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.-m.t(" -N i;Ø it. >£.& "x 'c;t":I! O;;¡,:$,+. 'J'. "'i5., ,g, .S' 1'<' ,Á: :k'¡¡;K .Ñ!ift.1fiIf1l- ¡(.ø- :>:o.J:tíR- 'Ji'>i" '(0. $*& ■ 1 ALL BIGHTS R-• •<" « O I. m ? ?'? )ALL RIGHTS R? .,v:nl. #. i:  t THE SECRET OF THE SANDS I By FRED M. WHITE, H t Author of 'ITT, I -,Ht'Ltien's Wife," "Th. Weight of the Crown," '« The i Edge of the S%% t,Td," "The Cardinal Mill I, A Fatal Doe, &c. I« ♦ mm. «- seeeMWBs-» & »!§i6»a8»sat» ':I' T m, )() ;4'. -_1lfi; ¡:r¡ 'f'.J6-; 'f(.'¡; m PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS: I VM HORACE AMORY, of Oversands, a highly- esteemed county magnate. VERA, his daughter. 3DICK AMORY, Sir Horace's scapegoat sea, who is on the Stock Exchange. JLADY MARIA AMORY, a widow, devoted to Dick. JOSEPH BASTABLE, a speculator iu land, iormerly Sir Horace's steward. JRONALD BASTABLE, his son, a barrister ia Lcndca_ CHAPTER XV. The more Ronald turned over the situation in his mind, the less lie liked it. lie had never cared to anahse his father's i-fiaracttr too closely; indeed, he had always shrunk from doing so. There were, however, times when he felt that, had the relationship been more distant, he would have regarded Joseph Bastable with loathing and contempt, ie waa bound to face some plain questions How far was his father dipped in this, shady business? That he was in it was proved hy the letter from the London lawyers. tone of that letter filled Ronald wiih uneasi- ness. It was the kind of missive he would have written to anyone he utterly despised, a. person lost to every ser.tse of deeeney. he blood mounted to Ronald \s face as he thought of it. But his father had not even noticed the tone. He had not relented it for a mo- ment, had shown none of the warmth and in- dignation of an honest man. On the contrary, he had taken it quite in the ordinary way. Moreover, the letter had frightened him. Bt- yond doubt the elder BastaMe had been alarmed. Ronald had never seen such signs of fear in his father before. It was clear that Joseph Ba.stable could have explained much had he chosen. The -strangest thing of all was to fineI him misft'd up with Dick Amory. Why should he con- cern himself with the affairs of Sir Horace's luckless son? He hated the father, as Ronald had reason to know. It was not likely, then, that he would go out of his way to he of any assistance to the boy. Unless lie wanted to ruin him Ronald started as this thought flashed &Cro"i.s his mind. He knew hi- /a?her wa.s capable of it. A man who feels no limine in being a professional irfoneylender is not likely to hesitate at much. It would not be difficult to drag the iviuh out of Diek Amory. It would be a humiliat- ing business, but for the sake of all p.n-iie^ the facts must be disclosed. Ronald was thinking more of Vera than of anybody <|>e. He dined early in the club, and afterwards made his way to the Red House. Did. Amory. smoking the inevitable cigarette, awaited him. j" I thought you were never coming." ho fijiid. I'm not blaming you. my dear chap, but to sit here hour after hour alone is mad- dening. For the lii'e of me I can't see what is to be the end of it. I'd better go abroad." And so admit you are guilty," Ronald said. "Do you think it would look like th,1: "What else could people think? Jf von ap- peared in London and p::id a JI ;,oiir first, it would be (M'.ite another matter. At present people imagine you are on the Conti- nent on business, I daresay sjim* of them are anxir>"slv awaitii.xj y return, lint ihev 11'- ibn, Some arc hot," Dick -aid. with a vicious "and some are." "So I understand. Herepath and Butler, .for instance." "Good Heavens Bastahle, yon d.??: in en to say they're moving?" Amorv o.?'d. in that base it's :ui up. Th'y ar? the solictors to the "trustes of the man who—wiio whom you and Eosu'ii r?ii??d of his money. They arc moving, though I :i??i in the dirk as to what is going on. I saw a letter them "You saw a letter from L,ierit 'i'< li i, -i-, was it written? Ronald hesitated before he I';Tiil"I, It is a., well to be candid," he said. Trie letter wa<s addressed to my father. !t not tended that I should see it. I didif'. tike ihe tone of it; if it had been add">~ed to me I should have been indignant. These people as good as said that Bow en was not dead at all. "Not dead:" Amorv exclaimed The man was murdered." MLIS', "My dear fellow, you must not c;>it that. Without any desire to be oP-Vnsive. I see you regard this outrage on Bo wen as all a -et in your favour, YÜt1 can tnvow the blame of everything on him. Bat fierepeth and Butler refuse to believe that lie dead. They have evidence to justify their !x'e r. It was impossible for Amory to conceal 1P; disappointment. Did you see ti e evi- dence? he asked. Well, yes. I have had it in tny 1"1!