The Red Redmaynes
by Eden Phillpotts
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The motor launch slowed down and presently grounded her bow on the pebbles. Then Doria stopped the engine, flung a gangway stage ashore, and stood by to hand Jenny Pendean and the detective to the beach. The place appeared to have no exit; but, behind a ledge of rock, stairs carved in the stone wound upward, guarded by an iron handrail. Jenny led the way and Mark followed her until two hundred steps were climbed and they stood on the terrace above. It was fifty yards long and covered with sea gravel. Two little brass cannon thrust their muzzles over the parapet to seaward and the central space of grass about the flagpole was neatly surrounded with a decoration of scallop shells.

"Could anybody but an old sailor have created this place?" asked Brendon.

A middle-aged man with a telescope under his arm came along the terrace to greet them. Bendigo Redmayne was square and solid with the cut of the sea about him. His uncovered head blazed with flaming, close-clipped hair and he wore also a short, red beard and whiskers growing grizzled. But his long upper lip was shaved. He had a weather-beaten face—ruddy and deepening to purple about the cheek bones—with eyebrows, rough as bent grass, over deep-set, sulky eyes of reddish brown. His mouth was underhung, giving him a pugnacious and bad-tempered appearance. Nor did his looks appear to libel the old sailor. To Brendon, at any rate, he showed at first no very great consideration.

"You've come I see," he said, shaking hands. "No news?"

"None, Mr. Redmayne."

"Well, well! To think Scotland Yard can't find a poor soul that's gone off his rocker!"

"You might have helped us to do so," said Mark shortly, "if it's true that you've had a letter from your brother."

"I'm doing it, ain't I? It's here for you."

"You've lost two days."

Bendigo Redmayne grunted.

"Come in and see the letter," he said. "I never thought you'd fail. It's all very terrible indeed and I'm damned if I understand anything about it. But one fact is clear: my brother wrote this letter and he wrote it from Plymouth; and since he hasn't been reported from Plymouth, I feel very little doubt the thing he wanted to happen has happened."

Then he turned to his niece.

"We'll have a cup of tea in half an hour, Jenny. Meantime I'll take Mr. Brendon up to the tower room along with me."

Mrs. Pendean disappeared into the house and Mark followed her with the sailor.

They passed through a square hall full of various foreign curiosities collected by the owner. Then they ascended into a large, octagonal chamber, like the lantern of a lighthouse, which surmounted the dwelling.

"My lookout," explained Mr. Redmayne. "In foul weather I spend all my time up here and with yonder strong, three-inch telescope I can pick up what's doing at sea. A bunk in the corner, you see. I often sleep up here, too."

"You might almost as well be afloat," said Brendon, and the remark pleased Bendigo.

"That's how I feel; and I can tell you there's a bit of movement, too, sometimes. I never wish to see bigger water than beat these cliffs during the south-easter last March. We shook to our keel, I can tell you."

He went to a tall cupboard in a corner, unlocked it and brought out a square, wooden desk of old-fashioned pattern. This he opened and produced a letter which he handed to the detective.

Brendon sat down in a chair under the open window and read this communication slowly. The writing was large and sprawling; it sloped slightly-upward from left to right across the sheet and left a triangle of white paper at the right-hand bottom corner:

"DEAR BEN: It's all over. I've done in Michael Pendean and put him where only Judgment Day will find him. Something drove me to do it; but all the same I'm sorry now it's done—not for him but myself. I shall clear to-night, with luck, for France. If I can send an address later I will. Look after Jenny—she's well rid of the blighter. When things have blown over I may come back. Tell Albert and tell Flo. Yours,

"R. R."

Brendon examined the letter and the envelope that contained it.

"Have you another communication—something from the past I can compare with this?" he asked.

Bendigo nodded.

"I reckoned you'd want that," he answered and produced a second letter from his desk.

It related to Robert Redmayne's engagement to be married and the writing was identical.

"And what do you think he's done, Mr. Redmayne?" Brendon asked, pocketing the two communications.

"I think he's done what he hoped to do. At this time of year you'll see a dozen Spanish and Brittany onion boats lying down by the Barbican at Plymouth, every day of the week. And if poor Bob got there, no doubt plenty of chaps would hide him when he offered 'em money enough to make it worth while. Once aboard one of those sloops, he'd be about as safe as he would be anywhere. They'd land him at St. Malo, or somewhere down there, and he'd give you the slip."

"And, until it was found out that he was mad, we might hear no more about him."

"Why should it be found that he was mad?" asked Bendigo. "He was mad when he killed this innocent man, no doubt, because none but a lunatic would have done such an awful thing, or been so cunning after—with the sort of childish cunning that gave him away from the start. But once he'd done what this twist in his brain drove him to do, then I judge that his madness very likely left him. If you caught him to-morrow, you'd possibly find him as sane as yourself—except on that one subject. He'd worked up his old hatred of Michael Pendean, as a shirker in the war, until it festered in his head and poisoned his mind, so as he couldn't get it under. That's how I read it. I had a pretty good contempt for the poor chap myself and was properly savage with my niece, when she wedded him against our wishes; but my feeling didn't turn my head, and I felt glad to hear that Pendean was an honest man, who did the best he could at the Moss Depot."

Brendon considered.

"A very sound view," he said, "and likely to be correct. On the strength of this letter, we may conclude that when he went home, after disposing of the body under Berry Head, your brother must have disguised himself in some way and taken an early train from Paignton to Newton Abbot and from Newton Abbot to Plymouth. He would already have been there and lying low before the hunt began."

"That's how I figure it," answered the sailor.

"When did you last see him, Mr. Redmayne?"

"Somewhere about a month ago. He came over for the day with Miss Reed—the young woman he was going to marry."

"Was he all right then?"

Bendigo considered and scratched in his red beard.

"Noisy and full of chatter, but much as usual."

"Did he mention Mr. and Mrs. Pendean?"

"Not a word. He was full up with his young woman. They meant to be married in late autumn and go abroad for a run to see my brother Albert."

"He may correspond with Miss Reed if he gets to France?"

"I can't say what he'll do. Suppose you catch him presently? How would the law stand? A man goes mad and commits a murder. Then you nab him and he's as sane as a judge. You can't hang him for what he did when he was off his head, and you can't shut him up in a lunatic asylum if he's sane."

"A nice problem, no doubt," admitted Brendon, "but be sure the law will take no risks. A homicidal maniac, no matter how sane he is between times, is not going to run loose any more after killing a man."

"Well, that's all there is to it, detective. If I hear again, I'll let the police know; and if you take him, of course you'll let me and his brother know at once. It's a very ugly thing for his family. He did good work in the war and got honours; and if he's mad, then the war made him mad."

"That would be taken very fully into account, be sure. I'm sorry, both for him and for you, Mr. Redmayne."

Bendigo looked sulkily from under his tangled eyebrows.

"I shouldn't feel no very great call to give him up to the living death of an asylum, if he hove in here some night."

"You'd do your duty—that I will bet," replied Brendon.

They descended to the dining-room, where Jenny Pendean was waiting to pour out tea. All were very silent and Mark had leisure to observe the young widow.

"What shall you do and where may I count upon finding you if I want you, Mrs. Pendean?" he asked presently.

She looked at Redmayne, not at Brendon, as she answered.

"I am in Uncle Bendigo's hands. I know he will let me stop here for the present."

"For keeps," the old sailor declared. "This is your home now, Jenny, and I'm very glad to have you here. There's only you and your Uncle Albert and me now, I reckon, for I don't think we shall ever see poor Bob again."

An elderly woman came in.

"Doria be wishful to know when you'll want the boat," she said.

"I should like it immediately if possible," begged Brendon. "Much time has been lost."

"Tell them to get aboard, then," directed Brendigo, and in five minutes Mark was taking his leave.

"I'll let you have the earliest intimation of the capture, Mr. Redmayne," he said. "If your poor brother still lives, it seems impossible that he should long be free. His present condition must be one of great torment and anxiety—to him—and for his own sake I hope he will soon surrender or be found—if not in England, then in France."

"Thank you," answered the older man quietly. "What you say is true. I regret the delay myself now. If he is heard of again by me, I'll telegraph to Scotland Yard, or get 'em to do so at Dartmouth. I've slung a telephone wire into the town as you see."

They stood again under the flagstaff on the plateau, and Brendon studied the rugged cliff line and the fields of corn that sloped away inland above it. The district was very lonely and only the rooftree of a solitary farmhouse appeared a mile or more distant to the west.

"If he should come to you—and I have still a fancy that he may do so—take him in and let us know," said Brendon. "Such a necessity will be unspeakably painful, I fear, but I am very sure you will not shrink from it, Mr. Redmayne."

The rough old man had grown more amiable during the detective's visit. It was clear that a natural aversion for Brendon's business no longer extended to the detective himself.

