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to-day, I have suspected him of it. But now that you have discovered that these two are quite friendly, my theory seems incredible; and if so, who shot Roy's wife in the wood?"
"It might have been an accident. Some peacher"Too early in the evening for a peacher, I am afraid. To me there seem only to be twe likely persons. Until now I have suspected the Laird; but after what you have found out to-night, does it not seem probable that the Laird and Marie met in the wood by appointment, and that Roy, discovering this, fired the shot in a moment of wild rage. He may even have intended to hit his father. That would account for the state of mind he was in when I found him." "It's all theory, Bob," said Betty, shaking her head. "You haven't really got evidence on which to suspect either of them. I should hate to think that either Roy or his father had taken to manslaughter. I have known them both all my life, and with Roy I have always been friendly."
I said no more at the time, but the problem worried me. Some one had shot Marie Tanish, and it seemed to me that one or other of these two men must be guilty.
Betty and I continued to talk things over for some time, and before we parted it was arranged that I should come into Kilbrennan as often as it was possible for me to get away, in order that there should be no delay if Morgan left a message for me.
As I walked the rest of the way back to Hopeton alene, I pondered on all I had heard and speculated on what was likely to happen.
I had to see Marigold alene and give her the copy of the little pictures. How much should I tell her? The more I thought of it, the more convinced I became that my best plan was to tell her as much as possible of Morgan. She might then see him in a better light. I felt interested in his love for her; and so much had the man's quiet strength of purpose impressed me, that I was sure in my heart that what he wanted he would get in the end.
Of one thing I was certain. Marigold would not keep the cipher to herself. Morgan had left her free to show it to the Laird, and there could be no doubt that she would do so. How he would act it was impossible to guess. If he had really a secret understanding with Roy's wife, would he take her into his confidence and share this latest knowledge with her?
Laird Tanish was a man of such primitive passions and desires that one could not count upon his acting according to any conventional principles. I felt that if he imagined that he had the key to the treasure in his band, he was quite capable of ignoring any arrangement he had come with Roy's wife.
And she? This Belgian woman of the pale face and dark hair was to me a mysterious figure. For myself, I
had seen her only in a moment not an inkling. But as I pondered over the ins and outs of the affair, it seemed to me that here was a sleeping volcano which, when roused, it might be impossible to control.
of stress; but all I had heard and all I had deduced made me think of her as one whom it would be unwise to trust far. She had, apparently, played a double game with Roy and his father. She had surreptitiously married the son in the father's absence. She had stolen from the Laird the only paper he possessed bearing upon the treasure, but she had not disclosed her theft to her husband. Now it seemed almost as if she were in league with the Laird against Roy.
Did she realise that the key to the mystery was in the hands of Morgan? Probably it was she who had originated his invitation to Blackdykes, with a view to finding out what he knew.
Where did Roy stand in all this muddle and intrigue? He seemed to be the only one who knew nothing of the Hopeton treasure. Things were in train around him of which he had
Betty had told me something of his character. He was honest and open, if botheaded. How would he act if he found that his wife had a secret understanding with his father-if he discovered that she was no better than common thief-if it turned out that the Laird was responsible for the wound in Marie's breast?
There was fear in my heart as I thought of these possibilities.
As I neared Hopeton I cast my speculations behind me. After all, it was none of my business.
I was only the tutor of a child who at least was clear of all these complications.
I had a message to deliver to Marigold, and once that was off my mind I had no further responsibility.
The first thing I did upon my return to Hopeton was to retire to my room and execute a careful copy of the little pictures for my own use. Problems-particularly chess problems had always intrigued me, and I was determined to test my ingenuity on this cipher. In making a copy for myself I was doing nothing underhand, for Morgan had entrusted me with his seoret without reservation.
Should I succeed in solving the problem I would immediately hand over the solution to him. I had no personal claim upon the treasure-if it existed,
The next thing was to make an opportunity to see Marigold privately. I knew that 88 soon as supper was over I should have to sit down to chess with the Laird, so there was nothing for it but to leave my interview with Marigold until next morning.
At supper I was relieved to find the Laird quite himself. It proved that he and Roy had not met. He was in one of his most genial humours, when one would have taken him for a type of the best of county gentry. After supper he sat down to the chess table, nothing dismayed by his many defeats, and as keen as ever upon the the wellnigh hopeless
task of beating me.
Chess is a game which requires an almost complete mental concentration, and I soon noticed that the Laird's mind was not as devoted to the pieces on the board as the board as usual. Though keen to win, his thoughts would wander off to another subject, so that he made blunders quite below his usual form. I could have cornered him early in the game, but it was not poliey to beat him too easily. I did not want him to lose his interest in ohess, as it gave me a hold upon him which I could not otherwise hope to retain.
Little as he guessed it, I had a pretty fair idea of the subject of his thoughts. I would have given much to have known more of them. That his compaot with his daughter-in-law was in his mind there could be no doubt, but the compact itself was beyond my knowledge, though not out of reach of my curiosity.
it's past eleven! Time for bed, I suppose."
