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0 t Y [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ] X S IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE1 BY  $ LILLIAS CAMPBELL DAVIDSON 9 $ Author of "The Missing Finger," "Tempted," &c. A CHAPTER XXL THE THOUGHT-READER. The little, shabby, dusty room that the I 'Fords hired for their performances was drearier and less attractive in the grey davlight, before the lights were lit and the audience filled it. It looked particularly miserable this morning-, as Celia came into it, carrying her music. They had arranged for a rehearsal, to try over one or two novel experiments the Fords were introducing into the bill. She was met by Mrs. Ford, who looked little enough of a sorceress just now, with her eyes red-rimmed and her lips white and drawn into a thin line of suffering'. -Celia was stirred to quick compassion. "Mrs. Ford! Is there anything wrong? -Aren't you well ? Her employer's wife shook her head mournfully. "I've got a head splitting open with neu- ralgia, she said huskilv. "I can't see .hardly. I ought to be at home and in bed, but Ford was so set on our trying over the new turns, and I thought I might be able just to get them through. You go and play something soft and slow, Miss Harcourt. I'll oee if I can't find that hidden pin, anyhow, and Ford 's got a new thing-kmd of clair- voyance—it is. He thinks it ought to be a big business. You go along and play for me. and I'll see what I can do." Celia went to the piano obediently and began a low symphony. Mrs. Ford took up her position on the platform. Ford, in •s hirt-sleeves, came hurrying on from the green room. He hid a pin in the carpet. And with a loose hanging thread stretched between them, Mrs. Ford bent down blind- folded and began to grope with quivering fingers in search of it. "I can't!" All at once she broke off short, raised herself, put her hand to her band- aged head. She reeled slightly, staggered to the sofa, and flung herself down on it. "I an't do it, Ford! It isn't a bit of use! My head's just like a torture-wheel. There doesn't come a single flash of anything into it. If I don't go home and to bed this in- stant I'll never be able to act this after- noon." Ford stood with the thread dangling from his hand, the picture of anxious perplexity. '"My love, I'm sorry I'm confounded sorry for you—I'm sure you know it! But if you c,oii l d onlv have iii-,t P. could only have just gone through the atti- tudes you needn't have any thought-trans- ference—we should be able to put it on to- morrow. Unless we do, the new bills will all be spoilt in the printing. You couldn't just go through the posturing and that, could you? We don't need much more than that." "No, I couldn't." Her head-shake was positive. "It's as much as I can do to get rm e. If I can take something and lie down. I may get a sleep, and be able to pull myself together. If I don't, we'll have to shut up shop for the afternoon." Her tone was so jwsitive that Ford, alarmed, let her go. He stood gloomily winding the thread round his hand where she had left him. I'm hanged sorry for the missus's head- ache," he said, "but this rather spoils the -show." Celia left the piano and crossed the hall -to him. "Couldn't I try, Mr. Ford? It would get you into your part, and Mrs. Ford's so quick. If we had a little re- hearsal this evening, after hours, I'm sure she could get into it." He started, turned his face, brightened. "That's not half a bad idea," he said with relief. "Look here, the idea's this: I hide "the pin, and it's under the carpet. You find it blindfolded. I'll tell you where it is. Of course, when the missus does it she thought- reads." He gave the end of the thread to Celia. She shut her eyes, seemed to stand consider- ing for an instant or two, then steadily, surely, slowly, without undue haste or ex- citement, she moved quietly across the plat- form, bent down, for an instant her fingers wavered, then she pulled the carpet aside and pieked up a pin from underneath it, where it rested on the dirty floor. "By Jingo!" cried out Ford with admira- tion as she took off the bandage and laughed across at him, slightly flushed. "You did that as well as if you'd been the missus. Anybody would have thought you were Teallv thought-reading. How did you man- age it? You saw me put the pin down, eh? I thought I'd hidden it too quick." "No, I didn't see. It was thought-trans- ference. I've often done it for fun when I was at school. They used to say I was prettv good at it, but I never acted with anvbody I could get the suggestion from so soon as I did from you then." Ford's face was lit with enthusiasm. "Mv aunt!" he