As Martin Dimsdale had spent the greater part of his sixty years in
Burmah, he naturally retained an affectionate remembrance of that most
fantastic country. This he showed by calling his house “Rangoon;” and,
as a further concession to what might almost be termed his native
land, the house was built after the fashion, more or less accurate, of
a bungalow. On arriving some ten years previously in England, Mr.
Dimsdale had purchased an ancient Grange with its few remaining acres,
situated on the verge of Hampstead Heath. In spite of the fact that
the mansion was historic and famous, this Vandal pulled it down,
amidst the protests and to the grief of various antiquarians. On the
cleared ground he erected the rambling one-storey building which
reminded him of the Far East. It was not an entirely Indian house, nor
a wholly Burmese house, nor an absolutely English house, but a bastard
mixture of all three, as the chilly northern climate had to be taken
into consideration. But Dimsdale looked upon it as a genuine
reconstruction of the bungalows to which he had been accustomed, and
would hear no argument to the contrary. This was just as well for
those who differed from his views, as he was a peppery little man,
voluble in speech.

From the wide road, which flanked this corner of the Heath, the
grounds were divided by a tall and thick-set laurel hedge, which must
have taken years to attain its present stately beauty. At right angles
to this, red-brick walls, old and mellow, ran back for a considerable
distance to terminate in another hedge of mingled holly and oak
saplings and sweetbriar and hawthorn. A gate in the centre of this
gave admittance to a well-cultivated kitchen-garden of two acres.
Beyond, and divided from the garden by a low stone wall, stretched the
meadows, encircled by aggressive barbed-wire fences. The whole,
consisting of eight acres, belonged to the man who had built the
bungalow, and was a very desirable freehold for a well-to-do
middle-class gentleman.

In the first square between the hedges and brick walls stood the
house, looking quite dazzling in the sunshine by reason of its
white-tiled walls and the raw hue of its red-tiled roof. Round three
sides ran a deep verandah, and the fourth side–at the back–bordered
the cobble-stone yard, at the sides of which were the stables and
outhouses. Everything here was neat and trim and sweet-smelling, as
Mr. Dimsdale would tolerate no litter, and was fidgety about the
drainage. This was just as well, seeing that the stables were
over-near the dwelling. Some judicious person had earlier pointed out
to Mr. Dimsdale that it would be advisable to erect them beyond the
kitchen-gardens and in the meadows, but the little man, out of sheer
obstinacy, refused to entertain the idea, and built them cheek by jowl
with the house.

On either side of the bungalow, trellis work covered with creepers
shut off the yard from the front garden. This last, consisting of
smooth lawns bordered by brilliantly coloured flowerbeds, stretched
to a rustic-looking, white-painted gate set in the laurel hedge. To
this, a broad walk, sanded to a deep yellow tint, ran from the shallow
steps leading up to the front verandah. Two noble elms–the sole
survivors of a once well-wooded park–sprang one on each side of the
path, from the trim lawns.

The building itself looked most unsuitable to the chilly English
climate, with its spotless walls and French windows. These, of which
there were many, opened directly on to the verandah, which was paved
warmly with red bricks, rectangular and thin. Each window was provided
with green shutters, fastened back during the day and tightly closed
every night at dusk. On entering the front door Mr. Dimsdale’s
visitors beheld a square hall, and the first object which struck the
eye was a large gong, held shoulder high by two fierce-looking Burmese
warriors carved in unpainted wood. Darkly blue Eastern draperies,
glittering with tiny round looking-glasses, veiled the left door,
which led into the library, and the right door, through which the
dining-room was entered. Passing between curtains of similar texture
and style, hanging straightly from the ceiling, the visitor came into
a spacious room with a slippery polished floor and a high glass roof,
which lighted the apartment, since, occupying the centre of the
bungalow, there could be no side windows. Folding valves of carved
sandalwood on either side gave entrance into two long narrow passages,
broken by many bedroom doors. The bedrooms themselves looked on to the
side verandahs through French windows, as has been described.

At the end of the middle apartment–which, like the Athenian Club
antrium, was the general meeting place of those in the house, and
served the purpose of a drawing-room–was another draped portal,
admitting Mr. Dimsdale’s male guests into a large billiard-room and a
comfortable smoking-room; also his lady guests into a boudoir and a
music-room. Beyond these, and shut off by another narrow passage at
right angles to those at the sides, were the kitchen, the servants’
quarters, and the domestic offices. As the stables, in the opinion of
many people, were too near the house, the kitchen was too far distant
from the dining-room. But Mr. Dimsdale, who was fond of delicate fare,
prevented the cooling of the food in transit by having it brought to
the table in hot-water dishes. He secretly acknowledged to himself
that he was wrong as regards both stables and kitchen, but would never
admit any oversight to his friends. As he had been his own architect,
he believed “Rangoon” to be almost perfect in construction, design,
beauty, and in its blending of Indian charm and English comfort. And
in the main he was not far wrong.

The house was filled with quaint Eastern curios, and draperies and
contrivances and furniture, although of this last there was
comparatively little, since Mr. Dimsdale did not care to overcrowd his
rooms, as is the English fashion; perhaps it was this sparseness which
gave the house its foreign look. The library was furnished with tables
and couches and chairs and bookcases of black teak, elaborately
carved, while the central apartment contained nothing but bamboo
chairs and tiny bamboo tables, all of which were covered with
brightly-hued draperies. The dining-room was the most English-looking
part of the house, as it was decorated and furnished in the Jacobean
manner, and looked massively British. But the French windows–three in
the front and three at the side–uncurtained and pronouncedly bare,
admitted too great a glare into an apartment sacred to eating, which,
for some traditional reason, is always supposed to have rather a
twilight atmosphere. But Mr. Dimsdale loved plenty of light and fresh
air and all the sunshine he could get, hence the many windows of the
bungalow. It would have been easier to have removed the walls dividing
the rooms from the verandah, and to have given them the full publicity
of Eastern shops. And perhaps only the climate prevented Mr. Dimsdale
from going this length. He was a fanatic in many ways, and had the
full courage of his cranky convictions.

