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8: We come to Black Mine

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« on: November 19, 2023, 10:35:56 am »

BUT BEFORE I go on to pick up the thread of my story, I wish again to reiterate one thing. On September 5th, when Drummond rang me up at my office asking me to go round to his house at once, there was no inkling in my mind that there was any connection. Nor was there in his. The events I have just recorded were as irrelevant to us as they appear to be on these pages. In fact the last thing known to us which was connected in any way with Robin Gaunt in our minds was the discovery of Miss Simpson's body at Paignton.

So it was with a considerable feeling of surprise that I listened to what Drummond had to say over the telephone.

"Found out something that may be of value: can you come round at once?"

I went, to find, to my amazement, a man with him whom I had never expected to see again. It was little rat face, who had been put to watch Toby Sinclair and whom we had saved from hanging in Number 10. He was sitting on the edge of his chair, plucking nervously at a greasy hat in the intervals of getting outside a quart of Drummond's beer.

"You remember Mr. Perton, don't you, old boy?" said Drummond, winking at me. "I happened to meet him this morning, and reminded him that there was a little matter of a fiver due to him."

"Well, gentlemen," said Mr. Perton nervously, "I don't know as 'ow I can call it due, for I didn't do wot you told me to. But I couldn't, sir: I 'ad a dreadful time. You won't believe wot them devils did to me. They 'ung me."

"Did they indeed?" said Drummond quietly. "They don't seem to have done it very well."

"Gawd knows 'ow I escaped, guv'nor. They 'ung me, the swine---and left me swinging. I lost consciousness, I did---and then when I come to again, I was laying on the floor in the room alone. You bet yer life I didn't 'alf do a bolt."

"A very sound move, Mr. Perton. Have some more beer? Now do you know why they hanged you?"

"Strite I don't, guv'nor. They said to me, they said---'You're bait, my man: just bait.' They'd got me gagged, the swine: and they was a-peering out of the window. 'Here they come,' says one of 'em: 'trice 'im up!' So they triced me up, and then they give me a push to start me swinging. Then they does a bunk into the next 'ouse."

"How do you know they bunked into the next house?" said Drummond.

"Well, guv'nor, there was a secret door, there was---and they'd brought me from the next house."

He looked at us nervously, as if afraid of the reception of his story.

"How long had you been in the next house, Mr. Perton," asked Drummond reassuringly, "before they brought you through the secret door to hang you?"

"Three or four hours, sir: bound and gagged. Thrown in the corner like a ruddy sack of pertaters. Just as I told you, sir."

"I know, Mr. Perton; but I want my friend to hear what you have to say also. During those three or four hours whilst you were thrown in the corner, you heard them talking, didn't you?"

"Well, I didn't pay much attention, sir," said Mr. Perton apologetically. "I was a-wondering wot was going to 'appen to me too 'ard. But there was a great black-bearded swine, who was swearing something awful. And two others wot was sitting at a table drinking whisky. They seemed to be fair wild about something. Then the other bloke come in---the bloke wot had been in Clarges Street that morning, and the one wot had brought me from the Three Cows to the 'ouse. They shut up swearing, though you could see they was still wild.

"'You know wot to do,' says the new man, 'with regard to that thing.' He points to me, and I listened 'ard.

"'We knows wot to do,' says the black-bearded swab, 'but it's damned tomfoolery.'

"'That's for me to decide,' snaps the new bloke. 'I'll get the others next door, and I'll do the necessary once they're there.' They didn't say nothing then abaht making me swing, you see, so . . .

"Quite, Mr. Perton," interrupted Drummond. "But they did say something else, didn't they?"

"Wot, that there bit about Land's Hend? Wot was it 'e said, now---old black beard? Yus---I know. 'We'll all be in 'ell's end,' he said, 'not Land's Hend if we goes on like this.' And then someone cursed 'im for a ruddy fool."

"You're sure of that, Mr. Perton, aren't you?" I could hear the excitement in Drummond's voice. "I mean the bit about Land's End?"

"Sure as I'm sitting 'ere, sir."

He took a large gulp of beer, and Drummond rose to his feet.

"Well, I'm much obliged to you, Mr. Perton. I have your address in case I want it, and since you had such a rotten time, I must make that fiver a tenner." He thrust two notes into the little man's hand, rushed him through the door, and bawled for Denny to let him out. Then he came back, and his face was triumphant.

