The House of Whispers
William Le Queux
Part 5 out of 6
Across the meadows, beyond the river, could be seen the lantern-tower of
old Fotheringhay church, with the mound behind where once stood the
castle where ill-fated Mary met her doom.
And as the Baron's secretary watched, he saw that the foreigner's
attitude was gradually changing from persuasive to threatening. He was
speaking quickly, probably in French, making wild gestures with his
hands, while she had drawn back with an expression of alarm. She was
now, it seemed, frightened at the man, and to Edgar Hamilton this
increased the interest tenfold.
Through his mind there flashed the recollection of a previous occasion
when he had seen the man now before him. He was in different garb, and
acting a very different part. But his face was still the same--a
countenance which it was impossible to forget. He was watching the
changing expression upon the girl's face. Would that he could read the
secret hidden behind those wonderful eyes! He had, quite unexpectedly,
discovered a mysterious circumstance. Why should Krail meet her by
accident at that lonely spot?
The pair moved very slowly together along the path which, having left
the way to Southwick, ran along the very edge of the broad, winding
river towards Fotheringhay. Until they had crossed the wide pasture-land
and followed the bend of the stream Hamilton dare not emerge from his
place of concealment. They might glance back and discover him. If so,
then to watch Krail's movements further would be futile.
He saw that, by the exercise of caution, he might perhaps learn
something of deeper interest than he imagined. So he watched until they
disappeared, and then sped along the path they had taken until he came
to a clump of bushes which afforded further cover. From where he stood,
however, he could see nothing. He could hear voices--a man's voice
raised in distinct threats, and a woman's quick, defiant response.
He walked round the bushes quickly, trying to get sight of the pair, but
the river bent sharply at that point in such a manner that he could not
get a glimpse of them.
Again he heard Krail speaking rapidly in French, and still again the
girl's response. Then, next instant, there was a shrill scream and a
Next moment, he had darted from his hiding-place to find the girl
struggling in the water, while at the same time he caught sight of Krail
disappearing quickly around the path. Had he glanced back he could not
have seen the girl in the stream.
At that point the bank was steep, and the stillness of the river and
absence of rushes told that it was deep.
The girl was throwing up her hand, shrieking for help; therefore,
without a second's hesitation, Hamilton, who was a good swimmer, threw
off his coat, and, diving in, was soon at her side.
By this time Krail had hurried on, and could obtain no glimpse of what
was in progress owing to the sharp bend of the river.
After considerable splashing--Hamilton urging her to remain calm--he
succeeded in bringing her to land, where they both struggled up the bank
dripping wet and more or less exhausted. Some moments elapsed before
either spoke; until, indeed, Hamilton, looking straight into the girl's
face and bursting out laughing, exclaimed, "Well, I think I have the
pleasure of being acquainted with you, but I must say that we both look
like drowned rats!"
"I look horrid!" she declared, staring at him half-dazed, putting her
hands to her dripping hair. "I know I must. But I have to thank you for
pulling me out. Only fancy, Mr. Hamilton--you!"
"Oh, no thanks are required! What we must do is to get to some place and
get our clothes dried," he said. "Do you know this neighbourhood?"
"Oh, yes. Straight over there, about a quarter of a mile away, is
Wyatt's farm. Mrs. Wyatt will look after us, I'm sure." And as she rose
to her feet, regarding her companion shyly, her skirts clung around her
and the water squelched from her shoes.
"Very well," he answered cheerily. "Let's go and see what can be done
towards getting some dry kit. I'm glad you're not too frightened. A good
many girls would have fainted, and all that kind of thing."
"I certainly should have gone under if you hadn't so fortunately come
along!" she exclaimed. "I really don't know how to thank you
sufficiently. You've actually saved my life, you know! If it were not
for you I'd have been dead by this time, for I can't swim a stroke."
"By Jove!" he laughed, treating the whole affair as a huge joke, "how
romantic it sounds! Fancy meeting you again after all this time, and
saving your life! I suppose the papers will be full of it if they get to
know--gallant rescue, and all that kind of twaddle."
"Well, personally, I hope the papers won't get hold of this piece of
intelligence," she said seriously, as they walked together, rather
pitiable objects, across the wide grass-fields.
He glanced at her pale face, her hair hanging dank and wet about it, and
saw that, even under these disadvantageous conditions, she had grown
more beautiful than before. Of late he had heard of her--heard a good
deal of her--but had never dreamed that they would meet again in that
"How did it happen?" he asked in pretence of ignorance of her
She raised her fine eyes to his for a moment, and wavered beneath his
"I--I--well, I really don't know," was her rather lame answer. "The bank
was very slippery, and--well, I suppose I walked too near."
Her reply struck him as curious. Why did she attempt to shield the man
who, by his sudden flight, was self-convicted of an attempt upon her
Felix Krail was not a complete stranger to her. Why had their meeting
been a clandestine one? This, and a thousand similar queries ran through
his mind as they walked across the field in the direction of a long,
low, thatched farmhouse which stood in the distance.
"I'm a complete stranger in these parts," Hamilton informed her. "I live
nowadays mostly abroad, away above the Danube, and am only home for a
"And I'm afraid you've completely spoilt your clothes," she laughed,
looking at his wet, muddy trousers and boots.
"Well, if I have, yours also are no further good."
"Oh, my blouse will wash, and I shall send my skirt to the cleaners, and
it will come back like new," she answered. "Women's outdoor clothing
never suffers by a wetting. We'll get Mrs. Wyatt to dry them, and then
I'll get home again to my aunt in Woodnewton. Do you know the place?"
"I fancy I passed through it this morning. One of those long, lean
villages, with a church at the end."
"That's it--the dullest little place in all England, I believe."
He was struck by her charm of manner. Though bedraggled and dishevelled,
she was nevertheless delightful, and treated her sudden immersion with
Why had Krail attempted to get rid of her in that manner? What motive
They reached the farmhouse, where Mrs. Wyatt, a stout, ruddy-faced
woman, detecting their approach, met them upon the threshold. "Lawks,
Miss Heyburn! why, what's happened?" she asked in alarm.
"I fell into the river, and this gentleman fished me out. That's all,"
laughed the girl. "We want to dry our things, if we may."
In a few minutes, in bedrooms upstairs, they had exchanged their wet
clothes for dry ones. Then Edgar in the farmer's Sunday suit of black,
and Gabrielle in one of Mrs. Wyatt's stuff dresses, in the big folds of
which her slim little figure was lost, met again in the spacious
They laughed heartily at the ridiculous figure which each presented, and
drank the glasses of hot milk which the farmer's wife pressed upon them.
Old Miss Heyburn had been Mrs. Wyatt's mistress years ago, when she was
in service, therefore she was most solicitous after the girl's welfare,
and truth to tell looked askance at the good-looking stranger who had
Gabrielle, too, was puzzled to know why Mr. Hamilton should be there.
That he now lived abroad "beside the Danube" was all the information he
had vouchsafed regarding himself, yet from certain remarks he had
dropped she was suspicious. She recollected only too vividly the
occasion when they had met last, and what had occurred.
They sat together on the bench outside the house, enjoying the full
sunshine, while the farmer's wife chattered on. A big fire had been made
in the kitchen, and their clothes were rapidly drying.
Hamilton, by careful questions, endeavoured to obtain from the girl some
information concerning her dealings with the man Krail. But she was too
wary. It was evident that she had some distinct object in concealing the
fact that he had deliberately flung her into the water after that heated
Felix Krail! The very name caused him to clench his hands. Fortunately,
he knew the truth, therefore that dastardly attempt upon the girl's life
should not go unpunished. As he sat there chatting with her, admiring
her refinement and innate daintiness, he made a vow within himself to
seek out that cowardly fugitive and meet him face to face.
Felix Krail! What could be his object in ridding the world of the
daughter of Sir Henry Heyburn! What would the man gain thereby? He knew
Krail too well to imagine that he ever did anything without a motive of
gain. So well did he play his cards always that the police could never
lay hands upon him. Yet his "friends," as he termed them, were among the
most dangerous men in all Europe--men who were unscrupulous, and would
hesitate at nothing in order to accomplish the _coup_ which they had
What was the _coup_ in this particular instance? Ay, that was the
OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
Late on the following afternoon Gabrielle was seated at the
old-fashioned piano in her aunt's tiny drawing-room, her fingers running
idly over the keys, her thoughts wandering back to the exciting
adventure of the previous morning. Her aunt was out visiting some old
people in connection with the village clothing club, therefore she sat
gloomily amusing herself at the piano, and thinking--ever thinking.
She had been playing almost mechanically Berger's "Amoureuse" valse and
some dreamy music from _The Merry Widow_, when she suddenly stopped and
sat back with her eyes fixed out of the window upon the cottages
Why was Mr. Hamilton in that neighbourhood? He had given her no further
information concerning himself. He seemed to be disinclined to talk
about his recent movements. He had sprung from nowhere just at the
critical moment when she was in such deadly peril. Then, after their
clothes had been dried, they had walked together as far as the little
bridge at the entrance to Fotheringhay.
There he had stopped, bent gallantly over her hand, congratulated her
upon her escape, and as their ways lay in opposite directions--she back
to Woodnewton and he on to Oundle--they had parted. "I hope, Miss
Heyburn, that we may meet again one day," he had laughed cheerily as he
raised his hat, "Good-bye." Then he had turned away, and had been lost
to view round the bend of the road.
She was safe. That man whom she had known long ago under such strange
circumstances, whom she would probably never see again, had been her
rescuer. Of this curious and romantic fact she was now thinking.
But where was Walter? Why had he not replied to her letter? Ah! that was
the one thought which oppressed her always, sleeping and waking, day and
night. Why had he not written? Would he never write again?
She had at first consoled herself with the thought that he was probably
on the Continent, and that her letter had not been forwarded. But as the
days went on, and no reply came, the truth became more and more apparent
that her lover--the man whom she adored and worshipped--had put her
aside, had accepted her at her own estimate as worthless.