"Duty's duty," he said, "though God keep me from yours. If I can do anything, you may trust me to do it. He's not likely to come here, I think; but he might try and get over to Albert down south. Good-bye to you."

Mr. Redmayne went back to the house, and Jenny, who stood by them, walked as far as the top of the steps with Brendon.

"Don't think I bear any ill will to this poor wretch," she said. "I'm only heartbroken, that's all. I used to declare in my foolishness that I had escaped the war. But no—it is the war that has killed my dear, dear husband—not Uncle Robert. I see that now."

"It is all to the good that you can be so wise," answered Mark quietly. "I admire your splendid patience and courage, Mrs. Pendean, and—and—would do for you, and will do, everything that wit of man can."

"Thank you, kind friend," she replied. Then she shook his hand and bade him farewell.

"Will you let me know if you leave here?" he asked.

"Yes—since you wish it."

They parted and he ran down the steps, scarcely seeing them. He felt that he already loved this woman with his whole soul. The tremendous emotion swept him, while reason and common sense protested.

Mark leaped aboard the waiting motor boat and they were soon speeding back to Dartmouth, while Doria spoke eagerly. But the passenger felt little disposed to gratify the Italian's curiosity. Instead he asked him a few questions respecting himself and found that the other delighted to discuss his own affairs. Doria revealed a southern levity and self-satisfaction that furnished Brendon with something to think about before the launch ran to the landing-stage at Dartmouth.

"How comes it you are not back in your own country, now the war is over?" he asked Doria.

"It is because the war is over that I have left my own country, signor," answered Giuseppe. "I fought against Austria on the sea; but now—now Italy is an unhappy place—no home for heroes at present. I am not a common man. I have a great ancestry—the Doria of Dolceaqua in the Alpes Maritimes. You have heard of the Doria?"

"I'm afraid not—history isn't my strong suit."

"On the banks of the River Nervia the Doria had their mighty castle and ruled the land of Dolceaqua. A fighting people. There was a Doria who slew the Prince of Monaco. But great families—they are like nations—their history is a sand hill in the hour-glass of time. They arise and crumble by the process of their own development. Si! Time gives the hour-glass a shake and they are gone—to the last grain. I am the last grain. We sank and sank till only I remain. My father was a cab driver at Bordighera. He died in the war and my mother, too, is dead. I have no brothers, but one sister. She disgraced herself and is, I hope, now dead also. I know her not. So I am left, and the fate of that so mighty family lies with me alone—a family that once reigned as sovereign princes."

Brendon was sitting beside the boatman in the bows of the launch, and he could not but admire the Italian's amazing good looks. Moreover there were mind and ambition revealed in him, coupled with a frank cynicism which appeared in a moment.

"Families have hung on a thread like that sometimes," said Mark; "the thread of a solitary life. Perhaps you are born to revive the fortunes of your race, Doria?"

"There is no 'perhaps.' I am. I have a good demon who talks to me sometimes. I am born for great deeds. I am very handsome—that was needful; I am very clever—that, too, was needful. There is only one thing that stands between me and the ruined castle of my race at Dolceaqua—only one thing. And that is in the world waiting for me."

Brendon laughed.

"Then what are you doing in this motor launch?"

"Marking the time. Waiting."

"For what?"

"A woman—a wife, my friend. The one thing needful is a woman—with much money. My face will win her fortune—you understand. That is why I came to England. Italy has no rich heiresses for the present. But I have made a false step here. I must go among the elite, where there is large money. When gold speaks, all tongues are silent."

"You don't deceive yourself?"

"No—I know what I have to market. Women are very attracted by the beauty of my face, signor."

"Are they?"

"It is the type—classical and ancient—that they adore. Why not? Only a fool pretends that he is less than he is. Such a gifted man as I, with the blood of a proud and a noble race in his veins—everything to be desired—romance—and the gift to love as only an Italian loves—such a man must find a very splendid, rich girl. It is only a question of patience. But such a treasure will not be found with this old sea wolf. He is not of long descent. I did not know. I should have seen him and his little mean hole first before coming to him. I advertise again and get into a higher atmosphere."

Brendon found his thoughts wholly occupied with Jenny Pendean. Was it within the bounds of possibility that she, as time passed to dim her sufferings and sense of loss, might look twice at this extraordinary being? He wondered, but thought it improbable. Moreover the last of the Dorias evidently aimed at greater position and greater wealth than Michael Pendean's widow had to offer. Mark found himself despising the extraordinary creature, who violated so frankly and cheerfully every English standard of reserve and modesty. Yet the other's self-possession and sense of his own value in the market impressed him.

He was glad to give Doria five shillings and leave him at the landing-stage. But none the less Giuseppe haunted his imagination. One might dislike his arrogance, or rejoice in his physical beauty, but to escape his vitality and the electric force of him was impossible.

Brendon soon reached the police station and hastened to communicate with Plymouth, Paignton, and Princetown. To the last place he sent a special direction and told Inspector Halfyard to visit Mrs. Gerry at Station Cottages and make a careful examination of the room which Robert Redmayne had there occupied.



A sense of unreality impressed itself upon Mark Brendon after this stage in his inquiry. A time was coming when the false atmosphere in which he moved would be blown away by a stronger mind and a greater genius than his own; but already he found himself dimly conscious that some fundamental error had launched him along the wrong road—that he was groping in a blind alley and had missed the only path leading toward reality.

From Paignton on the following morning he proceeded to Plymouth and directed a strenuous and close inquiry. But he knew well enough that he was probably too late and judged with certainty that if Robert Redmayne still lived, he would no longer be in England. Next he returned to Princetown, that he might go over the ground again, even while appreciating the futility of so doing. But the routine had to be observed. The impressions of naked feet on the sand were carefully protected. They proved too indefinite to be distinguished, but he satisfied himself that they represented the footprints of two men, if not three. He remembered that Robert Redmayne had spoken of bathing in the pools and he strove to prove three separate pairs of feet, but could not.

Inspector Halfyard, who had followed the case as closely as it was possible to do so, cast all blame on Bendigo, the brother of the vanished assassin.

"He delayed of set purpose," vowed Halfyard, "and them two days may make just all the difference. Now the murderer's in France, if not Spain."

"Full particulars have been circulated," explained Brendon, but the inspector attached no importance to that fact.

"We know how often foreign police catch a runaway," he said.

"This is no ordinary runaway, however. I still prefer to regard him as insane."

"In that case he'd have been taken before now. And that makes what was simple before more and more of a puzzle in my opinion. I don't believe that the man was mad. I believe he was and is all there; and that being so, you've got to begin over again, Brendon, and find why he did it. Once grant that this was a deliberately planned murder and a mighty sight cleverer than it looked at first sight, then you've got to ferret back into the past and find what motives Redmayne had for doing it."

But Brendon was not convinced.

"I can't agree with you," he answered. "I've already pursued that theory, but it is altogether too fantastic. We know, from impartial testimony, that the men were the best of friends up to the moment they left Princetown together on Redmayne's motor bicycle the night of the trouble."

"What impartial testimony? You can't call Mrs. Pendean's evidence impartial."

"Why not? I feel very certain that it is; but I'm speaking now of what I heard at Paignton from Miss Flora Reed, who was engaged to Robert Redmayne. She said that her betrothed wrote indicating his complete change of opinion; and he also told her that he had asked his niece and her husband to Paignton for the regattas. What is more, both Miss Reed and her parents made it clear that the soldier was of an excitable and uncertain nature. In fact Mr. Reed didn't much approve of the match. He described a man who might very easily slip over the border line between reason and unreason. No, Halfyard, you'll not find any theory to hold water but the theory of a mental breakdown. The letter he wrote to his brother quite confirms it. The very writing shows a lack of restraint and self-control."

"The writing was really his?"

"I've compared it with another letter in Bendigo Redmayne's possession. It's a peculiar fist. I should say there couldn't be a shadow of doubt."

"What shall you do next?"

"Get back to Plymouth again and make close inquiries among the onion boats. They go and come and I can trace the craft that left Plymouth during the days that immediately followed the posting of Redmayne's letter. These will probably be back again with another load in a week or two. One ought to be able to check them."

"A wild-goose chase, Brendon."

"Looks to me as though the whole inquiry had been pretty much so from the first. We've missed the key somewhere. How the man that left Paignton in knickerbockers, and a big check suit and a red waistcoat on the morning after the murder got away with it and never challenged a single eye on rail or road—well, it's such a flat contradiction to reason and experience that I can't easily believe the face value."

"No—there's a breakdown somewhere—that's what I'm telling you; but whether the fault is ours, or a trick has been played to put us fairly out of the running, no doubt you'll find out soon or late. I don't see there's anything more we can do up here whether or no."

