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By SAX ROHEKU. Aathor of “The feiww CIaw. ‘Dr. Pr-Eanch, The Orchard of Teae etc. Iflamrrated by R. CATON WOODVILE. [a reai mas helm ra a ridm i liM 7 a rDw iigduu and if is w ow 8.dtmg iq h.Ds b he i er . w gerne rduiru is isdd.i

PART I.-THE COWLED MAN. CHAPTER I. THE SHADOW OF A COWL. KEPPEL STUART. M.D.. F.R.S., awoke with a start and discovered himself to be bathed in cold perspiration. The moonlight shone in at his window, but did not touch the bed. therefore his awakenng could not be due to this cause. He lay for some time listening for any unfamiliar noise which might account for the sudden disturbance of his usually sound slumbers In the house below nothing stirred. His windows were widely open, and he could detect that vague drumming which is charac- teristic of midnight London: sometimes, too, the clash- ing of buffers upon some siding of the Brighton Rail- way where shunting was in progress; an occasional siren notes from the Thames: otherwise-nothing. He glanced at the luminous disc of his watch. The hour was half-past two. Dawn was notr far off. The night seemed to have become almost intolerably hot, and to this heat Stuart felt disposed to ascribe both his awakening and also a feeling of uncomfort- able tension of which he now became aware. He continued to listen, and, listening ana hearing nothing, recognised with anger that he was frightened. A sense of some presence oppreemed him. Someone or something evil was nae him-perhaps in the room, vailed by the shadows This ncanny sensation grew more and more marked Stuart sat up ma bed, slowly and cautiously, look- ing all about him. He remembered to have awakened once thas in India–aA to have aound a great cobra coiled at his feet His inspection revealed the presence of nothing unfamiliar, and he stepped out on to the door. A faint clicking sound reached his ears. He stood quite still. The clicking was repeated. ” There i someone downstairs in my study I ” muttered Stuart. He became aware that the Sar which held him was such that, unals be acted asad acted swiftly, be should become incapable of actiCo; but he remem-

bered that,. whereas the moonlight poured into the bedroom, the staircase would be in complete darkness. He walked barefooted across to the dressing-table and took up an electric torch which lay there. He had not used it for some time, and he pressed the button to learn if the torch was charged. A beam of white light shone out across the room, and at the same instant came another sound. If it came from below or above, from the adjoining room or from outside in the road. Stuart knew not. But. following hard upon the mysterous disturbance which had aroused him, it seemed to pour ice into his veim,-it added the complementary touch to his panic For it was a kind of low wail-a ghostly minor wail in falling cadeces-ulike any sound he had heard. It was so excessively horrible that it produced a curious effect. Discovering from the dancing of the torch-ray that his hand was trembling, Stuart concluded that he had awakened from a nightmare, and that this fiendish wailing was no more than an unusually delayed after- math of the imaginary horrors which had bathed him in cold perspiration. He walked resolutely to the door, threw it open, and cast the beam of light on to the staircase. Softly he began to descend Before the study door he paused. There was no sound. He threw open the door, directing the torch-ray into the oomn Cutting a white lane through the blacknes, it shone fully upon his writing-table, which was a rather fne Jacobean piece having a sort of quaint bmreau superstrctuae containing catinets and drawers. He could detect nothing unusual in the appearance of the littered table. A tobacco-jar stood there, a pipe resting in the lid. Papers and books were scattered untidily, as he had left them, surrounding a tray full of pipe and cigarette ash. Then, suddenly, he saw something else. One of the bureau drawers was half-opened. Stuart stood quite still, staring at the table. There was no sound in the room. He crossed slowly, moving the light from right to left. His papers had been overhauled methodically. The drawers had been replaced, but he lelt asured that all had been [tC .f’d.. e- U SA. –. C–..

examined. The light-switch was immediately beside the outer door, and Stuart walked over to it and switched on both lamps. Turning, he surveyed the brilliantly illuminated room. Save for himself, it was empty. He looked out into the hall-way again. There was no one there. No sound broke the stillness. But that conscioanes of some near presence asserted itself persistently and uncannily. ” My nerves are out of order.” he muttered. ” No one has touched my papers I must have left the drawer open myself.” He switched off the light and walked across to the door. He had actually passed out, intending to return to his room. when he became aware of a slight draught. He stopped. Someone or something, evil and watchful, seemed to be very near agam. Stuart turned and found himself gazing fearfully in the direction of the open study door. He became persuaded anew that some- one was hiding there, and, snatching i’p an ash-stick which lay upon a chair in the hall, he returned to the door. One step into the room he took, and paused- palsied with a sudden fear which exceeded anything he had known. A white casement curtain was drawn across the French windows . . . and outlined upon this moon- bright screen he saw a tall fgure. It was that of a cnwded as ! Such an apparition wouid have been sufficiently slarming had the cowl been that of a monk, but the outline of this phantom beisg suggested that of one of the Misericordia brethren or the costume worn of old by the familiars of the Inquisition. His heart leapt wildly, and seemed to grow still. He sought to cry out in his terror, but only emitted a dry, gasping sound. The psychology of panic is obscure, and has been but imperfectly explored. The presence of the terrible cowled figure afforded confirmation of Stuart’s theory that he was the victim of a species of waking nightmare. Even as he looked, the shadow of the cowled man moved-and was gone.

Stuart ran across the room, jerked open the curtains, and stared out across the nowin bathed lawn, its pr,sci t terminnated by high privet hedges. On, of the I rIw n s. wtn.ws was s ei .jewin There was n. r.”. t, e” la-“sin ; there was no sound. Mrs 1i,r,:,r swearms that I .always forget to shut these win.–s. at n:.ht ” he- nlmutt, red Hie cloted anid tiIt,’l the windolw, st- il for a nome unt looking out across the empty lawn, then turned and went iut of the room CHAITER II tIll 1111t’.. I (iF I HE M;GHEl;ORS Iit. STI’.AIRT aswake in the morning and tned to recall what had occurred during the night lic con- sulted Ills watch. and tfound the hour to be six a im. Noi one- was stirring in the house, aind lie rnose anld put on a hath ritbe iti felt perfectlv well. and could dI tect noi smvinptmis of nii rvous is. order Bright sun- light 5was streamiiig nt-u the room and he went out on to the Ltn.dt;’ fastening the cord of his gown as he deloinded the stars Itls study ldoor was t locked with the kei outside II, rmertmberei having licked it i 1wuiing it he .r-tnd a-it i-,ik.,I alut rum r I.e as aLguehl ,:salens,.1. ,e fior the untidy hlitter of pape.rs u,-“n th, -tab-e the stud, was as he had I. It it on n-rni It hI- imild l.he,-se the euii-n-e iof his w.v.es mathLing habi Ben disturbed Not content with a casual insp.ictiin, he par- tisdulalrty ev.ulilnu d those plapers whot. hi lu 1 dream aIs-vnturi hte h.It behi. id to hae be-en sulmitted to in:’.-ti-u i-,, oisi tiin They sihowed no signs of hiL i g lbeen teu.d h-i The casement tcurtains were di awin a erois the rtics formied iby the French wis.sws anl d sunhlgh uft st rused in wthere, silhouetted ag:.tnst the p.Jlhd illuntnltion of the moon, he had s. en the tuian ili the cowl I Irawing back the surtains, hi, iaimnltl ,d the ws nA-in fastenings They iwere s.itu it thie uiln.ow haul realls lte-n opetn in the hlrt ne uil: have left it v, h
llm e It eVil muttered -tuart ” of all the amazing nightmair ‘ lie det.-mini-tdon snnudrately he had bathed and Citup-let.1 his tilott to wsite an aCcounit of the dream I ir the s-‘ chln.a hi search S.-ciety, in whose work he was umt. t–.t-.,I ialt .ain hour later as the movements oif an a-. .k ed. hu.teholl- d tLbgan to procla nt them- sleses he sat down it his wrnting table and com- mienced to write Kep1el Stuart wvas a dark, gied-looking man of about thiurty two, ,a easy going bachelor, who, whilst iait .ove-r aibuitious svas nevertheless a bnilliant plhsicitn lie hIit woirked for the I .verlu d School oi fr Ipi .a 1Ith ire, and had sptnt several %ears in Sli:,.a -tlus fig snake -.iusuns lhis purchase of this hunilrunim -utufitn practice’ had been dictatedt by a distre to make a home for a girl who at the eleventh hI uir had declihnedl to share it Two years had elapsedl since then but the shaisow still lay ulpin Stuart’s life. its Inlunue bt-ing revealeil in a certain apathy- alm-st lin hi-irtee –wiuch characternsel his pro- As.ional conduct 1is actcount ,, the dream completed, he put the lpaper into a pigeoin hole and torgot all about the matter That day seemed to be nmore than usually dull and the hours to drag wearily on He was contoiuus of a sort of suspense HIe was waiting for omnethling or for someoneili He dird not choose to analyse this mental colutiht n Had he done so, the explanation was simple–and one that he dared not face. At about ten o’clock that night, having been catlled out to a case, lie returned to his house, walking straight into the study. as was his custom, and casting a hlight Hurbe-rry- with a soft hat, upon the sofa beside his stick and bag The lamps were lighted, and the lbsk luiiet rnom. indicative of a studious and not over-wealthy bachelor, looked cheerful enough with the firelight dancing upon the furmniture. Mrs M’Gregor. a grey-haired Scotch lady, attired with scrupulous neatness, was tending the fire at the moment. antd, hearing Stuart come in, she turned and glanced at him ” A fire is rather superfluous to-night. Mrs. M’Gregor,” he said ” I found it unpleasantly warm walking.” ” May is a fearsome treacherous month, Mr. K(eppel,” replied the old housekeeper, who, from long association with the struggling practitioner, had come to regard hun as a son. ” An’ a wheen o’ dry logs is worth a barrel o’ pheesic To which I would add that. if ye ‘re hintin’ it ‘s time ye shed ye’re woolsies for ye’re summer wear, all 1 have to reply is that I hope sincerely ye’re patients are more prudent than yoursel’.” She placed his slippers in the fender, and took up the hat. stack, and coat from the sofa He began to unlace his boots as Mrs. M’Gregor pulled the white casement curtains across the windows and then prepared to retire. Her hand upon the door- knot, she turned again to Stuart

The foreign lady called half-an-hour since, Mr KeppelL” Stuart desisted from unlacing his boots and looked up with lively interest. ” le. Dorian! Did she leave any message ? ” She obsairved that she might repeat her veesit later ” replied Mirs M Grieg,r : and, after a moment’s hesitation. ” She awaited ye’re return with exemplary patience.” ” Really. I am sorry I was detained.” declared Stuart. relacing his boot. ” How long has she been gone, then ? Just the now. : o more than two or three minutes. I trust she is no worse.” ‘orse ? ” ” The lass seemed o’er-anxious to see you ” Well, you know, Mrs. M’Gregor, she comes a consilderaihe distance.” So I am given to understand, Mr. Keppel,” repihed the old lady drily , “and in a grand luxurious car Stuart assumed an expression of perplexity to hide his embarrassment. ” Mrs M’Gregor,” he said, rather ruefully. ” vou watch over me as tenderly as my own mother wuldl have done I have observed a certain restraint in your manner whenever you have had oa~,son to, refer to Mlle’ I urran In what way does she iither ftrm my .ther laty patients ” And even as he, spoke the wordts he knew in his heart that she ditfered from every other woman in the world. Mrs M Gregor sniffed. “o 1 your other lady patients wear furs that your airnings for six months coull never pay for, Mr Keppel ? ” she inquired. ” No ; unfortunately, they pin their faith, for the most part. to gaily coloured shawls. All the more reason why I should bless the accident which led Mile orinan to my door.” Mrs. M’Gregor, betraying in her interest real suspicllon, murmured sollo voce, ” Then she is a patient ” “‘ hat ‘s that ? ‘ asked Stuart. regarding her surprcsedly. “A patient ? Certainly. She suffers from insomnia ” I ‘m no’ surprised to hear it.” ” What do you mean. Mrs. M’Gregor? ” ” Now Mr. Keppel, laddie, ye’re angry with me, and like enough I ‘m a meddlesome auld woman. But I know what a man will do for shining een and a winsome face-none better, to my sorrow-and twa times have I heard the Warning.” Stuart stood up in real perplexity. ” Pardon my density. Mrs. M’Gregor, but-er-the Warning ? To what ‘ warning ‘ do you refer ? ” Seating herself in the chair before the writing- table. Mrs M’Gregor shook her head pensively. “‘What would it be,” she said softly. ” but the Pibroch o’ the M’Gregors ” Stuart came across and leaned upon a corner of the table. ” The Pibroch of the M’Gregors ? ” he repeated. ” Nane other. ‘Tis said to be Rob Roy’s ain piper that gives warning when danger threatens ane o’ the M’Gregors or any they love.” Stuart restrained a smile, and ” A well-meaning but melancholy retainer ! ” he commented. ” As well as I hear you now, laddie, I heard the pibroch on the day a certain woman first crossed my threshold, nigh thirty years ago, in Inveraray. And, as plainly as I heard it wailing then. I heard it the first evenmng that Miss )orian came to this house ! ” Torn between good-humoured amusement and real interest, ” If I remember rightly.” said Stuart, ” Mile. Dorian first called here just a week ago, and imme- diately before I returned from an Infirmary case ? ” ” Your memory is guid, Mr. Keppel.” ” And when, exactly, did you hear this Warning ? ” “Twa minutes before you entered the house; and I heard it again the now.” “W \hat ! You heard it to-night ? ” ” I heard it again just the now, and I lookit out the window.” ” Did you obtain a glimpse of Rob Roy’s piper ? ” ” Ye ‘re laughing at an auld wife, laddie. No; but I saw Miss Dorian away in her car, and twa minutes later I saw yoursel’ coming round the corner.” ” If she had only waited another two minutes I ” murmured Stuart. ” No matter; she may return. And are these the only occasions upon which you have heard this mysterious sound, Mrs. M’Gregor ? ” ” No, Master Keppel, they are not. I assure you something threatens. It wakened me up in the wee sma’ hours last night-the piping-an’ I lay awake shaking for long eno’.” “How extraordinary ! Are you sure your imagim – tion is not playing you tricks ? ” ” Ah, ye ‘re no’ takin’ me seriously, laddie.” ” Mrs. M’Gregor “-he leaned acro the table and rested his hands upon her should-” you are a second mother to me: your care makes me feel like a boy again, and in these grey days it’s good to fed like a boy again. You think I am laughing at you; but I ‘m not The strange tradition of your family is associated with a tragedy in your life; threfore I

respect it. But have no fear with regard to Mile. Dorian. In the first place, she is a patient; in the second-I am merely a penniless suburban prac- titioner. Good-night, Mrs. M’Gregor. Don’t think of waiting up. Tell Mary to show Mademoiselle in here directly she arrives-that is. if she really returns.” Mrs. M’Gregor stood up and walked slowly to the door. ” I ‘ll show Mademoiselle in mysel’, Mr. Keppel,” she said-” and show her out.” She closed the door very quietly. CHAPTER III. THE SCORPION’S TAIL. SEATING himself at the writing-table. Stuart began mechanically to arrange his pepers. Then from the tobacco-jar he loaded his pipe, but his manner remained abstracted. Yet he was not thinking of the phantom piper, but of Mile. Dorian. Until he had met this bewilderingly pretty woman he had thought that his heart was for evermore proof against the glances of
bright eyes. Mademoiselle had disillusioned him. She was the most fragrantly lovely creature he had ever met, and never for one waking moment since her first visit had he succeeded in driving her bewitching image from his mind. He had tried to laugh at his own folly, then had grown angry with himself, but finally had settled down to a dis- mayed acceptance of a wild infatration. He had no idea who Mile. Dorian was-he did not even know her exact nationality, but he strongly suspected that there was a strain of Eastern blood in her veins. Although she was quite young-apparently little more than twenty years of age-she dressed like a woman of unlimited means; and, although all her visits had been at night, he had had glimpses of the big car which had aroused Mrs. M’Gregor’s displeasure. Yes-so ran his musings as, pipe in mouth, he rested his chin in his hands, and stared grimly into the fire–she had always come at night, and always alone. He had supposed her to be a Frenchwoman; but an unmarried French girl of good family does not make late calls, even upon a medical man, unattended. Had he. perchance, unwittingly made himself a party to the escapade of some unruly member of a noble family ? From the first he had shrewdly suspected the ailments of Mile. Dorian to be imaginary. Mlle. Dorian ? It was an odd name. ” I shall be imagining she is a disgnuised princess if I wonder about her any more ! ” he muttered angrily. Detecting himself in the act of heaving a weary sigh, he coughed in self-reproval and reached into a pigeon-hole for the manuscript of his unfinished paper on ” Snake Poisons and Their Antidotes.” By chance he pulled out the brief account, written the same morning, of his uncanny experience during the night. He read it through reflectively. It was incomplete. A certain mental haziness which he had noted upon awakening had in some way obscured the facts. His memory of the dream had been imperfect. Even now, whilst recognisng that some feature of the experience was missming from his written account. hbe could not identify the omission. But one memory arose starkly before him-that of the cowled man who had stood behind the curtains. It had power to chill him yet. The old incredulity returned, and methodically he re-examined the con- tents of some of the table-drawers. Ere long, however, be desisted impatiently. ” What the devil could a penniless doctor have hidden in his desk that was worth stealing ? ” he said aloud. “I must avoid cold salmon and cucumber in future.” He tossed the statement aside and turnmed to his scientific paper. There came a knock at the door. ” Come in m ” snapped Stuart irritably; but the next moment he had turned, eager-eyed, to the servant who had entered. ” Inspector Dunbar has called. Sir.” “Oh, all right.” said Stuart. repressing another sigh. ” Show him in here.” There entered, shortly, a man of unusual height–a man gaant and square both of figure and face. He wore his clothes and his hair untidily. He was iron- grey, and a grim mouth was ill-concealed by the wiry moustache. The most notable features of a striking face were the tawny leonine eyes, which could be fierce, which could be pensive, and which were often kindly. ” Good evening, Doctor,” he said, and his voice was pleasant and unexpectedly light in tonme. ” Hope I don’t intrude ? ” ” Not at all, Inspector,” Stuart amured him. ” Make yourself comfortable in the arm-chair and fill your pipe.” ” Thanks,” said Dunbar, ” I will.” He took out his pipe and reached out a long arm for the tobacco- jar. ” I came to see if yoa could give me a tip on a matter that has cropped up.” ” Semething in my line ? ” asked Stuart, a keen profediomal look coming mmentaily into his eyes. ” It ‘s supposed to be a poison case. although I can’t see it myself,” answered the detective, to whom

Keppel Stuart’s unusual knowledge of poisons had been of service in the past:; ” but. if what I suspect is true, it’s a very big case all the same ” Laying down his pipe, which he had 6Jled but not lighted, Inspector Dunbar pulled out from the inside pocket of his tweed coat a bulging note-book and extracted therefrom some small object wrapped up in tissue-paper. Unwrapping this object, he laid it upon the table. ” Tell me what that is, Doctor,” he said, ” and I shall be obliged.” Stuart peered closely at that which lay before him. It was a piece of curiously shaped gold, cunningly engraved in a most unusual way. Rather less than an inch in length, it formed a crescent made up of six oval segments joined one to another, the sixth terminating in a curled point. The fist and largest segment ended jaggedly where it had evidently been snapped off from the rest of the ornament-if the thing had formed part of an orna-

ment. stuart looked up. frowning in a puzzled way. ” It is a most carious fragment of jewellery – poesibly of Indian origi.” he said. Inspector Dunbar lighted his pipe and tossed the match-end into the fire. ” But what does it repre- sent?” he asked. ” Oh, as to that-I said a canons fragment advisedly, be- came I cannot imagine any woman wearing such a beastly thing. It is the lail o/f a scopion.” ” Ah I ” cried Danber, the tawny eyes glittering with excite- ment. “The tail of a scorpion I I thought so I And Sowerby would have it that it repreented the stem of a cactus or prickly pear I ” “Not so bad a gues.” replied Stuart. ” There are resemblances- not in the originals, but in such a miniature reproduction as this.- He was wrong, however. May I ask where you obtained the fragmet ? ” ” I’m here to tal you, Doctor, for now that I know it’sa scor- pion’s tail I know that I ‘m out of my depth as well. You ‘ve travelled in the East and lived in the East- two very different things. Now. while you were out th n India China Burma. and so on–did you ever com acrom a religion or a cult that worshipped corpions ? ” Stuart frowned thoughtfully, rubbing his chin with the mouth- piece of his pipe. Dunbar watched ha expectantly. “Help yourself to whisky-and- soda. Ispector,” said Stuart ab- asetly; ” you rl ad everything on the side-table yonder. I ‘m thinking.” Inspector Dunbar nodded, stood up. and crossed the rooam where he busied himself with syphon aad deuater. Presetly he returned carrying two fan glases, one of which he set belose Stuart. “What’s the answer, Doctor ? ” he asked. ” The answer is No. I am not acquainted with any sect of acor- pion-washippers. Inspector. But I once met with a curious experi- moe at Sd-Chow, in China, which I have never been able to explain.

but which may interest you. It wanted but a few minutes to sunset, and I was anxious to get back to my quarters before dusk fell. Therefore I hurried up my boy who was drawing the ricahaaw, teing him to crso the canal by the Wf-Mea Bridge. He ran eetdy in that direction, and we were actually come to the steep acclivity of the bridge when suddenly the boy dropped the abafts and fell down on his knees, hiding his face in his hands. ” sut your eyes tightly. xster I ‘ he whispered. ‘The Smorpios comg I ‘ “I stared down at him in asemant, as was natusal, and not a little angrily, for his sudden action had almost pitched me on my head. But there he crouched, immovable, afraid to look up the slope. I saw that it was entirely deserted except for one strange igure at that moment coming the aswn of thebidge a approaching. It was the Agure of a teall and dignied ChIuman, or of ems who wore the draes of a Chinamaa. For the eardmiary thing about the stranger’s appearance was this–he also wore a thick green veil I ” ” Covering his face “So as to over his face completely. I was starig

at him in wonder when the boy, seeming to divine the other’s approach. whispered ‘Turn your head away ! Turn your head away ! ‘” He was refernng to the man with the vre:il ” Undoubtedly Of course, I did nothing of the kind; but it was impossible to discern the stranger’s features through the thick gauze, although lie passed quite close to me He had not proceeded another three paces, I should think, before my boy hail snatched up the shafts and darted across the bridge as though all bell were af
ter him ! Here ‘s the odd thing, though I could never induce him to speak a word on the subject afterwards. I bullied him and bribed him. but all to no purpose. And although I must have asked more than a hundred Chinamen in every station of society, from mandarin to mendicant. ‘Who or what is The Scorpo, ? ‘ one and all looked stupid, blandly assuring me that they did not know what I meant !”

Thin was a. a,. on di. kin; dim im ii lamm

“H’m ” said Dunbar. ” It’s a queer yarn. certainly. How long ago would that be. Doctor ? ” “Roughly- ve years.” ” It sounds as though it might belong to the case. Some months back early in the winter, we received instructions at the Yard to look out everywhere in the Press, in buffets, theatres, but particularly in criminal quarters, for any reference (of any kind whatever) to a scorpion. I was so puzzled that I saw the Commimioner about it, and he could tell me next to nothing. He said the word had come through from Paris, but that Paris seemed to know no more about it than we did. It was associated in some way with the sudden deaths of several notable public men about that time; but, as there was no evidence of foul play in any of the cases. I couldn’t -e what it meant at alL Then, six weeks ago. Sir Frank Narcombe. the srgeon. fell dead the foyer of a West-End thetre-you remmber ? ” ” Perfectly–an extraordinary cae. There should have been an autopsy.” ” It’s curious you should say so, Doctor, because we had the tip to press for one; but Sir Frank’s people had big ialence, aad we lost. This i the point,

though. I was working day and night for a week or more. cross questionng Tom. I ick. and Harm and examining shoals of papers. to try and find some connection between Str Frank Narc.mbe ant a scorpion Pans minformation again i coiurse, I found no trace of such a thing It ws a ldevil of a job, because I didn’t really know what I was looking for I had begun to think the scorpion-hunt had gone the way of a good many other giant go,ern., when last nimght the kRier ‘,hce got the grapnei orn a man ott Hanover Hole- a nch spot for ands It H was fnghtfully battered about- he seemed to ha. got mixed up with a steamer’s propeller bla.ls Ie. only two things by which lie may ultimately he identified are a metal disc which he wore on a th.un aroulnd his wrist, and which bore the initials (; M. and the number 49’.5, and- that ” Vhat ” said ‘tuart The iorpl”on’s tall It was stuik in th,- trn lining of hl~ Jacket li ket ”

(I.APTEII IV MADIEMOISELI.L D(I I IAN TIlE telephone-bell rang Stuart rea. he-il .or s for Ithf instrument .and raised the r-eslter ” Yes,” he said, DIr Stuart speaking. Inspector Dunhlat is here Hold on ” He passed the instrument t, Dunbar who, hail stdi up on hear- ing his name mentuioned ergeant kS.werbv, at Scotland Yard wishes to. speak to yoU, Inspector ” Hullo I ” said Dlunbar. ” That you. Sowetby ) Yes–hut I arrived here only a short time ago N hat “s that MarX : Ilnd yu say M. (;God God ‘-what dies it all mean Are you sure ot the number- 4i/,85 ? l’oor chap- he should have worked with us, instead of going off alone like that Iut he was always given to that sort of thlng Wait for me I ‘ bhe with you in a fe minutes I can get a taxt And. Sowerby–listen ‘ It ‘ The Scorpion ‘ case right enough That bit of gold found on the dead man is not a cactus stem – t ‘s a scorpion’s tall ‘ H e put down the telephione and turned to Stuart who ha.! been listening to the words with gnrw- ing concern Dunbar struck his open palmnt down on to the table with a violent gesture. ” We have been asleep he exclaimed ” Gastion Max. of the Parts Service has been at wirk in Iondon for a month and we ildn. t know it ‘ ” Gaston Max,” cried Stuart. ” Then it must be a big case in- deed ” As a student of rnmmnologh the name of the celebratel French- man was familiar to him as that iof the foremost criminal investigator in Europe, and he found hamself staring at the fragment of gohl with a new and keener interest. ” Poor chap ! ” continued Dun- bar. “It was his last The body brought in from Hano.-er Hole has been identified as his ” ” What! It is the body of Gaston Mlax? ”

” Paris has just wired that Max’s reports ceased over a week ago. He was working on the case of Sir Frank Narcombe. it seems, and I never knew But I predbcted a long time ago that Max would play the lone-hand game once too often They sent par- taculars. The identfication disc is his Oh. there ‘s no doubt about it. unfortunately ! The dead man’s face is unrecognisable; but it’s not likely there are two discs of that sort bearing the inimtals ‘ G. M ‘ and the number 49685. I ‘m going along now Should you care to come. Doctor ‘ ” “I am expecting a patient. Inspector.” replied Stuart; ” er-a special case. But I hope you wall keep me in touch with this affair ” ” Well, I shouldn’t have suggested your coming to the Yard if I hadn’t wanted to do that. As a matter of fact, this scorpion job seems to resolve itself into a case of elaborate assasnatuon -by means of some unknown poison. and although I should have come to see you in any event, because you have helped me more than once. I came to-night a* the suggestion of the Commissioner. He instructed me to retain your services if they were available.” ” I am hooured,” replied Stuart. ” But. after

all I ns1,ector. I ant iil eni.r ,l rrlllar surv allltlhan Iratttlioner tty teputatuon has vet to be matde VWhat ‘s the matter sithl I{.s-suoen, of I per \impole Street “lHe s the big m;anl ‘ And it Sir Franlk Naurombe was really poisoned. as lanls seems to thnlllk he wts i.e ‘s also a big fooe ” retorteld DIunbar bluntly ” lie agreed that death was due to heart trouble ” I know hle dll unsuspected ulcerative endo- cardits Perhaps he was right.” ” If he was right,” sail IDunbar, taking up the piece of gold from the table, ” what was (aston Max doing with this thing in his possession ? ” There may be no earthly connection between Max’s inquines and the death of Sir Frank ” ()n the other hand there may ! Leaving I)r l.aleyoen out of the question, are you open to act as esrl-rt adviser in this case Stertainly delighted ‘ Your fee Is sour own affair, lIoctor I will communicate with you later, if you wish, or call again In the morning IDunbar wrappted up the scorpion’s tail in the piece of tlssue paper. and was about to replace it in his note case Then “I ‘Ul leave this with you. hetir.,” he said “I know it will be safe enough. and you might like to examine It at greater leisure.” ” Very well,” rephled Stuart. ” Some of the engraving is very mnnute I will have a look at it through i a glass later.” Ite ttook the fragment from Dunbar. who had again unlwrapped it, and. openling a drawer of the writing- table in which he kept his cheque book and some few other personal valuables, he placed the curious piece of g”lld work within and relocked the drawer Swi ll walk as far as the cab rank with you.” he said linding himself to be possessed of a spint of un- rest Whereupon the two went out of the room. Stuart extinguishing the lamps as he came to the door They haid not left the study for more than two mlnultes err a car drew up outside the house, and Mrs M G(;regor ushered a lady into the niom but lateh quitted by Stuart and IDunbar. turning up the lights a.s she entered T ‘lie Doctor has gone outt hut just the now, Miss DItoian,” she said stiftly ” I am sorry that ye are so unfrlt unite in your veesits But I know he’ll be no Inlore than a few minnutes” Thle girl addtresseid was of a type fully to account for the uoigiv ings of the shrewd old Scotswoman. She hadt the slim beaiuty of the East allied to the elegance’ ns the Vest lier features, whilst cast in a chiarnintg I uropean mulld. at the same time suggested in solle su’lltle way the (Iriental She had the long. almoinid shaplti eyes of the Fgyptian. and her hair, Si h It she wsre uncanr einti’onally in a picturesque tslh:,, remlruscent of the harem was inclined to be tu,,s but gleamed with coppery tints where the light touched its waves She wore a cloak of purple velvet having a hooded collar of w~hte fox
fur : it fastened with golden cords Ikneaith It was a white and gold robe, cut with classic smiplicity of line andl contined at the waist by an ornate Eastern girdle White stockings and dull gold shoes exlubtted to aidvantage her charming little feet and slim a.nkles; and sihe carried a hand-bag of Indian heatd-work Mile )Dorian was a figure calculated to tire the imagination of any man, and to hnger long and sweetly in the memory Mrs M’Gregor. palpably ill at ease, conducted her to an arm-chair You are very goodl.” said the visitor, speaking with a certain hesitancy and with a shght accent most musical and fas.inating ” I wait a while if I may.” PDear, dear'” muttered Mrs. M!Gregor. begin- ning to poke the fire “He has let it down, of course ! Is it out i No . . . I see a wee sparkie.” She set the poker upright before the nearly ex- tingushed fire, and turned triumphantly to Mile. Dorian. who was watching her with a slight smile. ” That will be a comforting blaze in a few minutes. Miss Dorian,” she said, and went towards the door. ” If you please,” called the girl, detaining her, ” do you permit me to speak on the telephone a moment? As Dr. Stuart is not at home, I must explain that I wait for him.” ” Certainly, Miss Dorian.” replied Mrs. M’Gregor; ” use the telephone, by all means. But I think the Doctor will be back any moment now.” ” Thank you so much.” Mrs M’Gregor went out, not without a final back- ward glance at the elegant figure in the a.r-chair. Mile Dorian was seated. her chin resting in her ha t and her elbow upon the arm of the chair, gazing into the smoke arising from the nearly extinguished embers of the fire. The door closed, and Mrs. M’Gregor’s footsteps could be heard receding along the corridor. Mile Dorian sprang from the chair and took out of her handbag a number of small keys attached to a ring Furtively she crossed the room, all the time listening intently, and cast her cloak over the back of the chair which was placed before the writing- table. Her robe of white and gold clung to her shapely

figure as she bent over the table and tned three of the keys in the lock of the drawer which contained Stuart’s cheque-book, and in which he had recently placed the mysterious gold ornament The third key fitted the lock. and Mile lionan pulled open the drawer She discovered first the cheque-book. and next a private account-book; then from under the latter she drew out a foolscap envelope sealed with red wax, and bearing, in Stuart’s handwriting, the address – Lost Property Office. Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, S.W. i. She uttered a subdued exclamation; then, as a spark of light gleamed within the open drawer, she gazed as if stupefied at the httle ornament which she had suddenly perceived lyng near the cheque-book. She picked it up and stared at it aghast. A moment she hesitated ; then, laying down the fragment of gold and also the long envelope upon the table, she took up the telephone. Keeping her eyes fixed upon the closed door of the study, she asked for the number East &5 12. and, whilst she waited for the connection. continued that nervous watching and listening. Suddenly she began to speak, in a low voice- ” Yes ! . . . Miska speaks. Listen ! One of the new keys–it fits. 1 have the envelope. But also, in the same drawer, I find a part of a broken gold agrab -[scorpion]. Yes, it is broken. It must be they find it on hiun.” Her manner grew more and more agitated. ” Shall I bring it ? The envelope it is very large. I do not know if . . From somewhere outside the house came a low. wailing cry -a cry which Stuart, if he had heard it, must have recognised to be identical with that which he had heard in the night, but which he had forgotten to record in his written account ” Alw,” wuhspered the girl. ” there is the signal! It is the Doctor who returns ” She listened eagerly. fearfully, to the voice which spoke over the wires- Yes-yes ‘ Always glancing toward the door, she put down the instrument, took up the long envelope and paused for a moment, thinking that she had heard the sound of approaching footsteps. She exhibited signs of nervous indecision, tried to thrust the envelope into her little bead bag, and realised that, even folded, it would not fit so as to escape observation. She ran across to the grate and dropped the envelope upon the smouldering fire. As she did so, the nicely balanced poker fell with a clatter upon the tiled hearth. She started wildly. ran back to the table, took up the broken ornament, and was about to thrust it into the open drawer when the study door was flung open and Stuart came in CHAPTER V. THE SEALED ENVELOPE. ” MADEMOISELLE DOX)RIAN ! ” cried Stuart joy- ously, advancing with outstretched hand. She leaned back against the table watching him- and suddenly he perceived the open drawer. He stopped. His expression changed to one of surprise and anger, and the girl’s slim fingers convulsively clutched the table-edge as she confronted him Her exquisite colour fled, and left her pallid, dark-eyed and dismayed. ” So.” he said bitterly, ” I returned none too soon. Mile -Dorias ! ” ” Oh ! ” she whispered, and shrank from him as he approached nearer. ” Your object in selecting an obscure practitioner for your medical adviser becomes painfully evident to me. liagnosis of your case would have been much more easy if I had associated your symptoms with the presence in my table drawer of “-he hesitated-” of something which you have taken out. Give me what- ever you have stolen and compose yourself to await the arrival of the police.” He was cruel in his disillusionment. Here lay the explanation of his romance; here was his disguised princess–a common thief I She stared at him wildly. ” I take nothing ! ” she cried. ” Oh, let me go I Please, please let me go ! ” ” Pleading is useless. What have you stolen ? ” ” Nothing–see.” She cast the little gold orna- ment on the table. ” I look at this, but I do not mean to steal it” She raised her beautiful eyes to his face again, and he found himself wavering. That she had made his acquaintance in order to steal the fragment of the golden scorpion was impossible, for he had not pos- sessed it at the time of her first visit. He was hope- lessly mystited and utterly miserable. ” How-did you op1.: the drawer ? ” he asked sternly. ” I-I have a key that its it. Look.” She took up the bunch of keys which lay upon the table and naively exhibited that which fitted the lock of the drawer. Her hands were shaking. ” Where did you obtain this.key-and why ? ” She watched him intently, her lips trembling and

her eves wells of sorrow into which he could not gaze unmoved. If I tell you. will you let me go ” I shall make no promises, for I can believe nothing that you may tell me. You gained my con- fidence by a he ; and now, by another lie, you seem to think that you can Induce me to overlook a deliberate attempt at burglary – common burglary ! ” He clenched his hands. ” Heavens ! I could never have believed it of you !” She flinched as though from a blow, and regarded him pitifully, as he stood, head averted. ” Oh, please hsten to me,” she whispered. ” At first I tell you a he–yes.” And now ? ” Now– tell you the truth.” That you are a petty thief ? ” Ah, you are cruel-you have no pity! You judge me as you judge-one of your Englishwomen. Perhaps I cannot help what I do. In the East a woman is a chattel, and has no will of her own.” “A chattel!” cried Stuart scornfully. ” Your resemblance to the ‘ chattels ‘ of the East is a remote one. There is Eastern blood in your veins, no douLt; but you are educated, you are a linguist, you know the world. Right and wrong are recognisable to the lowest savage.” ” And if they recognise, but are helpless ? ” Stuart made a gesture of impatience. ” You are simply seeking to enlist my sympathy,” he said bitterly; ” but you have said nothing which inclines me to listen to you any longer. Apart from the shock of finding you to be-what you are, I am utterly mystified as to your object. I am a poor man. The entire contents of my house would fetch only a few hundred pounds if sold to-morrow. Yet you risk your libe
rty to rifle my bureau. For the last time-what have you taken from that drawer ? ” She leaned back against the table, toying with the broken piece of gold and glancing down at it as she did so. Her long lashes cast shadows below her eyes, and a hint of colour was returning to her cheeks. Stuart studied her attentively-even delightedly, for all her shortcomings-and knew in his heart that he could never give her in charge of the police. More and more the wonder of it all grew upon him, and now he suddenly found himself thinking of the unexplained incident of the previous night. ” You do not answer,” he said. ” I will ask you another question-have you attempted to open that drawer prior to this evening ? ” Mile. Doran looked up rapidly, and her cheeks, which han been pale, now flushed rpsily. ” I try twice before,” she confessed, ” and cannot open it.” ” Ah ! And-has somroae else tried also ? ” Instantly her colour fled again, and she stared at him wide-eyed, fearful. ” Someone else ? ” she whispered. ” Yes-someone else. A man . .. wearing a sort of cowl–” ” Oh !” she cried, and threw out her hands in entreaty. “Do not ask me of him I I dare not answer-I dare not ! ” ” You have answered,” said Stuart, in a voice unlike his own, for a horrified amazement was creeping upon him and supplanting the contemptuous anger which the discovery of this beautiful girl engaged in pilfering his poor belongings had at first aroused. The mystery of her operdtions was explained- explained by a deeper and a darker myst”ry. The horror of the night had been no dream, but an almost incredible reality. He now saw before him an agent of the man in the cowl; he perceived that he was in some way entanglen in an affair vastly more complex and sinister than a case of petty larceny. ” Has the golden scorpion anything to do with the matter ? ” he demanded abruptly. And in the eyes of his beautiful captive he read the answer. She flinched again as she had done when he had taunted her with being a thief ; but he pressed his advantage remorselessly. ” So you were concerned in the death of Sir Frank Narcombe ? ” he said. ” I was not I ” she cried at him fiercely, and her widely opened eyes were magnificent. ” Sir Frank Narcombe is . She faltered-and ceased speaking, biting her lips, which had become tremulous again. ” Sir Frank Narcombe is … ? ” prompted Stuart. feeling himself to stand upon the brink of a revelation. “1 know nothing of him – this Sir Frank Narcombe.” Stuart laughed unmirthfully. ” Am I, by any chance, in danger of sharing the fate of that distinguished surgeon ? ” he asked ironically. His question produced an unforeseen effect. Mile. Dorian suddenly rested her jewelled hands upon his shoulders, and he found himself looking hungrily into those wonderful Eastern eyes. ” If I swear that I speak the truth, will you

bel:eve me ? ” she whispered, and her fingers closed convulhively upon his shoulders. He was shaken. Her near presence was mintox- catng. ” Perhaps.” he said unsteadily.

