The Five KnotsFred M. White / Romance & Love
Produced by Al Haines.
A PAIR OF ARMS CAUGHT HER AND SHE WAS LIFTED FROM THEFLOOR. (Page 57. _Frontispiece_)]
THE FIVE KNOTS
By FRED M. WHITE
AUTHOR OF THE SLAVE OF SILENCE, THE NETHER MILLSTONE, ETC.
BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 1908
_Copyright, 1907_ BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
_All rights reserved_
Published May, 1908
Presswork by The University Press, Cambridge, U.S.A.
I No Bigger than a Man's HandII A Little Bit of StringIII The Registered LetterIV In the WoodV Under the TreesVI The Lamp is LightedVII The Shadow on the WallVIII The Blue TerrorIX Behind Locked DoorsX Mr. Wil----XI On the Way HomeXII In the RingXIII An Old AcquaintanceXIV Russell ExplainsXV The Real ThingXVI The Yellow HandXVII The Diamond MothXVIII A Tangled ClueXIX FencingXX The WaterfallXXI A Double FoeXXII From East to WestXXIII An Expected TroubleXXIV The Long Dark HourXXV The Diamond Moth AgainXXVI Dr. JansenXXVII No Foe of HersXXVIII Beyond SurgeryXXIX A MessageXXX A Slight MisunderstandingXXXI A Question of HonourXXXII No Place Like HomeXXXIII By Whose Hand?XXXIV A Human DerelictXXXV Jansen at HomeXXXVI Leading the WayXXXVII A RespiteXXXVIII A Sinking ShipXXXIX The Vaults BeneathXL Towards the LightXLI Vanished!XLII Treasure TroveXLIII In Hot PursuitXLIV The Meaning of ItXLV Aladdin's CaveXLVI Uzali's Way Out
A pair of arms caught her and she was lifted from the floor . . . . .. _Frontispiece_
'Surely you can find some one who can tell me where they have gone'
Uzali bent coolly and critically over it
*THE FIVE KNOTS*
*NO BIGGER THAN A MAN'S HAND*
Something like a shadow seemed to flicker across the dim hall and thenthe strange visitant was lost to view. But was it substantial, real andtangible, or only the creature of the imagination? For at half-pastfour on a December afternoon, before the lamps are lighted one mighteasily be deceived, especially in an old place like Maldon Grange, theresidence of Samuel Flower, the prosperous ship-owner. Some such thoughtas this flashed through Beatrice Galloway's mind and she laughed at herown fears. Doubtless it was all imagination. Still, she could notdivest herself of the impression that a man had flitted quietly past herand concealed himself behind the banks of palms and ferns in theconservatory.
How silly I am! she murmured. Of course there can be nobody there.But I should like----
A footman entered and flashed up the score or so of lights in the bigelectrolier and Beatrice Galloway's fears vanished. Under such adazzling blaze it was impossible to believe that she had seen anybodygliding towards the conservatory. Other lights were flashing upelsewhere, and all the treasures which Mr. Flower had gathered at MaldonGrange were exposed to the glance of envy or admiration. Apparentlynothing was lacking to make the grand house absolutely perfect. Not thatSamuel Flower cared for works of art and beauty, except in so far asthey advertised his wealth and financial standing. Nothing in themansion had been bought on his own responsibility or judgment. He hadgone with open cheque-book to a famous decorative artist and given himcarte blanche to adorn the house. The work had been a labour of love onthe part of the artist, so that, in the course of time, Maldon Grangehad become a show-place and the subject of eulogistic notices in thelocal guide-books. Some there were who sneered at Samuel Flower, sayingthere was nothing that interested him except a ship, and that if thissame ship were unseaworthy and likely to go to the bottom when heavilyover-insured, then Flower admired this type of craft above all others.The reputation of the Flower Line was a bad one in the City and amongstsea-faring men. People shook their heads when Flower's name wasmentioned, but he was too big and too rich and too vindictive for folkto shout their suspicions on the housetops. For the rest of it, Flowerstuck grimly to his desk for five days in the week, spending theSaturday and Sunday at Maldon Grange, where his niece, BeatriceGalloway, kept house for him.
Beatrice loved the place. She had watched it grow from a bare, brownshell to a bewitching dream of artistic beauty. Perhaps in all the vastestablishment she liked the conservatory best. It was a modest name togive the superb winter garden which led out of the great hall. Thelatter structure had been the idea of the artist, and under his designsa dome-like fabric had arisen, rich with stained glass and marble andfilled now with the choicest tropical flowers, the orchids alone beingworth a fortune. From the far end a covered terrace communicated withthe rose garden, which even at this time of year was so sheltered that afew delicate blooms yet remained. The orchids were Beatrice's specialcare and delight, and for the most part she tended them herself. Shehad quite forgotten her transient alarm. Her mind was full of herflowers to the exclusion of everything else. She stood amongst aluxuriant tangle of blossoms, red and gold and purple and white, hangingin dainty sprays like clouds of brilliant moths.
