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Chapter 3 THE REDHILL SISTERHOOD.

  • "THEY want you at Redhill, now," said Mr. Dyer, taking a packet of papers fro_ne of his pigeon-holes. "The idea seems gaining ground in manly quarters tha_n cases of mere suspicion, women detectives are more satisfactory than men, for they are less likely to attract attention. And this Redhill affair, so fa_s I can make out, is one of suspicion only."
  • It was a dreary November morning; every gas jet in the Lynch Court office wa_light, and a yellow curtain of outside fog draped its narrow windows.
  • "Nevertheless, I suppose one can't afford to leave it uninvestigated at thi_eason of the year, with country-house robberies beginning in so man_uarters," said Miss Brooke.
  • "No; and the circumstances in this case certainly seem to point in th_irection of the country-house burglar. Two days ago a somewhat curiou_pplication was made privately, by a man giving the name of John Murray, t_nspector Gunning, of the Reigate police–Redhill, I must tell you is in th_eigate police district. Murray stated that he had been a greengroce_omewhere in South London, had sold his business there, and had, with th_roceeds of the sale, bought two small houses in Redhill, intending to let th_ne and live in the other. These houses are situated in a blind alley, know_s Paved Court, a narrow turning leading off the London and Brighton coac_oad. Paved Court has been known to the sanitary authorities for the past te_ears as a regular fever nest, and as the houses which Murray bought–numbers _nd 8–stand at the very end of the blind alley, with no chance of thoroug_entilation, I dare say the man got them for next to nothing. He told th_nspector that he had had great difficulty in procuring a tenant for the hous_e wished to let, number 8, and that consequently when, about three week_ack, a lady, dressed as a nun, made him an offer for it, he immediatel_losed with her. The lady gave her name simply as 'Sister Monica,' and state_hat she was a member of an undenominational Sisterhood that had recently bee_ounded by a wealthy lady, who wished her name kept a secret. Sister Monic_ave no references, but, instead, paid a quarter's rent in advance, sayin_hat she wished to take possession of the house immediately, and open it as _ome for crippled orphans."
  • "Gave no references–home for cripples," murmured Loveday, scribbling hard an_ast in her note-book.
  • "Murray made no objection to this," continued Mr. Dyer, "and, accordingly, th_ext day, Sister Monica, accompanied by three other Sisters and some sickl_hildren, took possession of the house, which they furnished with the bares_ossible necessaries from cheap shops in the neighbourhood. For a time, Murra_aid, he thought he had secured most desirable tenants, but during the las_en days suspicions as to their real character have entered his mind, an_hese suspicions he thought it his duty to communicate to the police. Amon_heir possessions, it seems, these Sisters number an old donkey and a tin_art, and this they start daily on a sort of begging tour through th_djoining villages, bringing back every evening a perfect hoard of broke_ictuals and bundles of old garments. Now comes the extraordinary fact o_hich Murray bases his suspicions. He says, and Gunning verifies hi_tatement, that in whatever direction those Sisters turn the wheels of thei_onkey-cart, burglaries, or attempts at burglaries, are sure to follow. A wee_go they went along towards Horley, where, at an outlying house, they receive_uch kindness from a wealthy gentleman. That very night an attempt was made t_reak into that gentleman's house–an attempt, however, that was happil_rustrated by the barking of the house-dog. And so on in other instances tha_ need not go into. Murray suggests that it might be as well to have the dail_ovements of these sisters closely watched, and that extra vigilance should b_xercised by the police in the districts that have had the honour of a mornin_all from them. Gunning coincides with this idea, and so has sent to me t_ecure your services."
  • Loveday closed her note-book. "I suppose Gunning will meet me somewhere an_ell me where I'm to take up my quarters?" she said.
  • "Yes; he will get into your carriage at Merstham–the station before Redhill–i_ou will put your hand out of window, with the morning paper in it. By-the- way, he takes it for granted that you will save the 11.5 train from Victoria.
  • Murray, it seems has been good enough to place his little house at th_isposal of the police, but Gunning does not think espionage could be so wel_arried on there as from other quarters. The presence of a stranger in a_lley of that sort is bound to attract attention. So he has hired a room fo_ou in a draper's shop that immediately faces the head of the court. There i_ private door to this shop of which you will have the key, and can le_ourself in and out as you please. You are supposed to be a nursery governes_n the lookout for a situation, and Gunning will keep you supplied wit_etters to give colour to the idea. He suggests that you need only occupy th_oom during the day, at night you will find far more comfortable quarters a_aker's Hotel, just outside the town."
  • This was about the sum total of the instructions that Mr. Dyer had to give.
  • The 11.5 train from Victoria, that carried Loveday to her work among th_urrey Hills, did not get clear of the London fog till well away on the othe_ide of Purley. When the train halted at Merstham, in response to her signal _all, soldier-like individual made for her carriage, and, jumping in, took th_eat facing her. He introduced himself to her as Inspector Gunning, recalle_o her memory a former occasion on which they had met, and then, naturall_nough, turned the talk upon the present suspicious circumstances they wer_ent upon investigating.
  • "It won't do for you and me to be seen together," he said; "of course I a_nown for miles round, and anyone seen in my company will be at once set dow_s my coadjutor, and spied upon accordingly. I walked from Redhill to Merstha_n purpose to avoid recognition on the platform at Redhill, and half-way here, to my great annoyance, found that I was being followed by a man in a workman'_ress and carrying a basket of tools. I doubled, however, and gave him th_lip, taking a short cut down a lane which, if he had been living in th_lace, he would have known as well as I did. By Jove!" this was added with _udden start, "there is the fellow, I declare; he has weathered me after all, and has no doubt taken good stock of us both, with the train going at thi_nail's pace. It was unfortunate that your face should have been turne_owards that window, Miss Brooke."
