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fAix RIGHTS RXSRRVED.J

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fAix RIGHTS RXSRRVED.J THE Burglary at Bayfield Court BY CHARLES D. LESLIE, Author of A Trap Within a Trap," The Confidence of Dr. Smart," &c. "Gold plates," announced young Richard Partridge, "were made to be looked at, not ..ten off." Brenda Waldron laughed. "I don't agree with you, Mr. Richard," she said, "indeed I feel quite proud to think I'll be able to say henceforth I've dined off gold plate. Mr. Partridge is quite right to use his gold dinner service oú state occasion such as to- flight-that's what they do at the King's Court." "We only use it once a year, on my birth- day," ponderously explained Mr. Partridge. "I'm a self-made man; as I've told you be- fore, Mrs. Waldron, but when I was an office boy forty-five years ago I promised myself I should one day own a gold dinner service and dine off it, and I've kept my word." "I wish I could keep all the promises I've made to myself," laughed Brerda. I remem- ber one of them was to marry a millionaire." She looked across the table to her husband with a smile, but Jack Waldron did not re- spond. "Jack, why don't you apologise for Riot being a millionaire?" she cried. "I assure you I'm very sorry I'm not," he repii&B at length. "No," said their host complaisantly, "we can't all keep our early ambitions. I've been favoured by fortune-not that I haven't worked hard for my money, harder than you ever will, I fear, Richard." It was not a lively dinner party, this birth- day feast of the wealthy Mr. Partridge. Mrs. Partridge never talked during dinner, she liked to do one thing at a time, and eating her dinner occupied her mind exclusively. Young Richard was present only because he must. He found his father rather more tiresome on his birthday than on ordinary occasions; heartily did he wish Mr. Partridge were not the "self-made" man he callsd himself, so that be could be spared the tedious histories of his parents' early struggles which were being continually dinned into him as examples to imitate. The two guests were Mr. and Mrs. Wal- dron, a young couple who lived in a tiny villa within a stone's throw of Bayfield Court, the mansion in Putnev Mr. Partridge occupied. Jack Waldron held a post in an Insurance Company. Their rich neighbour had taken a fancy to the Waldrons,* often asked them to dine and treated them with somewhat patron- ising kindness. Brenda got on well with Mrs. Partridge, who was colourless and uninte- resting, and Jack and Richard Partridg3 were good friends. The father kept a stern control on Richard, and :t was often a relief to the latter to slip away after a dreary dinner at home and spend the rest of tha evening at Sumatra Villa. The dinner had been served upon the cele- brated gold plates made specially for the mil- lionaire and costing ten thousand pounds. In her heart Brenda agreed with Richard—ordi- nary dinner ware was nicer to eat off, but it was politic to agree with the host. Dinner was just over, the Jast of the gold plates had disappeared, the Sevres dessertselWice had taken their places, and the servants their de- parture. "I suppose the gold dinner service is care- fully guarded at night?" said Mrs. Waldron to her host, making conversation. "As safe as human ingenuity can devise, Mrs. Waldron. A Chubb safe is fixed in the room Hoskins occupies, the windows have iron bars, there is a patent lock on the door; and he tells me he always keeps a loaded re- volver by his bedside. "Indeed," murmured Brfenda. "It's not so safe as it sounds," flippantly remarked Richard. "I wouldn't reckon it a hard crib to crack if I were a burglar." "How do you make that out?" asked Jack Waldron, joining suddenly into the talk. He had beer. strangely silent all dinner time. "Well, Hoskins is honest, perhaps, but I doubt his pluck and I doubt his sobriety. He bas only to forget to lock his door and a bur- glar has only to come along and open it, wake him up, terrorise him into giving up the key, g and there you are," airily concluded Richard. "Hoskins is an ex-army man," said Mr. Partridge. "I don't think he would be fright- st,ed so easily as you seem to imagine." "My dear," said Mrs. Partridge to Brenda at this juncture. The elder lady had eaten a large bunch of grapes, two bananas, and a Ereserved apricot, in a word she had finished er dessert as well as her dinner and wanted to start her after dinner nap in the drawing- room. Obedient to the signal Mrs. Waldron rose and the two ladies rustled out. They had sat long at table, and when the gentlemen came to the drawing-room Brenda played and sang several songs; she had a typical drawing-room voice, sweet but of small compass. As usual Mr. Partridge paid her ponderous compliments on her playing; and at eleven she and Jack took their depar- ture, walking home through the Court gar- den; a wicket gate at the end of it letting them out close by their hotffce. They went into the sitting-room and Brenda turned up the gas. "Jack," she said, "what is the matter with .j you, you've been a positive wet blanket all the evening? We