"There isn't," admitted Mark. "It's all been routine work and a devil of lot of time wasted in my opinion. Between ourselves, I'm rather ashamed of myself, Halfyard. I've missed something—the thing that most mattered. There's a signpost sticking up somewhere that I never saw."

The inspector nodded.

"It happens so sometimes—cruel vexing—and then people laugh at us and ask how we earn our money. Now and again, as you say, there's a danger signal to a case so clear as the nose on a man's face, and yet, owing to following some other clue, or sticking to a theory that we feel can and must be the only right one, we miss the real, vital point till we go and bark our shins on it. And then, perhaps, it's too late and we look silly."

Brendon admitted the truth of this experience.

"There can only be two possible situations," he said; "either this was a motiveless murder—and lack of motive means insanity; or else there was a deep reason for it and Redmayne killed Pendean, after plotting far in advance to do so and get clear himself. In the first case he would have been found, unless he had committed suicide in some such cunning fashion that we can't discover the body. In the second case, he's a very cute bird indeed and the ride to Paignton and disposal of the corpse—that all looked so mad—was super-craft on his part. But, if alive, mad or sane, I'm of opinion he did what he said in his letter to his brother he meant to do, and got off for a French or Spanish port. So that's the next step for me—to try and hunt down the boat that took him."

He pursued this policy, left Princetown for Plymouth on the following day, took a room at a sailors' inn on the Barbican and with the help of the harbour authority followed the voyages of a dozen small vessels which had been berthing at Plymouth during the critical days.

A month of arduous work he devoted to this stage of the inquiry, and his investigation produced nothing whatever. Not a skipper of any vessel involved could furnish the least information and no man resembling Robert Redmayne had been seen by the harbour police, or any independent person at Plymouth, despite sharp watchfulness.

A time came when the detective was recalled to London and heartily chaffed for his failure; but his own unusual disappointment disarmed the amusement at his expense. The case had presented such few apparent difficulties that Brendon's complete unsuccess astonished his chief. He was content, however, to believe Mark's own conviction: that Robert Redmayne had never left England but destroyed himself—probably soon after the dispatch of his letter to Bendigo from Plymouth.

Much demanded attention and Brendon was soon devoting himself to a diamond robbery in the Midlands. Months passed, the body of Michael Pendean had not been recovered, and the little world of Scotland Yard pigeon-holed the mystery, while the larger world forgot all about it.

Meantime, with a sense of secret relief, Mark Brendon prepared to face what had sprung out of these incidents, while permitting the events themselves to pass from his present interests. There remained Jenny Pendean and his mind was deeply preoccupied with her. Indeed, apart from the daily toll of work, she filled it to the exclusion of every other personal consideration. He longed unspeakably to see her again, for though he had corresponded during the progress of his inquiries and kept her closely informed of everything that he was doing, the excuse for these communications no longer existed. She had acknowledged every letter, but her replies were brief and she had given him no information concerning herself, or her future intentions, though he had asked her to do so. One item of information only had she vouchsafed and he learned that she was finishing the bungalow to her husband's original plan and then seeking a possible customer to take over her lease. She wrote:

"I cannot see Dartmoor again, for it means my happiest as well as my most unhappy hours. I shall never be so happy again and, I hope, never suffer so unspeakably as I have during the recent past."

He turned over this sentence many times and considered the weight of every word. He concluded from it that Jenny Pendean, while aware that her greatest joys were gone forever, yet looked forward to a time when her present desolation might give place to a truer tranquility and content.

The fact that this should be so, however, astonished Brendon. He judged her words were perhaps ill chosen and that she implied a swifter return to peace than in reality would occur. He had guessed that a year at least, instead of merely these four months, must pass before her terrible sorrow could begin to dim. Indeed he felt sure of it and concluded that he was reading an implication into this pregnant sentence that she had never intended it to carry. He longed to see her and was just planning how to do so, when chance offered an opportunity.

* * * * *

Brendon was called to arrest two Russians, due to arrive at Plymouth from New York upon a day in mid-December; and having identified them and testified to their previous activities in England, he was free for a while. Without sending any warning, he proceeded to Dartmouth, put up there that night, and started, at nine o'clock on the following morning, to walk to "Crow's Nest."

His heart beat hard and two thoughts moved together in it, for not only did he intensely desire to see the widow, but also had a wish to surprise the little community on the cliff for another reason. Still some vague suspicion held his mind that Bendigo Redmayne might be assisting his brother. The idea was shadowy, yet he had never wholly lost it and more than once contemplated such a surprise visit as he was now about to pay.

Suspicion, however, seemed to diminish as he ascended great heights west of the river estuary; and when within the space of two hours he had reached a place from which "Crow's Nest" could be seen, perched between the cliff heights and a grey, wintry sea, nothing but the anticipated vision of the woman held his mind.

He came ignorant of the startling events awaiting him, little guessing how both the story of his secret dream and the chronicle of the quarry crime were destined to be advanced by great incidents before the day was done.

His road ran over the cliffs and about him swept brown and naked fields under the winter sky. Here and there a mewing gull flew overhead and the only sign of other life was a ploughman crawling behind his horses with more sea fowl fluttering in his wake. Brendon came at last to a white gate facing on the highway and found that he had reached his destination. Upon the gate "Crow's Nest" was written in letters stamped upon a bronze plate, and above it rose a post with a receptacle for holding a lamp at night. The road to the house fell steeply down and, far beneath, he saw the flagstaff and the tower room rising above the dwelling. A bleakness and melancholy seemed to encompass the spot on this sombre day. The wind sighed and sent a tremor of light through the dead grass; the horizon was invisible, for mist concealed it; and from the low and ash-coloured vapour the sea crept out with its monotonous, myriad wavelets flecked here and there by a feather of foam.

As he descended Brendon saw a man at work in the garden setting up a two-foot barrier of woven wire. It was evidently intended to keep the rabbits from the cultivated flower beds which had been dug from the green slope of the coomb.

He heard a singing voice and perceived that it was Doria, the motor boatman. Fifty yards from him Mark stood still, and the gardener abandoned his work and came forward. He was bare-headed and smoking a thin, black, Tuscan cigar with the colours of Italy on a band round the middle of it. Giuseppe recognized him and spoke first.

"It is Mr. Brendon, the sleuth! He has come with news for my master?"

"No, Doria—no news, worse luck; but I was this way—down at Plymouth again—and thought I'd look up Mrs. Pendean and her uncle. Why d'you call me 'sleuth'?"

"I read story-books of crime in which the detectives are 'sleuths.' It is American. Italians say 'sbirro,' England says 'police officer.'"

"How is everybody?"

"Everybody very well. Time passes; tears dry; Providence watches."

"And you are still looking for the rich woman to restore the last of the Dorias to his castle?"

Giuseppe laughed, then he shut his eyes and sucked his evil-smelling cigar.

"We shall see as to that. Man proposes, God disposes. There is a god called Cupid, Mr. Brendon, who overturns our plans as yonder plough-share overturns the secret homes of beetle and worm."

Mark's pulses quickened. He guessed to what Doria possibly referred and felt concern but no surprise. The other continued.

"Ambition may succumb before beauty. Ancestral castles may crumble before the tide of love, as a child's sand building before the sea. Too true!"

Doria sighed and looked at Brendon closely. The Italian stood in a tight-fitting jersey of brown wool, a very picturesque figure against his dark background. The other had nothing to say and prepared to descend. He guessed what had happened and was concerned rather with Jenny Pendean than the romantic personality before him. But that the stranger could still be here, exiled in this lonely spot, told him quite as much as the man's words. He was not chained to "Crow's Nest" with his great ambitions in abeyance for nothing. Mark, however, pretended to miss the significance of Giuseppe's confession.

"A good master—eh! I expect the old sea wolf is an excellent friend when you know his little ways."

Doria admitted it.

"He is all that I could wish and he likes me, because I understand him and make much of him. Every dog is a lion in his own kennel. Redmayne rules; but what is the good of a home to a man if he does not rule? We are friends. Yet, alas, we may not be for long—when—"

He broke off abruptly, puffed a villainous cloud of smoke, and went back to his wire netting. But he turned a moment and spoke again as Brendon proceeded.

"Madonna is at home," he shouted and Mark understood to whom he referred.

He had reached "Crow's Nest" in five minutes and it was Jenny Pendean who welcomed him.

"Uncle's in his tower," she said. "I'll call him in a minute. But tell me first if there is anything to tell. I am glad to see you—very!"

She was excited and her great, misty blue eyes shone. She seemed more lovely than ever.

"Nothing to report, Mrs. Pendean. At least—no, nothing at all. I've exhausted every possibility. And you—you have nothing, or you would have let me hear it?"

"There is nothing," she said. "Uncle Ben would most certainly have told me if any news had reached him. I am sure that he is dead—Robert Redmayne."