As a police commissioner, Mr. Dimsdale had been secretly in
partnership with a Chinese merchant, who traded from Singapore to
Yokohama, and from Canton to Thursday Island; that is, he supplied the
capital and Quong Lee managed the investments. Thus the astute
Englishman was enabled to return to England with an ample income, and
proposed to spend the rest of his earthly life in enjoying it. The
bungalow was his hobby, and he never grew weary of improving its
beauties or of showing them to admiring friends. As he was a
widower–Mrs. Dimsdale occupied a lonely grave in the Shan States–he
had no one to coerce him into spending his money in any other way. It
is true that Ida, his only child, was handsome and marriageable and
light-hearted; but, having comparatively simple tastes, she did not
yearn over-much for a fashionable life. Certainly she knew many in the
great world, and sought society to some extent during the season,
created by man; but, for the most part, she preferred the home-life of
“Rangoon,” which was assuredly lively enough and not wanting in
interest even to the insatiable appetite of the young for pleasure.
Her father, like many Anglo-Indians, had been accustomed, save when he
had been stationed in lonely places, to much society, and was also
gregarious by instinct. He invited Far East friends to sit at his
hospitable board in the Jacobean dining-room, and made many new ones,
who were ready enough to welcome an amusing, experienced old traveller
for the sake of his society if not of his money. Dimsdale knew many
people in the neighbourhood of Hampstead, and also a considerable
number in the West End. His sister, Lady Corsoon, and her husband, Sir
Julius, were his sponsors as regards this last locality. Besides, Mr.
Dimsdale belonged to several clubs, took an interest in politics and
the doings of the younger generation, which had matured during his
exile, spent his money freely, and was always an amusing, chatty
companion. With such qualifications it was no wonder that he possessed
a large circle of friends, and was everywhere welcome. It must be
admitted, however, that some frivolous people thought he was rather a
bore, especially when he held forth about Rangoon.

Then there was Miss Hest–Frances Hest–who was so frequently staying
in the bungalow, and was so sisterly with Ida that she might almost be
regarded as another daughter of the jolly ex-police-commissioner. Her
brother, Francis Hest, of Gerby Hall, Bowderstyke, Yorkshire, was a
comparatively rich and superlatively far-descended north-country
squire, who was quite a rural king in his own parochial way. But as
his sister found the rustic life somewhat dull, she had come to
London, after quarrelling with her brother, who did not approve of her
leaving home. To force her to return he allowed her next to nothing to
live on, and, not having a private income, she had earlier been in
great straits. But being a clever girl of twenty-five, and gifted with
the dramatic instinct, she had turned her talents to account very
speedily. A retired actor with the odd name of Garrick Gail, who
termed himself a professor, had polished her elocutionary powers, and
she had obtained engagements to recite at various “At Homes.” During
the three years she had been in London, she had improved her chances
so much that she made quite a good income. She was seen everywhere
and knew everyone, and being a handsome, well-dressed girl of
good family–no one could deny that–she made the most of her
opportunities. Of course, Francis Hest resented her behaviour; but,
always mindful that she was his sister, he extended a grudging
hospitality to her for six months of the year, if she chose to accept
it. Miss Hest did, but not in its entirety, and simply ran down to
Gerby Hall when she felt inclined. She also had a flat in Westminster,
but for the most part spent her days and nights at “Rangoon” in the
company of Ida Dimsdale. The two girls, who had met by chance at a
fashionable “At Home” two years previously, had struck up a sincere
friendship, and saw as much of each other as possible.

Some few days after the conversation between Vernon and Dimsdale in
Colonel Towton’s chambers, the two girls were together on the verandah
of the bungalow, busily engaged in sending out invitations for a ball.
In honour of her birthday–she was now twenty-three–Ida had prevailed
upon her father to allow her to give a masquerade in the central
apartment. That was to be cleared for dancing–not that it needed much
clearing, so sparsely was it furnished–and all those expected were
told to wear masks and dominoes. At midnight all the guests were to
unmask, and supper was to take place. Ida limited her guests to the
number of one hundred, and, with the assistance of Miss Hest, she was
weeding out undesirable people. With a bamboo table between them and a
screen to keep off the hot sunshine–it was now the end of June and
extremely sultry–the young ladies were too intent on their agreeable
work to notice that a stranger was advancing up the yellow-sanded
path. And yet, as the newcomer was Arthur Vernon, he could scarcely be
called a stranger, seeing that he was a friend of the house and a
weekly visitor.

On this special occasion he had called to resume with Mr. Dimsdale
the conversation about The Spider, and, in his anxiety to
complete the business–which included the setting of a trap for the
blackmailer–would have passed by the girls in order to interview his
old friend. But Frances, who seemed to have eyes at the back of her
head–as Vernon had noticed on several occasions–drew Ida’s attention
to him at once. “Here is Mr. Vernon, dear,” she said, pushing back her
chair and straightening her tall, imperial form. “Let us ask him to
suggest someone.”

“Good-day, Miss Hest; good-day, Ida,” said Vernon advancing easily,
and looking very smart in his Bond Street kit. “Someone for what?”

Ida shook hands in her friendly, sisterly way and explained. “In a
week we are giving a masked ball in honour of my birthday, and just
now Frances and I are making out the invitations. Only a hundred
people, Arthur, as the house won’t hold any more comfortably. Here is
the list–ninety-five names, as you see. So we thought—-”

“That you might suggest a few other people,” finished Miss Hest,
leaning gracefully on the back of her chair. “We want gentlemen more
than ladies.”

“Isn’t a week’s notice rather a short one to give for an entertainment
of this sort?” asked Vernon, running his eyes over the submitted list.

“Why should it be?” demanded Ida, opening her eyes. “There is no fancy
dress to get ready, and I don’t expect that everyone will be engaged
on that particular night.”

“It’s the mid-season, you know, Ida.”

Miss Hest nodded her approval. “I told Ida that. Everyone may be

“Well, I can’t change the date of my birthday, dear, and I didn’t
think of a masked ball until yesterday. If we send out invitations for
one hundred and fifty guests, that number will be sufficient. Everyone
can’t have other engagements on that especial night.”

“I don’t know so much about that,” said Frances in her deep voice,
which was of the contralto species. “People work desperately hard
during the season.”

Vernon laughed and handed back the list. “Who was it said that life
would be endurable if it were not for its festivals?” he remarked,
smiling. “I never see the weary faces of pleasure-seekers during the
season but what I think of that saying.”

“Well, never mind.” Ida tapped her white teeth with the pencil she was
using, and cast her eyes over the list of guests. “Can you suggest
four gentlemen, Arthur?”

“There are two who would certainly come, and whose names you have
unaccountably omitted.”

Miss Hest raised her strongly marked eyebrows. “Why unaccountably?”

“I am thinking of Colonel Towton and Mr. Maunders.”

“There,” said Frances, turning gravely to her friend, “I told you
everyone would notice that you had left them out.”

“Am I supposed to be everyone?” asked Vernon, smiling again. “But why
have you left Maunders and Towton out, may I ask? I thought they were
such friends.”

Ida sat down and coloured through her fair skin. “I wished to ask
Conny Maunders, but my father won’t hear of it. Why, I don’t know.”