By and by Beatrice threw herself down into a seat to contemplate thebeauty of the scene. The air was warm and languid as befitted thosegorgeous flowers, and she felt half disposed to sleep as she lay in hercomfortable chair. There would be plenty to do presently, for Flowerwas entertaining a large dinner party, and afterwards there was to be areception of the leading people in the neighbourhood. Gradually thewarmth of the place stole over her drowsy senses and for a few momentsshe lost consciousness.
She awoke with a start and an uneasy feeling of impending evil which shecould not shake off. It was a sensation the like of which she had neverexperienced before, and wholly foreign to her healthy nature. Butnothing was to be seen or heard. The atmosphere was saturated withfragrance and delicate blossoms fluttered in the lights like resplendenthumming-birds. As she cast a glance around, her attention becameriveted upon something so startling, so utterly unexpected, that herheart seemed to stand still.
The door leading on the terrace was locked, as she knew. It was ahalf-glass door, the upper part being formed of stained mosaics, leadedafter the fashion of a cathedral window. And now one of the small panesover the latch had been forced in, and a hand, thrust through theopening, was fumbling for the catch.
The incident was sinister enough, but it did not end the mystery. Thehand and the arm were bare, and Beatrice saw they were lean and lankyand brown, like the leg of a skinny fowl. From the long fingers withblackened nails depended a loop of string which the intruder wasendeavouring to drop over the catch. Unnerved as Beatrice was, she didnot lose her self-possession altogether. While she gazed in fascinatedhorror at that strange yellow claw, it flashed into her mind that thehand could not belong to a white man. Then, half unconsciously, shebroke into a scream and the fingers were withdrawn. The string fell tothe ground, where it lay unheeded.
Beatrice's cry for help rang out through the house, and a moment laterhurried steps were heard coming towards the conservatory. It was SamuelFlower himself who burst into the room demanding to know what was amiss.At the sight of his stalwart frame and strong grim face Beatrice's fearsabated.
What is the matter? he asked.
The hand, Beatrice gasped. A man's hand came through that hole inthe glass door. He was trying to pass a loop of string over the latch.The light was falling fully on the door and I saw the hand distinctly.
Some rascally tramp, I suppose, Flower growled.
I don't think so, Beatrice said. I am sure the man, whoever he was,was not an Englishman. The hand might have been that of a Hindoo orChinaman, for it was yellow and shrivelled, like a monkey's paw.
Something like an oath crossed Flower's lips. His set face alteredswiftly. Though alarmed and terrified, Beatrice did not fail to notethe look of what was almost fear in the eyes of her uncle.
What is the matter? she said. Have I said or done anything wrong?
But Flower was waiting to hear no more. He dashed across the floor andthrew the door open. Beatrice could hear his footsteps as he raced downthe terrace. Then she seemed to hear voices in angry altercation, andpresently there was a sound of breaking glass and the fall of a heavybody. It required all Beatrice's courage to enable her to go to therescue, but she did not hesitate. She ran swiftly down the corridor,when, to her profound relief, she saw Flower coming back.
Did you see him? she exclaimed.
I saw nothing, Flower panted. He spoke jerkily, as if he had justbeen undergoing a physical struggle. I am certain no one was there. Islipped on the pavement and crashed into one of those glass screens ofyours. I think I have cut my hand badly. Look!
As coolly as if nothing had happened Flower held up his right hand fromwhich the blood was dripping freely. It was a nasty gash, as Beatricecould tell at a glance.
I am so sorry, she murmured, Uncle, this must be attended to at once.There is danger in such a cut. I will send one of the servants intoOldborough.
Perhaps it will be as well, Flower muttered. I shall have to get thisthing seen to before our friends turn up. Tell them to fetch the firstdoctor they can find.
Without another word Beatrice hurried away leaving Flower alone. Hecrossed to the outer door and locked it. Then he threw himself down onthe seat which Beatrice had occupied a few minutes before, and the samegrey pallor, the same queer dilation of his keen grey eyes whichBeatrice had noticed returned. His strong lips twitched and he shookwith something that was not wholly physical pain.
Pshaw! he muttered. I am losing my nerve. There are foreign trampsas well as English in this country.