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[ALL RIQHTS EKSKVBD], THE SECRET OF THE SANDS By FRED M. WHITE, Author of Tregartben's Wife," "The Weight of the Crown," The Edge of the Swoid," "The Cardinal Moth," A Fatal Dose," &c. PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS: SIR HORACE AMORY, of Oversands, a highly- esteemed county magnate. VERA, his daughter. DICK AMORY, Sir Horace's scapegoat son, who is on the Stock Exchange. XADY MARIA AMORY, a widow, devoted to Dick. JOSEPH BASTABLE, a speculator in land, loi iuerly Sir Horace's steward. RONALD BASTABLE, his son, a barrister in London. CHAPTER XXI. Sir Horace lay on his bed indifferent to all 'that was going on around him. He seemed suddenly to have grown an old and feeble man. In some mysterious fashion bad news had% Teached him during the night. Yet earlier in the evening Vera had thought him brighter and more cheerful than usual. He fretfully put aside the suggestions of his nurse and doctor. He spoke in a low whisper in words that slurred over one another curi- ously. He wanted his son. He asked for Dick as a tired child asks for its mother. When Dick came the doctor gave a sigh of re- lief. It was greater fortune than he had ex- pected. This is a lucky chance," he said. I never hoped for this. Your father-" A sort of angry snarl rose from the bed. The doctor moved towards the door. "YCitur presence will do Sir Horace far more good than I can," he whispered. He has something on his mind which he is anxious to get rid of. When that is done I am sanguine he will sleep. It is the one thing needful. With a shamefaced air Dick stood by the bedside. It was impossible to believe that this poor wreck was his father. A clearer light shone in Sir Horace's eyes. I'm glad you are here, Dick," he said. You are a good boy to come so quickly. My -my mind isn't what it was-I forget things. Find my keys. They are in my trousers pocket." Dick produced the keys and held them up for his father to see. He smiled approvingly. The small key," Sir Horace went on with an effort-" key of my private safe. Left-hand drawer at the bottom—acceptance in favour of John Kennedy—paid—forgery." He repeated the last word a score of times, as if to impress it upon DicK's understanding. "Keep it." he went on. "May be useful. That scoundrel Bastable-" There was no more, for Sir Horace had col. lapsed his eyes were closed, and his face was like death. With a great fear at his heart, Dick summoned the doctor. To his yelief the litter looked satisfied. H (), he's not øA. ilb whispered; "it's 1 ihe reikctioil. I don't want to be inquisitive, but Sir Horace told you what he wanted you to know? Probably he thought so," Dick said. He seemed to be contented." "At anv rate, it has done him good. I hope lie will get a good night's rest now. If he .does, he will be much better in the morning. But in cases like this one never can tell. He' lias a good nurse, and I will look in early to- morrow. Meanwhile those in the drawing-room had been waiting anxiously for news. The events of the evening had been somewhat trying for Lady Amory, for she sa.t with her hands in lier lap and a far-away expression on her face. Vera regarded her with uneasiness. At the mention of bed, she ruse obediently as « child and passed out of the room heedless of anybody. She did not, appear to see Ronald at all. I Did vou ever know of a more remarkable household?" Vera nskcrl. "Is anything like it possible outside of fiction?" Truth is stranger than fiction," Ronald er.id. awkwardly. "Is Sir Horace very ill?" Well, it depends upon what you call ill- ness. I think his trouble is not physical at all. Strangely enough, he has not been so cheerful and bright for a long time a 3 he was arly in the evening. Things have been going hadiy with him lately; indeed, we had con- templated giving up this house. All at onel be became optimistic. I have never seen my father happier than he was" when I left him in the dining -room with our guest after dinner. When they came into the drawing- room I noticed the change at once. Yet nobody had called, a.nd there were no letters. The trouble could not have been caused by anything my father heard from the Due de Villier, because till to-day he was practically a stranger to us. Can you help me, Ronald? Ronald warmed at the mention of his name. It was good to feel that Vera, reposed confidence in him. Nevertheless, he was con- scious that he was resuming the old tender footing by something like false pretences. "I