Vernon reflected that he knew very well, since Dimsdale objected to
Maunders paying undue attentions to his daughter. But he kept this
knowledge to himself, and inquired about Colonel Towton. “Your father
and he are such great friends.”

“Of course,” said Ida petulantly, “and as they’ve both been in the
East and are both of an age, they should be friends.”

“There’s a difference between forty-five and sixty odd, dear,” said
Frances mildly.

“And between twenty-three and forty-five,” retorted Miss Dimsdale,
whose cheeks were growing even more scarlet. “And Colonel Towton is
such a nuisance. He’s always–don’t laugh, Arthur.”

“I beg your pardon, but I guessed what you were about to say,” said
Vernon with mock gravity. “But why do you object to Colonel Towton,
who does not look more than thirty and who is a distinguished soldier,
to say nothing of his being well-off and handsome.”

“I don’t know that he is so very well off,” retorted Ida, defending
herself; “he has only that old place in Yorkshire.”

“I know,” nodded Frances wisely, “it’s a Grange at Bowderstyke, three
miles from my brother’s place. Colonel Towton is of a very old family,
and I know for a fact that he has at least one thousand a year. You
might do worse, Ida.”

“I don’t wish to marry money,” said Ida in vexed tones; “and I don’t
love Colonel Towton, who is old enough to be my father.”

“He is worth a dozen of Maunders,” put in Vernon pointedly.

Ida stamped. “You take the privilege of our friendship to be rude and
presuming,” she said angrily. “My private affairs have nothing to do
with you.”

“Ida! Ida!” reproved Miss Hest, “don’t—-”

“I will,” said the young lady crossly; “and I shan’t ask Colonel
Towton to the ball, when father won’t let me ask Conny.”

“You call him that?” asked Arthur, with a shrug. Ida looked at him
indignantly, evidently with a conscience ill at ease. “I shall never
speak to you again,” she said in an offended tone.

“Not if I get your father to let Maunders come to the ball?”

“Oh, can you; can you?” she asked, in a girlish, delighted tone on
this occasion. “I wish you would. Father likes you so much. And you
can tell him,” she added handsomely, “that if he will let me ask Conny
I shall invite Colonel Towton. There–that’s fair.”

“You are playing with fire,” warned Frances gravely. “Better not
invite Mr. Maunders. You can never marry him.”

“It’s indelicate to speak of my marriage in the presence of a
stranger,” said Ida with some heat.

“I am not a stranger, I hope,” remarked Vernon quickly.

“Yes, you are, when you are horrid,” and with a rosy face of sheer
annoyance she flitted to the end of the verandah. Ida was rather like
Titania, being sylph-like, golden-haired, and blue-eyed, whereas Miss
Hest resembled Judith with her strongly-marked handsome face and black

“Who is horrid?” asked a voice at this juncture, and Mr. Dimsdale
appeared on the threshold of the French window, which was behind the
table. “Ah, Arthur, is that you? I have been expecting to see you.
Come into the library.”

Vernon obeyed at once, as Frances had hurried after the petulant girl
to pacify her. Miss Hest treated Ida as a wilful child, and by
scolding and coaxing and cajoling managed to get her to behave like a
reasonable being. It must be confessed that Dimsdale had spoiled his
golden-haired darling, and even the boarding-school she had attended
could not supply the place of the mother, who was dead. The old man
turned to Vernon when they entered the drawing-room through the French
window. “Who is horrid?” he asked again.

Vernon laughed and slipped into a chair. “It’s a storm in a tea-cup,”
he explained easily, and accepting a cigar. “Miss Hest advised Ida to
give up Maunders, and I supported her. Then Ida—-”

“I know, I know,” broke in Dimsdale sadly. “She is wilful and is quite
infatuated with the scamp. Arthur, Arthur, I should have married
again, so that Ida could be trained by a good woman. I can’t manage

“I think Miss Hest can,” said Vernon significantly; “and she has sense
enough for two. A most masculine young person. But do you think you
are wise forbidding Maunders to come to this masked ball?”

“Yes, I do. Ida is crazy about him.”

“Opposition will only make her more crazy,” warned Vernon, shaking his
sleek head. “It would be better to let them come together, and then
she would get sick of him. Maunders is so shallow that she would find
him out sooner or later, for Ida has plenty of common sense if it was
not obscured by this persistent frivolity, which, after all, is only a
youthful fault.”

“But if Maunders wants to marry her—-”

“He doesn’t, Mr. Dimsdale. I can vouch for that. He wants to marry
your niece.”

“What!” Dimsdale, who was lighting a cigar, wheeled round with an
astonished air. “Why, I thought you loved Lucy?”

“So I do,” replied Vernon earnestly, “and she loves me. But Maunders
is a fascinating fellow and a dangerous, unscrupulous rival.”

“I quite believe it. Eh, what? The fellow’s a scoundrel,” grunted Mr.
Dimsdale crossly. “He should be tarred and feathered. Still, if things
are as you say, I don’t mind Ida asking him to the ball. But she must
ask Towton also,” he added with sudden determination.

“She will do so, although she dreads his love-making. However, she may
grow sick of Maunders when she finds he is running after Lucy Corsoon,
and Towton may catch her heart in the recoil.”

“Hope so; hope so,” muttered Dimsdale, turning his cigar in his lips.
“I want to see my little girl safely married to Towton, who is as good
a fellow as ever breathed.”

“But not a young fellow. However, it is wiser to let events take their
course for the present, Mr. Dimsdale. Opposition, as I say, will only
make Ida more wilful, since she is filled with romance natural at her

“Ouf,” breathed the old man, wiping his brow with a bandanna
handkerchief. “What a handful women are! But there,” he dismissed the
subject with a wave of his hand, “let us leave these trivialities and
talk business. Have you heard anything more about The Spider?”

“Well, I made enquiries at Scotland Yard, and find that he is very
much wanted by the police.”

Mr. Dimsdale grunted. “Humph! The police are always wanting and never

“The Spider is too clever for them,” protested Vernon anxiously. “He
won’t be too clever for me,” said the elder man with sudden ferocity,
and slapping his hand on the table. “Eh, what? Am I to be blackmailed
by an infernal scoundrel who swears that he will tell a parcel of lies
if I don’t pay him one thousand pounds. Hang him.”

“If it is merely lies, why pay?” asked Vernon drily.

“There is a grain of truth in the lies,” admitted Dimsdale crossly.
“The absolute truth I can face, but the lies make me out to be a very
queer person indeed. I shall tell you all when we secure this man.”

