J. S. Fletcher
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan
and PG Distributed Proofreaders
BY J.S. FLETCHER
I WANTED AT REHEARSAL
II GREY ROOK AND GREY SEA
III THE MAN WHO KNEW SOMETHING
IV THE ESTATE AGENT
V THE GREYLE HISTORY
VI THE LEADING LADY
VII LEFT ON GUARD
VIII RIGHT OF WAY
IX HOBKIN'S HOLE
X THE INVALID CURATE
XI BENEATH THE BRAMBLES
XII GOOD MEN AND TRUE
XIII MR. DENNIE
XIV BY PRIVATE TREATY
XV THE CABLEGRAM FROM NEW YORK
XVI IN TOUCH WITH THE MISSING
XVII THE OLD PLAYBILL
XVIII THE LIE ON THE TOMBSTONE
XIX THE STEAM YACHT
XX THE COURTEOUS CAPTAIN
XXII THE OLD HAND
XXIII THE YACHT COMES BACK
XXIV THE TORPEDO-BOAT DESTROYER
XXV THE SQUIRE
XXVI THE REAVER'S GLEN
XXVII THE PEEL TOWER
XXVIII THE FOOTPRINTS
XXIX SCARVELL'S CUT
XXX THE GREENGROCER'S CART
XXXI AMBASSADRESS EXTRAORDINARY
WANTED AT REHEARSAL
Jerramy, thirty years' stage-door keeper at the Theatre Royal, Norcaster,
had come to regard each successive Monday morning as a time for the
renewal of old acquaintance. For at any rate forty-six weeks of the
fifty-two, theatrical companies came and went at Norcaster with unfailing
regularity. The company which presented itself for patronage in the first
week of April in one year was almost certain to present itself again in
the corresponding week of the next year. Sometimes new faces came with
it, but as a rule the same old favourites showed themselves for a good
many years in succession. And every actor and actress who came to
Norcaster knew Jerramy. He was the first official person encountered on
entering upon the business of the week. He it was who handed out the
little bundles of letters and papers, who exchanged the first greetings,
of whom one could make useful inquiries, who always knew exactly what
advice to give about lodgings and landladies. From noon onwards of
Mondays, when the newcomers began to arrive at the theatre for the
customary one o'clock call for rehearsal, Jerramy was invariably employed
in hearing that he didn't look a day older, and was as blooming as ever,
and sure to last another thirty years, and his reception always
culminated in a hearty handshake and genial greeting from the great man
of the company, who, of course, after the fashion of magnates, always
turned up at the end of the irregular procession, and was not seldom late
for the fixture which he himself had made.
At a quarter past one of a certain Monday afternoon in the course of a
sunny October, Jerramy leaned over the half-door of his sanctum in
conversation with an anxious-eyed man who for the past ten minutes had
hung about in the restless fashion peculiar to those who are waiting for
somebody. He had looked up the street and down the street a dozen times;
he had pulled out his watch and compared it with the clock of a
neighbouring church almost as often; he had several times gone up the
dark passage which led to the dressing-rooms, and had come back again
looking more perplexed than ever. The fact was that he was the business
manager of the great Mr. Bassett Oliver, who was opening for the week at
Norcaster in his latest success, and who, not quite satisfied with the
way in which a particular bit of it was being played called a special
rehearsal for a quarter to one. Everything and everybody was ready for
that rehearsal, but the great man himself had not arrived. Now Mr.
Bassett Oliver, as every man well knew who ever had dealings with him,
was not one of the irregular and unpunctual order; on the contrary, he
was a very martinet as regarded rule, precision and system; moreover, he
always did what he expected each member of his company to do. Therefore
his non-arrival, his half hour of irregularity, seemed all the more
"Never knew him to be late before--never!" exclaimed the business
manager, impatiently pulling out his watch for the twentieth time. "Not
in all my ten years' experience of him--not once."
"I suppose you've seen him this morning, Mr. Stafford?" inquired Jerramy.
"He's in the town, of course?"
"I suppose he's in the town," answered Mr. Stafford. "I suppose he's at
his old quarters--the 'Angel.' But I haven't seen him; neither had
Rothwell--we've both been too busy to call there. I expect he came on to
the 'Angel' from Northborough yesterday."
Jerramy opened the half-door, and going out to the end of the passage,
looked up and down the street.
"There's a taxi-cab coming round the corner now," he announced presently.
"Coming quick, too--I should think he's in it."
The business manager bustled out to the pavement as the cab came to a
halt. But instead of the fine face and distinguished presence of Mr.
Bassett Oliver, he found himself confronting a young man who looked like
a well-set-up subaltern, or a cricket-and-football loving undergraduate;
a somewhat shy, rather nervous young man, scrupulously groomed, and
neatly attired in tweeds, who, at sight of the two men on the pavement,
immediately produced a card-case.
"Mr. Bassett Oliver?" he said inquiringly. "Is he here? I--I've got an
appointment with him for one o'clock, and I'm sorry I'm late--my train--"
"Mr. Oliver is not here yet," broke in Stafford. "He's late,
too--unaccountably late, for him. An appointment, you say?"
He was looking the stranger over as he spoke, taking him for some
stage-struck youth who had probably persuaded the good-natured actor to
give him an interview. His expression changed, however; as he glanced at
the card which the young man handed over, and he started a little and
held out his hand with a smile.
"Oh!--Mr. Copplestone?" he exclaimed. "How do you do? My name's
Stafford--I'm Mr. Oliver's business manager. So he made an
appointment with you, did he--here, today? Wants to see you about
your play, of course."
Again he looked at the newcomer with a smiling interest, thinking
secretly that he was a very youthful and ingenuous being to have written
a play which Bassett Oliver, a shrewd critic, and by no means easy to
please, had been eager to accept, and was about to produce. Mr. Richard
Copplestone, seen in the flesh, looked very young indeed, and very
unlike anything in the shape of a professional author. In fact he very
much reminded Stafford of the fine and healthy young man whom one sees
on the playing fields, and certainly does not associate with pen and
ink. That he was not much used to the world on whose edge he just then
stood Stafford gathered from a boyish trick of blushing through the tan
of his cheeks.
"I got a wire from Mr. Oliver yesterday--Sunday," replied Mr.
Copplestone. "I ought to have had it in the morning, I suppose, but I'd
gone out for the day, you know--gone out early. So I didn't find it until
I got back to my rooms late at night. I got the next train I could from
King's Cross, and it was late getting in here."
"Then you've practically been travelling all night?" remarked Stafford.
"Well, Mr. Oliver hasn't turned up--most unusual for him. I don't know
where--" Just then another man came hurrying down the passage from the
dressing-rooms, calling the business manager by name.
"I say, Stafford!" he exclaimed, as he emerged on the street. "This is a
queer thing!--I'm sure there's something wrong. I've just rung up the
'Angel' hotel. Oliver hasn't turned up there! His rooms were all ready
for him as usual yesterday, but he never came. They've neither seen nor
heard of him. Did you see him yesterday?"
"No!" replied Stafford. "I didn't. Never seen him since last thing
Saturday night at Northborough. He ordered this rehearsal for one--no, a
quarter to one, here, today. But somebody must have seen him yesterday.
Where's his dresser--where's Hackett?"
"Hackett's inside," said the other man. "He hasn't seen him either, since
Saturday night. Hackett has friends living in these parts--he went off to
see them early yesterday morning, from Northborough, and he's only just
come. So he hasn't seen Oliver, and doesn't know anything about him; he
expected, of course, to find him here."
Stafford turned with a wave of the hand towards Copplestone.
"So did this gentleman," he said. "Mr. Copplestone, this is our
stage-manager, Mr. Rothwell. Rothwell, this is Mr. Richard Copplestone,
author of the new play that Mr. Oliver's going to produce next month. Mr.
Copplestone got a wire from him yesterday, asking him to come here today
at one o'clock, He's travelled all night to get here."
"Where was the wire sent from?" asked Rothwell, a sharp-eyed,
keen-looking man, who, like Stafford, was obviously interested in the new
author's boyish appearance. "And when?"
Copplestone drew some letters and papers from his pocket and selected
one. "That's it," he said. "There you are--sent off from Northborough at
nine-thirty, yesterday morning--Sunday."
"Well, then he was at Northborough at that time," remarked Rothwell.
"Look here, Stafford, we'd better telephone to Northborough, to his
hotel. The 'Golden Apple,' wasn't it?"
"No good," replied Stafford, shaking his head. "The 'Golden Apple' isn't
on the 'phone--old-fashioned place. We'd better wire."
"Too slow," said Rothwell. "We'll telephone to the theatre there, and ask
them to step across and make inquiries. Come on!--let's do it at once."
He hurried inside again, and Stafford turned to Copplestone.
"Better send your cab away and come inside until we get some news," he
said. "Let Jerramy take your things into his sanctum--he'll keep an eye
on them till you want them--I suppose you'll stop at the 'Angel' with
Oliver. Look here!" he went on, turning to the cab driver, "just you wait
a bit--I might want you; wait ten minutes, anyway. Come in, Mr.
Copplestone followed the business manager up the passage to a
dressing-room, in which a little elderly man was engaged in unpacking
trunks and dress-baskets. He looked up expectantly at the sound of
footsteps; then looked down again at the work in hand and went silently
on with it.
"This is Hackett, Mr. Oliver's dresser," said Stafford. "Been with
him--how long, Hackett?"
"Twenty years next January, Mr. Stafford," answered the dresser quietly.
"Ever known Mr. Oliver late like this?" inquired Stafford.
"Never, sir! There's something wrong," replied Hackett. "I'm sure of it.
I feel it! You ought to go and look for him, some of you gentlemen."
"Where?" asked Stafford. "We don't know anything about him. He's not come
to the 'Angel,' as he ought to have done, yesterday. I believe you're the
last person who saw him, Hackett. Aren't you, now?"
"I saw him at the 'Golden Apple' at Northborough at twelve o'clock
Saturday night, sir," answered Hackett. "I took a bag of his to his rooms
there. He was all right then. He knew I was going off first thing next
morning to see an uncle of mine who's a farmer on the coast between here
and Northborough, and he told me he shouldn't want me until one o'clock
today. So of course, I came straight here to the theatre--I didn't call
in at the 'Angel' at all this morning."
"Did he say anything about his own movements yesterday?" asked Stafford.
"Did he tell you that he was going anywhere?"
"Not a word, Mr. Stafford," replied Hackett. "But you know his habits as
well as I do."
"Just so," agreed Stafford. "Mr. Oliver," he continued, turning to
Copplestone, "is a great lover of outdoor life. On Sundays, when we're
travelling from one town to another, he likes to do the journey by
motor--alone. In a case like this, where the two towns are not very far
apart, it's his practice to find out if there's any particular beauty
spot or place of interest between them, and to spend his Sunday there. I
daresay that's what he did yesterday. You see, all last week we were at
Northborough. That, like Norcaster, is a coast town--there's fifty miles
between them. If he followed out his usual plan he'd probably hire a
motor-car and follow the coast-road, and if he came to any place that was
of special interest, he'd stop there. But--in the usual way of
things--he'd have turned up at his rooms at the 'Angel' hotel here last
night. He didn't--and he hasn't turned up here, either. So where is he?"