A thousand times she had regretted the step she had taken in writing
that cruel letter before she left Glencardine. But it was all too late.
She had tried to retract; but, alas! it was now impossible.
Tears welled in her splendid eyes at thought of the man whom she had
loved so well. The world had, indeed, been cruel to her. Her enemies had
profited by her inexperience, and she had fallen an unhappy victim of an
unscrupulous blackguard. Yes, it was only too true. She did not try to
conceal the ugly truth from herself. Yet she had been compelled to keep
Walter in ignorance of the truth, for he loved her.
A hardness showed at the corners of her sweet lips, and the tears rolled
slowly down her cheeks. Then, bestirring herself with an effort, her
white fingers ran over the keys again, and in her sweet, musical voice
she sang "L'Heure d'Aimer," that pretty _valse chantee_ so popular in
Voici l'heure d'aimer, l'heure des tendresses;
Dis-moi les mots tres doux qui vont me griser,
Ah! prends-moi dans tes bras, fais-moi des caresses;
Je veux mourir pour revivre sous ton baiser.
Emporte-moi dans un reve amoureux,
Bien loin sur la terre inconnue,
Pour que longtemps, meme en rouvrant les yeux,
Ce reve continue.
Croyons, aimons, vivons un jour;
C'est si bon, mais si court!
Bonheur de vivre ici-bas diminue
Dans un moment d'amour.
The Hour of Love! How full of burning love and sentiment! She stopped,
reflecting on the meaning of those words.
She was not like the average miss who, parrot-like, knows only a few
French or Italian songs. Italian she loved even better than French, and
could read Dante and Petrarch in the original, while she possessed an
intimate knowledge of the poetry of Italy from the mediaeval writers
down to Carducci and D'Annunzio.
With a sigh, she glanced around the small room, with its old-fashioned
furniture, its antimacassars of the early Victorian era, its wax flowers
under their glass dome, and its gipsy-table covered with a
hand-embroidered cloth. It was all so very dispiriting. The primness of
the whatnot decorated with pieces of treasured china, the big
gilt-framed overmantel, and the old punch-bowl filled with pot-pourri,
all spoke mutely of the thin-nosed old spinster to whom the veriest
speck of dust was an abomination.
Sighing still again, the girl turned once more to the old-fashioned
instrument, with its faded crimson silk behind the walnut fretwork, and,
playing the plaintive melody, sang an ancient serenade:
Di questo cor tu m'hai ferito il core
A cento colpi, piu non val mentire.
Pensa che non sopporto piu il dolore,
E se segu cosi, vado a morire.
Ti tengo nella mente a tutte l'ore,
Se lavoro, se velio, o sto a dormre ...
E mentre dormo ancora un sonno grato,
Mi trovo tutto lacrime bagnato!
While she sang, there was a rap at the front-door, and, just as she
concluded, the prim maid entered with a letter upon a salver.
In an instant her heart gave a bound. She recognised the handwriting. It
The moment the girl had left the room she tore open the envelope, and,
holding her breath, read what was written within.
The words were:
"DEAREST HEART,--Your letter came to me after several wanderings. It has
caused me to think and to wonder if, after all, I may be mistaken--if,
after all, I have misjudged you, darling. I gave you my heart, it is
true. But you spurned it--under compulsion, you say! Why under
compulsion? Who is it who compels you to act against your will and
against your better nature? I know that you love me as well and as truly
as I love you yourself. I long to see you with just as great a longing.
You are mine--mine, my own--and being mine, you must tell me the truth.
"I forgive you, forgive you everything. But I cannot understand what
Flockart means by saying that I have spoken of you. I have not seen the
man, nor do I wish to see him. Gabrielle, do not trust him. He is your
enemy, as he is mine. He has lied to you. As grim circumstance has
forced you to treat me cruelly, let us hope that smiling fortune will be
ours at last. The world is very small. I have just met my old friend
Edgar Hamilton, who was at college with me, and who, I find, is
secretary to some wealthy foreigner, a certain Baron de Hetzendorf. I
have not seen him for years, and yet he turns up here, merry and
prosperous, after struggling for a long time with adverse circumstances.
"But, Gabrielle, your letter has puzzled and alarmed me. The more I
think of it, the more mystifying it all becomes. I must see you, and you
must tell me the truth--the whole truth. We love each other, dear heart,
and no one shall force you to lie again to me as you did in that letter
you wrote from Glencardine. You wish to see me, darling. You shall--and
you shall tell me the truth. My dear love, _au revoir_--until we meet,
which I hope may be almost as soon as you receive this letter.--My love,
my sweetheart, I am your own WALTER."
She sat staring at the letter. He demanded an explanation. He intended
to come there and demand it! And the explanation was one which she dared
not give. Rather that she took her own life than tell him the ghastly
He had met an old chum named Hamilton. Was this the Mr. Hamilton who had
snatched her from that deadly peril? The name of Hetzendorf sounded to
be Austrian or German. How strange if Mr. Hamilton her rescuer were the
same man who had been years ago her lover's college friend!
She passed her white hand across her brow, trying to collect her senses.
She had longed--ah, with such an intense longing!--for a response to
that letter of hers, and here at last it had come. But what a response!
He intended her to make confession. He demanded to know the actual
truth. What could she do? How should she act?
Holding the letter in her hand, she glanced around the little room in
He loved her. His words of reassurance brought her great comfort. But he
wished to know the truth. He suspected something. By her own action in
writing those letters she had aroused suspicion against herself. She
regretted, yet what was the use of regret? Her own passionate words had
revealed to him something which he had not suspected. And he was coming
down there, to Woodnewton, to demand the truth! He might even then be on
If he asked her point-blank, what could she reply? She dare not tell him
the truth. There were now but two roads open--either death by her own
hand or to lie to him.
Could she tell him an untruth? No. She loved him, therefore she could
not resort to false declarations and deceit. Better--far better--would
it be that she took her own life. Better, she thought, if Mr. Hamilton
had not plunged into the river after her. If her life had ended, Walter
Murie would at least have been spared the bitter knowledge of a
disgraceful truth. Her face grew pale and her mouth hardened at the
She loved him with all the fierce passion of her young heart. He was her
hero, her idol. Before her tear-dimmed eyes his dear, serious face rose,
a sweet memory of what had been. Tender remembrances of his fond kisses
still lingered with her. She recollected how around her waist his strong
arm would steal, and how slowly and yet irresistibly he would draw her
in his arms in silent ecstasy.
Alas! that was all past and over. They loved each other, but she was now
face to face with what she had so long dreaded--face to face with the
inevitable. She must either confess the truth, and by so doing turn his
love to hatred, or else remain silent and face the end.
She reread the letter still seated at the piano, her elbows resting
inertly upon the keys. Then she lifted her pale face again to the
window, gazing out blankly upon the village street, so dull, so silent,
so uninteresting. The thought of Mr. Hamilton--the man who held a secret
of hers, and who only a few hours before had rescued her from the peril
in which Felix Krail had placed her--again recurred to her. Was it not
remarkable that he, Walter's old friend, should come down into that
neighbourhood? There was some motive in his visit! What could it be? He
had spoken of Hungary, a country which had always possessed for her a
strange fascination. Was it not quite likely that, being Walter's
friend, Hamilton on his return to London would relate the exciting
incident of the river? Had he seen Krail? And, if so, did he know him?
Those two points caused her the greatest apprehension. Suppose he had
recognised Krail! Suppose he had overheard that man's demands, and her
defiant refusal, he would surely tell Walter!
She bit her lip, and her white fingers clenched themselves in
Why should all this misfortune fall upon her, to wreck her young life?
Other girls were gay, careless, and happy. They visited and motored and
flirted and danced, and went to theatres in town and to suppers
afterwards at the Carlton or Savoy, and had what they termed "a ripping
good time." But to her poor little self all pleasure was debarred. Only
the grim shadows of life were hers.
Her mind had become filled with despair. Why had this great calamity
befallen her? Why had she, by her own action in writing to her lover,
placed herself in that terrible position from which there was no
escape--save by death?
The recollection of the Whispers--those fatal Whispers of
Glencardine--flashed through her distressed mind. Was it actually true,
as the countryfolk declared, that death overtook all those who overheard
the counsels of the Evil One? It really seemed as though there actually
was more in the weird belief than she had acknowledged. Her father had
scouted the idea, yet old Stewart, who had personally known instances,
had declared that evil and disaster fell inevitably upon any one who
chanced to hear those voices of the night.
The recollection of that moonlight hour among the ruins, and the
distinct voices whispering, caused a shudder to run through her. She had
heard them with her own ears, and ever since that moment nothing but
catastrophe upon catastrophe had fallen upon her.
Yes, she had heard the Whispers, and she could not escape their evil
influence any more than those other unfortunate persons to whom death
had come so unexpectedly and swiftly.
A shadow passed the window, causing her to start. The figure was that of
a man. She rose from the piano with a cry, and stood erect, motionless,
IS ABOUT THE MAISON LENARD
The big, rather severely but well-furnished room overlooked the busy
Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. In front lay the great white facade of
the Grand Hotel; below was all the bustle, life, and movement of Paris
on a bright sunny afternoon. Within the room, at a large mahogany table,
sat four grave-faced men, while a fifth stood at one of the long
windows, his back turned to his companions.
The short, broad-shouldered man looking forth into the street, in
expectancy, was Monsieur Goslin. He had been speaking, and his words had
evidently caused some surprise, even alarm, among his companions, for
they now exchanged glances in silence.
Three of the men were well-dressed and prosperous-looking; while the
fourth, a shrivelled old fellow, in faded clothes which seemed several
sizes too large for him, looked needy and ill-fed as he nervously chafed
his thin bony hands.
Next moment they all began chatting in French, though from their
countenances it was plain that they were of various nationalities--one
being German, the other Italian, and the third, a sallow-faced man, had
the appearance of a Levantine.
