L. ADAMS BECK
A character in this story says: “We are dealing with the unknown and the terrible when so lightly we harness the Powers to our toys.” That expresses exactly the spirit of this remarkable story of a man and a woman and disembodied voices in a weird midnight of the Christmas season.
WHEN Marcia presented me with a Radio Super-Magnifico on Christmas Day I was extremely gratified, though I particularly dislike the things, for I knew this was a gift which would delight her, whereas if she had merely considered me in the matter—well, we all know what women’s presents are! As it was, we were both enchanted, which would have been very unlikely to happen otherwise.
I can see her now—eyes sparkling, vibrating, thrilling with pleasure as she read out its perfections from the paper in the box.
“Take it anywhere. It needs no antenna, no aerial, no ground, no connections. Its production is an event of world-wide scientific importance. Perfect super-tone. Carry your concerts and lectures with you wherever you go.”
“That means,” she said, almost dancing, though she did her best to stand still, “that we can take it in the car, draw up anywhere, in a wood, by the sea, and have ; the loveliest music all to ourselves in the delicious solitude.”
A romantic soul! I quoted, looking at the loud speaker:
“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and Thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness—
The wilderness were Paradise enow.”
“Exactly,” said Marcia. "Omar must have foreseen the Magnifico. But isn’t it a miracle? The silent air not silent at all really, but throbbing and vibrating with music and—and lectures.”
“Thank goodness, the air at least is silent until one turns on the tap. If a man gets lectures enough at home, he doesn’t want the air to get busy.”
She put a warm hand over my mouth, and I am not ashamed to say I kissed it. Remember, it was Christmas. The hatchet is buried on that sacred anniversary.
“What I want,” she said seriously, “is to wait until the moon is at her best, then to go out at midnight to the wood at Warlock Hollow, to set the Magnifico going among the pines, and sit entranced—”
“While some fellow discourses through his nose on the habits of the pelican. Don’t you think we might be as comfortable at
home with our toes extended to the cheerful blaze, as sitting in a pine wood at midnight on Dartmoor in January?” She looked at me reproachfully. “With our fur coats and boots—I’mvery much afraid you don’t care for my present, and—it—it wasn’t cheap. And I did hope—”
Would I not on Christmas Day have consented to sit in a refrigerator on the North Pole, anywhere, to please her? The trip was planned and we settled down to the rest of the proceedings.
I must own that though it was a gift I could have dispensed with, it was indeed a Magnifico. The super-tone was as loud and clear as though the various performers were at the other side of the fire, and there have been moments when the man was going on about the penguin that I nearly dashed my fist into the loud speaker, so personal, so human, so insistent was it. The house was filled with ancestral voices prophesying war, lecturing, singing, chorusing. Crashing bands greeted our entry when we sat down after dinner to smoke. In a word, the world broke in upon us like a roaring ocean, and if I felt, with Wordsworth, that
“The world is too much with us late and soon.”
I was obliged to conceal the fact from Marcia, who had become a radio fan of the most passionate variety and could never be happy without a shadowy third, or a shadowy five thousand in the room with us.
I have often wished—but no matter! We little knew whai was in store for us.
THE moon rounded apace and the weather grew steadily colder. At first there was a blizzard which seemed as though it never would stop, and gave me immense satisfaction, for it was certain that not even Marcia could desire to sit in a pine wood on Dartmoor with that white, sharp-toothed aerial wolf sweeping through the cracking branches on the trail of his prey. It was awful weather. The cold pierced the body and got at the soul and froze that, too. There was one week when we piled on all the heat we could, crouched over the fire and let the penguin man do all the talking for us. And even listening was an effort.
Suddenly the wind dropped,
arui l knew my fate was sealed. Warlock Hollow came in with the soup and finished with the coffee. We had never tried the Super-Magnifici' outside the house, owing to the appalling weather. But we were in for it, or out for it now, with a vengeance.