  • "My veil is something of a disguise, and I will put on another cloak before h_as a chance of seeing me again," said Loveday.
  • All she had seen in the brief glimpse that the train had allowed, was a tall, powerfully-built man walking along a siding of the line. His cap was drawn lo_ver his eyes, and in his hand he carried a workman's basket.
  • Gunning seemed much annoyed at the circumstance. "Instead of landing a_edhill," he said, "we'll go on to Three Bridges and wait there for a Brighto_rain to bring us back, that will enable you to get to your room somewher_etween the lights; I don't want to have you spotted before you've so much a_tarted your work."
  • Then they went back to their discussion of the Redhill Sisterhood.
  • "They call themselves 'undenominational,' whatever that means," said Gunning
  • "they say they are connected with no religious sect whatever, they atten_ometimes one place of worship, sometimes another, sometimes none at all. The_efuse to give up the name of the founder of their order, and really no on_as any right to demand it of them, for, as no doubt you see, up to th_resent moment the case is one of mere suspicion, and it may be a pur_oincidence that attempts at burglary have followed their footsteps in thi_eighbourhood. By-the-way, I have heard of a man's face being enough to han_im, but until I saw Sister Monica's, I never saw a woman's face that coul_erform the same kind office for her. Of all the lowest criminal types o_aces I have ever seen, I think hers is about the lowest and most repulsive."
  • After the Sisters, they passed in review the chief families resident in th_eighbourhood.
  • ."This," said Gunning, unfolding a paper, "is a map I have specially drawn u_or you–it takes in the district for ten miles round Redhill, and ever_ountry house of any importance is marked with it in red ink. Here, i_ddition, is an index to those houses, with special notes of my own to ever_ouse."
  • Loveday studied the map for a minute or so, then turned her attention to th_ndex.
  • "Those four houses you've marked, I see, are those that have been alread_ttempted. I don't think I'll run them through, but I'll mark them 'doubtful;'
  • you see the gang–for, of course, it is a gang–might follow our reasoning o_he matter, and look upon those houses as our weak point. Here's one I'll ru_hrough, 'house empty during winter months,' that means plate and jeweller_ent to the bankers. Oh! and this one may as well be crossed off, 'father an_our sons all athletes and sportsmen,' that means firearms always handy–_on't think burglars will be likely to trouble them. Ah! now we come t_omething! Here's a house to be marked 'tempting' in a burglar's list.
  • 'Wootton Hall, lately changed hands and re-built, with complicated passage_nd corridors. Splendid family plate in daily use and left entirely to th_are of the butler.' I wonder, does the master of that house trust to his
  • 'complicated passages' to preserve his plate for him? A dismissed dishones_ervant would supply a dozen maps of the place for half-a-sovereign. What d_hese initials, 'E.L.,' against the next house in the list, North Cape, stan_or?"
  • "Electric lighted. I think you might almost cross that house off also. _onsider electric lighting one of the greatest safeguards against burglar_hat a man can give his house."
  • "Yes, if he doesn't rely exclusively upon it; it might be a nasty trap unde_ertain circumstances. I see this gentleman also has magnificent presentatio_nd other plate."
  • "Yes. Mr. Jameson is a wealthy man and very popular in the neighbourhood; hi_ups and epergnes are worth looking at."
  • "Is it the only house in the district that is lighted with electricity?"
  • "Yes; and, begging your pardon, Miss Brooke, I only wish it were not so. I_lectric lighting were generally in vogue it would save the police a lot o_rouble on these dark winter nights."
  • "The burglars would find some way of meeting such a condition of things, depend upon it; they have reached a very high development in these days. The_o longer stalk about as they did fifty years ago with blunderbuss an_ludgeon; they plot, plan, contrive and bring imagination and artisti_esource to their aid. By-the-way, it often occurs to me that the popula_etective stories, for which there seems to large a demand at the present day, must be, at times, uncommonly useful to the criminal classes."
  • At Three Bridges they had to wait so long for a return train that it wa_early dark when Loveday got back to Redhill. Mr. Gunning did not accompan_er thither, having alighted at a previous station. Loveday had directed he_ortmanteau to be sent direct to Laker's Hotel, where she had engaged a roo_y telegram from Victoria Station. So, unburthened by luggage, she slippe_uietly out of the Redhill Station and made her way straight for the draper'_hop in the London Road. She had no difficulty in finding it, thanks to th_inute directions given her by the Inspector.
  • Street lamps were being lighted in the sleepy little town as she went along, and as she turned into the London Road, shopkeepers were lighting up thei_indows on both sides of the way. A few yards down this road, a dark patc_etween the lighted shops showed her where Paved Court led off from th_horoughfare. A side-door of one of the shops that stood at the corner of th_ourt seemed to offer a post of observation whence she could see without bein_een, and here Loveday, shrinking into the shadows, ensconced herself in orde_o take stock of the little alley and its inhabitants. She found it much as i_ad been described to her–a collection of four-roomed houses of which mor_han half were unlet. Numbers 7 and 8 at the head of the court presented _lightly less neglected appearance than the other tenements. Number 7 stood i_otal darkness, but in the upper window of number 8 there showed what seeme_o be a night-light burning, so Loveday conjectured that this possibly was th_oom set apart as a dormitory for the little cripples.
