Crawshay took the envelope into his hands.
"I am sorry, Captain Beverley," he declared, "but I must do as Mr. Brightman has suggested. This man Jocelyn Thew, with whom you have been in constant association, is under very grave suspicion of having brought to England documents of a treasonable nature."
"I suppose," Richard said defiantly, "you must do as you d——d well please. My time will come afterwards."
Crawshay broke the seal, thrust his hand into the envelope and drew out a pile of closely folded papers. One by one he laid them upon the table and smoothed them out. Even before he had glanced at the first one, a queer presentiment seemed suddenly to chill the blood in his veins. His eyes became a trifle distended. They were all there now, a score or more of sheets of thin foreign note paper, covered with hand-writing of a distinctly feminine type. The two men read—Richard Beverley watched them scowling!
"What the mischief little May Boswell's letters have to do with you fellows, I can't imagine!" he muttered. "Go on reading, you bounders! Much good may they do you!"
There were minutes of breathless silence. Then Crawshay, as the last sheet slipped through his fingers, glanced stealthily into Brightman's face, saw him bite through his lips till the blood came and strike the table with his clenched fist.
"My God!" he exclaimed, snatching up the telephone receiver. "Jocelyn Thew has done us again!"
"And you let him walk out!" Crawshay groaned.
"We'll find him," Brightman shouted. "Here, Central! Give me Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard, quick! Johnson, you take a taxi to the Savoy."
Unnoticed, Richard Beverley had risen to his feet and helped himself to another whisky and soda.
"If you are now convinced," he said, turning towards them, "that I am carrying nothing more treasonable than the love letters of my best girl, I should be glad to know what you have to say to me on the subject of my detention?"
Crawshay for once forgot his manners.
"Damn your detention!" he replied. "Get off and catch your train."
On the extreme edge of a stony and wide-spreading moor, Jocelyn Thew suddenly brought the ancient motor-car which he was driving to a somewhat abrupt and perilous standstill. He stood up in his seat, unrecognisable, transformed. From his face had passed the repression of many years. His lips were gentle and quivering as a woman's, his eyes seemed to have grown larger and softer as they swept with a greedy, passionate gaze the view at his feet. All that was hard and cruel seemed to have passed suddenly from his face. He was like a poet or a prophet, gazing down upon the land of his desires.
Behind him lay the rolling moor, cloven by that one ribbonlike stretch of uneven road, broken here and there with great masses of lichen-covered grey rock, by huge clumps of purple heather, long, glittering streaks of yellow gorse. The morning was young, and little shrouds of white mist were still hanging around. His own clothes were damp. Little beads of moisture were upon his face. But below, where the Atlantic billows came thundering in upon a rock-strewn coast, the sun, slowly gathering strength, seemed to be rolling aside the feathery grey clouds. Downwards, split with great ravines, the road now sloped abruptly to a little plateau of farmland, on the seaward edge of which stood the ruins of a grey castle. Dotted here and there about that pastoral strip and on the opposite hillside, were a few white-washed cottages. Beyond these no human habitation, no other sign of life.
The traveller gazed downwards till he suddenly found a new mist before his eyes. Nothing was changed. Everywhere he looked upon familiar objects. There was the little harbour where he had moored his boat, scarcely more than a pool surrounded by those huge masses of jagged rocks; the fields where he had played, the cave in the cliffs where he had sat and dreamed. This was his own little corner, the land which his forefathers had sworn to deliver, the land for which his father had died, for which he had become an exile, to which he returned with the price of death upon his head.
After a while he slipped down from the car, examined the brakes, mounted to his seat and commenced the precipitous descent. Skilful driver though he was, more than once he was compelled to turn into the cliff side of the road in order to check his gathering speed. At last, however, he reached the lowlands in safety. On the left-hand side now was the rock-strewn beach, and the almost deafening roar of the Atlantic. On the right and in front, fields, no longer like patchwork but showing some signs of cultivation; here and there, indeed, the stooping forms of labourers—men, drab-coloured, unnoticeable; women in bright green and scarlet shawls and short petticoats. He passed a little row of whitewashed cottages, from whose doorways and windows the children and old people stared at him with strange eyes. One old man who met his gaze crossed himself hastily and disappeared. Jocelyn Thew looked after him with a bitter smile upon his lips. He knew so well the cause of the terror.