I yawned, wished him goodnight, and taking my candle from the hall table, went off to my room. I did not go to bed at once, however. My mind was too full of the little pictures. I had them out again, and by the dim light of my candle I pered over their obscurities.
I had not much success. addition to the Hopeton orest at top and bottom, I made out what I took to be an anchor, but I could attach little meaning to that. The three rows of zigzag lines near the top of the paper reminded me of the representations of the sea, as it is shown in old woodcuts. Thus I had two symbols suggesting the sea. Framed in a square of stars appeared what might be a pile of rocks.
I determined that next day I would carry my oopy to the shore, and seek inspiration there.
I suppose I must have spent quite half an hour over the puzzle, when I became aware of movements in the hall below.
"The Laird must have sat late," I thought, and pictured him hovering over the chessboard, playing over the game he had lost, minus the mistakes he had made. I knew every one else had gone to bed long before he and I had finished our game, for ten o'clock was considered a late hour at Hopeton.
"Ah! Tohk, tohk, stupid!" he exclaimed at last. "You've got me again, Seaton! I didn't see the object of that king's I listened, expecting each knight there. But it was a moment to hear his footsteps fine game, a fine game. Why, pass my door as he went to
his room, but instead of that I heard certain muffled sounds from the hall, ending in the oreaking of the big house door. Then a click, as if the door had been quietly closed.
I blew out my candle and listened. Had some one gone out, or had some one been let in? That point was soon settled. The sounds in the hall ceased, and I heard the faint crunching of the loose gravel in the carriage-drive. I stepped to my window and, pulling the curtain aside, peered out. There was no moon, but it was a clear starry night, and it was easy to distinguish a dark object, which must be a human figure, moving down the drive. I could not see clearly enough to make out who it was, but there could be little doubt that it was the Laird himself.
Where could he be going? What could be his purpose? Perhaps, strictly speaking, it was none of my business, but I could not let it go at that. I knew that his sole interest, outside of chess, was the mystery of the treasure, and that this midnight expedition must be in some way connected with it. I could do no harm by following him, and I felt that I might learn something that would be of value to Marigold.
My decision was soon taken, I slipped on a dark overcoat and a cap, and ran silently downstairs, carrying my boots in my hand. I managed to open the door more quietly than my predecessor had done, and having paused to pull on my boots, I crossed the gravel
as quietly as possible and started off running down the grass margin of the drive.
Soon I heard footsteps, and slackened my pace. Occasionally when a break o0curred in the thick avenue of trees, I could see a dim dark figure ahead of me in the gloom, but mostly I had to be guided by the footsteps upon the gravel.
Out upon the highroad beyond there was more light, but this was rather a disadvantage than otherwise, for it made it more difficult for me to follow unobserved. I kept well in under the dark shadow of the hedge, however, and though I stumbled occasionally upon the uneven ground I managed to keep within sight or sound of my quarry.
We did not follow the main road far. About a third of a mile down the road the sound of footsteps ceased, and, peering ahead, I could see no sign of the dark shadowy figure upon the road. For the moment I thought I had lost him, and then I realised that just ahead lay the spot where the path branched off towards the fox cover-the very path that I always chose for my excursions into Kilbrennan.
I hurried forward, forgetting my discretion in my anxiety to recover the scent. There was a low stile separating the main road from the by-path, and I had crossed it, and was peering eagerly ahead, when some large black object flashed through the sky immediately above me-I was conscious of a terrific orash upon
my head-and I fell stunned loose in his expressions. Even across the path. in my dazed condition I realised that I must not sit quiet under his denunciations, or I would for ever lose what influence I had gained over him. I struggled to my feet with some difficulty, my head pulsating with pain.
I was not knocked entirely senseless, but was dazed and stupefied by the blow, and badly shaken by the shock of my fall. I saw dimly a dark form leeming over me, and guessed from the pose that he was preparing to launch another blow at my head. I could see his raised arms against the blue-black luminous sky, and some huge weapon suspended over me.
"Hold!" I shouted hoarsely, just in time to prevent a repetition of the blow that had felled me.
"Who are you, then, and what right have you to track me like a thief?"
It was the voice of the Laird. The weapon was lowered, and a moment later an electrio torch was flashed in my face.
"Seaton! God, I thought it was Roy!"
I was still so dazed with the blow that I made no attempt to reply, or to rise to my feet.
"You have no right to talk to me like that," I exclaimed in a tone that matched his. "What you mean by this unprovoked assault on me I have no idea, but if you were a younger man I should not stop to argue with you about it."
"Unprovoked assault!" he repeated. "Unprovoked! When I am dogged from my own house as if I were a burglar, or worse!"
"And how should I know who it was who slipped out at midnight and made off into the darkness?" I demanded. "Is it not natural enough, if I have the interests of the family at heart, that I should follow such a mysterious character?"
He seemed somewhat taken aback at this view of the case, and by the fact that I adopted his own bullying manner, but he would not climb down all at once.
"No man has a right to follow me in such an underhand way," he repeated, but with less emphasis and conviction.
"If your own behaviour were less open to suspicion," I replied, "an incident of this kind could not occur. Would an innocent person lie in wait behind a hedge and fell a man en suspicion of following him?