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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesClue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter I
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Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter I Post by :JuvioSuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :April 2011 Read :1191

Click below to download : Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter I (Format : PDF)

Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter I

The 4.15 from Victoria to Lewes had been held up at Three Bridges
in consequence of a derailment and, though John Lexman was
fortunate enough to catch a belated connection to Beston Tracey,
the wagonette which was the sole communication between the village
and the outside world had gone.

"If you can wait half an hour, Mr. Lexman," said the
station-master, "I will telephone up to the village and get Briggs
to come down for you."

John Lexman looked out upon the dripping landscape and shrugged
his shoulders.

"I'll walk," he said shortly and, leaving his bag in the
station-master's care and buttoning his mackintosh to his chin, he
stepped forth resolutely into the rain to negotiate the two miles
which separated the tiny railway station from Little Tracey.

The downpour was incessant and likely to last through the night.
The high hedges on either side of the narrow road were so many
leafy cascades; the road itself was in places ankle deep in mud.
He stopped under the protecting cover of a big tree to fill and
light his pipe and with its bowl turned downwards continued his
walk. But for the driving rain which searched every crevice and
found every chink in his waterproof armor, he preferred, indeed
welcomed, the walk.

The road from Beston Tracey to Little Beston was associated in his
mind with some of the finest situations in his novels. It was on
this road that he had conceived "The Tilbury Mystery." Between the
station and the house he had woven the plot which had made
"Gregory Standish" the most popular detective story of the year.
For John Lexman was a maker of cunning plots.

If, in the literary world, he was regarded by superior persons as
a writer of "shockers," he had a large and increasing public who
were fascinated by the wholesome and thrilling stories he wrote,
and who held on breathlessly to the skein of mystery until they
came to the denouement he had planned.

But no thought of books, or plots, or stories filled his troubled
mind as he strode along the deserted road to Little Beston. He
had had two interviews in London, one of which under ordinary
circumstances would have filled him with joy: He had seen T. X.
and "T. X." was T. X. Meredith, who would one day be Chief of the
Criminal Investigation Department and was now an Assistant
Commissioner of Police, engaged in the more delicate work of that
department.

In his erratic, tempestuous way, T. X. had suggested the greatest
idea for a plot that any author could desire. But it was not of
T. X. that John Lexman thought as he breasted the hill, on the
slope of which was the tiny habitation known by the somewhat
magnificent title of Beston Priory.

It was the interview he had had with the Greek on the previous day
which filled his mind, and he frowned as he recalled it. He
opened the little wicket gate and went through the plantation to
the house, doing his best to shake off the recollection of the
remarkable and unedifying discussion he had had with the
moneylender.

Beston Priory was little more than a cottage, though one of its
walls was an indubitable relic of that establishment which a pious
Howard had erected in the thirteenth century. A small and
unpretentious building, built in the Elizabethan style with quaint
gables and high chimneys, its latticed windows and sunken gardens,
its rosary and its tiny meadow, gave it a certain manorial
completeness which was a source of great pride to its owner.

He passed under the thatched porch, and stood for a moment in the
broad hallway as he stripped his drenching mackintosh.

The hall was in darkness. Grace would probably be changing for
dinner, and he decided that in his present mood he would not
disturb her. He passed through the long passage which led to the
big study at the back of the house. A fire burnt redly in the
old-fashioned grate and the snug comfort of the room brought a
sense of ease and re-lief. He changed his shoes, and lit the
table lamp.

The room was obviously a man's den. The leather-covered chairs,
the big and well-filled bookcase which covered one wall of the
room, the huge, solid-oak writing-desk, covered with books and
half-finished manuscripts, spoke unmistakably of its owner's
occupation.

After he had changed his shoes, he refilled his pipe, walked over
to the fire, and stood looking down into its glowing heart.

He was a man a little above medium height, slimly built, with a
breadth of shoulder which was suggestive of the athlete. He had
indeed rowed 4 in his boat, and had fought his way into the
semi-finals of the amateur boxing championship of England. His
face was strong, lean, yet well-moulded. His eyes were grey and
deep, his eyebrows straight and a little forbidding. The
clean-shaven mouth was big and generous, and the healthy tan of
his cheek told of a life lived in the open air.

