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g?- !,11 A i I  ?m   m;{.j:" _æ -#" ||| [ALL RIGHTS RKSERVED]. ||| I 1 THE SECRET OF THE SANDS +?,+1+??,1 w m By FRED M. WHITE, + £ f$ M$ Author of Tregarthen's Wife," "The Weight of the Crown," The$j|& II Edge of the Sword," The Cardinal Moth," A.Fatal Dose," &c. ti P, -2 PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS: SIR HORACE AMORY, of Oversatidi, a highly- estcemed ccunzy magnate. VEKA, his daughter. DICK AMORY, Sir Horace's scapegoat son, who is on the btock Exchange. LADY MARIA AMORY, a widow, devoted to Dick. JOSEPH BASTABLE, a speculator in land, loimerly Sir Horace's steward. RONALD BASTABLE, his son, a barrister in London. SYNOPSIS OF OPENING CHAPTERS: Vera Amory "gets a lener irom her in'uni-er Ulcli. lie is in trouand a-ks h'?r to nseet him at the tiod tiouse, a near the quicksands, at six o'ciock that t-Nellifig. he tells Konaui Hastable, tne -on ot her tatner's old iactor, between wnoxn and Sir lioraco Amory there is a. bitter teuo. Ronald, WHO is a barrivier in London, teHs Vtta that lie knows something' of Dictc's troubles. He visits the Ked House, and tmdf DicK in a state of funii. A-. tiiov ar", speaking together the door .opens, and they see a hand, siim and white, with a Miperb Old mar- quise diamond and ruby ring on one of I ¡Ie fingem Before they can move it vanishes. CHAPTER III. For a moment Ronald Bastable was dis- posed to regard the whole thing as a delu- sion. The events of the evening had got upon his nerves, and the rest was a mere matter of imagination. But why should he be a prey to panic? He was young, uit-,iii-livilig. and clean- minded, and, moreover, in excellent training. The hand, too, had been so roal; he had noticed the clear pinkness c'i the nails; lie could recognise the marquise ring again any- where. A cautious search of the house disclosed nothing in the way of a clue. There was no sign that anybody else had been here. The shabby old furniture and fusty carpets showed no trace of disturbance. The back door was fastened, and the rusty key was in the lock. As to the front door, Ba-itable had taken the precaution of securing it when he entered. It was still fast. Oh, you imagined it all," Dick Amory said, irritably. Don't keep harping upon that. I've got to remain alone in this dismal hole all night, and I don't want my mind filled with horrors. Now, what's to be dOlle" Apparently very little could be done as far as Bastable could see. A scliome was matur- ing in his mind, but the time was not ripe yet. He went off presently towards Shoremouth. He promised to look up Amory again in the morning. Just now lie felt in the mood for company. It was not too late to turn into the club for an hour. The club of Shoremouth was somewhat of a néW institution. There were a great many residents with plenty of time on their hands, retired soldiers and sailors and the like, who had come to the place on account of its brac- ing air, and them was also a fair sprinkling of visitors most of the year round. In the season the club was crowded with temporary members affiliated to various London institu- tions of a similar kind. The club was always open to visitors of undoubted social position. The smoking room uns comparatively -empty as Ronald e'ritivd. It would be a good idea to look at the London evening papers. He might glean some information as to what Tvas happening in regard to the affair of Dick Amory and his quondam friend Bowen, the solicitor. Probably A warrant had been issued for the apprehension of both. If so. it would be well to know huw the land lay. Perhaps, up to the present, no ugly suspicions 'had been aroused. Still, he must make sure. Ronald turned over an evening paper care- fully. Here was something at length that promised to );<' of interest. It related to a missing .solicitor: STRANGI: AFFAIT. IN IYY-COIRT. "The police authorities are investigating a remarkable affair in connection with the dis- appearance of a well-known City solicitor, Mr. Arthur Bowen by name. For some years past Mr. Bowen has tenanted ofiiees situated in Ivy-court, Fenchurch street, a blind thoroughfare occupied for the most part hy warehouses. At the end of the court, facing the street, is a small house of two rooms, rented by Mr. Bowen, who retains the up- stairs room for his own office. whilst the two clerks work downstairs. At certain times of the day the court is comparatively deserted, since the warehouses can He entered by side doors, and in any case are mostly used for the purposes of import and export only. Thus the majority of the people passing along the court are clients and solicitors who come to call on Jdr. 130wen. Yesterday morning