"Worth it, Stockton: worth day after day, night after night searching London for that man. Heavens! the amount of liquor I've consumed in the Three Cows."

"Great Scott!" I cried, "is that what you've been doing?"

"That---and nothing else. And then I ran into him this morning by accident outside your rooms in Clarges Street. Still, it's been worth it: we've got a clue at last."

"You mean?" I said, a little bewildered.

"Land's End, man: Land's End," he cried. "I nearly kicked the desk over when he said it first. Then I sent for you: I wanted him to repeat his story for confirmation. He did---word for word. The fog is lifting a little, old boy: one loose end is accounted for at any rate. I always thought they hanged the poor little swine in order to get a sitting shot at us. As they told him---bait. But, anyway, that is all past, and a trifle. He's got a tenner in his pocket and two quarts of beer in his stomach---and we can let him pass out of the picture. We, on the contrary, I hope and trust, are just going to pass into it again."

"You really think," I said a little doubtfully, "that we're likely to find out anything at Land's End?"

"I'm going to have a damned good try, Stockton," he said quietly. "On his own showing the little man was listening with all his ears at that time, and it seems incredible to me that he would invent a thing like that. We know that the rest of his story was true---the part that he would think us least likely to believe. Very well, then: assuming that black beard did make that remark it must have had some meaning. And what meaning can it have had except the obvious one?---namely, that the gang was going to Land's End. Why they went to Land's End, Heaven alone knows. But what this child knows is that we're going there too. I've warned in the boys: Toby, Peter and Ted are coming with us. Algy is stopping behind here to guard the fort."

"What about MacIver?" I asked.

Drummond grinned.

"Mac hates leaving London," he remarked. "And if by any chance we do run into gorse bush, I feel MacIver would rather cramp my style. When can you start?"

"Well," I said doubtfully.

"After lunch?"

"I've got a rather important brief."

"Damn your brief."

I did, and after lunch we started. We went in the Hispano, and spent the night in Exeter.

"Tourists, old lads," remarked Drummond. "That's what we are. Visiting Penzance. Let's make that our headquarters."

And so at four o'clock on the 6th September five tourists arrived at Penzance and took rooms at an hotel. But should any doubting reader who dwells in that charming West Country town search the various hotel registers I can tell him in advance that he will find no record of our names. Further, I may say that mine host at Exeter would have been hard put to it to recognise the five men who got out of the Hispano in Penzance. There was no point in handicapping ourselves unnecessarily, and Drummond and I at any rate would be certainly recognised by the gang, even if the others weren't.

The next day we split up. The plan of action we had decided on was to search the whole of the ground west of a line drawn from St. Ives to Mount's Bay. We split it into five approximately equal parts with the help of a large-scale ordnance map, and each part worked out at about ten square miles.

"To do it properly should take three or perhaps four days," said Drummond. "It's hilly going, and the north coast is full of caves. If anybody discovers anything, report to the hotel at once. Further, in order to be on the safe side we'd better all return here every night."

We drew lots for our beats, and I got the centre strip terminating to the north in the stretch of coast on each side of Gurnard's Head. Having a very mild sketching ability I decided that I would pose as an artist. So I purchased the necessary gear, slung a pair of Zeiss field-glasses over my shoulder and started off. I had determined to work my strip from north to south, since I felt sure that if the gang was there at all they would have chosen the desolate country in the north or centre rather than the comparatively populous part near Penzance itself.

The weather was glorious, and since I happen to love walking I foresaw a very pleasant holiday in store. I admit frankly that I did not share the optimism of the others. It struck me that, considering over four months had elapsed, we were building altogether too much on a chance remark.

This is not a guide-book, so I won't bore my readers with rhapsodies over the scenery. The granite cliffs carved and indented into fantastic shapes by countless centuries of erosion: the wild rugged tors rising from the high moorland---it is all too well known to need any further description from my pen. And the desolation of it! Here and there a deserted mine shaft---tin, I supposed, or copper. No longer a paying proposition: not even worth the labour of dismantling the rusty machinery.

I stopped for a few moments to light my pipe, and a passing shepherd touched his cap.

"Going sketching, sir," he said in his delightful West Country burr. "There certainly do be some fine views round these parts."

I walked with him for a while, listening absent-mindedly to his views on men and matters. And, in common with a large number of people in many walks of life, he was of the opinion that things were not what they were. The good old days! Those were the times.