  • While she stood thus surveying the home of the suspected Sisterhood, th_isters themselves–two, at least, of them–came into view, with their donkey- cart and their cripples, in the main road. It was an odd little cortège. On_ister, habited in a nun's dress of dark blue serge, led the donkey by th_ridle; another Sister, similarly attired, walked alongside the low cart, i_hich were seated two sickly-looking children. They were evidently returnin_rom one of their long country circuits, and unless they had lost their wa_nd been belated–it certainly seemed a late hour for the sickly littl_ripples to be abroad.
  • As they passed under the gas lamp at the corner of the court, Loveday caught _limpse of the faces of the Sisters. It was easy, with Inspector Gunning'_escription before her mind, to identify the older and taller woman as Siste_onica, and a more coarse-featured and generally repellant face Loveda_dmitted to herself she had never before seen. In striking contrast to thi_orbidding countenance, was that of the younger Sister. Loveday could onl_atch a brief passing view of it, but that one brief view was enough t_mpress it on her memory as of unusual sadness and beauty. As the donke_topped at the corner of the court, Loveday heard this sad-looking young woma_ddressed as "Sister Anna" by one of the cripples, who asked plaintively whe_hey were going to have something to eat.
  • "Now, at once," said Sister Anna, lifting the little one, as it seemed t_oveday, tenderly out of the cart, and carrying him on her shoulder down th_ourt to the door of number 8, which opened to them at their approach. Th_ther Sister did the same with the other child; then both Sisters returned, unloaded the cart of sundry bundles and baskets, and, this done, led off th_ld donkey and trap down the road, possibly to a neighbouring costermonger'_tables.
  • A man, coming along on a bicycle, exchanged a word of greeting with th_isters as they passed, then swung himself off his machine at the corner o_he court, and walked it along the paved way to the door of number 7. This h_pened with a key, and then, pushing the machine before him, entered th_ouse.
  • Loveday took it for granted that this man must be the John Murray of whom sh_ad heard. She had closely scrutinized him as he had passed her, and had see_hat he was a dark, well-featured man of about fifty years of age.
  • She congratulated herself on her good fortune in having seen so much in such _rief space of time, and coming forth from her sheltered corner turned he_teps in the direction of the draper's shop on the other side of the road.
  • It was easy to find it. "Golightly" was the singular name that figured abov_he shop-front, in which were displayed a variety of goods calculated to mee_he wants of servants and the poorer classes generally. A tall, powerfully- built man appeared to be looking in at this window. Loveday's foot was on th_oorstep of the draper's private entrance, her hand on the door-knocker, whe_his individual, suddenly turning, convinced her of his identity with th_ourneyman workman who had so disturbed Mr. Gunning's equanimity. It was tru_e wore a bowler instead of a journeyman's cap, and he no longer carried _asket of tools, but there was no possibility for anyone, with so good an ey_or an outline as Loveday possessed, not to recognize the carriage of the hea_nd shoulders as that of the man she had seen walking along the railwa_iding. He gave her no time to make minute observation of his appearance, bu_urned quickly away, and disappeared down a by-street.
  • Loveday's work seemed to bristle with difficulties now. Here was she, as i_ere, unearthed in her own ambush; for there could be but little doubt tha_uring the whole time she had stood watching those Sisters, that man, from _afe vantage point, had been watching her.
  • She found Mrs. Golightly a civil and obliging person. She showed Loveday t_er room above the shop, brought her the letters which Inspector Gunning ha_een careful to have posted to her during the day. Then she supplied her wit_en and ink and, in response to Loveday's request, with some strong coffe_hat she said, with a little attempt at a joke, would "keep a dormouse awak_ll through the winter without winking."
  • While the obliging landlady busied herself about the room, Loveday had a fe_uestions to ask about the Sisterhood who lived down the court opposite. O_his head, however, Mrs. Golightly could tell her no more than she alread_new, beyond the fact that they started every morning on their rounds a_leven o'clock punctually, and that before that hour they were never to b_een outside their door.
  • Loveday's watch that night was to be a fruitless one. Although she sat, wit_er lamp turned out and safely screened from observation, until close upo_idnight, with eyes fixed upon numbers 7 and 8 Paved Court, not so much as _oor opening or shutting at either house rewarded her vigil. The light_litted from the lower to the upper floors in both houses, and the_isappeared somewhere between nine and ten in the evening; and after that, no_ sign of life did either tenement show.
  • And all through the long hours of that watch, backwards and forwards ther_eemed to flit before her mind's eye, as if in some sort it were fixed upo_ts retina, the sweet, sad face of Sister Anna.
  • Why it was this face should so haunt her, she found it hard to say.
  • "It has a mournful past and a mournful future written upon it as a hopeles_hole," she said to herself. "It is the face of an Andromeda! 'here am I,' i_eems to say, 'tied to my stake, helpless and hopeless.'"
  • The church clocks were sounding the midnight hour as Loveday made her wa_hrough the dark streets to her hotel outside the town. As she passed unde_he railway arch that ended in the open country road, the echo of not ver_istant footsteps caught her ear. When she stopped they stopped, when she wen_n they went on, and she knew that once more she was being followed an_atched, although the darkness of the arch prevented her seeing even th_hadow of the man who was thus dogging her steps.
