AS FAR AS their reception was concerned, even the sensitive mind of an India_ould find nothing at which to take offence. It was, of course, with profoun_egret that the pseudo Nana Rau heard that no visitors could be expected a_he royal table the same evening in consequence of a slight indisposition o_he part of a certain great ruler. Nor was it suggested by the gorgeou_fficial who conducted the interview that the visit of the Prince should b_rolonged in consequence.
"It is greatly to be regretted," Nana murmured.
"I can assure you that the regret is mutual," was the reply. "If the Princ_ill honour us by dining with the Household, together with his suite"
"I shall be delighted," the Prince interpolated. "As to my suite, they ha_etter dine in the apartment apportioned to their use. Afterwards you wil_reatly oblige me by letting an attendant conduct them over the state rooms, and show them some of the treasures of this wonderful place. It is a pleasur_hat my faithful followers have looked forward to for a long time."
"Everything shall be done to make them comfortable," the big official replied.
"May I remind the Prince that we dine at eight."
Nana Rau nodded carelessly and intimated his desire to be alone with his men.
The request was immediately granted. For a little time the three conspirator_tood as far from the door as possible talking in whispers.
"You see how beautifully things are falling out," said Gryde. "We are her_ithout any suspicion being aroused. There is no chance of public sentimen_eing awakened by a flagrant insult to the sovereign. All we have to do is t_ill these big trunks in the still watches of the night, and get these goo_eople to convey them to the station for us in the morning. By way of spottin_ll the things worth having, an attendant will take you round presently an_oint out the plums to you. But I need not waste my time on advice; you ar_oth capital judges of articles of value."
"And as to you?"
"As to me, I dine with the Household. Of course, you both occupy my dressing- room. We leave by a train about seven, as I have an engagement in Mancheste_o fill to-morrow night, or, at least, the real Nana has, so we shall be awa_efore anything is missing."
"And if things are missed just after we start?"
"What matter? We should be the last to be suspected. And you may be certai_he common or garden police would never be consulted in a matter like this.
Absolutely nothing in the way of a public scandal would be permitted. And sa_hey looked like bringing it home to us. Would they care to stop us, and car_s off to a police-station? Not a bit of it. Am I not a man of power in ou_ountry? A trustworthy courtier would come to us with every expression o_egret to call for the few trifles that were by mistake taken away with ou_uggage. But as we are not going to Jermyn Street, and as we shall emerge o_addington platform clothed and in our right minds, they have little chance o_eeing those treasures again."
There was sound logic in every word that Gryde uttered. Unless by any chance, and that was indeed a remote one, the real Indian was discovered, they wer_bsolutely safe. But, even if by some strange fortune the Simon Pure wa_nearthed, the powerful drug would seal his lips for some hours yet.
It was, therefore, with an easy conscience and a mind at rest that Nana Ra_ent down to dine with the Household. He would have felt a little mor_omfortable, perhaps, in ordinary evening dress, but nobody seemed to notic_his. At the same time he had the satisfaction of knowing that there wa_ositively no flaw in his attire, and all the more so because at least tw_enerals who knew India well were present.
Gryde said very little, and that little awkwardly. His cue was to do the sh_nd slightly suspicious guest, which part he acted to perfection.
A little before eleven he deemed it prudent to retire. In that exalted of al_xalted spheres they are not particularly late, and by twelve o'clock slee_rooded over the Castle.
But not in the two rooms devoted to the Indian guests. They sat waiting an_alking there for the critical moment to arrive, which hour had been fixed b_ryde for two. Meantime they had to wait.
"You have seen everything?" Gryde murmured.
"Well, not everything," was the reply; "but enough, and more than enough. W_an take away thousands of pounds' worth of stuff without quitting thi_loor."
"So much the better," Gryde replied with a smile. "Never run any unnecessar_isks. Not that it would matter very much if one of you were taken." The tim_rept slowly on, and at length the hour came. Gryde jumped to his feet. He wa_lert and eager enough now. There was no need for lights, as all the passage_leamed. What they had to fear were the watchmen. But there were three o_hem.
"Now follow me," Gryde whispered. There was no time for hesitation. Th_orridors appeared to be silent and deserted, but at any time a watchman migh_ome along. But nothing happened to disturb the work of the adventurers.
Tapestry hangings and Cordova leather here and there not only looked patricia_nd valuable, but they formed capital cover for a laden thief whose modesty i_n proportion to the value of his burden.
At the end of an hour Gryde's bedroom presented an appearance of dazzlin_plendour. Most of the treasures collected were not only historic but o_mmense intrinsic value. On the whole, the haul was perhaps a better one tha_he theft of the regal corpse.
Even Gryde was satisfied at length.
"No more," he said. "Now remove those bars of lead from the baggage and hid_hem behind the curtains. Pack the stuff away quietly and then get to bed. W_hall have to be up a little after six, remember."
Shortly after seven the next morning three shivering Orientals were sped awa_rom the Castle by a big official, who strove politely to hide his yawns. Whe_he station was reached and the Orientals were alone they developed ne_igour. One of them even went so far as to see the baggage safely in the van.
Perhaps he mistrusted the absent guard, for he followed it in, the other_tanding by th« door.
His movements were peculiar and rapid. He touched a spring on each box and th_asket frames fell all to pieces. These were immediately hidden under mai_ags. Three huge portmanteaux of different colour were revealed. To each o_hese a label bearing a different name was attached; the baggage was quit_ransformed.
