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Meredith Nicholson.

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was tied, and I don’t hesitate to say that when
I read it I laughed until I thought I should shake
down the cellar. Read it, John Glenarm!”

He handed me a sheet of legal-cap paper on which
was written these words:

HE LAUGHS BEST WHO LAUGHS LAST

“What do you think is so funny in this?” I demanded.

“Who wrote it, do you think?” asked Stoddard.

“Who wrote it, do you ask? Why, your grandfather
wrote it! John Marshall Glenarm, the cleverest, grandest
old man that ever lived, wrote it!” declaimed Larry,
his voice booming loudly in the room. “It’s all a great
big game, fixed up to try you and Pickering,—but principally
you, you blockhead! Oh, it’s grand, perfectly,
deliciously grand,—and to think it should be my good
luck to share in it!”

“Humph! I’m glad you’re amused, but it doesn’t
strike me as being so awfully funny. Suppose those
papers had fallen into Pickering’s hands; then where
would the joke have been, I should like to know!”

“On you, my lad, to be sure! The old gentleman
wanted you to study architecture; he wanted you to
study his house; he even left a little pointer in an old
book! Oh, it’s too good to be true!”

“That’s all clear enough,” observed Stoddard, knocking
upon the despatch box with his knuckles. “But why
do you suppose he dug this hole here with its outlet on
the ravine?”

“Oh, it was the way of him!” explained Larry. “He
liked the idea of queer corners and underground passages.
This is a bully hiding-place for man or treasure,
and that outlet into the ravine makes it possible to get
out of the house with nobody the wiser. It’s in keeping
with the rest of his scheme. Be gay, comrades! To-morrow
will likely find us with plenty of business on
our hands. At present we hold the fort, and let us have
a care lest we lose it.”

We closed the ravine door, restored the brick as best
we could, and returned to the library. We made a list
of the Pickering notes and spent an hour discussing this
new feature of the situation.

“That’s a large amount of money to lend one man,”
said Stoddard.

“True; and from that we may argue that Mr. Glenarm
didn’t give Pickering all he had. There’s more
somewhere. If only I didn’t have to run—” and Larry’s
face fell as he remembered his own plight.

“I’m a selfish pig, old man! I’ve been thinking only
of my own affairs. But I never relied on you as much
as now!”

“Those fellows will sound the alarm against Donovan,
without a doubt, on general principles and to land
a blow on you,” remarked Stoddard thoughtfully.

“But you can get away, Larry. We’ll help you off
to-night. I don’t intend to stand between you and liberty.
This extradition business is no joke,—if they
ever get you back in Ireland it will be no fun getting
you off. You’d better run for it before Pickering and
his sheriff spring their trap.”

“Yes; that’s the wise course. Glenarm and I can
hold the fort here. His is a moral issue, really, and I’m
in for a siege of a thousand years,” said the clergyman
earnestly, “if it’s necessary to beat Pickering. I may
go to jail in the end, too, I suppose.”

“I want you both to leave. It’s unfair to mix you
up in this ugly business of mine. Your stake’s bigger
than mine, Larry. And yours, too, Stoddard; why, your
whole future—your professional standing and prospects
would be ruined if we got into a fight here with the authorities.”

“Thank you for mentioning my prospects! I’ve
never had them referred to before,” laughed Stoddard.
“No; your grandfather was a friend of the Church and
I can’t desert his memory. I’m a believer in a vigorous
Church militant and I’m enlisted for the whole war.
But Donovan ought to go, if he will allow me to advise
him.”

Larry filled his pipe at the fireplace.

“Lads,” he said, his hands behind him, rocking gently
as was his way, “let us talk of art and letters,—I’m going
to stay. It hasn’t often happened in my life that
the whole setting of the stage has pleased me as much
as this. Lost treasure; secret passages; a gentleman
rogue storming the citadel; a private chaplain on the
premises; a young squire followed by a limelight; sheriff,
school-girls and a Sisterhood distributed through
the landscape,—and me, with Scotland Yard looming
duskily in the distance. Glenarm, I’m going to stay.”

There was no shaking him, and the spirits of all of
us rose after this new pledge of loyalty. Stoddard
stayed for dinner, and afterward we began again our
eternal quest for the treasure, our hopes high from
Larry’s lucky strike of the afternoon, and with a new
eagerness born of the knowledge that the morrow would
certainly bring us face to face with the real crisis. We
ranged the house from tower to cellar; we overhauled
the tunnel, for, it seemed to me, the hundredth time.

