a fresh start in life.”

“Money; my money,” moaned the old woman. “Your money! What do you mean
by saying that?” Madame Alpenny dropped her handkerchief from her eyes
and stood up with as great a dignity as her stout ungainly figure
permitted. “Your money is mine, Monsieur. You owe it to me that you
inherited the money.”

“Indeed!” Hench trapped her at once. “So you admit your guilt.”

“My guilt?”

“Yes. It was you who murdered my uncle.”

“I?” Madame Alpenny stood stock still and stared hard. “It is a lie.”

“It is the truth. You learned from my father how matters stood twenty
years ago, and our conversation in this very room revived your memory
when I mentioned the place where my father had passed his youth. You
went down to see my Uncle Madoc and arranged with him that I should be
brought to meet him in Parley Wood by means of that advertisement
which you showed me. And—-”

Madame Alpenny interrupted his flow of words by waving her fat hand
for silence. “I admit all this, although I don’t know how you found it

“Never mind how I found it out. You are guilty.”

“What? You tell me a long story of what I have done and which I admit
to be true. But you have said nothing which can prove that I murdered
the man.”

“I was coming to that when you interrupted me,” said Hench calmly.
“You knew that I would go to the meeting, although I was then ignorant
of my relationship to Squire Evans. Therefore you travelled down to
Cookley on the first of July and—-”

“I never did; I never did,” interrupted Madame Alpenny violently, but
looking very anxious in spite of her denial.

“You did, and when you arrived at Cookley you went to the Gipsy Stile
before I did to stab my uncle.”

“Oh!” Madame Alpenny waved her arms grotesquely. “La! la! la! la! I
murdered him, did I? And why should I murder him?”

“So as to place me in possession of the money,” said Hench solemnly.
“So as to implicate me in the death, as you knew that I would arrive
to find the dead body of the man you had killed. In this way you hoped
to force me to marry your daughter and handle my fortune.”

Madame Alpenny sat down with a cool ironical air. “A very clever tale
indeed, Monsieur. And who can prove its truth?”

“Two people at least. You were followed when you first went to Cookley
to join my uncle in laying the trap by means of the advertisement; you
were followed on the occasion of your second visit, when you killed

“Who followed me? Who saw me?”

“Simon Jedd, who is a page here, and his brother Peter, who is in the
service of Mrs. Perage at Cookley.”

“And how much have you paid them to tell this lie?”

“I have paid them nothing. They are voluntary witnesses. Come, Madame,
it is useless for you to deny the truth.”

“But I do deny it, see you!” she cried excitedly. “I deny it wholly
and altogether. My first visit—ah, yes, I say that I did call on
your uncle, and he did tell me about the advertisement, but—-”

“Why did he put in that advertisement?” interrupted Owain sharply.

“He wished to see you before revealing himself as your uncle.”

“He could have appointed the meeting to take place in his house. Why
was it arranged to come off in Parley Wood?”

“There,” said Madame Alpenny with candour, “I cannot help you. But
that Monsieur Evans was strange–ah yes, he was dangerous. He told me
that he would meet you at the Gipsy Stile, and took me there to show
me the place. I went into the wood after I had left the big house.”

“I am aware of that,” said Hench, remembering what Peter had said. “Go

“You seem to know much,” she sneered.

“Enough to get you arrested and tried, condemned and hanged,” said
Hench in a significant tone. “Go on, I tell you.”

Madame Alpenny snarled, and her eyes glittered viciously. “Don’t try
to ride the tall horse over me, beast that you are. I am not afraid;
no, I am not at all afraid. I do not know why your uncle arranged the
meeting for the wood. All I had to do was to draw your attention to
the advertisement, which I did. He wrote it out and put it in the
journal. For all I know,” went on the woman, more or less to herself,
“this man wished to kill you, and chose a lonely place to do so.”

“Why should he wish to kill me?”

“Because he hated your father and he hated you, Monsieur. He did not
wish you to get the money. I did, because then you could marry Zara
and I would be rich for the rest of my life.”

“That means I would have been under your thumb.”

“Ah, but no. Why should you be under my thumb? It was gratitude I
looked for because I knew what would give you a large fortune. Your
uncle would have given you enough to live on–perhaps two thousand a

“Why so, when he hated me?”

“Because I would have persuaded him. I told him about my daughter and
how you loved her.”

“I did not,” said Hench quickly and with a frown. “You did; you did.
And Monsieur Evans, he said that if he found you a good young man and
better than your wicked father, whom your uncle hated, that he would
allow you a good income as his heir. For that reason did I agree to
him putting in the advertisement and bringing you to meet him in that
solitary spot. But it was in my mind to tell you all when I came

“Why didn’t you? It would have saved much trouble.”

“Because if I had not consented your uncle would never have
acknowledged you as his heir or allowed you anything. Then you could
not have married Zara and have given me money as I desired. Monsieur
Evans was a healthy man, and I saw he would live for many years.”

“Therefore to get the money into your clutches at once you killed

“I did not. Who dares to say that I did?”

“Simon Jedd will dare for one, when I examine him, and Mr. Spruce has
already accused you, for another.”

Madame Alpenny jumped up in a fury. “Mistare Spruce!” she shouted,
with a violent gesture. “That wicked beast! That evil one! He accuse

“Of murdering my uncle? Yes. It is due to his information that I am
here, as he can help me to prove your guilt.”

“My guilt!” Madame Alpenny snapped her fingers, with a crimson face.
“Oh, that for my guilt! I am innocent.”

“Naturally you say so. But can you prove your innocence?”

“I can.” She said this with so much assurance that Hench was
staggered, and began to wonder if he had made a mistake. “See you,
that Mistare Spruce make me confess to him and then betrays me to you.

“You should not have trusted him,” said Owain coldly. “Any one can see
that he is a bad lot. I wonder that a woman of your penetration,
Madame, behaved in so rash a manner.”

“Rash! Ah, but I did not behave rash. He forced me to speak. He knew
so much that I had to tell him all.”

“About the murder?”

“I am innocent of the murder,” cried the woman, throwing back her head
in a fierce way. “Hear what I speak, and then you shall see. Mistare
Spruce was in this room when I told how I met your father. Is it not

“Yes,” agreed Hench. “He heard the whole conversation.”

“I said,” went on Madame Alpenny, “that there was a mystery about
you, and now you know what the mystery was. Mistare Spruce, wanting
to make money out of you and thinking that I knew something–which I
did–watched me as a cat a mouse. I went to Cookley saying that I had
to go away to find an engagement for my daughter. Is it not so?” she
asked again.

“Yes. You were away for a few days and so was Spruce.”

“He followed me down to Cookley.”

“Are you sure?” asked Hench, wondering why the two sharp Jedd boys had
not also seen the Nut.

“He confessed to me. He saw me enter the Grange; he saw me come out
and go into the wood to meet Monsieur Evans at the Gipsy Stile. He
stole after me and listened. You understand? He listened and learned
about the property coming to you; about the advertisement; about my
desire that you should marry my daughter Zara.”

“Well?” asked Owain, when she stopped for want of breath.

“Well,”–she made a dramatic gesture,–“and what follows. He
said nothing, but he knew the paper in which the advertisement
appeared–Monsieur Evans mentioned it at the stile–and learned about
the meeting. He still said nothing, but after the tale of the murder
appears in the paper he comes to me.”

“Yes? To accuse you; to blackmail you?”

“Ah, but no. He said nothing of me being guilty. He declared that you
went down to Cookley to meet your uncle.”