Goslin alone remained silent and watchful. From where he stood he could
see the people entering and leaving the Grand Hotel. He glanced
impatiently at his watch, and then paced the room, his hand thoughtfully
stroking his grey beard. Only half an hour before he had alighted at the
Gare du Nord, coming direct from far-off Glencardine, and had driven
there in an auto-cab to keep an appointment made by telegram. As he
paced the big room, with its dark-green walls, its Turkey carpet, and
sombre furniture, his companions regarded him in wonder. They
instinctively knew that he had some news of importance to impart. There
was one absentee. Until his arrival Goslin refused to say anything.
The youngest of the four assembled at the table was the Italian, a
rather thin, keen-faced, dark-moustached man of refined appearance.
"_Madonna mia!_" he cried, raising his face to the Frenchman, "why, what
has happened? This is unusual. Besides, why should we wait? I've only
just arrived from Turin, and haven't had time to go to the hotel. Let us
get on. _Avanti!_"
"Not until he is present," answered Goslin, speaking earnestly in
French. "I have a statement to make from Sir Henry. But I am not
permitted to make it until all are here." Then, glancing at his watch,
he added, "His train was due at Est Station at 4.58. He ought to be here
at any moment."
The shabby old man, by birth a Pole, still sat chafing his chilly
fingers. None who saw Antoine Volkonski, as he shuffled along the
street, ever dreamed that he was head of the great financial house of
Volkonski Freres of Petersburg, whose huge loans to the Russian
Government during the war with Japan created a sensation throughout
Europe, and surely no casual observer looking at that little assembly
would ever entertain suspicion that, between them, they could
practically dictate to the money-market of Europe.
The Italian seated next to him was the Commendatore Rudolphe Cusani,
head of the wealthy banking firm of Montemartini of Rome, which ranked
next to the Bank of Italy. Of the remaining two, one was a Greek from
Smyrna, and the other, a rather well-dressed man with longish grey hair,
Josef Frohnmeyer of Hamburg, a name also to conjure with in the
The impatient Italian was urging Goslin to explain why the meeting had
been so hastily summoned when, without warning, the door opened and a
tall, distinguished man, with carefully trained grey moustache, and
wearing a heavy travelling ulster, entered.
"Ah, my dear Baron!" cried the Italian, jumping from his chair and
taking the new-comer's hand, "we were waiting for you." And he drew a
chair next to his.
The man addressed tossed his soft felt travelling hat aside, saying,
"The 'wire' reached me at a country house outside Vienna, where I was
visiting. But I came instantly." And he seated himself, while the chair
at the head of the table was taken by the stout Frenchman.
"Messieurs," Goslin commenced, and--speaking in French--began
apologising at being compelled to call them together so soon after their
last meeting. "The matter, however, is of such urgency," he went on,
"that this conference is absolutely necessary. I am here in Sir Henry's
place, with a statement from him--an alarming statement. Our enemies
have unfortunately triumphed."
"What do you mean?" cried the Italian, starting to his feet.
"Simply this. Poor Sir Henry has been the victim of treachery.--Those
papers which you, my dear Volkonski, brought to me in secret at
Glencardine a month ago have been stolen!"
"Stolen!" gasped the shabby old man, his grey eyes starting from his
head; "stolen! _Dieu!_ Think what that means to us--to me--to my house!
They will be sold to the Ministry of Finance in Petersburg, and I shall
"Not only you will be ruined!" remarked the man from Hamburg, "but our
control of the market will be at an end."
"And together we lose over three million roubles," said Goslin in as
quiet a voice as he could assume.
The six men--those men who dealt in millions, men whose names, every one
of them, were as household words on the various Bourses of Europe and in
banking circles, men who lent money to reigning Sovereigns and to
States, whose interests were world-wide and whose influences were
greater than those of Kings and Ministers--looked at each other in blank
"We have to face this fact, as Sir Henry points out to you, that at
Petersburg the Department of Finance has no love for us. We put on the
screw a little too heavily when we sold them secretly those three
Argentine cruisers. We made a mistake in not being content with smaller
"Yes, if it had been a genuinely honest deal on their side," remarked
the Italian. "But it was not. In Russia the crowd made quite as great a
profit as we did."
"And all three ships were sent to the bottom of the sea four months
afterwards," added Frohnmeyer with a grim laugh.
"That isn't the question," Goslin said. "What we have now to face is the
peril of exposure. No one can, of course, allege that we have ever
resorted to any sharper practices than those of other financial groups;
but the fact of our alliance and our impregnable strength will, when it
is known, arouse the fiercest antagonism in certain circles."
"No one suspects the secret of our alliance," the Italian ejaculated.
"It must be kept--kept at all hazards."
Each man seated there knew that exposure of the tactics by which they
were ruling the Bourse would mean the sudden end of their great
"But this is not the first occasion that documents have been stolen from
Sir Henry at Glencardine," remarked the Baron Conrad de Hetzendorf. "I
remember the last time I went there to see him he explained how he had
discovered his daughter with the safe open, and some of the papers
actually in her hands."
"Unfortunately that is so," Goslin answered. "There is every evidence
that we owe our present peril to her initiative. She and her father are
on bad terms, and it seems more than probable that though she is no
longer at Glencardine she has somehow contrived to get hold of the
documents in question--at the instigation of her lover, we believe."
"How do you know that the documents are stolen?" the Baron asked.
"Because three days ago Sir Henry received an anonymous letter bearing
the postmark of 'London, E.C.,' enclosing correct copies of the papers
which our friend Volkonski brought from Petersburg, and asking what sum
he was prepared to pay to obtain repossession of the originals. On
receipt of the letter," continued Goslin, "I rushed to the safe, to find
the papers gone. The door had been unlocked and relocked by an unknown
"And how does suspicion attach to the girl's lover?" asked the man from
"Well, he was alone in the library for half an hour about five days
before. He called to see Sir Henry while he and I were out walking
together in the park. It is believed that the girl has a key to the
safe, which she handed to her lover in order that he might secure the
papers and sell them in Russia."
"But young Murie is the son of a wealthy man, I've heard," observed the
"Certainly. But at present his allowance is small," was Goslin's reply.
"Well, what's to be done?" inquired the Italian.
"Done?" echoed Goslin. "Nothing can be done."
"Why?" they all asked almost in one breath.
"Because Sir Henry has replied, refusing to treat for the return of the
"Was that not injudicious? Why did he not allow us to discuss the affair
first?" argued the Levantine.
"Because an immediate answer by telegraph to a post-office in Hampshire
was demanded," Goslin replied. "Remember that to Sir Henry's remarkable
foresight all our prosperity has been due. Surely we may trust in his
judicious treatment of the thief!"
"That's all very well," protested Volkonski; "but my fortune is at
stake. If the Ministry obtains those letters they will crush and ruin
"Sir Henry is no novice," remarked the Baron. "He fights an enemy with
his own weapons. Remember that Greek deal of which the girl gained
knowledge. He actually prepared bogus contracts and correspondence for
the thief to steal. They were stolen, and, passing through a dozen
hands, were at last offered in Athens. The Ministry there laughed at the
thieves for their pains. Let us hope the same result will be now
"I fear not," Goslin said quietly. "The documents stolen on the former
occasion were worthless. The ones now in the hands of our enemies are
"But," said the Baron, "you, Goslin, went to live at Glencardine on
purpose to protect our poor blind friend from his enemies!"
"I know," said the man addressed. "I did my best--and failed. The
footman Hill, knowing young Murie as a frequent guest at Glencardine,
the other day showed him into the library and left him there alone. It
was then, no doubt, that he opened the safe with a false key and secured
"Then why not apply for a warrant for his arrest?" suggested the
Commendatore Cusani. "Surely your English laws do not allow thieves to
go unpunished? In Italy we should quickly lay hands on them."
"But we have no evidence."
"You have no suspicion that any other man may have committed the
theft--that fellow Flockart, for instance? I don't like him," added the
Baron. "He is altogether too friendly with everybody at Glencardine."
"I have already made full inquiries. Flockart was in Rome. He only
returned to London the day before yesterday. No. Everything points to
the girl taking revenge upon her father, who, I am compelled to admit,
has treated her with rather undue harshness. Personally, I consider
mademoiselle very charming and intelligent."
They all admitted that her correspondence and replies to reports were
marvels of clear, concise instruction. Every man among them knew well
her neat round handwriting, yet only Goslin had ever seen her.
The Frenchman was asked to describe both the girl and her lover. This he
did, declaring that Gabrielle and Walter were a very handsome pair.
"Whatever may be said," remarked old Volkonski, "the girl was a most
excellent assistant to Sir Henry. But it is, of course, the old story--a
young girl's head turned by a handsome lover. Yet surely the youth is
not so poor that he became a thief of necessity. To me it seems rather
as though he stole the documents at her instigation."
"That is exactly Sir Henry's belief," Goslin remarked with a sigh. "The
poor old fellow is beside himself with grief and fear."
"No wonder!" remarked the Italian. "None of us would care to be betrayed
by our own daughters."
"But cannot a trap be laid to secure the thief before he approaches the
people in Russia?" suggested the crafty Levantine.
"Yes, yes!" cried Volkonski, his hands still clenched. "The Ministry
would give a hundred thousand roubles for them, because by their aid
they could crush me--crush you all. Remember, there are names
there--names of some of the most prominent officials in the Empire.
Think of the power of the Ministry if they held that list in their
"No," said the Baron in a clear, distinct voice, his grey eyes fixed
thoughtfully upon the wall opposite. "Rather think of our positions, of
the exultation of our enemies if this great combine of ours were exposed
and broken! Myself, I consider it folly that we have met here openly
to-day. This is the first time we have all met, save in secret, and how
do we know but some spy may be on the _boulevard_ outside noting who has
"_Mille diavoli!_" gasped Cusani, striking the table with his fist and
sinking back into his chair. "I recollect I passed outside here a man I
know--a man who knows me. He was standing on the kerb. He saw me. His
name is Krail--Felix Krail!"