-V H. partcuh.ly .za..n~d tho. ~ppn.

” Listen then–now you are in danger, yes. Before, you were not; but now you must be very careful. Oh. indeed-indeed, I tell you true I I tell you for your own sake. Do with me what you please. I do not care. It does not matter. You ask me why I come here. I tell you that also. I come for what is In the long envelope-look. I cannot hide it. It is on the tire.’ Stuart turned and glanced toward the grate. A faint wisp of brown smoke was arising from a long white envelope which lay there. Had the fire been actually burning, it must long ago have been destroyed. More than ever mystified, for the significance of the envelope was not evident to him, he ran to the grate and plucked the smouldering paper from the embers. As he did so, the girl, with one quick glance in his direction, snatched her cloak, keys, and bag and ran from the room Stuart heard the door close, and, racing back to the table, he placed the slightly charred envelope there beside the fragment of gold and leapt to the door. ” Damn ! ” he said. His escaped prisoner had turned the key on the outside. He was locked in his own study ! Momentarily nonplussed, he stood looking at the closed door. The sound of a re-started motor from outside the house spurred him to action. He switched off the lamps, crossed the darkened room, and drew back the curtain, throwing open the French windows. Brilliant moonlight bathed the little lawn, with its bordering of high privet hedges. Stuart ran out as the sound of the receding car reached his ears. By the time that he had reached the front of the house the street was vacant from end to end. He walked up the steps to the front door, which lie unfastened with his latch-kev. As he entered

the hall, Mrs. Mregor appeared from her room. “I did no’ hear ye go out with Miss Dorian,” she said. “That’s quite possible, Mrs. MGregor; but she has gone, you see.” ” Now tell me Mr. Keppel, did ye or did ye no’ hear the wail o’ the pibroch the night ? ” “No–I am afraid I cannot say that I did, Mrs. M’Gregor,” replied Stuart patie lV. “I feel sure you must be very tn.M. and you can justifiably turn m now. I am ex. pecting no other visitor. Good-night.” Palpably dissatisfied and ill at ease, Mrs. M’Gregor turned away. “Good- night, Mr. Keppel.” she said. Stuart. no longer able to control his impatience, hurried to the study door, unlocked it, and entered. Turn- ing on the light, he crossed and hastily drew the curtains over the window recess, but without troubling to close

the window which he had opened. Then he re- turned to the wrnting-table and took up the sealed envelope whose presence in his bureau was clearly responsible for the singular visitation of the cowled man and for the coming of the lovely Mile. Dorian. The ” pibroch of the

M’Gregors ” ? He re- membered something- something which, un- accountably~he hitherto had failed to recall: that fearful wading in the night which had heralded the coming of the cowled man-or bad it been a signal of some kind ? He stared at the envelope blankly, then laid it down and stood looking for some time at the golden scor- pion’s tail. Finally, his hands resting cpon the table, he found that almost unconsciously he had been listening- listening to the dim night sounds of Lon- don and to the vague stirrings within the :ouse. ” Now you are in danger. .Before, you were not . . Could he believe her ? If in naught else, in this at least snrely she had been sin- cere ? Stuart started- then laughed gnmly.

A clock on the mantelpiece had chimed tle half-hour. CHAPTER VI. THE ASSISTANT-CO.MMLflSSIONER. DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR DIUNBAR arrived at New Scotland Yard in a veritable fever of excctement. Jumping out of the cab, he ran into the building, and, without troubling the man in charge of the lift, went straight on upstairs to his room. He found it to be in darkness, and switched on the green.shaded lamp which was suspended above the table Its light revealed a bare apartment having distempered walls severely decorated by an etching of a former and unbeautiful Commissioner. The blinds were drawn. A plain, heavy deal table (bearing a blotting-pad, a pewter ink-pot, several pens, and a telephone) together with three uncomfortable chair., alone broke the expanse of highly polished floor. Dunbar glanced at the table, and then stood unlecided in the middle of the bare room, tapping his small, widely separated teeth with a pencil which he had absently drawn from his waistcoat pocket. He walked out into the bare corridor and along to the room of the Assistant-Commissioner. Knockmg upon the door, he opened it immediately and entered an apartment which afforded a striking contrast to his own. For whereas the room of Inspector Dunbar was practically unfurnished, that of his superior was so filled with tables, cupboards, desks, bureaux, files, telephones, book-shelves, and stacks of documents that one only discovered the Assistant-Commissioner sunk deep in a padded arm-chair and a cloud of tobacco- smoke by dint of close scrutmuny. The Assistant-

-Ti. – m
a n Ied chJd 6.I-.n-Iwv sauce. M,. KqpeL

(Comnl ,usioner was, mall, sallow, aind Sala’.n: lH. black mloustache was very black, ant hi – c .ves i., so dark a brown as to appear bllck al-io \ hi-: l smiled he revealed a rnot o’if ver, large white tee:h, and his smile was correcth- Mephlustphelean lie smoked a hundred and twenty Egyptian cigarettes per diem, and the first and second finger, of either hand were cofflee-coloured. ” (ood-evening, Inspector. lie said iourteouily. “You come at an opportune moment ” lie lighted a fresh cigarette. ” I wa, detained here unusually late to-night, or this news would not have reached us until the morning.” lie laid his finger upon a yellow form. ” There is an unpleasant development in The Scorpion case.” ” So I gather, Sir. That is what brought me back to the Yard.'” The Assistant-Commiinioner glanced up sharpl. ” IWhat brought you back to the Yard – ” he asked. ” The news about Max.” The A.ssistant-Commissioner leaned back in his chair. ” Might I ask, Inspector,” he said, ” what news you have learned, and how you have learned it Dunbar staredi uncomprehendingly. ” Stiierby ‘phoned me about half-an-hour ago, Sir. Did he do so without your instruction ? ” ” Most decidedly. What was his message ? ” Hlie told me,” replied Dunbar, in ever-growing amazement, ” that the body brought in by the River Pnohce last night has been identifiedl as that of Gaston Max.’ 1 he A.ssitant-Commissioner handed a pencilled slhp to Dunbar. It read as follow– ” Gaston Max in London. Scorpion, Narcombe. No report since the 30th ult. Fear trouble. Identity- disc ‘ (; M. 49685.’ ” ” IHt, Sir.’ said Dunbar, ” this is exactly what Sowerbyv told me’ ” ” ite s,. That is the really extraordinar- feature of the affair. liecause you see, Inspel tor. I only finised decoding this message at the verr moment that you knocked at my door r ” But– ” ” There is ni rom for a bllt,’ Intspeitir Thli confidential message from Part reached me ten minutllle ago, You kniow as well as know that there 1- n’ possibdilty of leakage. N, one ha’. entered mty room in the interval. et Vyo tell me that Sergeant tsomerblu communicated this informationt to itu, ib telephone, half-an-hour ago.” )unlbar was tapping his teeth wi th the pentil Its amazement was tir great for or,!- ” Had the message been a sal-e hne.” onunuel the (‘,nunsioner ” the matter would have been resolved Into a meanlngless hoax , but, the message having been what it was, we find ourselves face to face with no ordinary problem ” W” here on earth can Sowerb — ” emember, Inspector. that vo,ices n the tele- phone are deceptive Sergeant Sowerbv h.a marke! vocal mannersms—- ” Whch would be fairly eas, to imitate ? Ye, Sir-that ‘s so.5 ” Iut it brings us no nearer to the real problems- namely, first, the sender of the message; and, seucond, his purpose.” There was a dull, purring sound, and the Assistant- Commissioner raised the telephone ” Yes. Who is it that wishes to speak to him Dr. Keppel Stuart ? Connect with my office.” He turned again to Dunbar. ” l)r. Stuart has a matter of the utmost urgency to communicate, Inspector. It was at the house of Dr Stuart, I take it, that you rer riivedl the unexplamined message

;ii. { y . f-r- y wt. 4 A~nd a. plainly sa l hwrd it wading then. I heard it the sirs evenan that Miss Doriancame to this house.”

” It was-yes.” ” Did you submit to Dr. Stuart the broken gold ornament ? ” ” Yes. It ‘s a scorpion’s tail.” ” Ah ! ” The Assistant – (‘ommissioner smiled satanically and lighted a fresh cigarette. ” And is Dr. Stuart agreeable to placing his unusual knowledge at our disposal for the purposes of this case ? ” ” He is, Sir.” The purring sound was repeated. ” You are through to Dr. Stuart,” said the Assist- ant-Commissioner. ” Hullo I ” cried Dunbar, taking up the receiver. ” Is that Dr. Stuart ? Dunbar speaking.” He stood silent for a while, listening to the voice over the wires. Then- ” You want me to come around now, Doctor? Very well. 1 ’11 be with you in less than half-an-hour.” He put down the instrument. ” Something extraordinary seems to have taken place at Dr. Stuart’s house a few minutes after I left, Sir,” he said. “I ‘m going back there now, for particulars. It sounds as though the ‘phone message might have been intended to get me away.” He stared down at the pencilled slip which the Assistant- Commissioner had handed to him, but stared vacantly, and-” Do you mind if I call someone up, Sir ? ” he asked. ” It should be done at once.”

” Call by all means, Inspector.” Dunbar again took up the telephone. ” Battersea o996,” he said, and stood waiting. Then, ” Is that Battersea o996 ? ” he asked. ” Is Dr. Stuart there? He is speaking ? Oh, this is Inspector Dunbar. You called me up here at the Yard a few moments ago, did you not ? Correct, Doctor; that’s all I wanted to know. I am coming now.” ” Good,” said the Assistant-Commissioner, nodding his approval. ” You will have to check ‘phone messages in that way until you have run your mimic to earth, Inspector. I understand that Sergeant Sowerby left the premises some hours ago, and I don’t believe for a moment that it was he who rang you up at Dr. Stuart’s.” ” Neither do I,” said Dunbar grimly. ” But I begin to have a glimmer of a notion who it was. I ’11 be saying good-night, Sir. Dr. Stuart seems to have something very important to tell me.” CHAPTER VII. CONTENTS OF THE SEALED ENVELOPE. STUART personally admitted Dunbar, and once more the Inspector found himself in the arm-chair in the study. The fire was almost out, and the room

seemed to be chilly. Stuart was labouring under the influence of suppressed excitement, and was pacing restlessly up and down the floor. ” Inspector,” he began, ” I find it difficult to tell you the facts which have recently come to my know- ledge bearing upon this most mysterious Scorpion case. I clearly perceive now that, without being aware of the fact, I have nevertheless been concerned in the case for at least a week.” Dunbar stared surprisedly, but offered no comment. “A fortnight ago,” Stuart continued, “I found myself in the neighbourhood of the West India Docks. I had been spending the evening with a very old friend, chief officer of a liner then in dock. I had intended to leave the ship at about ten o’clock, and to walk to the railway station; but, as it fell out, the party did not break up until after midnight. Ddtlining the offer of a berth on board, I came ashore, determined to make my way home by tram and afoot. I should probably have done so, and have been spared-much; but rain began to fall suddenly, and I found myself, foolishly unprovided with a top-coat in those grey East-End streets, without hope of getting a lift. ” It was just as I was crossing Limehouse Causeway that I observed, to my astonishment, the head-lamps of a cab or car shining out from a dark and forbidding thoroughfare which led down to the river. The sight was so utterly unexpected that I paused, looking through the rain-mist in the direction of the stationary vehicle. I was still unable to make out if it were a cab or a car, and accordingly I walked along to where it stood, and found that it was a taxicab, and apparently for hire, as the flag was up. ” ‘ Are you disengaged ? ‘ I said to the man. ” ‘ Well, Sir, I suppose I am,’ was his curious reply. ‘Where do you want to go ? ‘ ” I gave him this address, and he drove me home. On arriving, so grateful did I feel that I took pity upon the man, for it had settled down into a brute of a night, and asked him to come in and take a glass of grog. He was only too glad to do so. He turned out to be quite an intelligent sort of fellow, and we chatted together for ten minutes or so. ” I had forgotten all about him when, I believe on the following night, he reappeared in the character of a patient. He had a badly damaged skull, and I gathered that he had had an accident with his cab and had been pitched out into the road. ” When I had fixed him up he asked me to do him a small favour. From inside his tunic he pulled out a long stiff envelope bearing no address but the number 30 in big re
d letters. It was secured at both ends with black wax bearing the imprint of a curious and complicated seal. “‘ A gentleman left this behind in the cab to-day, Sir,’ said the man; ‘perhaps the one who was with me when I had the spill, and I’ve got no means of tracing him; but he may be able to trace me if he happened to notice my number, or he may advertise. It evidently contains something valuable.” ” ‘ Then why not take it to Scotland Yard ? ‘ I asked. ‘ Isn’t that the proper course ? ‘ “‘ It is,’ he admitted; ‘ but here’s the point. .If the owner reclaims it .from Scotland Yard, he’s less likely to dub up handsome than if he gets it direct from me.’ ” I laughed at that, for the soundness of the argu- ment was beyond dispute. ‘ But what on earth do you want to leave it with me for ? ‘ I asked. “‘Self-protection,’ was the reply. ‘They can’t say I meant to pinch it I Whereas, directly there’s any inquiry, I can come and collect it and get the reward; and your word will back me up if any questions are asked-that ‘s if you don’t mind, Sir.’ ” I told him I didn’t mind in the least, and accord- ingly I sealed the envelope in a yet larger one, which I addressed to the Lost Property Office and put into a private drawer of my bureau. ‘You will have no objection,’ I said, ‘to this being posted if it isn’t reclaimed within a reasonable time ? ‘ ” He said that would be all right, and departed- since which moment I have not set eyes upon him. I now come to the sequel, or what I have just recognised to be the sequel.” Stuart’s agitation grew more marked, and it was only by dint of a palpable effort that he forced himself +o resume. ” On the evening of the following day a lady called, professionally. She was young, pretty, and dressed with extraordinary elegance. My house- keeper admitted her, as I was out at the time, but momentarily expected. She awaited my return here, in this room. She came again two days later. The name she gave was an odd one-Mademoiselle Dorian. There is her card “-Stuart opened a drawer and laid a visiting-card before Dunbar-” no initials and no address. She travelled in a large and handsome car. That is to say, according to my housekeeper’s account, it is a large and handsome car. I, personally, have had but an imperfect glimpse of it. It does not await her in front of the house, for some reason, but just around the corner in the side-turning. Beyond

wondering why Mademoiselle Dorian had selected me as her medical adviser, I had detected nothing suspicious in her behaviour up to the time of which I am about to speak. ” Last night there was a singular development, and to-night matters came to a head.” Thereupon Stuart related as briefly as possible the mysterious episode of the cowled man, and fnally gave an account of the last visit of Mlle. Dorian. Inspector Dunbar did not interrupt him, but listened attentively to the singular story. ” And there,” concluded Stuart, ” on the blotting- pad. lies the sealed envelope.” Dunbar took it up eagerly. A small hole had been burned in one end of the envelope, and much of the surrounding paper was charred. The wax with which Stuart had sealed it had lain uppermost, and, although it had been partly melted, the mark of his signet-ring was still disacermbe upon it. Dunbar stood staring at it. ” In the circumstances, Inspector, I think you would be justified in opening both envelopes.” said Stuart. ” I am inclined to agree. But let me just be clear on one or two points.” He took out the bulging note- book and also a fountain-pen with which he prepared to make entries. ” About this cabman, now-you didn’t by any chance note the number of his cab ? ” “I did not.” ” What build of a man was he ? ” ” Over medium height, and muscular. Somewhat inclined to flesh, and past his youth; but active all the same.” “Dark or fair ?” “Dark, and streaked with grey. I noted this particularly in dressing his skulL He wore his hair cropped close to the scalp. He had a short beard and moustache, and heavily marked eyebrows. He seemed to be very short-sighted, and kept his eyes so screwed up that it was impossible to detect their colour-by night, at any rate.” ” What sort of wound had he on his skull ? ” ” A short, ugly gash. He had caught his head on the footboard in falling. I may add that on the occasion of his professional visit his breath smelled strongly of spirits, and I rather suspected that his accident might have been traceable to his condition.” ” But he wasn’t actually drunk ? ” ” By no means. He was perfectly sober, but he had recently been drinking-possibly because his fall had shaken him, of course.” “His hands ?”

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” Small, and very muscular. Quite steady. Also very dirty.” ” hbat part of the country should you say he hailed from ? ” ” London. He had a marked Cockney accent.” ” What make of cab was it ? ” “I couldn’t say.” ” An old cab ? ” ” Yes. The fittings were dilapidated, I remember, and the cab had a very fusty smell.” ” Ah,” said Iunbar, making several notes. ” And now-the lady ;: about what would be her age ? ” ” Difficult to say, Inspector. She had Eastern blood, and may have been much younger than she appeared to be. Judged from a European stand- point, and from her appearance and manner of dress. she might be about twenty-three or twenty-four ” ” Complexion ? ” ” Wonderful. Fresh as a flower.’ ” Eyes ? ” ” Dark. They looked black at night.” ” Hair? ” ” Brown and ‘ fuzzy’ with copper tints.” ” Tall ? ” ” No; slight but beautifully shaped.” ” Now-from her accent what should you judge her nationality to be ? ” Stuart paced up and down the room, his head lowered in reflection, then- ” She pronounced both English and French words with an intonation which suggested familiarity with Arabic.” ” Arabic ? That still leaves a fairly wide field.” ” It does, Inspector, but I had no means of learn- ing more. She had certainly lived for a long time somewhere in the Near East.” ” Her jewellery ? ” ” Some of it was European, and some of it Oriental, but not characteristic of any particular country of the Orient.” ” Did she use perfume ? ” ” Yes; lut it was scarcely discernible. Jasmine- probably the Eastern preparation.” ” Her ailment was imaginary ? ” “I fear so.” “H’m–and now you say that Mrs. M’Gregor saw the car ? ” ” Yes; but she has retired.” ” Her evidence will do to-morrow. We come to the man in the hood. Can you give me any kind of a description of him ? ” ” He appeared to be tall, but a shadow is decep- tive. and his extraordinary costume would produce that

effect, too. I can tell you absolutely nothing further about hum. Remember. I thought I was dreaming I could not credit my senses ” Inspector Dunbar glanced over the notes which he had made, then, returning the notebook and pen to his pocket, he took up the long, smoke-discoloured envelope, and with a paper-knife which lay upon the table, slit one end open. Inserting two fingers, he drew out the second envelope which the first enclosed. It was an ordinary commercial envelope, only notable by reason of the number, 30o. appearing in large, red figures upon it. and because it was sealed with black wax bearing a weird-looking device-


Stuart bent over him intently as he slit this en- velope, in turn. Again he irserted tuo fingers. and brought forth the sole content–a plain piece of cardboard, roughly rectangular, and obviously cut in haste from the lid of a common cardboard box ! CHAPTER VIII. THE ASSISTANT (OMMISSIONER’S THEORY ON the following morning. Inspector Dunbar. having questioned Mrs. M’Gregor re-pecting the car in which Mlle Dorian had -i-ited the house, and having elicited no other evidence than that it was ” a fine. luxurious concern.” the Inspector and Dr. Stuart prepared to set out upon gruesome bu-ine-s. , Mrs. M'(regor was very favourably impressed with the Inspect,.r ‘ A grand. pairsonable body.’ she confided to Stuart. He ‘d look bonny in the kilt To an East End mortuary the cab bore them. and they were led by a constable in attendance to a stone- paved, ill-lighted apartment in which a swathed form lay upon a long deal table. The spe
ctacle presented when the covering was removed was one to have shocked less hardened nerves than those of Stuart and Dunbar: but the duties of a police officer, like those of a medical man, not infrequently necessitate such inspections. The two bent over the tragic flotsam of the Thames unmoved and critical. ” i’m,'” said Stuart –” he ‘s about the built, certainly Hair iron-grey and close-cropped, and he seet, to have worn a beard. Now, let us see

lie bent, making a close inspection of the skull; then turned and si,,ook his head. ” No, Inspector,” he said definitely. ” This is not the cabman. There is no wound corresponding to the one which I dressed.” ” Right,” answered l)unbar, covering up the ghastly face. ” That ‘s settled.” ” You were wrong, Inspector. It was not Gaston Max who left the envelope with me.” ” No,’ mused Dunbar ; ” so it seems.” ” Your theory that Max, jealously working alone, had left particulars of his inquiries, and clues, in my hands, knowing that they would reach Scotland Yard mi the event of his death, surely collapsed when the envelope proved to contain nothing but a bit of cardboard ? ” ” Yes–I suppose it did. But it sounded so much like Max’s roundul-about methods. Anyway, I wanted to make sure that the dead man from Hanover Hole and your mlysterious cabman were not one and the same.” Stuart entertained a lively suspicion that In- spector l)unbar was keeping something up his sleeve; but with this very proper reticence he had no quarrel, anl, followed by the constable, who re-locked the mortuary behind them, they came out into the yard where the cab waited which was to take them to Scotland Yard. Dunbar, standing with one foot upon the step of the cab, turned to the constable. ” Has anyone else viewed the body ? ” he asked. ” No, Sir.” ” No one is to be allowed to do so–you under stand? no one–unless he has written permission from the Commissioner.” ” Very good, Sir.” Half an hour later they arrived at New Scotland Yard and went up to Dunhar’s room. A thick-set, florid man of genial appearance, having a dark moustache, a breezy manner, and a head of hair resembling a very hard-worked blacking-brush, awaited them. This was Detective-Sergeant Sowerby, with whom Stuart was already acquainted. ” Good-morning, Sergeant Sowerby,” he said. ” Good-morning, Sir. I hear that someone was pulling your leg last night.” ” What do you mean exactly, Sowerby ? ” in- quired Dunbar, fixing the fierce eyes upon his sub- ordinate. Sergeant Sowerby exhibited confusion. “I mean nothing offensive, Inspector. I was referring to the joker who gave so good an imitation of my voice that even you were deceived.” The subtle flattery was apparently effective. ” Ah,” replied Dunbar, ” I see. Yes-he did it well. Hte spoke just like you. I could hardly make out a word he said.” With this Caledonian shaft and a side-glance at Stuart, Inspector Dunbar sat down at the table. ” Here ‘s Dr. Stuart’s description of the missing cabman,” he continued, taking out his notebook. ” Dr. Stuart has viewed the body, and it is not the man. You had better take a proper copy.” ” Then the cabman wasn’t Max ? ” cried Sowerby, eagerly. ” I thought not.” ” I believe you told me so before,” said Dunbar dourly. ” I also seem to recall that you thought a scorpion’s tail was a prickly pear. However-here, on the page numbered twenty-six, is a description of the woman known as Mlle. Dorian. It should be a fairly easy matter to trace the car through the usual channels, and she ought to be easy to find, too.” He glanced at his watch. Stuart was standing by the lofty window looking out across the Embank- ment. “Ten o’clock,” said Dunbar. “The Commis- sioner will be expecting us.” ” I am ready,” responded Stuart. Leaving Sergeant Sowerby seated at the table studying the notebook, Stuart and Dunbar proceeded to the smoke-laden room of the Assistant-Commis- sioner. The great man, suavely satanic, greeted Stuart with that polished courtesy for which he was notable. ” You have been of inestimable assistance to us in the past, Dr. Stuart,” he said, ” and I feel happy to know that we are to enjoy the aid of your special knowledge in the present case.- Will you smoke one of my cigarettes ? They are some which a friend is kind enough to supply to me direct from Cairo, and are really quite good.” ” Thanks,” replied Stuart. ” May I ask in what direction my services are likely to prove available ? ” The Commissioner lighted a fresh cigarette.- Then, from a heap of correspondence he selected a long report typed upon blue foolscap. “I have here,” he said, ” confirmation of the telegraphic report received last night. The name of M. Gaston Max wnll no doubt be familiar to you ? ” Stuart nodded. ” Well;” continued the Commisioner, “it appears that he has been engaged in England for the past month endeavouring to trace the- connection which he claims to exist between the sudden deaths of

various notable people recently-a list is appended- and some person or organisation represented by, or associated with, a scorpion. His personal theory not being available-poor fellow, you have heard of his tragic death- -1 have this morning consulted such particulars as I could obtain respecting these cases. If they were really cases of assassination, some obscure poison was the only mode of death that could possibly hive been employed. D)o you follow me ? ” ” Perfectly.” ” Now, the death of Gaston Max, under circum- stances not yet explained, would seem to indicate that his theory was a sound one. In other words, I ant disposed to believe that he himself represents the most recent outrage of what we will call ‘The Scorpion.’ Even at the time that the body of the man found by the River Police had not been identi- fied, the presence upon his person of a fragment of gold strongly resembling the tail of a scorpion prompted me to instruct Inspector Dunbar to consult you. I had determined upon a certain course. The identi- fication of the dead man with Gaston Max merely strengthens my determination, and enhances the likelihood of my idea being a sound one.” He flicked ash from his cigarette and resumed– ” Without mentioning names, the experts con- sulted in the other cases which–according to the late (;aston Max–were victims of ‘ The Scorpion ‘ do not seem to have justified their titles. I am arranging that you shall be present at the autopsy upon the body of Gaston Max. And now, permit me to ask you a question : are you acquainted with any poison which would produce the symptoms noted in the case of Sir Frank Narcombe, for instance ? ” Stuart shook his head slowly. All that I know of the case,” he said, ” is that he was taken suddenly ill in the fover of a West End theatre, immediately removed to his house in Half Moon Street, andt died shortly afterwards. Can you give me copies of the specialists’ reports and other particulars ? I may then be able to form some opinion.” “1I will get them for you,” replied the Commis- sioner, the exact nature of whose theory was by no means evident to Stuart. He opened a drawer. “I have here,” he continued, ” the piece of card- board and the envelope left with you by the missing cabman. Do you think there is any possibility of invisible writing ? ” ” None,” said Stuart confidently. ” I have tested in three or four places, as you will see by the spots; but my experiments will in no way interfere with those which, no doubt, your own people will want to make. I have also submitted both surfaces to a microscopic examination. I am prepared to state definitely that there is no writing upon the card- board, and except for the number, 3o, none upon the envelope.” ” It is only reasonable to suppose,” continued the Commissioner, ” that the telephone message which led Inspector Dunbar to leave your house last night was originated by that unseen intelligence against which we find ourselves pitted. In the first place, no one in London, myself and, presumably, ‘The Scorpion ‘ excepted, knew at that time that M. Gaston Max was in England or that M. Gaston Max was dead. I say, presumably ‘The Scorpion,’ because it is fair to assume that the person whom Max pur-
sued was responsible for his death. ” Of course “-the Commissioner reached for the box of cigarettes-” were it not for the telephone message, we should be unjustified in assuming that Mile. Dorian and this “-he laid his finger upon the piece of cardboard-” had any connection with the case of M. Max. But the message was so obviously designed to facilitate the purloining of the seale<' envelope, and so obviously emanated from on already aware of the murder of M. Max, that th sender is identified at orce with-' The Scorpion.' " The Assistant-Commissioner complacently lighted a fresh cigarette. " Finally," he said, " the mode of death in the case of M. Max may not have been the same as in the other cases. Therefore, Dr. Stuart-" he paused impressively-" if you fail to detect anything sus- picious at the post-mortem examination, I propose to apply to the Home Secretary for powers to exhume the body of the late Sir Frank Narcombe i " CHAPTER IX. THE CHINESE COIN. DEEP in reflection, Stuart walked alone along the Embankment; The full facts contained in the report from Paris the Commissioner had not divulged, but Stuart concluded that this sudden activity was directly due, not to the death of M. Max, but to the fact that he (Max) had left behind him some more or less tangible clue. Stuart fully recognised that the Commissioner had afforded him an opportunity to establish his reputation-or to wreck it.

Yet, upon closer consideration, it became apparent that it was to Fate and not to the Commissioner that he was indebted. Strictly speaking, his association with the matter dated from the night of his meeting with the mysterious cabman in West India Dock Road. Or had the curtain first been lifted upon this occult drama that evening, five years ago, as the setting sun reddened the waters of the Imperial Canal and a veiled figure passed him on the Wi-men Bridge ? ” Shut your eyes tightly, master-the Scorpion is coming.” He seemed to hear the boy’s words now, as he passed along the Embankment; he seemed to see again the tall figure. And suddenly he stopped, stood still, and stared with unseeing eyes across the muddy waters of the Thames. He was thinking of the cowled man who had stood behind the curtains in his study-of that figure so wildly bizarre that even now he could scarcely believe that he had ever actually seen it. He walked on. Automatically his reflections led him to Mlle. Dorian, and he remembered that, even as he paced along there beside the river, the wonderful mechanism of New Scotland Yard was in motion, its many tentacles seeking-seeking tirelessly, for the girl whose (lark eyes haunted his sleeping and waking hours. He was responsible, and if she were arrested he would be called upon to identify her. He con- demned himself bitterly. After all, what crime had she committed ? She had tried to purloin a letter which did not belong to Stuart in the first place. And she had failed. Now- the police were looking for her. His reflections took a new form. What of Gaston Max, foremost criminologist in Europe, who now lay dead in an East-End mortuary ? The telephone message which had summoned Dunbar away had been too opportune to be regarded as a mere coincidence. Mlle. Dorian was, therefore, an accomplice of a murderer. Stuart sighed. He would have given much- more than he was prepared to admit to himself-to have known her to be guiltless. The identity of the missing cabman now engaged his mind. It was quite possible, of course, that the man had actually found the envelope in his cab, and was in no other way concerned in the matter. But how had Mlle. Dorian, or the person instructing her, traced the envelope to his study ? And why, if they could establish a claim to it, had they preferred to attempt to steal it ? Finally, why all this disturbance about a blank piece of cardboard ? A mental picture of the envelope arose before him, the number 30 written upon it, and the two black seals securing the lapels. He paused again in his walk. His reflections had led him to a second definite point, and he fumbled in his waistcoat pocket for a time, seeking a certain brass coin about the size of a halfpenny, having a square hole in the middle and peculiar characters engraved round the square, one on each of the four sides. He failed to find the coin in his pocket, however ; but he walked briskly up a side-street until he came to the entrance to a tube station. Entering a public telephone-call office, he asked for the number City 400. Being put through, and having deposited the necessary fee in the box- ” Is that the Commissioner’s office, New Scotland Yard ? ” he asked. ” Yes I My name is Dr. Keppel Stuart. If Inspector Dunbar is there, would you kindly allow me to speak to him ? ” There was a short interval, then- ” Hullo ! ” came. ” Is that Dr. Stuart ? ” ” Yes. That you, Inspector ? I have just remem- bered something which I should have observed in the first place if I had been really wide-awake. The ‘nvelope-you know the one I mean, the one bearing .he number 3o-has been sealed with a Chinese coin known as cash. I have just recognised the fact, and thought it wise to let you know at once.” ” Are you sure ? ” asked Dunbar. ” Certain. If you care to call at my place later to-day I can show you some cash. Bring the envelope with you, and you will see that the coins correspond to the impression in the wax. The inscriptions vary in different provinces, but the form of all cash is the same.” “Very good. Thanks for letting me know at once. It seems to establish a link with China, don’t you think? ” ” It does; but it merely adds to the mystery.” Coming out of the call-box, Stuart proceeded home, but made one or two professional visits before he actually returned to the house. He now remembered having left this particular cash piece (which he usually carried) in hip dispensary, which satisfactorily ac- counted for his failure to find the coin in his waistcoat pocket. He had broken the cork of a flask, and, in the absence of another of correct size, had manu- factured a temporary stopper with a small cow ‘to the top of which he had fixed the Chinese coin with a drawing-pin. His purpose served, he had left the