“How did he know?”

“I cannot say. It was, perhaps, what you call a pot-shot. But he says
you are the guilty person and that he will denounce you unless I
confess all. I tell him all, as I did not wish you to be arrested, and
Mistare Spruce said that he would wait until you married Zara before
speaking. Then he expected me to get you to give him two thousand a
year for ever.”

Hench nodded. “Quite so. That is the price he asked for betraying you.
And why did he alter his arrangements?”

“He grew weary, and then that Bracken–the pig who stole my
daughter–told him that he loved Zara and would marry her, as she
loved him. And, mark you, Mistare Spruce still says nothing to me. Oh,
no. He goes down to you and declares that I am guilty, as only in that
way could he get the money. Do you think, Monsieur, that I am blind?
Ah, but no. I see it all. You wish your name to be cleared, and you
are helped by Mistare Spruce to accuse me. But it is a lie–a lie–a
lie!” She rose to stamp furiously. “I am as innocent as you are
guilty. You murdered Monsieur Evans to get the money.”

“Well,” said Hench, with a shrug, “it’s not much use my denying that I
did, as you can only save yourself by believing that I struck the
blow. You _had_ a strong case against me,” ended Hench, with emphasis.
“But now that Spruce has told his story, these Jedd boys who watched
you on the night of the murder can prove you to be the assassin.”

“Ah,” sneered Madame Alpenny contemptuously, “it is that silly,
insolent, ugly page who accuses me?”

“He has not done so yet, but he will when I see him, if what Spruce
says is true; and true, Madame, I believe it to be.”

“Pfui!” She snapped her fingers again. “I did not go to Cookley on
that night.”

“Can you prove that?”

Madame Alpenny looked somewhat disconcerted; then a thought seemed to
strike her and she burst into a violent rage. “Ah, but you dare to ask
me that when you arranged, to save yourself, that I should go to
Hampstead on the night.”

“Go to Hampstead? What are you talking about?”

“Your wickedness!” vociferated the woman, beside herself with fury. “I
received a letter on the morning of the first of July, asking me to
meet the writer at the Ponds in Hampstead, as I would then be told how
to get the money of your uncle at once. It was six o’clock I was to
meet this person, and—-”

“Who was the person?”

“There was no name signed to the letter, as you well know who wrote
it,” cried Madame Alpenny indignantly. “And it said also that if the
person who wrote was not there I was to wait if it was two or three
hours. I go”–she spoke dramatically, in the present tense–“I find no
one. I wait and wait and wait; hour and hour and hour I wait. After
ten o’clock–yes, and nearer eleven, if I remember–I come back
disappointed to this place. I hear no more of the letter or of the
person. But you see that I am innocent. Could I be in two places at
once, I ask you, Monsieur?”

“No. But have you any witness to prove that you were at Hampstead?”

“No,” said Madame Alpenny, in her turn, and disconcerted again as she
was quite sharp enough to see the flaw in her story. “I cannot bring
any one to prove I was at Hampstead. But I was—-I was—-I was.”

“Show me the letter.”

“I have not got it. I tore it up and so made a mistake.”

“You did,” said Hench coolly, and not believing a word of her tale.
“All the worse for you, Madame. Well”–he rose and took up his
hat–“it only remains for me to go to the police and tell them

If Hench thought that this statement would frighten the woman, he was
never more mistaken in his life. She snapped her fingers right under
his nose. “Go! Go! Go!” she cried. “You have robbed me of my daughter
by giving money to that fool to marry her; now you would rob me of my
liberty. I defy you. I care not for the police, nor for you, nor for

“Very good.” Hench walked towards the door. “If you had behaved in a
different spirit I would have tried to arrange matters differently for
your daughter’s sake. As it is you must take the consequence. To clear
my own character, you can understand—-”

“Oh, yes, I well understand, Monsieur. You murdered your uncle; you
wrote that letter asking me to leave this house, so that I could be
unable to explain where I was, and now you accuse me at the bidding of
Mistare Spruce. I see it all, and I defy you; I spit upon you; I—-”
Here Hench, unable to stand any more of her savage anger, left the
room, while she still raged.

The young man descended the stairs with the determination to go as
soon as possible to the police-office and tell his tale. If he did
not, the chances were that Madame Alpenny would run away, although he
admitted to himself that her speech was not that of a frightened
person. But when he reached the bottom of the stairs and saw Mrs. Tesk
at the door of her sanctum, he remembered that Simon Jedd had still to
be examined, and walked up to the landlady.

“Where is Bottles?” he asked abruptly.

“Dismissed from my employment!” was the unexpected reply.

“Dismissed! His brother, who is a page at Mrs. Perage’s, did not tell
me so.”

“Simon did not wish his brother to know,” said Mrs. Tesk quietly, “as
he was ashamed, very naturally.”

“Ashamed of what?”

“Of being dismissed for theft.”

“Come, come, Mrs. Tesk, I can’t believe that Bottles is a thief.”

“He is!” insisted the ex-school-mistress, colouring. “Sorry as I am to
say so, Mr. Hench. Several small articles have been missing lately,
and amongst them a valuable carving-knife with a horn handle, which I
inherited from my grandmother. So you see—-”

“A horn-handled carving-knife!” echoed Hench with a start, and
remembered clearly that such a weapon had been used to stab Madoc
Evans. “Can you swear that the boy took it?”

“I accused him of stealing the knife and several other small articles.
He turned red, but he did not deny his guilt. Out of consideration for
his hard-working mother, I did not prosecute him, but sent him away,
lest he should contaminate Amelia and the other servants.”

“Where is he now?”

“Staying with Mrs. Jedd, his mother. As you know, she is the wardrobe
mistress at the Bijou Music-hall.”

“Thank you. I’ll go and see Bottles. I can’t believe that such an
honest lad is guilty.” And Hench turned on his heel.

“Wait, sir. You do not blame me?”

“Oh, no. If he did not deny your accusation, you acted rightly. But
there must be some explanation of this. What it is I go to find out.”

Mrs. Tesk would have detained him to ask questions concerning Madame
Alpenny’s frame of mind, but Hench refused to stay. He was now
beginning to wonder if the Hungarian lady really was guilty. It seemed
as if Bottles was the culprit, that is if he had really stolen the
carving-knife. With such a weapon the crime had certainly been

The weather was uncommonly hot. For weeks the sun had been blazing in
a cloudless sky, as it did in the tropics, and the earth was parched
for want of rain. Everywhere it was seamed and cracked; everywhere
the grass was brown and the trees were wilted, while the air was like
the thrice-heated breath of a furnace. Animals and human beings went
languidly about their business and longed all day for the cool night
hours. Not that it was particularly cool even when the twilight came,
but it was something to escape the pitiless blue sky and the burning
sun. And on this particular evening a hot wind rose with unexpected
suddenness to make matters worse. It raised clouds of dust, it rattled
the dry foliage in Parley Wood, and brought no sense of relief to the
worn and weary. As people are never really prepared for an unusually
hot season in England, the Cookley villagers found this equatorial
summer excessively trying and disagreeable.