  • The next morning broke keen and frosty. Loveday studied her map and he_ountry-house index over a seven o'clock breakfast, and then set off for _risk walk along the country road. No doubt in London the streets were walle_n and roofed with yellow fog; here, however, bright sunshine played in an_ut of the bare tree-boughs and leafless hedges on to a thousand fros_pangles, turning the prosaic macadamized road into a gangway fit for Quee_itania herself and her fairy train.
  • Loveday turned her back on the town and set herself to follow the road as i_ound away over the hill in the direction of a village called Northfield.
  • Early as she was, she was not to have that road to herself. A team of stron_orses trudged by on their way to their work in the fuller's-earth pits. _oung fellow on a bicycle flashed past at a tremendous pace, considering th_pward slant of the road. He looked hard at her as he passed, then slackene_ace, dismounted, and awaited her coming on the brow of the hill.
  • "Good morning, Miss Brooke," he said, lifting his cap as she came alongside o_im. "May I have five minutes' talk with you?"
  • The young man who thus accosted her had not the appearance of a gentleman. H_as a handsome, bright-faced young fellow of about two-and-twenty, and wa_ressed in ordinary cyclists' dress; his cap was pushed back from his bro_ver thick, curly, fair hair, and Loveday, as she looked at him, could no_epress the thought how well he would look at the head of a troop of cavalry, giving the order to charge the enemy.
  • He led his machine to the side of the footpath.
  • "You have the advantage of me," said Loveday; "I haven't the remotest notio_ho you are."
  • "No," he said; "although I know you, you cannot possibly know me. I am a nort_ountry man, and I was present, about a month ago, at the trial of old Mr.
  • Craven, of Troyte's Hill–in fact, I acted as reporter for one of the loca_apers. I watched your face so closely as you gave your evidence that I shoul_now it anywhere, among a thousand."
  • "And your name is—?"
  • "George White, of Grenfell. My father is part proprietor of one of th_ewcastle papers. I am a bit of a literary man myself, and sometimes figure a_ reporter, sometimes as leader-writer, to that paper." Here he gave a glanc_owards his side pocket, from which protruded a small volume of Tennyson'_oems.
  • The facts he had stated did not seem to invite comment, and Loveday ejaculate_erely:
  • "Indeed!"
  • The young man went back to the subject that was evidently filling hi_houghts. "I have special reasons for being glad to have met you this morning, Miss Brooke," he want on, making his footsteps keep pace with hers. "I am i_reat trouble, and I believe you are the only person in the whole world wh_an help me out of that trouble."
  • "I am rather doubtful as to my power of helping anyone out of trouble," sai_oveday; "so far as my experience goes, our troubles are as much a part o_urselves as our skins are of our bodies."
  • "Ah, but not such trouble as mine," said White eagerly. He broke off for _oment, then, with a sudden rush of words, told her what that trouble was. Fo_he past year he had been engaged to be married to a young girl, who, unti_uite recently had been fulfilling the duties of a nursery governess in _arge house in the neighbourhood of Redhill.
  • "Will you kindly give me the name of that house?" interrupted Loveday.
  • "Certainly; Wootton Hall, the place is called, and Annie Lee is m_weetheart's name. I don't care who knows it!" He threw his head back as h_aid this, as if he would be delighted to announce the fact to the whol_orld. "Annie's mother," he went on, "died when she was a baby, and we bot_hought her father was dead also, when suddenly, about a fortnight ago, i_ame to her knowledge that instead of being dead, he was serving his time a_ortland for some offence committed years ago."
  • "Do you know how this came to Annie's knowledge?"
  • "Not the least in the world; I only know that I suddenly got a letter from he_nnouncing the fact, and at the same time, breaking off her engagement wit_e. I tore the letter into a thousand pieces, and wrote back saying I woul_ot allow the engagement to be broken off, but would marry her to-morrow i_he would have me. To this letter she did not reply; there came instead a fe_ines from Mrs. Copeland, the lady at Wootton Hall, saying that Annie ha_hrown up her engagement and joined some Sisterhood, and that she, Mrs.
  • Copeland, had pledged her word to Annie to reveal to no one the name an_hereabouts of that Sisterhood."
  • "And I suppose you imagine I am able to do what Mrs. Copeland is pledged no_o do?"
  • "That's just it, Miss Brooke," cried the young man enthusiastically. "You d_uch wonderful things; everyone knows you do. It seems as if, when anything i_anted to be found out, you just walk into a place, look round you and, in _oment, everything becomes clear as noonday."
  • "I can't quite lay claim to such wonderful powers as that. As it happens, however, in the present instance, no particular skill is needed to find ou_hat you wish to know, for I fancy I have already come upon the traces of Mis_nnie Lee."
  • "Miss Brooke!"
  • "Of course, I cannot say for certain, but is a matter you can easily settl_or yourself–settle, too, in a way that will confer a great obligation on me."
  • "I shall be only too delighted to be of any–the slightest service to you,"
  • cried White, enthusiastically as before.
  • "Thank you. I will explain. I came down here specially to watch the movement_f a certain Sisterhood who have somehow aroused the suspicions of the police.
  • Well, I find that instead of being able to do this, I am myself so closel_atched–possibly by confederates of these Sisters–that unless I can do my wor_y deputy I may as well go back to town at once."
  • "Ah! I see–you want me to be that deputy."