He came at last to the great gates leading to the ruined castle, gates whose pillars were surmounted by huge griffins. He looked at the deserted lodges, the coat of arms, nothing of which remained but a few drooping fragments. He shook the iron gates, which still held together, in vain. Finally he drove the car through an opening in the straggling fence, and up the long, grass-grown avenue, until he reached the building itself. Here he descended, walked along the weed-framed flags to the arched front door, by the side of which hung the rusty and broken fragments of a bell, at which he pulled for some moments in vain. To all appearances the place was entirely deserted. No one answered his shout, or the wheezy summons of the cracked and feeble bell. He passed along the front, barely out of reach of the spray which a strong west wind was bringing from seaward, looked in through deserted windows till he came at last to a great crack in the walls, through which he stepped into a ruined apartment. It was thus that he entered the home in which he had been born.
He made his way into a stone passage, along which he passed until a door on his right yielded to his touch. In front of him now were what had been the state apartments, stretching along the whole front of the castle save the little corner where he had entered. Here was dilapidation supreme, complete. The white, stone-flagged floor knew no covering save here and there a strip of torn matting. The walls were stained with damp. At long intervals were tables and chairs of jet-black oak, in all sorts and states of decay. On one or two remained the fragments of some crimson velvet,—on the back of one, remnants of a coat of arms! And here, entirely in keeping with the scene of desolation, were the first signs of human life—an old man with a grey beard, leaning upon a stick, who walked slowly back and forth, mumbling to himself.
A new light broke across Jocelyn Thew's face as he listened, and the tears stood in his eyes. The man was reciting Gaelic verses, verses familiar to him from childhood. The whole desolate picture seemed to envisage thoughts which he had never been able to drive from his mind, seemed in the person of this old man to breathe such incomparable, unalterable fidelity that he felt himself suddenly a traitor who had slipped unworthily away and hidden from a righteous doom. Better that his blood had been spilt and his bones buried in the soil of the land than to have become a fugitive, to have placed an ocean between himself and the voices to which this old man had listened, day by day and night by night, through the years!
Jocelyn Thew stole softly out of the shadows.
"Timothy," he called quietly.
The old man paused in his walk. Then he came forward towards the speaker and dropped on one knee. His face showed no surprise, though his eyes were strange and almost terribly brilliant.
"The Cathley!" he exclaimed. "God is good!"
He kissed his master's hand, which he had seized with almost frantic joy. Jocelyn Thew raised him to his feet.
"You recognised me then, Timothy?"
"There is no Cathley in the world," the old man answered passionately, "would ever rise up before me and call himself by any other name."
"Am I safe here, Timothy, for a day or two?"
The old man's scorn was a wonderful thing.
"Safe!" he repeated. "Safe! There is just a dozen miles or so of the Kingdom of Ireland where the stranger who came on evil business would disappear, and it's our pride that we are the centre of it."
"They've held on, then, in these parts?"
"Hold on? Why, the fire that smouldered has become a blaze," was the eager response. "Ireland is our country here. Why—you know?"
"Know what?" Jocelyn Thew demanded. "You must treat me as a stranger, Timothy, I have been living under a false name. News has failed me for years."
"Don't you know," the old man went on eagerly, "that they meet here in the castle, the men who count—Hagen, the poet, Matlaske, the lawyer, Indewick, Michael Dilwyn, Harrison, and the great O'Clory himself?"
"I thought O'Clory was in prison since the Sinn Fein rising."
"In prison, aye, but they daren't keep him there!" was the fierce reply. "They had a taste then of the things that are ablaze through the country. The O'Clory and the others will be here to-night, under your own roof. Aye, and the guard will be out, and there'll be no Englishman dare come within a dozen miles!"
Jocelyn Thew walked away to one of the great windows and looked out seaward. The old servant limped over to his side.
"Your honour," he said, his voice shaking even as the hands which clasped his stick, "this is a wonderful day—sure, a wonderful day!"
"For me, too, Timothy!"
"You've been a weary time gone. Maybe you've lain hidden across the seas there—you've heard nothing."
"I've heard little enough, Timothy," his master told him sadly. "There came a time when I put the newspapers away from me. I did it that I might keep sane."
