Chapter I. The Serpent Sign
 

Rescued by Kennedy at last from the terrible incubus of Bennett's persecution in his double life of lawyer and master criminal, Elaine had, for the first time in many weeks, a feeling of security.

Now that the strain was off, however, she felt that she needed rest and a chance to recover herself and it occurred to her that a few quiet days with "Aunt" Tabitha, who had been her nurse when she was a little girl, would do her a world of good.

She sent for Aunt Tabby, yet the fascination of the experiences through which she had just gone still hung over her. She could not resist thinking and reading about them, as she sat, one morning, with the faithful Rusty in the conservatory of the Dodge house.

I had told the story at length in the Star, and the heading over it caught her eye.

It read:

          THE CLUTCHING HAND DEAD

                ------

    Double Life Exposed by Craig Kennedy

   Perry Bennett, the Famous Young Lawyer, Takes
   Poison--Kennedy Now on Trail of Master Criminal's
   Hidden Millions.

                 ----

As Elaine glanced down the column, Jennings announced that Aunt Tabby, as she loved to call her old friend, had arrived, and was now in the library with Aunt Josephine.

With an exclamation of delight, Elaine dropped the paper and, followed by Rusty, almost ran into the library.

Aunt Tabby was a stout, elderly, jolly-faced woman, precisely the sort whom Elaine needed to watch over her just now.

"Oh, I'm so glad to see you," half laughed Elaine as she literally flung herself into her nurse's arms. "I feel so unstrung--and I thought that if I could just run off for a few days with you and Joshua in the country where no one would know, it might make me feel better. You have always been so good to me. Marie! Are my things packed? Very well. Then, get my wraps."

Her maid left the room.

"Bless your soul," mothered Aunt Tabby stroking her soft golden hair, "I'm always glad to have you in that fine house you bought me. And, faith, Miss Elaine, the house is a splendid place to rest in but I don't know what's the matter with it lately. Joshua says its haunts--"

"Haunts?" repeated Elaine in amused surprise. "Why, what do you mean?"

Marie entered with the wraps before Aunt Tabby could reply and Jennings followed with the baggage.

"Nonsense," continued Elaine gaily, as she put on her coat, and turned to bid Aunt Josephine good-bye. "Good-bye, Tabitha," said her real aunt. "Keep good care of my little girl."

"That I will," returned the nurse. "We don't have all these troubles out in the country that you city folks have."

Elaine went out, followed by Rusty and Jennings with the luggage.

"Now for a long ride in the good fresh air," sighed Elaine as she leaned back on the cushions of the Dodge limousine and patted Rusty, while the butler stowed away the bags.

The air certainly did, if anything, heighten the beauty of Elaine and at last they arrived at Aunt Tabby's, tired and hungry.

The car stopped and Elaine, Aunt Tabby and the dog got out. There, waiting for them, was "Uncle" Joshua, as Elaine playfully called him, a former gardener of the Dodges, now a plain, honest countryman on whom the city was fast encroaching, a jolly old fellow, unharmed by the world.

Aunt Tabby's was an attractive small house, not many miles from New York, yet not in the general line of suburban travel.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Kennedy and I had decided to bring Bennett's papers and documents over to the laboratory to examine them. We were now engaged in going over the great mass of material which he had collected, in the hope of finding some clue to the stolen millions which he must have amassed as a result of his villainy. The table was stacked high.

A knock at the door told us that the expressman had arrived and a moment later he entered, delivering a heavy box. Kennedy signed for it and started to unpack it.

I was hard at work, when I came across a large manila envelope carefully sealed, on which were written the figures "$7,000,000." Too excited even to exclaim, I tore the envelope open and examined the contents.

Inside was another envelope. I opened that. It contained merely a blank piece of paper!

With characteristic skill at covering his tracks, Bennett had also covered his money. Puzzled, I turned the paper over and over, looking at it carefully. It was a large sheet of paper, but it showed nothing.

"Huh!" I snorted to myself, "confound him."