Spruce enjoyed the sultry weather personally, as he loved warmth with
all the affection of a cat, and the worst heat never caused him any
discomfort. After dining excellently at seven o’clock, he now sat by
the open window of his sitting-room at the Bull Inn, enjoying a cup of
fragrant coffee and as many cigarettes as he could get through. Of
course, he was in accurate evening dress, as he always loved to be
clothed appropriately according to the hour of the day. No one was
more of a slave to social observances than the Nut, for he had the
petty soul of a Beau Brummel. A small table stood before him, and he
passed the time in trying new card-tricks, which might be useful some
day, should he again become hard up. Not that Spruce always played
false to make money, since he was a cheat by instinct. To get the
better of any one by trickery was pleasant, as it involved danger,
which was exciting, and gave him an agreeable feeling of superiority
because of his wonderful dexterity. So he shuffled and cut and dealt;
slipped cards up his sleeve and out again; diddled an imaginary
opponent by sleight of hand, and in every way trained himself to
cheating as though it were a fine art. Most card-lovers when alone
play Patience. Spruce preferred to prepare himself for future

Every now and then he cast a disdainful look round the shabby old
room, which was by no means to his taste. Undoubtedly the apartment
was ancient and time-worn, containing too much furniture, and giving
little gratification to the eye. But Time had mellowed the whole into
pleasing, sober colours, and less fastidious people would have been
delighted with the reposeful look of things. The atmosphere was quite
monastic. But Spruce admired spacious chambers filled with gilded
furniture and blazing with lights. He had the tastes of Louis XIV.,
and Versailles was his idea of a dwelling house. When he was in
possession of the two thousand a year, he intended to live in great
luxury, but meanwhile contented himself with this dingy habitation.
The window at which he was seated looked out on to a small garden
surrounded by a low wall beyond which stretched fields right up to the
grey churchyard. The sill of the window was so low that the Nut could
easily have vaulted over it into the pleasant garden. But not having
any love for Nature, he preferred to stay where he was playing cards,
and dreaming of luxurious years, which were as he thought–truly
coming to him.

While Spruce was thus occupied, the landlady of the inn knocked at the
door to announce that Mr. Hench and Mr. Vane wished to see him. The
Nut at once ordered them to be admitted, never doubting but what they
were coming to conclude the matter of his blackmail. He rose to greet
them pleasantly, as if he was the most honest person in the world, and
when the door was closed signed that they should be seated. He resumed
his post near the window, and in that way obtained a good view of
their faces, while his own was in the shadow. As it was only half-past
eight o’clock, the twilight was yet luminous enough to see very
plainly, and although Spruce offered to ring for lights, Hench
signified that it was not necessary. Then the host offered cigarettes
and drinks, both of which were curtly refused.

“You are uncommonly rude,” said the Nut, much nettled. “When you look
up a man you might be civil.”

“That depends very much on the man,” said Vane coolly. “Neither Hench
nor myself were ever friends of yours, Spruce.”

“Oh, I don’t want your friendship. After all, you are a dull couple.”

“But honest,” said Hench with emphasis.

“Honesty implies dullness. It takes a clever man to sin.”

“What a brilliant person you must be, then.”

“That’s sarcastic, I suppose.” Spruce was not at all offended, but
accepted the observation as a tribute to his powers. “But I don’t
mind. On the whole, I am clever enough to get two thousand a year.”

“You haven’t earned it yet,” snapped Vane with a look of dislike.

Spruce started. “Ah, play fair, whatever you do,” he protested. “Hench
promised me two thousand a year if I told him about that old woman.
You heard him, Vane.”

“I heard Hench promise to give you that income if the crime was
brought home to Madame Alpenny, and his character cleared,” said Vane
dryly. “There is a difference between telling a thing and proving a

“I suppose that means Madame Alpenny denies her guilt?” said the Nut,
turning to the other man. “It is useless for her to do so, as Simon
can prove it.”

“Oh, I have seen Simon and have brought him down with me,” said Hench
quietly. “In fact, he is waiting outside to come in when called.”

“Then call him at once,” said Spruce briskly. “I want to get this
business completed and see the last of you. I hate bores.”

“Oh, you’ll see the last of us sooner than you expect,” said Vane

“Good! You will confer a favour on me when you do cut.” Spruce looked
round again at Owain. “So you saw Madame Alpenny?”

“Yesterday, at The Home of the Muses. I went up to town especially to
see her, as you know.”

“And she—-”

“She denies that she was in Cookley on the night when my uncle was
killed. I was given to understand by her that an anonymous letter
summoned her to the Hampstead Ponds to meet some one.”

“For what purpose?”

“The letter said that the person who wrote it–there was no name,
remember–declared that information would be given to enable her to
get the money at once from my uncle.”

“What money?”

“My property, I presume, for which she was scheming.”

“Well, and did Madame Alpenny see this person?”

“No. She went to Hampstead about six and returned home after ten.”

“Quite time enough for her to travel to Cookley and back in order to
commit the murder,” said Spruce coolly. “Did you see the letter?”

“No. She had torn it up.”

“Fudge!” cried the Nut inelegantly. “There never was such a letter.
She invented that yarn so as to account for her presence elsewhere on
the night of the crime. She did murder Squire Evans. You heard what
Peter said?”

“Oh, yes. And I have heard what Simon said. I am bound to say,” said
Hench with emphasis, “that his story is much the same.”

“Well then, with two witnesses, what more proof do you want of the
woman’s guilt?” demanded Spruce indignantly. “I fancy I have earned my
money. What do you say, Vane?”

“I say we had better have Simon in and hear his story,” retorted the
barrister dryly. “It is just as well to get everything made quite

“So I think,” declared the Nut briskly. “Call him in, Hench.”

With great calmness the young man did so, not at all disturbed by the
imperious tone in which the order was given. This was Spruce’s little
hour of triumph, so both the visitors allowed him to control the
situation while he was able. Bottles made his appearance quickly, and
cap in hand stood before the closed door, waiting to be interrogated.
With his freckled face and red hair he looked anything but
prepossessing. At least he did not in the Nut’s eyes, who failed to
observe the good-humoured expression and intelligent gaze of the lad,
which were worth much more than mere animal comeliness.

Spruce, in the attitude of an examining judge, surveyed the boy
superciliously and immediately began to question him. “You are to tell
these gentlemen what you told me,” he commanded. “Now, on the first of
July you followed Madame Alpenny to the Liverpool Street Station?”

“Yes, sir. She caught the five o’clock train to this place.”

“And you followed?”

“I did, sir. I wished to see what her game was.”

“One moment,” interpolated Hench at this remark. “I may mention that I
also came to Cookley on that night by that train. I had an idea that
Madame Alpenny was at my elbow. In fact, I fancied that I caught a
glimpse of her in the crowd at Liverpool Street Station. But I thought
that I was mistaken.”

“You wasn’t mistaken, sir,” said Bottles calmly.

“She was in the crowd, sure enough, and went down by that train. So
did you, sir, for I saw you, and dodged.”

“Good!” said Spruce, rubbing his hands. “This unsolicited testimony of
yours, Hench, emphasizes the fact of the woman’s guilt. Go on, Simon.”

“The train got here at half-past six. I had already sent a telegram to
my brother saying that Madame was coming, and telling him to meet the
train and watch. He was on the Cookley platform, sure enough, but I
hadn’t any time to speak to him, having to keep my eye on Madame
Alpenny. She didn’t go through the village street, but across the
fields to the churchyard and then by the path to Parley Wood. I
followed, hiding as often as I could.”

“She didn’t see you, then?” inquired Vane idly.

“No, sir. I was much too fly. Peter, he came also at a distance, and
hid in the churchyard, while I follered Madame Alpenny into the wood.
She made for the Gipsy Stile.”

“How did you know where that was?” inquired Hench.