There was nothing of the recluse or the student in his appearance.
He was in fact a typical, healthy-looking Britisher, very much
like any other man of his class whom one would meet in the
mess-room of the British army, in the wardrooms of the fleet, or
in the far-off posts of the Empire, where the administrative cogs
of the great machine are to be seen at work.

There was a little tap at the door, and before he could say "Come
in" it was pushed open and Grace Lexman entered.

If you described her as brave and sweet you might secure from that
brief description both her manner and her charm. He half crossed
the room to meet her, and kissed her tenderly.

"I didn't know you were back until - " she said; linking her arm
in his.

"Until you saw the horrible mess my mackintosh has made," he
smiled. "I know your methods, Watson!"

She laughed, but became serious again.

"I am very glad you've come back. We have a visitor," she said.

He raised his eyebrows.

"A visitor? Whoever came down on a day like this?"

She looked at him a little strangely.

"Mr. Kara," she said.

"Kara? How long has he been here?"

"He came at four."

There was nothing enthusiastic in her tone.

"I can't understand why you don't like old Kara," rallied her
husband.

"There are very many reasons," she replied, a little curtly for
her.

"Anyway," said John Lexman, after a moment's thought, "his arrival
is rather opportune. Where is he?"

"He is in the drawing-room."

The Priory drawing-room was a low-ceilinged, rambling apartment,
"all old print and chrysanthemums," to use Lexman's description.
Cosy armchairs, a grand piano, an almost medieval open grate,
faced with dull-green tiles, a well-worn but cheerful carpet and
two big silver candelabras were the principal features which
attracted the newcomer.

There was in this room a harmony, a quiet order and a soothing
quality which made it a haven of rest to a literary man with
jagged nerves. Two big bronze bowls were filled with early
violets, another blazed like a pale sun with primroses, and the
early woodland flowers filled the room with a faint fragrance.

A man rose to his feet, as John Lexman entered and crossed the
room with an easy carriage. He was a man possessed of singular
beauty of face and of figure. Half a head taller than the author,
he carried himself with such a grace as to conceal his height.

"I missed you in town," he said, "so I thought I'd run down on the
off chance of seeing you."

He spoke in the well-modulated tone of one who had had a long
acquaintance with the public schools and universities of England.
There was no trace of any foreign accent, yet Remington Kara was a
Greek and had been born and partly educated in the more turbulent
area of Albania.

The two men shook hands warmly.

"You'll stay to dinner?"

Kara glanced round with a smile at Grace Lexman. She sat
uncomfortably upright, her hands loosely folded on her lap, her
face devoid of encouragement.

"If Mrs. Lexman doesn't object," said the Greek.

"I should be pleased, if you would," she said, almost
mechanically; "it is a horrid night and you won't get anything
worth eating this side of London and I doubt very much," she
smiled a little, "if the meal I can give you will be worthy of
that description."

"What you can give me will be more than sufficient," he said, with
a little bow, and turned to her husband.

In a few minutes they were deep in a discussion of books and
places, and Grace seized the opportunity to make her escape. From
books in general to Lexman's books in particular the conversation
flowed.

"I've read every one of them, you know," said Kara.

John made a little face. "Poor devil," he said sardonically.

"On the contrary," said Kara, "I am not to be pitied. There is a
great criminal lost in you, Lexman."

"Thank you," said John.

"I am not being uncomplimentary, am I?" smiled the Greek. "I am
merely referring to the ingenuity of your plots. Sometimes your
books baffle and annoy me. If I cannot see the solution of your
mysteries before the book is half through, it angers me a little.
Of course in the majority of cases I know the solution before I
have reached the fifth chapter."

John looked at him in surprise and was somewhat piqued.

"I flatter myself it is impossible to tell how my stories will end
until the last chapter," he said.

Kara nodded.

"That would be so in the case of the average reader, but you
forget that I am a student. I follow every little thread of the
clue which you leave exposed."

"You should meet T. X.," said John, with a laugh, as he rose from
his chair to poke the fire.

"T. X.?"