  • "Precisely. I want you to go to the room in Redhill that I have hired, tak_our place at the window–screened, of course, from observation–at which _ught to be seated–watch as closely as possible the movements of these Sister_nd report them to me at the hotel, where I shall remain shut in from mornin_ill night–it is the only way in which I can throw my persistent spies off th_cent. Now, in doing this for me, you will be also doing yourself a good turn, for I have little doubt but what under the blue serge hood of one of th_isters you will discover the pretty face of Miss Annie Lee."
  • As they had talked they had walked, and now stood on the top of the hill a_he head of the one little street that constituted the whole of the village o_orthfield.
  • On their left hand stood the village schools and the master's house; nearl_acing these, on the opposite side of the road, beneath a clump of elms, stoo_he village pound. Beyond this pound, on either side of the way, were two row_f small cottages with tiny squares of garden in front, and in the midst o_hese small cottages a swinging sign beneath a lamp announced a "Postal an_elegraph Office."
  • "Now that we have come into the land of habitations again," said Loveday, "i_ill be best for us to part. It will not do for you and me to be see_ogether, or my spies will be transferring their attentions from me to you, and I shall have to find another deputy. You had better start on your bicycl_or Redhill at once, and I will walk back at leisurely speed. Come to me at m_otel without fail at one o'clock and report proceedings. I do not sa_nything definite about remuneration, but I assure you, if you carry out m_nstructions to the letter, your services will be amply rewarded by me and b_y employers."
  • There were yet a few more details to arrange. White had been, he said, only _ay and night in the neighbourhood, and special directions as to the localit_ad to be given to him. Loveday advised him not to attract attention by goin_o the draper's private door, but to enter the shop as if he were a customer, and then explain matters to Mrs. Golightly, who, no doubt, would be in he_lace behind the counter; tell her he was the brother of the Miss Smith wh_ad hired her room, and ask permission to go through the shop to that room, a_e had been commissioned by his sister to read and answer any letters tha_ight have arrived there for her.
  • "Show her the key of the side door–here it is," said Loveday; "it will be you_redentials, and tell her you did not like to make use of it withou_cquainting her with the fact."
  • The young man took the key, endeavoured to put it in his waistcoat pocket, found the space there occupied and so transferred it to the keeping of a sid_ocket in his tunic.
  • All this time Loveday stood watching him.
  • "You have a capital machine there," she said, as the young man mounted hi_icycle once more, "and I hope you will turn it to account in following th_ovements of these Sisters about the neighbourood. I feel confident you wil_ave something definite to tell me when you bring me your first report at on_'clock."
  • White once more broke into a profusion of thanks, and then, lifting his cap t_he lady, started his machine at a fairly good pace.
  • Loveday watched him out of sight down the slope of the hill, then, instead o_ollowing him as she had said she would "at a leisurely pace," she turned he_teps in the opposite direction along the village street.
  • It was an altogether ideal country village. Neatly-dressed chubby-face_hildren, now on their way to the schools, dropped quaint little curtsies, o_ugged at curly locks as Loveday passed; every cottage looked the picture o_leanliness and trimness, and although so late in the year, the gardens wer_ull of late flowering chrysanthemums and early flowering Christmas roses.
  • At the end of the village, Loveday came suddenly into view of a large, handsome, red-brick mansion. It presented a wide frontage to the road, fro_hich it lay back amid extensive pleasure grounds. On the right hand, and _ittle in the rear of the house, stood what seemed to be large and commodiou_tables, and immediately adjoining these stables was a low-built, red-bric_hed, that had evidently been recently erected.
  • That low-build, red-brick shed excited Loveday's curiosity.
  • "Is this house called North Cape?" she asked of a man, who chanced at tha_oment to be passing with a pickaxe and shovel.
  • The man answered in the affirmative, and Loveday then asked another question: could he tell her what was that small shed so close to the house–it looke_ike a glorified cowhouse–now what could be its use?
  • The man's face lighted up as if it were a subject on which he liked to b_uestioned. He explained that that small shed was the engine-house where th_lectricity that lighted North Cape was made and stored. Then he dwelt wit_ride upon the fact, as if he held a personal interest in it, that North Cap_as the only house, far or near, that was thus lighted.
  • "I suppose the wires are carried underground to the house," said Loveday, looking in vain for signs of them anywhere.
  • The man was delighted to go into details on the matter. He had helped to la_hose wires, he said: they were two in number, one for supply and one fo_eturn, and were laid three feet below ground, in boxes filled with pitch.
  • These wires were switched on to jars in the engine-house, where th_lectricity was stored, and, after passing underground, entered the famil_ansion under its flooring at its western end.
  • Loveday listened attentively to these details, and then took a minute an_eisurely survey of the house and its surroundings. This done, she retrace_er steps through the village, pausing, however, at the "Postal and Telegrap_ffice" to dispatch a telegram to Inspector Gunning.
  • It was one to send the Inspector to his cipher-book. It ran as follows:
  • "Rely solely on chemist and coal-merchant throughout the day.–L. B."
  • After this, she quickened her pace, and in something over three-quarters of a_our was back again at her hotel.
  • There she found more of life stirring than when she had quitted it in th_arly morning. There was to be a meeting of the "Surrey Stags," about a coupl_f miles off, and a good many hunting men were hanging about the entrance t_he house, discussing the chances of sport after last night's frost. Loveda_ade her way through the throng in leisurely fashion, and not a man but wha_ad keen scrutiny from her sharp eyes. No, there was no cause for suspicio_here: they were evidently one and all just what they seemed to be–loud- voiced, hard-riding men, bent on a day's sport; but–and here Loveday's eye_raveled beyond the hotel court-yard to the other side of the road–who wa_hat man with a bill-hook hacking at the hedge there–a thin-featured, round- shouldered old fellow, with a bent-about hat? It might be as well not to tak_t too rashly for granted that her spies had withdrawn, and had left her fre_o do her work in her own fashion.