"Is he still there?" cried the men, as with one accord they left their
chairs and dashed eagerly across to the window.
"Krail!" cried the Russian in alarm. "Where is he?"
"See!" the Italian pointed out, "see the man in black yonder, standing
there near the _kiosque_, smoking a cigarette. He is still watching. He
has seen us meet here!"
"Ah!" said the Baron in a hoarse voice, "I said so. To meet openly like
this was far too great a risk. Nobody knew anything of Lenard et
Morellet of the Boulevard des Capucines except that they were
unimportant financiers. To-morrow the world will know who they really
are. Messieurs, we are the victims of a very clever ruse. We have been
so tricked that we have been actually summoned here and our identity
The five monarchs of finance stood staring at each other in absolute
SURPRISES MR. FLOCKART
"Well, you and your friend Felix have placed me in a very pleasant
position, haven't you?" asked Lady Heyburn of Flockart, who had just
entered the green-and-white morning-room at Park Street. "I hope now
that you're satisfied with your blunder!"
The man addressed, in a well-cut suit of grey, a fancy vest, and
patent-leather boots, still carrying his hat and stick in his hand,
turned to her in surprise.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "I arrived from Paris at five this
morning, and I've brought you good news."
"Nonsense!" cried the woman, starting from her chair in anger. "You
can't deceive me any longer."
"Krail has discovered the whole game. The syndicate held a meeting at
the office in Paris. He and I watched the arrivals. We now know who they
are, and exactly what they are doing. By Jove! we never dreamed that
your husband, blind though he is, is head of such a smart and
influential group. Why, they're the first in Europe."
"What does that matter? Krail wants money, so do we; but even with all
your wonderful schemes we get none!"
"Wait, my dear Winnie, remain patient, and we shall obtain plenty."
It was indeed strange for a woman within that smart town-house, and with
her electric brougham at the door, to complain of poverty. The house had
been a centre of political activity in the days before Sir Henry met
with that terrible affliction. The room in which the pair stood had been
the scene of many a private and momentous conference, and in the big
drawing-room upstairs many a Cabinet Minister had bent over the hand of
the fair Lady Heyburn.
Into the newly decorated room, with its original Adams ceiling, its
dead-white panelling and antique overmantel, shone the morning sun, weak
and yellow as it always is in London in the spring-time.
Lady Heyburn, dressed in a smart walking-gown of grey, pushed her fluffy
fair hair from her brow, while upon her face was an expression which
told of combined fear and anger.
Her visitor was surprised. After that watchful afternoon in the
Boulevard des Capucines, he had sat in a corner of the Cafe Terminus
listening to Krail, who rubbed his hands with delight and declared that
he now held the most powerful group in Europe in the hollow of his hand.
For the past six years or so gigantic _coups_ had been secured by that
unassuming and apparently third-rate financial house of Lenard et
Morellet. From a struggling firm they had within a year grown into one
whose wealth seemed inexhaustible, and whose balances at the Credit
Lyonnais, the Societe Generale, and the Comptoir d'Escompte were
possibly the largest of any of the customers of those great
corporations. The financial world of Europe had wondered. It was a
mystery who was behind Lenard et Morellet, the pair of steady-going,
highly respectable business men who lived in unostentatious comfort, the
former at Enghien, just outside Paris, and the latter out in the country
at Melum. The mystery was so well and so carefully preserved that not
even the bankers themselves could obtain knowledge of the truth.
Krail had, however, after nearly two years of clever watching and
ingenious subterfuge, succeeded, by placing the group in a "hole" in
calling them together. That they met, and often, was undoubted. But
where they met, and how, was still a complete mystery.
As Flockart had sat that previous afternoon listening to Krail's
unscrupulous and self-confident proposals, he had remained in silent
wonder at the man's audacious attitude. Nothing deterred him, nothing
Flockart had returned that night from Paris, gone to his chambers in
Half-Moon Street, breakfasted, dressed, and had now called upon her
ladyship in order to impart to her the good news. Yet, instead of
welcoming him, she only treated him with resentment and scorn. He knew
the quick flash of those eyes, he had seen it before on other occasions.
This was not the first time they had quarrelled, yet he, keen-witted and
cunning, had always held her powerless to elude him, had always
compelled her to give him the sums he so constantly demanded. That
morning, however, she was distinctly resentful, distinctly defiant.
For an instant he turned from her, biting his lip in annoyance. When
facing her again, he smiled, asking, "Tell me, Winnie, what does all
"Mean!" echoed the Baronet's wife. "Mean! How can you ask me that
question? Look at me--a ruined woman! And you----"
"Speak out!" he cried. "What has happened?"
"You surely know what has happened. You have treated me like the cur you
are--and that is speaking plainly. You've sacrificed me in order to save
"From exposure. To me, ruin is not a matter of days, but of hours."
"You're speaking in enigmas. I don't understand you," he cried
impatiently. "Krail and I have at last been successful. We know now the
true source of your husband's huge income, and in order to prevent
exposure he must pay--and pay us well too."
"Yes," she laughed hysterically. "You tell me all this after you've
"Blundered! How?" he asked, surprised at her demeanour.
"What's the use of beating about the bush?" asked her ladyship. "The
girl is back at Glencardine. She knows everything, thanks to your
"Back at Glencardine!" gasped Flockart. "But she dare not speak. By
heaven! if she does--then--then--"
"And what, pray, can you do?" inquired the woman harshly. "It is I who
have to suffer, I who am crushed, humiliated, ruined, while you and your
precious friend shield yourselves behind your cloaks of honesty. You are
Sir Henry's friend. He believes you as such--you!" And she laughed the
hollow laugh of a woman who was staring death in the face. She was
haggard and drawn, and her hands trembled with nervousness which she
strove in vain to repress. Lady Heyburn was desperate.
"He still believes in me, eh?" asked the man, thinking deeply, for his
clever brain was already active to devise some means of escape from what
appeared to be a distinctly awkward dilemma. He had never calculated the
chances of Gabrielle's return to her father's side. He had believed that
"I understand that my husband will hear no word against you," replied
the tall, fair-haired woman. "But when I speak he will listen, depend
"You dare!" he cried, turning upon her in threatening attitude. "You
dare utter a single word against me, and, by Heaven! I'll tell what I
know. The country shall ring with a scandal--the shame of your attitude
towards the girl, and a crime for which you will be arraigned, with me,
before an assize-court. Remember!"
The woman shrank from him. Her face had blanched. She saw that he was
equally as determined as she was desperate. James Flockart always kept
his threats. He was by no means a man to trifle with.
For a moment she was thoughtful, then she laughed defiantly in his face.
"Speak! Say what you will. But if you do, you suffer with me."
"You say that exposure is imminent," he remarked. "How did the girl
manage to return to Glencardine?"
"With Walter's aid. He went down to Woodnewton. What passed between them
I have no idea. I only returned the day before yesterday from the South.
All I know is that the girl is back with her father, and that he knows
much more than he ought to know."
"Murie could not have assisted her," Flockart declared decisively. "The
old man suspects him of taking those Russian papers from the safe."
"How do you know he hasn't cleared himself of the suspicion? He may have
done. The old man dotes upon the girl."
"I know all that."
"And she may have turned upon you, and told the truth about the safe
incident. That's more than likely."
"She dare not utter a word."
"You're far too self-confident. It is your failing."
"And when, pray, has it failed? Tell me."
"Never, until the present moment. Your bluff is perfect, yet there are
moments when it cannot aid you, depend upon it. She told me one night
long ago, in my own room, when she had disobeyed, defied, and annoyed
me, that she would never rest until Sir Henry knew the truth, and that
she would place before him proofs of the other affair. She has long
intended to do this; and now, thanks to your attitude of passive
inertness, she has accomplished her intentions."
"What!" he gasped in distinct alarm, "has she told her father the
"A telegram I received from Sir Henry late last night makes it only too
plain that he knows something," responded the unhappy woman, staring
straight before her. "It is your fault--your fault!" she went on,
turning suddenly upon her companion again. "I warned you of the danger
Flockart stood motionless. The announcement which the woman had made
Felix Krail had come to him in Paris, and after some hesitation, and
with some reluctance, had described how he had followed the girl along
the Nene bank and thrown her into the deepest part of the river, knowing
that she would be hampered by her skirts and that she could not swim.
"She will not trouble us further. Never fear!" he had said. "It will be
thought a case of suicide through love. Her mental depression is the
common talk of the neighbourhood."
And yet the girl was safe and now home again at Glencardine! He
reflected upon the ugly facts of "the other affair" to which her
ladyship sometimes referred, and his face went ashen pale.
Just at the moment when success had come to them after all their
ingenuity and all their endeavours--just at a moment when they could
demand and obtain what terms they liked from Sir Henry to preserve the
secret of the financial combine--came this catastrophe.
"Felix was a fool to have left his work only half-done," he remarked
aloud, as though speaking to himself.
"What work?" asked the hollow-eyed woman eagerly. But he did not satisfy
her. To explain would only increase her alarm and render her even more
desperate than she was.
"Did I not tell you often that, from her, we had all to fear?" cried the
woman frantically. "But you would not listen. And now I am--I'm face to
face with the inevitable. Disaster is before me. No power can avert it.
The girl will have a bitter and terrible revenge."
"No," he cried quickly, with fierce determination. "No, I'll save you,
Winnie. The girl shall not speak. I'll go up to Glencardine to-night and
face it out. You will come with me."
"I!" gasped the shrinking woman. "Ah, no. I--I couldn't. I dare not face
him. You know too well I dare not!"
DISCLOSES A SECRET
The grey mists were still hanging upon the hills of Glencardine,
although it was already midday, for it had rained all night, and
everywhere was damp and chilly.
Gabrielle, in her short tweed skirt, golf-cape, and motor-cap, had
strolled, with Walter Murie at her side, from the house along the
winding path to the old castle. From the contented expression upon her
pale, refined countenance, it was plain that happiness, to a great
extent, had been restored to her.
When he had gone to Woodnewton it was to fetch her back to Glencardine.