shan't be asked to dine at the Court again if you can't be more lively and entertaining than you were to-night." "Hang the Partridges," burst out the young man. "I wish we didn't know them. I wish they hadn't takeq. us up." "Mir dear Jack!" "It a irritating, associating with people who are so, beastly rich, it only emphasises our poverty. Here are we just rubbing along on two hundred and fifty a year and Partridge making about two hundred and fifty a day. Look at our shabby little eight-roomed villa and compare it with that great mansion we've come from. It makes me feel like a Socialist to have the fellow flaunting his gold plate be- fore my nose. It's worth ten thousand pounds, think of that! If it belonged to me I'd melt it down and sell it and invest the money; it would bring in four or five hundred a year and we shouldn't have to screw." "But we aren't likely to have it given us," said the young wife practically. "No, he never gives us anything and he never will, he's mean like all rich people. We're young and lively and we entertain him, he likes your singing and he likes to play bil- liards with me, that's why we're asked there. Jove! if I only had that gold plate." Brenda was going to laugh, but suddenly grew grave. "Jack," she asked, softly laying ber hand on her husband's shoulder, "is any- thing the matter—ybu, you haven't been bet- ting again, have you?" "Haven't I promised." he replied im. patiently. was a very loyal woman, and would have been furious with anyone who hinted Jack WM other than perfect, but the truth was he had one fault, he could not resist an occasional flutter in a mild way over a race. He invariably lost, and consequently money for « time extra "tight" in money marker- phraseology nt Sumatra" Villa. He fed promised never to bet beyond half a vrifiwm again. The wife wondered uneasily, ere ebe fell asleep,, if he bad kept his word." Meat urnkg < letter came from her ="Sey, who lived in Norfolk, asking her to come and May for a week; her sister was away and Mrs. Adam* Alone. "Shol I p, Jackr* she asked her husband. "Ob, ft*, go Brea dear, the change will do JOB good," be anawered, so Mrs. Waldron, replying, wrote she would be with her mother ea the Tfeoraday following, travelling by the :five ordwt express from Liverpool-street. But she did not feel particularly anxious to leave London, she was tineasj about Jack, he had sosaseihicg Ø8 bis mind, something he was de- termined to keep to himself, and a shadow lay between them He seemed even pleased to be rid mi ber, so the wife felt, and her pride was burl Ow be-lo Jack good-bye on the Thursday iB-oraiag. It was hi8 busy day at the office mscS be wmdd be unable to see her off at Liverpool-street. He kissed her affection- ately. "When you come back, Bren, perhaps jouS find a big change in our fortune," he ewd izjjpoiaiveJy. '0 "Wbst do you mean, Jack?" she cried. **¥m ge*ag to paint the front pailings next Svtondap afternoon," he answered after a pause, laughing, "the place will look so fine 4hen you come back you won't know it." Brenda left in a cab to catch the District train at Putney for Broad-street. Sarah, who represented the domestic staff at Sumatra Villa, was also going away for two days, Jack declaring he would do very well by himself for that time. It was Sarah's excitement at this event that caused her to forget to order the cab, Mrs. Waldron consequently was late in leaving, missed her train at Putney, and through the half hour's delay lost the express at Liverpool-street by a bare half minute. It was excessively annoying, for it was the last train of the day, so there was nothing for it but to send her mother a wire and go home again. She left her box and returned with only her bag to her empty home to spend a long dull evening. Jack had said he was going to a theatre or music hall and she did not sit up for him, but in a spirit of fun before going to bed removed all traces of her presence from the sitting-room; what a start it would give him on going upstairs to find her there She lay awake waiting for him, but sleep overtook her while she did so. A clock striking outside woke her, and, un- certain as to the number of strokes, she struck a light to find it was three o'clock. And where was Jack? He could not be sleeping in his dressing-room adjoining the bedroom, for there was no bed there, but she rose and peeped in to make sure. It was empty, he had evidently not returned. At this moment she heard a key grate in the lock of the front door and her husband entered the houae. She heard his voice he wrrs speaking to someone, who was accom- panying him; Brenda stood by the bedroom door in her night-dress and listened atten- tively.J. Yes, some man was with him and they were both carrying something heavy. They went into- the sitting-room and there were two separate and distinct sounds as they set down their burdens. It was a kind of mumed jingle. Then Jack lit the gas and went to the cel- laret, and she heard the tinkle of glasses. Had Waldron been alone his wife would have run down or called to him from the stairs, but the presence of the stranger tied her tongue and she