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ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDj I THE RIDDLE OF THE RING
?ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] j THE RIDDLE OF THE RING; BY WILLIAM LE QUEUX, Author of Fatal Fingers," Death's Doctor," t:c. CHAPTER XXVII. AT THE GOLDEN LION. And you say, sir, that this man, Charles Underhill, an army officer, wanted for ex- tradition by the French police, is staying at the Golden Lion, at Ashburton, ini ■Devon?" asked the police-inspector, who sat in Ahmed Amirn's room at the Lang- ,ham an hour later. Yes. He is there under the name of Townley—Charles Townley," replied the man of sallow complexion. | We have the notice from the French police posted up in the station-rnd a, re- j ward for information. But not to the police, If he is arrested, the reward will go to you, sir. Reward!" echoed the man who sat in his chair smoking a cigarette. I w-atit no reward." "The French Government offer two thou- -sand francs-that'i: eighty pounds ill. Eng- lish mon?y—for any information which may lead to his arrest," the inspector said. Well, you have that," laughed the other. "I'm not in want of it." No, sir," replied thie officer rising-, eager to be off to put his information through to Scotland Yard; "we cannot accept rewards. It's against our regula- tions." "Well," said the great financier, "if he is arrested, I shall reward you myself. Understand that?" The officer understood, smiled, bowed, and withdrew. While this conversation was in progress, Charles Townley, who was staying at the comfortable old Golden Lion at Ashburton —that quiet, ancient little place remote in the beautiful valley of the Dart—was seated under the shadow of a tree in the old- world garden reading a newspaper. It was a hot, drowsy day, with no sound save the low hum of the bees in the flowers and the cawing of the rooks in the trees beyond. Of the many sleepy little towns in [Ilk, West of Eng" land Ashburton is surely one of the sleepiest. Summer visitors from Lon- don love the place on account of its proximity to wild Dartmoor and- the many beautiful walks and drives, while anglers rrake it their head-quarters for the salmon fishing in the Dart. As an angler, Charles Townley had arrived a month before at the Golden Lion, and had evetr sinei- lived quietly, fishing several days each week. When lie wrote a letter, he took the train to Totnes, or walked to Newton Abbot, to post it. For the past few days the water had not been in good condition, therefore he had ) idled that morning about the pretty oM- world gardeu, reading for hours beneath the great, spreadirfg cedar. While doing so, a maid ran out saying Mr. Townley, your're wanted on the tele- phone, sir." Underhill started. To be wanted on the telephone was, in itself, a suspicious eir- cumstanee. Could it be that somebody had discovered his hidiiig-place His first impulse was to tell the girl to answer that he had left the hotel. Next moment, however, he felt that it would he more judicious to reply and ascertain who wished to speak with him. Therefore he re-entered the house, pass- ing through the old-fashioned dining-room and out into the hall, where the telephone- j box was situated. Shutting himself in, so that nobody could overbear, he took up the receiver, and asked: "Halloa?" "Hulloa." answered a female voice. Is that you, Charlie? Yes," he exclaimed, m an instant re- cognising that it was Marjorie who was pea king., "Where are yoin" j Marjorie. I'm at a call-office in Bond Street. Leave Ashburton at once, Don't de-lay a second, or it may be too late." His face changed on hearing these words, ifout hé managed to reply: "Thanks, darling." -"J,et me hear from you. Good-bye," came t'he words over the two hundred iuid fifty JUilcs of wire. He spoke agaiK. He called her franti- caliv: "Marjorie!. Marjorie!" But to no i avail. The communication had already been broken. He left the telephone-box a changed man, for he knew that once again the police were on the scent. If he pecked his bag and k'ft by train he would certainly be traced. 