"T. X. Meredith. He is the most ingenious beggar you could meet.
We were at Caius together, and he is by way of being a great pal
of mine. He is in the Criminal Investigation Department."

Kara nodded. There was the light of interest in his eyes and he
would have pursued the discussion further, but at the moment
dinner was announced.

It was not a particularly cheerful meal because Grace did not as
usual join in the conversation, and it was left to Kara and to her
husband to supply the deficiencies. She was experiencing a
curious sense of depression, a premonition of evil which she could
not define. Again and again in the course of the dinner she took
her mind back to the events of the day to discover the reason for
her unease.

Usually when she adopted this method she came upon the trivial
causes in which apprehension was born, but now she was puzzled to
find that a solution was denied her. Her letters of the morning
had been pleasant, neither the house nor the servants had given
her any trouble. She was well herself, and though she knew John
had a little money trouble, since his unfortunate speculation in
Roumanian gold shares, and she half suspected that he had had to
borrow money to make good his losses, yet his prospects were so
excellent and the success of his last book so promising that she,
probably seeing with a clearer vision the unimportance of those
money worries, was less concerned about the problem than he.

"You will have your coffee in the study, I suppose," said Grace,
"and I know you'll excuse me; I have to see Mrs. Chandler on the
mundane subject of laundry."

She favoured Kara with a little nod as she left the room and
touched John's shoulder lightly with her hand in passing.

Kara's eyes followed her graceful figure until she was out of
view, then

"I want to see you, Kara," said John Lexman, "if you will give me
five minutes."

"You can have five hours, if you like," said the other, easily.

They went into the study together; the maid brought the coffee and
liqueur, and placed them on a little table near the fire and
disappeared.

For a time the conversation was general. Kara, who was a frank
admirer of the comfort of the room and who lamented his own
inability to secure with money the cosiness which John had
obtained at little cost, went on a foraging expedition whilst his
host applied himself to a proof which needed correcting.

"I suppose it is impossible for you to have electric light here,"
Kara asked.

"Quite," replied the other.

"Why?"

"I rather like the light of this lamp."

"It isn't the lamp," drawled the Greek and made a little grimace;
"I hate these candles."

He waved his hand to the mantle-shelf where the six tall, white,
waxen candles stood out from two wall sconces.

"Why on earth do you hate candles?" asked the other in surprise.

Kara made no reply for the moment, but shrugged his shoulders.
Presently he spoke.

"If you were ever tied down to a chair and by the side of that
chair was a small keg of black powder and stuck in that powder was
a small candle that burnt lower and lower every minute - my God!"

John was amazed to see the perspiration stand upon the forehead of
his guest.

"That sounds thrilling," he said.

The Greek wiped his forehead with a silk handkerchief and his hand
shook a little.

"It was something more than thrilling," he said.

"And when did this occur?" asked the author curiously.

"In Albania," replied the other; "it was many years ago, but the
devils are always sending me reminders of the fact."

He did not attempt to explain who the devils were or under what
circumstances he was brought to this unhappy pass, but changed the
subject definitely.

Sauntering round the cosy room he followed the bookshelf which
filled one wall and stopped now and again to examine some title.
Presently he drew forth a stout volume.

"'Wild Brazil'," he read, "by George Gathercole - do you know
Gathercole?"

John was filling his pipe from a big blue jar on his desk and
nodded.

"Met him once - a taciturn devil. Very short of speech and, like
all men who have seen and done things, less inclined to talk about
himself than any man I know."

Kara looked at the book with a thoughtful pucker of brow and
turned the leaves idly.

"I've never seen him," he said as he replaced the book, "yet, in a
sense, his new journey is on my behalf."

The other man looked up.

"On your behalf?"

"Yes - you know he has gone to Patagonia for me. He believes
there is gold there - you will learn as much from his book on the
mountain systems of South America. I was interested in his
theories and corresponded with him. As a result of that
correspondence he undertook to make a geological survey for me. I
sent him money for his expenses, and he went off."

"You never saw him?" asked John Lexman, surprised.

Kara shook his head.

"That was not - ?" began his host.

"Not like me, you were going to say. Frankly, it was not, but
then I realized that he was an unusual kind of man. I invited him
to dine with me before he left London, and in reply received a
wire from Southampton intimating that he was already on his way."

