J. S. Fletcher
Part 3 out of 5
Mrs. Greyle, to report all this to Sir Cresswell Oliver and Mr.
Petherton? They ought to know."
"I'm going, too," declared Copplestone, also rising. "Mrs. Greyle, I'm
sure will entrust the whole matter to us. And Mr. Dennie will trust us
with those papers."
"Oh, certainly, certainly!" asserted Mr. Dennie, pushing his packet
across the table. "Take care of 'em, my boy!--ye don't know how important
they may turn out to be."
"And--Mrs. Greyle?" asked Copplestone.
"Tell whatever you think it best to tell," replied Mrs. Greyle. "My own
opinion is that a lot will have to be told--and to come out, yet."
"We can catch a train in three-quarters of an hour, Copplestone," said
Gilling. "Let's get back and settle up with Mrs. Wooler and be off."
Copplestone contrived to draw Audrey aside.
"This isn't good-bye," he whispered, with a meaning look. "You'll
see me back here before many days are over. But listen--if anything
happens here, if you want anybody's help--in any way--you know what
I mean--promise you'll wire to me at this address. Promise!--or I
"Very well," said Audrey, "I promise. But--why shall you come back?"
"Tell you when I come," replied Copplestone with another look.
"But--I shall come--and soon. I'm only going because I want to be of
An hour later he and Gilling were on their way to London, and from
opposite corners of a compartment which they had contrived to get to
themselves, they exchanged looks.
"This is a queer business, Copplestone!" said Gilling. "It strikes me
it's going to be a big one, too. And--it's coming to a point round
"Do you think your man will have tracked him?" asked Copplestone.
"It will be the first time Swallow's ever lost sight of anybody if he
hasn't," answered Gilling. "He's a human ferret! However, I wired to him
just before we left, telling him to meet me at King's Cross, so we'll
get his report. Oh, he'll have followed him all right--I don't imagine
for a moment that Greyle is trying to evade anybody, at this juncture,
at any rate."
But when--four hours later--the train drew into King's Cross--and
Gilling's partner, a young and sharp-looking man, presented himself, it
was with a long and downcast face and a lugubrious shake of the head.
"Done!--for the first time in my life!" he growled in answer to
Gilling's eager inquiry. "Lost him! Never failed before--as you know.
Well, it had to come, I suppose--can't go on without an occasional
defeat. But--I'm a bit licked as to the whole thing--unless your man is
dodging somebody. Is he?"
"Tell your tale," commanded Gilling, motioning Copplestone to follow him
and Swallow aside.
"I was up here in good time this afternoon to meet his train," reported
Swallow. "I spotted him and his man at once; no difficulty, as your
description of both was so full. They were together while the luggage
was got out; then he, Greyle, gave some instructions to the man and left
him. He himself got into a taxi-cab; I got into another close behind and
gave its driver certain orders. Greyle drove straight to the Fragonard
"Ah!" exclaimed Gilling. "Did he, now? That's worth knowing."
"What's the Fragonard Club?" asked Copplestone. "Never heard of it."
"Club of folk connected with the stage and the music-halls," answered
Gilling, testily. "In a side street, off Shaftesbury Avenue--tell you
more of it, later. Go on, Swallow."
"He paid off his driver there, and went in," continued Swallow. "I paid
mine and hung about--there's only one entrance and exit to that spot, as
you know. He came out again within five minutes, stuffing some letters
into his pocket. He walked away across Shaftesbury Avenue into Wardour
Street--there he went into a tobacconist's shop. Of course, I hung about
again. But this time he didn't come. So at last I walked in--to buy
something. He wasn't there!"
"Pooh!--he'd slipped out--walked out--when you weren't looking!" said
Gilling. "Why didn't you keep your eye on the ball, man?--you!"
"You be hanged!" retorted Swallow. "Never had an eyelash off that shop
door from the time he entered until I, too, entered."
"Then there's a side-door to that shop--into some alley or passage,"
"Not that I could find," answered Swallow. "Might be at the rear of the
premises perhaps, but I couldn't ascertain, of course. Remember!--there's
another thing. He may have stopped on the premises. There's that in it.
However, I know the shop and the name."
"Why didn't you bring somebody else with you, to follow the man and the
luggage?" demanded Gilling, half-petulantly.
Swallow shook his head.
"There I made a mess of it, I confess," he admitted. "But it never struck
me they'd separate. I thought, of course, they'd drive straight to some
"And the long and the short of it is, Greyle's slipped you," said
Gilling. "Well--there's no more to be done tonight. The only thing of
value is that Greyle called at the Fragonard. What's a country
squire--only recently come to England, too!--to do with the Fragonard?
That is worth something. Well--Copplestone, we'd better meet in the
morning at Petherton's. You be there at ten o'clock, and I'll get Sir
Cresswell Oliver to be there, too."
Copplestone betook himself to his rooms in Jermyn Street; it seemed an
age--several ages--since he had last seen the familiar things in them.
During the few days which had elapsed since his hurried setting-off to
meet Bassett Oliver so many things had happened that he felt as if he
had lived a week in a totally different world. He had met death, and
mystery, and what appeared to be sure evidence of deceit and cunning and
perhaps worse--fraud and crime blacker than fraud. But he had also met
Audrey Greyle. And it was only natural that he thought more about her
than of the strange atmosphere of mystery which wrapped itself around
Scarhaven. She, at any rate, was good to think upon, and he thought much
as he looked over the letters that had accumulated, changed his clothes,
and made ready to go and dine at his club, Already he was counting the
hours which must elapse before he would go back to her.
Nevertheless, Copplestone's mind was not entirely absorbed by this
pleasant subject; the events of the day and of the arrival in London
kept presenting themselves. And coming across a fellow club-member
whom he knew for a thorough man about town, he suddenly plumped him
with a question.
"I say!" he said. "Do you know the Fragonard Club?"
"Of course!" replied the other man. "Don't you?"
"Never even heard of it till this evening," said Copplestone.
"What is it?"
"Mixed lot!" answered his companion. "Theatrical and music-hall folk--men
and women--both. Lively spot--sometimes. Like to have a look in when they
have one of their nights?"
"Very much," assented Copplestone. "Are you a member?"
"No, but I know several men who are members," said the other. "I'll fix
it all right. Worth going to when they've what they call a
house-dinner--Sunday night, of course."
"Thanks," said Copplestone. "I suppose membership of that's confined to
the profession, eh?"
"Strictly," replied his friend. "But they ain't at all particular about
their guests--you'll meet all sorts of people there, from judges to
jockeys, and millionairesses to milliners."
Copplestone was still wondering what the Squire of Scarhaven could have
to do with the Fragonard Club when he went to Mr. Petherton's office the
next morning. He was late for the appointment which Gilling had made, and
when he arrived Gilling had already reported all that had taken place the
day before to the solicitor and to Sir Cresswell Oliver. And on that
Copplestone produced the papers entrusted to him by Mr. Dennie and they
all compared the handwritings afresh.
"There is certainly something wrong, somewhere," remarked Petherton,
after a time. "However, we are in a position to begin a systematic
inquiry. Here," he went on, drawing a paper from his desk, "is a
cablegram which arrived first thing this morning from New York--from an
agent who has been making a search for me in the shipping lists. This is
what he says: 'Marston Greyle, St. Louis, Missouri, booked first-class
passenger from New York to Falmouth, England, by S.S. _Araconda_,
September 28th, 1912.' There--that's something definite. And the next
thing," concluded the old lawyer, with a shrewd glance at Sir Cresswell,
"is to find out if the Marston Greyle who landed at Falmouth is the same
man whom we have recently seen!"
IN TOUCH WITH THE MISSING
Sir Cresswell Oliver took the cablegram from Petherton and read it over
slowly, muttering the precise and plain wording to himself.
"Don't you think, Petherton, that we had better get a clear notion of our
exact bearings?" he said as he laid it back on the solicitor's desk.
"Seems to me that the time's come when we ought to know exactly where we
are. As I understand it, the case is this--rightly or wrongly we suspect
the present holder of the Scarhaven estates. We suspect that he is not
the rightful owner--that, in short, he is no more the real Marston Greyle
than you are. We think that he's an impostor--posing as Marston Greyle.
Other people--Mrs. Valentine Greyle, for example--evidently think so,
too. Am I right?"
"Quite!" responded Petherton. "That's our position--exactly."
"Then--in that case, what I want to get at is this," continued Sir
Cresswell. "How does this relate to my brother's death? What's the
connection? That--to me at any rate--is the first thing of importance. Of
course I have a theory. This, that the impostor did see my brother last
Sunday afternoon. That he knew that my brother would at once know that
he, the impostor, was not the real Marston Greyle, and that the
discovery would lead to detection. And therefore he put him out of the
way. He might accompany him to the top of the tower and fling him down.
It's possible. Do you follow me?"
"Precisely," replied Petherton. "I, too, incline to that notion, though
I've worked it out in a different fashion. My reconstruction of what took
place at Scarhaven Keep is as follows--I think that Bassett Oliver met
the Squire--we'll call this man that for the sake of clearness--when he
entered the ruins. He probably introduced himself and mentioned that he
had met a Marston Greyle in America. Then the Squire saw the
probabilities of detection--and what subsequently took place was most
likely what you suggest. It may have been that the Squire recognized
Bassett Oliver, and knew that he'd met Marston Greyle; it may have been
that he didn't know him and didn't know anything until Bassett Oliver
enlightened him. But--either way--I firmly believe that Bassett Oliver
came to his death by violence--that he was murdered. So--there's the case
in a nutshell! Murdered!--to keep his tongue still."
"What's to be done, then?" asked Sir Cresswell as Petherton tapped the
"The first thing," he answered, "is to make use of this. We now know that
the real Marston Greyle--who certainly did live in St. Louis, where his
father had settled--left New York for England to take up his inheritance,
on September 28th, 1912, and booked a passage to Falmouth. He would land
at Falmouth from the _Araconda_ about October 5th. Probably there is
some trace of him at Falmouth. He no doubt stayed a night there. Anyway,
somebody must go to Falmouth and make inquiries. You'd better go,
Gilling, and at once. While you're away your partner had better resume
his search for the man we know as the Squire. You've two good clues--the
fact that he visited the Fragonard Club and that particular tobacconist's
shop. Urge Swallow to do his best--the man must be kept in sight. See to
both these things immediately."
"Swallow is at work already," replied Gilling. "He's got good help, too,
and his failure yesterday has put him on his mettle. As for me, I'll go
to Falmouth by the next express. Let me have that cablegram."
"I'll go with you," said Copplestone. "I may be of some use--and I'm
interested. But," he paused and looked questioningly at the old
solicitor. "What about the other news we brought you?" he asked. "About
this sale of the estate, you know? If this man is an impostor--"
"Leave that to me," replied Petherton, with a shrewd glance at Sir
Cresswell. "I know the Greyle family solicitors--highly respectable
people--only a few doors away, in fact--and I'm going round to have a
quiet little chat with them in a few minutes. There will be no sale!
Leave me to deal with that matter--and if you young men are going to
Falmouth, off you go!"