It was my watch, and at midnight, after Stoddard and
Larry had reconnoitered the grounds and Bates and I
had made sure of all the interior fastenings, I sent
them off to bed and made myself comfortable with a
pipe in the library.

I was glad of the respite, glad to be alone,—to consider
my talk with Marian Devereux at St. Agatha’s,
and her return with Pickering. Why could she not always
have been Olivia, roaming the woodland, or the
girl in gray, or that woman, so sweet in her dignity,
who came down the stairs at the Armstrongs’? Her
own attitude toward me was so full of contradictions;
she had appeared to me in so many moods and guises,
that my spirit ranged the whole gamut of feeling as I
thought of her. But it was the recollection of Pickering’s
infamous conduct that colored all my doubts of
her. Pickering had always been in my way, and here,
but for the chance by which Larry had found the notes,
I should have had no weapon to use against him.

The wind rose and drove shrilly around the house.
A bit of scaffolding on the outer walls rattled loose
somewhere and crashed down on the terrace. I grew
restless, my mind intent upon the many chances of the
morrow, and running forward to the future. Even if
I won in my strife with Pickering I had yet my way
to make in the world. His notes were probably worthless,
—I did not doubt that. I might use them to procure
his removal as executor, but I did not look forward
with any pleasure to a legal fight over a property that
had brought me only trouble.

Something impelled me to go below, and, taking a
lantern, I tramped somberly through the cellar, glanced
at the heating apparatus, and, remembering that the
chapel entrance to the tunnel was unguarded, followed
the corridor to the trap, and opened it. The cold air
blew up sharply and I thrust my head down to listen.

A sound at once arrested me. I thought at first it
must be the suction of the air, but Glenarm House was
no place for conjectures, and I put the lantern aside and
jumped down into the tunnel. A gleam of light showed
for an instant, then the darkness and silence were complete.

I ran rapidly over the smooth floor, which I had traversed
so often that I knew its every line. My only
weapon was one of Stoddard’s clubs. Near the Door
of Bewilderment I paused and listened. The tunnel
was perfectly quiet. I took a step forward and stumbled
over a brick, fumbled on the wall for the opening
which we had closed carefully that afternoon, and at
the instant I found it a lantern flashed blindingly in
my face and I drew back, crouching involuntarily, and
clenching the club ready to strike.

“Good evening, Mr. Glenarm!”

Marian Devereux’s voice broke the silence, and Marian
Devereux’s face, with the full light of the lantern
upon it, was bent gravely upon me. Her voice, as I
heard it there,—her face, as I saw it there,—are the
things that I shall remember last when my hour comes
to go hence from this world. The slim fingers, as they
clasped the wire screen of the lantern, held my gaze for
a second. The red tam-o’-shanter that I had associated
with her youth and beauty was tilted rakishly on one
side of her pretty head. To find her here, seeking, like
a thief in the night, for some means of helping Arthur
Pickering, was the bitterest drop in the cup. I felt as
though I had been struck with a bludgeon.

“I beg your pardon!” she said, and laughed. “There
doesn’t seem to be anything to say, does there? Well,
we do certainly meet under the most unusual, not to say
unconventional, circumstances, Squire Glenarm. Please
go away or turn your back. I want to get out of this
donjon keep.”

She took my hand coolly enough and stepped down
into the passage. Then I broke upon her stormily.

“You don’t seem to understand the gravity of what
you are doing! Don’t you know that you are risking
your life in crawling through this house at midnight?
—that even to serve Arthur Pickering, a life is a pretty
big thing to throw away? Your infatuation for that
blackguard seems to carry you far, Miss Devereux.”

She swung the lantern at arm’s length back and forth
so that its rays at every forward motion struck my face
like a blow.

“It isn’t exactly pleasant in this cavern. Unless you
wish to turn me over to the lord high executioner, I will
bid you good night.”

“But the infamy of this—of coming in here to spy
upon me—to help my enemy—the man who is seeking
plunder—doesn’t seem to trouble you.”

“No, not a particle!” she replied quietly, and then,
with an impudent fling, “Oh, no!” She held up the lantern
to look at the wick. “I’m really disappointed to
find that you were a little ahead of me, Squire Glenarm.
I didn’t give you credit for so much—perseverance.
But if you have the notes—”

“The notes! He told you there were notes, did he?
The coward sent you here to find them, after his other
tools failed him?”

