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tu) [ALL RIGHTS RB8E&VM. ] yy/ ? THE MAN HUNT ? ([)) By TOM GALLON, ? ? Author of "Tatterley," "The Great Gay Road," &c. CHAPTER VI (Conthr..pd,. ABUXCHUFKEYS. Hut hia troubles were not over yet, by any means. It became evident presently that the -car had broken down so badly that the jour- ney must b? taken in a prosaic way by train. Indeed., just before the train was signalled, Slade and Litchfield hurried into the little booking'-haU and took their tickets; luckily they did uct notice the shabby man who stood, with a heart beatir.g uncomfortably, in the corner of the place, reading an adver- ttsement. Luckily also they travelled ilrat- d:ls&, after giving- directions to a porter to send up to the house and have the Clr looked after; Manners, at the last moment, dived out of the booking-ball into a third-clasa out of the bookin,I)all into a till, d-c,a s g He dodged his fellow-travellers success- fully when he reached the London terminus, and drifted out into the streets. He won- dered if it would be well for him to go to Wedgwood Square, but decided that even then by no possible chance could he go to the house and ask for Hetty his sole hone of meeting her must be by the merest accident. So for the rest of the morning he wandered about the streets, and found himself at last, almost without knowing it, near to a great, bustling railway station he looked about for a cheap place in which to have a meal. Avoiding by sheer instinct'any place with any appearance of popularity about it, he fumed mto a side street, and found a little old-fashioned eating-house, shut off into little wooden compartments; a dingy place, but quiet. There, with something 01 a sigh of relief, he seated himself at a table, and ordered a 'erv modest meal. The corn- artment in which he had seated himself happened to be empty he had chosen it for that reason. One or two of the others were occupied by poorly-dressed men, who were eating the coarse, plentiful food with the air of mer who had worked hard to gain it; they took no notice of a chance way- farer coming in for a meal. There was cniy one man '.vho appeared a lirtle unlike the others, and he sat in the compartment on the other side of the narrow lane- that ran up the centre of the shop. Perhaps because of his strange appearance Manners took notice of him. He was a very big man, clad in rough clothes th.t we'"e new and yet obviously ready-made. All about him was solid a;.J strong—from his boots with thick soles, to the easy soft collar round his throat, and Ilia eai!or-knoT tie. He had a large head, par- tially bald and this baldness was the m're noticeable from the fact that a great dark beard covered his cheeks and chin and swept It's breast. Altogether a noticeable figure Manners set him down for a countryman, paying a rxi'e visit to London en business. But presently, as he looked at him. Man- ners began to grow uncomfortable. For the big man wr.s watching him scrutinising him verv carefully, and with obvious interest. That scrutiny began to unnerve Manners he found himself "shifting uner.sily under it, and even taking pains to hide his face par- tially with a newspaper he had picked up. "I' shall have to watch myself, he thought. "This is growing to be an obsession with me I'm imagining that everyone is watch- ing rn e, whereas in all probability I look such a "furtive brut<; that I attract people's atten- tion. -Now I mean. to lower my paper, and look this fellow squarciv in the eye, and show him that he mustn't stare at people unreason- ab!v." He proceeded to carry out that pro- gramme at once. Tossing the paper astde with apparent carelessness, he looked across at the man in the opposite compartment with pome show of insolence; then picked up his knife r.nd fork, and resumed his meal. I:1i.1gine i1. horror when, a moment later, as though, that challenging look had been a direct invitation, the man picked up his I plate and tankard of ale, and strode across the intervening alley-way, and seated lum- sel' l immediately opposite Manners. Manners felt" his 'blood run cold; he knew !.hat his face had turned red and then white. The hand with which he lifted his fork to- wards his mouth shook absurdly; he felt the eves of the big man upon him, and for the life of him dared not raise his own. And then, startlingly'. and in s great, deep vic-e., that had no tr,-ic,,(, of aD" known accent in it, the big man spoke You'll excuse me, sir, but yours is a faco I seem to know somewhere. And I don't forget fa('t' easily." Manners raised hi6 head very slowly, and tooked at ? he big man; he looked at him sreadilv. Denial was the only thing pos- sible, and he had the comforting thought to help him that, so far as he could recollect, he had never s?en this man before in all his life. He smiled a. little, and slowly shook his head. You're quite mistaken," he said. I, too, have a good memory for faces, and I have certainly never before had the pleasure of meeting you." It isn't likely you have," said the man. with a laugh, seeing that I haven't been in England longer than twenty-four hours. But I'd swear to that face