"I think so too. Tell me a little about yourself, if I may venture to ask?"

"You have been so thoughtful for me. And I appreciated it. I'm all right, Mr. Brendon. There is still my life to live and I find ways of being useful here."

"You are contented, then?"

"Yes. Contentment is a poor substitute for happiness; but I am contented."

He longed to speak intimately, yet had no excuse for doing so.

"How much I wish it was in my power to brighten your content into happiness again," he said.

She smiled at him.

"Thank you for such a friendly wish. I am sure you mean it."

"Indeed I do."

"Perhaps I shall come to London some day, and then you would befriend me a little."

"How much I hope you will—soon."

"But I am dull and stupid still. I have great relapses and sometimes cannot even endure my uncle's voice. Then I shut myself up. I chain myself like a savage thing, for a time, till I am patient again."

"You should have distractions."

"There are plenty—even here, though you might not guess it. Giuseppe Doria sings to me and I go out in the launch now and then. I always travel to and fro that way when I have to visit Dartmouth for Uncle Ben and for the household provisions. And I am to have chickens to rear in the spring."

"The Italian—"

"He is a gentleman, Mr. Brendon—a great gentleman, you might say. I do not understand him very well. But I am safe with him. He would do nothing base or small. He confided in me when first I came. He then had a dream to find a rich wife, who would love him and enable him to restore the castle of the Doria in Italy and build up the family again. He is full of romance and has such energy and queer, magnetic power that I can quite believe he will achieve his hopes some day."

"Does he still possess this ambition?"

Jenny was silent for a moment. Her eyes looked out of the window over the restless sea.

"Why not?" she asked.

"He is, I should think, a man that women might fall in love with."

"Oh, yes—he is amazingly handsome and there are fine thoughts in him."

Mark felt disposed to warn her but felt that any counsel from him would be an impertinence. She seemed to read his mind, however.

"I shall never marry again," she said.

"Nobody would dare to ask you to do so—nobody who knows all that you have been called to suffer. Not for many a long day yet, I mean," he answered awkwardly.

"You understand," she replied and took his hand impulsively. "There is a great gulf I think fixed between us Anglo-Saxons and the Latins. Their minds move far more swiftly than ours. They are more hungry to get everything possible out of life. Doria is a child in many ways; but a delightful, poetical child. I think England rather chills him; yet he vows there are no rich women in Italy. He longs for Italy all the same. I expect he will go home again presently. He will leave Uncle Ben in the spring—so he confides to me; but do not whisper it, for my uncle thinks highly of him and would hate to lose him. He can do everything and anticipates our wishes and whims in the most magical way."

"Well, I must not keep you any longer."

"Indeed you are not doing that. I am very, very glad to see you, Mr. Brendon. You are going to stop for dinner? We always dine in the middle of the day."

"May I?"

"You must. And tea also. Come up to Uncle Bendigo now. I'll leave you with him for an hour. Then dinner will be ready. Giuseppe always joins us. You won't mind?"

"The last of the Doria! I've probably never shared a meal with such high company!"

She led him up the flight of stairs to the old sailor's sanctum.

"Mr. Brendon to see us, Uncle Ben," she said, and Mr. Redmayne took his eye from the big telescope.

"A blow's coming," he announced. "Wind's shifted a point to southward. Dirty weather already in the Channel."

He shook hands and Jenny disappeared. Bendigo was pleased to see Brendon, but his interest in his brother had apparently waned. He avoided the subject of Robert Redmayne, though he revealed other matters in his mind which he approached with a directness that rather astonished the detective.

"I'm a rough bird," he said, "but I keep my weather peeper open, and I didn't find it difficult to see when you were here in the summer, that my fine niece took your fancy. She's the sort, apparently, that makes men lose their balance a bit. For my part I never had any use for a woman since I was weaned, and have always mistrusted the creatures, seeing how many of my messmates ran on the rocks over 'em. But I'm free to grant that Jenny has made my house very comfortable and appears to feel kindly to me."

"Of course she does, Mr. Redmayne."

"Hold on till I've done. At this minute I'm in sight of a very vexatious problem; because my right hand—Giuseppe Doria—has got his eyes on Jenny; and though he's priceless as a single man and she's invaluable as a single woman, if the beggar gets round her and makes her fall in love with him presently, then they'll be married next year and that's good-bye to both of 'em!"

Mark found himself a good deal embarrassed by this confidence.

"In your place," he said, "I should certainly drop Doriaa pretty clear hint. What is good form in Italy he knows better than we do, or ought to, seeing he's a gentleman; but you can tell him it's damned bad form to court a newly made widow—especially one who loved her husband as your niece did, and who has been separated from him under such tragic circumstances."

"That's all right; and if there was only one in it I might do so; though for that matter I'm afraid Doria isn't going to stop here much longer in any case. He doesn't say so, but I can see it's only Jenny who is keeping him. You've got to consider her too. I'm not going to say she encourages the man or anything like that. Of course she doesn't. But, as I tell you, I'm pretty wide awake and it's no good denying that she can endure his company without hurting herself. He's a handsome creature and he's got a way with him, and she's young."

"I rather thought he was out for money—enough money to reestablish the vanished glories of his race."

"So he was and, of course, he knows he can't do that with Jenny's twenty thousand; but love casts out a good many things besides fear. It blights ambition—for the time being anyway—and handicaps a man on every side in the race for life. All Doria wants now is Jenny Pendean, and he'll get her if I'm a judge. I wouldn't mind too much either, if they could stop along with me and go on as we're going; but of course that wouldn't happen. As it is Doria has come to be a friend. He does all he's paid to do and a lot more; but he's more a guest than a servant, and I shall miss him like the devil when he goes."

"It's hard to see what you can do, Mr. Redmayne."

"So it is. I don't wish to come between my niece and her happiness, and I can't honestly say that Doria wouldn't be a good husband, though good husbands are rare everywhere and never rarer than in Italy, I believe. He might change his mind after they'd been wed a year and hanker for his ambitions again and money to carry them out. Jenny will have plenty some day, for there's poor Bob's money sooner or late, I suppose, and there'll be mine and her Uncle Albert's so far as I know. But, taking it by and large, I'd a good bit sooner it didn't happen. I'll tell you these things because you're a famous man, with plenty of credit for good sense."

"I appreciate the confidence and can return a confidence," answered Brendon after a moment's reflection. "I do admire Mrs. Pendean. She is, of course, amazingly beautiful, and she has a gracious and charming nature. With such distinction of character you may rest assured that nothing will happen yet a while. Your niece will be faithful to her late husband's memory for many a long month, if not forever."

"I believe that," answered Bendigo. "We can mark time, I don't doubt, till the turn of the year or maybe longer. But there it is: they are thrown together every day of their lives and, though Jenny would hide it very carefully from me, and probably from herself also as far as she could, I guess he's going to win out."

Brendon said no more. He was cast down and did not hide the fact.

"Mind you, I'd much prefer an Englishman," admitted the sailor; "but there's nobody to make any running in these parts. Giuseppe's got it all his own way." Then he left the subject. "No news, I suppose, of my poor brother?"

"None, Mr. Redmayne."

"I'd pinned my faith that the whole horrid thing might be capable of explanation along some other lines. But the blood was proved to be human?"


"Another secret for the sea, then, as far as Pendean is concerned. And as for Robert, only doomsday will tell where his bones lie."

"I also feel very little doubt indeed that he is dead."

A few minutes later a gong sounded from beneath and the two men descended to their meal. It was Giuseppe Doria who did the talking while they ate a substantial dinner. He proved a great egotist and delighted to relate his own picturesque ambitions, though he had already confessed that these ambitions were modified.

"We are a race that once lorded it over western Italy," he declared. "Midway inland, between Ventimiglia and Bordighera, is our old fastness beneath the mountains and beside the river. An ancient bridge like a rainbow still spans Nervia, and the houses climb up the hills among the vines and olives, while frowning down upon all things is the mighty ruin of the Doria's castle—a great ghost from the past. In the midst of all the human business and bustle, removed by a century from the concerns of men, it stands, hollow and empty, with life surging round about, like the sea on the precipices below us. The folk throng everywhere—the sort of humble people who of old knelt hatless to my ancestors. The base born wander in our chambers of state, the villagers dry their linen on our marble floors, children play in the closets of great counsellors, bats flutter through the casements where princesses have sat and hoped and feared!

"My people," he continued, "have sunk through many a stage and very swiftly of late. My grandfather was only a woodman, who brought charcoal from the mountains on two mules; my uncle grew lemons at Mentone and saved a few thousand francs for his wife to squander. Now I alone remain—the last of the line—and the home of the Doria has long stood in the open market.

"With the fortress also goes the title—that is our grotesque Italian way. A pork butcher or butter merchant might become Count Doria to-morrow if he would put his hand deep enough in his pocket. But salvation lies this way: that though the property and title are cheap, to restore the ruin and make all magnificent again would demand a millionaire."