“S. ypi we,. ce.Id)· in the dee, 5k Frak NecOe I”

extemporised stopper lying somewhere in the dis- pensary. Stuart’s dispensary was merely a curtained recess at one end of the waiting-room. and shortly after entering the house he had occasion to visit it. Lying upon a shelf among flasks and bottles was the Chinese coin with the cork still attached. He took it up in order to study the inscription, then- ” Have I cultivated somnambulism ? ” he muttered. Fragments of black sealing-wax adhered to the coin I Incredulous and half-fearful, he peered at it closely. lie remembered that the impression upon the wax sealing the mysterious envelope had had a circular depression in the centre. It had been made by the head of the drawing-pin ! He found himnself staring at the shelf immediately above that on wluch the coin had lain. A stick of black sealing wax used for sealing medicine was thrust in bwside a bundle of long envelopes in which he was accustomed to post his mnfrmary reports. One hand raised to his head. Stuart stood endeavouring to marshal his ideas into some sane order. Then, knowing what he should find, he raised the green laize curtain hanging from the lower shelf, which concealed a sort of cupboard containing miscel- laneous stores andil not a little rubbish, including a number of empty cardboard boxes. A rectangular strip had been roughly cut from the lid of the topmost box I The mysterious envelope anil its contents, the wax and the seal-all had come from his own dispensary I CHAPTER X. ” Ci.SE YO(‘R SHUTTERS AT NIGHT.” INSPECTOR DUNBAR stood in the little dispensary tapping his teeth with the end of a fountain-pen. ” The last time he visited you. IDoctor-the time when he gave you the envelope-did the cabman wait here in the waiting-room ? ” ” He did-yes. He came after my ordinary consulting hours, and I was at supper, I remember, as I am compelled to dine early.” ” lie would be in here alone ? ” ” Yes. No one el
se was in the room.” ” Would he have had time to find the box, cut out the piece of cardboard from the lid, put it in the envelope, and seal it ? ” ” Ample time. But what could be his object ? And why mark the envelope 30 ? ” ” It was in your consulting-room that he asked you to take charge of the envelope ? ” ” Yes.” ” Might I take a peep at the consulting-room ? ” ” Certainly, Inspector.” From the waiting-room they went up a short flight of stairs into the small apartment in which Stuart saw his patients. IDunbar looked slowly about him, standing in the middle of the room, then crossed and stared out of the window into the narrow lane below. ” Where were you when he gave you the envelope ?” he snapped suddenly. ” At the table,” replied Stuart, with surprise. ” Was the table-lamp alight ? ” ” Yes. I always light it when seeing patients.” ” Did you take the letter into the study to seal it in the other envelope ? ” “I did; and he came along and witnessed me do it.” ” Ah,” said Dunbar, and scribbled busily in his note-book. ” We are badly tied at Scotland Yard, Doctor, and this case looks like being another for which somebody else will reap the credit. I am going to make a request that will surprise you.” He tore a leaf out of the book and folded it care- fully. ” I am going to ask you to seal up something and lock it away. But I don’t think you ‘ll be troubled by cowled burglars or beautiful women because of it. On this piece of paper I have written (a) “-he ticked off the points cn his fingers-” what I believe to be the name of the man who cut out the cardboard and sealed it in an envelope; (b) the name of the cabman; and (c) the name of the man who rang me up here last night and gave me informa- tion which had only just reached the Commissioner. I ‘ll ask you to lock it away until it ‘s wanted, Doctor.” “Certainly, if you wish it,” replied Stuart. ” Come into the study, and you shall see me do as you direct I may add that the object to be served is not apparent to me.” Entering the study, he took an envelope and locked it in the same drawer of the bureau which once had contained the envelope marked 30. ” Mlle. Dorian has a duplicate key to this drawer,” he said. ” Are you prepared to take the chance ? ” ” Quite,” replied Dunbar, smiling; ” although my information is worth more than that which she risked so much to steal.” ” It’s most astounding. At every step the

darkness increases. Why should anyone have asked me to lock up a blank piece of cardboard ? ” ” Why indeed ! ” murmured Dunbar. ” Well. I may as well get back. I am expecting a report from Sowerby. Look after yourself, Sir. I ‘m inclined to think your pretty patient was talking square when she told you there might be danger.” Stuart met the glance of the tawny eyes. ” What d’you mean, Inspector ?, Why should I be in danger ? ” ” Because,” replied Inspector Dunbar, ” if ‘ The Scorpion ‘ is a poisoner, as the Chief seems to think, there ‘s really only one man in England he has to fear, and that man is Dr. Keppel Stuart.” When the Inspector had taken his departure Stuart stood for a long time staring out of the study window at the little lawn, with its bordering of high, neatly trimmed privet, above which at intervals rose the mop crowns of dwarf acacias. A spell of warm weather seemed at last to have begun, and clouds of gnats floated over the grass, their minute wings glittering in the sunshine. Despite the nearness of teeming streets, this was a backwater of London’s stream. He sighed, and returned to some work which the visit of the Scotland Yard man had interrupted. Later in the afternoon he had occasion to visit the institution to which he had recently been appointed as medical officer, and in contemplation of the squalor through which his steps led him he sought forgetfulness of the Scorpion problem- and of the dark eyes of Mile. Dorian. He was not entirely successful, and, returning by a different route, he lost himself in memories which were sweetly mournful. A taxicab passed him, mcving slowly very close to the pavement. He scarcely noted it until it had proceeded some distance ahead of him. Then its slow progress so near to the pavement at last attracted his attention, and he stared vacantly towards the closed vehicle. Mlle. Dorian was leaning out of the window and looking back at him. Stuart’s heart leapt high. For an instant he paused, then began to walk rapidly after the retreat- ing vehicle. Perceiving that she had attracted his attention, the girl extended a white-gloved hand from the window and dropped a note upon the edge of the pavement. Immediately she withdrew into the vehicle, which moved away at accelerated speed, swung around the next corner, and was gone. Stuart ran forward and picked up the note. Without pausing to read it, he pressed on to the corner. The cab was already two hundred yards away, and he recognised pursuit to be out of the question. The streets were almost deserted at the moment, and no one apparently had witnessed the episode. He unfolded the sheet of plain note-paper faintly perfumed with jasmine, and read the following, written in an uneven feminine hand- ” Close your shutters at night. Do not think too bad of me.” CHAPTER XI. THE BLUE RAY. DUSK found Stuart in a singular frame of mind. He was torn between duty-or what he conceived to be his duty-to the community and . . . something else. A messenger from New Scotland Yard had brought him a bundle of documents relating to the case of Sir Frank Narcombe. and a smaller packet touching upon the sudden end of Henrik Erickson, the Norwegian electrician, and the equally unexpected death of the Grand Duke Ivan. There were medical certificates, proceedings of coroners, reports of detec- tives, evidence of specialists, and statements of relatives, friends, and servants of the deceased. A proper examination of all the documents represented many hours of close study. Stuart was flattered by the opinion held of his ability by the Assistant-Commissioner, but dubious of his chance of detecting any flaw in the evidence which had escaped the scrutiny of so many highly trained observers. He paced the study restlessly. Although more than six hours had elapsed, he had not communicated to Scotland Yard the fact of his having seen Mile. Dorian that afternoon. A hundred times he had read the message, although he knew it by heart-knew the form of every letter, the odd crossing of the ” t’s ” and the splashy dotting of the ” i’s.” If only he could have taken counsel with someone- with someone not bound to act upon such informa- tion-it would have relieved his mental stress. His ideas were so chaotic that he felt himself to be in- capable of approaching the task presented by the pile of papers lying upon his table. The night was pleasantly warm and the sky cloudless. Often enough he found himself glancing toward the opened French windows, and once he had peered closely across the lawn into the belt of shadow below the hedge, thinking that 31e had detected

something which moved there. Stepping to the window, the slinking shape had emerged into the moonlight-and had proclaimed itself to be that of a black cat ! Yet he had been sorely tempted to act upon the advice so strangely offered. He refrained from doing so, however, reflecting that to spend his evenings with closed and barred shutters now that a spell of hot weather seemed to be imminent would be insufferable. Up and down the room he paced tirelessly, always confronted by the eternal problem. Forcing himself at last to begin work, if only as a sedative, he filled and lighted his pipe, turned off the centre lamp, and lighted the reading-lamp upon his table. He sat down to consider the papers bearing upon the death of Ericksen. For half an hour he read on steadily, and made a number of pencil notes. Then he desisted, and sat staring straight before him. What possible motive could there be in assassinat- ing these people? The case of the Grand Duke might be susceptible of explanation, but those of Henrik Ericksen and Sir Frank Narcombe were not. Furthermore, he could perceive no links connecting the three, and no reason why they shoul
d have engaged the attention of a common enemy. Such crimes would seem to be purposeless. Assuming that ” The Scor- pion ” was an individual, that individual apparently was a dangerous homicidal maniac. But, throughout the documents, he could discover no clue pointing to the existence of such an entity. ” The Scorpion ” might be an invention of the fertile brain of M. Gaston Max, for it had become more and more evident, as he had read, that the attempt to trace these deaths to an identical source had originated at the Service de Sfret6. and it was from Paris that the name ” The Scorpion ” had come. The fate of Max was significant, of course. The chances of his death proving to have been due to accident were almost negligible, and the fact that a fragment of a golden scorpion had actually been found upon his body was certainly curious. ” Close your shutters at night . . ” How the words haunted him, and how hotly he despised himself for a growing apprehension which refused to be ignored. It was more mental than physical, this dread which grew with the approach of midnight,and it resembled that which had robbed him of individuality and all but stricken him inert when he had seen upon the moon-bright screen of the curtains the shadow of a cowled man. Dark forces seemed to be stirring, and some unseen menace crept near to him out of the darkness. The house was of Early Victorian fashion, and massive folding shutters were provided to close the French windows. He never used them, as a matter of fact, but now he tested the fastenings which kept them in place against the inner wall, and even moved them in order to learn if they were still serviceable. Of all the mysteries which baffled him, that of the piece of cardboard in the envelope sealed with a Chinese coin was the most irritating. It seemed like the purposeless trick of a child, yet it had led to the presence of the cowled man–and to the presence of Mlle. Dorian. Why? He sat down at his table again. ” Damn the whole business I ” he said. “It is sending me crazy.” He read on. striving to escape from that shadowy apprehension; but as he read he was listening to the night sounds of London-to the whirring of distant motors, the whistling of engines upon the railway, and dim hooting of sirens from the Thames. A slight breeze had arisen, and it rustled in the feathery foliage of the acacias and made a whispering sound as it stirred the leaves of the privet hedge. The drone of an approaching car reached his ears. Pencil in hand, he sat listening. The sound grew louder, then ceased. Either the car had passed or had stopped somewhere near the house. Came a rap on the door. ” Yes,” called Stuart, and stood up, conscious of excitement. Mrs. M’Gregor came in. “There is nothing further you ’11 be wanting to night ? ” she asked. ” No,” said Stuart, strangely disappointed, but smiling at the old lady cheerfully. ” I shall tur n very shortly.” “A keen east wind has arisen,” she continued severely, eyeng the opened windows, “and eveM for a medical man you are strasngely imprudent. Shall I shut the windows? ” ” No, don’t trouble, Mrs. M’Gregor. The room gets very stuffy with tobacco-smoke, and really it is quite a warm night. I shall close them before I retire, of course.” ” Ah, well ! ” sighed Mrs. M’Gregor, preparing to depart. ” Good-night, Mr. Keppel.” ” Good-night, Mrs. M’Gregor.” She retired, and Stuart sat staring out into the darkness. He was not prone to superstition, but it

seemed like tempting Providence to remain there with the windows open any longer. Yet, paradoxi- cally. he lacked the moral courage to close them–to admit to himself that he was afraid. The telephone-bell rang, and he started back in his chair as though to avoid a blow. By doing so he avoided destruction. At the very instant that the bell rang out sharply in the silence-so exact is the time-table of Kismet- a needle-like ray of blue light shot across the lawn from beyond and above the hedge, and–but for that nervous start-must have struck fully upon the back of Stuart’s skull Instead, it shone past his head, which it missed only by inches. and he experienced a sensation as though someone had buffeted him upon the cheek furiously. He pitched out of his chair and on to the carpet The first object which the ray touched was the telephone; and next, beyond it. a medical dic- tionary ; beyond that again, the grate, in which a fire was laid. ” My God I ” groaned Stuart. ” What is it ? ” An intense crackling sound deafened him, and the air of the room seemed to have become hot as that of an oven. There came

a series of dull re- ports–an uncanny wail- ing . . . and the needle- ray vanished. A mon- strous shadow, moon- cast, which had lain acros the carpet of the lawn-the shadow of a cowled man – vanished also. Clutching the side of his head. which throbbed and tingled as though from the blow of an open hand. Stuart struggled to his feet. There was smoke in the room, a smell of burning and of fusing metal. He glared at the table madly. The mouthpiece of the telephone had van- ished I “My Godl” he groaned again. and clutched at the back of the chair. His dictionary was smonlderia slowly. It had a neMt round hole some three inches in diameter bored com- pletely through, cover to cover The fire in the grate was flaring up the chimney i He heard the purr of a motor in the lane beside the house. The room was laden with suffocating fumes. Stuart stood clutching the chair and striving to retain composure–anity. The car moved out of the lane

Someone was rnmning towards the back gate of the house . . . was scrambling over the hedge . was racing across the lawn I A man burst into the study. He was a man of somewhat heavy build, clean-shaven, and inclined to pallor. The hirsute blue tinge about his lips and jaw lent added vigour to a flexible but master- ful mouth. His dark hair was tinged with grey, his dark eyes were brilliant with excitement. He was very smartly dressed, and wore light tan gloves. He reeled suddenly, clutching at a chair for support. “Quick I quick I” he cried. “The telephone I AMI” Just inside the window he stood. swaying and breathing rapidly. hi gane upon the destroyed instrument. ” Mon Die I ” e cried. ” What has happened. the ? ” Stuart stared at the new-cmer dasedly. ” Hall ha been in my rooem ” he replied. “That ‘s all I ” “AhI ” said the stranger. “Again he eludes me I The telephone was the only chance. Pe a 6blguw We are finished I ” He dropped into a chair, removed his light grey hat, and began to dry his moist brow with a ine silk handkerchief. Stuart stared at him like a man who is stupeded. The room was still laden with strange fumes. ” BliM y I” remarked the new-comer. and his

Whitechapel was as perfect as his Montmartre. He was looking at the decapitated telephone. ” This is a knock-out I ” ” Might I ask.” said Stuart. endeavouring to collect his scattered senses. ” where you came from ? ” ” From up a tree I” was the astonishing reply. ” It was the only way to get over I ” ” Up a tree ? ” ” Exactly. Yes, I was foolish. I am too heavy. But what could I do? We must begin all over again.” Stuart began to doubt his sanity. This was no ordinary ma ” Might 1 ask.” he said, ” who you are, and what you are doing in my house ? ” ” Ah ! ” The stranger laughed merrily. ” You wonder about me–I can see it. Permit me to present myself—Gaston Ma, at your service ! ” ” Gaston Max ! ” Stuart glared at the speaker incredulously. ” Gaston Max ! ‘hy-. I conduct a post-mortem upon Gaston Max to-morrow, in order to learn if he was poisoned I ” ” Do not trouble. Doctor. That poor fellow is not

H~ mdim .. tL~a din bod… bo hor i~irnb m oE~ Cd Mao .

Gaston Max, and he was not poesoned. You may accept my word for it. I had the misfortune to strane him” PART .L–STATEMIIT OF M. CASTON MA. I.-THE DANCER OF MONTMARTRE. CHAPTER I. ZARA EL-KHALA. THE following statement which I, Gaston Max, am drawing up in duplicate for the guidance of whoever may inherit the task of tracing “The Scorpion ” (a task which I have begqn) will be lodged-one copy at the Service de Sa
rte in Paris, and the other copy with the Commissioner of Poice, New Scotland Yard. As I apprehend that I may be assssinated at any time, I propose to put upon record all that I have learned concerning the series of murders which I believe to be traceable to a certain person. In the event of my death, my French colleagues will open the sealed packet containing this statement, and the English Assistant-Commissioner of the Special Branch responsible for international affairs will receive in- structions to open that which I shall have lodged at Scotland Yard. This matter properly commenced, then, with the visit to Paris, incognito, of the Grand Duke Ivan, that famoas soldier of whom so much was expected;

and because I had made myself responsible for his safety during the time that he remained in the French capital I lalso incognito, be it understood) struck up a friendship with one Casimir. the Grand Duke’s valet. Nothing is sacred to a valet, and from Casimir I counted upon learning the real reason which had led this nobleman to visit Paris at so troublous a time. Knowing the Grand Duke to be a man of gallantry, I anticipated finding a woman in the case-and I was not wrong. From the good fellow Casimir I learned that a certain dancer appearing at one of our Montmartre theatres had written to the Grand Duke craving the honour of his autograph-and enclosing her photo- graph. Ps !-it was enough. One week later the autograph arrived-attached to an minvtaton to dme with the Grand Duke at his hotel in Parts. Yes-he had come to Pans. I have said that he was susceptible, and I have said that she was beautiful. I addre.s mvelf to men of the world, and I shall not be in error if I assume that they will say. “A wealthy fool and a designing woman. It is an old story.” Let us see. She called herself ZAra el-KhalA, which in Arabic

is ” Flower of the Desert.” She professed to be an Egyptian, and certainly she had the long, almond – shaped eyes of the East; but her white skin betrayed her, and I knew that, whulst she might possess Eastern blood, she was more nearh- alled to Europe than to Africa. In the character of a vaudeville agent I called at the Mont- martre theatre, and was informed by the management that ZAra el-KhalA received no visitors, professional or otherwise. A small but expensive car awaited her at the stage-door. My suspicions increased. I went away, but re- turned on the following night, otherwise attired. and from a hiding-place which I had selected on the previous evening I watched the dancer depart. She came out so enveloped in furs and veils as to be unrecog- nisable, and a Hindu wearing chauffeur’s uni- form opened the door of the car for her, and then, having arranged the rugs to her satisfac- tion, mounted to the wheel and drove away. I traced the car. It had been hlured for the purpose of taking ZAra e-Khali from her hotel-a small one in

an unlasmonable part o01 Pars – to Ue teatre and home nightly. I sent a man to call upon her at the hotel-in order to obtain Press material. ostensibly. She declined to see him. I became really interested. I sent her a choice bouquet, having the card of a nobleman attached to it, together with a message of respectful admiration. It was returned. I prevailed upon one of the most handsome and gallant cavalry officers in Paris to endeavour to make’her acquaintance. He was rebuffed. E, bias ! I knew then that Mlle. ZAra of the Desert was unusual. At the time that I made the acquaintance of Casimir the Grand Duke had been in Paris for three days, and he was-according to my informant–” lke a raging lion.” The charming dancer had vouch-tfed no reply to his invitation, and he had met with the same reception on presenting himself in person which had been accorded to myself and to those others wha had sought to obtain an interview with ZAra el-Khali My state of mystification grew more and more profound. I studied the reports of my assistants. It appeared that the girl had been in Pars for a period of two months. She occupied a suite of rooms, in which all her meals were served. Except the Hindu who drove the hired car she had no servant. She never appeared in the public part of the hotel unless veiled, and then merely in order to pass out to the car or in from it on returning. She drove out every day. She had been followed, of course, but her proceedings were unexceptionable. Leaving the car

at a J,i-it In ll 8- i– itt d ‘-lll’.gilt, -helit wtui li take it h–rt ialk it !ht.r wasoea u titl- t.’.nyh nHoer pr-teed- ing iit -t -o.fht as the lindu. oho tllliel eI with the aitoninhile, ,ti til w ,ue l i then Irive it. k to her hotel Shet neveri’f r. itiel vtit-, an-l inver lmet atniotc during the ei dLi t’en ur-ln- I turnel to tile report li.tliug with the Hlindui. Ile haid lurel a r, olln high lip undeiilr the roif of an .tlart ut-ut hi iuse where foreign walter’. itand oither, had their abode,. h le bought and tlooked his own food, whi h liiparently con-isted -solely of rice, lentil, alnd fit Ie wenlt evt.erv e huntiiiig to tilt garage and attendiiied the ir, called for lu iiitrest, and, haviiig rtllrlll reIi. nelllti i iuntil eveling in n l- t apatlllmenll t. At night, alter returning fromt the theatre, lie ,unle tie- t ime, 1n -out, and r l agent hadl ailtl tot keep tr.ak of hllun Ii evern- i es t-ltll that Ihe. hl atte.nlptetl purIlat. 1 id-ti., leI the tilain who, ea- watnlung tCa.-irm. anld whoe extcellent report- revealedt the fact that (.tlnour wa. ain honest Iellow–a s valets go-and inrtru, ted inell to alnt -t in tratung the nmovement, of tihe Rtinh 1w- ntight- later they’ tratketl hmin to a nrer-ide cafl kept by a gigantic quadroon from Domininque, andi iptronii.’el bIv that tyit’ whllh form. a link betweetn thei lowest commnnerial and thie criminal clase,, itinerate vendor, of i..,t.ern rugs, street performier,, llI ‘Turkis-h igarette imatker. At last I began to have hopies. lhe Granld Duke at tlil- time wats speaking of leasing Paris ; but, as lie hail tfound ttIlp t trr’ csoilation in the snmiles- iof a lait- etnig.igel at the FOlie-., I dil not anticipate thit he would diepart IIFr several idayt at an.y rate. Also, he twat the klind of mallitn who is titnllllateid by obstacle-. iThe Hindui reii.aineii ,r an lhour in the caf6, smolkiing .tltl irlnLkiing iomnle kind los syrup, and olne ohs iyt- fellhw- s w.itti hintm. I’re-ently tile proprietor rcaled lllt iInt.i a little r.,m biehlnd, the counter and cls-el the doolr. The Hindu and the quadroon ren.uin t r tlc for tlew nllllute, then the Hlndu camle lollt andl Ilft the cafi returnin- to his abole. there wa.t- t telephone in thie. i.ner room, anri niv agent was of iOplllinion that the Indiatn had enteredl either to itke oir ito receive a tall. I caused the line to be tapped. On the following night the H1indu came back to the caf6, tIllwed bc l one of my menii,. 1 pisted myself at a selected poinlt and listened for liny nmessage that might 1pat’ oveu’r thile Ine to or from the caf6. At about the .atlne hllour a;. before– accrdng tio the report– siinlmeone -called up the establi-hmnent, asking for ” Miguel This was the quiadroon, anil 1 heard Ilis thick you e replying,. lhe other voice-swhich had flr-t spokenl -wa. celriouliy oibIlanIt. but venr dlttlnct. Yet it It d mi, nt lisund like the voilce iof a Frenchman, r ,f ami I urpean. Thi. wea. the conver-ation– Mbgue l ” tliiuel ‘peak. ‘” – Sierpion. A message for Chunda Ial.” “Very good “‘ Almost holding my breath., so intense was my excitement, I watted while higuel went to bring the Hindu. Suddenly a new voice spoke-that of the Hiindu. “‘ Clunda Ial speaks,” it said.

S.N-ptcCtsn” wo the mply.

I clenched my teeth; I knew that I must not mi,- a syllable ” Srpi-n ” rephed . in voluble HIindustani- a langsuage of which I -know les than a dozen words! (IHAI’TER II. (ON(CERNIN(G TiHE GRAND DI’}1E. ALTHOUGH(;l I hadl met with an unforeseen check, I had, nevertheless, learned three things. I had learned that lMiguel the quadroon was possibly in league with the [lnmdu ; that the Hindlu ua called (Chulnla lal; and that (hunda
La received messages,

“Wd. Si,. I Np I i.” … Whine d0 ycoz wuai to go ?

probably instructions, from a third party who announced his presence by the word ” Scorpion.” One of my fellows, of course, had been in the caf6 all the evening, and from him I obtained confirmation of the fact that it had been the Hindu who had been summoned to the telephone and whom I had heard speaking. Instant upon the man at the cafe replacing the telephone and disconnecting, I called up the exchange. They had been warned, and were in readulmess. ” From what subscriber did that call come? ” I demanded. Alas ‘ another check awaited me ! It had originated in a public call office, and ” Scorpion ” was untrace- able by this means ! Despair is not permitted by the traditions of the Service de Sfiretd. Therefore I returned to my flat and recorded the facts of the matter thus far estab- lished. I perceived that I had to deal not with a designing woman, but with some shadowy being of

whom she was an instrument. The anomaly of her life was In a measure explained. She sojourned in Paris for a purpose-a mysterious purpose which was concerned I1 could not doubt it) with the Grand Duke Ivan. This was not an amorous but a political intrigue I communicated, at a late hour. with the senior of the three men watching the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke that evening had sent a handsome piece of jewellery purchased in the Rue de la Paix to the dancer. It had been returned. In the morning I met the good Casimir at his favourite cafe. He had just discovered that ZAra el KhalA drove daily to the Bois de Boulogne, alone. and that afternoon the Grand Duke had determined to accost her during her solitary walk. I prepared myself for this event. Arrayed in a workman’s blouse, and having a modest luncheon and a small bottle of wine in a basket, I concealed myself in that part of the Bois which was the favourite recreation ground of the dancer, and awaited her appearance. The Grand Duke appeared first upon the scene, accompanied by? Casinur. The latter pointed out to him a path through the trees along which Z Ara el-Khala habitually strolled, and showed him the point at which she usually rejoined the Hindu, who followed along the road with the car. They retired. I seated myself beneath a tree from whence I could watch the path and the road, and began to partake of the repast which I had brought with me. At about three o’clock the dancer’s car appeared, and the girl, veiled as usual, stepped out, and, having exchanged a few words with the Indian, began to walk slowly towards me, sometimes pausing to watch a bird in the boughs above her, and sometimes to examine some wild plant growing beside the way. I ate cheese from the point of a clasp-knife, and drank wine out of the bottle. Suddenly she saw me. She had cast aside her veil in order to enjoy the cool and fragrant air, and, as she stopped and regarded me doubtfully where I sat, I saw her beautiful face, undefiled now by make-up and unspoiled by the pre- sence of garish Eastern ornaments. Nom d’un nom! but she was truly a lovely woman I My heart went out in sympathy to the poor Grand Duke. Had I received such a mark of favour from her as he had received, and had I then been scorned as now she scorned him, I should have been desperate indeed. (oming round a bend in the path, then, she stood onls a few paces away, looking at me. I touched the peak of my cap. ” Good-day, Mademoiselle,” I said. ” The weather is very beautiful.” ” Good-day,” she replied. I continued to eat cheese, and, reassured, she walked on past me. Twenty yards beyond, the Grand Duke was waiting. As I laid down my knife upon the paper which had been wrapped around the bread and cheese, and raised the bottle to my lips, the enamoured nobleman stepped out from the trees and bowed low before Z~ra el-Khal&. She started back from him-a movement of inimitable grace, like that of a startled gazelle. And even before I had time to get on my feet she had raised

a little silver whistle to her Lhp and blown a short shrill note. The Grand Duke. endeavounng to seize her hand, was pouring out voluble expre’.son’ of adoration in execrable French, and ZAra el-KhslA was retreating step by step. She had quickly thrown the veil about her again. I heard the pad of swiftly running feet. If I was to intervene before the arrival of the Hindu I must act rapidly. I raced along the path, and thrust myself between the Grand Duke and the girl. “Mademoiselle,” I said, ” is this gentleman annoying you ? ” ” How dare you, low pig ? ” cried the Grand Duke, and with a sweep of his powerful arm he hurled me aside. ” Thank you,” replied ZAra el-KhalA with great composure; ” but my servant is here.” As I turned, Chunda Lal hurled himself upon the Grand Duke from behind. 1 have never seen an ex- pression in a man’s eyes like that in the eves of the Hindu at that moment. They blazed like the eyes of a tiger, and his teeth were bared in a savage grin which I cannot hope to describe. His lean body seemed to shoot through the air, and he descended upon his burly adversary as a jungle beast falls upon its prey. Those long brown fingers clasping his neck, the Grand Duke fell forward upon his face. ” Chunda Lal I ” said the dancer. Kneeling, his right knee thrust between the shoulder-blades of the prostrate man, the Hindu

looked up, and I read murder in those glar- ing eyes. That he was an accomplished wrestler–or perhaps a strangler-I divmined from the helplessness of the Grand Duke, who lay inert, robbed of every power except that of his tongue. He was swearing savagely. ” Chunda Lal ! “‘ said ZAra el-KhalA again. The Hindu shifted his gnp from the neck to the arms of the Grand Duke. He pinioned him as is done in ju-jitsu, and forced him to stand upright. It was a curious spectacle- the impotency of this burly nobleman in the hands of his slight adversary. As they swayed to their feet I thought I saw the glint of metal in the right hand of the Indian; but I could not be sure, for my attention was diverted. At this moment Casimir appeared upon the scene, looking very frightened. Suddenly releasing his hold altogether, the Hindu, glaring into the empurpled face of the Grand Duke, shot out one arm and pointed with a quivering finger along the path. ” Go I ” he said. The Grand Duke clenched his fists, looked from face to face as if calculating his chances, then shrugged his shoulder,, very deliberately wiped his neck and wrists, where the Indian had held him, with a large silk handkerchief, and threw the handkerchief on the ground. I saw a speck of blood upon the silk. Without another glance, he walked away, Casimir following sheepishly. It is needless, perhaps, to add that Casimir had not recog- nised me. I turned to the dancer, touching the peak of my cap. ” Can I be of any assistance to Mademoi- selle? ” I asked. ” Thank you-no,” she replied.

She placed live trancs min my hand and set off rapidly through the trees in the direction of the road, her bloodthirsty but faithful attendant at her heels. I stood scratching my head and looking after her. That afternoon I posted a man acquainted with Hindustani to tap any message which might be sent to or from the cafl used by Chunda Lal. I bhd learned that the Grand Duke had taken a stage-box at the Montmartre theatre at which the dancer was appear- ing, and had decided that I would be present also. A great surprise was in store for me. ZIra el-Khali had at this time established a reputation which extended beyond those circles from which the patrons of this establishment were exclu- sively drawn, and which had begun to penetrate to all parts of Paris. Now, as I leaned upon the rail at the back of the auditorium and the time for the dancer’s appearance drew nears could not fail to observe that there was a sprinkling of evening dress in the stalls, and that the two boxes already occupied boasted the presence of parties of well-known men of fashion. Then the Grand Duke entered, as a troupe of acrobats finished their performance. Zra el-Khali was next upon the programme. I glanced at the Grand Duke, and though
t that he looked pale and unwell. The tableau curtain fell, and the manager appeared behind the footlights. He also seemed to be much “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I greatly regret to announce that Mile. ZAra el-Khalk is indis- posed and unable to appear. We have succeeded in obtaining the services .. . Of whom he had succeeded in obtaining the services

1 never heard. for the rougher section of the audience ros,e at him like a menacing wave They had come to see the Egyptian dancer, and they would have their money back ! It was a swindle–they would smash the theatre ! If anyone had doubted the great and growing popularity of ZAra el-KhalA, this denmonstration must have proved convincing. Over the heads of the excited audience I saw the Grand Duke rise as if to retire. The other box parties were also standing up and talking angrily. ” Why was it not announced outside the theatre ? ” someone shouted. ” We did not know until twenty minutes ago ! ” cried the manager in accents of despalr I hurried from the theatre and took a taxicab to the hotel of the dancer. Running into the hall, I thrust a card into the hand of a concierge who stood there. ” Announce to Mile ZAra el-KhalA that I must see her at once.” I said. The man smiled and returned the card to me. ” Mile. ZAra el-KhalA left Paris at seven o’clock. Monsieur ” ” What ! ” I cried. ” Left Paris ” ” But certainly. Her baskets were taken to the Gare du Nord an hour earlier by her servant, and she went off by the seven-fifteen Rapide for Calais. The theatre people were here asking for her an hour ago.”

‘Fc —:– r ý- t “No Inspector.” he sad defnstdy. ths is not the cabman.”

I hurried to my office to obtain the latest reports of my men. I had lost touch with them, you under- stand, during the latter part of the afternoon and evening. I found there the utmost conufusion. 7 hey had been seeking me all over Paris to inform me that ZAra el-KhalA had left. Two men had followed her, anu had telephoned from Calais for instructions. She had crossed by the night mail for Dover. It was already too late to instruct the English police. For a few hours I had relaxed my usual vigilance- and this was the result. What could I do ? ZAra el-Khala. had committed no crime, but her sudden flight-for it looked like flight, you will agree- was highly suspicious. And as I sat there in my office, filled with all sorts of misgivings, in ran one of the men engaged in watching the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke had been seized with illness as he left his box in the Montmartre theatre, and had died before his car could reach the hotel. CHAPTER III. A STRANGE QUESTION. A CONVICTION burst upon my mind that a frightful crime had been committed. By whom and for what purpose I knew not. I hastened to the hotel of the Grand Duke. Tremendous excitement prevailed there. of course. There is no more certain way for a great personage to court publicity than to travel incognito. Everywhere that ” M. de Stabler ” had appeared, all Paris had cried, “There goes the Grand Duke Ivan.” And now, as I entered the hotel, Press, police, and public were demanding ” Is it true that the Grand Duke is dead ? ” Just emerging from the lift I saw

iasimir in piopria pe~tcio-as M. Mlax-tee fadlcd to rect.gnt- me ” My gooad man.” I lsad. ” are you a memblr ,. the suite of the late ;randl D)uke ” I am, or was, the valet of M. de St;aher Monsieur,” he rephled. I showed him my card . To me ‘ M. de Stahler ‘ is the Grand Duke Ivan What other servants had he with him ? ” asked, although I knew very well ” None, Monsieur ” When and where was he taken ill ” ” At the Theatre Ct luertco, Montmartre. at about a quarter past ten o’clock to-night. Who was with him m ” No one, Monsieur tish Highness was alone in a box. I had instructions to call with the car at eleven o’clock ” ” Well ” ” The theatre management telephoned at a quarter past ten to say that hi. lhighnes had been taken ill and that a physician had been sent for. I went in the car at once, and found him lying in one of the dressing-rooms to which he had been carried. A medical man was in attendance. The (;randl Duke was unconscious. We moved hiln to the car—” ” The doctor, the theatre manager, and myself. The (;Grand Duke was then alive, the physician declared, although lie seemed to nie to be alreadyv dead. But

lust before we reached the hotel the phy- sician, who was watching h llHighnes. anxiously, cried, ” Ah, .on Dieu ‘ It – finished. What a catastrophe ” ” He was dead ? He was dead, Monsieur.” ” Who has seen him ” ” They have telephoned for half the doctors in Pari-, Monsieur; but it is too late.” He was affected, the gootd Casimir. Tear. welled up in his eyes;. I mounted in the lilt to the apartment in which the Grand Duke lay. Three doctors were there, one of them being he of whom Casimir had spoken. Consternation was written on every face. ” It was his heart,” I was assured by the doctor who had been summoned to the theatre ” We shall find that he suffered from heart trouble.” They were all agreed upon the point. ” He must have sustained a great emo. tional shock,”‘ ld another. ‘You are convinced that there was no foul play, gentlemen I ” I asked. Thee were quite unammous on the pmint. ” Did the Grand Duke make any – tate- ment at the time of the ‘eizure which would confirm the theory of a heart attack ? No. He had fallen down uncon.sclou out- side the door of hts box, and from this unllon- sciousness he had never recovered. (Depo- sitioins of witnesses, medical evidence, andlll other documents are available for the guid- ance of whoever may care to see them ; but, as is well known, the death of the Grand Duke was ascribed to natural cause., and

it seemed as though my trouble would, after all., prove to be in vain.) Let us see what happened. Leaving the hotel, on the night of the (;rand Duke’s death, I joined the man who was watching the cafe telephone. There had been a message during the course of the evemng, but it had been for a Greek cigarette-maker, and it referred to the theft of several bales of Turki.h tobacco-useful information of a minor kind, but of little mterest to me. I knew that it would be useless to question the man Miguel, although I strongly suspected him of being a member of ” The Scorpion’. ” organisation. Any patron of the establishment en- joyed the privilege of receiving private telephone calls at the cafe on payment of a small fee. I cross-examined the manager of the Theatre Coquerico. He admitted that Mlle. Zara el-KhalI had been a mystery throughout her engagement. Neither he nor anyone else connected with the house had ever entered her dressing-room, or held any conversation with her whatever, except the stage- manager and the musical director. These had spoken to her about her music, and about lighting and other stage effects. She spoke perfect French, they said. Such a state of affairs was almost incredible, but was explained by the fact that the dancer, at a most modest salary, had doubled the takings of the theatre in a few days, and had attracted capacity business throughout the remainder of her engagement. She had written from Marseilles, enclosing Press notices and other usual matter, and had been booked direct for one week. She had remained for two months, and might have remained for ever, the poor manager assured me, at five times the salary ! A curious fact now came to light. In all her photographs ZAra el-KhalA appeared veiled m the

A monstrous shadow, moon-cast …. the shadow of a cowled man, . . . vanishd llo.