1 have never known a stiller night than the one in which we set out to keep our engagement with the pine wood in Warlock Hollow It was as though the whole earth in frosen silence stared at the moon, amazed to see it so small, remote ami cold, flooding the universe with light, yet so immeasurably distant; by no means the moon of summer, lamping close, familiar, beautiful -the moon of lovers, mellow and sweet, but incomparably brilliant, set like a diamond aloft in cold midnight-blue skies strewn with myriads of stars flashing, glittering, vibrat mg. A perfect night of its sort, but with that about it which broadcast the feeling that it preferred to be alone, did not wish petty humanity to intrude upon its empty, freezing quiet. I had a sort of notion that we were intruders, and harm must come of it,
Dartmoor was forty miles away, and the road, level enough at first, goes past Lord Wake’s great park of Hampton Denvers, with the famous beeches, now leafless, overhanging the park palings The little village left behind. not a light, not a creature to be seen, not a single car did we meet It seemed as though every
living soul but ourselves was shut and bolted into his little warm habitation to keep out those million piercing eyes, that radiant, unapproachable moon. A dog howled somewhere in the park, another answered from far-off Enderby, and that was the only sound.
We turned suddenly into the Mindon Lane, that leads to Dartmoor, steep and narrow between high hedges, and the car took it in its stride, sweeping magnificently up to the tableland above.
We passed Little Embledon Church on the hill, -owering in its black yews, the village tombstones gauntly white in the Arctic radiance. I could see the black lettering on the nearest, clear as daylight, as we swept on and up.
In a few minutes more we were on the Enderby track, 'hat cuts a corner of Dartmoor off, a great segment, before you slip down to Chilcote Manor and the Soothings. At this point it is straight and long and utterly deserted, switch-back dips and rises between the flat moorland heather banks, and not a tree in sight; nothing but stunted bushes, humped and fleeing from the cutting Dartmoor winds, with tors of fantastic rock here and there, flung about as if gleeful giants had been playing pitch and toss with them—a horrid, lonely place, well enough in the sunlight, but only wanting the creak of the swinging gibbet of a hundred years ago to give a sighing, shuddering voice to the immense stillness.
Beyond this the road, such as it is, runs for ten miles before you come to the pine wood in Warlock Hollow. Those trees are the only ones for many miles, and are not even a landmark, because the Hollow is deep in a -witch-back bottom, and you never see so much as a twig until you drop down into the blackness. I suppose 'hat must be the reason they have held their own against the Dartmoor winters and summers.' They get just the shelter they need. No tree could stand it on the wind-razored open.
It was in this delightful spot that Marcia meant to set the Magnifico going, and we were sweeping silently down on it at the rate of fifty miles an hour. I own it seemed profanation to me.
It could hardly be called a wood, for you could'quarter it in ten minutes either way, but call it what you like, it was beautiful. The trees are immensely old, the boughs draped in silver lichen, like hoary hair hanging in long, silvery wisps, the trunks corrugated into a thousand deep-hewn wrinkles, the roots half exposed and knotted like snakes—a ghostly brotherhood. Tonight the moonlight struck them to a dead blackness, like funeral plumes, and to a quiet—was there ever such stillness in the living world? Down in Warlock Hollow we might have been the last souls left alive in :he universe, and those black trees our mourners.
T STOPPED the car at the wayside, and Marcia got out, furred to the chin. Her face pale in the moonlight and her eyes unnaturally large and dark, but
brimmed with quiet pleasure.
"It's infinitely more beautiful than I thought,” she said, in a moonlight-softened voice. “I always loved this place, but to-night ”
The trees were on either side of us, walls of darkness, the rampart of secrecy unbroken by the red sternlights of the ear, blocked against the hill we bad de-
scended like pools of blood but casting no glimmer within the wood.
“I won’t stay in the car to hear it; that would spoil the atmosphere!” she said. “We’ll sit on that old pine trunk where we lunched in September, and you can put the Magnifico on the rock opposite—the flat-topped one—where you put the beer that day.”
She stepped inside the wall of darkness and sat down.
I followed with the Super-Magnifico, tripped over another trunk, barked my shins, swore, and thought the Magnifico was done for; got it finally on to the rock and sat down beside Marcia, having tuned in to L.O. 2, London, by twisting the indicated knobs. This tuned out Hampchester that we might get London, as we did every night at home. I am particular about this, in view of what followed.
I warmed myself up with a shot of whiskey and water from my pocket pistol. Marcia refused this as destroying the atmosphere, now completed to suit her by turning off all our lights except the rear-guard.
Silence. Damn the thing! Then I had broken it when I took that toss. So we sat for a minute, breathless, expectant.
“I knew you never liked it!” Marcia said in a voice cold as Dartmoor. “I believe you slipped up on purpose. From the very beginning I saw you had no use for it. My poor present!”