She laughed that low laugh of hers that was like the
bubble of a spring.

[Illustration: “I beg your pardon!” she said, and laughed.]

“Of course no one would dare deny what the great
Squire Glenarm says,” she said witheringly.

“You can’t know what your perfidy means to me,” I
said. “That night, at the Armstrongs’, I thrilled at
the sight of you. As you came down the stairway I
thought of you as my good angel, and I belonged to you,
—all my life, the better future that I wished to make
for your sake.”

“Please don’t!” And I felt that my words had
touched her; that there were regret and repentance in
her tone and in the gesture with which she turned from
me.

She hurried down the passage swinging the lantern
at her side, and I followed, so mystified, so angered by
her composure, that I scarcely knew what I did. She
even turned, with pretty courtesy, to hold the light for
me at the crypt steps,—a service that I accepted perforce
and with joyless acquiescence in the irony of it.
I knew that I did not believe in her; her conduct as to
Pickering was utterly indefensible,—I could not forget
that; but the light of her eyes, her tranquil brow, the
sensitive lips, whose mockery stung and pleased in a
breath,—by such testimony my doubts were alternately
reinforced and disarmed. Swept by these changing
moods I followed her out into the crypt.

“You seem to know a good deal about this place, and
I suppose I can’t object to your familiarizing yourself
with your own property. And the notes—I’ll give myself
the pleasure of handing them to you to-morrow.
You can cancel them and give them to Mr. Pickering,—
a pretty pledge between you!”

I thrust my hands into my pockets to give an impression
of ease I did not feel.

“Yes,” she remarked in a practical tone, “three hundred
and twenty thousand dollars is no mean sum of
money. Mr. Pickering will undoubtedly be delighted
to have his debts canceled—”

“In exchange for a life of devotion,” I sneered. “So
you knew the sum—the exact amount of these notes.
He hasn’t served you well; he should have told you that
we found them to-day.”

“You are not nice, are you, Squire Glenarm, when you
are cross?”

She was like Olivia now. I felt the utter futility of
attempting to reason with a woman who could become
a child at will. She walked up the steps and out into
the church vestibule. Then before the outer door she
spoke with decision.

“We part here, if you please! And—I have not the
slightest intention of trying to explain my errand into
that passage. You have jumped to your own conclusion,
which will have to serve you. I advise you not
to think very much about it,—to the exclusion of more
important business,—Squire Glenarm!”

She lifted the lantern to turn out its light, and it
made a glory of her face, but she paused and held it
toward me.

“Pardon me! You will need this to light you home.”

“But you must not cross the park alone!”

“Good night! Please be sure to close the door to the
passage when you go down. You are a dreadfully heedless
person, Squire Glenarm.”

She flung open the outer chapel-door, and ran along
the path toward St. Agatha’s. I watched her in the
starlight until a bend in the path hid her swift-moving
figure.

Down through the passage I hastened, her lantern
lighting my way. At the Door of Bewilderment I closed
the opening, setting up the line of wall as we had left
it in the afternoon, and then I went back to the library,
freshened the fire and brooded before it until Bates came
to relieve me at dawn.


CHAPTER XXV

BESIEGED


It was nine o’clock. A thermometer on the terrace
showed the mercury clinging stubbornly to a point above
zero; but the still air was keen and stimulating, and
the sun argued for good cheer in a cloudless sky. We
had swallowed some breakfast, though I believe no one
had manifested an appetite, and we were cheering ourselves
with the idlest talk possible. Stoddard, who had
been to the chapel for his usual seven o’clock service, was
deep in the pocket Greek testament he always carried.

Bates ran in to report a summons at the outer wall,
and Larry and I went together to answer it, sending
Bates to keep watch toward the lake.

Our friend the sheriff, with a deputy, was outside
in a buggy. He stood up and talked to us over the wall.

“You gents understand that I’m only doing my duty.
It’s an unpleasant business, but the court orders me to
eject all trespassers on the premises, and I’ve got to
do it.”

“The law is being used by an infamous scoundrel to
protect himself. I don’t intend to give in. We can
hold out here for three months, if necessary, and I advise
you to keep away and not be made a tool for a man
like Pickering.”