Eastern manner-that is to say, she wore a white silk vash,nwk which concealed all her face except her magnifticent eyes On the stage the veil was dis- carded; in the photographs it was always present And the famous picture which she had sent to the Grand DIuke I le had destroyed it. in a fit of passion, on returning from the IBos de BIoulogne after his encounter with Ihunda Lal It is Fate, after all-Kismet – and not the wit of man. which leads to the apprehension of really great criminals : a tireless Fate which tdogs their footsteps. a rem
orseless Fate from which they fly in vain. Long after the funeral of the Grand Duke. and at a time when I had almost forgotten ZAra el-KhalA, I found myself one evening at the Opera with a distinguished French scientist, and he chanced to refer to the premature death (which had occurred a few months earlier) of Ilenrik Ericksen, the Norwegian electrician. ” A very great loss to the century, M. Max,” he said. ” Ericksen was as eminent in electrical science as the (Grand lDuke Ivan was eminent in the science of war. Iroth were stricken down in the prime of hfe–and under almost identical circumstances.” That is true.” 1 said thoughtfully. It would almost seem ” he continued, ” as if Nature had determined to foil any further attempts to rifle her secrets and Heaven to check mankind in the makint of future wars Only three months after the Grand Duke’s death, the Amerncan Admiral, Mackney, lied at sea-you will remember ? Now, following Ericksen. Van Rembold-undloubtedly the greatest mining engineer of the century, and the only man who has ever produced radium in workable quantities–is seized with illness at a friend’s house and expires even before medical aid can be summoned.” ” It is very strange.” ” It is uncanny.” ” Were you personally acquainted with the late Van Rembold ? ” I asked. “1I knew him intimately-a man of unusual charm. M. Max-and I have particular reason to remember his death, for I actually met him and spoke to him less than an hour before he died. We only exchanged a few words-we met on the street-but I shall never forget the subject of our chat” How is that ? ” I asked. Well. I presume Van Rembold’s question was prompted by his knowledge of the fact that I had studied such subjects at one time. but he asked me if I knew of any race or sect in Africa or Asia who worshipped scorpions.” ” Scorpions I ” I cried. ” Ah, mon Dieu, Monsieur, say it again-scorpions ? ” ” But yes, certainly. Does it surprise you ” ” Did it not surprise you ? ” ” Undoubtedly. I could not imagine what had occurred to account for his asking so strange a question. I replied that I knew of no such sect, and Van Rembold immediately changed the sebject, nor did he revert to it So that I never learned why he had made that singular inquiry.” You can imagine that this conversation afforded me much food for reflection. Whilst I could think of no reason why anyone should plot to assassinate Grand Dukes, admirals, and mining engineeza, the circumstances of the several eases were undoubtedly similar in a number of respects. But it was the remarkable question asked by Van Rembold which particularly aroused my interest. Of course, it might prove to be nothing more than a coincidence; but when one comes to consider how rarely the word “scorpion” is used, outside those countries in which those insects abound, it appears to be something more. Van Rembold, then, had had some occasion to feel curious about scorpions ; the

name ” Scorpion ” was associated with the Hindu follower of ZAra el-KhalA: and it was she who had brought the Grand DIuke to Paris, where he had died. Oh. it was a very fragile thread, but by following such a thread as this we are sometimes led to the heart of a labyrinth. Beyond wondering if some sinister chain bound together this series of apparently natural deaths, I might have made no move in the matter ; but some- thing occurred which spurred me to action. Sir Frank Narcombe, the great English surgeon, collapsed in the foyer of a London theatre, and died shortly afterwards. Here again I perceived a case of a notable man succumbing unexpectedly in a public place-a case parallel to that of the Grand Duke, of Ericksen, of Van Rembold ! It seemed as though some strange epidemic had attacked men of science-yes, they were all men of science, even including the Grand Duke, who was said to be the most scientific soldier in Europe, and the Admiral, who had perfected the science of submarine warfare. ” The Scorpion” ! . . . That name haunted me persistently. So much so that at last I determined to find out for myself if Sir Frank Narcombe had ever spoken about a scorpion, or if there was any evidence to show that he had been interested in the subject. I could not fail to remember, too, that Zfra el-KhalA had last been reported as crossing to England. … CHAPTER IV. THE FIGHT IN THE CAFE. NEW SCOTLAND YARD had been advised that any reference to a scorpion, in whatever form it occurred, should be noted and followed up, but nothing had resulted; and, as a matter of fact, I was not surprised in the least. All that I had learned-and this was little enough-I had learned more or less by accident. But I came to the conclusion that a visit to London might be advisable. I had caused a watch to be kept upon the man Miguel, whose establishment seemed to be a recognised resort of shady characters. I had no absolute proof, remember, that he knew anything of the private affairs of the Hindu, and no further reference to a scorpion had been made by anyone using the cafm telephone. Nevertheless, I determined to give him a courtesy call before leaving for London-and to this determination I cannot doubt that once again I was led by Providence. Attired in a manner calculated to enable me to pass unnoticed among the patrons of the establish- ment, I entered the place and ordered cognac. Miguel having placed it before me, I lighted a cigarette and surveyed my surroundings. Eight or nine men were in the cafe, and two women. Four of the men were playing cards at a corner table, and the others were distributed about the place, drinking and smoking. The women, who were flashily dressed but who belonged to that crder of society which breeds the Apache, were deep in conversation with a handsome Algerian. I recognised only one lace in the caf–that of a dangerous character, Jean Sach, who had narrowly escaped the electric chair in the United States and who was well known to the Bureau. He was smiling at one of the two women-the woman to whom the Algerian seemed to be more particularly addressing himself. Another there was in the cafe who interested me as a student of physiognomy-a dark, bearded man, one of the card-players. His face was disfigured by a purple scar extending from his brow to the left corner of his mouth, which it had drawn up into a permanent snarl, so that he resembled an enraged and

dangerous wild animal. Mentally I classified this person as ” Le Balafrf.” I had just made up my mind to depart, when the man Sach arose, crossed the cafe. and seated himself insolently between the Algerian and the woman to whom the latter was talking. Turning his back upon the brown man, he addressed some remark to the woman, at the same time leering in her face. Women of this class are difficulC-you understand ? Sach received from the lady a violent blow upon the face which rolled him on the floor I As he fell, the Algerian sprang up and drew a knife. Sach rolled away from him, and also reached for the knife which he carried in a hip-pocket. Before he could draw it, Miguel, the quadroon proprietor, threw himself upon him and tried to pitch him into the street. But Sach, although a small man, was both agile and ferocious. He twisted out of the grasp of the huge quadroon and turned, raising the knife. As he did so, the Algerian deftly kicked it from his grasp and left Sach to face Miguel unarmed. Screaming with rage, he sprang at Miguel’s throat, and the two fell writhing upon the floor. There could only be one end to such a struggle, of course, as the Algerian recognised by replacing his knife in his pocket and resuming his seat. Miguel obtained a firm hold upon Sach and raised him bodily above his head, as one has seen a professional weight- lifter raise a heavy dumb-bclL Thus he carried him, kicking and foaming at the mouth with passion, to the open door. From the step he threw him into the middle of the street. At this moment I observed something glittering upon the floor close to the chair occupied by the Algerian. Standing up-for I had determined to depart-I crossed in that direction, stooped, and picked up this object which glittered. As my fingers touched
it, so did my heart give a great leap. The object was a golden scorpion I Forgetful of my dangerous surroundings, I stood looking at the golden ornament in my hand . when suddenly and violently it was snatched from me. The Algerian, his brown face convulsed with rage, confronted me.. . ” Where did you find that charm ? ” he cried. ” It belongs to me.” ” Very well,” I replied; “you have it.” He glared at me with a ferocity which the incident scarcely seemed to merit, and exchanged a significant glance with someone who had approached and who now stood behind me. Turning, I met a second black gaze-that of the quadroon, who, having restored order, had returned from the cafe door and now stood regarding me. ” Did you find it on the floor ? ” asked Miguel suspiciously. ” I did.” He turned to the Alger;an. ” It fell when you kicked the knife from the hand of that pig,” he said. ” You should be more careful.” Again they exchanged significant glances; but the Algerian resumed his seat, and Miguel went behind the counter. I left the caf conscious o the fact that black loo pursued m The night was very dark. and as I came out on to the pavement someone touched me on the arm. I turned in a flash. ” Walk on, friend,” said the voice of Jean Sach. ” What was it that you picked up from the floor ? ” “A golden scorpion,” I answered quickly. ” Ah,” he whispered. ” I thought so. It is enough. They shall pay for what they have done to m–those two. Hurry, friend, as I do.” Before I could say another word or strive to detain

him, he turned and ran off along a narrow courtway which at this point branched from the street. I stood for a moment nonplussed, staring after him. By good fortune I had learned more in ten minutes than by the exercise of all my ingenuity and the resources of the Service I could have learned in ten months! Par la barbe du prophtte, the Kismet which dogs the footsteps of malefactors assisted me I Recollecting the advice of Jean Sach, I set off at a brisk pace along the street, which was dark and deserted, and which passed through a district marked red on the Paris crimes-map. Arriving at the corner, above which projected a lamp, I paused and glanced back into the darkness. I could see no one, but I thought I could detect the sound of stealthy footsteps following me. The suspicion was enough. I quickened my pace. anxious to reach the crowded boulevard upon which this second street opened. I reached it unmolested ; but, intending to throw any pursuer off the track, I dodged and doubled repeatedly on the way to my flat and arrived there about midnight convinced that I had eluded pursuit-if, indeed, I had been pursued. All my arrangements were made for leaving Paris, and now I telephoned to the assistant on duty in my office, instructing him to take certain steps in regard to the proprietor of the cafe and the Algerian, and to find the hiding-llace of the man Jean Sach. I counted it more than ever important that I should go to London at once. In this belief I was confirmed at the very moment that I boarded the Channel steamer at Boulogne, for as I stepped upon the deck I found myself face to face with a man who was leaning upon the rail and apparently watching the passengers coming on board. He was a man of heavy build, dark and bearded, and his face was strangely familiar. Turning, as I lighted a cigarette, I glanced back at him in order to obtain a view of his profile. I knew him instantly-for now the scar was visible. It was ” Le Balafr,” who had been playing cards in Miguel’s cafe on the previous night I Yes ; I began to wonder if, after all, I had escaped the shadowy pursuer whose presence I had suspected in the dark street outside the cafe, or if he had tracked me and learned my real identity. In any event, the r6les were about to be reversed I ” Le Balafrt ” at Folkestone took a seat in a third-class carriage of the London train. I took one in the next compartment. Arrived at Charing Cross, he stood for a time in the booking-hall, glanced at his watch, and then took up the handbag which he carried and walked out into the station yard. I walked out also. ” Le Balafrd ” accosted a cabman, and as he did so I passed close behind him and overheard a part of the conversation. ” … Bow Road Station East? It’s too far. What ? ” I glanced back. The bearded man was holding up a note-a pound note apparently. I saw the cabman

r .p fr SrS”lk il

nod. Without an istant’s delay, and leaving the recovery of my baggage to chance, I rushed up to another cabman who had just discharged a passenger. ” To Bow Road Station East! ” I said to the man. ” A pound if you are quick! ” At Bow Road Station I discovered a telephone- box in a dark corner which commanded a view of the street. I entered this box and waited. It was important that I should remain invisible. Unless my bearded friend had been unusually fortunate he could not well have arrived before me. As it chanced, I had nearly six minutes to wait. Then, not ten yards away, I saw ” Le Balafrd ” arrive and dismiss the cabman outside the station. There was nothing furtive in his manner. He was evidently satisfied that no one pursued him ; and he stood in the station entrance almost outside my box and lighted a cigar. Placing his bag upon the floor, he lingered, looking to left and right, when suddenly a big closed car painted dull yellow drew up beside the pavement. It was driven by a brown-faced chauffeur whose nationality I found difficulty in placing, for he wore large goggles. But, before I could determine upon my plan of action, ” Le Balafr6 ” crossed the pavement and entered the car-and the car glided smoothly away, going east. A passing lorry obstructed my view, and I even failed to obtain a glimpse of the number on the plate. But I had seen something which had repaid me for my trouble. As the man of the scar had walked up to the car he had exhibited to the brown-skinned chauffeur some object which he held in the palm of his hand-an object which glittered like gold ! II.-LE BALAFRE. CHAPTER I. I BECOME CHARLES MALET. BEHOLD me established in rooms in Battersea, and living retired during the day whilst I permitted my beard to grow. I had recognised that this mystery of ” The Scorpion ” was the biggest case which had ever engaged the attention of the Service de Sfret6, and I was prepared, if necessary, to devote my whole time for twelve months to its solution. I had placed myself in touch with Paris, and had had certain papers and licences forwarded to me. A daily bulletin reached me, and one of these bulletins was sensational. The body of Jean Sach had been recovered from the Seine. The man had been stabbed to the heart. Surveillance of Miguel and his associates continued unceasingly, but I had directed that no raids or arrests were to be made without direct orders from me. I was now possessed of a French motor-licence and also that of a Paris taxi-driver, together with all the other documents necessary to establish the identity of one Charles Malet. Everything was in order. I

presented myself-now handsomely bearded–at New Scotland Yard and applied for a hcence. The ” know- ledge of London “‘ and other tests I passed .uccess- fully, and emerged a fully fledged cabman. Already I had opened negotiations for the purchase of a dilapidated but serviceable cab which belonged to a small proprietor who had obtained a car of more up-to-date pattern to replace this obsolete one. I completed these negotiations by paying down a certain sunm, and arranged to garage my cab in the disused stable of a house near my rooms in Battersea. Thus I now found myself in a position to appear anywhere at any time without exciting suspicion, enabled swiftly to proceed from point to point, and to pursue anyone either walking or driving whom it might please me to pursue. It was a modus operandi which had served me well in Paris,. and which had led to one of my biggest successes (the capture of the French desperado known as ” Mr. Q.”) in New York. I had obtained, via Paris. particulars of the recent death of Sir Frank Narcombe, and the circumstances attendant upon his end were so
similar to those which had characterised the fate of the Grand ]luke, of Van Rembold, and the other, that I could not for a moment believe them to be due to mere coincidence. Acting upon my advice, Paris advised Scotland Yard to press for a post-mortem examination of the body, but the influence of Sir Frank’s family was exercised to prevent this being carried out-and exercised successfully. Meanwhile, I hovered around the houses, flats, clubs, and offices of every-one who had been as.-voated with the late surgeon, noting to what addresses they directed me to drive, and who lived at those addre-ses. In this way I obtained evidence sufficient to secure three judicial separations. but not a single clue leading to ” The Scorpion.” No matter. At every available opportunity I haunted the East End streets, hoping for a glimpse of the big car and the brown-skinned chauffeur, or of my -a.r:ed man from Paris. I frequented all sorts of public bars and eating houses used by foreign sailors and Asiatics. By day and by night I roamed about the dismal thoroughfares of that depressing district, usually with my flag down to imply that I was engaged. Such diligence never goes long unrewarded. One evening, having discharged a passenger-a mercantile officer-at the East India Docks, as I was drifting watchfully back through l.imehouse I saw a large car pull up just ahead of me in the dark. A man got out and the car was driven off. Two courses presented themselves. I was not sure that this was the car for which I sought, but it strangely resembled it. Should I follow the car or the man ? A rapid deci-ion was called for. I followed the man. That I had not been mistaken in the identity of the car shortly appeared. The man took out a cigar, and, standing on the corner opposite the Town Hall. lighted it. I was close to him at the time, and by

ihe Iiht of the match, which he sheltered with hit h.n i-. 1 ,s.,w the .Iarrol anl beardlea faLce. 7rrsnmphe It ,e h ‘ l;a itmg lighted hic cigar, he crossetl the road and entre, Il tihei salin of a neighthns ring public-hlouse l.ol king liy tab, I ailso entered that saloon. I ordered a glass of litter beer, and glanced around at the object of iiv itere-t lie had iobtained a gl.,-s of branly, and was Icontorting hIl hideous face as he sipped this beverage I laighed. i” lav the- tried to poison you, Mister ? ‘ I saidl. h,. pard’ru ssiPoisn vye” ” he replied Yon w”,nit to have it iouit of a Iottle,” I continuted co nhlertialhl ” – fartell’S lthree Star,.” lie stared at tile unsmp itrehendiigly. ” I ‘lno t iknoll ,’ he sail haltisgly ” I have very lhttl I -nghhl-ls ” iiih that – it I cried, spe kitig FrenTh sith a barb.arrus i enit. ” oui’.oIlv spe.k Fren sh I” Se- ,-. h le re-phiie, eagerhr ” It is so dliftutilt tos mlke ,T.e isf ur ellrtiood llThis spirit is inot Signa it I somiLe ktndtl of petrol ‘ i ianhlli i’ hit Iltter, I order- ed two glasses of gooilll bir.ildv tfrom thie lar-tenlder andl placed onle before I ,- tal.sfrc ‘ SI iv thalt.” I Ial. dcontittnunlll g toI speak ill Frenclh You i lll hind it is better ” e11 siltpped flrou hit glass, and agreed that I was right ie Iihitted togetheir lfor tell mlllltes anL had another Is ilk, after iwhis it lts dangperousi looking as, IIIuintti ” wsisished me in good LnIight anlld went lout The it tar ul I fsis ll tfri tihe i st.ct t d il str ongly s -pe ted thl.t Il. iai etisth lr ied iII the neighl I.rthlltd oI” ti l llaln there to keep ain }pcuttn-ient. Leatlng imy ali ostl,-I til-he pubillc housie, I followed luni l fn,,t ii niI lhrtee t Ilt Street to, iRpentaker Street isr lit- ti iurned into a narrow -alle- leading tol the ti-erll-.il It ws;w str.sighit .nil deserted. and I dart-ed Iii Illssw lurther until hei- Iul reached the rsiner I lise.l his fsoottepls pa-. right to the end. Then the iun il shed a yi 1 r.tn to the tcorner The back .i ia ~ltrf luiilding- a high blanuk wdll– fated a srw of r.unsi ht Ie tetlenement, siome los them built of cool hiit noit a soul was in sight. I reiluctantly returned to thie slpot at which I had left the b tin stound a cnsitalle there whio wanted to kinoIw iwhat I mnieatIt bli le.aving a vehicle in the street unatteniled. I mIanaged to enlist his sympathy v tellisng fium that I h-d been it puIlrsuit of a lfare lwho h.ul swuttilhd ine itlth a lhadl half- rown. The ruse sut elededi -” \ li, I street did lie g’s dItown, mate askel the constabile l des crisI the street, and dlestribed the scarred matin lht sistalle shook h~ his head ” Solin lihke one th-itm foreignU saillrmen,” lie sail – liet I ldon’t knowit what he can have gone dt-in there flr It ‘, nearly all Chinese. that part.” I l, word, tanl e as a revelati sn tihes- ch;:nged the whole comI- lexion of the case It dawned upon me even as lie s~poke the sword ” (linese ” that the gllden storpion which I had seent in the Paris cafe weas oif (Chlunese workmanship ! I started my engine and drovse slowily to that street t which I had lost th.etrack of .” Le lalafr6.” I turned the cab so that I should libe ready to drive off at a molment’s notice, andI sat there wondering w hat imy next move should be. How long 1 had been there I cannot say, wihen suddenly tt began to rain in torrents. Xhat I might have done or what I had hoped to tl io of no imprtance, for, as I at there staring out at the dtisnml rain-swept street, a man came along. saw the head lalmp- of the cab and stopped, peering towards me Esidently perceiving that I drove a cab andi nit a private car, lie came towards me. ” Are you dlisengaged ? ” he asked. Whether it was that I sympathised with him-he had no topcoat or umbrella–or whether I was guided by Fate. I know inot, but as he spoke I determined to give uip my dreary vigil for that night. Pardieu ! but certainly it was fate again I “- Well, I suppose I am, Sir,” I said, and asked hin where lie wanted to go. He gave an address not five hundred yards from my own rooms. I thought this so curious that I heisitated no longer. ” Jumnip in,” I said, and, still seeking in my mind for a link between the scorpion case and China, I drove off, and in less than half an hour, for the streets were nearly empty, arrived at my destination. The passenger, whose name was Dr. Keppel Stuart, very kindly suggested a glass of hot grog, and I did not refuse his proffered hospitality. When I came out of his house again the rain had almost ceased, and just as I stooped to crank the car I thought I saw a shadowy figure moving near the end of a lane which led to the tradesmen’s entrance of Dr. Stuart’s house. A sudden suspicion laid hold upon me-a horrible doubt. Having driven some twenty yards along the road, I leaned from my seat and looked back, A big man wearing a black waterproof overall was standing looking after me.

Remembenng how

Again I tapped my tunic pocket. ” Le Balafr ” frowned perplexedly. ” I don’t even know what you are talking about, my friend,” he replied. ” I know what I am talking about,” I assured him speaking more and more huskily. ” Listen, then; I am going to take all my notes to my friend the doctor, and leave them with him, sealed–sealed, you follow me ? If 1 do not come back for them-in a week, shall we say ?-he sends them to the police. I do not profit, you think ? No, morbleu! but there are some who hang ! ” Emptying my third glass. I ordered a fourth and one for my companion. He checked me. ” No more for me. thank you,” he said. ” I have-business to attend to. I will wish you good- night.” ” Good-night ! ” I cried boisterously. ” Good- night. friend ! Take heed of my good advice I ” As he went out the barman brought me my fourth glass of cognac, staring at me doubtfully. Our con- versation had been conducted in French, but the tone of my voice had attracted attention. ” Hadl about enough, ain’t you, mate ? ” he said. ” Your ugly pal jibbed ! ” ” Quite enough ! ” I replied-in English now, of course. ” But I ‘ve had a stroke of luck to-night, and I feel happy. Have one with me. This is a final.” On going out into the street I looked cautiously about me, for I did not expect to reach the house of I)r. Stuart unmolested. I credited ” Le Balafr6 ” with sufficient acumen to distrust the genuineness of my intoxication, even if he was unaware of my real identity. I never make the mistake of under- estimating an opponent’s wit; and, whilst acting on the assumption that the scarred man knew me to be forcing his hand. I recognised that, whether he believed me to be drunk or sober, Gaston Max or another, his line of conduct must be the same. He must take it for granted that I actually designed to lodge my notes with Dr. Stuart, and endeavour to prevent me doing so. 1 could detect no evidence of surveillance what- ever, and, cranking the engine, I mounted and drove off. More than once as I passed along Commercial Road I stopped and looked back; but, so far as I could make out, no one was following me. The greater part of my route lay along populous thorough- fares, and of this I was not sorry; but I did not relish the prospect of Thames Street, along which presently my course led me. Leaving the City behind me, I turned into that thoroughfare, which at night is almost quite deserted, and there I pulled up. Pardieu ! I was dis- appointed ! It seemed as though my scheme had miscarried. I could not understand why I had been permitted to go unmolested, and I intended to walk back to the corner for a final survey before con- tinuing my journey. This survey was never made. As I stopped the cab and prepared to descend, a faint-a very faint-sound almost in my ear set me keenly on the alert. Just in the nick of time I ducked-as the blade of’a long knife flashed past my head, ripping its way through my cloth cap I Yes. That movement had saved my life, for otherwise the knife must have entered my shoulder- and pierced to my heart I Someone was hidden in the cab I He had quietly opened one of the front windows, and had awaited a suitable opportunity to stab me. Now, recognising failure, he leapt out on the near side as I lurched and stumbled from my seat, and ran off like the wind. I never so mech as glimpsed him. ” Mon Dien I ” I muttered, raising my hand to my head, from which blood was trickling down my face. ” The plan succeeds I ” I bound a handkerchief as tightly as pessible around the wound in my scalp, and prt my cap on to keep the bandage in place. The wounmt was only a superficial one, and except for the bleeding I suffered no inconvenience from it. But I.had now a legitimate reason for visiting Dr. Stuart, and as I drove on towards Battersea I was modifying my original plan in accordance with the unforeseen conditions. It was long past Dr. Stuart’s hours of consultation when I arrived at his house, and the servant showed me into a waiting-room, informing me that the doctor would join me in a few minutes. Directly she had gone out I took from the pocket of my tunic the sealed envelope which I had intended to lodge with the doctor. Mforbleu ! It was stained with blood which had trickled down from the wound in my scalp. Actually, you will say, there was no reason why I should place a letter in the hands of Dr. Stuart; my purpose would equally well be served by pretending that I had done so. Ah, but I knew that I had to deal with clever people-with artists in crime-and it behoved me to be an artist also. I had good reason to know that their system of espionage was efficient, and the slipshod way is ever the wrong way. The unpleasantly sticky letter I returned to my pocket, looking around me for some means of making any kind of packet which could do duty as a

substitute. Beyond a curtain draped over a recess at one end of the waiting-room I saw a row of bottles. a box of lint, and other medical paraphernalia. It was the doctor’s dispensary. Perhaps I might find there an envelope. I crossed the room and looked.
Immediately around the corner, on a level with my eyes, was a packet of foolscap envelopes and a stick of black sealing-wax. Bien ! All that I required now was a stout sheet of paper to enclose in one of those envelopes. But not a scrap of paper could I find, excepting the bloodstained letter in my pocket- towards which I had formed a strong antipathy. I had not even a newspaper in my possession. I thought of folding three or four envelopes, but there were only six in all, and the absence of so many might be noted. Drawing aside a baize curtain which hung from the bottom shelf I discovered a number of old card- board boxes. It was sufficient. With a pair of surgical scissors I cut a piece from the lid of one and thrust it into an envelope, gumming down the lapel. At a little gas-jet intended for the purpose 1 closed both ends with wax, and-singular coincidence- finding a Chinese coin fastened to

a cork lying on the shelf, my sense of humour prompted me to use it as a seal. Finally, to add to the verisimilitude of the affair, I borrowed a pen which rested in a bottle of red ink and wrote upon the envelope the number 3o-that day being the thirtieth day of the month. It was well that the artist within me had dictated this care- ful elaboration, as became evident a few minutes later, when the doctor appeared at the head of a short flight of stairs and requested me to step up into his consulting- room. It was a small room, so that the window, over which a linen blind was drawn, occupied nearly the whole of one wall. As Dr. Stuart, having examined the cut on my scalp, descended to the dispensary for lint, the habits of a lifetime asserted themselves. I quickly switched off the light and peeped out of the window around the edge of the blind, which I drew slightly aside. In the shadow of the wall upon the op- posite side of the narrow lane a man was standing. I tarned on the light again The watcher should not be disappointed I My skull being dressed, I broached the subject of the letter. which I said I had found in my cab after the accident which had caused the injury. ” Somebody left this behind to-day, Sir,” I said; ” perhaps the gentleman who was with me when I had the accident, and I ‘ve got no means of tracing him. He may be able to trace me though, or he may advertise. It evidently contains something valuable. I wonder if you would do me a small favour? Would you mind

takng charge of it for a week or so, until it is claimed ? ” He asked me why I did not take it to Scotland Yard. ” Because,” I said, ” if the owner claims it from Scotland Yard he is less likely to be generous than if he gets it direct from me.” ” But what is the point,” asked Dr. Stuart, ” in leaving it here ? ” I explained that if I kept the letter I might be suspected of an intention of stealing it; whereas, directly there was any inquiry, he could certify that I had left it in his charge. He seemed to be satisfied. and asked me to come into his study for a moment. The man in the lane was probably satished too. I had stood three paces from the table-lamp all the time, waving the letter about as I talked, and casting a bold shadow on the linen blind. The first thing that struck me as I entered the doctor’s study was that the French windows, which opened on a sheltered lawn, were open. I acted accordingly. ” You see,” said Dr. Stuart, ” I am enclosing your precious letter in this big envelope, which I am sealing.” “Yes, Sir,” I replied, standing at some distance from him, so that he had to speak loudly. “And would you mind addressing it to the Lost Property Office ? ” ” Not at all,” said he, and did as I suggested. ” If

not reclaimed within a reasonable time, it will be sent to Scotland Yard.” I edged nearer to the open window ” If it is not reclaimed,” I said loudly, ” it goes to Scotland Yard-yes.” ” Meanwhile.” concluded the doctor, ” I am lock- ing it in this private drawer in my bureau.” ” It is locked in your bureau. Very good.” CHAIPTER III. DISAPPEARANCE OF CHARLES MALET. KNOWING, and I knew it well, that people of ” The Scorpion ” were watching, I do not pretend that I felt at my ease as I drove around to the empty house in which I garaged my cab My inquiry had entered upon another stage, and Charles Malet was about to disappear from the case. I was well aware that if he failed in his vigilance for a single moment he rmght well disappear from the world ! The path which led to the stables was overgrown with weeds and flanked by ragged bushes; weeds and grass sprouted between the stones paving the

-I Md thu ihutww ~~ suvlm· i

little yard also. although they were withered to a certain extent by the petrol recently spilled there. Having run the cab into the yard, I alighted and looked around the deserted grounds, mysterious in the moonlight. Company would have been welcome; but, excepting a constable who had stopped and chatted with me on one or two evenings, I always had the stables to myself at night. I determined to run the cab into the stable and lock it up without delay, for it was palpably dangerous in the circumstances to remain longer than necessary in that lonely spot. Hurriedly I began to put out the lamps. I unlocked the stable doors, and stood looking all about me again. I was dreading the ordeal of driving the cab those last ten yards into the garage. for whilst I had my back to the wilderness of bushes it would be an easy matter for anyone in hiding there to come up behind me. Nevertheess, it had to be done. Seating myself at the wheel, I drove into the narrow building, stopped the engine, and peered cautiously around towards the bright square formed by the open doors. Nothing was to be seen. No shadow moved. A magazine pistol held in my hand, I crept, step by step, along the wall until I stood just within the opening. There I stopped. I could hear a sound of quick breathing. There was someone waiting outside. Dropping quietly down upon the pavement, I slowly protruaded my head around the angle of the

brick wall at a point not four inches alove the ground I knew that whoever waited wouldl have his eyes fixed upon the doorway at the le el of a man’s head. Close to the wall. a pistol held In his left hand and an upraised sand-bag in his nght, stood ” Le BHalafre.” His eyes gleamed savagely in the light of the moon, and his teeth were bared in that lea ful animal snarl. But he had not seen me. Inch by inch I thrust my pistol forward, the barrel raised sharply. I could not be sure of my aim, of course, nor had I time to judge it carefully I fired The bullet was meant for his right wnst, hut it struck him in the flesh% part of ills arm. Uttering a ferocious cry. he leapt back. dropped his pistol and,l. perceiving me as I sprang to my feet. lashed at my head with the sand-bag I raised my left arm to guard my skull, and sustained the full force of the blow upon it. I staggered back against the wall, andi my own pistol was knocked from my grasp ‘ My left arnm was temporanrily useless, and the man of the scar was depnved of the use of his right ‘ardieu ‘ I hal the better chance

lie hurled himself ulxon me Instantly he recovered the ad- vantage, for lie grasped me by the throat with his left hand- and. nom d’un norn what a grip he had i Flat against the wall he held me, and began, his teeth bared m that fearful grin. to crush the life from me To such an attack there was only one counter I kicked him savagely. andl that death grip re- laxed I writhed. twisted, and was free ! As I regained my freedom I struck up at him, and by great good fortune caught him upon the point of the jaw. He staggered I struck him over the heart, and he fell. I pounced upon him, exult ing, for he had sought my life and I knew no pity . Yet I had not thought so strong a man would choke so easily, and for some moments I stood looking down at him, beheving that he sought to trck me. But it was not so. His affair was finished I listened. The situation in which I found myself was full of difficulty. An owl screeched some- where in the trees, but nothing else stirred The sound of the shot had not attracted att
ention, ap- parently. I stooped and examined the garments of the man who lay at my feet. He carried a travel coupon to Paris bearing that day’s date and some other papers; but, although I searched all his pockets, I could find nothing of real interest until in an inside pocket of his coat I felt some hard, irregularly shaped object I withdrew it. and in the moonhght it lay ghttering m my palm-a golden scorpion ! It had apparently been broken in the struggle. The tail was mis-

sing, nor could I find it but I must confess that I did not prolong the, search. Some chance shadow produced by the moon- light, and the presence of that recently purchased ticket, gave me the idea upon which without delay I proceeded to act. Satisfying myself that there was no mark upon any of his garments by which the man could be identified, I unlocked from my wrist a disc which I habitually wore there, and locked it upon the wrist of the man with the scar. Clearly, I argued, he had been detailed to despatch me and then to leave at once for France. I would make it appear that he had succeeded. Behold me, ten minutes later, drnving slowly ilong a part of the Thames Embankment which I chanced to remember, a gruesome passenger riding behind me in the cab; and I was reflecting, as I kept a sharp look-out for a spot which I had noted one day dunng my travels, how easily one could commit a murder n London ! I drove on slowly. The point for which I was making was now only some three hundred yards further along, but I had observed a constable who had passed me near the last corner. Therefore, arriving at my destination-a vacant wharf open to the road-I pulled up and listened. Only the wash of the tide upon the piles of the wharf was audible, for the night m ,s now far advanced. I opened the door of the cab and dragged out ” Le-BalafrC.” Right and left I peered, truly hke a

wh r : :t . tn:.t .trreamu a I hitmr, 1’olice tlwt·r~ w-o ,as l” a:, I -,,,-~ l r t fllltnt until the creak of the itn riewr faint IThn thel – wa a dull splahi far -low . . and silent. .tgamt Gasti,,n Ma’ hatd been

/: .; Thoe long hron linger. daspmg his ne ck, thGad Dike h Idlrarud upm Ian sac.hs

pro-pecrtve piur h.-er might not surprise me. I .imie or ,ut in an upper rl.nm all da. watchlng frm-leh!nl the -, rten of trees all who ame to the house of I r Stuart. Duk found me strill at my polt, armed with a pair of good bmnocdiTrr Every patient who presented ~lnirelf I scnrtinsted c.,refully v- trt- finling as the darkness grew that it beIamie inmcreaingly difficult to discern the features of visitors, I descended to the front garden and resumed my watch from the lower branches if a tree which stood snome twenty feet from the roadway. At .selected intervals I crept from my post and surveyed the lane ulpon which the window of the consulting-r am opened, and also the path leading to the tradesmen’s entrance, from which one might look acrs,s the lawn and in at the open study windows. It was dunng one of these tours of inspection. and whilst I was actually peerlng through a gap in the hedge. that I heard the telephone-bell I)r Stuart was mi the study. and I heard him speaking. I gathered that his services were required imme- dlately at some i n-itution in the nelghbourhood. I saws him take his hat, stick. and bag from the sofa, and go out of the room Then I returned tot the front garden of my vacant house. No one appeared for some time A policeman walked slowly up the road, and flashed his lantern in at the gate of the house I had commandeered. His footsteps died away. Then, faintly, I heard the hum of a powerful motor. I held my breath. The approaching car turned into the road at a point above me to the right, came nearer . . . and stopped before Dr. Stuart’s doo,r. I focuse.e my binoculars upon the chauffeur It was the brownkminned man ‘ ,nm du’ nonnm! a woman was descending from the car’ She was enveloped in furs and I could not see her face She walked up the step, to the door, and was admitted. The chauffeur backed the car into the lane beside the house. .My heart beating rapidly with excitement. I crept out by the further gate of the drive, crossed the road

at a point fifty yards above the house. and, walking very quietly, came back to the tradesmen’s entrance. Into it, enveloping darkness I glded, and on until I cohld peep across the lawn. The elegant visitor. as I had hoped, had been shown -nut into the ordinary waiting-room, but mto the doctor’. stud-. -the was seated-with-her beek o the window, talking to a grey-haired old lady- probably the doctor’s housekeeper. Impatiently I waited for this old lady to depart, and the moment that she did so the visitor stood up, turned, andt . . it was ZLra el-Khald I It was only with difficulty that I restrained the cry of triumph which arose to my lips. On the instant that the study door closed ZAra el-KhalA began to try a number of keys which she took from her handbag upon the various drawers of the bureau. ‘” S,.” I said, ” they are uncertain of the drawer ‘ Suddenly she desisted. looking nervously at the open windowss; then, crossing the room, she drew the curtains. I crept out into the road again, and by the same roundabout route came back to the empty house. Feeling my way in the darkness of the shrubbery. I found the motor-bicycle which I hadl hidden there, and I wheeled it down to the further gate of the drive, and waited. 1 could see the doctor’s door, and I saw him returning along the road. As lie appeared, from somewhere-I could not determine from where- came a strange and uncanny wailing sound, a sound that chilled me like an evil omen. Even as it died away, and before Dr. Stuart had reached his door, I knew what it portended-that horrible wail. Someone, hidden I knew not where. had warned ZAra el-Khali that the doctor returned. But stay–perchance that someone was the dark- skinned chauffeur ! How I congratulated myself upon the precautions which I had taken to escape observation ! Evidently the watcher had placed himself somewhere where he could command a view of the front door and the road. Five minutes later the girl came out, the old house- keeper accompanying her to the door; the car emerged from the lane: ZAra el-Khala entered it, and was driven away. I could see no third person inside the car, and no one was seated beside the chauffeur. I started my ” Indian.,” and leapt in pursuit. As I had anticipated, the route was eastward, and I found myself traversing familiar ground. From the south-west to the east of London whirled the big car o
f mystery-and I was ever close behind it. Some- times, in the crowded streets, I lost sight of my quarry for a time, but always I caught up again, and at last I found myself whirling along Commercial Road and not fifty yards behind the car. Just by the canal bridge a drunken sailor lurched out in front of my wheel, and only by twisting perilously right into a turning called, I believe, Salmon Lane did I avoid running him down. Sacrd norn I how I cursed him ! The lane was too narrow for me to turn, and I was compelled to dis- mount and to wheel my ” Indian ” back to the high- road. The yellow car had vanished, of course; but I took it for granted that it had followed the main road. At a dangerous speed, pursued by execrations from the sailor and all his friends, I set off east once more, turning to the right down West India Dock Road. Arriving at the hock, and seeing nothing ahead of me but desolation and ships’ masts. I knew that that inebriated pig had spoiled everything ! I could have sat down upon the dirty pavement and wept, so mortified wasI ! For, if Zara el-KhalA had secured the envelope, I had missed my only chance. However. pardicu I I have said that despair is not permitted by the Bureau. I rode home to my hotel, deep in reflection. Whether the girl had the envelope or not, at least she had escaped detection by the doctor ; therefore, if she had failed, she would try again. I could sleep in peace until the morrow. Of the following day, which I spent as I had spent the preceding one, I have nothing to record. At about the same time in the evening the yellow car again rolled into view, and on this occasion I devoted all my attention to the dart-skinned chauffeur, upon whom I directed my glasses. As the girl alighted and spoke to him for a moment, he raised the goggles which habitually he wore and I saw his face. A theory which I had formed on the previous night proved to be correct. The chauffeur was the Hindu, Chonda Lal I As ZAra el-KhalA walked up the steps he backed the car into the narrow lane, and I watched him constantly. Yet, watch as closely as I might, I could not see where he concealed himself in order to command a view of the road. On this occasion, as I knew, Dr. Stuart was at home. Nevertheless, the girl stayed for close upon half-an-hour, and I began to wonder if some new move had been planned. Suddenly’the door opened, and she came, out. I crept away through the bushes to my bicycle and wheeled it on to the drive. I saw the car start; but, Madame Fortune being in playful mood, my own

engine refused to start at all, and when, ten minutes later, I at last aroused a spark of life in the torpid machine I knew that pursuit would be futile. Since this record is intended for the guidance of those who may take up the quest of ” The Scorpion ” -either in co-operation with myself, or, in the event of my failure, alone-it would be profitless for me to record my disasters. Very well, I had one success. One night I pursued the yellow car from Dr. Stuart’s house to the end of Limehouse Causeway without once losing sight of it. A string of lorries from the dock drawn by a traction-engine checked me at the corner for a time, although the yellow car passed. But I raced furiously on, and by great good luck overtook it near the Dock Station. From thence onward, pursuing a strangely tortuous route, I kept it in sight to Canning Town. when it turned into a public garage. I followed-to purchase petrol. Chunda Lal was talking to the man in charge; he had not yet left his seat But the car was empty ! At first I was stupid with astonishment. Par la barbe du prophite ! I was astounded ! Then I saw that I had really made a great discovery. The street into which I had injudiciously followed ” Le Balafre ” lay between Limehouse Causeway and Ropemaker Street, and it was at no great distance from this point that I had lost sight of the yellow car. In that street, which according to my friend the policeman was ” nearly all Chinese,” Z’ara el-Khali had descended; in that street was ” The Scorpion’s” lair! CHAPTER V. CONCLUSION OF STATEMENT. I COME now to the conclusion of this statement, and to the strange occurrence which led to my proclaiming myself. The fear of imminent assassination which first had prompted me to record what I knew of ” The Scorpion ” had left me since I ceased to be Charles Malet. And that the disappearance of ” Le Balair6 ” had been accepted by his unknown chief as evidence of his success in removing me I did not doubt. There- fore I breathed more freely-and more freely still when my body was recovered I Yes, my body was recovered from Hanover Hole; I read of it-a very short paragraph, but it is the short paragraphs that matter-in my morning paper. I knew then that I should very shortly be dead indeed- officially dead. I had counted on this happening before, you understand, for I more than ever suspected that ” The Scorpion ” knew me to be in England, and I feared that he would ” lie low,” as the English say. However, since a fortunate thing happens better late than never, I saw in this paragraph two things-(t) that the enemy would cease to count upon Gaston Max; (2) that the Scotland Yard Commissioner would be authorised to open Part I. of this Statement, which had been lodged at his office two days after I landed in Englani–the portion dealing with my inquiries in Paris and with my tracking of ” Le Balafr’ ” to Bow Road Station and observing that he showed a golden scorpion to the chauffeur of the yellow car. This would happen because Paris would wire that the identification disc found on the dead man was that of Gaston Max. Why would Paris do so ? Because my reports had been discontinued since I had ceased to be Charles Malet, and Paris would be seeking evidence of my whereabouts. My reports had discontinued because I had learned that I had to do with a criminal organisation of whose ramifications I knew nothing. Therefore I took no more chances. I died. I return to the night when Inspector Dunbar, the grim Dunbar of Scotland Yard, came to Dr. Stuart’s house. His appearance there puzzled me. I could not fail to recognise him, for, as dusk had fully come, I had descended from my top window and was posted among the bushes of the empty house, from whence I commanded a perfect view of the doctor’s door. The night was unusually chilly-there had been some rain-and when I crept around to the lane bordering the lawn, hoping to see or hear something of what was taking place in the study, I found that the windows were closed and the blinds drawn. Luck seemed to have turned against me, for that night at dusk. when I had gone to a local garage where I kept my motor-bicycle, I had discovered the back tyre to be perfectly flat, and had been forced to con- tain my soul in patience whilst the man repaired a serious puncture. The result was, of course, that for more than half-an-hour I had not had Dr. Stuart’s house under observation. And a hundred-and-one things can happen in half-an-hour. Had Dr. Stuart sent for the Inspector ? If so, I feared that the envelope was missing-or at any rate that he had oetected ZAra el-Khala in the act of stealing it, and had determined to place the matter in the hands of the police It-was a maddening reflection. Again, I shrewdly suspected that I was not the only watcher of Dr. Stuart’s house. The frequency with which the big yellow. car drew up at

the door a few moments after the doctor had gone out could not be due to accident. Yet I had been unable to detect the presence of this other watcher. nor had I any idea of the spot where the car re- mained hidden-if my theory was a correct one. Nevertheless, I did not expect to see it come along whilst the Inspector remained at the house-always supposing that ZAra el-KhalA had not yet suc- ceeded. I wheeled out the ” In- dian.” and rode to a certain tobacconist’s shop at which I had sometimes purchased cigarettes. He had a telephone in a room at the rear which customers were allowed to use on pa’yment of a fee; and a public call box would not serve my purpose, since the operator usually an- nounces to a subscriber the fact that a ca
ll emanates from such an office. The shop was closed, but I rang the bell at the side door and obtained permission to use the telephone upon pleading urgency. I had assiduously cul- tivated a natural gift for mimicry. having found it of inestimable service in the practice of my profession. It served me now. I had worked in the past with Inspector Dunbar and his sub- ordinate, Sergeant Sowerby. and I determined to trust to my memory of the latter’s mode of speech. I rang up Dr. Stuart and asked for the inspector, saving that Sergeant Sowerby spoke from Scotland Yard. ” Hullo I ” cried the Inspector. ” Is that you, Sowerby ? ” ” Yes,” I replied in Sowerby’s voice; ” I thought I should find you there. About the body of Max …” “Eh !” said Dunbar. “What’s that ? Max?” I knew immediately that Paris had not yet wired; therefore I told him that Paris had done so, and that the disc numbered 49685 was that of Gaston Max. He was inexpressibly shocked, de- ploring the rashness of Max in working alone. ” Come to Scotland Yard,” I said, anxious to get him away from the house. He said he would be with me in a few minutes, and I was rack- ing my brains for some means of learning what business had taken him to Dr. Stuart when he gave me the desired information spon- taneously. ” Sowerby, listen.” said he. ” It ‘s’ The Scorpion ‘ case right enough ! That bit of gold found on the dead man is not a cactus stem; it ‘s a scorpion’s tail! ”