Yet I could not help smiling at my own folly, a minute later, in thinking that the Clutching Hand would leave any information in such an obvious place as an envelope. I threw the paper into a wire basket on the desk and went on sorting the other stuff.

Kennedy had by this time finished unpacking the box, and was examining a bottle which he had taken from it.

"Come here, Walter," he called at length. "Ever see anything like that?"

"I can't say," I confessed, getting up to go to him. "What is it?"

"Bring a piece of paper." he added.

I went back to the desk where I had been working and looked about hastily. My eye fell on the blank sheet of paper which I had taken from Bennett's envelope, and I picked it up from the basket.

"Here's one," I said, handing it to him. "What are you doing?"

Kennedy did not answer directly, but began to treat the paper with the liquid from the bottle. Then he lighted a Bunsen burner and thrust the paper into the flame. The paper did not burn!

"A new system of fire-proofing," laughed Craig, enjoying my astonishment.

He continued to hold the paper in the flame. Still it did not burn.

"See?" he went on, withdrawing it, and starting to explain the properties of the new fire-proofer.

He had scarcely begun, when he stopped in surprise. He had happened to glance at the paper again, bent over to examine it more intently, and was now looking at it in surprise.

I looked also. There, clearly discernible on the paper, was a small part of what looked like an architect's drawing of a fireplace.

Craig looked up at me, nonplussed. "Where did you say you got that?" he asked.

"It was a blank piece of paper among Bennett's effects," I returned, as mystified as he, pointing at the littered desk at which I had been working.

Kennedy said nothing, but thrust the paper back again into the flame. Slowly, the heat of the burner seemed to bring out the complete drawing of the fireplace.

We looked at it, even more mystified. "What is it, do you suppose?" I queried.

"I think," he replied slowly, "that it was drawn with sympathetic ink. The heat of the burner brought it out into sight."

What was it about?

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Elaine had gone to bed that night at Aunt Tabby's in the room which her old nurse had fixed up especially for her. It was a very attractive little room with dainty chintz curtains and covers and for the first time in many weeks Elaine slept soundly and fearlessly.

Down-stairs, in the living-room, Rusty also was asleep, his nose between his paws.

The living-room was in keeping with everything at Aunt Tabby's, plain, neat, homelike. On one side was a large fireplace that gave to it an air of quaint hospitality.

Suddenly Rusty woke up, his ears pointed at this fireplace. He stood a moment, listening, then, with a bark of alarm he sped swiftly from the living-room, up the stairs at a bound, until he came to Elaine's room.

Elaine felt his cold nose at her hand and stirred, then awoke.

"What is it, Rusty?" she asked, mindful of the former days when Rusty gave warning of the Clutching Hand and his emissaries.

Rusty wagged his tail. Something was wrong.

Elaine followed him down to the living-room. She went over and lighted the electric lamp on the table, then turned to Rusty.

"Well, Rusty?" she asked, almost as if he were human.

She had no need to repeat the question. Rusty was looking straight at the fireplace.

Elaine listened. Sure enough, she heard strange noises. Was that Aunt Tabby's "haunt"? Whatever it was, it sounded as if it came up from the very depths of the earth.

She could not make out just what it sounded like. It might have been some one striking a piece of iron, a bolt, with a sledge.

What was it?

She continued to listen in wonder, then ran to Aunt Tabby's bedroom door, on the first floor, and knocked.

Aunt Tabby woke up and shook Joshua.

"Aunt Tabby! Aunt Tabby!" called Elaine.

"Yes, my dear," answered the old nurse, now fully awake and straightening her nightcap. "Joshua!"

Together the old couple came out into the living-room, still in their nightclothes, Joshua yawning sleepily still.

"Listen!" whispered Elaine.

There was the noise again. This time it was more as though some one were beating a rat-tat-tat with something on a rock. It was weird, uncanny, as all stood there, none knowing where the strange noises came from.

"It's the haunts!" cried Aunt Tabby, trembling a bit. "For three nights now we've been hearing these noises."