(¡.t, any rate. I have had part of it. '.v evidence takes the form of a letter written u. JiereiK'.tn and Butler by Bow en. The ietter WAS posted many hours filter Bowen had o^en .spirited away. The postmark is clear. These lawyers do not hesitate to say that the whole thing is a clever scheme for getting Bowen out of the way to prevent his prosecution. Cut for that fatal postmark, they would probably have al- lowed matters to rest. Now they talk of lay- ing their evidence before the pol ee. OUT name was mentioned." "By Jove!" Diek gasped, "then r m clone. There's no help for it now." It looks bad." 'rLon--tlcl In afraid these people know mere t'),ii) we give them credit for. Now I eojiie to a more per- sonal matter. Why didn't you tell me you have had dealings with my father? Amory looked uncomfortable. Did it m-ttter? he asked. Has it anythiu.c to do with this affair? I don't know. That is what I have to find out. Your name crops up -in the letter to my father. How long has this been goiiic, on?" Oh; a year or two," Amory said, with a -poor show of indifference. But really, Bastable-" I wouldn't take that tone, if T were you, Ron-aid interrupted. Whv didn't you tell me? Because I was ashamed of it," Dick burst out suddenly. "You may believe me or not, but I wanted to spare your feelings as far as possible. I'm a ?ad lot. Ronald, bnt I'm a plaster saint compared with your father." Ronald's lips quivered, but he .said nothing. Amory regarded him doubtfully. He had perhaps expected an outburst < ? indignation or even violence. But Bastable was perfectly «alm. on, lie i d, qu i et I I- t?eil n-ie tile Go on," he said, quietly, tell me the worst." "You are sure you don't mind? Because I ehall have to speak very plainly. I vame in contact with your father about two years ago in connection with a customer of the bank. We met more than once in London. You can understand that at first I was prejudiced against your father—as an Amory I would be. But he appeared a good sort when I came to know him better.. He wasn't long in finding out that I was deuced hard up, and helped me. He gave me the address c.f a fellow who lent money on easy tei-ms-at least, they were ea.sy terms at first Afterw ards I found out that I was in the handis of one of the biggest scoundrels and bloodsuckers in London. The more I struggled the deeper in the mud I stuck. Ever heard of De In, Pole and Co.?" Ronald nodded. It represented the most notorious rascal in the usury line. Well, these were the people. They had most of the money I got from Bowen. De In Pole. stripped of his assumed name, is Joseph P,ole, stri-)Ijed of li?s i-'aIDe. 1-; JOSepli nonaia gave a gesture of amazement. had not anticipated so disgraceful a revelation. "This is terrible!" he murmured. Wha4 would your sister—I mean, what would th(-):- whose good will I value say if they knew "> Amory administered a rough-and-ready con- solation. We've nothing to hold up our he-ads about." he said. If your father is a my father's son is another. Don't about Vera. She's a loyal girl, and if she oares for you it won't matter wlrat your relations are. Mind, I would have spared you this if I could, and that's why I said nothing about my dealings with your father. He thinks the De la Pole connection is a pro- found secret. I got to hear of it quite by accident. If you only knew of the dirty work I have done for him! What I have done I hai-e done, but I should never have been in this mess if I hadn't met your father.' in Ronald desired to hear no more. What ne had heard already was a bitter blow to his pride and his ambitions. He sat staring gloomily into space. This was the end of his castle-building. He coulfl never aspire to Vera Amorv now. In his eyes the most de- graded criminal was scarcely worse than the professional moneylender who battened on the misfortunes of others. "I don't want that side of the question alluded to again," at last Ronald said. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that my father was a friend of Eowen's. Let us assume, too, that Bowen ingeniously managed to delude people into the belief that he had been the victim of an outrage-" But Amory was not listening. His face was anxious and moody. Every' road before him only led to despair. CHAPTER XVI. I Standing in the long drawing-room at Oversands, the fading light of day on her features, Lady Amory conveyed no impression of mental trouble to her companion. She looked him squarely in the face; her eye had the suggestion of many memories in them. She seemed, too, to be part and parcel of her surroundings. She might have been the mis- tress of the fine old place welcoming some favoured guest. Yet a few minutes before she had been struggling dimly to remember some matter of little import. But the