It was late that night when Copplestone and Gilling arrived at this
far-off Cornish seaport, and nothing could be done until the following
morning. To Copplestone it seemed as if they were in for a difficult
task. Over twelve months had elapsed since the real Marston Greyle left
America for England; he might not have stayed in Falmouth, might not have
held any conversation with anybody there who would recollect him! how
were they going to trace him? But Gilling--now free of his clerical
attire and presenting himself as a smart young man of the professional
classes type--was quick to explain that system, accurate and definite
system, would expedite matters.
"We know the approximate date on which the _Araconda_ would touch here,"
he said as they breakfasted together. "As things go, it would be from
October 4th to 6th, according to the quickness of her run across the
Atlantic. Very well--if Marston Greyle stayed here, he'd have to stay at
some hotel. Accordingly, we visit all the Falmouth hotels and examine
their registers of that date--first week of October, 1912. If we find his
name--good! We can then go on to make inquiries. If we don't find any
trace of him, then we know it's all up--he probably went straight away by
train after landing. We'll begin with this hotel first."
There was no record of any Marston Greyle at that hotel, nor at the next
half-dozen at which they called. A visit to the shipping office of the
line to which the _Araconda_ belonged revealed the fact that she reached
Falmouth on October 5th at half-past ten in the evening, and that the
name of Marston Greyle was on the list of first-class passengers.
Gilling left the office in cheery mood.
"That simplifies matters," he said. "As the _Araconda_ reached here late
in the evening, the passengers who landed from her would be almost
certain to stay the night in Falmouth. So we've only to resume our round
of these hotels in order to hit something pertinent. This is plain and
easy work, Copplestone--no corners in it. We'll strike oil before noon."
They struck oil at the very next hotel they called at--an old-fashioned
house in close proximity to the harbour. There was a communicative
landlord there who evidently possessed and was proud of a retentive
memory, and he no sooner heard the reason of Gilling's call upon him than
he bustled into activity, and produced the register of the previous year.
"But I remember the young gentleman you're asking about," he remarked, as
he took the book from a safe and laid it open on the table in his private
room. "Not a common name, is it? He came here about eleven o'clock of the
night you've mentioned--there you are!--there's the entry. And
there--higher up--is the name of the man who came to meet him. He came
the day before--to be here when the _Araconda_ got in."
The two visitors, bending over the book, mutually nudged each other as
their eyes encountered the signatures on the open page. There, in the
handwriting of the letters which Mr. Dennie had so fortunately preserved,
was the name Marston Greyle. But it was not the sight of that which
surprised them; they had expected to see it. What made them both thrill
with the joy of an unexpected discovery was the sight of the signature
inserted some lines above it, under date October 4th. Lest they should
exhibit that joy before the landlord, they mutually stuck their elbows
into each other and immediately affected the unconcern of indifference.
But there the signature was--_Peter Chatfield_. Peter Chatfield!--they
both knew that they were entering on a new stage of their quest; that the
fact that Chatfield had travelled to Falmouth to meet the new owner of
Scarhaven meant much--possibly meant everything.
"Oh!" said Gilling, as steadily as possible. "That gentleman came to meet
the other, did he? Just so. Now what sort of man was he?"
"Big, fleshy man--elderly--very solemn in manner and appearance,"
answered the landlord. "I remember him well. Came in about five o 'clock
in the afternoon of the 4th just after the London train arrived--and
booked a room. He told me he expected to meet a gentleman from New York,
and was very fidgety about fixing it up to go off in the tender to the
_Araconda_ when she came into the Bay. However, I found out for him that
she wouldn't be in until next evening, so of course he settled down to
wait. Very quiet, reserved old fellow--never said much."
"Did he go off on the tender next night?" asked Gilling.
"He did--and came back with this other gentleman and his baggage--this
Mr. Greyle," answered the landlord. "Mr. Chatfield had booked a room for
"And what sort of man was Mr. Greyle?" inquired Gilling. "That's really
the important thing. You've an exceptionally good memory--I can see that.
Tell us all you can recollect about him."
"I can recollect plenty," replied the landlord, shaking his head. "As for
his looks--a tallish, slightly-built young fellow, between, I should say,
twenty-five and twenty-eight. Stooped a good bit. Very dark hair and
eyes--eyes a good deal sunken in his face. Very pale--good-looking--good
features. But ill--my sakes! he was ill!"
"Ill!" exclaimed Gilling, with a glance at Copplestone. "Really ill!"
"He was that ill," said the landlord, "that me and my wife never expected
to see him get up that next morning. We wanted them to have a doctor but
Mr. Greyle himself said that it was nothing, but that he had some heart
trouble and that the voyage had made it worse. He said that if he took
some medicine which he had with him, and a drop of hot brandy-and-water,
and got a good night's sleep he'd be all right. And next morning he
seemed better, and he got up to breakfast--but my wife said to me that if
she'd seen death on a man's face it was on his! She's a bit of a
persuasive tongue, has my wife, and when she heard that these two
gentlemen were thinking of going a long journey--right away to the far
north, it was, I believe--she got 'em to go and see the doctor first, for
she felt that Mr. Greyle wasn't fit for the exertion."
"Did they go?" asked Gilling.
"They did! I talked, myself, to the old gentleman," replied the landlord.
"And I showed them the way to our own doctor--Dr. Tretheway. And as a
result of what he said to them, I heard them decide to break up their
journey into stages, as you might term it. They left here for Bristol
that afternoon--to stay the night there."
"You're sure of that?--Bristol?" asked Gilling.
"Ought to be," replied the landlord, with laconic assurance. "I
went to the station with them and saw them off. They booked to
Gilling looked at his companion.
"I think we'd better see this Dr. Tretheway," he remarked.
Dr. Tretheway, an elderly man of grave manners and benevolent aspect,
remembered the visit of Mr. Marston Greyle well enough when he had turned
up its date in his case book. He also remembered the visitor's companion,
Mr. Chatfield, who seemed unusually anxious and concerned about Mr.
"And as to that," continued Dr. Tretheway, "I learnt from Mr. Greyle that
he had been seriously indisposed for some months before setting out for
England. The voyage had been rather a rough one; he had suffered much
from sea-sickness, and, in his state of health, that was unfortunate for
him. I made a careful examination of him, and I came to the conclusion
that he was suffering from a form of myocarditis which was rapidly
assuming a very serious complexion. I earnestly advised him to take as
much rest as possible, to avoid all unnecessary fatigue and all
excitement, and I strongly deprecated his travelling in one journey to
the north, whither I learnt he was bound. On my advice, he and Mr.
Chatfield decided to break that journey at Bristol, at Birmingham, and at
Leeds. By so doing, you see, they would only have a short journey each
day, and Mr. Greyle would be able to rest for a long time at a stretch.
But--I formed my own conclusions."
"And they were--what?" asked Gilling.
"That he would not live long," said the doctor. "Finding that he was
going to the neighbourhood of Norcaster, where there is a most excellent
school of medicine, I advised him to get the best specialist he could
from there, and to put himself under his treatment. But my impression was
that he had already reached a very, very serious stage."
"You think he was then likely to die suddenly?" suggested Gilling.
"It was quite possible. I should not have been surprised to hear of his
death," answered Dr. Tretheway. "He was, in short, very ill indeed."
"You never heard anything?" inquired Gilling.
"Nothing at all--though I often wondered. Of course," said the doctor
with a smile, "they were only chance visitors--I often have
trans-atlantic passengers drop in--and they forget that a physician would
sometimes like to know how a case submitted to him in that way has
turned out. No, I never heard any more."
"Did they give you any address, either of them?" asked Copplestone,
seeing that Gilling had no more to ask.
"No," replied the doctor, "they did not. I knew of course, from what
they told me that Mr. Greyle had come off the _Araconda_ the night
before, and that he was passing on. No--I only gathered that they were
going to the neighbourhood of Norcaster from the fact that Mr. Greyle
asked if a journey to that place would be too much for him--he said
with a laugh, that over there in the United States a journey of five
hundred miles would be considered a mere jaunt! He was very plucky,
poor fellow, but--"
Dr. Tretheway ended with a significant shake of the head, and his two
visitors left him and went out into the autumn sunlight.
"Copplestone!" said Gilling as they walked away. "That chap--the real
Marston Greyle--is dead! That's as certain as that we're alive! And now
the next thing is to find out where he died and when. And by George,
that's going to be a big job!"
"How are you going to set about it?" asked Copplestone. "It seems as if
we were up against a blank wall, now."
"Not at all, my son!" retorted Gilling, cheerfully. "One step at a
time--that's the sure thing to go on, in my calling. We've found out a
lot here, and quickly, too. And--we know where our next step lies.
Bristol! Like looking for needles in a bundle of hay? Not a bit of it.
If those two broke their journey at Bristol, they'd have to stop at an
hotel. Well, now we'll adjourn to Bristol--bearing in mind that we're on
the track of Peter Chatfield!"
THE OLD PLAYBILL
Gilling's cheerful optimism was the sort of desirable quality that is a
good thing to have, but all the optimism in the world is valueless in
face of impregnable difficulty. And the difficulty of tracing Chatfield
and his sick companion in a city the size of Bristol did indeed seem
impregnable when Gilling and Copplestone had been attacking it for
twenty-four hours. They had spent a whole day in endeavouring to get
news; they had gone in and out of hotels until they were sick of the
sight of one; they had made exhaustive inquiries at the railway station
and of the cabmen who congregated there; nobody remembered anything at
all about a big, heavy-faced man and a man in his company who seemed to
be very ill. And on the second night Copplestone intimated plainly that
in his opinion they were wasting their time.
"How do we even know that they ever came to Bristol?" he asked, as he and
Gilling refreshed themselves with a much needed dinner. "The Falmouth
landlord saw Chatfield take tickets for Bristol! That's nothing to go on!
Put it to yourself in this way. Greyle may have found even that journey
too much for him. They may, in that case, have left the train at
Plymouth--or at Exeter--or at Taunton: it would stop at each place. Seems
to me we're wasting time here--far better get nearer more tangible
things. Chatfield, for instance. Or, go back to town and find out what
your friend Swallow has done."
"Swallow," replied Gilling, "has done nothing so far, or I should have
heard. Swallow knows exactly where I am, and where I shall be until I
give him further notice. Don't be discouraged, my friend--one is often
on the very edge of a discovery when one seems to be miles away from it.
Give me another day--and if we haven't found out something by tomorrow
evening I'll consult with you as to our next step. But I've a plan for
tomorrow morning which ought to yield some result."
"What?" demanded Copplestone, doubtfully.