Vernon looked up astonished. “How do you propose to secure him? If you
arrest him, his accomplice will spread the lies you talk of, by
postcard amongst your acquaintances, as is usually the case in The
Spider’s business.”

“I’ll risk that, sir; I’ll risk that,” said Dimsdale with a defiant
air; “but I’m hanged if he’ll get a penny out of me. I shall set the
trap, and you will be in this room behind a screen to rush out and
seize him when I give the signal. Understand? Eh, what? Understand?
Come, come! Speak up.”

“What sort of trap do you propose to lay?” asked Arthur cautiously.

“Well,” Dimsdale leaned back, twisting his half-smoked cigar between
his fingers. “It was the masked ball–this silly form of
entertainment, which Ida insists upon having for her birthday–which
gave me the idea. You see, with the chance of being masked and
mingling amongst my guests, The Spider will be the more ready to come,
and will suspect nothing. I am writing to him to-morrow, telling him
about this ball, and am suggesting that he should come wearing a mask
to enjoy it. Then, at eleven o’clock, say, he can secretly meet me in
this room to receive the money.”

“Cash?” echoed Vernon significantly.
“Of course. The fellow’s too clever to risk cheques. They would put
the police on his track; would put the police on his track, my boy.”

“But do you intend to pay the money?”

“No, no, no, no! How stupid you are, Arthur. Use your brains, use your
brains, boy. I shall offer to pay the money, and then you, concealed
behind the screen–that Japanese one up in the corner–can rush out

“But I have no authority to arrest him,” interrupted Vernon
impatiently. “Why not post a policeman, or a plain-clothes detective,
to catch the beast?”

“I don’t want any policeman in my house,” retorted Dimsdale gruffly;
“and you are detective enough for me. If he blackmails me, you will be
the witness, and we will have every right to hold him. Then you can
take him away and hand him over to the Hampstead police.”

“He may show fight.”

“Then have a revolver with you,” snapped the old man. “I don’t want a
scandal and a row on Ida’s birthday, and in my house.”

“It seems to me that you are going the best way to have one,” said
Vernon deliberately; “much better let me inform the police and have
the thing done in an orderly fashion.”

“No, I tell you.” Dimsdale again slapped the table. “I’ll do it my own
way or not at all. If I catch the beast by laying this trap, both
myself and Mrs. Bedge and many other people will be safe. But if we
call in the police, however secretly, The Spider–who seems to have
ears and eyes all over him–will get wind of the ambush.”

Vernon nodded. “There’s something in that,” he assented. “Perhaps on
those grounds it will be better that we should engineer the job
together. Well,” he stood up straight and slim, “I shall come here on
the night of the ball–by the way, when does it take place?”

“Monday week. It’s a short notice, but Ida only thought yesterday of
this way to celebrate her birthday.”

“Are you quite sure,” asked Vernon, taking up his tall hat, “that it
is advisable to lay this trap on the night of the ball?”

“Yes, I do; yes, I do,” said Dimsdale in a fussy manner. “The mere
idea of masks, which will enable the scoundrel to hide his infernal
face without comment, will recommend itself to him. He will think that
he is exceptionally safe, not dreaming that I intend to fight.”

“You will fight, then?”

“Am I not laying a trap into which he will walk?” inquired Dimsdale
with much exasperation. “Of course I fight, as my secret is not such a
very bad one. I can defend myself, and I am willing to risk that being
known which I had rather were kept silent, for the sake of saving
other people from being blackmailed by the beast. Eh, what? Am I not

“Yes, I think you are. But I wish you would tell me your secret.”

“After we have captured this scamp I shall do so, and then I shall
tell you the absolute truth together with his embroideries. Don’t look
so grave, boy. I haven’t committed a murder or stolen from the till.”

“I never thought of such a thing,” said Vernon hastily, “but—-”

Dimsdale good-humouredly pushed him towards the window. “I know your
doubts, my boy, but later I can satisfy them. Meanwhile let us settle
that I am a scoundrel, and look on this trap as one set by a thief to
catch a thief. By the way, does Maunders know of the threat made by
The Spider against his mother. She intended to tell him, you know.”

“I am not aware, sir. Maunders has not been near me since that night
at the Athenian Club–the same night when I met you at Towton’s rooms.
Well, I shall come to the ball. Meantime, let me know—-”

“I’ll advise you if I hear from The Spider. There, get out. Good-bye,
unless you’ll have a cup of tea or a glass of wine.”

Vernon declined and departed. The girls were no longer on the verandah
or even in the garden.

Vernon had his doubts as to the success of Mr. Dimsdale’s scheme. The
Spider, as the authorities very well knew, was a wary individual, and
in all dealings with his victims had been careful to provide for his
own safety. He certainly met them at duly-appointed places, disguised
as an old woman or a young man, as a navvy or as a foreigner; but none
of those he intimidated dared to call in the police. The reason was
that The Spider invariably advised them beforehand by letter that his
accomplice held the evidence of the secrets for which they were being
blackmailed, and that any proceedings being taken would result in the
publication of these by cards being sent to their friends and
relatives and acquaintances. It therefore can easily be guessed that
no one had the courage to lay the rogue by the heels.

But, as it appeared, The Spider had, in Mr. Dimsdale, stumbled on a
man who was not averse to his secret being known. Vernon wondered what
the ex-police-commissioner had done that he should have one at all,
and looked forward eagerly to being told. Dimsdale was such a very
respectable old gentleman, and so very open in his speech and actions
and entire life, that it seemed incredible he should conceal anything.
However, as The Spider had learned in some extraordinary way, he did
possess some secret, and therefore was being threatened. It was lucky
for Dimsdale in particular and the public at large that he cared so
little for the revelation of whatever shady doings he had been
concerned in, since by trapping The Spider an end would be put to the
dangerous career of this social pest. Whatever Mr. Dimsdale’s secret
might be, he well deserved to be forgiven for the service which he was
rendering to everyone.

But it was questionable, in Vernon’s opinion, if The Spider would meet
his victim in a house filled with company, where there was every
chance of a hue and cry being raised. Certainly the scamp, well
protected by mask and domino, would be able to mingle with the company
unobserved. Even if unmasked, he could not be discovered, other than
as an uninvited guest, since no one knew his actual appearance. And
then he might choose to come as a cabman or a chauffeur or as a waiter
at the supper. Of course, if he kept the appointment in the library
his identity would be proved beyond all doubt when he made his
blackmailing demand. This, The Spider, although confident, for the
usual reason, of the silence of Dimsdale, might not choose to risk,
since many people being in the bungalow, he might be overheard. Vernon
looked at the whole affair as a somewhat forlorn hope, until he, three
or four days later, received a letter from Mr. Dimsdale.