Mr. Bowen came to business as usual. He greeted his two clerks in his usual cheery manner, and then pro- ceeded to his own room to transact the busi- ness of the day. About twelve o'clock a tele- gram arrived from a client in the country who needed some papers urgently, and one of the clerks was despatched with them by train a few minltes after the receipt ot the wire. At half-past twelve the other clerk went off to his lunch. On his return an hour later he found nobody in the office, for apparently Mr. Bowen had been called out on business. "As the cash-box was open and several im- portant papers lay about, the clerk went to r. Bowen's room to see if anything was wrong. The room was empty, papers and documents were scattered about in disorder, and the large safe in the corner had vanished. The safe, weighing upwards of a ton, had been wrenched from the walls and carried away bodily. All the private books and ledgers had gone also, and no trace of Mr. Bowen could be seen. On the office table were several spots of blood and a' soaked liandkercliief with the unfortunate solicitor's monogram upon it. "We understand that. up to the time of going to press, the police have been unable to throw much, if any, light on the mysterv. Nothing more has been seen of Mr. Bowen, and the authorities are compelled to believe that he has been the v ietiiii of foul play. If no, it passes comprehension how a brutal crime could have been accomplished in broad daylight within a few yards of a busy thoroughfare like Fenchurch-strcet." Ronald Bastable read the paragraph again. It certainly was a most remarkable chain of «vents. Bowen appeared to be a man who possessed powerful enemies. At any rate, this would mean a respite for Dick Amory. It would give him time to turn round and find the money he had embezzled along with Bowen. Ronald was about to throw the paper aside when something in the stop press edition attracted his attention A CLUE TO THE IVY-COCRT MYSTERY. "Late this afternoon the police were called imp on the telephone by a firm of carriers and furniture dealers carrying on business in Col- lege-place. The firm appear to have had an ezpress letter from Mr. Bowen asking that a van should be sent round to Ivy-court at one o'clock precisely to remove some furniture and a safe to premises in Orchard-lane. The van was despatched at the precise time men- tioned in the letter, and the carter in charge was met at the entrance to the court by a gentleman, who informed him that the goods were not ready yet, but that they would be packed with as little delay as possible. The van was hacked into the court, and the gentle- man gave the driver and vanman half-a- crown, at the same time telling them to get some refreshment, as their services would not be required for half an hour at least. On the men returning at the expiration of the time they found that the offices were smpty and the van had been removed. The rooms were in a state of great disorder, the safe had been cut from the wall, and no sign -if it was to be seen. In the course of the afternoon the van was discovered near St. Paul's Churchyard, empty and apparently Jorelict. The police are now making a dili- gent search for a thin man of middle age with 4 dark moustache, speaking with a slight ] /jreign accent, this being the descri' li:>u of he stranger who handed the half-crown to l .lie vanman and his colleagu". The polies ,aye satisfied themselves that the letter or. r- mg the van and purporting to be in ilr. Uowen's handwriting is a forgery." Here was a fascinating mystery in itself, quite rtp>»rt from any connectioi; it mie.ht have H-ith the fortunes- of Dick Amorv. it was a caring and original echernc. and had s c- ceeded by reason of its sinvue at •ieay Probably ihe telegram which had dr;> N O.K- clerk out of the way wa a 1lilld. B, "(} all question these i, of the daily routine in They were aware that the lawyer was in the habit of being alone in his office for an hour in the middle of the day. It was hyiir. too. when the business of the City was generally at a standstill; and if anybody did come alon; a confederate could easily put him off with an excuse. A blow on the head \w.u!d keep Bowen quiet whilst the thieves v.