So they had found what I had failed to find ! It must have been attached, I concluded, to some inner part of ” Le Balafr€’s ” clothing. There had been no mention of ZAra el-Khali, therefore, as I rode back to my post I permitted myself to assume that she would come again, since presumably she had thus far tailed. I was right. Alorbleu I Quick as 1 was, the car was there before me. But I had not overlooked this possibility, and I had dismounted at a good distance from the house and had left the ” Indian ” in someone’s front garden As I had turned out of the main road I had seen Dr. Stuart and Inspector Dunbar approaching a rank upon which two or three cabs usually stood. I watched la belle ZAra enter the house, a beautiful woman most elegantly attired ; and then, even before Chunda Lal had backed the car into the lane, I was off-to the spot at which I had abandoned my motor- bicy le. In little more than half-an-hour I had traversed London, and was standing in the shadow of that high, blank wall to which I have referred as facing a row of wooden houses in a certain street adjoining Limehouse Causeway. You perceive my plan ? I was practically sure of the street ; all I had to learn was which house sheltered ” The Scorpion.” I had already suspected that this night was to be for me an unlucky night. Nom d’un p’tit bonhomme! it was so ! Until an hour before dawn I crouched

‘I g~dy rent to amov . ctht Mk. Z.n-·IX.I .. .,d opo..d. w,.bI to sppe.,

under that wall and saw no living thing, except a very old Chinaman who came out of one of the houses and walked slowly away. The other houses appeared to be empty. No vehicle of any kind passed that way all night. Turning over in my mind the details of this most perplexing case, it became evident to me that the advantages of working alone were now outweighed by the disadvantages. The affair had reached a stage at which ‘ordinary police methodi should be put into operation. I had collected some of the threads ; the next thing was for Scotland Yard to weave these together whilst I sought for more. I determined to remain dead It would afford me greater freedom of action The disappearance of ” Le Balafre,” which must by this time have been noted by his associates, might possibly lead to a sus- picion that the dead nman was not Gaston Mlax ; but, providing no member of “The Scorpion ” group obtained access to the body. I failed to see how this suspicion could be confirmed. I reviewed my position. The sealed letter had achieved its purpose in part. Although I had failed to locate the house fromn which these people operated, I could draw a circle on the map within which I knew it to be ; and I had learned that ZAra el-Khald and the Hindu were in Lonmdon. What It all meant– to what end ” The Scorpl.,n ” .t-

workIr i I hIi not know Itlt, having learned sr, mnti It I Ill not d!sp.ir if ltartiing more It .. now ini ‘r.tive tihat I -hlitll get in tt Iih with lu .bar, and th; t 1 -hould find out exactly what had i- ,rttl at )or Stuart i hou-e tcwrdt gly, I deLterlindl I to gall upon the inslpector at Sc ttld.u Yard I prtesetnted niyself twarls evening of the day f1,1loli og IIv vigil in .liellhlIuse, seni l IJup the( (ard iof a Itireiui tin/rtri, lin I did not intend to let it libe general lv known that I was alive Present I was shown uIp tinto that bare and shining rni, ii hi, I I tnemembleredl hlving visited in the past I stood i t within tihe t’dIIr.t y. smiling. Inspettor Dlunhtir rise, a- the tinusta.tlil went ‘ut, andl stoodl l, ikitg .i rosy at mie. I hadl il’luntell n striklng Illln linluh with astonish menIt I’ wsti Scottishlyv iunnt ed. ” Il ‘ he -aid, coitingi foir’rd i with out -tret’h I.I h inil. I ‘ it l.vl to see toiu. I kntew util wold. hate to iomn to ,i sooner or later’ I felt that my eves spt.ukle There was no rent-tti’t lit hhm myi hiearit I retjlicel * I..ok, he i tntinued. taking a slip of paper from his Inote ,hook ‘TI his i a tpy ofi a note I left with lir Stuart -‘nie time ag’

‘The Scorpion.’ and to what end are his activities directed Gaston Max shrugged his shoulders and smiled at Dr. Stuart ” Let us see.” he suggested, ” what we really know about this ‘Scorpion’ Let us make a brief survey of our positlon in the matter. Let us take first what we have learnled of himn–f it is a him ‘ with whom we have to dleal -from the strange experiences of 1)r Stuart Without attaching too much importance to that episode five years ago on the Wfi-Men Bridge in China, we should remember. I think, that for any man to be known and. it would appear, to be feared, as ‘The Scorpion ‘ is remarkable. Very well Per- haps the one we seek is the man of the Wfi-Men Indge ; perhaps he is not. We will talk about this one again presently. ” We come to the arrival on the scene of ZAra el- Khali, also called Mile Dorian She cumnes because of what I hase told to the scarred man from Paris; she comes to obtain that dangerous information which is to be sent to Scotland Yard. she comes, in a word, from ‘ The Scorpion ‘ We have two lnks bind- Ing the poor one ‘ Le Balafre ‘ to ‘ The Scorpion ‘- (i) his intimacy with Miguel and those others with whom ‘ Scorpion ‘ communicated by telephone ; (2) his piossession of the golden ornament which lies there upon the table, and which I took fromnt his pocket. What can we gather from the statement made to Dr Stuart by Mlle. Dorian ? Let us study this point for a moment ” In the first place, we can only accept her words with a certain scepticlsm Her story mas be nothing but a fabrication However, it is interesting, because she claims to be the unwilling servant of a dreaded master. She lays stress upon the fact that she is an Ornental, and does not enjoy the same freedom as a European woman This is possible, up to a point. (in the other hand, she seems to enjoy not only freedom, but every luxury. Therefore, it may equally well be a he Some slight colour is lent to her story by the extraorlinary mode of life which she followed in Paris. In the midst of Bohemianism she remained secluded as an odalisque in some harem garden of Stambil–whether by her own will or by the will of alinother we do not know. One little point her exist- ence seems to strengthen-that we are dealing with Easterns-for Zfsra el Khald is partly of Eastern blood, and her follower Chunda Ial is a Hindu. Eh biex! ” Consider the cowled man whose shadow Dr. Stuart has seen on two occasions-once behind the curtain of his window, and once cast by the moon- lght across the lawn of his house. The man himself he has never seen. Now this hooded man cannot have been ‘ Le Balafre,’ for ‘ Le Balaird ‘ was already dead at the time of his first appearance. He may be ‘ The Scorpion ‘ ! ” Max paused impressively, looking around at those in the Commissioner’s room. ” For a moment I return to the man of the We-Men Bridge. The man of the Wt-Men Bndge was veiled, and this one is hooded. The man of the Wii- Men Bridge was known as ‘The Scorpion,’ and this one also is associated with a scorpion. We will return yet again to this point in a moment. ” Is there something else which we may learn from the experiences of Dr. Stuart ? Yes; we learn that ‘ The Scorpion ‘ suddenly decides that Dr. Stuart is dangerous, either because of his special knowledge (which would be interesting), or because ‘The Scorpion’ believes that he has become acquainted with the contents of the sealed envelope-which is not so interesting, although equally dangerous for I)r. Stuart. ‘ The Scorpion ‘ acts. He pays a second visit, again accompanied by Chunda Lal. who seems to be a kind of watch-dog who not only guards the person of ZAra el-Khalh, but who also howls when danger threatens the cowled man. ” And what is the weapon which the cowled man (who may be ‘The Scorpion’) uses to remove Dr. Stuart ? It is a frightful weapon, my friends; it is a novel and a deadly weapon. It is a weapon of which science knows nothing-a blue ray of the colour produced by a Mercury Vapour Lamp, according to Dr. Stuart, who has seen it; and producing an odour like that of a blast furnace, according to myself, who smelled it ! Or this odour might have been caused by the fusing of the telephone, for the blue ray destroys such fragile things as telephones as easily as it destroys wood and paper ! There is even a large round hole burned through the clay at the back of the study grate, and through the brick wall behind it! Very well ‘The Scorpion’ is a scientist, and he is also the greatest menace to the world which the world has ever been called upon to deal with. You agree with me ? ” Inspector Dunbar heaved a great sigh. Stuart silently accepted a cigarette from the Assistant- Commissioner’s box, and the Assistant-Commissioner spoke, slowly- ” I entirely agree with you, M. Max. Respecting this ray, as well as some one or two other minutiae, I have made a short note which we will discuss when

you have completed your admirably lucid survey of the case.” Gaston Max bowed, and resumed. ” These are the things, then, which we learn from the terrible experiences of Dr. Stuart. Placing these expenences side by side with my own, in Paris and in London-which we have already discussed in detail- we find that we have to deal with an organisation (the object of which is unknown) comprising among its members both Europeans (‘ Le Balafr ‘ was a French- man, I believe), cross-breeds such as Miguel and ZAra el-Khali ” (Stuart winced), ” one Algerian, and a Hindu. It is. then, an organisation having ramifica- tions throughout Europe, the East, and–mon Dieu! where not To continue. This little image “-he took up from the Commissioner’s table the golden scorpion and the broken fragment of tail-” is now definitely recognised by Dr. Stuart, who is familiar wth the work of Oriental goldsmiths, to be of Chinese craftsmanship ! ” ” It may possibly be Tibetan,” interrupted Stuart; ” but it comes to the same thing.” ” Very well,” continued Max. ” It is Chinese. We hope, very shortly, to identify a house situated somewhere within this red-ink circle “-he placed his finger on a map of London which lay open on the table-” and which I know to be used as a meeting- place by members of this mysterious group. That circle, my friends, surrounds what is know as ‘ China- town.’ For the third time I return to the man of the WeI-Men Bridge, for the man of the Wfi-Men Bridge was apparently a Chinaman. Do I make myself clear ? ” ” Remarkably so,” declared the Assistant Com- missioner, taking a fresh cigarette ” Pray continje. M. Max.” “I will do so. One of my most important in- vestigations, in which I had the honour and the pleasure to be associated with Inspector Dunbar, led to the discovery of a dangerous group controlled by a certain ‘Mr. King.’ ” ” Ah I ” cried Dunbar, his tawny eyes sparkling with excitement. ” I was waiting for that ! ” ” I knew you would be waiting for it, Inspector. Your powers of deductive reasoning more and more are earning my respect. You recall that singular case ? The elaborate network extending from London to Buenos Ayres, from Peking to Petrograd ? Ah, a wonderful system ! It was an opium syndicate, you understand “-turning again to the Assistant Com- nussioner. “I recall the case.” replied the Commissioner, ” although I did not hold my present appointment at the time. I believe there were unsatisfactory features? ” ” There wcr-.'” agreed Max. ” We never solved the mystery of the identity of “Mr. King,’ and, alt
hough we succeeded in destroying the enterprise, I have since thought that we acted with undue pre- cipitation. This syndicate existed for a more terrible purpose than the promulgating of a Chinese vice; it had in its clutches men entrusted with national secrets-men of genius, but slaves of a horrible drug. Under the influence of that drug, my friends, how many of those secrets may they not have divulged? ” Following a tense moment of silence- ” Let us have your own theory, M. Max,” said the Assistant Commissioner.. Gaston Max shrugged his shoulders. ” It is not worthy of the name of a theory,” he replied. “the surmise which I have made. But recently I found myself considering the fact that ‘ The Scorpion’ might just conceivably be a Chinaman. Now ‘Mr. King,’ we believe, was a Chinaman; and ‘Mr. King,’ as I am now convinced, operated not for a personal, but for a deeper, political purpose He stole the brains of genius, and ccumulted that which he had stolen. ‘The Scorpion’ destroys genius. Is it not possible that these contrary operations may be part of a common plan ? ” CHAPTER II. THE RED CIRCLE. ” YOU are not by any chance,” suggested Stuart, smiling slightly, ” hinting at that defunct bogey the ‘Yelow Peril ‘ ? ” ” Ah.” cried Max, ” but certainly I am not I Do not misunderstand me. This group with which we are dealing is shown to be not of a national but of an international character. The same applied to the organisation of ‘Mr. King.’ But a Chinaman directed the one, and I begin to suspect that a Chinaman directs the other. No, I speak of no ridiculous’ Yellow Peril,’ my friends. John Chinaman, as I have known him. is the whitest man breathing; but can you not imagine “-he dropped his voice again in that im- pressive way which was yet so truly Gallic-” can you not imagine a kind of Oriental society which, like a great, a formidable serpent, lies hidden somewhere below that deceptive jungle of the East? These are troubled times. It is a wise State to-day that knows

its own leaders. C(an you not imagine a dreadful sudden menace not of men and guns, but of brains and capital? ” ” You mean.” said Dunbar slowly. ” that ‘ The Scorpion’ may be getting people out of the way who might interfere with this rising or invasion, or what- ever it is ? ” ” Just as ‘Mr. King ‘ accumulated material for it,” interjected the Assistant Commissioner. ” It is a bold conception, M. Mai, and it raises the case out of the ordinary category and invests it with enormous international importance.” All were silent for a time, Stuart, I)unbar, and the Commissioner watching the famous Frenchman as he sat there, arrayed in the latest fashion of Savile Row, yet Gallic to his finger-tips and in every gesture It was almost impossible at times to credit the fact that a Parisian was speaking, for the Engli-h of Gaston Max was flawless except that he spoke with a faint American accent. Then, suddenly, a gesture, an expletive, would betray the Frenchman. His was pure genius, as opposed to the brilliant efficiency of Dunbar. But in the heart of the latter, as he studied Gaston Max and realised the gulf that separated them, there

~Li- – 1,~&P~ He tistad mi . de gva oEr due Iwie qusaurous ad turuud. rasaug due kush.

was nothing but generous admiration of a master; yet Dunhar was no novice, for by a process of fine deductive reasoning he had come to the conclusion. as has appeared, that Gaston Max had been mas- querading as a cabman and that the sealed letter left with Dr. Stuart had been left as a lure. By one of those tricks of fate which sometimes perfect the plans of men, but more often destroy them, the body of ” Le Balafrd ” had been so disfigured during the time that it had been buffeted about in the Thames that it was utterly unrecognisable and indescribable. But even the disc had not deceived Dunbar. He had seen in it another ruse of his brilliant confre”e; and his orders to the keeper of the mortuary to admit no one without a written permit had been dictated by the conviction that Max wished the body to be mistaken for his own In Inspector Dunbar Gaston Max immeditely had recognised an able colleague, as Mrs. MGregor had recognised “a grand figure of a man” The Assistant Commissioner broke the silence. ” There have been other cases.” he said reflectively. ” now that one considers the matter, which seemed to point to the existence of such a group or society as you indicate, M. Max, notably one with which, if I remember rightly, Inspector “-turning his dark eyes towards Dunbar-” Inspector Weymouth, late of this Branch, was associated ? ”

Quite right. Sir It s.a- hi- big ca e. anl it got him a fine billet a. Superintendent in LCalr. if you remember Ye:.” mu-ed the A..-ltant Commil.oner , ” he transferred to Egtpt-a very god appointment, a- you say. That, again. w-a before my term of office but there were a number of very gha-tl (rrlnes con- nected with the case. and It was more or les definitely established, I believe, that some extensive secret society did actually exist throughout the East, governed, I fancy, by a Chinaman.” ” And from China,” added Dunbar. ” Yes, yes from China,. as vou say. Inspector ” He turned to Gaston .Max. ” Can it really be, M. .Max. that we have to deal with an upcrop of some deeply seated evil which te.ides in the Far East : Are all these cases not the work of individual rimlnma-. but manifestation, of a more siru.ter. a darker force ” Gaston Max met his glance, and Max s mouth grew very grim. “I honestly- believe so.” he answered. ” I ha. e believed it for nearly two years–ever since the G(rand Duke died. And now-vou said. I remember, that

you had made a note the nature of which you would communicate. ” Yes,” replied the Assistant Commissioner; a small point, but one which may be worthy of attention. This ray. Dr. Stuart. which played such havoc in your study-do you know. of anything approaching to it in more recent scientific devices ? ” ” Well.” said Stuart. ” it may be no more than a development of one of several systems, notably of that of the late Henrik Ericksen, upon which he was at work at the time of his death.” ” Exactly.” The Assistant Commissioner smiled in his most Mephistophelean manner. ” Of the late Henrik Ericksen, as you say.” He said no more for a moment, and sat smoking and looking from face to face. Then- ” That is the subject of my note, gentlemen.” he added; “the other msrui,~ are of no immediate importance.” ” Nom d’us p’tit boAomrme ! ” whispered Gaston Max. “I see! You think that Ericksen had com- pleted his experiments before he died, but that he never lived to give them to the world ? ” The Assistant Commissioner waved one hand in the air so that the discoloration of first and second fingers was very noticeable. ” It is for you to ascertain these points, M. Max,” he said; ” I only suggest.”

Gaston .Max shrugged, and uhis mobile mouth softened in a quaint sml.e “‘ e has . learned a htte ‘ he- . d and gutrese a lot. .et us hope to guess more aind learn every thing ‘ *.May I suggest.” added I unbar. , that awe hear Sow-erbv’s relrt. Sir ? ” *” Certaily. ‘” agreed the Assistant Commissioner l CII Sergeiant Sowerbv.” A nmoment later Sergeant Sowerbyl entered, his face very red, and his hair brstling imore persistently than usual. ” Anything to report. Sowerlb ” asked Iunhmar ” Yes. Inspector,” replied Sowerb,v. in his.x,hice court mannller. IHe faced the .Assist.nt I’,lnmissilner With our permlission Sir lie took iut a note-brk hIu, h alp Isare d to be the twin of Iulnlar’s and consnltedl t aslln.mnm an ex pression ,It prillndI rete, tlrn In the hrst place Sir he bcra.y: never r.u,r. his eyes froin the page. I haer tl, t hr. e ,ah sýlI on the hire plurchae s1-sterrn to, a ,rtain Charles Mallet Hla h.a ‘ laughed Max breezily ‘ lie calls ime

a hammer’ It is not Mallet. Sereant Sowery – you have got too man’ I!” in that name: It is Mialet. and is called like one from the Malay tates ” ” Oh.” commented Sowerby. glancing up. ” inded Very good. Sir. The owner clsams the balance of purchase money !” Everyone laughed at that, even the
satanic Assistant Commissioner. ” Pay your debts, M. Max.” he said. ” You will bring the Service de Sfret’ into bad repute ! Carry on, Sergeant.” ” This cab “-continued Soiwerby, when Dunbar interrupted hml ‘ Cut out the part about the cab, Sowerby.” he said. ” We ‘ve found that out from M Max. Have you anything to report about the yellow car ? ” Yes.” rephed Sowerby. unperturbed. and turning over to the next page. ” It was hired from Messrs Wickers’ garage, at Canning Town, by the week. The ladv who hired it was a Miss lionan, a French lady’ She gave no reference, except that of the Sa oy Hotel. where she was stopping. She paid a big deposit. and had her own chauffeur, a coloured man of some kind ” ” Is it still in use by her ? ” snapped Dunbar eagerly. ” No. Inspector. She claimed her deposit this morning, and said she was leaving London.” ” The cheque ? ” cried Dunbar

Close no the all, a pistol held in his left hand, and an upraised sand-bag in his right, stood “Le Balafr !”

tyas cishd hiiiLl hoi u Illtir e irtt.'” .At what hnk ‘ ‘ SsloI (o inni al, t !]inittliahtl, Cannilng tmowI, Itr own aL’ilt Lt as

Well, Sir,” said In- spector Kelly, smiling broadly, ‘ considering the patch inside the circle. I think it more than likely. Seventy-five, or it may be eighty, per cent of the roosms and cellars and attics in those three streets are occupied by Chinese.” o” or your guidance, Inspector, we believe these people to be a dangerous ganlg of imternational crim- iials. Do you know of .In particular house, or houses, lkely to be used as a meeting-place by such a gang ? ” Inspector Kelly scratched his close-cropped head. ‘A swoman was mur= ‘ered lust there, Sir,” he waid, taking up a pen fromn the table and touching a point near the corner of Three Colt Street, ” about a twelvemonth ago. We traced the man–a Chinese sailor–to a house lying just about here.” Again lie touched the map. ” It ‘s a sort of little junk-shop, with a ramshackle house attached–all cellars and rabbit – hutches, as you nmight say–overhanging a dlsused cutting which is filled at high tide. Opium is to be had there, and card-playing goes on, and I won’t swear that you couldn’t get liquor. But it’s well conducted, as such dives go.” ” Why is it not closed ? ” inquired the Assistant Com- missioner, seizing an op- portunity to air his de- partmental ignorance. ” Well, Sir,” replied Inspector Kelly. his eyes twinkling, ” if we shut up

all these places we should never know where to look for some of our regular customers. As I mentioned, we found the wanted Chinaman, three parts drunk, in one of the rooms there.” It ‘s a sort of lodging-house, then ” Exactly. There ‘s a moderately big room just behind the shop, principally used by opium-smokers, and a whole nest of smaller rooms above and below. Mind you, Sir, I don’t say this is the place you ‘re looking for, but it ‘s the most likely inside your circle.” ” Who is the proprietor ? ” “A retired Chinese sailor called Ah-Fang-Fu, but better knoosn as ‘ Pidgin.’ His establishment is called locally ‘ The Pidgin hlouse.’ ” SI am obliged to you, Inspector,” said the courteous Assistant Commissioner, ” for your very exact Infornat on. If necessary, I shall communicate with you again. Good-day.” ” Good-day, Sir,” replied the Inspector. ” Good- (lay, gentlemen.” He went out. Gaston Max, who had diplomatically remained in the background throughout this interview, now spoke. ” Prdieu, but I have been thinking,” he said. ” Although ‘ The Scorpion,’ as I hope, believes that that troubles ‘me Charles Malet is dead, he may also wonder if Scotland Yard has secured from Dr. Stuart’s fire any fragments of the information sealed in the envelope. What does it mean-this releasing of the yellow car, closing of the bank account, and departure from the Savoy ? ” ” It means flight !” cried Dunbar, jumping violently to his feet. ” By gad, Sir,” he turned to the Assistant Commissioner, ” the birds may have flown already ! ” The Assistant Commissioner leaned back in his chair. ” I have sufficient confidence in M. Max,” he said, ” to believe that, having taken the responsibility of permitting this dangerous group to learn that they were under surveillance, he has good reason to suppose that they have not slipped through our fingers.” Gaston Max bowed. ” It is true,” he replied, and from his pocket he took a slip of flimsy paper. ” This code message reached me as I was about to leave my’ hotel. The quadroon, Miguel, left Paris last night, and arrived in London this morning- ” ” He was followed ? ” cried Dunbar. ” But certainly. He was followed to Limehouse,

and he was definitely seen to enter the establishment described to us by Inspector Kelly.” ” Gad ” said Dunbar. ” Then someone is still there ? ” ” Someone, as you say, is still there,” replied Max; ” hut everythine points to the imminent departure of this someone. Will you see to it, Inspector, that not a rat-pardaeel, not a little mouse-is allowed to slip out of our red circle to-day ? For to-night we shall pay a friendly visit to the house of Ah-Fang-Fu, and I should wish all the company to be present.” CHAPTER III. MISKA’S STORY. STUART returned to his house in a troubled frame of mind. He had refrained so long from betraying the circumstances of his last meeting with Mlle. DI)orian to the police authorities that this meeting now constituted a sort of guilty secret, a link binding him to the beautiful accomplice of ” The Scorpion “-to the dark-eyed servant of the uncanny cowled thing which had sought his life by strange means. He hugged this secret to his breast, and the pain of it afforded him a kind of savage joy. In his study he found a Post Office workman engaged in fitting a new telephone. As Stuart entered, the man turned. ” Good-afternoon, Sir,” he said, taking up the destroyed instrument from the litter of flex, pincers, and screw-drivers lying upon the table. ” If it ‘s not a rude question, how on earth did this happen ? ” Stuart laughed uneasily. ” It got mixed up with an experiment which I was conducting,” he answered evasively. The man inspected the headless trunk of the instrument. ” It seems to he fused, as though the top of it had been in a blast furnace,” he continued. ” Experiments of that sort are a bit dangerous outside a proper laboratory, I should think.” “They are,” agreed Stuart. ”
But I have no facilities here, you see, and I was-er–compelled to attempt the experiment. I don’t intend to repeat it.” ” That’s lucky,” murmured the man, dropping the instrument into a carpet-bag. ” If you do, it will cost you a tidy penny for telephones ! ” Walking out towards the dispensary, Stuart met Mrs. MGregor. “A Post Office messenger brought this letter for you, Mr. Keppel, just the now,” she said, handing Stuart a sealed envelope. He took the envelope from her hand and turned quickly away. He felt that he had changed colour. For it was addressed in the handwriting of . Mile. Dorian ! ” Thank you, Mrs. M’Gregor,” he said, and turned into the dining-room. Mrs. M’Gregor proceeded about her household duties, and as her footsteps receded Stuart feverishly tore open the envelope. That elusive scent of jasmine crept to his nostrils. In the envelope was a sheet of thick notepaper (having the top cut off, evidently in order to remove a printed address), upon which the following singular message was written- Before I go away there is something I want to say to you. You do not trust me. It is not wonderful that you do not. But I swear that I only want to save you from a great danger. If you will promise not to tell the police anything of it, I will meet iou at six o’clock by the bookstall at Victoria Station-on the Brighton side. If you agree, you will wear something white in your buttonhole. If not, you cannot find me there. Nobody ever sees me again. There was no signature, but no signature was necessary. Stuatt laid the letter on the table and began to pace up and down the room. His heart was beating ridiculously. His self-contempt was profound. But he could not mistake his sentiments. His duty was plain enough. But he had failed in it once, and, even as he strode up and down the room, already he knew that he must fail again. He knew that, rightly or wrongly, he was incapable of placing this note in the hands of the police . . . and he knew that he should be at Victoria Station at six o’clock I He would never have believed himself capable of becoming accessory to a series of crimes-for this is what his conduct amounted to; he had thought that sentiment no longer held ary meaning for him. Yet the only excuse which he could find wherewith to solace himself was that this girl had endeavoured to save him from assassination. Weighed against the undoubted fact that she was a member of a dangerous criminal group, what was it worth? If the sup- position of Gaston Max was correct, ” The Scorpion ” had at least six saccessful murders to his credit, in addition to the attempt upon his (Stuart’s) life and that of ” Le Balafr6 ” upon the life of Gaston Max. It was an accomplice of this nameless horror called ” The Scorpion ” with whom at six o’clock he had a tryst, whom he was protecting from justice, by the suppression of whose messages to himself he was

adding difficulties to the already difficult task of the authorities i Up and down he paced restlessly, every now and again glancing at a clock upon the mantelpiece. His behaviour, he told himself, was contemptible. Yet, at a quarter to six he went out-and,. seeing a little cluster of daisies growing amongst the grass bordering the path, he plucked one and set it in his buttonhole. A few minutes before the hour he entered the station and glanced sharply around at the many grou-ps scattered about in the neighbourhood of the bookstall. There was no sign of Mile. Dorian. He walked around the booking-office without seeing her, and glanced into the waiting-room. Then, looking up at the station clock, he sawv that the hour had come, and as he stood there staring upward he felt a timid touch upon his shoulder. He turned-and she was standing by his side. She was Parisian from head to foot, simply but perfectly gowned. A veil hung from her hat and half- concealed her face, but could not hide her wonderful eyes nor disguise the delightful curves of her red lips. Stuart automatically raised his hat, and, even as he did so, wondered what he should have said and done had he suddenly found Gaston Max standing at his elbow I He laughed shortly. ” You are angry with me,” said Mile. Dorian; and Stuart thought that her quaint accent was adorable. ” Or are you angry with yourself for seeing me ? ” ” I am angry with myself,” he replied, ” for being so weak.” ” Is it so weak,” she said, rather tremulously, ” not to judge a woman by what she seems to be and not to condemn her before you hear what she has to say? If that is weak, I am glad; I think it is how a man should be.” Her voice and her eyes completed the spell, and Stuart resigned himself without another struggle to this insane infatuation. ” We cannot very well talk here,” he said ” Sup- pose we go into the hotel and have late tea, Mile. Dorian ? ” ” Yes. Very well. But please do not call me that. It is not my name.” Stuart was on the point of saying ” Zra el-Khali, then,” but checked himself in the nick of time. He might hold communication with the enemy, but at least he would give away no information. “I am called Miska,” she added. ” Will you please call me Miska? ” ” Of course, if you wish,” said Stuart, looking down at her as she walked by his side, and wondering what he would do when he had to stand up in court, look at Miska in the felon’s dock, and speak words which would help to condemn her-perhaps to death, at least to penal servitude I le shuddered. ” Have I said something that displeases you? ” she asked, resting a little white-gloved hand on his arm. “I am sorry.” “No, no,” he assured her. ” But I was thinking- I cannot help thinking . ” How wicked I am? ” she whispered. ” How lovely you are I “he said hotly. ” And how maddening it is to remember that you are an accomplice of criminals ! ” ” Oh,” she said, and removed her hand; but not before he had felt how it trembled. They were about to enter the tea-room when she added, ” Please don’t say that until I have told you why I do what I do.” Obeying a sudden impulse, he took her hand and drew it close under his arm. ” No,” he said ; ” I won’t. I was a brute, Miska. Miska means ‘musk,’ surely? ” ” Yes.” She glanced up at him timidly. ” Do you think it a pretty name? ” ” Very,” he said, laughing. Underlying the Western veneer was the fascinating naivet6 of the Eastern woman, and Miska had all the suave grace, too, which belongs to the women of the Orient, so that many admiring glances followed her charming figure as she crossed .the room to a vacant table. ” Now,” said Stuart, when he had given an order to the waiter, ” what do you want to tell me ? What- ever it may be, I am all anxiety to hear it. I promise that I will only act upon anything you may tell me in the event of my life, or that of another, being palpably endangered by my silence.” ” Very well. I want to tell you,” replied Miska, ” why I stay with Fo-Hi.” ” Who is Fo-Hi? ” “I do not know.” ” What I ” said Stuart. “I am afraid I don’t understand you.” ‘If I speak in French will you be able to follow what I say ? ” ” Certainly. Are you more at ease with French ? ” ” Yes,” replied pIiska, beginning to speak in the latter language. “My mother was French, you see; and, although I can speak in English fairly well, I cannot yet think in English. Do you understand? ”

” Perfectly. So perhaps you will now explain to whom you refer when you speak of Fo-Hi.” Miska glanced apprehensively around her, bending further forward over the table. ” Let me tell you from the beinning,” she said, in a low voice, ” and then you will understand. It must not take me long. You see me as I am to-day because of a dreadful misfortune that befell me when I was fifteen years old. ” My father was Wali of Aleppo; and my mother, his third wife, was a Frenchwoman, a member of a theatrical company which had come to Cairo, where he had first seen her. She must have loved him, for she gave up the world, embraced Islam, and entered his harem in the great house ort the outskirts of Aleppo. Perhaps it was because he, too, was half French that they were mutually attracted. My father’s mother was a Frenchwoman also, you understand. ” Until I was fifteen ye
ars of age I never left the harem; but my mother taught me French and also a little English, and she prevailed upon my father not to give me in marriage so early as is usual in the East. She taught me to understand the ways of European women ; and we used to have Paris journals and many books come to us regularly. Then an awful pestilence visited Aleppo. People were dying in the mosques and in the streets, and my father decided to send my mother and myself and some others of the harem to his brother’s house in Damascus. ” Perhaps you will think that such things do not happen in these days, and particularly to members of the household of a chief magistrate, but I can only tell you what is true. On the second night of our journey a band of Arabs swept down upon the caravan, over- powered the guards, killing them all, and carried off everything of value which we had. Me also they carried off, me and one other-a little Syrian girl, my cousin. Oh !”-she shuddered violently-” even now I can sometimes hear the shrieks of my mother .. and I can hear, also, the way they suddenly ceased- those cries . Stuart looked up with a start, to find a Swiss waiter placing tea upon the table. He felt like rubbing his eyes. He had been dragged rudely back from the Synan desert to the prosaic realities of a London hotel. ” Perhaps,” continued Miska, “you will think that we were ill-treated ; but it was not so. No one molested us. We were given every comfort which desert life can provide, servants to wait upon us and plenty of good food. After several weeks’ journeying we came to a large

city, having many minarets and domes glimmering in the moonlight, for we entered at night. Indeed, we always travelled at night. At the time I had no idea of the name of this city, but I learned afterwards that it was Mecca. ” As we proceeded through the streets the Syrian girl and I peeped out through the little windows of the shibriyeh-which is a kind of tent on the back of a camel- in which we travelled, hoping to see some familiar face or some- one to whom we could appeal. But there seemed to be scarcely anyone visi- ble in the streets, although lights shone out from many win- dows, and the few men we saw seemed to be anxious to avoid us. In fact, several ran down side turnings as the camels approached them. ” We stopped be- fore the gate of a large house, which was presently opened, and the camels en- tered the courtyard. We descended, and I saw that a number of small apartments surrounded the court- yard in the manner of a caravanserai: Then, suddenly, I saw something else, and

A tall, cowled monk, towering over me.”