Then the shivering Orientals went on their way to the carriage reserved fo_hem. Directly they were inside the blinds were pulled down. The loose Easter_obes were discarded, and beneath them were disclosed three typical Englis_arbs—a parson's, a country squire's, and that of a man about town. With th_ree use of the lavatory and a make-up box produced by Gryde, he and the othe_rtists were utterly changed by the time Slough was reached. Just before the_ big bundle was carefully dropped out of the window. The train pulled up a_lough. Gryde opened the window opposite the platform.
"Now," he whispered, "you've all got your tickets?"
Confederates One and Two nodded curtly. An instant later the door was close_gain with the curtains still down, and the trio had reached the furthe_latform without attracting the slightest attention. When they strolled bac_gain by the proper way to the train they appeared to be strangers to eac_ther, for each entered a different carriage, not, needless to remark, the on_ith the drawn blinds. Then the train sped on towards Paddington.
Once arrived there, Gryde was out of the carriage before the train had fairl_topped. In this move the other actors were not far behind him. The grea_bject now was to secure the baggage and get it out of the station withou_elay. Out came the stuff tumbling on the platform, and a moment later th_hree precious portmanteaux were hoisted upon three cabs and all driven awa_t once to separate destinations. The _coup_ had been accomplished!
But not with much to spare. As Gryde looked with lamb-like gaze over the top_f his glasses, a parson to the life, he saw coming down the slope into th_tation two quiet men, who appeared to see nothing. Gryde smiled.
"They've found it out and telegraphed," he chuckled, "or else two shinin_ights like Marsh and Elliott would not have been put on the job. If they hav_ound Nana Rau, why we have no time to lose. If not, why so much the better."
It was about nine o'clock the same evening, and the three conspirators, absolutely without disguise, and _qua_ Gryde and Co., were seated ove_inner in the former's rooms. They had the air of men who had done well an_irtuously
"You managed to get rid of your lot?" Gryde asked.
"Yes," the first man responded. "All beyond recognition by this time. You'l_ee to the disposal?"
"I suppose you are all right?" Gryde said to the other.
"I am also satisfied," said he. "We both deposited the plunder as yo_irected. Most of my stuff was jewelled, and you can't recognise jewels. W_re as safe as houses. For my part I should like to have a bit of a rest, considering that I haven't seen my own natural face for a fortnight. When _ook at myself in the glass I feel quite startled."
"Let's go round to a restaurant," suggested Gryde, " and see if anything'_ome out."
The proposal found favour in the eyes of the others. In the St. Giles's one o_wo men were languidly discussing something in connection with Windsor Castl_nd incidentally Indian princes.
"What's that?" Gryde demanded.
"All in the _Globe_ ," said an exhausted voice. "Rum case, by Jove!"
Gryde took up the special _Globe_ and turned it over languidly. He ha_ardly' expected to find the case public. But all the same it was, and nothin_ad been lost in the display of the juicy item:
> BURGLARY AT WINDSOR CASTLE > INGENIOUS AND SUCCESSFUL FRAUD > AN INDIAN PRINCE IS DRUGGED AND IMPERSONATED BY THIEVES
> From information just received it is evident that last night a clever an_uccessful attempt at burglary was carried out at Windsor Castle.
> It appears that H.R.H. the Mahrajah of Curriebad was summoned to Windsor fo_ome purpose of State, and this seems to have been known to the miscreants.
The Prince was lured away to Epsom by an individual claiming to be an ol_riend of his, the pretext being an invitation to luncheon. There he and hi_ttendants were drugged and locked in a deserted house whilst the pseud_ndians repaired to Windsor.
> What happened there we are not in a position to say, but early this mornin_he Prince and his attendants escaped from their prison-house, and lost n_ime in laying the case before the proper authorities. The police ar_xtremely reticent upon the point, but we have the best authority for sayin_hat during the night the daring thieves carried away from Windsor articles t_he value of thousands of pounds. How they managed to get clear away is _ystery, for though the sham Indians were seen to enter their reserve_arriage at Windsor, it is certain they did not detrain en route. Up to th_resent nothing has been heard or seen of them.
> At the last moment we are informed that a large bundle of Oriental robe_ave been picked up on the line near Slough. How they got there must for th_resent remain a mere matter for conjecture.
Gryde smiled as he laid the paper aside.
"Looks to me like a hoax," he said,
"Depend upon it, our friend the Mahrajah got screwed and imagined the whol_hing. Burglary at Windsor Castle! The whole thing is too absurd."
With which Gryde went off to play pool, at which game, as usual, he prove_ingularly successful. But he declined to stay late.
"No," he said; "I was up nearly all night. Some other time, perhaps. But yo_haps may depend upon it those 'Indians' will never be caught. See you fellow_n a day or two. I'm going out of town to-morrow for a time."
But Gryde's tools never saw him again. They had pooled their plunder, an_ryde was to dispose of it. Yet days and weeks went by, and like the raven,
"Still is sitting, never flitting,"
they tarried for the master who came not.
"Some day," growled No. 1, "we shall meet Vaughan again; then let him look t_imself. I should know him anywhere."
Vain boast, fond delusion. Tools it was necessary for Gryde to have, but as t_sing them and making familiar as Gryde with them—never! A myth was "Vaughan,"