"This! There is in every centre of population an official who registers
births, marriages, and deaths. Now we believe the real Marston Greyle to
be dead. Let us suppose, for argument's sake, that he did die here, in
Bristol, whither he and Chatfield certainly set off when they left
Falmouth. What would happen? Notice of his death would have to be given
to the Registrar--by the nearest relative or by the person in attendance
on the deceased. That person would, in this case, be Chatfield. If the
death occurred suddenly, and without medical attendance, an inquest would
have to be held. If a doctor had been in attendance he would give a
signed certificate of the cause of death, which he would hand to the
relatives or friends in attendance, who, in their turn, would have to
hand it to the Registrar. Do you see the value of these points? What we
must do tomorrow morning is to see the Registrar--or, as there will be
more than one in a place this size--each of them in turn, in the
endeavour to find out if, early in October, 1912, Peter Chatfield
registered the death of Marston Greyle here. But remember--he may not
have registered it under that name. He may, indeed, not have used his own
name--he's deep enough for anything. That however, is our next best
chance--search of the registers. Let's try it, anyway, first thing in the
morning. And as we've had a stiff day, I propose we dismiss all thought
of this affair for the rest of the evening and betake ourselves to some
place of amusement--theatre, eh?"
Copplestone made no objection to that, and when dinner was over, they
walked round to the principal theatre in time for the first act of a play
which having been highly successful in London had just started on a round
of the leading provincial theatres. Between the second and third acts of
this production there was a long interval, and the two companions
repaired to the foyer to recuperate their energies with a drink and a
cigarette. While thus engaged, Copplestone encountered an old school
friend with whom he exchanged a few words: Gilling, meanwhile strolled
about, inspecting the pictures, photographs and old playbills on the
walls of the saloon and its adjacent apartments. And suddenly, he turned
back, waited until Copplestone's acquaintance had gone away, and then
hurried up and smacked his co-searcher on the shoulder.
"Didn't I tell you that one's often close to a thing when one seems
furthest off it!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "Come here, my son, and look
at what I've just found."
He drew Copplestone away to a quiet corner and pointed out an old
playbill, framed and hung on the wall. Copplestone stared at it and saw
nothing but the title of a well-known comedy, the names of one or two
fairly celebrated actors and actresses and the usual particulars which
appear on all similar announcements.
"Well?" he asked. "What of this?"
"That!" replied Gilling, flicking the tip of his finger on a line in the
bill. "That my boy!"
Copplestone looked again. He started at what he read.
_Margaret Sayers_.......MISS ADELA CHATFIELD.
"And now look at that!" continued Gilling, with an accentuation of his
triumphal note. "See! These people were here for a fortnight--from
October 3rd to 17th--1912. Therefore--if Peter Chatfield brought Marston
Greyle to Bristol on October 6th, Peter Chatfield's daughter would also
be in the town!"
Copplestone looked over the bill again, rapidly realizing possibilities.
"Would Chatfield know that?" he asked reflectively.
"It's only likely that he would," replied Gilling. "Even if father and
daughter don't quite hit things off in their tastes, it's only reasonable
to suppose that Peter would usually know his daughter's whereabouts. And
if he brought Greyle here, ill, and they had to stop, it's only likely
that Peter would turn to his daughter for help. Anyway, Copplestone, here
are two undoubted facts:--Chatfield and Greyle booked from Falmouth for
Bristol on October 6th, 1912, and may therefore be supposed to have come
here. That's one fact. The other is--Addie Chatfield was certainly in
Bristol on that date and for eleven days after it."
"Well--what next?" asked Copplestone.
"I've been thinking that over while you stared at the bill," answered
Gilling. "I think the best thing will be to find out where Addie
Chatfield put herself up during her stay. I daresay you know that in most
of these towns there are lodgings which are almost exclusively devoted to
the theatrical profession. Actors and actresses go to them year after
year; their owners lay themselves out for their patrons--what's more,
your theatrical landlady always remembers names and faces, and has her
favourites. Now, in my stage experience, I never struck Bristol, so I
don't know much about it, but I know where we can get information--the
stage door-keeper. He'll tell us where the recognized lodgings are--and
then we must begin a round of inquiry. When? Just now, my boy!--and a
good time, too, as you'll see."
"Why?" asked Copplestone.
"Best hour of the evening," replied Gilling with glib assurance.
"Landladies enjoying an hour of ease before beginning to cook supper
for their lodgers, now busy on the stage. Always ready to talk,
theatrical landladies, when they've nothing to do. Trust me for
knowing the ropes!--come round to the stage door and let's ask the
keeper a question or two."
But before they had quitted the foyer an interruption came in the shape
of a shrewd-looking gentleman in evening dress, who wore his opera hat at
a rakish angle and seemed to be very much at home as he strolled about,
hands in pockets, looking around him at all and sundry. He suddenly
caught sight of Gilling, smiled surprisedly and expansively, and came
forward with outstretched hand.
"Bless our hearts, is it really yourself, dear boy!" exclaimed this
apparition. "Really, now? And what brings you here--God bless my soul and
eyes--why I haven't seen you this--how long is it, dear boy!"
"Three years," answered Gilling, promptly clasping the outstretched hand.
"But what are you doing here--boss, eh?"
"Lessee's manager, dear boy--nice job, too," whispered the other. "Been
here two years--good berth." He deftly steered Gilling towards the
refreshment bar, and glanced out of his eye corner at Copplestone.
"Friend of yours?" he suggested hospitably. "Introduce us, dear boy--my
name is the same as before, you know!"
"Mr. Copplestone, Mr. Montmorency," said Gilling. "Mr. Montmorency, Mr.
"Servant, sir," said Mr. Montmorency. "Pleased to meet any friend of my
friend! And what will you take, dear boys, and how are things with
you, Gilling, old man--now who on earth would have thought of seeing
Copplestone held his peace while Gilling and Mr. Montmorency held
interesting converse. He was sure that his companion would turn this
unexpected meeting to account, and he therefore felt no surprise when
Gilling, after giving him a private nudge, plumped the manager with a
"Did you see Addie Chatfield when she was here about a year ago?" he
asked. "You remember--she was here in _Mrs. Swayne's Necklace_--here a
"I remember very well, dear boy," responded Mr. Montmorency, with a
judicial sip at the contents of his tumbler. "I saw the lady several
times. More by token, I accidentally witnessed a curious little scene
between Miss Addie and a gentleman whom Nature appeared to have specially
manufactured for the part of heavy parent--you know the type. One morning
when that company was here, I happened to be standing in the vestibule,
talking to the box-office man, when a large, solemn-faced individual,
Quakerish in attire, and evidently not accustomed to the theatre walked
in and peered about him at our rich carpets and expensive
fittings--pretty much as if he was appraising their value. At the same
time, I observed that he was in what one calls a state--a little, perhaps
a good deal, upset about something. Wherefore I addressed myself to him
in my politest manner and inquired if I could serve him. Thereupon he
asked if he could see Miss Adela Chatfield on very important business.
Now, I wasn't going to let him see Miss Addie, for I took him to be a man
who might have a writ about him, or something nasty of that sort. But at
that very moment, Miss Addie, who had been rehearsing, and had come out
by the house instead of going through the stage door, came tripping into
the vestibule and let off a sharp note of exclamation. After which she
and old wooden-face stepped into the street together, and immediately
exchanged a few words. And that the old man told her something very
serious was abundantly evident from the expression of their respective
countenances. But, of course, I never knew what it was, nor who he was,
dear boy--not my business, don't you know."
"They went away together, those two?" asked Gilling, favouring
Copplestone with another nudge.
"Up the street together, certainly, talking most earnestly," replied Mr.
"Ever see that old chap again?" asked Gilling.
"I never did, dear boy,--once was sufficient," said Mr. Montmorency,
lightly. "But," he continued, dropping his bantering tone, "are these
questions pertinent?--has this to do with this new profession of yours,
dear boy? If so--mum's the word, you know."
"I'll tell you what, Monty," answered Gilling. "I wish you'd find out for
me where Addie Chatfield lodged when she was here that time. Can it be
done? Between you and me, I do want to know about that, old chap. Never
mind why, now--I will tell you later. But it's serious."
Mr. Montmorency tapped the side of his handsome nose.
"All right, my boy!" he said. "I understand--wicked, wicked world! Done?
Dear boy, it shall be done! Come down to the stage door--our man knows
every landlady in the town!"
By various winding ways and devious passages he led the two young men
down to the stage door. Its keeper, not being particularly busy at that
time, was reading the evening newspaper in his glass-walled box, and
glanced inquiringly at the strangers as Mr. Montmorency pulled them up
"Prickett," said Mr. Montmorency, leaning into the sanctum over its
half-door and speaking confidentially. "You keep a sort of register of
lodgings don't you, Prickett? Now I wonder if you could tell me where
Miss Adela Chatfield, of the _Mrs. Swayne's Necklace_ Company stopped
when she was last here?--that's a year ago or about it. Prickett," he
went on, turning to Gilling, "puts all this sort of thing down,
methodically, so that he can send callers on, or send up urgent letters
or parcels during the day--isn't that it, Prickett?"
"That's about it, sir," answered the door-keeper. He had taken down a
sort of ledger as the manager spoke, and was now turning over its leaves.
He suddenly ran his finger down a page and stopped its course at a
"Mrs. Salmon, 5, Montargis Crescent--second to the right outside," he
announced briefly. "Very good lodgings, too, are those."
Gilling promised Mr. Montmorency that he would look him up later on,
and went away with Copplestone to Montargis Crescent. Within five
minutes they were standing in a comfortably furnished, old-fashioned
sitting-room, liberally ornamented with the photographs of actors and
actresses and confronting a stout, sharp-eyed little woman who
listened intently to all that Gilling said and sniffed loudly when he
"Remember Miss Chatfield being here!" she exclaimed. "I should think I do
remember! I ought to! Bringing mortal sickness into my house--and then
death--and then a funeral--and her and her father going away never giving
me an extra penny for the trouble!"
THE LIE ON THE TOMBSTONE
Gilling's glance at his companion was quiet enough, but it spoke volumes.
Here, by sheer chance, was such a revelation as they had never dreamed of
hearing!--here was the probable explanation of at least half the mystery.
He turned composedly to the landlady.
"I've already told you who and what I am," he said, pointing to the card
which he had handed to her. "There are certain mysterious circumstances
about this affair which I want to get at. What you've said just now is
abundant evidence that you can help. If you do and will help, you'll be
well paid for your trouble. Now, you speak of sickness--death--a funeral.
Will you tell us all about it?"
"I never knew there was any mystery about it," answered the landlady, as
she motioned her visitors to seat themselves. "It was all above-board as
far as I knew. Of course, I've always been sore about it--I'd a great
deal of trouble, and as I say, I never got anything for it--that is,
anything extra. And me doing it really to oblige her and her father!"
"They brought a sick man here?" suggested Gilling.
"I'll tell you how it was," said Mrs. Salmon, seating herself and showing
signs of a disposition to confidence. "Miss Chatfield, she'd been here, I
think, three days that time--I'd had her once before a year or two
previous. One morning--I'm sure it was about the third day that the
_Swayne Necklace_ Company was here--she came in from rehearsal in a
regular take-on. She said that her father had just called on her at the
theatre. She said he'd been to Falmouth to meet a relation of theirs
who'd come from America and had found him to be very ill on landing--so
ill that a Falmouth doctor had given strict orders that he mustn't travel
any further than Bristol, on his way wherever he wanted to go. They'd got
to Bristol and the young man was so done up that Mr. Chatfield had had to
drive him to another doctor--one close by here--Dr. Valdey--as soon as
they arrived. Dr. Valdey said he must go to bed at once and have at least
two days' complete rest in bed, and he advised Mr. Chatfield to get quiet
rooms instead of going to a hotel. So Mr. Chatfield, knowing that his
daughter was here, do you see, sought her out and told her all about it.