"Have you made inquiries of the company, Mr. Stafford?" asked Hackett.
"Most of 'em wander about a bit of a Sunday--they might have seen him."
"Good idea!" agreed Stafford. He beckoned Copplestone to follow him on
to the stage, where the members of the company sat or stood about in
groups, each conscious that something unusual had occurred. "It's really
a queer, and perhaps a serious thing," he whispered as he steered his
companion through a maze of scenery. "And if Oliver doesn't turn up, we
shall be in a fine mess. Of course, there's an understudy for his part,
but--I say!" he went on, as they stepped upon the stage, "Have any of you
seen Mr. Oliver, anywhere, since Saturday night? Can anybody tell
anything about him--anything at all? Because--it's useless to deny the
fact--he's not come here, and he's not come to town at all, so far as we
Rothwell came hurrying on to the stage from the opposite wings. He
hastened across to Stafford and drew him and Copplestone a little aside.
"I've heard from Northborough," he Said. "I 'phoned Waters, the manager
there, to run across to the 'Golden Apple' and make inquiries. The
'Golden Apple' people say that Oliver left there at eleven o'clock
yesterday morning. He was alone. He simply walked out of the hotel. And
they know nothing more."
GREY ROCK AND GREY SEA
The three men stood for a while silently looking at each other.
Copplestone, as a stranger, secretly wondered why the two managers seemed
so concerned; to him a delay of half an hour in keeping an appointment
did not appear to be quite as serious as they evidently considered it.
But he had never met Bassett Oliver, and knew nothing of his ways; he
only began to comprehend matters when Rothwell turned to Stafford with an
air of decision.
"Look here!" he said. "You'd better go and make inquiry at Northborough.
See if you can track him. Something must be wrong--perhaps seriously
wrong. You don't quite understand, do you, Mr. Copplestone?" he went on,
giving the younger man a sharp glance. "You see, we know Mr. Oliver so
well--we've both been with him a good many years. He's a model of system,
regularity, punctuality, and all the rest of it. In the ordinary course
of events, wherever he spent yesterday, he'd have been sure to turn up at
his rooms at the 'Angel' hotel last night, and he'd have walked in here
this morning at half-past twelve. As he hasn't done either, why, then,
something unusual has happened. Stafford, you'd better get a move on."
"Wait a minute," said Stafford. He turned again to the groups behind him,
repeating his question.
"Has anybody anything to tell?" he asked anxiously. "We've just heard
that Mr. Oliver left his hotel at Northborough yesterday morning at
eleven o'clock, alone, walking. Has anybody any idea of any project, any
excursion, that he had in mind?"
An elderly man who had been in conversation with the leading lady
"I was talking to Oliver about the coast scenery between here and
Northborough the other day--Friday," he remarked. "He'd never seen it--I
told him I used to know it pretty well once. He said he'd try and see
something of it on Sunday--yesterday, you know. And, I say--" here he
came closer to the two managers and lowered his voice--"that coast is
very wild, lonely, and a good bit dangerous--sharp and precipitous
Rothwell clapped a hand on Stafford's arm.
"You'd really better be off to Northborough," he said with decision.
"You're sure to come across traces of him. Go to the 'Golden
Apple'--then the station. Wire or telephone me--here. Of course, this
rehearsal's off. About this evening--oh, well, a lot may happen before
then. But go at once--I believe you can get expresses from here to
North-borough pretty often."
"I'll go with you--if I may," said Copplestone suddenly. "I might be of
use. There's that cab still at the door, you know--shall we run up to
"Good!" assented Stafford. "Yes, come by all means." He turned to
Rothwell for a moment. "If he should turn up here, 'phone to Waters at
the Northborough theatre, won't you?" he said. "We'll look in there as
soon as we arrive."
He hurried out with Copplestone and together they drove up to the
station, where an express was just leaving for the south. Once on their
way to Northborough, Stafford turned to his companion with a grave shake
of the head.
"I daresay you don't quite see the reason of our anxiety," he observed.
"You see, we know Oliver. He's a trick of wandering about by himself on
Sundays--when he gets the chance. Of course when there's a long journey
between two towns, he doesn't get the chance, and then he's all right.
But when, as in this case, the town of one week is fairly close to the
town of the next, he invariably spots some place of interest, an old
castle, or a ruined abbey, or some famous house, and goes looking round
it. And if he's been exploring some spot on this coast yesterday, and
it's as that chap Rutherford said, wild and dangerous, why, then--"
"You think he may have had an accident--fallen over the cliffs or
something?" suggested Copplestone.
"I don't like to think anything," replied Stafford. "But I shall be a
good deal relieved if we can get some definite news about him."
The first half-hour at Northborough yielded nothing definite. A telephone
message from Rothwell had just come to the theatre when they drove up to
it--nothing had so far been heard of the missing man at Norcaster--either
at theatre or hotel. Stafford and Copplestone hurried across to the
"Golden Apple" and interviewed its proprietor; he, keenly interested in
the affair, could tell no more than that Mr. Bassett Oliver, having sent
his luggage forward to Norcaster, had left the house on foot at eleven
o'clock the previous morning, and had been seen to walk across the
market-place in the direction of the railway station. But an old
head-waiter, who had served the famous actor's breakfast, was able to
give some information; Mr. Oliver, he said, had talked a little to him
about the coast scenery between Northborough and Norcaster, and had asked
him which stretch of it was worth seeing. It was his impression that Mr.
Oliver meant to break his journey somewhere along the coast.
"Of course, that's it," said Stafford, as he and Copplestone drove off
again. "He's gone to some place between the two towns. But where? Anyhow,
nobody's likely to forget Oliver if they've once seen him, and wherever
he went, he'd have to take a ticket. Therefore--the booking-office."
Here at last, was light. One of the clerks in the booking-office came
forward at once with news. Mr. Bassett Oliver, whom he knew well enough,
having seen him on and off the stage regularly for the past five years,
had come there the previous morning, and had taken a first-class single
ticket for Scarhaven. He would travel to Scarhaven by the 11.35 train,
which arrived at Scarhaven at 12.10. Where was Scarhaven? On the coast,
twenty miles off, on the way to Norcaster; you changed for it at Tilmouth
Junction. Was there a train leaving soon for Scarhaven? There was--in
Stafford and Copplestone presently found themselves travelling back along
the main line. A run of twenty minutes brought them to the junction,
where, at an adjacent siding they found a sort of train in miniature
which ran over a narrow-gauge railway towards the sea. Its course lay
through a romantic valley hidden between high heather-clad moorland; they
saw nothing of their destination nor of the coast until, coming to a stop
in a little station perched high on the side of a hill they emerged to
see shore and sea lying far beneath them. With a mutual consent they
passed outside the grey walls of the station-yard to take a comprehensive
view of the scene.
"Just the place to attract Oliver!" muttered Stafford, as he gazed around
him. "He'd revel in it--fairly revel!"
Copplestone gazed at the scene in silence. That was the first time he had
ever seen the Northern coast, and the strange glamour and romance of this
stretch of it appealed strongly to his artistic senses. He found himself
standing high above the landward extremity of a narrow bay or creek, much
resembling a Norwegian fiord in its general outlines; it ran in from the
sea between high shelving cliffs, the slopes of which were thickly wooded
with the hardier varieties of tree and shrub, through which at intervals
great, gaunt masses of grey rock cropped out. On the edge of the water at
either side of the bay were lines of ancient houses and cottages of grey
walls and red roofs, built and grouped with the irregularity of
individual liking; on the north side rose the square tower and low nave
of a venerable church; amidst a mass of wood on the opposite side stood a
great Norman keep, half ruinous, which looked down on a picturesque house
at its foot. Quays, primitive and quaint, ran along between the old
cottages and the water's edge; in the bay itself or nestling against the
worn timbers of the quays, were small craft whose red sails hung idly
against their tall masts and spars. And at the end of the quays and the
wooded promontories which terminated the land view, lay the North Sea,
cold, grey, and mysterious in the waning October light, and out of its
bosom rose, close to the shore, great masses of high grey rocks, strong
and fantastic of shape, and further away, almost indistinct in the
distance, an island, on the highest point of which the ruins of some old
religious house were silhouetted against the horizon.
"Just the place!" repeated Stafford. "He'd have cheerfully travelled a
thousand miles to see this. And now--we know he came here--what we next
want to know is, what he did when he got here?"
Copplestone, who had been taking in every detail of the scene before him,
pointed to a house of many gables and queer chimneys which stood a little
way beneath them at the point where the waters of a narrow stream ran
into the bay.
"That looks like an inn," he said. "I think I can make out a sign on the
gable-end. Let's go down there and inquire. He would get here just about
time for lunch, wouldn't he, and he'd probably turn in there. Also--they
may have a telephone there, and you can call up the theatre at Norcaster
and find out if anything's been heard yet."
Stafford smiled approvingly and started out in the direction of the
buildings towards which Copplestone had pointed.
"Excellent notion!" he said. "You're quite a business man--an unusual
thing in authors, isn't it? Come on, then--and that is an inn, too--I can
make out the sign now--The 'Admiral's Arms'--Mary Wooler. Let's hope Mary
Wooler, who's presumably the landlady, can give us some useful news!"
The "Admiral's Arms" proved to be an old-fashioned, capacious hostelry,
eminently promising and comfortable in appearance, which stood on the
edge of a broad shelf of headland, and commanded a fine view of the
little village and the bay. Stafford and Copplestone, turning in at the
front door, found themselves in a deep, stone-paved hall, on one side of
which, behind a bar window, a pleasant-faced, buxom woman, silk-aproned
and smartly-capped, was busily engaged in adding up columns of figures in
a big account-book. At sight of strangers she threw open a door and
smilingly invited them to walk into a snugly furnished bar-parlour where
a bright fire burned in an open hearth. Stafford gave his companion a
look--this again was just the sort of old-world place which would appeal
to Basset Oliver, supposing he had come across it.
"I wonder if you can give me some information?" he asked presently, when
the good-looking landlady had attended to their requests for refreshment.
"I suppose you are the landlady--Mrs. Wooler? Well, now, Mrs. Wooler, did
you have a tall, handsome, slightly grey-haired gentleman in here to
lunch yesterday--say about one o'clock?"
The landlady turned on her questioner with an intelligent smile.
"You mean Mr. Oliver, the actor?" she said.