stimulus of meeting this old friend and relation had given her the spur she needed. Why did you not come before? she asked. iNi v (lear cousin. I could not," De Villier replied., "Besides, there was nothing to he ga ned. Now that Luigi is dead, things are different. Is Luigi dead? Did he die-in his bed I" "011, he came to his end quite naturally. You can imagine what a task it has been all these vears to protect him from those people. Don Bentes was the trouble. But a year or so ago Bentes was killed in the mountains in a vulgar quarrel about some woman. We. had less to fear after that. Bentes was our most implacable foe. We could never make him understand that v. e w ere blameless in the matter, and that th;" areii-traitor Da Lava wvi to 1;1, n i lfl ever meet that scoundrel v Hush Lady Amory whispered. "Da L,H,1. i, here.' I have been close to him more than onee, have hoard him speak." ••Dr. Lave, here the Duke cried, "What is he doing bet'e ? I y-jU f'get. lie is alter the treasure. He knows evervthing. Recall to yourself the close and confidential terms on which lie stood with us for year-. He knows the I;ioPk- Or the mining treasure and the suicide of my poor sister. But I dare not think of that, be- cause u hen 1 do so L get quite 'confused. She died before mv eyes, and my husband said 1 murdered her. I am innocent, I SNI-ear Laí f her voice 'so that De Villier glanced anxiously about him. With .<oft andgentle words he -oothed her until the flashing hardness left her eye- •• i am certain of that." he said. You loved poor Julii-i too well. 1 know it n:l!st have been a terrible grief to you, Maria." Oh. it was, it was! She flung herself into the quicksands, but before she did so sir; threw the treasure in as well. That it was my treasure made no difference. But she was mad at the timc-a mad as I was afterwards. Still, it way not be.%fH> late to save Sir Horace. You see..1 care for hire. He has been good to me. My dear Victor, h would be impossible to sav M\ dear Vi?ror. ? woc. how kind. They have put up with my trying moods without one single word of complaint. I am vcr\* irvieg at times, you know. 1 have alwavs been welcome here they would keep me altogether, if 1 hey could. Vera is all angel of goodness. I am very fond uf \that unhappy bo Diek, who is always getting into trouble, I They have fallen on evil times, but they never ask me to help them. though they are under i h" impression that 1 an; rich. It is only now and then that I realise all this, only when my mind is rlear as it is now. Ob. I daresnv v.e shall manage to repay their ki nane-ss. De Villier <sa-id, cheerfully. "Bill r i">re are plenty • f troubles before us first. Mv word, w hat a- dory we could tell If we chose But imbotly would believe it. A novelist v. h.. do red to pile it ou peper wouni b.' tauaiu'd :1t. People think romance is dead -they bei.ic-ve vc-ud-tt.a like ours is found onlv ie the -hil'i.ig shocker. I wish they had had to spend ;hos? two terrible years in the mountains ''t Sy lv V\hv. the house was a fortr: 'id we dared not go out alone or 1111- armed fir fea-y of t'v vengeane" of Bentes and his !'<wt'vs. De Lava worked that very cleverly. M ria. II ever I come across him again • "The door of iV drawiug-room opened at that moment, and Vera, entered..She crossed to De Villier and he'd out her hand. "1 am glad to meet von," he said. It has always struck me as s:re.n«e that we should never see any of my aunt's relate Oh, I know that I ought to be nshamed of niystlf." the Duke eaid. with a smile. I want you to betiere that 1 am. But, really, t,l] ? fault lias not been altogether mine. There are reasons why I could not leave Sicily. We have had family troubles v hi eh you would hardly credo. Mi-s Amorv. Is that not J' ••• Lady Amorv answered vaguely. The old li-tlessne-s ues on her again, and she seemed to b" lost to her surroundings. The mental effort she bad just gone through had been too much for her. But she was no longer restless; she had ceased to fidget with her hands in the nervous way that worried Vera eo much at times. Sir Horace appeared a moment later, and with liim dinner was announced. It was not an elaborate meal. though dainty and well cooked, and the wines were carefully chosen. Glancing at the old silver across the mass of (lowers upon the spotless TIapery, De Villier no indication of poverty or want. Sir tvas in one of his most brilliant and most charming moods. It was obvious. that this was not forced, but natural and spontane- ous. Vera was wondering if the prosperity her father had hinted at had suddenly dropped from the clouds. It was a long time since she could remember pleasant and happy a!! evening. With a reding' of regrd she rose at length ;r.