"You've missed much then, Sir Denis. There has been cruelty and wickedness, treason and murder afoot, but the spirit of the dear land has never even flickered in these parts. The arms we sent to Dublin were landed in yonder bay, and there was none to stop them, either, though they laid hands on that poor madman who well-nigh brought us all to ruin. There's strange craft rides there now, where your honour's looking."
A silence fell between the two men. Presently the steward withdrew.
"I'll be seeing after your honour's room," he murmured "and there's others to tell. There's a drop of something left, too, in the cellars, thank God!"
Jocelyn Thew listened to the retreating footsteps and then for a moment pushed open the window. There was the old roar once more, which seemed to have dwelt in his ears; the salt sting, the scream of the pebbles, the cry of a wheeling gull. There was the headland round which he had sailed his yacht, the moorland over which he had wandered with his gun, the meadow round which he had tried the wild young horses. In those few seconds of ecstatic joy, he seemed for the first time to realise all that he had suffered during his long exile.
More and more unreal seemed to grow the world in which Sir Denis Jocelyn Cathley passed that day. Time after time, the great hall in which he had played when a boy, draughty now but still moderately weather-tight, had echoed to the roars of welcome from old associates. But the climax of it all came later on, when he sat at the head of the long, black oak table, presiding over what was surely the strangest feast ever prepared and given to the strangest gathering of guests. The tablecloth of fine linen was patched and mended—here and there still in holes. Some of the dishes were of silver and others of kitchen china. There were knives and forks beautifully shaped and fashioned, mingled with the horn-handled ware of the kitchen; silver plate and common pewter side by side; priceless glass and common tumblers; fragments of beautiful china and here and there white delf, borrowed from a neighbouring farm. The fare was simple but plentiful; the only drink whisky and some ancient Marsala, in dust-covered bottles, produced by Timothy with great pride and served with his own hand. The roar which had greeted the first drinking of Sir Denis' health had scarcely died away when Michael Dilwyn led the way to the final sensation.
"Denis, my boy," he said, "there's a trifle of mystery about you yet. Will you tell me then, why, when I spoke to you at the Savoy Restaurant the other night, you denied your own identity? Told me your name was Thew, or something like it, and I your father's oldest friend, and your own, too!"
A sudden flood of recollection unlocked some of the fears in Denis Cathley's breast.
"I have not used the name of Cathley for many years," he said. "Was it likely that I should own to it there, in the heart of London, with a price upon my head, and half a dozen people within earshot? I came back to England at the risk of my life, on a special errand. I scarcely dared to hope that I might meet any of you. I just wanted twelve hours here—"
"Stop, lad!" Dilwyn interrupted. "What's that about a price on your head? You've missed none of our letters, by any chance?"
"Letters?" Sir Denis repeated. "I have had no word from this country, not even from Timothy here, for over three years and a half."
There was a little murmur of wonder. The truth was beginning to dawn upon them.
"It'll be the censor, maybe," Michael Dilwyn murmured. "Tell us, Denis Cathley, what brought you back, then? What was this special errand you spoke of?"
"Nothing I can discuss, even with you," was the grim answer. "It was a big risk, in more ways than one, but if to-night keeps calm I'll bring it off."
"You've had no letters for three years," Michael Dilwyn repeated. "Why, d——n it, boy," he exclaimed, striking the table with his fist, "maybe you don't know, then? You haven't heard of it?"
"Heard of what?" Sir Denis demanded.
"Your pardon," was the hoarse reply, "signed and sealed a year ago, before the Dublin matter. Things aren't as bad as they were! There's a different spirit abroad.—Pass him the Madeira, Hagan. Sure, this has unnerved him!"
Sir Denis drank mechanically, drank until he felt the fire of the old wine in his veins. He set the glass down empty.
"My pardon!" he muttered.
"It's true," Hagan assured him. "You were one of a dozen. I wrote you with my own hand to the last address we had from you, somewhere out on the west coast of America. Dilwyn's right enough. England has a Government at last. There are men there who want to find the truth. They know what we are and what we stand for. You can judge what I mean when I tell you that we speak as we please here, openly, and no one ventures to disturb us. Denis, they've begun to see the truth. Dilwyn here will tell you the same thing. He was in Downing Street only last week."