He chattered on and after dinner lighted another of his Tuscan cigars, drank a liqueur of some special brandy Mr. Redmayne produced in honour of Brendon, and then left them.

They spoke of him, and Mark was specially interested to learn Jenny's attitude; but she gave no sign and praised Giuseppe only for his voice, his versatility, and good nature.

"He can turn his hand to anything," she said. "He was going fishing this afternoon; but it is too rough, so he will work in the garden again."

She hoped presently that Doria would find a rich wife and reach the summit of his ambitions. It was clear enough that he did not enter into any of Mrs. Pendean's calculations for her own future. But Jenny said one thing to surprise her listener while still speaking of the Italian.

"He doesn't like my sex," she declared. "In fact he makes me cross sometimes with his scornful attitude to us. He's as bad as Uncle Ben, who is a very hard-hearted old bachelor. He says, 'Women, priests, and poultry never have enough.' But I say that men are far greedier than women, and always were."

The sailor laughed and they went out upon the terrace for a time where soon the early dusk began to fall. The storm had not yet developed and there was a fierce and fiery light over the west at sunset while a tremendous wind blew the sky almost clear for a time. When the Start lighthouse opened a white, starry eye over the deepening purple of the sea, and heavy waves beat below them in hollow thunder, they returned to the house and Mr. Redmayne showed Brendon curiosities. They drank tea at five o'clock and an hour later the detective went on his way. A general invitation had been extended to him and the old sailor expressly declared that it would give him pleasure to receive Mark as a guest at any time. It was a suggestion that tempted Brendon not a little.

"You've done a wonderful thing," said Jenny, as she saw him to the outer gate. "You've quite won my uncle, and really that's a feat."

"Would it bore you if I fell in with his proposal and came down for a few days after Christmas?" he asked, and she assured him that it would give her pleasure.

Heartened a little he went his way, but the wave of cheerfulness set flowing by her presence soon ebbed again. He felt full of suspicion and half believed her indifference regarding Doria to be assumed. He guessed that she would be jealous to give no sign until the days of her mourning were numbered, but he felt a melancholy conviction that when another summer was passed, Jenny Pendean would take a second husband.

He debated the wisdom of presently returning to "Crow's Nest" and felt a strong inclination to do so. Little guessing that he would be there again on the morrow, he determined to remind Bendigo Redmayne of his invitation in early spring. By that time much might have happened, for he intended to correspond with Jenny, or at any fate take the first step in a correspondence.

The moon had risen as he pursued his lonely road and it shone clear through a gathering scud that threatened soon to overwhelm the silver light. Clouds flew fast and, above Brendon's head, telegraph wires hummed the song of a gathering storm. The man's thoughts proceeded as irregularly as the fitful and shouting wind. He weighed each word that Jenny had said and strove to understand each look that she had given him.

He tried to convince himself that Bendigo Redmayne's theory must, after all, be false, and he assured himself that by no possibility could the widow of Michael Pendean ever lose her sad heart to this stranger from Italy. The idea was out of the question, for surely a woman of such fine mould, so suddenly and tragically bereaved, would never find in this handsome chatterbox, throbbing with egotism, any solace for sorrow, or promise for future contentment. In theory his view seemed sound. Yet he knew, even while he reflected, that love in its season may shatter all theories and upset even the most consistent of characters.

Still deep in thought Brendon tramped on; and then, where the road fell between a high bank to the windward side and a pine wood on the other, he experienced one of the greatest surprises that life had yet brought him.

At a gate, which hung parallel with the road and opened into the depth of a copse behind, there stood Robert Redmayne.

The five-barred gate alone separated them and the big man lolled over it with his arms crossed on the topmost bar. The moonlight beat full into his face, and overhead the pines uttered a harsh and sullen roar as the wind surged over them; while from far below the shout of an angry sea upon the cliffs was carried upward. The red man stood motionless, watchful. He wore the tweed clothes, cap and red waistcoat that Brendon well remembered at Foggintor; the moonlight flashed on his startled eyes and showed his great mustache and white teeth visible beneath it. There was dread upon his face and haggard misery, yet no madness.

It seemed that he kept a tryst there; but it had not been Mark Brendon that he expected. For a moment he stared as the detective stopped and confronted him. He appeared to recognize Mark, or at any rate regard him as an enemy, for instantly he turned, plunged into the woods behind him, and disappeared. In a moment he had vanished and the riot of the storm hid all sounds of his panic flight.



For some moments Mark stood motionless with his eyes on the moonlit gate and the forest gloom behind it. There rhododendron and laurel made dense evergreen cover beneath the pines and offered inviolable shelter. To follow Robert Redmayne was vain and also dangerous, for in such a spot it might easily happen that the hunter would lie at the mercy of the hunted.

This sudden apparition bewildered Brendon, for it argued much beyond itself. Surely it indicated treachery and falsehood among those he had just left at "Crow's Nest," for it was a coincidence almost inconceivable that on this day of his chance visit, the wanted man should suddenly reappear in the neighbourhood of his brother's house. Yet collusion seemed impossible, for Mark had given no notice to Bendigo Redmayne of his coming.

Brendon asked himself if he had suffered a hallucination, but he knew that his rational mind was not constituted to create ghosts from within. Imagination he had, but therein was a source of strength, not weakness, and no grain of superstition weakened his mental endowment. He knew also that no one had been farther from his thoughts than Robert Redmayne at the moment of his sudden appearance. No, he had seen a living man and one who certainly would not willingly have revealed himself.

He had not the least intention of ignoring his discovery and was quite prepared to arrest Robert Redmayne, even under his brother's roof if necessary; but he desired first to hear Jenny Pendean upon the subject before seeking the assistance of the Dartmouth police. He felt that she would not deceive him, or answer a direct appeal with a lie. And then there flashed upon him the painful conviction that she must already have lied to him; for if Redmayne were living concealed at "Crow's Nest," all the household, including Doria and the solitary woman servant, would assuredly be in the secret.

Supposing Jenny begged him to hold his hand and spare Robert Redmayne, would he then be justified in keeping his discovery to himself? Some men might have built up a personal hope upon this possibility and seen themselves winning to the summit of their ambition by bending to the widow's will; but Mark did not confound the thoughts of duty and love nor did he even dream that success in one might depend upon neglect of the other. He had only to raise the question to answer it, and he swiftly determined that not Jenny, or her Uncle Bendigo, or anybody on earth should prevent him from securing Robert Redmayne on the following day if it came within his power to do so. Indeed he felt little doubt that this would happen. For that night there was no hurry. He slept well after an unusual amount of exercise and emotion; and he rose late. He was dressing at half past eight when there came a chambermaid to the door.

"There's a gentleman must see you this instant moment, please, sir," she said. "He's by the name of Mr. Doria and he comes from Captain Redmayne out over at 'Crow's Nest.'"

Not sorry that his day's work might now be simplified, Mark bade the girl summon his visitor, and in two minutes Giuseppe Doria appeared.

"I was clever to find you," he said, "for we only knew that you were stopping in Dartmouth to-night, but we did not know where. Yet I guessed you would choose the best hotel and I guessed rightly. I will eat my breakfast with you, if you please, and tell you why I am here. The thing was to catch you if we could before you went away. I am glad that I was in time."

"So Robert Redmayne, the murderer of Michael Pendean, has turned up?" asked Brendon, finishing his shaving; and Doria showed astonishment.

"Corpo di Bacco! How did you know that?" he asked.

"I saw him on my way home," replied Mark. "I had already seen him, before the tragedy on Dartmoor, and I remembered him. What is more, I'm not sure that he didn't remember me."

"We are in fear," continued Doria. "He has not been yet to his brother, but he is near."

"How can you tell that he is near, if he has not yet been to his brother?"

"Thus we know it. I go every morning early to Strete Farm on the hills above us for milk and butter. I go this morning and they have an ugly story. Last night a man entered Strete Farm and took food and drink. The farmer hears him and comes upon him sitting eating in the kitchen—a big man with a red head and a red mustache and a red waistcoat. The man, when he sees Mr. Brook—that is the farmer—he bolts through the back kitchen by which he has come. Mr. Brook knows nothing of the man and he tells me of his adventure, and then I go home to tell padron mio—my master.

"When I describe this man, Mr. Redmayne and Madonna nearly have a fit between them. They recognize him—he is the assassin! They think instantly of you and bid me take my bicycle and ride here at my best speed to catch you, if it may be done before you go. I succeed, but I cannot stay with you; I must return to keep guard. I do not like to feel there is nobody there. My old sea wolf is not frightened of the sea, but I think he is a little frightened of his brother. And Mrs. Jenny—she is very frightened indeed."