The old gentleman wrote that The Spider had agreed to meet him in the
library at “Rangoon” at eleven o’clock in the evening, and requested
he, Vernon, to enter the room earlier, so that he could be concealed
behind the screen. “I have not,” Mr. Dimsdale went on to say, “advised
the police, as it is unnecessary for us to talk until we have trapped
our bird. But once he is in your grip he will see the folly of
resistance, and will probably agree to walk quietly to the Hampstead
Police Station. Failing that, we can shout for assistance, of which,
it is obvious, there will be plenty to hand. But, you will understand
that I wish to effect the capture as quietly as possible, so as not to
alarm my guests.”

In the latter part of his letter Dimsdale stated that Maunders had
been calling at the bungalow during his–the writer’s–last interview
with Vernon. He was, in fact, round the corner of the house, nearest
to the library when Vernon stepped out of the French window. Dimsdale
had found him there on the verandah in the company of the girls, and
had promptly told him that he was not wanted, in his usual peppery
way. There had been a row, as Maunders had been grossly insolent, but
Miss Hest–a very capable girl, as Mr. Dimsdale wrote–had induced him
to depart. Confirmation of this report was received by Vernon from
Maunders himself, when the two met by chance in Piccadilly.

“The old man was most insolent,” complained Maunders indignantly;
“There is no crime in loving Ida, so far as I can see.”

“Since you love Miss Corsoon, and only run after Ida for her money, I
think Mr. Dimsdale has every reason to forbid you the house,” said
Vernon drily.

“Oh, rot. I know what I’m about. As to forbidding me the house, I
received an invitation to the masked ball on Monday, and I’m going.”

“Ida only extorted permission from her father to ask you. If you’re a
gentleman you will not go to be received on sufferance.”

Maunders chuckled coolly. “Ida won’t receive me in that way,” said he
with superb insolence, “as she really loves me, and the old gentleman
doesn’t matter. I love Lucy, but she has no money, so I expect I shall
have to sacrifice myself by marrying Ida.”

“If Mr. Dimsdale will allow you,” chafed Vernon.

“Oh, he won’t; but Ida can defy him.”

“If she does she will lose her fortune.”

“That remains to be seen,” said Maunders airily. “Hang old Dimsdale,
what objection can he have to me?”

“Your aunt might tell you,” said Vernon significantly. The blood
rushed to Maunders’ cheek, and he looked searchingly at his friend,
but not agreeably. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I can only consent to take you into partnership if you
succeed in capturing The Spider,” said Vernon slowly and somewhat

“Who is The Spider?”

“I think you know, if not from the newspapers, then from Mrs. Bedge.”

Maunders looked at the ground. “So old Dimsdale told you?”

“Yes. He wished to enlist my services on behalf of your aunt to
capture this blackmailing beast.”

“Oh; and do you intend to?”

“No. I intend to leave the capture to you.”

Maunders opened his eyes. “But, my dear chap, I know nothing about The
Spider, as you call this man, to say nothing of detective business.”

“Yet you wish to become Nemo’s partner,” said Vernon, very drily. “See
here, Maunders, it’s no use beating about the bush. I shan’t take you
as my partner unless you catch this man and so prove your capability.”

“And suppose I tell everyone who Nemo is?” asked Maunders with an ugly

“You can do so if you like,” rejoined Vernon coolly, “for then there
will be no Nemo. I shall simply leave England and seek my fortune in
Africa. And, after all, I don’t see why you should refuse this test.
It’s to your own advantage that he should be caught, unless you want
your aunt to pay five thousand pounds.”

“Bosh! What The Spider says is a lie.”

“I daresay; but it won’t be pleasant for Mrs. Bedge to know that her
friends receive cards stating you are her natural son.”

“It’s an infernal lie,” raged Maunders, the blood flushing his cheek
and making him look handsomer than ever. “I am not a bit like my aunt
in any way. It is true that her sister was my mother, but I take after
my father.”

“Constantine Mavrocordato!”

“Dimsdale told you that; he seems to have imparted a lot of my private
affairs to you,” observed Maunders acidly.

“They are quite safe with me as Nemo. I don’t use my private
discoveries to blackmail people.”

“Do you believe this lie of The Spider’s?”

“No, I don’t, for one moment. Mrs. Bedge is a good, kind woman, far
too good for you, Maunders. She has brought you up and educated you,
and allows you money, and altogether has behaved like a trump. For her
sake, if not for the sake of becoming my partner in a paying business,
you ought to hunt out this brute who asperses her fair fame.”

The other man stared again at his neat boots. “I’m not such a rotter
as you think, Vernon,” he said, in a voice filled with feeling; “and,
of course, I appreciate my aunt’s kindness. We’ll let the partnership
business stand over for the present. I give you my word that I shan’t
tell a soul you are Nemo. Also, I’ll go to work on my own, and see if
I can’t catch The Spider. He’s not going to get five thousand pounds
of my money if I can help it.”

“Your aunt’s money,” corrected Vernon gently. “It will be mine some
day,” said Maunders with a shrug; “but you can see that I have some
conscience, badly though you think of me.”

“I don’t think so very badly of you,” replied Vernon hurriedly and
somewhat untruthfully, “you have your good points, Constantine, but
you are so given over to pleasure that you stop at nothing to gratify

“I stop on the right side of the law, however,” retorted Maunders,
again becoming his callous self, after the momentary softening. “There
will be no chance of Nemo catching me. Well, good-day. I’ll do what I
say, and perhaps when I meet you at the ball, I’ll have something to
tell you.”

“You intend to go, then, in spite of Dimsdale’s behaviour?”

“Yes, I do,” said Maunders doggedly; “and I intend to marry Ida with
her thousands a year. So now you know.” And he walked off abruptly,
leaving Vernon to congratulate himself that he no longer had a
dangerous rival in the affections of Lucy Corsoon.

“Though I don’t believe old Dimsdale will consent to the marriage with
Ida,” thought Vernon, as he resumed his interrupted walk.

During the few days that still remained until the night of the masked
ball, Vernon saw nothing of Maunders or of Martin Dimsdale. But on the
Monday morning, when having luncheon in the triclinium of the Athenian
Club, Colonel Towton made his appearance. He glanced round the room,
and catching sight of Vernon, walked up to his table.

“‘Day,” he said in his sharp, military way. “I’ll join you here, if
you have no objections.”

“Delighted, Colonel,” replied Vernon, and passed along the menu. He
wondered why Towton was making such a palpable advance towards
friendship, for, as a rule, he was somewhat stiff, with a reserved
manner, after the way of army men.