1 j' only course was to abandon everything Even to pay his bill might arouse suspicioIl. Therefore, going to his room, he put all the money he possessEd into ms pocKC?.. some eighty pounds sent hm only a few day? before by Marjorie to tli, post-office at Totnes. Then he put her photograph, with several of his cherished belongings, into his breast-pocket, and, taking his stout stick, set forth down the hill to wander -he knew not where. So much walking had he done of late that all the roads, by-roads, and footpaths were j known to him. To leave by rail would be; fatal. As he went down through the town he made up his mind to walk into Ihtddasr- ioigh, two miles distant, where ho, knew he could hire a motor-car. This he did, and very soon he was speed- TL,is he did, and ver Tiialiv-a-y which rti-ns ing along- the broad highway which runs through Brent and Ivybridge into Ply- mouth, where he had a friend, a captain of Marines, quartered at the Marine Barracks. I he had dismissed the car, and was alreadv in the Royal Hotel, writing a note to his friend, when the two local constables in plain clothes called at the Golden Lion at Ashburton to inquire for Air. Townley. Their mysterious visit somewhat startled the manager, who informed them that his guest was out for a. walk. He had not been I no doubt, in to lunch, btit ivoiil,, no doubt, return at | any moment. Therefore, explaining Hun t his visit was one of confidence, in conee- 1 quence of orders from headquarters, they went into the private parlour, and there waited—waited all the afternoon. Meanwhile Underhill's note had found his friend at 1 he barracks, and he up at once to the Royal. Then Charlie, taking him aside where no one could overhear, briefly told him of his desperate situation. Assistance was at once forthcoming, and within an hour the fugitive who had so neatly eluded the police found: himself in- stalled in some very comfortable, if dismal, rooms kept by an ex-sergeant-major of Marines in one of the meaner streets of Devonport. To Underbill, the whole thing was a mys- tery—how the police could have discovered him, and how Marjorie had learnt their in- tent ion. He never dreamed that the middle-aged, enthusiastic angler. Mr. Clements, who was his fellow-guest at the Golden Lion, had followed him for many days unseen in Paris, had- been near him in Amsterdam, Con bagen, and other cities to which he had Hod in such quick succession. He little knew how constantly this man sent away reports of his daily actions. Clements had that day j gone, with two other men. for a day's fish- ing on the Moor, beyond Dartmeet. Had he been at home it is not likely that the fugi- ■live would have left Asjiburton without the knowledge of that clever, astute agent of Ahmed A mini. As Marjorie sat at luncheon at Queen Anne Street she was strangely silent, Mrs. Cnrtcr-Bonham thought. There were three guests, but she took no part in entertaining ihem. Two were men, but they did not in- terest her. Her thoughts were far awav in Devonshire -she was wondering how Charlie l fared, wondering whether he had eluded the police. When she thought of that dark-eyed, sal- low-faced native—the man who owed every- thing. his education, his wealth, his posi- tion, to her father—her nails clenched them- selves into her palms. On her return, Snell had helped her to tidy her hair, and had noticed how agitated she seemed. "There's something wrong, miss," she had said. "What is it? "Wrong! her mistress echoed, throwing one of her combs upon the table. Every- thing is wrong! The whole world is wrong for me, Snell-" » Thereafter the discreet maid had main- ¡ tained silence. Where was Charlie? That was Marjorie's one and only thought as she sat in the cosy I dining-room at the table decorated with a profusion of tea-roses sent up from Michel- combe, the beautiful country home of the Carter-Bonhams. How .had her lover fared? I Had his enemy carried out his threat and given him away to the police? If he had, then she would have her bitter and swift revenge. She spoke mechanically when addressed. She knew that to her chaperon she was a mystery. What would she say; what would these smart, chattering guests say, if they (knew the ghastly truth? Surely no girl in the whole of London was in such a strange position as herself. Underhill had never called at Queen Anne Street, and this fact had somewhat puzzled the Carter-Bonhams. It was curious that the young man, who had admitted his love, had Jield aloof from her. Even in that cir- cumstance, both husband and wife scented mystery. Marjorie, ever since her arrival in Lon- don, had been filled with suspicion that the police, knowing her friendship with the fugitive, and believing that they might hold communication, had kept her under close ob- servation. In this, she was not wrong. But such precautions had she taken in receiving letters from him and in writing to him or sending him funds-knowing that he dare not present a cheque to anyone—that the police had discovered no (clue whatever:- As a matter