  • She went upstairs to her room. It was situated on the first floor in the fron_f the house, and consequently commanded a good view of the high road. Sh_tood well back from the window, and at an angle whence she could see and no_e seen, took a long, steady survey of the hedger. And the longer she looke_he more convinced she was that the man's real work was something other tha_he bill-hook seemed to imply. He worked, so to speak, with his head over hi_houlder, and when Loveday supplemented her eyesight with a strong field- glass, she could see more than one stealthy glance shot from beneath his bent- about hat in the direction of her window.
  • There could be little doubt about it: her movements were to be as closel_atched to-day as they had been yesterday. Now it was of first importance tha_he should communicate with Inspector Gunning in the course of the afternoon: the question to solve was how it was to be done?
  • To all appearance Loveday answered the question in extraordinary fashion. Sh_ulled up her blind, she drew back her curtain, and seated herself, in ful_iew, at a small table in the window recess. Then she took a pocket inkstan_rom her pocket, a packet or correspondence cards from her letter-case, an_ith rapid pen, set to work on them.
  • About an hour and a half afterwards, White, coming in, according to hi_romise, to report proceedings, found her still seated at the window, not, however, with writing materials before her, but with needle and thread in he_and with which she was mending her gloves.
  • "I return to town by the first train to-morrow morning," she said as h_ntered, "and I find these wretched things want no end of stitches. Now fo_our report."
  • White appeared to be in an elated frame of mind. "I've seen her!" he cried,
  • "my Annie–they've got her, those confounded Sisters; but they sha'n't kee_er–no, not if I have to pull the house down about their ears to get her out."
  • "Well, now you know where she is, you can take your time about getting he_ut," said Loveday. "I hope, however, you haven't broken faith with me, an_etrayed yourself by trying to speak with her, because, if so, I shall have t_ook out for another deputy."
  • "Honour, Miss Brooke!" answered White indignantly. "I stuck to my duty, thoug_t cost me something to see her hanging over those kids and tucking them int_he cart, and never say a word to her, never so much as wave my hand."
  • "Did she go out with the donkey-cart to-day?"
  • "No, she only tucked the kids into the cart with a blanket, and then went bac_o the house. Two old Sisters, ugly as sin, went out with them. I watched the_rom the window, jolt, jolt, jolt, round the corner, out of sight, and then _hipped down the stairs, and on to my machine, and was after them in a tric_nd managed to keep them well in sight for over an hour and a half."
  • "And their destination to-day was?"
  • "Wootton Hall."
  • "Ah, just as I expected."
  • "Just as you expected?" echoed White.
  • "I forgot. You do not know the nature of the suspicions that are attached t_his Sisterhood, and the reasons I have for thinking that Wootton Hall, a_his season of the year, might have an especial attraction for them."
  • White continued staring at her. "Miss Brooke," he said presently, in a_ltered tone, "whatever suspicions may attach to the Sisterhood, I'll stake m_ife on it, my Annie has had no share in any wickedness of any sort."
  • "Oh, quite so; it is most likely that your Annie has, in some way, bee_nveigled into joining these Sisters–has been taken possession of by them, i_act, just as they have taken possession of the little cripples."
  • "That's it!" he cried excitedly; "that was the idea that occurred to me whe_ou spoke to me on the hill about them, otherwise you may be sure—"
  • "Did they get relief of any sort at the Hall?" interrupted Loveday..
  • "Yes; one of the two ugly old women stopped outside the lodge gates with th_onkey-cart, and the other beauty went up to the house alone. She staye_here, I should think, about a quarter of an hour, and when she came back, wa_ollowed by a servant, carrying a bundle and a basket."
  • "Ah! I've no doubt they brought away with them something else beside ol_arments and broken victuals."
  • White stood in front of her, fixing a hard, steady gaze upon her.
  • "Miss Brooke," he said presently, in a voice that matched the look on hi_ace, "what do you suppose was the real object of these women in going t_ootton Hall this morning?"
  • "Mr. White, if I wished to help a gang of thieves break into Wootton Hal_onight, don't you think I should be greatly interested in procuring from the_he information that the master of the house was away from home; that two o_he men servants, who slept in the house, had recently been dismissed an_heir places had not yet been filled; also that the dogs were never unchaine_t night, and that their kennels were at the side of the house at which th_utler's pantry is not situated? These are particulars I have gathered in thi_ouse without stirring from my chair, and I am satisfied that they are likel_o be true. A the same time, if I were a professed burglar, I should not b_ontent with information that was likely to be true, but would be careful t_rocure such that was certain to be true, and so would set accomplices to wor_t the fountain head. Now do you understand?"
  • White folded his arms and looked down on her.
  • "What are you going to do?" he asked, in short, brusque tones.
  • Loveday looked him full in the face. "Communicate with the polic_mmediately," she answered; "and I should feel greatly obliged if you will a_nce take a note from me to Inspector Gunning at Reigate."
  • "And what becomes of Annie?"
  • "I don't think you need have any anxiety on that head. I've no doubt that whe_he circumstances of her admission to the Sisterhood are investigated, it wil_e proved that she has been as much deceived and imposed upon as the man, Joh_urray, who so foolishly let his house to these women. Remember, Annie ha_rs. Copeland's good word to support her integrity."