"Good!" exclaimed Stafford, with a hearty sigh of relief. "I do! You know
"I've often seen him, both at Northborough and at Norcaster," replied
Mrs. Wooler. "But I never saw him here before yesterday. Oh, yes! of
course I knew him as soon as he walked in, and I had a bit of chat with
him before he went out, and he remarked that though he'd been coming into
these parts for some years, he'd never been to Scarhaven before--usually,
he said, he'd gone inland of a Sunday, amongst the hills. Oh, yes, he was
here--he had lunch here."
"We're seeking him," said Stafford, going directly to the question. "He
ought to have turned up at the 'Angel Hotel' at Norcaster last night,
and at the theatre today at noon--he did neither. I'm his business
manager, Mrs. Wooler. Now can you tell us anything--more than you've
already told, I mean?"
The landlady, whose face expressed more and more concern as Stafford
spoke, shook her head.
"I can't!" she answered. "I don't know any more. He was here perhaps an
hour or so. Then he went away, saying he was going to have a look round
the place. I expected he'd come in again on his way to the station, but
he never did. Dear, dear! I hope nothing's happened to him--such a fine,
pleasant man. And--"
"And--what?" asked Stafford.
"These cliffs and rocks are so dangerous," murmured Mrs. Wooler. "I
often say that no stranger ought to go alone here. They aren't safe,
Stafford set down his glass and rose.
"I think you've got a telephone in your hall," he said. "I'll just call
up Norcaster and find out if they've heard anything. If they haven't--"
He shook his head and went out, and Copplestone glanced at the landlady.
"You say the cliffs are dangerous," he said. "Are they particularly so?"
"To people who don't know them, yes," she replied. "They ought to be
protected, but then, of course, we don't get many tourists here, and the
Scarhaven people know the danger spots well enough. Then again at the end
of the south promontory there, beyond the Keep--"
"Is the Keep that high square tower amongst the woods?" asked
"That's it--it's all that's left of the old castle," answered Mrs.
Wooler. "Well, off the point beneath that, there's a group of
rocks--you'd perhaps noticed them as you came down from the station?
They've various names--there's the King, the Queen, the Sugar-Loaf, and
so on. At low tide you can walk across to them. And of course, some
people like to climb them. Now, they're particularly dangerous! On the
Queen rock there's a great hole called the Devil's Spout, up which the
sea rushes. Everybody wants to look over it, you know, and if a man was
there alone, and his foot slipped, and he fell, why--"
Stafford came back, looking more cast down than ever.
"They've heard nothing there," he announced. "Come on--we'll go down and
see if we can hear anything from any of the people. We'll call in and see
you later, Mrs. Wooler, and if you can make any inquiries in the
meantime, do. Look here," he went on, when he and Copplestone had got
outside, "you take this south side of the bay, and I'll take the north.
Ask anybody you see--any likely person--fishermen and so on. Then come
back here. And if we've heard nothing--"
He shook his head significantly, as he turned away, and Copplestone,
taking the other direction, felt that the manager's despondency was
influencing himself. A sudden disappearance of this sort was surely not
to be explained easily--nothing but exceptional happenings could have
kept Bassett Oliver from the scene of his week's labours. There must have
been an accident--it needed little imagination to conjure up its easy
occurrence. A too careless step, a too near approach, a loose stone, a
sudden giving way of crumbling soil, the shifting of an already detached
rock--any of these things might happen, and then--but the thought of what
might follow cast a greyer tint over the already cold and grey sea.
He went on amongst the old cottages and fishing huts which lay at the
foot of the wooded heights on the tops of whose pines and firs the gaunt
ruins of the old Keep seemed to stand sentinel. He made inquiry at open
doors and of little groups of men gathered on the quay and by the
drawn-up boats--nobody knew anything. According to what they told him,
most of these people had been out and about all the previous afternoon;
it had been a particularly fine day, that Sunday, and they had all been
out of doors, on the quay and the shore, in the sunshine. But nobody had
any recollection of the man described, and Copplestone came to the
conclusion that Oliver had not chosen that side of the bay. There was,
however, one objection to that theory--so far as he could judge, that
side was certainly the more attractive. And he himself went on to the end
of it--on until he had left quay and village far behind, and had come to
a spit of sand which ran out into the sea exactly opposite the group of
rocks of which Mrs. Wooler had spoken. There they lay, rising out of the
surf like great monsters, a half-mile from where he stood. The tide was
out at that time, and between him and them stretched a shining expanse of
glittering wet sand. And, coming straight towards him across it,
Copplestone saw the slim and graceful figure of a girl.
THE MAN WHO KNEW SOMETHING
It was not from any idle curiosity that Copplestone made up his mind to
await the girl's nearer approach. There was no other human being in view,
and he was anxious to get some information about the rocks whose grim
outlines were rapidly becoming faint and indistinct in the gathering
darkness. And so as the girl came towards him, picking her way across the
pools which lay amidst the brown ribs of sand, he went forward, throwing
away all formality and reserve in his eagerness.
"Forgive me for speaking so unceremoniously," he said as they met. "I'm
looking for a friend who has disappeared--mysteriously. Can you tell me
if, any time yesterday, afternoon or evening, you saw anywhere about here
a tall, distinguished-looking man--the actor type. In fact, he is an
actor--perhaps you've heard of him? Mr. Bassett Oliver."
He was looking narrowly at the girl as he spoke, and she, too, looked
narrowly at him out of a pair of grey eyes of more than ordinary
intelligence and perception. And at the famous actor's name she started a
little and a faint colour stole over her cheeks.
"Mr. Bassett Oliver!" she exclaimed in a clear, cultured voice. "My
mother and I saw Mr. Oliver at the Northborough Theatre on Friday
evening. Do you mean that he--"
"I mean--to put it bluntly--that Bassett Oliver is lost," answered
Copplestone. "He came to this place yesterday, Sunday, morning, to look
round; he lunched at the 'Admiral's Arms,' he went out, after a chat with
the landlady, and he's never been seen since. He should have turned up at
the 'Angel' at Norcaster last night, and at a rehearsal at the Theatre
Royal there today at noon--but he didn't. His manager and I have tracked
him here--and so far I can't hear of him. I've asked people all through
the village--this side, anyway--nobody knows anything."
He and the girl still looked attentively at each other; Copplestone,
indeed, was quietly inspecting her while he talked. He judged her to be
twenty-one or two; she was a little above medium height, slim, graceful,
pretty, and he was quick to notice that her entire air and appearance
suggested their present surroundings. Her fair hair escaped from a
knitted cap such as fisher-folk wear; her slender figure was shown to
advantage by a rough blue jersey; her skirt of blue serge was short and
practical; she was shod in brogues which showed more acquaintance with
sand and salt water than with polish. And her face was tanned with the
strong northern winds, and the ungloved hands, small and shapely as they
were, were brown as the beach across which she had come.
"I have not seen--nor heard--of Mr. Bassett Oliver--here," she answered.
"I was out and about all yesterday afternoon and evening, too--not on
this side of the bay, though. Have you been to the police-station?"
"The manager may have been there," replied Copplestone. "He's gone along
the other shore. But--I don't think he'll get any help there. I'm afraid
Mr. Oliver must have met with an accident. I wanted to ask you a
question--I saw you coming from the direction of those rocks just now.
Could he have got out there across those sands, yesterday afternoon?"
"Between three o'clock and evening--yes," said the girl.
"And--is it dangerous out there?"
"Very dangerous indeed--to any one who doesn't know them."
"There's something there called the Devil's Spout?"
"Yes--a deep fissure up which the sea boils. Oh! it seems dreadful to
think of--I hope he didn't fall in there. If he did--"
"Well?" asked Copplestone bluntly, "what if he did?"
"Nothing ever came out that once went in," she answered. "It's a sort of
whirlpool that's sucked right away into the sea. The people hereabouts
say it's bottomless."
Copplestone turned his face towards the village.
"Oh, well," he said, with an accent of hopelessness. "I can't do any more
down here, it's growing dusk. I must go back and meet the manager."
The girl walked along at his side as he turned towards the village.
"I suppose you are one of Mr. Oliver's company?" she observed presently.
"You must all be much concerned."
"They're all greatly concerned," answered Copplestone. "But I don't
belong to the company. No--I came to Norcaster this morning to meet Mr.
Oliver--he's going--I hope I oughtn't to say was going!--to produce a
play of mine next month, and he wanted to talk about the rehearsals.
Everything, of course, was at a standstill when I reached Norcaster at
one o 'clock, so I came with Stafford, the business manager, to see
what we could do about tracking Mr. Oliver. And I'm afraid, I'm very
He paused, as a gate, set in the thick hedge of a garden at this point of
the village, suddenly opened to let out a man, who at sight of the girl
stopped, hesitated, and then waited for her approach. He was a tall,
well-built man of apparently thirty years, dressed in a rough tweed
knickerbocker suit, but the dusk had now so much increased that
Copplestone could only gather an impression of ordinary good-lookingness
from the face that was turned inquiringly on his companion. The girl
turned to him and spoke hurriedly.
"This is my cousin, Mr. Greyle, of Scarhaven Keep," she murmured. "He may
be able to help. Marston!" she went on, raising her voice, "can you give
any help here? This gentleman--" she paused, looking at Copplestone.
"My name is Richard Copplestone," he said.
"Mr. Copplestone is looking for Mr. Bassett Oliver, the famous actor,"
she continued, as the three met. "Mr. Oliver has mysteriously
disappeared. Mr. Copplestone has traced him here, to Scarhaven--he was
here yesterday, lunching at the inn--but he can't get any further news.
Did you see anything, or hear anything of him?"
Marston Greyle, who had been inspecting the stranger narrowly in the
fading light, shook his head.
"Bassett Oliver, the actor," he said. "Oh, yes, I saw his name on the
bills in Norcaster the other day. Came here, and has disappeared, you
say? Under what circumstances?"
Copplestone had listened carefully to the newcomer's voice; more
particularly to his accent. He had already gathered sufficient knowledge
of Scarhaven to know that this man was the Squire, the master of the old
house and grey ruin in the wood above the cliff; he also happened to
know, being something of an archaeologist and well acquainted with family
histories, that there had been Greyles of Scarhaven for many hundred
years. And he wondered how it was that though this Greyle's voice was
pleasant and cultured enough, its accent was decidedly American.
"Perhaps I'd better explain," said Copplestone. "I've already told most
of it to this lady, but you will both understand more fully if I tell you
more. It's this way--" and he went on to tell everything that had
happened and come to light since one o'clock that day. "So you see, it's
here," he concluded; "we're absolutely certain that Oliver went out of
the 'Admiral's Arms' up there about half-past two yesterday, but--where?
From that moment, no one seems to have seen him. Yet how he could come
along this village street, this quay, without being seen--"
"He need not have come along the quayside," interrupted the girl. "There
is a cliff path just below the inn which leads up to the Keep."
"Also, he mayn't have taken this side of the bay, either." remarked
Greyle. "He may have chosen the other. You didn't see or hear of him on
your side, Audrey?"
"Nothing!" replied the girl. "Nothing!"