“Why, sir,” said the boy, greatly surprised, “of course I was there
before when she and the old cove talked together about the

“Yes! Yes! I understand.”

“And, of course,” said Spruce smoothly, “he was following Madame, who
also knew the appointed meeting place. Well, Simon?”

“She didn’t stay at the stile, but hid in the wood. I hid near her and
kept my eyes on her, as there was plenty of light.”

“Of course. It was not late and the Gipsy Stile is in a clearing,”
explained the Nut, waving his hand. “Go on, boy.”

“After a long time–I couldn’t say how long, as I hadn’t a watch–the
old cove came to the stile. Madame Alpenny came to meet him and talked
to him for a time, and—-”

“Did she raise her veil?” asked Hench quickly.

“No, sir. She spoke for a few minutes, and I could see as she’d
something in her right hand. What it was I don’t know. Then she
suddenly lifted her arm and stabbed the old gentleman, who fell
without a cry. As soon as she made sure he was dead, she cut. My
brother saw her go through the churchyard.”

Vane nodded. “On her way to the station. I remember. Then you came out
of the wood, to meet your brother near the church, and made him swear
not to say a single word.”

“What else could I do, sir?” protested Bottles, distressed. “I might
have got into a row with the police. That is why I said nothing.”

“Very wise of you,” said Spruce approvingly, then turned to the
others. “Well, gentlemen, I think the case is clear. Madame Alpenny
murdered Squire Evans, and her guilt is proved by Simon here, who saw
the crime committed, and by Peter, who saw her in the vicinity, even
though she swears that she was at Hampstead. What more proof do you

“None,” said Hench calmly. “Undoubtedly my uncle was murdered by–some
one dressed as Madame Alpenny!”

Spruce gave a gasp and rose as if moved by springs.

“What do you mean by saying that, may I ask?” he demanded in a choked

“I mean that you murdered Madoc Evans and that Bottles here can prove

“A lie! A wicked, false lie!” gasped the Nut, who became deadly pale.

Vane chuckled; tense as the situation was, he chuckled. “You have been
weaving a rope for your own neck all this time, Spruce,” he remarked

“Such an accusation is ridiculous!” said the other, with an attempt at
dignity. “Is it likely that I would dress up as a woman to—-”

“You were always good in amateur theatricals,” said Vane
remorselessly. “And you would do anything to get the two thousand a
year, which, by the way, you are not likely to enjoy.”

“My enemy speaks,” said Spruce dramatically. “It’s one thing to say a
thing and another thing to prove a thing.”

“You are quite epigrammatic!” sneered the barrister.

“Hush, Jim, and let the boy speak. He can prove that Spruce is

“I just can,” said Bottles promptly, and greatly enjoying his _rôle_ of
detective. “For I’ve watched you, Mr. Spruce, for ever so long. I
watched Madame Alpenny first, thinking she meant harm to Mr. Hench.”

“Why should she have meant harm?” asked Vane quickly, for he was not
so well acquainted with the story as his friend.

“Oh, she knew something about him, and said that he was a mystery. I
heard her talking to Miss Zara, and then I heard something of the talk
in the droringroom, when she said as she knowed Mr. Hench’s father.
She asked me for an A.B.C., too, she did, and left it open on the
table. I looked and saw on the page the timetable for Cookley. I
didn’t know she was going there, as other time-tables were on the
page, but I thought it was queer seeing Cookley, considering that my
brother was down here with Mrs. Perage.”

“It’s all rubbish, of course,” said Spruce, with a kind of hysterical
cackle. “But what did you do then?”

“I watched. When she went away I got my holiday and follered. She did
go to Cookley, and so did you, Mr. Spruce.”

“It’s a lie, you imp. I didn’t!”

“You did!” insisted the lad. “And it was your follering Madame Alpenny
as made me watch you. I knowed as you wasn’t up to any good. Me and
Simon follered you both, and when Madame Alpenny went into the Grange
you hung about in the midst of the trees waiting for her. Then you
follered her when she went into the wood to see the old cove at that
stile, and heard everything.”

“Admitting all this,” said Spruce, appealing to the two men, “how does
it connect me with the murder and this masquerade, which is so

“Oh, I’ll connect you, right enough,” said Bottles tartly. “Don’t you
make any mistake, sir. I ain’t read detective stories for nothing.
When you came back I watched you and I watched Madame. Then you made
friends with the manager of the Bijou Music-hall,”

“I was friends with him long before!” declared Spruce angrily, and
hoping against hope that the boy would fail to substantiate his
accusation. “Ah, but you became better friends,” said Bottles
persistently, “and got behind the scenes. Then you were agreeable to
mother and asked to look over the theatrical properties. I didn’t know
what you was after until mother said as you’d asked her for a red wig
to play in some theatricals. Then I guessed as you wanted to imitate
Madame, who has hair as red as mine. I was sure when you brought
mother some orange-spotted black cloth to make a dress and borrowed a
bead mantle and a flopping hat off her.”

“I did not. You are a brazen liar!”

“Liar yourself, sir! Mother can prove the truth of everything I say.
You paid her well for the things, I don’t deny. But mother wouldn’t
have taken a penny if she knowed what you was after. She never did
know, as there was no mention of Madame Alpenny’s dress, or of Madame,
in the papers reporting the murder. Only when Mr. Hench come yesterday
did I take him to mother and tell her all. She was horrified, for
mother is a good sort, and told him what I am telling you. I knowed it
all before.”

“The woman is a liar, as the boy is,” said Spruce, licking his lips,
which were very white and dry.

“Shut up, Bottles!” said Hench, as the boy was about to make an angry
response. “Let me say the rest. Bottles watched you leave the house
dressed as Madame Alpenny, Spruce—-”

“It was Madame Alpenny!” insisted the Nut, fighting desperately.

“It wasn’t!” cried Simon, who could not be suppressed. “She’d gone to
Hampstead later, after you went, and I let her out. No, I’m talking
wrong. I saw her leave the house after four, and she said as she’d an
appointment at Hampstead, and wouldn’t be back till late. She come
back very late, and so did I, because I was follering you.”

“The boy equivocates, you see,” mumbled Spruce.

“First one thing, then another.”

“I think his evidence is very clear, on the whole,” declared Vane

“So do I,” said Hench. “And after Madame Alpenny went, you came out,
Spruce, dressed in the same way. Bottles, knowing how you got the
clothes from his mother, the wardrobe mistress at the Bijou, and
knowing that Madame Alpenny had already left the house, guessed it was
you in disguise. He snatched up his cap and followed, catching the
five o’clock train, as you did. The rest you know. You are the guilty

“He is!” said Bottles with relish. “And he gave back the things to
mother saying as the amateur theatricals had been quite a success.”

“As he hoped to make two thousand a year, I presume they were!” said
Vane in a cruel voice. “Well, Spruce, what have you to say before
being arrested?”

“Arrested!” Spruce gave a scream like a woman, and he dropped limply
into his chair, white-faced and aghast. “What for?”

“For the murder of Squire Evans.”

“No! No!” He thrust out his hands as if warding off a blow. “I did not
kill him. You cannot bring the crime home to me.”

“The evidence you have heard brings the crime home to you only too
positively,” said Hench, with a certain pity in his voice, for the
sudden collapse of the man was dreadful. “Peter can prove that you
were mixed up in the matter, and Mrs. Jedd can prove that you borrowed
the clothes, having the orange-spotted dress made after the style of
that worn by Madame Alpenny. And Simon can prove the murder. He saw
you kill the man.”

“No! No! No!”