She came to me and asked me if I knew where they could get rooms. Well
now, I had my drawing-room floor empty that week, and as it was only for
two or three days that they wanted rooms I offered to take Mr. Chatfield
and the young man in. Of course, if I'd known how ill he was, I
shouldn't. What I understood--and mind you, I don't say they wilfully
deceived me, for I don't think they did--what I understood was that the
young man simply wanted a real good rest. But he was evidently a deal
worse than what even Dr. Valdey thought. He'd stopped at Dr. Valdey's
surgery while Mr. Chatfield went to see about rooms, and they moved him
from there straight in here. And as I say, he was a deal worse than they
thought, much worse, and the doctor had to be fetched to him more than
once during the afternoon. Still Dr. Valdey himself never said to me that
there was any immediate danger. But that's neither here nor there--the
young fellow died that night."
"That night!" exclaimed Gilling, "the night he came here?"
"Very same night," assented Mrs. Salmon. "Brought in here about two in
the afternoon and died just before midnight--soon after Miss Chatfield
came in from the theatre. Went very suddenly at the end."
"Were you present?" asked Copplestone.
"I wasn't. Nobody was with him but Mr. Chatfield--Miss Chatfield was
getting her supper down here," replied Mrs. Salmon. "And I was busy
"Was there an inquest then, inquired Gilling?"
"Oh, no!" said Mrs. Salmon, shaking her head. "Oh, no!--there was no need
for that--the doctor, ye see, had been seeing him all day. Oh, no--the
cause of death was evident enough, in a way of speaking. Heart."
"Did they bury him here, then?" asked Gilling.
"Two days after," replied Mrs. Salmon. "Kept everything very quiet, they
did. I don't believe Miss Chatfield told any of the theatre people--she
went to her work just the same, of course. The old gentleman saw to
everything--funeral and all. I'll say this for them.--they gave me no
unnecessary trouble, but still, there's trouble that is necessary when
you've death in a house and a funeral at the door, and they ought to have
given me something for what I did. But they didn't, so I considered it
very mean. Mr. Chatfield, he stayed two days after the funeral, and when
he left he just said that his daughter would settle up with me. But when
she came to pay she added nothing to my bill, and she walked out
remarking that if her father hadn't given me anything extra she was sure
she shouldn't. Shabby!"
"Very shabby!" agreed Gilling. "Well, you won't find my clients quite so
mean, ma'am. But just a word--don't mention this matter to anybody until
you hear from me. And as I like to give some earnest of payment here's a
bank-note which you can slip into your purse--on account, you understand.
Now, just a question or two:--Did you hear the young man's name?"
The landlady, whose spirits rose visibly on receipt of the bank-note,
appeared to reflect on hearing this question, and she shook her head as
if surprised at her own inability to answer it satisfactorily.
"Well, now," she said, "it may seem a queer thing to say, but I don't
recollect that I ever did! You see, I didn't see much of him after he
once got here. I was never in his room with them, and they didn't mention
his name--that I can remember--when they spoke about him before me. I
understood he was a relative--cousin or something of that sort."
"Didn't you see any name on the coffin?" asked Gilling.
"I didn't," replied Mrs. Salmon. "You see, the undertaker fetched him
away when him and his men brought the coffin--the next day. He took
charge of the coffin for the second night, and the funeral took place
from there. But I'll tell you what--the undertaker'll know the name, and
of course the doctor does. They're both close by."
Gilling took names and addresses and once more pledging the landlady to
secrecy, led Copplestone away.
"That's the end of another chapter," he said when they were clear of that
place. "We know now that Marston Greyle died there--in that very house,
Copplestone!--and that Peter Chatfield was with him. That's fact!"
"And it's fact, too, that the daughter knows," observed Copplestone in a
"Fact, too, that Addie Chatfield was in it," agreed Gilling. "Well--but
what happened next? However, before we go on to that, there are three
things to do in the morning. We must see this Dr. Valdey, and the
undertaker--and Marston Greyle's grave."
"And then?" asked Copplestone.
"Stiff, big question," sighed Gilling. "Go back to town and report, I
think--and find out if Swallow has discovered anything. And egad! there's
a lot to discover! For you see we're already certain that at the stage at
which we've arrived a conspiracy began--conspiracy between Chatfield, his
daughter, and the man who's been passing himself off as Marston Greyle.
Now, who is the man? Where did they get hold of him? Is he some relation
of theirs? All that's got to be found out. Of course, their object is
very clear, Marston Greyle, the real Simon Pure, was dead on their hands.
His legal successor was his cousin, Miss Audrey. Chatfield knew that when
Miss Audrey came into power his own reign as steward of Scarhaven would
be brief. And so--but the thing is so plain that one needn't waste breath
on it. And I tell you what's plain too, Copplestone--Miss Audrey Greyle
is the lady of Scarhaven! Good luck to her! You'll no doubt be glad to
communicate the glad tidings!"
Copplestone made no answer. He was utterly confounded by the recent
revelations and was wondering what the mother and daughter in the little
cottage so far away in the grey north would say when all these things
were told them.
"Let's make dead certain of everything," he said after a long pause.
"Don't let's leave any loophole."
"Oh, we'll leave nothing--here at any rate," replied Gilling,
confidently. "But you'll find in the morning that we already know almost
In this he was right. The doctor's story was a plain one. The young man
was very ill indeed when brought to him, and though he did not anticipate
so early or sudden an end, he was not surprised when death came, and had
of course, no difficulty about giving the necessary certificate. Just as
plain was the undertaker's account of his connection with the affair--a
very ordinary transaction in his eyes. And having heard both stories,
there was nothing to do but to visit one of the adjacent cemeteries and
find a certain grave the number of which they had ascertained from the
undertaker's books. It was easily found--and Copplestone and Gilling
found themselves standing at a new tombstone, whereon the monumental
mason had carved four lines:--
BORN APRIL 12TH, 1884
DIED OCTOBER 6TH, 1912
AGED 28 TEARS.
"Short, simple, eminently suited to the purpose," murmured Gilling as the
two turned away. "Somebody thought things out quickly and well,
Copplestone, when this poor fellow died. Do you know I've been thinking
as we walked up here that if Bassett Oliver had never taken it into his
head to visit Scarhaven that Sunday this fraud would never have been
found out! The chances were all against its ever being found out.
Consider them! A young man who is an absolute stranger in England comes
to take up an inheritance, having on him no doubt, the necessary proofs
of identification. He's met by one person only--his agent. He dies next
day. The agent buries him, under a false name, takes his effects and
papers, gets some accomplice to personate him, introduces that accomplice
to everybody as the real man--and there you are! Oh, Chatfield knew what
he was doing! Who on earth, wandering in this cemetery, would ever
connect Mark Grey with Marston Greyle?"
"Just so--but there was one danger-spot which must have given Chatfield
and his accomplices a good many uneasy hours," answered Copplestone. "You
know that Marston Greyle actually registered in his own name at Falmouth
and was known to the land lord and the doctor there."
"Yes--and Falmouth is three hundred miles from London and five hundred
from Scarhaven," replied Gilling dryly. "And do you suppose that whoever
saw Marston Greyle at Falmouth cared two pins--comparatively--what became
of him after he left there? No--Chatfield was almost safe from detection
as soon as he'd got that unfortunate young fellow laid away in that
grave. However we know now--what we do know. And the next thing, now that
we know Marston Greyle lies behind us there, is to get back to town and
catch the chap who took his place. We'll wire to Swallow and to
Petherton and get the next express."
Sir Cresswell Oliver and Petherton were in conference with Swallow at the
solicitor's office when Gilling and Copplestone arrived there in the
early afternoon. Gilling interrupted their conversation to tell the
result of his investigations. Copplestone, watching the effect, saw that
neither Sir Cresswell nor Petherton showed surprise. Petherton indeed,
smiled as if he had anticipated all that Gilling had to say.
"I told you that I knew the Greyle family solicitors," he observed. "I
find that they have only once seen the man whom we will call the Squire.
Chatfield brought him there. He produced proofs of identification--papers
which Chatfield no doubt took from the dead man. Of course, the
solicitors never doubted for a moment that he was the real Marston
Greyle!--never dreamed of fraud: Well--the next step. We must concentrate
on finding this man. And Swallow has nothing to tell--yet. He has never
seen anything more of him. You'd better turn all your attention to that,
Gilling--you and Swallow. As for Chatfield and his daughter, I suppose we
shall have to approach the police."
Copplestone presently went home to his rooms in Jermyn Street, puzzled
and wondering; And there, lying on top of a pile of letters, he found a
telegram--from Audrey Greyle. It had been dispatched from Scarhaven at an
early hour of the previous day, and it contained but three words--_Can
THE STEAM YACHT
Copplestone had seen and learned enough of Audrey Greyle during his brief
stay at Scarhaven to make him assured that she would not have sent for
him save for very good and grave reasons. It had been with manifest
reluctance that she had given him her promise to do so: her entire
behaviour during the conference with Mr. Dennie and Gilling had convinced
him that she had an inherent distaste for publicity and an instinctive
repugnance to calling in the aid of strangers. He had never expected that
she would send for him--he himself knew that he should go back to her,
but the return would be on his own initiative. There, however, was her
summons, definite as it was brief. He was wanted--and by her. And without
opening one of his letters, he snatched up the whole pile, thrust it into
his pocket, hurriedly made some preparation for his journey and raced off
to King's Cross.
He fumed and fretted with impatience during the six hours' journey down
to Norcaster. It was ten o'clock when he arrived there, and as he knew
that the last train to Scarhaven left at half-past-nine he hurried to get
a fast motor-car that would take him over the last twenty miles of his
journey. He had wired to Audrey from Peterborough, telling her that he
was on his way and should motor out from Norcaster, and when he had
found a car to his liking he ordered its driver to go straight to Mrs.
Greyle's cottage, close by Scarhaven church. And just then he heard a
voice calling his name, and turning saw, running out of the station, a
young, athletic-looking man, much wrapped and cloaked, who waved a hand
at him and whose face he had some dim notion of having seen before.
"Mr. Copplestone?" panted the new arrival, coming up hurriedly. "I almost
missed you--I got on the wrong platform to meet your train. You don't
know me, though you may have seen me at the inquest on Mr. Bassett Oliver
the other day--my name's Vickers--Guy Vickers."
"Yes?" said Copplestone. "And--"
"I'm a solicitor, here in Norcaster," answered Vickers. "I--at least, my
firm, you know--we sometimes act for Mrs. Greyle at Scarhaven. I got a
wire from Miss Greyle late this evening, asking me to meet you here when
the London train got in and to go on to Scarhaven with you at once. She
added the words _urgent business_ so--"
"Then in heaven's name, let's be off!" exclaimed Copplestone. "It'll take
us a good hour and a quarter as it is. Of course," he went on, as they
moved away through the Norcaster streets, "of course, you haven't any
notion of what this urgent business is?"