of fact, she was posing as a Colonial tourist at the offices of Thomas Cook and Sons, the tourist agents at Lud- ■ gate Circus, and Underhill addressed his letters to her in their care. To that ad- dress that night he posted a letter, telling her of his whereabouts. When the police-inspector called again upon Ahmed Amim about five o'clock that evening, and informed him that the fugitive had fled from his hiding-place, the dark- complexioned man rose in a fury. He knew that Marjorie had been too quick for him, and had given Underhill warning. Yet he surely had lost no time in carrying out his threat of betrayal. Then, when the inspector had gone, lie sat down and wrote a strong telegram to his agent, Clements, reproaching him for relax- ing his vigilance, and ordering him to dis- cover where the young man had gOlle. Afterwards his French valet packed his trunks, and that night lie left for Paris, where he had some pressing financial busi- ness. That evening Marjorie was compelled to sit out a dull play, and afterwards to have supper with some people at the Savoy. On her return to her room she tried to sleep, but it was impossible, so she sat by her win- dow watching the early summer's dawn spread over the silent London street. Then she rose, and with a small key opened a secret drawer in her jewel case and took out a plain gold ring—a wedding-ring. She placed it upon her finger, regarded it gloomily, (sighed, and .replaced it in it* hiding place. At eleven o'clock she motored down to Cook's ofifces, and there, sure enough, was a note from her lover, telling her of his new place of concealment, and thanking her for her warning. Thus reassured, she returned to Qaecu Anne Street, smiling and brilliant. lie was safe again—safe from the vengeance and jealousy of that man who held her in buch hateful thraldom. Underhill's father, the c-olonel of his regi- ment, and others were greatly perturbed by the hue-and-cry which the police had raised, j and his flight was considered on every hand a grave scandal. The papers had referred j 0 it on many occasions, but now that months had elapsed the sensationfc had died I down, and no further comment upon the affair was now made. In his regiment, how- j ever, it was generally feared that Clu-rKti Underhill, so popular all round, won id be gazetted, "the King having no further occa- sion for hid rvices." Thus the London season waned ended. so far as Marjorie was concerned. The hot days went by, one much the same as its pre- decessor, many people leaving for the Con- iinent, the country, or the sea, while the political set—always the last to leave—were longing from day to day for the adjourn- ment of Parliament, and freedom. the houses in the West End were fast closing, and everywhere one .-aw d" \V n blinds and lounging domestics, though. 1he dusty geraniums upon the window-sills and balconies bloomed, more profusely, and the trees in the sun-parched squares put Oil their summer aspect. The departure of everyone, and the in- creasi ng emptiness of restaurants and theatres, accentuated Marjorie's sense of loneliness. As each day went hy she knew that her doori- the doom of oblivion—was fat approaching. Soon, very soon, she must bid adieu to all her hopes, all her aspira- tions, all her affection for the man she loved so dearly. Her master hod spoken—and she inu.su obey She had lost interest in everything, now that Ahmed Amim had shown himself in his true light. Once she had hoped that he would relent, and give her her freedom, But she now realised how vain that hope had jI been. True, she had enjoyed her freedom for the past couple of years—but at what a cost! Mrs. Carter-iiouham, ignorant of the true reason of her guest's gloom and lack of en- thusiasm in anything, attributed it to her being run down; therefore a week before Parliament adjourned, they both, with their maids and some of the servants, travelled down to Michelcombe, their splendid seat in South Devon. CHAPTER XXVIII. THE CUP OF BITTERNESS. About three miles from the Golden Lion at Ashburton. perched high upon a hill, sur- rounded by beautiful woods and command- ing a wide view of the wild, heather-clad slopes of Dartmoor, stood Michelcombe Manor, one of the finest places in the whole county of Devon. Marjorie was delighted with it. The origi- nal house, a big, old-fashioned one with many of the rooms oak panelled, was Jacobean, but various owners had added modern wings with up-to-date decorations in some of the rooms, electric light and such- like improvements, until it was now a very comfortable