"I was indeed—I, Michael Dilwyn, the outlaw!—and they listened to me."
"The days are coming," Hagan continued, "for which we've pawned our lands, our relatives, and some of us our liberty. Please God there isn't one here that won't see a free Ireland! We've hammered it into their dull Saxon brains. It's been a long, drear night, but the dawn's breaking."
"And I am pardoned!" Sir Denis repeated wonderingly.
"Where have you been to these three years, man, that you've heard nothing?" Michael Dilwyn asked.
"In Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Uraguay. You're right. I've been out of the world. I crept out of it deliberately. When I left here, nothing seemed so hopeless as the thought that a time of justice might come. I cut myself off even from news. I have lived without a name and without a future."
"Maybe for the best," Hagan declared cheerfully. "Remember that it's but twelve months ago since your pardon was signed, and you'd have done ill to have found your way back before then.—But what about this mission you spoke of?"
Sir Denis looked down the table. Of servants there was only old Timothy at the sideboard, and of those who were gathered around his board there was not one whom he could doubt.
"I will tell you about that," he promised, leaning a little forward. "You have read of the documents and the famous stolen letter which were supposed to have been brought over to England in a certain trunk, protected by the seal of a neutral country?"
"Why, sure!" Michael Dilwyn murmured under his breath. "The box was to have been opened at Downing Street, but one heard nothing more of it."
"The stolen letter," Hagan remarked, "was supposed to have been indiscreet enough to have brought about the ruin of a great man in America."
Sir Denis nodded.
"You've got the story all right," he said. "Well, those papers never were in that trunk. I brought them over myself in the City of Boston. I brought them over under the nose of a Secret Service man, and although the steamer and all of us on board were searched from head to foot in the Mersey before we were permitted to land."
"And where are they now?" Michael Dilwyn asked.
Sir Denis drew a long envelope from his pocket and laid it upon the table before him. Almost as he did so, another little sensation brought them all to their feet. They hurried to the window. From about a mile out seaward, a blue ball, followed by another, had shot up into the sky. Sir Denis watched for a moment steadily. Then he pointed to a bonfire which had been lighted on the beach.
"That," he pointed out, "is my signal, and there is the answer. The documents you have all read about are in that envelope."
There was a queer, protracted silence, a silence of doubt and difficulty.
"It will be a German submarine, that," Michael Dilwyn declared. "She has come to pick up your papers, maybe?"
"That's true," was the quiet answer. "I was to light the fire on the beach the moment I arrived. The blue balls were to be my answer."
The O'Clory, a big, silent man, leaned over and laid his hand on his host's shoulder.
"What are you going to do about it?" he demanded.
"For the moment I do not know," Sir Denis confessed. "Advise me, all of you. I undertook this enterprise partly because of its danger, partly for a great sum of money which I should have handed over to our cause, partly because if I succeeded it would hurt England. Now I have come back and I find you all moved by a different spirit."
"There isn't a man in this island," Michael Dilwyn said slowly, "who has hated England as I have. She has been our oppressor for generations, and in return we have given her the best of our sons, their life-blood, their genius, their souls. And yet, with it all there is a bond. Our children have married theirs, and when we've looked together over the side, we've seen the same things. We've made use of Germans, Denis, but I tell you frankly I hate them. There are two things every Irishman loves—justice and courage—and England went into this war in the great manner. She has done big things, and I tell you, in a sneaking sort of way we're proud. I am honest with you, you see, Denis. You can guess, from what I've said, what I'd do with that packet."
Sir Denis turned to the O'Clory.
"And you?" he asked.
"My boy," was the reply, "sure Michael's right. I've hated England, I've shouldered a rifle against her, I've talked treason up and down the country, and I've known the inside of a prison. I've spat at her authority. I've said in plain words what I think of her—fat, commerce-ridden, smug, selfish. I've watched her bleed and been glad of it, but at the bottom of my heart I'd have liked to have seen her outstretched hand. Denis, lad, that's coming. We've got to remember that we, too, are a proud, obstinate, pig-headed race. We've got to meet that hand half-way, and when the moment comes I'd like to be the first to raise the boys round here and give the Germans hell!"
