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Title: The Dorrington Deed-Box
Author: Morrison, Arthur
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Dorrington Deed-Box" ***

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[Illustration: "MR. LOFTUS DEACON LAY IN A POOL OF BLOOD" (_p. 209_).]



  THE DORRINGTON DEED-BOX



  THE

  DORRINGTON DEED-BOX

  BY

  ARTHUR MORRISON

  AUTHOR OF

  "A CHILD OF THE JAGO," "TALES OF MEAN STREETS,"
  "MARTIN HEWITT: INVESTIGATOR," ETC.

  _ILLUSTRATED_.

  LONDON:
  WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED,

  WARWICK HOUSE, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C.
  NEW YORK AND MELBOURNE.



CONTENTS


                                                                 PAGE

  I. THE NARRATIVE OF MR. JAMES RIGBY                                  1

  II. THE CASE OF JANISSARY                                           53

  III. THE CASE OF THE "MIRROR OF PORTUGAL"                          101

  IV.  THE AFFAIR OF THE "AVALANCHE BICYCLE AND TYRE CO., LIMITED"   151

  V.  THE CASE OF MR. LOFTUS DEACON                                  199

  VI. OLD CATER'S MONEY                                              255



  _THE NARRATIVE OF MR. JAMES RIGBY_



THE DORRINGTON DEED-BOX



I

The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby


I shall here set down in language as simple and straightforward as I
can command, the events which followed my recent return to England;
and I shall leave it to others to judge whether or not my conduct has
been characterised by foolish fear and ill-considered credulity. At
the same time I have my own opinion as to what would have been the
behaviour of any other man of average intelligence and courage in the
same circumstances; more especially a man of my exceptional upbringing
and retired habits.

I was born in Australia, and I have lived there all my life till quite
recently, save for a single trip to Europe as a boy, in company with
my father and mother. It was then that I lost my father. I was less
than nine years old at the time, but my memory of the events of that
European trip is singularly vivid.

My father had emigrated to Australia at the time of his marriage, and
had become a rich man by singularly fortunate speculations in land in
and about Sydney. As a family we were most uncommonly self-centred and
isolated. From my parents I never heard a word as to their relatives
in England; indeed to this day I do not as much as know what was
the Christian name of my grandfather. I have often supposed that
some serious family quarrel or great misfortune must have preceded
or accompanied my father's marriage. Be that as it may, I was never
able to learn anything of my relatives, either on my mother's or my
father's side. Both parents, however, were educated people, and indeed
I fancy that their habit of seclusion must first have arisen from
this circumstance, since the colonists about them in the early days,
excellent people as they were, were not as a class distinguished for
extreme intellectual culture. My father had his library stocked from
England, and added to by fresh arrivals from time to time; and among
his books he would pass most of his days, taking, however, now and
again an excursion with a gun in search of some new specimen to add to
his museum of natural history, which occupied three long rooms in our
house by the Lane Cove river.

I was, as I have said, eight years of age when I started with my
parents on a European tour, and it was in the year 1873. We stayed but
a short while in England at first arrival, intending to make a longer
stay on our return from the Continent. We made our tour, taking Italy
last, and it was here that my father encountered a dangerous adventure.

We were at Naples, and my father had taken an odd fancy for a
picturesque-looking ruffian who had attracted his attention by a
complexion unusually fair for an Italian, and in whom he professed to
recognise a likeness to Tasso the poet. This man became his guide in
excursions about the neighbourhood of Naples, though he was not one
of the regular corps of guides, and indeed seemed to have no regular
occupation of a definite sort. "Tasso," as my father always called him,
seemed a civil fellow enough, and was fairly intelligent; but my mother
disliked him extremely from the first, without being able to offer any
very distinct reason for her aversion. In the event her instinct was
proved true.

[Illustration: HIS ASSAILANT FELL DEAD.]

"Tasso"--his correct name, by the way, was Tommaso Marino--persuaded
my father that something interesting was to be seen at the Astroni
crater, four miles west of the city, or thereabout; persuaded him,
moreover, to make the journey on foot; and the two accordingly set
out. All went well enough till the crater was reached, and then, in
a lonely and broken part of the hill, the guide suddenly turned and
attacked my father with a knife, his intention, without a doubt, being
murder and the acquisition of the Englishman's valuables. Fortunately
my father had a hip-pocket with a revolver in it, for he had been
warned of the danger a stranger might at that time run wandering in
the country about Naples. He received a wound in the flesh of his
left arm in an attempt to ward off a stab, and fired, at wrestling
distance, with the result that his assailant fell dead on the spot. He
left the place with all speed, tying up his arm as he went, sought the
British consul at Naples, and informed him of the whole circumstances.
From the authorities there was no great difficulty. An examination or
two, a few signatures, some particular exertions on the part of
the consul, and my father was free, so far as the officers of the law
were concerned. But while these formalities were in progress no less
than three attempts were made on his life--two by the knife and one by
shooting--and in each his escape was little short of miraculous. For
the dead ruffian, Marino, had been a member of the dreaded Camorra, and
the Camorristi were eager to avenge his death. To anybody acquainted
with the internal history of Italy--more particularly the history of
the old kingdom of Naples--the name of the Camorra will be familiar
enough. It was one of the worst and most powerful of the many powerful
and evil secret societies of Italy, and had none of the excuses for
existence which have been from time to time put forward on behalf of
the others. It was a gigantic club for the commission of crime and
the extortion of money. So powerful was it that it actually imposed a
regular tax on all food material entering Naples--a tax collected and
paid with far more regularity than were any of the taxes due to the
lawful Government of the country. The carrying of smuggled goods was
a monopoly of the Camorra, a perfect organisation existing for the
purpose throughout the kingdom. The whole population was terrorised
by this detestable society, which had no less than twelve centres in
the city of Naples alone. It contracted for the commission of crime
just as systematically and calmly as a railway company contracts
for the carriage of merchandise. A murder was so much, according
to circumstances, with extras for disposing of the body; arson was
dealt in profitably; maimings and kidnappings were carried out with
promptitude and despatch; and any diabolical outrage imaginable was a
mere matter of price. One of the staple vocations of the concern was of
course brigandage. After the coming of Victor Emanuel and the fusion
of Italy into one kingdom the Camorra lost some of its power, but for
a long time gave considerable trouble. I have heard that in the year
after the matters I am describing two hundred Camorristi were banished
from Italy.

As soon as the legal forms were complied with, my father received
the broadest possible official hint that the sooner and the more
secretly he left the country the better it would be for himself and
his family. The British consul, too, impressed it upon him that the
law would be entirely unable to protect him against the machinations
of the Camorra; and indeed it needed but little persuasion to induce
us to leave, for my poor mother was in a state of constant terror lest
we were murdered together in our hotel; so that we lost no time in
returning to England and bringing our European trip to a close.

In London we stayed at a well-known private hotel near Bond Street. We
had been but three days here when my father came in one evening with a
firm conviction that he had been followed for something like two hours,
and followed very skilfully too. More than once he had doubled suddenly
with a view to confront the pursuers, who he felt were at his heels,
but he had met nobody of a suspicious appearance. The next afternoon I
heard my mother telling my governess (who was travelling with us) of an
unpleasant-looking man, who had been hanging about opposite the hotel
door, and who, she felt sure, had afterwards been following her and my
father as they were walking. My mother grew nervous, and communicated
her fears to my father. He, however, pooh-poohed the thing, and took
little thought of its meaning. Nevertheless the dogging continued, and
my father, who was never able to fix upon the persons who caused the
annoyance--indeed he rather felt their presence by instinct, as one
does in such cases, than otherwise--grew extremely angry, and had some
idea of consulting the police. Then one morning my mother discovered
a little paper label stuck on the outside of the door of the bedroom
occupied by herself and my father. It was a small thing, circular, and
about the size of a sixpenny-piece, or even smaller, but my mother was
quite certain that it had not been there when she last entered the door
the night before, and she was much terrified. For the label carried a
tiny device, drawn awkwardly in ink--a pair of knives of curious shape,
crossed: the sign of the Camorra.

Nobody knew anything of this label, or how it came where it had been
found. My mother urged my father to place himself under the protection
of the police at once, but he delayed. Indeed, I fancy he had a
suspicion that the label might be the production of some practical
joker staying at the hotel who had heard of his Neapolitan adventure
(it was reported in many newspapers) and designed to give him a fright.
But that very evening my poor father was found dead, stabbed in a
dozen places, in a short, quiet street not forty yards from the hotel.
He had merely gone out to buy a few cigars of a particular brand which
he fancied, at a shop two streets away, and in less than half an hour
of his departure the police were at the hotel door with the news of his
death, having got his address from letters in his pockets.

It is no part of my present design to enlarge on my mother's grief, or
to describe in detail the incidents that followed my father's death,
for I am going back to this early period of my life merely to make more
clear the bearings of what has recently happened to myself. It will
be sufficient therefore to say that at the inquest the jury returned
a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown;
that it was several times reported that the police had obtained a most
important clue, and that being so, very naturally there was never any
arrest. We returned to Sydney, and there I grew up.

I should perhaps have mentioned ere this that my profession--or I
should rather say my hobby--is that of an artist. Fortunately or
unfortunately, as you may please to consider it, I have no need to
follow any profession as a means of livelihood, but since I was
sixteen years of age my whole time has been engrossed in drawing and
painting. Were it not for my mother's invincible objection to parting
with me, even for the shortest space of time, I should long ago have
come to Europe to work and to study in the regular schools. As it was
I made shift to do my best in Australia, and wandered about pretty
freely, struggling with the difficulties of moulding into artistic form
the curious Australian landscape. There is an odd, desolate, uncanny
note in characteristic Australian scenery, which most people are apt to
regard as of little value for the purposes of the landscape painter,
but with which I have always been convinced that an able painter could
do great things. So I did my feeble best.

Two years ago my mother died. My age was then twenty-eight, and I was
left without a friend in the world, and, so far as I know, without a
relative. I soon found it impossible any longer to inhabit the large
house by the Lane Cove river. It was beyond my simple needs, and the
whole thing was an embarrassment, to say nothing of the associations
of the house with my dead mother, which exercised a painful and
depressing effect on me. So I sold the house, and cut myself adrift.
For a year or more I pursued the life of a lonely vagabond in New
South Wales, painting as well as I could its scattered forests of
magnificent trees, with their curious upturned foliage. Then, miserably
dissatisfied with my performance, and altogether filled with a restless
spirit, I determined to quit the colony and live in England, or at
any rate somewhere in Europe. I would paint at the Paris schools, I
promised myself, and acquire that technical mastery of my material that
I now felt the lack of.

The thing was no sooner resolved on than begun. I instructed my
solicitors in Sydney to wind up my affairs and to communicate with
their London correspondents in order that, on my arrival in England,
I might deal with business matters through them. I had more than half
resolved to transfer all my property to England, and to make the old
country my permanent headquarters; and in three weeks from the date
of my resolve I had started. I carried with me the necessary letters
of introduction to the London solicitors, and the deeds appertaining
to certain land in South Australia, which my father had bought just
before his departure on the fatal European trip. There was workable
copper in this land, it had since been ascertained, and I believed I
might profitably dispose of the property to a company in London.

I found myself to some extent out of my element on board a great
passenger steamer. It seemed no longer possible for me in the constant
association of shipboard to maintain that reserve which had become with
me a second nature. But so much had it become my nature that I shrank
ridiculously from breaking it, for, grown man as I was, it must be
confessed that I was absurdly shy, and indeed I fear little better than
an overgrown schoolboy in my manner. But somehow I was scarce a day at
sea before falling into a most pleasant acquaintanceship with another
passenger, a man of thirty-eight or forty, whose name was Dorrington.
He was a tall, well-built fellow, rather handsome, perhaps, except for
a certain extreme roundness of face and fulness of feature; he had a
dark military moustache, and carried himself erect, with a swing as of
a cavalryman, and his eyes had, I think, the most penetrating quality
I ever saw. His manners were extremely engaging, and he was the only
good talker I had ever met. He knew everybody, and had been everywhere.
His fund of illustration and anecdote was inexhaustible, and during
all my acquaintance with him I never heard him tell the same story
twice. Nothing could happen--not a bird could fly by the ship, not a
dish could be put on the table, but Dorrington was ready with a pungent
remark and the appropriate anecdote. And he never bored nor wearied
one. With all his ready talk he never appeared unduly obtrusive nor
in the least egotistic. Mr. Horace Dorrington was altogether the most
charming person I had ever met. Moreover we discovered a community of
taste in cigars.

"By the way," said Dorrington to me one magnificent evening as we
leaned on the rail and smoked, "Rigby isn't a very common name in
Australia, is it? I seem to remember a case, twenty years ago or more,
of an Australian gentleman of that name being very badly treated
in London--indeed, now I think of it, I'm not sure that he wasn't
murdered. Ever hear anything of it?"

"Yes," I said, "I heard a great deal, unfortunately. He was my father,
and he _was_ murdered."

"Your father? There--I'm awfully sorry. Perhaps I shouldn't have
mentioned it; but of course I didn't know."

"Oh," I replied, "that's all right. It's so far back now that I don't
mind speaking about it. It was a very extraordinary thing altogether."
And then, feeling that I owed Dorrington a story of some sort, after
listening to the many he had been telling me, I described to him the
whole circumstances of my father's death.

"Ah," said Dorrington when I had finished, "I have heard of the Camorra
before this--I know a thing or two about it, indeed. As a matter of
fact it still exists; not quite the widespread and open thing it once
was, of course, and much smaller; but pretty active in a quiet way,
and pretty mischievous. They were a mighty bad lot, those Camorristi.
Personally I'm rather surprised that you heard no more of them. They
were the sort of people who would rather any day murder three people
than one, and their usual idea of revenge went a good way beyond the
mere murder of the offending party; they had a way of including his
wife and family, and as many relatives as possible. But at any rate
_you_ seem to have got off all right, though I'm inclined to call it
rather a piece of luck than otherwise."

Then, as was his invariable habit, he launched into anecdote. He told
me of the crimes of the Maffia, that Italian secret society, larger
even and more powerful than the Camorra, and almost as criminal;
tales of implacable revenge visited on father, son, and grandson
in succession, till the race was extirpated. Then he talked of the
methods; of the large funds at the disposal of the Camorra and the
Maffia, and of the cunning patience with which their schemes were
carried into execution; of the victims who had discovered too late
that their most trusted servants were sworn to their destruction, and
of those who had fled to remote parts of the earth and hoped to be
lost and forgotten, but who had been shadowed and slain with barbarous
ferocity in their most trusted hiding-places. Wherever Italians were,
there was apt to be a branch of one of the societies, and one could
never tell where they might or might not turn up. The two Italian
forecastle hands on board at that moment might be members, and might
or might not have some business in hand not included in their signed
articles.

I asked if he had ever come into personal contact with either of these
societies or their doings.

"With the Camorra, no, though I know things about them that would
probably surprise some of them not a little. But I have had
professional dealings with the Maffia--and that without coming off
second best, too. But it was not so serious a case as your father's;
one of a robbery of documents and blackmail."

"Professional dealings?" I queried.

Dorrington laughed. "Yes," he answered. "I find I've come very near to
letting the cat out of the bag. I don't generally tell people who I am
when I travel about, and indeed I don't always use my own name, as I am
doing now. Surely you've heard the name at some time or another?"

I had to confess that I did not remember it. But I excused myself by
citing my secluded life, and the fact that I had never left Australia
since I was a child.

"Ah," he said, "of course we should be less heard of in Australia. But
in England we're really pretty well known, my partner and I. But, come
now, look me all over and consider, and I'll give you a dozen guesses
and bet you a sovereign you can't tell me my trade. And it's not such
an uncommon or unheard-of trade, neither."

Guessing would have been hopeless, and I said so. He did not seem the
sort of man who would trouble himself about a trade at all. I gave it
up.

"Well," he said, "I've no particular desire to have it known all over
the ship, but I don't mind telling you--you'd find it out probably
before long if you settle in the old country--that we are what is
called private inquiry agents--detectives--secret service men--whatever
you like to call it."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, indeed. And I think I may claim that we stand as high as any--if
not a trifle higher. Of course I can't tell you, but you'd be rather
astonished if you heard the names of some of our clients. We have had
dealings with certain royalties, European and Asiatic, that would
startle you a bit if I could tell them. Dorrington & Hicks is the name
of the firm, and we are both pretty busy men, though we keep going a
regiment of assistants and correspondents. I have been in Australia
three months over a rather awkward and complicated matter, but I fancy
I've pulled it through pretty well, and I mean to reward myself with a
little holiday when I get back. There--now you know the worst of me.
And D. & H. present their respectful compliments, and trust that by
unfailing punctuality and a strict attention to business they may hope
to receive your esteemed commands whenever you may be so unfortunate as
to require their services. Family secrets extracted, cleaned, scaled,
or stopped with gold. Special attention given to wholesale orders." He
laughed and pulled out his cigar-case. "You haven't another cigar in
your pocket," he said, "or you wouldn't smoke that stump so low. Try
one of these."

I took the cigar and lit it at my remainder. "Ah, then," I said, "I
take it that it is the practice of your profession that has given you
such a command of curious and out-of-the-way information and anecdote.
Plainly you must have been in the midst of many curious affairs."

"Yes, I believe you," Dorrington replied. "But, as it happens, the most
curious of my experiences I am unable to relate, since they are matters
of professional confidence. Such as I _can_ tell I usually tell with
altered names, dates, and places. One learns discretion in such a trade
as mine."

"As to your adventure with the Maffia, now. Is there any secrecy about
that?"

Dorrington shrugged his shoulders. "No," he said, "none in particular.
But the case was not particularly interesting. It was in Florence.
The documents were the property of a wealthy American, and some of
the Maffia rascals managed to steal them. It doesn't matter what the
documents were--that's a private matter--but their owner would have
parted with a great deal to get them back, and the Maffia held them for
ransom. But they had such a fearful notion of the American's wealth,
and of what he ought to pay, that, badly as he wanted the papers back,
he couldn't stand their demands, and employed us to negotiate and to
do our best for him. I think I might have managed to get the things
stolen back again--indeed I spent some time thinking a plan over--but
I decided in the end that it wouldn't pay. If the Maffia were tricked
in that way they might consider it appropriate to stick somebody
with a knife, and that was not an easy thing to provide against. So
I took a little time and went another way to work. The details don't
matter--they're quite uninteresting, and to tell you them would be to
talk mere professional 'shop'; there's a deal of dull and patient work
to be done in my business. Anyhow, I contrived to find out exactly
in whose hands the documents lay. He wasn't altogether a blameless
creature, and there were two or three little things that, properly
handled, might have brought him into awkward complications with the
law. So I delayed the negotiations while I got my nets effectually
round this gentleman, who was the president of that particular branch
of the Maffia, and when all was ready I had a friendly interview with
him, and just showed him my hand of cards. They served as no other
argument would have done, and in the end we concluded quite an amicable
arrangement on easy terms for both parties, and my client got his
property back, including all expenses, at about a fifth of the price he
expected to have to pay. That's all. I learnt a deal about the Maffia
while the business lasted, and at that and other times I learnt a good
deal about the Camorra too."

Dorrington and I grew more intimate every day of the voyage, till he
knew every detail of my uneventful little history, and I knew many
of his own most curious experiences. In truth he was a man with an
irresistible fascination for a dull home-bird like myself. With all his
gaiety he never forgot business, and at most of our stopping places he
sent off messages by cable to his partner. As the voyage drew near its
end he grew anxious and impatient lest he should not arrive in time to
enable him to get to Scotland for grouse-shooting on the twelfth of
August. His one amusement, it seemed, was shooting, and the holiday he
had promised himself was to be spent on a grouse-moor which he rented
in Perthshire. It would be a great nuisance to miss the twelfth, he
said, but it would apparently be a near shave. He thought, however,
that in any case it might be done by leaving the ship at Plymouth, and
rushing up to London by the first train.

"Yes," he said, "I think I shall be able to do it that way, even if the
boat is a couple of days late. By the way," he added suddenly, "why not
come along to Scotland with me? You haven't any particular business in
hand, and I can promise you a week or two of good fun."

The invitation pleased me. "It's very good of you," I said, "and as a
matter of fact I haven't any very urgent business in London. I must
see those solicitors I told you of, but that's not a matter of hurry;
indeed an hour or two on my way through London would be enough. But as
I don't know any of your party and----"

"Pooh, pooh, my dear fellow," answered Dorrington, with a snap of
his fingers, "that's all right. I shan't have a party. There won't
be time to get it together. One or two might come down a little
later, but if they do they'll be capital fellows, delighted to make
your acquaintance, I'm sure. Indeed you'll do me a great favour if
you'll come, else I shall be all alone, without a soul to say a word
to. Anyway, I _won't_ miss the twelfth, if it's to be done by any
possibility. You'll really have to come, you know--you've no excuse. I
can lend you guns and anything you want, though I believe you've such
things with you. Who is your London solicitor, by the way?"

"Mowbray, of Lincoln's Inn Fields."

"Oh, Mowbray? We know him well; his partner died last year. When I say
_we_ know him well, I mean as a firm. I have never met him personally,
though my partner (who does the office work) has regular dealings
with him. He's an excellent man, but his managing clerk's frightful;
I wonder Mowbray keeps him. Don't you let him do anything for you on
his own hook; he makes the most disastrous messes, and I rather fancy
he drinks. Deal with Mowbray himself; there's nobody better in London.
And by the way, now I think of it, it's lucky you've nothing urgent for
him, for he's sure to be off out of town for the twelfth; he's a rare
old gunner, and never misses a season. So that now you haven't a shade
of an excuse for leaving me in the lurch, and we'll consider the thing
settled."

Settled accordingly it was, and the voyage ended uneventfully. But the
steamer was late, and we left it at Plymouth and rushed up to town on
the tenth. We had three or four hours to prepare before leaving Euston
by the night train. Dorrington's moor was a long drive from Crieff
station, and he calculated that at best we could not arrive there
before the early evening of the following day, which would, however,
give us comfortable time for a good long night's rest before the
morning's sport opened. Fortunately I had plenty of loose cash with me,
so that there was nothing to delay us in that regard. We made ready in
Dorrington's rooms (he was a bachelor) in Conduit Street, and got off
comfortably by the ten o'clock train from Euston.

Then followed a most delightful eight days. The weather was fine, the
birds were plentiful, and my first taste of grouse-shooting was a
complete success. I resolved for the future to come out of my shell and
mix in the world that contained such charming fellows as Dorrington,
and such delightful sports as that I was then enjoying. But on the
eighth day Dorrington received a telegram calling him instantly to
London.

"It's a shocking nuisance," he said; "here's my holiday either knocked
on the head altogether or cut in two, and I fear it's the first rather
than the second. It's just the way in such an uncertain profession as
mine. There's no possible help for it, however; I must go, as you'd
understand at once if you knew the case. But what chiefly annoys me is
leaving you all alone."

I reassured him on this point, and pointed out that I had for a long
time been used to a good deal of my own company. Though indeed, with
Dorrington away, life at the shooting-lodge threatened to be less
pleasant than it had been.

"But you'll be bored to death here," Dorrington said, his thoughts
jumping with my own. "But on the other hand it won't be much good
going up to town yet. Everybody's out of town, and Mowbray among them.
There's a little business of ours that's waiting for him at this
moment--my partner mentioned it in his letter yesterday. Why not put in
the time with a little tour round? Or you might work up to London by
irregular stages, and look about you. As an artist you'd like to see
a few of the old towns--probably, Edinburgh, Chester, Warwick, and so
on. It isn't a great programme, perhaps, but I hardly know what else to
suggest. As for myself I must be off as I am by the first train I can
get."

I begged him not to trouble about me, but to attend to his business. As
a matter of fact, I was disposed to get to London and take chambers, at
any rate for a little while. But Chester was a place I much wanted to
see--a real old town, with walls round it--and I was not indisposed to
take a day at Warwick. So in the end I resolved to pack up and make for
Chester the following day, and from there to take train for Warwick.
And in half an hour Dorrington was gone.

Chester was all delight to me. My recollections of the trip to Europe
in my childhood were vivid enough as to the misfortunes that followed
my father, but of the ancient buildings we visited I remembered little.
Now in Chester I found the mediæval town I had so often read of. I
wandered for hours together in the quaint old "Rows," and walked on the
city wall. The evening after my arrival was fine and moonlight, and I
was tempted from my hotel. I took a stroll about the town and finished
by a walk along the wall from the Watergate toward the cathedral. The
moon, flecked over now and again by scraps of cloud, and at times
obscured for half a minute together, lighted up all the Roodee in the
intervals, and touched with silver the river beyond. But as I walked
I presently grew aware of a quiet shuffling footstep some little way
behind me. I took little heed of it at first, though I could see nobody
near me from whom the sound might come. But soon I perceived that
when I stopped, as I did from time to time to gaze over the parapet,
the mysterious footsteps stopped also, and when I resumed my walk the
quiet shuffling tread began again. At first I thought it might be an
echo; but a moment's reflection dispelled that idea. Mine was an even,
distinct walk, and this which followed was a soft, quick, shuffling
step--a mere scuffle. Moreover, when, by way of test, I took a few
silent steps on tip-toe, the shuffle still persisted. I was being
followed.

Now I do not know whether or not it may sound like a childish fancy,
but I confess I thought of my father. When last I had been in England,
as a child, my father's violent death had been preceded by just such
followings. And now after all these years, on my return, on the very
first night I walked abroad alone, there were strange footsteps in
my track. The walk was narrow, and nobody could possibly pass me
unseen. I turned suddenly, therefore, and hastened back. At once I
saw a dark figure rise from the shadow of the parapet and run. I ran
too, but I could not gain on the figure, which receded farther and
more indistinctly before me. One reason was that I felt doubtful of
my footing on the unfamiliar track. I ceased my chase, and continued
my stroll. It might easily have been some vagrant thief, I thought,
who had a notion to rush, at a convenient opportunity, and snatch my
watch. But here I was far past the spot where I had turned there was
the shuffling footstep behind me again. For a little while I feigned
not to notice it; then, swinging round as swiftly as I could, I made a
quick rush. Useless again, for there in the distance scuttled that same
indistinct figure, more rapidly than I could run. What did it mean? I
liked the affair so little that I left the walls and walked toward my
hotel.

The streets were quiet. I had traversed two, and was about emerging
into one of the two main streets, where the Rows are, when, from the
farther part of the dark street behind me, there came once more the
sound of the now unmistakable footstep. I stopped; the footsteps
stopped also. I turned and walked back a few steps, and as I did it the
sounds went scuffling away at the far end of the street.

[Illustration: "I MADE A QUICK RUSH."]

It could not be fancy. It could not be chance. For a single incident
perhaps such an explanation might serve, but not for this persistent
recurrence. I hurried away to my hotel, resolved, since I could not
come at my pursuer, to turn back no more. But before I reached the
hotel there were the shuffling footsteps again, and not far behind.

It would not be true to say that I was alarmed at this stage of the
adventure, but I was troubled to know what it all might mean, and
altogether puzzled to account for it. I thought a great deal, but I
went to bed and rose in the morning no wiser than ever.

Whether or not it was a mere fancy induced by the last night's
experience I cannot say, but I went about that day with a haunting
feeling that I was watched, and to me the impression was very real
indeed. I listened often, but in the bustle of the day, even in quiet
old Chester, the individual characters of different footsteps were not
easily recognisable. Once, however, as I descended a flight of steps
from the Rows, I fancied I heard the quick shuffle in the curious old
gallery I had just quitted. I turned up the steps again and looked.
There was a shabby sort of man looking in one of the windows, and
leaning so far as to hide his head behind the heavy oaken pilaster
that supported the building above. It might have been his footstep,
or it might have been my fancy. At any rate I would have a look at
him. I mounted the top stair, but as I turned in his direction the
man ran off, with his face averted and his head ducked, and vanished
down another stair. I made all speed after him, but when I reached the
street he was nowhere to be seen.

What _could_ it all mean? The man was rather above the middle height,
and he wore one of those soft felt hats familiar on the head of the
London organ-grinder. Also his hair was black and bushy, and protruded
over the back of his coat-collar. Surely _this_ was no delusion; surely
I was not imagining an Italian aspect for this man simply because of
the recollection of my father's fate?

Perhaps I was foolish, but I took no more pleasure in Chester. The
embarrassment was a novel one for me, and I could not forget it. I went
back to my hotel, paid my bill, sent my bag to the railway station, and
took train for Warwick by way of Crewe.

It was dark when I arrived, but the night was near as fine as last
night had been at Chester. I took a very little late dinner at my
hotel, and fell into a doubt what to do with myself. One rather fat
and very sleepy commercial traveller was the only other customer
visible, and the billiard room was empty. There seemed to be nothing to
do but to light a cigar and take a walk.

I could just see enough of the old town to give me good hopes of
to-morrow's sight-seeing. There was nothing visible of quite such an
interesting character as one might meet in Chester, but there were a
good few fine old sixteenth century houses, and there were the two
gates with the chapels above them. But of course the castle was the
great show-place, and that I should visit on the morrow, if there were
no difficulties as to permission. There were some very fine pictures
there, if I remembered aright what I had read. I was walking down the
incline from one of the gates, trying to remember who the painters of
these pictures were, besides Van Dyck and Holbein, when--that shuffling
step was behind me again!

I admit that it cost me an effort, this time, to turn on my pursuer.
There was something uncanny in that persistent, elusive footstep,
and indeed there was something alarming in my circumstances, dogged
thus from place to place, and unable to shake off my enemy, or to
understand his movements or his motive. Turn I did, however, and
straightway the shuffling step went off at a hastened pace in the
shadow of the gate. This time I made no more than half-a-dozen steps
back. I turned again, and pushed my way to the hotel. And as I went the
shuffling step came after.

The thing was serious. There must be some object in this unceasing
watching, and the object could bode no good to me. Plainly some unseen
eye had been on me the whole of that day, had noted my goings and
comings and my journey from Chester. Again, and irresistibly, the
watchings that preceded my father's death came to mind, and I could not
forget them. I could have no doubt now that I had been closely watched
from the moment I had set foot at Plymouth. But who could have been
waiting to watch me at Plymouth, when indeed I had only decided to land
at the last moment? Then I thought of the two Italian forecastle hands
on the steamer--the very men whom Dorrington had used to illustrate
in what unexpected quarters members of the terrible Italian secret
societies might be found. And the Camorra was not satisfied with single
revenge; it destroyed the son after the father, and it waited for many
years, with infinite patience and cunning.

Dogged by the steps, I reached the hotel and went to bed. I slept but
fitfully at first, though better rest came as the night wore on. In
the early morning I woke with a sudden shock, and with an indefinite
sense of being disturbed by somebody about me. The window was directly
opposite the foot of the bed, and there, as I looked, was the face of
a man, dark, evil, and grinning, with a bush of black hair about his
uncovered head, and small rings in his ears.

It was but a flash, and the face vanished. I was struck by the terror
that one so often feels on a sudden and violent awakening from sleep,
and it was some seconds ere I could leave my bed and get to the
window. My room was on the first floor, and the window looked down on
a stable-yard. I had a momentary glimpse of a human figure leaving the
gate of the yard, and it was the figure that had fled before me in
the Rows, at Chester. A ladder belonging to the yard stood under the
window, and that was all.

I rose and dressed; I could stand this sort of thing no longer. If
it were only something tangible, if there were only somebody I could
take hold of, and fight with if necessary, it would not have been so
bad. But I was surrounded by some mysterious machination, persistent,
unexplainable, that it was altogether impossible to tackle or to face.
To complain to the police would have been absurd--they would take me
for a lunatic. They are indeed just such complaints that lunatics so
often make to the police--complaints of being followed by indefinite
enemies, and of being besieged by faces that look in at windows.
Even if they did not set me down a lunatic, what could the police of
a provincial town do for me in a case like this? No, I must go and
consult Dorrington.

I had my breakfast, and then decided that I would at any rate try the
castle before leaving. Try it I did accordingly, and was allowed to go
over it. But through the whole morning I was oppressed by the horrible
sense of being watched by malignant eyes. Clearly there was no comfort
for me while this lasted; so after lunch I caught a train which brought
me to Euston soon after half-past six.

I took a cab straight to Dorrington's rooms, but he was out, and was
not expected home till late. So I drove to a large hotel near Charing
Cross--I avoid mentioning its name for reasons which will presently be
understood--sent in my bag, and dined.

I had not the smallest doubt but that I was still under the observation
of the man or the men who had so far pursued me; I had, indeed, no
hope of eluding them, except by the contrivance of Dorrington's
expert brain. So as I had no desire to hear that shuffling footstep
again--indeed it had seemed, at Warwick, to have a physically painful
effect on my nerves--I stayed within and got to bed early.

I had no fear of waking face to face with a grinning Italian here. My
window was four floors up, out of reach of anything but a fire-escape.
And, in fact, I woke comfortably and naturally, and saw nothing from
my window but the bright sky, the buildings opposite, and the traffic
below. But as I turned to close my door behind me as I emerged into the
corridor, there, on the muntin of the frame, just below the bedroom
number, was a little round paper label, perhaps a trifle smaller than a
sixpence, and on the label, drawn awkwardly in ink, was a device of two
crossed knives of curious, crooked shape. The sign of the Camorra!

I will not attempt to describe the effect of this sign upon me. It
may best be imagined, in view of what I have said of the incidents
preceding the murder of my father. It was the sign of an inexorable
fate, creeping nearer step by step, implacable, inevitable, and
mysterious. In little more than twelve hours after seeing that sign my
father had been a mangled corpse. One of the hotel servants passed as I
stood by the door, and I made shift to ask him if he knew anything of
the label. He looked at the paper, and then, more curiously, at me, but
he could offer no explanation. I spent little time over breakfast, and
then went by cab to Conduit Street. I paid my bill and took my bag with
me.

Dorrington had gone to his office, but he had left a message that if
I called I was to follow him; and the office was in Bedford Street,
Covent Garden. I turned the cab in that direction forthwith.

"Why," said Dorrington as we shook hands, "I believe you look a bit out
of sorts! Doesn't England agree with you?"

"Well," I answered, "it has proved rather trying so far." And then I
described, in exact detail, my adventures as I have set them down here.

Dorrington looked grave. "It's really extraordinary," he said, "most
extraordinary; and it isn't often that I call a thing extraordinary
neither, with my experience. But it's plain something must be
done--something to gain time at any rate. We're in the dark at present,
of course, and I expect I shall have to fish about a little before I
get at anything to go on. In the meantime I think you must disappear
as artfully as we can manage it." He sat silent for a little while,
thoughtfully tapping his forehead with his finger-tips. "I wonder," he
said presently, "whether or not those Italian fellows on the steamer
_are_ in it or not. I suppose you haven't made yourself known anywhere,
have you?"