“May I die if I didn’t!” swore Bottles, who was looking nervous, for
the scene shook him considerably, since he was only a boy.

“It was a mean, sordid murder, committed for the sake of gain,” said

“Don’t kick the man when he is down, Jim,” said Hench, pityingly.

“Why not? He was insolent enough while he was up. And to kill an old
man of whom he knew nothing! Owain, it was beastly. I hope I’m as
decent a chap as any, but my gorge rises at the sight of this

What little pride remained in Spruce rose at these words. He sprang to
his feet and shook his fist wildly in the air. “I shall get off!” he
screamed. “I can prove my innocence!”

“Do so to the detective,” said Hench, wishing to end the scene.

“A detective! a detective!” Spruce clutched his throat as if to tear
away the rope he was doomed to. “You won’t–you won’t—-” His voice

“I saw the authorities and procured a warrant before leaving London.
Every moment I expect the detective in to execute it.”

“No! No! No!” Spruce flung himself on his knees. “Dear Hench, good
Hench, you won’t allow me to be hanged? I don’t want the money; I’ll
give it up. Let me get away; let me hide.”

“Did you murder my uncle?”

“Yes! Yes!” Spruce’s cheeks were streaming with tears and his teeth
were chattering. “It’s all true. I acknowledge that I killed him to
get the money. But I am sorry–really and truly I am sorry. Don’t give
me up–don’t—-”

“Get up,” cried Vane in disgust, “and take your gruel like a man.”

“Bottles, see if the policeman is there,” ordered Hench, and Bottles,
glad to escape from the scene, fled willingly.

“No!” Spruce rose from grovelling on the ground, and from a tearful
martyr was suddenly changed into a wild beast. His lips curled,
showing his teeth. He drew back towards the window, and his eyes
flashed fire. If he had had a weapon in his hand there is no doubt he
would have killed both the men. “You shan’t catch me, hounds that you
are. I shall escape; I shall—-”

“Look out, Owain, he’s trying for the window!”

But Vane’s warning came too late. With a surprising spring, the
miserable little creature flung himself through the window into the
garden. Before the two men could recover from their surprise he was
over the low garden wall and racing for the churchyard. Terror winged
his feet, and he flew onward like an arrow from the bow. Hench leaped
after him immediately, and followed close behind him, while Vane
rushed out to see if the police had arrived with the warrant. Two men
were there in plain clothes, with a village constable, and in a few
hurried words the barrister related how the man wanted had escaped.
With the rapidity of lightning the news spread, and in a wonderfully
short space of time half the village, headed by the police, Vane and
Bottles, were making for the churchyard. Far ahead they could see
Hench running swiftly through the twilight, but of the fugitive they
could see no trace.

It was no wonder that the pursuers could not gain a glimpse of their
wretched quarry, for Spruce flew on with amazing speed. Behind him
were the dogs of justice, and he knew that once they pulled him down
all that remained for him to do was to face the death he had earned by
his cowardly crime. But he was not a man, only a creeping crawling
thing saturated with evil, a bird of prey, a snarling tiger–and he
did not wish to receive the reward of his wickedness. Instinctively he
made for the wood wherein his crime had been committed. Once in its
dark recesses he hoped to remain hidden until he could escape over
seas. Behind him he caught sight of Hench, and longed to have a knife
or revolver to shoot or stab the man he hated. Gasping, and streaming
with perspiration, he plunged into the wood, broke from the path which
led to the Gipsy Stile, and struggled through the dry, rustling
undergrowth. They would never catch him, he swore, and even as he did
the miserable creature heard the beat of Owain’s feet in pursuit.

A thought struck him. The wood was dry, and would burn like tinder.
Hench, being in the wood and unprepared, would be probably burnt to
death. Without thinking of the danger to himself in his mad fury–only
resolved to make an end to Owain and to place a blazing screen between
himself and his pursuers—Spruce took out a silver box and struck a
match. Then another, and another, until all round him, in the grass
and the moss and the undergrowth, were stars of fire. The stars grew
into blazing suns, as the flames caught the tall, dry trees and roared
upward. With inconceivable rapidity the fire spread, and now it was
time for Spruce to fly from the death he had created. As he plunged
onward he came suddenly into the open, and fell, catching his foot in
a fallen tree-trunk. He tried to rise and could not, as his ankle was
twisted. So he lay shrieking on the verge of a fiery furnace, unable
to move, and condemned by his own evil act to a far more terrible
death than that which he would have suffered at the hands of the law.
Shouting for help, and only anxious now to escape the immediate doom,
Spruce heard the cries of the villagers, when they saw the tall
columns of flame rising from the wood. Hench was lunging here and
there amidst the undergrowth seeking for Spruce, and continued to do
so until a barrier of flame cut him off from further search. Before
that terrible heat he was forced to retreat, and made for the pathway
so as to get back into the open. Vane’s voice, high, clamorous and
clear, could be heard shouting for him, and in the roar of the flames
Hench heard the shrieking of the wretched creature who had lighted the
funeral pyre of himself. He made for the direction whence the cries
came, as they appeared to be near at hand. Fighting the flames, he
stumbled into the open space round the Gipsy Stile and saw Spruce
writhing on the edge of the clearing under a canopy of fire. It blazed
overhead; it ran along the moss and grass, licking up everything with
greedy avidity; and all round the wood was like a seven-times heated

“Save me; save me!” yelled Spruce, seeing his enemy.

Wicked as the creature was, Owain did his best. He ran towards the
spot where Spruce lay in agony, and tried to reach him. But the flames
came out with a gust of the hot dry wind, which now was blowing
furiously, and the young man fell back, shielding his face with his
arms. When he removed them he heard a wild cry of agony, and saw a
tall bulky tree falling slowly down. Spruce was beneath it, and saw
its gradual descent. He cried to Hench for help; he cried to God for
pardon; but the tree dropped inch by inch in the midst of that hell
until it suddenly crashed down on the doomed man. Then there was
silence, save for the roar of the flames rejoicing over their prey.

Hench turned and fled, skirting the flaming trees and getting round to
where the police and villagers were by slipping along the park wall.
Blackened and burnt, dizzy and faint, he staggered into the open
space, where all watched the great bonfire. Vane rushed forward and
caught him in his arms.

“Are you hurt–are you hurt?”

“No. I’m all right. But Spruce—-!” He gasped at the memory of the

“My man,” said the police officer. “What of him?”

“Dead!” breathed Hench faintly, and then fell unconscious to the
ground, while Parley Wood, with a noise like the roaring of many
waters, vanished for ever in flames and smoke.

The discovery that Spruce was the murderer of Squire Evans, the
burning of Parley Wood, and the consequent death of the criminal, were
wholly unexpected events. They descended on the Cookley villagers like
so many bolts from the blue, and naturally caused a very great
commotion. So far as the woodland was concerned, nothing remained but
a vast area of grey ashes, wherein multitudinous smouldering stumps
pricked up here and there. Luckily the trees of the Grange park were
untouched, as the fire had not reached across the considerable space
which, like a wide roadway, divided Hench’s property from the
miniature forest. Also, the violent wind blowing from the south had
swept the flames northward, long-side the brick wall girdling the
demesne. But considerable damage had been wrought, as Parley Wood was
dear to many artists, and they, as well as the villagers, lamented the
blotting out of this beauty-spot. But, as some people said, perhaps it
was just as well, since the murder of Madoc Evans had given the wood
an evil reputation. These philosophical individuals, however, were in
the minority.