"None whatever!" replied Vickers. "But I'm quite sure that it is urgent,
or Miss Greyle wouldn't have said so. No--I don't know what her exact
meaning was, but of course, I know there's something wrong about the
whole thing at Scarhaven--seriously wrong!"
"You do, eh?" exclaimed Copplestone. "What now?"
"Ah, that I don't know!" replied Vickers, with a dry laugh. "I wish I
did. But--you know how people talk in these provincial places--ever since
that inquest there have been all sorts of rumours. Every club and public
place in Norcaster has been full of talk--gossip, surmise, speculation.
"But--about what?" asked Copplestone.
"Squire Greyle, of course," said the young solicitor; "that inquest was
enough to set the whole country talking. Everybody thinks--they couldn't
think otherwise--that something is being hushed up. Everybody's agog to
know if Sir Cresswell Oliver and Mr. Petherton are applying for a
re-opening of the inquest. You've just come from town, I believe! Did you
Copplestone was wondering whether he ought to tell his companion of his
own recent discoveries. Like all laymen, he had an idea that you can tell
anything to a lawyer, and he was half-minded to pour out the whole story
to Vickers, especially as he was Mrs. Greyle's solicitor. But on second
thoughts he decided to wait until he had ascertained the state of affairs
"I didn't hear anything about that," he replied. "Of course, that inquest
was a mere travesty of what such an inquiry should have been."
"Oh, an utter farce!" agreed Vickers. "However, it produced just the
opposite effect to that which the wire-pullers wanted. Of course,
Chatfield had squared that jury! But he forgot the press--and the local
reporters were so glad to get hold of what was really spicy news that all
the Norcaster and Northborough papers have been full of it. Everybody's
talking of it, as I said--people are asking what this evidence from
America is; why was there such mystery about the whole thing, and so on.
And, since then, everybody knows that Squire Greyle has left Scarhaven."
"Have you seen Mrs. or Miss Greyle since the inquest?" asked Copplestone,
who was anxious to keep off subjects on which he might be supposed to
possess information. "Have you been over there?"
"No--not since that day," replied Vickers. "And I don't care how soon we
do see them, for I'm a bit anxious about this telegram. Something must
Copplestone looked out of the window on his side of the car. Already they
were clear of the Norcaster streets and on the road which led to
Scarhaven. That road ran all along the coast, often at the very edge of
the high, precipitous cliffs, with no more between it and the rocks far
beneath than a low wall. It was a road of dangerous curves and corners
which needed careful negotiation even in broad daylight, and this was a
black, moonless and starless night. But Copplestone had impressed upon
his driver that he must get to Scarhaven as quickly as possible, and he
and his companion were both so full of their purpose that they paid no
heed to the perpetual danger which they ran as the car tore round
propections and down deep cuts at a speed which at other times they would
have considered suicidal. And at just under the hour they ran on the
level stretch by the "Admiral's Arms" and looking down at the harbour saw
the lighted port-holes of some ship which lay against the south quay, and
on the quay itself men moving about in the glare of lamps.
"What's going on there?" said Vickers. "Late for a vessel to be loading
at a place like this where time's of no great importance."
Copplestone offered no suggestion. He was hotly impatient to reach the
cottage, and as soon as the car drew up at its gate he burst out, bade
the driver wait, and ran eagerly up to the path to Audrey, who opened the
door as he advanced. In another second he had both her hands in his
own--and kept them there.
"You're all right?" he demanded in tones which made clear to the girl how
anxious he had been. "There's nothing wrong--with you or your
mother--personally, I mean? You see, I didn't get your wire until this
afternoon, and then I raced off as quick--"
"I know," she said, responding a little to the pressure of his hands. "I
understand. You may be sure I shouldn't have wired if I hadn't felt it
absolutely necessary. Somebody was wanted--and you'd made me promise, and
so--Yes," she continued, drawing back as Vickers came up, "we are all
right, personally, but--there's something very wrong indeed somewhere.
Will you both come in and see mother?"
Mrs. Greyle, looking worn and ill, appeared just then in the hall, and
called to them to come in. She preceded them into the parlour and turned
to the young men as soon as Audrey closed the door.
"I'm more thankful to see you gentlemen than I've ever been in my
life--for anything!" she said. "Something is happening here which needs
the attention of men--we women can't do anything. Let me tell you what it
is. Yesterday morning, very early the Squire's steam-yacht, the _Pike_,
was brought into the inner harbour and moored against the quay just
opposite the park gates. We, of course, could see it, and as we knew he
had gone away we wondered why it was brought in there. After it had been
moored, we saw that preparations of some sort were being made. Then
men--estate labourers--began coming down from the house, carrying
packing-cases, which were taken on board. And while this was going on,
Mrs. Peller, the housekeeper, came hurrying here, in a state of great
consternation. She said that a number of men, sailors and estate men,
were packing up and removing all the most valuable things in the
house--the finest pictures, the old silver, the famous collection of
china which Stephen John Greyle made--and spent thousands upon thousands
of pounds in making!--the rarest and most valuable books out of the
library--all sorts of things of real and great value. Everything was
being taken down to the _Pike_--and the estate carpenter, who was in
charge of all this, said it was by the Squire's orders, and produced to
Mrs. Peller his written authority. Of course, Mrs. Peller could do
nothing against that, but she came hurrying to tell us, because she, like
everybody else, is much exercised by these recent events. And so Audrey
and I pocketed our pride, and went to see Peter Chatfield. But Peter
Chatfield, like his master, had gone! He had left home the previous
evening, and his house was locked up."
Copplestone and Vickers exchanged glances, and the young solicitor signed
Mrs. Greyle to proceed.
"Then," she added, "to add to that, as we came away from Chatfield's
house, we met Mr. Elkin, the bank-manager from Norcaster. He had come
over in a motor-car, to see me--privately. He wanted to tell me--in
relation to all these things--that within the last few days, the Squire
and Peter Chatfield had withdrawn from the bank the very large balances
of two separate accounts. One was the Squire's own account, in his
name--the other was an estate account, on which Chatfield could draw. In
both cases the balances withdrawn were of very large amount. Of course,
as Mr. Elkin pointed out, it was all in order, and no objection could be
raised. But it was unusual, for a large balance had always existed on
both these accounts. And, Mr. Elkin added, so many strange rumours are
going about Norcaster and the district, that he felt seriously uneasy,
and thought it his duty to see me at once. And now--what is to be done?
The house is being stripped of the best part of its valuables, and in my
opinion when that yacht sails it will be for some foreign port. What
other object can there be in taking these things away? Of course, as
nothing is entailed, and there are no heirlooms, everything is absolutely
the Squire's property, so--"
Copplestone, who had been realizing the serious significance of these
statements, saw that it was time to speak, if energetic methods were to
be taken at once.
"I'd better tell you the truth," he said interrupting Mrs. Greyle. "I
might have told you, Vickers, as we came along, but I decided to wait,
until we got here and found out how things were. Mrs. Greyle, the man you
speak of as the Squire, is no more the owner of Scarhaven than I am! He
is not Marston Greyle at all. The real Marston Greyle who came over from
America, died the day after he landed, in lodgings at Bristol to which
Peter Chatfield and his daughter had taken him, and he is buried in a
Bristol cemetery under the name of Mark Grey; Gilling and I found that
out during these last few days. It's an absolute fact. So the man who has
been posing here as the rightful owner is--an impostor!"
A dead silence followed this declaration. The mother and daughter after
one long look at Copplestone turned and looked at each other. But
Vickers, quick to realize the situation, started from his seat, with
evident intention of doing something.
"That's--the truth?" he exclaimed, turning to Copplestone. "No possible
flaw in it?"
"None," replied Copplestone. "It's sheer fact."
"Then in that case," said Vickers, "Miss Greyle is the owner of
Scarhaven, of everything in the house, of every stick, stone and pebble,
about the place! And we must act at once. Miss Greyle, you will have to
assert yourself. You must do what I tell you to do. You must get ready at
once--this minute!--and come down with me and Mrs. Greyle to that yacht
and stop all these proceedings. In our presence you must lay claim to
everything that's been taken from the house--yes, and to the yacht
itself. Come, let's hurry!"
Audrey hesitated and looked at Mrs. Greyle.
"Very well," she said quietly. "But--not my mother."
"No need!" said Vickers. "You will have us with you."
Audrey hurried from the room, and Mrs. Greyle turned anxiously to
"What shall you do?" she asked.
"Warn all concerned," answered Vickers, with a snap of the jaw which
showed Copplestone that he was a man of determination. "Warn them, if
necessary, that the man they have known as Marston Greyle is an impostor,
and that everything they are handling belongs to Miss Greyle. The
Scarhaven people know me, of course--there ought not to be any great
difficulty with them--and as regards the yacht people--"
"You know," interrupted Mrs. Greyle, "that this man--the impostor--has
made himself very popular with the people here? You saw how they cheered
him after the inquest? You don't think there is danger in Audrey going
"Wouldn't it be enough if you and I went?" suggested Copplestone. "It's
very late to drag Miss Greyle out."
"I'm sorry, but it's absolutely necessary," said Vickers. "If your
story is true--I mean, of course, since it is true--Miss Greyle is
owner and mistress, and she must be on the spot. It's all we can do,
anyway," he continued, as Audrey, wrapped in a big ulster, came back to
the parlour. "Even now we may be too late. And if that yacht once sails
away from here--"
There were signs that the yacht's departure was imminent when they went
down to the south quay and came abreast of her. The lights on the shore
were being extinguished; the estate labourers were gone; only two or
three sailors were busy with ropes and gear. And Vickers hurried his
little party up a gangway and on to the deck. A hard-faced, keen-eyed,
man, evidently in authority, came forward.
"Are you the captain of this vessel?" demanded Vickers in tones of
authority. "You are? I am Mr. Vickers, solicitor, of Norcaster. I give
you formal warning that the man you have known as Marston Greyle is
not Marston Greyle at all, but an impostor. All the property which you
have removed from the house, and now have on this vessel, belongs to
this lady, Miss Audrey Greyle, Lady of the Manor of Scarhaven. It is
at your peril that you move it, or that you cause this vessel to
leave this harbour. I claim the vessel and all that is on it on behalf
of Miss Greyle."
The man addressed listened in silent attention, and showed no sign of any
surprise. As soon as Vickers had finished he turned, hurried down a
stairway, remained below for a few minutes, and came up again.
"Will you kindly step this way, Miss Greyle and gentlemen?" he said
politely. "You must remember that I am only a servant. If you will come
He led them down the stairs, along a thickly-carpeted passage, and opened
the door of a lighted saloon. All unthinking, the three stepped in--to
hear the door closed and locked behind them.