"Nowhere. As you know, you've been with me all the time till you left
the moor, and since then I have been with nobody and called on nobody."

"Now there's no doubt it's the Camorra," Dorrington said--"that's
pretty plain. I think I told you on the steamer that it was rather
wonderful that you had heard nothing of them after your father's death.
What has caused them all this delay there's no telling--they know
best themselves; it's been lucky for you, anyway, so far. What I'd
like to find out now is how they have identified you, and got on your
track so promptly. There's no guessing where these fellows get their
information--it's just wonderful; but if we can find out, then perhaps
we can stop the supply, or turn on something that will lead them into a
pit. If you had called anywhere on business and declared yourself--as
you might have done, for instance, at Mowbray's--I might be inclined to
suspect that they got the tip in some crooked way from there. But you
haven't. Of course, if those Italian chaps on the steamer _are_ in it,
you're probably identified pretty certainly; but if they're not, they
may only have made a guess. We two landed together, and kept together,
till a day or two ago; as far as any outsider would know, I might be
Rigby and you might be Dorrington. Come, we'll work on those lines. I
think I smell a plan. Are you staying anywhere?"

"No. I paid my bill at the hotel and came along here with my bag."

"Very well. Now there's a house at Highgate kept by a very trustworthy
man, whom I know very well, where a man might be pretty comfortable
for a few days, or even for a week, if he doesn't mind staying indoors,
and keeping himself out of sight. I expect your friends of the Camorra
are watching in the street outside at this moment; but I think it will
be fairly easy to get you away to Highgate without letting them into
the secret, if you don't mind secluding yourself for a bit. In the
circumstances, I take it you won't object at all?"

"Object? I should think not."

"Very well, that's settled. You can call yourself Dorrington or not, as
you please, though perhaps it will be safest not to shout 'Rigby' too
loud. But as for myself, for a day or two at least I'm going to be Mr.
James Rigby. Have you your card-case handy?"

"Yes, here it is. But then, as to taking my name, won't you run serious
risk?"

Dorrington winked merrily. "I've run a risk or two before now," he
said, "in course of my business. And if _I_ don't mind the risk, you
needn't grumble, for I warn you I shall charge for risk when I send you
my bill. And I think I can take care of myself fairly well, even with
the Camorra about. I shall take you to this place at Highgate, and then
you won't see me for a few days. It won't do for me, in the character
of Mr. James Rigby, to go dragging a trail up and down between this
place and your retreat. You've got some other identifying papers,
haven't you?"

"Yes, I have." I produced the letter from my Sydney lawyers to Mowbray,
and the deeds of the South Australian property from my bag.

"Ah," said Dorrington, "I'll just give you a formal receipt for these,
since they're valuable; it's a matter of business, and we'll do it in
a business-like way. I may want something solid like this to support
any bluff I may have to make. A mere case of cards won't always act,
you know. It's a pity old Mowbray's out of town, for there's a way in
which he might give a little help, I fancy. But never mind--leave it
all to me. There's your receipt. Keep it snug away somewhere, where
inquisitive people can't read it."

He handed me the receipt, and then took me to his partner's room
and introduced me. Mr. Hicks was a small, wrinkled man, older than
Dorrington, I should think, by fifteen or twenty years, and with all
the aspect and manner of a quiet old professional man.

Dorrington left the room, and presently returned with his hat in his
hand. "Yes," he said, "there's a charming dark gentleman with a head
like a mop, and rings in his ears, skulking about at the next corner.
If it was he who looked in at your window, I don't wonder you were
startled. His dress suggests the organ-grinding interest, but he looks
as though cutting a throat would be more in his line than grinding a
tune; and no doubt he has friends as engaging as himself close at call.
If you'll come with me now I think we shall give him the slip. I have
a growler ready for you--a hansom's a bit too glassy and public. Pull
down the blinds and sit back when you get inside."

He led me to a yard at the back of the building wherein the office
stood, from which a short flight of steps led to a basement. We
followed a passage in this basement till we reached another flight, and
ascending these, we emerged into the corridor of another building. Out
at the door at the end of this, and we passed a large block of model
dwellings, and were in Bedfordbury. Here a four-wheeler was waiting,
and I shut myself in it without delay.

I was to proceed as far as King's Cross in this cab, Dorrington had
arranged, and there he would overtake me in a swift hansom. It fell out
as he had settled, and, dismissing the hansom, he came the rest of the
journey with me in the four-wheeler.

We stopped at length before one of a row of houses, apparently recently
built--houses of the over-ornamented, gabled and tiled sort that abound
in the suburbs.

"Crofting is the man's name," Dorrington said, as we alighted. "He's
rather an odd sort of customer, but quite decent in the main, and his
wife makes coffee such as money won't buy in most places."

A woman answered Dorrington's ring--a woman of most extreme thinness.
Dorrington greeted her as Mrs. Crofting, and we entered.

"We've just lost our servant again, Mr. Dorrington," the woman said in
a shrill voice, "and Mr. Crofting ain't at home. But I'm expecting him
before long."

"I don't think I need wait to see him, Mrs. Crofting," Dorrington
answered. "I'm sure I can't leave my friend in better hands than yours.
I hope you've a vacant room?"

"Well, for a friend of yours, Mr. Dorrington, no doubt we can find
room."

"That's right. My friend Mr."--Dorrington gave me a meaning look--"Mr.
Phelps, would like to stay here for a few days. He wants to be quite
quiet for a little--do you understand?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Dorrington, I understand."

"Very well, then, make him as comfortable as you can, and give him
some of your very best coffee. I believe you've got quite a little
library of books, and Mr. Phelps will be glad of them. Have you got any
cigars?" Dorrington added, turning to me.

"Yes; there are some in my bag."

"Then I think you'll be pretty comfortable now. Goodbye. I expect
you'll see me in a few days--or at any rate you'll get a message.
Meantime be as happy as you can."

Dorrington left, and the woman showed me to a room upstairs, where I
placed my bag. In front, on the same floor, was a sitting-room, with,
I suppose, some two or three hundred books, mostly novels, on shelves.
The furniture of the place was of the sort one expects to find in an
ordinary lodging-house--horsehair sofas, loo tables, lustres, and so
forth. Mrs. Crofting explained to me that the customary dinner hour
was two, but that I might dine when I liked. I elected, however, to
follow the custom of the house, and sat down to a cigar and a book.

At two o'clock the dinner came, and I was agreeably surprised to find
it a very good one, much above what the appointments of the house had
led me to expect. Plainly Mrs. Crofting was a capital cook. There
was no soup, but there was a very excellent sole, and some well-done
cutlets with peas, and an omelet; also a bottle of Bass. Come, I felt
that I should not do so badly in this place after all. I trusted that
Dorrington would be as comfortable in his half of the transaction,
bearing my responsibilities and troubles. I had heard a heavy,
blundering tread on the floor below, and judged from this that Mr.
Crofting had returned.

After dinner I lit a cigar, and Mrs. Crofting brought her coffee. Truly
it was excellent coffee, and brewed as I like it--strong and black,
and plenty of it. It had a flavour of its own too, novel, but not
unpleasing. I took one cupful, and brought another to my side as I lay
on the sofa with my book. I had not read six lines before I was asleep.

I woke with a sensation of numbing cold in my right side, a terrible
stiffness in my limbs, and a sound of loud splashing in my ears. All
was pitch dark, and--what was this? Water! Water all about me. I was
lying in six inches of cold water, and more was pouring down upon me
from above. My head was afflicted with a splitting ache. But where was
I? Why was it dark? And whence all the water? I staggered to my feet,
and instantly struck my head against a hard roof above me. I raised my
hand; there was the roof or whatever place it was, hard, smooth and
cold, and little more than five feet from the floor, so that I bent as
I stood. I spread my hand to the side; that was hard, smooth and cold
too. And then the conviction struck me like a blow--I was in a covered
iron tank, and the water was pouring in to drown me!

I dashed my hands frantically against the lid, and strove to raise it.
It would not move. I shouted at the top of my voice, and turned about
to feel the extent of my prison. One way I could touch the opposite
sides at once easily with my hands, the other way it was wider--perhaps
a little more than six feet altogether. What was this? Was this to be
my fearful end, cooped in this tank while the water rose by inches
to choke me? Already the water was a foot deep. I flung myself at the
sides, I beat the pitiless iron with fists, face and head, I screamed
and implored. Then it struck me that I might at least stop the inlet
of water. I put out my hand and felt the falling stream, then found
the inlet and stopped it with my fingers. But water still poured in
with a resounding splash; there was another opening at the opposite
end, which I could not reach without releasing the one I now held! I
was but prolonging my agony. Oh, the devilish cunning that had devised
those two inlets, so far apart! Again I beat the sides, broke my nails
with tearing at the corners, screamed and entreated in my agony. I was
mad, but with no dulling of the senses, for the horrors of my awful,
helpless state, overwhelmed my brain, keen and perceptive to every
ripple of the unceasing water.

In the height of my frenzy I held my breath, for I heard a sound from
outside. I shouted again--implored some quicker death. Then there was a
scraping on the lid above me, and it was raised at one edge, and let in
the light of a candle. I sprang from my knees and forced the lid back,
and the candle flame danced before me. The candle was held by a dusty
man, a workman apparently, who stared at me with scared eyes, and said
nothing but, "Goo' lor'!"

Overhead were the rafters of a gabled roof, and tilted against them was
the thick beam which, jammed across from one sloping rafter to another,
had held the tank-lid fast. "Help me!" I gasped. "Help me out!"

The man took me by the armpits and hauled me, dripping and half dead,
over the edge of the tank, into which the water still poured, making
a noise in the hollow iron that half drowned our voices. The man had
been at work on the cistern of a neighbouring house, and hearing an
uncommon noise, he had climbed through the spaces left in the party
walls to give passage along under the roofs to the builders' men. Among
the joists at our feet was the trap-door through which, drugged and
insensible, I had been carried, to be flung into that horrible cistern.

With the help of my friend the workman I made shift to climb through
by the way he had come. We got back to the house where he had been at
work, and there the people gave me brandy and lent me dry clothes. I
made haste to send for the police, but when they arrived Mrs. Crofting
and her respectable spouse had gone. Some unusual noise in the roof
must have warned them. And when the police, following my directions
further, got to the offices of Dorrington and Hicks, those acute
professional men had gone too, but in such haste that the contents of
the office, papers and everything else, had been left just as they
stood.

The plot was clear now. The followings, the footsteps, the face at
the window, the label on the door--all were a mere humbug arranged by
Dorrington for his own purpose, which was to drive me into his power
and get my papers from me. Armed with these, and with his consummate
address and knowledge of affairs, he could go to Mr. Mowbray in the
character of Mr. James Rigby, sell my land in South Australia, and
have the whole of my property transferred to himself from Sydney.
The rest of my baggage was at his rooms; if any further proof were
required it might be found there. He had taken good care that I should
not meet Mr. Mowbray--who, by the way, I afterwards found had not
left his office, and had never fired a gun in his life. At first I
wondered that Dorrington had not made some murderous attempt on me
at the shooting place in Scotland. But a little thought convinced me
that that would have been bad policy for him. The disposal of the
body would be difficult, and he would have to account somehow for my
sudden disappearance. Whereas, by the use of his Italian assistant and
his murder apparatus at Highgate I was made to efface my own trail,
and could be got rid of in the end with little trouble; for my body,
stripped of everything that might identify me, would be simply that
of a drowned man unknown, whom nobody could identify. The whole plot
was contrived upon the information I myself had afforded Dorrington
during the voyage home. And it all sprang from his remembering the
report of my father's death. When the papers in the office came to
be examined, there each step in the operations was plainly revealed.
There was a code telegram from Suez directing Hicks to hire a grouse
moor. There were telegrams and letters from Scotland giving directions
as to the later movements; indeed the thing was displayed completely.
The business of Dorrington and Hicks had really been that of private
inquiry agents, and they had done much _bonâ fide_ business; but
many of their operations had been of a more than questionable sort.
And among their papers were found complete sets, neatly arranged in
dockets, each containing in skeleton a complete history of a case.
Many of these cases were of a most interesting character, and I have
been enabled to piece together, out of the material thus supplied, the
narratives which will follow this. As to my own case, it only remains
to say that as yet neither Dorrington, Hicks, nor the Croftings have
been caught. They played in the end for a high stake (they might have
made six figures of me if they had killed me, and the first figure
would not have been a one) and they lost by a mere accident. But I have
often wondered how many of the bodies which the coroners' juries of
London have returned to be "Found Drowned" were drowned, not where they
were picked up, but in that horrible tank at Highgate. What the drug
was that gave Mrs. Crofting's coffee its value in Dorrington's eyes I
do not know, but plainly it had not been sufficient in my case to keep
me unconscious against the shock of cold water till I could be drowned
altogether. Months have passed since my adventure, but even now I sweat
at the sight of an iron tank.



_THE CASE OF JANISSARY_



II

The Case of Janissary


I

In this case (and indeed in most of the others) the notes and other
documents found in the dockets would, by themselves, give but a faint
outline of the facts, and, indeed, might easily be unintelligible
to many people, especially as for much of my information I have
been indebted to outside inquiries. Therefore I offer no excuse for
presenting the whole thing digested into plain narrative form, with
little reference to my authorities. Though I knew none of the actors
in it, with the exception of the astute Dorrington, the case was
especially interesting to me, as will be gathered from the narrative
itself.

The only paper in the bundle which I shall particularly allude to was
a newspaper cutting, of a date anterior by nine or ten months to the
events I am to write of. It had evidently been cut at the time it
appeared, and saved, in case it might be useful, in a box in the form
of a book, containing many hundreds of others. From this receptacle it
had been taken, and attached to the bundle during the progress of the
case. I may say at once that the facts recorded had no direct concern
with the case of the horse Janissary, but had been useful in affording
a suggestion to Dorrington in connection therewith. The matter is the
short report of an ordinary sort of inquest, and I here transcribe it.

"Dr. McCulloch held an inquest yesterday on the body of Mr. Henry
Lawrence, whose body was found on Tuesday morning last in the river
near Vauxhall Bridge. The deceased was well known in certain sporting
circles. Sophia Lawrence, the widow, said that deceased had left home
on Monday afternoon at about five, in his usual health, saying that he
was to dine at a friend's, and she saw nothing more of him till called
upon to identify the body. He had no reason for suicide, and so far as
witness knew, was free from pecuniary embarrassments. He had, indeed,
been very successful in betting recently. He habitually carried a
large pocket-book, with papers in it. Mr. Robert Naylor, commission
agent, said that deceased dined with him that evening at his house in
Gold Street, Chelsea, and left for home at about half-past eleven. He
had at the time a sum of nearly four hundred pounds upon him, chiefly
in notes, which had been paid him by witness in settlement of a bet.
It was a fine night, and deceased walked in the direction of Chelsea
Embankment. That was the last witness saw of him. He might not have
been perfectly sober, but he was not drunk, and was capable of taking
care of himself. The evidence of the Thames police went to show that
no money was on the body when found, except a few coppers, and no
pocket-book. Dr. William Hodgetts said that death was due to drowning.
There were some bruises on the arms and head which might have been
caused before death. The body was a very healthy one. The coroner said
that there seemed to be a very strong suspicion of foul play, unless
the pocket-book of the deceased had got out of his pocket in the water;
but the evidence was very meagre, although the police appeared to have
made every possible inquiry. The jury returned a verdict of 'Found
Drowned, though how the deceased came into the water there was no
evidence to show.'"

I know no more of the unfortunate man Lawrence than this, and I have
only printed the cutting here because it probably induced Dorrington to
take certain steps in the case I am dealing with. With that case the
fate of the man Lawrence has nothing whatever to do. He passes out of
the story entirely.


II

Mr. Warren Telfer was a gentleman of means, and the owner of a
few--very few--racehorses. But he had a great knack of buying hidden
prizes in yearlings, and what his stable lacked in quantity it often
more than made up for in quality. Thus he had once bought a St. Leger
winner for as little as a hundred and fifty pounds. Many will remember
his bitter disappointment of ten or a dozen years back, when his horse,
Matfelon, starting an odds-on favourite for the Two Thousand, never
even got among the crowd, and ambled in streets behind everything. It
was freely rumoured (and no doubt with cause) that Matfelon had been
"got at" and in some way "nobbled." There were hints of a certain
bucket of water administered just before the race--a bucket of water
observed in the hands, some said of one, some said of another person
connected with Ritter's training establishment. There was no suspicion
of pulling, for plainly the jockey was doing his best with the animal
all the way along, and never had a tight rein. So a nobbling it must
have been, said the knowing ones, and Mr. Warren Telfer said so too,
with much bitterness. More, he immediately removed his horses from
Ritter's stables, and started a small training place of his own for his
own horses merely; putting an old steeplechase jockey in charge, who
had come out of a bad accident permanently lame, and had fallen on evil
days.

The owner was an impulsive and violent-tempered man, who, once a
notion was in his head, held to it through everything, and in spite of
everything. His misfortune with Matfelon made him the most insanely
distrustful man alive. In everything he fancied he saw a trick, and
to him every man seemed a scoundrel. He could scarce bear to let the
very stable-boys touch his horses, and although for years all went as
well as could be expected in his stables, his suspicious distrust lost
nothing of its virulence. He was perpetually fussing about the stables,
making surprise visits, and laying futile traps that convicted nobody.
The sole tangible result of this behaviour was a violent quarrel
between Mr. Warren Telfer and his nephew Richard, who had been making
a lengthened stay with his uncle. Young Telfer, to tell the truth, was
neither so discreet nor so exemplary in behaviour as he might have
been, but his temper was that characteristic of the family, and when he
conceived that his uncle had an idea that he was communicating stable
secrets to friends outside, there was an animated row, and the nephew
betook himself and his luggage somewhere else. Young Telfer always
insisted, however, that his uncle was not a bad fellow on the whole,
though he had habits of thought and conduct that made him altogether
intolerable at times. But the uncle had no good word for his graceless
nephew; and indeed Richard Telfer betted more than he could afford,
and was not so particular in his choice of sporting acquaintances as a
gentleman should have been.

Mr. Warren Telfer's house, "Blackhall," and his stables were little
more than two miles from Redbury, in Hampshire; and after the
quarrel Mr. Richard Telfer was not seen near the place for many
months--not, indeed, till excitement was high over the forthcoming
race for the Redbury Stakes, for which there was an entry from the
stable--Janissary, for long ranked second favourite; and then the
owner's nephew did not enter the premises, and, in fact, made his visit
as secret as possible.

I have said that Janissary was long ranked second favourite for the
Redbury Stakes, but a little more than a week before the race he became
first favourite, owing to a training mishap to the horse fancied first,
which made its chances so poor that it might have been scratched at any
moment. And so far was Janissary above the class of the field (though
it was a two-year-old race, and there might be a surprise) that it
at once went to far shorter odds than the previous favourite, which,
indeed, had it run fit and well, would have found Janissary no easy
colt to beat.

Mr. Telfer's nephew was seen near the stables but two or three days
before the race, and that day the owner despatched a telegram to the
firm of Dorrington & Hicks. In response to this telegram, Dorrington
caught the first available train for Redbury, and was with Mr. Warren
Telfer in his library by five in the afternoon.

"It is about my horse Janissary that I want to consult you, Mr.
Dorrington," said Mr. Telfer. "It's right enough now--or at least was
right at exercise this morning--but I feel certain that there's some
diabolical plot on hand somewhere to interfere with the horse before
the Redbury Stakes day, and I'm sorry to have to say that I suspect
my own nephew to be mixed up in it in some way. In the first place I
may tell you that there is no doubt whatever that the colt, if let
alone, and bar accident, can win in a canter. He could have won even
if Herald, the late favourite, had kept well, for I can tell you that
Janissary is a far greater horse than anybody is aware of outside my
establishment--or at any rate, than anybody ought to be aware of,
if the stable secrets are properly kept. His pedigree is nothing
very great, and he never showed his quality till quite lately, in
private trials. Of course it has leaked out somehow that the colt is
exceptionally good--I don't believe I can trust a soul in the place.
How should the price have gone up to five to four unless somebody had
been telling what he's paid not to tell? But that isn't all, as I have
said. I've a conviction that something's on foot--somebody wants to
interfere with the horse. Of course we get a tout about now and again,
but the downs are pretty big, and we generally manage to dodge them
if we want to. On the last three or four mornings, however, wherever
Janissary might be taking his gallop, there was a big, hulking fellow,
with a red beard and spectacles--not so much watching the horse as
trying to get hold of the lad. I am always up and out at five, for I've
found to my cost--you remember about Matfelon--that if a man doesn't
want to be ramped he must never take his eye off things. Well, I have
scarcely seen the lad ease the colt once on the last three or four
mornings without that red-bearded fellow bobbing up from a knoll, or a
clump of bushes, or something, close by--especially if Janissary was
a bit away from the other horses, and not under my nose, or the head
lad's, for a moment. I rode at the fellow, of course, when I saw what
he was after, but he was artful as a cartload of monkeys, and vanished
somehow before I could get near him. The head lad believes he has seen
him about just after dark, too; but I am keeping the stable lads in
when they're not riding, and I suppose he finds he has no chance of
getting at them except when they're out with the horses. This morning,
not only did I see this fellow about, as usual, but, I am ashamed to
say, I observed my own nephew acting the part of a common tout. He
certainly had the decency to avoid me and clear out, but that was
not all, as you shall see. This morning, happening to approach the
stables from the back, I suddenly came upon the red-bearded man--giving
money to a groom of mine! He ran off at once, as you may guess, and I
discharged the groom where he stood, and would not allow him into the
stables again. He offered no explanation or excuse, but took himself
off, and half an hour afterward I almost sent away my head boy too.
For when I told him of the dismissal, he admitted that he had seen
that same groom taking money of my nephew at the back of the stables,
an hour before, and had not informed me! He said that he thought that
as it was 'only Mr. Richard' it didn't matter. Fool! Anyway, the groom
has gone, and, so far as I can tell as yet, the colt is all right. I
examined him at once, of course; and I also turned over a box that
Weeks, the groom, used to keep brushes and odd things in. There I found
this paper full of powder. I don't yet know what it is, but it's
certainly nothing he had any business with in the stable. Will you take
it?

"And now," Mr. Telfer went on, "I'm in such an uneasy state that I want
your advice and assistance. Quite apart from the suspicious--more than
suspicious--circumstances I have informed you of, I am _certain_--I
know it without being able to give precise reasons--I am _certain_ that
some attempt is being made at disabling Janissary before Thursday's
race. I feel it in my bones, so to speak. I had the same suspicion just
before that Two Thousand, when Matfelon was got at. The thing was in
the air, as it is now. Perhaps it's a sort of instinct; but I rather
think it is the result of an unconscious absorption of a number of
little indications about me. Be it as it may, I am resolved to leave no
opening to the enemy if I can help it, and I want you to see if you can
suggest any further precautions beyond those I am taking. Come and look
at the stables."

Dorrington could see no opening for any piece of rascality by which he
might make more of the case than by serving his client loyally, so he
resolved to do the latter. He followed Mr. Telfer through the training
stables, where eight or nine thoroughbreds stood, and could suggest no
improvement upon the exceptional precautions that already existed.

"No," said Dorrington, "I don't think you can do any better than
this--at least on this, the inner line of defence. But it is best to
make the outer lines secure first. By the way, _this_ isn't Janissary,
is it? We saw him farther up the row, didn't we?"

"Oh no, that's a very different sort of colt, though he does look like,
doesn't he? People who've been up and down the stables once or twice
often confuse them. They're both bays, much of a build, and about the
same height, and both have a bit of stocking on the same leg, though
Janissary's is bigger, and this animal has a white star. But you never
saw two creatures look so like and run so differently. This is a dead
loss--not worth his feed. If I can manage to wind him up to something
like a gallop I shall try to work him off in a selling plate somewhere;
but as far as I can see he isn't good enough even for that. He's a
disappointment. And his stock's far better than Janissary's too, and he
cost half as much again! Yearlings are a lottery. Still, I've drawn a
prize or two among them, at one time or another."

"Ah yes, so I've heard. But now as to the outer defences I was speaking
of. Let us find out _who_ is trying to interfere with your horse. Do
you mind letting me into the secrets of the stable commissions?"

"Oh no. We're talking in confidence, of course. I've backed the colt
pretty heavily all round, but not too much anywhere. There's a good
slice with Barker--you know Barker, of course; Mullins has a thousand
down for him, and that was at five to one, before Herald went amiss.
Then there's Ford and Lascelles--both good men, and Naylor--he's the
smallest man of them all, and there's only a hundred or two with him,
though he's been laying the horse pretty freely everywhere, at least
until Herald went wrong. And there's Pedder. But there must have been a
deal of money laid to outside backers, and there's no telling who may
contemplate a ramp."

"Just so. Now as to your nephew. What of your suspicions in that
direction?"

"Perhaps I'm a little hasty as to that," Mr. Telfer answered, a
little ashamed of what he had previously said. "But I'm worried
and mystified, as you see, and hardly know what to think. My nephew
Richard is a little erratic, and he has a foolish habit of betting more
than he can afford. He and I quarrelled some time back, while he was
staying here, because I had an idea that he had been talking too freely
outside. He had, in fact; and I regarded it as a breach of confidence.
So there was a quarrel and he went away."

"Very well. I wonder if I can get a bed at the 'Crown,' at Redbury? I'm
afraid it'll be crowded, but I'll try."

"But why trouble? Why not stay with me, and be near the stables?"

"Because then I should be of no more use to you than one of your lads.
People who come out here every morning are probably staying at Redbury,
and I must go there after them."


III

The "Crown" at Redbury was full in anticipation of the races, but
Dorrington managed to get a room ordinarily occupied by one of the
landlord's family, who undertook to sleep at a friend's for a night
or two. This settled, he strolled into the yard, and soon fell into
animated talk with the hostler on the subject of the forthcoming races.
All the town was backing Janissary for the Stakes, the hostler said,
and he advised Dorrington to do the same.

During this conversation two men stopped in the street, just outside
the yard gate, talking. One was a big, heavy, vulgar-looking fellow in
a box-cloth coat, and with a shaven face and hoarse voice; the other
was a slighter, slimmer, younger and more gentlemanlike man, though
there was a certain patchy colour about his face that seemed to hint of
anything but teetotalism.

"There," said the hostler, indicating the younger of these two men,
"that's young Mr. Telfer, him as whose uncle's owner o' Janissary. He's
a young plunger, he is, and he's on Janissary too. He give me the tip,
straight, this mornin'. 'You put your little bit on my uncle's colt,'
he said. 'It's all right. I ain't such pals with the old man as I was,
but I've got the tip that _his_ money's down on it. So don't neglect
your opportunities, Thomas,' he says; and I haven't. He's stoppin' in
our house, is young Mr. Richard."

"And who is that he is talking to? A bookmaker?"

"Yes, sir, that's Naylor--Bob Naylor. He's got Mr. Richard's bets.
P'raps he's puttin' on a bit more now."

The men at the gate separated, and the bookmaker walked off down the
street in the fast gathering dusk. Richard Telfer, however, entered the
house, and Dorrington followed him. Telfer mounted the stairs and went
into his room. Dorrington lingered a moment on the stairs and then went
and knocked at Telfer's door.

"Hullo!" cried Telfer, coming to the door and peering out into the
gloomy corridor.

"I beg pardon," Dorrington replied courteously. "I thought this was
Naylor's room."

"No--it's No. 23, by the end. But I believe he's just gone down the
street."

Dorrington expressed his thanks and went to his own room. He took one
or two small instruments from his bag and hurried stealthily to the
door of No. 23.

All was quiet, and the door opened at once to Dorrington's picklock,
for there was nothing but the common tumbler rim-lock to secure
it. Dorrington, being altogether an unscrupulous scoundrel, would
have thought nothing of entering a man's room thus for purposes of
mere robbery. Much less scruple had he in doing so in the present
circumstances. He lit the candle in a little pocket lantern, and,
having secured the door, looked quickly about the room. There was
nothing unusual to attract his attention, and he turned to two
bags lying near the dressing-table. One was the usual bookmaker's
satchel, and the other was a leather travelling-bag; both were locked.
Dorrington unbuckled the straps of the large bag, and produced a
slender picklock of steel wire, with a sliding joint, which, with a
little skilful "humouring," turned the lock in the course of a minute
or two. One glance inside was enough. There on the top lay a large
false beard of strong red, and upon the shirts below was a pair of
spectacles. But Dorrington went farther, and felt carefully below the
linen till his hand met a small, flat, mahogany box. This he withdrew
and opened. Within, on a velvet lining, lay a small silver instrument
resembling a syringe. He shut and replaced the box, and, having
rearranged the contents of the bag, shut, locked and strapped it, and
blew out his light. He had found what he came to look for. In another
minute Mr. Bob Naylor's door was locked behind him, and Dorrington took
his pick-locks to his own room.

It was a noisy evening in the Commercial Room at the "Crown." Chaff
and laughter flew thick, and Richard Telfer threatened Naylor with a
terrible settling day. More was drunk than thirst strictly justified,
and everybody grew friendly with everybody else. Dorrington, sober and
keenly alert, affected the reverse, and exhibited especial and extreme
affection for Mr. Bob Naylor. His advances were unsuccessful at first,
but Dorrington's manner and the "Crown" whisky overcame the bookmaker's
reserve, and at about eleven o'clock the two left the house arm in
arm for a cooling stroll in the High Street. Dorrington blabbed and
chattered with great success, and soon began about Janissary.

"So you've pretty well done all you want with Janissary, eh? Book
full? Ah! nothing like keeping a book even all round--it's the safest
way--'specially with such a colt as Janissary about. Eh, my boy?" He
nudged Naylor genially. "Ah! no doubt it's a good colt, but old Telfer
has rum notions about preparation, hasn't he?"

"I dunno," replied Naylor. "How do you mean?"

"Why, what does he have the horse led up and down behind the stable
for, half an hour every afternoon?"

"Didn't know he did."

"Ah! but he does. I came across it only this afternoon. I was coming
over the downs, and just as I got round behind Telfer's stables there
I saw a fine bay colt, with a white stocking on the off hind leg, well
covered up in a suit of clothes, being led up and down by a lad, like
a sentry--up and down, up and down--about twenty yards each way, and
nobody else about. 'Hullo!' says I to the lad, 'hullo! what horse is
this?' 'Janissary,' says the boy--pretty free for a stable-lad. 'Ah!'
says I. 'And what are you walking him like that for?' 'Dunno,' says the
boy, 'but it's guv'nor's orders. Every afternoon, at two to the minute,
I have to bring him out here and walk him like this for half an hour
exactly, neither more nor less, and then he goes in and has a handful
of malt. But I dunno why.' 'Well,' says I, 'I never heard of that being
done before. But he's a fine colt,' and I put my hand under the cloth
and felt him--hard as nails and smooth as silk."

"And the boy let you touch him?"

"Yes; he struck me as a bit easy for a stable-boy. But it's an odd
trick, isn't it, that of the half-hour's walk and the handful of malt?
Never hear of anybody else doing it, did you?"

"No, I never did."

They talked and strolled for another quarter of an hour, and then
finished up with one more drink.


IV

The next was the day before the race, and in the morning Dorrington,
making a circuit, came to Mr. Warren Telfer's from the farther side. As
soon as they were assured of privacy: "Have you seen the man with the
red beard this morning?" asked Dorrington.

"No; I looked out pretty sharply, too."

"That's right. If you like to fall in with my suggestions, however, you
shall see him at about two o'clock, and take a handsome rise out of
him."

"Very well," Mr. Telfer replied. "What's your suggestion?"

"I'll tell you. In the first place, what's the value of that other
horse that looks so like Janissary?"

"Hamid is his name. He's worth--well, what he will fetch. I'll sell him
for fifty and be glad of the chance."

"Very good. Then you'll no doubt be glad to risk his health temporarily
to make sure of the Redbury Stakes, and to get longer prices for
anything you may like to put on between now and to-morrow afternoon.
Come to the stables and I'll tell you. But first, is there a place
where we may command a view of the ground behind the stables without
being seen?"

"Yes, there's a ventilation grating at the back of each stall."

"Good! Then we'll watch from Hamid's stall, which will be empty. Select
your most wooden-faced and most careful boy, and send him out behind
the stable with Hamid at two o'clock to the moment. Put the horse in a
full suit of clothes--it is necessary to cover up that white star--and
tell the lad he must _lead_ it up and down slowly for twenty yards or
so. I rather expect the red-bearded man will be coming along between
two o'clock and half-past two. You will understand that Hamid is to
be Janissary for the occasion. You must drill your boy to appear a
bit of a fool, and to overcome his stable education sufficiently to
chatter freely--so long as it is the proper chatter. The man may ask
the horse's name, or he may not. Any way, the boy mustn't forget it is
Janissary he is leading. You have an odd fad, you must know (and the
boy must know it too) in the matter of training. This ridiculous fad is
to have your colt walked up and down for half an hour exactly at two
o'clock every afternoon, and then given a handful of malt as he comes
in. The boy can talk as freely about this as he pleases, and also about
the colt's chances, and anything else he likes; and he is to let the
stranger come up, talk to the horse, pat him--in short, to do as he
pleases. Is that plain?"

"Perfectly. You have found out something about this red-bearded chap
then?"

"Oh, yes--it's Naylor the bookmaker, as a matter of fact, with a false
beard."

"What! Naylor?"

"Yes. You see the idea, of course. Once Naylor thinks he has nobbled
the favourite he will lay it to any extent, and the odds will get
longer. Then you can make him pay for his little games."

"Well, yes, of course. Though I wouldn't put too much with Naylor in
any case. He's not a big man, and he might break and lose me the lot.
But I can get it out of the others."

"Just so. You'd better see about schooling your boy now, I think. I'll
tell you more presently."

A minute or two before two o'clock Dorrington and Telfer, mounted
on a pair of steps, were gazing through the ventilation grating of
Hamid's stall, while the colt, clothed completely, was led round. Then
Dorrington described his operations of the previous evening.

"No matter what he may think of my tale," he said, "Naylor will be
pretty sure to come. He has tried to bribe your stablemen, and has been
baffled. Every attempt to get hold of the boy in charge of Janissary
has failed, and he will be glad to clutch at any shadow of a chance
to save his money now. Once he is here, and the favourite apparently
at his mercy, the thing is done. By the way, I expect your nephew's
little present to the man you sacked was a fairly innocent one. No
doubt he merely asked the man whether Janissary was keeping well, and
was thought good enough to win, for I find he is backing it pretty
heavily. Naylor came afterwards, with much less innocent intentions,
but fortunately you were down on him in time. Several considerations
induced me to go to Naylor's room. In the first place, I have heard
rather shady tales of his doings on one or two occasions, and he did
not seem a sufficiently big man to stand to lose a great deal over
your horse. Then, when I saw him, I observed that his figure bore a
considerable resemblance to that of the man you had described, except
as regards the red beard and the spectacles--articles easily enough
assumed, and, indeed, often enough used by the scum of the ring whose
trade is welshing. And, apart from these considerations, here, at
any rate, was one man who had an interest in keeping your colt from
winning, and here was his room waiting for me to explore. So I explored
it, and the card turned up trumps."

