Fergus Hume delights in the complex. On the part of the reader it requires a great deal of attention to follow the peculiar actions of his characters. There always are detectives more or less clever who figure in this author's romances. The master rascal never is wanting. Mr. Richard Pratt is the genius of thieves. To his other capabilities of the skeleton key and jimmy kind he adds that of being a collector of rarities. He has stolen a cup, said to be old Roman, and, being a generous scoundrel, he presents the cup in lieu of a chalice to a church in Calchester, and Calchester is a little out-of-the-way English town. Because no one is likely to live in prosy Calchester, it is there that Pratt establishes himself in a queer old house--and he furnishes his abode with the nice pictures and the antique furniture he has stolen. The plot of the story depends on the purloining of the cup or chalice, for Leo Haverleigh, a rather weakminded young man, is believed to have stolen it.
The woman dropped a curtsey, and for the first time shot a glance at Pratt, who was smiling blandly. A nervous expression crossed her face as she caught his eye. The next moment she drew herself up and passed on, crossing herself. Pratt looked after her, still smiling, then hurried to rejoin the vicar, who began to explain in his usual wandering way.
"A good woman, Mrs Jeal, a good woman," he said. "For some years she has had charge of Pearl Darry, whom she rescued from her cruel father."
"Is that the insane girl?" said Pratt, idly.
"Do not talk of one so afflicted in that way, Mr Pratt. Pearl may not be quite right in her head, but she is sane enough to conduct herself properly. If the fact that she is not all herself reached Portfront"--the principal town of the county--"it is possible that the authorities might wish to shut her up, and that would be the death of Pearl. No, no!" said the good vicar, "let her have a fair share of God's beautiful earth, and live to a hap