Another blue ball shot up into the sky. Sir Denis took the packet of papers from the table and stood by the great open stone hearth. Michael Dilwyn moved to his side, a gaunt, impressive figure.
"You're doing the right thing, Denis," he declared. "What fighting we've done, and any that we may still have to do with England, we'll do it on the surface. I was down at Queenstown when they brought in some of the bodies from the Lusitania. To Hell with such tricks! There's no Irishman yet has ever joined hands with those who war against women and babies."
Denis drew a log of burning wood out on to the hearth and laid the packet deliberately upon it. He stood there watching the smoke curl upwards as the envelope shrivelled and the flames crept from one end to the other.
"That seems a queer thing to do," he observed, with a dry little laugh. "I've carried my life in my hands for those papers, and there's a hundred thousand pounds waiting for them, not a mile away."
"Blood-money, boy," the O'Clory reminded him, "and anyway there's a touch of the evil thing about strangers' gold.—Eh, but who's this?"
A large motor-car had suddenly flashed by the window. With the instinct of past dangers, the little gathering of men drew close together. There was the sound of an impatient voice in the hall. The door was opened hurriedly and Crawshay stepped in. "It is a gentleman in a great hurry, your honour," Timothy explained.
Crawshay, dour and threatening, came a little further into the room. Behind him in the hall was a vision of his escort. Sir Denis looked up from the hearth with a poker in his hand.
"My friend," he observed, "it seems to be your unfortunate destiny to be always five minutes too late in life."
Crawshay's outstretched hand pointed denouncingly through the window towards the bay.
"If I am too late this time," he declared, "then an act of treason has been committed. You know what it means, I suppose, to communicate with the enemy?"
Denis shook his head.
"As yet," he said, "we have held no communication with our visitors. If you doubt my word, come down on your knees with me and examine these ashes."
Crawshay, with a little exclamation, crossed the floor and crouched down by the other's side. A word or two in the topmost document stared at him. The seal of the envelope had melted, and a little thread of green wax had made a strange pattern upon the stones.
"Is this the end, then?" he demanded in bewilderment.
"It is the end," was the solemn reply. "Perhaps if you take the ashes away with you, you will be able to consider that honours are divided."
"You burnt them—yourself?" Crawshay muttered, still wondering. "Every gentleman in this room," Denis replied, "is witness of the fact that I destroyed unopened the packet which I brought from America, barely five minutes ago."
Crawshay stood upright once more. He was convinced but puzzled.
"Will you tell me what induced you to do this?" he asked.
"We will tell you presently. As for the submarine outside, well, as you see, he is still sending up blue lights."
Crawshay gathered the ashes together and thrust them into an envelope.
"Your friend will be trying some of our Irish whisky, Denis," Michael Dilwyn invited. "We are hoping to make the brand more popular in England before long."
One by one, the next morning, in all manner of vehicles, the guests left the Castle. Sir Denis bade them farewell, parting with some of them in the leaky hall of his ancestors, and with others out in the stone-flagged courtyard. Crawshay alone lingered, with the obvious air of having something further to say to his host. The two men strolled down together seaward to where the great rocks lay thick upon the stormy beach.
"These," Sir Denis pointed out, "are supposed to be the marbles with which the great giant Cathley used to play. Tradition is a little vague upon the subject, but according to some of the legends he was actually an ancestor, and according to others a kind of patron saint.... Just look at my house, Crawshay! What would you do with a place like that?"
They turned and faced its crumbling front, majestic in places, squalid in others, one whole wing open to the rain and winds, one great turret still as solid and strong as the rocks themselves.
"It would depend very much," Crawshay replied, "upon the extremely sordid question of how much money I had to spend. If I had enough, I should certainly restore it. It's a wonderful situation."
The eyes of its owner glowed as he swept the outline of the storm-battered country and passed on to the rich strip of walled-in fields above.
"It is my home," he said simply. "I shall live in no other place. If this matter which we discussed last night should indeed prove to have a solid foundation, if this even should be the beginning of the end of the great struggle—"
"But it is," Crawshay interrupted. "How can you doubt it if you have read the papers during the last six months?"