  • White stood silent for awhile.
  • "What sort of a note do you wish me to take to the Inspector?" he presentl_sked.
  • "You shall read it as I write it, if you like," answered Loveday. She took _orrespondence card from her letter case, and, with an indelible pencil, wrot_s follows–
  • "Wooton Hall is threatened to-night–concentrate attention there.
  • "L. B."
  • White read the words as she wrote them with a curious expression passing ove_is handsome features.
  • "Yes," he said, curtly as before. "I'll deliver that, I give you my word, bu_'ll bring back no answer to you. I'll do no more spying for you–it's a trad_hat doesn't suit me. There's a straight-forward way of doing straight-forwar_ork, and I'll take that way–no other–to get my Annie out of that den."
  • He took the note, which she sealed and handed to him, and strode out of th_oom.
  • Loveday, from the window, watched him mount his bicycle. Was it her fancy, o_id there pass a swift, furtive glance of recognition between him and th_edger on the other side of the way as he rode out of the court-yard?
  • Loveday seemed determined to make that hedger's work easy for him. The shor_inter's day was closing in now, and her room must consequently have bee_rowing dim to outside observation. She lighted the gas chandelier which hun_rom the ceiling and, still with blinds and curtains undrawn, took her ol_lace at the window, spread writing materials before her and commenced a lon_nd elaborate report to her chief at Lynch Court.
  • bout half-an-hour afterwards, as she threw a casual glance across the road, she saw that the hedger had disappeared, but that two ill-looking tramps sa_unching bread and cheese under the hedge to which his bill-hook had done s_ittle service. Evidently the intention was, one way or another, not to los_ight of her so long as she remained in Redhill.
  • Meantime, White had delivered Loveday's note to the Inspector at Reigate, an_ad disappeared on his bicycle once more.
  • Gunning read it without a change of expression. Then he crossed the room t_he fire-place and held the card as close to the bars as he could withou_corching it.
  • "I had a telegram from her this morning," he explained to his confidentia_an, "telling me to rely upon chemicals and coals throughout the day, an_hat, of course, meant that she would write to me in invisible ink. No doub_his message about Wootton Hall means nothing—"
  • He broke off abruptly, exclaiming: "Eh! what's this!" as, having withdrawn th_ard from the fire, Loveday's real message stood out in bold, clear character_etween the lines of the false one.
  • Thus it ran:
  • "North Cape will be attacked to-night–a desperate gang–be prepared for _truggle. Above all, guard the electrical engine-house. On no account attemp_o communicate with me; I am so closely watched that any endeavour to do s_ay frustrate your chance of trapping the scoundrels. L. B."
  • That night when the moon went down behind Reigate Hill an exciting scene wa_nacted at "North Cape." The  _Surrey Gazette_ , in its issue the followin_ay, gave the subjoined account of it under the heading, "Desperate encounte_ith burglars."
  • "Last night, 'North Cape,' the residence of Mr. Jameson, was the scene of a_ffray between the police and a desperate gang of burglars. 'North Cape' i_ighted throughout with electricity, and the burglars, four in number, divide_n half–two being told off to enter and rob the house, and two to remain a_he engine-shed, where the electricity is stored, so that, at a given signal, should need arise, the wires might be unswitched, the inmates of the hous_hrown into sudden darkness and confusion, and the escape of the marauder_hereby facilitated. Mr. Jameson, however, had received timely warning fro_he police of the intended attack, and he, with his two sons, all well armed, sat in darkness in the inner hall awaiting the coming of the thieves. Th_olice were stationed, some in the stables, some in out-buildings nearer t_he house, and others in more distant parts of the grounds. The burglar_ffected their entrance by means of a ladder placed to a window of th_ervants' stair case which leads straight down to the butler's pantry and t_he safe where the silver is kept. The fellows, however, had no sooner go_nto the house than the police issuing from their hiding-place outside, mounted the ladder after them and thus cut off their retreat. Mr. Jameson an_is two sons, at the same moment, attacked them in front, and thus overwhelme_y numbers, the scoundrels were easily secured. It was at the engine-hous_utside that the sharpest struggle took place. The thieves had forced open th_oor of this engine-shed with their jimmies immediately on their arrival, under the very eyes of the police, who lay in ambush in the stables, and whe_ne of the men, captured in the house, contrived to sound an alarm on hi_histle, these outside watchers made a rush for the electrical jars, in orde_o unswitch the wires. Upon this the police closed upon them, and a hand-to- hand struggle followed, and if it had not been for the timely assistance o_r. Jameson and his sons, who had fortunately conjectured that their presenc_ere might be useful, it is more than likely that one of the burglars, _owerfully-built man, would have escaped.
  • "The names of the captured men are John Murray, Arthur and George Lee (fathe_nd son), and a man with so many aliases that it is difficult to know which i_is real name. The whole thing had been most cunningly and carefully planned.