The sheriff listened respectfully, resting his arms on
top of the wall.

“You ought to understand, Mr. Glenarm, that I ain’t
the court; I’m the sheriff, and it’s not for me to pass
on these questions. I’ve got my orders and I’ve got to
enforce ’em, and I hope you will not make it necessary
for me to use violence. The judge said to me, ‘We deplore
violence in such cases.’ Those were his Honor’s
very words.”

“You may give his Honor my compliments and tell
him that we are sorry not to see things his way, but
there are points involved in this business that he doesn’t
know anything about, and we, unfortunately, have no
time to lay them before him.”

The sheriff’s seeming satisfaction with his position
on the wall and his disposition to parley had begun to
arouse my suspicions, and Larry several times exclaimed
impatiently at the absurdity of discussing my
affairs with a person whom he insisted on calling a constable,
to the sheriff’s evident annoyance. The officer
now turned upon him.

“You, sir,—we’ve got our eye on you, and you’d better
come along peaceable. Laurance Donovan—the description
fits you to a ‘t’.”

“You could buy a nice farm with that reward,
couldn’t you—” began Larry, but at that moment Bates
ran toward us calling loudly.

“They’re coming across the lake, sir,” he reported,
and instantly the sheriff’s head disappeared, and as we
ran toward the house we heard his horse pounding down
the road toward St. Agatha’s.

“The law be damned. They don’t intend to come in
here by the front door as a matter of law,” said Larry.
“Pickering’s merely using the sheriff to give respectability
to his manoeuvers for those notes and the rest
of it.”

It was no time for a discussion of motives. We ran
across the meadow past the water tower and through the
wood down to the boat-house. Far out on the lake we
saw half a dozen men approaching the Glenarm grounds.
They advanced steadily over the light snow that lay upon
the ice, one man slightly in advance and evidently the
leader.

“It’s Morgan!” exclaimed Bates. “And there’s Ferguson.”

Larry chuckled and slapped his thigh.

“Observe that stocky little devil just behind the leader?
He’s my friend from Scotland Yard. Lads! this
is really an international affair.”

“Bates, go back to the house and call at any sign of
attack,” I ordered. “The sheriff’s loose somewhere.”

“And Pickering is directing his forces from afar,”
remarked Stoddard.

“I count ten men in Morgan’s line,” said Larry, “and
the sheriff and his deputy make two more. That’s
twelve, not counting Pickering, that we know of on the
other side.”

“Warn them away before they get much nearer,” suggested
Stoddard. “We don’t want to hurt people if
we can help it,”—and at this I went to the end of the
pier. Morgan and his men were now quite near, and
there was no mistaking their intentions. Most of them
carried guns, the others revolvers and long ice-hooks.

“Morgan,” I called, holding up my hands for a truce,
“we wish you no harm, but if you enter these grounds
you do so at your peril.”

“We’re all sworn deputy sheriffs,” called the caretaker
smoothly. “We’ve got the law behind us.”

“That must be why you’re coming in the back way,”
I replied.

The thick-set man whom Larry had identified as the
English detective now came closer and addressed me in
a high key.

“You’re harboring a bad man, Mr. Glenarm. You’d
better give him up. The American law supports me,
and you’ll get yourself in trouble if you protect that
man. You may not understand, sir, that he’s a very
dangerous character.”

“Thanks, Davidson!” called Larry. “You’d better
keep out of this. You know I’m a bad man with the
shillalah!”

“That you are, you blackguard!” yelled the officer,
so spitefully that we all laughed.

I drew back to the boat-house.

“They are not going to kill anybody if they can help
it,” remarked Stoddard, “any more than we are. Even
deputy sheriffs are not turned loose to do murder, and
the Wabana County Court wouldn’t, if it hadn’t been
imposed on by Pickering, lend itself to a game like
this.”

“Now we’re in for it,” yelled Larry, and the twelve
men, in close order, came running across the ice toward
the shore.

“Open order, and fall back slowly toward the house,”
I commanded. And we deployed from the boat-house,
while the attacking party still clung together,—a strategic
error, as Larry assured us.

“Stay together, lads. Don’t separate; you’ll get lost
if you do,” he yelled.

Stoddard bade him keep still, and we soon had our
hands full with a preliminary skirmish. Morgan’s line
advanced warily. Davidson, the detective, seemed disgusted
at Morgan’s tactics, openly abused the caretaker,
and ran ahead of his column, revolver in hand,
bearing down upon Larry, who held our center.