As he was speaking, the stable-boy, a stolid-looking youngster, was
leading Hamid back and forth on the turf before their eyes.

"There's somebody," said Dorrington suddenly, "over in that clump of
trees. Yes--our man, sure enough. I felt pretty sure of him after
you had told me that he hadn't thought it worth while to turn up this
morning. Here he comes."

Naylor, with his red beard sticking out over the collar of his
big coat, came slouching along with an awkwardly assumed air of
carelessness and absence of mind.

"Hullo!" he said suddenly, as he came abreast of the horse, turning as
though but now aware of its presence, "that's a valuable sort of horse,
ain't it, my lad?"

"Yes," said the boy, "it is. He's goin' to win the Redbury Stakes
to-morrow. It's Janissary."

"Oh! Janey Sairey, is it?" Naylor answered, with a quaint affectation
of gaping ignorance. "Janey Sairey, eh? Well, she do look a fine 'orse,
what I can see of 'er. What a suit o' clo'es! An' so she's one o' the
'orses that runs in races, is she? Well, I never! Pretty much like
other 'orses, too, to look at, ain't she? Only a bit thin in the legs."

The boy stood carelessly by the colt's side, and the man approached.
His hand came quickly from an inner pocket, and then he passed it under
Hamid's cloths, near the shoulder. "Ah, it do feel a lovely skin,
to be sure!" he said. "An' so there's goin' to be races at Redbury
to-morrow, is there? I dunno anythin' about races myself, an'----Oo my!"

Naylor sprang back as the horse, flinging back its ears, started
suddenly, swung round, and reared. "Lor," he said, "what a vicious
brute! Jist because I stroked her! I'll be careful about touching
racehorses again." His hand passed stealthily to the pocket again, and
he hurried on his way, while the stable-boy steadied and soothed Hamid.

[Illustration: "THE HORSE STARTED SUDDENLY, SWUNG ROUND, AND REARED."]

Telfer and Dorrington sniggered quietly in their concealment. "He's
taken a deal of trouble, hasn't he?" Dorrington remarked. "It's a sad
case of the biter bit for Mr. Naylor, I'm afraid. That was a prick the
colt felt--hypodermic injection with the syringe I saw in the bag, no
doubt. The boy won't be such a fool as to come in again at once, will
he? If Naylor's taking a look back from anywhere, that may make him
suspicious."

"No fear. I've told him to keep out for the half-hour, and he'll do it.
Dear, dear, what an innocent person Mr. Bob Naylor is! 'Well, I never!
Pretty much like other horses!' He didn't know there were to be
races at Redbury! 'Janey Sairey,' too--it's really very funny!"

Ere the half-hour was quite over, Hamid came stumbling and dragging
into the stable yard, plainly all amiss, and collapsed on his litter as
soon as he gained his stall. There he lay, shivering and drowsy.

"I expect he'll get over it in a day or two," Dorrington remarked. "I
don't suppose a vet. could do much for him just now, except, perhaps,
give him a drench and let him take a rest. Certainly, the effect will
last over to-morrow. That's what it is calculated for."


V

The Redbury Stakes were run at three in the afternoon, after two or
three minor events had been disposed of. The betting had undergone
considerable fluctuations during the morning, but in general it ruled
heavily against Janissary. The story had got about, too, that Mr.
Warren Telfer's colt would not start. So that when the numbers went up,
and it was seen that Janissary was starting after all, there was much
astonishment, and a good deal of uneasiness in the ring.

"It's a pity we can't see our friend Naylor's face just now, isn't it?"
Dorrington remarked to his client, as they looked on from Mr. Telfer's
drag.

"Yes; it would be interesting," Telfer replied. "He was quite confident
last night, you say."

"Quite. I tested him by an offer of a small bet on your colt, asking
some points over the odds, and he took it at once. Indeed, I believe
he has been going about gathering up all the wagers he could about
Janissary, and the market has felt it. Your nephew has risked some more
with him, I believe, and altogether it looks as though the town would
spoil the 'bookies' badly."

As the horses came from the weighing enclosure, Janissary was seen
conspicuous among them, bright, clean, and firm, and a good many faces
lengthened at the sight. The start was not so good as it might have
been, but the favourite (the starting-price had gone to evens) was not
left, and got away well in the crowd of ten starters. There he lay till
rounding the bend, when the Telfer blue and chocolate was seen among
the foremost, and near the rails. Mr. Telfer almost trembled as he
watched through his glasses.

"Hang that Willett!" he said, almost to himself. "He's _too_ clever
against those rails before getting clear. All right, though, all right!
He's coming!"

[Illustration: "CAME IN THREE LENGTHS THE WINNER."]

Janissary, indeed, was showing in front, and as the horses came along
the straight it was plain that Mr. Telfer's colt was holding the field
comfortably. There were changes in the crowd; some dropped away, some
came out and attempted to challenge for the lead, but the favourite,
striding easily, was never seriously threatened, and in the end, being
a little let out, came in a three-lengths winner, never once having
been made to show his best.

"I congratulate you, Mr. Telfer," said Dorrington, "and you may
congratulate me."

"Certainly, certainly," said Mr. Telfer hastily, hurrying off to lead
in the winner.

It was a bad race for the ring, and in the open parts of the course
many a humble fielder grabbed his satchel ere the shouting was over,
and made his best pace for the horizon; and more than one pair of false
whiskers, as red as Naylor's, came off suddenly while the owner betook
himself to a fresh stand. Unless a good many outsiders sailed home
before the end of the week there would be a bad Monday for layers. But
all sporting Redbury was jubilant. They had all been "on" the local
favourite for the local race, and it had won.


VI

Mr. Bob Naylor "got a bit back," in his own phrase, on other races
by the end of the week, but all the same he saw a black settling day
ahead. He had been done--done for a certainty. He had realised this
as soon as he saw the numbers go up for the Redbury Stakes. Janissary
had not been drugged after all. That meant that another horse had
been substituted for him, and that the whole thing was an elaborate
plant. He thought he knew Janissary pretty well by sight, too, and
rather prided himself on having an eye for a horse. But clearly it was
a plant--a complete do. Telfer was in it, and so of course was that
gentlemanly stranger who had strolled along Redbury High Street with
him that night, telling that cock-and-bull story about the afternoon
walks and the handful of malt. There was a nice schoolboy tale to take
in a man who thought himself broad as Cheapside! He cursed himself high
and low. To be done, and to know it, was a galling thing, but this
would be worse. The tale would get about. They would boast of a clever
stroke like that, and that would injure him with everybody; with honest
men, because his reputation, as it was, would bear no worsening, and
with knaves like himself, because they would laugh at him, and leave
him out when any little co-operative swindle was in contemplation. But
though the chagrin of the defeat was bitter bad enough, his losses
were worse. He had taken everything offered on Janissary after he had
nobbled the wrong horse, and had given almost any odds demanded. Do as
he might, he could see nothing but a balance against him on Monday,
which, though he might pay out his last cent, he could not cover by
several hundred pounds.

But on the day he met his customers at his club, as usual, and paid out
freely. Young Richard Telfer, however, with whom he was heavily "in,"
he put off till the evening. "I've been a bit disappointed this morning
over some ready that was to be paid over," he said, "and I've used the
last cheque-form in my book. You might come and have a bit of dinner
with me to-night, Mr. Telfer, and take it then."

Telfer assented without difficulty.

"All right, then, that's settled. You know the place--Gold Street.
Seven sharp. The missis 'll be pleased to see you, I'm sure, Mr.
Telfer. Let's see--it's fifteen hundred and thirty altogether, isn't
it?"

"Yes, that's it. I'll come."

Young Telfer left the club, and at the corner of the street ran against
Dorrington. Telfer, of course, knew him but as his late fellow-guest
at the "Crown" at Redbury, and this was their first meeting in London
after their return from the races.

"Ah!" said Telfer. "Going to draw a bit of Janissary money, eh?"

"Oh, I haven't much to draw," Dorrington answered. "But I expect your
pockets are pretty heavy, if you've just come from Naylor."

"Yes, I've just come from Naylor, but I haven't touched the merry sovs.
just yet," replied Telfer cheerfully. "There's been a run on Naylor,
and I'm going to dine with him and his respectable missis this evening,
and draw the plunder then. I feel rather curious to see what sort of
establishment a man like Naylor keeps going. His place is in Gold
Street, Chelsea."

"Yes, I believe so. Anyhow, I congratulate you on your haul, and wish
you a merry evening." And the two men parted.

Dorrington had, indeed, a few pounds to draw as the result of his
"fishing" bet with Naylor, but now he resolved to ask for the money
at his own time. This invitation to Telfer took his attention, and
it reminded him oddly of the circumstances detailed in the report of
the inquest on Lawrence, transcribed at the beginning of this paper.
He had cut out this report at the time it appeared, because he saw
certain singularities about the case, and he had filed it, as he had
done hundreds of other such cuttings. And now certain things led him to
fancy that he might be much interested to observe the proceedings at
Naylor's house on the evening after a bad settling-day. He resolved to
gratify himself with a strict professional watch in Gold Street that
evening, on chance of something coming of it. For it was an important
thing in Dorrington's rascally trade to get hold of as much of other
people's private business as possible, and to know exactly in what
cupboard to find every man's skeleton. For there was no knowing but
it might be turned into money sooner or later. So he found the number
of Naylor's house from the handiest directory, and at six o'clock, a
little disguised by a humbler style of dress than usual, he began his
watch.

Naylor's house was at the corner of a turning, with the flank wall
blank of windows, except for one at the top; and a public-house stood
at the opposite corner. Dorrington, skilled in watching without
attracting attention to himself, now lounged in the public-house bar,
now stood at the street corner, and now sauntered along the street,
a picture of vacancy of mind, and looking, apparently, at everything
in turn, except the house at the corner. The first thing he noted was
the issuing forth from the area steps of a healthy-looking girl in
much gaily be-ribboned finery. Plainly a servant taking an evening
out. This was an odd thing, that a servant should be allowed out on an
evening when a guest was expected to dinner; and the house looked like
one where it was more likely that one servant would be kept than two.
Dorrington hurried after the girl, and, changing his manner of address
to that of a civil labourer, said--

"Beg pardon, Miss, but is Mary Walker still in service at your 'ouse?"

"Mary Walker?" said the girl. "Why, no. I never 'eard the name. And
there ain't nobody in service there but me."

"Beg pardon--it must be the wrong 'ouse. It's my cousin, Miss, that's
all."

Dorrington left the girl and returned to the public-house. As he
reached it he perceived a second noticeable thing. Although it was
broad daylight, there was now a light behind the solitary window at the
top of the side-wall of Naylor's house. Dorrington slipped through the
swing-doors of the public-house and watched through the glass.

It was a bare room behind the high window--it might have been a
bathroom--and its interior was made but dimly visible from outside
by the light. A tall, thin woman was setting up an ordinary pair of
house-steps in the middle of the room. This done, she turned to the
window and pulled down the blind, and as she did so Dorrington noted
her very extreme thinness, both of face and body. When the blind
was down the light still remained within. Again there seemed some
significance in this. It appeared that the thin woman had waited until
her servant had gone before doing whatever she had to do in that room.
Presently the watcher came again into Gold Street, and from there
caught a passing glimpse of the thin woman as she moved busily about
the front room over the breakfast parlour.

Clearly, then, the light above had been left for future use. Dorrington
thought for a minute, and then suddenly stopped, with a snap of the
fingers. He saw it all now. Here was something altogether in his way.
He would take a daring course.

He withdrew once more to the public-house, and ordering another drink,
took up a position in a compartment from which he could command a view
both of Gold Street and the side turning. The time now, he saw by his
watch, was ten minutes to seven. He had to wait rather more than a
quarter of an hour before seeing Richard Telfer come walking jauntily
down Gold Street, mount the steps, and knock at Naylor's door. There
was a momentary glimpse of the thin woman's face at the door, and then
Telfer entered.

It now began to grow dusk, and in about twenty minutes more Dorrington
took to the street again. The room over the breakfast-parlour was
clearly the dining-room. It was lighted brightly, and by intent
listening the watcher could distinguish, now and again, a sudden burst
of laughter from Telfer, followed by the deeper grunts of Naylor's
voice, and once by sharp tones that it seemed natural to suppose were
the thin woman's.

Dorrington waited no longer, but slipped a pair of thick sock-feet over
his shoes, and, after a quick look along the two streets, to make sure
nobody was near, he descended the area steps. There was no light in the
breakfast-parlour. With his knife he opened the window-catch, raised
the sash quietly and stepped over the sill, and stood in the dark room
within.

All was quiet, except for the talking in the room above. He had done
but what many thieves--"parlour-jumpers"--do every day; but there was
more ahead. He made his way silently to the basement passage, and
passed into the kitchen. The room was lighted, and cookery utensils
were scattered about, but nobody was there. He waited till he heard a
request in Naylor's gruff voice for "another slice" of something, and
noiselessly mounted the stairs. He noticed that the dining-room door
was ajar, but passed quickly on to the second flight, and rested on the
landing above. Mrs. Naylor would probably have to go downstairs once
or twice again, but he did not expect anybody in the upper part of the
house just yet. There was a small flight of stairs above the landing
whereon he stood, leading to the servant's bedroom and the bathroom. He
took a glance at the bathroom with its feeble lamp, its steps, and its
open ceiling-trap, and returned again to the bedroom landing. There he
stood, waiting watchfully.

Twice the thin woman emerged from the dining-room, went downstairs and
came up again, each time with food and plates. Then she went down once
more, and was longer gone. Meantime Naylor and Telfer were talking and
joking loudly at the table.

When once again Dorrington saw the crown of the thin woman's head
rising over the bottom stair, he perceived that she bore a tray set
with cups already filled with coffee. These she carried into the
dining-room, whence presently came the sound of striking matches. After
this the conversation seemed to flag, and Telfer's part in it grew less
and less, till it ceased altogether, and the house was silent, except
for a sound of heavy breathing. Soon this became almost a snore, and
then there was a sudden noisy tumble, as of a drunken man; but still
the snoring went on, and the Naylors were talking in whispers.

There was a shuffling and heaving sound, and a chair was knocked over.
Then at the dining-room door appeared Naylor, walking backward, and
carrying the inert form of Telfer by the shoulders, while the thin
woman followed, supporting the feet. Dorrington retreated up the small
stair-flight, cocking a pocket revolver as he went.

Up the stairs they came, Naylor puffing and grunting with the exertion,
and Telfer still snoring soundly on, till at last, having mounted the
top flight, they came in at the bathroom door, where Dorrington stood
to receive them, smiling and bowing pleasantly, with his hat in one
hand and his revolver in the other.

The woman, from her position, saw him first, and dropped Telfer's legs
with a scream. Naylor turned his head and then also dropped his end.
The drugged man fell in a heap, snoring still.

Naylor, astounded and choking, made as if to rush at the interloper,
but Dorrington thrust the revolver into his face, and exclaimed,
still smiling courteously, "Mind, mind! It's a dangerous thing, is a
revolver, and apt to go off if you run against it!"

He stood thus for a second, and then stepped forward and took the
woman--who seemed like to swoon--by the arm, and pulled her into the
room. "Come, Mrs. Naylor," he said, "you're not one of the fainting
sort, and I think I'd better keep two such clever people as you under
my eye, or one of you may get into mischief. Come now, Naylor, we'll
talk business."

Naylor, now white as a ghost, sat on the edge of the bath, and stared
at Dorrington as though in a fascination of terror. His hands rested on
the bath at each side, and an odd sound of gurgling came from his thick
throat.

"We will talk business," Dorrington resumed. "Come, you've met me
before now, you know--at Redbury. You can't have forgotten Janissary,
and the walking exercise and the handful of malt. I'm afraid you're a
clumsy sort of rascal, Naylor, though you do your best. I'm a rascal
myself (though I don't often confess it), and I assure you that your
conceptions are crude as yet. Still, that isn't a bad notion in its
way, that of drugging a man and drowning him in your cistern up there
in the roof, when you prefer not to pay him his winnings. It has the
very considerable merit that, after the body has been fished out of any
river you may choose to fling it into, the stupid coroner's jury will
never suspect that it was drowned in any other water but that. Just as
happened in the Lawrence case, for instance. You remember that, eh? So
do I, very well, and it was because I remembered that that I paid you
this visit to-night. But you do the thing much too clumsily, really.
When I saw a light up here in broad daylight I knew at once it must be
left for some purpose to be executed later in the evening; and when
I saw the steps carefully placed at the same time, after the servant
had been sent out, why the thing was plain, remembering, as I did, the
curious coincidence that Mr. Lawrence was drowned the very evening he
had been here to take away his winnings. The steps _must_ be intended
to give access to the roof, where there was probably a tank to feed
the bath, and what more secret place to drown a man than there? And
what easier place, so long as the man was well drugged, and there was a
strong lid to the tank? As I say, Naylor, your notion was meritorious,
but your execution was wretched--perhaps because you had no notion that
I was watching you."

He paused, and then went on. "Come," he said, "collect your scattered
faculties, both of you. I shan't hand you over to the police for this
little invention of yours; it's too useful an invention to give away
to the police. I shan't hand you over, that is to say, as long as you
do as I tell you. If you get mutinous, you shall hang, both of you,
for the Lawrence business. I may as well tell you that I'm a bit of a
scoundrel myself, by way of profession. I don't boast about it, but
it's well to be frank in making arrangements of this sort. I'm going to
take you into my service. I employ a few agents, and you and your tank
may come in very handy from time to time. But we must set it up, with
a few improvements, in another house--a house which hasn't quite such
an awkward window. And we mustn't execute our little suppressions so
regularly on settling-day; it looks suspicious. So as soon as you can
get your faculties together we'll talk over this thing."

The man and the woman had exchanged glances during this speech, and now
Naylor asked, huskily, jerking his thumb toward the man on the floor,
"An'--an' what about 'im?"

"What about him? Why, get rid of him as soon as you like. Not that
way, though." (He pointed toward the ceiling trap.) "It doesn't pay
_me_, and I'm master now. Besides, what will people say when you tell
the same tale at his inquest that you told at Lawrence's? No, my
friend, bookmaking and murder don't assort together, profitable as the
combination may seem. Settling-days are too regular. And I'm not going
to be your accomplice, mind. You are going to be mine. Do what you
please with Telfer. Leave him on somebody's doorstep if you like."

"But I owe him fifteen hundred, and I ain't got more than half of it!
I'll be ruined!"

"Very likely," Dorrington returned placidly. "Be ruined as soon as
possible, then, and devote all your time to my business. You're not
to ornament the ring any longer, remember--you're to assist a private
inquiry agent, you and your wife and your charming tank. Repudiate the
debt if you like--it's a mere gaming transaction, and there is no legal
claim--or leave him in the street and tell him he's been robbed. Please
yourself as to this little roguery--you may as well, for it's the
last you will do on your own account. For the future your respectable
talents will be devoted to the service of Dorrington & Hicks, private
inquiry agents; and if you don't give satisfaction, that eminent firm
will hang you, with the assistance of the judge at the Old Bailey. So
settle your business yourselves, and quickly, for I've a good many
things to arrange with you."

And, Dorrington watching them continually, they took Telfer out by the
side gate in the garden wall and left him in a dark corner.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus I learnt the history of the horrible tank that had so nearly ended
my own life, as I have already related. Clearly the Naylors had changed
their name to Crofting on taking compulsory service with Dorrington,
and Mrs. Naylor was the repulsively thin woman who had drugged me with
her coffee in the house at Highgate. The events I have just recorded
took place about three years before I came to England. In the meantime
how many people, whose deaths might be turned to profit, had fallen
victims to the murderous cunning of Dorrington and his tools?



  THE CASE OF THE "MIRROR OF
  PORTUGAL"



III

The Case of the "Mirror of Portugal"


I

Whether or not this case has an historical interest is a matter of
conjecture. If it has none, then the title I have given it is a
misnomer. But I think the conjecture that some historical interest
attaches to it is by no means an empty one, and all that can be urged
against it is the common though not always declared error that romance
expired fifty years at least ago, and history with it. This makes it
seem improbable that the answer to an unsolved riddle of a century
since should be found to-day in an inquiry agent's dingy office in
Bedford Street, Covent Garden. Whether or not it has so been found
the reader may judge for himself, though the evidence stops far short
of actual proof of the identity of the "Mirror of Portugal" with the
stone wherewith this case was concerned.

But first, as to the "Mirror of Portugal." This was a diamond of much
and ancient fame. It was of Indian origin, and it had lain in the
possession of the royal family of Portugal in the time of Portugal's
ancient splendour. But three hundred years ago, after the extinction
of the early line of succession, the diamond, with other jewels, fell
into the possession of Don Antonio, one of the half-dozen pretenders
who were then scrambling for the throne. Don Antonio, badly in want
of money, deposited the stone in pledge with Queen Elizabeth of
England, and never redeemed it. Thus it took its place as one of the
English Crown jewels, and so remained till the overthrow and death
of Charles the First. Queen Henrietta then carried it with her to
France, and there, to obtain money to satisfy her creditors, she sold
it to the great Cardinal Mazarin. He bequeathed it, at his death, to
the French Crown, and among the Crown jewels of France it once more
found a temporary abiding place. But once more it brought disaster
with it in the shape of a revolution, and again a king lost his head
at the executioner's hands. And in the riot and confusion of the
great Revolution of 1792 the "Mirror of Portugal," with other jewels,
vanished utterly. Where it went to, and who took it, nobody ever knew.
The "Mirror of Portugal" disappeared as suddenly and effectually as
though fused to vapour by electric combustion.

So much for the famous "Mirror." Whether or not its history is germane
to the narrative which follows, probably nobody will ever certainly
know. But that Dorrington considered that it was, his notes on the case
abundantly testify.

For some days before Dorrington's attention was in any way given
to this matter, a poorly-dressed and not altogether prepossessing
Frenchman had been haunting the staircase and tapping at the office
door, unsuccessfully attempting an interview with Dorrington, who
happened to be out, or busy, whenever he called. The man never asked
for Hicks, Dorrington's partner; but this was very natural. In the
first place, it was always Dorrington who met all strangers and
conducted all negotiations, and in the second, Dorrington had just
lately, in a case regarding a secret society in Soho, made his name
much known and respected, not to say feared, in the foreign colony of
that quarter; wherefore it was likely that a man who bore evidence of
residence in that neighbourhood should come with the name of Dorrington
on his tongue.

The weather was cold, but the man's clothes were thin and threadbare,
and he had no overcoat. His face was of a broad, low type, coarse in
feature and small in forehead, and he wore the baggy black linen peaked
cap familiar on the heads of men of his class in parts of Paris. He had
called unsuccessfully, as I have said, sometimes once, sometimes more
frequently, on each of three or four days before he succeeded in seeing
Dorrington. At last, however, he intercepted him on the stairs, as
Dorrington arrived at about eleven in the morning.

"Pardon, m'sieu," he said, laying his finger on Dorrington's arm, "it
is M. Dorrington--not?"

"Well--suppose it is, what then?" Dorrington never admitted his
identity to a stranger without first seeing good cause.

"I 'ave beesness--very great beesness; beesness of a large profit for
you if you please to take it. Where shall I tell it?"

"Come in here," Dorrington replied, leading the way to his private
room. The man did not look like a wealthy client, but that signified
nothing. Dorrington had made profitable strokes after introductions
even less promising.

The man followed Dorrington, pulled off his cap, and sat in the chair
Dorrington pointed at.

"In the first place," said Dorrington, "what's your name?"

"Ah, yas--but before--all that I tell is for ourselves alone, is it
not? It is all in confidence, eh?"

"Yes, yes, of course," Dorrington answered, with virtuous impatience.
"Whatever is said in this room is regarded as strictly confidential.
What's your name?"

"Jacques Bouvier."

"Living at----?"

"Little Norham Street, Soho."

"And now the business you speak of."

"The beesness is this. My cousin, Léon Bouvier--he is _coquin_--a
rrrascal!"

"Very likely."

"He has a great jewel--it is, I have no doubt, a diamond--of a great
value. It is not his! There is no right of him to it! It should be
mine. If you get it for me one-quarter of it in money shall be yours!
And it is of a great value."

"Where does your cousin live? What is he?"

"Beck Street, Soho. He has a shop--a café--Café des Bons Camarades. And
he give me not a crrrust--if I starve!"

It scarcely seemed likely that the keeper of a little foreign café in
a back street of Soho would be possessed of a jewel a quarter of whose
value would be prize enough to tempt Dorrington to take a new case up.
But Dorrington bore with the man a little longer. "What is this jewel
you talk of?" he asked. "And if you don't know enough about it to be
quite sure whether it is a diamond or not, what _do_ you know?"

"Listen! The stone I have never seen; but that it is a diamond makes
probable. What else so much value? And it is much value that gives my
cousin so great care and trouble--_cochon!_ Listen! I relate to you.
My father--he was charcoal-burner at Bonneuil, department of Seine.
My uncle--the father of my cousin--also was charcoal-burner. The
grandfather--charcoal-burner also; and his father and his grandfather
before him--all burners of charcoal, at Bonneuil. Now perceive. The
father of my grandfather was of the great Revolution--a young man,
great among those who stormed the Bastille, the Tuileries, the Hôtel
de Ville, brave, and a leader. Now, when palaces were burnt and
heads were falling there was naturally much confusion. Things were
lost--things of large value. What more natural? While so many were
losing the head from the shoulders, it was not strange that some should
lose jewels from the neck. And when these things were lost, who might
have a greater right to keep them than the young men of the Revolution,
the brave, and the leaders, they who did the work?"

"If you mean that your respectable great-grandfather stole something,
you needn't explain it any more," Dorrington said. "I quite understand."

"I do not say stole; when there is a great revolution a thing is
anybody's. But it would not be convenient to tell of it at the time,
for the new Government might believe everything to be its own. These
things I do not know, you will understand--I suggest an explanation,
that is all. After the great Revolution, my great-grandfather lives
alone and quiet, and burns the charcoal as before. Why? The jewel is
too great to sell so soon. So he gives it to his son and dies. He also,
my grandfather, still burns the charcoal. Again, why? Because, as I
believe, he is too poor, too common a man to go about openly to sell
so great a stone. More, he loves the stone, for with that he is always
rich; and so he burns his charcoal and lives contented as his father
had done, and he is rich, and nobody knows it. What then? He has two
sons. When he dies, which son does he leave the stone to? Each one says
it is for himself--that is natural. I say it was for my father. But
however that may make itself, my father dies suddenly. He falls in a
pit--by accident, says his brother; not by accident, says my mother;
and soon after, she dies too. By accident too, perhaps you ask? Oh
yes, by accident too, no doubt." The man laughed disagreeably. "So I
am left alone, a little boy, to burn charcoal. When I am a bigger boy
there comes the great war, and the Prussians besiege Paris. My uncle,
he, burning charcoal no more, goes at night, and takes things from the
dead Prussians. Perhaps they are not always quite dead when he finds
them--perhaps he makes them so. Be that as it will, the Prussians take
him one dark night; and they stand him against a garden wall, and pif!
paf! they shoot him. That is all of my uncle; but he dies a rich man,
and nobody knows. What does his wife do? She has the jewel, and she
has a little money that has been got from the dead Prussians. So when
the war is over, she comes to London with my cousin, the bad Léon,
and she has the café--Café des Bons Camarades. And Léon grows up, and
his mother dies, and he has the café, and with the jewel is a rich
man--nobody knowing; nobody but me. But, figure to yourself; shall I
burn charcoal and starve at Bonneuil with a rich cousin in London--rich
with a diamond that should be mine? Not so. I come over, and Léon, at
first he lets me wait at the café. But I do not want that--there is the
stone, and I can never see it, never find it. So one day Léon finds me
looking in a box, and--chut! out I go. I tell Léon that I will share
the jewel with him or I will tell the police. He laughs at me--there is
no jewel, he says--I am mad. I do not tell the police, for that is to
lose it altogether. But I come here and I offer you one quarter of the
diamond if you shall get it."

"Steal it for you, eh?"

Jacques Bouvier shrugged his shoulders. "The word is as you please,"
he said. "The jewel is not his. And if there is delay it will be gone.
Already he goes each day to Hatton Garden, leaving his wife to keep the
Café des Bons Camarades. Perhaps he is selling the jewel to-day! Who
can tell? So that it will be well that you begin at once."

"Very well. My fee in advance will be twenty guineas."

"What? _Dieu!_--I have no money, I tell you! Get the diamond, and there
is one quarter--twenty-five per cent.--for you!"

"But what guarantee do you give that this story of yours isn't all
a hoax? Can you expect me to take everything on trust, and work for
nothing?"

The man rose and waved his arms excitedly. "It is true, I say!" he
exclaimed. "It is a fortune! There is much for you, and it will pay! I
have no money, or you should have some. What can I do? You will lose
the chance if you are foolish!"

"It rather seems to me, my friend, that I shall be foolish to give
valuable time to gratifying your cock-and-bull fancies. See here now.
I'm a man of business, and my time is fully occupied. You come here
and waste half an hour or more of it with a long rigmarole about some
valuable article that you say yourself you have never seen, and you
don't even know whether it is a diamond or not. You wander at large
over family traditions which you may believe yourself or may not.
You have no money, and you offer no fee as a guarantee of your _bonâ
fides_, and the sum of the thing is that you ask me to go and commit
a theft--to purloin an article you can't even describe, and then to
give you three-quarters of the proceeds. No, my man, you have made a
mistake. You must go away from here at once, and if I find you hanging
about my door again I shall have you taken away very summarily. Do you
understand? Now go away."

"_Mon Dieu!_ But----"

"I've no more time to waste," Dorrington answered, opening the door and
pointing to the stairs. "If you stay here any longer you'll get into
trouble."

[Illustration: "SIR YOU ARE A VER' BIG FOOL--A FOOL!"]

Jacques Bouvier walked out, muttering and agitating his hands. At
the top stair he turned and, almost too angry for words, burst out,
"Sir--you are a ver' big fool--a fool!" But Dorrington slammed the
door.

He determined, however, if he could find a little time, to learn a
little more of Léon Bouvier--perhaps to put a man to watch at the
Café des Bons Camarades. That the keeper of this place in Soho should
go regularly to Hatton Garden, the diamond market, was curious, and
Dorrington had met and analysed too many extraordinary romances to put
aside unexamined Jacques Bouvier's seemingly improbable story. But,
having heard all the man had to say, it had clearly been his policy
to get rid of him in the way he had done. Dorrington was quite ready
to steal a diamond, or anything else of value, if it could be done
quite safely, but he was no such fool as to give three-quarters of his
plunder--or any of it--to somebody else. So that the politic plan was
to send Jacques Bouvier away with the impression that his story was
altogether pooh-poohed and was to be forgotten.


II

Dorrington left his office late that day, and the evening being clear,
though dark, he walked toward Conduit Street by way of Soho; he thought
to take a glance at the Café des Bons Camarades on his way, without
being observed, should Jacques Bouvier be in the vicinity.

Beck Street, Soho, was a short and narrow street lying east and
west, and joining two of the larger streets that stretch north and
south across the district. It was even a trifle dirtier than these
by-streets in that quarter are wont to be. The Café des Bons Camarades
was a little green-painted shop the window whereof was backed by
muslin curtains, while upon the window itself appeared in florid
painted letters the words "Cuisine Française." It was the only shop
in the street, with the exception of a small coal and firewood shed
at one end, the other buildings consisting of the side wall of a
factory, now closed for the night, and a few tenement houses. An alley
entrance--apparently the gate of a stable-yard--stood next the café.
As Dorrington walked by the steamy window, he was startled to hear
his own name and some part of his office address spoken in excited
tones somewhere in this dark alley entrance; and suddenly a man rather
well dressed, and cramming a damaged tall hat on his head as he went,
darted from the entrance and ran in the direction from which Dorrington
had come. A stoutly built Frenchwoman, carrying on her face every
indication of extreme excitement, watched him from the gateway, and
Dorrington made no doubt that it was in her voice that he had heard
his name mentioned. He walked briskly to the end of the short street,
turned at the end, and hurried round the block of houses, in hope
to catch another sight of the man. Presently he saw him, running,
in Old Compton Street, and making in the direction of Charing Cross
Road. Dorrington mended his pace, and followed. The man emerged where
Shaftesbury Avenue meets Charing Cross Road, and, as he crossed,
hesitated once or twice, as though he thought of hailing a cab, but
decided rather to trust his own legs. He hastened through the byways
to St. Martin's Lane, and Dorrington now perceived that one side and
half the back of his coat was dripping with wet mud. Also it was plain,
as Dorrington had suspected, that his destination was Dorrington's own
office in Bedford Street. So the follower broke into a trot, and at
last came upon the muddy man wrenching at the bell and pounding at the
closed door of the house in Bedford Street, just as the housekeeper
began to turn the lock.

"M'sieu Dorrington--M'sieu Dorrington!" the man exclaimed, excitedly,
as the door was opened.

"'E's gawn 'ome long ago," the caretaker growled; "you might 'a known
that. Oh, 'ere 'e is though--good evenin', sir."

"I am Mr. Dorrington," the inquiry agent said politely. "Can I do
anything for you?"

"Ah yes--it is important--at once! I am robbed!"

"Just step upstairs, then, and tell me about it."

Dorrington had but begun to light the gas in his office when his
visitor broke out, "I am robbed, M'sieu Dorrington, robbed by my
cousin--_coquin!_ Rrrobbed of everything! Rrrobbed I tell you!"
He seemed astonished to find the other so little excited by the
intelligence.

"Let me take your coat," Dorrington said, calmly. "You've had a downer
in the mud, I see. Why, what's this?" he smelt the collar as he went
toward a hat-peg. "Chloroform!"

"Ah yes--it is that rrrascal Jacques! I will tell you. This evening I
go into the gateway next my house--Café des Bons Camarades--to enter
by the side-door, and--paf!--a shawl is fling across my face from
behind--it is pull tight--there is a knee in my back--I can catch
nothing with my hand--it smell all hot in my throat--I choke and I fall
over--there is no more. I wake up and I see my wife, and she take me
into the house. I am all muddy and tired, but I feel--and I have lost
my property--it is a diamond--and my cousin Jacques, he has done it!"