fancy I might be of use," he said. I am very much afraid tha.t my father is at the bottom of all this bother. He has made no secret of his dislike for Sir Horace, and has set his heart on getting the la;d at the other eide of the river. It is very awkward for me, Vera. There are certain so-called business methods that-" I understand, Vera said, as Ronald paused. "You were always honourable and honest, Ronald. I think I can follow your feelings. Whatever your father is, my brother Ronald took, Vera's hand in his and pressed it tenderly. We both have a burden to bea,r," he said. "It is one more bond of sym- pathy between us" I—I hope you won't let your pride stand between our friendship, Ronald. What does it matter so long as we can look the world in the face? You are an Amory, you always have be-en an Amory; there is nothing of Baatablo about you but the name." She was smiling into his face, her whole €oul in her eyes. She was telling Ronald more than she knew. It was very quiet in the drawing-room; the shaded lights made a fit- ting background to it all. With a sudden impulse Ronald -placed his hand on Vera's shoulder and drew her towards him. He saw the dainty red rising to her cheeks, and felt the pressure of her hands in his. "We understand each other, dearest," he whispered. 11 Yes, darling," Vera said, in a voice so low that Ronald barely caught the words. When I saw you again after the lapse of all those years, it seemed as if we had never been parted. Only perhaps you have grown very proud, Ronald." Not so proud as I am at this moment," Ronald smiled: His arm slipped from Vera's shoulder to her waist. She swayed towards him, and as she did so he stooped and kissed her. I should like all the world to see that," lie said. It is not the first time," Vera. smiled. "It lias happened before, Ronald. But you have forgotten. "I have forgotten nothing." Ronald said. Everything is as clear to me as if it had happened yesterday. I have never changed my mind. You were my little sweetheart in the old days, and I knew somehow that you would remain faithful to me. But those were times-my father I thought we had decided to forget that," Vera said. And oh, Ronald-bt-)w thought- less and selfish you make me It was your mention of your father. Fancy my talking like this when my father may Really, I blush for myself." She looked so distressed that Ronald kissed her again. They wer' still talking in low tones when Dick Anicrv entered. Vera glanced at him anxiously. t"fh"r' h,tj-.p, ",1,<,> "1.cl •• tie has gone to sleep. uick explainer. "It was what the doctor desired; he says hit patient will be better to-morrow. The nurse is a, very capable woman, and there is nothing tha.t you can do except go to bed." Vera. gave a thankful sigh. She was sud- denly conscious of feeling dreadfully tired. On the whole it had been the most trying evening she had ever experienced. But at tho end of it she had found her life's happiness. I think I will." she said. "I need rest. Good-night, dear." She put up her lips for Ronald to kiss. Dick looked on with dull surprise. Oh, it's like that, is it?" he asked, when the door had closed. So it's like that? Well, it isn't for me to complain. A chap in my position couldn't grumble if his sister chose to marry a decent chimney-sweep. Personally, I'm glad. You're a deuced good fellow, Ronald, and the best friend I ever had. You're a relation on my mother's side, too. But my father will be against it." Don't let us meet z, trouble half way," Ronald smiled. "How is Sir Horace?" Well, Sir Horace is confoundedly bad. His appearance was a positive shock to me. He looked about a hundred years old. But he's worried in his mind. He wanted to tell me something, and was under the impression he had done so. But, really, I failed to get the hang of it. It was some story connected with an acceptance he had given to old Kennedy. This bill must have been duly honoured, for I gather that my father has it in his safe. At any rate, he told me it was there and gave me his keys." "I happen to know something about that," Ronald replied. Look here, Dick, it is as well I should be candid with you. My father and yours are deadly enemies. My father wants to compel Sir Horace to sell the land across the river for a golf links. As old Ken- nedy's trustee, he knew all about the accept- ance. He was going to hold his hand to the last moment, and then force Sir Horace to pay or issue a writ. I thought it mean and dis- honourable, and warned Sir Horace of what was going on. Well, he knew the money had to be found; he found it." But he said something about a forgery," Dick said. Ronald's face grew pale. A haunting fear possessed him. He was seeing more in this than was clear to Dick Amory. Do you mean to say that he said the bill was a forgery?" he asked. That was about the size of it, so far a I could gather. The acceptance was a forgery. 