"Come to breakfast," said Mark, whose toilet was now completed. "I'll get a motor in a quarter of an hour and run out as quick as may be."

They swallowed a hasty meal and Giuseppe displayed growing excitement. He begged Brendon to bring other policemen with him, but this Mark declined to do.

"Plenty of time for that," he said. "We may catch him easy enough. I shall do nothing until I have seen Mr. Bendigo at 'Crow's Nest' and heard his views. If Robert Redmayne is breaking into houses for food he must be at the end of his tether."

By nine o'clock the Italian had started homeward, and as soon as he was gone, Brendon went to the police station, borrowed a revolver and a pair of handcuffs, hinted at his business, and ordered a police car to be ready as quickly as possible. A constable drove him and before setting out he told the local chief of police, one Inspector Damarell, to await a message over the telephone in the course of the morning. He enjoined strictest secrecy for the present.

Mark overtook and passed Doria on his way home. The storm had nearly blown itself out and the morning was clear and cold. Beneath the cliffs a big sea rolled, but it was fast going down.

Any suspicion that the inhabitants of Bendigo's home were seeking to create false impressions left Brendon's mind, when he stood before Jenny and her uncle. The former was nervous and the latter beyond measure puzzled. There was now little doubt that Robert Redmayne must be the man who broke into Strete Farm for food, since Mark's experience of the previous night tended to confirm the fact. He had seen Redmayne some hours before the fugitive alarmed the household at Strete. Where was he now and why had he come hither? All suspected that the unfortunate man had probably returned from France or Spain, and now lay hid close at hand, waiting for a safe opportunity to see the old sailor.

"Your brother has probably got his eye on the house," said Brendon, "and is considering how to approach you, Mr. Redmayne, without risking his own safety."

"There's only one he'll trust, I reckon, and that's me," declared Bendigo. "If he knew that Jenny means him no harm, he might trust her, too, but he may not believe that she's good Christian enough to forgive him. And anyway I guess he don't know she's with me. I'm talking as though he was sane, but I doubt it."

Mark, who had studied Mr. Redmayne's large government survey map of the district, suggested an immediate search over the most likely regions in the neighbourhood.

"I think of you and Mrs. Pendean," he explained. "You don't want hue and cry again and all the past brought up once more. If we can get to him without calling in the police, then so much the better. The man must be in extreme want. His face, as I saw it, was harrowed and tormented. He has probably reached a mental condition of tension and torture in which he will not be sorry to find himself among friendly and understanding fellow creatures. There are two districts which especially suggest themselves to me to search in: the shore, where there are many caves and crevices above sea level safe from observation; and the dense woods into which he plunged when I came suddenly upon him last night. I examined them on my way out this morning. They appear to be very extensive, but they are traversed by drives for sportsmen and you can look up and down these drives for many hundred yards."

Mr. Redmayne summoned Doria who had now reached home again.

"Can the launch go to sea?" he asked. Giuseppe considered that she might. Bendigo then submitted a proposition.

"I'm asking that you'll let this search go on quietly and privately for another twenty-four hours," he said. "Then, if we fail to round him up in a friendly way, so to say, you must, of course, turn the constabulary out and hunt him down. To-day we can go over the places you name and I reckon you've hit the most likely burrows for the poor man. I dare say, if we sat tight and did nothing at all, we might find him creeping here to me after dark pretty soon; but we'll act as you advise and see if the shore or the woods show any sign.

"There's us three who know who he is—Jenny and me and you; and I'd propose that my niece goes down the coast in the motor boat with Giuseppe. They can cruise away to the west, where there's an easy landing here and there at little coves, and they may sight my brother poking about, or hid in some hole down that way. There are caves with tunnels aft that give on the rough lands and coombs behind. It's a pretty lone region and he couldn't hang on long there or find food for his belly. They can try that for a few hours and we'll go up aloft. Or else I'll take you in the boat and they can hunt round Black Woods—whichever you like."

Brendon considered. He inclined to the belief that the hunted man might sooner trust the woods than the coast. Moreover he knew himself an indifferent sailor and perceived that the motor boat could not promise a very even keel in the great swell that followed the storm.

"If Mrs. Pendean doesn't mind the weather and there is no shadow of danger to the launch, then I advise that your niece goes down the coast and has a look into the caves as you propose," he said. "No doubt Doria can be trusted to see sharply after her. Meantime we will quarter the wood. If we could only get into touch with the man, it might be possible to secure him without making any noise."

"There must be a noise if we catch him," declared Doria. "He is a famous criminal and who ever runs him to his earth and pulls him out will make a noise and receive great praise."

He prepared for the coming voyage of discovery and, within half an hour, the motor boat danced out from beneath "Crow's Nest"; then she held a course to the westward, rolling indeed, but not enough to trouble Jenny who sat in the stern and kept a pair of strong Zeiss glasses fixed upon the cliffs and shore. They were soon reduced to a white speck under the misty weather; and after they had gone, Bendigo, in a sailor's pea-jacket and cap, lighted a pipe, took a big black-thorn stick, and set off beside Mark. The police car still stood on the road and, both entering it, they soon reached the gate beside which Robert Redmayne had appeared on the previous night. There they left the motor and entered Black Woods together.

Bendigo still talked of his niece and continued to do so. It was a subject on which the other proved very willing to listen.

"She's at the parting of the ways now," declared Jenny's uncle. "I can see her mind working. I grant she loved her husband dearly enough and he made a pretty deep mark on her character, for she's different from what she was as a girl. But there's very little doubt that Doria's growing awful fond of her—and when that sort loves a woman he generally finds she's not unwilling to meet him halfway. I believe now that my niece can't help caring for the man, but all the time she's secretly ashamed of herself—yes, heartily ashamed—for finding another in her mind only six months after the death of Pendean."

Mark asked a question.

"When you say that her husband altered his wife's character, in what way did he do so!"

"Well—he taught her sense I reckon. You'd never think now, would you, that she was a red Redmayne—one of us—short of temper, peppery, fiery? But she was, as a youngster. Her father had the Redmayne qualities more developed than any of us and he handed 'em down. She was a wilful thing—plucky and fond of mischief. Her school fellows thought the world of her because she laughed at discipline; and from one school she got expelled for some frolics. That was the girl I remembered when Jenny came back to me a widow. And so I see that Michael Pendean, what ever else he was, evidently had the trick character to learn her a bit of sense and patience."

"It may be natural development of years and experience, combined with the sudden, awful shock of her husband's death. These things would unite to tone her down and perhaps break her spirit, if only for a time."

"True. But she's not a sober-sided woman for all her calm. She was too full of the joy of life for Pendean, or any man, to empty it all out of her in four years. He may have been one of the Wesleyan sort, like such a lot of the Cornish; he may have been a kill-joy, too; but whether he was or not, he hadn't quite converted her in the time, and what I'm seeing now, I judge, is the young woman slowly coming back to herself under the influence of this Latin chap. He's cunning, too. He knows how to tickle her vanity, for even she has got a bit of womanly conceit in her, though less vain of her wonderful face no woman could be. But Doria has taken good care to hint his ambition is well lost for love; he's dropped it very cleverly no doubt and already made her see which way he's steering. He's put Jenny before the dollars and the dreams of the castle down south. In a word, if I'm not a greenhorn, he'll ask her to marry him as soon as a year is told and he can touch the subject decently."

"And you think she will accept him, Mr. Redmayne?"

"At present I'd take long odds about it; but he's a volatile devil and may change by that time."

Then Bendigo in his turn asked a question.

"We found no will among my poor brother's papers, and of course he's had no access to his money since this bad business. How he's lived all the time only he himself knows. But suppose the worst happens presently and he's found to be a lunatic, what becomes of his stuff?"

"It would ultimately go to you and your brother."

They tramped the wood and fell in with a gamekeeper, who greeted the trespassers none too amiably. But on learning their errand and receiving a description of the fugitive, he bade them go where they pleased and himself promised to keep a sharp watch. He had two mates and would warn them; and he understood the importance of preserving strict silence concerning the fugitive until more should be known.

But it was not to Brendon and Robert Redmayne's brother that any information came. Their hunt produced neither sign nor clue of the man they sought, and after three hours of steady tramping, which covered all the ground and exhausted Bendigo, they returned in the motor car to "Crow's Nest."

News of direct importance awaited them, and Bendigo proved correct in his suspicion that the wanted man might have chosen the coast. Jenny had not only seen Robert Redmayne but had reached him; and she returned very distressed and somewhat hysterical, while Doria, having done great things in the matter, was prepared to brag about them. But he begged Mrs. Pendean, as the heroine of a strange adventure, to tell her story.

She was deeply moved and her voice failed on two or three occasions during the narrative; but the interest of the tale was such that Bendigo lost sight of Jenny in the picture she now painted of his unfortunate brother. They had sighted Robert Redmayne suddenly from the motor boat.