went back to bed without acquainting her husband of her return. The villa was very modern, and sounds carried easily through the thin walls. She heard the voices and a fragmentary word now and then as she lay in bed. Presently Jack pronounced the name of Hoskins and both men laughed. She had been vaguely wondering what he had brought home, what was in the two heavy bags or packages that jingled when set down. The name of the Bayfield Court butler gave her a clue, or rather suggested an idea that seemed for the moment to stop her heart beating, so awful was it. Jack's sudden interest in the subject when Dick Partridge had affirmed the gold plate could be so easily stolen, the savage envy of the millionaire's wealth he had expressed to her, his moroseness since the dinner and his parting words, what did they suggest but that he and an accomplice had stolen the plate and brought it to the villa? Brenda lay white and trembling, trying to tell her- self she was a goose, unable to dismiss the suggestion as utterly improbable. Oh, if only Jack would come upstairs! But when about half an hour later the other man left, Jack stil! remained below, and Brenda could not for some time summon up courage to seek him. Dawn came while she hesitated, the season was early summer, she put on a dressing-gown and stole down- On the dining-room sofa by the faint light of dawn she saw Jack asleep, he had taken off his boots and collar and with his face to the wall slumbered peacefully. On the table near him lay a key which fBrenda recognised as the key of the cupboard under the stairs. It was always in the lock; what did its pre- sence there signify? She took it up and going into the hall passage opened the cupboard. Two bulky carpet bags completely filled it, thev were only strapped and one easily opened. The contents were a portion of the Partridge gold plate in their green baize wrappings! Her worse feare realised, Brenda sank to the floor in numb despair. The whole world seemed crumbling about her ears. Jack, her husband, the man she loved, the man she was bound to for life, was a thief, a vulgar com- mon thief, a despicable thief, for he had rob- bed a man who was his friend, using his knowledge of the house and the people in it to successfully carry out this audacious bur- glary. jr. After a while she recovered herself suffi- ciently to sit up and reflect. It was not her duty to denounce her husband to the world, she decided, so mechanically, she restrapped the bag, locked the cupboard again, and took the key back where she found it. Jack still slumbered, twice Brenda put out her hand to wake him, twice her heart failed her, and she crept upstairs to bed to indulge in ihe feminine luxury of a good cry. About seven she heard Jack moving below, he came up8tairs and went into the dressing- room, then to the bath room and back again to dress, plainly unaware of her proximity; and she, shrinking from the inevitable scene j when she would have to tell him she knew all, lay still. He went downstairs, and she heurd the front door close. She ran to the window whieU commanded a view of part of Bayfield Court garden. Yes, she was not mistaken, Jack was going there to breakfast. Mrs. Partridge had no doubt heard he was quite alone and asked him. The audacity of the step was amazing, yet it was evidently the best thing to do and tend to • avert falling on him —an extremely unlikely event in any case. Brenda's head was aching -novf from worry and want of sleep, and returning to bed she lay in a semi-unconxcious state totally in- capable of thought. Vaguely she heard Jack return for a few minutes downstairs an hour later and then quit the house; she fell asleep until past noon, then cradled down a tired and miserable wreck, boiled some water over the gas stove and made herself a cup of tea. There was ample time before her husband returned to decide on her line of conduct, but when she had finished dressing she could only lie on the sofa Jack had slept on and wish she were dead. And here he found her about five o'clock when he came back. "Brenda! Of all the What does this mean, where have you sprung from?" he gasped in amazement. She had drawn down the blinds and lay in such a dim light that the ravages tears and misery had made on her face were concealed. Jack carried himself as usual, and for the moment Brenda tried to imagine the events of last night were a bad dream, but alas they were all too real. "I never went away," she replied. "I missed my train." "Yes—but where did you sleep last night?" "In my bedroom cis miiial." "You were hi re all last night! Well I'm hanged," cried Jack. "I suppose you never heard me come bsr'k I was late and fell asleep on that s >.a just when I was think- ing of going to bed. But didn't you hear me this morning? Oh, but of course you didn't. You must have slept soundly. And now you've got one of your headaches, poor little woman. Gracious! you do look ill, darling, and you've been alone all day. I wish I'd know, I'd have asked Mrs. Partridge to come and see you. I breakfasted there this morning. What can I do, Bren, to make you feel better. Do," she cried