Lexman nodded.

"It must be an awfully interesting kind of life," he said. "I
suppose he will be away for quite a long time?"

"Three years," said Kara, continuing his examination of the
bookshelf.

"I envy those fellows who run round the world writing books," said
John, puffing reflectively at his pipe. "They have all the best
of it."

Kara turned. He stood immediately behind the author and the other
could not see his face. There was, however, in his voice an
unusual earnestness and an unusual quiet vehemence.

"What have you to complain about!" he asked, with that little
drawl of his. "You have your own creative work - the most
fascinating branch of labour that comes to a man. He, poor
beggar, is bound to actualities. You have the full range of all
the worlds which your imagination gives to you. You can create
men and destroy them, call into existence fascinating problems,
mystify and baffle ten or twenty thousand people, and then, at a
word, elucidate your mystery."

John laughed.

"There is something in that," he said.

"As for the rest of your life," Kara went on in a lower voice, "I
think you have that which makes life worth living - an
incomparable wife."

Lexman swung round in his chair, and met the other's gaze, and
there was something in the set of the other's handsome face which
took his. breath away.

"I do not see - " he began.

Kara smiled.

"That was an impertinence, wasn't it!" he said, banteringly. "But
then you mustn't forget, my dear man, that I was very anxious to
marry your wife. I don't suppose it is secret. And when I lost
her, I had ideas about you which are not pleasant to recall."

He had recovered his self-possession and had continued his aimless
stroll about the room.

"You must remember I am a Greek, and the modern Greek is no
philosopher. You must remember, too, that I am a petted child of
fortune, and have had everything I wanted since I was a baby."

"You are a fortunate devil," said the other, turning back to his
desk, and taking up his pen.

For a moment Kara did not speak, then he made as though he would
say something, checked himself, and laughed.

"I wonder if I am," he said.

And now he spoke with a sudden energy.

"What is this trouble you are having with Vassalaro?"

John rose from his chair and walked over to the fire, stood gazing
down into its depths, his legs wide apart, his hands clasped
behind him, and Kara took his attitude to supply an answer to the
question.

"I warned you against Vassalaro," he said, stooping by the other's
side to light his cigar with a spill of paper. "My dear Lexman,
my fellow countrymen are unpleasant people to deal with in certain
moods."

"He was so obliging at first," said Lexman, half to himself.

"And now he is so disobliging," drawled Kara. "That is a way
which moneylenders have, my dear man; you were very foolish to go
to him at all. I could have lent you the money."

"There were reasons why I should not borrow money from you,", said
John, quietly, "and I think you yourself have supplied the
principal reason when you told me just now, what I already knew,
that you wanted to marry Grace."

"How much is the amount?" asked Kara, examining his well-manicured
finger-nails.

"Two thousand five hundred pounds," replied John, with a short
laugh, "and I haven't two thousand five hundred shillings at this
moment."

"Will he wait?"

John Lexman shrugged his shoulders.

"Look here, Kara," he said, suddenly, "don't think I want to
reproach you, but it was through you that I met Vassalaro so that
you know the kind of man he is."

Kara nodded.

"Well, I can tell you he has been very unpleasant indeed," said
John, with a frown, "I had an interview with him yesterday in
London and it is clear that he is going to make a lot of trouble.
I depended upon the success of my play in town giving me enough to
pay him off, and I very foolishly made a lot of promises of
repayment which I have been unable to keep."

"I see," said Kara, and then, "does Mrs. Lexman know about this
matter?"

"A little," said the other.

He paced restlessly up and down the room, his hands behind him and
his chin upon his chest.

"Naturally I have not told her the worst, or how beastly
unpleasant the man has been."

He stopped and turned.

"Do you know he threatened to kill me?" he asked.

Kara smiled.

"I can tell you it was no laughing matter," said the other,
angrily, "I nearly took the little whippersnapper by the scruff of
the neck and kicked him."

Kara dropped his hand on the other's arm.

"I am not laughing at you," he said; "I am laughing at the thought
of Vassalaro threatening to kill anybody. He is the biggest
coward in the world. What on earth induced him to take this
drastic step?"

