Geoff did not reply; he could not. As if the sight of that slow-moving figure,
linked with the realization which had now come upon him, had wrought a curiou_umbing effect upon mind and heart alike, he simply stood there, breathin_ard, and looked, and looked, and looked, but said no single word. Eve_ollops could see that there was a glint of something wet and shining in th_rease beside his eye, and that, in spite of tears, he smiled as a man migh_mile if he had waked to find that all the world was his. It was Ailsa tha_ade the first sound, spoke the first word.
"Oh, Mr. Cleek, to think that she should be a somnambulist," she said with _ittle catch in her voice, as if she were laughing and sobbing at the sam_ime and fighting hard to do neither. "And to think that you should hav_uessed it when even I, her dearest and closest friend, never suspected it fo_n instant."
"Oh, as for that, Miss Lorne, I really deserve very little credit indeed," h_ade answer.
For a moment he followed with his eyes the departing figure of Lady Katharin_s it moved fleetly along the path to the stable quarters, where stood th_tile giving access to the paddock and thence, by a far-away wall door, to th_aste land of the open country beyond.
"If anybody is to be praised for the discovery of the truth as manifested to-
night," he went on presently, "that praise should go to Loisette alone. He ha_aid—that wise Frenchman—that 'the likeness of events acting upon a highl_trung and overwrought mind is likely to produce exactly similar results.'
There is his vindication before you. Last night all hope of happiness wa_mitten out of that poor girl's mind by the affair at Clavering Close and th_ertainty that she had lost the man she loves forever. This morning new hop_ame; this evening that new hope was dashed to earth again by her intervie_ith this dear boy, and the future looked blacker and more hopeless than ever.
The 'likeness of events' had come; there is the 'likeness of result' befor_ou. Back into her ball dress, back into her cloak, back into everything tha_ad to do with that other time; there she goes now back to Gleer Cottage a_ell!"
"God!" said Geoff, with a queer sort of sob; then leaned his curved ar_gainst a tree trunk and hid his face in the crook of it. "And to think what _aid to her, what I thought of her! I ought to be kicked for a brute. And ye_ wouldn't have hurt her for all the world—my dear, dear girl!"
"Buck up, my boy, buck up!" said Cleek, patting him on the shoulder, "Th_orld can do with all the brutes of your kind that can be created; for the_ake good sons, good husbands, and loyal gentlemen! She said, did she not,
that she would 'show you something that would light the way back to the lan_f happiness'? Well, she's doing it, my boy; and if you were to follow he_his minute you'd find history repeating itself down to the smallest detail.
Only, you _mustn't_ follow her; you mustn't let history repeat itself,
Clavering. Gleer Cottage is not in the same lonely and unwatched state to-
night that it was in last night. The police are there. They mustn't see wha_appens, because I've a fancy for keeping some things with regard to this cas_ff the annals of Scotland Yard and out of the courts of England. You mus_top her, you and Miss Lorne."
"Stop her? How? Isn't it dangerous to wake a sleep-walker?"
"Yes, if it's done rudely. But people in that condition will answer questions,
and—— Who spoke first, when you met last night?"
"Why, I did, of course. I was so bowled over when I looked up and recognize_er that I said: 'Kathie! Great Scott, is it you?' before I thought. That'_ow she came to speak to me."
"Then go and say it again," advised Cleek. "When she answers, suggest to he_hat you sit down and wait for a moment, as you promised you would do, unti_iss Lorne could join you. Once she sits, be sure the desire to walk will pas_way; she will gradually sink into the natural position for sleeping and wil_leep soundly for a time. As for the rest, you may rely upon the coldness an_he hardness of the earth to half arouse her, and it will be but a step fro_hat to complete wakefulness if Miss Lorne begins to sing very, very softl_nd to rustle the leaves as she comes up and joins you both. Now then, of_ith you, my boy, and move as softly as you can until you come up with her an_peak."
Geoff did not hesitate. He only paused to look back at Cleek and say: "B_ove, you know, you are a ripping chap!" and then was off on tiptoe after Lad_atharine.
Watching, they saw him come up with her at last, and knew when he spoke by th_anner in which she stopped and looked round at him; they saw her put a finge_o her lips and nod and beckon, and knew when he spoke again and suggested th_hings that Cleek had advised, by the listless manner in which she let he_ands drop, the wavering uncertain way in which she stood swaying and lookin_traight before her.
Then, after a moment or two—they could have cheered had they dared—they sa_er look round in the direction of a little knoll to which Geoff pointed an_hen placidly turn and walk with him toward it.
"Oh, what a dear, dear friend you are!" said Ailsa, impulsively, as she looke_ound and up at Cleek, with tears in her eyes and a face all smiling. "_onder which is your greater side—your shrewdness or your humanity?"
"I can tell you which is my weaker one," he smiled, looking down upon her wit_yes that spoke to hers. "And maybe, some day if you will let me do so——Bu_hat's another story, as our friend Mr. Kipling puts it. Wait! Don't go yet,
Miss Lorne. Before you start to join them and to play your little part in th_rama of Lady Katharine's awaking, there's one more favour to be asked.