The Englishman’s haste was his undoing. The light
fall of snow a few days before had gathered in the little
hollows of the wood deceptively. The detective plunged
into one of these and fell sprawling on all fours,—a
calamity that caused his comrades to pause uneasily.
Larry was upon his enemy in a flash, wrenched his pistol
away and pulled the man to his feet.

“Ah, Davidson! There’s many a slip! Move, if you
dare and I’ll plug you with your own gun.” And he
stood behind the man, using him as a shield while Morgan
and the rest of the army hung near the boat-house
uncertainly.

“It’s the strategic intellect we’ve captured, General,”
observed Larry to me. “You see the American invaders
were depending on British brains.”

Morgan now acted on the hint we had furnished him
and sent his men out as skirmishers. The loss of the
detective had undoubtedly staggered the caretaker, and
we were slowly retreating toward the house, Larry with
one hand on the collar of his prisoner and the other
grasping the revolver with which he poked the man
frequently in the ribs. We slowly continued our retreat,
fearing a rush, which would have disposed of us
easily enough if Morgan’s company had shown more of
a fighting spirit. Stoddard’s presence rather amazed
them, I think, and I saw that the invaders kept away
from his end of the line. We were far apart, stumbling
over the snow-covered earth and calling to one another
now and then that we might not become too widely separated.
Davidson did not relish his capture by the man
he had followed across the ocean, and he attempted once
to roar a command to Morgan.

“Try it again,” I heard Larry admonish him, “try
that once more, and The Sod, God bless it! will never
feel the delicate imprint of your web-feet again.”

He turned the man about and rushed him toward the
house, the revolver still serving as a prod. His speed
gave heart to the wary invaders immediately behind him
and two fellows urged and led by Morgan charged our
line at a smart pace.

“Bolt for the front door,” I called to Larry, and Stoddard
and I closed in after him to guard his retreat.

“They’re not shooting,” called Stoddard. “You may
be sure they’ve had their orders to capture the house
with as little row as possible.”

We were now nearing the edge of the wood, with the
open meadow and water-tower at our backs, while Larry
was making good time toward the house.

“Let’s meet them here,” shouted Stoddard.

Morgan was coming up with a club in his hand, making
directly for me, two men at his heels, and the rest
veering off toward the wall of St. Agatha’s.

“Watch the house,” I yelled to the chaplain; and
then, on the edge of the wood Morgan came at me furiously,
swinging his club over his head, and in a moment
we were fencing away at a merry rate. We both had
revolvers strapped to our waists, but I had no intention
of drawing mine unless in extremity. At my right
Stoddard was busy keeping off Morgan’s personal
guard, who seemed reluctant to close with the clergyman.

I have been, in my day, something of a fencer, and
my knowledge of the foils stood me in good stead now.
With a tremendous thwack I knocked Morgan’s club
flying over the snow, and, as we grappled, Bates yelled
from the house. I quickly found that Morgan’s wounded
arm was still tender. He flinched at the first grapple,
and his anger got the better of his judgment. We
kicked up the snow at a great rate as we feinted and
dragged each other about. He caught hold of my belt
with one hand and with a great wrench nearly dragged
me from my feet, but I pinioned his arms and bent
him backward, then, by a trick Larry had taught me,
flung him upon his side. It is not, I confess, a pretty
business, matching your brute strength against that of
a fellow man, and as I cast myself upon him and felt
his hard-blown breath on my face, I hated myself more
than I hated him for engaging in so ignoble a contest.

Bates continued to call from the house.

“Come on at any cost,” shouted Stoddard, putting
himself between me and the men who were flying to
Morgan’s aid.

I sprang away from my adversary, snatching his revolver,
and ran toward the house, Stoddard close behind,
but keeping himself well between me and the men who
were now after us in full cry.

“Shoot, you fools, shoot!” howled Morgan, and as we
reached the open meadow and ran for the house a shot-gun
roared back of us and buckshot snapped and rattled
on the stone of the water tower.

“There’s the sheriff,” called Stoddard behind me.

The officer of the law and his deputy ran into the
park from the gate of St. Agatha’s, while the rest of
Morgan’s party were skirting the wall to join them.

“Stop or I’ll shoot,” yelled Morgan, and I felt Stoddard


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