1 But that only complicates matters. Why should your faither, who has had a business training, be such a fool a.s to pay £ 20,000 to meet a bill that was a forgery? Tha.t is what I we shall h?ve to find out. The more I think over this affair, the moM pu?z!e? I am, Wg #4,?em t9 ?q bv h-- -1 I"em to te surrounded by atmosphere of ) mystery. What are these' people doing at the ¡ Red House? What is the connection between them and my aunt? Again, what is the signi- ficance of those matches which one is always coming across at the Red House? And now Lady Amory tells me she has no jewels at all, and that her gems are, at the bottom of the quicksands. Upon my word, it is enough to turn one's brain." But Ronald was only following this vaguely. His mind was fixed upon that part of Dick's story which dealt with the accept- ance drawn in favour of old John Kennedy. How could the thing be a forgery? Sir Horace must be wandering in his mind. His troubles had been too much for him, and his brain had given way. It was notorious that association with lunacy is a dangerous thing, and constant contact with Lady Amory had not been without its effect. "Can you see to the bottom of it?" Dick asked abruptly. "At present, no," Ronald replied. "I am as much in the dark as you. Possibly my father may be able to throw some light on the matter. You need not be afraid that I shall say anything calculated to do you harm. You will go down to the bank to- morrow? Amory nodded moodily. He was busy thinking of his own trouble again. I must," he said. Everybody will know in a few hours that I am back again. It's a risk, but I can see no way out of it. I shall have to run up to London in the evening on a matter of business, but I shall be back next day. Ronald looked at the clock. It was long past midnight, and he was getting tired. Be- sides, he wanted to be alone to think over the recent complication. He wanted to try to puzzle out what his father was doing in the matter. He reached the road presently which connected the main way to Shoremouth with the path to the quicksands and the Red House. As he reached the spot a man passed him walking towards the town. There was something familiar about the figure, and Ronald hailed him. Inspector Kite he called out. Kite faced round suddenly and recognised Ronald in his turn. The same, sir." he said. Odd we should meet like this. But I had forgotten that your home is here." "I presume that you have come on busi- ness? Ronald suggested. "Well, yes." Kite said, guardedly, "and a business in which you are interested. I have come to arrest a man on a charge of being concerned in the kidnapping of Mr. Bowen. The man I want calls liimgelf Count Henri de Lava." I CHAPTER XXII. Dick Amorv woke next morning to a full understanding of his responsibilities. The sense of misery and anxiety lay heavy upon him. He was feeling nothing in the way of re- morse or regret, and was thinking only of himself, and how he could get out of his troubles. Like most, sanguine spirits, he had a plan of escape, and was inclined to doubt the truth of Lady Amory's statement as to the fate of the jewels. The poor woman was mad, and had not the least idea what she was talking about. It was a delusion of hers that, the priceless gems had been east into the maw of the quicksands. She firmly believed such was the case, but she must be in error. Dick stood before the window in his dress- ing-room holding the diamond his aunt had given him up to the light. He was no judge of such things, though he flattered himself that he knew enough to tell the true from the false. How the thing fla.shed and glittered, how deep was the blue and yellow flame that lay in its depths! Surely an expert would not hesitate to pronounce it genuine! Still. Lady Amory's story had sounded natural enough as she told it. The Due de Villier, too, was familiar with all these de- tails but, with his sanguine temperament, Dick was enamoured of his own theory. He had come to believe that he held in his hand the key to the door that would lead him past all his troubles. lie would sell the beautiful thing for a large sum of