said fervently, there's business in this. Ever done anything deeper -an v clairvoyance or such?" Celia had not. But she would experiment. if he liked. They went through two or three little performances, at which she gradually •grew quicker, and found herself more and more able. At the end of them Ford brought his hand down on his thigh with a resound- ing Hi ump. H I say, there's money in you!" he cried out with elation. "Look here, why shouldn't we make an arrangement—you do half the turns and the missus the other half? It'd double the attraction, to have two lady per- formers. Then the missus could take a turn at the piano while you did your part, and that'd give her a rest. You're a born reader, you are! With a little practice you'd .do anything." And so the new arrangement came into force. Just at first Celia shrank a little from the public exhibition of herself and her powers on the cheap stage of a seaside show. But thoughts of an unpaid landlady at home, of bills that mounted and mounted, do what one could to live on starvation rations, were potent factors in destroying pride. She wore such robes as the imagination of Ford devised for her, and her own fingers and the fingers of Mrs. Ford ran up out of cheap and effective materials. She went through the performances of pin-finding, and locat- ing a penny, and telling the time by a watch that was in a man's pocket. She grew more and more nimble at them; she surpassed Mrs. Ford in her quickness and accuracv in a fortnight. Now and then Ford deftlv in- troduced another turn. She took an article belonging to someone in the audience and told its history. It was like magic to her listeners, but it was very simple thought- transference. The magician's cave began to rake in more money than it had ever done before the name of Signorina Vincinzina appeared on the bills. CHAPTER XXH. THE JADE. Vane had had two years of wandering. It would have been incorrect to say of him that he was cured of the ache with which ho got himself away out of England, hoping to forget his cruel misfortune. He had not been cured. But the mind of man docs not hold in the same measure a sting at the end of two long years. The loss was there still, acute, when something came to wake it. But for the most part custom had taught it to slumber, and he could take up life once more. tt C I" d He had never forgotten Celia, never ceased e I at the mystery that had snatched to mane him; nevèr grown so indifferent to hr from  hc that ? c ould let timself ?? mher faaccee hneer sweetness. without ?dw8eli l oV n hWer ffaacc e her Sweetne88, without a pang of heart. But tn manner ot her going ad perforce blunted a ?t? ? ? ? ?????j of her. He would not, he coum t believe t ceS cne of her what circumstance.. ? cneu ?? ? believe. Yet he could not,_n? ?mmon sense, keep her as high on h pe^ ag she had been before that shock. lie had come back to England because 0 more he was sick at heart of wander1119. and He travelled home in a b iiiier, and there were some agreeable people o „ rJ. With one or two lie made friends, ?M V•pn they landed, and the Henslows to Brighton, he was easily persuaded t lolo down there with them and spend a weel,-  two. He had brought back & touch of malarial fever, and the sea breezes were r?e- iviDg. They played bridge in the even- ■■ ings, motored a little, listened to the band. Sometimes the Henslows went on excursions that Vane did not join in; he occupied him- self in wandering about the town. He found some little shops with old prints in them, and he was beginning to collect prints, just by way of something to do. One afternoon, when the sun was low and the sea glassy, he sauntered down a little back street, and came on a shop he had not hunted out before. There were bits of old china, riveted and mended, in the window, some atrocious imitation jewellery of the early Victorian period, a battered Chippendale shaving mirror, a few beads on a brass tray. His eye was caught by a framed print in the background, and he pushed the door open and made his way into the dark interior. The bell on the door jangled hastily. Pre- sently there came in an old man in a dirty dressing-gown, a smoking-cap on his head. Vane pointed out the print, asked to look at it, and it was put into his hand. It proved to be a rather good one, spoilt by a huge stain across it. He looked at it critic- ally. "No, I don't think it will do, thanks. 