"Are you sure of that?"

"Sure? Oh yes--it is certain, I tell you--certain!"

"Then why not inform the police?"

The visitor was clearly taken aback by this question. He faltered,
and looked searchingly in Dorrington's face. "That is not always the
convenient way," he said. "I would rather that you do it. It is the
diamond that I want--not to punish my cousin--thief that he is!"

Dorrington mended a quill with ostentatious care, saying encouragingly
as he did so, "I can quite understand that you may not wish to
prosecute your cousin--only to recover the diamond you speak of. Also
I can quite understand that there may be reasons--family reasons
perhaps, perhaps others--which may render it inadvisable to make even
the existence of the jewel known more than absolutely necessary. For
instance, there may be other claimants, Monsieur Léon Bouvier."

The visitor started. "You know my name then?" he asked. "How is that?"

Dorrington smiled the smile of a sphinx. "M. Bouvier," he said, "it is
my trade to know everything--everything." He put the pen down and gazed
whimsically at the other. "My agents are everywhere. You talk of the
secret agent of the Russian police--they are nothing. It is my trade
to know all things. For instance"--Dorrington unlocked a drawer and
produced a book (it was but an office diary), and, turning its pages,
went on. "Let me see--B. It is my trade, for instance, to know about
the Café des Bons Camarades, established by the late Madame Bouvier,
now unhappily deceased. It is my trade to know of Madame Bouvier at
Bonneuil, where the charcoal was burnt, and where Madame Bouvier was
unfortunately left a widow at the time of the siege of Paris, because
of some lamentable misunderstanding of her husband's with a file
of Prussian soldiers by an orchard wall. It is my trade, moreover,
to know something of the sad death of that husband's brother--in
a pit--and of the later death of his widow. Oh yes. More" (turning
a page attentively, as though following detailed notes), "it is my
trade to know of a little quarrel between those brothers--it might
even have been about a diamond, just such a diamond as you have come
about to-night--and of jewels missed from the Tuileries in the great
Revolution a hundred years ago." He shut the book with a bang and
returned it to its place. "And there are other things--too many to talk
about," he said, crossing his legs and smiling calmly at the Frenchman.

During this long pretence at reading, Bouvier had slid farther and
farther forward on his chair, till he sat on the edge, his eyes staring
wide, and his chin dropped. He had been pale when he arrived, but now
he was of a leaden gray. He said not a word.

Dorrington laughed lightly. "Come," he said, "I see you are astonished.
Very likely. Very few of the people and families whose _dossiers_ we
have here" (he waved his hand generally about the room) "are aware of
what we know. But we don't make a song of it, I assure you, unless
it is for the benefit of clients. A client's affairs are sacred, of
course, and our resources are at his disposal. Do I understand that
you become a client?"

Bouvier sat a little farther back on his chair and closed his mouth.
"A--a--yes," he answered at length, with an effort, moistening his lips
as he spoke. "That is why I come."

"Ah, now we shall understand each other," Dorrington replied genially,
opening an ink-pot and clearing his blotting-pad. "We're not connected
with the police here, or anything of that sort, and except so far as
we can help them we leave our client's affairs alone. You wish to be
a client, and you wish me to recover your lost diamond. Very well,
that is business. The first thing is the usual fee in advance--twenty
guineas. Will you write a cheque?"

Bouvier had recovered some of his self-possession, and he hesitated.
"It is a large fee," he said.

"Large? Nonsense! It is the sort of fee that might easily be swallowed
up in half a day's expenses. And besides--a rich diamond merchant like
yourself!"

Bouvier looked up quickly. "Diamond merchant?" he said. "I do not
understand. I have lost my diamond--there was but one."

"And yet you go to Hatton Garden every day."

"What!" cried Bouvier, letting his hand fall from the table, "you know
that too?"

"Of course," Dorrington laughed, easily; "it is my trade, I tell you.
But write the cheque."

Bouvier produced a crumpled and dirty cheque-book and complied, with
many pauses, looking up dazedly from time to time into Dorrington's
face.

"Now," said Dorrington, "tell me where you kept your diamond, and all
about it."

"It was in an old little wooden box--so." Bouvier, not yet quite master
of himself, sketched an oblong of something less than three inches
long by two broad. "The box was old and black--my grandfather may have
made it, or his father. The lid fitted very tight, and the inside was
packed with fine charcoal powder with the diamond resting in it. The
diamond--oh, it was great; like that--so." He made another sketch,
roughly square, an inch and a quarter across. "But it looked even much
greater still, so bright, so wonderful! It is easy to understand that
my grandfather did not sell it--beside the danger. It is so beautiful
a thing, and it is such great riches--all in one little box. Why
should not a poor charcoal-burner be rich in secret, and look at his
diamond, and get all the few things he wants by burning his charcoal?
And there was the danger. But that is long ago. I am a man of beesness,
and I desired to sell it and be rich. And that Jacques--he has stolen
it!"

"Let us keep to the point. The diamond was in a box. Well, where was
the box?"

"On the outside of the box there were notches--so, and so. Round the
box at each place there was a tight, strong, silk cord--that is two
cords. The cords were round my neck, under my shirt, so. And the box
was under my arm--just as a boy carries his satchel, but high up--in
the armpit, where I could feel it at all times. To-night, when I come
to myself, my collar was broken at the stud--see--the cords were
cut--and all was gone!"

"You say your cousin Jacques has done this. How do you know?"

"Ah! But who else? Who else could know? And he has always tried to
steal it. At first, I let him wait at the Café des Bons Camarades. What
does he do? He prys about my house, and opens drawers; and I catch him
at last looking in a box, and I turn him out. And he calls me a thief!
_Sacré!_ He goes--I have no more of him; and so--he does this!"

"Very well. Write down his name and address on this piece of paper, and
your own." Bouvier did so. "And now tell me what you have been doing at
Hatton Garden."

"Well, it was a very great diamond--I could not go to the first man and
show it to sell. I must make myself known."

"It never struck you to get the stone cut in two, did it?"

"Eh? What?--_Nom de chien!_ No!" He struck his knee with his hand.
"Fool! Why did I not think of that? But still"--he grew more
thoughtful--"I should have to show it to get it cut, and I did not know
where to go. And the value would have been less."

"Just so--but it's the regular thing to do, I may tell you, in cases
like this. But go on. About Hatton Garden, you know."

"I thought that I must make myself known among the merchants of
diamonds, and then, perhaps, I should learn the ways, and one day be
able to sell. As it was, I knew nothing--nothing at all. I waited, and
I saved money in the café. Then, when I could do it, I dressed well
and went and bought some diamonds of a dealer--very little diamonds,
a little trayful for twenty pounds, and I try to sell them again. But
I have paid too much--I can only sell for fifteen pounds. Then I buy
more, and sell them for what I give. Then I take an office in Hatton
Garden--that is, I share a room with a dealer, and there is a partition
between our desks. My wife attends the café, I go to Hatton Garden
to buy and sell. It loses me money, but I must lose till I can sell
the great diamond. I get to know the dealers more and more, and then
to-night, as I go home----" he finished with an expressive shrug and a
wave of the hand.

"Yes, yes, I think I see," Dorrington said. "As to the diamond again.
It doesn't happen to be a _blue_ diamond, does it?"

"No--pure white; perfect."

Dorrington had asked because two especially famous diamonds disappeared
from among the French Crown jewels at the time of the great Revolution.
One blue, the greatest coloured diamond ever known, and the other
the "Mirror of Portugal." Bouvier's reply made it plain that it was
certainly not the first which he had just lost.

"Come," Dorrington said, "I will call and inspect the scene of your
disaster. I haven't dined yet, and it must be well past nine o'clock
now."

They returned to Beck Street. There were gates at the dark entry by the
side of the Café des Bons Camarades, but they were never shut, Bouvier
explained. Dorrington had them shut now, however, and a lantern was
produced. The paving was of rough cobble stones, deep in mud.

"Do many people come down here in the course of an evening?" Dorrington
asked.

"Never anybody but myself."

"Very well. Stand away at your side door."

[Illustration: "DORRINGTON, WITH THE LANTERN, EXPLORED THE MUDDY COBBLE
STONES."]

Bouvier and his wife stood huddled and staring on the threshold of
the side door, while Dorrington, with the lantern, explored the muddy
cobble stones. The pieces of a broken bottle lay in a little heap,
and a cork lay a yard away from them. Dorrington smelt the cork, and
then collected together the broken glass (there were but four or five
pieces) from the little heap. Another piece of glass lay by itself a
little way off, and this also Dorrington took up, scrutinising it
narrowly. Then he traversed the whole passage carefully, stepping from
bare stone to bare stone, and skimming the ground with the lantern. The
mud lay confused and trackless in most places, though the place where
Bouvier had been lying was indicated by an appearance of sweeping,
caused, no doubt, by his wife dragging him to his feet. Only one other
thing beside the glass and cork did Dorrington carry away as evidence,
and that the Bouviers knew nothing of; for it was the remembrance of
the mark of a sharp, small boot-heel in more than one patch of mud
between the stones.

"Will you object, Madame Bouvier," he asked, as he handed back the
lantern, "to show me the shoes you wore when you found your husband
lying out here?"

Madame Bouvier had no objection at all. They were what she was then
wearing, and had worn all day. She lifted her foot and exhibited one.
There was no need for a second glance. It was a loose easy cashmere
boot, with spring sides and heels cut down flat for indoor comfort.

"And this was at what time?"

It was between seven and eight o'clock, both agreed, though they
differed a little as to the exact time. Bouvier had recovered when his
wife raised him, had entered the house with her, at once discovered
his loss, and immediately, on his wife's advice, set out to find
Dorrington, whose name the woman had heard spoken of frequently among
the visitors to the café in connection with the affair of the secret
society already alluded to. He had felt certain that Dorrington would
not be at his office, but trusted to be directed where to find him.

"Now," Dorrington asked of Bouvier (the woman had been called away),
"tell me some more about your cousin. Where does he live?"

"In Little Norham Street; the third house from this end on the right
and the back room at the top. That is unless he has moved just lately."

"Has he been ill recently?"

"Ill?" Bouvier considered. "Not that I can say--no. I have never heard
of Jacques being ill." It seemed to strike him as an incongruous and
new idea. "Nothing has made him ill all his life--he is too good in
constitution, I think."

"Does he wear spectacles?"

"Spectacles? _Mais non!_ Never! Why should he wear spectacles? His eyes
are good as mine."

"Very well. Now attend. To-morrow you must not go to Hatton Garden--I
will go for you. If you see your cousin Jacques you must say nothing,
take no notice; let everything proceed as though nothing had happened;
leave all to me. Give me your address at Hatton Garden."

"But what is it you must do there?"

"That is my business. I do my business in my own way. Still I will give
you a hint. Where is it that diamonds are sold? In Hatton Garden, as
you so well know--as I expect your cousin knows if he has been watching
you. Then where will your cousin go to sell it? Hatton Garden, of
course. Never mind what I shall do there to intercept it. I am to be
your new partner, you understand, bringing money into the business. You
must be ill and stay at home till you hear from me. Go now and write me
a letter of introduction to the man who shares the office with you. Or
I will write it if you like, and you shall sign it. What sort of a man
is he?"

"Very quiet--a tall man, perhaps English, but perhaps not."

"Ever buy or sell diamonds with him?"

"Once only. It was the first time. That is how I learned of the
half-office to let."

The letter was written, and Dorrington stuffed it carelessly into his
pocket. "Mr. Hamer is the name, is it?" he said. "I fancy I have met
him somewhere. He is short-sighted, isn't he?"

"Oh yes, he is short-sighted. With _pince-nez_."

"Not very well lately?"

"No--I think not. He takes medicine in the office. But you will be
careful, eh? He must not know."

"Do you think so? Perhaps I may tell him, though."

"Tell him? _Ciel_--no! You must not tell people! No!"

"Shall I throw the whole case over, and keep your deposit fee?"

"No--no, not that. But it is foolish to tell to people!"

"I am to judge what is foolish and what wise, M. Bouvier. Good evening!"

"Good evening, M. Dorrington; good evening." Bouvier followed him out
to the gate. "And will you tell me--do you think there is a way to get
the diamond? Have you any plan?"

"Oh yes, M. Bouvier, I have a plan. But, as I have said, that is my
business. It may be a successful plan, or it may not; that we shall
see."

"And--and the _dossier_. The notes that you so marvellously have,
written out in the book you read. When this business is over you will
destroy them, eh? You will not leave a clue?"

"The notes that I have in my books," answered Dorrington, without
relaxing a muscle of his face, "are my property, for my own purposes,
and were mine before you came to me. Those relating to you are a mere
item in thousands. So long as you behave well, M. Bouvier, they will
not harm you, and, as I said, the confidences of a client are sacred
to Dorrington & Hicks. But as to keeping them--certainly I shall. Once
more--good evening!"

Even the stony-faced Dorrington could not repress a smile and something
very like a chuckle as he turned the end of the street and struck out
across Golden Square towards his rooms in Conduit Street. The simple
Frenchman, only half a rogue--even less than half--was now bamboozled
and put aside as effectually as his cousin had been. Certainly there
was a diamond, and an immense one; if only the Bouvier tradition were
true, probably the famous "Mirror of Portugal"; and nothing stood
between Dorrington and absolute possession of that diamond but an
ordinary sort of case such as he dealt with every day. And he had made
Bouvier pay a fee for the privilege of putting him completely on the
track of it! Dorrington smiled again.

His dinner was spoilt by waiting, but he troubled little of that. He
spread before him, and examined again, the pieces of glass and the
cork. The bottle had been a druggist's ordinary flat bottle, graduated
with dose-marks, and altogether seven inches high, or thereabout. It
had, without a doubt, contained the chloroform wherewith Léon Bouvier
had been assaulted, as Dorrington had judged from the smell of the
cork. The fact of the bottle being corked showed that the chloroform
had not been bought all at once--since in that case it would have been
put up in a stoppered bottle. More probably it had been procured in
very small quantities (ostensibly for toothache, or something of that
kind) at different druggists, and put together in this larger bottle,
which had originally been used for something else. The bottle had
been distinguished by a label--the usual white label affixed by the
druggist, with directions as to taking the medicine--and this label
had been scraped off; all except a small piece at the bottom edge by
the right hand side, whereon might be just distinguished the greater
part of the letters N, E. The piece of glass that had lain a little way
apart from the bottle was not a part of it, as a casual observer might
have supposed. It was a fragment of a concave lens, with a channel
ground in the edge.


III

At ten precisely next morning, as usual, Mr. Ludwig Hamer mounted the
stairs of the house in Hatton Garden, wherein he rented half a room
as office. He was a tall, fair man, wearing thick convex _pince-nez_.
He spoke English like a native, and, indeed, he called himself an
Englishman, though there were those who doubted the Briticism of his
name. Scarce had he entered his office when Dorrington followed him.

The room had never been a very large one, and now a partition divided
it in two, leaving a passage at one side only, by the window. On each
side of this partition stood a small pedestal table, a couple of
chairs, a copying-press, and the other articles usual in a meagrely
furnished office. Dorrington strode past Bouvier's half of the room
and came upon Hamer as he was hanging his coat on a peg. The letter
of introduction had been burnt, since Dorrington had only asked for
it in order to get Hamer's name and the Hatton Garden address without
betraying to Bouvier the fact that he did not already know all about it.

"Good morning, Mr. Hamer," said Dorrington, loudly. "Sorry to see
you're not well"--he pointed familiarly with his stick at a range of
medicine bottles on the mantelpiece--"but it's very trying weather, of
course. You've been suffering from toothache, I believe?"

Hamer seemed at first disposed to resent the loudness and familiarity
of this speech, but at the reference to toothache he started suddenly
and set his lips.

"Chloroform's a capital thing for toothache, Mr. Hamer, and for--for
other things. I'm not in your line of business myself, but I believe
it has even been used in the diamond trade."

"What do you mean?" asked Hamer, flushing angrily.

"Mean? Why, bless me--nothing more than I said. By the way, I'm afraid
you dropped one of your medicine bottles last night. I've brought it
back, though I'm afraid it's past repair. It's a good job you didn't
quite clear the label off before you took it out with you, else I might
have had a difficulty." Dorrington placed the fragments on the table.
"You see you've just left the first letter of 'E.C.' in the druggist's
address, and the last 'N' of Hatton Garden, just before it. There
doesn't happen to be any other Garden in E.C. district that I know of,
nor does the name of any other thoroughfare end in N--they are mostly
streets, or lanes, or courts, you see. And there seems to be only one
druggist in Hatton Garden--capital fellow, no doubt--the one whose name
and address I observe on those bottles on the mantelpiece."

Dorrington stood with his foot on a chair, and tapped his knee
carelessly with his stick. Hamer dropped into the other chair and
regarded him with a frown, though his face was pale. Presently he said,
in a strained voice, "Well?"

"Yes; there _is_ something else, Mr. Hamer, as you appear to suggest.
I see you're wearing a new pair of glasses this morning; pity you
broke the others last night, but I've brought the piece you left
behind." He gathered up the broken bottle, and held up the piece of
concave lens. "I think, after all, it's really best to use a cord with
_pince-nez_. It's awkward, and it catches in things, I know, but it
saves a breakage, and you're liable to get the glasses knocked off, you
know--in certain circumstances."

Hamer sprang to his feet with a snarl, slammed the door, locked it, and
turned on Dorrington. But now Dorrington had a revolver in his hand,
though his manner was as genial as ever.

[Illustration: "DORRINGTON HAD A REVOLVER IN HIS HAND."]

"Yes, yes," he said; "best to shut the door, of course. People listen,
don't they? But sit down again. I'm not anxious to hurt you, and, as
you will perceive, you're quite unable to hurt me. What I chiefly came
to say is this: last evening my client, M. Léon Bouvier, of this office
and the Café des Bons Camarades, was attacked in the passage adjoining
his house by a man who was waiting for him, with a woman--was it really
Mrs. Hamer? but there, I won't ask--keeping watch. He was robbed of
a small old wooden box, containing charcoal and--a diamond. My name is
Dorrington--firm of Dorrington & Hicks, which you may have heard of.
That's my card. I've come to take away that diamond."

Hamer was pale and angry, but, in his way, was almost as calm as
Dorrington. He put down the card without looking at it. "I don't
understand you," he said. "How do you know I've got it?"

"Come, come, Mr. Hamer," Dorrington replied, rubbing the barrel of his
revolver on his knee, "that's hardly worthy of you. You're a man of
business, with a head on your shoulders--the sort of man I like doing
business with, in fact. Men like ourselves needn't trifle. I've shown
you most of the cards I hold, though not all, I assure you. I'll tell
you, if you like, all about your little tour round among the druggists
with the convenient toothache, all about the evenings on which you
watched Bouvier home, and so on. But, really, need we, as men of the
world, descend to such peddling detail?"

"Well, suppose I have got it, and suppose I refuse to give it you. What
then?"

"What then? But why should we talk of unpleasant things? You won't
refuse, you know."

"Do you mean you'd get it out of me by help of that pistol?"

"Well," said Dorrington, deliberately, "the pistol is noisy, and it
makes a mess, and all that, but it's a useful thing, and I _might_ do
it with that, you know, in certain circumstances. But I wasn't thinking
of it--there's a much less troublesome way."

"Which?"

"You're a slower man than I took you for, Mr. Hamer--or perhaps you
haven't quite appreciated _me_ yet. If I were to go to that window and
call the police, what with the little bits of evidence in my pocket,
and the other little bits that the druggists who sold the chloroform
would give, and the other bits in reserve, that I prefer not to talk
about just now--there would be rather an awkwardly complete case of
robbery with violence, wouldn't there? And you'd have to lose the
diamond after all, to say nothing of a little rest in gaol and general
ruination."

"That sounds very well, but what about your client? Come now, you call
me a man of the world, and I am one. How will your client account for
the possession of a diamond worth eighty thousand pounds or so? He
doesn't seem a millionaire. The police would want to know about him as
well as about me, if you were such a fool as to bring them in. Where
did _he_ steal it, eh?"

Dorrington smiled and bowed at the question. "That's a very good
card to play, Mr. Hamer," he said, "a capital card, really. To a
superficial observer it might look like winning the trick. But I think
I can trump it." He bent farther forward and tapped the table with the
pistol-barrel. "Suppose I don't care one solitary dump what becomes of
my client? Suppose I don't care whether he goes to gaol or stays out of
it--in short, suppose I prefer my own interests to his?"

"Ho! ho!" Hamer cried. "I begin to understand. You want to grab the
diamond for yourself then?"

"I haven't said anything of the kind, Mr. Hamer," Dorrington replied,
suavely. "I have simply demanded the diamond which you stole last
night, and I have mentioned an alternative."

"Oh, yes, yes, but we understand one another. Come, we'll arrange this.
How much do you want?"

Dorrington stared at him stonily. "I--I beg your pardon," he said, "but
I don't understand. I want the diamond you stole."

"But come now, we'll divide. Bouvier had no right to it, and he's out.
You and I, perhaps, haven't much right to it, legally, but it's between
us, and we're both in the same position."

"Pardon me," Dorrington replied, silkily, "but there you mistake. We
are _not_ in the same position, by a long way. You are liable to an
instant criminal prosecution. I have simply come, authorised by my
client, who bears all the responsibility, to demand a piece of property
which you have stolen. That is the difference between our positions,
Mr. Hamer. Come now, a policeman is just standing opposite. Shall I
open the window and call him, or do you give in?"

"Oh, I give in, I suppose," Hamer groaned. "But you're a deal too hard.
A man of your abilities shouldn't be so mean."

"That's right and reasonable," Dorrington answered briskly. "The wise
man is the man who knows when he is beaten, and saves further trouble.
You may not find me so mean after all, but I must have the stone first.
I hold the trumps, and I'm not going to let the other player make
conditions. Where's the diamond?"

"It isn't here--it's at home. You'll have to get it out of Mrs. Hamer.
Shall I go and wire to her?"

"No, no," said Dorrington, "that's not the way. We'll just go together,
and take Mrs. Hamer by surprise, I think. I mustn't let you out of
sight, you know. Come, we'll get a hansom. Is it far?"

"Bessborough Street, Pimlico. You'll find Mrs. Hamer has a temper of
her own."

"Well, well, we all have our failings. But before we start, now,
observe." For a moment Dorrington was stern and menacing. "You wriggled
a little at first, but that was quite natural. Now you've given in;
and at the first sign of another wriggle I stop it once and for all.
Understand? No tricks, now."

They entered a hansom at the door. Hamer was moody and silent at first,
but under the influence of Dorrington's gay talk he opened out after
a while. "Well," he said, "you're far the cleverest of the three, no
doubt, and perhaps in that way you deserve to win. It's mighty smart
for you to come in like this, and push Bouvier on one side and me on
the other, and both of us helpless. But it's rough on me after having
all the trouble."

"Don't be a bad loser, man!" Dorrington answered. "You might have had a
deal more trouble and a deal more roughness too, I assure you."

"Oh yes, so I might. I'm not grumbling. But there's one thing has
puzzled me all along. Where did Bouvier get that stone from?"

"He inherited it. It's the most important of the family jewels, I
assure you."

"Oh, skittles! I might have known you wouldn't tell me, even if you
knew yourself. But I should like to know. What sort of a duffer must
it have been that let Bouvier do him for that big stone--Bouvier of
all men in the world? Why, he was a record flat himself--couldn't tell
a diamond from a glass marble, I should think. Why, he used to buy
peddling little trays of rotters in the Garden at twice their value!
And then he'd sell them for what he could get. I knew very well he
wasn't going on systematically dropping money like that for no reason
at all. He had some axe to grind, that was plain. And after a while he
got asking timid questions as to the sale of big diamonds, and how it
was done, and who bought them, and all that. That put me on it at once.
All this buying and selling at a loss was a blind. He wanted to get
into the trade to sell stolen diamonds, that was clear; and there was
some value in them too, else he couldn't afford to waste months of time
and lose money every day over it. So I kept my eye on him. I noticed,
when he put his overcoat on, and thought I wasn't looking, he would
settle a string of some sort round his neck, under his shirt-collar,
and feel to pack up something close under his armpit. Then I just
watched him home, and saw the sort of shanty he lived in. I mentioned
these things to Mrs. H., and she was naturally indignant at the idea of
a chap like Bouvier having something valuable in a dishonest way, and
agreed with me that if possible it ought to be got from him, if only
in the interests of virtue." Hamer laughed jerkily. "So at any rate we
determined to get a look at whatever it was hanging round his neck, and
we made the arrangements you know about. It seemed to me that Bouvier
was pretty sure to lose it before long, one way or another, if it had
any value at all, to judge by the way he was done in other matters.
But I assure you I nearly fell down like Bouvier himself when I saw
what it was. No wonder we left the bottle behind where I'd dropped it,
after soaking the shawl--I wonder I didn't leave the shawl itself, and
my hat, and everything. I assure you we sat up half last night looking
at that wonderful stone!"

"No doubt. I shall have a good look at it myself, I assure you. Here is
Bessborough Street. Which is the number?"

They alighted, and entered a house rather smaller than those about it.
"Ask Mrs. Hamer to come here," said Hamer, gloomily, to the servant.

The men sat in the drawing-room. Presently Mrs. Hamer entered--a
shortish, sharp, keen-eyed woman of forty-five. "This is Mr.
Dorrington," said Hamer, "of Dorrington & Hicks, private detectives. He
wants us to give him that diamond."

The little woman gave a sort of involuntary bounce, and exclaimed.
"What? Diamond? What d'ye mean?"

"Oh, it's no good, Maria," Hamer answered dolefully. "I've tried it
every way myself. One comfort is we're safe, as long as we give it
up. Here," he added, turning to Dorrington, "show her some of your
evidence--that'll convince her."

Very politely Dorrington brought forth, with full explanations, the
cork and the broken glass; while Mrs. Hamer, biting hard at her thin
lips, grew shinier and redder in the face every moment, and her hard
gray eyes flashed fury.

"And you let this man," she burst out to her husband, when Dorrington
had finished, "you let this man leave your office with these things in
his possession after he had shown them to you, and you as big as he is,
and bigger! Coward!"

"My dear, you don't appreciate Mr. Dorrington's forethought, hang it! I
made preparations for the very line of action you recommend, but he was
ready. He brought out a very well kept revolver, and he has it in his
pocket now!"

Mrs. Hamer only glared, speechless with anger.

"You might just get Mr. Dorrington a whisky and soda, Maria," Hamer
pursued, with a slight lift of the eyebrows which he did not intend
Dorrington to see. The woman was on her feet in a moment.

"Thank you, no," interposed Dorrington, rising also, "I won't trouble
you. I'd rather not drink anything just now, and, although I fear I
may appear rude, I can't allow either of you to leave the room. In
short," he added, "I must stay with you both till I get the diamond."

"And this man Bouvier," asked Mrs. Hamer, "what is his right to the
stone?"

"Really, I don't feel competent to offer an opinion, do you know,"
Dorrington answered sweetly. "To tell the truth, M. Bouvier doesn't
interest me very much."

"No go, Maria!" growled Hamer. "I've tried it all. The fact is we've
got to give Dorrington the diamond. If we don't he'll just call in the
police--then we shall lose diamond and everything else too. He doesn't
care what becomes of Bouvier. He's got us, that's what it is. He won't
even bargain to give us a share."

Mrs. Hamer looked quickly up. "Oh, but that's nonsense!" she said.
"We've got the thing. We ought at least to say halves."

Her sharp eyes searched Dorrington's face, but there was no
encouragement in it. "I am sorry to disappoint a lady," he said, "but
this time it is my business to impose terms, not to submit to them.
Come, the diamond!"

"Well, you'll give us something, surely?" the woman cried.

"Nothing is sure, madam, except that you will give me that diamond, or
face a policeman in five minutes!"

The woman realised her helplessness. "Well," she said, "much good may
it do you. You'll have to come and get it--I'm keeping it somewhere
else. I'll go and get my hat."

Again Dorrington interposed. "I think we'll send your servant for the
hat," he said, reaching for the bell-rope. "I'll come wherever you
like, but I shall not leave you till this affair is settled, I promise
you. And, as I reminded your husband a little time ago, you'll find
tricks come expensive."

The servant brought Mrs. Hamer's hat and cloak, and that lady put them
on, her eyes ablaze with anger. Dorrington made the pair walk before
him to the front door, and followed them into the street. "Now," he
said, "where is this place? Remember, no tricks!"

Mrs. Hamer turned towards Vauxhall Bridge. "It's just over by Upper
Kennington Lane," she said. "Not far."

She paced out before them, Dorrington and Hamer following, the former
affable and business-like, the latter apparently a little puzzled.
When they came about the middle of the bridge, the woman turned
suddenly. "Come, Mr. Dorrington," she said, in a more subdued voice
than she had yet used, "I give in. It's no use trying to shake you off,
I can see. I have the diamond with me. Here."

She put a little old black wooden box in his hand. He made to open
the lid, which fitted tightly, and at that moment the woman, pulling
her other hand free from under her cloak, flung away over the parapet
something that shone like fifty points of electric light.

[Illustration: "THERE'S YOUR DIAMOND, YOU DIRTY THIEF!"]

"There it goes!" she screamed aloud, pointing with her finger. "There's
your diamond, you dirty thief! You bully! Go after it now, you spy!"

The great diamond made a curve of glitter and disappeared into the
river.

For the moment Dorrington lost his cool temper. He seized the woman by
the arm. "Do you know what you've done, you wild cat?" he exclaimed.

"Yes, I do!" the woman screamed, almost foaming with passion, while
boys began to collect, though there had been but few people on the
bridge. "Yes, I do! And now you can do what you please, you thief! you
bully!"

Dorrington was calm again in a moment. He shrugged his shoulders and
turned away. Hamer was frightened. He came at Dorrington's side and
faltered, "I--I told you she had a temper. What will you do?"

Dorrington forced a laugh. "Oh, nothing," he said. "What can I do?
Locking you up now wouldn't fetch the diamond back. And besides I'm
not sure that Mrs. Hamer won't attend to your punishment faithfully
enough." And he walked briskly away.

"What did she do, Bill?" asked one boy of another.

"Why, didn't ye see? She chucked that man's watch in the river."

"Garn! that wasn't his watch!" interrupted a third, "it was a little
glass tumbler. I see it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Have you got my diamond?" asked the agonised Léon Bouvier of
Dorrington a day later.

"No, I have not," Dorrington replied drily. "Nor has your cousin
Jacques. But I know where it is, and you can get it as easily as I."

"_Mon Dieu!_ Where?"

"At the bottom of the river Thames, exactly in the centre, rather to
the right of Vauxhall Bridge, looking from this side. I expect it will
be rediscovered in some future age, when the bed of the Thames is a
diamond field."

The rest of Bouvier's savings went in the purchase of a boat, and
in this, with a pail on a long rope, he was very busy for some time
afterward. But he only got a great deal of mud into his boat.



  _THE AFFAIR OF THE "AVALANCHE
  BICYCLE AND TYRE CO., LIMITED"_



IV

The Affair of the "Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Co., Limited"


I

Cycle companies were in the market everywhere. Immense fortunes were
being made in a few days and sometimes little fortunes were being
lost to build them up. Mining shares were dull for a season, and any
company with the word "cycle" or "tyre" in its title was certain to
attract capital, no matter what its prospects were like in the eyes
of the expert. All the old private cycle companies suddenly were
offered to the public, and their proprietors, already rich men, built
themselves houses on the Riviera, bought yachts, ran racehorses, and
left business for ever. Sometimes the shareholders got their money's
worth, sometimes more, sometimes less--sometimes they got nothing
but total loss; but still the game went on. One could never open a
newspaper without finding, displayed at large, the prospectus of yet
another cycle company with capital expressed in six figures at least,
often in seven. Solemn old dailies, into whose editorial heads no
new thing ever found its way till years after it had been forgotten
elsewhere, suddenly exhibited the scandalous phenomenon of "broken
columns" in their advertising sections, and the universal prospectuses
stretched outrageously across half or even all the page--a thing to
cause apoplexy in the bodily system of any self-respecting manager of
the old school.

In the midst of this excitement it chanced that the firm of Dorrington
& Hicks were engaged upon an investigation for the famous and
long-established "Indestructible Bicycle and Tricycle Manufacturing
Company," of London and Coventry. The matter was not one of sufficient
intricacy or difficulty to engage Dorrington's personal attention,
and it was given to an assistant. There was some doubt as to the
validity of a certain patent having reference to a particular method
of tightening the spokes and truing the wheels of a bicycle, and
Dorrington's assistant had to make inquiries (without attracting
attention to the matter) as to whether or not there existed any
evidence, either documentary or in the memory of veterans, of the
use of this method, or anything like it, before the year 1885. The
assistant completed his inquiries and made his report to Dorrington.
Now I think I have said that, from every evidence I have seen, the
chief matter of Dorrington's solicitude was his own interest, and just
at this time he had heard, as had others, much of the money being made
in cycle companies. Also, like others, he had conceived a great desire
to get the confidential advice of somebody "in the know"--advice which
might lead him into the "good thing" desired by all the greedy who
flutter about at the outside edge of the stock and share market. For
this reason Dorrington determined to make this small matter of the
wheel patent an affair of personal report. He was a man of infinite
resource, plausibility and good-companionship, and there was money
going in the cycle trade. Why then should he lose an opportunity
of making himself pleasant in the inner groves of that trade, and
catch whatever might come his way--information, syndicate shares,
directorships, anything? So that Dorrington made himself master of
his assistant's information, and proceeded to the head office of the
"Indestructible" company on Holborn Viaduct, resolved to become the
entertaining acquaintance of the managing director.