"He said he is being hard pushed for money," said the other,
moodily, "and it is possibly true. He was beside himself with
anger and anxiety, otherwise I might have given the little
blackguard the thrashing he deserved."

Kara who had continued his stroll came down the room and halted in
front of the fireplace looking at the young author with a paternal
smile.

"You don't understand Vassalaro," he said; "I repeat he is the
greatest coward in the world. You will probably discover he is
full of firearms and threats of slaughter, but you have only to
click a revolver to see him collapse. Have you a revolver, by the
way?"

"Oh, nonsense," said the other, roughly, "I cannot engage myself
in that kind of melodrama."

"It is not nonsense," insisted the other, "when you are in Rome,
et cetera, and when you have to deal with a low-class Greek you
must use methods which will at least impress him. If you thrash
him, he will never forgive you and will probably stick a knife
into you or your wife. If you meet his melodrama with melodrama
and at the psychological moment produce your revolver; you will
secure the effect you require. Have you a revolver?"

John went to his desk and, pulling open a drawer, took out a small
Browning.

"That is the extent of my armory," he said, "it has never been
fired and was sent to me by an unknown admirer last Christmas."

"A curious Christmas present," said the other, examining the
weapon.

"I suppose the mistaken donor imagined from my books that I lived
in a veritable museum of revolvers, sword sticks and noxious
drugs," said Lexman, recovering some of his good humour; "it was
accompanied by a card."

"Do you know how it works?" asked the other.

"I have never troubled very much about it," replied Lexman, "I
know that it is loaded by slipping back the cover, but as my
admirer did not send ammunition, I never even practised with it."

There was a knock at the door.

"That is the post," explained John.

The maid had one letter on the salver and the author took it up
with a frown.

"From Vassalaro," he said, when the girl had left the room.

The Greek took the letter in his hand and examined it.

"He writes a vile fist," was his only comment as he handed it back
to John.

He slit open the thin, buff envelope and took out half a dozen
sheets of yellow paper, only a single sheet of which was written
upon. The letter was brief:

"I must see you to-night without fail," ran the scrawl; "meet me
at the crossroads between Beston Tracey and the Eastbourne
Road. I shall be there at eleven o'clock, and, if you want to
preserve your life, you had better bring me a substantial
instalment."

It was signed "Vassalaro."

John read the letter aloud. "He must be mad to write a letter
like that," he said; "I'll meet the little devil and teach him
such a lesson in politeness as he is never likely to forget."

He handed the letter to the other and Kara read it in silence.

"Better take your revolver," he said as he handed it back.

John Lexman looked at his watch.

"I have an hour yet, but it will take me the best part of twenty
minutes to reach the Eastbourne Road."

"Will you see him?" asked Kara, in a tone of surprise.

"Certainly," Lexman replied emphatically: "I cannot have him
coming up to the house and making a scene and that is certainly
what the little beast will do."

"Will you pay him?" asked Kara softly.

John made no answer. There was probably 10 pounds in the house
and a cheque which was due on the morrow would bring him another
30 pounds. He looked at the letter again. It was written on
paper of an unusual texture. The surface was rough almost like
blotting paper and in some places the ink absorbed by the porous
surface had run. The blank sheets had evidently been inserted by
a man in so violent a hurry that he had not noticed the
extravagance.

"I shall keep this letter," said John.

"I think you are well advised. Vassalaro probably does not know
that he transgresses a law in writing threatening letters and that
should be a very strong weapon in your hand in certain
eventualities."

There was a tiny safe in one corner of the study and this John
opened with a key which he took from his pocket. He pulled open
one of the steel drawers, took out the papers which were in it and
put in their place the letter, pushed the drawer to, and locked
it.

All the time Kara was watching him intently as one who found more
than an ordinary amount of interest in the novelty of the
procedure.

He took his leave soon afterwards.

"I would like to come with you to your interesting meeting," he
said, "but unfortunately I have business elsewhere. Let me enjoin
you to take your revolver and at the first sign of any
bloodthirsty intention on the part of my admirable compatriot,
produce it and click it once or twice, you won't have to do more."

