Various Parties Converging on the Sea
A pink and blue June morning found me at Bradgate looking from the Griffin Hotel over
a smooth sea to the lightship on the Cock sands which seemed the size of a bell-buoy. A
couple of miles farther south and much nearer the shore a small destroyer was anchored.
Scaife, MacGillivray's man, who had been in the Navy, knew the boat, and told me her
name and her commander's, so I sent off a wire to Sir Walter.
After breakfast Scaife got from a house-agent a key for the gates of the staircases on the
Ruff. I walked with him along the sands, and sat down in a nook of the cliffs while he
investigated the half- dozen of them. I didn't want to be seen, but the place at this hour
was quite deserted, and all the time I was on that beach I saw nothing but the sea-gulls.
It took him more than an hour to do the job, and when I saw him coming towards me,
conning a bit of paper, I can tell you my heart was in my mouth. Everything depended,
you see, on my guess proving right.
He read aloud the number of steps in the different stairs. 'Thirty- four, thirty-five, thirty-
nine, forty-two, forty-seven,' and 'twenty- one' where the cliffs grew lower. I almost got
up and shouted.
We hurried back to the town and sent a wire to MacGillivray. I wanted half a dozen men,
and I directed them to divide themselves among different specified hotels. Then Scaife
set out to prospect the house at the head of the thirty-nine steps.
He came back with news that both puzzled and reassured me. The house was called
Trafalgar Lodge, and belonged to an old gentleman called Appleton--a retired
stockbroker, the house-agent said. Mr Appleton was there a good deal in the summer
time, and was in residence now--had been for the better part of a week. Scaife could pick
up very little information about him, except that he was a decent old fellow, who paid his
bills regularly, and was always good for a fiver for a local charity. Then Scaife seemed to
have penetrated to the back door of the house, pretending he was an agent for sewing-
machines. Only three servants were kept, a cook, a parlour-maid, and a housemaid, and
they were just the sort that you would find in a respectable middle-class household. The
cook was not the gossiping kind, and had pretty soon shut the door in his face, but Scaife
said he was positive she knew nothing. Next door there was a new house building which
would give good cover for observation, and the villa on the other side was to let, and its
garden was rough and shrubby.
I borrowed Scaife's telescope, and before lunch went for a walk along the Ruff. I kept
well behind the rows of villas, and found a good observation point on the edge of the
golf-course. There I had a view of the line of turf along the cliff top, with seats placed at
intervals, and the little square plots, railed in and planted with bushes, whence the
staircases descended to the beach. I saw Trafalgar Lodge very plainly, a red-brick villa
with a veranda, a tennis lawn behind, and in front the ordinary seaside flower-garden full