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■— ( (AXL RIGHTS RRSERVED. ] 1fÄ.u. ItwllTS n.¡:mRVED.] THE FLAMBARDS MYSTERY BY SIR WILLIAM MAGNAY, BT., Author of "The Heiress of the St'ason. The RtcI Cliancellor, The Master Spirit," flic. CHAPTER XVII (Continued). THE BOOKCASE. My host's surmise* was very plausible and [ doubtless quite correct, and I could only [ tn?r?el n.t the coolness with which he pro- ? pounded it. Aa I was looking round, Jurby came in, and I appealed to him as to ■whether he had not seen the man in the •nxjin. I. Yea," he answered reflectively, "I did .see a man in evening dress come in. If I "thought at all about it I supposed he was one of tho waiters taking a look at the pre- sents. But I remember I was at the moment very much interested in a piece of silver which this gentleman and I were examining 'together." While the thief seized the opportunity to slip behind the curtains with 1 l:rtunity we see," I replied in some disgust. A pretty private detective this, I thought, to be commissioned to look after Valuable jewels. "J suppose you would recognise the man again?" I asked Jurby. "No; I'm afraid I shouldn't," was the unsatisfactory answer. Except that he was a short man, I can't recall what he was like." It was on my tonguo to isay that the man -was uncommonly like his friend, Erring-top, for I was in a temper to be not too polite to the man whose ill-timed engaging of the custodian's attention had made the robbery possible. I felt very sorry for my host in this serious loss, and could not help reflect- ing that but for the Jurbys' scheniing for an invitation it might not have happened." Though to be sure, I said to myself, these people take their loss so indifferently that ones sympathy seems wasted. But perhaps in this high stratum of society it is not good form to show vexation or make a fuss. And now the strang-est thing of all hap- pened, bringing with it the explanation of this incomprehensible absence of excitement. Mr. Ashburv, with Jurby and one or two others w boo been in the -rov-m had gone out, leaving no one there but Johnson, the incompetent guardian, and myself. I was following, in some ill-humour, since I could jQot hell) feeling I had been to blame in not calling attention to what I had considered suspicious. On my way to the door I just stopped to look at a little water-colour which caught my eye; it was exceedingly Well done, and I took it up to see the painter's signature. Standing by the wall under a light to examine it I suddenly heard a tapping which seemed to come from the glass door of the great locked bookcase I have mentioned. ""What's that?" I eried. Johnson met my look with such a iuriously guilty and embarrassed expression that for the moment it came to my mind that he was an accomplice of the thieves. And this idea, viewed in the light of his late incredible carelessness, seemed by no means far-fetched. The sharp tapping was repeated. Johnson, to my surprise, took a quick step towards the bookcase whence it proceeded and made a warning sign. Then a muffled voice said, It's all right, Johns. Don't mind Mr. Crofton. Let me out." Johnson thereupon ran to the door of too room and locked it. Then he went to the mantelpieoe, took from under an ornament a key with which he quickly opened the glass door of the bookcase, and began ener- getically to take out the books. Although tho truth of the situation had commenced to V-awn upon me, it gave me nevertheless a thrill of excitement when Johnson's re- moval of half a dozen volumes from an upper shelf disclosed to me the face of- Rolt. He gave me an amused nod and greeting, whereupon I set about helping to remove the books. They were set upon shallow shelves. evidently made f6r the purpose of concealing Rolt, for whom. the bookcase being a {?eep one, there was plenty of room behind them. Having removed the books, we took out the shelves and helped Rolt down. He stretched himself with a great whew of relief. Had about enough of that durance," he said with his rather boyish laugh. I am glad, though, to have endured it to some purpose. This, Mr. Crofton, is Detective Johns, who is not- such a fool aa no doubt you have been thinking him." We all laughed, and I pleaded j ustifica- tion. Yes," Rolt said, with a touch of satis- faction, your mistake was more than ex- cusably. That was a neat little scheme, though a trifle uncomfortable for me; but it has paid me." You have identified the thieves?" I sug- gested. I have," was the confident answer. I wonder if any of them are people of position in the neighbourhood?" I could not resist the question, being ready now for any amazing development. Oh, we won't go so far as to suggest that to-day," Rolt replied