< rc ronoving the safe. The way in which tiiev had ob- tained the van was ingenious. livre was a crime that Eibndon would already be discuss- ing keenly. One or two other people had lounged into the smoking-room. These persons were un- known to Ronald, and he put them down as visitors. Two men came in presently and sat down immediately opposite to him. They were evidently strangers from the wav in which they glanced about them. The elder of the two was tall and somewhat striking-look- ing; he had a fierce military moustache obvi- ously dyed some purple hue and waxed in spikes that turned upwards. He wore a glass in his right eye, and lie spok^ to the waiter with a foreign accent. The o'her man appeared to be timid and retiring, and glanced nervously about him as if afraid of something. His face was half-hidden behind a bushy beard and whiskers of iron grey; his eyes were shielded hy bllle glasses. Evi- dently the man suffered from aome nerv- ous trouble; plenty of such (une to Shore- mouth for the air at all times of the year. With a ready ease and politeness, the foreigner dropped into conversation with Ronald. Very pleasant quarters you have here, sir." he said. It's a chapge after the bustle and glitter of a London club. My friend, Sir George Lumley, recommended me to come here and bring my relative. Mr. Sexton. He's been working too hard, with the inevitable result. But they tell me there is no air like Shoremouth for nerves." •' Many doctors recommend it," Ronald said. Ah they are right, sir," the man with the purple moustache replied. 1 feel the better for the change myself. I've had experience of climates all over the world, and I find none to beat England. I speak as a man of science." VOTI are thinking of settling here ? Ronald asked, oris v. ally. Now, hnw did nni guess that, sir? the stranger asked. smilingly. His keen eyes played over Bastable like a. searchlight. You are a thought-reader. I have taken a hand in most matters connected with practical science, but my latest hobby is the flying machine. Without Itoasting. I can promise tht world something new ill that way before long. The difficulty is to find a quiet place for one's experiments. I believe that I have solved the problem here in Shoremouth. I'm talking of a place called the Red House. The place has a bad reputation, and most people give it a w id" berth. Those lonely sands are an ideal place for trlals. Who owns the place?" It is the property of Sir HorMe Amory, Bastable explained. A queer smile played like t summer light- ning ovct the face of the stranger. His moustache seemed to disappear into his lip in a wt. P,,i)ti:il(l as sinister. The nervous little man .vnv.d to be interested now. I've heard the name before." the stranger said, ILih. I daresay Sir Horace will only b) too glad to let the place, especially if I am prepared to take it as it stands. Sexton, I'll trouble you fur the loan of a pencil. I'll take Sir Horace's addre«-i." The little man fished a pencil from his pocket, and the moustachioed stranger pro- ceeded to remove one of his grey suede gloves. Av he shot his hand free of his cuff, Ronald started. For a moment his glance was fixed on the hand of the newcomer. On his t "ird finger he wore a ring. In ordinary circumstances there was nothing re- markable in that. But it happened to be the very marquise ring that Ronald had seen on the hand of the door jamb at the Red House! He looked again to st-e if he were mistaken. But it was no mistake, he could have sworn to that ring anywhere. I I CHAPTER IV. It required an effort on Ronald's part to control himself and turn his gaze casually elsewhere. He was annoyed to find that the nervous little man in the blue spectacles was regarding him suspiciously. But he was sure of his facts, and he was certain as to that magnificent ring. At the risk of incurring further suspicion he must have another look at the stranger. The ring was the same un- doubtedly, but the hand was different. This was no long, slim white hand with perfectly manicured nails, pink and white and rounded, but a hand brown and si i'.ewy. the knotted veins standing out from the hairy back like cords. Still, Ronald was far rrom satisfied, Ho wag not at all taken with the stranger. The wr.s easy; he was aceus- nied to good society; lie was cultured and polished. But lie was a little too Friendly and plausible, and his eye's were those of a wol f. It was singular thftt a man of this type should view with a favourable eye such a desolate and dreary place as the Red House. His boast as to the aeroola'ie might lie true, or it might he a blind to conceal something sinister. It was significant, too, that the foreigner should be enamoured of the place at the moment WIK-II it was infoerative that the movements of Dick Atrorv should be kept secret. Ronald rose and »•!