On his way his attention was attracted by a very elaborately fitted
cycle shop, which his recollection told him was new. "The Avalanche
Bicycle and Tyre Company" was the legend gilt above the great
plate-glass window, and in the window itself stood many brilliantly
enamelled and plated bicycles, each labelled on the frame with the
flaming red and gold transfer of the firm; and in the midst of all was
another bicycle covered with dried mud, of which, however, sufficient
had been carefully cleared away to expose a similar glaring transfer
to those that decorated the rest--with a placard announcing that on
this particular machine somebody had ridden some incredible distance on
bad roads in very little more than no time at all. A crowd stood about
the window and gaped respectfully at the placard, the bicycles, the
transfers, and the mud, though they paid little attention to certain
piles of folded white papers, endorsed in bold letters with the name
of the company, with the suffix "limited" and the word "prospectus"
in bloated black letter below. These, however, Dorrington observed at
once, for he had himself that morning, in common with several thousand
other people, received one by post. Also half a page of his morning
paper had been filled with a copy of that same prospectus, and the
afternoon had brought another copy in the evening paper. In the list of
directors there was a titled name or two, together with a few unknown
names--doubtless the "practical men." And below this list there were
such positive promises of tremendous dividends, backed up and proved
beyond dispute by such ingenious piles of business-like figures, every
line of figures referring to some other line for testimonials to its
perfect genuineness and accuracy, that any reasonable man, it would
seem, must instantly sell the hat off his head and the boots off his
feet to buy one share at least, and so make his fortune for ever.
True, the business was but lately established, but that was just it.
It had rushed ahead with such amazing rapidity (as was natural with an
avalanche) that it had got altogether out of hand, and orders couldn't
be executed at all; wherefore the proprietors were reluctantly
compelled to let the public have some of the luck. This was Thursday.
The share list was to be opened on Monday morning and closed inexorably
at four o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, with a merciful extension to
Wednesday morning for the candidates for wealth who were so unfortunate
as to live in the country. So that it behoved everybody to waste no
time lest he be numbered among the unlucky whose subscription-money
should be returned in full, failing allotment. The prospectus did not
absolutely say it in so many words, but no rational person could fail
to feel that the directors were fervently hoping that nobody would get
injured in the rush.

Dorrington passed on and reached the well-known establishment of the
"Indestructible Bicycle Company." This was already a limited company of
a private sort, and had been so for ten years or more. And before that
the concern had had eight or nine years of prosperous experience. The
founder of the firm, Mr. Paul Mallows, was now the managing director,
and a great pillar of the cycling industry. Dorrington gave a clerk his
card, and asked to see Mr. Mallows.

Mr. Mallows was out, it seemed, but Mr. Stedman, the secretary, was
in, and him Dorrington saw. Mr. Stedman was a pleasant, youngish man,
who had been a famous amateur bicyclist in his time, and was still an
enthusiast. In ten minutes business was settled and dismissed, and
Dorrington's tact had brought the secretary into a pleasant discursive
chat, with much exchange of anecdote. Dorrington expressed much
interest in the subject of bicycling, and, seeing that Stedman had been
a racing man, particularly as to bicycling races.

"There'll be a rare good race on Saturday, I expect," Stedman said. "Or
rather," he went on, "I expect the fifty miles record will go. I fancy
our man Gillett is pretty safe to win, but he'll have to move, and I
quite expect to see a good set of new records on our advertisements
next week. The next best man is Lant--the new fellow, you know--who
rides for the 'Avalanche' people."

"Let's see, they're going to the public as a limited company, aren't
they?" Dorrington asked casually.

Stedman nodded, with a little grimace.

"You don't think it's a good thing, perhaps," Dorrington said,
noticing the grimace. "Is that so?"

"Well," Stedman answered, "of course I can't say. I don't know much
about the firm--nobody does, as far as I can tell--but they seem
to have got a business together in almost no time; that is, if the
business is as genuine as it looks at first sight. But they want a
rare lot of capital, and then the prospectus--well, I've seen more
satisfactory ones, you know. I don't say it isn't all right, of course,
but still I shan't go out of my way to recommend any friends of mine to
plunge on it."

"You won't?"

"No, I won't. Though no doubt they'll get their capital, or most of it.
Almost any cycle or tyre company can get subscribed just now. And this
'Avalanche' affair is both, and it is so well advertised, you know.
Lant has been winning on their mounts just lately, and they've been
booming it for all they're worth. By Jove, if they could only screw him
up to win the fifty miles on Saturday, and beat our man Gillett, that
_would_ give them a push! Just at the correct moment too. Gillett's
never been beaten yet at the distance, you know. But Lant can't do
it--though, as I have said, he'll make some fast riding--it'll be a
race, I tell you!"

"I should like to see it."

"Why not come? See about it, will you? And perhaps you'd like to
run down to the track after dinner this evening and see our man
training--awfully interesting, I can tell you, with all the pacing
machinery and that. Will you come?"

Dorrington expressed himself delighted, and suggested that Stedman
should dine with him before going to the track. Stedman, for his part,
charmed with his new acquaintance--as everybody was at a first meeting
with Dorrington--assented gladly.

At that moment the door of Stedman's room was pushed open and a
well-dressed, middle-aged man, with a shaven, flabby face, appeared.
"I beg pardon," he said, "I thought you were alone. I've just ripped
my finger against the handle of my brougham door as I came in--the
screw sticks out. Have you a piece of sticking plaster?" He extended a
bleeding finger as he spoke. Stedman looked doubtfully at his desk.

"Here is some court plaster," Dorrington exclaimed, producing his
pocket-book. "I always carry it--it's handier than ordinary sticking
plaster. How much do you want?"

"Thanks--an inch or so."

"This is Mr. Dorrington, of Messrs. Dorrington & Hicks, Mr. Mallows,"
Stedman said. "Our managing director, Mr. Paul Mallows, Mr. Dorrington."

Dorrington was delighted to make Mr. Mallows's acquaintance, and he
busied himself with a careful strapping of the damaged finger. Mr.
Mallows had the large frame of a man of strong build who has had much
hard bodily work, but there hung about it the heavier, softer flesh
that told of a later period of ease and sloth. "Ah, Mr. Mallows,"
Stedman said, "the bicycle's the safest thing, after all! Dangerous
things these broughams!"

"Ah, you younger men," Mr. Mallows replied, with a slow and rounded
enunciation, "you younger men can afford to be active. We elders----"

"Can afford a brougham," Dorrington added, before the managing director
began the next word. "Just so--and the bicycle does it all; wonderful
thing the bicycle!"

Dorrington had not misjudged his man, and the oblique reference to his
wealth flattered Mr. Mallows. Dorrington went once more through his
report as to the spoke patent, and then Mr. Mallows bade him good-bye.

"Good-day, Mr. Dorrington, good-day," he said. "I am extremely obliged
by your careful personal attention to this matter of the patent. We may
leave it with Mr. Stedman now, I think. Good-day. I hope soon to have
the pleasure of meeting you again." And with clumsy stateliness Mr.
Mallows vanished.


II

"So you don't think the 'Avalanche' good business as an investment?"
Dorrington said once more as he and Stedman, after an excellent dinner,
were cabbing it to the track.

"No, no," Stedman answered, "don't touch it! There's better things
than that coming along presently. Perhaps I shall be able to put you
in for something, you know, a bit later; but don't be in a hurry. As
to the 'Avalanche,' even if everything else were satisfactory, there's
too much 'booming' being done just now to please me. All sorts of
rumours, you know, of their having something 'up their sleeve,' and
so on; mysterious hints in the papers, and all that, as to something
revolutionary being in hand with the 'Avalanche' people. Perhaps there
is. But why they don't fetch it out in view of the public subscription
for shares is more than I can understand, unless they don't want too
much of a rush. And as to that, well they don't look like modestly
shrinking from anything of that sort up to the present."

They were at the track soon after seven o'clock, but Gillett was not
yet riding. Dorrington remarked that Gillett appeared to begin late.

"Well," Stedman explained, "he's one of those fellows that afternoon
training doesn't seem to suit, unless it is a bit of walking exercise.
He just does a few miles in the morning and a spurt or two, and then he
comes on just before sunset for a fast ten or fifteen miles--that is,
when he is getting fit for such a race as Saturday's. To-night will be
his last spin of that length before Saturday, because to-morrow will be
the day before the race. To-morrow he'll only go a spurt or two, and
rest most of the day."

They strolled about inside the track, the two highly "banked" ends
whereof seemed to a nearsighted person in the centre to be solid
erect walls, along the face of which the training riders skimmed,
fly-fashion. Only three or four persons beside themselves were in the
enclosure when they first came, but in ten minutes' time Mr. Paul
Mallows came across the track.

"Why," said Stedman to Dorrington, "here's the Governor! It isn't often
he comes down here. But I expect he's anxious to see how Gillett's
going, in view of Saturday."

"Good evening, Mr. Mallows," said Dorrington. "I hope the finger's all
right? Want any more plaster?"

"Good evening, good evening," responded Mr. Mallows heavily. "Thank
you, the finger's not troubling me a bit." He held it up, still
decorated by the black plaster. "Your plaster remains, you see--I was a
little careful not to fray it too much in washing, that was all." And
Mr. Mallows sat down on a light iron garden-chair (of which several
stood here and there in the enclosure) and began to watch the riding.

The track was clear, and dusk was approaching when at last the great
Gillett made his appearance on the track. He answered a friendly
question or two put to him by Mallows and Stedman, and then, giving
his coat to his trainer, swung off along the track on his bicycle,
led in front by a tandem and closely attended by a triplet. In fifty
yards his pace quickened, and he settled down into a swift even pace,
regular as clockwork. Sometimes the tandem and sometimes the triplet
went to the front, but Gillett neither checked nor heeded as, nursed by
his pacers, who were directed by the trainer from the centre, he swept
along mile after mile, each mile in but a few seconds over the two
minutes.

"Look at the action!" exclaimed Stedman with enthusiasm. "Just watch
him. Not an ounce of power wasted there! Did you ever see more regular
ankle work? And did anybody ever sit a machine quite so well as that?
Show me a movement anywhere above the hips!"

"Ah," said Mr. Mallows, "Gillett has a wonderful style--a wonderful
style, really!"

The men in the enclosure wandered about here and there on the grass,
watching Gillett's riding as one watches the performance of a great
piece of art--which, indeed, was what Gillett's riding was. There were,
besides Mallows, Stedman, Dorrington and the trainer, two officials
of the Cyclists' Union, an amateur racing man named Sparks, the
track superintendent and another man. The sky grew darker, and gloom
fell about the track. The machines became invisible, and little could
be seen of the riders across the ground but the row of rhythmically
working legs and the white cap that Gillett wore. The trainer had just
told Stedman that there would be three fast laps and then his man would
come off the track.

"Well, Mr. Stedman," said Mr. Mallows, "I think we shall be all right
for Saturday."

"Rather!" answered Stedman confidently. "Gillett's going great guns,
and steady as a watch!"

The pace now suddenly increased. The tandem shot once more to the
front, the triplet hung on the rider's flank, and the group of swishing
wheels flew round the track at a "one-fifty" gait. The spectators
turned about, following the riders round the track with their eyes. And
then, swinging into the straight from the top bend, the tandem checked
suddenly and gave a little jump. Gillett crashed into it from behind,
and the triplet, failing to clear, wavered and swung, and crashed over
and along the track too. All three machines and six men were involved
in one complicated smash.

Everybody rushed across the grass, the trainer first. Then the cause
of the disaster was seen. Lying on its side on the track, with men and
bicycles piled over and against it, was one of the green painted light
iron garden-chairs that had been standing in the enclosure. The triplet
men were struggling to their feet, and though much cut and shaken,
seemed the least hurt of the lot. One of the men of the tandem was
insensible, and Gillett, who from his position had got all the worst
of it, lay senseless too, badly cut and bruised, and his left arm was
broken.

The trainer was cursing and tearing his hair. "If I knew who'd done
this," Stedman cried, "I'd _pulp_ him with that chair!"

"Oh, that betting, that betting!" wailed Mr. Mallows, hopping about
distractedly; "see what it leads people into doing! It can't have been
an accident, can it?"

"Accident? Skittles! A man doesn't put a chair on a track in the dark
and leave it there by accident. Is anybody getting away there from the
outside of the track?"

"No, there's nobody. He wouldn't wait till this; he's clear off a
minute ago and more. Here, Fielders! Shut the outer gate, and we'll see
who's about."

But there seemed to be no suspicious character. Indeed, except for the
ground-man, his boy, Gillett's trainer, and a racing man, who had just
finished dressing in the pavilion, there seemed to be nobody about
beyond those whom everybody had seen standing in the enclosure. But
there had been ample time for anybody, standing unnoticed at the outer
rails, to get across the track in the dark, just after the riders had
passed, place the obstruction, and escape before the completion of the
lap.

The damaged men were helped or carried into the pavilion, and the
damaged machines were dragged after them. "I will give fifty pounds
gladly--more, a hundred," said Mr. Mallows, excitedly, "to anybody who
will find out who put that chair on the track. It might have ended in
murder. Some wretched bookmaker, I suppose, who has taken too many bets
on Gillett. As I've said a thousand times, betting is the curse of all
sport nowadays."

"The governor excites himself a great deal about betting and
bookmakers," Stedman said to Dorrington, as they walked toward the
pavilion, "but, between you and me, I believe some of the 'Avalanche'
people are in this. The betting bee is always in Mallows's bonnet, but
as a matter of fact there's very little betting at all on cycle races,
and what there is is little more than a matter of half-crowns or at
most half-sovereigns on the day of the race. No bookmaker ever makes a
heavy book first. Still there _may_ be something in it this time, of
course. But look at the 'Avalanche' people. With Gillett away their
man can certainly win on Saturday, and if only the weather keeps fair
he can almost as certainly beat the record; just at present the fifty
miles is fairly easy, and it's bound to go soon. Indeed, our intention
was that Gillett should pull it down on Saturday. He was a safe winner,
bar accidents, and it was good odds on his altering the record, if
the weather were any good at all. With Gillett out of it Lant is just
about as certain a winner as our man would be if all were well. And
there would be a boom for the 'Avalanche' company, on the very eve
of the share subscription! Lant, you must know, was very second-rate
till this season, but he has improved wonderfully in the last month or
two, since he has been with the 'Avalanche' people. Let him win, and
they can point to the machine as responsible for it all. 'Here,' they
will say in effect, 'is a man who could rarely get in front, even in
second-class company, till he rode an 'Avalanche.' Now he beats the
world's record for fifty miles on it, and makes rings round the topmost
professionals!' Why, it will be worth thousands of capital to them. Of
course the subscription of capital won't hurt us, but the loss of the
record may, and to have Gillett knocked out like this in the middle of
the season is serious."

"Yes, I suppose with you it is more than a matter of this one race."

"Of course. And so it will be with the 'Avalanche' company. Don't you
see, with Gillett probably useless for the rest of the season, Lant
will have it all his own way at anything over ten miles. That'll help
to boom up the shares and there'll be big profit made on trading in
them. Oh, I tell you this thing seems pretty suspicious to me."

"Look here," said Dorrington, "can you borrow a light for me, and let
me run over with it to the spot where the smash took place? The people
have cleared into the pavilion, and I could go alone."

"Certainly. Will you have a try for the governor's hundred?"

"Well, perhaps. But anyway there's no harm in doing you a good turn if
I can, while I'm here. Some day perhaps you'll do me one."

"Right you are--I'll ask Fielders, the ground-man."

A lantern was brought, and Dorrington betook himself to the spot where
the iron chair still lay, while Stedman joined the rest of the crowd in
the pavilion.

Dorrington minutely examined the grass within two yards of the place
where the chair lay, and then, crossing the track and getting over the
rails, did the same with the damp gravel that paved the outer ring.
The track itself was of cement, and unimpressionable by footmarks, but
nevertheless he scrutinised that with equal care, as well as the rails.
Then he turned his attention to the chair. It was, as I have said, a
light chair made of flat iron strip, bent to shape and riveted. It had
seen good service, and its present coat of green paint was evidently
far from being its original one. Also it was rusty in places, and
parts had been repaired and strengthened with cross-pieces secured by
bolts and square nuts, some rusty and loose. It was from one of these
square nuts, holding a cross-piece that stayed the back at the top,
that Dorrington secured some object--it might have been a hair--which
he carefully transferred to his pocket-book. This done, with one more
glance round, he betook himself to the pavilion.

A surgeon had arrived, and he reported well of the chief patient. It
was a simple fracture, and a healthy subject. When Dorrington entered,
preparations were beginning for setting the limb. There was a sofa in
the pavilion, and the surgeon saw no reason for removing the patient
till all was made secure.

"Found anything?" asked Stedman in a low tone of Dorrington.

Dorrington shook his head. "Not much," he answered at a whisper. "I'll
think over it later."

Dorrington asked one of the Cyclists' Union officials for the loan of a
pencil, and, having made a note with it, immediately, in another part
of the room, asked Sparks, the amateur, to lend him another.

Stedman had told Mr. Mallows of Dorrington's late employment with the
lantern, and the managing director now said quietly, "You remember what
I said about rewarding anybody who discovered the perpetrator of this
outrage, Mr. Dorrington? Well, I was excited at the time, but I quite
hold to it. It is a shameful thing. You have been looking about the
grounds, I hear. I hope you have come across something that will enable
you to find something out. Nothing will please me more than to have to
pay you, I'm sure."

"Well," Dorrington confessed, "I'm afraid I haven't seen anything very
big in the way of a clue, Mr. Mallows; but I'll think a bit. The worst
of it is, you never know who these betting men are, do you, once they
get away? There are so many, and it may be anybody. Not only that, but
they may bribe anybody."

"Yes, of course--there's no end to their wickedness, I'm afraid.
Stedman suggests that trade rivalry may have had something to do with
it. But that seems an uncharitable view, don't you think? Of course
we stand very high, and there are jealousies and all that, but this
is a thing I'm sure no firm would think of stooping to, for a moment.
No, it's betting that is at the bottom of this, I fear. And I hope,
Mr. Dorrington, that you will make some attempt to find the guilty
parties."

Presently Stedman spoke to Dorrington again. "Here's something that may
help you," he said. "To begin with, it must have been done by some one
from the outside of the track."

"Why?"

"Well, at least every probability's that way. Everybody inside was
directly interested in Gillett's success, excepting the Union officials
and Sparks, who's a gentleman and quite above suspicion, as much so,
indeed, as the Union officials. Of course there was the ground-man, but
he's all right, I'm sure."

"And the trainer?"

"Oh, that's altogether improbable--altogether. I was going to say----"

"And there's that other man who was standing about; I haven't heard who
he was."

"Right you are. I don't know him either. Where is he now?"

But the man had gone.

"Look here, I'll make some quiet inquiries about that man," Stedman
pursued. "I forgot all about him in the excitement of the moment. I was
going to say that although whoever did it could easily have got away by
the gate before the smash came, he might not have liked to go that way
in case of observation in passing the pavilion. In that case he could
have got away (and indeed he could have got into the grounds to begin
with) by way of one of those garden walls that bound the ground just by
where the smash occurred. If that were so he must either live in one of
the houses, or he must know somebody that does. Perhaps you might put
a man to smell about along that road--it's only a short one; Chisnall
Road's the name."

"Yes, yes," Dorrington responded patiently. "There might be something
in that."

By this time Gillett's arm was in a starched bandage and secured by
splints, and a cab was ready to take him home. Mr. Mallows took Stedman
away with him, expressing a desire to talk business, and Dorrington
went home by himself. He did not turn down Chisnall Road. But he
walked jauntily along toward the nearest cab-stand, and once or twice
he chuckled, for he saw his way to a delightfully lucrative financial
operation in cycle companies, without risk of capital.

The cab gained, he called at the lodgings of two of his men assistants
and gave them instant instructions. Then he packed a small bag at his
rooms in Conduit Street, and at midnight was in the late fast train for
Birmingham.


III

The prospectus of the "Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company" stated
that the works were at Exeter and Birmingham. Exeter is a delightful
old town, but it can scarcely be regarded as the centre of the cycle
trade; neither is it in especially easy and short communication with
Birmingham. It was the sort of thing that any critic anxious to pick
holes in the prospectus might wonder at, and so one of Dorrington's
assistants had gone by the night mail to inspect the works. It was from
this man that Dorrington, in Birmingham, about noon on the day after
Gillett's disaster, received this telegram--

    _Works here old disused cloth-mills just out of town. Closed and
    empty but with big new signboard and notice that works now running
    are at Birmingham. Agent says only deposit paid--tenancy agreement
    not signed.--Farrish._

The telegram increased Dorrington's satisfaction, for he had just
taken a look at the Birmingham works. They were not empty, though
nearly so, nor were they large; and a man there had told him that the
chief premises, where most of the work was done, were at Exeter. And
the hollower the business the better prize he saw in store for himself.
He had already, early in the morning, indulged in a telegram on his own
account, though he had not signed it. This was how it ran--

  _Mallows, 58, Upper Sandown Place,
  London, W._

    _Fear all not safe here. Run down by 10.10 train without fail._

Thus it happened that at a little later than half-past eight
Dorrington's other assistant, watching the door of No. 58, Upper
Sandown Place, saw a telegram delivered, and immediately afterward
Mr. Paul Mallows in much haste dashed away in a cab which was called
from the end of the street. The assistant followed in another. Mr.
Mallows dismissed his cab at a theatrical wig-maker's in Bow Street
and entered. When he emerged in little more than forty minutes' time,
none but a practised watcher, who had guessed the reason of the visit,
would have recognised him. He had not assumed the clumsy disguise of a
false beard. He was "made up" deftly. His colour was heightened, and
his face seemed thinner. There was no heavy accession of false hair,
but a slight crêpe-hair whisker at each side made a better and less
pronounced disguise. He seemed a younger, healthier man. The watcher
saw him safely off to Birmingham by the ten minutes past ten train,
and then gave Dorrington note by telegraph of the guise in which Mr.
Mallows was travelling.

Now this train was timed to arrive at Birmingham at one, which was
the reason that Dorrington had named it in the anonymous telegram.
The entrance to the "Avalanche" works was by a large gate, which was
closed, but which was provided with a small door to pass a man. Within
was a yard, and at a little before one o'clock Dorrington pushed open
the small door, peeped, and entered. Nobody was about in the yard, and
what little noise could be heard came from a particular part of the
building on the right. A pile of solid "export" crates stood to the
left, and these Dorrington had noted at his previous call that morning
as making a suitable hiding-place for temporary use. Now he slipped
behind them and awaited the stroke of one. Prompt at the hour a door on
the opposite side of the yard swung open, and two men and a boy emerged
and climbed one after another through the little door in the big gate.
Then presently another man, not a workman, but apparently a sort of
overseer, came from the opposite door, which he carelessly let fall-to
behind him, and he also disappeared through the little door, which he
then locked. Dorrington was now alone in the sole active works of the
"Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company, Limited."

He tried the door opposite and found it was free to open. Within he saw
in a dark corner a candle which had been left burning, and opposite him
a large iron enamelling oven, like an immense safe, and round about, on
benches, were strewn heaps of the glaring red and gold transfer which
Dorrington had observed the day before on the machines exhibited in the
Holborn Viaduct window. Some of the frames had the label newly applied,
and others were still plain. It would seem that the chief business of
the "Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company, Limited," was the attaching
of labels to previously nondescript machines. But there was little time
to examine further, and indeed Dorrington presently heard the noise of
a key in the outer gate. So he stood and waited by the enamelling oven
to welcome Mr. Mallows.

As the door was pushed open Dorrington advanced and bowed politely.
Mallows started guiltily, but, remembering his disguise, steadied
himself, and asked gruffly, "Well, sir, and who are you?"

"I," answered Dorrington with perfect composure, "I am Mr.
Paul Mallows--you may have heard of me in connection with the
'Indestructible Bicycle Company.'"

Mallows was altogether taken aback. But then it struck him that perhaps
the detective, anxious to win the reward he had offered in the matter
of the Gillett outrage, was here making inquiries in the assumed
character of the man who stood, impenetrably disguised, before him. So
after a pause he asked again, a little less gruffly, "And what may be
your business?"

"Well," said Dorrington, "I did think of taking shares in this company.
I suppose there would be no objection to the managing director of
another company taking shares in this?"

"No," answered Mallows, wondering what all this was to lead to.

"Of course not; I'm sure _you_ don't think so, eh?" Dorrington, as
he spoke, looked in the other's face with a sly leer, and Mallows
began to feel altogether uncomfortable. "But there's one other
thing," Dorrington pursued, taking out his pocket-book, though still
maintaining his leer in Mallows's face--"one other thing. And by the
way, _will_ you have another piece of court plaster now I've got
it out? Don't say no. It's a pleasure to oblige you, really." And
Dorrington, his leer growing positively fiendish, tapped the side of
his nose with the case of court plaster.

[Illustration: "TAPPED THE SIDE OF HIS NOSE WITH THE CASE."]

Mallows paled under the paint, gasped, and felt for support. Dorrington
laughed pleasantly. "Come, come," he said, "don't be frightened. I
admire your cleverness, Mr. Mallows, and I shall arrange everything
pleasantly, as you will see. And as to the court plaster, if you'd
rather not have it you needn't. You have another piece on now, I see.
Why didn't you get them to paint it over at Clarkson's? They really did
the face very well, though! And there again you were quite right.
Such a man as yourself was likely to be recognised in such a place as
Birmingham, and that would have been unfortunate for both of us--_both_
of us, I assure you.... Man alive, don't look as though I was going to
cut your throat! I'm not, I assure you. You're a smart man of business,
and I happen to have spotted a little operation of yours, that's all.
I shall arrange easy terms for you.... Pull yourself together and talk
business before the men come back. Here, sit on this bench."

Mallows, staring amazedly in Dorrington's face, suffered himself to be
led to a bench, and sat on it.

"Now," said Dorrington, "the first thing is a little matter of a
hundred pounds. That was the reward you promised if I should discover
who broke Gillett's arm last night. Well, I _have_. Do you happen to
have any notes with you? If not, make it a cheque."

"But--but--how--I mean who--who----"

"Tut, tut! Don't waste time, Mr. Mallows. _Who?_ Why, yourself, of
course. I knew all about it before I left you last night, though it
wasn't quite convenient to claim the reward then, for reasons you'll
understand presently. Come, that little hundred!"

"But what--what proof have you? I'm not to be bounced like this, you
know." Mr. Mallows was gathering his faculties again.

"Proof? Why, man alive, be reasonable! Suppose I have none--none at
all? What difference does that make? Am I to walk out and tell your
fellow directors where I have met you--here--or am I to have that
hundred? More, am I to publish abroad that Mr. Paul Mallows is the
moving spirit in the rotten 'Avalanche Bicycle Company'?"

"Well," Mallows answered reluctantly, "if you put it like that----"

"But I only put it like that to make you see things reasonably. As a
matter of fact your connection with this new company is enough to bring
your little performance with the iron chair pretty near proof. But I
got at it from the other side. See here--you're much too clumsy with
your fingers, Mr. Mallows. First you go and tear the tip of your middle
finger opening your brougham door, and have to get court plaster from
me. Then you let that court plaster get frayed at the edge, and you
still keep it on. After that you execute your very successful chair
operation. When the eyes of the others are following the bicycles you
take the chair in the hand with the plaster on it, catching hold of it
at the place where a rough, loose, square nut protrudes, and you pitch
it on to the track so clumsily and nervously that the nut carries away
the frayed thread of the court plaster with it. Here it is, you see,
still in my pocket-book, where I put it last night by the light of the
lantern; just a sticky black silk thread, that's all. I've only brought
it to show you I'm playing a fair game with you. Of course I might
easily have got a witness before I took the thread off the nut, if I
had thought you were likely to fight the matter. But I knew you were
not. You can't fight, you know, with this bogus company business known
to me. So that I am only showing you this thread as an act of grace,
to prove that I have stumped you with perfect fairness. And now the
hundred. Here's a fountain pen, if you want one."

"Well," said Mallows glumly, "I suppose I must, then." He took the
pen and wrote the cheque. Dorrington blotted it on the pad of his
pocket-book and folded it away.

"So much for that!" he said. "That's just a little preliminary, you
understand. We've done these little things just as a guarantee of good
faith--not necessarily for publication, though you must remember that
as yet there's nothing to prevent it. I've done you a turn by finding
out who upset those bicycles, as you so ardently wished me to do last
night, and you've loyally fulfilled your part of the contract by paying
the promised reward--though I must say that you haven't paid with all
the delight and pleasure you spoke of at the time. But I'll forgive you
that, and now that the little _hors d'oeuvre_ is disposed of, we'll
proceed to serious business."

Mallows looked uncomfortably glum.

"But you mustn't look so ashamed of yourself, you know," Dorrington
said, purposely misinterpreting his glumness. "It's all business.
You were disposed for a little side flutter, so to speak--a little
speculation outside your regular business. Well, you mustn't be ashamed
of that."

"No," Mallows observed, assuming something of his ordinarily ponderous
manner; "no, of course not. It's a little speculative deal. Everybody
does it, and there's a deal of money going."

"Precisely. And since everybody does it, and there is so much money
going, you are only making your share."

"Of course." Mr. Mallows was almost pompous by now.

"_Of_ course." Dorrington coughed slightly. "Well now, do you know,
I am exactly the same sort of man as yourself--if you don't mind the
comparison. _I_ am disposed for a little side flutter, so to speak--a
little speculation outside my regular business. I also am not ashamed
of it. And since everybody does it, and there is so much money
going--why, _I_ am thinking of making _my_ share. So we are evidently a
pair, and naturally intended for each other!"

Mr. Paul Mallows here looked a little doubtful.

"See here, now," Dorrington proceeded. "I have lately taken it into
my head to operate a little on the cycle share market. That was why I
came round myself about that little spoke affair, instead of sending an
assistant. I wanted to know somebody who understood the cycle trade,
from whom I might get tips. You see I'm perfectly frank with you. Well,
I have succeeded uncommonly well. And I want you to understand that
I have gone every step of the way by fair work. I took nothing for
granted, and I played the game fairly. When you asked me (as you had
anxious reason to ask) if I had found anything, I told you there was
nothing very big--and see what a little thing the thread was! Before I
came away from the pavilion I made sure that you were really the only
man there with black court plaster on his fingers. I had noticed the
hands of every man but two, and I made an excuse of borrowing something
to see those. I saw your thin pretence of suspecting the betting men,
and I played up to it. I have had a telegraphic report on your Exeter
works this morning--a deserted cloth mills with nothing on it of yours
but a signboard, and only a deposit of rent paid. _There_ they referred
to the works here. _Here_ they referred to the works there. It was very
clever, really! Also I have had a telegraphic report of your make-up
adventure this morning. Clarkson does it marvellously, doesn't he? And,
by the way, that telegram bringing you down to Birmingham was not from
your confederate here, as perhaps you fancied. It was from me. Thanks
for coming so promptly. I managed to get a quiet look round here just
before you arrived, and on the whole the conclusion I come to as to
the 'Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company, Limited,' is this: A clever
man, whom it gives me great pleasure to know," with a bow to Mallows,
"conceives the notion of offering the public the very rottenest cycle
company ever planned, and all without appearing in it himself. He finds
what little capital is required; his two or three confederates help to
make up a board of directors, with one or two titled guinea-pigs, who
know nothing of the company and care nothing, and the rest's easy. A
professional racing man is employed to win races and make records, on
machines which have been specially made by another firm (perhaps it was
the 'Indestructible,' who knows?) to a private order, and afterwards
decorated with the name and style of the bogus company on a transfer.
For ordinary sale, bicycles of the 'trade' description are bought--so
much a hundred from the factors, and put your own name on 'em. They
come cheap, and they sell at a good price--the profit pays all expenses
and perhaps a bit over; and by the time they all break down the company
will be successfully floated, the money--the capital--will be divided,
the moving spirit and his confederates will have disappeared, and the
guinea-pigs will be left to stand the racket--if there is a racket. And
the moving spirit will remain unsuspected, a man of account in the
trade all the time! Admirable! All the work to be done at the 'works'
is the sticking on of labels and a bit of enamelling. Excellent, all
round! Isn't that about the size of your operations?"

"Well, yes," Mallows answered, a little reluctantly, but with something
of modest pride in his manner, "that was the notion, since you speak so
plainly."

"And it shall be the notion. All--everything--shall be as you have
planned it, with one exception, which is this. The moving spirit shall
divide his plunder with me."

"_You?_ But--but--why, I gave you a hundred just now!"

"Dear, dear! Why will you harp so much on that vulgar little hundred?
That's settled and done with. That's our little personal bargain in the
matter of the lamentable accident with the chair. We are now talking
of bigger business--not hundreds, but thousands, and not one of them,
but a lot. Come now, a mind like yours should be wide enough to admit
of a broad and large view of things. If I refrain from exposing this
charming scheme of yours I shall be promoting a piece of scandalous
robbery. Very well then, I want my promotion money, in the regular
way. Can I shut my eyes and allow a piece of iniquity like this to go
on unchecked, without getting anything by way of damages for myself?
Perish the thought! When all expenses are paid, and the confederates
are sent off with as little as they will take, you and I will divide
fairly, Mr. Mallows, respectable brothers in rascality. Mind, I might
say we'd divide to begin with, and leave you to pay expenses, but I am
always fair to a partner in anything of this sort. I shall just want a
little guarantee, you know--it's safest in such matters as these; say
a bill at six months for ten thousand pounds--which is very low. When
a satisfactory division is made you shall have the bill back. Come--I
have a bill-stamp ready, being so much convinced of your reasonableness
as to buy it this morning, though it cost five pounds."

"But that's nonsense--you're trying to impose. I'll give you anything
reasonable--half is out of the question. What, after all the trouble
and worry and risk that I've had----"

"Which would suffice for no more than to put you in gaol if I held up
my finger!"

"But hang it, be reasonable! You're a mighty clever man, and you've
got me on the hip, as I admit. Say ten per cent."

"You're wasting time, and presently the men will be back. Your choice
is between making half, or making none, and going to gaol into the
bargain. Choose!"

"But just consider----"

"Choose!"

Mallows looked despairingly about him. "But really," he said, "I want
the money more than you think. I----"

"For the last time--choose!"

Mallows's despairing gaze stopped at the enamelling oven. "Well, well,"
he said, "if I must, I must, I suppose. But I warn you, you may regret
it."

"Oh dear no, I'm not so pessimistic. Come, you wrote a cheque--now I'll
write the bill. 'Six months after date, pay to me or my order the sum
of ten thousand pounds for value received'--excellent value too, _I_
think. There you are!"

When the bill was written and signed, Mallows scribbled his acceptance
with more readiness than might have been expected. Then he rose, and
said with something of brisk cheerfulness in his tone, "Well, that's
done, and the least said the soonest mended. You've won it, and I
won't grumble any more. I think I've done this thing pretty neatly, eh?
Come and see the 'works.'"

Every other part of the place was empty of machinery. There were a good
many finished frames and wheels, bought separately, and now in course
of being fitted together for sale; and there were many more complete
bicycles of cheap but showy make to which nothing needed to be done but
to fix the red and gold "transfer" of the "Avalanche" company. Then
Mallows opened the tall iron door of the enamelling oven.

"See this," he said; "this is the enamelling oven. Get in and look
round. The frames and other different parts hang on the racks after the
enamel is laid on, and all those gas jets are lighted to harden it by
heat. Do you see that deeper part there by the back?--go closer."