Around and around the room they walked, still trying to locate the strange sounds. Were they under the floor? It was impossible to say. They gave it up and stood there, looking blankly at each other. Was it the work of human or superhuman hands?

Finally Joshua went to a table drawer and opened it. He took out a huge, murderous-looking revolver.

"Here, Miss Elaine," he urged, pressing it on her, "take this-- keep it near you!"

The noises ceased at length, as strangely as they had begun.

Half an hour later, they had all gone back to bed and were asleep. But Elaine's sleep now was fitful, a constant procession of faces flitted before her closed eyes.

Suddenly, she woke with a start and stared into the semi-darkness. Was that face real, or a dream face? Was it the hideous helmeted face that had dragged her down into the sewer once? That man was dead. Who was this?

She gazed at the bedroom window, holding the huge revolver tightly. There, vague in the night light, appeared a figure. Surely that was no dream face of the oxygen helmet. Besides, it was not the same helmet.

She sat bolt upright and fired, pointblank, at the window, shivering the glass. A second later she had leaped from the bed, switched on the lights and was running to the sill.

Down-stairs, Aunt Tabby and Uncle Joshua had heard the shot. Joshua was now wide awake. He seized his old shotgun and ran out into the livingroom. Followed by Aunt Tabby, he hurried to Elaine.

"Wh-what was it?" he asked, puffing at the exertion of running up- stairs.

"I saw--a face--at the window--with some kind of thing over it!" gasped Elaine. "It was like one I saw once before."

Uncle Joshua did not wait to hear any more. With the gun pointed ahead of him, ready for instant action, he ran out of the room and into the garden, beneath Elaine's window.

He looked about for signs of an intruder. There was not a sound. No one was about, here.

"I don't see any one," he called up to Elaine and Atint Tabby in the window.

He happened to look down at the ground. Before him was a small box. He picked it up.

"Here's something, though," he said.

Joshua went back into the house.

"What is it?" asked Elaine as he rejoined the women.

She took the curious little box and unfastened the cover. As she opened it, she drew back. There in the box was a little ivory figure of a man, all hunched up and shrunken, a hideous figure. She recoiled from it--it reminded her too much of the Chinese devil-god she had seen,--and she dropped the box.

For a moment all stood looking at it in horrified amazement.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

It was the afternoon following the day of our strange discovery of the fireplace done in sympathetic ink on the apparently blank sheet of paper in Bennett's effects, when the speaking-tube sounded and I answered it.

"Why--it's Elaine," I exclaimed.

Kennedy's face showed the keenest pleasure at the unexpected visit. "Tell her to come right up," he said quickly.

I opened the door for her.

"Why--Elaine--I'm awfully glad to see you," he greeted, "but I thought you were rusticating."

"I was, but, Craig, it seems to me that wherever I go, something happens," she returned. "You know, Aunt Tabby said there were haunts. I thought it was an old woman's fear--but last night I heard the strangest noises out there, and I thought I saw a face at the window--a face in a helmet. And when Joshua went out, this is what he found on the ground under my window."

She handed Kennedy a box, a peculiar affair which she touched gingerly and only with signs of the greatest aversion.

Kennedy opened it. There, in the bottom of the box, was a little ivory devil-god. He looked at it curiously a moment.

"Let me see," he ruminated, still regarding the sign. "The house you bought for Aunt Tabby, once belonged to Bennett, didn't it?"

Elaine nodded her head. "Yes, but I don't see what that can have to do with it," she agreed, adding with a shudder, "Bennett is dead."

Kennedy had taken a piece of paper from the desk where he had put it away carefully. "Have you ever seen anything that looks like this?" he asked, handing her the paper.

Elaine looked at the plan carefully, as Kennedy and I scanned her face. She glanced up, her expression showing plainly the wonder she felt.

"Why, yes," she answered. "That looks like Aunt Tabby's fireplace in the living-room."