money. He went down to breakfast presently in quite an amiable frame of mind. Vera was seated in the morning-room awaiting him. How's the governor?" Dick asked, care- lessly. "Better, they say," Vera replied. "Ho does not seem so anxious this morning, and is inclined to sleep a great deal. The nurse thinks we had better keep out of his room as much as possible. I fancy he is going on all right. But it is a very miserable sta-te of affairs." I daresay it will all come right," Dick said, cheerfully. After all, the governor is much better off than I am." A look of pain and reproach crossed Vera's face. Why do you t#lk like that? she a,o ke d. "Have you no shame? Anybody might think you were proud to find yourself in your present position. Surely we have trouble enough as it is." Dick helped himself to more ham. Don't worry about me, he sticl. "Give me an- other cup of coffee. I shall be all right. In fact, I am clear now." In spite of her anxiety, Vera could not re- press a smile. "Always the same," she said always doing silly things and hoping to escape the consequences. How can your oosition h&va imoroved tllnOO List nicrht.? *Y«n, it iias, jjick saici, wnn a lapse into his sullen manner. "I have had a slice of good luck, though it is too early to speak of it yet. Don't worry about me, Vera—I will bring no disgrace on the family. From what I s-ayr last night, you will have your own hands pretty full before long." The hot blood flamed into Vera s cheek<s. "You are alluding to Ronald Bastable?" she asked. That's it. What will the governor say when he hears you are going to marry the vson of his old servant, Joe Bastable? Bas- table the bounder Bastable who, undei another name. is one of the most notorious-, money-lending bloodsuckers in EnglandOh, I know that because I have been in the brute's clutches n;y- >!f." Vera listened calmly. Joseph Bastablfc could be no worse than sh e imagined him tc be. But R maid's father had nothing tq (It with the matter. The misfortune was Ronald's, and she loved him the more for it. It is a question that I shall decide for myself," -she said, qui-etly. "There is dis- grace on both sides of the family." Dick said no more. He was feeling less elated as he made his way into Shoremouth. lie was greeted on all sides by acquaintances anxious to hear the latest bulletin about Sir Horace. Others, of the boon-companion typo, were curious to knov why Dick had not been home for so long. S,t-inge stor" i were afloat in connection with Dick and the Safe Mystery." He was feeling more and more un- comfortable and alarmed a.;¡ he reached the bank. The chief cashier, a man who had grown grey in the service of the Aruorys, greeted him somewhat coldly. "What can we do for you, Mr. Richard?" he a-sked. Oh, don't be alarmed, Pemberton," Dic1, said, airily. "You need not be afraid that I came here to loot the safe. My father thought it would be as well for one of us to be about the premises. I won't interfere with you. To be quite candid, I came to get a paper from the governor's safe. I suppose you have no objection to that? Old Pemberton began to feel easier in his mrnd. Certainly not, Mr. Richard," he eaid. "I hope Sir Horace is better?" Dick swaggered into the private office, and proceeded to overhaul the safe, but every drawer had its own particular key, and Dick could only open one of them. In it lay a strip of oblong blue paper, which Dick regarded with intense curiosity. It was the acceptance for E20,000 drawn in favour of John Ken- nedy, and duly cancelled on behalf of his bankers. Dick wondered why his father had kept this, seeing that it had been paid. What had Sir Horace meant when he said that the bill was a forgery? As a business man he would not have parted with so valuable a consideration as £ 20,000 for a forgery. There was nothing of the diplomat about him. either. He WPS the last man in the world to plot and scheme, or even intrigue for his own advantage. Dick turned the blue strip over and over tn his hands. He was a great fool in some matters, especially where money was con- cerned, but in the matter of trickery and cunning he had little to learn he had lived too long in the wrong set for that. In his own language, he prided himself as being up to every move on the board. The puzzled expression on his face gave way presently to a smile. The bill was dated six months before, as Dick saw at a glance. As his eye fell on the Inland Revenue stamp in the corner he smiled again. He placed the £ +rin of paper carefully