evasively. Now, shall we put the books straight again? I Whoever they were they haven t got the stuff they wanted," Johns observed senten- tiously, as he proceeded to take from his pockets a quantity of jewellery, including the magnificent diamond rosette. CHAPTER XVIII. A SUSPICIOUS RESTITUTION. If I were you, David, I should feel in- clined to abandon the Jurby portrait." I t was the morning after the wedding dance, and I had been reflecting seriously on all that had occurred to give me food for suspicion. Gelston stared at me rather blankly. "Give up the commission, man? Why? Well," I answered, I have my doubts, very grave doubts, as to the respectability of our friends at Morningford Place." Well, I never supposed they were very 'classy, he replied. "All the' same, that is no reason why the lady should not have her portrait painted if they can afford to pay for it." Certainly not:" I agreed." But there is a vast difference between not being classy and being criminal. Gelston jumped up. What on earth do you mean ? "Don't get excited, my dear David. I mean simply this. I have been thinking over the last fortnight's happenings, so far as we have been permitted to know them, and have come to the conclusion that if Rolt -cared to tell us everything that is in his mind we might possibly become aware that Morningford Place is the headquarters of a precious act of scoundrels, Aqd 1" We might not have to look farther for the murderer of Mr. Rixon." Gelston whistled. "This is plain speak- ing with a vengeance," he replied. "But are you not letting your imagination run away with you? I dare say Jurby and his friends may be crooked enough in their busi- ness dealings; men of that type and position must be unscrupulous in order to make money so quickly. But how or why he should be connected with the Flambards affair, I don't see." "Nor do I," was my rejoinder. "All the eame I fancy Mr. Rolt understands it." Gelston laughed uncomfortably. I can't quite see a murderer in that blatant old money-grubber," he said. And I should have agreed with you two I days ago," I replied. Cut I am prettv certain he had something to do with the I rather abortive robbery last evening." I know von think so. He took off I Inspector Johns' attention while a fellow 1 I slipped behind the curtains and unfastened i I the windows. But from what you have told me of the robbery, of the substitution of worthless jewellery for the real things, and of Rolfs place of observation, surely it wss I intended by them to encourage the thieves, Johns had to pretend to look another wav i while absorbed in a discussion with someone j handy who happened to be Jurby." I saw my friend did not want to be con- vinoed. "I -wen't "Very well," I returned, "I won't argne with 110thing but suspicions to go upon. But it is more than lik-ely you will End them justified before many days are j past. And in the meantime ?lo o?i with your work, if you care for the risk; but don't forget I have warned you."  I don't see much risk Yen if the man is j I all you suggest," Gels.on said, rising an d j getting his things together. "He won't consider a poor painter worth knocking on the head ae-d robbing. And to the poor I painter a nearly finished sixty guinea com- I mission is not to be so easily thrown up. In fact, after what you have hinted at I shall find some excitement in what has hitherto been rather dull work." There was nothing more to be said, and I let him go without attempting further argu- ment. All the same I was now convinced that something was gravely wrong about the oc- J cupants of Morningford Place. The idea I that the man I had seen go into the library and disappear--probably the leading spirit of the actual thieves—was the same person I I had met as Errington had now become settled in my mind. It fitted in with Jurby's conduct and was plausible enough. And then there had, it was to be remem- bered, lately been another robbery, that at Gl«nthorp<H} Hall, some eight miles away. Rolt was rather a puzzle to me. The ttixod attitude of reticence and frankness which he showed towards ine was more than I could understand. Nor could I account for his method of procedure, so far as it was allowed to appear. Why did he hold his hand? Why had the thieves of the previous evening been allowed to escape, when it would surely have been the easiest thing in the world to capture them? It was all rather fascinatingly incomprehensible, and during the day's work my mind kept reverting to the mystery. On my return at dusk I found Wallace Rixon waiting to see me. I took him up to my room. Can you give me any idea as to what lb. Rolt is doing? he asked as we lighted cigarettes. I replied that I had seen him the day be- fore. Here? he demanded. No; out at Great Rossington." My visitor looked interested and slightly surprised. Great Rossington? That's miles away, isn't it? What was he doing there?" There was a swell wedding there," I answered. Lord Halidown married Miss Aahbury, of Rossiugton Court." Oh, yes," Rixon said. I saw that in tho paper to-day. What was Rolt doing there? Presumably looking after the very valuable presents," I said guardedly. Rixon looked surprised. What! a swell lrke Rolt guarding wedding presents," he ex- ,aimeA. That looks queer, doesn't it? There must have been something behind it, eh? ( I ooirid not help rather admiring the shrewd remark from one who did not give me the idtea of possessing such acuteness. This is no fool., after all, was my thought, but I simply answered with a shrug, Possibly." He stared at me curiously, as though sus- pecting I knew more than I would tell, but he did not press for an explanation. "I'll tell you why I want particularly to see Mr. Rolt, and without delay," he said. "I have a great piece of news for him." "Indeed? I y(w. What do you think? The bank- notes paid by Mr. Finching to my poor uncle just before he met his death were not Stolen after all." "What? I exclaimed in genuine sur- prise. "Or if they wvre," Rixon continued, "they have 1l returned. I found them a couple of hours ago, pushed in behind the «afe." "Intact?" "Yes. Eighteen hundred pounds. That was the sum, I think, my uncle received." "That will be news for Rolt," I ex- claimed. "The police have been keeping a sharp look-out, I understand, for the utter- ing of ilic ifrst note." Yes," Rixon replied. "That's why I am anxious to catch Rolt. I should like to have his notion as to how they came there. You don't happen to know whether the police searched behind the safe?" "I can't say, but it is quite probable." "In that case," Rixon said, "the thief must have brought them back, though why it is hard to imagine. The idea seems pre- posterous. My notion is that the old man, on being alarmed, thrust them behind the safe as being less likely to be found there than inside." "Y cs, that sounds a more feasible theory," I commented. On the other hand. a rather mysterious happening came to my notice at Flambards the other evening." _û.y companion looked rather startled. "Mysterious? What was that? In he asked. I thereupon proceeded to give him an account of tho strange light I had seen, and the surreptitious movements of the per- son I had not seen. He heard my' story with keen attention, and when it was ended he said: "It is certainly all very incomprehensible, Mr. Crofton, especially when coupled with the finding of the banknotes. Yet I cannot Understand, if that is the explanation of the light you saw, what motive the thief could have in returning the spoil when he had once got safely away. Can you suggest a reason ?" No, indeed. The whole affair is to me an inexplicable puzzle." Rixon edged his chair nearer to me, and leaned forward. "Do you know, Mr. Crof- ton," he said, in a mysterious undertone, "you may think it absurd and preposterous and all that, but I can't J help thinking sometimes there is something fishy about those people at Morningford Place." T nodded appreciatively. "The same idea has crossed my mind," I replied. His look changed to one of gratified sur- prise. "You don't really mean that? Well, I am glad to find someone to share what I have been telling myself was an absurdly far-fetchcd idax And yet, even now, I can't brin" myself to believe that anyone there could have been the criminal—could have done my poor uncle to death." "No; I can't follow the idea that far," I said. "It does sceni preposterous." "Do you know whether Rolt has any sus- picion in that direction ? he asked rather eagerly. "Not that I know of," I answered. "To tell you the truth, Mr. Rolt is rather be- yond me." Rixon laughed. "You are right. He seems an extraordinary man, and quite un- fathomable. I should not bother about his theories, only, you will understand, this case touches me closely on two sides, as it were, and, naturally, I am keenly interested in hearing what is being done. It may seem absurd to you, Mr. Crofton, but really I shan't sleep comfortably tiBl I know the criminal haa been caught." "W ell," I said, "the best thing you can do now towards that end is to seek Rolt I and tell him about, the notes having been found. Failing him, you can make your statement to the superintendent." "All right." he said, rising to go. "Of "All r i course I must inform the police at once. Only I'd rather have got hold of Rolt. He II is the man in whose skill one has confi- dence." I I HATIPP (To be Continued.) i


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