Under the huge tree-trunk which had crushed him to death the body of
Cuthbert Spruce was found, burnt and disfigured almost beyond
recognition. But there was not the least difficulty in identifying the
remains of the wretched man, and he was duly buried in Cookley
churchyard. A large number of morbid sight-seers were attracted to the
ceremony, and there was much talk about the extraordinary events which
had led to his guilt being proved. Hench, naturally enough, was
anxious that the whole miserable story should be kept from the public,
but this was not possible. The Inspector who had been charged with the
arrest of Spruce advised the young man–for the clearing of his own
character–to allow all facts to become known. Therefore the
newspapers were filled with true accounts of all that had happened in
connection with the affair, from the time of his early conversation
with Madame Alpenny down to the moment when he staggered out of Parley
Wood to fall unconscious at Vane’s feet. Owain was considerably shaken
by what he had undergone, both physically and mentally, so it was
natural that he should take some days to recover. He was burnt and
bruised; very much horrified by the appalling death of his old
schoolfellow; and greatly disturbed by the enforced publicity of the
whole dreadful business. It was fortunate that Mrs. Perage was at hand
to look after him, as she proved to be a very dragon to guard the
broken man from the curiosity of the public. Vane brought Hench to the
old lady’s house, and there he remained in bed for quite a week to be
nursed back to health and strength by Gwen. Save the Inspector, who
advised him to make the facts of the case known to the world, he saw
no one but the old lady and the young one. Not even Jim Vane was
permitted to interview him.

The result of this judicious treatment on the part of Mrs. Perage was
obvious, for while the excitement was going on Hench remained secluded
in his sick-room, and was not worried with questions. By the time he
was able to get up, healed of his hurts and much calmer in mind, the
worst was over. Spruce lay in the churchyard, the newspapers had said
all they could say about the matter, and the nine days’ wonder of the
whole awful business had come to an end. It only remained for Owain to
fulfil his promise to the Brackens; to reward the Jedd boys for the
clever way in which they had saved him; to take formal possession of
his property, and to marry his cousin. Then he could begin a new life,
and all the old troubles would be forgotten. Of course it required
decision and strength to deal with such matters, but, thanks to Gwen’s
careful nursing, Owain was quite able to attend to the business. With
his descent into the drawing-room, wholly cured at the end of nine
days, the ‘nine days’ wonder came to a termination.

“Now we must sweep up the fragments,” said Hench, who was rapidly
recovering his strength, although he still looked somewhat pale.

“Quite so,” agreed Mrs. Perage, who looked more grim and masculine
than ever. “I have asked the fragments to come here to-day for the

“What do you mean?”

“My meaning is plain enough, young man!” she replied vigorously. “I
want all this disagreeable business concluded, so that it will not be
necessary to re-open it again. Then, as soon as possible, you must
arrange about getting the property, marry Gwen, and go for a year’s
tour in Europe, or in the States, if you like. I don’t care where you
go, so long as you get away.”

“I don’t know if Owain is strong enough to travel yet,” said Gwen, who
was sitting beside the sofa holding her lover’s hand.

“Fudge!” retorted Mrs. Perage, standing on the hearthrug in quite a
manly attitude, with her hands behind her back. “Don’t make a
mollycoddle of the fellow, you silly girl. While he remains here,
everything will remind him of the horrors which have taken place. Let
him travel to forget, and then he can return to take up his work as
the Squire of Cookley. You must go with him, as he is sure to be
miserable without you.”

“That is very certain!” said Hench, smiling.

“Well, then,” cried Mrs. Perage argumentatively, “so young a girl
can’t go with you as a chaperon, can she? Marry her in a couple of
weeks and then no one can say a word, even if you take her to the
North Pole.”

“But my father has not been dead very long,” murmured Gwen nervously.

“My dear, don’t be a fool. God forbid that I should say a word against
your father, who has paid for his foolishness. But you owe him nothing
and you never got on with him. Then why sacrifice yourself to a
feeling which does not exist? Pfui!” Mrs. Perage rubbed her nose.
“Can’t you understand that I am anxious to see the backs of you two
nuisances? I’ve had quite enough bother with you as it is.”

Hench laughed outright, knowing that Mrs. Perage looked upon himself
and Gwen as her own children. “You wouldn’t be happy without us,” he
said gaily. “You would have no one to scold.”

“Oh, there’s always Jim Vane, at a pinch,” said Mrs. Perage
good-humouredly. “But I daresay I shall miss you two brats. Babies,
that’s what you are. As to scolding, there will be plenty of that when
you return. You are the Lord of the Manor, but I have much property in
Cookley also, so there will be ample for us to fight about. I want my
own way and so do you. Hum!” Mrs. Perage rubbed her hands. “There are
lively times ahead.”

Both the young people looked at the tall, grim old Amazon with great
affection, as they recognized how much they owed her. Gwen
particularly loved her, as she had brought common-sense to bear on the
estrangement after the fatal interview in the churchyard with Madame
Alpenny. But that Mrs. Perage had acted so vigorously, Gwen saw
plainly enough that she and Owain might never have entirely understood
one another. Now they did, especially since the nine days’ nursing had
drawn them together more rapidly. Never did a couple arrange to enter
into the bonds of matrimony with such an excellent knowledge of each
other’s character. Mrs. Perage guessed what was passing in the girl’s
mind and nodded approvingly.

“Trouble brings people together very quickly,” she said briskly. “Time
is nothing and opportunity is everything. Owain has saved your life;
carefully nursed him back to health, so you comprehend one another a
thousand times better than if you had dawdled through a ten years’
courtship. You are both decent, also, my dears; quite different to
your fathers. It’s the mothers’ blood that tells, I expect. What do
you say, Hench?”

“Oh, don’t call him Hench,” said Gwen, with a shudder. “Let us leave
that false name behind with all the other trouble.”

“Very good. What do you say, Evans?”

“I agree with you, Mrs. Perage. Gwen and I will get on capitally.”

“You had better!” she threatened. “If I catch you beating her it’s me
you’ll have to reckon with. Ha!” She glanced out of the window.
“Here’s Jim, the first of the fragments come to be swept into the
dustbin of oblivion.”

“I hope not,” said Owain, laughing. “I wish Jim to remain my very good
friend and be my best man.”

“Of course he will be. And I will be the bridesmaid if Gwen is
sensible enough to ask me.”

“You shall do whatever you like at the wedding,” said Gwen, also
laughing, for she felt uncommonly happy.

“And afterwards also, my dear. I am fond of my own way; it’s a great
fault of mine. Jim,”–Vane entered as she spoke,–“here you are at
last. There! I’m not fond of kisses. Go and talk to Evans yonder, and
ask him if you can kiss Gwen.”

“Oh!” said Gwen in alarm, whereat every one laughed.

“Don’t be frightened, Miss Evans,” said Vane, with a smile on his lean
face. “I am quite sure that Owain yonder is now strong enough to punch
my head if I take Aunt Emma’s advice. Well, old chap, how goes it? You
look much better and are quite a different man.”

“I am, Jim. Hench has vanished for ever. Only Owain Evans remains.”

“Well, I hope he’ll be as good a chap as Hench was.”

“Much better!” said Gwen resentfully. “I’ve improved him. He is no
longer to be a wanderer, but intends to settle down with me as the
Squire of the parish.”

“After a year’s travelling!” said Mrs. Perage sharply, and detailed
her scheme to her nephew, who quite approved.