I had opened my mouth for protest when the SuperMagnifico opened his, and a heavenly voice soared out, clear as ice crystals, touching the silver heights of heaven, playing deliciously at hide and seek with a flute not half so sweet, running, escaping, turning to meet and defy it, then tripping up silver ladders to escape it and meeting it at the top, flying down again and round and about until the frozen air was filled with glittering cobwebs of sound, imprisoning the soul in delight. The flute had the worst of it. In the end, it collapsed, exhausted, and the lovely human voice soared angelic and scaled the starry heights, and so, mingling with the stars, vanished in a silver almost inaudible sighing.
Marcia was right. I own it. In that moonlit darkness, in the great loneliness of stars and wastes, it wa^ superhuman, miraculous. In Covent Garden, or by our own fire, it would have been beautiful, but out here it captured a fairy magic unutterable, the magic of the winds and stars and all the great existences from which we wall in our little lives so carefully.
We sat in breathless silence, hoping she (for it was Pippa Lastra) would break forth again.
Silence—old, old silence.
I don’t know how long we sat, but Lastra’s delicious voice, surrounded by thoughts like the swarming of silver bees, still possessed me. Where bad I wandered
away to? Who that gets inside the gates of Wonderland can ever answer that question? Its geography is not ours, and it seals the lips of the happy entrant. I only know I was away from Dartmoor, from Marcia, from earth itself, when—
The silence was shattered into horror.
From the rock there rose a hideous scream, a woman’s voice distorted into a yell—no words— the poignancy of distilled anguish and terror past all thought. Again. Again. Marcia caught my furred hands with her own.
“What theatre is it?” she panted. “But I can’t stand it. Not here. It’s too terribly real. Shut the thing off.”
EXACTLY my own
opinion. I reached for it, and, blind in the dark, gave the box a sharp jerk which nearly sent it over the side, fielded it, and turned thp knobs to “off.”
“If you want this contraption to descend to our children’s children, you won’t bring it out here on Dartmoor in the dark That’s the second toss Anyway, it’s off now.” “Thank God it’s off,” she sighed.
I was still standing with my hand on it, when the screams broke out again.
I cannot describe them—appalling! Leave it at that. Neither of us could have moved to save our lives. It had got us there. I dropped down beside Marcia. We sat dumb.
Words at last. Moaning, sobbing words.
“If you kill me, I won’t tell. No, no! 0, this awful place! Oh, help, help! Come—someone, come! For God’s sake, come!”
It was in our ears, so near it seemed incredible one could not answer or help. It was like a madness of helplessness, drowning in a dream, to hear and do nothing. May I never have such a waking nightmare again while I live! And the thing was turned off! Remember that.
Again I forgot Marcia. I was alone in the black pine wood with a horror—alone in the world.
Now, a man’s voice.
“If you don’t tell me—if you don’t tell me—”
And then a sound like trampling on a wooden floor. Silence.
The moving moon looked in through a rift in the boughs and fell white on the box. With my eyes, I saw the knobs set at “off.” Then, if it were not the box— Before I could finish the thought, another voice spoke—a man’s, but lower, more refined and quite unhurried and calm.
“It would save trouble if you grasped the position, Mrs. Barry. We know the papers were in this house yesterday. Do you seriously prefer death to giving the show away? What has your husband ever done for you that you should die for him?”
A wild, confused murmur, as if the voice were fluttering, struggling in her throat—inhuman, like an animal’s in its extreme terror, no breath behind it. You know the horrid sound when that gives out and the terror behind it tries to articulate and fails?
The quiet voice went on, unheeding.
“Surely your screams would have brought help, if help there were—they were loud enough to rouse the dead. Consider. This house is four miles from the nearest at the Dene. We have Dartmoor about us and a clear way down to the Soothings. Your dog is poisoned Here’s a glass of whiskey. Drink it. Collect yourself, and I’m sure you’ll see the sense of what I say.”
We could actually hear the tinkle of the bottle against the glass as the whiskey was poured out.
Can I hope to give even a shadow of the dreadfulness of this overhearing in the waste solitude of Warlock Hollow, with only the cold moon and glistening stars for company? And at our ear, as close to us as our own breathing.
My inward sight filled out the picture my ears cut on my brain. A farm-house kitchen. One sees them so far apart on the moors that it seems a woman’s brain must crack in the loneliness. No servant, her husband away, the dog poisoned. I saw her bound and helpless on the horsehair sofa, the place ransacked, tossed about. Continued on page 58
Continued from page 10
and two men standing over her, fixed as Fate, relentless, and Death looking in, white as the moon, through the broken window.