The Colonel seemed to be in no hurry to explain, but fixed his eyeglass
to examine the card, and order his luncheon. He was a tall, slim,
dry-looking man, perfectly groomed and perfectly dressed and perfectly
master of himself. In spite of his forty-five years, his close-cropped
hair and smartly-twisted moustache were without a grey hair. Dark and
knightly-looking, with alert eyes of Irish blue, he looked as juvenile
as any of his subalterns. He was one of those men who ripen young, so
to speak, and who remain in that condition for the rest of their
lives. Towton was an admirable soldier, with several letters after his
name, and it was a pity—as everyone said–that he had retired so
early from the army. He should certainly have remained in order to
attain to the rank of a general. But it was generally known that
family reasons connected with the inheritance of a Yorkshire estate
had necessitated the Colonel sending in his papers. Outside his
profession he was not talented, but had a considerable fund of common
sense, which is a rarer commodity than people imagine.

“I want to have a private talk with you, Vernon,” said the Colonel,
after he had selected his dish. “Luckily there’s no one within
earshot.” He glanced round the room to note that he and his companion
were isolated in a secluded corner. “You don’t mind my having a
private talk, do you?” he jerked, staring through his eyeglass and
twisting his moustache.

“I am at your service,” said Vernon, wondering what was coming.

“I am going to be rather personal, both as regards your affairs and my
own,” went on Towton very directly and honestly. “Rather odd in a man
who is a mere acquaintance, eh?”

“Not at all,” said Vernon politely; “I can only repeat that I am at
your service, Colonel.”

“Fact is, I wouldn’t say a word, but that I know you’re a good sort;
plenty of chaps say that. And again,” Towton unfolded his napkin
rather nervously, for him, “you are a great friend of the Dimsdales.”

“Yes, I am,” acknowledged Vernon, guessing somewhat of the business
which had brought the Colonel to his table.

“And a friend of young Maunders.”

“We were at school together.”

“And a friend of the Corsoons,” pursued Towton, distinctly ill at
ease, as if he felt that he was taking a liberty.

“See here, Colonel,” remarked his companion straightly; “I guess what
you are driving at from your coupling of those names. May I speak

“Yes.” Towton nodded away the waiter who had brought his soup.

“You are in love with Miss Dimsdale, and Maunders is paying her

“Quite so. May I add, on my part, that you are in love with Miss
Corsoon, and that the same gentleman is your rival?”

Vernon nodded and pushed away his empty plate. “I think we have
cleared the ground for action,” he said significantly.

“I am obliged to you for your candour,” said Towton courteously; “and
I knew from your reputation that you would meet me half-way. It is not
easy for an elderly man, such as I am, to speak of his love for a
young girl. But as I am devoted to her, and you are devoted to Miss
Corsoon, it seemed to me that we might join forces against that
handsome young scamp, who is playing fast and loose with the
affections of both the girls. On this ground, I ventured to take the
liberty of speaking to you on so private a subject.”

“I am very glad that you did so, Colonel. Our united actions may be of
great service to the ladies in question. Maunders—-” He hesitated

“I know,” interrupted Towton abruptly, “that young gentleman’s
reputation is as bad as yours is good. Even if I did not love Miss
Dimsdale, I should feel justified in doing my best to save her from
that scamp. You can tell him that I said so, if you like.”

“What? Give our plans away to our common enemy,” said Vernon jokingly.
“That would scarcely be wise. Maunders is as clever as the devil.”

“And as unscrupulous. But let us be frank. Which of these girls does
he love, in your opinion?”

“What love he can spare from himself he gives to Miss Corsoon; but he
is after Miss Dimsdale’s fortune.”

“I thought so. She is infatuated with him, worse luck. And Miss

“She and I understand one another,” said Vernon with some reserve. “I
am not afraid of Maunders in that quarter, although he has good looks
and a great charm of manner. We are talking of very delicate matters,

“I know we are; I know we are.” Towton flicked his napkin irritably.
“Ladies’ names shouldn’t be mentioned between gentlemen. I am rather a
Turk in that respect; but as this young gentleman will make both of
them miserable, and is a thorn in your flesh as in mine, we must
between ourselves put delicacy on one side. What do you propose to

“I don’t know,” said Vernon, crumbling his bread dismally. “Lady
Corsoon certainly will not let her daughter marry a poor man such as I
am. What are your plans, Colonel?”

“I don’t know,” repeated Towton, equally dismally. “Miss Dimsdale is
crazy about Maunders, and will not cast a glance at me. The father is
on my side, however, so I have some chance.”

“You may take it as certain,” said Vernon with decision, “that
Dimsdale will never consent to his daughter becoming Mrs. Maunders.”

“She may defy him.”

“There is that possibility, certainly.”

“Hang him,” muttered Towton, referring to Maunders. “Why can’t he
marry Miss Hest and have done with it.”

“Miss Hest has neither the money nor the looks to attract such a gay

“Oh, come now, she’s a handsome girl.”

“Not in Maunders’ way. He likes a weak woman, whom he can bully; and
Miss Hest is much too firm and managing a wife for him to risk. By the
way, are you going to the ball to-night?”

“Yes.” Towton’s face lighted up with ridiculous pleasure. “It may give
me a chance to—-”

“No, don’t propose, Colonel. You will only be refused. Take my advice,
and wait for a week or so. Maunders may be out of your way by that

“What do you mean, exactly?”

“I am not at liberty to say. But I advise you to wait.” Towton played
with his bread and cheese. “All right,” he said at length. “I place
myself in your hands, although I am hanged if I can see what you

“Well,” confessed Vernon, rising, “to tell you the truth, I am not
very sure myself what I do mean. But I have a kind of instinct that if
both of us play a waiting game, Maunders will get the cold shoulder.”

“From Ida–I mean from Miss Dimsdale?”

“Yes, and from Miss Corsoon. Come into the pinacotheca and smoke.”

The two conspirators went there and discussed the matter further. As
Vernon had confessed, he had no clear idea in his mind as to why he
advised the Colonel to wait. But, in some vague way, he fancied that
this business of The Spider might occupy Maunders’ time and prevent
his paying his usual attentions to Lucy and Ida. In that case both the
girls would probably feel offended. Then Vernon intended to bring them
together in some as yet unthought-of way, so that they might mutually
discover how Maunders was courting both of them indiscriminately.
Lucy, of course, in any case would have nothing to do with the young
man; but Ida’s pride, taking fire, might induce her, on making this
discovery, to listen to the Colonel’s wooing. Everything in Vernon’s
brain was vague and undecided, but he faintly felt that if events
happened in some such way Maunders might be eliminated as a stumbling
block. All these possibilities, however, being still in the clouds, he
did not reveal them to Towton. The conversation in the pinacotheca
resolved itself into the two men consoling one another regarding their
doubtful love affairs. Arranging to meet at the masked ball, they
parted on more than friendly terms and with quite a feeling of
intimacy. This was natural, considering what they had been discussing.