Marston Greyle had fallen into line with the other two, and they were now
walking along the quay in the direction of the "Admiral's Arms." And
presently Stafford, accompanied by a policeman, came hurriedly round a
corner and quickened his steps at sight of Copplestone. The policeman,
evidently much puzzled and interested, saluted the Squire obsequiously as
the two groups met.
"No news at all!" exclaimed Stafford, glancing at Copplestone's
companions. "You got any?"
"None," replied Copplestone. "Not a word. This is Mr. Greyle, of the
Keep--he has heard nothing. This lady--Miss Greyle?--was out a good deal
yesterday afternoon; she knows Oliver quite well by sight, but she did
not see him. So if you've no news--"
Marston Greyle interrupted, turning to the policeman.
"What ought to be done, Haskett?" he asked. "You've had cases of
disappearance to deal with before, eh?"
"Can't say as I have, sir, in my time," answered the policeman.
"Leastways, not of this sort. Of course, we can get search parties
together, and one of 'em can go along the coast north'ards, and the other
can go south'ards, and we might have a look round the rocks out yonder,
tomorrow, as soon as it's light. But if the gentleman went out there, and
had the bad luck to fall into that Devil's Spout, why, then, sir, I'm
afraid all the searching in the world'll do no good. And the queer thing
is, gentlemen, if I may express an opinion, that nobody ever saw the
gentleman after he had left Mrs. Wooler's! That seems--"
A fisherman came lounging across the quay from the shadow of one of the
neighbouring cottages. He touched his cap to Marston Greyle, and looked
inquiringly at the two strangers.
"Are you the gentlemen as is asking after another gentleman?" he said.
"'Cause if so, I make no doubt as how I had a word or two with him
Stafford and Copplestone turned sharply on the newcomer--an elderly
man of plain and homely aspect who responded frankly to their
questioning glances. He went on at once, before they could put their
questions into words.
"It 'ud be about half-past two, or maybe a bit nearer three o'clock," he
said. "Up yonder it was, about a hundred yards this side of the
'Admiral's Arms.' I was sitting on a baulk o' timber there, doing
nothing, when he comes along--a tall, fine-looking man. He gives me a
pleasant sort o' nod, and said it was a grand day, and we got talking a
bit, about the scenery and such-like, and he said he'd never been here
before. Then he pointed up to the big house and the old Keep yonder, and
asked whose place that might be, and I said that was the Squire's. 'And
who may the Squire be?' says he. 'Mr. Marston Greyle,' says I, 'Recent
come into the property.' 'Marston Greyle!' he says, sharp-like. 'Why, I
used to know a young man of that very name in America!' he says. 'Very
like,' says I, 'I have heard as how the Squire had been in them parts
before he came here.' 'Bless me!' he says, 'I've a good mind to call on
him. How do you get up there?' he says. So I showed him that side path
that runs up through the plantation to near the top, and I told him that
if he followed that till he came to the Keep, he'd find another path
there as would take him to the door of the house. And he gave me a
shilling to drink his health, and off he went, the way as I'd pointed
out. D'ye think that'll be the same gentleman, now?"
Nobody answered this question. Everybody there was looking at Marston
Greyle. The little group had drawn near to the light of one of the three
gas-lamps which feebly illuminated the quay; it seemed to Copplestone
that the Squire's face had paled when the fisherman arrived at the middle
of his story. But it flushed as his companion turned to him, and he
laughed, a little uneasily.
"Said he knew me--in America?" he exclaimed. "I don't remember meeting
Mr. Bassett Oliver out there. But then I met so many Englishmen in one
place or another that I may have been introduced to him somewhere, at
some time, and--forgotten all about it."
Stafford spoke--with unnecessary abruptness, in Copplestone's opinion.
"I don't think it very likely that any one would forget Bassett Oliver,"
he said. "He isn't--or wasn't--the sort of man anybody could forget, once
they'd met him. Anyhow--did he come to your house yesterday afternoon as
this man suggests?"
Marston Greyle drew himself up. He looked Stafford up and down. Then he
made a slight gesture to the girl, whose face had already assumed a
"If I had seen Mr. Bassett Oliver yesterday, sir, we should not be
discussing his possible whereabouts now," said Greyle, icily. "Are you
The girl hesitated, glanced at Copplestone, and then walked away with her
cousin. Stafford sniffed contemptuously.
"Ass!" he muttered. "Couldn't he see that what I meant was that Oliver
must either have been mistaken, or have referred to some other Greyle
whom he met? Hang his pride! Well, now," he went on, turning to the
fisherman, "you're dead certain about what you've told us?"
"As certain as mortal man can be of aught there is!" answered the
informant. "Sure certain, mister."
"Make a note of it, constable," said Stafford. "Mr. Oliver was last seen
going up the path to the Keep, having said he meant to call on Mr.
Marston Greyle. I'll call on you again tomorrow morning. Copplestone!" he
went on, drawing his companion away, "I'm off to Norcaster--I shall see
the police there and get detectives. There's something seriously wrong
here--and by heaven, we've got to get to the bottom of it! Now, look
here--will you stay here for the night, so as to be on the spot? I'll
come back first thing in the morning and bring your luggage--I can't come
sooner, for there are heaps of business matters to deal with. You
will--good! Now I can just catch a train. Copplestone!--keep your eyes
and ears open. It's my firm belief--I don't know why--that there's been
foul play. Foul play!"
Stafford hurried away up hill to the station, and Copplestone, after
waiting a minute or two, turned along the quay on the north of the
bay--following Audrey Greyle, who was in front, alone.
THE ESTATE AGENT
Copplestone had kept a sharp watch on Marston Greyle and his cousin when
they walked off, and he had seen that they had parted at a point a little
farther along the shore road--the man turning up into the wood, the girl
going forward along the quay which led to the other half of the village.
He quickened his pace and followed her, catching her up as she came to a
path which led towards the old church. At the sound of his hurrying steps
she turned and faced him, and he saw in the light of a cottage lamp that
she still looked troubled and perplexed.
"Forgive me for running after you," said Copplestone as he went up to
her. "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry about--about that little scene
down there, you know. Your cousin misunderstood Mr. Stafford--what
Stafford meant was that--"
"I saw what Mr. Stafford meant," she broke in quickly. "I'm sorry my
cousin didn't see it. It was--obvious."
"All the same, Stafford put it rather--shall we say, brusquely," remarked
Copplestone. "Of course, he's terribly upset about Oliver's
disappearance, and he didn't consider the effect of his words. And it was
rather a surprise to hear that Oliver had known some man of your
cousin's name over there in America, wasn't it?"
"And that Mr. Oliver should mysteriously disappear just after making such
an announcement," said Audrey. "That certainly seems very surprising."
The two looked at each other, a question in the eyes of each, and
Copplestone knew that the trouble in the girl's eyes arose from inability
to understand what was already a suspicious circumstance.
"But after all, that may have been a mere coincidence," he hastened to
say. "Let's hope things may be cleared. I only hope that Oliver hasn't
met with an accident and is lying somewhere without help. I'm going to
remain here for the night, however, and Stafford will come back early in
the morning and go more thoroughly into things--I suppose there'll have
to be a search of the neighbourhood."
They had walked slowly up a path on the side of the cliff as they talked,
and now the girl stopped before a small cottage which stood at the end of
the churchyard, set in a tree-shaded garden, and looking out on the bay.
She laid her hand on the gate, glancing at Copplestone, and suddenly she
spoke, a little impulsively.
"Will you come in and speak to my mother?" she said. "She was a great
admirer of Mr. Oliver's acting--and she knew him at one time. She will be
Copplestone followed her up the garden and into the house, where she led
the way into a small old-fashioned parlour in which a grey-haired woman,
who had once been strikingly handsome, and whose face seemed to the
visitor to bear traces of great trouble, sat writing at a bureau. She
turned in surprise as her daughter led Copplestone in, but her manner
became remarkably calm and collected as Audrey explained who he was and
why he was there. And Copplestone, watching her narrowly, fancied that he
saw interest flash into her eyes when she heard of Bassett Oliver's
remark to the fisherman. But she made no comment, and when Audrey had
finished the story, she turned to Copplestone as if she had already
summed up the situation.
"We know this place so well--having lived here so long, you know," she
said, "that we can make a fairly accurate guess at what Mr. Oliver might
do. There seems no doubt that he went up the path to the Keep. According
to Mr. Marston Greyle's statement, he certainly did not go to the house.
Well, he might have done one of two other things. There is a path which
leads from the Keep down to the beach, immediately opposite the big rocks
which you have no doubt seen. There is another path which turns out of
the woods and follows the cliffs towards Lenwick, a village along the
coast, a mile away. But--at that time, on a Sunday afternoon, both paths
would be frequented. Speaking from knowledge, I should say that Mr.
Oliver cannot have left the woods--he must have been seen had he done so.
It's impossible that he could have gone down to the shore or along the
cliffs without being seen, too--impossible!"
There was a certain amount of insistence in the last few words which
puzzled Copplestone--also they conveyed to him a queer suggestion which
repulsed him; it was almost as if the speaker was appealing to him to use
his own common-sense about a difficult question. And before he could make
any reply Mrs. Greyle put a direct inquiry to him.
"What is going to be done?"
"I don't know, exactly," answered Copplestone. "I'm going to stay here
for the night, anyway, on the chance of hearing something. Stafford is
coming back in the morning--he spoke of detectives."
He looked a little doubtfully at his questioner as he uttered the last
word, and again he saw the sudden strange flash of unusual interest in
her eyes, and she nodded her head emphatically.
"Precisely!--the proper thing to do," she said. "There must have been
"Mother!" exclaimed Audrey, half doubtfully. "Do you really think--that?"
"I don't think anything else," replied Mrs. Greyle. "I certainly don't
believe that Bassett Oliver would put himself into any position of danger
which would result in his breaking his neck. Bassett Oliver never left
Copplestone made no comment on this direct assertion.
Instead, after a brief silence, he asked Mrs. Greyle a question.
"You knew Mr. Oliver--personally?"
"Five and twenty years ago--yes," she answered. "I was on the stage
myself before my marriage. But I have never met him since then. I have
seen him, of course, at the local theatres."
"He--you won't mind my asking?" said Copplestone, diffidently, "he didn't
know that you lived here?"
Mrs. Greyle smiled, somewhat mysteriously.
"Not at all--my name wouldn't have conveyed anything to him," she
answered. "He never knew whom I married. Otherwise, if he met some one
named Marston Greyle in America he would have connected him with me, and
have made inquiry about me, and had he known I lived here, he would have
called. It is odd, Audrey, that if your cousin met Mr. Oliver over there
he should have forgotten him. For one doesn't easily forget a man of
reputation--and Mr. Oliver was that of course!--and on the other hand,
Marston Greyle is not a common name. Did you ever hear the name before,
"Only in connection with your own family--I have read of the Greyles of
Scarhaven," replied Copplestone. "But, after all, I suppose it is not
confined to your family. There may be Greyles in America. Well--it's all
very queer," he went on, as he rose to leave. "May I come in tomorrow and
tell you what's being done?--I'm sure Stafford means to leave no stone
unturned--he's tremendously keen about it."