He had asked for an explanation, it was true; but when she had refused
one he had not pressed it. That he was puzzled, sorely puzzled, was
At first, Sir Henry had point-blank refused to receive his daughter. But
on hearing her appealing voice he had to some extent relented; and,
though strained relations still existed between them, yet happiness had
come to her in the knowledge that Walter's affection was still as strong
Young Murie had, of course, heard from his mother the story told by Lady
Heyburn concerning the offence of her stepdaughter. But he would not
believe a single word against her.
They had been strolling slowly, and she had been speaking expressing her
heartfelt thanks for his action in taking her from that life of awful
monotony at Woodnewton. Then he, on his part, had pressed her soft hand
and repeated his promise of lifelong love.
They had entered the old grass-grown courtyard of the castle, when
suddenly she exclaimed, "How I wish, Walter, that we might elucidate the
secret of the Whispers!"
"It certainly would be intensely interesting if we could," he said, "The
most curious thing is that my old friend Edgar Hamilton, who is
secretary to the well-known Baron Conrad de Hetzendorf, tells me that a
similar legend is current in connection with the old chateau in Hungary.
He had heard the Whispers himself."
"Most remarkable!" she exclaimed, gazing blankly around at the ponderous
walls about her.
"My idea always has been that beneath where we are standing there must
be a chamber, for most mediaeval castles had a subterranean dungeon
beneath the courtyard."
"Ah, if we could only find entrance to it!" cried the girl
enthusiastically. "Shall we try?"
"Have you not often tried, and failed?" he asked laughingly.
"Yes, but let's search again," she urged. "My strong belief is that
entrance is not to be obtained from this side, but from the glen down
"Yes, no doubt in the ages long ago the hill was much steeper than it
now is, and there were no trees or undergrowth. On that side it was
impregnable. The river, however, in receding, silted up much earth and
boulders at the bend, and has made the ascent possible."
Together they went to a breach in the ponderous walls and peered down
into the ancient river-bed, now but a rippling burn.
"Very well," replied Murie, "let us descend and explore."
So they retraced their steps until, when about half-way to the house,
they left the path and went down to the bottom of the beautiful glen
until they were immediately beneath the old castle.
The spot was remote and seldom visited. Few ever came there, for it was
approached by no path on that side of the burn, so that the keepers
always passed along the opposite bank. They had no necessity to
penetrate there. Besides, it was too near the house.
Through the bracken and undergrowth, passing by big trees that in the
ages had sprung up from seedlings dropped by the birds or sown by the
winds, they slowly ascended to the frowning walls far above--the walls
that had withstood so many sieges and the ravages of so many centuries.
Half a dozen times the girl's skirt became entangled in the briars, and
once she tore her cape upon some thorns. But, enjoying the adventure,
she went on, Walter going first and clearing a way for her as best he
"Nobody has ever been up here before, I'm quite certain," Gabrielle
cried, halting, breathless, for a moment. "Old Stewart, who says he
knows every inch of the estate, has never climbed here, I'm sure."
"I don't expect he has," declared her lover.
At last they found themselves beneath the foundations of one of the
flanking-towers of the castle walls, whereupon he suggested that if they
followed the wall right along and examined it closely they might
discover some entrance.
"I somehow fear there will not be any door on the exposed side," he
The base of the walls was all along hidden by thick undergrowth,
therefore the examination proved extremely difficult. Nevertheless,
keenly interested in their exploration, the pair kept on struggling and
climbing until the perspiration rolled off both their faces.
Suddenly, Walter uttered a cry of surprise. "Why, look here! This seems
like a track. People _have_ been up here after all!"
And his companion saw that from the burn below, up through the bushes,
ran a narrow winding path, which showed little sign of frequent use.
Walter went on before her, quickly following the path until it turned at
right-angles and ended before a low door of rough wood which filled a
small breach in the wall--a breach made, in all probability, at the last
siege in the early seventeenth century.
"This must lead somewhere!" cried Walter excitedly; and, lifting the
roughly constructed wooden latch, he pushed the door open, disclosing a
A dank, earthy smell greeted their nostrils. It was certainly an uncanny
"By Jove!" cried Walter, "I wonder where this leads to?" And, taking out
his vestas, he struck one, and, holding it before him, went forward,
passing through the breach in the broken wall into a stone passage which
led to the left for a few yards and gave entrance to exactly what
Gabrielle had expected--a small, windowless stone chamber probably used
in olden days as a dungeon.
Here they found, to their surprise, several old chairs, a rough table
formed of two deal planks upon trestles, and a couple of half-burned
candles in candlesticks which Gabrielle recognised as belonging to the
house. These were lit, and by their aid the place was thoroughly
Upon the floor was a heap of black tinder where some papers had been
burnt weeks or perhaps months ago. There were cigar-ends lying about,
showing that whoever had been there had taken his ease.
In a niche was a small tin box containing matches and fresh candles,
while in a corner lay an old newspaper, limp and damp, bearing a date
six months before. On the floor, too, were a number of pieces of
paper--a letter torn to fragments.
They tried to piece it together, laying it upon the table carefully, but
were unsuccessful in discovering its import, save that it was in
Russian, from somebody in Odessa, and addressed to Sir Henry.
Carrying the candles in their hands, they went into the narrow passage
to explore the subterranean regions of the old place. But neither way
could they proceed far, for the passage had fallen in at both ends and
was blocked by rubbish. The only exit or entrance was by that narrow
breach in the walls so cunningly concealed by the undergrowth and closed
by the rudely made door of planks nailed together. Above, in the stone
roof of the chamber, there was a wide crack running obliquely, and
through which any sound could be heard in the courtyard above.
They remained in the narrow, low-roofed little cell for a full
half-hour, making careful examination of everything, and discussing the
probability of the Whispers heard in the courtyard above emanating from
that hidden chamber.
For what purpose was the place used, and by whom? In all probability it
was the very chamber in which Cardinal Setoun had been treacherously
done to death.
Though they made a most minute investigation they discovered nothing
further. Up to a certain point their explorations had been crowned by
success, yet the discovery rather tended to increase the mystery than
That the Whispers were supernatural Gabrielle had all along refused to
believe. The question was, to what use that secret chamber was put?
At last, more puzzled than ever, the pair, having extinguished the
candles, emerged again into the light of day, closing and latching the
little door after them.
Then, following the narrow secret path, they found that it wound through
the bushes, and emerged by a circuitous way some distance along the
glen, its entrance being carefully concealed by a big lichen-covered
boulder which hid it from any one straying there by accident. So near
was it to the house, and so well concealed, that no keeper had ever
"Well," declared Gabrielle, "we've certainly made a most interesting
discovery this morning. But I wonder if it really does solve the mystery
of the Whispers?"
"Scarcely," Walter admitted. "We have yet to discover to whom the secret
of the existence of that chamber is known. No doubt the Whispers are
heard above through the crack in the roof. Therefore, at present, we had
better keep our knowledge strictly to ourselves."
And to this the girl, of course, agreed.
They found Sir Henry seated alone in the sunshine in one of the big
bay-windows of the drawing-room, a pathetic figure, with his blank,
bespectacled countenance turned towards the light, and his fingers
busily knitting to employ the time which, alas! hung so heavily upon his
Truth to tell, with Flockart's influence upon him, he was not quite
convinced of the sincerity of either Gabrielle or Walter Murie.
Therefore, when they entered, and his daughter spoke to him; his
greeting was not altogether cordial.
"Why, dear dad, how is it you're sitting here all alone? I would have
gone for a walk with you had I known."
"I'm expecting Goslin," was the old man's snappy reply. "He left Paris
yesterday, and should certainly have been here by this time. I can't
make out why he hasn't sent me a 'wire' explaining the delay."
"He may have lost his connection in London," Murie suggested.
"Perhaps so," remarked the Baronet with a sigh, his fingers moving
Murie could see that he was unnerved and unlike himself. He, of course,
was unaware of the great interests depending upon the theft of those
papers from his safe. But the old man was anxious to hear from Goslin
what had occurred at the urgent meeting of the secret syndicate in
Gabrielle was chatting gaily with her father in an endeavour to cheer
him up, when suddenly the door opened, and Flockart, still in his
travelling ulster, entered, exclaiming, "Good-morning, Sir Henry."
"Why, my dear Flockart, this is really quite unexpected. I--I thought
you were abroad," cried the Baronet, his face brightening as he
stretched out his hand for his visitor to grasp.
"So I have been. I only got back to town yesterday morning, and left
Euston last night."
"Well," said Sir Henry, "I'm very glad you are here again. I've missed
you very much--very much indeed. I hope you'll make another long stay
with us at Glencardine."
The man addressed raised his eyes to Gabrielle's.
She looked him straight in the face, defiant and unflinching. The day of
her self-sacrifice to protect her helpless father's honour and welfare
had come. She had suffered much in silence--suffered as no other girl
would suffer; but she had tried to conceal the bitter truth. Her spirit
had been broken. She was obsessed by one fear, one idea.
For a moment the girl held her breath. Walter saw the sudden change in
her countenance, and wondered.
Then, with a calmness that was surprising, she turned to her father, and
in a clear, distinct voice said, "Dad, now that Mr. Flockart has
returned, I wish to tell you the truth concerning him--to warn you that
he is not your friend, but your very worst enemy!"
"What is that you say?" cried the man accused, glaring at her. "Repeat
those words, and I will tell the whole truth about yourself--here,
before your lover!"
The blind man frowned. He hated scenes. "Come, come," he urged, "please
do not quarrel. Gabrielle, I think, dear, your words are scarcely fair
to our friend."
"Father," she said firmly, her face pale as death, "I repeat them. That
man standing there is as much your enemy as he is mine!"
Flockart laughed satirically. "Then I will tell my story, and let your
father judge whether you are a worthy daughter," he said.