of yours, if I was put in the dock for it." "I tell you you're quite wrong, said Man- ners, a little impatiently, and I would rather not continue this conversation." "There's nothing to Sy into a passion iboiit," said the big man, southingly. I'm not the one to force my conversation upon any one, and if I speak at all it's only for your good. It struck me, if you'll excuse my say"ing it, that you looked a bit lo" down—a bit down on your luck, I mean- and might need a friend." I have all the friends I need, thank you," said Manners, stifny. "We can't none of us be sure of that," retorted the other easily. One other ques- tion, and I'm done, and I won't trouble you any more. Well, what's the question," asked Man- ners, looking at him squarely. MignT your name happen to oe Manners?" Manners looked at him for a long moment in silence then forced a laugh from a throat that was dry. Certainly not," he said. I never heard the name in my life." Then all I ca.n say is thai I ask yunr pardon, and I nay no more," said the b)g man. I've been mistaken—and I say nc more." He picked up his tankard, and buried in it a face that was decidedly troubled and perplexed. Manners went on with his meal, stealing furtive glances now and again at' the man, and striving to remember whether by any chance in the past he had come across him; banishing that idea from his mind almost immediately, on recollecting tha.t the man had said that he had but just arrived in England. It occurred to Manners that he had' better get out of the place as soon as possible, and out of the man's company; at the same time he did not want to appear to hurry. While these thoughts were passing through his mind, the big man was ('vi-: dcntly making up his mind on another matter which he presently voiced; "I know it's Inking a liberty, in a manner of speaking." said the big man, leaning across the table, and dropping his voice to a mere hoarse whisper, but it strikes n'e you're a bit out of luck, and if you should want the price of a meal——" Manners face nushed, and for the moment he felt like making a sharp retort. But the face before him was such a genial, honest on<% and was withal so sympathetic that he felt that to snub the man wns impossible. So he merely shook his head, and made answer: I'm very much obliged to you, but I Tn not quite as low down as all that, and I don't need to borrow from a stranger." The man said nothing more; s-nd Man- ners paid for his meal and left the place. He noticed, with a little feeling of annoyance. that the big man paid for his meal also, and was close on his heels when he reached the Rtreet. That might, however, be merely ac- cidcntal; he turned away, and began to walk quickly towards a. broader thorought'al'c, Reaching It, and looking back ovr his shoulder for a moment, he glanced into the face of the other man, not ten yards behind him. He stopped, and the big man, alter a moment's hesitation, came up. "Why ar<' you following me?" asked Manners, sharply. I couldn't exactly any," said the man. Only I want to find cut something more about you, that's all." If you follow me all day you won't find out anything about me," retorted Manners. Moreover, I don't want to be offensive, but I can assure you that there will be trouble if you haven't the sense to go your own way and leave me to go mine." The man shrugged his shoulders, and laughed quite genially. Well, if you put' it that way, I suppose I must give you u p, he said. Good-bye for the moment; I don't doubt we shall meet again." He turned sharply on his heel, and walked rapidly away, leaving Manners staring after him. That's a queer fellow," said the latter, with a laugh. And then, more gravely, he added to himself, "but I confess I don't like it; there's something uncanny about it —an utter stranger springing up, and know- ing my name. I don't like it at all." He. was vaguely disturbed, not knowing what hidden forces were a.t work against him, and feeling, as he had done from the first, that he was shut out from all sources of information. He began to think again about that bunch of keys that had lain with his other property before the coroner; he imagined all sorts of people searching about among his enects. and making discoveries. He knew that his business would be in the hands of men who would realise all that there was to realise, but it was the thought of his private keys that troubled him. And that took him late that night a solitary, lounging*' figure into the neighbourhood of BIoomsbury. He had paced the street three or four times, with glances up at the windows of the place he must not enter, when, aa he was burning away, a womam came swiftly round the corner and almost ran into his arms. He heard an exclamation of gladness and re- lief, and saw that it was Hester Wake. "Fate is good to me to-night." exclaimed the girl quickly. "I did not know where to find vou; I came back to the old place, won- dering if by chan<.)e you would be attracted here also." "Why do you call it the old place? he asked, struck by the tome in which she bad spoken. "I've always called it that in my mind— just the o!d place," she said softly. "I'm giad it's