“Kill me, and have done with it,” she screamed out. “I won’t tell! I won’t speak! Kill me!”
There was a murmuring between the two men, as if they had withdrawn into a corner to discuss something. I could not catch that. Then they evidently came back. The second voice began again with its cool precision.
“No sane man wishes to be a murderer if he can get home any other way, and though nothing can save you if you persist, I hope you’ll hear reason. I’m sorry for you, in a way, for I know your people have been tenants of the Rossans a long time. I’d spare you if I could. Do you understand the position?”
She said, “I never knew it all, but enough—”
“Ah, then that explains your obstinacy. Now you shall hear the facts. We have the night before us. Cairn, loosen the cords round her feet, they’re cutting her.”
I FANCIED I heard the sound as a chair was pushed forward. At all events, there was a minute’s silence and then the quiet voice resumed.
(What was Marcia doing? I never knew. She sat dead still as I, and her presence was only a blacker blot in the velvet black about us.)
“If those papers get into Brian Johnstone’s hands, they prove the marriage of his parents, and I am kicked out; my brother goes with me. If those papers are destroyed, we are safe. You know about that from your husband. He was making his market of it between Johnstone and me. A hundred such lives as yours would be nothing to pay for those papers. We know your husband stole them from the old man aboard the Gemma. And your husband has disappeared. Why? Because it was cheaper to get rid of him that way than to pay his price. Now you know us. Where are the papers?”
I strained to catch her words, as if straining could make me hear better. A long sigh first—almost a moan.
“You’ve beaten me, at last. What can a lone woman do against two men? I never knew what my husband meant.” “You know now. Where is it?”
“But first—but first—” she was almost babbling, in renewed terror. He had made some movement, looked something perhaps, which struck her aghast. “Tell me what you’ll do with me when I’ve told! I’ll be a dangerous witness. Suppose you kill me to get me out of the way!”
“Fool—does a man in my position risk murder when he can get things a safer way? You’ll swear to be secret and you’ll know that I’d find you, if it were the end of the earth, if you broke faith. And, mind you, it isn’t as if you were to get nothing. I promise you a hundred pounds the minute those papers go up in flame.” “Then I’ll swear to be secret, and I’ll tell you. Untie me and I’ll show you. You’d never find it. Oh, Mr. Cairn, have pity on me.
“It’s in the barn, under a big heap of straw. Didn’t I tell you true: not in the house, I said. And then there’s a loose plank—but you’d never find that without me. Come, light the lantern, Mr. Cairn. It’s hanging by the door. Oh, no, I’m not afraid now—not even of his lordship. I know you never meant it. Why was I such a fool at first?”
Suddenly Marcia shrieked out,
“Oh, don’t trust them, don’t trust them! Can’t you see they’ll kill you when they’ve got it? Oh, you poor soul!”
There was a confused noise of steps. A door banged to. Silence.
A FRIGHTFUL silence. My heart was beating hammer strokes, and I felt Marcia quivering against me like a bird. The stillness was so great that it seemed all nature listened with us, tense, breathless, the cold, incurious moon flooding the scene with sinister light.
Can I tell how long we sat there? Not I. Presently the door opened. The steps came back. The woman’s voice, fluttering with nerves:
“Now, your lordship, didn’t I keep my word? You’ve got them all, for there was nothing but the box. But will you get me away, for fear my husband should pay
me out? You know he’d never forgive me. If he came back and found out—”
She had evidently forgotten the dreadful hint of the man’s speech before. He would never come back to Dartmoor.
“Yes, yes. Hold the light, Cairn. Look through this raffle with me. Yes—that’s the marriage certificate. Into the fire with it! That’s Brian Johnstone’s birth certificate—at Gueret. In France! We never dreamt of that—nor he. And the registration of baptism—same place. Into the fire with them all! That ends it. Safe!”
“Good!” said the other man. “Burn the box too. And now—”
“Yes. Now! Ready!”
A shot rang out. Incredible that it should not echo through the leagues of waste moorland about us. But not an echo, not a sound. It was, and was not, like a sound-ghost, heard but making no impression on the world of reality. Marica slowly collapsed in my arms. She had fainted.