IN WHICH GABRIELLE TELLS A STRANGE STORY
Gabrielle fell back in fear. Her handsome countenance was blanched to
the lips. This man intended to speak--to tell the terrible truth--and
before her lover too! She clenched her hands and summoned all her
Flockart laughed at her--laughed in triumph. "I think, Gabrielle," he
said, "that you should put an end to this deceit towards your poor blind
"What do you mean?" cried Walter in a fury, advancing towards Flockart.
"What has this question--whatever it is--to do with you? Is it your
place to stand between father and daughter?"
"Yes," answered the other in cool defiance, "it is. I am Sir Henry's
"His friend! His enemy!"
"You are not my father's friend, Mr. Flockart," declared the girl,
noticing the look of pain upon the afflicted old gentleman's face. "You
have all along conspired against him for years, and you are actually
conspiring with Lady Heyburn at this moment."
"You lie!" he cried. "You say this in order to shield yourself. You know
that your mother and I are aware of your crime, and have always shielded
"Crime!" gasped Walter Murie, utterly amazed. "What is this man saying,
But the girl stood, blanched and rigid, her jaw set, unable to utter a
"Let me tell you briefly," Flockart went on. "Lady Heyburn and myself
have been this girl's best friends; but now I must speak openly, in
defence of the allegation she is making against me."
"Yes, speak!" urged Sir Henry. "Speak and tell me the truth."
"It is a painful truth, Sir Henry; would that I were not compelled to
make such a charge. Your daughter deliberately killed a young girl named
Edna Bryant. She poisoned her on account of jealousy."
"Impossible!" cried Sir Henry, starting up. "I--I can't believe it,
Flockart. What are you saying? My daughter a murderess!"
"Yes, I repeat my words. And not only that, but Lady Heyburn and myself
have kept her secret until--until now it is imperative that the truth
should be told to you."
"Let me speak, dad--let me tell you----"
"No," cried the old man, "I will hear Flockart." And, turning to his
wife's friend, he said hoarsely, "Go on. Tell me the truth."
"The tragedy took place at a picnic, just before Gabrielle left her
school at Amiens. She placed poison in the girl's wine. Ah, it was a
"I am innocent!" cried the girl in despair.
"Remember the letter which you wrote to your mother concerning her. You
told Lady Heyburn that you hated her. Do you deny writing that letter?
Because, if you do, it is still in existence."
"I deny nothing which I have done," she answered. "You have told my
father this in order to shield yourself. You have endeavoured, as the
coward you are, to prejudice me in his eyes, just as you compelled me to
lie to him when you opened his safe and copied certain of his papers!"
"You opened the safe!" he protested. "Why, I found you there myself!"
"Enough!" she exclaimed quite coolly. "I know the dread charge against
me. I know too well the impossibility of clearing myself, especially in
the face of that letter I wrote to Lady Heyburn; but it was you and she
who entrapped me, and who held me in fear because of my inexperience."
"Tell us the truth, the whole truth, darling," urged Murie, standing at
her side and taking her hand confidently in his.
"The truth!" she said, in a strange voice as though speaking to herself.
"Yes, let me tell you! I know that it will sound extraordinary, yet I
swear to you, by the love you bear for me, Walter, that the words I am
about to utter are the actual truth."
"I believe you," declared her lover reassuringly.
"Which is more than anyone else will," interposed Flockart with a sneer,
but perfectly confident. It was the hour of his triumph. She had defied
him, and he therefore intended to ruin her once and for all.
The girl was standing pale and erect, one hand grasping the back of a
chair, the other held in her lover's clasp, while her father had risen,
his expressionless face turned towards them, his hand groping until it
touched a small table upon which stood an old punch-bowl full of
"Listen, dad," she said, heedless of Flockart's remark. "Hear me before
you condemn me. I know that the charge made against me by this man is a
terrible one. God alone knows what I have suffered these last two years,
how I have prayed for deliverance from the hands of this man and his
friends. It happened a few months before I left Amiens. Lady Heyburn,
you'll recollect, rented a pretty flat in the Rue Leonce-Reynaud in
Paris. She obtained permission for me to leave school and visit her for
a few weeks."
"I recollect perfectly," remarked her father in a low voice.
"Well, there came many times to visit us an American girl named Bryant,
who was studying art, and who lived somewhere off the Boulevard Michel,
as well as a Frenchman named Felix Krail and an Englishman called
"Hamilton!" echoed Murie. "Was his name Edgar Hamilton--my friend?"
"Yes, the same," was her quiet reply. Then she turned to Murie, and
said, "We all went about a great deal together, for it was summer-time,
and we made many pleasant excursions in the district. Edna Bryant was a
merry, cheerful girl, and I soon grew to be very friendly with her,
until one day Lady Heyburn, when alone with me, repeated in strict
confidence that the girl was secretly devoted to you, Walter."
"To me!" he cried. "True, I knew a Miss Bryant long ago, but for the
past three years or so have entirely lost sight of her."
"Lady Heyburn told me that you were very fond of the girl, and this, I
confess, aroused my intense jealousy. I believed that the girl I had
trusted so implicitly was unprincipled and fickle, and that she was
trying to secure the man whom I had loved ever since a child. I had to
return to school, and from there I wrote to Lady Heyburn, who had gone
to Dieppe, a letter saying hard things of the girl, and declaring that I
would take secret revenge--that I would kill her rather than allow
Walter to be taken from me. A month afterwards I again returned to
Paris. That man standing there"--she indicated Flockart--"was living at
the Hotel Continental, and was a frequent visitor. He told me that it
was well known in London that Walter admired Miss Bryant, a declaration
that I admit drove me half-mad with jealousy."
"It was a lie!" declared Walter. "I never made love to the girl. I
admired her, that's all."
"Well," laughed Flockart, "go on. Tell us your version of the affair."
"I am telling you the truth," she cried, boldly facing him. One day Lady
Heyburn, having arranged a cycling picnic, invited Mr. Hamilton, Mr.
Kratil, Mr. Flockart, Miss Bryant, and myself, and we had a beautiful
run to Chantilly, a distance of about forty kilometres, where we first
made a tour of the old chateau, and afterwards entered the cool shady
Foret de Pontarme. While the others went away to explore the paths in
the splendid wood I was left to spread the luncheon upon the ground,
setting before each place a half-bottle of red wine which I found in the
baskets. Then, when all was ready, I called to them, but there was no
response. They were all out of hearing. I left the spot, and searched
for a full twenty minutes or so before I discovered them. First I found
Mr. Krail and Mr. Flockart strolling together smoking, while the others
were on ahead. They had lost their way among the trees. I led them back
to the spot where luncheon was prepared; and, all of us being hungry, we
quickly sat down, chatting and laughing merrily. Of a sudden Miss Bryant
stared straight before her, dropped her glass, and threw up her arms.
'Heavens! Why--ah, my throat!' she shrieked. 'I--I'm poisoned!'
"In an instant all was confusion. The poor girl could not breathe. She
tore at her throat, while her face became convulsed. We obtained water
for her, but it was useless, for within five minutes she was stretched
rigid upon the grass, unconscious, and a few moments later she was
still--quite dead! Ah, shall I ever forget the scene! The effect
produced upon us was appalling. All was so sudden, so tragic, so
"Lady Heyburn was the first to speak. 'Gabrielle,' she said, 'what have
you done? You have carried out the secret revenge which in your letter
you threatened!' I saw myself trapped. Those people had some motive in
killing the girl and placing this crime upon myself! I could not speak,
for I was too utterly dumfounded."
"The fiends!" ejaculated Walter fiercely.
"Then followed a hurried consultation, in which Krail showed himself
most solicitous on my behalf," the pale-faced girl went on. "Aided by
Flockart, I think, he scraped away a hole in a pit full of dead leaves,
and there the body must have been concealed just as it was. To me they
all took a solemn vow to keep what they declared to be my secret. The
bottle containing the wine from which the poor American girl had drunk
was broken and hidden, the plates and food swiftly packed up, and we at
once fled from the scene of the tragedy. With Krail wheeling the girl's
empty cycle, we reached the high road, where we all mounted and rode
back in silence to Paris. Ah, shall I ever rid myself of the memory of
that fatal afternoon?" she cried as she paused for breath.
"Fearing that he might be noticed taking along the empty cycle, Krail
threw it into the river near Valmondois," she went on. "Arrived back at
the Rue Leonce-Reynaud, I protested that nothing had been introduced
into the wine. But they declared that, owing to my youth and the
terrible scandal it would cause if I were arrested, they would never
allow the matter to pass their lips, Mr. Hamilton, indeed, making the
extraordinary declaration that such a crime had extenuating
circumstances when love was at stake. I then saw that I had fallen the
victim of some clever conspiracy; but so utterly overcome was I by the
awful scene that I could make but faint protest.
"Ah! think of my horrible position--accused of a crime of which I was
entirely innocent! The days slipped on, and I was sent back to Amiens,
and in due course came home here to dear old Glencardine. From that day
I have lived in constant fear, until on the night of the ball at
Connachan--you remember the evening, dad?--on that night Mr. Flockart
returned in secret, beckoned me out upon the lawn, and showed me
something which held me petrified in fear. It was a cutting from an
Edinburgh paper that evening reporting that two of the forest-guards at
Pontarme had discovered the body of the missing Miss Bryant, and that
the French police were making active inquiries."
"He threatened you?" asked Walter.
"He told me to remain quiet, and that he and Lady Heyburn would do their
best to shield me. For that reason, dad," she went on, turning to the
blind man, "for that reason I feared to denounce him when I discovered
him with your safe open, for that reason I was compelled to take all the
blame and all your anger upon myself."
The old man's brow knit. "Where is my wife?" he asked. "I must speak to
her before we go further. This is a very serious matter."
"Lady Heyburn is still at Park Street," Flockart replied.
"I will hear no more," declared the blind Baronet, holding up his hand,
"not another word until my wife is present."
INCREASES THE INTEREST
"But, dad," cried Gabrielle, "I am telling you the truth! Cannot you
believe me, your daughter, before this man who is your enemy?"