Afterward you will understand why I ask this thing; for the present I wan_nly your promise that you will unquestioningly obey. Will you give me tha_romise? Thank you, I felt sure that you would.
"You know the old saying: a bird that can sing and won't sing must be made t_ing. Equally, then, a door that can be opened and will not open by persuasio_r by threats, must be compelled to open by trickery and craft. I am going t_ommit an act of violence under the roof of Wuthering Grange to-night, Mis_orne. I'm going to do a thing that men get sent to prison for, and justly,
too, if they are found out; only that I am not going to carry my act into ful_ompletion: merely make a bluff at it, as it were.
"Meanwhile I want you to promise me that as soon as you have awakened Lad_atharine and have made her understand that she did go to Gleer Cottage las_ight and really has been walking in her sleep, you will find a pretext—yo_nd Geoff Clavering, between you—to get her as far from the neighbourhood a_ossible for the next two or three hours. Yes, Clavering Close will do. An_lace will do so that neither she nor he is within hailing distance of thi_ouse when my 'act of violence' is committed. Try to do this if possible, Mis_orne; more than you dream of hinges upon it. In any case, promise me that n_atter what excitement is created you will not venture near the house and wil_revail upon them not to do so either. Will you?"
"Yes, certainly I will. And if I tell Geoff that it is your wish, I'm sure _ay promise for him as well."
"Thank you. That's all. Now I'll be off about my business. You see"—nodding i_he direction of the paddock—"Geoff has persuaded her to sit. Good luck t_our little 'singing tour,' and God bless you. Good-bye. This way, Dollops!
Speaking, he swung off into the darkness, with the boy following close upo_is heels, and forged on in the direction of the wall angle, there to wai_ntil his instructions were acted upon and it was time for him to play hi_ast great card.
And lo, as they went, a sweet, soft voice rose in murmuring melody behind the_nd they could just distinguish the words, "Kathleen Mavourneen, the gray daw_s breaking," so softly Ailsa sang them as she passed on in the direction o_he paddock stile.
"A good, true woman that, Dollops," said Cleek, pausing to listen. "An_here's nothing better in heaven or out of it than a good woman, my lad.
Always remember that."
"Yes, sir," said Dollops softly and refraining from further comment.
Cleek laughed to himself as they took the angle path again. "I know the secre_f the universe at last, my lad," he said softly. "The way to heaven i_hrough a good woman's eyes!" Then he laughed again, and spoke no more unti_hey were at their journey's end.
"Now, then, my embryo Vidocq," he began, halting in the shadow of the wal_ngle and laying a gentle hand on Dollops's shoulder, "a word or two with you.
I think you told me earlier in the evening that Mr. Narkom had gone back t_own, did you not? Did he say if he'd be returning to Wimbledon to-night o_ot? I fancy he will be likely to, considering his interest in the Claverings,
but did he say he would?"
"Yes, sir. Said he'd be back somewheres between nine and ten, sir; that he'_rop in at the police station, and if there was a need for him, he said I'_ind him there."
"Right you are! Well, there _is_ a need for him, Dollops; for him and for th_imousine, too. So off with you, my boy, and tell him to be here, at thi_pot, as quickly as he can; and to be ready when I call for him. Now then,"
said Cleek, opening the wall door, "off with you as fast as you can travel."
For some minutes Cleek stood in deep thought, then he turned and walke_uickly back into the house. He had made up his mind to beard Lord St. Ulme_n his room, and his quick brain was intent on a plan by which he shoul_ecure an entry. Three minutes later he stood outside the door and placed _unch of extinguished matches at the foot of it, while he called softly bu_iercingly.
"Lord St. Ulmer! Quick! _Quick!_ _Fire!_ The place is on fire."
His heart pounded as he waited, for if the man were asleep his efforts woul_e fruitless. Suddenly, however, there came a faint sound to his strainin_ars, and again he whispered in that sibilant whisper:
"Lord St. Ulmer, _fire_!"
He did not have time to repeat it, for there came the sound as of an extremel_gile man leaping from his bed, and another moment he heard the snick of a_nfastened lock, then the door opened.
Cleek waited not a second, his foot was in the narrow aperture, and he wa_hrough the door and had switched on the light before the other man ha_ealized what had happened. Then he gave vent to a little low laugh of triump_s with his back against the closed door he surveyed the white-faced man wh_ad retreated to the middle of the room.
"Good evening! Citizen Paul, good brother Apache, so it is you, is it?" h_aid airily. "Let us have a quiet little understanding, _mon ami_. You nee_ot be distressed. There is no fire. It is merely a bluff. What! You do no_now me. But wait! Look!" The serene face writhed suddenly, and it was as i_nother man took his place. "Ever see a chap that looked like this, frien_aul, eh?"
"God! The Cracksman!"
"The identical party!" acknowledged Cleek blandly. "Come! I want to have a fe_inutes' talk with you, my friend, and—— Stop! Don't back away! Stop and fac_e. By God! you'll hang for last night's business if you don't!"