“Where?” said the voice I knew as Cairn’s. “The ground’s too hard outside. In the barn?”
“No. That’s where the first hunt would begin. The car, and Warlock Hollow. No one would think of that and the moor people avoid it more or less. Plenty of rocks inside the wood, and directly it thaws, we can dig. We can be there in less than half an hour. Now clean up and come. And—a good thought! Set fire to the place.”
“Then why not leave her?”
“Because'you can’t tell how the fire will do its work, whereas if the place is burnt down, everyone will think she went with it. Now, hefty!”
I staggered to my feet, dragging Marcia up with me. She was coming to, her teeth chattering with cold and terror, but quite unable to move. At this minute,
I scarcely know how I got her over the rough ground to the car, but I achieved it, and returned for the Magnifico, came another cropper among the tree trunks, and heaved it into the car. At that instant I felt it to be a personal devil, neither more nor less.
WHAT awful sounds floated on the silent moonlit air as I backed and turned the car I might dream but could not tell. The secret; once divulged, was taken back into the bosom of eternal night, and had none but good spirits iloated on the blue, star-scattered ocean of the midnight sky, the peace could not have been more heavenly. The noise the car made was gross—an outrage, a soulshattering mechanical outrage, but the only question in my mind was, would the silence spread it in waves over the moor —to where? I did not know. But give them twenty-five minutes— say, from ten to twelve miles, on that rough track. They might be speeding toward us now, their lights glaring along the moor, and would two desperate men risk witnesses? Off, away! Flight for our lives!
I got her turned, and we charged the hill. My God, if we should break down! In this weird brilliance of night’s midmoon what might not happen? But she took it, groaning at first for power, then gathering it, and shot on and up and over the crest, leaving the dark wood below and behind us.
Marcia recovered slowly.
“Was it a nightmare?” she asked in a shuddering whisper, as we sped down the hill by Little Embledon Church, our black shadow pursuing us, fantastic in the hard light. Death showed his teeth at us as we passed, in the white, upright tombstones.
“Don’t talk of it, don’t think of it. Let’s get home!” I said, and loosed the car to her speed on the long white ribbon of road unrolling before us, for we were on the highway by Hampton Denvers now.
A few minutes further on, she touched my arm.
“Could it have been a theatre?”
“No, no. Let’s get home. Don’t talk.” And so we swept onward, devouring the way before us, until at last the sleeping houses of Hampton Chilvers were on us, and we glided into our own garden and pulled up.
The warm quiet of the drawing room was overwhelming. The maids had made up the fire and it flickered in the soft,
trustful shadows. Marcia crept into a chair and lay back, wan as a lily, the slow tears trickling down her face.
“Is the door locked tight? Have they put the shutters up? Oh, make it safe— the night is too awful.”
I turned on the lights and went to warm the coffee left for us. When I got back she was sitting staring at her arm.
“My bangle is gone! I saw it before we got into the wood. If I have left it there— I’ll never, never go back to that awful place for it. Nor must you.”
She little knew how awful, nor what thoughts were in my mind, of attack and defence as I looked at her bare arm. Suppose they found it—suppose they could trace it. Suppose it altered their plans.
Despite her entreaties, for she was terrified to be left or to see*me go, I was off to the car at once, and searched it in every crevice,. That settled it. She had left it in Warlock Hollow. There was no more to be said or done.
She slept that night heavily, foredone.
1 never closed my eyes.
OF COURSE, I knew the name. One always does know the county magnates, little and big, within a radius of a hundred miles. Lord Rossan. He lived with his brother, the Honourable Sandys Cairn, at Ava Park, down on the fringe of Dartmoor. The place, not a very large one, was named by his uncle, an Indian officer who had distinguished himself in Burma, where the nephew had followed his example, minus the distinction. I knew, at all events, that he had been in the Indian Army. I knew also—but there I became vague as to details—that there once was talk of a pretender to the title and estate, which ended in some squalid sort of action for trespass and the like, the man having come to Ava Park and been abusive—so it was put about. They said he was an out-at-elbows gentleman, a descendant (probahly illegally) of the second Lord Rossan’s father.
The present man was reserved, kept himself to himself and his brother, and mixed little in either county or town society. The brother was said to drink.
That was all my knowledge, too vague in any way to be acted upon until the whirling vortex should draw more straws into it. Silence, and especially to Marcia, was indicated for the next few days. She was fit for no more agitations.