Kennedy said nothing for a moment. Then he seized his hat and coat.

"If you don't mind," he said, "we'll go back there with you."

"Mind?" she repeated. "Just what I had hoped you would do."

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Wu Fang, the Chinese master mind, had arrived in New York.

Beside Wu, the inscrutable, Long Sin, astute though he was, was a mere pigmy--his slave, his advance agent, as it were, a tentacle sent out to discover the most promising outlet for the nefarious talents of his master.

New York did not know of the arrival of Wu Fang, the mysterious-- yet. But down in the secret recesses of Chinatown, in the ways that are devious and dark, the oriental crooks knew--and trembled.

Thus it happened that Long Sin was not permitted to enjoy even the foretaste of Bennett's spoils which he had forced from him after his weird transformation into his real self, the Clutching Hand, when the Chinaman had given him the poisoned draught that had put him into his long sleep.

He had obtained the paper showing where the treasure amassed by the Clutching Hand was hidden, but Wu Fang, his master, had come.

Wu had immediately established himself in the most sumptuous of apartments, hidden behind the squalid exterior of the ordinary tenement building in Chinatown.

The night following his arrival, Wu Fang was reclining on a divan, when his servant announced that Long Sin was at the door.

As Long Sin entered, it was evident that, cunning and shrewd though he was himself, Wu was indeed his master. He approached in fear and awe, cringing low.

"Have you brought the map with you?" asked Wu.

Long Sin bowed low again, and drew from under his coat the paper which he had obtained from Bennett. For a moment the two, master and slave in guile, bent over, closely studying it.

At one point in the map Long Sin's bony finger paused over a note which Bennett had made:

BEWARE POISONED GAS UPON OPENING COMPARTMENT.

"And you think you can trace it out?" asked Wu.

"Without a doubt," bowed Long Sin.

He went over to a bag near-by, which he had already sent up by another servant, and opened it. Inside was an oxygen helmet. He replaced it, after showing it to Wu.

"With the aid of the science of the white devil, we shall overcome the science of the white devil," purred Long Sin subtly.

Outside, Wu had already ordered a car to wait, and together the two drove off rapidly. Into the country, they sped, until at last they came to a lonely turn in a lonely road, somewhat removed from the section that was rapidly being built up as population reached out from the city, but on a single-tracked trolley line.

Long Sin alighted and disappeared with a parting word of instruction from Wu who remained in the car. The Chinaman carried with him the heavy bag with the oxygen helmet.

Along this interurban trolley the cars made only half-hourly trips at this time of night. Long Sin hurried down the road until he came to a trolley pole, then looked hastily at his watch. It was twenty minutes at least before the next car would pass.

Quickly, almost monkey-like, he climbed up the pole, carrying with him the end of a wire which he had taken from the bag.

Having thrown this over the feed wire, he slid quickly to the ground again. Then, carrying the other end of the wire in his rubber-gloved hands, he made his way through the underbrush, in and out, almost like the serpent he was, until he came to a passageway in the rough and uncleared hillside--a small opening formed by the rocks.

It was dark inside, but he did not hesitate to enter, carrying the wire and the bag with him.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

It was nightfall before we arrived with Elaine at Aunt Tabby's. We entered the living-room and Elaine introduced us both to Aunt Tabby and her husband.

It was difficult to tell whether Elaine's old nurse was more glad to see her than the faithful Rusty who almost overwhelmed her even after so short an absence.

In the midst of the greetings, I took occasion to look over the living-room. It was a very cozy room, simply and tastefully furnished, and I fancied that I could see in the neatness of Aunt Tabby a touch of Elaine's hand, for she had furnished it for her faithful old friend.

I followed Kennedy's eyes, and saw that he was looking at the fireplace. Sure enough, it was the same in design as the fireplace which the heat had so unexpectedly brought out in sympathetic ink on the blank sheet of paper.

Kennedy lost no time in examining it, and we crowded around him as he went over it inch by inch, following the directions on the drawing.