"We saw him," said Jenny, "about two miles down the coast, sitting not fifty yards from the sea, and he, of course, saw us; but he had no glasses and could not recognize me, as we were more than half a mile from shore. Then Giuseppe suggested landing and so approaching him. The thing was to let me reach him, if possible. I felt no fear of him—excepting the fear that, knowing how he had ruined my life, he might shrink from facing me.

"We ran by, as though we had not observed him; then, getting round a little bluff, so that we were hidden, we went ashore, made fast the boat, and regularly stalked him. There was no mistake. I had, of course, recognized Uncle Robert through the glasses; and now Doria went first and crept along, with me behind him, until we had reached to within twenty-five yards. The poor wretch saw us then and leaped up, but it was too late and Giuseppe reached him in a moment and explained that I came as a friend. Doria was prepared to detain him if he endeavoured to escape, but he did not. Robert Redmayne is worn out. He has been through terrible times. He shrank at first and nearly collapsed when I came to him. He went on his knees to me. But I was patient and made him understand that I had not come as an enemy."

"Is he sane?" asked Bendigo.

"He appears to be sane," she answered. "He made no mention of the past and neither spoke of his crime nor of what he has been doing since; but he has altered. He seems a ghost of his former self; his voice has changed from a boom into a whisper; his eyes are haunted. He is thin and full of terror. He made me send Doria out of earshot and then told me that he had only come here to see you. He has been here some days, hidden in one of the caves down the coast westward. He wouldn't tell me where, but no doubt it is near where we found him. He is ragged and wounded. One of his hands ought to be attended to."

"And still you say he behaved like a sane man, Mrs. Pendean?" asked Brendon.

"Yes—except for what seemed an insane fear. And yet fear was natural enough under the circumstances. He feels, poor creature, that he has reached the end of his tether; and even if he is insane and will escape the extreme penalty, he doesn't know that himself. I implored him to come with me in the boat and see Uncle Bendigo and trust to the mercy of his fellow men. I didn't feel a traitor in asking him to do this; for I imagine, though seemingly sane now, he must in reality be mad, since only madness could explain the past, and he will be judged accordingly. But he is very suspicious. He thanked me and grovelled horribly to me; but he would not trust either me or Doria, or think of entering the boat. He is all nerves and soon began to fear we were planning an ambush, or otherwise endangering his freedom.

"I asked him, then, to tell me what he wished and how I could help him. He considered and said that if Uncle Bendigo would see him quite alone and swear, before God, not to hinder his departure in any way after they had met, he would come to 'Crow's Nest' to-night after the household was asleep.

"For the moment he wants food and a lamp to light his hiding-place after dark. But before all else, he begs you, Uncle Ben, to let him come and see you quite alone. Then he told us to be gone if we were honest friends. It is left in this way. If you will see him, he will come any hour you mention after midnight. But first you must give your written oath before God that you will have nobody with you, and that you will neither set a trap for him nor seek to detain him. His hope is that you will give him means and clothes, so that he may leave England safely and get to Uncle Albert in Italy. He made us swear not to say where we had found him, and then he indicated a spot where I was to bring your answer in writing before dark. I am to leave a letter at that spot as soon as I can, and go away at once, and he will come and find your directions."

Mr. Redmayne nodded.

"And at the same time you had better take the poor wretch some food and drink and the lamp. How he has lived for the last six months I cannot understand."

"He has been in France—so he says."

Bendigo did not take long to determine a course of action and Brendon approved his decisions.

"In the first place," declared Robert Redmayne's brother, "the man must be mad, whatever appears to the contrary. This story points to that, and seeing he is still free and has succeeded in existing and avoiding the police in two countries, one can only say that with his madness he has developed amazing cunning too. But, as Jenny reports, he's on his beam ends at last. He knows this house and he knows the way to it. So I'll do this.

"I'll agree to see him to-night—or rather to-morrow morning. I'll bid him come at one o'clock, and he shall find the door open and a light in the hall. He can walk straight in and mount up to me in the tower, and I'll swear the needful oath that he shall see nobody else and be free to go again when he pleases. That will calm him down and give me a chance to study him and try and see where we stand. We might trap him, of course, but I can't lie even to a lunatic."

"There's no reason why you should," said Brendon. "If you feel no personal fear of the man, then you can see him as you suggest. You understand, however, there must be no question of helping him to evade the law, as he wishes?"

Bendigo nodded.

"I suppose not. I can't turn him on to my brother, Albert, anyway. Albert's a weak, nervous sort of man and he'd have a fit if he thought Robert was coming to seek asylum with him."

"The State must provide his asylum," said Mark. "His future is no longer any question for his relations. The best that we can hope is that he may soon be in a position of security, both for himself and other people. You will do well to see him, give him succour, and hear what he has to say. After that, Mr. Redmayne, if I may advise, you will leave the rest to me."

Bendigo lost no time in writing the desired letter inviting Robert Redmayne to meet him in secret at one o'clock during the coming night and promising the fugitive, on oath, that he should be safe and free to depart again when he desired to do so. But, none the less, he expressed an earnest hope that his brother would stop at "Crow's Nest," and be advised as to his future actions. Some provisions were put into the launch and, with the letter in her pocket, Jenny again set out. She was prepared to go alone, for she could handle the boat as cleverly as Doria himself; but this her uncle would not permit.

It was already growing dusk before she left and Giuseppe drove the little vessel to its limit of speed.

Then Brendon was much surprised. He had been standing under the flagstaff with the master of "Crow's Nest," watching the launch, and when she had vanished westward into a grey, still evening, Bendigo challenged the detective with a proposition altogether unexpected.

"See here," he said. "I've got a damned, uneasy feeling about meeting my brother single-handed to-night. I can't tell you what it is. I'm not a coward and never shirked duty yet; but frankly I don't much like facing him for this reason. A madman's a madman, and we can't expect a madman to be any too reasonable if we oppose him, however tactfully. I should be powerless if he got off his head, or resented the advice I should have to give him, or went for me—powerless, I mean, to do anything but stop him with a bullet. But if he's got to be stopped that way, I don't want to be the one to do it.

"I've promised to meet him alone and I shan't be telling the poor man a lie, because, if all's straight and he shows no violence, he needn't know anybody else is there. But if I was put into danger, I might tackle him mercifully with somebody to help, whereas if I was alone and he threatened to do me harm, it would very likely mean something I'd rather not think about."

Brendon saw the force of this observation.

"A very reasonable thing indeed," he answered, "and in a case like this, you couldn't blame yourself even if you didn't keep the letter of your promise."

"In the spirit I shall keep it, however. I've sworn to let him come and go again free, and that oath I must keep if he does nothing that forces me to break it."

"You are wise and I quite agree with you," said Mark. "No doubt Doria is a man you can rely upon in every way and he is powerful too."

But Bendigo shook his head.

"No," he answered. "I've left this question until Doria and my niece were out of the way, for a very good reason. I don't want them in this thing more than they are already; and I don't want them, or anybody, to know that I've got a friend hid along with me in the tower when Robert comes. They understand that I am to see him alone; and I've bade them keep out of the way and not show themselves for an instant. What I want up there is you and only you."

Brendon considered.

"I confess the idea occurred to me as soon as we had your brother's offer; but seeing the terms, I couldn't press for it," he said. "Now I agree and, what's more, I think it would be very desirable if nobody—not even the household—knew I was here."

"That can be done. If you send your car away and say you'll report to-morrow, then the police won't trouble us any more till we see what next. You can go up to the tower and get into the big case I keep my flags and odds and ends in. There are holes bored for ventilation at the height of a man's head from the ground, and if you're packed in there, you can see and hear everything and pop out in five seconds if my life is threatened."

Brendon nodded.

"That's all right," he said. "I'm considering what follows. Your brother goes free presently; and no doubt Mrs. Pendean will only wait until he is off to come up to you. I can't stop all night in the cupboard."

"It don't matter a button after he's gone," answered Bendigo. "If you tell your car to go, that's all that signifies for the minute. And all anybody but ourselves will believe is that you've gone back to Dartmouth, and won't be here again until to-morrow morning."

Mark fell in with this plan. He dismissed the car and directed that Inspector Damarell should be told to do nothing more until further information reached him. Then, with the old sailor, he climbed to the tower room, inspected the great cupboard, and found that he could follow the course of events very comfortably from within. Holes of the size of a half-penny piece were bored in each door of this erection and, with a three-inch support under his feet, Brendon found his eyes and ears at the needful level.

"The point is to know how I get clear afterward," considered Brendon, returning to the sequel. "As soon as your brother has left the house, it is certain that Mrs. Pendean, probably Doria also, will hasten to know what has happened and what you have determined."