1 only want these things in perfect condition." The old dealer's interest quickened. He rubbed hiii wrinkled hands together. "I can supply you with any number of that sort, sir," he said eagerly. "I've some first-class articles just come in; I haven't put them out yet. If you'll do me the favour to wait a minute I'll soon bring them down." "All right, thank you." Vane listened while the dragging old footsteps died away into the distance, and he was alone. He looked about him, as collectors will, poking here and there in search of a find. The shop really didn't seem to hold much besides rub- bish. He moved a step further in amongst the usual chaos. Then his eye was caught bv something on the shelf above him. He reached up and took it down. Yes, he was not mistaken. A jade-a really fine jade! Now- that was worth coming across. His old vivid interest in the stones, abated since lie had been two years parted from his collec- tion, awoke within him with renewed zest on the instant. That was a good find. There was another over there, on that table. By reaching over from where lie stood he could just get at it. He could not move nearer, for the whole back of the place was barricaded with larger articles. He was penned into a narrow space just large enough to hold him. He reached over, groped in the semi-darkness, got hold of the stone, brought it to the light, stretched along his gloved palm. As he turned it to the light from the window he felt himself glow suddenly. It was mag- nificent, splendid, a treasure indeed! He bent to examine it closer. Then a shock of recollection rushed over him. Why, he had seen this before-it was familiar to him. He remem bered how once before he had glowed with admiration at the carving, the depth of fine colour, the perfect, flawless contour. Where had he come across it before? And then with a start that almost shook the jade from his palm he remembered. It was at Harcourt's. It had been one of the speci- mens in his collection. Impossible! His collection had gone to a museum. No museum would part with such a gem as this, one of the chief glories of the whole. He was mistaken. It was like Harcourt's, that was all. He turned it over in his hand again, took a tiny magnifying glass from his waistcoat pocket. He turned the jade over, looked carefully along the back of it. Yes, by Jove! It was there, that little scratch he had remarked on Har- court's stones, and asked about. Harcourt had told him it was a private mark he used for every jade he acquired. This had been one of his there was no mistake about it. How on earth had it come here? It seemed incredible-amazing. No curator of any museum would have let it go, of that one might feel certain. Had any one abstracted it when the jades were packed and sent away? No, for he himself bad spoken about sealing the cabinets. He knew that it had been done at once. Surely that wasn't a possible solution. Then could Harcourt have parted with it? No, no. Again memory I was treacherous. Harcourt had showed him this jade that night; he had admired it, spoken of it. He could recall it all quite clearly now. They had stood together in the study while they examined it; it had been taken from one of the cabinets there. Why, now he thought of it, it was one of the very jades they had left scattered over the table when they went off to the draw- ing-room. Had it been there when he came back? For the life of him he could not remember. How should one notice, when such a grue- some discovery as he made in that room blotted out every other thought? And yet —and yet, yes, while he waited for Celia's return he had stood in the study, and his eyes had roamed over the stones on the table, taking note, as one mechanically does at such vital times, of even little trivial details. He had not noticed the jade then. No, he had not. If it had been there he must surely have remarked it it was so wonderful, so unique. His trained eye, the eye of the collector, could not have failed to note it. Then, if it was there when Harcourt and he had left the room, if it was there no longer when he himself came back to find Harcourt dead, how had it disappeared in the meantime? That old theory of his of theft, murder—was not this a sudden weight in the scale for it? If a thief had been among Harcourt's treasures, if the old man had intercepted someone in the act of carrying off a precious jade, if he had tried to stop the thief, to capture him, and the thief had shot in return, would not that ac- count for everything? But who had taken the jade? That was the point to discover. How had it gone from the study of Har- court to the shop of the curio dealer? He heard the old man's shuffling steps coming back along the passage. He stood erect and eager, with the jade in his hand. "I've come on something rather pretty here," he said. "This stone-what do you ask for it?" The dealer named a sum far below the jade's value. Vane was prepared for that. He