"I remember, sir, when each one of them was a working concern." He paused and pointed to a derelict mine below us. "That was Damar Mine---that was, and two hundred men used to work there."

"Bad luck on them," I said, "but I think as far as the scenery is concerned it's better as it is. Didn't pay, I suppose?"

"That's it, sir: didn't pay. Though they do say as how the men that are working Black Mine are going to make it pay. A rare lot of money they're putting into it, so Peter Tregerthen told me. He be one of the foremen."

"Where is Black Mine?" I asked perfunctorily.

"Just over this hill, sir, and you'll see it. Only started in May, they did. Queer people too."

I stared at him: it was impossible, of course---just a coincidence. . . .

"How do you mean---queer people?" I asked.

"Peter Tregerthen he tells me as how they've got queer ideas," he answered. "Scientific mining they're a-going for: carrying out lots of experiments secretly---things which the boss says will revolutionise the industry. But so far nothing seems to have come of them: they just goes on mining in the old way. There it is, sir: that's Black Mine."

We had reached the top of the tor, and below us, a quarter of a mile away, lay the road from Land's End to St. Ives. On the other side, half-way between the road and the edge of the cliffs, stood the works, and for a moment or two a sudden uncontrollable excitement took hold of me. Was it possible that our search was ended almost before it had begun? And then I took a pull at myself: I was jumping ahead with a vengeance. To base such an idea on a mere coincidence in dates and a Cornish miner's statement that the owners were queer people was ridiculous. And anything less nefarious than the peaceful appearance of Black Mine would have been hard to imagine. Smoke drifted lazily up from the tall chimney, and lines of trucks drawn by horses passed and repassed.

"How many men are employed there?" I asked my companion.

"Not many, sir, yet," he answered. "It's up in that wooden building yonder on the edge of the cliffs that they be experimenting as I told you. No one aren't allowed near at all. In fact Peter Tregerthen he did tell me that one day he went up and there was a terrible scene. He wanted for to ask the boss something or t'other, and the boss very nigh sacked him. Well, sir, I reckons I must be a-going on. Be you waiting here?"

"Yes," I said. "I think I'll stop here a bit. Good-morning to you."

I watched him go down the hill and strike the road: then, moved by a sudden impulse, I retraced my steps to the reverse slope of the tor, and lying down behind a rock I focussed my field-glasses on the wooden building which was so very private in its owners' estimation. It seemed a perfectly ordinary erection, though considerably larger than I had thought when I saw it with the naked eye. I could see now that it stretched back some distance from the edge of the cliff, though, being foreshortened, it was hard to guess any dimensions.

Of signs of life in it I could see none. No one entered or left, and on the land-side---the only one I could observe properly---there were no windows as far as I could make out. And then a sudden glint, such as the sun makes when its light strikes something shining, came from up near the roof. It was not repeated, though I kept my glasses glued on the spot for ten minutes.

It was as I was coming to the conclusion that I was wasting time, and that an inspection from closer range was indicated (after all they couldn't sack me), that a man came out of the building and walked towards the mine. I saw, on consulting the ordnance map, that the mine itself was just over half-a-mile from where I lay, and the cliff's edge was distant a further half-mile. And it was just about ten minutes before the man reappeared on my side of the mine buildings. I watched him idly: he was still too far off for me to be able to distinguish his features. After a while he struck the road, but instead of turning along it one way or the other he came straight on, and commenced to climb the hill. In fact it suddenly dawned on me that he was coming directly for me. I slipped backwards out of sight, and hurriedly set up my easel and camp stool, only to see another man approaching from my right rear. And the second man must have seen my hurried preparations. However, I argued to myself that there is no law that prevents a man admiring a view through field-glasses preparatory to sketching it. And though as an argument it was perfectly sound, the presence of Drummond would have been far more comforting.

"Good-morning."

The man who had come from the mine breasted the rise in front of me, and I glanced up. He was a complete stranger, with a dark rather swarthy face, and I returned the compliment politely.

"Sketching, I see," he remarked affably.

"Just beginning," I answered. And then I took the bull by the horns. "I've been admiring the country through my glasses most of the morning."

"So I perceived," said another voice behind my shoulder. It was the second man, who again I failed to recognise. "You seemed to decide to start work very suddenly."