"Afterward nothing matters," repeated Bendigo. "I'll go down to the door with Robert and you can follow me and slip out as soon as he has got clear. Or else you can appear when he has gone and reveal yourself and tell Jenny that it was your own wish to stop without letting anybody know it but myself. That'll be the best way; and as soon as she finds you are here, she'll see that you have comfortable quarters for the rest of the night."

Brendon approved of this plan and when the launch returned, her uncle informed Jenny that the detective had left, to make certain inquiries, but would return early on the following morning. She expressed surprise that he had gone but declared that it would in any case have been necessary for him to do so before the fugitive arrived.

"We left the letter, the lamp, and the food and drink exactly where he indicated," she said, "on a forlorn spot, above that ancient, raised beach, where the great boulders are."

Thus the matter was settled. Mark had already taken up his position in the chamber aloft and Bendigo looked to it that he should not be interfered with. It was Mr. Redmayne's custom to keep the tower room locked when not himself in it, and he did so now until the night should come. He supped with Jenny and the Italian, having already provided Brendon with food in his hiding-place. It was understood that the sailor would ascend to his den about eleven o'clock, by which time Mark undertook to be safely hidden in the cupboard.

At the agreed time Doria and his master came up together, the former carrying a light. Jenny also joined them for a short while, but she stayed only ten minutes and then departed to bed. The weather had turned stormy and wet. A shouting wind from the west shook the lantern of the tower room and flung rain heavily against the glass, while Bendigo moved restlessly about and bent his brows to look out into the blackness of the night.

"The poor devil will be drowned, or break his neck climbing up from the sea in this darkness," he declared.

Giuseppe had brought up a jug of water, a bottle of spirits, a little keg of tobacco, and two or three clay pipes, for the old sea captain never smoked till after supper and then puffed steadily until he went to bed.

He turned now and asked Doria a question.

"You've cast your peepers over the poor chap to-day," he said, "and you're a clever man and know a bit of human nature. What did you make of my brother?"

"I looked closely and listened also," answered the servant; "and this I think—the man is very sick."

"Not likely to break out again and cut another throat?"

"Never again. I say this. When he killed Madonna's husband, he was mad; now he is not mad—not more mad than anybody else. He craves only one thing—peace."



Bendigo lit his pipe and turned to his only book. It was "Moby Dick." Herman Melville's masterpiece had long ago become for the old sailor the one piece of literature in the world. It comprised all that interested him most in this life, and all that he needed to reconcile him to the approach of death and the thought of a future existence beyond the grave. "Moby Dick" also afforded him that ceaseless companionship with great waters which was essential to content.

"Well," he said to Doria, "get you gone. Look round as usual to see that all's snug aloft and below; then turn in. Leave only the light in the hall and the front door on the latch. Did you mark if he had a watch to know the hour?"

"He had no watch, but Mrs. Pendean thought upon that and lent him hers."

Bendigo nodded and picked up a clay pipe, while Doria spoke again.

"You feel quite steady in your nerves? You would not like me to lie in readiness to come forward if you want me!"

"No, no—turn in and go to sleep. And no spying, as you're a gentleman. I'll talk reason to the poor fellow. I reckon it's going to be all right. We know that he's had shell shock and all the rest of it, so I dare say the law won't be very hard upon him."

"The dead man's wife was an angel to Robert Redmayne. He thought at first that she had come to give him up. But her eyes showed him that she had come in mercy. May I speak of your niece a moment before I go?"

Bendigo shrugged his round shoulders and pushed his hand through his red hair.

"It's no good speaking of her till you've spoken to her," he said. "I know what you are after very well. But it's up to her, I reckon, not me. She's gone her own way since she was a nipper—got her father's will hid under her woman's shape."

He reflected uncomfortably that Mark Brendon must hear every word about to pass; but there was no help for that.

"Our Italian way is to approach the parents of the loved one," explained Doria. "To win you is to be far on my way, for you stand to her in the place of parent. Is it not so? She cannot live alone. She was not meant by God to be a single woman, or a widow woman. There is a saying in my tongue, 'She who is born beautiful is born married.' I terribly fear that somebody else will come."

"But what about your ambitions—to wed an heiress and claim the title and the territory of your vanished forbears?"

Doria swept his hands to right and left with a great gesture, as though casting away his former hopes.

"It is fate," he said. "I planned my life without love. I had never loved and never wanted to. I guessed that love would appear after I had married money and earned the necessary means and leisure to love. But now all is changed. The arrow has sped. There has come the spirit simpatica instead of the necessary rich woman. Now I do not want the rich woman but only she who wakens my passion, adoration, worship. Life has nothing in it but Madonna—English Jenny. What are castles and titles—pomp and glory—when weighed against her? Dust, padron mio, all dust!"

"And what about her, Giuseppe?"

"Her heart is hidden; but there is that in her eyes that tells me to hope."

"And what about me?"

"Alas! Love is selfish. But you are the last I would seek to hurt or to rob. You have been very good to me and Madonna loves you. It is certain that if the very best happened, she would do nothing to offend one who has been to her as you have been."

"We can stow the subject for six months anyhow," replied Bendigo, lighting his long clay. "I suppose, in your country as well as mine, there's a right and a wrong way to approach a woman; and seeing my girl's a widow—made so under peculiarly sad circumstances—you'll understand that love talk is out of the question for a good bit yet a while."

"Most truly you speak. I hide even the fire in my eyes. I only dare look at her between the lids."

"There's a lot goes to Jenny, and no doubt such a keen blade as you knows that very well. But all's in the air at present. Her husband left no will and that means, since there's nobody else with any claim upon him, she has all his dough—five hundred a year perhaps. But there's much more to her than that in the long run. My brother Albert and I are both old bachelors with nobody so near us as Jenny. In fact you may say that if all goes right, she'll be pretty flush some day. Not enough to waste on ruined castles, but a mighty good income none the less. Then there's poor Bob's money; for however it falls out with him, it don't look as though he'd spend it now."

"All this is wind in the trees and the cackling of hens to me," declared Doria. "I have not thought about it and I do not want to think about it. The criterion of love, such as I feel to Jenny, is that nothing else weighs a mustard seed in the balance against it. If she were a pauper, or if she owned millions, my attitude of heart is not changed. I worship her with the whole of myself—so that there is not a cranny left in my spirit where hunger for money can find foothold, or fear of poverty exist. Happiness never depends upon cash, or the lack of it; but without love no real happiness shall be found in the world."

"That may be bunkum, or it may be God's truth—I don't know. I've never been in love and nobody ever wasted an ounce of affection on me," replied Redmayne. "But you've heard me now. You can sit on the safety valve for six months anyway; and it will probably pay you best to do so; for one thing's certain: Jenny won't love you any better for making love under present circumstances."

"It is too true," answered the other. "Trust me. I will hide my soul and be exquisitely cautious. Her sorrow shall be respected—from no selfish motive only, but because I am a gentleman, as you remind me."

"Youth's youth, and you Italians have a good deal more fire kneaded into you than us northerners."

Suddenly Doria's manner changed and he looked half sternly, half curiously at Bendigo. Then he smiled to himself and ended, the conversation.

"Fear nothing," he said. "Trust me. Indeed there is no reason why you should do otherwise. No more of this for half a year. I bid you good night, master."

He was gone and for a moment only the hurtle of the rain on the ground windows of the tower room broke the silence; then Brendon emerged from his hiding-place and stretched his limbs. Bendigo regarded him with an expression half humorous and half grim.

"That's how the land lies," he said. "Now you've got it."

Mark bent his head.

"And you think that she—"

"Yes—I think so. Why not? Did you ever in your experience hit up against a man more likely to charm a young woman?"

"Will he keep his word and not try to make the running for another six months?"

"You're as green about love as I am; but even I can answer that. Of course he'll make the running. He can't help it. It doesn't need words."

"The idea of another husband would be abominable to Mrs. Pendean for many years; and no Englishman worthy of the name would dare to intrude upon her sacred grief."

"I don't know anything about that. I only know that whatever the amount of grief she feels, she's devilish interested in Giuseppe—and he's not an Englishman."

They talked for the best part of an hour and Mark perceived that the old sailor was something of a fatalist. He had already concluded that his niece would presently wed again and with the Italian. Nor did the prospect do more than annoy Bendigo from the point of view of his own comfort. Brendon observed that Mr. Redmayne felt no personal objection or distrust. Jenny's uncle did not apparently anticipate that she would live to regret such a second husband; while Mark, from a standpoint quite independent, honestly felt that one so volatile and strangely handsome might sooner or later cloud the young woman's life with tribulation. He knew the quality of his own love, but perceived the hopelessness at present of showing it in any way. For at this juncture there appeared no possibility of serving her. He was, however, a patient man and now summoned hope that in the future it might yet fall within his reach to be of vital use, even though it should never lie in her power to reward his devotion.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse