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crALL RKERVED.1 THE FLAMBARDSMYSTERK BY c 5PJ WILLIAM MAGNAY, BT., "The Red Author of "The l-Ieire3s -of the Season,^ "The Red Chancellor," "The Master Spirit." &c. CHAPTER XVIII. (Continued.) A SUSPICIOUS RESTITUTION. I had not been for more than ten minutes -turning over in my mind this new develop- ment, wivn word was brought that Mr. Rolt would like to see me, and next minute "he came in. His manner had reverted to the nervously apologetic, which was his -anomalous characteristic. "Have you tee-i young' Rixon?" were my ifirst woni". "No," he answered with a quick glance sol curiosity" "He has just come in search of you." "Oh, what does he want?" Holt inquired casually. "To tell me that the missing :bank-notes have been found?" I stared at him in astonishment. "Then you have seen him?" "No," he assured mo. You have heard the news at the itation?" Ho laughed. "Neither the one nor the .-other, my dear Mr. Crofton. I have just come by train from Stanbridge. But I rather anticipated what you now tell me has come to pass." The blank wonder in my face seemed to ■amuse him. "I have been waiting for the reappearance of these notes," he laughed. "Where did they turn up? In a drawer of -the writing-table or behind the safe?" Th:,t's it. Behind the safe," I almost gasped. "Quite the best place," was Rolt's cool Comment. "The old man might quite con- ceivably have thrust them t-hore. Only in that case our search would have brought them to light." "Then you don't think he did?" I asked, 4rather inanely. "No, I don't," he answered bluntly. "And voti have a shrewd idea who really -did put them there?" Though I felt the question was futile and, moreover, absurd, I could not, in my excitement, help asking it. "Naturally," he responded. "I tell you I fully expected they would be returned—and found. Where is your friend, Mr. Gels- ton?" I took the hint from his question that he did not want to answer any more of mine. "He is up at Morningford Place finishing Mrn. Jurby's portrait." "Rather dark, even for portrait painting, -isn't it?" he suggested. "Or is your friend -going for a Rembrandtesque ettcet?" Something in his manner gave me a vague touch of uneasiness. "No; he is usually back long before this time. I have been taking on myself to tell him he ought not to go up there any more." "Why not?" Rolt demanded shortly. "Well," I answered, a little awkwardly. "WI don't know what your opinion of the people up there may be; but I have ven- tured to have my doubts about them." Rolt nodded. "I won't say you are wrong," he replied. "But we shall know more in a few days." "And in the meantime Gelston can't afford to throw up a good commission," I said. "After all, he knows nothing against the Jurbys beyond the hint he has had from me. "o. I understand that," Rolt replied, with a touch of gravity. "Perhaps it is a pity. "How do you mean?" I asked, my curio- ■ litv prompted by his tone. "Onlv that it would put him on his guarù; Rolt answered in a more casual 'tone. "I'll tell him when he cones in," I said. wBut I have not much to go upon," 1 added ..pointedly. But Rolt did not take any hint. "Per haps he will have something to go upon b, that time," he returned with an enigmati, cal smile, nodding and turning abruptly from tite room. CHAPTER XIX. JUREY TRANSFORMED. With Rolt's departure I was left in a per. turbed state of mind. Coupled with Gel- Eton's unusual delay in returning, the de- tective's vague hints were indeed enough t< alarm me. I began to review all the sus- picious incidents which had come to my notice in connection with Jurby and hu friends, and to appraise their significance at the utmost vahie. Then a new turn ol thought would succeed, and I asked my- self what possible reason there could be tc fear anything was wrong. Granted that the people at Morningford Place were a bad lot, how could that touch David Gelston? They had treated him fairly enough, indeed, unusually so, in giving him a cheque for the portrait at the first sitting. So) taking .a common-sense view of the situation, I .asked myself what possible object they. could have in bringing him to harm. They had probably asked: him to stay to dinner,-I told myself. "Whatever they may be in other respects, there is no gainsaying their hospitality. Yes, that is pretty cer- tain to be the explanation, and I am a fool to worry myself over so very simple a matter. David would probably not want to stay, but Jurby has a very pressing manner, And will have made it almost impossible for his invitation to be refused without rude- ness. And, after all, from David's point of -view, there is no particular reason why it should not be acceptc-d. He will have a far better dinner than they give one here." Accordingly I determined to worry no more about my friend's absence, and went down to the coffee-room for my own dinne By and by, however, my fears and suspicions returned. In view of recent events it was impossible to keep my mind from dwelling on possibiiiti. I recalled Jurby's curious questioning as to the reason of Gelston's departure and! sudden return. If Jurby had anything to do with Rixcn's death, what more likely than that he should suspect Gelston of having seen something incriminating, and so stand in fear of him? If, as was more than probable, Rixon's slayer had been actually on the premises when Gelston carried the maimed dog to the house, he might have seen and subsequently recognised him. Might not the man whom G elston had indistinctly seen through the window imagine that he had been recog- nised, and that his life hung on Gelston's word ? These were disquieting speculations, and so uneasy did they make me that I deter- min-cd to walk up to Morningford' Place and see what had become of my friend. Accord- ingly I lighted a fresh pipe and set out. It was a moonless night, and as I walked Along the dark road my apprehensions had full play. I felt a certain sense of respon- sibility for Gelston's welfare. I had brought him down to this place, I reflected regret- fully, and- had landed him unwittingly in the midst of the evils of a tragic mystery, .and introduced him into what was beginning to look like a coterie of evildoers. So Ï vowed that, even if all was right, I would not let Gelston go there again until I heard -what Rolt had to say on the subject. As I walked up the drive I noticed that <the usual signs of comfortable habitation were no longer visible in the house. It may have been fancy prompted by apprehension, but I thought the place looked changed, dark, and—save for the suggestion of a light at one of the lower windows—deserted. The hall seemed in darkness; usually a wel- come light had illuminated the stained win- dows on either side of the entrance door. But now all was gloomy, suspiciously so, according to my thoughts, as I rang the bell. For some time no answer came. I stood waiting in a state of indefinable fear, which increased at every succeeding- moment of the delay. I rang again; this time more sharply; and in a few moments had the satisfaet-ion of hearing a door open and the sound of footsteps. It was all very strange and alarming, for still no one came to answer my ring. I took a step aside, and tried to look through the coloured windows which flanked the porch. I could see a light, as of a e- lie, and a man's figure pt.-S before it UJ),1 :-pear. Then the light was brought, nou- :d set down; next moment a bolt was drawn, and the door opened by a middle-aged woman/servant. "Ia Mr. Gelston still here?" I asked. "No, sir," the woman answered in a de- cided tone. "Mr. Gelston has been gone some time." The reply, although scarcely unexpected, rather nonplussed me. "Can you tell me when Mr. Gelston left? was my next ques- tion. "Oh, I should say it was two or three hours ago, er more," she said, showing a disposition to shut the door in my face. "He had not returned to Morningford when I left the town just now," I said. "If he went away from here two or three hours ago I can't understand what has become of him." "I am sure I can't tell you, sir," tha woman declared bluntly. "All I know is Mr. is not here." As she was speaking the bell rang sharply. "I must go," the woman mut- tered, and before I could say another word she shut the door upon me. The position was now anxious and per- plexing enough. For a while I stood there undecided as to my next move; then I took a turn down the drive to determine what was best to be done, for I was now tho- roughly alarmed for my friend's safety. If, as the woman said, he had left the house two or three hours before, why had he not returned to "The Geor-L-"? It had been his practice to come straight back, and then we would go off together for a walk. Two or three honrsT Why, if he had gone for a stroll by himself that winter's evening, surely he would have returned before I left. Of course he might have come back and just missed me, wherefore the sensible thing seemed to be to hurry back to "The George," and if there were no news of him to return and seek an explanation from Jurby him- self. With which decision' I set off at a sharp walk for the town. I waa not surprised on arriving at the hotel to find that Gelston had not returned. Without a momont's delay I set out again for Morningford, with a mind obsessed by fear and anger. That a fine fellow like David Gelston should have fallen a victim to Heaven knew what foul practices of that gang of scoun- drels filled me with rage. Perhaps, had I been less excited, I should not have started off as I did without first taking word of my suspicions to the police. But being in no mood for calm thought, I rushed off, intent only on confronting Jurby, about whose character I had no longer any doubt, and demanding an explanation. All Rolt's hints and half-veiled warnings came back to me, and I bitterly regretted not having pressed him for an explanation and secured his immediate help in looking after my friend. But now it was too late, and I had to fall back on my own courage and determination to extricate him from this mesh of villany, for such I at last felt fully persuaded it was. I soon reached my destination, swung open the gate, and hurried up the drive. The aspect of the houpe was exactly as when I had left it some half-hour before. I gave a good pull at the bell, being determined not to be put off this time. As before, there was delay in answering it, and I soon rang again. Sha.rply now on the alert. I became aware that I was being reconnoitred from the side of the deep bay window which commanded the porch. For a moment a ehutter was slightly opened, and I could tell that a face appeared looking out. Then, when the peep-hole had closed again, there came an indication of movement in the hall, a candle was brought forward as before, and the same woman opened the door with a sharp, Y es, sir?" "I want to see Mr. Jurby at once," taid. "You can't eee Mr. Jurby, sir. He is not at home," was the uncompromising reply. "Then," I returned sharply, "I must see Mrs. Jurby, or someone in the house." "You can't, sir. There's no one to bo seen to-night." And with that the woman made to close the door. I had, however, anticipated the move, and put my foot against the jamb to prevent tho door from shutting. "I am not at all satisfied with what you told me about Mr. Gelston," I eaid reso- lutely. "He has not returned home, and I must come in and make further inquiries." The woman sturdily held the door fast against my blocking foot. "You can't come in," she said with counter determina- tiou. "I don't know you, and it's my orders not to let anyone in to-night." U I am Mr. Crofton," was my rejoinder. "Mr. Jurby knows me well. I must insist on 6eoing him at once." "But 1 tell you you can't, sir. He is not here," and she tried to force the door to. With the opinion I now held of Jurby and his set I had no scruple in opposing the woman's orders. "I am going to stand no nonsense," I de- clared. i mean to come in and find Mr. Jurby." With that I put my shoulder to the door and began to push it open. The woman tried desperately to hold it against me, and as she was or considerable strength her effort was for a few moments successful. But weight and muscle were on my side, and, as it was quickly evident that she must give way, she sent up a cry for help. In an instant a man appeared and came quickly towards us, but only to reach the door as with a final push I got through and into the hall. By the dull light of the candle I half re- cognised Jurby. I say half recognised, be- cause so far as the light showed him to mo there seemed a strange alteration in his ap- pearance. He certainly locked like Jurby, and yet in face and form a Jurby of twenty years younger. His rather stout figure was now comparatively thin, his greyish hair quito black, his movements alert and active. And yet there was about him something that un- mistakably indicated Jurby. I stared at him in some perplexity, wondering whether it could be the man I knew or a younger brother. Only when ho at last, spoke was I satisfied that the man I sought stood before me. He had come towards me certainly with hostile intentions, for his demeanour was decidedly threatening. But now, as, having forced my entrance, I addressed him by name, he peered forward into my face, affecting not to recognise me in the dim light, and then with a complete change of manner exclaimed cordially "Why, it is you, Mr. Crofton. This is unfortunate. I am so sorzy if I have been deni-ed to you. Do como in." He motioned me towards the dining-room. As I followed him I noticed in a recess under the staircase a quantity of ready packed and strapped luggage. Its presence was not difficult to account for, and the suggestion of these people's immediate de- parture made me more than ever determined to stand no trickery from them. "I came to find out what has become of Gelston," I said, pausing on my way across the hall. Tho curiously rejuvenated face of Jurby expressed genuine surprise. "Gelston? Haven't you seen him? lie left here a little later than usual, between five and six, it must have been. The portrait is finished, and we had a discussion about a suitabla frame. But do come out of the cold halL" I wondered whether the man was lying. I His explanation was given plausibly enough, j and yet everything around suggested sus- picion. He held the door open, and, determined to find out tho truth, I passed into tho foom. (To be Continued). j





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