turned the stone in his hand and deliber- ated. "It rather seems as if it ought to have another to go with it," he said. The old dealer protested. "They don't come in pairs-not that sort don ,t. It's a good article. I'm offering it dirt cheap"— and all the rest of it. "Could you find out if the person you bought it of has another to match ?" Vane still held the jade. "I'd take the pair, if there were two of them." The dealer shook his shaggy head, with the long, unkempt hair. "I'm certain there isn't another, or he'd have sold it with this. He was keen to have me buy it. It's a first-class stone, that, sir. You'd better have it." "I don't know." Still he seemed to hesi- tate. "Could you tell me where you got it," he asked lamely. "If you'd ask the person who sold it to you, or give me the address. I'd like it if I could have a match for it." The old dealer grew exasperated. "There isn't any good your trying, I'm certain oi it. But I'll give you the address, if you like to see for yourself. I bought it from a man living in Dean Street—No. 7. I sent him the money there. You'd (tetter take this, anyhow; you won't get a chance like it again." And Vane, yielding with what seemed like reluctance, paid the price asked and slipped the jade into his pocket. He went out into the sunlight feeling himself on the brink of discovery. What was he to do? He might call and try to find out something from the seller of the jade-lie, would go round there now. He took out his watch. No, he was due at tea with a hotel visitor-a lady with daughters -who had seen in Vane from the moment she met him an excellent chance for the famiiy. "He must put the visit to Dean Street off till to-morrow. He walked off to the hotel with his jade weighing down his coat pocket, and his mind so fulfof this new extraordinary development that he proved but a dull caller. Mrs. Mears consoled hcrs1f. After all a girl doesn't marry a man to have him enter- tain her. What's needed in a husband is plenty of money, position, enough good nature to let his wife do as she likes, and spend what she chooses. Social qualities don't matter a straw. "He's rich, and he's satisfactory, this Mr. Vane. He'd do splen- didly for any one of the girls. He can have whichever he chooses. ilis long as I get one off my hands, I don't care if she marries a deaf mute. Perhaps so much the better!" CHAPTER XXIIL < THE CLAIRVOYANT. Somebody handing round thin bread-and- butter at the Mears' tea began to banter the youngest daughter. "Come, now, Miss Mears, if you don't tell me that secret of yours I'll find it out, in spite of you. I'll take your pocket-handker- chief, or your hatpin, or something, and get the thought-reading lady to find out all you won't tell me. You'd better out with it and save me all the trouble." The youngest Miss Mears laughed de- lightedly. "You wouldn't be such a sneak! Even if you would, you haven't got anything of mine to take her-not a single thing. You can't frighten me." "What's that?" Mrs. Mears looked up from the teapot. "What's all that? Have you been to the Magician's Cave? I hear people are saying it's a humbug." "Who says so?" The young man put down his bread-and-butter plate and crossed the carpet. "I don't know who told you, but whoever it was, they're out of it. Why, she's a marvel, that girl. They say she can tell the number of your watch when it's in your pocket, and read a letter held behind her head—and give your name, and the place you were born in, and all that kind of thing." "Oh, it's all collusion!" A stout lady, who overfilled a small, low chair, brisked up and joined in the conversation. "There's no collusion about this girl, or trick either." The young man was on the defensive immediately. "I've been twice, and the second time I was more befooled even than the first. I thought like you, and I meant to find the trick of it. But there isn't one. That's the queerest part of it. She's perfectly genuine. She can read thoughts, and she s a clairvoyant." The stout lady wagged her head, and the feather that stood aloft from her hat waved aggressively. "These people only say things that happen to everybody. Then you can't find them out and expose them. Liars and cheats, every one of them." "I've heard this girl tell a man that he'd had news that day of friends across the sea, and she described the person, and the man toM me it was true, letter for letter." "Oh, she knew somebody who knew him, and they told her! That doesn't take a child in "And I've seen somebody hand her up a ring, Lii4 she told a long story about where it was found in Africa, and it was right- quite right—from start to finish. What do you make of that, then?" "Oh, a