dark; you can't see that I am blushing. Many and many a night, when you have sat in your rooms up there, I have been in the street outside here, just for th'' sake of being near you-just because I loved you. He took the little gloved hand and drew it up to his lips. You make me ashamed that I never knew and never understood," h<? said. They walked for a long v.'hHe. talking earnestly, even going so far in their talk a;-) to make indefinite plans for a wholly in! pos- sible future. And &t last she "peke of their meeting that night. "What brought you back to the place?" ehe asked. "My darling, the thought that I can't get inside and get money, and perhaps even steal ? a suit of my own clothes, maddens me," he ? replied energetically. "The rôoms are sure to be empty, and even if Eirbv is there j (though I don't think that's at all likely, as ? he has probably found other service) he sleeps like the proverbial top, nnd I could move about without waking h ni." "Who has the keys? she asked quickly. "SIade," he repHcd. "Slade> .tuok posses- S Iq d ?-, p o F, s eF, s;on of them, and of everything that was found, on the preten.ce of being my friend, alH1 oÎ IO'Jking aftcr mv int.rû"b. Eitllcr he or Boyd Litchnetd has them at the present time." "I will get them for you." said IIettv quietly. "It will be a little diiHcult. perhaps. but if Slide or Mr. Litchfield has them I can manage it. We all came ur) from the country this morning, after they had started off in the motor-car." He told her how it had happened that he had travelled ir.1 the same train with SIade and the other man to London, and how he had watched the house before that, httle knowing that Hetty was there all the time. And then, having walked with her as far as he dared in the direction of Wedgwood Square, he stopped fit, parting to ask her a question. "I don't like the idea of your mixing your- self up in such a matter as tins. How will you get the keys, in any ease? "I don't know yet, but I shal! get them," she answered hizy;4,sioidilv. "Oh. my dear, doesn't it seem to you that I've gone too tar in this business to turn back? It's all dark before me, and I scarcely know where 1 am walking; but I don't mind that. so that I know that you are walking with me." "Heaven b!cs3 you, my darting," said Manners fervently. "1 will E:lY no more." "I will bring the keys to you <)!: the- second day from this—that is Sunday," she said quietly, as though everything had been arranged clearly in her own mrnd, and she knew how to set about her work. "At haJf- past three I will be in the long Egyptian room at the British Museum. I know you have no settled home, you poor thing."she added tenderly, "and so we must mec: some- where where it is warm and quiet. And now wlipi-e where it is wir?-ii and quiet. A?ld iiow It was =><1, very quiet corner where they parted, for there are parts of London that are very quiet indeed, and they s',¡"nllJly kissed, with no one to see them. Thoi ho watched the little, light, fluttering figure Hit down. the street, and turned away, happier in mind than he had been for some time. And Hester Wake went to work. In the first place it was utterly impossible for her to know where that particular burch of keys was, and, as Murdoch SIade was merely a chance visitor to the house, she cculd not, of course, make any active search. She was re- solutely determined to meet Rodney in two davs' time, and then to have the keys in her possession); so much was clear as dav. In her resolute little soul she felt that tno opportunity would be given to her, or that she would make it for herself. On the following day nothing happened; Murdoch SIade did not even call at the house. The girl began to wonder if it would be possible for her to invade his rooms, and by some trick steal the keys and get away with them; when the evening arrived, and there seemed no chance that the man would come to the house, she actually started out to walk across the Park to his rooms at the other side of it. But when she got to the great building her courage failed her; she could not meet this man. nor the servant who guarded his nat. There must be some other way; dejectedly enough she had turned away, when she heard a, quick sl.n behind her, and realised almost bv instinct that the mam had come out of the" building. Spurred by that instinct she quickened her pace, as though by the merest c hance she had been passing through the street. doch SIade overtook her, and raised his hat. "So it's httle Hetty Wake, is itt" he said in a familiar tone. "And what is little Hetty Wake doing wandering about at this time of night?" I:> She answered him quite demurel'y. "My duties keep me to the house lor so many hours during the day, Mr. SIade, that I am glad to g'et out sometimes in the evening. Nobody misses me." "Dear nte—how very modest and bumble we are!" said the man, slipping a hand under her arm as they w&)ked n.Iong. "Aa you're going back, pprhxps I may v&lk with vou. And then it was that Hetty made a dis- -ove:-y. The man wore a light overcoat, and in the pwket of it nearest to her something !:s.d every now and then knocked against hpr hand and rattled. She knc\v that