"Do!" said Mrs. Greyle, heartily. "But the probability is that you'll see
us out and about in the morning--we spend most of our time out of doors,
having little else to do."
Copplestone went away feeling more puzzled than ever.
Now that he was alone, for the first time since meeting Audrey Greyle on
the beach, he was able to reflect on certain events of the afternoon in
uninterrupted fashion. He thought over them as he walked back towards the
"Admiral's Arms." It was certainly a strange thing that Bassett Oliver,
after remarking to the fisherman that he had known a Mr. Marston Greyle
in America, and hearing that the Squire of Scarhaven had been in that
country, should have gone up to the house saying that he would call on
the Squire and should never have been seen again. It was certainly
strange that if this Marston Greyle, of Scarhaven, had met Bassett Oliver
in America he should have completely forgotten the fact. Bassett Oliver
had a considerable reputation in the United States--he was, in fact, more
popular in that country than in his own, and he had toured in the
principal towns and cities across there regularly for several years. To
meet him there was to meet a most popular celebrity--could any man forget
it? Therefore, were there two men of the name of Marston Greyle?
That was one problem--closely affecting Oliver's disappearance. The other
had nothing to do with Oliver's disappearance--nevertheless, it
interested Richard Copplestone. He was a young man of quick perception
and accurate observation, and his alert eyes had seen that the Squire of
Scarhaven occupied a position suggestive of power and wealth. The house
which stood beneath the old Keep was one of size and importance, the sort
of place which could only be kept up by a rich man--Copplestone's glances
at its grounds, its gardens, its entrance lodge, its entire surroundings
had shown him that only a well-to-do man could live there. How came it,
then, that the Squire's relations--his cousin and her mother--lived in a
small and unpretentious cottage, and were obviously not well off as
regards material goods? Copplestone had the faculty of seeing things at a
glance, and refined and cultivated as the atmosphere of Mrs. Greyle's
parlour was, it had taken no more than a glance from his perceptive eyes
to see that he was there confronted with what folk call genteel poverty.
Mrs. Greyle's almost nun-like attire of black had done duty for a long
time; the carpet was threadbare; there was an absence of those little
touches of comfort with which refined women of even modest means love to
surround themselves; a sure instinct told him that here were two women
who had to carefully count their pence, and lay out their shillings with
caution. Genteel, quiet poverty, without doubt--and yet, on the other
side of the little bay, a near kinsman whose rent-roll must run to a few
thousands a year!
And yet one more curious occasion of perplexity--to add to the other two.
Copplestone had felt instinctively attracted to Audrey Greyle when he met
her on the sands, and the attraction increased as he walked at her side
towards the village. In his quiet unobtrusive fashion he had watched her
closely when they encountered the man whom she introduced as her cousin;
and he had fancied that her manner underwent a curious change when
Marston Greyle came on the scene--she had seemed to become constrained,
chilled, distant, aloof--not with the stranger, himself, but with her
kinsman. This fancy had become assurance during the conversation which
had abruptly ended when Greyle took offence at Stafford's brusque remark.
Copplestone had seen a sudden look in the girl's eyes when the fisherman
repeated what Oliver had said about meeting a Mr. Marston Greyle in
America; it was a look of sharply awakened--what? Suspicion?
apprehension?--he could not decide. But it was the same look which had
come into her mother's eyes later on. Moreover, when the Squire turned
huffily away, taking his cousin with him, Copplestone had noticed that
there was evidently a smart passage of words between them after leaving
the little group on the quay, and they had parted unceremoniously, the
man turning on his heel up a side path into his own grounds and the girl
going forward with a sudden acceleration of pace. All this made
Copplestone draw a conclusion.
"There's no great love lost between the gentleman at the big house and
his lady relatives in the little cottage," he mused. "Also, around the
gentleman there appears to be some cloud of mystery. What?--and has it
anything to do with the Oliver mystery?"
He went back to the inn and made his arrangements with its landlady, who
by that time was full to overflowing with interest and amazement at the
strange affair which had brought her this guest. But Mrs. Wooler had eyes
as well as ears, and noticing that Copplestone was already looking weary
and harassed, she hastened to provide a hot dinner for him, and to
recommend a certain claret which in her opinion possessed remarkable
revivifying qualities. Copplestone, who had eaten nothing for several
hours, accepted her hospitable attentions with gratitude, and he was
enjoying himself greatly in a quaint old-world parlour, in close
proximity to a bright fire, when Mrs. Wooler entered with a countenance
which betokened mystery in every feature.
"There's the estate agent, Mr. Chatfield, outside, very anxious to have a
word with you about this affair," she said. "Would you be for having him
in? He's the sort of man," she went on, sinking her tones to a whisper,
"who must know everything that's going on, and, of course, having the
position he has, he might be useful. Mr. Peter Chatfield, Mr. Greyle's
agent, and his uncle's before him--that's who he is--Peeping Peter, they
call him hereabouts, because he's fond of knowing everybody's business."
"Bring him in," said Copplestone. He was by no means averse to having a
companion, and Mrs. Wooler's graphic characterization had awakened his
curiosity. "Tell him I shall be glad to see him."
Mrs. Wooler presently ushered in a figure which Copplestone's dramatic
sense immediately seized on. He saw before him a tall, heavily-built
man, with a large, solemn, deeply-lined face, out of which looked a
pair of the smallest and slyest eyes ever seen in a human being--queer,
almost hidden eyes, set beneath thick bushy eyebrows above which rose
the dome of an unusually high forehead and a bald head. As for the rest
of him, Mr. Peter Chatfield had a snub nose, a wide slit of a mouth, and
a flabby hand; his garments were of a Quaker kind in cut and hue; he
wore old-fashioned stand-up collars and a voluminous black stock; in one
hand he carried a stout oaken staff, in the other a square-crowned
beaver hat; altogether, his mere outward appearance would have gained
notice for him anywhere, and Copplestone rejoiced in him as a character.
He rose, greeted his visitor cordially, and invited him to a seat by the
fire. The estate agent settled his heavy figure comfortably, and made a
careful inspection of the young stranger before he spoke. At last he
"Sir!" he whispered in a confidential tone. "Do you consider this here a
matter of murder?"
THE GREYLE HISTORY
If Copplestone had followed his first natural impulse, he would have
laughed aloud at this solemnly propounded question: as it was, he found
it difficult to content himself with a smile.
"Isn't it a little early to arrive at any conclusion, of any sort, Mr.
Chatfield?" he asked. "You haven't made up your own mind, surely?"
Chatfield pursed up his long thin lips and shook his head, continuing to
stare fixedly at Copplestone.
"Now I may have, and I may not have, mister," he said at last, suddenly
relaxing. "What I was asking of was--what might you consider?"
"I don't consider at all--yet," answered Copplestone. "It's too soon. Let
me offer you a glass of claret."
"Many thanks to you, sir, but it's too cold for my stomach," responded
the visitor. "A drop of gin, now, is more in my line, since you're so
kind. Ah, well, in any case, sir, this here is a very unfortunate affair.
I'm a deal upset by it--I am indeed!"
Copplestone rang the bell, gave orders for Mr. Chatfield's suitable
entertainment with gin and cigars, and making an end of his dinner, drew
up a chair to the fire opposite his visitor.
"You are upset, Mr. Chatfield?" he remarked. "Now, why?"
Chatfield sipped his gin and water, and flourished a cigar with a
comprehensive wave of his big fat hand.
"Oh, in general, sir!" he said. "Things like this here are not pleasant
to have in a quiet, respectable community like ours. There's very wicked
people in this world, mister, and they will not control what's termed the
unruly member. They will talk. You'll excuse me, but I doubt not that I'm
a good deal more than twice your age, and I've learnt experience. My
experience, sir, is that a wise man holds his tongue until he's called
upon to use it. Now, in my opinion, it was a very unwise thing of yon
there sea-going man, Ewbank, to say that this unfortunate play-actor told
him that he'd met our Squire in America--very unfortunate!"
Copplestone pricked his ears. Had the estate agent come there to tell him
that? And if so, why?
"Oh!" he said. "You've heard that, have you? Now who told you that, Mr.
Chatfield? For I don't think that's generally known."
"If you knew this here village, mister, as well as what I do," replied
Chatfield coolly, "you'd know that there is known all over the place by
this time. The constable told me, and of course yon there man, Ewbank,
he'll have told it all round since he had that bit of talk with you and
your friend. He'll have been in to every public there is in Scarhaven,
repeating of it. And a very, very serious complexion, of course, could be
put on them words, sir."
"How?" asked Copplestone.
"Put it to yourself, sir," replied Chatfield. "The unfortunate man comes
here, tells Ewbank he knew Mr. Greyle in that far-away land, says he'll
call on him, is seen going towards the big house--and is never seen no
more! Why, sir, what does human nature--which is wicked--say?"
"What does your human nature--which I'm sure is not wicked, say?"
suggested Copplestone. "Come, now!"
"What I say, sir, is neither here nor there," answered the agent. "It's
what evil-disposed tongues says."
"But they haven't said anything yet," said Copplestone.
"I should say they've said a deal, sir," responded Chatfield,
lugubriously. "I know Scarhaven tongues. They'll have thrown out a deal
of suspicious talk about the Squire."
"Have you seen Mr. Greyle?" asked Copplestone. He was already sure that
the agent was there with a purpose, and he wanted to know its precise
nature. "Is he concerned about this?"
"I have seen Mr. Greyle, mister, and he is concerned about what yon man,
Ewbank, related," replied Chatfield. "Mr. Greyle, sir, came straight to
me--I reside in a residence within the park. Mr. Greyle, mister, says
that he has no recollection whatever of meeting this play-actor person in
America--he may have done and he mayn't. But he doesn't remember him, and
it isn't likely he should--him, an English landlord and a gentleman
wouldn't be very like to remember a play-actor person that's here today
and gone tomorrow! I hope I give no offence, sir--maybe you're a
"I am not," answered Copplestone. He sat staring at his visitor for
awhile, and when he spoke again his voice had lost its cordial tone.
"Well," he said, "and what have you called on me about?"
Chatfield looked up sharply, noticing the altered tone.
"To tell you--and them as you no doubt represent--that Mr. Greyle will be
glad to help in any possible way towards finding out something in this
here affair," he answered. "He'll welcome any inquiry that's opened."
"Oh!" said Copplestone. "I see! But you're making a mistake, Mr.
Chatfield. I don't represent anybody. I'm not even a relation of Mr.
Bassett Oliver. In fact, I never met Mr. Oliver in my life: never spoke
to him. So--I'm not here in any representative or official sense."