"I have scarcely glanced at an English newspaper for ten years," was his companion's reply. "I fled to America, hating England as a man might do some poisonous reptile, sternly determined never to set foot upon her shores again. I left without hope. It seemed to me that she was implacable. The war has changed many things."
"You are right," Crawshay admitted. "In many respects it has changed the English character. We look now a little further afield. We have lost some of our stubborn over-confidence. We have grown in many respects more spiritual. We have learnt what it means to make sacrifices, sacrifices not for gold but for a righteous cause. And as far as regards this country of yours, Sir Denis," he continued, "I was only remarking a few days ago that the greatest opponents of Home Rule who have ever mounted a political platform in England have completely changed their views. There is only one idea to-day, and that is to let Ireland settle her own affairs. Such trouble as remains lies in your own country. Convert Ulster and you are free."
"You heard what was said last night?" Sir Denis reminded his companion. "The O'Clory believes that that is already done."
The faintest of white mists was being burnt away now by the strengthening sun. Long, green waves came rolling in from the Atlantic. Distant rocks gleamed purple in the gathering sunshine. The green of the fields grew deeper, the colouring on the moors warmer. Crawshay lit a cigarette and leaned back against a rock.
"Over in America," he observed, "I heard all sorts of stories about you. The man Hobson, with whom I was sent to Halifax, and who dragged me off to Chicago, seemed to think that if he could once get his hand on your shoulder there were other charges which you might have to answer. Brightman, that Liverpool man, had the same idea. I am mentioning this for your own sake, Sir Denis."
The latter shook his head.
"Heaven knows how I've kept clear," he declared, "but there isn't a thing against me. I sailed close to the wind in Mexico. I'd have fought for them against America if they'd really meant business, but they didn't. I was too late for the Boer War or I'd have been in that for a certainty. I went through South America, but the little fighting I did there doesn't amount to anything. After I came back to the States I ran some close shaves, I admit, but I kept clear of the law. Then I got in with some Germans at Washington. They knew who I was, and they knew very well how I felt about England. I did a few things for them—nothing risky. They were keeping me for something big. That came along, as you know. They offered me the job of bringing these things to England, and I took it on."
"For an amateur," Crawshay confessed, "you certainly did wonderfully. I am not a professional detective myself, but you fairly beat us on the sea, and you practically beat us on land as well."
"There's nothing succeeds like simplicity," Denis declared. "I gambled upon it that no one would think of searching the curtains of the music hall box in which Gant and I spent apparently a jovial evening. No one did—until it was too late. Then I felt perfectly certain that both you and Brightman would believe I was trying to get hold of Richard Beverley. The poor fellow thought so himself for some time."
"There is just one question," Crawshay said, after a moment's pause, "which I'd like to ask. It's about Nora Sharey."
Sir Denis glanced at his companion with a faint smile. He suddenly realised the purport of his lingering.
"Well, what about her?"
"She seems to have followed you very quickly from New York."
"Must you put it like that? Her father and brother were connected with the German Secret Service in New York, and on the declaration of war they had to hide. She could scarcely stay there alone."
"She might have gone with her father to Chicago," Crawshay observed.
"You must remember that she, too, is Irish," Sir Denis pointed out. "I am not at all sure that she wasn't a little homesick. By-the-by, are you interested in her?"
"Since you ask me," Crawshay replied, "I am."
Sir Denis threw away his cigarette.
"I suppose," he said quietly, "if I tell you that I am delighted to hear it, for your own sake as well as hers—"
"That's all I have been hanging about to hear," Crawshay interrupted, turning towards the castle. "I suppose we shall meet again in London?"
"I think not. They talk about sending me to the Dublin Convention here. Until they want me, I don't think I shall move."
Crawshay looked around him. The prospect in its way was beautiful, but save for a few bending figures in the distant fields, there was no sign of any human being.
"You won't be able to stand this for long," he remarked. "You've lived too turbulent a life to vegetate here."
Sir Denis laughed softly but with a new ring of real happiness.
"It's clear that you are not an Irishman!" he declared. "I've been away for over ten years. I can just breathe this air, wander about on the beach here, walk on that moorland, watch the sea, poke about amongst my old ruins, send for the priest and talk to him, get my tenants together and hear what they have to say—I can do these things, Crawshay, and breathe the atmosphere of it all down into my lungs and be content. It's just Ireland—that's all.—You hurry back to your own bloated, over-rich, smoke-disfigured, town-ruined country, and spend your money on restaurants and theatres if you want to. You're welcome."
Sir Denis' words sounded convincing enough, but his companion only smiled as he brought his car out of a dilapidated coach-house, from amidst the ruins of a score of carriages.
"All the same," he observed, as he leaned over and shook hands with his host, "I should never be surprised to come across you in that smoke-disfigured den of infamy! Look me up when you come, won't you?"
"Certainly," Sir Denis promised. "And—my regards to Nora!"
Richard Beverley, after his first embrace, held his sister's hands for a moment and looked into her face.
"Why, Katharine," he exclaimed, "London's not agreeing with you! You look pale."
She laughed carelessly.
"It was the heat last month," she told him. "I shall be all right now. How well you're looking!"
"I'm fine," he admitted. "It's a great life, Katharine. I'm kind of worried about you, though."
"There is nothing whatever the matter with me," she assured him, "except that I want some work. In a few days' time now I shall have it. I have eighty nurses on the way from the hospital, with doctors and dressers and a complete St. Agnes's outfit. They sailed yesterday, and I shall go across to Havre to meet them."
"Good for you!" Richard exclaimed. "Say, Katharine, what about lunch?"
"You must be starving," she declared. "We'll go down and have it. I feel better already, Dick. I think I must have been lonely."
They went arm in arm down-stairs and lunched cheerfully. Towards the end of the meal, he asked the question which had been on his lips more than once.
"Heard anything of Jocelyn Thew?"
"Not a word."
Richard sighed thoughtfully.
"What a waste!" he exclaimed. "A man like that ought to be doing great things. Katharine, you ought to have seen their faces when they searched me and found I was only carrying out a packet of old love letters, and it dawned upon them that he'd got away with the goods! I wonder if they ever caught him."
"Shouldn't we have heard of it?" she asked.
"Not necessarily. If he'd been caught under certain circumstances, he might have been shot on sight and we should never have heard a word. Not that that's likely, of course," he went on, suddenly realising her pallor. "What a clumsy ass I am, Katharine! We should have heard of it one way or another.—Do you see who's sitting over there in a corner?"
Katharine looked across the room and shook her head.
"The face of the man in khaki seems familiar," she admitted.
"That's Crawshay, the fellow whom Jocelyn Thew fooled. He was married last week to the girl with him. Nora Sharey, her name was. She came from New York."
"They seem very happy," Katharine observed, watching them as they left the room.
"Crawshay's a good fellow enough," her brother remarked, "and the girl's all right, although at one time—"
He stopped short, but his sister's eyes were fixed upon him enquiringly.
"At one time," he continued, "I used to think that she was mad about Jocelyn Thew. Not that that made any difference so far as he was concerned. He never seemed to find time or place in his life for women."
They finished their luncheon and made their way up-stairs once more to Katharine's sitting room. Richard stretched himself in any easy-chair and lit a cigar with an air of huge content.
"I am to be transferred when our first division comes across," he told her. "Our Squadron Commander's going to make that all right with the W.O. We've had some grand flights lately, I can tell you, Katharine."
There was a knock at the door, a few moments later. The waiter entered, bearing a card upon a tray, which he handed to Katharine. She read it with a perplexed frown.
"Sir Denis Cathley.—But I don't know of any one of that name," she declared, glancing up. "Are you sure that he wants to see me?"
"Perhaps I had better explain," a quiet voice interposed from outside. "May I come in?"
Katharine gave a little cry and Richard sprang to his feet. Sir Denis pushed past the waiter. For a moment Katharine had swayed upon her feet. "I am so sorry," he said earnestly. "Please forgive me, Miss Beverley, and do sit down. It was an absurd thing to force my way upon you like this. Only, you see," he went on, as he helped her to a chair, "the circumstances which required my use of a partially assumed name have changed. I ought to have written you and explained. Naturally you thought I was dead, or at the other end of the world."
Katharine smiled a little weakly. She was back again in her chair, but Sir Denis seemed to have forgotten to release her hand, which she made no effort to withdraw.