it. was a bunch of keys: and the sudden thought i Hashed th'-ough her mind that no man \Yuulr1 carry his own personal bunch of keys in t(, a r c, c, fashion in an <) pocket. Alllille she walked' along her heart was beating euffocatingly up into her throat. and she was wonderins" if by anv chance it would be possible for her together hand into that pocket and take out the keys. Once she tried, and the man shifted his position the better to talk to her, and her opportunity was lost. A second time site tried, and almost as her hand touched the rocket Sladc rde'l her arm, and slipped his own hand jJl;) that outer pocket where the keys were. And so they came to the house, and the opportunity was gone. Hester Wake actually saw a servant takf that coat and hang it up; she saw Siade dis- appear into the drawing-room. She lingered on the stairs for a moment, and then, when the servant had disappeared, and all doors were closed, she began to tiptoe down very slowly, step by step, with eyes only for that coat. And at the laat moment, when her foot was on the last stair, the drawing-room door was opened sharply, and Murdoch Slade came out. She had just time t-o turn off with seem- ing naturalness into the little room nt the end of the hall. when SIade crossed the hall and made for his overcoat. Watching him through the partially-opened door, she saw him turn the coat this way and timt, M though searching for something; dive his hand into one nocket after another. Obviously he was not looking for the keys, because when presently his hand slipped into that pocket he drew them out, and looked at them for a moment with a puzzled frown, as though striving to recollect where they came from; then his face cleared, as though the recollection had come to him and to Hetty's dismay he dropped them into a pocket of his trousers. Then he found in another pocket of his overcoat the cigar-case for which he had been looking, and went back into the drawing-room. Hetty realised one thing clearly: that if the man went out of the house now witn those keys in his pocket she would never see them again. She went up to her room, and stood there thinking desperately, and won- dering what she should do. A sudden thought struck her, and she pulled out her own bunch of keys, and after looking at them carefully for a moment or two, took oR the slimmest key of all, and contrived with some difficulty to bend and twist it until it was almost shapeless. Then, with her heart beating fast, she went down to the drawing s room. "I'm so very sorry," she eaid, in that de- mure little voice of hers, as she walked into the room, "but I've had an accident." "What's the matter, mv dear? said Mrs. LitchHeld. "It's only a troublesome key," said Hester. It's rather 'an important box of mine, and I've been trying to open it, and this is the result." She held up the twisted key. "If anybody would lend me their bunch of keys for a moment, perhaps I might find one that would fit the lock." Mr. Litchfield slapped himself all over, and finally found three keys on a ring Mr. Litchfield was not a business man, and did not require many. Hetty shook her head in dismay, and declared that those three keys were all too large for tbo purpose. By this time Murdoch Slade tilled out a bunch of keys; but Hetty saw with a sinking heart that it was not the bunch she required. Nevertheless, there were so manv small keys u'x'n it that she could do nothing else but thank him, and walk to the door with them. Once again she had failed. The knob of the door was in her hand, when SIade called to her. "Stop a moment. I've got a second bunch somewhere," he said. "You may as well trv the lot." As she turned quickly she saw him put his hand into that pocket into which he had dropped the bunch of keys that had been in his overcoat. "Thank you very much, Mr. Sla-de," she, and went out of the room. Five minutes afterwards she came back, Five m i nutes afterw trim two bunc h es -of and gravely handed him two bunches of keys they were his own private bunch, together with her own, from which she had I tr.ken the hey which had been twisted and bent. That third precious, bunch that had tingled and rattled in his overcoat pocket all ) the way across the Park, maddeningly enough for Hetty, was now in her posses- sion. "I found a key that suited very well, thank you, said Hetty. There was still the question in her mind whether or not, after all, she had not made a and perhaps taken Slide's own private keys instead of those belonging to Rodney Manners; but she could know nothing of that until the morrow. The tune seemed to crawl along until at last she crossed the big courtyard leading to the British Museum and went up the steps and into the place. She walked down the length of the great Egyptian gallery and there on a bench at the end sat Manners. He rose to his feet, a.nd they faced each other with- out a word. Hetty was so nervous lest she should have made a mistake that she slipped the keys into his hand without a word. He gave a glance at them, an d laughed softly, and dropped them into his pocket. (To be Continued.)



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