Chatfield's small eyes grew smaller with suspicious curiosity.
"Oh?" he said questioningly. "Then--what might you be here for, mister?"
Copplestone stood up and rang the bell.
"That's my business." he answered. "Sorry I can't give you any more
time," he went on as Mrs. Wooler opened the door. "I'm engaged now. If
you or Mr. Greyle want to see Mr. Oliver's friends I believe his brother,
Sir Cresswell Oliver, will be here tomorrow--he's been wired for anyhow."
Chatfield's mouth opened as he picked up his hat. He stared at this
self-assured young man as if he were something quite new to him.
"Sir Cresswell Oliver!" he exclaimed. "Did you say, sir?"
"I said Sir Cresswell Oliver--quite plainly," answered Copplestone.
Chatfield's mouth grew wider.
"You don't mean to tell me that a play-actor's own brother to a titled
gentleman!" he said.
"Good-night!" replied Copplestone, motioning his visitor towards the
door. "I can't give you any more time, really. However, as you seem
anxious, Mr. Bassett Oliver is the younger brother of Rear-Admiral Sir
Cresswell Oliver, Baronet, and I should imagine that Sir Cresswell will
want to know a lot about what's become of him. So you'd better--or Mr.
Greyle had better--speak to him. Now once more--good-night."
When Chatfield had gone, Copplestone laughed and flung himself into an
easy chair before the fire. Of course, the stupid, ignorant,
self-sufficient old fool had come fishing for news--he and his master
wanted to know what was going to be done in the way of making inquiry.
But why?--why so much anxiety if they knew nothing whatever about Bassett
Oliver's strange disappearance? "Why this profession of eager willingness
to welcome any inquiry that might be made? Nobody had accused Marston
Greyle of having anything to do with Bassett Oliver's strange exit--if it
was an exit--why, then--
"But it's useless speculating," he mused. "I can't do anything--and here
I am, with nothing to do!"
He had pleaded an engagement, but he had none, of course. There was a
shelf of old books in the room, but he did not care to read. And
presently, hands in pockets, he lounged out into the hall and saw Mrs.
Wooler standing at the door of the little parlour into which she had
shown him and Stafford earlier in the day.
"There's nobody in here, sir," she said, invitingly; "if you'd like to
smoke your pipe here--"
"Thank you--I will," answered Copplestone. "I got rid of that old
fellow," he observed confidentially when he had followed the landlady
within, and had dropped into a chair near her own. "I think he had
"That's his usual occupation," said Mrs. Wooler, with a meaning smile. "I
told you he was called Peeping Peter. He's the sort of man who will have
his nose in everybody's affairs. But," she added, with a shake of the
head which seemed to mean a good deal more than the smile, "he doesn't
often come here. This is almost the only house in Scarhaven that doesn't
belong to the Greyle estate. This house, and the land round it, have
belonged to the Wooler family as long as the rest of the place has
belonged to the Greyles. And many a Greyle has wanted to buy it, and
every Wooler has refused to sell it--and always will!"
"That's very interesting," said Copplestone. "Does the present Greyle
want to buy?"
The landlady picked up a piece of sewing and sat down in a chair which
seemed to be purposely placed so that she could keep an eye on the
adjacent bar-parlour on one side and the hall on the other.
"I don't know much about what the present Squire would like," she said.
"Nobody does. He's a newcomer, and nobody knows anything about him. You
saw him this afternoon?"
"I met a young lady on the sands who turned out to be his cousin, and he
came up while I was talking to her," replied Copplestone. "Yes, I saw
him. I'm afraid Mr. Stafford, who came in here with me, you know,
offended him," he continued, and gave Mrs. Wooler an account of what had
happened. "Is he rather--touchy?" he concluded.
"I don't know that he is," she said. "No one sees much of him. You see
he's a stranger: although he's a Greyle, he's not a Scarhaven man. Of
course, I know all his family history--I'm Scarhaven born and bred. In my
time there have been three generations of Greyles. The first one I knew
was this Squire's grandfather, old Mr. Stephen Greyle: he died when I was
a girl in my 'teens. He had three sons and no daughters. The three sons
were all different in their tastes and ideas; the eldest, Stephen John,
who came into the estates on his father's death, was a real home bird--he
never left Scarhaven for more than a day or two at a time all his life.
And he never married--he was a real old bachelor, almost a woman-hater.
The next one, Marcus, went out to America and settled there--he was the
father of this present Squire, Mr. Marston Greyle. Then there was the
third son, Valentine--he went to live in London. And years after he came
back here, very poor, and settled down in a little house near Scarhaven
Church with his wife and daughter--that was the daughter you met this
afternoon, Miss Audrey. I don't know why, and nobody else knows, either,
but the last Squire, Stephen John, never had anything to do with
Valentine and his family; what's more, when Valentine died and left the
widow and daughter very poorly off, Stephen John did nothing for them.
But he himself died very soon after Valentine, and then of course, as
Marcus had already died in America, everything came to this Mr. Marston.
And, as I said, he's a stranger to Scarhaven folk and Scarhaven ways.
Indeed, you might say to England and English ways, for I understand he'd
never been in England until he came to take up the family property."
"Is he more friendly with the mother and daughter than the last Squire
was?" asked Copplestone, who had been much interested in this chapter of
Mrs. Wooler made several stitches in her sewing before she answered this
direct question, and when, she spoke it was in lower tones and with a
glance of caution.
"He would be, if he could!" she said. "There are those in the village who
say that he wants to marry his cousin. But the truth is--so far as one
can see or learn it--that for some reason or other, neither Mrs.
Valentine Greyle nor Miss Audrey can bear him! They took some queer
dislike to the young man when he first came, and they've kept it up. Of
course, they're outwardly friendly, and he occasionally, I believe, goes
to the cottage, but they rarely go to the big house, and it's very seldom
they're ever seen together. I have heard--one does hear things in
villages--that he'd be very glad to do something handsome for them, but
they're both as proud as they're poor, and not the sort to accept aught
from anybody. I believe they've just enough to live on, but it can't be a
great deal, for everybody knows that Valentine Greyle made ducks and
drakes of his fortune long before he came back to Scarhaven, and old
Stephen John only left them a few hundreds of pounds. However--there it
is. However much the new Squire wants to marry his cousin, it's very flat
she'll not have anything to say to him. I've once or twice had an
opportunity of seeing those two together, and it's my private opinion
that Miss Audrey dislikes that young man just about as heartily as she
"What does Mr. Marston Greyle find to do with himself in this place?"
asked Copplestone, turning the conversation. "Can't be very lively for
him if he's a man of any activity."
"Oh, I don't know," replied Mrs. Wooler. "I think he's a good deal like
his uncle, the last squire--he certainly never goes anywhere, except out
to sea in his yacht. He shoots a bit, and fishes a bit, and so on, and
spends a lot of time with Peeping Peterhe's a widower, is Chatfield, and
lives alone, except when his daughter runs down to see him. And that
daughter, bye-the-bye, Mr. Copplestone, is on the stage."
"Dear me!" said Copplestone. "That is surprising! Her father made several
contemptuous references to play-actors when he was talking to me."
"Oh, he hates them, and all connected with them!" replied Mrs. Wooler,
laughing. "All the same, his own daughter has been on the stage for a
good five years, and I fancy she's doing well. A fine, handsome girl she
is, too--she's been down here a good deal lately, and--"
The landlady suddenly paused, hearing a light step in the hall. She
glanced through the window and then turned to Copplestone with an
"Talk of the--you know," she exclaimed. "Here's Addie Chatfield herself!"
THE LEADING LADY
Copplestone looked up with interest as the door of the private parlour
was thrown open, and a tall, handsome young woman burst in with a
briskness of movement which betokened unusual energy and vivacity. He
got an impression of the old estate agent's daughter in one glance,
and wondered how Chatfield came to have such a good-looking girl as
his progeny. The impression was of dark, sparkling eyes, a mass of
darker, highly-burnished hair, bright colour, a flashing vivacious
smile, a fine figure, a general air of sprightliness and glowing
health--this was certainly the sort of personality that would
recommend itself to a considerable mass of theatre-goers, and
Copplestone, as a budding dramatist, immediately began to cast Addie
Chatfield for an appropriate part.
The newcomer stopped short on the threshold as she caught sight of a
stranger, and she glanced with sharp inquisitiveness at Copplestone as he
rose from his chair.
"Oh!--I supposed you were alone, Mrs. Wooler," she exclaimed. "You
usually are, you know, so I came in anyhow--sorry!"
"Come in," said the landlady. "Don't go, Mr. Copplestone. This is Miss
Adela Chatfield. Your father has just been to see this gentleman,
Addie--perhaps he told you?"
Addie Chatfield dropped into a chair at Mrs. Wooler's side, and looked
the stranger over slowly and carefully."
"No," she answered. "My father didn't tell me--he doesn't tell me
anything about his own affairs. All his talk is about mine--the iniquity
of them, and so on."
She showed a fine set of even white teeth as she made this remark, and
her eyes sought Copplestone's again with a direct challenge. Copplestone
looked calmly at her, half-smiling; he was beginning, in his youthful
innocence, to think that he already understood this type of young woman.
And seeing him smile, Addie also smiled.
"Now I wonder whatever my father wanted to see you about?" she said, with
a strong accent on the personal pronoun. "For you don't look his sort,
and he certainly isn't yours--unless you're deceptive."
"Perhaps I am," responded Copplestone, still keeping his eyes on her.
"Your father wanted to see me about the strange disappearance of Mr.
Bassett Oliver. That was all."
The girl's glance, bold and challenging, suddenly shifted before
Copplestone's steady look. She half turned to Mrs. Wooler, and her colour
rose a little.
"I've heard of that," she said, with an affectation of indifference. "And
as I happen to know a bit of Bassett Oliver, I don't see what all this
fuss is about. I should say Bassett Oliver took it into his head to go
off somewhere yesterday on a little game of his own, and that he's turned
up at Norcaster by this time, and is safe in his dressing-room, or on the
stage. That's my notion."
"I wish I could think it the correct one," replied Copplestone. "But we
can soon find out if it is--there's a telephone in the hall. Yet--I'm so
sure that you're wrong, that I'm not even going to ring Norcaster up. Mr.
Bassett Oliver has--disappeared here!"
"Are you a member of his company?" asked Addie, again looking Copplestone
over with speculative glances.
"Not at all! I'm a humble person whose play Mr. Oliver was about to
produce next month, in consequence of which I came down to see him, and
to find this state of affairs. And--having nothing else to do--I'm now
here to help to find him--alive or dead."
"Oh!" said Addie. "So--you're a writer?"
"I understand that you are an actress?" responded Copplestone. "I wonder
if I've ever seen you anywhere?"
Addie bowed her head and gave him a sharp glance.
"Evidently not!" she retorted. "Or you wouldn't wonder! As if anybody
could forget me, once they'd seen me! I believe you're pulling my leg,
though. Do you live in town?"