THE COURTEOUS CAPTAIN
Vickers sprang back at that door as the sharp click of the turning key
caught his ear, and Copplestone, preceding him and following Audrey, who
had advanced fearlessly into the cabin, pulled himself up with a sudden,
sickening sense of treachery. The two young men looked at each other, and
a dead silence fell on them and the girl. Then Vickers laid his hand on
the door and shook it.
"Locked in!" he muttered with a queer glance at his companions. "What
does that mean?"
"Nothing good!" growled Copplestone who was secretly cursing his own
folly in allowing Audrey to leave the quay. "We're trapped!--that's what
it means. Why we're trapped isn't a question that matters very much under
the circumstances--the serious thing is that we certainly are trapped."
Vickers turned to Audrey.
"My fault!" he said contritely. "All my fault! But I meant it for the
best--it was the thing to do--and who on earth could have foreseen this.
Look here!--we've got to think pretty quick, Copplestone, that captain,
now? Has he done this on his own hook, or--is there somebody on board
who's at the top of things?"
"I don't see any good in thinking quick, or asking one's self
questions," replied Copplestone. "We're locked in here. We've got Miss
Greyle into this mess--and her mother will be anxious and alarmed. I wish
we'd let this confounded yacht go where it liked before ever we'd--"
"Don't!" broke in Audrey. "That's no good. Mr. Vickers certainly did what
he felt to be best--and who could foresee this? And I'm not afraid--and
as for my mother, if we don't return very soon, why, she knows where we
are and there are police in Scarhaven, and--"
"How long are we going to be where we are?" asked Copplestone, grimly.
"The thing's moving!"
There was no doubt of that very pertinent fact. Somewhere beneath them,
machinery began to work; above them there was hurry and scurry as ropes
and stays were thrown off. But so beautifully built was that yacht, and
so almost sound-proof the luxurious cabin in which they were prisoners,
that little of the noise of departure came to them. However, there was no
mistaking the increasing throb of the engines nor the fact that the
vessel was moving, and Vickers suddenly sprang on a lounge seat and moved
away a silken screen which curtained a port-hole window.
"There's no doubt of that!" he exclaimed.
"We're going through the outer harbour--we've passed the light at the end
of the quay. What do these people mean by carrying us out to sea?
Copplestone!--with all submission to you--whether it's relevant or not, I
wish we knew more of that captain chap!"
"I know him," remarked Audrey. "I have been on this yacht before. His
name is Andrius. He's an American--or American-Norwegian, or something
"And the crew?" asked Vickers. "Are they Scarhaven men?"
"No," replied Audrey. "There isn't a Scarhaven man amongst them. My
cousin--I mean--you know whom I mean--bought this yacht just as it stood,
from an American millionaire early this spring, and he took over the
captain, crew, and everything."
"So--we're in the hands of strangers!" exclaimed Vickers, while
Copplestone dug his hands into his pockets and began to stamp about. "I
wish I'd known all that before we came on board."
"But what harm can they do us?" said Audrey, incredulous of danger. "You
don't suppose they'll want to murder us, surely! My own belief is that we
never should have been locked up here if you hadn't let them know how
much we know, Mr. Vickers."
"Let them--I don't understand," said Vickers, turning a puzzled
glance on her.
"Why," replied Audrey with a laugh which convinced both men of her
fearlessness, "you let the captain see that we know a great deal and he
thereupon ran downstairs--presumably to tell somebody of what you said.
And--here's the result!"
"You think, then--" suggested Vickers. "You think that--"
"I think the somebody--whoever he is--wants to know exactly how much we
do know," answered Audrey with another laugh. "And so we're being carried
off to be cross-examined--at somebody's leisure. Let's hope they won't
use thumb-screws and that sort of thing. And anyway," she continued,
looking from one to the other, "hadn't we better make the best of it?
We're going out to sea, that's certain--here's the bar!"
A sudden lifting of the thickly-carpeted floor, a dip to the left,
another to the right, a plunge forward, a drop back, then a settling down
to a steady persistent roll, showed her companions that Audrey was
right--the yacht was crossing the bar which lay at the mouth of
Scarhaven Bay. Outside that lay the North Sea, and Copplestone suddenly
wondered which course the vessel was going to take, north, east, or
south. But before he could put his thoughts into words, the door was
suddenly unlocked, and Captain Andrius, suave, polite, deprecating,
walked into the cabin.
"A thousands pardons--and two words of explanation!" he exclaimed, as he
executed a deep bow to his lady prisoner. "First--Miss Greyle, I have
sent a message to your mother that you are quite safe and will join her
in due course. Second--this is merely a temporary detention--you shall
all be landed--all in good time."
Vickers as a legal man, assumed his most professional air.
"Do you know what you are rendering yourself liable to, sir, by detaining
us at all?" he demanded. "An action--"
Captain Andrius bowed again; again assumed his deprecating smile. He
waved the two men to seats and himself took a chair with his back to the
door by which he entered.
"My dear sir!" he said courteously. "You forget that I am but a servant.
I am under orders. However, I give my word that no harm shall come to
you, that you shall be treated with every polite attention, and that you
shall be landed."
"When--and where?" asked Vickers.
"Tomorrow, certainly," replied Andrius. "As to where, I cannot exactly
say. But--where you will be in touch with--shall we say civilization?"
He showed a set of fine white teeth in such a curious fashion as he spoke
the last word that Copplestone and Vickers instinctively glanced at each
other, with a mutual instinct of distrust.
"Won't do!" said Vickers. "I insist that you put about and go into
Andrius spread out his open palms and shook his head "Impossible!" he
answered. "We are already _en voyage_. Time presses. Be
placable--tomorrow you shall be released."
Vickers was about to answer this appeal with an angry refusal to be
either placable or tractable, but he suddenly stopped the words which
rose to his tongue. There was something in all this--some mystery, some
queer game, and it might be worth while to find it out.
"Where are you taking this yacht?" he demanded brusquely. "Come, now!"
"I am under--orders," said Andrius, with another smile.
"Whose orders?" persisted Vickers. "Look here--it's no use trying to
burke facts. Who's on board this vessel? You know what I mean. Is the man
who calls himself Squire of Scarhaven here?"
Andrius shook his head quietly and gave his questioner a shrewd glance.
"Mr. Vickers," he said meaningly, "I know you! You are a lawyer--though a
young one. Lawyers are guarded in their speech. Now--we are alone--we
four. No one can hear anything we say. Tell me--is that right what you
said to me on deck, that the man who has called himself Marston Greyle is
not so at all?"
"Absolutely right," replied Vickers.
"An impostor?" demanded Andrius.
"And never had any right to--anything?"
"No right whatever!"
"Then," said Andrius, with a polite inclination of his head and shoulders
to Audrey, "the truth is that everything of the Scarhaven property
belongs to this lady?"
"Everything!" exclaimed Vickers. "Land, houses, furniture,
valuables--everything. All the property which you have on this
yacht--pictures, china, silver, books, objects of art, as I am
instructed, removed from the house--are Miss Greyle's sole property. Once
more I warn you of what you are doing, and I demand that you immediately
return to Scarhaven. This very yacht belongs to Miss Greyle!"
Andrius nodded, looked fixedly at the young solicitor for a moment, and
"I am obliged to you," he said. "That, of course, is your claim. But--the
other one, eh? It seems to me there might be something to be said for
that, you know? So, all I can do is to renew my assurance of polite
attention, offer you our best accommodation--which is luxurious--and
promise to land you--somewhere--tomorrow. Miss Greyle, we have two women
servants on board--I shall send them to you at once and they will attend
to you--please consider them your own. You, gentlemen, will perhaps join
me in my quarters?--I have two spare cabins close to my own which are at
Copplestone and Vickers looked at each other and at Audrey--undecided and
vaguely suspicious. But Audrey was evidently neither alarmed nor
uneasy--she nodded a ready assent to the Captain's proposal.
"Thank you, Captain Andrius," she said coolly. "I know the two women. You
may send one of them. Do what he suggests," she murmured, turning to
Copplestone, who had moved close to her, "I'm not one scrap afraid of
anything--and it's only until tomorrow. He'll land us--I'm sure of it."
There was nothing for it, then, but to follow Andrius to his own
comfortable quarters. There, utterly ignoring the strange circumstances
under which they met, he played the part of host with genuine desire to
make his guests feel at ease, and when he showed them to their berths,
a little later, he emphasized his assurance of their absolute safety
"You see, gentlemen, your movements are untrammelled," he said. "You can
go in and out of your quarters as you like. You can go where you like on
the yacht tomorrow morning. There is no restriction on you. Sleep
well--and tomorrow you are all free again, eh?"
Copplestone got a word or two with Vickers--alone.
"What do you think?" he muttered. "Shall you sleep?"
"My impression--for I know what you're thinking about," said Vickers, "is
that Miss Greyle's as safe as if she were in her mother's house! She's no
fear, herself, anyway. There's some mystery, somewhere, and I can't make
this Andrius man out at all, but I believe all's right as regards
personal safety. There's Miss Greyle's cabin, anyhow, right opposite
ours--and I can keep an eye and an ear open even when I'm asleep!"
But in spite of these assurances, Copplestone slept little. He was up,
dressed, and on deck by sunrise, staring around him in a fresh autumn
morning to get some notion of the yacht's whereabouts, and he had just
managed to make out a mere filmy line of land far to the westward when
Audrey appeared at his elbow. There was no one of any importance near
them and Copplestone impulsively seized her hands.
"I've scarcely slept!" he blurted out, gazing intently at her.
"Couldn't! Blaming myself for letting you get into this confounded mess!
You're all right?"
Audrey responded a little to the pressure of his hands before she
disengaged her own.
"It wasn't your fault," she said. "It's nobody's fault. Don't blame Mr.
Vickers--he couldn't foresee this. Yes, I'm all right--and I slept like a
top. What's the use of worrying? Do you know," she went on, lowering her
voice and drawing nearer to him, "I believe something's going to come of
all this--something that'll clear matters up once and for all."
"Why?" asked Copplestone, wonderingly. "What makes you think that?"
"Don't know--instinct, intuitiveness, perhaps," she answered.
"Besides--I'm dead certain we're not the only people--I don't mean crew
and Captain--aboard the _Pike_. I believe there's somebody else. There's
some mystery, anyway. Keep that to yourself," she said as Andrius and
Vickers appeared from below. "Don't show any sign--wait to see how things
She turned away from him to greet the other two as unconcernedly as if
there were nothing unusual in the situation, and Copplestone marvelled at
her coolness. He himself, not so well equipped with patience, was
feverishly anxious to know how things would turn out, and when. But the
day went by and nothing happened, except that Captain Andrius was very
polite to his guests and that the yacht, a particularly fast sailer,
continued to make headway through the grey seas, sometimes in bare sight
of land and sometimes out of it. To one or two inquiries as to the
fulfilment of his promise Andrius made no more answer than a reassuring
nod; once when Vickers pressed him, he replied curtly that the day was
not yet over. Vickers drew Copplestone aside on hearing that.
"Look here!" he said. "I've been reckoning things up as near as I can. I
make out that we've been running due north, or north-east ever since we
left Scarhaven last night. I reckon, too, that this vessel makes quite
twenty-two or three, knots an hour. We must be off the extreme north-east
coast of Scotland. And night's coming on!"
