By spying before he had sailed, Themar added, at a question from Carl, he had learned of the cipher.
“You read the paper of course when you stole it from my desk?”
“There was a noise,” said Themar dully, his face bitter; “I ran for the street. Later the paper was gone.”
“What were Tregar’s intentions about the paper?”
Themar chewed nervously at his lips.
“His Excellency spoke to me of a paper. He said that I must discover its whereabouts, if possible, but that none but he must steal it. Anything written which you would seem to have hidden would be of interest to him. He bound me by a terrible oath not to touch or read it.”
“After a time I swore that I had seen you burn it—”
“Clumsy! Still if he believed it, it left me, in the event of Miss Westfall’s complete ignorance of all this hubbub, the sole remaining obstacle.”
But Themar had not heard. He was shaking again in the clutch of a heavy chill. Presently, his sentences having trailed off once or twice into peculiar incoherency, he fell to talking wildly of a hut in the Sherrill woods in which he had lived for days in the early autumn, of a cuff in a box buried in the ground beneath the planking. For weeks, he said, he had vainly tried to solve its cipher, stealing away from the farm by night to pore over it by the light of a candle. It was fearfully intricate—
“But you—you that know all,” he gasped painfully, “you will get it and read and tell me—”
Moaning he fell back in his chair.
Carl rang for Mrs. Carmody. It was young Mary, however, who answered, her round blue eyes lingering in mystification upon the fire Carl had built in the deserted wing.
“Mary,” said Carl carelessly, “you’d better phone for a doctor and a nurse. Kronberg has returned and I fear he’s in for a spell of pneumonia.”
Later in the Sherrill hut, Carl ripped a board from the floor and found in the dirt beneath, a box containing a soiled cuff covered with an intricate cipher.
“Odd!” said he with a curious smile as he dropped the cuff into his pocket; “it’s very odd about that paper.”
THE SONG OF THE PINE-WOOD SPARROW
With the dawn a laggard breeze came winging drowsily in from the southern sea, the first thing astir in the spectral world of palm and villa. Warm and deliciously fragrant, it swept the stiff wet Bermuda grass upon the lawn of the Sherrill villa at Palm Beach, rustled the crimson hedge of hibiscus, caught the subtle perfume of jasmine and oleander and swept on to a purple-flowered vine on the white walls of the villa, a fuller, richer thing for the ghost-scent of countless flowers.
Into this gray-white world of glimmering coquina and dew-wet palm rode presently the slim, brisk figure of a girl astride a fretful horse. A royal palm dripped cool gray rain upon her as she galloped past to the shell-road looming out of the velvet stillness ahead like a dim, white ghost-trail.