At one point in the drawing a peculiar protuberance was marked. Kennedy was evidently hunting for that. He found it at last and pressed the sort of lever in several ways. Nothing seemed to happen. But finally, almost by chance, he seemed to discover the secret.

A small section at the side of the fireplace opened up, disclosing an iron ladder, leading down into one of those characteristic hiding-places in which the Clutching Hand used to delight.

Kennedy looked at the mysterious opening some time, as if trying to fathom the mystery.

"Let's go down and explore it," I suggested, taking a step toward the ladder.

Kennedy reached out and pulled me back. Then without a word he pressed the little lever and the door closed.

"I think we'd better wait a while, Walter," he decided. "I would rather hear Aunt Tabby's haunts myself."

He carefully went over not only the rest of the house but the grounds about it, without discovering anything.

Aunt Tabby, with true country hospitality, seemed unable to receive guests without feeding them, and, although we had had a big dinner at a famous road-house on the way out, still none of us could find it in our hearts to refuse her hospitality. Even that diversion, however, did not prevent us from talking of nothing else but the strange noises, and I think, as we waited, we all got into the frame of mind which would have manufactured them even if there had been none.

We were sitting about the room when suddenly the most weird and uncanny rappings began. Rusty was on his feet in a moment, barking like mad. We looked from one to another.

It was impossible to tell where the noises came from, or even to describe them. They were certainly not ghostly rappings. In fact, they sounded more like some twentieth century piece of machinery.

We listened a moment, then Kennedy walked over to the fireplace. "You can explore it with me now, Walter," he said quietly, touching the lever and opening the panel which disclosed the ladder.

He started down the ladder and I followed closely. Elaine was about to join us, when Kennedy paused on the topmost round and looked up at her.

"No, no, young lady," he said with mock severity, "you have been through enough already--you stay where you are."

Elaine argued and begged but Kennedy was obdurate. It was only when Aunt Tabby and Joshua added their entreaties that she consented reluctantly to remain.

Together, Craig and I descended into the darkness about eight or ten feet. There we found a passageway, excavated through the earth and rock, along which we crept. It was crooked and uneven, and we stumbled, but kept going slowly ahead.

Kennedy, who was a few feet in front of me, stopped suddenly and I almost fell over him.

"What is it?" I whispered.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Long Sin had made his way from the opening of the cave to the point on the plan which was marked by a cross, and there he had set up his electric drill which was connected to the trolley wire. He was working furiously to take advantage of the fifteen minutes or so before the next car would pass.

The tunnel had been widened out at this point into a small subterranean chamber. It was dug out of the earth and the roof was roughly propped up, most of the weight being borne by one main wooden prop which, in the dampness, had now become old and rotten.

On one side it was evident that Long Sin had already been at work, digging and drilling through the earth and rock. He had gone so far now that he had disclosed what looked like the face of a small safe set directly into the rock.

As he worked he would stop from time to time and consult the map. Then he would take up drilling again.

He had now come to the point on which Bennett had written his warning. Quickly he opened the bag and took out the oxygen helmet, which he adjusted carefully over his head. Then he set to work with redoubled energy.

It was that drill as well as his pounding on the rock which had so alarmed Elaine and Aunt Tabby the night before and which now had been the signal for Kennedy's excursion of discovery.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Our man, whoever he was, must have heard us approaching down the tunnel, for he paused in his work and the noise of the drill ceased.

He looked about a moment, then went over to the prop and examined it, looking up at the roof of the chamber above him. Evidently he feared that it was not particularly strong.

From our vantage point around the bend in the passageway we could see this strange and uncouth figure.

"Who is it, do you think?" I whispered, crouching back against the wall for fear that he might look even around a corner or through the earth and discover us.

As I spoke, my hand loosened a piece of rock that jutted out and before I knew it there was a crash.

"Confound it, Walter," exclaimed Kennedy.

Down the passageway the figure was now thoroughly on the alert, staring with his goggle-like eyes into the blackness in our direction. It was not the roof above him that was unsafe. He was watched, and he did not hesitate a minute to act.