"There are ports there that he can put into," said Copplestone. "The
thing is--will he keep his promise? Remember!--he must know very well
that if we once land anywhere within reach of a telegraph office, we can
wire particulars about him to every port in the world if we like--and
he's got to go somewhere, eventually, you know."
Vickers shook his head as if this were a problem he would give up. It was
beyond him, he said, to even guess at what Andrius was after, or what was
going to happen. And nothing did happen until, as the three prisoners sat
at dinner with their polite gaoler, the _Pike_ came to a sudden stop and
hung gently on a quiet sea. Andrius looked up and smiled.
"A pleasant night for your landing," he remarked. "Don't hurry--but there
will be a boat ready for you as soon as dinner is over."
"And where are we?" asked Vickers.
"That, my dear sir, you will see when you land." replied Andrius.
"You will, at any rate, be quite comfortable for the night, and in
the morning, I think, you will be able to journey--wherever you wish
to go to."
There was something in the smile which accompanied the last words which
made Copplestone uneasy. But the prospect of regaining their liberty was
too good--he kept his own counsel. And half-an-hour later, he, Audrey and
Vickers, stood on deck, looking down on a boat alongside, in which were
two or three of the crew and a man holding a lanthorn. In front was the
dark sea, and ahead a darker mass which they took to be land.
"You won't tell us what this place is?" said Vickers as he was about to
follow the others into the boat. "It's on the mainland, of course?"
"The morning light, my good sir, will show you everything," replied
Andrius. "Be content that I have kept my promise--you have come off
luckily," he added with a significant look.
Vickers felt a strange sense of alarm as the boat left the yacht. He
noticed two or three suspicious circumstances. As soon as they got away,
he saw that all the yacht's lights had been or were being darkened or
entirely obscured; at a dozen boat lengths they could see her no more.
Then a boat, swiftly pulled, passed them in the darkness, evidently
coming from the shore to which they were being taken: it, too, carried no
light. Nor were there any lights on the shore itself; all there was in
utter blackness. They were on the shingle within a quarter of an hour;
within a minute or two the yachtsmen had helped all three on to the
beach, had carried up certain boxes and packages which had been placed in
the boat, had set down the lighted lanthorn, jumped into the boat again
and vanished in the darkness. And in the silence, broken only by the drip
of water from the retreating oars, and by the scarcely-noticed ripple of
the waves, Audrey voiced exactly what her two companions felt.
"Andrius has kept his word--and cheated us! We're stranded!"
Prom somewhere out of the darkness came a groan--deep and heartfelt, as
if in entire agreement with Audrey's declaration. That it proceeded from
a human being was evident enough, and Vickers hastily snatched up the
lanthorn and strode in the direction from which it came. And there,
seated on the shingle, his whole attitude one of utter dejection and
misery, the three castaways found a sharer of their sorrows--Peter
To each of these three young people this was the most surprising moment
which life had yet afforded. It was an astonishing thing to find a fellow
mortal there at all, but to find that mortal was the Scarhaven estate
agent was literally short of marvellous. What was also astounding was to
see Chatfield's only too evident distress. Swathed in a heavy,
old-fashioned ulster, with a plaid shawl round his shoulders and a
deerstalker hat tied over head and ears with a bandanna handkerchief he
sat on the beach nursing his knees, slightly rocking his fleshy figure to
and fro and moaning softly with the regularity of a minute bell. His eyes
were fixed on the dark expanse of waters at his feet; his lips, when he
was not moaning, worked incessantly; as he rocked his body he beat his
toes on the shingle. Clearly, Chatfield was in a bad way, mentally. That
he was not so badly off materially was made evident by the presence of a
half-open kit bag which obviously contained food and a bottle of spirits.
For any notice that he took of them, Audrey, Vickers, and Copplestone
might have been no more than the pebbles on which they stood. In spite of
the fact that Vickers shone the light on his fat face, and that three
inquisitive pairs of eyes were trained on it, Chatfield continued to
stare moodily and disgustedly out to sea and to take no notice of his
gratuitous company. And so utterly extraordinary was his behaviour and
attitude that Audrey suddenly and almost involuntarily stepped forward
and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Mr. Chatfield!" she exclaimed. "What 's the matter? Are you ill?"
The emphasis which she gave to the last word roused some quality of
Chatfield's subtle intellect. He flashed a swift look at his
questioner--a look of mingled contempt and derision, spiced with a dash
of sneering humour. And he found his tongue.
"I'll!" he snorted. "I'll! She asks if I'm ill--me, a respectable man
what's maltreated and robbed before his own eyes by them as ought to fall
in humble gratitude at his feet! I'll!--aye, ill with something that's
worse nor any bodily aches and pains--let me tell you that! But not done
"He's all right," said Copplestone. "That's a flash of his old spirit.
You're all right, Chatfield, aren't you? And who's robbed and maltreated
you--and how and when--especially when--did you come here?"
Chatfield looked up at his old assailant with a glare of dislike.
"You keep your tongue to yourself, young feller!" he growled. "I
shouldn't never ha' been here at all if it hadn't been for the likes of
you--a pokin' your nose where it isn't wanted. It's 'cause o' you three
comin' aboard o' that there yacht last night as I am here--a castaway!"
"Well, we're castaways, too, Mr. Chatfield," said Audrey. "And we can't
help believing that it's all your naughty conduct that's made us so. Why
don't you tell the truth?"
Chatfield uttered a few grumpy and inarticulate sounds.
"It'll be a bad day for more than one when I do that--as I will," he
muttered presently. "Oh aye, I '11 tell the truth--when it suits me! But
I'll be out o' this first."
"You'll never get out of this first or last, until you tell us how you
got in," said Vickers, assuming a threatening tone. "You'd better tell us
all about it, you know. Come now!--you know me and my firm."
Chatfield laughed grimly and shook his much-swathed head.
"I ought to," he said. "I've given 'em more than one nice job and said
naught about their bills o' costs, neither, my lad. You keep a civil
tongue in your mouth--I ain't done for yet, noways! You let me get off
this here place, wherever it is, and within touch of a telegraph office,
and I'll make somebody suffer!"
"Andrius, of course," said Copplestone. "Come now, he put you ashore
before he sent us off, didn't he? Why don't you own up?"
"Never you mind, young feller," retorted Chat-field. "I was feeling very
cast down, but I'm better. I've something that'll keep me going--revenge!
I'll show 'em, once I'm off this place--I will so!"
"Look here, Chatfield," said Vickers. "Do you know where this place is?
What is it? Is it on the mainland, or is it an island, or where are we?
It's all very well talking about getting off, but when and how are we to
get off? Why don't you be sensible and tell us what you know?"
The estate agent arose slowly and ponderously, drawing his shawl about
him. He looked out seawards. In that black waste the steady beat of the
yacht's propellers could be clearly heard, but not a gleam of light came
from her, and it was impossible to decide in which direction she was
going. And Chatfield suddenly shook his fist at the throbbing sound which
came in regular pulsations through the night.
"Never mind!" he said sneeringly. "We aren't at the North Pole
neither--I ain't a seafaring man, but I've a good idea of where we are!
And perhaps there won't be naught to take me off when it's daylight, and
perhaps there won't be no telegraphs near at hand, nor within a hundred
miles, and perhaps there ain't such a blessed person as that there
Marconi and his wireless in the world--oh, no! Just you wait, my fine
"He's not addressing us, Vickers," said Copplestone. "You're decidedly
better, Chatfield--you're quite better. The notion of revenge and of
circumvention has come to you like balm. But you'd a lot better tell us
who you're referring to, and why you were put ashore. Listen,
Chatfield!--there's property of your own on that yacht, eh? That it?
Chatfield gave his questioner a look of indignant scorn. He stooped for
the kit-bag, picked it up, and turned away.
"I don't want to have naught to do with you," he remarked over his
shoulder. "You keep yourselves to yourselves, and I'll keep myself to
myself. If it hadn't been for what you blabbed out last night, them
ungrateful devils 'ud never have had such ideas put into their heads!"
As if he knew his way, Chatfield plodded heavily up the beach and was
lost in the darkness, and the three left behind stood helplessly staring
at each other. For a long time there was silence, broken only by the
agent's heavy tread on the shingle--at last Vickers spoke.
"I think I can see through all this," he said. "Chatfield's cryptic
utterances were somewhat suggestive. 'Robbed'--'maltreated'--'them as
ought to have fallen in humble gratitude at his feet'--'vengeance'--
'revenge'--'Marconi telegrams'--'ungrateful devils'--ah, I see it!
Chatfield had associates on the _Pike_--probably the impostor himself
and Andrius--probably, too, he had property of his own, as you suggested
to him, Copplestone. The whole gang was doubtless off with their loot to
far quarters of the globe. Very good--the other members have shelved
Chatfield. They've done with him. But--not if he knows it! That man will
hunt the _Pike_ and her people--whoever they are--relentlessly when he
gets off this."
"I wish we knew what it is that we're on!" said Copplestone.
"Impossible till daybreak," replied Vickers. "But I've an idea--this is
probably one of the seventy-odd islands of the Orkneys: I've sailed round
here before. If I'm right, it's most likely one of the outlying and
uninhabited ones. Andrius--or his controlling power--has dropped us--and
Chatfield--here, knowing that we may have to spend a few days on this
island before we succeed in getting off. Those few days will mean a great
deal to the _Pike_. She can be run into some safe harbourage on this
coast, given a new coat of paint and a new name, and be off before we can
do anything to stop her. I allow Chatfield to be right in this--that my
perhaps too hasty declaration to Andrius revealed to that gentleman how
he could make off with other people's property."
"Nothing will make me believe that Andrius is the solely responsible
person for this last development," said Copplestone, moodily. "There were
other people on board--cleverly concealed. And what are we going to do?"
Audrey had stepped away from the circle of light made by the lanthorn and
was gazing steadily in the direction which Chatfield had taken.
"Those are cliffs, surely," she said presently. "Hadn't we better go up
the beach and see if we can't find some shelter until morning?
Fortunately we're all warmly clad, and Andrius was considerate enough to
throw rugs and things into the boat, as well as provisions. Come
along!--after all, we're not so badly off. And we have the satisfaction
of knowing that we can keep Chatfield under observation. Remember that!"
But in the morning, when the first gleam of light came across the sea,
and Vickers, leaving his companions to prepare some breakfast from the
store of provisions which had been sent ashore with them, set out to make
a first examination of their surroundings, the agent was not to be seen.
What was to be seen was a breach of rock, sand, shingle, not a mile in
length, lying at the foot of high cliffs, and on the grey sea in front
not a sign of a sail, nor a wisp of smoke from a passing steamer. The
apparent solitude and isolation of the place was as profound as the
silence which overhung everything.