I knew why we had been treated with such con- sideration on the journey; I knew into what hands I had fallen-I knew that I was in the house of a slave-dealer ! ” ” Good heavens ! ” muttered Stuart. ” This is almost incredible ! ” ” I knew you would doubt what I had to tell you,” declared Miska plaintively; ” but I solemnly swear what I tell you is the truth. Yes, I was in the house of a slave-dealer; and on the very next day, because I was proficient in languages, in music, and in dancing, and also because-according to their Eastern ideas–I was pretty, the dealer, Mohammed Abd-el-Bali . . . offered me for sale.” She stopped, lowering her eyes and flushing hotly, then continued with hesitancy- ” In a small room which I can never forget I was offered the only indignity which I had been called upon to suffer since my abduction-I was exhibited to prospective purchasers.” As she spoke the words Miska’s eyes flashed passionately, and her hand, which lay on the table, trembled. Stuart silently reached across and rested his own upon it. ” There were all kinds of girls,” Miska continued, ” black and brown and white, in the adjoining rooms; and some of them were singing and some dancing, whilst others wept. Four different visitors inspected me critically, two of them being agents for royal harenms and the other two-how shall I say it ?-wealthy connoisseurs. But the price asked by Mohammed Abd-el-Bali was beyond the purses of all except one of the agents. He had, indeed, settled the bargain, when the singing and dancing and shouting–every sound, it seemed-ceased about me . . . and into the little room in which I crouched among perfumed cushions at the feet of the two men, walked Fo-Hi.” CHAPTER IV. MISKA’S STORY (Concluded). ” OF course, I did not know that this was his name at the time; I only knew that a tall Chinaman had entered the room-and that his face was entirely covered by a green veil.” Stuart started, but did not interrupt Miska’s story. ” This veil gave him in some way a frightfully malign and repellent appearance. As he stood in the doorway looking down, I seemed to feel his gaze passing over me like a flame, although, of course, I

cj .:. nt e — eves I or a :imment he stiurl th, tre ,ilk: at me . an, unii h .a’ his presen e . I a.t:i, t ml , il- it-, ertict upon tthe save dealer andl mv punr haIM r was extraiorilnary They seemed to be striken Idumin Suddlen:y the ( hinaman spoke. in perfect .Arahl ” ‘ ir p ci’ ‘ lie sa l. ” Miohaiinui d Abdiel-l cihl, standing trembling he- lore ihun. rep’ied “‘ Mska is alreadly sohl, lord, but— I” H r price ‘ repeated the (‘Chinamllan, inl the same hlii, iiet;ial voice, and icithout the shghtest change o, iii tlollLation. ” The hareIm aigent who d adl inight me now said, his voice shaking so that the wiints were barely “‘ give her up Mlihamrnel I gule her up. Vho ant I ti dlspute with the IlMandarin -o, HI – and peirfIorilolulg an abhject belaisce, he backed out of the rnitn. At the saiiie Ilmomenlr t Ithanll tedlll. hose kne.es were tremblinhug s that they seemed n,. longer capable of silpll rtglii hiii. .YIlrexs’d the ( hlllanlan — ” ‘ Accepltthe maiden as n uni wrthy gift.’ lihe Letan — “‘ Her jpii- ‘ repeated Io lIl. ” Mohti ueli td,l. whose teeth had begun to chatter, asked hint twla.e as much as he had, agreed to accept from the other. lFo-lH clapl,d Ills hanlls, aln a fierce-eyed lhInlu entered the ruiili. ” 1o lIt .ul iresed hini ili a language which I did nnt undlerstal, alIluthough I have lin.e learned that it wa IIhllliu.tani, .rll the In.lan, from ia fpise which lie carrws., countel out the amounlllt ldenllirniled by the dealer and pL, el the montev uiujn i. hlttle inlaid table wi hch to I i11n the rin I did tnit see him again for tiour ear- that is to ,a-, until mixy nineteenth birthdlay. ” I know that you are wonldering about mans’ thing-, and I sill try to make atie of them clear to yxu You are liwondering. no doulbt. hoiw such a trade a- I have die-crlhed i’tarrLed on in the Eua-t to i la al io-t uind er thie eyes if IEiuropean Govern- ment,. No I w ihall uurprise you. \ llen I was taken from the houe of the slave deailer, in charge of Chuntda I.al, for this was the namine of thile Hindu, ido you know where I was carried to ? I will tell you – to Cairo I ” ” Cairo I ” cried Stuart. Then, percei ing that lihe had attractedil attention by speaking xi loudly, he lowered li, sitl e- ‘ 1 you mean tll tell me that you were taken as a datr- to Cairo – ‘” Miska smiled -andi her smile was the taunting

Aknydlij to Mpnt Smwaby I aduo Diar.

mlle of the Fa t. which is at once a caress and an ls Itatllon ” ‘ou think. no doubt. that there are no slaves in (ailro ‘” she said So do most people, and so did I once. I learned better. There are palaces in ( aro,. I assure you, in which there are malny slaves. I mtiself lived in such a palace for four years, and I was not the only slave there. What do British residlents and French residents know of the inner domestic life of their Oriental neighbours ? Are they ever aldmitted to the harem ? And the slaves–are they ever allowed outsude the walls of the palace? Somietimes, yes; but never alone ! ” Iy slow stages, following the ancient caravan routes, and accomnii rued by an extensive retinue of servant, in charge *of ( hunda Lal, we came to Cairo; and one night. approaching the city from the north- cast .nd entering bv the ltib-en-Na-r. I was taken toi the old palace which was to be my prison fo
r four years How I pased thi,-e four years has no beanng upon the matter- whlti 1 have to tell you; but J liver! the useless, luxurious life of some Arabian ptroce.s my lightest wish anticipated andi gratified- Iothmig was deniedl me except freedom. ” Then. one dayc– t was actually my nineteenth Irthday–Chunda 1.al presented himself atnd told me that I was to have an interview with Fo-lli. Hearing those words, I nearly swooned, for a hundred times during the years of my strange, luxurious captivity I had awakened trembihng in the night, thinking that the figure of the awful veiled Chinaman had entered thei room ” Vou must understand that. having spent my illhdhood in a harem, the mode of life which I was onlmpelled to follow in (airo, was not so insufferable as it must have been for a European -oman. Neither was my captivity made unduh- irksome. I often drove through the l-uropean quarters, always accom- paniedi by Chunda .al and clo-ely veiled, and I regularly went shopping in the bazaar., but never alone The death of my mother-and, later, that of imy father, of which Cthunda Lal had tohl me–aere griefs that time had dulled. IBut the horror of Fo-Hi w.as one which lived swith me day and night. ” To a wlng of the palace, kept closely locked, and w’hich I had never seen opened, I was conducted by Chunda Lal. There, in a rtimn of a kind with which I have since become painfully familiar, a rowm which was part library and part nmandarah, part museum and pa.rt laboratory,. I found the veiled man sitting at a great littered table. As I stood trembling before hint he raised a long yellow hand and waved to ( hutula Lal to depart. \When he obeyed and I heard the door close I could

scarcely repress a shriek of terror. ” For w hat seemed an interminable time he sat watching me. I dared not look at him, but again I felt his gaze pass- ing over me like a flame. Then he began to speak, in French, which he spoke without a trace of accent. ” He told me briefly that my hfe of idleness had ended, and that a new life of activaty in many parts of the world wa’ about to commence. His manner was quite unemotional, neither harsh nor kindly; lu.s m.tallc voice conveyed no more than the bare meaning of the words which he ut- tered. When, finally, he ceased speaking, he struck a gong which hung from a corner of the huge table, and Chunda Lal entered. ” Fo-Hi addressed a brief order to him in Hindustani–and a few moments later a second Chinaman walked slowly into the room.” Miska paused, as if to collect her ideas, but continued almost imme- diately- ” He wore a plain yellow robe, and had a little black cap on his head. His face, his wonderful evil face, I can never forget; and his eyes-I fear you will think I exaggerate–but his eyes were green as emeralds I He fixed them upon me.

… lhi.’ said Fo-Hi, ‘L Mirka.’ The other Chinaman continued to regard me with those dreadful eses; then- “‘You have chosen well,’ he said, turned, and slowly went out again. ” thank God that I have never seen him since, for his dreadful face haunted my dreams for long afterwards. But I have heard of him, and I know that, next to Fo-Hi, he is the most dangerous being in the knoAn world. He has invented horrible things, poisons and instruments, which I cannot describe because I have never seen them; but I have seen . .. some of their effects.” She paused, overcome with the horror of her memories. W” hat is the rame of this other man ? ” asked Stuart eagerly. Miaka glanced at him rapidly. ” Oh, do not ask me questions, please! ” she pleaded. “I will tell you all I can–ll I dare. What 1 do not tell you I cannot tell you–and this is one of the thing. I dare not tell. He is a Chinese scientist, and. I have heard, the greatest genius in the whole world ; but I can say no more-yet.” ” Is lie still alive-this man ? ” ” I do not know that. If he is alive he is in China– at some secret palace in the province of Ho-Nan, which is the headquarters of what is called the ‘ Sublime Order.’ I have never been there, but there are European men and women there, as well as Orientals.” ” What ‘ in the employ of these fiends? ” ” It is useless to ask me. Oh, indeed I would tell you if I could, but I cannot I Let me go on from the time when I saw Fo-Hi In Cairo. He told me that I was a member of an organisation dating back to remote antiquity, which was destined to rule all the races of mankind-the Celestial Age, he called their coming triumph. Something which they had lacked in order to achieve success had been supplied by the dreadful man who had entered the room and expressed his approval of me. ” For many years they had been at work in Europe, secretly, as well as in the East. I understood that they had acquired a quantity of valuable informa- tion of some kind by means of a system of opium- houses situated in the principal capitals of the world, and directed by Fo-Hi and a number of Chinese assistants. Fo-Hi had remained in China most of the time, but had paid occasional visits to Europe. The other man–the monster with the black skull-cap– had been responsible for the conduct of the European enterprises.” ” Throughout this interview,” interrupted Stuart. forgetful of the fact that Miska had warned him of the futility of asking questions. ” and during others which you must have had with Fo-Hi, did you never obtain a glimpse of his face ? ” ” Never I No one has ever seen his face ! I know that his eyes are a brilliant and unnatural yellow colour, but otherwise I should not know him if I saw him unveiled, to-morrow-except,” she added, ” by a sense of loathing which his presence inspires in me But I must hurry. If you interrupt me I shall not have time. ” From that day in Cairo-oh, how can I tell you ?-I began the life of an adventuress ! I do not deny it. I came here to confess it to you. I went to New York. to London, to Paris, to Petrograd-1 went all over the world. I had beautiful dresses, jewels, admiration-all that women live for ! And m the midst of it all mine was the life of the cloister-no nun could be more secluded ! ” I see the question in your eyes-why did I do it ? Why did I lure men into the clutches of Fo-Hi ? For this is what I did; and when I have failed I have been punished.” Stuart shrank from her. ” You confess,” he said hoarsely, ” that you knowingly lured men to death ? ” ” Ah, no I” she whispered, looking about her fearfully. ” Never I Never I swear it-never I ” ” Then “-he stared at her blankly-” I do not understand you I ” ” I dare not make it clearer-now. I dare not- dare not I But believe me ! Oh, please, please.” she pleaded, her soft voice dropping to a whisper, ” believe me ! If you knew what I risked to tell you so much you would be more merciful. A horror which cannot be described “-again she shuddered-” will fall upon me if he ever suspects ! You think me young and full. of life, with all the world before me. You do not know. I am, literally, already dead I Oh, I have followed a strange career. I have danced in a Paris theatre, and I have sold flowers in Rome; I have had my box at the Opera, and I have filled opium-pipes in a den at San Francisco I But never, never have I lured a man to his death I And through it all, from first to last, no man has so much as kissed the tips of my fingers I ” At a word, at a sign, I have been compelled to go from Monte Carlo to Buenos Ayres; at another sign from there to Tokio I Chunda Lal has guardbd me as l ~ -w l. $5-

only the women of the East are guarded. Yet, in his fierce way, be has always tried to befriend me-he has always been faithful. But ah. I shrink from him many times in horror, because I know wrha he is ! But I may not tell you. Look I Chunda Lal has never been out of sound of this whistle “-she drew a little silver whistle from her dress-” for a moment since that day when he came into the house of the slave-dealer in Mecca, except-” And, now, suddenly a wave of glorious colour flooded her beautiful face, and swiftly she lowered her eyes, replacing the little whistle. Stuart’s rebellious heart leapt madly, for whatever he might think of her almost incredible story, that sweet bl
ush was no subterfuge, no product of acting. ” You almost drive me mad,” he said in a low voice, resembling the tones of repressed savagery. ” You tell me so much, but withhold so much. that I am more bewildered than ever. I can understand your help- lessness in an Eastern household. but why should you obey the behsts of this veiled monster in London, in New York, in Paris ? ” She did not raise her eyes. ” I dare not tell you. But I dare not disobey him I” ” Who is he ? ” ” No one knows, because no one has ever seen his face I Ah, you are laughing I But I swe,” before heaven I speak the truth I Indoors he wears a Chinese dress and a green veil. In passing from place to place, which he always does at night, he is attired in a kind of cowl which only exposes his eyes.” ” But how can such a fantastic being travel ? ” ” By road, on land, and m a steam-yacht at sea. Why should you doubt my honesty ? ” She suddenly raised her glance to Stuart’s face, and he saw that she had grown pale. ” I have risked what I cannot tell you more than once-for you. I tried to call you on the telephone on the night that he set out from the house near Hampton Court to kill you; but I could get no reply, and-” ” Stop I ” said Stuart, almost too excited to note at the time that she had betrayed a secret. ” It was you who rang up that night ? ” ” Yes. Why did you not answer ? ” ” Never mind. Your call saved my life. I shall not forget.” He looked into her eyes. “But can you not tell me what it all means ? What or who is ‘The Scorpion’? ” She linched. ” The Scorpion ‘ is–a passport. See “-from a little pocket in the coat of her costume she drew out a golden scorpion–” I have one.” She replaced it hurriedly. “I dare not, dare not tell you more! Bat this much I had to tell you, because . . . I shall -.ver see you again I ” ” hat ? ” ” A Fench detective, a very clever man, learned a lot :about ‘The Scorpion,’ and he followed one of the members to England. This man killed him. Oh. I know I belong to a horrible organisation I ” she cried bitterly. ” But I tell you I am helpless, and I have never aided in such a thing I You should know that I But all he found out he left with you-and I do not know if I. succeeded in destroying it. I do not ask you. I do not care. But I leave England to-night. Good-bye.” She suddenly stood up. Stuart rose also. He was about to speak when Misha’s expression changed. A look of terror crept over her face, and, hastily lowering her veil, she walked rapidly away from the table and out of the room. Many carous glances followed the elegant figure to the door. Then thse glances were directed upon Stuart Flushing with embarrassment, he quickly settled the bill and harried out of the hotel. Gaining the street, he looked eagerly right and left. But Mirka had disappeared. CHAPTER V. THE HEART OF CHUNDA LAL DUSK had drawn a grey mantle over the East-End streets when Miska, discharging the cab in which she had come hfrom Victoria. hurried furtively along a narrow alley tending Thamesward. U mcomsously she crossed a certain has-a hle invisible except upon a ;map of Lnmdom which lay apao the table of the Assistat Commimiomer in New Scotland Yard-the line forming the “red circle ” of M. Gaston Max. And. ming this line, she became the focus upon which four pi o watchful eyes wee directed. Arriving at the door of a mean house some little distance removed shem that of Ah-Fang-Fa. Miska entered. for the door was open, and disappeared from the view of the four detectives who were watching the street. Her heart was beating rapidly, for she had thought, as she stood up to leave the restaurant, that the fierce eyes of Chunda lal had looked in through the glass panel of one of the doors. This gloomy house seemed to swallow her up, and the men who watched wondered more and more what

had become of the elegant figure, gro tesque in such a setting. which had vanished into the narrow doorway—and which did not re- appear. Even In- spector Kelly. who knew so much about Chinatown, did not know that the cellars of the three houses left and right of Ab- Fang-Fu’s were con- nected by a senes of doors planned and masked with Chinese cunning Half-an-hour after MLika had disap- peared into the httle house near the corner, the hidden door in the damp cellar be- low ” the Pidgin House ” opened, and a bent old woman- a ragged, grey-haired, and dirty figure — walked slowly up the rickety wooden stair and entered a bare room behind and be- low the shop, and to the unmediate left of the den of the opium- smokers. This room. which was window- less, was lighted by a tin paraffin lamp hung upon a nail in the dirty plaster wall. The floor presented a litter of straw, paper, and broken packing- cases. Two steps led up to a second door- a square, heavy door of great strength. The old woman, by means of a key which she carried, was about to open this door, when it was opened from the other side. Lowering his head as he came through. Chunda Lal de- scended. He wore

European clothes and a white turban. Save for his ardent eyes, and the handsome, fanatical face of the man, he might have passed for a la car. He turned and half-closed the door. The woman shrank from him, but, extending a lean brown hand, he gripped her arm His eyes glittered feverishly. ” So.” he said, “‘we are all leaving England? Five of the Chinese sad with the P. and 0. boat to-night. Ali Khtn goes to-morrow, and RAme Dass, aith Miguel, on the Asdmans. I meet them at Singapore. But you? The woman raised her finger to her lips, glancing fearfully towards the open door. But the Hindu. drawing her nearer, repeated with subdued fierceness– “I ask it againbut you? ” “1 do not know.” muttered the woman, keeping her head lowered and moving in the direction of the steps. But Chunda Lal intercepted her. ” Stop I” he said. ” Not yet are you going. There is something I have to speak to you.” ” Ssh I ” she whispered, half-turning and pointing up towards the door. ” Those ! ” said the Hindu contemptuously. ” The poor slaves of the black smoke ! Ah, they floating in their dream paradise, they have no ears to hear. no eyes to see! ” He grasped her wrist again. ” They conteat for shadow smiles and dream kisses; but ChInda Lal have eyes to see and ears to bear. He dream too, but of lips more sweet than honey, of a voice like the song of the Daood ! Insluea I ” Suddenly he clutched the grey hair of the bent old woma, and with one angry jerk snatched it from her head-for it was a cunning wig. Disordered hair gleaming like bronze waves in the dim lamplight was revealed, and the great dark eyes of Miska looked out from the artificially haggard face-eyes wide open and fearfuL “Bend not that beautiful body so,” whispered Chunda Lal, “that is straight and supple as the willow branch Oh, Miska “-his voice trembled emotionally. and he that had been but a moment since so fierce stood abashed before her–“for you I

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become as the meanest and the lowest-for you 1 die I ” Miska started back from him as a muffled outcry sounded in the room beyond the half-open door. Chunda Lal started also, but almost immediately snmled-and his smile was tender as a woman’s. ” It is the voice of the black smoke that speaks, Miska. We are alone. Thse are dead men speaking from their tombs.” ” AhFang-Fu is in the shop,” whispered Miska. ” And there he remain” ” But what of . . . . A ” Mika pointed towards the eastern wall of the room in which they stood. Chunda Lal clenched his hands convulsively and turned his eyes in the same direction. ” It is of imr.” he replied, in a voice of suppressed vehemence, ” it is of him I would speak.” He bent close to Miska’s ear. ‘” In the creek, below the house, is lying the motor-boat. I go to-day to bring it down for him. He goes to-night to the other house up the river. To-morrow I am gone; only you remain.” Y” es, yes. He also leave England to-morrow.” ” And you ? ” “I go with him,” she whispered. Chunda Lal glanced apprehensively towards the door. The– ” Do not go with him ! ” he said. and sought to draw Miska into his arms. ” Oh. li
ght of my eyes, do not go with ham.” Misa reulsed him, but not harshly. “No. no; it is no good, Chunda Lal. I cannot hear you.” ” You think “-the Hindu’s voice was hoarse with emotion-” that he will trace you-and kill you ? ” ” Trace me ! ” exclaimed Miska, with sudden scorn. ” Is it necessary for him to trace me ? Am I not already dead except for him ? Would I be his servant, his lure, his slave for one little hour, for one short minute, if my life was my own? ” Beads of perspiration gleamed upon the brown forehead of the Hindu. and his eyes turned from the door to the eastern wall, and back again to Misha

lie was torn by conflicting desires, but suddenly came resolution. ” Listen, then.” His voice was barely audible. ” If I tell you that your life is your own-if I reveal to you a secret which I learned in the house of Abdfil Rozian in C.uro- Mska watched hint with eyes in which a new, a wild expression was idawning ” If I tell you that life. and not death, awaits you. will you come away to-night, and we sail for India to-morrow ? Ah, I have money ! Perhaps I am rich as well .is -someone, perhaps I can buy you the robes of a princes –he drew her swiftly to him–” and cover those white arms with jeweL.” Mtska shrank from him. ” All this mean nothing.” she said. ” How can the secret of Abdill RIozAn help me to hve ? And you–you will be dead before 1 die-yes ! One little hour after he find out that we go ! ” ” listen again.” said Churula Lal intensely. ” Promise me, and I will open for you a gate of Ife. IFor you, Miska, I will do it, and we shall be free. He will never find out. lie shall not be living to find out I ” Mi’ka shrank yet further from him. ” No, no, Chlulda Lal,” she moa.ned. ” You have been my only friend, and I have tried to forget .. ” ” I will forswear Kali for ever,.” he said fervently, ” and shed no blhoid for all my life! I will live for you alone, and be your slave.” “It is no gool. I cannot, (‘hunda Ild; I cannot.” “Maska I ” lie pleaded tenderly. ” No,. no,” she repeated, her voice quivering . . . I cannot…. Oh. do not ask it-1 cannot ! ” She picked up the hideous wig, moving towards the door. Chunda Lal watched her, clenching his handL ; and his eyes, which had been so tender, grew fierce. ” Ah I ” he cred ; ” and it may be I know a reason I ” She stopped, glancing back at him. ” It may be,” he continued, and his repressed violence was terrible, ” it may be that I, whose heart is never sleeping, have seen and heard ! One night “- he crept towards her-” one night when 1 cry the warning that the Doctor Sahib returns to his house, you do not come I He goes in at the house, and you remain. But at last you come, and I see in your eyes– ” Oh ! ” breathed Miska, watching him fearfully. ” Do I not see it in your eyes now ? Never before have I thought so until you go to that house–never before have you escaped from my care as here in London Twice again I have doubted, and because there was other work to do I have been helpless to find out. To-night “-he stool before her, glaring madly into her face-” I think so again-that you have gone to him .. . ” Oh, Chunda Lal! ” cried Miska piteously, and extended her hands towards him. ” No, no-d-o not say it ! ” “So ” he whispered. ” I understand ! You risk so much for him-for me you risk nothing I If he- the Doctor Sahib-say to you, ‘Come with me, Miska- ‘ ” ” No, no ! Oh. can I never have one friend in all the world ! I hear you call, Chunda Lal, but I am burning the envelope, and-Doctor Stuart-finds me. I am trapped. You know it is so.” ” I know you say so. And because be-Fo-Hi-is not sure, and because of the piece of the scorpion which you find there, we go to that house-Ae and 1- and we fail in what we go for.” Chunda Lal’s hands dropped limply to his sides. ” Ah, I cannot under- stand, n ska. If we are not sure then, are we sure now ? It may be “-he bent towards her–” we are trapped I ” ” Oh. what do you mean ? ” ” We do not know how much the Frenchman learns. We do not know how much they read of what he had written. Why do we wait ? ” ” He has some plan, Chunda Lal,” replied Miska wearily. ” Does he ever fail? ” Her words rekindled the Hindu’s ardour; his eyes lighted up anew. “1I tell you his plan,” he said tensely. ” Oh. you shall hear me ! He watch you grow from a little lovely child, as he watch his death-spiders and his grey scorpions grow ! He tend you and care for you and make you perfect, and he plan for you as he plan for his other creatures. Then he see what I see- that you are not only his servant, but also a woman, and that you have a woman’s heart. He learn-who think he knows all-that he too is not yet a spirit. but only a man, and have a man’s heart, a man’s blood, a man’s longings I It is because of the Doctor Sahib that he learn it.” He grasped Miska again, but she struggled to elude him. ” Oh, let me go ! ” she pleaded. ” It is madness you speak ! ” ” It is madness, yes-for you I Always I have watched, always I have waited; and I also have seen

you bloom lke a rose in the desert. To-night I am here–watching . . . and he know it! To-morrow I am gone ! Do you stay, for-him ? ” ” Oh,” she whispered fearfully, ” it cannot be ! ” ” You say true when you say I have been your only friend, Miska. To-morrow he plan that you have no friend.” He released her, and slowly, from the sleeve of his coat, slipped into view the curved blade of a native knife. ” Ali Khdn Bhai Salam ! ” he muttered-by which formula he proclaimed himself a Thug ! Rollmng his eyes in the direction of the eastern wall, he concealed the knife. ” Chunda Lal ! “-Miska spoke wildly-” I am frightened ! Please let me go. and to-morrow–” ” To-morrow ! ” Chunda Lal raised his eyes, which were alight with the awful light of fanaticism. ” For me there may be no to-morrow ! jey Bhoadni ! Yah Allah ! ” ” Oh, he may hear you ! ” whispered Miska pitifully. “Please go no.v. I shall know that you are near me, if-” ” And then? ” ” I will ask your aid.” Her voice was very low. ” And if it is written that I succeed ? ” Miska averted her head. ” Oh, Chunda Lal . . . I cannot.” She hid her face in her hands. Chunda Lal stood watching her for a moment in silence, then he turned toward the cellar door, and then again to Miska. Suddenly he dropped upon one knee before her, took her hand and kissed it gently. ” I am your slave,” he said, his voice shaken with emotion. ” For myself I ask nothing–only your pity.” He rose, opened the door by which Miska had entered the room, and went down into the cellars. She watched him silently, half-fearfully, yet her eyes were filled with compassionate tears. Then, readjusting the hideous grey wig, she went up the steps and passed through the doorway into the den of the opium- smokers. CHAPTER VI. THE MAN WITH THE SCAR. STUART read through a paper, consisting of six closely written pages, then he pinned the sheets together, folded them, and placed them in one of those long envelopes associated in his memory with the opening phase of ” The Scorpion ” mystery. Smiling grimly, he descended to his dispensary and returned with the Chinese coin attached to the cork. With this he sealed the envelope. He had volunteered that night for onerous service, and his offer had been accepted. Gaston Max’s knowledge of Eastern languages was slight, whilst Stuart’s was sound and extensive, and the Frenchman had cordially welcomed the doctor’s proposal that he should accompany him to the house of Ah-Fang-Fu. Reviewing the facts gleaned from Miska during the earlier part of the evening, Stuart perceived that, apart from the additional light which they shed upon her own relations with the group, they could be of slight assistance to the immediate success of the inquiry-unless the raid failed. Therefore, he had determined upon the course which now he was adopting. As he completed the sealing of the envelope and laid it down upon the table, he heard a cab draw up in front of the house, and presently Mrs. M’Gregor knocked and entered the study. ” Inspector Dunbar to see you, Mr. Keppel,” she said; ” and he has with him an awful-looking body all cuts and bandages-a patient, no d
oubt,” Stuart stood up, wondering what this could mean. ” Will you please show them in, Mrs M’Gregor,” he replied. A few moments later Dunbar entered, accompanied by a bearded man whose head was bandaged so as partly to cover one eye, and who had an evil-looking scar running from his cheekbone, apparently–or at any rate from the edge of the bandage-to the corner of his mouth, so that the lip was drawn up in a fierce and permanent snarl At this person Stuart stared blankly, until Dunbar began to laugh. “It ‘s a wonderful make-up, isn’t it ? ” he said. “I used to say that disguises were out of date, but M. Max has taught me I was wrong.” ” Max ! ” cried Stuart. ” At your service,” replied the apparition; “but for this evening only I am ‘Le Balafr6’ Yes, pardieu I I am a real dead man I ” The airy indifference with which he proclaimed himself to represent one whose awful body had but that day been removed from a mortuary-and one who, in his own words, he had ” had the misfortune to strangle “-was rathe ghastly, and at the same time admirable. For ” Le Balafr ” had deliberately tried

to murder him, and false sentiment should form no part of the complement of a criminal investigator. ” It is a daring idea,” said Stuart, ” and relies for its success upon the chance that ‘The Scorpion’ remains ignorant of the fate of his agent, and con- tinues to believe that the body found off Hanover Hole was yours.” ” The admirable precautions of my clever col- league,” replied Max, laying his hand upon Dunbar’s shoulder, ” in closing the mortuary and publishing particulars of the identification disc make it perfectly safe. ‘Le Balafre ‘ has been in hiding-he emerges.” Stuart had secret reasons for knowing that Max’s logic was not at fault, and this brought him to the matter of the sealed paper. He took up the envelope. “I have here,” he said slowly, “a statement. Examine the seal.” He held it out, and Max and Dunbar looked at it. The latter laughed shortly. ” Oh, it is a real statement,” continued Stuart. ” the nature of which I am not at liberty to divulge. But, as to-night we take risks, I propose to leave it in your charge, Inspector.” He handed the envelope to Dunbar, whose face was blank with astonishment. “In the event of failure to-night,” added Stuart, ” or catastrophe, I authorise you to read the state- ment-and act upon it. If, however, I escape safely, I ask you to return it to me, unread.” ” EL bien I ” said Max, and fixed that eye the whole of which was visible upon Stuart. ” Perhaps I under- stand, and certainly “-he removed his hand from Dunbar’s shoulder and rested it upon that of Stuart- ” but certainly, my friend, I sympathise ! ” Stuart started guiltily, but Max immediately turned aside and began to speak about their plans. ” In a bag which Inspector Dunbar has thought- fully left in the cab- ” he said. Dunbar hastily retired, and Max laughed. ” In that bag,” he continued, ” is a suit of clothes such as habitu6s of ‘The Pidgin House’ rejoice to wear. 1, who have studied disguise almost as deeply as the great Willy Clarkson, will transform you into a perfect ruffian. It is important, you understand, that someone should be inside the house of Ah-Fang-Fu, as otherwise, by means of some secret exit, the man we seek may escape. I believe that he contemplates departing at any moment, and I believe that the visit of Miguel means that what I may term the masters of the minor lodges are coming to London for parting instructions-or, of course, Miguel may have come about the disappearance of ‘Le Balafr.’ ” ” Suppose you meet Miguel? ” ” My dear friend, I must trust to the Kismet who pursues evil-doers. The only reason which has led me to adopt this daring disguise is a simple one. Although I believe ‘ The Pidgin House’ to be open to ordinary opium-smokers, it may not be open on ‘lodge nights.’ Do you follow me? Very welL I have the golden scorpion-which I suppose to be a sort of passport.” Stuart wondered more and more at the reasoning powers of this remarkable man, which could lead him to such accurate conclusions. ” The existence of such a passport,” continued Max, ” would seem to point to the fact that all the members of thi organisation are not known personally to one another. At the same time, those invited or expected at present may be known to Ah-Fang-Fu, or to whoever acts as concierge. You see? Expected or otherwise, I assume that ‘Le Balafr ‘ would be admitted, and at night I shall pass very well for ‘Le BalafrE ‘-eomewhat damaged as a result of my encounter with the late Charles Malet, but still recognisable.” “And I?” “You will be ‘ franked ‘ in, The word of ‘ Le Balafr ‘ should be sufficient for that Of course, I may be conducted immediately into the presence of the Chief-‘ The Scorpion ‘-and he may prove to be none other than Miguel, for instance; or my Algerian acquaintance; or may even be a ‘she ‘-the fascinat- ing ZAra el-Khal I We do not know But I hin–. oh, decidedly I think-that the cowled one is a male creature, and his habits and habitat suggest to me that he is a Chinaman. The fact that these people foregather at an opium-house furthermore suggests to me that a certain procedure may be followed which I observed during the course of the celebrated ‘Mr. Q ‘ case in New York. ‘Mr Q.’ also had an audience- chamber adjoining an opium-den, and his visitors went there ostensibly to smoke opium. The opium- den was a sort of ante-room.” “Weymouth’s big Chinese case had similar features,” said Inspector Dunbar, who re-entered at that moment, carrying a leathern grip. ” If you are kept waiting, and you keep your ears open, doctor, that’s where your knowledge of the lingo will come in useful We might rope in the whole gang and find we hadn’t a scrap of evidence against them, for, except the attempt on yourself, Dr. Stuart, there ‘s nothing, so far as I can see, to connect ‘ The Scorpion ‘ with Sir Frank Narcombe I”

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” It is such a bungle that I fear I ” cried Max. “Ah, how this looped-up lip annoys me I” He adjusted the bandage carefully. ” We’ve got the place comfortably surrounded,” continued Dunbar, ” and whoever may be inside is booked. A lady an.wering to the description of Mile. Dorian went in this evening, so Sowerby reports.” Stuart felt that he was changing colour, and he stooped hastily to inspect the contents of the bag which Dunbar had opened. ” Eh bien I ” said Gaston Max. ” We shall not go empty-handed, then. And now to transfigure you, my friend I ” CHAPTER . VII. IN THE OPIUM DEN. INTERRUPTING a spell of warm, fine weather, the night had set in wet and stormy. The squalid streets through which Stuart and Gaston Max made their way

looked more than normally deserted and uninviting. The wind moaned, and the rain accompanied with a dreary tattoo. Sometime; a siren wailed out upon the river. ” We are nearly there,” said Max. ” Pardieu, they are well concealed, those fellows ! I have not seen so much as an eyebrow I ” “It would be encouraging to get a glimpse of someone,” replied Stuart. ” Ah, but bad–inartistic. It is the next door, I think yes. I hope they have no special way of knocking.” Upon the door of a dark and apparently deserted shop he rapped. Both had anticipated an interval of waiting, and both were astonished when the door opened almost at once, revealing a blackly cavernous interior. ” Go off ! Too late ! Shuttee shop l ” chattered a voice out of the darkness.

Max thrust his way resolutely in, followed by Stuart. ” Shut the door, Ah-Fang-Fu,” he said curtly, speaking with a laboured French accent. ” Scorpion ! ” The door was closed by the invisible Chinaman, there was a sound of soft movements, and a hurricane- lantern suddenly made its appearance. Its light revealed the interior of a nondescript, untidy little shop, and also the presence of an old and very wrinkled Chinaman who held the lantern. He wore a blue smock and a bowler hat, and his face possessed the absolute impassivity of an image. As he leaned over the counter, scrutinising his visitors
, Max thrust forward the golden scorpion held in the palm of his hand. ” TchdMe, tcide ‘ ” chattered the Chinaman. ” Fo-Hi fellers, eh ? You hab got plenty much late. Other fellers Fo-Hli pidgin plenty much sooner. You one time catchee allee same bhobbery, b’long number one joss-pidgin man ! ” Being covertly nudged by Max- ” Cut the palaver, Pidgin ! ” growled Stuart. ” Allee lightee ! ” chattered Ah – Fang – Fu, for evidently this was he. ” You play one piecee pipee till Fo-Hi got.” Raising the lantern, he led the way through a door at the back of the shop. Descending four wooden steps, Stuart and Max found themselves in the opium-den. ” Full up. No loom,” said the Chinaman. It was a low-ceiled apartment, the beams of the roof sloping slightly upward from west to east. The centre part of the wall at the back was covered with matting hung from the rough cornice supporting the beams. To the right of the matting was the door communicating with the shop, and to the left were bunks. Other bunks lined the southerly wall, except where, set in the thickness of the bare brick and plaster, a second strong door was partly hidden by a pile of empty packing-cases and an untidy litter of straw and matting. Along the northern wall were more bunks, and an open wooden stair, with a handrail, ascended to a small landing or platform before a third door high up in the wall. A few mats were strewn about the floor. The place was dimly lighted by a red-shaded lamp swung from the centre of the ceiling, and near the foot of the stairs another lamp (of the common tin variety) stood upon a box near which was a broken cane- chair. Opium-pipes, tins, and a pack of cards were on this box. All the bunks appeared to be occupied. Most of the occupants were lying motionless, but one or two were noisily sucking at the opium-pipes. These had not yet attained to the opium-smokers’ Nirvana. So much did Gaston Max, a trained observer, gather in one swift glance. Then Ah-Fang-Fu, leaving the lantern in the shop, descended the four steps, and, crossing the room, began to arrange two mats with round head-cushions near to the empty packing-cases. Stuart and Max remained by the door. ” You see,” whispered Max, ” he has taken you on trust I And he did not appear to recognise me. It is as I thought. The place is ‘open to the public,’ as usual, and Ah-Fang does a roaring trade, one would judge. For the benefit of patrons not affiliated to the order, we have to pretend to smoke.” ” Yes,” replied Stuart, with repressed excitement, “until someone called Fo-Hi is at home or visible– the word ‘got’ may mean either of those things.” ” Fo-Hi,” whispered Max, ” is ‘ The Scorpion.’ ” “I believe you are right,” said Stuart-who had good reason to know it. ” My God, what a foul den I The reek is suffocating ! Look at that yellow, lifeless face yonder-and see that other fellow whose hand hangs limply down upon the floor. Those bunks might be occupied by corpses for all the evidence of life that some of them show.” ” Morbleu! do not raise your voice, for some of them are occupied by ‘ Scorpions.’ You noted the words of Ah-Fang ? Ssh ! ” The old Chinaman returned with his curious shuffling walk, raising his hand to beckon to them. ” Number one piecee bunk, lo I ” he chattered. “Good enough,” growled Stuart. The two crossed, and reclined upon the uncleanly mats. ” Makee special loom,” explained Ah-Fang Fu ” Velly special chop I ” He passed from bunk to bunk, and presently came to a comatose Chinaman from whose limp hand, which hung down upon the floor, the pipe had dropped. This pipe Ah-Fang-Fu took from the smoker’s fingers, and, returning to the box upon which the tin lamp was standing, began calmly to load it, ” Good heavens,” muttered Stuart, ” he is short of pipes I Pah, how the place reeks ! ” Ah-Fang-Fu busied himself with a tin of opium, the pipe which he had taken from the sleeper, and another pipe-apparently the last of his stock-which lay near the lamp. Igniting the two, he crossed and handed them to Stuart and Max. ” Velly soon-lo I1″ he said, and made a curious

stign. touching his brow, his lips, and his breast in a manner resembling that of a Mor-lem Max repeated the gesture and then lay back ulpon his elbow, raising the mouthpiece of the little pipe to his lips-but carefully avoiding contact. Ah-Fang-Fu shuffled back to the broken cane- chair, from which he had evidently risen to admit his late visitor,. Inarticulate sounds proceeded from the bunks, breaking the sinister silence which now descended lupon the dlen. Ah-Fang-Fu began to play Patience, constantly muttering to himself. The occasional wash of tidal water became audible, andi once there came a scampering and squealing of rats from beneath the floor. ” 1)o you notice the sound of lapping water ? ” whi-pered Stuart. ” The place is evidently built upon a foundation of pile;, and the cellars must actually be submerged at high tide.” ” Pardieu, it is a death-trap ! What is this ? A lud knocking soundel upon the street-door. Ah-Fang-Fu rose and shuffled up the steps into the shop. He could be heard unbarring the outer door. Then- ” Too late ! Shuttee shop – shuttee slhp ” sounded. ” I don’t want nothin’ out of your blasted shop, Pidgin I ” roard a loud and thick voice. ” I ‘mi old Bill Bean, I am-and 1 want a pipe, I do ! ” ” Hullo, Bill ! ” replied the invisible ” Pidgin.” ” Allee samee dlunk again I ” A red-bearded ship’s fireman, wearing sea-boots, a rough blue suit similar to that which Stuart wore, a muffler, andml a peaked cap, lurched into view at the head of the steps. ” Blimey ! ” he roared over his shoulder. ” Drunk ! Me drunk I An’ all the pubs in these parts sell barlct – water coloured brown ! Blimey ! Chuck it, Pidgin ! ” Ah-Fang-Fu reappeared behind him, barred the door, and descended. ” Comee here,” he muttered, ” my placee all full up, and no other placee b’long open.” Bill Bean slapped him boisterously on the back. ” Cut the palaver, Pidgin, and gimme a pipe I Piecee pipe, Pidgin I ” He lurched across the floor, nearly falling over Stuart’s legs, took up a mat and a cushion, lurched into the further corner, andl cast himself down. ” Ain’t I one o’ yer oldest customers. Pidgin ? ” he inquired. ” One o’ yer oldest I am, from Frisco.” Ah-Fang-Fu, shrugging resignedly, shuffled from bunk to bunk in quest of a disused pipe, found one, and, returning to the extemporised table, began to load it, muttering to himself. ” IDm’t like to ‘ear about your wicked past, do you ? ” continued Bill. ” Wicked old yellow-faced ‘eathen I Remember the ‘ dive ‘ in Frisco. Pidgin ? IH’ot a rough ‘ouse ! Remember when I come in- full up I was, me back teeth well under water-an you tried to Shanghai me ? ” ” You cutee palaber. All damn lie,” muttered the Chinaman. ” Ho-a lie, is it? ” roared the other. ” Wot about me wakin’ up all of a tremble aboard o’ the old Nancy Lee-aboard of a blasted wind-jammer I le- a fireman I Wot about it ? Wasn’t that Shanghain’ ? Blighter ! An’ not a ‘oat’ in me pocket-not a ‘bean’ ! Broke to the wide, an’ aboard of a old wind-jammer wot was a coffin-ship–a coffin-ship she was; an’ ‘er old man was the devil’s father-in-law. Ho ! ies! I don’t think!” Suddenly, from a bunk on the left of Gaston Max, came a faint cry- ” Ah, he has bitten me ! ” ” ‘Ullo I” said Bill. ” wotcher bin givin’ ‘ia., Pidgin ? CGhadu or hydrerphobia ? ” Ah-Fang-Fu crossed and handed him the pipe. ” One piecee pipee. No more hab.” Bill grasped the pipe eagerly and raised it to his lips. Ah-Fang-Fu returned unmoved to his Patience. and silence reclaimed the den, only broken by the inarticulate murmurings and the lapping of the tide. ” A genuine customer I ” whispered Max. ” Ah ” came again, more faintly. ” He . . . has bitten . . . me.” ” Blimey !” said Bill Bean in a drowsy voice. ” ‘Eave the chair at ‘im, Pidgin.” Stuart was about to speak when Gaston Max furtively grasped his arm. ” Ssh ! ” he whispered. ” Do not move, but look . . . at the top of the stair ! ” Stuart turned his eyes. On the platform at the head of the stairs a Hindu was standing ! ” Chunda Lal ! ” whispered Max. ” Prepare for- anything I ” Chunda Lal de
scended slowly. Ah-Fang-Fu con- tinued to play Patience. The Hindu stood behind him and began to speak in a voice of subdued fervour and with soft Hindu modulations. ” Why do you allow them, strangers, coming here to-night? ” Ah-Fang-Fu continued complacently to arrange the cards.