"I presume," I remarked coldly, "that I can decide to start work when I like, where I like, and how I like. The matter is my business, and my business only."

A quick look passed between the two men, and then the first arrival spoke.

"Of course," he remarked still more affably. "But the fact of the matter is this. By way of experiment a small syndicate of us have taken over Black Mine. We believe, I trust rightly, that we have stumbled on a method which will enable us to make a large fortune out of tin mining. The information has leaked out, and we have had several people attempting to spy on us. Please wait"---he held up his hand as I began an indignant protest. "Now that I have seen you, I am perfectly sure that you are not one of them. But you will understand that we must take precautions."

"I would be obliged," I remarked sarcastically, "if you would tell me how you think I can discover your secret---even granted I knew anything about tin-mining, which I don't---from the range of a mile."

"A very natural remark," he replied. "But, to adopt military terms for a moment, there is such a thing as reconnoitring a position, I believe, before attempting to assault it."

"Which it seems to me, sir, you have been doing pretty thoroughly this morning," put in the other.

I rose to my feet angrily.

"Look here," I said, "I've had about enough of this. I'm an Englishman, and this is England. If you will inform me of any law which prohibits me from looking through field-glasses at anything I like for as long as I like, I shall be pleased to listen to you. If, however, you can't, I should be greatly obliged if you'd both of you go to blazes. I may say that the question of tin-mining leaves me even colder than your presence."

Once again I saw a quick glance pass between them.

"There is no good losing your temper, sir," said the first man. "We are speaking in the most friendly way. And since you have no connection with the tin-mining industry there is no need for us to say any more."

"I certainly have no connection with the tin-mining industry," I agreed. "But for the sake of argument supposing I had. Is that a crime?"

"In this locality, and from our point of view," he smiled, "it is. In fact it is worse than a crime: it is a folly. Several people have proved that to their cost. Good-morning."

I watched them go, and my first thought was to pack up and walk straight back to the hotel. And then saner counsels prevailed. That second man---where had he come from? I felt certain now that that flash had been a signal. Or an answer. He must have been lying up in that high ground behind me on the right. And glancing round I could see hundreds of places where men could lie hidden and watch my every movement.

Was it genuine? that was the whole point. Was all this talk about revolutionising tin-mining the truth, or merely an elaborate bluff? There below me was an actual tin mine going full blast, which substantiated their claim. Anyway the main thing was to give them no further cause for suspicion. And in view of the fact that for all I knew unseen eyes might still be watching me, I decided to stop on for a couple of hours, eat my lunch, and then saunter back to Penzance. Moreover, I determined that I wouldn't use the field-glasses again. I had seen all I could from that distance, so there was no object in rousing further suspicion in the event of my being watched.

Was it genuine? The question went on reiterating itself in my mind. And it was still unanswered when I returned to the hotel about tea-time. I had seen no trace of any other watcher; the high ground on each side of me had seemed silent and deserted while I ate my lunch and sketched perfunctorily for an hour or so. Was it genuine? Or did the so-called secret process cloak something far more sinister?

We weighed up the points for and against the second alternative over a round of short ones before dinner.

Points for---Coincidence of dates and the very special precautions taken to prevent outsiders approaching. Point against---Why come to a derelict tin mine in the back of beyond, and incur all the expense of paying miners, when on the face of it a far more accessible and cheaper location could be found?

"In fact," remarked Drummond, "the matter can only be solved in one way. We will consume one more round of this rather peculiar tipple which that sweet girl fondly imagines is a Martini: we will then have dinner: and after that we will go and see for ourselves."

"Supposing it is genuine?" I said doubtfully.

"Then, as in the case of Aunt Amelia, we will apologise and withdraw. And if they refuse to accept our apologies and show signs of wishing to rough-house, Heaven forbid that we should disappoint them."

We started at nine in the car. There was no moon and we decided to approach from the west, that is, the Land's End direction.

"We'll leave the car a mile or so away---hide it if possible," said Drummond. "And then, Stockton, call up your war lore, for we're going to have a peerless night creep."

"Do we scatter, Hugh, or go in a bunch?" asked Jerningham.

"Ordinary patrol, Ted. I'll lead: you fellows follow in pairs."

His eyes were gleaming with excitement; and if my own feelings were any criterion we were all of us in the same condition. My doubts of the morning had been replaced by a quite unjustifiable optimism: I felt that we were on the track again at last. Undoubtedly the wish was father to the thought, but as we got into the car after dinner I was convinced that these were no genuine experimenters in tin.

"Carry a revolver, but don't use it except as a last resort."

Such were Drummond's orders, followed by a reminder of the stringent necessity for silence.

"On their part as well as our own," he said quietly. "If you stumble on anyone, don't let him give the alarm."

In our pockets we each of us had a gag, a large handkerchief, a length of fine rope, and a villainous-looking weapon which Drummond alluded to as Mary. It was a short, heavily loaded stick, and as he calmly produced these nefarious objects from his suit-case, followed by five decent-sized bottles of chloroform, I couldn't help roaring with laughter.

"Always travel hoping for the best," he grinned. "Don't forget, boys---no shooting. To put it mildly, it would be distinctly awkward if we killed a genuine tin merchant."

It was ten o'clock when we reached a spot at which Drummond considered it sound to park the car. For the last two miles we had been travelling without lights, and with the aid of a torch we confirmed our position on the map.

"I make out that there is another ridge beyond the one in front of us before we get to Black Mine," said Drummond. "If that's so and they've got the place picketed, the sentry will be on the further one. Man-handle her in, boys: she'll make a noise on reverse."

We backed the car off the road into a small deserted quarry and then, with a final inspection to see that all our kit was complete, we started off. Toby and I came five yards behind Drummond, with the other two behind us again, and I soon began to realise that the yarns I had heard from time to time---told casually by his pals about our leader---were not exaggerated. I have mentioned before his marvellous gift of silent movement in the dark; and I had myself seen an exhibition of it in the house in Ashworth Gardens. But that was indoors: that night I was to see it in the open. You could hear nothing: you could see nothing, until suddenly he would loom up under your nose with whispered instructions.

Toby had had previous experience of him, but the first time it happened I very nearly made a fool of myself. It was so utterly unexpected that, never dreaming it was he, I lunged at him viciously with my loaded stick. The blow fell on empty air, and I heard him chuckle faintly.

"Steady, old man," he whispered from somewhere behind me. "Don't lay me out at this stage of the proceedings. We're just short of the top of the first ridge: spread out sideways until we're over. Then same formation. Pass it back."

We waited till the other two bumped into us, I feeling the most infernal ass. And then, even as we were passing on the orders, there came a faint snarling noise away to our left. We stared in the direction it came from, but it was not repeated. All was silent save for the lazy beat of the breakers far below.

"By Gad! you fellows, we've bumped the first sentry." Drummond materialised out of the night. "Fell right on top of him. Had to dot him one. What's that?"

A stone moved a few yards away from us, and a low voice called out---"Martin! Martin---are you there? What was that noise? God! this gives me the jumps. Martin---where are you? Ah----"

The beginnings of a scream were stifled in the speaker's throat, and we moved cautiously forward to find Drummond holding someone by the throat.

"Put him to sleep, Ted," he whispered, and the sickly smell of chloroform tainted the air.

"Lash him up and gag him," said Drummond, and then, with infinite precaution, he switched his torch for a second on to the man's face. He was one of the two who had spoken to me that morning.

"Good," said Drummond cheerfully. "We won't bother about the other: he will sleep for several hours. And now, having mopped up the first ridge, let us proceed to do even likewise with the second. Hullo! what the devil is that light doing? Out to sea there."

Three flashes and a long pause---then two flashes. That was all: after that, though we waited several times, we saw nothing more.

"Obviously a signal of some sort," remarked Drummond. "And presumably it is to our friends in front. By Jove! you fellows, is it possible that we've run into a bunch of present-day smugglers? What a perfectly gorgeous thought. Let's get on with it. There's not likely to be anyone in the hollow in front, but go canny in case of accidents. Same formation as before, and spread out when we come to the next ridge."

Once more we started off. Periodically I glanced out to sea, but there was no repetition of the signal. Whatever boat had made it was lying off there now without lights---waiting. And for what? Smugglers? Possible, of course. But what a coast to choose! And yet was it a bad one? Well out of the beaten track: full of caves: sparsely populated. One thing anyway seemed certain. If the signal had been intended for the present owners of Black Mine, it rather disposed of the genuineness of their claim. The connection between tin-mining secrets and mysterious signals out at sea seemed rather too obscure to be credible.

"Hit him, Stockton."