•• ,,1,. c'sually into the hall, and thence to the bar. The steward wa, idle. Who is the dark visitor with the eye-glass, Salmon?" Ronald asked. Gentleman of the name of De Lava, sir— Count Henri De Lava," the steward ex- plained. He came with Sir George Lum- ley 's card. The other gentleman is an in- valid, and they are hoth tayillg at the Grand. They only joined this afternoon." "Did they dine here, Salmon?" "Yes. sir. They came in about half-past six after a long walk. The gentleman in the spectacles seemed very tired and done up, and the Count suggested dinner here, if we did that sort of thing. Mr. Sexton said he was too worn out to think of dressing for dinner, and I got them a chop, sir." So that they could have a stroll upon the parade afterwards? I don't know about that, sir. They didn't. As a matter of fact, they went into the billiard-room and had their coffee and cigarettes there. After that they adjourned to the smoking-room." Ronald went back to his seat satisfied to a certain extent, and yet more perplexed than ever. It was impossible to see his way. Still, 4ie would keep his eye upon those strangers; he felt sure that in some way they meant mis- chief so far as Dick Amory was concerned. For the present they must not see the inside of the Red House. It would take some time to get the key from Sir Horace's agent, and Dick would. at any rate, be safe for another day. Ronald turned the Drnblem over in hie: winti until ne ren asieep, nut no solution came to him. Directly after brea.kfr.st he examined the London papers. Most of t'leni were full of the mysterious Hirair in Ivy-court. and many ingenious theories were advanced. It seemed almost impossible that a. solici tor, to- gether with all his papers and most of his office furniture, should vanish in this way. but there was the hard fact, and there was no possibility of getting away from it. The police were inclined to think that Mr. Bowen had been enticed awav, and had returned un- expectedly before the thieves had finished their work. He had then been stunned or murdered outright, and his body conveyed from the offie in the van. The removal of Bowen was intended baffie the amhorities and make it hap-.to »e dirt-el' charge of murder on anyco, Jn ■ -itcc of the bodv it was not L)IS¡L> .J.; ccriam that he was dead. Bastable went, off presently towards the Red House. With the events of the previous night uppermost, in his mind it behove him to be cautious. But no living soul was in ight as he strode ale: the luarsites, nothing but sea-birds wheeling overhead, calling one another like lost spirit;; in torment. Ti e tide was out again, and the whole s'.relch o grey sands quivered and bubbled as if -o- unseen hand stirred their horrible iVpin they churned and seethed round the. flat -h- ping stones in a wickedly suggestive faj-lii.n •• So you've come at last," Am; t'v -.lid. ;u too graciously. What a time you've been It's barely eleven o'clock." Ken:;Id replied. "Isn't it? It seems like afternoon to ine. i had to pawn my watch to raise t.:e r.ion v get here, and I haven't a notion what tlu time is. Got the cigarettes? I've got enough to last you a week. The food difficulty is my great trouble. But. in any case, you'll have to find some other hiding-place: From what I could gather hIs: night, there's a possibility of this house being let at once." Amory broke out passionately. I wish I was dead!" he cried. "I wish I had never been born Of course, by this time the police are looking for me everywhere." "I don't fancy so," Ronald said, sooth- ingly. It's an ill wind that brings nobodv luck. and you've got your turn. though it' s at the expense of your friend Bowen. But I pr? a newspaper in my pocket so that you could read for yourself." Amory snatched at the paper eager! v. Ronald watched him with a feeling of con- tempt. It was clear Dick Amory cared for nobody but himself. Whatever might hap- pen. his personal safety was the first con- sideration. There was something like a smile on his face as he finished the report. It's very odd, Bastable," he said. But Bowen was mixed up with a shady lot. Well, this gives me breathing-time. No steps can be taken against me until it comes out tlwl Bowen is a defaulter, and they can't prove that till his papers are produced. Still, one can never tell how far Bowen had committed himself. I think I'll stay here for-" But you can't," Bastable interrupted. The thing is impossible. I met a man in the club last night who is exceedingly anxious to take this place. He is a foreigner who wants a quiet practise ground for a flying-machine he has invented. He has been over the marshes, and says the place will suit him ad- mirably. He may get hold of the keys to-day, and if he does he is certain to be here to- morrow. "What sort uf chap was he?" Amory asked at random. A foreigner-a. tall, .slim man with a dyed moustache and an eyeglass. I fancy he calls himself De Lava or some such name—Count De Lava. He has a friend named Sexton, who appears to be somewhat of an invalid." Amory began to