"It was perfectly ridiculous of me," she murmured, "but I was just telling Dick—he is back again for another four days' leave and we were talking about you at luncheon time—that I wasn't feeling very well, and your coming in like that was quite a shock. I am absolutely all right now. Do please sit down and explain," she begged, motioning him to a chair.
The waiter had disappeared. Sir Denis shook hands with Richard, who wheeled an easy-chair forward for him. He sat down between them and commenced his explanation.
"You see," he went on, "as a criminal I am really rather a fraud. When I tell you that I am an Irishman—perhaps you may have guessed it from my name—and a rabid one, a Sinn Feiner, and that for ten years I have lived with a sentence probably of death hanging over me, you will perhaps understand my hatred of England and my somewhat morbid demeanour generally."
Katharine was speechless. Richard Beverley indulged in a long whistle.
"So that's the explanation!" he exclaimed. "That was why you got mixed up with that German crew, eh?"
"That," Sir Denis admitted, "was the reason for my attempted enterprise."
"Attempted?" Richard protested. "But you brought it off, didn't you?"
"The end of the affair was really curious," Sir Denis explained. "I suppose, in a way, I did bring it off. I caught the mail train from Euston that night, got away with the papers and took them where I always meant to—to my old home on the west coast of Ireland. There, whilst I was waiting to keep an appointment with a German U-boat, I found out what happens to a man who has sworn an oath that he will never again look inside an English newspaper, and been obstinate enough to keep his word."
"Say, this is interesting!" Richard declared enthusiastically. "Why, of course, there have been great changes, haven't there? You Irish are going to have all that you want, after all."
"It looks like it," Sir Denis assented. "I found that my home was the rendezvous of a lot of my old associates, only instead of meeting underneath trapdoors at the risk of their lives, they were meeting quite openly and without fear of molestation. From them I heard that the Government had granted me, together with some others, a free pardon many months ago. I heard, too, of the coming Convention and of the altered spirit in English politics. I heard of these things just in time, for the U-boat was waiting outside in the bay."
"You didn't part with the stuff?" Richard exclaimed eagerly.
Sir Denis shook his head.
"I burnt the papers upon my hearth," he told them. "Crawshay ran me to ground there, but his coming wasn't necessary. A great deal besides the ashes of those documents went up in smoke that night."
Richard Beverley had risen to his feet and was pacing up and down the room. He found some vent for his feelings by wringing his friend's hand.
"If this doesn't beat the band!" he exclaimed. "My head isn't strong enough to take it all in. So Crawshay found you out?"
"He arrived," Sir Denis replied, "to find the papers burning upon the hearth. As a matter of fact, he took the ashes with him."
"He didn't arrest you, then, after all? There was no charge made?"
"None whatever. He was perfectly satisfied. He stayed until the next morning and we parted friends. A few days ago I had his wedding cards. You know whom he married?"
"Saw them together down-stairs," Richard declared. "I'm off in a moment to see if I can get hold of Crawshay and shake his hand.—So you're Sir Denis Cathley, eh, and you've chucked that other game altogether?"
"Naturally," the other replied—"Sir Denis Jocelyn Cathley. As a matter of fact, I am up in town to arrange for some one else to take my place at the Convention. I am not much use as a maker of laws. They've promised me a commission in the Irish Guards. That will be settled in a few days. Then I shall go back home to see what I can do amongst my tenantry, and afterwards—well," he concluded, with a little gleam in his dark eyes, "they promise me I shall go out with the first drafts of the new battalion."
Richard gripped his friend's hand once again and turned towards the door.
"It's great!" he declared. "I must try and catch Crawshay before he goes."
He hurried out. The door was closed. Sir Denis turned at once towards Katharine. He rose to his feet and leaned over her chair. His voice was not quite so steady.
"So much that I had thought lost for ever," he said, "has come back to me. So much that I had never thought to realise in this world seems to be coming true. Is it too late for me to ask for the one greatest thing of all of the only person who could count—who ever has counted? You know so well, Katharine, that even as a soured and disappointed man I loved you, and now it is just you, and you only, who could give me—what I want in life."
She laid her fingers upon his shoulders. Her eyes shone as he drew her into his arms.
"I ought to keep you waiting such a long time," she murmured, "because I had to ask you first—for your friendship, and you weren't very kind to die. But I can't."