"Because of my affliction I am, it seems, deceived by every one," was
his hard response.
To where they stood had come the sound of wheels upon the gravelled
drive outside, and a moment later Hill entered, announcing, "A gentleman
to see you very urgently, Sir Henry. He is from Baron de Hetzendorf."
"From the Baron!" gasped the blind man. "I'll see him later."
"Why, it may be Hamilton!" cried Murie; who, looking through the door,
saw his old friend in the corridor, and quickly called him in.
As he faced Flockart he drew himself up. The attitude of them all made
it apparent to him that something unusual was in progress.
"You've arrived at a very opportune moment, Hamilton," Murie said. "You
have met Miss Heyburn before, and also Flockart, I believe, at Lady
Heyburn's, in Paris."
"Sir Henry," Walter said in a quiet tone, "this gentleman sent by the
Baron is his secretary, the same Mr. Edgar Hamilton of whom Gabrielle
has just been speaking."
"Ah, then, perhaps he can furnish us with further facts regarding this
most extraordinary statement of my daughter's," the blind man exclaimed.
"Gabrielle has just told her father the truth regarding a certain tragic
occurrence in the Forest of Pontarme. Explain to us all you know,
"What I know," said Hamilton, "is very quickly told. Has Miss Heyburn
mentioned the man Krail?"
"Yes, I have told them about him," the girl answered.
"You have, however, perhaps omitted to mention one or two small facts in
connection with the affair," he said. "Do you not remember how, on that
eventful afternoon in the forest, when searching for us, you first
encountered Krail walking with this man Flockart at some distance from
"Yes, I recollect."
"And do you remember that when we returned to sit down to luncheon
Flockart insisted that I should take the seat which was afterwards
occupied by the unfortunate Miss Bryant? Do you recollect how I spread a
rug for her at that spot and preferred myself to stand? The reason of
their invitation to me to sit there I did not discover until afterwards.
That wine had been prepared for _me_, not for her."
"For you!" the girl gasped, amazed.
"Yes. The plot was undoubtedly this--"
"There was no plot," protested Flockart, interrupting. "This girl killed
Edna Bryant through intense jealousy."
"I repeat that there was a foul and ingenious plot to kill me, and to
entrap Miss Heyburn," Hamilton said. "It was, of course, clear that Miss
Heyburn was jealous of the girl, for she had written to her mother
making threats against Miss Bryant's life. Therefore, the plot was that
I should drink the fatal wine, and that Miss Gabrielle should be
declared to be the murderess, she having intended the wine to be
partaken of by the girl she hated with such deadly hatred. The marked
cordiality of Krail and Flockart that I should take that seat aroused
within me some misgivings, although I had never dreamed of this
dastardly and cowardly plot against me--not until I saw the result of
their foul handiwork."
"It's a lie! You are trying to implicate Krail and myself! The girl is
the only guilty person. She placed the wine there!"
"She did not!" declared Hamilton boldly. "She was not there when the
bottle was changed by Krail, but I was!"
"If what you say is true, then you deliberately stood by and allowed the
girl to drink."
"I watched Krail go to the spot where luncheon was laid out, but could
not see what he did. If I had done so I should have saved the girl's
life. You were a few yards off, awaiting him; therefore you knew his
intentions, and you are as guilty of that girl's tragic death as he."
"What!" cried Flockart, his eyes glaring angrily, "do you declare, then,
that I am a murderer?"
"You yourself are the best judge of your own guilt," answered Hamilton
"I deny that Krail or myself had any hand in the affair."
"You will have an opportunity of making that denial in a criminal court
ere long," remarked the Baron's secretary with a grim smile.
"What," gasped Lady Heyburn's friend, his cheeks paling in an instant,
"have you been so indiscreet as to inform the police?"
"I have--a week ago. I made a statement to M. Hamard of the Surete in
Paris, and they have already made a discovery which you will find of
interest and somewhat difficult to disprove."
"And pray what is that?"
Hamilton smiled again, saying, "No, my dear sir, the police will tell
you themselves all in due course. Remember, you and your precious friend
plotted to kill me."
"But why, Mr. Hamilton?" inquired the blind man. "What was their
"A very strong one," was the reply. "I had recognised in Krail a man who
had defrauded the Baron de Hetzendorf of fifty thousand kroners, and for
whom the police were in active search, both for that and for several
other serious charges of a similar character. Krail knew this, and he
and his friend--this gentleman here--had very ingeniously resolved to
get rid of me by making it appear that Miss Gabrielle had poisoned me by
"A lie!" declared Flockart fiercely, though his efforts to remain
imperturbed were now palpable.
"You will be given due opportunity of disproving my allegations,"
Hamilton said. "You, coward that you are, placed the guilt upon an
innocent, inexperienced girl. Why? Because, with Lady Heyburn's
connivance, you with your cunning accomplice Krail were endeavouring to
discover Sir Henry's business secrets in order, first, to operate upon
the valuable financial knowledge you would thus gain, and so make a big
_coup_; and, secondly, when you had done this, it was your intention to
expose the methods of Sir Henry and his friends. Ah! don't imagine that
you and Krail have not been very well watched of late," laughed
"Do you allege, then, that Lady Heyburn is privy to all this?" asked the
blind man in distress.
"It is not for me to judge, sir," was Hamilton's reply.
"I know! I know how I have been befooled!" cried the poor helpless man,
"befooled because I am blind!"
"Not by me, Sir Henry," protested Flockart.
"By you and by every one else," he cried angrily. "But I know the truth
at last--the truth how my poor little daughter has been used as an
instrument by you in your nefarious operations."
"Hear me, I say!" went on the old man. "I ask my daughter to forgive me
for misjudging her. I now know the truth. You obtained by some means a
false key to my safe, and you copied certain documents which I had
placed there in order to entrap any who might seek to learn my secrets.
You fell into that trap, and though I confess I thought that Gabrielle
was the culprit, on Murie's behalf, I only lately found out that you and
your accomplice Krail were in Greece endeavouring to profit by knowledge
obtained from here, my private house."
"Krail has been living in Auchterarder of late, it appears," Hamilton
remarked, "and it is evidently he who, gaining access to the house one
night recently, used his friend's false key, and obtained those
confidential Russian documents from your safe."
"No doubt," declared Sir Henry. Then, again addressing Flockart, he
asked, "Where are those documents which you and your scoundrelly
accomplice have stolen, and for the return of which you are trying to
make me pay?"
"I don't know anything about them," answered Flockart sullenly, his face
"He'll know more about them when he is taken off by the two detectives
from Edinburgh who hold the extradition warrant," Hamilton remarked with
a grim smile.
The fellow started at those words. His demeanour was that of a guilty
man. "What do you mean?" he gasped, white as death. "You--you intend to
give me into custody? If you do, I warn you that Lady Heyburn will
"She, like Miss Gabrielle, has only been your tool," Hamilton declared.
"It was she who, under compulsion, has furnished you with means for
years, and whose association with you has caused something little short
of a scandal. Times without number she has tried to get rid of you and
your evil influence in this household, but you have always defied her.
Now," he said firmly, looking the other straight in the face, "you have
upon you those stolen documents which you have, by using an assumed name
and a false address, offered to sell back to their owner, Sir Henry. You
have threatened that if they are not purchased at the exorbitant price
you demand you will sell them to the Russian Ministry of Finance. That
is the way you treat your friend and benefactor, the man who is blind
and helpless! Come, give them back to Sir Henry, and at once."
"You must ask Krail," stammered the man, now so cornered that all
further excuse or denial had become impossible.
"That's unnecessary. I happen to know that those papers are in your
pocket at this moment, a fact which shows how watchful an eye we've been
keeping upon you of late. You have brought them here so that your friend
Krail may come to terms with Sir Henry for their repossession. He
arrived from London with you, and is at the 'Strathavon Arms' in the
village, where he stayed before, and is well known."
"Flockart," demanded the blind man very seriously, "you have papers in
your possession which are mine. Return them to me."
A dead silence fell. All eyes save those of Sir Henry were turned upon
the man who until that moment had stood so defiant and so full of
sarcasm. But in an instant, at mention of Krail's presence in
Auchterarder, his demeanour had suddenly changed. He was full of alarm.
"Give them to me and leave my house," Sir Henry said, holding up his
thin white hand.
"I--I will--on one condition: if I may be allowed to go."
"We shall not prevent you leaving," was the Baronet's calm reply.
The man fumbled nervously in the inner pocket of his coat, and at last
brought out a sealed and rather bulgy foolscap envelope.
"Open it, Gabrielle, and see what is within," her father said.
She obeyed, and in a few moments explained the various documents it
"Then let the man go," her father said.
"But, Sir Henry," cried Hamilton, "I object to this! Krail is down in
the village forming a plot to make you pay for the return of those
papers. He arrived from London by the same train as this man. If we
allow him to leave he will inform his accomplice, and both will escape."
Murie had his back to the door, the long window on the opposite side of
the room being closed.
"It was a promise of Sir Henry's," declared the unhappy adventurer.
"Which will be observed when Krail has been brought face to face with
Sir Henry," answered Murie, at the same time calling Hill and one of the
gardeners who chanced to be working on the lawn outside.
Then, with a firmness which showed that they were determined, Hamilton
and Murie conducted Flockart to a small upstairs room, where Hill and
the gardener, with the assistance of Stewart, who happened to have come
into the kitchen, mounted guard over him.
His position, once the honoured guest at Glencardine, was the most
ignominious conceivable. But Sir Henry sat in gratification that at
least he had got back those documents and saved the reputation of his
friend Volkonski, as well as that of his co-partners.
"THAT MAN'S VOICE!"
Stokes the chauffeur had driven Murie and Hamilton in the car down to
the village, where the last-named, after a conversation with the police
inspector, went to the "Strathavon Arms," together with two constables
who happened to be off duty, in plain clothes.
They found Krail sitting in the bar, calmly smoking, awaiting a message
from his accomplice.