away in his pocket- hoo? ?? reached for his hat. A few mounts ?teF ? was in the rival bank asking for the favour of a few momenta interview with Mr. Bastable, Bastable sprawled in hrs chair, a grim smile on his coarse, retl face. "This is an unexpected pleasure," he said. Why do you want to see me? Are you trying to ar- range for bail in the early future? Do you expect me to become security for you when you make your appearance before the Lon- don magistrate?" The brutal sneer passed over Dick's head. In the ordinary way he was horribly afraid of the man, but not to-day. He had too much confidence in the weapon he carried. He felt like the man who matches a revolver against a club. I wasn't thinking of that," he said. But your mention of the word security gives me an idea. I want to borrow some money. Would De la Pole be any good?" Bastable's face darkened, What do you mean by that? he asked. Oh, you know what I mean well enough. I've found you out, Bastable. It's not a bit of use to tell me a parcel of lies. What a fine piece of scandal for Shoremouth To think that that pillar of respectability, Joe Bastable, should be one and the same person as De la Pole, the poisonous scamp who has been lashed in every newspaper in England! Fancy the Mayor-elect of Shoremouth lending money at 100 per cent., and robbing poor wretched clerks of fees for advances he never meant to make. Upon my word, I'm paying you a compliment by speaking to you at all." The veins stood out like cords on Bastable's forehead. He made a movement in Dick's direction. The latter smiled as he watched him. None of that," he said; none of that, or it will be the worse for you. Upon my word, it's lucky you have a son like Ronald. If it hadn't been for him this story would have been all over Shoremouth long ago." Bastable dropped back in his seat again. This, clearly, was a case when his blustering, bullying methods would be useless. Nothing short of murder would, suffice. Do you want me to proceed against you for criminal libel?" he asked. "Rather!" Dick retorted. "Nothing would please me better. I am able to prove every word that I say. You have ruined me, and if 1 go down you will go down too. With all your brag and impudence, you would not dare to show your face in Shoremouth if this came out. That is not the worst—that is not the worst, Joseph Bastable." Ob, so there is something more?" Bas- table said, sourly. ?'Letmehearit." "Ohs, a i d, I'll tell you some of it. I've been Well, I'll tell you some of it. I've been going over a few of my father's papers-at his request, mind-and found an acceptance drawn in favour of old Kennedy by my father for £ 20,000. Now, my father is not well enough at present to be worried with business, but it strikes me as a strange thing that Sir Horace should redeem a bill drawn and ac- cepted six months ago on a bill stamp dated only six weeks since Bastable leaped to his feet. A startled ex- pression escaped his lips. For the moment he had forgotten himself. He was a flame of madness, intoxicated with fury, lorging to have the fool responsible for this by the Ihront, and choke the life out of him. But with it all he was raging with impatience at himself. "John Turk!" he roared. "Oh, John Turk if I had you-" Then he paused. What insanity possessed him this morning! He was actually making matters a thousand times worse And this fool of an Amory was sitting opposite to him with frank enjoyment of the situation. He forced himself to be calm, to summon a smile to his face. The effort sent the blood humming through his veins and brought a mist before his eyes. Let me have a look at the bill? he asked. I think not," Dick said, calmly. The bill is safe. Perhaps I have made a mountain out of a molehill, perhaps not." If you would allow me to help you," Bas- table began, possibly No need, Bastable, no need," Dick said, loftily. "My affairs are in an exceedingly prosperous condition. When I am in pressing ueed of money I will obtain assistance from that genial philanthropist, Godfrey de la Pole." With this parting shot, Dick swung out of the office. Not for a long time past had he been on such good terms with himself. As he turned into the High-street he saw little knots' of people gathered together eagerly discussing some matter. He detached an acquaintance. "What's up?" he asked. "Someone been murdered?" It looks like it," the other said. They tell me that the dead body of a man has been found in the Red House. No details at present." .(To be continued.)