” Spose bhab gotee pidgin alice samee (‘h nda I.pl hab got ; Fo-tli no catchee b led and chee-e for Ah-Fang-Fu lie “–nodding casually in the direction of Bill Bean –” phtty soon all blissful ” ” Be very careful, Ah-Fang-Fu,” aid (‘hunda L.al tensely. ” Your life may depend on it. Ilow many are here ? ” Ah-Fang-Fu turned at last from his cards, pointing in three directions, and, finally, at Gaston MIax. ” Four ? ” said the HIndu. ” Flow can it be ? lie peered from bunk to bunk, muttering some- thing–a name apparently- after crutinising each When his gaze re-ted upon M1ax he started, stared hard, and. meeting the gaze of the one vi-ible eye, made the strange sign Max repeated it; and (hunda Ial turned again to the Chinaman ” Because of that drunken pig,. he said, pointing at Bill Bean. ” we must wait. See to it that he is the la-t ” lie walked slowly up the stairs, opened the door at the top, andi disappeared. CHAPTER VIII. TIHE JADE-EYEI) JOSS. SINISTER silence reclaimed the hiouise of Ah-Fang- Fu. And Ah-Fang-Fu resumed his solitary game. ” He recognised ‘ Le Balafr6,’ ” whispered Max, ” and was surprised to see him ! -So there are three of the gang here. Did you particularly observe in which bunks they lay, Doctor ‘ Ssh ! ” A voice from a bunk had commenced to sing monotonously.


‘ Perala peah.” it sang weird above the murmured accompaniment of the other dreaming smokers and the u’ash-ash of the tide ” lo min na piah-i-‘h;r Krvsee Ko Ktah . l” le is speaking from an opium trance,” said Stuart softly. ” A natlive song : ‘If a cup of wine is drunk, and I have drunk it, what of thlt ‘ ” Alon, Dieut, it is uncanny !” wluspered Max. ” Ierr 1 Do you hear those rats I am wondering in what order we shall be admitted to the ‘ Scorpin’s ‘ presence, or if we shall all see hinm together.” ” lie may comne in here” ” All the better.” ( Gmme ‘nother pipe., Pdgin.” drawled a very drowsy voice from ]till tean’s corner. Ah-Fang Fu left Ins eternal arranging and re- arranging of the cards and crsssed the’ rnm lie took the opium pipe fromn the tireman’s limp fingers. and. returning to tthe bix refilled and lighted it. Max and Stuart watched him in silence until he had handed the second pipe to the man and returned to his chair. ” We must he very careful,” said Stuart ” We do not know which are real smokers and which are not.” Again there was a weird interruption. A Chinaman lying in one of the Ihunks began to chantt in a monotlonous, far-away voice, ” (Chong-hliteou chouav, (fun miani padhnr hdin.” ” Thie Buddhist formula,” whispered Stuart. ” lie is a real smoker. Ileavens, the reek is choking me ‘ ” The chant was repeated, the words dying away into a long murmur Aft Fang -u continued to shuffle the cards. Andl presently Bill L·an’s second

pipe dropped from his lingers. His husky voice spoke, almost inaudibly- “I’m … .old . . . il. Bean…. I ..” A deep-noted siren hooted dimly. ” A steamer making for dlock,” whispered Max. ” lrr, it is a nightmare, this ! I think in a minute somnething will happen. Ssh ! ” Ah-Fang-Fu glanced slowly around. Then he stood up, raised the lamp from the table, and made a tour of the bunks, shining the light in upon the faces of the occupants. Max watched hum closely, hoping to learn in which bunks the members of ” The Scorpion ” group lay. But he was disappointed. Ah-Flang-Fu examined all the bunks, and even shone the light down upon Stuart and Max. HIe muttered to himself constantly, but seemed to address no one. 1Reptacing the lamp on the box, he whistled softly, and- ” Look I ” breathed Max. ” The stair again i ” Stuart cautiously turned his eyes toward the open stair. On the platform above stood a bent old hag whose witch-eves were searching the place keenly I With a curiously lithe step, for all her age, she descended, and, standing behind Ah-Fang-Fu, tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the outer door. He stood up and shuffled across, went up the four steps, and unbarred the door. ” Tihde, tchee,” he chattered. ” Pidgin make a look-out ” He went out and closed the door. ” Something happens ! ” whispered Max. A gong sounded. ” Ah ! ” The old woman approached the matting curtain hung over a portion of the wall, raised it slightly in the centre- where it opened-and disappeared beyond. ” You see !” said Stuart excitedly. ” Yes; it is the audience-chamber of ‘ The Scorpion ‘ ! ” The ancient hag came out again, crossed to a bunk, and touched its occupant, a Chinaman, with her hand. lie immediately got up and followed her. The two disappeared beyond the curtain. ” What shall we do,” said Stuart, ” if you are summoned ? ” ” I shall throw open those curtains the moment I reach them, and present my pistol at the head of who- ever is on the other side. You -ssh ! ” The old woman reappeared, looked slowly around, and then held the curtains slightly apart to allow ot the Chinaman ‘s coming out. He saluted her by touching his head, lips, and breast with his right hand, then passed up to the door communicating with the shop, which he opened and went out. His voice came, murfiedt, ” F:o-Hi ! ” ” Fo-Hi,” returned the high voice of Ah-Fang-Fu. The outer door was opened and shut. The old woman went up and barred the inner door, then returned, and stood by the matting curtain. The sound of the water below alone broke the silence. It was the hour of high tide. ” There goes the first fish into Dunbar’s net ” whispered Max. The gong sounded again. Thereupon the old woman crossed to another bunk . and conducted a brown-skinned Eastern into the hidden room. Immediately they had disappeared- ” As I pull the curtains aside,” continued Max rapidly, ” blow the whistle and run across and unbar the door . . So engrossed was he in giving these directions, and so engrossed was Stuart in listening to them, that neither detected a faint creak which proceeded from almost immediately behind them. This sound was occasioned by the slow and cautious opening of that sunken, heavy door near to which they lay-the door which communicated with the labyrinth of cellars. Inch by inch from the opening protruded the head of Ah-Fang-Fn I ” If the Chinaman offers any resistance,” Max went on, speaking very rapidly–” morbleu, you have the means to deal nsth him ! In a word, admit the police. Ssh !s-wh:a is that ? ” A mnlaAnl ” ; ir. m one of the bunks came- ” Cheal Kgpir-smen, mas ka dheer ! ” “A native adage,” whispered Stuart. ” He is dreaming-‘ There is always meat in a kite’s nest.’ ” ” Eh bien, very true-and I think the kite is at home ! ” The head of Ah-Fang-Fu vanished. A momlent later the curtains opened again slightly, and the old woman came out, ushering the brown man. He saluted her and unbarred the door, going out. ” Fo-Hi I ” came dimly. There was no definite answer-only the sound of a muttered colloquy; and suddenly the brown man returned and spoke to the old woman in a voice so low that his words were inaudible to the two attentive . listeners in the distant corner. . ” Ah,” whispered Max, ” what now ? ” “Shall we rush the curtain ? ” said Stuart. ” No I “-Max grasped his arm-” Wait-wait I

See, he is going out ! He had, perhaps, forgotten something. A second fish in the net.” The Oriental went up the steps into the shop. The old woman closed and barred the door, then opened the matting curtain, and disappeared within. ” I was right,” said Max. But for once in his career he was wrong. She was out again almost immediately, and bend- ing over a bunk close to the left of the masked opening. The occupant concealed in its shadows did not rise and follow her, however. She seemed to be speaking to him. Stuart and Max watched intently. The head of Ah-Fang-Fu reappeared in the door-. way behind them. ” Now is our time !” whispered Max tensely. ” As I rush for the curtains, you run to the shop- door and get it
unbolted, whistling for Dunbar—” Ah Fang-Fu, fully opening the door behind them, crept out stealthily. ” Have your pistol ready,” continued Max, ” and first put the whistle between your teeth -” Alt-Fang-Fu silently placed his bowler hat upon the floor, shook down his long pigtail, and moving with catlike tread, stooping, drew nearer. ” Now, Doctor ! ” cried Max. Both sprang to their feet. Max leapt clear of the matting and other litter, and dashed for the curtain. He reached it, seized it, and tore it bodily from its fastenings. Behind him the long flat note of a police whistle sounded–and ended abruptly. ” Ah, nom d’un nom ! ” cried Max. A cunningly devised door, looking like a section of solid brick and plaster wall, was closing slowly, heavily. Through the opening which yet remained he caught a glimpse of a small room, draped with Chinese dragon tapestry, and having upon a raised, carpeted dais a number of cushions forming a diwan, and an inlaid table bearing a silver snuff-vase. A cowled figure was seated upon the dais. The door closed completely. Within a niche in its centre sat a yellow, leering idol, jade-eyed and complacent. Wild gurgling cries brought Gaston Max sharply about. An answering whistle sounded from the street outside . . . a second . . . a third. Ah-Fang-Fu, stooping ever lower, at the instant that Stuart had sprung to his feet had seized his ankle from behind, pitching him on to his face. It was then that the note of the whistle had ceased. Now the Chinaman had his long pigtail about Stuart’s neck, at which Stuart, prone, with the other kneeling upon his body, plucked vainly. Max raised his pistol … . and from the bunk almost at his elbow leapt Miguel the quadroon, a sand- bag raised. It descended upon the Frenchman’s skull . . . and he crumpled up limply and collapsed upon the floor. There came a crash of broken glass from the shop. Uttering a piercing cry, the old woman staggered from the door–near which she had been standing as if stricken helpless during the lightning moments in which these things had happened-and advanced in the direction of Ah-Fang-Fu. ” Ah, God ! You kill him-you kill him ! ” she moaned. ” Through the window, Sowerby ! This way ” came Dunbar’s voice. ” Max ! Max!” The sustained note of a whistle, a confusion of voices, and a sound of heavy steps proclaimed the entrance of the police into the shop and the summoning of reinforcements. Ah-Fang-Fu rose. Stuart had ceased to struggle. The Chinaman replaced his hat and looked up at the woman, whose eyes glared madly into his own. ” Tchde, tchie,” he said sibilantly. ” Tchon-dzee- ti Fan – Fu.” (” Yes, yes. It is the will of the Master.”) ” Down with the door I” roared Dunbar. The woman threw herself, with a wild sob, upon the motionless body of Stuart. Ensued a series of splintering crashes, and finally the head of an axe appeared through the panels of the door. Ah-Fang-Fu tried to drag the woman away, but she clung to Stuart desperately and was immovable. Thereupon the huge quadroon, running across the room, swept them both up into his giant embrace, man and woman together, and bore them down by the sunken doorway into the cellars below. The shop door fell inwards, crashing down the four steps, and Dunbar sprang into the place, revolver in shand, followed by Inspector Kelly and four men of the River Police, one of whom carried a hurricane- lantern. Ah-Fang-Fu had just descended after Miguel and closed the heavy door, ” Try this way, boys !” cried Kelly, and rushed up the stair. The four men followed him. The lantern was left on the floor. Dunbar stared about him. Sowerby and several other men entered. Suddenly Dunbar saw Gaston Max lying on the floor. ” My God,” he cried, ” they have killed him t ” He ran across, knelt, and examined Max, pressing his ear against his breast.

Inspector Kelly, reaching the top of the stairs and finding the door locked, hurled his great bulk against it and burst it open. ” Follow me, boys ! ” he cried. ” Take care I Bring the lantern, somebody.” The fourth man grasped the lantern, and all followed the Inspector up the stair and out through the doorway. His voice came dimly- ” Mind the beam ! Pass the light forward Sowerby was struggling with the door by which Miguel and Ah-Fang-Fu, unseen, had made their escape; and Dunbar, having rested Max’s head upon a pillow, was glaring all about him, his square jaw set grimly, and his eyes fierce with anger. A voice droned from a bunk: ” Cheel Keguir men mds Kd dheer ! ” The police were moving from bunk to bunk, scrutinising the occupants. The uproar had pene- trated to them even in their drugged slumbers. There were stirrings and mutterings end movements of yellow hands. ” But where,” muttered Dunbar, ” is Dr. Stuart ? And where is ‘ The Scorpion ‘ ? ” He turned and stared at the wall from which the matting had been torn. And out of the little niche in the cunningly masked door the jade-eyed joss leered at him complacently. PART IV.-THE LAIR OF THE SCORPION. CHAPTER I. THE SUBLIME ORDER. STUART awoke to a discovery so strange that for some time he found himself unable to accept its reality. He passed his hands over his face and eyes, and looked about him dazedly. He experienced great pain in his throat, and he could feel that his neck was swollen. He stared down at his ankles, which also were throbbing agonisingly-to learn that they were confined in gyves attached by a short chain to a ring in the floor I He was lying upon a deep diwaes which was covered with leopard-skins, and which occupied one corner of the most extraordinary room he had ever seen or ever could have imagined. He sat up. but was immediately overcome with faintness, which he conquered with difficulty. The apartment, then, was one of extraordinary Oriental elegance, having two entrances closed with lacquer sliding-doors. Chinese lamps swung from the ceiling illuminated it warmly, and a great number of large and bright silk cushions were strewn about the floor. There were tapestries in black and gold, rich carpets and couches, several handsome cabinets, and a number of tall cases of Oriental workonanship con- taining large and strangely bound books, scientific paraphernalia, curios, and ornaments. At the further end of the room was a deep tiled hearth, in which stood a kind of chemical furnace which hissed constantly. Upon ornate small tables and pedestals were vases and cases-one of the latter containing a number of orchids, in flower. Preserved lizards, snakes, and other creatures were in a row of jars upon a shelf, together with small skeletons of animals in frames. There was also a perfect human skeleton. Near the centre of the room was a canopied chair, of grotesque Chinese design, upon a dais, a big bronze bell hanging beside it; and nearer to the diwan upon which Stuart was lying stood a large, very finely carved table upon which were some open faded volumes and a litter of scientific implements. Near the table stood a very deep bowl of what looked like platinum, upon a tripod, and several volumes lay scattered near it upon the carpet. From a silver incense-burner arose a pencilling of- blue smoke. One of the lacquer doors slid noiselessly open and a man entered. Stuart inhaled sibilantly, and clenched his fists. The new-comer wore a cowled garment of some dark-blue material which enveloped him from head to feet. It possessed oval eye-holes, and through these apertures gleamed two eyes which looked scarcely like the eyes of a human being. They were of that brilliant yellow colour sometimes seen in the eyes of tigers, and their most marked and awful peculiarity ,was their unblinking regard. They seemed always to be open to their fullest extent, and Stuart realised with anger that it was impossible to sustain for long the piercing unmoved gaze of Fo-Hi . . . for he knew that he was in the presence of ” The Scorpion.” Walking with a slow and curious dignity, the cowled figure came across to the table, first closing the lacquer door. Stuart’s hands convulsively clutched the covering of the diwan as the sinister figure approached. The.intolerable gaze of those weird eyes had awakened a ho
rror, a loathing horror, within him, such as he never remembered to have experienced in regard to any human being. It was the sort of horror

which the proxmitv of a poisonous serpent occasions- or the nearness of a scorpion . Fo-Hi seated himself at the table. Absolute silence reigned in the big room. except for the hissing of the furnace. No sound penetrated from the outer world. Having no means of judging how lung he had been inse~ ible, si ifound limslf wondering if the raid on the den of Ah-Fang-Fu had taken place hours before, days earlier, or weeks ago. Taking up a test-tube from a rack on the table, Fo-Hi held it near a lamp and examined the contents- a fe(v drops of colourless fluid. These he poured into a curious, long-necked, yellow bottle. He began to speak, but without look- ine at Stuart.

His diction was cha- racteristic, resembling his carriage in that it was slow and distinctive. lie seemed deliberately to choose each word, and to give to it all its value, syllable by syllable. His English was perfect to the verge of the pedan- tic ; and his voice was metallic and harsh, touch- ing at times, when his words were vested with some subtle or hidden sig- nificance, guttural depths which betrayed the Chinaman. He possessed uncanny dignity, as of tremendous intellect and conscious power. “I regret that you were so rash as to take part in last night’s abor- tive raid, Dr. Stuart,” he said. The man’s callousness was so purposeful and deliberate that it awed. He seemed like one who stands above all or- dinary human frailties and emotions. ” Your prejudice is natural,” continued So- Hi calmly. ” You are ignorant of our sublime motives. But you shall. nevertheless, assist us to establish that intellectual control which is destined to be the new World Force. No doubt, you are conscious of a mental hiatus extending from the moment when you found the pigtail of the worthy Ah – Fang – Fu about your throat until that when you recovered consciousness in this room. It has covered a period roughly of twenty- four hours, Dr. Stuart.” ” I don’t believe it.” muttered Stuart – and found his own voice to seem as unreal as every- thing else in the night- mare apartment ” If I had not revived earlier I should never have revived at alL” He raised his hand to his swollen throat, touching it gingerly. ” Your unconscious- ness was prolonged,” ex- plained Fo-Hi, consulting an open book written in Chinese characters, ” by an injection which I

found it necesary to make. Otherwise, as you remark, it would have been prolonged indefnitely. Your clever but rash companion was less happy.” ” What I” cried Stuart. ” He is dead ? You fend I You damned yellow fiend ! ” Emotion shook him, and he sat clutching the leopard-skins and glaring madly at the cowled figure. ” The scaffold is waiting for you and the scum who follow you ! ” Fo-Hi lighted a Bunsen burner. ” I trust not,” he rejoined placidly. ” With two exceptions, all my people are now out of England.” Stuart’s heart began to throb painfully. With two exceptions! Did Miska still remain ? He co- quered his anger and tried to speak calmly, recognising how he lay utterly in the power-of this uncanny being

and how closely his happiness was involved even if he escaped with lde. ” And you ? ” he said. ” In these matters, Dr. Stuart.” replied Fo-Hi, ” I have always modelled my behaviour upon that of the brilliant scientist who preceded me as European -representttive -f-perm-vuev nt. Vomr–beautiful Thames is my highway, as it was his highway. No one of my immediate neighbours has ever seen me or my once extensive following enter this house.” He selected an empty test-tube. ” No one shall see me leave, although you will accompany me.” The unreality of it all threatened to swamp

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Stuart’s mind again, but he forced himself to speak calmly. ” Your own escape is just possible, if some vessel awaits you; but do you imagine for a moment that you can carry me captive to China and elude pursuit ? ” Fo-Hi. again consulting the huge book with its yellow, faded characters, answered him absently : ” I honour you, Dr. Stuart. by inviting you to join the distinguished company which has already preceded you.” Stuart found himself holding his breath, for he knew that he was on the verge of learning that which poor Gaston Max had given his life to learn. A moment Fo-Hi hesitated–and in that moment his captive recognised, and shuddered to recognise, that he won this secret too late. Then-

The Grand Duke Ivan is a tactician who, had he remained in Europe, might well have readjusted the frontiers of his country Van Reinhold. as a mining engineer, stands alone; as does Hennk Ericksen m the electrical world. As for Sir Frank Narcombe, he is beyond doubt the most brilliant surgeon of to-day ; and , ajdgof men, countyou-iris peer in the realm of pure therapeutics, whiLst your studies in snake poisons (which were narrowly watched for us in India) give you an unique place in toxicology. These great melt will be some of your companions in China.” ” In China ! ” ” Van Rembold is preparing radium in quantities hitherto unknown from

the vast pitchblende de- posits of Ho-Nan, which industry we control. He visited Cluna arrayed in his shroud, and he travelled in a handsoime Egyptian sarcophagus purchased at Sothcby’s on behalt of a Chinese collector.” Fo-Hi stood up and crossed to the hissing furnace. I-e busied him- self with some obscure experiment which pro- ceeded there, and– ” Your own state- room will be less roman- tic. Dr. Stuart.’ he said, speaking without turning his head : ” possibly a packing-case In brief, that intellectual giant who achieved so nmuch for the Sublime Order- my immediate prede- cessor in ehfce-devised a means of indlucing artificial catalepsy- ” ” My Gxl ! ” muttered Stuart, as the incredible, the appalling truth burst upon his muind. ” My own rather hazardous delay,” con- tinued Fo-HI, “is oc- casioned in some measure by my anxiety to com- plete the present experi- ment. Its product will be your passport to China.” Carrying a tiny cruci- ble, he returned to the table. Stuart felt that his self-possession was de- serting him. Madness threatened . . if he was not already mad. lie forced himself to speak- ” You taunt me be- cause I am helpless. I do not believe that those men have been spirited into China. Even if it were so, they would die- as I would the-rather than prostitute their talents to such mad infamy.” Fo-Hi carefully poured the contents of the cruci- ble into a flat platinum pan. “In China, Dr. Stuart,” lie said, ” we know how to make men work ! There is the split rod I And I myself am the deviser of a variant of the unduly notorious

kite device, and the scarcely less celebrated Six Gates of Wisdom,’ I term it ‘The Feast of a Thousand Ants.’ It is performed with the aid of African driver ants, a pair of surgical scissors, and a pot of honey. I have observed you studying with interest the human skeleton yonder. It is that of one of my followers–a Nubian mute–who met with an untimely end quite recently. You are wondernng, no doubt, how I obtained the frame in so short a time ? My African driver ants, J)r. Stuart, of hluch I have three large cases in a cellar below this room, performed the task for me in exactly sixty-nine minutes.” Stuart strained frenziedly at his gyves. ” My God ! ” he groaned. ” All I have heard of you was the merest flattery. You are either a fiend or a madman! ”

” When you are enlisted as a member of the Sublime Order,” said Fo-Hi softly, ” and you awaken in China, I)r. Stuart–you will work. We have no unwilling recruits.” ” Stop your accursed talk-I have heard enough ! ” But the metallic voice continued smoothly- “I appreciate the difficulty which you must experience in grasping the true significance of this movement. You have seen mighty nations, armed with every known resource of science, at a deadlock on the battlefield. You naturally fail to perceive how a group of Oriental philosophers can achieve what the might o
f Europe failed to achieve. You will remember, in favour of my claims, that we command the service of the world’s genius, and have a financial backing which could settle the National Loans of thristendom ! In other words, exhumation of a large per-centage of the great men who have died in recent years would he impossible. Their tombs are empty.” ” I have heard enough. Drug me kill me; but spare me your confidences.” ” In the crowded foyer of a hotel,” continued Foe-Ii imperturbably, ” of a theatre, of a concert- room; in the privacy of their home, of their office– wherever opixirtunity offered, I caused them to be touched with the point of a hypodermic needle such as this.” He held up a small hypodermic syringe. ” It contained a minute quantity of the’ serum which I am now preparing -the serum whose dis- covery was the crowning achievement of a great scientist’s career (I refer, Dr. Stuart, to my brilliant predecessor). They were buried alive; but no surgeon in Europe or America would have hesitated to certify them dead. Aided by a group of six Hindu fanatics trained as Lughais [grave-diggers] it was easy to gain access to their resting-places. One had the misfortune to be cremated by his family–a great loss to my Council. But the others are now in China, at our headquarters. They are labouring day and night to bnng this war-scarred world under the sceptre of an Eastern Emperor.” ” Faugh ! ” cried Stuart. ” The whole of that war-scarred world will stand armed before you !” ” We realise that, Doctor ; therefore we are pre- pared for it. We spoke of the Norwegian, Henrik Ericksen. This is his most recent contribution to our armament.” Fo-Hi rested one long yellow hand upon a kind of model searchlight. “I nearly committed the clumsy indiscretion of removing you with this little instrument,” he said. ” You recall the episode ? Ericksen’s Disintegrating Ray, Dr. Stuart. The model here possesses a limited range, of course, but the actual instrument has a compass of seven-and-a-half miles. It can readily be carried by a heavy ‘plane ! One such ‘plane, in a flight from Suez to Port Said, could destroy all the shipping in the Canal and explode every grain of ammunition on either shore! Since I must leave England to-night, the model must be destroyed; and, unfortunately, a good collection of bacilli has already suffered the same fate.” Placidly, slowly, and unmoved from his habit of unruffled dignity, Fo-Hi placid the model in a deep mortar, whilst Stuart watched him speechless and aghast. He poured the contents of a large jar into the mortar, whereupon a loud hissing sound broke the awesome silence of the room, and a cloud of fumes arose. ” Not a trace, Doctor! ” said the cowled man. “A little preparation of my own. It destroys the hardest known substance-with the solitary exception of a certain clay-in the same way that nitric acid would destroy tissue-paper. You see, I might legitimately have aspired to become famous among safe-breakers.” ” You have preferred to become infamous among murderers! ” snapped Stuart. ” To murder, Dr. Stuart, I have never stooped. I am a specialist in selective warfare. When you visit the laboratory of our chief chemist in Kiangsu you will be shown the whole of the armoury of the Sublime Order.” Fo-Hi, having added some bright green fluid to that in the flat pan, had now poured the whole into a large test-tube, and was holding it in the flame of the burner. At the moment that it reached boiling- point it became colourless. He carefully placed the whole of the liquid in a retort, to which he attached a condenser. He stood up. Crossing to a glass case which rested upon a table near the diwan, he struck it lightly with his hand. The case contained sand and fragments of rock; but, as Fo-Hi struck it, out from beneath tle pieces of rock darted black active creatures. ” The common black scorpion of Southern India,” he said softly. ” Its venom is the basis of the price- less formula, F. Katalepsis, upon which the structure of our Sublinie Order rests, Dr. Stuart-hence the adoption of a scorpion as our device.” He took up a long slender flask. ” This virus, prepared from a glandular secretion

of the Chinese swamp-adder, is also beyond price. Again, the case upon the pedestal yonder contains five perfect bulbs-three already in flower, as you observe-of an orchid discovered by our chief chemist in certain forests of Burma. It only occurs at extremely rare intervals–eighty years or more-and under highly special conditions. If the other two bulbs flower, I shall be enabled to obtain from the blooms a minimum quantity of an essential oil for which the nations of the earth, if they knew its pro- perties, would gladly empty their treasuries. This case must at all costs accompany me.” ” Yet because you are still in England,” said Stuart huskily, ” I venture to hope that your devil dreams may end on the scaffold.” ” That can never be, Dr. Stuart,” returned Fo-Hi placidly. ” The scaffold is not for such as I. More- over, it is a crude and barbaric institution which I deplore. Do you see that somewhat peculiarly con- structed chair yonder? It is an adaptation, by a brilliant young chemist of Canton, of Ericksen’s Disintegrating Ray. A bell hangs beside it. If you were seated in that chair and I desired to dismiss you, it would merely be necessary for me to strike the bell once with the hammer. Before the vibration of the note had become inaudiblh you would be seeking your ancestors among the shades. It is the Throne of the Gods. Such a death is poetic.” He returned to the table, and, observing meticulous care, emptied the few drops of colourless liquid from the condenser into a test-tube. Holding the tube near a lamp, he examined the contents, then poured the liquid into the curious yellow bottle. A faint vapour arose from it. ” Scotland Yard men may surround the house now I” said Stuart viciously. ” One of the two followers I have retained here with me watches at the gate,” replied Fo-Hi. ” An intruder seeking to enter by any other route-through the hedge, over the wall, or from the river-would cause electric-bells to ring loifdly in this room, the note of the bell signifying the point of entry. Finally, in the event of such a surprise, I have an exit whereby one emerges at a secret spot on the river bank. A motor-boat, suitably concealed, awaits me there.” He placed a thermometer in the neck of the yellow bottle, and the bottle in a rack. He directed the intolerable gaze of his awful eyes upon the man who sat, teeth tightly clenched, watching him from the diwan. ” Ten minutes of life-in England-yet remain to you, Dr. Stuart. In ten minutes this fluid will have cooled to a temperature of ninety-nine degrees, when I shall be enabled safely to make an injection. You will be re-born in Kiangsu.” Fo-Hi walked slowly to the door whereby he had entered, opened it, and went out. The door closed CHAPTER II. THE LIVING DEATH. THE little furnace hissed continuously. A wisp of smoke floated up from the incense-burner. Stuart sat with his hands locked between his knees, and his gaze set upon the yellow flask in the tack. Even now he found it difficult to credit the verity of his case. He found it ‘almost impossible to believe that such a being as Fo-Hi existed, that such deeds had been done, were being done, in England, as those of which he had heard from the sinister cowled man. Save for the hissing of the furnace, and the clanking of the chain as he strove with all his strength to win freedom, that wonderful evil room was silent as the King’s Chamber at the heart of the Great Pyramid. His gaze reverted to the yellow flask. ” Oh, my God ! ” he groaned. Terror claimed him-the terror which he had with difficulty been sending off throughout that nightmare interview with Fo-Hi. Madness threatened him, and he was seized by an almost uncontrollable desire to shout execrations-prayers–he knew not what. He clenched his teeth grimly and tried to think-to plan. He had two chances- The statement left with Inspector Dunbar, in which he had mentioned the existence of a house ” near Hampton Court,” and . . . Miska. That she was one of the tw
o exceptions mentioned by Fo-Hi he felt assured. But was she in this house, and did she know of his presence there ? Even so, had she access to that room of mysteries – of horrors ? And who was the other who remained ? Almost certainly it was the fanatical Hindu, Chunda Lal, of whom she had spoken with such palpable terror, and who watched her unceasingly, untiringly. He would prevent her intervening even if she had power to intervene. His great hope, then, was in Dunbar . . . for Gaston Max was dead. At the coming of that thought-the foul doing to death of the fearless Frenchman-he gnashed his teeth savagely, and strained at the gyves until the pain in

his ankjes brought out beads of perspiration upon his forehead. He dropped his head into his hands. and frenziedly clutched at his hair with twitching fingers. The faint sound occasioned by the opening of one of the sliding doors brought him sharply upright. Miska entered I She looked so bewilderingly beautiful that terror and sorrow fled, leaving Stuart filled only with passionate admiration. She wore an Eastern dress of gauzy, shimmering silk, and high-heeled, gilt Turkish slippers upon her stockingless feet. About her left ankle was a gold bangle, and there was barbaric jewellery upon her arms. She was a figure unreal as all else in that house of dreams, but a figure so lovely that Stuart forgot the yellow flask . . . forgot that less than ten minutes of life remained to him. ” Miska ! ” he whispered. ” Miska I ” She exhibited intense but repressed excitement and fear. Creeping to the second door-that by which Fo-Hi had gone out–she pressed her ear to the lacquered panel and listened intently. Then, coming swiftly to the table, she took up a bunch of keys, approached Stuart, and, kneeling, unlocked the gyves. The scent of jasmine stole to his nostrils. ” God bless you ! ” he said, with stifled ardour. She rose quickly to her feet, standing before him with head downcast. Stuart rose with difficulty. His legs were cramped and aching. He grasped Miska’s hand and endeavoured to induce her to look up. One swift glance she gave him, and looked away again. ” You must go-this instant,” she said. ” I show you the way. There is not a moment to lose …. .” ” Miska !” She glanced at him again. ” You must come with me ! ” ” Ah,” she whispered, ” that is impossible i Have I not told you so ? ” ” You have told me, but I cannot understand. Here, in England, you are free. Why should you remain with that cowled monster ? ” ” Shall I tell you ? ” she asked, and he could feel how she trembled. ” If I tell you, will you promise to believe me-and to go ? ” ” Not without you I ” ” Ah-no, no ! If I tell you that my only chance of life-such a little, little chance-is to stay, will you go ? ” Stuart secured her other hand and drew her towards him, half-resisting. ” Tell me,” he said softly. ” I will believe you- and, if it can spare you one moment of pain or sorrow, I will go as you ask me.” ” Listen,” she whispered, glancing fearfully back toward the closed door, ” Fo-Hi has something that makes people to die, and only he can bring them to life again. Do you believe this ? ” She looked up at him rapidly, her wonderful eyes wide and fearful. He nodded. ” Go on; I know.” “Ah. you know I Very well. On that day in Cairo, when I am taken before him-you remember, I tell you ?-be . . . oh I ” She shuddered wildly, and hid her beautiful face against Stuart’s breast. He threw his arm, about her. “Tell me,” he said. “With the needle, he . . . inject . . .” ” Miska !” Stuart felt the blood rushing to his heart and knew that he had paled. ” There is something else,” she went on, almost inaudibly, ” with which he gives life again to those he has made dead with the needle. It is a light-green liquid tasting like bitter apples; and once each week for six months it must be drunk or else . . . the living death comes. Sometimes I have not seen Fo-Hi for six months at a time; but a tiny flask, one draught, of the green liquid always comes to me wherever I am, every week . .. and twice each year I see him-Fo-Hi . .. and he . . .” Her voice quivered, and ceased. Moving back, she slipped a soft shoulder free of its flimsy covering. Stuart looked-and suppressed a groan. Her arm was dotted with the tiny marks made by a hypodermic syringe I ” You see ? ” she whispered tremulously. ” If I go, I die, and I am buried alive . . . or else, I live until my body . . .” ” Oh, God I ” moaned Stuart. ” The fiend I The merciless, cunning fiend I Is there notking .. .” ” Yes, yes I ” said Miska, looking up. ” If I can get enough of the green fluid and escape: But he tell me once-it was in America-that he only prepares one tiny draught at a time I Listen I must stay, and if he can be captured he must be forced to make this potion. … Oh, go-go I ” Her words ended in a sob, and Stuart held her to him convulsively, his heart filled with such helpless, ferce misery and bitterness as he had never known. ” Go-please go f” she whispered. ” It is my only chance–there is no other. There is not a moment to wait. Listen to me. You will go by that door by

which I come in. There is a better way, through a tunnel he has made to the river bank; but I cannot open the door. Onlyhe has the key. At the end of the passage someone is waiting-” ” Chunda Lal ! ” Miska glanced up rapidly, and then drooped her eyes again. ” Yes-poor Chunda Lal. He is my only friend. Give him this.” She removed an amulet upon a gold chain from about her neck and thrust it into Stuart’s hand.

H. knew de Iew in di pmeewe of “Te SCOIPiOn”

” It seems to you sy: but Chunda Lal is of the East, and he has promised. Oh, be quick I I am afraid. I tell you something. Fo-Hi does not know. but the Police Inspector and many men search the river bank for this house I I -e them from a windok-” ” What I ” cried Stuart. ” Dunbar is here ! ” ” S A–k I” Miska clutched him wildly. ” He is not far away. You will go and bring him here. No-for me do not fear. I put the keys back, and he will think you have opened the lock by some trick-” “Misa I ” “Oh, no more I ” She slipped from his arms, crossed and reopened the lacquered door, revealing a corridor dimly lighted. Stuart foDlowed, and looked alcng the corridor.