Grace rose from the piano as Kara entered the little drawing-room
and murmured a few conventional expressions of regret that the
visitor's stay had been so short. That there was no sincerity in
that regret Kara, for one, had no doubt. He was a man singularly
free from illusions.

They stayed talking a little while.

"I will see if your chauffeur is asleep," said John, and went out
of the room."

There was a little silence after he had gone.

"I don't think you are very glad to see me," said Kara. His
frankness was a little embarrassing to the girl and she flushed
slightly.

"I am always glad to see you, Mr. Kara, or any other of my
husband's friends," she said steadily.

He inclined his head.

"To be a friend of your husband is something," he said, and then
as if remembering something, "I wanted to take a book away with me
- I wonder if your husband would mind my getting it?"

"I will find it for you."

"Don't let me bother you," he protested, "I know my way."

Without waiting for her permission he left the girl with the
unpleasant feeling that he was taking rather much for granted. He
was gone less than a minute and returned with a book under his
arm.

"I have not asked Lexman's permission to take it," he said, "but I
am rather interested in the author. Oh, here you are," he turned
to John who came in at that moment. "Might I take this book on
Mexico?" he asked. "I will return it in the morning."

They stood at the door, watching the tail light of the motor
disappear down the drive; and returned in silence to the drawing
room.

"You look worried, dear," she said, laying her hand on his
shoulder.

He smiled faintly.

"Is it the money" she asked anxiously.

For a moment he was tempted to tell her of the letter. He stifled
the temptation realizing that she would not consent to his going
out if she knew the truth.

"It is nothing very much," he said. "I have to go down to Beston
Tracey to meet the last train. I am expecting some proofs down."

He hated lying to her, and even an innocuous lie of this character
was repugnant to him.

"I'm afraid you have had a dull evening," he said, "Kara was not
very amusing."

She looked at him thoughtfully.

"He has not changed very much," she said slowly.

"He's a wonderfully handsome chap, isn't he?" he asked in a tone
of admiration. "I can't understand what you ever saw in a fellow
like me, when you had a man who was not only rich, but possibly
the best-looking man in the world."

She shivered a little.

"I have seen a side of Mr. Kara that is not particularly
beautiful," she said. "Oh, John, I am afraid of that man!"

He looked at her in astonishment.

"Afraid?" he asked. "Good heavens, Grace, what a thing to say!
Why I believe he'd do anything for you."

"That is exactly what I am afraid of," she said in a low voice.

She had a reason which she did not reveal. She had first met
Remington Kara in Salonika two years before. She had been doing a
tour through the Balkans with her father - it was the last tour
the famous archeologist made - and had met the man who was fated
to have such an influence upon her life at a dinner given by the
American Consul.

Many were the stories which were told about this Greek with his
Jove-like face, his handsome carriage and his limitless wealth.
It was said that his mother was an American lady who had been
captured by Albanian brigands and was sold to one of the Albanian
chiefs who fell in love with her, and for her sake became a
Protestant. He had been educated at Yale and at Oxford, and was
known to be the possessor of vast wealth, and was virtually king
of a hill district forty miles out of Durazzo. Here he reigned
supreme, occupying a beautiful house which he had built by an
Italian architect, and the fittings and appointments of which had
been imported from the luxurious centres of the world.

In Albania they called him "Kara Rumo," which meant "The Black
Roman," for no particular reason so far as any one could judge,
for his skin was as fair as a Saxon's, and his close-cropped curls
were almost golden.

He had fallen in love with Grace Terrell. At first his attentions
had amused her, and then there came a time when they frightened
her, for the man's fire and passion had been unmistakable. She
had made it plain to him that he could base no hopes upon her
returning his love, and, in a scene which she even now shuddered
to recall, he had revealed something of his wild and reckless
nature. On the following day she did not see him, but two days
later, when returning through the Bazaar from a dance which had
been given by the Governor General, her carriage was stopped, she
was forcibly dragged from its interior, and her cries were stifled
with a cloth impregnated with a scent of a peculiar aromatic
sweetness. Her assailants were about to thrust her into another
carriage, when a party of British bluejackets who had been on
leave came upon the scene, and, without knowing anything of the
nationality of the girl, had rescued her.