He seized the bag and picked his way quickly through the passage as if thoroughly familiar with every turn of the walls and roughness of the floor.

We were discovered and if we were to accomplish anything, it was now or never.

Kennedy dashed forward and I followed close after him.

We were making much better time than our strange visitor and were gaining on him rapidly. Nearer and nearer we came to him, for, in spite of his familiarity with the cavern he was hampered by the outlandish head-gear that he wore.

It was only another instant, when Kennedy would have laid his hands on him.

Suddenly he half turned, raised his arm and dashed something to the earth much as a child explodes a toy torpedo. I fully expected that it was a bomb; but, as a moment later, I found that Kennedy and I were still unharmed, I knew that it must be some other product of this devilish genius.

The thickest and most impenetrable smoke seemed to pervade the narrow cavern!

"A Chinese smoke bomb!" sputtered and coughed Kennedy, as he retreated a minute, then with renewed vigor endeavored to penetrate the dense and opaque fumes.

We managed to go ahead still, but the intruder had exploded one after another of his peculiar bombs, always keeping ahead of the smoke which he created, and we found that under its cover he had made good his escape, probably reaching the entrance of the cave in the underbrush.

At the other end of the passageway, up in the living-room of the cottage, the draught had carried large quantities of the smoke. Elaine, Aunt Tabby and Joshua coughing and choking, saw it, and opened a window, which seemed to cause a current of air to sweep through the whole length of the passageway and helped to clear away the fumes rapidly.

Long Sin, meanwhile, had started to work his way through the bushes to reach the waiting car, with Wu, then paused and listened. Hearing no sound, he replaced the helmet which he had taken off.

Pursuit was now useless for us. With revolvers drawn, we crept back along the passageway until we came again to the chamber itself. There, on the floor, lay a bag of tools, opened, as though somebody had been working with them.

"Caught red-handed!" exclaimed Kennedy with great satisfaction.

He looked at the tools a minute and then at the electric drill, and finally an idea seemed to strike him. He took up the drill and advanced toward the safe. Then he turned on the current and applied the drill.

The drill was of the very latest design and it went quickly through the steel. But beyond that there was another thin steel partition. This Kennedy tackled next.

The drill went through and he withdrew it.

Instantly the most penetrating and nauseous odor seemed to pervade everything.

Kennedy cried out. But his warning was too late. We staggered back, overcome by the escaping gas and fell to the ground.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Long Sin, with his oxygen helmet on again, had returned to the passageway and was now stealthily creeping back.

He came to the chamber and there discovered us lying on the ground, overcome. He bent down and, to his great satisfaction, saw that we were really unconscious.

Quickly he moved over to the safe and pried open the last thin steel plate.

Inside was a small box. He picked it up and tried to open it, but it was locked. There was no time to work over it here, and he took it under his arm and started to leave.

He paused a moment to look at us, then took out a piece of paper and a pencil and on the paper wrote, "Thanks for your trouble." Beneath, it was signed by his special stamp--the serpent's head, mouth open and fangs showing.

Long Sin looked at us a moment, then a subtle smile seemed to spread over his face. At last he had us in his power.

He drew out a long, wicked-looking Chinese knife and stuck it through the note.

Then he felt the edge of the knife. It was keen.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

In the sitting-room, Elaine, Aunt Tabby and Joshua had been listening intently at the fireplace but heard nothing.

They were now getting decidedly worried. Finally, the fumes which we had released made their way to the room. They were considerably diluted by fresh air by that time, but, although they were nauseous, were not sufficient to overcome any one. Still, the smell was terrible.

"I can't stand it any longer," cried Elaine. "I'm going down there to see what has become of them."

Aunt Tabby and Joshua tried to stop her, but she broke away from them and went down the ladder. Rusty leaped down after her.

Joshua tried to follow, but Aunt Tabby held him back. He would have gone, too, if she had not managed to strike the spring and shut the door, closing up the passageway.