Two days later I saw in the Hampdon Mercury, which I watched lynx-eyed, a paragraph, captioned
FATAL FIRE ON DARTMOOR
“The house of Michael Barry, a small tenant farmer on Dartmoor, was discovered partially destroyed by fire yesterday (Thursday) morning, by some men riding over the moor to herd the moor ponies at Selford, which have been suffering from lack of food in the severe frost. Two of the four rooms had been entirely destroyed, and it is surmised that the body of Mrs. Barry, who was known to have been in the house, was totally consumed. An overturned kerosene lamp was the, unfortunately very usual, cause of the disaster. The police are unlikely to trace the husband, who is said to have left for some unknown destination a fortnight ago.”
That was all. And now it was up to me to decide my course.
I had "carefully examined the SuperMagnifico, and could see nothing wrong with it. To try it was impossible, for Marcia shuddered at the sight of it, and it was exiled to one of the spare bedrooms, where the very thought of it, lonely in the dark, terrified her. And as to hearing its voice again—
Besides, it was best it should be kept intact, in case of developments, so I said nothing.
I waited a day longer, and then went off to Hampchester and interviewed the chief of police, a clear-headed and extremely matter-of-fact man. Could I be surprised that at first he declined to take me seriously? Certainly not. It was honestly incredible to him that two sane people could have left their fireside in that stark frost to hear in Warlock Hollow what they could have heard by their hearth. That seriously damaged my credibility for a time. But I think I told my story convincingly, and the more so because I suppressed all names but the woman’s until I made my point. I watched his face. I saw the very moment when a gleam of suspicion flickered in his eye
that I myself might have done the deed and was using the resources of science for a blind.
But I withheld Lord Rossan. He was a magnate. I had seen him myself, riding his big-boned grey through Hampchester streets, gaitered, well-seated, as befitted a country gentleman, his keen, close face, burnt with Indian suns, very much to the purpose above his well-cut coat. By no means a man to affront idly, and that was certain to be Matthew’s opinion, too. No,
I would put the foundations under my story before the end crowned the work. Presently the Chief spoke.
“I think, Mr. Geldart, the best thing will be for you to come up to Warlock Wood with us on Thursday. I’ll take two of my best fellows, and we’ll be a snug little party. Better if you’d caught the names, but we can’t have everything.”
Not a word to Marcia, as I booted and spurred on Thursday. I was really alarmed at the impression the horrid thing had made upon her. She was white as ashes and crept about the house, starting at a shadow. She could scarcely stand seeing me go off alone in the car, though there was nothing alarming in the sound of business at Hampchester. So I slipped away, taking with me in the car a new and trusty companion, my pointer, Bru. for reasons of which I left Marcia in ignorance also.
TT WAS cold yet, but not the same 1 breathless chill. A heavy, murky sky overshadowed the moor, a canopy of gloom, large flakes of snow falling occasionally, as if the heaviness above had brimmed and spilt them. They eddied against the wind screen in the speed of my going and dulled it to frosted glass, then slipped wetly down it.
I passed the dishes of bog in the moor, wet and comfortless and cruelly desolate and bare. I remember the thought struck me. Now if I had had that to dispose of, the bog would have been my mark; shuddering, quivering ground, where if a man once flounders, he is lost to Eternity. But Rossan was no moor man. A stranger from India, he would not think of that. Besides, the bogs had been frozen stiff for weeks. No, he had taken the only course possible.
Matthews and two of the force were waiting for me on the rise before you drop to Warlock Hollow, fine, big, upstanding fellows, they and their car profiled against the leaden sky. We made scant greeting— I think Matthews still thought me a dreamer at best—a theatre tuned in, a glass of whiskey too much, what not? We went down into the Hollow, leaving the cars a-top, and I led them straight to the place where we had sat with the Magnifico before us on the flat-topped rock. The sight of it brought the business revoltingly back to me, I own. I felt my heart leap and flounder in its pace. Foolish, but then, you see, I had been through it. I knew.
“In case any of you see a gold bangle with M.G. on it in pearls, it’s my wife’s,'
I said. “That will at least prove to you we were here, Mr. Matthews. It should be somewhere near that fallen pine trunk. That’s where we sat.”
By Matthews’ orders we all strung out to search different ways, but look as we would, the bangle never turned up. He shrugged and grumbled. Meanwhile, the pointer was questing the wood alone, keen as keen, every muscle tense with the drama of his scouting.