In her heart of hearts she did not doubt Kara's complicity in this
medieval attempt to gain a wife, but of this adventure she had
told her husband nothing. Until her marriage she was constantly
receiving valuable presents which she as constantly returned to
the only address she knew - Kara's estate at Lemazo. A few months
after her marriage she had learned through the newspapers that
this "leader of Greek society" had purchased a big house near
Cadogan Square, and then, to her amazement and to her dismay, Kara
had scraped an acquaintance with her husband even before the
honeymoon was over.

His visits had been happily few, but the growing intimacy between
John and this strange undisciplined man had been a source of
constant distress to her.

Should she, at this, the eleventh hour, tell her husband all her
fears and her suspicions?

She debated the point for some time. And never was she nearer
taking him into her complete confidence than she was as he sat in
the big armchair by the side of the piano, a little drawn of face,
more than a little absorbed in his own meditations. Had he been
less worried she might have spoken. As it was, she turned the
conversation to his last work, the big mystery story which, if it
would not make his fortune, would mean a considerable increase to
his income.

At a quarter to eleven he looked at his watch, and rose. She
helped him on with his coat. He stood for some time irresolutely.

"Is there anything you have forgotten?" she asked.

He asked himself whether he should follow Kara's advice. In any
circumstance it was not a pleasant thing to meet a ferocious
little man who had threatened his life, and to meet him unarmed
was tempting Providence. The whole thing was of course
ridiculous, but it was ridiculous that he should have borrowed,
and it was ridiculous that the borrowing should have been
necessary, and yet he had speculated on the best of advice - it
was Kara's advice.

The connection suddenly occurred to him, and yet Kara had not
directly suggested that he should buy Roumanian gold shares, but
had merely spoken glowingly of their prospects. He thought a
moment, and then walked back slowly into the study, pulled open
the drawer of his desk, took out the sinister little Browning, and
slipped it into his pocket.

"I shan't be long, dear," he said, and kissing the girl he strode
out into the darkness.


Kara sat back in the luxurious depths of his car, humming a little
tune, as the driver picked his way cautiously over the uncertain
road. The rain was still falling, and Kara had to rub the windows
free of the mist which had gathered on them to discover where he
was. From time to time he looked out as though he expected to see
somebody, and then with a little smile he remembered that he had
changed his original plan, and that he had fixed the waiting room
of Lewes junction as his rendezvous.

Here it was that he found a little man muffled up to the ears in a
big top coat, standing before the dying fire. He started as Kara
entered and at a signal followed him from the room.

The stranger was obviously not English. His face was sallow and
peaked, his cheeks were hollow, and the beard he wore was
irregular-almost unkempt.

Kara led the way to the end of the dark platform, before he spoke.

"You have carried out my instructions?" he asked brusquely.

The language he spoke was Arabic, and the other answered him in
that language.

"Everything that you have ordered has been done, Effendi," he said
humbly.

"You have a revolver?"

The man nodded and patted his pocket.

"Loaded?"

"Excellency," asked the other, in surprise, "what is the use of a
revolver, if it is not loaded?"

"You understand, you are not to shoot this man," said Kara. "You
are merely to present the pistol. To make sure, you had better
unload it now."

Wonderingly the man obeyed, and clicked back the ejector.

"I will take the cartridges," said Kara, holding out his hand.

He slipped the little cylinders into his pocket, and after
examining the weapon returned it to its owner.

"You will threaten him," he went on. "Present the revolver
straight at his heart. You need do nothing else."

The man shuffled uneasily.

"I will do as you say, Effendi," he 'said. "But - "

"There are no 'buts,' " replied the other harshly. "You are to
carry out my instructions without any question. What will happen
then you shall see. I shall be at hand. That I have a reason for
this play be assured."

"But suppose he shoots?" persisted the other uneasily.

"He will not shoot," said Kara easily. "Besides, his revolver is
not loaded. Now you may go. You have a long walk before you.
You know the way?"

The man nodded.

"I have been over it before," he said confidently.

Kara returned to the big limousine which had drawn up some
distance from the station. He spoke a word or two to the
chauffeur in Greek, and the man touched his hat.

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