Dorrington felt a push at his back and the door was swung to with a
bang, and the latch dropped. He was in the dark, trapped in a great
iron chamber. "I warned you," shouted Mallows from without; "I warned
you you might regret it!" And instantly Dorrington's nostrils were
filled with the smell of escaping gas. He realised his peril on the
instant. Mallows had given him the bill with the idea of silencing
him by murder and recovering it. He had pushed him into the oven
and had turned on the gas. It was dark, but to light a match would
mean death instantly, and without the match it must be death by
suffocation and poison of gas in a very few minutes. To appeal to
Mallows was useless--Dorrington knew too much. It would seem that at
last a horribly-fitting retribution had overtaken Dorrington in death
by a mode parallel to that which he and his creatures had prepared
for others. Dorrington's victims had drowned in water--or at least
Crofton's had, for I never ascertained definitely whether anybody had
met his death by the tank after the Croftons had taken service with
Dorrington--and now Dorrington himself was to drown in gas. The oven
was of sheet iron, fastened by a latch in the centre. Dorrington flung
himself desperately against the door, and it gave outwardly at the
extreme bottom. He snatched a loose angle-iron with which his hand
came in contact, dashed against the door once more, and thrust the
iron through where it strained open. Then, with another tremendous
plunge, he drove the door a little more outward and raised the
angle-iron in the crack; then once more, and raised it again. He was
near to losing his senses, when, with one more plunge, the catch of the
latch, not designed for such treatment, suddenly gave way, the door
flew open, and Dorrington, blue in the face, staring, stumbling and
gasping, came staggering out into the fresher air, followed by a gush
of gas.

[Illustration: "HAULED THE STRUGGLING WRETCH ACROSS THE ROOM."]

Mallows had retreated to the rooms behind, and thither Dorrington
followed him, gaining vigour and fury at every step. At sight of him
the wretched Mallows sank in a corner, sighing and shivering with
terror. Dorrington reached him and clutched him by the collar. There
should be no more honour between these two thieves now. He would drag
Mallows forth and proclaim him aloud; and he would keep that £10,000
bill. He hauled the struggling wretch across the room, tearing off
the crêpe whiskers as he came, while Mallows supplicated and whined,
fearing that it might be the other's design to imprison _him_ in the
enamelling oven. But at the door of the room against that containing
the oven their progress came to an end, for the escaped gas had
reached the lighted candle, and with one loud report the partition wall
fell in, half burying Mallows where he lay, and knocking Dorrington
over.

Windows fell out of the building, and men broke through the front
gate, climbed into the ruined rooms and stopped the still escaping
gas. When the two men and the boy returned, with the conspirator who
had been in charge of the works, they found a crowd from the hardware
and cycle factories thereabout, surveying with great interest the
spectacle of the extrication of Mr. Paul Mallows, managing director of
the "Indestructible Bicycle Company," from the broken bricks, mortar,
bicycles and transfers of the "Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company,
Limited," and the preparations for carrying him to a surgeon's where
his broken leg might be set. As for Dorrington, a crushed hat and a
torn coat were all his hurts, beyond a few scratches. And in a couple
of hours it was all over Birmingham, and spreading to other places,
that the business of the "Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company" consisted
of sticking brilliant labels on factors' bicycles, bought in batches;
for the whole thing was thrown open to the general gaze by the
explosion. So that when, next day, Lant won the fifty miles race in
London, he was greeted with ironical shouts of "Gum on yer transfer!"
"Hi! mind yer label!" "Where did you steal that bicycle?" "Sold yer
shares?" and so forth.

Somehow the "Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company, Limited," never went
to allotment. It was said that a few people in remote and benighted
spots, where news never came till it was in the history books, had
applied for shares, but the bankers returned their money, doubtless
to their extreme disappointment. It was found politic, also, that Mr.
Paul Mallows should retire from the directorate of the "Indestructible
Bicycle Company"--a concern which is still, I believe, flourishing
exceedingly.

As for Dorrington, he had his hundred pounds reward. But the bill for
£10,000 he never presented. Why, I do not altogether know, unless he
found that Mr. Mallows's financial position, as he had hinted, was not
altogether so good as was supposed. At any rate, it was found among the
notes and telegrams in this case in the Dorrington deed-box.



_THE CASE OF MR. LOFTUS DEACON_



V

The Case of Mr. Loftus Deacon


I

This was a case that helped to give Dorrington much of that reputation
which unfortunately too often enabled him to profit himself far beyond
the extent to which his clients intended. It occurred some few years
back, and there was such a stir at the time over the mysterious death
of Mr. Loftus Deacon that it well paid Dorrington to use his utmost
diligence in an honest effort to uncover the mystery. It gave him
one of his best advertisements, though indeed it occasioned him less
trouble in the unravelling than many a less interesting case. There
were scarcely any memoranda of the affair among Dorrington's papers,
beyond entries of fees paid, and I have almost entirely relied upon
the account given me by Mr. Stone, manager in the employ of the firm
owning the premises in which Mr. Deacon died.

These premises consisted of a large building let out in expensive
flats, one of the first places built with that design in the West-End
of London. The building was one of three, all belonging to the firm I
have mentioned, and numbered 1, 2 and 3, Bedford Mansions. They stood
in the St. James's district, and Mr. Loftus Deacon's quarters were in
No. 2.

Mr. Deacon's magnificent collection of oriental porcelain will be
remembered as long as any in the national depositories; much of it was
for a long while lent, and, by Mr. Deacon's will, passed permanently
into possession of the nation. His collection of oriental arms,
however, was broken up and sold, as were also his other innumerable
objects of Eastern art--lacquers, carvings, and so forth. He was a
wealthy man, this Mr. Deacon, a bachelor of sixty, and his whole life
was given to his collections. He was currently reported to spend some
£15,000 a year on them, and, in addition, would make inroads into
capital for special purchases at the great sales. People wondered
where all the things were kept. And indeed they had reason, for
Mr. Deacon's personal establishment was but a suite of rooms on the
ground floor of Bedford Mansions. But the bulk of the collections were
housed at various museums--indeed it was a matter of banter among his
acquaintances that Mr. Loftus Deacon made the taxpayers warehouse most
of his things; moreover, the flat was a large one--it occupied almost
the whole of the ground-floor of the building, and it overflowed with
the choicest of its tenant's possessions. There were eight large and
lofty rooms, as well as the lobby, scullery and so forth, and every
one was full. The walls were hung with the most precious _kakemono_
and _nishikiyé_ of Japan; and glass cabinets stood everywhere, packed
with porcelain and faience--celadon, peach-bloom, and blue and white,
Satsuma, Raku, Ninsei, and Arita--many a small piece worth its weight
in gold over and over and over again. At places on the wall, among
the _kakemono_ and pictures of the _ukioyé_, were trophies of arms.
Two suits of ancient Japanese armour, each complete and each the
production of one of the most eminent of the Miochin family, were
exhibited on stands, and swords stood in many corners and lay in
many racks. Innumerable drawers contained specimens of the greatest
lacquer ware of Korin, Shunshō, Kajikawa, Koyetsu, and Ritsuo, each
in its wadded brocade _fukusa_ with the light wooden box encasing
all. In more glass cabinets stood _netsuké_ and _okimono_ of ivory,
bronze, wood, and lacquer. There were a few gods and goddesses, and
conspicuous among them two life-sized gilt Buddhas beamed mildly over
all from the shelves on which they were raised. By the operation of
natural selection it came about that the choicest of all Mr. Deacon's
possessions were collected in these rooms. Here were none of the great
cumbersome pots, good in their way, but made of old time merely for the
European market. Of all that was Japanese every piece was of the best
and rarest, consequently, in almost every case, of small dimensions, as
is the way of the greatest of the wares of old Japan. And of all the
precious contents of these rooms everything was oriental in its origin
except the contents of one case, which displayed specimens of the most
magnificent goldsmiths' and silver-smiths' work of mediæval Europe. It
stood in the room which Mr. Loftus Deacon used as his sitting-room, and
more than one of his visitors had wondered that such valuable property
was not kept at a banker's. This view, however, always surprised and
irritated Mr. Deacon. "Keep it at a banker's?" he would say. "Why not
melt it down at once? The things are works of art, things of beauty,
and that's why I have them, not merely because they're gold and silver.
To shut them up in a strong-room would be the next thing to destroying
them altogether. Why not lock the whole of my collections in safes, and
never look at them? They are all valuable. But if they are not to be
seen I would rather have the money they cost." So the gold and silver
stood in its case, to the blinking wonderment of messengers and porters
whose errands took them into Mr. Loftus Deacon's sitting-room. The
contents of this case were the only occasion, however, of Mr. Deacon's
straying from oriental paths in building up his collection. There they
stood, but he made no attempt to add to them. He went about his daily
hunting, bargaining, cataloguing, cleaning, and exhibiting to friends,
but all his new treasures were from the East, and most were Japanese.
His chief visitors were travelling buyers of curiosities; little
Japanese who had come to England to study medicine and were paying
their terms by the sale of heirlooms in pottery and lacquer; porters
from Christie's and Foster's; and sometimes men from Copleston's--the
odd emporium by the riverside where lions and monkeys, porcelain and
savage weapons were bought and sold close by the ships that brought
them home. The travellers were suspicious and cunning; the Japanese
were bright, polite, and dignified, and the men from Copleston's were
wiry, hairy and amphibious; one was an enormously muscular little
hunchback nicknamed Slackjaw--a quaint and rather repulsive compound of
showman, sailor and half-caste rough; and all were like mermen, more
or less. These curious people came and went, and Mr. Deacon went on
buying, cataloguing, and joying in his possessions. It was the happiest
possible life for a lonely old man with his tastes and his means of
gratifying them, and it went placidly on till one Wednesday mid-day.
Then Mr. Deacon was found dead in his rooms in most extraordinary and,
it seemed, altogether unaccountable circumstances.

There was but one door leading into Mr. Deacon's rooms from the open
corridor of the building, and this was immediately opposite the large
street door. When one entered from the street one ascended three or
four broad marble steps, pushed open one of a pair of glazed swing
doors and found oneself facing the door by which Mr. Deacon entered
and left his quarters. There had originally been other doors into
the corridor from some of the rooms, but those Mr. Deacon had had
blocked up, so making the flat entirely self-contained. Just by the
glazed swing doors which I have spoken of, and in full view of the
old gentleman's door, the hall-porter's box stood. It was glazed on
all sides, and the porter sat so that Mr. Deacon's door was always
before his eyes, and, so long as he was there, it was very unlikely
that anybody or anything could leave or enter by that door unobserved
by him. It is important to remember this, in view of what happened on
the occasion I am writing of. There was one other exterior door to Mr.
Deacon's flat, and one only. It gave upon the back spiral staircase,
and was usually kept locked. This staircase had no outlet to the
corridors, but merely extended from the housekeeper's rooms at the top
of the building to the basement. It was little used, and then only by
servants, for it gave access only to the rooms on its own side. There
was no way from this staircase to the outer street except through the
private rooms of the tenants, or through those of the housekeeper.

That Wednesday morning things had happened precisely in the ordinary
way. Mr. Deacon had risen and breakfasted as usual. He was alone, with
his newspaper and his morning letters, when his breakfast was taken
in and when it was removed. He had remained in his rooms till between
twelve and one o'clock. Goods had arrived for him (this was an almost
daily occurrence), and one or two ordinary visitors had called and
gone away again. It was Mr. Deacon's habit to lunch at his club, and
at about a quarter to one, or thereabout, he had come out, locked his
door, and leaving his usual message that he should be at the club for
an hour or two, in case anybody called, he had left the building. At
about one, however, he had returned hurriedly, having forgotten some
letters. "I didn't give you any letters for the post, did I, Beard,
before I went out?" he asked the porter. And the porter replied that he
had not. Mr. Deacon thereupon croosed the corridor, entered his door,
and shut it behind him.

He had been gone but a few seconds, when there arose an outcry from
within the rooms--a shout followed in a breath by a loud cry of pain,
and then silence. Beard, the porter, ran to the door and knocked, but
there was no reply. "Did you call, sir?" he shouted, and knocked again,
but still without response. The door was shut, and it had a latch lock
with no exterior handle. Beard, who had had an uncle die of apoplexy,
was now thoroughly alarmed, and shouted up the speaking-tube for the
housekeeper's keys. In course of a few minutes they were brought, and
Beard and the housekeeper entered.

The lobby was as usual, and the sitting-room was in perfect order. But
in the room beyond Mr. Loftus Deacon lay in a pool of blood, with two
large and fearful gashes in his head. Not a soul was in any of the
rooms, though the two men, first shutting the outer door, searched
diligently. All windows and doors were shut, and the rooms were
tenantless and undisturbed, except that on the floor lay Mr. Deacon
in his blood at the foot of a pedestal whereupon there squatted, with
serenely fierce grin, the god Hachiman, gilt and painted, carrying in
one of his four hands a snake, in another a mace, in a third a small
human figure, and in the fourth a heavy, straight, guardless sword; and
all around furniture, cabinets, porcelain, lacquer and everything else
lay undisturbed.

At first sight of the tragedy the porter had sent the lift-man for
the police, and soon they arrived, and a surgeon with them. For the
surgeon there was very little to do. Mr. Deacon was dead. Either of the
two frightful gashes in the head would have been fatal, and they had
obviously both been delivered with the same instrument--something heavy
and exceedingly sharp.

The police now set themselves to close investigation. The porter was
certain that nobody had entered the rooms that morning who had not
afterwards left. He was sure that nobody had entered unobserved, and
he was sure that Mr. Deacon had re-entered his chambers unaccompanied.
Working, therefore, on the assumption that the murderer could not
have entered by the front door, the police turned their attention
to the back door and the windows. The door to the back staircase
was locked, and the key was in the lock and inside. Therefore they
considered the windows. There were but three of these that looked upon
the street, two in one room and one in another, but these were shut
and fastened within. Other rooms were lighted by windows looking upon
lighting-wells, some being supplied with reflectors. All these windows
were found to be quite undisturbed, and fastened within, except one.
This window was in the bedroom, and, though it was shut, the catch was
not fastened. The porter declared that it was Mr. Deacon's practice
invariably to fasten every shut window, a thing he was always very
careful about. Moreover, the window now found unfastened and shut was
always left open a foot or so all day, to air the bedroom. More, a
housemaid was brought who had that morning made the bed and dusted the
room. The window was opened, she said, when she had entered the room,
and she had left it so, as she always did. Therefore, shut as it was,
but not fastened, it seemed plain that this window must have given exit
to the murderer, since no other way appeared possible. Also, to shut
the window behind him would be the fugitive's natural policy. The lower
panes were of ground glass, and at least pursuit would be delayed.

The window looked upon a lighting-well, and the concreted floor of
the basement was but fifteen or twenty feet below. Careful inquiries
disclosed the fact that a man had been at work painting the joinery
about this well-bottom. He was a man of very indifferent character--had
in fact "done time"--and he was employed for odd jobs by way of
charity, being some sort of connection of a member of the firm owning
the buildings. He had, indeed, received a good education, fitted to
place him in a very different position from that in which he now found
himself, but he was a black sheep. He drank, he gambled, and finally
he stole. His relatives helped him again and again, but their efforts
were useless, and now he was indebted to one of them for his present
occupation at a pound a week. The police, of course, knew something of
him, and postponed questioning him directly until they had investigated
a little further. It might be that Mr. Deacon's death was the work of a
conspiracy wherein more than one had participated.


II

The next morning (Thursday) Mr. Henry Colson was an early caller at
Dorrington's office. Mr. Colson was a thin, grizzled man of sixty or
thereabout, who had been a close friend--the only intimate friend,
indeed--of Mr. Loftus Deacon. He was a widower, and he lived in rooms
scarce two hundred yards distant from Bedford Mansions, where his
friend had died.

"My business, Mr. Dorrington," he said, "is in connection with the
terrible death of my old friend Mr. Loftus Deacon, of which you no
doubt have heard or read in the morning papers."

"Yes," Dorrington assented, "both in this morning's papers and the
evening papers of yesterday."

"Very good. I may tell you that I am sole executor under Mr. Deacon's
will. The will indeed is in my possession (I am a retired solicitor),
and there happens to be a sum set apart in that will out of which I am
to defray any expenses that may arise in connection with his death.
It really seems to me that I should be quite justified in using some
part of that sum in paying for inquiries to be conducted by such
an experienced man as yourself, into the cause of my poor friend's
death. At any rate, I wish you to make such inquiries, even if I have
to pay the fees myself. I am convinced that there is something very
extraordinary--something very deep--in the tragedy. The police are
pottering about, of course, and keeping very mysterious as to the
matter, but I expect that's simply because they know nothing. They have
made no arrest, and perhaps every minute of delay is making the thing
more difficult. As executor, of course, I have access to the rooms. Can
you come and look at them now?"

"Oh yes," Dorrington answered, reaching for his hat. "I suppose there's
no doubt of the case being one of murder? Suicide is not likely, I take
it?"

"Oh no--certainly not. He was scarcely the sort of man to commit
suicide, I should say. And he was as cheerful as he could be the
afternoon before, when I last saw him. Besides, the surgeon says it's
nothing of the kind. A man committing suicide doesn't gash himself
twice over the head, or even once. And in this case the first blow
would have made him incapable of another."

"I have heard nothing about the weapon," Dorrington remarked, as they
entered a cab. "Has it been found?"

"That's a difficulty," Mr. Colson answered. "It would seem not. Of
course there are numbers of weapons about the place--Japanese swords
and what not--any one of which _might_ have caused such injuries. But
there are no bloodstains on any of them."

"Is any article of value missing?"

"I believe not. Everything seemed to be in its place, so far as I
noticed yesterday. But then I was not there long, and was too much
agitated to notice very particularly. At any rate the old gold and
silver plate had not been disturbed. He kept that in a large case in
his sitting-room, and it would certainly be the plate that the murderer
would have made for first, if robbery had been his object."

Mr. Colson gave Dorrington the other details of the case, already set
forth in this account, and presently the cab stopped before No. 2,
Bedford Mansions. The body, of course, had been removed, but otherwise
the rooms had not been disturbed. The porter let them into the chambers
by aid of the housekeeper's key.

"They don't seem to have found his keys," Mr. Colson explained, "and
that will be troublesome for me, I expect, presently. He usually
carried them with him, but they were not on the body when found."

"That may be important," Dorrington said. "But let us look at the
rooms."

They walked through the large apartments one after the other, and
Dorrington glanced casually about him as he went. Presently Mr. Colson
stopped, struck with an idea. "Ah!" he said, more to himself than to
Dorrington. "I will just see."

He turned quickly back into the room they had just quitted, and made
for the broad shelf that ran the length of the wall at about the height
of an ordinary table. "Yes!" he cried. "It is! It's gone!"

"What is gone?"

"The sword--the Masamuné!"

The whole surface of the shelf, covered with a silk cloth, was occupied
by Japanese swords and dirks with rich mountings. Most lay on their
sides in rows, but two or three were placed in the lacquered racks.
Mr. Colson stood and pointed at a rack which was standing alone and
swordless. "That is where it was," he said. "I saw it--was talking
about it, in fact--the afternoon before. No, it's nowhere about. It's
not like any of the others. Let me see." And Mr. Colson, much excited,
hurried from room to room wherever swords were kept, searching for the
missing specimen.

"No," he said at last, looking strangely startled; "It's gone. And I
think we are near the soul of the mystery." He spoke in hushed, uneasy
tones, and his eyes gave token of strange apprehension.

"What is it?" Dorrington asked. "What about this sword?"

"Come into the sitting-room." Mr. Colson led Dorrington away from the
scene of Mr. Deacon's end, away from the empty sword rack and from
under the shadow of the grinning god with its four arms, its snake,
and its threatening sword. "I don't think I'm very superstitious," Mr.
Colson proceeded, "but I really feel that I can talk more freely about
the matter in here."

They sat at the table, over against the case of plate, and Mr. Colson
went on. "The sword I speak of," he said, "was much prized by my
poor friend, who brought it with him from Japan nearly twenty years
back--not many years after the civil war there, in fact. It was a very
ancient specimen--of the fourteenth century, I think--and the work of
the famous swordsmith Masamuné. Masamuné's work is very rarely met
with, it seems, and Mr. Deacon felt himself especially fortunate
in securing this example. It is the only piece of Masamuné's work
in the collection. I may tell you that a sword by one of the great
old masters is one of the rarest of all the rarities that come from
Japan. The possessors of the best keep them rather than sell them at
any price. Such swords were handed down from father to son for many
generations, and a Japanese of the old school would have been disgraced
had he parted with his father's blade even under the most pressing
necessity. The mounts he might possibly sell, if he were in very bad
circumstances, but the blade never. Of course, such a thing _has_
occurred--and it occurred in this very case, as you shall hear. But
as an almost invariable rule the Japanese _samurai_ would part with
his life by starvation rather than with his father's sword by sale.
Such swords would never be stolen, either, for there was a firm belief
that a faithful spirit resided in each, which would bring terrible
disaster on any wrongful possessor. Each sword had its own name, just
as the legendary sword of King Arthur had, and a man's social standing
was judged, not by his house nor by his dress, but by the two swords
in his girdle. The ancient sword-smiths wore court dress and made
votive offerings when they forged their best blades, and the gods were
supposed to assist and to watch over the career of the weapon. Thus you
will understand that such an article was apt to become an object almost
of worship among the _samurai_ or warrior-class in Old Japan. And now
to come to the sword in question. It was a long sword or _katana_ (the
swords, as you know, were worn in pairs, and the smaller was called
the _wakizashi_), and it was mounted very handsomely with fittings by
a great metal worker of the Goto family. The signature of the great
Masamuné himself was engraved in the usual place--on the iron tang
within the hilt. Mr. Deacon bought the weapon of its possessor, a man
of some distinction before the overthrow of the Shogun in 1868, but
who was reduced to deep poverty by the change in affairs. Mr. Deacon
came across him in his direst straits, when his children were near to
starvation, and the man sold the sword for a sum that was a little
fortune to him, though it only represented some four or five pounds of
our money. Mr. Deacon was always very proud of his treasure--indeed
it was said to be the only blade by Masamuné in Europe; and the two
Japanese things that he had always most longed for, I have heard him
say, were a Masamuné sword and a piece of violet lacquer--that precious
lacquer the secret of making which died long ago. The Masamuné he
acquired, as I have been telling you, but the violet lacquer he never
once encountered.

"Six months or so back, Deacon received a visit from a Japanese--taller
than usual for a Japanese (I have seen him myself) and with the refined
type of face characteristic of some of the higher class of his country.
His name was Keigo Kanamaro, his card said, and he introduced himself
as the son of Keigo Kiyotaki, the man who had sold Deacon his sword.
He had come to England and had found my friend after much inquiry, he
said, expressly to take back his father's _katana_. His father was
dead, and he desired to place the sword in his tomb, that the soul of
the old man might rest in peace, undisturbed by the disgrace that had
fallen upon him by the sale of the sword that had been his and his
ancestors' for hundreds of years back. The father had vowed when he had
received the sword in his turn from Kanamaro's grandfather, never to
part with it, but had broken his vow under pressure of want. He (the
son) had earned money as a merchant (an immeasurable descent for a
_samurai_ with the feelings of the old school), and he was prepared to
buy back the Masamuné blade with the Goto mountings for a much higher
price than his father had received for it."

"And I suppose Deacon wouldn't sell it?" Dorrington asked.

"No," Mr. Colson replied. "He wouldn't have sold it at any price, I'm
sure. Well, Kanamaro pressed him very urgently, and called again and
again. He was very gentlemanly and very dignified, but he was very
earnest. He apologised for making a commercial offer, assured Deacon
that he was quite aware that he was no mere buyer and seller, but
pleaded the urgency of his case. 'It is not here as in Japan,' he
said, 'among us, the _samurai_ of the old days. You have your beliefs,
we have ours. It is my religion that I must place the _katana_ in my
father's grave. My father disgraced himself and sold his sword in order
that I might not starve when I was a little child. I would rather that
he had let me die, but since I am alive, and I know that you have the
sword, I must take it and lay it by his bones. I will make an offer.
Instead of giving you money, I will give you another sword--a sword
worth as much money as my father's--perhaps more. I have had it sent
from Japan since I first saw you. It is a blade made by the great
Yukiyasu, and it has a scabbard and mountings by an older and greater
master than the Goto who made those for my father's sword.' But it
happened that Deacon already had two swords by Yukiyasu, while of
Masamuné he had only the one. So he tried to reason the Japanese out
of his fancy. But that was useless. Kanamaro called again and again
and got to be quite a nuisance. He left off for a month or two, but
about a fortnight ago he appeared again. He grew angry and forgot his
oriental politeness. 'The English have the English ways,' he said,
'and we have ours--yes, though many of my foolish countrymen are in
haste to be the same as the English are. We have our beliefs, and we
have our knowledge, and I tell you that there are things which you
would call superstition, but which are very real! Our old gods are not
all dead yet, I tell you! In the old times no man would wear or keep
another man's sword. Why? Because the great sword has a soul just as
a man has, and it knows and the gods know! No man kept another's
sword who did not fall into terrible misfortune and death, sooner or
later. Give me my father's _katana_ and save yourself. My father weeps
in my ears at night, and I must bring him his _katana!_' I was talking
to poor Deacon, as I told you, only on Tuesday afternoon, and he told
me that Kanamaro had been there again the day before, in a frantic
state--so bad, indeed, that Deacon thought of applying to the Japanese
legation to have him taken care of, for he seemed quite mad. 'Mind,
you foolish man!' he said. 'My gods still live, and they are strong!
My father wanders on the dark path and cannot go to his gods without
the swords in his girdle. His father asks of his vow! Between here and
Japan there is a great sea, but my father may walk even here, looking
for his _katana_, and he is angry! I go away for a little. But my gods
know, and my father knows!' And then he took himself off. And now"--Mr.
Colson nodded towards the next room and dropped his voice--"now poor
Deacon is dead and the sword is gone!"

[Illustration: "GIVE ME MY FATHER'S KATANA, AND SAVE YOURSELF."]

"Kanamaro has not been seen about the place, I suppose, since the visit
you speak of, on Monday?" Dorrington asked.

"No. And I particularly asked as to yesterday morning. The hall-porter
swears that no Japanese came to the place."

"As to the letters, now. You say that when Mr. Deacon came back, after
having left, apparently to get his lunch, he said he came for forgotten
letters. Were any such letters afterwards found?"

"Yes--there were three, lying on this very table, stamped ready for
postage."

"Where are they now?"

"I have them at my chambers. I opened them in the presence of the
police in charge of the case. There was nothing very important about
them--appointments and so forth, merely--and so the police left them in
my charge, as executor."

"Nevertheless I should like to see them. Not just now, but presently.
I think I must see this man presently--the man who was painting in the
basement below the window that is supposed to have been shut by the
murderer in his escape. That is if the police haven't frightened him."

"Very well, we'll see after him as soon as you like. There was just
one other thing--rather a curious coincidence, though of course there
can't be anything in such a superstitious fancy--but I think I told
you that Deacon's body was found lying at the feet of the four-handed
god in the other room?"

"Yes."

"Just so." Mr. Colson seemed to think a little more of the
superstitious fancy than he confessed. "Just so," he said again. "At
the feet of the god, and immediately under the hand carrying the sword;
it is not wooden, but an actual steel sword, in fact."

"I noticed that."

"Yes. Now that is a figure of Hachiman, the Japanese god of war--a
recent addition to the collection and a very ancient specimen. Deacon
bought it at Copleston's only a few days ago--indeed it arrived here on
Wednesday morning. Deacon was telling me about it on Tuesday afternoon.
He bought it because of its extraordinary design, showing such signs of
Indian influence. Hachiman is usually represented with no more than the
usual number of a man's arms, and with no weapon but a sword. This is
the only image of Hachiman that Deacon ever saw or heard of with four
arms. And after he had bought it he ascertained that this was said to
be one of the idols that carry with them ill-luck from the moment they
leave their temples. One of Copleston's men confided to Deacon that
the lascar seamen and stokers on board the ship that brought it over
swore that everything went wrong from the moment that Hachiman came
on board--and indeed the vessel was nearly lost off Finisterre. And
Copleston himself, the man said, was glad to be quit of it. Things had
disappeared in the most extraordinary and unaccountable manner, and
other things had been found smashed (notably a large porcelain vase)
without any human agency, after standing near the figure. Well," Mr.
Colson concluded, "after all that, and remembering what Kanamaro said
about the gods of his country who watch over ancient swords, it _does_
seem odd, doesn't it, that as soon as poor Deacon gets the thing he
should be found stricken dead at its feet?"

Dorrington was thinking. "Yes," he said presently, "it is certainly a
strange affair altogether. Let us see the odd-job man now--the man who
was in the basement below the window. Or rather, find out where he is
and leave me to find him."

Mr. Colson stepped out and spoke with the hall-porter. Presently he
returned with news. "He's gone!" he said. "Bolted!"

"What--the man who was in the basement?"

"Yes. It seems the police questioned him pretty closely yesterday, and
he seized the first opportunity to cut and run."

"Do you know what they asked him?"

"Examined him generally, I suppose, as to what he had observed at the
time. The only thing he seems to have said was that he heard a window
shut at about one o'clock. Questioned further, he got into confusion
and equivocation, more especially when they mentioned a ladder which
is kept in a passage close by where he was painting. It seems they
had examined this before speaking to him, and found it had been just
recently removed and put back. It was thick with dust, except just
where it had been taken hold of to shift, and there the hand-marks
were quite clean. Nobody was in the basement but Dowden (that is the
man's name), and nobody else could have shifted that ladder without his
hearing and knowing of it. Moreover, the ladder was just the length
to reach Deacon's window. They asked if he had seen anybody move the
ladder, and he most anxiously and vehemently declared that he had not.
A little while after he was missing, and he hasn't reappeared."

"And they let him go!" Dorrington exclaimed. "What fools!"

"He _may_ know something about it, of course," Colson said dubiously;
"but with that sword missing, and knowing what we do of Kanamaro's
anxiety to get it at any cost, and--and"--he glanced toward the other
room where the idol stood--"and one thing and another, it seems to me
we should look in another direction."

"We will look in all directions," Dorrington replied. "Kanamaro may
have enlisted Dowden's help. Do you know where to find Kanamaro?"

"Yes. Deacon has had letters from him, which I have seen. He lived in
lodgings near the British Museum."

"Very well. Now, do you happen to know whether a night porter is kept
at this place?"

"No, there is none. The outer door is shut at twelve. Anybody coming
home after that must ring up the housekeeper by the electric bell."

"The tenants do not have keys for the outer door?"

"No; none but keys for their own rooms."

"Good. Now, Mr. Colson, I want to think things over a little. Would
you care to go at once and ascertain whether or not Kanamaro is still
at the address you speak of?"

"Certainly, I will. Perhaps I should have told you that, though he
knows me slightly, he has never spoken of his father's sword to me, and
does not know that I know anything about it. He seems, indeed, to have
spoken about it to nobody but Deacon himself. He was very proud and
reticent in the matter; and now that Deacon is dead, he probably thinks
nobody alive knows of the matter of the sword but himself. If he is at
home what shall I do?"

"In that case keep him in sight and communicate with me, or with the
police. I shall stay here for a little while. Then I shall get the
hall-porter (if you will instruct him before you go) to show me the
ladder and the vicinity of Dowden's operations. Also, I think I shall
look at the back staircase."

"But that was found locked, with the key inside."

"Well, well, there _are_ ways of managing that, as you would know if
you knew as much about housebreaking as I do. But we'll see."


III

Mr. Colson took a cab for Kanamaro's lodgings. Kanamaro was not in,
he found, and he had given notice to leave his rooms. The servant at
the door thought that he was going abroad, since his boxes were being
packed, apparently for that purpose. The servant did not know at what
time he would be back.

Mr. Colson thought for a moment of reporting these facts at once to
Dorrington, but on second thoughts he determined to hurry to the City
and make inquiry at some of the shipping offices as to the vessels soon
to leave for Japan. On the way, however, he bethought him to buy a
shipping paper and gather his information from that. He found what he
wanted from the paper, but he kept the cab on its way, for he happened
to know a man in authority at the Anglo-Malay Company's office, and it
might be a good thing to take a look at their passenger list. Their
next ship for Yokohama was to sail in a few days.

But he found it unnecessary to see the passenger list. As he entered
one of the row of swing doors which gave access to the large general
and inquiry office of the steamship company, he perceived Keigo
Kanamaro leaving by another. Kanamaro had not seen him. Mr. Colson
hesitated for a moment, and then turned and followed him.

And now Mr. Colson became suddenly seized with a burning fancy to
play the subtle detective on his own account. Plainly Kanamaro feared
nothing, walking about thus openly, and taking his passage for Japan
at the chief office of the first line of steamships that anybody would
think of who contemplated a voyage to Japan, instead of leaving the
country, as he might have done, by some indirect route, and shipping
for Japan from a foreign port. Doubtless, he still supposed that
nobody knew of his errand in search of his father's sword. Mr. Colson
quickened his pace and came up beside the Japanese.

Kanamaro was a well-made man of some five feet eight or
nine--remarkably tall for a native of Dai Nippon. His cheek-bones had
not the prominence noticeable in the Japanese of the lower classes,
and his pale oval face and aquiline nose gave token of high _sikozu_
family. His hair only was of the coarse black that is seen on the heads
of all Japanese. He perceived Mr. Colson, and stopped at once with a
grave bow.

"Good morning," Mr. Colson said. "I saw you leaving the steamship
office, and wondered whether or not you were going to leave us."

"Yes--I go home to Japan by the next departing ship," Kanamaro
answered. He spoke with an excellent pronunciation, but with the
intonation and the suppression of short syllables peculiar to his
countrymen who speak English. "My beesness is finished."

Mr. Colson's suspicions were more than strengthened--almost confirmed.
He commanded his features, however, and replied, as he walked by
Keigo's side, "Ah! your visit has been successful, then?"

"It has been successful," Kanamaro answered, "at a very great cost."

"At a very great cost?"

"Yes--I did not expect to have to do what I have done--I should once
not have believed it possible that I _could_ do it. But"--Kanamaro
checked himself hastily and resumed his grave reserve--"but that is
private beesness, and not for me to disturb you with."

Mr. Colson had the tact to leave that line of fishing alone for a
little. He walked a few yards in silence, and then asked, with his eyes
furtively fixed on the face of the Japanese, "Do you know of the god
Hachiman?"

"It is Hachiman the warrior; him of eight flags," Kanamaro replied.
"Yes, I know, of course."

He spoke as though he would banish the subject. But Mr. Colson went on--

"Did he preside over the forging of ancient sword-blades in Japan?" he
asked.