“Better be off with the old life, Owain, before you take on with the
new,” he said judicially. “Travel will heal all the old soreness, and
will place a barrier between the disagreeable past and the pleasant
future. Aunt Emma is a sensible woman.”

“I always am!” said Aunt Emma. “Now, Jim, say what you have to say
about this trouble, and let us bury the same for ever.”

“There isn’t much to say,” said Vane carelessly. “The newspapers have
dropped the matter, and everybody is forgetting the sensation. You
won’t be bothered with reporters or photographers when you come
abroad, Owain. All the same, it is just as well that you are going

“What does the Inspector say about Bottles’ share in the business?”

“He wasn’t very pleased, and gave both Bottles and his brother a good
talking to for having held their tongues for so long.”

“I wonder why they did,” murmured Mrs. Perage, rubbing her nose.

“My dear aunt, it was a game to both of them. Bottles having read
detective tales was burning to be a Sexton Blake or a Sherlock Holmes.
Only when he saw that miserable creature brought to book did the boy
realize that his comedy had turned into real tragedy. I’ve brought him
with me as you desired.” Vane went to the door and beckoned to the
lad, who entered bashfully, to look with adoring eyes on his hero.
Hench called to him to come forward and shook him heartily by the
hand, thanking him for his great services.

“Oh, it ain’t nothing, sir,” said Bottles, with a glowing face as
crimson as his hair. “I’d do anything for you, as you’ve always been
kind to me. And it’s been a rattling good game, anyhow.”

“A sadly serious game, Bottles, I fear.”

“Yes, sir.” The lad turned pale, shivered, and swallowed something
with an effort, as he recalled the scene at the Bull Inn. “I didn’t
think it was so bad till I saw that little cove’s face. It wasn’t me
who got him burnt, was it, sir?” he asked entreatingly.

“No! No! my boy. How he came to set the wood on fire, I don’t know.
Perhaps he struck a match to see his way in the darkness. But we will
never know exactly what happened. You are not in any way to blame.
What made you suspect him?”

“I didn’t suspect him at first, sir. It was Madame I thought was the
wrong ‘un, as I told you. But when I saw that little cove sneaking
after her down to Cookley I watched him as well as her. Then I found
out he was talking a lot to mother and learned about the dress and the
wig. After that, it wasn’t hard to twig his game. But I never thought
as he’d murder the old cove,” said Bottles, shivering. “I turned sick
in the wood when I saw that knife go in.”

“Oh, by the way, Bottles, Mrs. Tesk told me that she dismissed you for
stealing the knife.”

“Yes, she did, sir. She said as I’d taken other things. But it was
Amelia, I was engaged to, as stole the things, and I couldn’t give her
away. But I ain’t going to make her my wife, sir,” said Bottles
seriously. “She ain’t what she should be in the way of honesty.”

“Did she steal the knife also?”

“No, I think Mr. Spruce stole that; took it off the table one day, and
slipped it up his sleeve. He killed the old cove with it, as you know,
and left it in the body. I knowed it was Mrs. Tesk’s carving-knife all

“Does Mrs. Tesk know all this now?” asked Owain quickly. “Yes, sir.
Mother went and told her, though I didn’t wish to split on Amelia,
who’s only a gel after all. Mrs. Tesk said as she was sorry and asked
me to go back, which I have done, sir.”

“Well, then, Bottles, I am going to take you away from there and send
you to school. Also I intend to settle a small income on your mother
so that she need not work any more at the Bijou Music-hall. Finally, I
will arrange with my lawyers to invest a sum of money for you so that
you may be able to start life with something in hand. What do you wish
to be?”

“I think if Bottles is wise he will be a detective,” suggested Vane.

Bottles turned a shining face towards the speaker. “That’s just what I
want to be, sir. I can do it, I’m sure.”

“I think so also,” remarked Mrs. Perage gruffly. “But I hope Peter
doesn’t want to be one also. I can’t have a juvenile Vidocq in my

“Oh, Peter ain’t got no ambitions, mum,” said Bottles contemptuously.
“He’s just as pleased as Punch to stay on with you and rise to be a
butler and a footman.”

“I’ll look after Peter,” said Mrs. Perage, nodding briskly. “He has
also had a share in this business which has cleared up the mystery,
and he deserves to be rewarded. But see here,” she added sharply, “why
didn’t you tell the police immediately about the murder?”

“Because I wanted to see what that little cove would do, mum. I
guessed from his disguise that he intended to make out that Madame
Alpenny had murdered the old cove. But I didn’t think he’d accuse Mr.
Hench there.”

“Mr. Evans, Simon,” corrected Gwen quickly. “That is his real name.”

“I think I shall always be Hench to Bottles,” said Owain, laughing.
“He can call me what he likes as he has done so much for me. But you
would have saved a lot of trouble, Bottles, if you had told the police
at once.”

“So the Inspector said, sir,” grinned the boy. “He gave me what-for,
he did. But I wanted to see the game out, sir.”

Owain saw that Bottles would persist in regarding the whole dreadful
business as a game, in spite of its terrible termination, so he left
the subject alone. “But you might have guessed, my detective friend,
that Spruce would accuse me, as he wanted to get my money. He
committed the murder to trap me.”

“I thought he’d do that through Madame Alpenny when you married Miss
Zara,” was the boy’s reply, promptly given. “As you’d never have liked
your mother-in-law to be hanged. You didn’t mind my giving the address
I got from Peter to Madame Alpenny and the little cove, did you, sir?”

“I did when I was in the dark. But now I see that you did so

“It was part of the game,” persisted Bottles coolly. “And as the
little cove had gone so far, I knew he’d go further. If I hadn’t told
him and Madame of your address they might have asked the police where
you were.”

“That suggestion doesn’t do credit to your detective acumen, Bottles.
Had either of the two brought the police into the matter, they would
not have been able to get the expected money. Spruce was playing the
blackmail game.”

“I see, sir.” Bottles rubbed his red head. “Well, I’ve got something
to learn yet, I expect, as a ‘tec, and I ain’t above learning. But
thank you for helping me, sir, and for helping mother. She’s a good
one, is mother, and gave me such a talking for not having spoke out

“Between the Inspector and your mother, I daresay you have had a bad
time, Bottles,” said Vane idly.

“You bet I have, sir. But it don’t matter. I’ve enjoyed myself, I
have, in pulling the strings.”

“It’s more than I have done,” said Owain languidly. “Good-bye,
Bottles. Go home and tell your mother of my intentions. Next week I’ll
fulfill my promise, as soon as I can see my solicitors and settle

“And, Simon,” said Mrs. Perage graciously, “you can go to the kitchen
and have your dinner. Here’s a pound. Take Peter with you to town and
to see your mother.”

“Thank you, mum; thank you, sir; thank everybody.” And Bottles
disappeared with a happy grin, which made every one smile.

“Here comes Madame Alpenny and the Brackens,” announced Vane, who
acted as a master of the ceremonies.

“I don’t like that old woman to come under my roof,” said Mrs. Perage,
with a frown. “She’s a plotter and a schemer. But—-”

“Oh, she’s only one of the fragments which have to be swept up,” said
Gwen in a lively tone. “I don’t like her either; but I am so much
obliged to Zara that I am quite willing Owain should help the old

“Old lady, indeed,” grumbled Mrs. Perage. “Old scamp, I call her. You
can deal with her yourselves. I’m going.” And as the newcomers entered
the room, she went out swiftly through the conservatory.