“Let us stand still and watch the dog. He knows better than we,” I suggested.
Those who have been on Dartmoor will remember in what wild confusion blocks of stone are hurled about, piled, displaced, strewn. In the wood there are many such heaps, the trees growing up and about them. Bru made for the opposite side of Warlock Wood from that by which we had entered, the side that led from the Dene and the Soothings. He was as tense as a dog of bronze as he sniffed and pointed. Finally he sprang on a great huddle of rocks and stood magnificent—for so small a creature as a dog can be magnificent in attitude—about two hundred yards within the trees, pointing with all his might.
"It will be there,” I said, and sat down. Let them see to that—their trade, not mine. , , , ,
They heaved the stones apd found, and folded what they found in a cloth and some sheets they had brought in case. There was a disk of blood soaking the dress above the heart, but frozen. That was all.
I beckoned Matthews aside, while the silent passenger was lifted into the car.
“ Now I will tell you,” I said.
And even then he would scarcely believe me. We came down by Little Embledon in dead silence, while he revolved it in his mind, a much startled and bewildered man. Whatever he had thought and dreamt of, it never was that. But when he settled down to it, the case was exceedingly well managed. He had a detective down from Headquarters, and the moles burrowed underground to some purpose while Rossan and Sandys Cairn went their unconscious way overhead. They had the case complete before they arrested them, and not a soul knew, not even Marcia, what was afoot. But I knew; they kept me in touch all the time. We took the Magnifico to the police station and tested it, Marcia little guessing its destination and but too thankful to see it go for ever.
AND now comes the singular thing. It - was out of order—not a sound could we get through it, and yet no one, not the expert we called in nor any living soul of them, could see a thing wrong with it.
‘‘It should work!” he said distractedly. ‘‘Not a devil of a thing can I see that wants to be set right. And why won’t the blamed thing go?”
It is entirely beyond me to answer that question where experts failed. They believed the second jar had caused the whole sequence of events after Pippa Lastra’s singing, but none could explain. Could the third jar have set the brute right again as I lifted it to the car? Or was it—what I won’t lose my reputation for sanity by hinting? It remained a mystery insoluble.
But it hanged Rossan and Cairn—that and the fact that Marcia’s bangle was found in Rossan’s room at Ava Park. What the Magnifico had told us, dovetailed to a hair with what Matthews and his men discovered. There was no flaw, no hitch. The machinery of the law worked with a terrible, steady smoothness that was august in its way—Nemesis embodied, the slow unseen foot overtaking the swift, agonized doubling of the hare. It could not prove the murder of the husband, Barry, for the corpus delicti was never found. The Dartmoor bogs might, perhaps, account for that, but they hold their mysteries well, smiling to the sunshine, darkening to the night, but always their own, and secret. But there was strong presumption, and apart from that, doings in India of the brothers came to light that—-but why recall them? Nature repairs her scars.
Last time I passed by Warlock Hollow, but not entering, . the sun lanced it through and through with golden beams, piercing the inmost recesses. I ran past it shuddering. To me it had become a hieroglyph of all that life contains of the dark quivering just below the surface. I went on by Selford and the house.
It was spring, and the sheep with little skipping lambs were nibbling about the half burnt and ruined scene of the tragedy, and a few hundred yards off, down by the brawling rivulet, stood the gaunt, new cottage of the man whom Brian Johnstone had put in as a tenant. His flaxen-haired brood were dabbling like young ducks in the water.
I got out and walked about the place. It was then I saw the remains of a ruined aerial behind the burnt walls of the old house. Had that fact any explanation for the mystery? I cannot tell. We are dealing with the unknown and the terrible when so lightly we harness the Powers to our toys.
And Brian Johnstone rules at Ava Park, Lord Rossan, an honest man, well liked and honored, and past is past. He would have succeeded anyhow with the other two out of the way, but the papers at Gueret were final.
WILL it seem the act of a fool that I took a hammer and smashed the Magnifico to bits at the police station? I had a notion that after those hideous voices of agony and crime had possessed it, nothing should use it again. I saw it carried off on the wheelbarrow of a härterer in junk, and as I caught a last flash of the sun on broken brass and steel I thought there was something devilish in the thing and was glad to see it go.
And Marcia’s present to me next Christmas will be a gramophone, where you can choose the records and be safe. •H* *H* ’H' *H* *H*