Toby Sinclair's urgent voice startled me out of my theorising just in time. I had literally walked on a man, and it was a question of the fraction of a second as to whether he got away and gave the alarm.

"Good biff," came in Drummond's whisper as the man crashed. "I've got the other beauty. We're through the last line."

The other two had joined us, and for a while we stood there listening. Ahead of us some three hundred yards away was the Black Mine: to the left, on the edge of the cliff, the wooden house stood outlined against the sky. And even as we stared at it a door opened for a second, letting out a shaft of light as someone came out.

"So our friends are not in bed," said Drummond softly. "There is activity in the home circle. Let's go and join the party. We'll make for the edge of the cliff a bit this side of the house."

It was farther than it looked, but we met no more sentries. No further trace of life showed in the wooden house as we worked our way cautiously forward.

"Careful." Drummond's whisper came from just in front of us. "We're close to the edge." He was peering in front, and suddenly he turned round and gripped my arm. "Look up there towards the house. See anything? Underneath a little---just below the top of the cliff."

I stared at the place he indicated, and sure enough there was a patch which seemed less dark than its surroundings.

"There's a heavily screened light inside there," he muttered. "It's an opening in the cliff."

And then, quite clearly audible over the lazy beat of the sea below, we heard the sound of rowlocks.

"This is where we go closer," said Drummond. "It strikes me things are going to happen."

We crept towards the house, and I know that I at any rate was quivering with excitement. I could just see Drummond in front well enough to conform to his every movement. He paused every now and then, but not for long, and I pictured him peering into the darkness with that uncanny sight of his. Once, I remember, he stopped for nearly five minutes, and while I lay there trying to stop the pounding of my heart I thought I heard voices below. Then he went on again, until the house seemed almost on top of us.

At last he stopped for good, and I saw him beckoning to us to come and join him. He was actually on the edge of the cliff, and when I reached his side and passed over, I very nearly gave the show away in my surprise. Not twenty feet below us a man's head was sticking out of the face of the cliff. We could see it outlined against a dim light that came from inside, and he was paying out something hand over hand. At first I couldn't see what it was. It looked like a rope, and yet it seemed singularly stiff and inflexible.

"Form a circle," breathed Drummond to the other three. "Not too near. For Heaven's sake don't let us be surprised from behind."

"What on earth is it that he's paying out?" I whispered in his ear as he once more lay down beside me.

"Tubing of sorts," he answered. "Don't talk---watch."

From below came a whistle, and the man immediately stopped. Then a few seconds later came another whistle and the man disappeared. Something must have swung into position behind him, for the light no longer shone out; only a faint lessening of the darkness marked the spot where he had been. And then, though it may have been my imagination, I thought I heard a slight gurgling noise such as a garden hose makes when you first turn the water on.

For some time nothing further happened; then again from below came the whistle. He must have been waiting for it from behind the screen, for he reappeared instantly. As before the light shone on him, and suddenly I felt Drummond's hand close on my arm like a vice. For the man was wearing indiarubber gauntlets.

Coil by coil he pulled the tubing up until it was all in: then again he disappeared and the screen swung down, shutting out the light.

"Stockton," whispered Drummond, "we've found 'em."

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Explore," he said quietly. "If we'd got through without bumping their sentries, I'd have given it a chance till daylight to-morrow. As it is, it's now or never."

"Then I'm coming with you," I remarked.

"All right," he whispered. "But I'm going down to reconnoitre first."

He collected the other three and gave his orders. He, Jerningham and I would go down and force an entrance through the front of the cliff: the other two would guard our retreat and hold the rope for us to ascend again. But Toby was adamant. There was a large post rammed into the ground for some purpose or other to which the rope could be attached, and he and Peter insisted on coming too. And even in the darkness I could see Drummond's quick grin as he agreed.

"As soon as I signal all right, the next man comes down. And if they find the bally rope and cut it we'll fight our way out through the back door. One other thing: instructions re revolvers cancelled. It's shoot quick, and shoot often. Great Heavens! what's that?"

From somewhere near by there came a dreadful chattering laugh followed by a babble of words which died away as abruptly as it had started. To the others it was merely a sudden noise, staggering because of the unexpectedness of it, but to me it was a paralysing shock which for the moment completely unnerved me. For the voice which had babbled at us out of the night was the voice of Robin Gaunt.

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