Upon Hamilton's recognition he was, after a brief argument, arrested on
the charge of theft from Glencardine, placed in the car between the two
stalwart Scotch policemen, and conveyed in triumph to the castle, much,
of course, against his will. He demanded to be taken straight to the
police station; but as Sir Henry had ordered him to be brought to
Glencardine, and as Sir Henry was a magistrate, the inspector was bound
to obey his orders.
The man's cruel, colourless eyes seemed to contract closer as he sat in
the car with his enemy Hamilton facing him. He had never dreamed that
they would ever meet again; but, now they had, he saw that the game was
up. There was no hope of escape. He was being taken to meet Sir Henry
Heyburn, the very last man in all the world he wished to face. His
sallow countenance was drawn, his lips were thin and bloodless, and upon
his cheeks were two red spots which showed that he was now in a deadly
Gabrielle, who had been weeping at the knees of her father, heard the
whirr of the car coming up the drive; and, springing to the window,
witnessed the arrival of the party.
A moment later, Krail, between the two constables, and with the local
inspector standing respectfully at the rear, stood in the big, long
library into which the blind man was led by his daughter.
When all had assembled, Sir Henry, in a clear, distinct voice, said, "I
have had you arrested and brought here in order to charge you with
stealing certain documents from my safe yonder, which you opened by
means of a duplicate key. Your accomplice Flockart has given evidence
against you; therefore, to deny it is quite needless."
"Whatever he has said to you is lies," the foreigner replied, his accent
being the more pronounced in his excitement. "I know nothing about it."
"If you deny that," exclaimed Hamilton quickly, "you will perhaps also
deny that it was you who secretly poisoned Miss Bryant in the Pontarme
Forest, even though I myself saw you at the spot; and, further, that a
witness has been found who actually saw you substitute the wine-bottles.
You intended to kill me!"
"What ridiculous nonsense you are talking!" cried the accused, who was
dressed with his habitual shabby gentility. "The girl yonder,
mademoiselle, killed Miss Bryant."
"Then why did you make that deliberate attempt upon my life at
Fotheringhay?" demanded the girl boldly. "Had it not been for Mr.
Hamilton, who must have seen us together and guessed that you intended
foul play, I should certainly have been drowned."
"He believed that you knew his secret, and he intended, both on his own
behalf and on Flockart's also, to close your lips," Murie said. "With
you out of the way, their attitude towards your father would have been
easier; but with you still a living witness there was always danger to
them. He thought your death would be believed to be suicide, for he knew
your despondent state of mind."
Sir Henry stood near the window, his face sphinx-like, as though turned
"She fell in," was his lame excuse.
"No, you threw me in!" declared the girl. "But I have feared you until
now, and I therefore dared not to give information against you. Ah, God
alone knows how I have suffered!"
"You dare now, eh?" he snarled, turning quickly upon her.
"It really does not matter what you deny or what you admit," Hamilton
remarked. "The French authorities have applied for your extradition to
France, and this evening you will be on your way to the extradition
court at Bow Street, charged with a graver offence than the burglary at
this house. The Surete of Paris make several interesting allegations
against you--or against Felix Gerlach, which is your real name."
"Gerlach!" cried the blind man in a loud voice, groping forward. "Ah,"
he shrieked, "then I was not mistaken when--when I thought I recognised
the voice! That man's voice! _Yes, it is his--his!_"
In an instant Krail had sprung forward towards the blind and defenceless
man, but his captors were fortunately too quick and prevented him. Then,
at the inspector's orders, a pair of steel bracelets were quickly placed
upon his wrists.
"Gerlach! Felix Gerlach!" repeated the blind Baronet as though to
himself, as he heard the snap of the lock upon the prisoner's wrists.
The fellow burst out into a peal of harsh, discordant laughter. He was
endeavouring to retain a defiant attitude even then.
"You apparently know this man, dad?" Gabrielle exclaimed in surprise.
"Know him!" echoed her father hoarsely. "Know Felix Gerlach! Yes, I have
bitter cause to remember the man who stands there before you accused of
the crime of murder."
Then he paused, and drew a long breath.
"I unmasked him once, as a thief and a swindler, and he swore to be
avenged," said the Baronet in a bitter voice. "It was long ago. He came
to me in London and offered me a concession which he said he had
obtained from the Ottoman Government for the construction of a railroad
from Smyrna to the Bosphorus. The documents appeared to be all right and
in order, and after some negotiations he sold the concession to me and
received ten thousand pounds in cash of the purchase-money in advance. A
week afterwards I discovered that, though the concession had been
granted by the Minister of Public Works at the Sublime Porte, it had
been sold to the Eckmann Group in Vienna, and that the papers I held
were merely copies with forged signatures and stamps. I applied to the
police, this man was arrested in Hamburg, and brought back to London,
where he was tried, and, a previous conviction having been proved
against him, sent to penal servitude for seven years. In the dock at the
Old Bailey he swore to be avenged upon me and upon my family."
"And he seems to have kept his word," Walter remarked.
"When he came out of prison he found me in the zenith of my political
career," Sir Henry went on. "On that well-remembered night of my speech
at the Albert Hall I can only surmise that he went there, heard me, and
probably became fiercely resentful that he had found a man cleverer than
himself. The fact remains that he must have gone in a cab in front of my
carriage to Park Street, alighted before me, and secreted himself within
the portico. It was midnight, and the street was deserted. My carriage
stopped, I got out, and it then drove on to the mews. I was in the act
of opening the door with my latch-key when, by an unknown hand, there
was flung full into my eyes some corrosive fluid which burned terribly,
and caused me excruciating pain. I heard a man's exultant voice cry,
'There! I promised you that, and you have it!' The voice I recognised as
that of the blackguard standing before you. Since that moment," he added
in a blank, hoarse voice, "I have been totally blind!"
"You got me seven years!" cried the foreigner with a harsh laugh, "so
think yourself very lucky that I didn't kill you."
"You placed upon me an affliction, a perpetual darkness, that to a man
like myself is almost akin to death," replied his accuser very gravely.
"Secure from recognition, you wormed yourself into the confidence of my
wife, for you were bent upon ruining her also; and you took as partner
in your schemes that needy adventurer Flockart. I now see it all quite
plainly. Hamilton had recognised you as Gerlach, and you therefore
formed a plot to get rid of him and throw the crime upon my poor
unfortunate daughter, even though she was scarcely more than a child. In
all probability, Lady Heyburn, in telling the girl the story regarding
Murie and Miss Bryant, believed it, and if so she would also suspect my
daughter to be the actual criminal."
"This is all utterly astounding, dad!" cried Gabrielle. "If you knew who
it was who deliberately blinded you, why didn't you prosecute him?"
"Because there was no witness of his dastardly act, my child. And I
myself never saw him. Therefore I was compelled to remain in silence,
and allow the world to believe my affliction due to natural causes," was
his blank response.
The sallow-faced foreigner laughed again, laughed in the face of the man
whose eyesight he had so deliberately taken. He could not speak. What
had he to say?
"Well," remarked Hamilton, "we have at least the satisfaction of knowing
that both this man and his accomplice will stand their trial for their
heartless crime in France, and that they will meet their just punishment
according to the laws of God and of man."
"And I," added Walter, in a voice broken by emotion, as he again took
Gabrielle's hand tenderly, "have the supreme satisfaction of knowing
that my darling is cleared of a foul, dastardly, and terrible charge."
CONTAINS THE CONCLUSION
After long consultation--Krail having been removed in custody back to
the village--it was agreed that the only charges that could be
substantiated against Flockart were those of complicity in the ingenious
attempt upon Hamilton's life by which poor Miss Bryant had been
sacrificed, and also in the theft of Sir Henry's papers.
But was it worth while?
At the Baronet's suggestion, he was allowed freedom to leave the
upstairs room where he had been detained by the three stalwart servants;
and, without waiting to speak to any one, he had made his way down the
drive. He had, as was afterwards found, left Auchterarder Station for
London an hour later.
The painful impression produced upon everybody by Sir Henry's statement
of what had actually occurred on the night of the great meeting at the
Albert Hall having somewhat subsided, Murie mentioned to the blind man
the legend of the Whispers, and also the curious discovery which
Gabrielle and he had made earlier in the morning.
"Ah," laughed the old gentleman a trifle uneasily, "and so you've
discovered the truth at last, eh?"
"The truth--no!" Murie said. "That is just what we are so very anxious
to hear from you, Sir Henry."
"Well," he said, "you may rest your minds perfectly content that there's
nothing supernatural about them. It was to my own advantage to cause
weird reports and uncanny legends to be spread in order to preserve my
secret, the secret of the Whispers."
"But what is the secret, Sir Henry?" asked Hamilton eagerly. "We,
curiously enough, have similar Whispers at Hetzendorf. I've heard them
myself at the old chateau."
"And of course you have believed in the story which my good friend the
Baron has caused to be spread, like myself: the legend that those who
hear them die quickly and suddenly," said the old man, with a smile upon
his grey face. "Like myself, he wished to keep away all inquisitive
persons from the spot."
"But why?" asked Murie.
"Well, truth to tell, the reason is very simple," he answered. "As we
are speaking here in the strictest privacy, I will tell you something
which I beg that neither of you will repeat. If you do it might result
in my ruin."
Murie, Hamilton, and Gabrielle all gave their promise.
"Then it is this," he said. "I am head of a group of the leading
financial houses in Europe, who, remaining secret, are carrying on
business in the guise of an unimportant house in Paris. The members of
the syndicate are all of them men of enormous financial strength,
including Baron de Hetzendorf, to whom our friend Hamilton here acts as
confidential secretary. The strictest secrecy is necessary for the
success of our great undertakings, which I may add are perfectly honest
and legitimate. Yet never, unless absolutely imperative, do we entrust
documents or letters to the post. Like the house of Rothschild, we have
our confidential messengers, and hold frequent meetings, no 'deal' being
undertaken without we are all of us in full accord. Monsieur Goslin acts
as confidential messenger, and brings me the views of my partners in
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