coincidence; that's all. She might be right sometimes. Some of the chances are in her favour. I suppose," said the stout lady, with slow, meaning emphasis, "that this creature who gives the show is young and—and good looking, isn't she?" If she had expected an indignant denial to her innuendo, she did not get it. The young man grinned. "Why, of course. You've hit it! If she was elderly, and fat and ordi- nary, where'd be the fun? It's because she's a lovely being that it's all the more draw. The man who runs the show'd be a fool if he didn't see to that all right. You don't pay your shilling, or your half-crown, as the case may be, to stare at a hag doing thought-reading! And the vanquished lady had for once in her life not a word left her. Amused, Vane leant back in his chair, listening to the little sparring-match. As he changed his position, something in te small of his back made itself felt uncom- fortably. Mechanically he put up his hand to move it. It was hard, and cold, and ob- long. Recollection flashed on him. For the moment he had forgotten the jade. Now ho remembered with a shock, and with a sudden inspiration a thought flashed on him: Why not take it to this clairvoyant they were all talking of? If there were anything in her boasted powers, couldn't she tell him where it came from, what was the truth of the tragedy connected with it? His fingers touched it. tightened on it, then he drew away his hand suddenly. Of course, it was all stuff and nonsense. These things were mere trickery, cleverly-arranged collusion, exhibitions of practised skill, not of necro- mancy. What could any one on earth tell him from the mere touch of that cold, silent jade? It was idiotic to imagine it, and yet —and yet—his thoughts returned to the idea and dwelt round it with a peculiar fascina- tion. People began to rise and go, and Vane found himself able to make his escape. He thought about it once more, as he walked back to his hotel for dinner: Was there any- thing in those powers of this girl they talked about, after all? If she could tell him anything he longed to know! If-and there his heart leapt and stirred indeed-she could give him any clue to what had hap- pened with Celia? That little handkerchief that lay still folded in his dispatch-box— that innocent-looking little lace-bordered handkerchief, from which the violet scent had long, long gone—it was too sacred, wasn't it, to hand up through a gaping audience and give into the grasp of a vulgar professional charlatan? Yet—yet if one could know! If one could have the least know- ledge, the faintest clue to that dark, hor- rible puzzle that for ever compassed him about sleeping or waking like a grisly night- mare If one could be sure that Celia was not unhappy, if one could have all those hor- rible doubts set at rest that so long had haunted one. "No, she was not guilty! She was inno- cent—innocent as the day There was some horrible mystery somewhere. If she had gone with another man, it was because she had cared for him first-lived down her feel- ing, it might be, or thought she had, till he suddenly appeared again before her. Then it had all awakened, sprung upon her like a man armed and desperate. How could he blame her, he who did not even know the truth? Yes, his heart acquitted her. But that jade. If he knew how it had come into the possession of the man who had sold it to the curio-dealer, that would be something.. What harm, what possible harm, anyway, in going to see the clairvoyant-- taking it with one? He walked on to his hotel, his head down, his hands thrust in his pockets, his heart moody. The Henslows found him a silent companion at dinner. When coffee and cigarettes came, he got up and glanced at his watch. "Going out, eh, Vane?" asked Henslow, stretching himself luxuriously in his low cane chair and reaching for the lighter. Vane said he thought he should take a stroll. For just one minute he had con- sidered the idea of asking the Henslows to come with him to the Magician's Cave. Then he had put the idea aside. He would rather go alone to see whether the clairvoyant could tell him anything, or whether after all she was a vulgar fraud, cheating people into a belief that she had occult powers. He took his hat and light overcoat and went out of the hotel, the jade still in his pocket. He walked along the lighted streets, with ^he sound of the sea in the distance like a sob- bing voice, and he found his way to the cave of the magician, where people were throng- ing in through the canvas opening. He paid for a seat, taking a ticket from the faded woman, and went in with them. (To be Continued.)

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