bitterly, Oh, Jack, if you could only give me back the man I honoured and loved yesterday We were poor but we were not unhappy, we were respected and could hold up our heads as honest folk. But now-" and she broke off choked with emotion. "Have on gone stark staring mAd asked Jack, evidently amazed at her out- burst, unable to gtiesi its reason, and Brenda sat up with blazing eyes half maddened by his duplicity. "I rl'H he-" hom^ Inst night and I heard you this morning. I never slept a moment irom -He tuu* .a came home. VVas it likelv? I know what you brought home, I went and looked at it while you slept. I know you for a thief and burglar, and then to crown all you t went this morning to breakfast with the people you robbed. Ilave you no shame or conscience left that you can meet me as' usual and talk of asking Mrs. Partridge to come and see me? Why, how could I look her in the face. "You think I stole the plate," he asked, slowly "Did Mr. Partridge ask you to take tare ef tit for him?", she replied contemptuously. "He did not, I confess, and when he heard of the burglary this morning he was in a fine way, his language was equal to the occa- aion." "You seem to think it a subject for jest. Jt I' Well, I was amused. Just as I got there this morning Hoskins staggers out of his room only half-dressed with a nasty wound on his head and the news the plate was stolen. He said his door was opened last night by two masked men; he had forgotten to lock it and woke to find himself at their mercy. He struggled with them, but was felled by a blow with some heavy instrument and fell insensible on the floor. When he came to himself the safe was open and the plate gone. An examination soon showed an entrance had been effected by the scullery window and the burglars had got clean away. Mr. Partridge was about to send a footman to the police station with the news when I interfered. You see the gold plate was lying in my cupboard here, and it might turn out inconvenient for me to have them searching for it." | Mr. Waldron paused and Brenda clenched her fists till her nails hurt her flesh. He was positively smiling and relating his crime as though it were a good joke. I "I said it was possible Dick and I could throw seme light on the mystery," continued Jack. We spent last evening at the Empire together and then had supper with a friend of Dick's who has rooms in Bloomsbury. It was a musical supper and did not break up till one o'clock. We shared a cab with another guest as far as Kensington and had to walk from there. As Dick had the garden key we entered that way, it would be a short cut home for me, and we were just in time to see two masked men getting out of the scul- lery window, each with a heavy bag. They carried them through the" garden and one of them unlocked the gates. Then we fell upon them, but in the darknesftcihey both escaped- one back into the garden, I got him a whack on the head with my stick, the other out- side, leaving the plunder in our possession. It was, as we had immediately guessed, the good plate. "Then Dick had an inspiration. He said he was certain Hoskins was one of the men, the one who had fled back into the garden, that in his fright he had not recognised us, that he would go back to his room and make up a story of a burglary. Dick proposed we should hide the bags in my house. We did I so and things fell out exactly as he had pro- phesied. You should have seen Hoskins' face when I told the story and Dick corroborated, it was a confession in itself." The speaker got no further. Brenda slid off the sofa to the ground and embraced, his kr.ts with a mixture of dtelirious joy and ab- ject shame. Oh, Jack," she groaned, f;an you forgive me?" Get up, you little silly;" he said very gentty as he upraisef1, her, "you've ,v punished yourself enough I think; you've cried yourself into a fright. But why-" "You've had some secret, from me," she volubly explained, ever since the dinner party, and you said you wished you had the plate and you were so interested when Dick said it could be stolen so easily." "Well, let me finish my story. Mr. Part- ridge was so highly pleased at getting the plate back he forgave us for not immediately acquainting him with the truth and came with us to fetch the bags back after break- fast, to the Court. We're both to have a cheque for saving it, and Hoskins is in charge of the police. j And now I've some good news for you, Bren. I've had a secret from you for some days because I thought it would be such a de- lightful surprise if it came off. I heard a IHvi white back that the Birmingham Stan- dard Insurance Company were about to open a Loudon branch, and Maynard, our princi- pal, advised me to apply for the post of man- ager, the salary would be double what I got; I stmt in ray application, but hardly dared • to hope I should be appointed. But I'm selected, I had the news this morning." "I expect to-morrow I shall be glad too," said Mrs. Waldron, embracing her husband, "at present I'm so happy you haven't turned burglar I've no feeling for any other news."

FUN AND FANCY. """"

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