Vickers made his way up the cliffs to their highest point and from its
summit took a leisurely view of his surroundings. He saw at once that
they were on an island, and that it was but one of many which lay spread
out over the sea towards the north and the west. It was a wedge-shaped
island this, and the cliffs on which he stood and the beach beneath
formed the widest side of it; from thence its lines drew away to a point
in the distance which he judged to be two miles off. Between him and that
point lay a sloping expanse of rough land, never cultivated since
creation, whereon there were vast masses of rock and boulder but no sign
of human life. No curling column of smoke went up from hut or cottage;
his ears caught neither the bleating of sheep nor the cry of
shepherd--all was still as only such places can be still. Nor could he
perceive any signs of life on the adjacent islands--which, to be sure,
were not very near. From the sea mists which wrapped one of them he saw
projecting the cap of a mountainous hill--that hill he recognized as
being on one of the principal islands of the group, and he then knew that
he and his companions had been set down on one of the outlying islands
which, from its position, was not in the immediate way of passing vessels
nor likely to be visited by fishermen.
He was turning away from the top of the cliff after a long and careful
inspection, when he caught sight of a man's figure crossing the rocky
slope between him and this far-off point. That, he said to himself, was
Chatfield. Did Chatfield know of any place at that point visited by
fishing craft from the other islands? Had Chatfield ever been in the
Orkneys before? Was there any method in his wanderings? Or was he, too,
merely examining his surroundings--considering which was the likeliest
part of the island from which to attract attention? In the midst of these
speculation a sudden resolution came to him--one or other of the three
must keep an eye on Chatfield. Night or day, Chatfield must be watched.
And having already seen that Copplestone and Audrey had an unmistakable
liking for each other's society and would certainly not object to being
left together, he determined to watch Chatfield himself. Hurrying down
the cliffs, he hastily explained the situation to his companions, took
some food in his hands, and set out to follow the agent wherever he went.
THE OLD HAND
Half-an-hour later, when Vickers regained the top of the cliff and once
more looked across the island towards the far-off point, the figure which
he had previously seen making for it had turned back, and was plodding
steadily across the coarse grass and rock-strewn moorland in his own
direction. Chatfield had evidently taken a bird's eye view of the
situation from the vantage point of the slope and had come to the
conclusion that the higher part of the island was the most likely point
from which to attract attention. He came steadily forward, a big,
lumbering figure in the light mist, and Vickers as he went on to meet him
eyed him with a lively curiosity, wondering what secrets lay carefully
locked up in the man's heart and what happened on the _Pike_ that made
its captain or its owner bundle Chatfield out of it like a box of bad
goods for which there was no more use. And as he speculated, they met,
and Vickers saw at once that the old fellow's mood had changed during the
night. An atmosphere of smug oiliness sat upon Chatfield in the freshness
of the morning, and he greeted the young solicitor in tones which were
suggestive of a chastened spirit.
"Morning, Mr. Vickers," he said. "A sweetly pretty spot it is that we
find ourselves in, sir--nevertheless, one's affairs sometimes makes us
long to quit the side of beauty, however much we would tarry by it! In
plain words, Mr. Vickers, I want to get out o' this. And I've been
looking round, and my opinion is that the best thing we can do is to
start as big a fire as we can find stuff for on yon bluff and keep
a-feeding on it. In the meantime, while you're considering of that, I'll
burn something of my own--I'm weary."
He dropped down on a convenient boulder of limestone, settled his big
frame comfortably, and producing a pipe and a tobacco pouch, proceeded to
smoke. Vickers himself took another boulder and looked inquisitively at
his strange companion. He felt sure that Chatfield was up to something.
"You say 'we' now," he remarked suddenly. "Last night you said you didn't
want to have anything to do with us. We were to keep to ourselves, and--"
"Well, well, Mr. Vickers," broke in Chatfield. "One says things at one
time that one wouldn't say at another, you know. Facts is facts, sir, and
Providence has made us companions in distress. I've naught against
you--nor against the girl--as for t'other young man, he's of a
interfering nature--but I forgive him--he's young. I don't bear no ill
will--things being as they are. I've had time to reflect since last
night--and I don't see no reason why Miss Greyle and me shouldn't come to
Vickers lighted his own pipe, and took some time over it.
"What are you after, Chatfield?" he asked at length. "Something, of
course. You say you want to come to terms with Miss Greyle. That, of
course, is because you know very well that Miss Greyle is the legal owner
of Scarhaven, and that--"
Chatfield waved his pipe.
"I don't!" he answered, with what seemed genuine eagerness. "I don't know
naught of the sort. I tell you, Mr. Vickers, I do _not_ know that the man
what we've known as the Squire of Scarhaven for a year gone by is _not_
the rightful Squire--I do not! Fact, sir! But"--he lowered his voice, and
his sly eyes became slyer and craftier--"but I won't deny that during
this last week or two I may have had my suspicions aroused, that there
was something wrong--I don't deny that, Mr. Vickers."
Vickers heard this with amazement. Young as he was, he had had various
dealings with Peter Chatfield, and he had an idea that he knew something
of him, subtle old fellow though he was, and he believed that Chatfield
was now speaking the truth. But, in that case, what of Copplestone's
revelation about the Falmouth and Bristol affair and the dead man? He
thought rapidly, and then determined to take a strong line.
"Chatfield!" he said. "You're trying to bluff me. It won't do. Things
are known. I know 'em! I'll be candid with you--the time's come for
that. I'll tell you what I know--it'll all have to come out. You know
very well that the real Marston Greyle's dead. You were with him when he
died. What's more, you buried him at Bristol under the name of Mark
Grey. Hang it all, man, what's the use of lying about it?--you know
that's all true!"
He was watching Chatfield's big face keenly, and he was astonished to see
that his dramatic impeachment produced no more effect than a slightly
superior smile. Instead of being floored, Chatfield was distinctly
"Aye!" he said, reflectively. "Aye, I expected to hear that. That's
Copplestone's work, of course--I knew he was some sort of detective as
soon as I got speech with him. His work and that there Sir Cresswell
Oliver's as is making a mountain out of a molehill about his brother,
who, of course, broke his neck quite accidental, poor man, and of that
London lawyer--Petherton. Aye--aye--but all the same, Mr. Vickers, it
don't alter matters--no-how!"
"Good heavens, man, what do you mean?" exclaimed Vickers, who was
becoming more and more mystified. "Do you mean to tell me--come, come,
Chatfield, I'm not a fool! Why--Copplestone has found it all out--there's
no need to keep it secret, now. You were with Marston Greyle when he
died--you registered his death as Marston Greyle--and--"
Chatfield laughed softly and gave his companion a swift glance out of one
corner of his right eye.
"And put another name on a bit of a tombstone--six months afterwards,
what?" he said quietly. "Mr. Vickers, when you're as old as I am,
you'll know that this here world is as full o' puzzles as yon sea's
Vickers could only stare at his companion in speechless silence after
that. He felt that there was some mystery about which Chatfield
evidently knew a great deal while he knew nothing. The old fellow's
coolness, his ready acceptance of the Bristol facts, his almost
contemptuous brushing aside of them, reduced Vickers to a feeling of
helplessness. And Chatfield saw it, and laughed, and drawing a
pocket-flask out of his garments, helped himself to a tot of
spirits--after which he good-naturedly offered like refreshment to
Vickers. But Vickers shook his head.
"No, thanks," he said. He continued to stare at Chatfield much as he
might have, stared at the Sphinx if she had been present--and in the end
he could only think of one word. "Well?" he asked lamely. "Well?"
"As to what, now?" inquired Chatfield with a sly smile.
"About what you said," replied Vickers. "Miss Greyle, you know. I'm
about thoroughly tied up with all this. You evidently know a lot. Of
course you won't tell! You're devilish deep, Chatfield. But, between you
and me--what do you mean when you say that you don't see why you and Miss
Greyle shouldn't come to terms?"
"Didn't I say that during this last week or two I'd had my suspicions
about the Squire?" answered Chatfield. "I did. I have had them
suspicions--got 'em stronger than ever since last night. So--what I say
is this. If things should turn out that Miss Greyle's the rightful owner
of Scarhaven, and if I help her to establish her claim, and if I help,
too, to recover them valuables that are on the _Pike_--there's a good
sixty to eighty thousand pounds worth of stuff, silver, china, paintings,
books, tapestry, on that there craft, Mr. Vickers!--if, I say, I do all
that, what will Miss Greyle give me? That's it--in a plain way of
"I thought it was," said Vickers dryly. "Of course! Very well--you'd
better come and talk to Miss Greyle. Come on--now!"
Copplestone and Audrey, having made a breakfast from the box of
provisions which Andrius had been good enough to send ashore with them,
had climbed to the head of the cliff after Vickers, and they were
presently astonished beyond measure to see him returning with Chatfield
under outward signs which suggested amity if not friendship. They paused
by a convenient nook in the rocks and silently awaited the approach of
these two strangely assorted companions. Vickers, coming near, gave them
a queer and a knowing look.
"Mr. Chatfield," he said gravely, "has had the night in which to reflect.
Mr. Chatfield desires peaceable relations. Mr. Chatfield doesn't
see--now, having reflected--why he and Miss Greyle shouldn't be on good'
terms. Mr. Chatfield desires to discuss these terms. Is that right,
"Quite right, sir," assented the agent. He had been regarding the couple
who faced him benevolently and indulgently, and he now raised his hat to
them. "Servant, ma'am," he said with a bow to Audrey. "Servant, sir," he
continued, with another bow to Copplestone. "Ah--it's far better to be at
peace one with another than to let misunderstandings exist for ever. Mr.
Copplestone, sir, you and me's had words in times past--I brush 'em away,
sir, like that there--the memory's departed! I desire naught but better
feelings. Happen Mr. Vickers'll repeat what's passed between him and me."
Copplestone stood rooted to the spot with amazement while Vickers hastily
epitomized the recent conversation; his mouth opened and his speech
failed him. But Audrey laughed and looked at Vickers as if Chatfield were
a new sort of entertainment.
"What do you say to this, Mr. Vickers?" she asked.
"Well, if you want to know," replied Vickers, "I believe Chatfield when
he says that he does _not_ know that the Squire is _not_ the Squire. May
seem strange, but I do! As a solicitor, I do."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Copplestone, finding his tongue.
"I've said so," retorted Vickers.
"Thank you, sir," said Chatfield. "I'm obliged to you. Mr. Copplestone,
sir, doesn't yet understand that there's a deal of conundrum in life.
He'll know better--some day. He'll know, too, that the poet spoke
truthful when he said that things isn't what they seem."
Copplestone turned angrily on Vickers.
"Is this a farce?" he demanded. "Good heavens, man! you know what I
"Mr. Chatfield has a version," answered Vickers. "Why not hear it?"
"On terms, Mr. Vickers," remarked Chatfield. "On terms, sir."
"What terms?" asked Audrey. "To Mr. Chatfield's personal advantage,
Chatfield, who was still the most unconcerned of the group, seated
himself on the rocks and looked at his audience.
"I've said to Mr. Vickers here that if I help Miss Greyle to the estate,
I ought to be rewarded--handsome," he said. "Mind you, I don't know that
I can, for as I say, I do not know, as a matter of strict fact, that this
man as we've called the Squire, isn't the Squire. But recent events--very
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