"I do not know of preside--that is a new word. But the great workers
of the steel, those who made the _katana_ in the times of Yoshitsuné
and Taiko-Sama, they hung curtains and made offerings to Hachiman when
they forged a blade--yes. The great Muramasa and the great Masamuné
and Sanénori--they forged their blades at the foot of Hachiman. And it
is believed that the god Inari came unseen with his hammer and forged
the steel too. Though Hachiman is Buddhist and Inari is Shinto. But
these are not things to talk about. There is one religion, which is
yours, and there is another religion, which is mine, and it is not
good that we talk together of them. There are things that people call
superstition when they are of another religion, though they may be very
true."

They walked a little farther, and then Mr. Colson, determined to
penetrate Kanamaro's mask of indifference, observed--

"It's a very sad thing this about Mr. Deacon."

"What is that?" asked Kanamaro, stolidly.

"Why, it is in all the newspapers!"

"The newspapers I do not read at all."

"Mr. Deacon has been killed--murdered in his rooms! He was found lying
dead at the feet of Hachiman the god."

"Indeed!" Kanamaro answered politely, but with something rather like
stolid indifference. "That is very sad. I am sorry. I did not know he
had a Hachiman."

"And they say," Mr. Colson pursued, "that _something_ has been taken!"

"Ah, yes," Kanamaro answered, just as coolly; "there were many things
of much value in the rooms." And after a little while he added, "I see
it is a little late. You will excuse me, for I must go to lunch at my
lodgings. Good-day."

He bowed, shook hands, and hailed a cab. Mr. Colson heard him direct
the cabman to his lodgings, and then, in another cab, Mr. Colson made
for Dorrington's office.

Kanamaro's stolidity, the lack of anything like surprise at the news
of Mr. Deacon's death, his admission that he had finished his business
in England successfully--these things placed the matter beyond all
doubt in Mr. Colson's mind. Plainly he felt so confident that none knew
of his errand in England, that he took things with perfect coolness,
and even ventured so far as to speak of the murder in very near
terms--to say that he did not expect to have to do what he had done,
and would not have believed it possible that he _could_ do it--though,
to be sure, he checked himself at once before going farther. Certainly
Dorrington must be told at once. That would be better than going to
the police, perhaps, for possibly the police might not consider the
evidence sufficient to justify an arrest, and Dorrington may have
ascertained something in the meantime.

Dorrington had not been heard of at his office since leaving there
early in the morning. So Mr. Colson saw Hicks, and arranged that a
man should be put on to watch Kanamaro, and should be sent instantly,
before he could leave his lodgings again. Then Mr. Colson hurried to
Bedford Mansions.

There he saw the housekeeper. From him he learned that Dorrington had
left some time since, promising either to be back or to telegraph
during the afternoon. Also, he learned that Beard, the hall-porter, was
in a great state of indignation and anxiety as a consequence of the
discovery that he was being watched by the police. He had got a couple
of days leave of absence to go and see his mother, who was ill, and he
found his intentions and destination a matter of pressing inquiry. Mr.
Colson assured the housekeeper that he might promise Beard a speedy
respite from the attentions of the police, and went to his lunch.


IV

After his lunch Mr. Colson called and called again at Bedford Mansions,
but neither Dorrington nor his telegram had been heard of. At something
near five o'clock, however, when he had made up his mind to wait,
restless as he was, Dorrington appeared, fresh and complacent.

"Hope you haven't been waiting long?" he asked. "Fact is I got no
opportunity for lunch till after four, so I had it then. I think I'd
fairly earned it. The case is finished."

"Finished? But there's Kanamaro to be arrested. I've found----"

"No, no--I don't think anybody will be arrested at all; you'll read
about it in the evening papers in an hour, I expect. But come into the
rooms. I have some things to show you."

"But I assure you," Mr. Colson said, as he entered the door of
Deacon's rooms, "I assure you that I got as good as a confession from
Kanamaro--he let it slip in ignorance of what I knew. Why do you say
that nobody is to be arrested?"

"Because there's nobody alive who is responsible for Mr. Deacon's
death. But come--let me show you the whole thing; it's very simple."

He led the way to the room where the body had been found, and paused
before the four-armed idol. "Here's our old friend Hachiman," he said,
"whom you half fancied might have had something to do with the tragedy.
Well, you were right. Hachiman had a good deal to do with it, and with
the various disasters at Copleston's too. I will show you how."

The figure, which was larger than life-size, had been set up
temporarily on a large packing-case, hidden by a red cloth covering.
Hachiman was represented in the familiar Japanese kneeling-sitting
position, and the carving of the whole thing was of an intricate and
close description. The god was represented as clad in ancient armour,
with a large and loose cloak depending from his shoulders and falling
behind in a wilderness of marvellously and deeply carved folds.

"See here," Dorrington said, placing his fingers under a projecting
part of the base of the figure, and motioning to Mr. Colson to do the
same. "Lift. Pretty heavy, eh?"

The idol was, indeed, enormously heavy, and it must have required the
exertions of several strong men to place it where it was. "It seems
pretty solid, doesn't it?" Dorrington continued. "But look here." He
stepped to the back of the image, and, taking a prominent fold of the
cloak in one hand, with a quick pull and a simultaneous rap of the
other fist two feet above, a great piece of the carved drapery lifted
on a hinge near the shoulders, displaying a hollow interior. In a dark
corner within a small bottle and a fragment of rag were just visible.

"See there," said Dorrington, "there wouldn't be enough room in there
for you or me, but a small man--a Japanese priest of the old time,
say--could squat pretty comfortably. And see!"--he pointed to a small
metal bolt at the bottom of the swing drapery--"he could bolt himself
safely in when he got there. Whether the priest went there to play the
oracle, or to blow fire out of Hachiman's mouth and nose I don't know,
though no doubt it might be an interesting subject for inquiry; perhaps
he did both. You observe the chamber is lined with metal, which does
something towards giving the thing its weight, and there are cunning
little openings among the armour-joints in front which would transmit
air and sound--even permit of a peep out. Now Mr. Deacon might or might
not have found out this back door after the figure had been a while in
his possession, but it is certain he knew nothing of it when he bought
it. Copleston knew nothing of it, though the thing has stood in his
place for months. You see it's not a thing one would notice at once--I
never should have done so if I hadn't been looking for it." He shut the
part, and the joints, of irregular outline, fell into the depths of the
folds, and vanished as if by magic.

"Now," Dorrington went on, "as I told you, Copleston knew nothing of
this, but one of his men found it out. Do you happen to have heard of
one Samuel Castro, nicknamed 'Slackjaw,' a hunchback whom Copleston
employed on odd jobs?"

"I have seen him here. He called, sometimes with messages, sometimes
with parcels. I should probably have forgotten all about him were
it not that he was rather an extraordinary creature, even among
Copleston's men, who are all remarkable. But did he----"

[Illustration: "SLACKJAW."]

"He murdered Mr. Deacon, I think," Dorrington replied, "as I fancy I
can explain to you. But he won't hang for it, for he was drowned this
afternoon before my eyes, in an attempt to escape from the police. He
was an extraordinary creature, as you have said. He wasn't English--a
half-caste of some sort I think--though his command of language, of the
riverside and dock description, was very free; it got him his nickname
of Slackjaw among the longshoremen. He was desperately excitable, and
he had most of the vices, though I don't think he premeditated murder
in this case--nothing but robbery. He was immensely strong, although
such a little fellow, and sharp in his wits, and he might have had
regular work at Copleston's if he had liked, but that wasn't his
game--he was too lazy. He would work long enough to earn a shilling
or so, and then he would go off to drink the money. So he was a
sort of odd on-and-off man at Copleston's--just to run a message or
carry something or what not when the regular men were busy. Well, he
seems to have been smart enough--or perhaps it was no more than an
accident--to find out about Hachiman's back, and he used his knowledge
for his own purposes. Copleston couldn't account for missing things in
the night--because he never guessed that Castro, by shutting himself
up in Hachiman about closing time, had the run of the place when
everybody had gone, and could pick up any trifle that looked suitable
for the pawnshop in the morning. He could sleep comfortably on sacks
or among straw, and thus save the rent of lodgings, and he could
accept Hachiman's shelter again just before Copleston turned up to
start the next day's business. Getting out, too, after the place was
opened, was quite easy, for nobody came to the large store-rooms till
something was wanted, and in a large place with many doors and gates,
like Copleston's, unperceived going and coming was easy to one who knew
the ropes. So that Slackjaw would creep quietly out, and in again by
the front door to ask for a job. Copleston noticed how regular he had
been every morning for the past few months, and thought he was getting
steadier! As to the things that got smashed, I expect Slackjaw knocked
them over, getting out in the dark. One china vase, in particular,
had been shifted at the last moment, probably after he was in his
hiding-place, and stood behind the image. That was smashed, of course.
And these things, coming after the bad voyage of the ship in which he
came over, very naturally gave poor Hachiman an unlucky reputation.

"Probably Slackjaw was sorry at first when he heard that Hachiman
was bought. But then an idea struck him. He had been to Mr. Deacon's
rooms on errands, and must have seen that fine old plate in the
sitting-room. He had picked up unconsidered trifles at Copleston's
by aid of Hachiman--why not acquire something handsome at Deacon's
in the same way? The figure was to be carried to Bedford Mansions as
soon as work began on Wednesday morning. Very well. All he had to do
was to manage his customary sojourn at Copleston's over Tuesday night,
and keep to his hiding-place in the morning. He did it. Perhaps the
men swore a bit at the weight of Hachiman, but as the idol weighed
several hundredweights by itself, and had not been shifted since it
first arrived, they most likely perceived no difference. Hachiman, with
Slackjaw comfortably bolted inside him (though even _he_ must have
found the quarters narrow) jolted away in the waggon, and in course of
time was deposited where it now stands.

"Of course all I have told you, and all I am about to tell you, is
no more than conjecture--but I think you will say I have reasons.
From within the idol Slackjaw could hear Mr. Deacon's movements, and
no doubt when he heard him take his hat and stick and shut the outer
door behind him, Hachiman's tenant was glad to get out. He had never
had so long and trying a sojourn in the idol before, though he _had_
provided himself this time with something to keep his spirits up--in
that little flat bottle he left behind. Probably, however, he waited
some little time before emerging, for safety's sake. I judge this
because I found no signs of his having started work, except a single
small knife-mark on the plate case. He must have no more than begun
when Mr. Deacon came back for his letters. First, however, he went
and shut the bedroom window, lest his movements might be heard in
some adjacent rooms; the man who was painting said he heard that, you
remember. Well, hearing Mr. Deacon's key in the lock, of course he
made a rush for his hiding-place--but there was no time to get in and
close up before Mr. Deacon could hear the noise. Mr. Deacon, as he
entered, heard the footsteps in the next room, and went to see. The
result you know. Castro, perhaps, crouched behind the idol, and hearing
Mr. Deacon approaching, and knowing discovery inevitable, in his mad
fear and excitement, snatched the nearest weapon and struck wildly at
his pursuer. See! here are half a dozen heavy, short Japanese swords
at hand, any one of which might have been used. The thing done, Castro
had to think of escape. The door was impossible--the hall-porter was
already knocking there. But the man had no key--he could be heard
moving about and calling for one. There was yet a little time. He
wiped the blade of the weapon, put it back in its place, took the keys
from the dead man's pocket, and regained his concealment in the idol.
Whether or not he took the keys with the idea of again attempting theft
when the room was left empty I don't know--most likely he thought they
would aid him in escape. Anyway, he didn't attempt theft, but lay in
his concealment--and a pretty bad time he must have had of it--till
night. Probably his nerve was not good enough for anything more than
simple flight. When all was quiet, he left the rooms and shut the door
behind him. Then he lurked about corridors and basements till morning,
and when the doors were opened, slipped out unobserved. That's all.
It's pretty obvious, once you know about Hachiman's interior."

"And how did you find out?"

"When you left me here I considered the thing. I put aside all
suspicions of motive, the Japanese and his sword and the rest of it,
and addressed myself to the bare facts. Somebody _had_ been in these
rooms when Mr. Deacon came back, and that somebody had murdered him.
The first thing was to find how this person came, and where he came
from. At first, of course, one thought of the bedroom window, as the
police had done. But reflection proved this unlikely. Mr. Deacon had
entered his front door, was inside a few seconds, and then was murdered
close by the figure of Hachiman. Now if anybody had entered by the
window for purposes of robbery, his impulse on hearing the key in the
outer door (and such a thing could be heard all over the rooms, as I
tested for myself)--his impulse, I say, would be to retreat by the way
he had come, that is by the window. If, then, Mr. Deacon had overtaken
him before he could escape, the murder might have taken place just as
it had done, but it would have been _in the bedroom_, not in a room
in the opposite direction. And any thief's attention would naturally
be directed at first to the gold plate--indeed, I detected a fresh
knife-mark in the door of the case, which I will show you presently.
Now, as you see by the arrangement of the rooms, the retreat from the
plate case to the bedroom window would be a short one, whereas the
murderer must in fact have taken a longer journey in the opposite
direction. Why? Because he had _arrived_ from that direction, and his
natural impulse was to retreat by the way he had come. This might have
been by the door to the back stairs, but a careful examination of this
door and its lock and key convinced me that it had not been opened.
The key was dirty, and to have turned it from the opposite side would
have necessitated the forcible use of a pair of thin hollow pliers
(a familiar tool to burglars), and these must have left their mark
on the dirty key. So I turned back to the idol. _This_ was the spot
the intruder had made for in his retreat, and the figure had been
brought into the place the very morning of the murder. Also, things
had disappeared from its vicinity at Copleston's. More--it was a large
thing. What if it were hollow? One has heard of such things having been
invented by priests anxious for certain effects. Could not a thief
smuggle himself in that way?

"The suggestion was a little startling, for if it were the right one
the man might be hiding there at that moment. I gave the thing half an
hour's examination, and in the end found what I have shown you. It was
not the sort of thing one would have found out without looking for it.
Look at it even now. Although you have seen it open, you couldn't point
to the joints."

Dorrington opened it again. "Once open," he went on, "the thing
was pretty plain. Here is the rag--perhaps it was Castro's
pocket-handkerchief--used to wipe the weapon. It is stained all over,
and cut, as you will observe, by the sharp edge. Also, you may see
a crumb or two--Slackjaw had brought food with him, in case of a
long imprisonment. But chiefly observe the bottle. It is a flat,
high-shouldered, 'quartern' bottle, such as publicans sell or lend to
their customers in poor districts, and as usual it bears the publican's
name--J. Mills. It's a most extraordinary thing, but it seems the fate
of almost every murderer, no matter how cunning, to leave some such
damning piece of evidence about, foolish as it may seem afterward.
I've known it in a dozen cases. Probably Castro, in the dark and in
his excitement, forgot it when he quitted his hiding-place. At any
rate it helped me and made my course plain. Clearly this man, whoever
he was, had come from Copleston's. Moreover, he was a small man, for
the space he had occupied would be too little even for a man of middle
height. Also he bought drink of J. Mills, a publican; if J. Mills
carried on business near Copleston's so much the easier my task would
seem. Before I left, however, I went to the basement and inspected the
ladder, the removal of which had caused the police so much exercise.
Then it was plain why Dowden had cleared out. All his prevarication
and uneasiness were explained at once, as the police might have seen
if they had looked _behind_ the ladder as well as at it. For it had
been lying lengthwise against the wooden partition which formed the
back of the compartments put up to serve the tenants as wine-cellars.
Dowden had taken three planks out of this partition, and so arranged
that they could be slipped in their places and out again without
attracting attention. What he had been taking through the holes he thus
made I won't undertake to say, but I will make a small bet that some of
the tenants find their wine short presently! And so Dowden, never an
industrious person, and never at one job long, thought it best to go
away when he found the police asking why the ladder had been moved."

"Yes, yes--it's very surprising, but no doubt you're right. Still, what
about Kanamaro and that sword?"

"Tell me exactly what he said to you to-day."

Mr. Colson detailed the conversation at length.

Dorrington smiled. "See here," he said, "I have found out something
else in these rooms. What Kanamaro said he meant in another sense to
what you supposed. _I_ wondered a little about that sword, and made a
little search among some drawers in consequence. Look here. Do you see
this box standing out here on a nest of drawers? That is quite unlike
Mr. Deacon's orderly ways. The box contains a piece of lacquer, and
it had been shifted from its drawer to make room for a more precious
piece. See here." Dorrington pulled out a drawer just below where the
box stood, and took from it another white wood box. He opened this
box and removed a quantity of wadding. A rich brocade _fukusa_ was
then revealed, and, loosening the cord of this, Dorrington displayed a
Japanese writing-case, or _suzuribako_, aged and a little worn at the
corners, but all of lacquer of a beautiful violet hue.

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Colson. "Violet lacquer!"

"That is what it is," Dorrington answered, "and when I saw it I judged
at once that Deacon had at last consented to part with his Masamuné
blade in exchange for that even greater rarity, a fine piece of the
real old violet lacquer. I should imagine that Kanamaro brought it on
Tuesday evening--you will remember that you saw Mr. Deacon for the
last time alive in the afternoon of that day. Beard seems not to have
noticed him, but in the evening hall-porters are apt to be at supper,
you know--perhaps even taking a nap now and then!"

"Then _this_ is how Kanamaro 'finished his business'!" Mr. Colson
observed. "And the 'very great cost' was probably what he had to pay
for this."

"I suppose so. And he would not have believed it possible that he
_could_ get a piece of violet lacquer in any circumstances."

"But," Mr. Colson objected, "I still don't understand his indifference
and lack of surprise when I told him of poor Deacon's death."

"I think that is very natural in such a man as Keigo Kanamaro. I
don't profess to know a very great deal about Japan, but I know that
a _samurai_ of the old school was trained from infancy to look on
death, whether his own or another's, with absolute indifference. They
regarded it as a mere circumstance. Consider how cold-bloodedly their
_hari-kiri_, their legalised suicide, was carried out!"

As they left the rooms and made for the street Mr. Colson said, "But
now I know nothing of your pursuit of Castro."

Dorrington shrugged his shoulders. "There is little to say," he said.
"I went to Copleston and asked him if any one of his men was missing
all day on Wednesday. None of his regular men were, it seemed, but he
had seen nothing that day of an odd man named Castro, or Slackjaw,
although he had been very regular for some time before; and, indeed,
Castro had not yet turned up. I asked if Castro was a tall man. No,
he was a little fellow and a hunchback, Copleston told me. I asked
what public-house one might find him at, and Copleston mentioned
the 'Blue Anchor'--kept, as I had previously ascertained from the
directory, by J. Mills. That was enough. With everything standing as it
was, a few minutes' talk with the inspector in charge at the nearest
police-station was all that was necessary. Two men were sent to make
the arrest, and the people at the 'Blue Anchor' directed us to Martin's
Wharf, where we found Castro. He had been drinking, but he knew enough
to make a bolt the moment he saw the policemen coming on the wharf.
He dropped on to a dummy barge and made off from one barge to another
in what seemed an aimless direction, though he may have meant to get
away at the stairs a little lower down the river. But he never got as
far. He muddled one jump and fell between the barges. You know what a
suck under there is when a man falls among barges like that. A strong
swimmer with all his senses has only an off chance, and a man with bad
whisky in his head--well, I left them dragging for Slackjaw when I came
away."

As they turned the corner of the street they met a newsboy running.
"Paper--speshal!" he cried. "The West-End murder--speshal! Suicide of
the murderer!"

Dorrington's conjecture that Kanamaro had called to make his exchange
on Tuesday evening proved correct. Mr. Colson saw him once more on the
day of his departure, and told him the whole story. And then Keigo
Kanamaro sailed for Japan to lay the sword in his father's tomb.



_OLD CATER'S MONEY_



VI

Old Cater's Money


I

The firm of Dorrington & Hicks had not been constructed at the time
when this case came to Dorrington's hand. Dorrington had barely emerged
from the obscurity that veils his life before some ten years ago,
and he was at this time a needier adventurer than he had been at the
period of any other of the cases I have related. Indeed, his illicit
gains on this occasion would seem first to have set him on his feet
and enabled him first to cut a fair exterior figure. Whether or not
he had developed to the full the scoundrelism that first brought me
acquainted with his trade I do not know; but certain it is that he was
involved at the time in transactions wretchedly ill paid, on behalf
of one Flint, a shipstores dealer at Deptford; an employer whose
record was never a very clean one. This Flint was one of an unpleasant
family. He was nephew to old Cater the wharfinger (and private usurer)
and cousin to another Cater, whose name was Paul, and who was also a
usurer, though he variously described himself as a "commission agent"
or "general dealer." Indeed, he was a general dealer, if the term may
be held to include a dealer in whatever would bring him gain, and
who made no great punctilio in regard to the honesty or otherwise
of his transactions. In fact, all three of these pleasant relatives
had records of the shadiest, and all three did whatever in the way
of money-lending, mortgaging, and blood-sucking came in their way.
It is, however, with old Cater--Jerry Cater, he was called--that
this narrative is in the first place concerned. I got the story from
a certain Mr. Sinclair, who for many years acted as his clerk and
debt-collector.

Old Jerry Cater lived in the crooked and decaying old house over his
wharf by Bermondsey Wall, where his father had lived before him. It
was a grim and strange old house, with long-shut loft-doors in upper
floors, and hinged flaps in sundry rooms that, when lifted, gave
startling glimpses of muddy water washing among rotten piles below. Not
once in six months now did a barge land its load at Cater's Wharf, and
no coasting brig ever lay alongside. For, in fact, the day of Cater's
Wharf was long past; and it seemed indeed that few more days were left
for old Jerry Cater himself. For seventy-eight years old Jerry Cater
had led a life useless to himself and to everybody else, though his
own belief was that he had profited considerably. Truly if one counted
nothing but the money the old miser had accumulated, then his profit
was large indeed; but it had brought nothing worth having, neither for
himself nor for others, and he had no wife nor child who might use
it more wisely when he should at last leave it behind him; no other
relative indeed than his two nephews, each in spirit a fair copy of
himself, though in body a quarter of a century younger. Seventy-eight
years of every mean and sordid vice and of every virtue that had
pecuniary gain for its sole object left Jerry Cater stranded at last
in his cheap iron bedstead with its insufficient coverings, with not
a sincere friend in the world to sit five minutes by his side. Down
below, Sinclair, his unhappy clerk, had the accommodation of a wooden
table and a chair; and the clerk's wife performed what meagre cooking
and cleaning service old Cater would have. Sinclair was a man of
forty-five, rusty, starved, honest, and very cheap. He was very cheap
because it had been his foolishness, twenty years ago, when in City
employ, to borrow forty pounds of old Cater to get married with, and to
buy furniture, together with forty pounds he had of his own. Sinclair
was young then, and knew nothing of the ways of the two hundred per
cent. money-lender. When he had, by three or four years' pinching, paid
about a hundred and fifty pounds on account of interest and fines, and
only had another hundred or two still due to clear everything off, he
fell sick and lost his place. The payment of interest ceased, and old
Jerry Cater took his victim's body, soul, wife, sticks, and chairs
together. Jerry Cater discharged his own clerk, and took Sinclair, with
a saving of five shillings a week on the nominal salary, and out of the
remainder he deducted, on account of the debt and ever-accumulating
interest, enough to keep his man thin and broken-spirited, without
absolutely incapacitating him from work, which would have been bad
finance. But the rest of the debt, capital and interest, was made into
a capital debt, with usury on the whole. So that for sixteen years or
more Sinclair had been paying something every week off the eternally
increasing sum, and might have kept on for sixteen centuries at the
same rate without getting much nearer freedom. If only there had been
one more room in the house old Cater might have compulsorily lodged
his clerk, and have deducted something more for rent. As it was he
might have used the office for the purpose, but he could never have
brought himself to charge a small rent for it, and a large one would
have swallowed most of the rest of Sinclair's salary, thus bringing
him below starvation point, and impairing his working capacity. But
Mrs. Sinclair, now gaunt and scraggy, did all the housework, so that
that came very cheap. Most of the house was filled with old bales and
rotting merchandise which old Jerry Cater had seized in payment for
wharfage dues and other debts, and had held to, because his ideas of
selling prices were large, though his notion of buying prices were
small. Sinclair was out of doors more than in, dunning and threatening
debtors as hopeless as himself. And the household was completed by one
Samuel Greer, a squinting man of grease and rags, within ten years of
the age of old Jerry Cater himself. Greer was wharf-hand, messenger,
and personal attendant on his employer, and, with less opportunity, was
thought to be near as bad a scoundrel as Cater. He lived and slept in
the house, and was popularly supposed to be paid nothing at all; though
his patronage of the "Ship and Anchor," hard by, was as frequent as
might be.

Old Jerry Cater was plainly not long for this world. Ailing for months,
he at length gave in and took to his bed. Greer watched him anxiously
and greedily, for it was his design, when his master went at last,
to get what he could for himself. More than once during his illness
old Cater had sent Greer to fetch his nephews. Greer had departed on
these errands, but never got farther than the next street. He hung
about a reasonable time--perhaps in the "Ship and Anchor," if funds
permitted--and then returned to say that the nephews could not come
just yet. Old Cater had quarrelled with his nephews, as he had with
everybody else, some time before, and Greer was resolved, if he could,
to prevent any meeting now, for that would mean that the nephews would
take possession of the place, and he would lose his chance of
convenient larceny when the end came. So it was that neither nephew
knew of old Jerry Cater's shaky condition.

[Illustration: "HE SAW A FEW DOUBLED PAPERS."]

Before long, finding that the old miser could not leave his bed--indeed
he could scarcely turn in it--Greer took courage, in Sinclair's
absence, to poke about the place in search of concealed sovereigns. He
had no great time for this, because Jerry Cater seemed to have taken a
great desire for his company, whether for the sake of his attendance
or to keep him out of mischief was not clear. At any rate Greer found
no concealed sovereigns, nor anything better than might be sold for
a few pence at the ragshop. Until one day, when old Cater was taking
alternate fits of restlessness and sleep, Greer ventured to take down
a dusty old pickle-jar from the top shelf in the cupboard of his
master's bedroom. Cater was dozing at the moment, and Greer, tilting
the jar toward the light, saw within a few doubled papers, very dusty.
He snatched the papers out, stuffed them into his pocket, replaced the
jar, and closed the cupboard door hastily. The door made some little
noise, and old Cater turned and woke, and presently he made a shift
to sit up in bed, while Greer scratched his head as innocently as he
could, and directed his divergent eyes to parts of the room as distant
from the cupboard as possible.

"Sam'l Greer," said old Cater in a feeble voice, while his lower jaw
waggled and twitched, "Sam'l Greer, I think I'll 'ave some beef-tea."
He groped tremulously under his pillow, turning his back to Greer,
who tip-toed and glared variously over his master's shoulders. He saw
nothing, however, though he heard the chink of money. Old Cater turned,
with a shilling in his shaking hand. "Git 'alf a pound o' shin o'
beef," he said, "an' go to Green's for it at the other end o' Grange
Road, d'ye hear? It's--it's a penny a pound cheaper there than it is
anywhere nearer, and--and I ain't in so much of a 'urry for it, so the
distance don't matter. Go 'long." And old Jerry Cater subsided in a fit
of coughing.

Greer needed no second bidding. He was anxious to take a peep at the
papers he had secreted. Sinclair was out collecting, or trying to
collect, but Greer did not stop to examine his prize before he had
banged the street door behind him, lest Cater, listening above, should
wonder what detained him. But in a convenient courtyard a hundred
yards away he drew out the papers and inspected them eagerly. First,
there was the policy of insurance of the house and premises. Then
there was a bundle of receipts for the yearly insurance premiums. And
then--there was old Jerry Cater's will.

There were two foolscap sheets, written all in Jerry Cater's own
straggling handwriting. Greer hastily scanned the sheets, and his
dirty face grew longer and his squint intensified as he turned over
the second sheet, found nothing behind it, and stuffed the papers
back in his pocket. For it was plain that not a penny of old Jerry
Cater's money was for his faithful servant, Samuel Greer. "Ungrateful
ole waga-bone!" mused the faithful servant as he went his way. "Not
a blessed 'a'peny; not a 'a'peny! An' them as don't want it gets it,
o' course. That's always the way--it's like a-greasing' of a fat
pig. I shall 'ave to get what I can while I can, that's all." And so
ruminating he pursued his way to the butcher's in Grange Road.

Once more on his way there, and twice on his way back, Samuel Greer
stepped into retired places to look at those papers again, and at each
inspection he grew more thoughtful. There might be money in it yet.
Come, he must think it over.

The front door being shut, and Sinclair probably not yet returned, he
entered the house by a way familiar to the inmates--a latched door
giving on to the wharf. The clock told him that he had been gone nearly
an hour, but Sinclair was still absent. When he entered old Cater's
room upstairs he found a great change. The old man lay in a state of
collapse, choking with a cough that exhausted him; and for this there
seemed little wonder, for the window was open, and the room was full of
the cold air from the river.

"Wot jer bin openin' the winder for?" asked Greer in astonishment.
"It's enough to give ye yer death." He shut it and returned to the
bedside. But though he offered his master the change from the shilling
the old man seemed not to see it nor to hear his voice.

"Well, if you won't--don't," observed Greer with some alacrity,
pocketing the coppers. "But I'll bet he'll remember right enough
presently." "D'y'ear," he added, bending over the bed, "I've got the
beef. Shall I bile it now?"

But old Jerry Cater's eyes still saw nothing and he heard not, though
his shrunken chest and shoulders heaved with the last shudders of the
cough that had exhausted him. So Greer stepped lightly to the cupboard
and restored the fire policy and the receipts to the pickle-jar. He
kept the will.

Greer made preparations for cooking the beef, and as he did so he
encountered another phenomenon. "Well, he have bin a goin' of it!" said
Greer. "Blow me if he ain't bin readin' the Bible now!"

A large, ancient, worn old Bible, in a rough calf-skin cover, lay on a
chair by old Cater's hand. It had probably been the family Bible of the
Caters for generations back, for certainly old Jerry Cater would never
have bought such a thing. For many years it had accumulated dust on a
distant shelf among certain out-of-date account-books, but Greer had
never heard of its being noticed before. "Feels he goin', that's about
it," Greer mused as he pitched the Bible back on the shelf to make room
for his utensils. "But I shouldn't ha' thought 'e'd take it sentimental
like that--readin' the Bible an' lettin' in the free air of 'eaven to
make 'im cough 'isself blind."

The beef-tea was set simmering, and still old Cater lay impotent.
The fit of prostration was longer than any that had preceded it, and
presently Greer thought it might be well to call the doctor. Call him
he did accordingly (the surgery was hard by), and the doctor came.
Jerry Cater revived a little, sufficiently to recognise the doctor, but
it was his last effort. He lived another hour and a half. Greer kept
the change and had the beef-tea as well. The doctor gave his opinion
that the old man had risen in delirium and had expended his last
strength in moving about the room and opening the window.


II

Samuel Greer found somewhere near two pounds in silver in the small
canvas bag under the dead man's pillow. No more money, however,
rewarded his hasty search about the bedroom, and when Sinclair returned
Greer set off to carry the news to Paul Cater, the dead man's nephew.

The respectable Greer had considered well the matter of the will,
and saw his way, he fancied, at least to a few pounds by way
of compensation for his loss of employment and the ungrateful
forgetfulness of his late employer. The two sheets comprised, in fact,
not a simple will merely, but a will and a codicil, each on one of the
sheets, the codicil being a year or two more recent than the will.
Nobody apparently knew anything of these papers, and it struck Greer
that it was now in his power to prevent anybody learning, unless an
interested party were disposed to pay for the disclosure. That was
why he now took his way toward the establishment of Paul Cater, for
the will made Paul Cater not only sole executor, but practically sole
legatee. Wherefore Greer carefully separated the will from the codicil,
intending the will alone for sale to Paul Cater. Because, indeed, the
codicil very considerably modified it, and might form the subject of
independent commerce.

Paul Cater made a less miserly show than had been the wont of his
uncle. His house was in a street in Pimlico, the ground-floor front
room of which was made into an office, with a wire blind carrying his
name in gilt letters. Perhaps it was that Paul Cater carried his
covetousness to a greater refinement than his uncle had done, seeing
that a decent appearance is a commercial advantage by itself, bringing
a greater profit than miserly habits could save.

The man of general dealings was balancing his books when Greer arrived,
but at the announcement of his uncle's death he dropped everything. He
was not noticeably stricken with grief, unless a sudden seizure of his
hat and a roaring aloud for a cab might be considered as indications
of affliction; for in truth Paul Cater knew well that it was a case in
which much might depend on being first at Bermondsey Wall. The worthy
Greer had scarce got the news out before he found himself standing in
the street while Cater was giving directions to a cabman. "Here--you
come in too," said Cater, and Greer was bustled into the cab.

It was plainly a situation in which half-crowns should not be too
reluctantly parted with. So Paul Cater produced one and presented it.
Cater was a strong-faced man of fifty odd, with a tight-drawn mouth
that proclaimed everywhere a tight fist; so that the unaccustomed
passing over of a tip was a noticeably awkward and unspontaneous
performance, and Greer pocketed the money with little more
acknowledgment than a growl.

"Do you know where he put the will?" asked Paul Cater with a keen
glance.

"Will?" answered Greer, looking him blankly in the face--the gaze of
one eye passing over Cater's shoulder and that of the other seeming to
seek his boots. "Will? P'raps 'e never made one."

"Didn't he?"

"That 'ud mean, lawfully, as the property would come to you an' Mr.
Flint--'arves. Bein' all personal property. So I'd think." And Greer's
composite gaze blankly persisted.

"But how do you know whether he made a will or not?"

"'Ow do I know? Ah, well, p'raps I dunno. It's only fancy like. I
jist put it to you--that's all. It 'ud be divided atween the two of
you." Then, after a long pause, he added: "But lor! it 'ud be a pretty
fine thing for you if he did leave a will, and willed it all to you,
wouldn't it? Mighty fine thing! An' it 'ud be a mighty fine thing for
Mr. Flint if there was a will leaving it all to him, wouldn't it?
Pretty fine thing!"

Cater said nothing, but watched Greer's face sharply. Greer's face,
with its greasy features and its irresponsible squint, was as
expressive as a brick. They travelled some distance in silence. Then
Greer said musingly, "Ah, a will like that 'ud be a mighty fine thing!
What 'ud you be disposed to give for it now?"

"Give for it? What do you mean? If there's a will there's an end to it.
Why should I give anything for it?"

"Jist so--jist so," replied Greer, with a complacent wave of the hand.
"Why should you? No reason at all, unless you couldn't find it without
givin' something."

"See here, now," said Cater sharply, "let us understand this. Do you
mean that there is a will, and you know that it is hidden, and where it
is?"

Greer's squint remained impenetrable. "Hidden? Lor!--'ow should I know
if it was hidden? I was a-puttin' of a case to you."