pace impatiently up and down the dingy sitting-room. He puffed ner- vously 1\ot hip, cigarette, Then he turned abruptly to Ronald, You must "manage to keep those chaps away a. bit longer," he said. "I've been try- ing to think out a plan for getting this money. After all. I may not have to find it; at least I slian t be asked to do so until the police get to the bottom of the Bowen business. It's long odds that the thing remains a mysterv alto- gether, in which case I stand on velvet." But that's downright rascality," Ronald said. coldly. You have robbed those people of this money, and you and Bowen have spent it between you. If those ruffians have made an end of Bowen. then von are responsible for it all. "Why should I interfere?" Amorv asked. Bowen is dead, there is an end to the matter. He won't know that he has had all the blame, and [ shall be free." Bastable turned awav in silent disgust. "Let us assume," he said presently, lhiit Bowen isn't dead. Say that he comes back again. What will be your position then? It will be no excuse for Bowen to >nv that he Ins lieen robbed by a gang of scoundrels. He will have to produce the money all the same, and he will look for your share." "If he does, then I fancv I can see mv vvav to find my There will be no question as to half. If Bowen is penniless, as I expect, you will have to find the lot. You don't seem to realise how deeply you are plunged in this trouble. If you can see any way clear I shall be glad to hear what it is." Well, there is my aunt, or my grsat-aunt. Lady Amory," Dick said. She's queer, as you know. Some people think she is quite mad. but she's got more about her than folk imagine. And she's fond of me." Is that a sign of sanity?" Ronald asked. "You needn't rub it in," Amory said, "unenl" She's been fond of me from a child. I can get more out of her than any- body else. She's got money, though she ha always been very close on that score. People af weak intellects generally are. Did you ever see her when she's dressed for a big party ? I have never had the pleasure," Ronald said, drily. You should, my boy- that )S. if you admire beautiful jewellery. The old lady has some the finest diamonds and rubies in the country. Goodness only knows what they are worth. And she keeps them in a safe in her cottage. Now, if I could get hold of these-" what, you're not suggesting the possi- bility of a further Of course not," Amory went on. My idea was to get the chance of a few words with the old lady and let her know how things are with me. If I pitched it pretty strong she might consent to nawn some of the gems to get me out of the present hole. She's staying at Oversands just now. and she gene- rally has a lot of stuff with her. Of course. I don't want you to mention this to Vera, but you might ask her to arrange an interview with Lady Amory for me." There was no objection to th:s course as fa:* rus Ronald could see. He would lay the pro- posal before Vera, and afterwards discuss further arrangements for Dick Amory's safety. Vera was waiting impatiently in the yew avenue. Her pale lighted up and a. splash of colour came into her cheeks as she saw Ronald, but in the bright sunshine she looked tired and worn. 1 hope you have good news for me." she w h ispered. I have no bad," Ronald replied. "On the contrary, there is a respite that may enable us to tide over matters. But perhaps I had better explain." Vera listened eagerly to all that Ronald had to say. It was a relief to know that the blow was not to fall yet. "It is very, very kind of you," she said, gratefully. We may find some way of stopping this terrible scandal altogether. I haven't a notion what Dick expects to gain by seeing Lady Amory, though shei. fond of him; indeed, he is the one creature that she cares for. But I v. dl try to make her understand. She is in the parden at the present moment. If you'll stay here, I'll go and speak to her." Ronald waited patiently. He could hear Toic.'s close by. Vera's soft and persuasive, and Lady Amory's vague and incoherent. They passed along a grass path so close to Ronald on the other side of the hedge that he could almost have touched them. Lady Amory was leaning on an ebony stick with a crutch ivory handle; her bare hand was clasped upon it. Have patience," she said. I shall tinders'and presently. Now say it slowly. I never can think of anything when the tide is low on the quicksands." Ronald started, but not at these strange words. His^gaze was fixed on Lady Amory's hand. It was the very hmd and the very ring that he had seen on the door jamb at the Red House the night before "What dops it all mean?" he asked him- self. In lloaven's name, what does it all mean? h". contmucd.)