But the proposed meeting at “Rangoon” never came off. The unexpected
happened, as Vernon might have guessed it would. But, with all his
experience of life, he was never so much astonished as when a telegram
was handed in at his rooms with the name of Lucy Corsoon attached.
“Come to No. 34, Waller Street, West Kensington,” ran the wire, “at
nine o’clock. Trouble with M.—-L. Corsoon.”

“Now what the deuce does this mean?” Vernon asked himself.

Undoubtedly the letter “M.” referred to Maunders, since there was no
one else with that initial to cause trouble. But what the trouble
might be, or why carefully-guarded Lucy Corsoon should be in West
Kensington it was hard to say. Lady Corsoon rarely let her daughter
out of her sight, and on this night both were due at “Rangoon” to
enjoy the masked ball. But, as Vernon rapidly reflected, there could
be only one reply to so urgent a wire, and that was to stand on the
doorstep of No. 34, Waller Street, West Kensington, at the appointed
hour. He glanced at his watch. It was after eight, so he had only time
to drive from Bloomsbury to his destination. Vernon, for obvious
reasons connected with his income, lived in old-fashioned rooms in
that middle-class district, and was more comfortable than if he had
lived in Mayfair, both as regards space and rent.

His domino and mask were lying on a chair, ready to be slipped into a
brown leather bag. He had intended to drive in a taxi to Hampstead,
because of the bag, as it was too much trouble to carry it by train,
since in that case his journey would be broken. As he was thinking
what was best to be done, the landlady’s husband, who acted as his
valet, came with the information that the cab was at the door. Vernon
made up his mind at once to act the part of a knight-errant, in spite
of being due at the ball, and, without troubling about the domino and
mask, put on his overcoat. Unless something serious was wrong–and the
telegram gave little information–he could return, get the bag and
drive on to the ball. But if Lucy was in dire trouble he would not go
at all to “Rangoon.” Mr. Dimsdale would have to manage with The Spider
as best he could. Always provided that that astute individual walked
into the trap, which was doubtful.

All the way to West Kensington Vernon puzzled his brains as to what
could be the matter, and why Lucy Corsoon should be in a West
Kensington house. Ridiculous as it seemed, he entertained the idea
that she might have been kidnapped by Maunders, and had contrived to
send the wire to the lover upon whom she could rely. But then
Maunders–as he had said–always kept on the right side of the law,
and kidnapping was an indictable offence. But if he had acted thus
rashly, as Vernon reflected with a thrill, he was simply playing into
his rival’s hands. “If I rescue Lucy, Lady Corsoon will certainly let
me marry her out of gratitude,” thought the young man.

However, the whole affair was so mysterious that until he saw Lucy
there was little chance of a reasonable explanation. He therefore
possessed his soul in patience until he arrived in Waller Street. Here
he sprang out, and telling the cabman to wait, ran up the steps of a
semi-detached house of the suburban villa residence style. The night
was brilliant with moonlight, so he easily saw the number on the glass
over the door, and also the long, dull street of similar houses. It
was some minutes before the appointed time, but that mattered very
little. There seemed to be no light in the house, and Vernon wondered
more than ever why Lucy should be in so unusual a locality.

Shortly the sound of light footsteps was heard, and a light appeared,
against which the numerals on the glass above the door stood out black
and distinct. Then the door itself was opened cautiously, and the
white face of a woman looked out. “Is Miss Corsoon here?” asked Vernon

“Are you Mr. Vernon?” questioned the woman in a frightened whisper.
“Yes. I received a wire from—-”

“Come in, come in,” breathed the woman, and held the door open
sufficiently for Vernon to slip in. “I am so glad you’ve come,” she
went on, still below her breath, and apparently much afraid. “It’s as
much as my life’s worth to admit you. But the poor young lady—-”

“Is she here?”

“Yes. They’ve got her in the cellar below. Only because she cried so
much did I dare to send that telegram to you, and—-”

“What the devil does it all mean?” demanded Vernon fiercely and

“Hush, hush! Don’t raise your voice. Follow me on tip-toe. They will

“Who are they?” asked Vernon softly, and obeying.

But all the woman said was “Hush, hush!” So, wondering at this strange
adventure, which seemed genuine enough, the young man went after the
woman down some wooden stairs which led from the hall to the basement.
As he followed he saw by the light of the candle which his guide
carried that the hall was dusty and unfurnished. She led him along a
dark passage and opened an end door with an air of mystery. “The young
lady there,” she said softly, and handing him the light. “Take the
candle, and for heaven’s sake don’t say that I betrayed them.”

“Them? Who?” asked Vernon imperatively.

She clutched his arm. “They’ll hear you,” she whispered, pointing
upward, and pushed him towards the open door. “She’s drugged–in

Vernon uttered a loud ejaculation, which made his guide shiver, and
stepped into the dark room, holding the candle above his head. The
next moment the door closed quickly behind him. He turned sharply, but
already the key had clicked crisply in the lock. He was a prisoner.
“And it’s a plant; a plant,” cried Vernon in a cold fury. “I’m

He certainly was, for there was no sign of the girl who had been
supposed to send the telegram. All the terror and whispering of the
woman had been a comedy to inveigle him into his prison. The place was
a small kitchen, dusty and forlorn and unfurnished. There were no
plates on the rack or on the shelves of the open cupboard, and no fire
in the rusty grate. The room had not been occupied for many a long
day, as the roof and corners were thick with dust and cobwebs. An
iron-barred window glimmered straight before Vernon, and there was a
small door near it. Through this he went, to find himself in a tiny
scullery also lighted dimly by an iron-barred window. The door through
which he had entered was fast locked, and he had no means of opening
it. There was no doubt that he was a prisoner, decoyed to this lonely,
unfurnished house by means of the false telegram.

“What the deuce does it all mean?” Vernon asked himself, and sat down
on the dusty floor to think out his position. To save his dress
clothes he made a cushion of his light overcoat, and sat on it,
hugging his knees, with the candle beside him. The position was dismal
enough, and decidedly mysterious, as he confessed. “What does it
mean?” he repeated mentally.

The next instant the obvious answer flashed into his mind. “The
Spider,” cried Vernon, leaping to his feet and addressing the bare
walls. “Yes, this must be The Spider’s trickery.”