  • The elder Lee, lately released from penal servitude for a similar offence, appears to have been prime mover in the affair. This man had, it seems, a so_nd a daughter, who, through the kindness of friends, had been fairly wel_laced in life: the son at an electrical engineers' in London, the daughter a_ursery governess at Wootton Hall. Directly this man was released fro_ortland, he seems to have found out his children and done his best to rui_hem both. He was constantly at Wootton Hall endeavouring to induce hi_aughter to act as an accomplice to a robbery of the house. This so worrie_he girl that she threw up her situation and joined a Sisterhood that ha_ecently been established in the neighbourhood. Upon this, Lee's thought_urned in another direction. He induced his son, who had saved a little money, to throw up his work in London, and join him in his disreputable career. Th_oy is a handsome young fellow, but appears to have in him the makings of _irst-class criminal. In his work as an electrical engineer he had made th_cquaintance of the man John Murray, who, it is said, has been rapidly goin_ownhill of late. Murray was the owner of the house rented by the Sisterhoo_hat Miss Lee had joined, and the idea evidently struck the brains of thes_hree scoundrels that this Sisterhood, whose antecedents were a littl_ysterious, might be utilized to draw off the attention of the police fro_hemselves and from the especial house in the neighbourhood that they ha_lanned to attack. With this end in view, Murray made an application to th_olice to have the Sisters watched, and still further to give colour to th_uspicions he had endeavoured to set afloat concerning them, he and hi_onfederates made feeble attempts at burglary upon the houses at which th_isters had called, begging for scraps. It is a matter for congratulation tha_he plot, from beginning to end, has been thus successfully unearthed, and i_s felt on all sides that great credit is due to Inspector Gunning and hi_killed coadjutors for the vigilance and promptitude they have displaye_hroughout the affair."
  • Loveday read aloud this report, with her feet on the fender of the Lynch Cour_ffice.
  • "Accurate, as far as it goes," she said, as she laid down the paper.
  • "But we want to know a little more," said Mr. Dyer. "In the first place, _ould like to know what it was that diverted your suspicions from th_nfortunate Sisters?"
  • "The way in which they handled the children," answered Loveday promptly. "_ave seen female criminals of all kinds handling children, and I have notice_hat although they may occasionally–even this is rare–treat them with _ertain rough sort of kindness, of tenderness they are utterly incapable. No_ister Monica, I must admit, is not pleasant to look at; at the same time, there was something absolutely beautiful in the way in which she lifted th_ittle cripple out of the cart, put his tiny thin hand round her neck, an_arried him into the house. By-the-way I would like to ask some rapi_hysiognolmist how he would account for Sister Monica's repulsiveness o_eature as contrasted with young Lee's undoubted good looks–heredity, in thi_ase, throws no light on the matter."
  • "Another question," said Mr. Dyer, not paying much heed to Loveday'_igression: "how was it you transferred your suspicions to John Murray?"
  • "I did not do so immediately, although at the very first it had struck me a_dd that he should be so anxious to do the work of the police for them. Th_hief thing I noticed concerning Murray, on the first and only occasion o_hich I saw him, was that he had had an accident with his bicycle, for in th_ight-hand corner of his lamp-glass there was a tiny star, and the lamp itsel_ad a dent on the same side, had also lost its hook, and was fastened to th_achine by a bit of electric fuse. The next morning as I was walking up th_ill towards Northfield, I was accosted by a young man mounted on that self- same bicycle–not a doubt of it–star in glass, dent, fuse, all three."
  • "Ah, that sounded an important keynote, and led you to connect Murray and th_ounger Lee immediately."
  • "It did, and, of course, also at once gave the lie to his statement that h_as a stranger in the place, and confirmed my opinion that there was nothin_f the north-countryman in his accent. Other details in his manner an_ppearance gave rise to other suspicions. For instance, he called himself _ress reporter by profession, and his hands were coarse and grimy as only _echanic's could be. He said he was a bit of a literary man, but the Tennyso_hat showed so obtrusively from his pocket was new, and in parts uncut, an_otally unlike the well-thumbed volume of the literary student. Finally, whe_e tried and failed to put my latch-key into his waistcoat pocket, I saw th_eason lay in the fact that the pocket was already occupied by a soft coil o_lectric fuse, the end of which protruded. Now, an electric fuse is what a_lectrical engineer might almost unconsciously carry about with him, it is s_ssential a part of his working tools, but it is a thing that a literary ma_r a press reporter could have no possible use for."
  • "Exactly, exactly. And it was no doubt, that bit of electric fuse that turne_our thoughts to the one house in the neighbourhood lighted by electricity, and suggested to your mind the possibility of electrical engineers turnin_heir talents to account in that direction. Now, will you tell me, what, a_hat stage of your day's work, induced you to wire to Gunning that you woul_ring your invisible-ink bottle into use?"
  • "That was simply a matter or precaution; it did not compel me to the use o_nvisible ink, if I saw other safe methods of communication. I felt mysel_eing hemmed in on all sides with spies, and I could not tell what emergenc_ight arise. I don't think I have ever had a more difficult game to play. As _alked and talked with the young fellow up the hill, it became clear to m_hat if I wished to do my work I must lull the suspicions of the gang, an_eem to walk into their trap. I saw by the persistent way in which Wootto_all was forced on my notice that it was wished to fix my suspicions there. _ccordingly, to all appearance, did so, and allowed the fellows to think the_ere making a fool of me."
  • "Ha! ha! Capital that–the biter bit, with a vengeance! Splendid idea to mak_hat young rascal himself deliver the letter that was to land him and his pal_n jail. And he all the time laughing in his sleeve and thinking what a foo_e was making of you! Ha, ha, ha!" And Mr. Dyer made the office ring agai_ith his merriment.
  • "The only person one is at all sorry for in this affair is poor little Siste_nna," said Loveday pityingly; "and yet, perhaps, all things considered, afte_er sorry experience of life, she may not be so badly placed in a Sisterhoo_here practical Christianity–not religious hysterics–is the one and only rul_f the order."