"I live," replied Copplestone slowly and with affected solemnity, "in
chambers in Jermyn Street."
"And do you mean to tell me that you didn't see me last year in _The
Clever Lady Hartletop?_" she exclaimed.
Copplestone put the tips of his fingers together and his head on one side
and regarded her critically.
"What part did you play?" he asked innocently.
"Part? Why, _the_ part, of course!" she retorted. "Goodness! Why, I
created it! And played it to crowded houses for nearly two hundred
"Ah!" said Copplestone. "But I'll make a confession to you. I rarely
visit the theatre. I never saw _Lady Hartletop._ I haven't been in a
theatre of any sort for two years. So you must forgive me. I congratulate
you on your success."
Addie received this tribute with a mollified smile, which changed to a
glance of surprised curiosity.
"You never go to the theatre?--and yet you write plays!" she exclaimed.
"That's queer, isn't it? But I believe writing people are queer--they
look it, anyhow. All the same, you don't look like a writer--what does he
look like, Mrs. Wooler? Oh, I know--a sort of nice little officer boy,
just washed and tidied up!"
The landlady, who had evidently enjoyed this passage at arms, laughed as
she gave Copplestone a significant glance.
"And when did you come down home, Addie?" she asked quietly. "I didn't
know you were here again."
"Came down Saturday night," said Addie. "I'm on my way to
Edinburgh--business there on Wednesday. So I broke the journey here--just
to pay my respects to my worshipful parent."
"I think I heard you say that you knew Mr. Bassett Oliver?" asked
Copplestone. "You've met him?"
"Met him in this country and in America," replied Addie, calmly. "He was
on tour over there when I was--three years ago. We were in two or three
towns together at the same time--different houses, of course. I never saw
much of him in London, though."
"You didn't see anything of him yesterday, here?" suggested Copplestone.
Addie stared and glanced at the landlady.
"Here?" she exclaimed. "Goodness, no! When I'm here of a Sunday, I lie in
bed all day, or most of it. Otherwise, I'd have to walk with my parent to
the family pew. No--my Sundays are days of rest! You really think this
disappearance is serious?"
"Oliver's managers--who know him best, of course--think it most serious,"
replied Copplestone. "They say that nothing but an accident of a really
serious nature would have kept him from his engagements."
"Then that settles it!" said Addie. "He's fallen down the Devil's Spout.
Plain as plain can be, that! He's made his way there, been a bit too
daring, and slipped over the edge. And whoever falls in there never comes
out again!--isn't that it, Mrs. Wooler?"
"That's what they say," answered the landlady.
"But I don't remember any accident at the Devil's Spout in my time."
"Well, there's been one now, anyway--that's flat," remarked Addie. "Poor
old Bassett--I'm sorry for him! Well, I'm off. Good-night, Mr.
Copplestone--and perhaps you'll so far overcome your repugnance to the
theatre as to come and see me in one some day?"
"Supposing I escort you homeward instead--now?" suggested Copplestone.
"That will at least show that I am ready to become your devoted--"
"Admirer, I suppose," said Addie. "I'm afraid he's not quite as innocent
as he looks, Mrs. Wooler. Well--you can escort me as far as the gates of
the park, then--I daren't take you further, because it's so dark in there
that you'd surely lose your way, and then there'd be a second
disappearance and all sorts of complications."
She went out of the inn, laughing and chattering, but once outside she
suddenly became serious, and she involuntarily laid her hand on
Copplestone's arm as they turned down the hillside towards the quay.
"I say!" she said in a low voice. "I wasn't going to ask questions in
there, but--what's going to be done about this Oliver affair? Of course
you're stopping here to do something. What?"
Copplestone hesitated before answering this direct question. He had not
seen anything which would lead him to suppose that Miss Adela Chatfield
was a disingenuous and designing young woman, but she was certainly
Peeping Peter's daughter, and the old man, having failed to get anything
out of Copplestone himself, might possibly have sent her to see what she
could accomplish. He replied noncommittally.
"I'm not in a position to do anything," he said. "I'm not a relative--not
even a personal friend. I daresay you know that Bassett Oliver was--one's
already talking of him in the past tense!--the brother of Rear-Admiral
Sir Cresswell Oliver, the famous seaman?"
"I knew he was a man of what they call family, but I didn't know that,"
she answered. "What of it?"
"Stafford's wired to Sir Cresswell," replied Copplestone. "Hell be down
here some time tomorrow, no doubt. And of course he'll take everything
into his own hands."
"And he'll do--what?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know," replied Copplestone. "Set the police to work, I
should think. They'll want to find out where Bassett Oliver went, where
he got to, when he turned up to the Keep, saying he'd go and call on
the Squire, as he'd met some man of that name in America. By-the-bye,
you said you'd been in America. Did you meet anybody of the Squire's
They were passing along the quay by that time, and in the light of one of
its feeble gas-lamps he turned and looked narrowly at his companion. He
fancied that he saw her face change in expression at his question; if
there was any change, however, it was so quick that it was gone in a
second. She shook her head with emphatic decision.
"I?" she exclaimed. "Never! It's a most uncommon name, that. I never
heard of anybody called Greyle except at Scarhaven."
"The present Mr. Greyle came from America," said Copplestone.
"I know, of course," she answered. "But I never met any Greyles out
there. Bassett Oliver may have done, though. I know he toured in a lot
of American towns--I only went to three--New York, Chicago, St. Louis.
I suppose," she continued, turning to Copplestone with a suggestion of
confidence in her manner, "I suppose you consider it a very damning
thing that Bassett Oliver should disappear, after saying what he did
It was very evident to Copplestone that whether Miss Chatfield had spoken
the truth or not when she said that her father had not told her of his
visit to the "Admiral's Arms," she was thoroughly conversant with all the
facts relating to the Oliver mystery, and he was still doubtful as to
whether she was not seeking information.
"Does it matter at all what I think," he answered evasively. "I've no
part in this affair--I'm a mere spectator. I don't know how what you
refer to might be considered by people who are accustomed to size things
up. They might say all that was a mere coincidence."
"But what do you think?" she said with feminine persistence. "Come, now,
Copplestone laughed. They had come to the edge of the wooded park in
which the estate agent's house stood, and at a gate which led into it,
"Between ourselves, then, I don't think at all--yet," he answered. "I
haven't sized anything up. All I should say at present is that if--or
as, for I'm sure the fisherman repeated accurately what he heard--as
Oliver said he met somebody called Marston Greyle in America, why--I
conclude he did. That's all. Now, won't you please let me see you
through these dark woods?"
But Addie said her farewell, and left him somewhat abruptly, and he
watched her until she had passed out of the circle of light from the lamp
which swung over the gate. She passed on into the shadows--and
Copplestone, who had already memorized the chief geographical points of
his new surroundings, noticed what she probably thought no stranger would
notice--that instead of going towards her father's house, she turned up
the drive to the Squire's.
LEFT ON GUARD
Stafford was back at Scarhaven before breakfast time next morning,
bringing with him a roll of copies of the _Norcaster Daily Chronicle_,
one of which he immediately displayed to Copplestone and Mrs. Wooler, who
met him at the inn door. He pointed with great pride to certain staring
"I engineered that!" he exclaimed. "Went round to the newspaper office
last night and put them up to everything. Nothing like publicity in these
cases. There you are!
MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF FAMOUS ACTOR! BASSETT OLIVER MISSING!
INTERVIEW WITH MAN WHO SAW HIM LAST!
That's the style, Copplestone!--every human being along this coast'll be
reading that by now!"
"So there was no news of him last night?" asked Copplestone.
"Neither last night nor this morning, my boy," replied Stafford. "Of
course not! No--he never left here, not he! Now then, let Mrs. Wooler
serve us that nice breakfast which I'm sure she has in readiness, and
then we're going to plunge into business, hot and strong. There's a
couple of detectives coming on by the nine o'clock train, and we're going
to do the whole thing thoroughly."
"What about his brother?" inquired Copplestone.
"I wired him last night to his London address, and got a reply first
thing this morning," said Stafford. "He's coming along by the 5:15 A.M.
from King's Cross--he'll be here before noon. I want to get things to
work before he arrives, though. And the first thing to do, of course, is
to make sympathetic inquiry, and to search the shore, and the cliffs, and
these woods--and that Keep. All that we'll attend to at once."
But on going round to the village police-station they found that
Stafford's ideas had already been largely anticipated. The news of the
strange gentleman's mysterious disappearance had spread like wild-fire
through Scarhaven and the immediate district during the previous evening,
and at daybreak parties of fisher-folk had begun a systematic search.
These parties kept coming in to report progress all the morning: by noon
they had all returned. They had searched the famous rocks, the woods, the
park, the Keep, and its adjacent ruins, and the cliffs and shore for some
considerable distance north and south of the bay, and there was no
result. Not a trace, not a sign of the missing man was to be found
anywhere. And when, at one o'clock, Stafford and Copplestone walked up to
the little station to meet Sir Cresswell Oliver, it was with the
disappointing consciousness that they had no news to give him.
Copplestone, who nourished a natural taste for celebrities of any sort,
born of his artistic leanings and tendencies, had looked forward with
interest to meeting Sir Cresswell Oliver, who, only a few months
previously, had made himself famous by a remarkable feat of seamanship in
which great personal bravery and courage had been displayed. He had a
vague expectation of seeing a bluff, stalwart, sea-dog type of man;
instead, he presently found himself shaking hands with a very
quiet-looking, elderly gentleman, who might have been a barrister or a
doctor, of pleasant and kindly manners. With him was another gentleman of
a similar type, and of about the same age, whom he introduced as the
family solicitor, Mr. Petherton. And to these two, in a private
sitting-room at the "Admiral's Arms," Stafford, as Bassett Oliver's
business representative, and Copplestone, as having remained on the spot
since the day before, told all and every detail of what had transpired
since it was definitely established that the famous actor was missing.
Both listened in silence and with deep attention; when all the facts had
been put before them, they went aside and talked together; then they
returned and Sir Cresswell besought Stafford and Copplestone's attention.
"I want to tell you young gentlemen precisely what Mr. Petherton and I
think it best to do," he said in the mild and bland accents which had so
much astonished Copplestone. "We have listened, as you will admit, with
our best attention. Mr. Petherton, as you know, is a man of law; I
myself, when I have the good luck to be ashore, am a Chairman of
Quarter Sessions, so I'm accustomed to hearing and weighing evidence. We
don't think there's any doubt that my poor brother has met with some
curious mishap which has resulted in his death. It seems impossible,
going on what you tell us from the evidence you've collected, that he
could ever have approached that Devil's Spout place unseen; it also
seems impossible that he could have had a fatal fall over the cliffs,
since his body has not been found. No--we think something befell him in
the neighbourhood of Scarhaven Keep. But what? Foul play? Possibly! If
it was--why? And there are three people Mr. Petherton and I would like
to speak to, privately--the fisherman, Ewbank, Mr. Marston Greyle, and
Mrs. Valentine Greyle. We should like to hear Ewbank's story for
ourselves; we certainly want to see the Squire; and I, personally, wish
to see Mrs. Greyle because, from what Mr. Copplestone there has told us,
I am quite sure that I, too, knew her a good many years ago, when she
was acquainted with my brother Bassett. So we propose, Mr. Stafford, to
go and see these three people--and when we have seen them, I will tell
you and Mr. Copplestone exactly what I, as my brother's representative,
wish to be done."