And the more he thought of it the more certain he felt that he had, at
the first blow, hit the right nail on the head. In some way The Spider
had learned of the arranged trap, and had sent the wire purporting to
come from Lucy Corsoon as a decoy. It had proved only too successful,
and now here he was safely locked up in an underground room with no
chance of escape, while Mr. Dimsdale, at “Rangoon,” was left to face
the ingenious scoundrel alone. “But that’s all right,” Vernon
soliloquised, as he sat down again. “If I am not on the spot other
people are, and when The Spider makes his demand, Mr. Dimsdale will
probably raise the alarm. The Spider is not so clever as I thought.”

This was poor comfort. The Spider, at all events, had been clever
enough to ensnare a private detective who prided himself on his
astuteness. One trap had been set by Mr. Dimsdale, and here was
another set by The Spider, out of which it was impossible to escape.
The bars of the windows were too strong to twist, the door was too
stout to break down, so there was nothing for it but to wait. It was
impossible that he could be kept in his dungeon for ever, and sooner
or later he would be released. Besides, someone would have to bring
him food, and if it was the white-faced woman who had so cleverly led
him into the trap, Vernon promised himself grimly that he would seize
her at the first opportunity and make her aid his escape. Finally, the
taxi was still at the door, and the driver might become sufficiently
alarmed if his fare did not reappear to speak to the nearest
policeman. It was ridiculous that a man should be captured in guarded
London in such a way. Vernon was angry with himself for having been
tricked. But until the abrupt closing of the door he had never
suspected that anything was wrong.

Meanwhile, he guessed that The Spider, having got him out of the
way, was keeping his appointment with Dimsdale in the library. It was
not probable that the blackmailing would succeed, as Dimsdale was
quick-tempered, and as likely as not would simply seize the creature
when he demanded his money, shouting meanwhile for assistance. Vernon
wished that he was at his appointed post behind the screen; but he
comforted with the reflection that Dimsdale would be able to deal with
the matter unassisted. So far as he was concerned, being helpless, he
could do nothing but wait.

For the next hour or so–he did not pay much attention to the
time–Vernon wondered how The Spider came to know of Dimsdale’s trap,
and how he had so cleverly laid his own. The blackmailer seemed to
know everybody’s business, as his profession required, so in some way
he had managed to learn of Vernon’s love for Miss Corsoon. Only such a
message from such a girl would have lured the lover into such a
predicament, and The Spider had not only been clever enough to know
this, but had been clever enough to utilize his knowledge. For the
moment–it was a wild thought, and passed in a flash–Vernon wondered
if Constantine Maunders had anything to do with the matter. But the
idea was ridiculous, since The Spider was attempting to blackmail Mrs.
Bedge, which Maunders certainly would not countenance. But if not
Maunders, who could it be? Certainly Dimsdale might have talked to
someone else about the proposed trap, since he was extremely frank and
injudicious in his speech. Vernon resolved to question him on this
point when next they met, and hoped from his reply to learn who had
lured him to No. 34, Waller Street, West Kensington. Having arrived at
this conclusion, he rested his head on the overcoat and tried to
sleep, since it was foolish to waste his strength in beating his wings
against the prison bars. After a time, so tired was his brain with
hard thinking, that he actually fell asleep.

How long the sleep lasted he did not know, but he woke from a troubled
dream with the idea that he heard soft retreating footsteps. The
candle was burnt to the socket and the room was extremely dark, so
Vernon sat up in a confused way, trying to recall his position. With
alert ears he hearkened for the presumed footsteps, but as there was
no sound save his own laboured breathing, he decided that he had been
dreaming. It was lucky that he had a box of lucifers in his pocket,
for the lighting of one enabled him to see the time. His watch
revealed that it was one o’clock in the morning, and as he had arrived
at nine he must have been imprisoned for four hours. His limbs felt
stiff as he rose to his feet, and with a yawn he stretched himself.

“I can’t stay here all night,” he muttered desperately. “I’ll try what
shouting will do;” and shout he did with all the power of his lungs,
only to receive no response.

Feeling that he was losing both time and temper, Vernon groped his way
in the thick darkness towards the door. Gripping the handle he gave it
an angry, despairing twist. To his surprise the door proved to be
open. Apparently the footsteps he had thought dream-sounds were real,
and his prison door had been quietly unlocked at the moment of his
awakening. Picking up his overcoat, he felt his way along the passage
and up the stairs and into the front hall–slow work in the gloom of
an unknown locality. There was no noise to be heard, although he held
his breath to listen. So far as he could judge, the house was empty.
Finally, intent upon getting assistance, he tried the handle of the
front door, and found that there was no difficulty in getting clear.
In two minutes he was in the quiet street, looking up and down for a

The road being isolated and the hour late, there was neither vehicle
nor pedestrian to be seen, nor did any light gleam from the windows of
the silent houses. Vernon shivered in the cold breath of the night,
then walked swiftly up the street to seek assistance. Shortly he found
a burly constable at the corner, and breathlessly detailed all that
had happened to that somewhat sceptical officer. A shrill whistle
brought another policeman to the spot, and with the two Vernon
returned to No. 34, the door of which he had left ajar. This somewhat
convinced the officers, and they took his name and address, promising
to search the house, and also to watch it. Vernon himself, on fire to
reach Hampstead and to learn what had occurred, could not wait to see
what discoveries might be made. The policemen wished to detain him,
but finally he got away, and raced towards the more public part of
West Kensington to find a cab.

As luck would have it, he picked up a belated taxi that had just taken
home a fare. The chauffeur demurred about driving out so far as
Hampstead, but a treble price promptly offered overcame his scruples,
and in a short time Vernon was spinning towards his much-wished-for
destination. All the way he was trying to conjecture how The Spider
had contrived to overhear the arranging of the trap, for he must have
done so, else there would have been no reason for the imprisonment.
But by this time Vernon’s brain was weary, and he fell into a dose.
When he woke the taxi had pulled up with a jerk, and he found himself
on the Heath before the gate of “Rangoon.” With a sudden spasm of fear
he noted that a policeman was standing at the entrance, apparently on

Stumbling out of the cab, Vernon staggered towards the man. “I have
come to Mr. Dimsdale’s ball,” he said hurriedly.

“It’s over, sir,” said the policeman, touching his helmet.

“Over–so early!”

“Early in the morning, sir, you mean. But the fact is, there’s

“Trouble!” Again a cold chill struck Vernon.

“Yes, sir, and the ball came to an end.”

“Mr. Dimsdale?”

“Dead, sir. Murdered, as you might say.”

“Dead!” echoed Vernon, quite dazed.

“Strangled,” said the policeman bluntly.