“Ah, yes, I see you know, now. It was I whom you heard playing, that first day. It was I, touched by your plight in that forlorn and dusty barracks, who gave you some slight relief. It was easy enough for me to cut across to Geddes’s house, reach in through his kitchen window, lift his tray, and escape through the ragged hedges while his cook’s broad back was turned. Achmet was willing enough to play the obliging Jinnee. You had your dinner, and I had a bit of harmless amusement. It pleased me to hear Alicia call me Ariel. It pleased me to stand by, to protect you, if that should be necessary. Achmet and I took turns in safeguarding you at night.
“You will understand”—he gave me a straight, clear, proud look—“that it was never my desire to mystify or to frighten you. But I couldn’t take you offhand into my confidence, could I? I had to find out something more about you. Remember, too, that my search in no wise jeopardizes your interests.
“Day after day, night after night, Sophy, I have pored over old papers, or burrowed mole-like into the black recesses of Hynds House. Bit by bit I have pieced scraps of evidence together—Shooba’s savage chant with Scipio’s dying whisper in Freeman’s ear, and these two with a rude verse and a line of dots. But there the thread snapped.
“Do you remember the morning you told me, The Author’s guess that ‘Hellen’s Keye’ was the Greek fret, the design over all the windows and doors of Hynds House? The trail was plain then. I was to follow the line of the Greek key for three and thirty turnings, when I should come upon a sign. I tried and tried. And to-night—I reached the end of it, Sophy. I found it.” Again his forehead was damp, and his pallor, if possible, deepened.
I rose as if on springs. The hair of my head rose, too, I thought, and my scalp tingled.
“The hidden room that the masters built for the master of Hynds House.” He stopped, and a shudder passed over him. His hand closed upon mine, and it was deathly cold.
“You have been in a secret room?—here in Hynds House?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes,” said he in a whisper. “I opened the door—and went in. The room hadn’t been opened for a hundred years, Sophy. There was a table in one corner, and I went over to it. There was something else there, too, Sophy.” He moistened his lips, and looked at me with dilated eyes.
“What?” I asked; “in God’s name, what?”
“The thief,” said Nicholas Jelnik.
THE DEVILL HIS RAINBOW
I was taken with a cold grue.
“Is it—murder?” It seemed to me that the still room shook and echoed to the barely whispered word, that the candles stirred and flickered as in a wind of passing wings.
“Not in the sense you mean,” he replied. “But whatever it may be, Sophy, this thing has got to be met and faced by us two together. It concerns you now, as well as me.” He stood up as he spoke. “And now,” he asked, “are you strong enough to come with me?”