The two younger men waited impatiently in and about the hotel while their
elders went on their self-appointed mission. Stafford, essentially a man
of activity, speculated on their reasons for seeing the three people whom
Sir Cresswell Oliver had specifically mentioned: Copplestone was
meanwhile wondering if he could with propriety pay another visit to Mrs.
Greyle's cottage that night. It was drawing near to dusk when the two
quiet-looking, elderly gentlemen returned and summoned the younger ones
to another conference. Both looked as reserved and bland as when they had
set out, and the old seaman's voice was just as suave as ever when he
"Well, gentlemen," he said, "we have paid our visits, and I suppose I had
better tell you at once that we are no wiser as to actual facts than we
were when we left you earlier in the afternoon. The man Ewbank stands
emphatically by his story; Mr. Marston Greyle says that he cannot
remember any meeting with my brother in America, and that he certainly
did not call on him here on Sunday: Mrs. Valentine Greyle has not met
Bassett for a great many years. Now--there the matter stands. Of course,
it cannot rest there. Further inquiries will have to be made. Mr.
Petherton and I are going on to Norcaster this evening, and we shall have
a very substantial reward offered to any person who can give any
information about my brother. That may result in something--or in
nothing. As to my brother's business arrangements, I will go fully into
that matter with you, Mr. Stafford, at Norcaster, tomorrow. Now, Mr.
Copplestone, will you have a word or two with me in private?"
Copplestone followed the old seaman into a quiet corner of the room,
where Sir Cresswell turned on him with a smile.
"I take it," he said, "that you are a young gentleman of leisure, and
that you can abide wherever you like, eh?"
"Yes, you may take that as granted," answered Copplestone, wondering what
"Doesn't much matter if you write your plays in Jermyn Street
or--anywhere else, eh?" questioned Sir Cresswell with a humorous smile.
"Practically, no," replied Copplestone.
Sir Cresswell tapped him on the shoulder.
"I want you to do me a favour," he said. "I shall take it as a kindness
if you will. I don't want to talk about certain ideas which Petherton and
I have about this affair, yet, anyway--not even to you--but we _have_
formed some ideas this afternoon. Now, do you think you could manage to
stay where you are for a week or two?"
"Here?" exclaimed Copplestone.
"This seems very comfortable," said Sir Cresswell, looking round. "The
landlady is a nice, motherly person; she gave me a very well-cooked
lunch; this is a quiet room in which to do your writing, eh?"
"Of course I can stay here," answered Copplestone, who was a good deal
bewildered. "But--mayn't I know why--and in what capacity?"
"Just to keep your eyes and your ears open," said Sir Cresswell. "Don't
seem to make inquiries--in fact, don't make any inquiry--do nothing. I
don't want you to do any private detective work--not I! Just stop here
a bit--amuse yourself--write--read--and watch things quietly. And--don't
be cross--I've an elderly man's privilege, you know--you'll send your
bills to me."
"Oh, that's all right, thanks!" said Copplestone, hurriedly. "I'm pretty
well off as regards this world's goods."
"So I guessed when I found that you lived in the expensive atmosphere of
Jermyn Street," said Sir Cresswell, with a sly laugh. "But all the same,
you'll let me be paymaster here, you know--that's only fair."
"All right--certainly, if you wish it," agreed Copplestone. "But look
here--won't you trust me? I assure you I'm to be trusted. You suspect
somebody! Hadn't you better give me your confidence? I won't tell a
soul--and when I say that, I mean it literally. I won't tell one
Sir Cresswell waited a moment or two, looking quietly at Copplestone.
Then he clapped a hand on the young man's shoulder.
"All right, my lad," he said. "Yes!--we do suspect somebody. Marston
Greyle! Now you know it."
"I expected that," answered Copplestone. "All right, sir. And my orders
are--just what you said."
"Just what I said," agreed Sir Cresswell. "Carry on at that--eyes and
ears open; no fuss; everything quiet, unobtrusive, silent.
Meanwhile--Petherton will be at work. And I say--if you want company,
you know--I think you'll find it across the bay there at Mrs.
"I was there last night," said Copplestone. "I liked both of them
very much. You knew Mrs. Greyle once upon a time, I think; you and
"We did!" replied Sir Cresswell, with a sigh. "Um!--the fact is, both
Bassett and I were in love with her at that time. She married another man
instead. That's all!"
He gave Copplestone a squeeze of the elbow, laughed, and went across to
the solicitor, who was chatting to Stafford in one of the bow windows.
Ten minutes later all three were off to Norcaster, and Copplestone was
alone, ruminating over this sudden and extraordinary change in the
hiterto even tenor of his life. Little more than twenty-four hours
previously, all he had been concerned about was the production of his
play by Bassett Oliver--here he was now, mixed up in a drama of real
life, with Bassett Oliver as its main figure, and the plot as yet
unrevealed. And he himself was already committed to play in it--but
Now that the others had gone, Copplestone began to feel strangely alone.
He had accepted Sir Cresswell Oliver's commission readily, feeling
genuinely interested in the affair, and being secretly conscious that he
would be glad of the opportunity of further improving his acquaintance
with Audrey Greyle. But now that he considered things quietly, he began
to see that his position was a somewhat curious and possibly invidious
one. He was to watch--and to seem not to watch. He was to listen--and
appear not to listen. The task would be difficult--and perhaps
unpleasant. For he was very certain that Marston Greyle would resent his
presence in the village, and that Chatfield would be suspicious of it.
What reason could he, an utter stranger, have for taking up his quarters
at the "Admiral's Arms?" The tourist season was over: Autumn was well set
in; with Autumn, on that coast, came weather which would send most
southerners flying homewards. Of course, these people would say that he
was left there to peep and pry--and they would all know that the Squire
was the object of suspicion. It was all very well, his telling Mrs.
Wooler that being an idle man he had taken a fancy to Scarhaven, and
would stay in her inn for a few weeks, but Mrs. Wooler, like everybody
else, would see through that. However, the promise had been given, and he
would keep it--literally. He would do nothing in the way of active
detective work--he would just wait and see what, if anything, turned up.
But upon one thing Copplestone had made up his mind determinedly before
that second evening came--he would make no pretence to Audrey Greyle and
her mother. And availing himself of their permission to call again, he
went round to the cottage, and before he had been in it five minutes told
them bluntly that he was going to stay at Scarhaven awhile, on the
chance of learning any further news of Bassett Oliver.
"Which," he added, with a grim smile, "seems about as likely as that
I should hear that I am to be Lord Chancellor when the Woolsack is
"You don't know," remarked Mrs. Greyle. "A reward for information is to
be offered, isn't it?"
"Do you think that will do much good?" asked Copplestone.
"It depends upon the amount," replied Mrs. Greyle. "We know these people.
They are close and reserved--no people could keep secrets better. For all
one knows, somebody in this village may know something, and may at
present feel it wisest to keep the knowledge to himself. But if
money--what would seem a lot of money--comes into question--ah!"
"Especially if the information could be given in secret," said Audrey.
"Scarhaven folk love secrecy--it's the salt of life to them: it's in
their very blood. Chatfield is an excellent specimen. He'll watch you as
a cat watches a mouse when he finds you're going to stay here."
"I shall be quite open," said Copplestone. "I'm not going to indulge in
any secret investigations. But I mean to have a thorough look round the
place. That Keep, now?--may one look round that?"
"There's a path which leads close by the Keep, from which you can get a
good outside view of it," replied Audrey. "But the Keep itself, and the
rest of the ruins round about it are in private ground."
"But you have a key, Audrey, and you can take Mr. Copplestone in there,"
said Mrs. Greyle. "And you would show him more than he would find out for
himself--Audrey," she continued, turning to Copplestone, "knows every
inch of the place and every stone of the walls."
Copplestone made no attempt to conceal his delight at this suggestion. He
turned to the girl with almost boyish eagerness.
"Will you?" he exclaimed. "Do! When?"
"Tomorrow morning, if you like," replied Audrey. "Meet me on the south
quay, soon after ten."
Copplestone was down on the quay by ten o'clock. He became aware as he
descended the road from the inn that the fisher-folk, who were always
lounging about the sea-front, were being keenly interested in something
that was going on there. Drawing nearer he found that an energetic
bill-poster was attaching his bills to various walls and doors. Sir
Cresswell and his solicitor had evidently lost no time, and had set a
Norcaster printer to work immediately on their arrival the previous
evening. And there the bill was, and it offered a thousand pounds reward
to any person who should give information which would lead to the finding
of Bassett Oliver, alive or dead.
Copplestone purposely refrained from mingling with the groups of men and
lads who thronged about the bills, eagerly discussing the great affair of
the moment. He sauntered along the quay, waiting for Audrey. She came at
last with an enigmatic smile on her lips.
"Our particular excursion is off, Mr. Copplestone," she said.
"Extraordinary events seem to be happening. Mr. Chatfield called on us an
hour ago, took my key away from me, and solemnly informed us that
Scarhaven Keep is strictly closed until further notice!"
RIGHT OF WAY
The look of blank astonishment which spread over Copplestone's face on
hearing this announcement seemed to afford his companion great
amusement, and she laughed merrily as she signed to him to turn back
towards the woods.
"All the same," she observed, "I know how to steal a countermarch on
Master Chatfield. Come along!--you shan't be disappointed."
"Does your cousin know of that?" asked Copplestone. "Are those his
Audrey's lips curled a little, and she laughed again--but this time the
laughter was cynical.
"I don't think it much matters whether my cousin knows or not," she said.
"He's the nominal Squire of Scarhaven, but everybody knows that the real
over-lord is Peter Chatfield. Peter Chatfield does--everything. And--he
hates me! He won't have had such a pleasant moment for a long time as he
had this morning when he took my key away from me and warned me off."
"But why you?" asked Copplestone.
"Oh--Peter is deep!" she said. "Peter, no doubt, knew that you came to
see us last night--Peter knows all that goes on in Scarhaven. And he put
things together, and decided that I might act as your cicerone over the
Keep and the ruins, and so--there you are!"
"Why should he object to my visiting the Keep?" demanded Copplestone.
"That's obvious! He considers you a spy," replied Audrey. "And--there may
be reasons why he doesn't desire your presence in those ancient regions.
But--we'll go there, all the same, if you don't mind breaking rules and
"Not I!" said Copplestone. "Hang Peter!"
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