and even stately residence. The extensive grounds, with beautiful, well-kept lawns, rosary, bowling-green, peach-houses, vinery, and park and woods beyond, were extremely picturesque, with their back- ground of rugged moorland over which swept the fresh, bracing winds from the wide Atlantic. The fact was curious, Marjorie thought on that evening when she stood upon the lawn in the red sunset and gazed away across the Moor, that Charlie should have once taken refuge so near. Perhaps it was in order to be within speaking distance of her when she came into the country. And as she looked blankly away across the heather she recollected that, over there, .J only twenty-five miles distant-within an easy motor-ride—her lover was living in close retirement. Dare they meet? The sudden sugestion aroused within her a new object in life. She knew, alas! that her hopes could never be realised—that the end of her fond dream must soon come. Hers had, indeed, been a strange career—stranger and more bitter, perhaps, than that of any other girl in the whole country. She leaned upon the iron railing dividing the lawn from the meadow, and gazed upon the purple hills. The air, laden with the perfume of roses, was fresh and delightful after the close heat of Queen Anne Street. Here was summer in rural England. How different from those pa relied, (dazing, dusty summer days of Egypt. And. alas! soon, very soon—how soon she knew not—she must go back again to suffer, to endure, to wear away her heart until death brought her peace. She sighed, and turning away, retraced her steps across the lawn to the long verandah where, in a cane lounge chair, Mrs. Carter-Bonham was sitting. The month of August slowly drifted by. Mr. Carter-Boiiham joined them as soon as the House was up, and then a few days later came eight or nine young people, who formed a gay house-party, Mrs. Carter-Bon- ham believing that Life and merriment would bring back the colour to Marjorie's cheeks. "She seems to be grieving over some- Hi ing," she said to her husband one day when they were discussing her. "She says nothing about her future hus- band. She has told us nothing," he an- vswered. "That fact, in itself, is very strange. She cannot regard the coming event with very nmch satisfaction. Most girls are full of the man they are to marry." "But she has bought her trousseau, and it contains some of the most beamiful tliiugs I've ever seen. No expense has bceu spared. H I'V much the whole has cost. I fear to think." "She has never given you any tldinite dale, has she?" "Only once—about a month ago, he re- marked that she expected to be married in October. "That's nearly four months earlier than she told -us at first-—eh?" Yes." the whole affair is most singular," replied the Member of Parliament. "She's such a very charming and delightful girl that 1. for one, am extremely sorry to see such grief and unhappiness in her face." "Strange that Snell will say no word. She's absolutely dumb. Aud yet the girl could, no doubt, tell us a very strange story. "No doubt, dear. I'm all nnxiety to know who it is she is to marry. Why is it kept such a profound secret?" "Ah, why?" The August days, lazy, sunny, indolent day, when everybody who could manage it was on the seashore or in the country, passed pleasantly on the edge of Dartmoor, j The Manor house-partv, with tennis, cro- quet, and picnics, enjoyed themselves as summer house-parties do," and Marjorie tried all she could to rid herself of the obsession which so constantly dogged her. Among the party were two young men who had be- come fascinated by her great Ix-auty, and who vied with each other to show her politeness. But her sheer indifference sur- prised them. She seemed so entirely igno- rant of their existence that inwardly they regarded her as an absolute enigma. v/uc niglit, towards the end of the month, alter bridge in the big drawing-room into which the white moonlight sheamed I through the open window, Marjorie, plead- ing a headache, ascended the big oak stair-r case to her room. Sneli was awaiting her, but she sent her to bed. For several moments she stocd i- i, ]on(, iipr- g la-■; surve y ing lier- and noting how pale she was. Her ,i' whs hei ?h
A HAPPY HOME
A HAPPY HOME. Two birds within one nest; Two hearts within one breast. Two souls within one fair Firm league of love and prayeT, Together bound for aye, together blest. An ear that waits to catch A hand upon the latch; A step that hastens its sweet rest to wia; A world of care without, A world of strife shut out. A world of love shut in.