Joshua got angry then. "You are making a coward of me," he cried, beating on the panel with the butt of his gun and struggling to open it.

He seemed unable to fathom the secret.

Elaine was now making her way as rapidly as she could through the tunnel, with Rusty beside her.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

It was just as Long Sin had raised his knife that the sound of her footsteps alarmed him.

He paused and leaped to his feet.

There was no time for either to retreat. He started toward Elaine, and seized her roughly.

Back and forth over the rocky floor they struggled. As they fought,--she with frantic strength, he craftily,--he backed her slowly up against the prop that upheld the roof.

He raised his keen knife.

She recoiled. The prop, none too strong, suddenly gave way under her weight.

The whole roof of the chamber fell with a crash, earth and stone overwhelming Elaine and her assailant.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

By this time Joshua had left the house and had gone out into the garden to get something to pry open the fireplace door.

Of a sudden, to his utter amazement, a few feet from him, it seemed as if the very earth sank in his garden, leaving a yawning chasm.

He looked, unable to make it out.

Before his very eyes a strange figure, the figure of Long Sin in his oxygen helmet, appeared, struggling up, as if by magic from the very earth, shaking the debris off himself, as a dog would shake off the water after a plunge in a pond.

Long Sin was gone in a moment.

Then again the earth began to move. A paw appeared, then a sharp black nose, and a moment later, Rusty, too, dug himself out.

Joshua had run into the house to get a spade when Rusty, like a shot, bolted for the house, took the window at a leap and all covered with earth landed before Joshua and Aunt Tabby.

"See!--he went down there--now he's here!" cried Aunt Tabby, pointing at the fireplace, then looking at the window.

Rusty was running back and forth from Joshua to the window.

"Follow him!" cried Aunt Tabby.

Rusty led the way back again to the garden, to the cave-in.

"Elaine!" gasped Aunt Tabby.

By this time Joshua was digging furiously. Rusty, too, seemed to understand. He threw back the earth with his paws, helping with every ounce of strength in his little body.

At last the spade turned up a bit of cloth.

"Elaine!" Aunt Tabby cried out again.

She was in a sort of little pocket, protected by the fortunate formation of the earth as it fell, yet almost suffocated, weak but conscious.

Aunt Tabby rushed up as Joshua laid down the spade and lifted out Elaine.

They were about to carry her into the house, when she cried weakly, but with all her remaining strength.

"No--no--Dig! Craig--Walter!" she managed to gasp.

Rusty, too, was still at it. Joshua fell to again. Man and dog worked with a will.

"There they are!" cried Elaine, as all three pulled us out, unconscious but still alive.

Though we did not know it, they carried us into the house, while Elaine and Aunt Tabby bustled about to get something to revive us.

At last I opened my eyes and saw the motherly Aunt Tabby bending over me. Craig was already revived, weak but ready now to do anything Elaine ordered, as she held his hand and stroked his forehead softly.

       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Meanwhile Long Sin had made his way to the automobile where his master, Wu, waited impatiently.

"Did you get it?" asked Wu eagerly.

Long Sin showed him the box.

"Hurry, master!" he cried breathlessly, leaping into the car and struggling to take off the helmet as they drove away. "They may be here--at any moment."

The machine was off like a shot and even if we had been able to follow, we could not now have caught it.

Back in Wu's sumptuous apartment, later, Wu and his slave, Long Sin, after their hurried ride, dismissed all the servants and placed the little box on the table. Wu rose and locked the door.

Then, together, they took a sharp instrument and tried to pry off the lid of the box.

The lid flew off. They gazed in eagerly.

Inside was a smaller box, which Wu seized eagerly and opened.

There, on the plush cushion lay merely a round knobbed ring!

Was this the end of their great expectations? Were Bennett's millions merely mythical?

The two stared at each other in chagrin.

Wu was the first to speak.

"Where there should have been seven million dollars," he muttered to himself, "why is there only a mystic ring?"