” Right to the end.” she whispered. ” and down the steps. You know “-touchiung the amulet which Stuart carried-” how to deal with–Chunda Lal.” But still he hesitated, until she seized his hand and urged him. Thereupon he swept her wildly into his arms. ” Miska, how can I leave you ? It is maddening ! ” ” You must-you must I ” He looked into her eyes, stooped, and kissed her upon the lips. Then, with no other word, he tore himself away and walked quickly along the corridor.

Miska watched him until he was out of sight, then re-entered the great room and closed the door. She turned and- ” Oh, God of mercy ! ” she whispered. Just within the second doorway stood Fo-Hi watching her. CHAPTER III. THE FIFTH SECRET OF RACHE CHURAN. STRICKEN silent with fear. Miska staggered back against the lacquered door, dropping the keys which she held in her hand. Fo-Hi had removed the cowled garment, and was now arrayed in a rich mandarin robe. Through the grotesque green veil which obscured his features the brilliant eyes shone catlike.

” So.” he said softly, “you speed the parting guest. And did I not hear the sound of a chaste salute ? ” Miska watched him, wild-eyed. ” And he knows,” continued the metallic voice. “‘how to deal with Chunda Lal’? But it may he that Chunda Lal will know how to deal with him 1 Zie is expecting an attempt, by I)r. Stuart, to leave this house. He has my orders to de- tain him.” At that, anger conquered terror in the heart of

Miska, and ” You mean he has your orders to kill him ! ” she cried desperately. Fo-Hi closed the door. ” On the contrary, he has my orders to take every possible care of him. Those blind, tempestuous passions which merely make a woman more desir- able find no place in the trained mind of the scientist. That Dr. Stuart covets my choicest possession in no way detracts fro
m his value to my Council.” Miska had never moved from the doorway by which Stuart had gone out; and now, having listened covertly and heard no outcry, her faith in Chunda Lal was restored. Her wonderful eyes narrowed moment- arily, and she spoke with the guile, which seems so naive, of the Oriental woman.

“I care nothing for him-this Dr. Stuart. But he had done you no wrong–” ” Beyond seeking my death–none. I have already said “–the eyes of Fo-Hli gleamed through the hideous veil -” that I bear him no ill-will.” Miska, knowing well the moods of the monstrous being whose unveiled face she had never seen, was not deceived by the suavity of his manner. Nevertheless. she fought down her terror, knowing how much might depend upon her retaining her presence of mind. How much of her interview with Stuart he had over- heard she did not know, nor how much he had witnessed. ” But,” she said, moving away from him, ” he does not matter–this one. Forgive me if I think to let him go; but I am afraid-” Fo-Hi crossed slowly, intercepting her. ” Ah,” said Miska, her eyes opening widely, ” you are going to punish me again ! For why ? Because I am a woman and cannot a’ways be cruel ? ” From its place on the wall Fo-Hi took a whip. At that- ” Ah, no-no I ” she cried. ” You drive me mad I I am only in part of the East, and I cannot bear it- I cannot bear it 1 You teach me to be like the women of England, who are free-and you treat me like the women of China, who are slaves. Once, it did not matter. I thought it was part of a woman’s life to be treated so. But now I cannot bear it !” She

“From what di I maWcu you?”

stamped her foot fiercely upon the floor. ” I tell you I cannot bear it I ” Whip in hand, Fo-Hi stood watching her. ” You release that man–for whom you ‘care nothing ‘-in order that he may bring my enemies about me, in order that he may hand me over to the barbarous law of England. Now, you ‘ cannot bear’ so light a rebuke as the whip. Here, I perceive, is some deep psychological change. Such protests do not belong to the women of my country; they are never heard in the zenana, and would provoke derision in the harems of Stambfll.” ” You have trained me to know that life in a harem is not life, but only the existence of an animal.” ” I have trained you-yes. What fate was before you when I intervened in that Mecca slave-market ? You who are ‘ only in part of the East.’ Do you forget so soon how you cowered there amongst the others, Arabs, Circassians, Georgians, Nubians, striving to veil your beauty from those ravenous eyes ? From what did I rescue you ? ” ” And for what ? ” cried Miska bitterly. ” To use me as a lure-and beat me if I failed.” Fo-Hi stood watching her, and slowly, as he watched, terror grew upon her and she retreated before him, step by step. He made no attempt to follow her, but continued to watch. Then, raising the whip, he broke it across his knee and dropped the pieces on the floor.

At that she extended her hands toward him pitifully. ” Oh, what are you going to do to me ? ” she said. ” Let me go-let me go ! I can no more be of use to you. Give me back my life and let me go-let me go and hide away from them all-from all . . . the world . Her words died away, and ceased upon a sup- pressed hysterical sob. For, in silence, Fo-Hi stood watching her, unmoved. ” Oh,” she moaned, and sank cowering upon a diwan, ” why do you watch me so ? ” ” Because,” came the metallic voice softly, ” you are beautiful with a beauty given but rarely to the daughters of men. The Sublime Order has acquired many pretty women-for they are potent weapons- but none so fair as you. Miska, I would make life sweet for you.” Her heart beating wildly, for she did not know this mood, but divined it to portend some unique horror, Miska crouched, head averted. ” To-night the hour has come to break the whip. To-night the master in me dies. My cloak of wise authority has fallen from me, and I offer myself in bondage to you-my slave ! ” ” This is some trap you set for me I ” she whispered. But Fo-Hi, paying no heed to her words, continued in the same rapt voice- ” Truly have you observed that the Chinese wife is but a slave to her lord. I have said that the relation of master and slave is ended between us. I offer you a companionship that signifies absolute freedom and perfect understanding. Half of all I have-and the world lies in my grasp-is yours. I offer a throne set upon the Seven Mountains ps the Universe. Look into my eyes and read the truth.” But lower and lower she cowered upon the diwan. “No, no I am afraidl” Fo-Hi approached her closely, and abject terror now had robbed her of strength. Her limbs seemed to have become numbed, her tongue clave to the roof of her mouth. ” Fear me no more, Miska,” said Fo-Hi ” I will you nothing but joy. The man who has learned the Fifth Secret of Rache Churan-who has learned how to control his Will–holds a power absolute and beyond perfectibility. You know, who have dwelt beneath my roof, that there is no escape from my will.” His calm was terrible, and his glance through the green veil was like a ray of scorching heat. His voice sank lower and lower. ” There is one frailty, Miska, that even the Adept cannot conquer. It is inherent in every man. Miska, I would not force you to grasp the joy I offer; I would have you accept it willingly. No, do not turn from me I No woman in all the world has ever heard me plead as I plead to you. Never before have I sued for favours. Do not turn from me, Miska I ” Slightly the metallic voice vibrated, and the ruffling of that giant calm was a thing horrible to witness. Fo-Hi extended his long yellow hands, advancing step by step until he stood over the cower- ing girl. Irresistibly her glance was drawn to those blazing eyes which the veil could not hide, and as she met that unblinking gaze her own eyes dilated and grew fixed as those of a sleep-walker. A moment Fo-Hi stood so. Then passion swept him from his feet, and he seized her fiercely. ” Your eyes drive me mad I ” he hissed. ” Your lips taunt me, and I know all earthly greatness to be a mirage, its conquests visions, and its fairness dust. I would rather be a captive in your white arms than the emperor of heaven I Your sweetness intoxicates me, Miska I A fever burns me up I ” Helpless, enmeshed in the toils of that mighty will, Miska raised her head, and gradually her expression changed. Fear was smoothed away from her lovely face as by some magic brush. She grew placid; and finally she smiled-the luresome, caressing smile of the East. Nearer and nearer drew the green veil Then, uttering a sudden fierce exclamation, Fo-Hi thrust her from him. ” That smile is not for me, the man I ” he cried gutturally. ” Ah, I could curse the power that I coveted and set above all earthly joys I I who boasted that he could control his will-I read in your eyes that I am willing you to love me I I seek a gift, and can obtain but a tribute i ” Misha, with a sobbing moan, sank upon the diuwan. Fo-Hi stood motionless, looking straight before him. His terrible calm was restored. ” It is a bitter truth,” he said, ” that to win the world I have bartered the birthright of men-the art of winning a woman’s heart I There is much in our Chinese wisdom. I erred in breaking the whip. I erred in doubting my own prescience, which told me that the smiles I could not woo were given freely to another .. and perhaps the kisses. At least I can set these poor frail human doubts at rest.” He crossed and struck a gong which hung midway between the two doors.

CHAPTER IV. THE GUILE OF THE EAST. HER beautiful face a mask of anguish, Maska cowered upon the diwan, watching the closed doors. Fo-Hi stood in the centre of the great room, with his back to the entrance. Silently one of the lacquered panels slid open, and Chunda Lal entered. He saluted the figure of the veiled Chinaman, but never once glanced in the direction of the diwan from which Miska wildly was watching him. Without turning his head, Fo-Hi, who seemed to detect the presence of the silent Hindu by means of some fifth sense, pointed to a bundle of lon
g rods stacked in a corner of the room. His brown face expressionless as that of a-bronze statue, Chunda Lal crossed and took the rods from their place. ” Tum nsamajhe ho ” ” ‘ Do you understand ? “) said Fo-Hi. Chunda Lal inclined his head. ” Main tdmnhdri bdt mdndngd” ” (“Your orders shall be obeyed “), he replied. ” Ah, God-no I” whispered Miska. ” What are you going to do ? ” ” Your Hindustani was ever poor, Miska,” said Fo-Hi. He turned to Chunda Lal. ” Until you hear the gong,” he said in English. Miska leapt to her feet, as Chunda Lal, never once glancing at her, went out bearing the rods, and closed the door behind him. Fo-Hi turned and confronted her. ” Ta’alas iai [Come hither], Miska,” he said softly. ” Shall I speak to you in the soft Arab tongue? Come to me, lovely Miska. Let me feel how that sorrowful heart will leap like a captive gazelle.” But Miska shrank back from him, pale to the lips. ” Very well.” His metallic voice sank to a hiss. “I employ no force. You shall yield me your heart as a love-offering. Of such motives as jealousy and revenge you know me to be incapable. What I do, I do with a purpose. That compassion of yours shall be a lever to cast you into my arms. Your hatred you shall conquer.” ” Oh, have you no mercy ? Is there nothing human in your heart? Did I say I hate you ? ” ” Your eyes are eloquent, Miska. I cherish two memories of those beautiful eyes. One is of their fear and loathing-of me ; the other is of their sweet softness when they watched the departure of my guest. Listen ! Do you hear nothing? ” In an attitude of alert and fearful attention Miska stood listening. Fo-Hi watched her through the veil with those remorseless blazing eyes. ” I will open the door,” he said smoothly, ” that we may more fully enjoy the protests of one for whom you ‘ care nothing ‘-of one whose lips have pressed your hand.” He opened the door by which Chunda Lal had gone out, and turned again to Miska. Her eyes looked unnaturally dark by contrast with the pallor of her face. Chunda Lal had betrayed her. She no longer doubted it. For he had not dared to meet her glance. His fear of So – Hi had overcome his love for her . . and Stuart had been treacherously seized somewhere in the corridors and rendered helpless by the awful art of the Thugs. ” There is a brief interval,” hissed the evil voice. “Chunda Lal is securing him to the frame and baring the soles of his feet for the caresses of the rod.” Suddenly, from somewhere outside the room, came a sound of dull, regular blows . . . then, a smothered moan. Miska sprang forward and threw herself upon her knees before Fo-Hi, clutching at his robe frantically. ” Ah, merciful God, he is there I Spare him- spare him I No more-no more I ” “He is there ?” repeated So- Hi suavely. ” Assuredly he is there, Miska. I know not by what trick he hoped to deal with Chunda Lal. But, as I informed you, Chunda Lal was forewarned.” The sound of blows continued, followed by that of another, louder groan. “Stop him-top him I ” shrieked Miska ” You ‘care nothing’ for this man. Why do you tremble ? ” ” Oh I” she wailed piteously. “I cannot bear it . oh, I cannot’ bear it I Do what you like with me, but spare him I Ah, you have no mercy I ” Fo-Hi handed her the hammer for striking the gong. ” It is you who have no mercy,” he replied. ” I have asked but one gift. The sound of the gong will end Dr. Stuart’s discomfort . . and will pean that you vounmtarily accept my offer. What I You hesitate ” A stifled scream rang out sharply. “Ah, ye-yes I”

mid ra and Itnekr thu jcnp.

Miska ran and struck the gong, then staggered back to the dlwan’and fell upon it, hiding her face in her hands. The sounds of torture ceased. Fo-Hi closed the door, and stood looking at her where she lay. “I permit you some moments of reflection.” he said, “in order that you may compose yourself to receive the addresses which I shall presently have the honour, and joy, of making to you. Yes-this door is unlocked.” He threw the keys on the table. ” I respect your promise . . . and Chunda Lal guards the oters exits.” He opened the further door, by which he had entered, and went out. Miska, through the fingers of her shielding hands, watched him go. When he had disappeared she sprang up, clenching her teeth, and her face was contorted with anguish. She began to move aimlessly about the room, glancing at the many strange objects on the big table, and looking long and fearfully at the canopied chair beside which hung the bronze bell. Finally- “Oh, Chunda Lal-Chunda Lal I ” she moaned,

and threw herself face downward on the diwan, sobbing wildly. So she lay, her whole body quivering with the frenzy of her emotions, and as she lay there, inch by inch, cautiously, the nearer door began to open. Chunda Lal looked in. Finding the room to be occupied only by Miska, he crossed rapidly to the diwan, bending over her with infinite pity and tenderness. ” Miska ! ” he whispered softly. As though an adder had touched her, Miska sprang to her feet-and back from the Hindu. Her eyes flashed fiercely. ” Ah, you-ou!” she cried at him, with a repressed savagery that spoke of the Oriental blood in her veins. “Do not speak to me-look at me I Do not come near me I I hate you-Cod, how I hate you I ” “Miska-Miska ! ” he said beseechingly. ” You pierce my heart ! You kill me ! Can you not under- stand-” ” Go-go I ” She drew back from him, clenching and unclench- ing her jewelled fingers, and glaring madly into his eye.

e l f “Jo :Lvn “h oe svgl.”a ~K

“Look, Miska I” He took the gold chain and amulet from his bosom. “Your token ! Can you not understand? Yah .4Alla, how little you trust me–and I would die for one glance of your eyes 1 He-Stuart Sahib-has gone, gone long since ! ” ” Ah I Chunda Lal ! ” Miska swayed dizzily, and extended her hands towards him. Chunda Lal glanced fearfully about him. ” Did I not,” he whispered, with an intense ardour in his soft voice, ” did I not lay my life, my service- all I have-at your feet ? Did I not vow to serve you in the name of Bhowirni ? He is long since gone to bring his friends-who are searching from house to house along the river. At any moment they may be here I ” Miska dropped weakly upon her knees before him and clasped his hand. ” Chunda Lal-my friend I Oh, forgive me I ” Her voice broke. ” Forgive . Chunda Lal raised her gently. ” Not upon your knees to me, Miska. It was a little thing to do-tor you. Did I not tell you that- he-had cast his eyes upon you ? Mine was the voice you heard to cry out. Ah, you do not know-it is to gain time that I seem to- serve him I Only this, Miska “-he revealed the blade of a concealed knife- ” stands between Fo-Hi and-you I Had I not read it in his eyes ? ” He raised his glance upward fanatically.

” Jey Bhowdni, give me strength-give me courage I For if I fail . He glared at her passionately, clutching his bosom; then, pressing the necklet to his lips, he concealed it again, and bent, whispering urgently- ” Listen again-i reveal it to you without price or hope of reward, for I know there is no love in your heart to give, Miska; I know that it takes you out of my sight for always. But I tell you what I learn in the house of Abdul Rozan. Your life is your own, Miska ! With the needle “-yet closer he bent to her ear, and even softer he spoke-” he pricks your white skin-no more I The vial he sends contains a harmless cordial ! ” “Chunda Lal I ” Miska swayed again dizzily, clutching at the Hindu icr support. ” Quick-fly I ” he said, leading her to the door. “I will see he does not pursue I ” ” No-no I You shall shed no blood for me ! Not even . . . is You come also!” ” And it he escape, and know that I was false to him, he will call me back, and I shall be dragged to those yellow eyes, though I am a thousand miles awayl I nshalla, those eyes I No-I must strike swift, or be robs me of my strength.” For a long moment Miska hesitated. ” Then I also remain, Chunda Lal, my friend I We will wait-and watch-and listen for the bells- here-that tell they are in the grounds of the house.”

” Ah, Miska “-the glance
of the Hindu grew fearful-” you are clever-but he is the Evil One I I fear for you. Fly now. There is yet time . . .” A faint sound attracted Miska’s attention. Placing a quivering finger to her lips, she gently thrust Chunda Lal out into the corridor. ” He returns I ” she whispered. ” If I call-come to me, my friend I But we have not long to wait I ” She closed the door. CHAPTER V. WHAT HAPPENED TO STUART. STUART had gained the end of the corridor, unmolested. There he found a short flight of steps, which he descended, and came to a second corridor forming a right angle with the first. A lamp was hung at the foot of the steps, and by its light he discerned a shadowy figure standing at the further end of this second passage. A moment he hesitated, peering eagerly along the corridor. The man who waited was Chunda Lal. Stuart approached him, and silently placed in his hand the gold amulet. Chunda Lal took it as one touching something holy, and, raising it, he kissed it with reverence. His dark eyes were sorrowful. Long and ardently he pressed the little trinket to his lips, then concealed it under the white robe which he wore and turned to Stuart. His eyes were sorrowful no more, but fierce as the eyes of a tiger. ” Follow I ” he said. He unlocked a door and stepped out into a neglected garden, Stuart close at his heels. The sky was cloudy, and the moon obscured. Never glancing back, Chunda Lal led the way along a path skirting a high wall, upon which climbing fruit-trees were grow- ing, until they came to a second door, and this also the Hindu unlocked. He stood aside. ” To the end of this lane,” he said, in his soft, queerly modulated voice, ” and along the turning to the left to the river bank. Follow the bank towards the palace and you will meet them.” “I owe you my life,” said Stuart. “Go I You owe me nothing,” returned the Hindu fiercely. Stuart turned and walked rapidly along the lane. Once he glanced back. Chunda Lal was looking after him . . . and he detected something that gleamed in his hand-gleamed not like gold, but like the blade of a knife I Turning the corner, Stuart began to run. For he was unarmed and still weak, and there had been that in the fierce black eyes of the Hindu when he had scorned Stuart’s thanks which had bred suspicion and distrust. From the position of the moon Stuart judged the hour to be something after midnight. No living thing stirred about him. The lane in which he now found himself was skirted on one side by a hedge beyond which was open country, and on the other by a con- tinuation of the high wall which evidently enclosed the grounds of the house that he had just quitted. A cool breeze fanned his face, and he knew that he was approaching the Thames. Ten more paces, and he came to the bank. In his weak condition the short run had exhausted him. His bruised throat was throbbing painfully, and he experienced some difficulty in breathing. He leaned up against the moss-grown wall, looking back into the darkness of the lane. No one was in sight. There was no sound save the gentle lapping of the water upon the bank. He would have liked to bathe his throat and to quench his feverish thirst, but a mingled hope and despair spurred him, and he set off along the narrow path towards where, dimly above some trees, he could discern a group of red-roofed buildings. Having proceeded for a considerable distance, he stood still, listening for any sound that might guide him to the search-party–or warn him that he was followed. But he could hear nothing. Onward he pressed, not daring to think of what the future held for him, not daring to dwell upon the memory-the maddening sweetness–of that parting kiss. His eyes grew misty, he stumbled as he walked, and became oblivious of his surroundings. His awakening was a rude one. Suddenly a man, concealed behind a bush, sprang out upon him and bore him irresistibly to the ground. “Not a word I” rapped his assailant, “or I ‘ll knock you out I ” Stuart glared into the red face lowered so threaten- ingly over his own, and- ” Sergeant Sowerby 1″ he gasped. The grip upon his shoulders relaxed. “Damn!” cried Sowerby. “If it isn’t Dr. Stuart I ” ” What is that ?” called another voice from the shelter of the bush. ” Pardieu, say it again I . . . Dr. Stuart I ” And Gaston Max sprang out !

” Max I ” murmured Stuart, staggering to his feet. ” Max ! ” ” Nom d’un nom, two dead men meet ! ” exclaimed Gaston Max. ” But indeed “-he grasped Stuart by both hands, and his voice shook with emotion- “I thank God that I see you ! ” Stuart was dazed. Words failed him, and he swayed dizzily. “I thought you were murdered,” said Max, still grasping his hand, ” and I perceive that you had made the same mistake about me I Do you know what saved me, my friend, from the consequences of that flightful blow? It was the bandage of ‘ Le Balafrd.’ ” He unscrewed a flask and handed it to Stuart. ” A terrible experience has befallen you,” he said. ” But tell me, do you know where it is-the lair of ‘The Scorpion ‘ ? ” “I do,” replied Stuart, having taken a welcome draught from the flask. ” Where is Dunbar? We must carefully surround the place or he will elude us.” ” Ah, as he eluded us at ‘ The Pidgin House’ ! ” cried Max. ” Do you know what happened ? They had a motor-boat in the very cellar of that warren I At high tide they could creep out into the cutting, drawing their craft along from pile to pile, and reach the open river at a point fifty yards above the house I In the damnable darkness they escaped. But we have two of them.” ” It was all my fault,” said Sowerby guiltily. ” I missed my spring when I went for the Chinaman who came out first, and he gave one yell. The old fox in the shop heard it, and the fat was in the fire.” ” You didn’t miss your spring at me,” retorted Stuart ruefully. ” No,” agreed Sowerby. ” I didn’t mean to miss a second time ! ” ” What’s all this row ? ” came a gruff voice. “Ah, Inspector Dunbar I” said Max. Dunbar walked up the path, followed by a number of men. At first he did not observe Stuart, and- ” You’ll be waking all the neighbourhood,” he said. ” It ‘s the next big house, Sowerby-the one we thought, surrounded by the brick wall: There’s no doubt, I think. . . . Why I ” He had seen Stuart, and he sprang forward with outstretched hand. “Thank God I” he cried, disregarding his own counsel about creating a disturbance. ” This is fine. Eh, man, but I ‘m glad to see you I ” ” And I am glad to be here ! ” Stuart assured him. They shook hands warmly. “You have read my statement, of course ? ” asked Stuart. ” I have,” replied the Inspector, and gave him a swift glance of the tawny eyes. ” And, considering that you’ve nearly been strangled, I ’11 forgive you ! But I wish we ‘d known about this house-” ” Ah, Inspector,” interrupted Gaston Max, ” but you have never seen ZAra el-Khal&! I have seen her—and I forgive him also I ” CHAPTER VI. ” JEY BHOWANI 1 ” AS the door closed upon Chunda Lal, Miska stepped back from it and stood, unconsciously, in a curiously rigid and statuesque attitude, her arms pressed to her sides and her hands directed outward. It was the physical expression of an intense mental effort to gain control of herself. Her heart was leaping wildly in her breast–for the future, that had held only horror and a living tomb, now opened out sweetly before her. She had only to ply her native wiles for a few precious moments . . . and someone would have her in his arms, to hold her safe from harm I If the will of the awful Chinaman threatened to swamp her individuality, then-there was Chunda Lal. But, because of his helpless, unselfish love, she hesitated, even at the price of remaining alone again with Fo-Hi, to demand any further sacrifice of the Hindu. Furthermore, he might fail The lacquer door slid noiselessly open, and Fo-Hi entered. He paused, watching her. ” Ah,” he said, in that low-pitched voice which was so terrifying, “a ghkaiyeh of Ancient Egypt I How beautiful you are, Misha I You transport me to the court of golden Pharaoh. Miska, daughter of the moon-magic of Isis, ZAra el-KhalM I At any hour my enemies may be clamouring at my doors. But this
hour is mine I ” He moved at his customary slow gait to the table, took up the keys . . . and locked both doors I Miska, perceiving in this her chance of aid from Chunda Lal utterly destroyed, sank slowly upon the diwas, her pale face expressing the utmost conster- nation. Suppose the police did not come I Fo-Hi dropped the keys on the table again and approached her. She stood up, retreating before him. He inhaled sibilantly, and paused. ” So your ‘ acceptance ‘ was only a trick,” he said. ‘Your loathing of my presence is as strong as ever.

“Well “-at the word, as a volcano leaps into life, the hidden fires which burned within this terrible man leapt up consumingly–” if the gift of the flower is withheld, at least I will grasp the Dead Sea fruit i ” He leapt toward Miska-and she fled shrieking before him. Running around a couch which stood near the centre of the room, she sprang to the door and beat upon it madly. ” Chunda Lal I ” she cried. ” Chunda Lal ! ” Fo-Hi was close upon her, and she turned, striving to elude him. ” Oh, merciful God I Chunda Lal I ” The name burst from her lips in a long, frenzied scream. Fo-Hi had seized her I

Thur ca Kaah of blM`g gh

Grasping her shoulders, he twisted her about so that he could look into her eyes. A low, shuddering cry died away, and her gaze became set, hypnotically, upon Fo-Hi. He raised one hand, fingers outstretched, before her. She swayed slightly. ” Forget i ” he said, in a deep, guttural voice of command. “Forget. I will it. We stand in an empty world, you and I-you, Miska, and I, Fo-Hi, your master.” ” My master,” she whispered mechanically. ” Your lover.” ” My lover.” ” You give me your life, to do with as I will.” ” As you will.”

Fo-Hi momentarily raised the blazing eyes. ” Oh, empty shell of a vanished joy I ” he cried. Then, frenziedly grasping Miska by her arms, he glared into her impassive face. ” Your heart leaps wildly in your breast ” he whispered tensely. ” Look into my eyes ..” Miska sighed, and opened her eyes yet more widely. She shuddered, and a slow smile appeared upon her lips. The lacquer screen masking the window was pushed open, and Chunda Lal leapt in over the ledge. As Fo-Hi drew the yielding, bypnotised girl towards him, Chunda L.al, a gleaming kuhri held aloft, ran with a silent panther step across the floor. He reached Fo-Hi, drew himself upright; the glittering blade quivered . . . and Fo-Hi divined his presence. Uttering a short, guttural exclamation, he thrust Miska aside. She staggered dazedly, and fell prone upon the floor. The quivering blade did not descend. Fo-Ili drew himself rigidly upright, extending his hands, palms downward, before him. He was exerting a superhuman effort. The breath whistled through his nostrils. Chunda Lal, knife upraised, endeavoured to strike; but his arm seemed to have become incapable of movement, and to be held, helpless, aloft. Staring at the rigid figure before him, he began to pant like a man engaged in a wrestle for life. Fo-Hi stretched his right arm outward, and with a gesture of hand and fingers beckoned to Chunda Lal to conme before him. And now Miska awakened as from a fevered dream, looked wildly about her, and then, serpentine, began to creep to the table upon which the keys were lying. Always watching the awful group of two, she rose slowly, snatched the keys, and leapt across to the open window. .. Chunda Lal, swollen veins standing out cord-like on his brow, his gaze set hypnotically upon the moving hand, dropped his knife, and began to move in obedience to the will of Fo-Hi. As he came finally face to face with the terrible Adept of Rachi Churhn, Miska disappeared into the shadow of the balcony. Fo-Hi, by an imperious gesture, commanded Chunda Lal to kneel and bow his head. The Hindu, gasping like a drowning man, obeyed. Thereupon Fo-Hi momentarily relaxed his giant concentration, and almost staggered as he glared down at the kneeling man. But never was that dreadful gaze removed from Chunda Lal. And now the veiled man drew himself rigidly upright again, and stepped backward until the fallen kuhri lay at his feet. He spoke- ” Chunda Lal I ” The Hindu rose, gazing before him with unseeing eyes. His forehead was wet with perspiration. Fo-Hi pointed to the knife. Chunda Lal, without removing his sightless gaze from the veiled face, stooped, groped until he found the knife, and rose with it in his hand. Back stepped Fo-Hi, and back, until he could touch the big table. He moved a brass switch-and a trap opened in the floor behind Chunda Lal. Fo-Hi raised his right hand, having the fingers tightly closed as if grasping the hilt of a knife. With his left hand he pointed to the trap. Again he spoke- ” Tim samajhk ho I ” Mechanically Chunda Lal replied- ” Ai, Sahib, tdmhara hlkm jaldi hiydjaiga.” (Yes, I hear and obey.) As Fo-Hi raised his clenched right hand, so did Chunda Lal raise the khlkri. Fo-Hi extended his left hand rigidly towards the Hindu, and seemed to force him, step by step, back towards the open trap. Almost at the brink Chunda Lal paused, swayed, and began to utter short, agonised cries. Froth appeared upon his lips. Raising his right hand yet further aloft, Fo-Hi swiftly brought it down, performing the gesture of stabbing himself to the heart. His ghastly reserve deserted him. ” Jey Bhowdnl I ” he screamed savagely. ” Yak Allah I ” Chunda Lal, uttering a loud groan, stabbed himself and fell backward into the opening. Ensued a mon- strous crash of broken glass. As he fell, Fo-Hi leapt to the brink of the trap, glaring down madly into the cellar below. His yellow fingers opened and closed spasmodically. ” Lie there,” he shrieked, ” my ‘ faithful ‘ servant I The ants shall pick your bones I ” He grasped the upstanding door of the trap and closed it. It descended with a reverberating boom. Fo-Hi raised his clenched fists and stepped to the door. Finding it locked, he stood looking towards the open screen before the window. ” Miska ! ” he whispered despairingly. He crossed to the window and was about to look out, when a high-pitched electric-bell began to ring in the room. Instantly Fo-Hi closed the screen and turned, looking in the direction from whence the sound of

ringing proceeded. As he did so, a second bell, in another key, began to ring-followed by a third-a fourth. Momentarily the veiled man exhibited evidence of indecision. Then from beneath his robe he took a small key. Approaching an ornate cabinet set against the wall to the left of one of the lacquer doors, he inserted the key in a hidden lock, and slid the entire cabinet partly aside, revealing an opening. Fo-Hi bent, peering down into the darkness of the passage below. A muffled report came, a flash out of the blackness of the river tunnel, and a bullet passed through the end of the cabinet upon which his hand was resting, smashing an ivory statuette and shattering the glass. Hurriedly he slid the cabinet into place again and stood with his back to it, arms outstretched. ” Miska ‘” he said-and a note of yet deeper despair had crept into the harsh voice. Awhile he stood thus; then he drew himself up with dignity. The bells had ceased. Methodically Fo-Hi began to take certain books from the shelves and to cast them into the great metal bowl which stood upon the tripod. Into the bowl he poured the contents of a large glass jar. Flames and clouds of smoke arose. He paused, listening. Confused voices were audible, seemingly from all around him, together with a sound of vague movements. Fo-Hi took up vials and jars and dashed them to pieces upon the tiled hearth in which the furnace rested. Test-tubes, flasks, and retorts he shattered; and finally, raising the large glass case of orchids, he dashed it down amid the d6bris of the other nameless monstrosities unknown to Western science. CHAPTER VII. THE WAY OF A SCORPION. A BLACK cloud swept past the face of the moon, and cold illumination flooded the narrow lane and patched with light the drive leading up to the front of the isolated mansion. Wrought-iron gates closed both entrances, and a high wall, surmounted by broken glass and barbed w
ire, entirely surrounded the grounds. ” There is an iron balcony jutting out amongst the ivy just above and to the right of the porch I ” cried Stuart, who had been peering up the moon- patched drive. “I would wager that is the room, Max I Ah, here comes Inspector Dunbar . . . and, someone is with him I ” Dunbar appeared at the double around the corner of the lane which led riverward, and beside him ran a girl who presented a bizarre figure beside the gaunt Scotsman, and a figure wildly out of place in that English riverside setting. It was Miska, arrayed in her flimsy harem dress I ” Miska I ” cried Stuart, and sprang towards hpr, sweeping her hungrily into his arms-forgetful of, indifferent to, the presence of Max and Dunbar. ” Ahl ” sighed the Frenchman. ” Yes, she is beautiful I ” Trembling wildly, Miska clung to Stuart and began to speak, her English more broken than ever, because of her emotion. ” Listen-quick I ” she panted. ” Oh, do not hold me so tight I I have all the house-keys-look I ” She held up a bunch of keys. ” But not the keys of the gates. Two men have gone to the end of the tunnel where the boat is hid beside the river. Some- one-he better climb this gate, and by the ivy he can reach the room in which Fo-Hi is. You come with me I ” She clung to Stuart, looking up into his eyes. ” Yes–yes, Miska I ” ” Oh, Chunda Lal I”–she choked down a sob. ” Be quick-be quick I He will kill him–he will kill him I” ” Off you go, Doctor I ” cried Max. ” Come along, Dunbar I ” He began to climb the ironwork of the gate. ” This way I ” said Miska, dragging Stuart by the . arm. ” Oh, I am wild with fear and sorrow and joy I ” ” With joy, dear little Miska I ” whispered Stuart, as he followed her. They passed around the bend into the narrower lane which led towards the river, and upon which the garden door opened. Stuart detained her. If the fate of the whole world had hung in the balance-as, indeed, perhaps it did–he could not have acted otherwise. He raised her bewitching face and kissed her ardently. She trembled and clung to him rapturously. “I live I ” she whispered. ” Oh, I am nid with happiness I It is Chunda Lal that gives me life-for he tells me the truth. It is not with the living-death that he touches me; it is a trick-it is all a trick to bind me to him Oh, Chunda Lal-hurry, he is going to kill him I ” But supreme above all the other truths in the world-the joyous truth that Miska was to live set Stuart’s heart on fire.

” Thank God I” he said fervently. ” Oh, thank God, Miska I ” At the garden-door a group of men awaited them. Sergeant Sowerby and two assistants remaining to watch the entrance and the lane, Miska led Stuart and the burly Inspector Kelly along that path beside the wall which Stuart so well remembered. ” Hurry I” she whispered urgently. ” We must try to’reach him before . ” You fear for Chunda Lal ? ” said Stuart. ” Oh, yes I He has a terrible power, Fo-Hi, which he never employs with me, until to-night. Ah, it is only Chunda Lal who saved me ! But Chunda Lal he can command with his Will. From it, once he has made anyone a slave to it, there is no escape. I have seen one in the city of Quebec, in Canada, forget all else and begin to act in obedience to the will of Fo-Hi, who is thousands of miles away I ” ” My God i ” murmured Stuart. ” What a horrible monster I ” They had reached the open door beyond which showed the dimly lighted passage. Miska hesitated. ” Oh, I am afraid I ” she whispered. She thrust the keys into the hand of Inspector Kelly, pointing to one of them, and- ” That is the key I ” she said. ” Have your pistol ready. Do not touch anything in the room, and do not go in if I tell you not to. Come.” They pressed along the passage, came to the stair, and were about to ascend when there ensued a dull, reverberating boom, and Miska shrank back into Stuart’s arms with a stifled shriek. ” Oh, Chunda Lal I ” she moaned. ” Chunda Lal I It is the trap 1 ” ” The trap I ” said Inspector Kelly. ” The cellar trap. He has thrown him down .. . to the ants I ” Inspector Kelly uttered a short laugh; but Stuart repressed a shudder. He was never likely to forget the skeleton of the Nubian mute which had been stripped by the ants in sixty-nine minutes I ” We are too late !” whispered Miska. ” Oh, listen–listen I ” Bells began to ring somewhere above them. ” Max and Dunbar are in I ” said Kelly. ” Come on, Sir I Follow closely, boys ! ” He ran up the stairs and along the corridor to the door at the end. A muffled shot sounded from somewhere in the depths of the house. “That’s Harvey I” said one of the men who followed. ” Our man must have tried to escape by the tunnel to the river bank ! ” Inspector Kelly placed the key in the lock of the door. It was at this moment that Gaston Max, climbing up to the front balcony by means of the natural ladder afforded by the ancient ivy, grasped the iron railing and drew himself up to the level of the room. By this same stairway Chunda Lal had ascended to death, and Miska had climbed down to life. ” Mind the ironwork doesn’t give way, Sir l” called Dunbar from below. ” It is strong,” replied Max. ” Join me here, my friend.” Max, taking a magazine pistol from his pocket, stepped warily over the ledge into the mysterious half- light behind the great screen. As he did so, one of the lacquer doors was unlocked from the outside, and across the extraordinary, smoke-laden room he saw Inspector Kelly enter. He saw something else. Seated in a strangely shaped canopied chair was a figure wearing a rich mandarin robe, but having its face covered with.a green veil. ” Mon Dieu, at last I” he cried, and leapt into the room. ” ‘ The Scorpion’ I ” Even as he leapt, and as the Scotland Yard men closed in upon the chair also, all of them armed and all half-fearful, a thing happened which struck awe to every heart-for it seemed to be supernatural. Raising a metal hammer which he held in his hand, Fo-Hi struck the bronze bell hung beside the chair. It emitted a deep, loud note . . . There came a flash of blinding light, an intense crackling sound-and a dense cloud of pungent fumes rose in the heated air. Dunbar had just climbed in behind Gaston Max, and- ” Oh, my God I ” he cried, yet half-blinded by the flash. ” Look-look I” A deathly silence claimed them all. Just within the doorway Stuart appeared, having his arm about the shoulders of Miska. The Throne of the Gods was empty I A thin coating of grey dust was settling upon it, and upon the dais which supported it. They had witnessed a scientific miracle . . . the complete and instantaneous disintegration of a human body. Gaston Max was the first to recover speech. ” We are defeated,” he said. “‘ The Scorpion,’ surrounded, destroys himself. It is the way of a scorpion.” ru END.

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Issue 0. - Vol error

Dec, 02 1918

Illustrated London News