¡ffi the table. Sir Horace passed over the silver cigrr-box, and int'mated that the port stood at his guest's right hand. De Villier took a cigar and puffed at it luxuriously. Do you know, Sir Horace," he said, that I have a great admiration for your English life? There is nothing more delight- ful tharf aneiiglish gentleman's house. It is in every sense a home. How to manage a household we don't seem to understand on the Continent. My places are too big and cold; there is too much marble about them. Now, all this appeals to me. Dtd 1 tell you that I was educated in England? I don't remember your mentioning the matter," Amory said. Well, I was at Eton for five years. It was my. father's wish that I should enter the diplo- matic service and be attached to the Italian Embassy m London. That would have come about but for a calamity that befell us. I can- not tell you the story just now, but you shall hear it in good time. Meanwhile, I desire to tender a mo t abject apology for the way I IHn" behaved as to, Lady Amory. It has been very shabby to leave her on your hands £ ■( lone." --iie is la(tv Amory." htr Horace murinure Olt. q.tiite 'so. That was gracefully pin. Sir Horace. But that does notice us from our obligations. Lady Amory brought no money into your family, and I understand that her husband made no settlement upon her. That ntakes your conduct all the more generous and magnanimous. The real reason why we did nothing was because we could not at the time. You didn't know Lady Amory before her marriagp? No," Sir Horace expl a ined. We did not meet till my uncle died. He and 1 were not very good friends, and I did not come here at all in those days. I was with the London agents of my bank. My uncle passed most of his time abroad. lie died suddenly without making a v. ill. and I e ;o<.> ie; > every- thing. I often say that Lady Amory was a legacy, but none the less welcome on that account. Did you ever hear yo-r uncle met his death?" the Duke asked. Didn't he die in the ordinary ,yav?" Sir Horace inquired. "He fell over a cliff-at least, tlitt io tll, legend. As a matter of fact, he was mur- dered. For a year or two before his death he spent some time here and some time in Sicily. On one occasion Lady Amory brought her sister here. She committed suicide by throw- ing herself into the quicksands near the place you call the Red House. T e affair was hushed up, I fancy. People were told that an ace l(leiit li,,id happened to a foreign servant of Lady Amory's. Her sister had been obliged to conceal her identity." Surely a lot of unnecessary Tnysterv? Sir Horace said. By no means unnecessary," De Villier responded, gravely. If I detained you now and told you the whole strange story you would be astounded. Sooner or later, you shall have the outline of it. But there are other reasons to account for Lady Amory's mental depression besides the troubles she has had to endure. Did you know much about her husband? "Very little, as I have already said." Then I will enlighten you somewhat. He was one of the hardest and most cold-blooded men I ever met. He was absolutely callous and indifferent to suffering. It was always a mystery to me why Maria married him. But a woman in love is capable of any vagary. At any rate, she married him, and he began al- most at once to neglect her. When he died there was not even a will in her favour. But you told me he died suddenly." Amory argued. "He might have intended to do something for his wife and put it off till too late. He knew. of course, that Lady Amory was provided for. She had money of her own." ''Had!" the Duke said, significantly. "It was not what you call property in your sense of the word. It could have been converted into money at any moment. but it was the kind of thing that it breaks a woman's heart to part with. Lady Amorv's wealth was in jewellery." Which is a large fortune in itself." "Precis-L-ly-if it existed. But to all in- tents and purposes it has ceased to exist. Your uncle was well aware of the fact. When Ladv Amory's sister made away with herself she cast all the gems—the grand family gems—into the quicksands. They are there to-day. Sir Horace stared at his guest with open- mouthed amazement. Is that so? he stam- mered. Do you mean to tell me—why, J never heard so surprising a story in my life. But Lady Amory has other jewels." Not one." the Duke said. Not a stone. They were all copied years ago for the sake of safety. It is by no means a new plan for the baffling of thieves. Every gem that Lady Amory wears to-day is paste." jt "You are not joking? Sir Horace gasped. My dear sir," said the Duke, solemnly. "I was never more serious." Sir Horace was speechless, his lips twitched, and the healthy red of his face was turning gradually to ashen grey. (To be continued.)




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