"Because," Cater went on, disregarding the reply, "if that's the case,
the sooner you out with the information the better it'll be for you.
Because there are ways of making people give up information of that
sort for nothing."

"Yes--o' course," replied the imperturbable Greer. "O' course there is.
An' quite right too. Ah, it's a fine thing is the lawr--a mighty fine
thing!"

The cab rattled over the stones of Bermondsey Wall, and the two
alighted at the door through which old Jerry Cater was soon to come
feet first. Sinclair was back, much disturbed and anxious. At sight of
Paul Cater the poor fellow, weak and broken-spirited, left the house as
quietly as he might. For years of grinding habit had inured him to the
belief that in reality old Cater had treated him rather well, and now
he feared the probable action of the heirs.

"Who was that?" asked Paul Cater of Greer. "Wasn't it the clerk that
owed my uncle the money?"

Greer nodded.

"Then he's not to come here again--do you hear? I'll take charge of the
books and things. As to the debt--well, I'll see about that after. And
now look here." Paul Cater stood before Greer and spoke with decision.
"About that will, now. Bring it."

Greer was not to be bluffed. "Where from?" he asked innocently.

"Will you stand there and tell me you don't know where it is?"

"Maybe I'd best stand here and tell you what pays me best."

"Pay you? How much more do you want? Bring me that will, or I'll have
you in gaol for stealing it!"

"Lor!" answered Greer composedly, conscious of holding another trump
as well as the will. "Why, if there _was_ anybody as knowed where the
will was, and you talked to him as violent as that 'ere, why, you'd
frighten him so much he'd as likely as not go out and get a price from
your cousin, Mr. Flint. Whatever was in the will it might pay him to
get hold of it."

At this moment there came a furious knocking at the front door. "Why,"
Greer continued, "I bet that's him. It can't be nobody else--I bet the
doctor's told him, or summat."

They were on the first-floor landing, and Greer peeped from a
broken-shuttered window that looked on the street. "Yes," he said,
"that's Mr. Flint sure enough. Now, Mr. Paul Cater, business. Do you
want to see that will before I let Mr. Flint in?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Cater furiously, catching at his arm. "Quick--where is
it?"

"I want twenty pound."

"Twenty pound! You're mad! What for?"

"All right, if I'm mad, I'll go an' let Mr. Flint in."

The knocking was repeated, louder and longer.

"No," cried Cater, getting in his way. "You know you mustn't conceal a
will--that's law. Give it up."

"What's the law that says I must give it up to you,'stead of yer
cousin? _If_ there's a will it may say anythin'--in yer favour or out
of it. If there ain't, you'll git 'alf. The will might give you more,
or it might give you less, or it might give you nothink. Twenty pound
for first look at it 'fore Flint comes in, and do what you like with it
'fore he knows anythink about it."

Again the knocking came at the door, this time supplemented by kicks.

"But I don't carry twenty pound about with me!" protested Cater, waving
his fists. "Give me the will and come to my office for the money
to-morrow!"

"No tick for this sort of job," answered Greer decisively. "Sorry I
can't oblige you--I'm goin' down to the front door." And he made as
though to go.

"Well, look here!" said Cater desperately, pulling out his pocket-book.
"I've got a note or two, I think----"

"'Ow much?" asked Greer, calmly laying hold of the pocket-book. "Two at
least. Two fivers. Well, I'll let it go at that. Give us hold." He took
the notes, and pulled out the will from his pocket. Flint, outside,
battered the door once more.

"Why," exclaimed Cater as he glanced over the sheet, "I'm sole executor
and I get the lot! Who are these witnesses?"

"Oh, they're all right. Longshore hands just hereabout. You'll get 'em
any day at the 'Ship and Anchor.'"

Cater put the will in his breast-pocket. "You'd best get out o' this,
my man," he said. "You've had me for ten pound, and the further you get
from me the safer you'll be."

"What?" said Greer with a chuckle. "Not even grateful! Shockin'!" He
took his way downstairs, and Cater followed. At the door Flint, a
counterpart of Cater, except that his dress was more slovenly, stood
ragefully.

"Ah, cousin," said Cater, standing on the threshold and preventing his
entrance, "this is a very sad loss!"

"Sad loss!" Flint replied with disgust. "A lot you think of the
loss--as much as I do, I reckon. I want to come in."

"Then you sha'n't!" Cater replied, with a prompt change of manner.
"You shan't! I'm sole executor, and I've got the will in my pocket."
He pulled it out sufficiently far to show the end of the paper, and
then returned it. "As executor I'm in charge of the property, and
responsible. It's vested in me till the will's put into effect. That's
law. And it's a bad thing for anybody to interfere with an executor.
That's law too."

Flint was angry, but cautious. "Well," he said, "you're uncommon high,
with your will and your executor's law and your 'sad loss,' I must say.
What's your game?"

For answer Cater began to shut the door.

"Just you look out!" cried Flint. "You haven't heard the last of this!
You may be executor or it may be a lie. You may have the will or you
may not; anyway I know better than to run the risk of putting myself
in the wrong now. But I'll watch you, and I'll watch this house, and
I'll be about when the will comes to be proved! And if that ain't done
quick, I'll apply for administration myself, and see the thing through!"


III

Samuel Greer sheered off as the cousinly interview ended, well
satisfied with himself. Ten pounds was a fortune to him, and he meant
having a good deal more. He did nothing further till the following
morning, when he presented himself at the shop of Jarvis Flint.

"Good mornin', Mr. Flint," said Samuel Greer, grinning and squinting
affably. "I couldn't help noticin' as you had a few words yesterday
with Mr. Cater after the sad loss."

"Well?"

"It 'appens as I've seen the will as Mr. Cater was talkin' of, an' I
thought p'raps it 'ud save you makin' mistakes if I told you of it."

"What about it?" Jarvis Flint was not disposed to accept Greer
altogether on trust.

"Well it _do_ seem a scandalous thing, certainly, but what Mr. Cater
said was right. He _do_ take the personal property, subjick to debts,
an' he do take the freehold prim'ses. An' he is the 'xecutor."

"Was the will witnessed?"

"Yes--two waterside chaps well know'd there-abouts."

"Was it made by a lawyer?"

"No--all in the lamented corpse's 'andwritin'."

"Umph!" Flint maintained his hard stare in Greer's face. "Anything
else?"

"Well, no, Mr. Flint, sir, p'raps not. But I wonder if there might be
sich a thing as a codicil?"

"Is there?"

"Oh, I was a-wonderin', that's all. It might make a deal o' difference
in the will, mightn't it? And p'raps Mr. Cater mightn't know anythink
about the codicil."

"What do you mean? Is there a codicil?"

"Well, reely, Mr. Flint," answered Greer with a deprecatory
grin--"reely it ain't business to give information for nothink, is it?"

"Business or not, if you know anything you'll find you'll have to tell
it. I'm not going to let Cater have it all his own way, if he _is_
executor. My lawyer'll be on the job before you're a day older, my
man, and you won't find it pay to keep things too quiet."

"But it can't pay worse than to give information for nothink,"
persisted Greer. "Come, now, Mr. Flint, s'pose (I don't say there is,
mind--I only say _s'pose_)--s'pose there _was_ a codicil, and s'pose
that codicil meant a matter of a few thousand pound in your pocket.
And s'pose some person could tell you where to put your hand on that
codicil, what might you be disposed to pay that person?"

"Bring me the codicil," answered Flint, "and if it's all right I'll
give you--well, say five shillings."

Greer grinned again and shook his head. "No, reely, Mr. Flint," he
said, "we can't do business on terms like them. Fifty pound down in my
hand now, and it's done. Fifty 'ud be dirt cheap. And the longer you
are a-considerin'--well, you know, Mr. Cater might get hold of it, and
then, why, s'pose it got burnt and never 'eard of agen?"

Flint glared with round eyes. "You get out!" he said. "Go on! Fifty
pound, indeed! Fifty pound, without my knowing whether you're telling
lies or not! Out you go! I know what to do now, my man!"

Greer grinned once more, and slouched out. He had not expected to
bring Flint to terms at once. Of course the man would drive him away
at first, and, having got scent of the existence of the codicil,
and supposing it to be somewhere concealed about the old house at
Bermondsey Wall, he would set his lawyer to warn his cousin that the
thing was known, and that he, as executor, would be held responsible
for it. But the trump card, the codicil itself, was carefully stowed in
the lining of Greer's hat, and Cater knew nothing about it. Presently
Flint, finding Cater obdurate, would approach the wily Greer again, and
then he could be squeezed. Meanwhile the hat-lining was as safe a place
as any in which to keep the paper. Perhaps Flint might take a fancy to
have him waylaid at night and searched, in which case a pocket would be
an unsafe repository.

Flint, on his part, was in good spirits. Plainly there _was_ a codicil,
favourable to himself. Certainly he meant neither to pay Greer for
discovering it--at any rate no such sum as fifty pounds--nor to abate a
jot of his rights. Flint had a running contract with a shady solicitor,
named Lugg, in accordance with which Lugg received a yearly payment
and transacted all his legal business--consisting chiefly of writing
threatening letters to unfortunate debtors. Also, as I think I have
mentioned, Dorrington was working for him at the time, and working at
very cheap rates. Flint resolved, to begin with, to set Dorrington
and Lugg to work. But first Dorrington--who, as a matter of fact, was
in Flint's back office during the interview with Greer. Thus it was
that in an hour or two Dorrington found himself in active pursuit of
Samuel Greer, with instructions to watch him closely, to make him drunk
if possible, and to get at his knowledge of the codicil by any means
conceivable.


IV

On the morning of the day after his talk with Flint, Samuel Greer
ruminated doubtfully on the advisability of calling on the ship-store
dealer again, or waiting in dignified silence till Flint should
approach him. As he ruminated he rubbed his chin, and so rubbing it
found it very stubbly. He resolved on the luxury of a penny shave,
and, as he walked the street, kept his eyes open for a shop where the
operation was performed at that price. Mr. Flint, at any rate, could
wait till his chin was smooth. Presently, in a turning by Abbey Street,
Bermondsey, he came on just such a barber's shop as he wanted. Within,
two men were being shaved already, and another waiting; and Greer felt
himself especially fortunate in that three more followed at his heels.
He was ahead of their turns, anyhow. So he waited patiently.

[Illustration: "HIS WALK WAS UNSTEADY."]

The man whose turn was immediately before his own did not appear to be
altogether sober. A hiccough shook him from time to time; he grinned
with a dull glance at a comic paper held upside down in his hand, and
when he went to take his turn at a chair his walk was unsteady. The
barber had to use his skill to avoid cutting him, and he opened his
mouth to make remarks at awkward times. Then Greer's turn came at the
other chair, and when his shave was half completed he saw the unsteady
customer rise, pay his penny, and go out.

"Beginnin' early in the mornin'!" observed one customer.

The barber laughed. "Yes," he said. "He wants to get a proper bust on
before he goes to bed, I s'pose."

Samuel Greer's chin being smooth at last, he rose and turned to where
he had hung his hat. His jaw dropped, and his eyes almost sprang out to
meet each other as he saw--a bare peg! The unsteady customer had walked
off with the wrong hat--his hat, and--the paper concealed inside!

"Lor!" cried the dismayed Greer, "he's took my hat!"

All the shopful of men set up a guffaw at this. "Take 'is then," said
one. "It's a blame sight better one than yourn!"

But Greer, without a hat, rushed into the street, and the barber,
without his penny, rushed after him. "Stop 'im!" shouted Greer
distractedly. "Stop thief!"

Thus it was that Dorrington, at this time of a far less well-groomed
appearance than was his later wont, watching outside the barber's,
observed the mad bursting forth of Greer, followed by the barber. After
the barber came the customers, one grinning furiously beneath a coating
of lather.

"Stop 'im!" cried Greer. "'E's got my 'at! Stop 'im!"

"You pay me my money," said the barber, catching his arm. "Never mind
yer 'at--you can 'ave 'is. But just you pay me first."

"Leave go! You're responsible for lettin' 'im take it, I tell you! It's
a special 'at--valuable; leave go!"

Dorrington stayed to hear no more. Three minutes before he had observed
a slightly elevated navvy emerge from the shop and walk solemnly
across the street under a hat manifestly a size or two too small for
him. Now Dorrington darted down the turning which the man had taken.
The hat was a wretched thing, and there must be some special reason
for Greer's wild anxiety to recover it, especially as the navvy must
have left another, probably better, behind him. Already Dorrington had
conjectured that Greer was carrying the codicil about with him, for he
had no place else to hide it, and he would scarcely have offered so
confidently to negotiate over it if it had been in the Bermondsey Wall
house, well in reach of Paul Cater. So he followed the elevated navvy
with all haste. He might never have seen him again were it not that the
unconscious bearer of the fortunes of Flint (and, indeed, Dorrington)
hesitated for a little while whether or not to enter the door of a
public-house near St. Saviour's Dock. In the end he decided to go on,
and it was just as he had started that Dorrington sighted him again.

The navvy walked slowly and gravely on, now and again with a swerve
to the wall or the curb, but generally with a careful and laboured
directness. Presently he arrived at a dock-bridge, with a low iron
rail. An incoming barge attracted his eye, and he stopped and solemnly
inspected it. He leaned on the low rail for this purpose, and as he did
so the hat, all too small, fell off. Had he been standing two yards
nearer the centre of the bridge it would have dropped into the water.
As it was it fell on the quay, a few feet from the edge, and a dockman,
coming toward the steps by the bridge-side, picked it up and brought it
with him.

"Here y'are, mate," said the dockman, offering the hat.

The navvy took it in lofty silence, and inspected it narrowly. Then he
said, "'Ere--wot's this? This ain't my 'at!" And he glared suspiciously
at the dockman.

"Ain't it?" answered the dockman carelessly.

"Aw right then, keep it for the bloke it b'longs to. I don't want it."

"No," returned the navvy with rising indignation, "but I want mine,
though! Wotcher done with it? Eh? It ain't a rotten old 'un like this
'ere. None o' yer 'alf-larks. Jist you 'and it over, come on!"

"'And wot over?" asked the dockman, growing indignant in his turn. "You
drops yer 'at over the bridge like some kid as can't take care of it,
and I brings it up for ye. 'Stead o' sayin' 'thank ye, 'like a man, y'
asks me for another 'at! Go an' bile yer face!" And he turned on his
heel.

"No, ye don't!" bawled the navvy, dropping the battered hat and making
a complicated rush at the other's retreating form. "Not much! You gimme
my 'at!" And he grabbed the dockman anywhere, with both hands.

[Illustration: "A MINGLED BUNCH OF DOCKMAN AND NAVVY WAS FLOUNDERING
ABOUT THE STREET."]

The dockman was as big as the navvy, and no more patient. He
immediately punched his assailant's nose; and in three seconds a
mingled bunch of dockman and navvy was floundering about the street.
Dorrington saw no more. He had the despised hat in his hand, and,
general attention being directed to the action in progress, he hurried
quietly up the nearest court.


V

Samuel Greer, having got clear of the barber by paying his penny, was
in much perplexity, and this notwithstanding his acquisition of the
navvy's hat, a very decent bowler, which covered his head generously
and rested on his ears. What should be the move now? His hat was clean
gone, and the codicil with it. To find it again would be a hopeless
task, unless by chance the navvy should discover his mistake and return
to the barber's to make a rectification of hats. So Samuel Greer
returned once more to the barber's, and for the rest of the day called
again and again fruitlessly. At first the barber was vastly amused, and
told the story to his customers, who laughed. Then the barber got angry
at the continual worrying, and at the close of the day's barbering he
earned his night's repose by pitching Samuel Greer neck and crop into
the gutter. Samuel Greer gathered himself up disconsolately, surrounded
his head with the navvy's hat, and shuffled off to the "Ship and
Anchor."

At the "Ship and Anchor" he found one Barker, a decayed and sodden
lawyer's clerk out of work. Greer's temporary affluence enabling
him to stand drinks, he was presently able, by putting artfully
hypothetical cases, to extract certain legal information from Barker.
Chiefly he learned that if a will or a codicil were missing, it might
nevertheless be possible to obtain probate of it by satisfying the
court with evidence of its contents and its genuineness. Here, at any
rate, was a certain hope. He alone, apparently, of all persons, knew
the contents of the codicil and the names of the witnesses; and since
it was impossible to sell the codicil, now that it was gone, he might
at least sell his evidence. He resolved to offer his evidence for sale
to Flint at once, and take what he could get. There must be no delay,
for possibly the navvy might find the paper in the hat and carry it to
Flint, seeing that his name was beneficially mentioned in it, and his
address given. Plainly the hat would not go back to the barber's now.
If the drunken navvy had found out his mistake he probably had not the
least notion where he had been nor where the hat had come from, else he
would have returned it during the day, and recovered his own superior
property. So Samuel Greer went at once, late as it was, and knocked up
Mr. Flint.

Flint congratulated himself, feeling sure that Greer had thought better
of his business and had come to give his information for anything he
could get. Greer, on his part, was careful to conceal the fact that the
codicil had been in his possession and had been lost. All he said was
that he had seen the codicil, that its date was nine months later than
that of the will, and that it benefited Jarvis Flint to the extent of
some ten thousand pounds; leaving Flint to suppose, if he pleased, that
Cater, the executor, had the codicil, but would probably suppress it.
Indeed this was the conclusion that Flint immediately jumped at.

And the result of the interview was this: Flint, with much grudging and
reluctance, handed over as a preliminary fee the sum of one pound, the
most he could be screwed up to. Then it was settled that Greer should
come on the morrow and consult with Flint and his solicitor Lugg, the
object of the consultation being the construction of a consistent tale
and a satisfactory _soi-disant_ copy of the codicil, which Greer was
to swear to, if necessary, and armed with which Paul Cater might be
confronted and brought to terms.

It may be wondered why, ere this, Flint had not received the genuine
codicil itself, recovered by Dorrington from Greer's hat. The fact was
that Dorrington, as was his wont, was playing a little game of his own.
Having possessed himself of the codicil, he was now in a position to
make the most from both sides, and in a far more efficient manner than
the clumsy Greer. People of Jarvis Flint's sordid character are apt,
with all their sordid keenness, to be wonderfully short-sighted in
regard to what might seem fairly obvious to a man of honest judgment.
Thus it never occurred to Flint that a man like Dorrington, willing,
for a miserable wage, to apply his exceptional subtlety to the
furtherance of his employer's rascally designs, would be at least as
ready to swindle that master on his own account when the opportunity
offered; would be, in fact, the more ready, in proportion to the
stinginess wherewith his master had treated him.

Having found the codicil, Dorrington's procedure was not to hand it
over forthwith to Flint. It was this: first he made a careful and exact
copy of the codicil; then he procured two men of his acquaintance, men
of good credit, to read over the copy, word for word, and certify it
as being an exact copy of the original by way of a signed declaration
written on the back of the copy. Then he was armed at all points.

He packed the copy carefully away in his pocket-book, and with the
original in his coat pocket, he called at the house in Bermondsey
Wall, where Paul Cater had taken up his quarters to keep guard over
everything till the will should be proved. So it happened that, while
Samuel Greer, Jarvis Flint, and Lugg, the lawyer, were building their
scheme, Dorrington was talking to Paul Cater at Cater's Wharf.

On the assurance that he had business of extreme importance, Cater
took Dorrington into the room in which the old man had died. Cater
was using this room as an office in which to examine and balance his
uncle's books, and the corpse had been carried to a room below to await
the funeral. Dorrington's clothes at this time, as I have hinted,
were not distinguished by the excellence of cut and condition that
was afterwards noticeable; in point of fact, he was seedy. But his
assurance and his presence of mind were fully developed, and it was
this very transaction that was to put the elegant appearance within
his reach.

"Mr. Cater," he said, "I believe you are sole executor of the will
of your uncle, Mr. Jeremiah Cater, who lived in this house." Cater
assented.

"That will is one extremely favourable to yourself. In fact, by it you
become not only sole executor, but practically sole legatee."

"Well?"

"I am here as a man of business and as a man of the world to give you
certain information. There is a codicil to that will."

Cater started. Then he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head as
though he knew better.

"There is a codicil," Dorrington went on, imperturbably, "executed
in strict form, all in the handwriting of the testator, and dated
nine months later than the will. That codicil benefits your cousin,
Mr. Jarvis Flint, to the extent of ten thousand pounds. To put it in
another way, it deprives _you_ of ten thousand pounds."

Cater felt uneasy, but he did his best to maintain a contemptuous
appearance. "You're rushing ahead pretty fast," he said, "talking about
the terms of this codicil, as you call it. What I want to know is,
where is it?"

"That," replied Dorrington, smilingly, "is a question very easily
answered. The codicil is in my pocket." He tapped his coat as he spoke.

Paul Cater started again, and now he was plainly discomposed. "Very
well," he said, with some bravado, "if you've got it you can show it to
me, I suppose."

"Nothing easier," Dorrington responded affably. He stepped to the
fireplace and took the poker. "You won't mind my holding the poker
while you inspect the paper, will you?" he asked politely. "The fact
is, the codicil is of such a nature that I fear a man of your sharp
business instincts might be tempted to destroy it, there being no other
witness present, unless you had the assurance (which I now give you)
that if you as much as touch it I shall stun you with the poker. There
is the codicil, which you may read with your hands behind you." He
spread the paper out on the table, and Cater bent eagerly and read it,
growing paler as his eye travelled down the sheet.

Before raising his eyes, however, he collected himself, and as he stood
up he said, with affected contempt, "I don't care a brass farthing for
this thing! It's a forgery on the face of it."

"Dear me!" answered Dorrington placidly, recovering the paper and
folding it up; "that's very disappointing to hear. I must take it round
to Mr. Flint and see if that is his opinion."

"No, you mustn't!" exclaimed Cater, desperately. "You say that's a
genuine document. Very well. I'm still executor, and you are bound to
give it to me."

"Precisely," Dorrington replied sweetly. "But in the strict interests
of justice I think Mr. Flint, as the person interested, ought to have
a look at it first, _in case_ any accident should happen to it in your
hands. Don't you?"

Cater knew he was in a corner, and his face betrayed it.

"Come," said Dorrington in a more business-like tone. "Here is the
case in a nutshell. It is my business, just as it is yours, to get as
much as I can for nothing. In pursuance of that business I quietly got
hold of this codicil. Nobody but yourself knows I have it, and as to
_how_ I got it you needn't ask, for I sha'n't tell you. Here is the
document, and it is worth ten thousand pounds to either of two people,
yourself and Mr. Flint, your worthy cousin. I am prepared to sell it
at a very great sacrifice--to sell it dirt cheap, in fact, and I give
you the privilege of first refusal, for which you ought to be grateful.
One thousand pounds is the price, and that gives you a profit of nine
thousand pounds when you have destroyed the codicil--a noble profit of
nine hundred per cent. at a stroke! Come, is it a bargain?"

"What?" ejaculated Cater, astounded. "A thousand pounds?"

"One thousand pounds exactly," replied Dorrington complacently, "and a
penny for the receipt stamp--if you want a receipt."

"Oh," said Cater, "you're mad. A thousand pounds! Why, it's absurd!"

"Think so?" remarked Dorrington, reaching for his hat. "Then I must see
if Mr. Flint agrees with you, that's all. He's a man of business, and
I never heard of his refusing a certain nine hundred per cent. profit
yet. Good-day!"

"No, stop!" yelled the desperate Cater. "Don't go. Don't be
unreasonable now--say five hundred and I'll write you a cheque."

"Won't do," answered Dorrington, shaking his head. "A thousand is the
price, and not a penny less. And not by cheque, mind. I understand
all moves of that sort. Notes or gold. I wonder at a smart man like
yourself expecting me to be so green."

"But I haven't the money here."

"Very likely not. Where's your bank? We'll go there and get it."

Cater, between his avarice and his fears, was at his wits' end. "Don't
be so hard on me, Mr. Dorrington," he whined. "I'm not a rich man, I
assure you. You'll ruin me!"

"Ruin you? What _do_ you mean? I give you ten thousand pounds for one
thousand and you say I ruin you! Really, it seems too ridiculously
cheap. If you don't settle quickly, Mr. Cater, I shall raise my terms,
I warn you!"

So it came about that Dorrington and Cater took cab together for a
branch bank in Pimlico, whence Dorrington emerged with one thousand
pounds in notes and gold, stowed carefully about his person, and Cater
with the codicil to his uncle's will, which half an hour later he had
safely burnt.


VI

So much for the first half of Dorrington's operation. For the second
half he made no immediate hurry. If he had been aware of Samuel
Greer's movements and Lugg's little plot he might have hurried, but as
it was he busied himself in setting up on a more respectable scale by
help of his newly-acquired money. But he did not long delay. He had the
attested copy of the codicil, which would be as good as the original if
properly backed with evidence in a court of law. The astute Cater, wise
in his own conceit, just as was his equally astute cousin Flint, had
clean overlooked the possibility of such a trick as this. And now all
Dorrington had to do was to sell the copy for one more thousand pounds
to Jarvis Flint.

It was on the morning of old Jerry Cater's funeral that he made his
way to Deptford to do this, and he chuckled as he reflected on the
probable surprise of Flint, who doubtless wondered what had become of
his sweated inquiry agent, when confronted with his offer. But when
he arrived at the ship-store shop he found that Flint was out, so he
resolved to call again in the evening.

At that moment Jarvis Flint, Samuel Greer, and Lugg the lawyer were at
the house in Bermondsey Wall attacking Paul Cater. Greer, foreseeing
probable defiance by Cater from a window, had led the party in by the
wharf door and so had taken Cater by surprise. Cater was in a suit of
decent black, as befitted the occasion, and he received the news of the
existence of a copy of the codicil he had destroyed with equal fury and
apprehension.

"What do you mean?" he demanded. "What do you mean? I'm not to be
bluffed like this! You talk about a codicil--where is it? Where is it,
eh?"

"My dear sir," said Lugg peaceably--he was a small, snuffy man--"we are
not here to make disturbances or quarrels, or breaches of the peace; we
are here on a strictly business errand, and I assure you it will be for
your best interests if you listen quietly to what we have to say. Ahem!
It seems that Mr. Samuel Greer here has frequently seen the codicil----"

"Greer's a rascal--a thief--a scoundrel!" cried the irate Cater,
shaking his fist in the thick of Greer's squint. "He swindled me out of
ten pounds! He----"

"Really, Mr. Cater," Lugg interposed, "you do no good by such
outbursts, and you prevent my putting the case before you. As I was
saying, Mr. Greer has frequently seen the codicil, and saw it, indeed,
on the very day of the late Mr. Cater's decease. You may not have
come across it, and, indeed, there may be some temporary difficulty
in finding the original. But fortunately Mr. Greer took notes of the
contents and of the witnesses' names, and from those notes I have
been able to draw up this statement, which Mr. Greer is prepared to
subscribe to, by affidavit or declaration, if by any chance you may be
unable to produce the original codicil."

Cater, seeing his thousand pounds to Dorrington going for nothing, and
now confronted with the fear of losing ten thousand pounds more, could
scarce speak for rage. "Greer's a liar, I tell you!" he spluttered
out. "A liar, a thief, a scoundrel! His word--his affidavit--his
oath--anything of his--isn't worth a straw!"

"That, my dear sir," Lugg proceeded equably, "is a thing that may
remain for the probate court, and possibly a jury, to decide upon.
In the meantime permit me to suggest that it will be better for all
parties--cheaper in fact--if this matter be settled out of court. I
think, if you will give the matter a little calm and unbiassed thought,
you will admit that the balance of strength is altogether with our
case. Would you like to look at the statement? Its effect, you will
see, is, roughly speaking, to give my client a legacy of say about
ten thousand pounds in value. The witnesses are easily produced, and
really, I must say, for my part, if Mr. Greer, who has nothing to gain
or lose either way, is prepared to take the serious responsibility of
swearing a declaration----"

"I don't believe he will!" cried Cater, catching at the straw. "I don't
believe he will. Mind, Greer," he went on, "there's penal servitude for
perjury!"

"Yes," Greer answered, speaking for the first time, with a squint and a
chuckle, "so there is. And for stealin' an' suppressin' dockyments, I'm
told. I'm ready to make that 'ere declaration."

"I don't believe he is!" Cater said, with an attempt to affect
indifference. "And anyhow, I needn't take any notice of it till he
does."

"Well," said Lugg accommodatingly, "there need be no difficulty
or delay about that. The declaration's all written out, and I'm a
commissioner to administer oaths. I think that's a Bible I see on the
shelf there, isn't it?" He stepped across to where the old Bible had
lain since Greer flung it there, just before Jerry Cater's death. He
took the book down and opened it at the title-page. "Yes," he said, "a
Bible; and now--why--what? what?"

Mr. Lugg stood suddenly still and stared at the fly-leaf. Then he said
quietly, "Let me see, it was on Monday last that Mr. Cater died, was it
not?"

"Yes."

"Late in the afternoon?"

"Yes."

"Then, gentlemen, you must please prepare yourselves for a surprise.
Mr. Cater evidently made another will, revoking all previous wills and
codicils, on the very day of his death. And here it is!" He extended
the Bible before him, and it was plain to see that the fly-leaf was
covered with the weak, straggling handwriting of old Jerry Cater--a
little weaker and a little more straggling than that in the other will,
but unmistakably his.

Flint stared, perplexed and bewildered, Greer scratched his head and
squinted blankly at the lawyer. Paul Cater passed his hand across his
forehead and seized a tuft of hair over one temple as though he would
pull it out. The only book in the house that he had not opened or
looked at during his stay was the Bible.

"The thing is very short," Lugg went on, inclining the writing to the
light. "'_This is the last will and testament of me, Jeremiah Cater, of
Cater's Wharf. I give and bequeath the whole of the estate and property
of which I may die possessed, whether real or personal, entirely and
absolutely to--to--_' what is the name? Oh yes--'_to Henry Sinclair, my
clerk----_'"

"What?" yelled Cater and Flint in chorus, each rising and clutching at
the Bible. "Not Sinclair! No! Let me see!"

"I think, gentlemen," said the solicitor, putting their hands aside,
"that you will get the information quickest by listening while I
read. '_----to Henry Sinclair, my clerk. And I appoint the said Henry
Sinclair my sole executor. And I wish it to be known that I do this,
not only by way of reward to an honest servant, and to recompense him
for his loss in loan transactions with me, but also to mark my sense
of the neglect of my two nephews. And I revoke all former wills and
codicils._' Then follows date and signature and the signatures of
witnesses--both apparently men of imperfect education."

"But you're mad--it's impossible!" exclaimed Cater, the first to find
his tongue. "He _couldn't_ have made a will then--he was too weak.
Greer knows he couldn't."

Greer, who understood better than anybody else present the allusion in
the will to the nephews' neglect, coughed dubiously, and said, "Well,
he did get up while I was out. An' when I got back he had the Bible
beside him, an' he seemed pretty well knocked up with something. An'
the winder was wide open--I expect he opened it to holler out as well
as he could to some chaps on the wharf or somewhere to come up by the
wharf door and do the witnessing. An' now I think of it I expect he
sent me out a-purpose in case--well, in case if I knowed I might get up
to summat with the will. He told me not to hurry. An' I expect he about
used himself up with the writin' an' the hollerin' an' the cold air an'
what not."

Cater and Flint, greatly abashed, exchanged a rapid glance. Then Cater,
with a preliminary cough, said hesitatingly, "Well now, Mr. Lugg, let
us consider this. It seems quite evident to me--and no doubt it will
to you, as my cousin's solicitor--it seems quite evident to me that
my poor uncle could not have been in a sound state of mind when he
made this very ridiculous will. Quite apart from all questions of
genuineness, I've no doubt that a court would set it aside. And in
view of that it would be very cruel to allow this poor man Sinclair
to suppose himself to be entitled to a great deal of money, only to
find himself disappointed and ruined after all. You'll agree with
that, I'm sure. So I think it will be best for all parties if we keep
this thing to ourselves, and just tear out that fly-leaf and burn it,
to save trouble. And on my part I shall be glad to admit the copy of
the codicil you have produced, and no doubt my cousin and I will be
prepared to pay you a fee which will compensate you for any loss of
business in actions--eh?"

Mr. Lugg was tempted, but he was no fool. Here was Samuel Greer at
his elbow knowing everything, and without a doubt, no matter how well
bribed, always ready to make more money by betraying the arrangement
to Sinclair. And that would mean inevitable ruin to Lugg himself, and
probably a dose of gaol. So he shook his head virtuously and said,
"I couldn't think of anything of the sort, Mr. Cater, not for an
instant. I am a solicitor, and I have my strict duties. It is my duty
immediately to place this will in the hands of Mr. Henry Sinclair, as
sole executor. I wish you a good-day, gentlemen."

And so it was that old Jerry Cater's money came at last to Sinclair.
And the result was a joyful one, not only for Sinclair and his wife,
but also for a number of poor debtors whose "paper" was part of the
property. For Sinclair knew the plight of these wretches by personal
experience, and was merciful, as neither Flint nor Paul Cater would
have been. The two witnesses to the Bible will turned out to be
bargemen. They had been mightily surprised to be hailed from Jerry
Cater's window by the old man himself, already looking like a corpse.
They had come up, however, at his request, and had witnessed the will,
though neither knew anything of its contents. But they were ready to
testify that it was written in a Bible, that they saw Cater sign it,
and that the attesting signatures were theirs. They had helped the old
man back into bed, and next day they heard that he was dead.

As for Dorrington, he had a thousand pounds to set him up in a
gentlemanly line of business and villainy. Ignorant of what had
happened, he attempted to tap Flint for another thousand pounds as he
had designed, but was met with revilings and an explanation. Seeing
that the game was finished, Dorrington laughed at both the cousins and
turned his attention to his next case.

And old Jerry Cater's funeral was attended, as nobody would have
expected, by two very genuine mourners--Paul Cater and Jarvis Flint.
But they mourned, not the old man, but his lost fortune, and Paul Cater
also mourned a sum of one thousand and ten pounds of his own. They had
followed Lugg to the door when he walked off with the Bible in hope
to persuade him, but he saw a wealthy client in prospect in Mr. Henry
Sinclair, and would not allow his virtue to be shaken.

Samuel Greer walked away from the old house in moody case. Plainly
there were no more pickings available from old Jerry Cater's wills
and codicils. As he trudged by St. Saviour's Dock he was suddenly
confronted by a large navvy with a black eye. The navvy stooped and
inspected a peacock's feather-eye that adorned the band of the hat
Greer was wearing. Then he calmly grabbed and inspected the hat
itself, inside and outside. "Why, blow me if this ain't my 'at!" said
the navvy. "Take that, ye dirty squintin' thief! And that too! And
that!"


UNWIN BROTHERS, THE GRESHAM PRESS, WOKING AND LONDON.





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