Zara looked pale, her husband confused, and both advanced with rather
a shame-stricken air. Madame Alpenny, on the contrary, rushed forward
and took Owain’s hand with effusion, beaming all over her harsh swart
face. Considering how she had behaved when they last met, the young
man was astonished by this friendly greeting. He scarcely knew what to
say; but it appeared there was no need for him to say anything. Madame
Alpenny did all the talking, so it was just as well that Mrs. Perage
had left the room. Had that Amazonian dame remained, there assuredly
would have been trouble.

“Ah, but I am delighted to see you looking so magnificent after your
illness, dear Monsieur!” cried Madame, clasping Owain’s hand fondly
within her own. “You terrified me greatly, as I thought you would
perish. Ah, but it is good of the Heavens to preserve you to us.”

The young man withdrew his hand as soon as he recovered from his
astonishment, and spoke very coldly. “You have changed your mind since
our last meeting!”

Madame Alpenny threw up her fat hands. “Ah, but what would you, my
dear sir? I was angered at losing so beautiful a son-in-law. I said
much that I have wept for saying. And to you also, in the churchyard,
Mademoiselle,” she added, turning to Gwen, who was frigid, “I spoke
most wickedly. Ach! my dear young lady, you must forgive me for my
open nature. We are all now friends here, I hope.”

She beamed all round the room, but there were no answering smiles.
Zara laid her hand on her mother’s arm and drew her back. “I must ask
your pardon, Mr. Hench, for all the trouble which has been brought to
you,” she said seriously.

“It was not your fault, Mrs. Bracken, nor that of your husband,” said
Owain very quickly. “I have nothing but friendship and admiration for
you both, seeing the way in which you made the crooked straight
between us,” and he glanced at Gwen fondly.

“Ah, what a good heart!” murmured the Hungarian lady, with her
handkerchief to her eyes. “A heart of gold!”

“Shut up!” growled Bracken to his mother-in-law, and twitched the old
head mantle which she still wore over the famous orange-spotted dress.

“I will not shut up, you rude man!” cried Madame Alpenny volubly. “Ah,
to think of what I have suffered at the hands of Mistare Spruce, now
happily deceased. He would have had me hanged!”

“Did he accuse you of committing the murder?” asked Vane sharply.

“But no. He was all sweetness and smiles. Yet, if Monsieur Hench had
married Zara, then this Mistare Spruce would have accused me. He laid
his plans to make me guilty. It was he, I find, who wrote the letter
asking me to go to Hampstead. He wished me to be unable to prove where
I was. If he had lived I should have put him in gaol,” ended Madame,
with a frown.

“You nearly put Mr. Evans in gaol!” said Gwen icily.

“Mistare Evans. Ah, yes–the real name of Monsieur Hench. No, I would
not have put him in gaol, Mademoiselle. My talk was what you call–eh,
yes–bluff. I might have been his beloved mother had I accepted his
father’s hand. Never would I have harmed him.”

“Oh, I think you would when you had me in your power, Madame,” said
Owain dryly. “Remember what you talked about in the churchyard.”

“Bluff–all bluff, Monsieur.”

“It would have been better had you acted fairly with me and told the
truth at our first conversation. Then I should have known that I was
Madoc Evans’ heir and all this trouble would have been avoided. You
also would have been the richer for such honesty, Madame.”

“Ah, but you will not turn from me now,” said Madame in a wheedling
tone. “See, Monsieur Hench, it is through me you have money and marry
this sweet angel. I am poor; I am deserving. So give me—-”

“Mr. Hench will give you nothing, mother,” said Zara in a cold tone of
displeasure. “I came down here to say good-bye to him and to take you
out of his life. Mr. Hench,”–she faced round to Owain,–“my husband
and I are going to America, where I have obtained a good engagement.
My mother goes back to Hungary, and I will send her money to support
her. Therefore it will not be necessary for you to give me that
thousand pounds.”

“I wish to give it to you as a mark of my esteem,” insisted Hench, and
Gwen endorsed this speech.

“I do not wish my wife to take it,” said Bracken, advancing to hold
out his hand. “Good-bye, Mr. Evans, we have been here long enough. We
shall always remember your kindness with gratitude.”

Owain shook the extended hand. “But I wish you would take the money,

“Ah, but do!” cried Madame Alpenny, feverishly greedy. “I can double
it at cards. I am so lucky, I want to—-”

“Come away, mother,” interrupted Zara, dragging her towards the door.
“Mr. Hench will not give you a single penny!”

“Ingrate!” shouted Madame, turning at the door, out of which she was
going, held firmly by Zara and Bracken. “After all I have done. Ach!
the wickedness of the evil one. I gave him thousands, and he–he, the
beast–the—–” Here she was dragged into the hall by her scandalized
daughter, and those in the drawing-room heard her voice loudly
lamenting all the way down the avenue. In this manner was the
Hungarian lady rewarded for her scheming. She did not benefit in the

“I’m glad she’s gone,” said Gwen, drawing a deep breath. “I don’t like

“Nor do I,” said Owain, pulling the girl down beside him. “She nearly
got me into the dock. But I am bound to say that she ran an equal risk
from poor Spruce.”

“Poor Spruce, indeed!” cried Vane, turning from the window where he
was watching the protesting Madame Alpenny being dragged down the
avenue. “Why say good of a man who did nothing but evil?”

“Don’t be hard on him, Jim. After all, he has paid the penalty of his
crime by suffering a terrible death.”

“You’re a good chap, Owain, so I won’t say another word. But never
mention his name to me again if you I can help.”

“We’ll never mention anything about the past if we can help,” said
Gwen, as Owain slipped his arm round her. “Now all these people have
gone let us try and forget them.”

“Oh, you’ll forget right enough,” said Vane, smiling. “When you marry
Owain you will think of nothing but him.”

“He saved my life!” cried the future Mrs. Evans defiantly.

“In return you have saved mine,” murmured Owain. “Had you not nursed
me back to life and love, where should I have been now? But the clouds
have disappeared, my dear, and now the sunshine of life is ours. In
three weeks we will get married quietly and go abroad for a year.
Afterwards we can return to take up our position here.”

“And you will go back to your old home, Miss Evans,” said Vane,
laughing. “Not much change about that.”

“A great deal of change!” cried Gwen hotly. “While I lived there with
my poor father, the Grange was a house of hate; now it will be a
mansion of love.”

“Quite so; you will be so happy that you won’t want to see any one.”

“Always you, Jim,” said Owain, holding out his hand, which the
barrister took.

“And me also, I hope,” said Mrs. Perage, entering unexpectedly from
the conservatory. “Hum! A touching tableau. The sweetheart, the angel
of the sweetheart, and the true-hearted friend. Fudge!”

“You don’t mean that word!” cried Gwen.

“Perhaps I don’t.” Mrs. Perage rubbed her nose. “For to tell you the
truth, I don’t know what the word means. I got it out of ‘The Vicar of
Wakefield,’ and it seemed useful. I should like to have used it to
that old woman who is screaming viciously all the way down the avenue.
Really, young man, you have some very queer friends.”

“Well, I lived in Queer Street for a long time, you know!” said Owain,

“You’ll never live there again,” whispered Gwen.

“Lucky Owain!” mocked Vane. “No more hunger and thirst, hard beds and
unpaid bills. You will henceforth lie in the lap of luxury.”

“Hum!” said Mrs. Perage gruffly. “There is a good luncheon: a much
better one than you ever tasted in Queer Street, I’ll be bound.
There’s the gong.”

Owain rose quickly and took Gwen’s arm. “And here begins the new
life!” he said.