Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org



A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Man who Bought London
Author:     Edgar Wallace
eBook No.:  0501101.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          November 2005
Date most recently updated: February 2014

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


Title:      The Man who Bought London
Author:     Edgar Wallace





CHAPTER 1

Night had come to the West End, but though the hour was late, though all
Suburbia might at this moment be wrapped in gloom--a veritable desert of
deadness relieved only by the brightness and animation of the busy
public-houses--the Strand was thronged with a languid crowd all agape for
the shady mysteries of the night world, which writers describe so
convincingly, but the evidence of which is so often disappointing.

Deserted Suburbia had sent its quota to stare at the evil night-life of
the Metropolis. That it was evil none doubted. These pallid shop girls
clinging to the arms of their protecting swains, these sedate, married
ladies, arm in arm with their husbands, these gay young bloods from a
thousand homes beyond the radius--they all knew the significance of those
two words: "West End."

They stood for an extravagant aristocracy--you could see the shimmer and
sheen of them as they bowled noiselessly along the Strand from theatre to
supper table, in their brilliantly illuminated cars, all lacquer and
silver work. They stood for all the dazzle of light, for all the joyous
ripple of laughter, for the faint strains of music which came from the
restaurants.

Suburbia saw, disapproved, but was intensely interested. For here was
hourly proof of unthinkable sums that to the strolling pedestrians were
only reminiscent of the impossible exercises in arithmetic which they had
been set in their earlier youth. It all reeked of money--the Strand--Pall
Mall (all ponderous and pompous clubs), but most of all, Piccadilly
Circus, a great glittering diamond of light set in the golden heart of
London.

Money--money--money! The contents bills reflected the spirit of the West.
"Well-known actress loses 20,000 pounds worth of jewellery," said one;
"Five million shipping deal," said another, but that which attracted most
attention was the naming bill which The Monitor had issued--

KING KERRY TO BUY LONDON

(Special)

It drew reluctant coppers from pockets which seldom knew any other
variety of coinage than copper. It brought rapidly-walking men, hardened
to the beguilement of the contents-bill author, to a sudden standstill.

It even lured the rich to satisfy their curiosity. "King Kerry is going
to buy London," said one man.

"I wish he'd buy this restaurant and burn it," grumbled the other,
rapping on the table with the handle of a fork. "Waiter, how long are you
going to keep me before you take my order?"

"In a moment, sir."

A tall, good-looking man sitting at the next table, and occupying at the
moment the waiter's full attention, smiled as he heard the conversation.
His grey hair made him look much older than he was, a fact which afforded
him very little distress, for he had passed the stage when his personal
appearance excited much interest in his own mind. There were many eyes
turned toward him, as, having paid his bill, he rose from his chair.

He seemed unaware of the attention he drew to himself, or, if aware, to
be uncaring, and with a thin cigar between his even white teeth he made
his way through the crowded room to the vestibule of the restaurant.

"By Jove," said the man who had complained about the waiter's
inattention, "there goes the chap himself!" and he twisted round in his
chair to view the departing figure.

"Who?" asked his friend, laying down the paper he had been reading.

"King Kerry," said the other, "the American millionaire."

King Kerry strolled out through the revolving doors and was swallowed up
with the crowd.

Following King Kerry, at a distance, was another well-dressed man,
younger than the millionaire, with a handsome face and a subtle air of
refinement.

He scowled at the figure ahead as though he bore him no good will, but
made no attempt to overtake or pass the man in front, seeming content to
keep his distance. King Kerry crossed to the Haymarket and walked down
that sloping thoroughfare to Cockspur Street.

The man who followed was slimmer of build, yet well made. He walked with
a curious restricted motion that was almost mincing. He lacked the swing
of shoulder which one usually associated with the well-built man, and
there was a certain stiffness in his walk which suggested a military
training. Reflected by the light of a lamp under which he stopped when
the figure in front slowed down, the face was a perfect one, small
featured and delicate.

Herman Zeberlieff had many of the characteristics of his Polish-Hungarian
ancestry and if he had combined with these the hauteur of his
aristocratic forbears, it was not unnatural, remembering that the
Zeberlieffs had played no small part in the making of history.

King Kerry was taking a mild constitutional before returning to his
Chelsea house to sleep. His shadower guessed this, and when King Kerry
turned on to the Thames Embankment, the other kept on the opposite side
of the broad avenue, for he had no wish to meet his quarry face to face.

The Embankment was deserted save for the few poor souls who gravitated
hither in the hope of meeting a charitable miracle.

King Kerry stopped now and again to speak to one or another of the wrecks
who ambled along the broad pavement, and his hand went from pocket to
outstretched palm not once but many times.

There were some who, slinking towards him with open palms, whined their
needs, but he was too experienced a man not to be able to distinguish
between misfortune and mendicancy.

One such a beggar approached him near Cleopatra's Needle, but as King
Kerry passed on without taking any notice of him, the outcast commenced
to hurl a curse at him. Suddenly King Kerry turned back and the beggar
shrunk towards the parapet as if expecting a blow, but the pedestrian was
not hostile.

He stood straining his eyes in the darkness, which was made the more
baffling because of the gleams of distant lights, and his cigar glowed
red and grey.

"What did you say?" he asked gently. "I'm afraid I was thinking of
something else when you spoke."

"Give a poor feller creature a copper to get a night's lodgin'!" whined
the man. He was a bundle of rags, and his long hair and bushy beard were
repulsive even in the light which the remote electric standards afforded.

"Give a copper to get a night's lodging?" repeated the other.

"An' the price of a dri--of a cup of coffee," added the man eagerly.

"Why?"

The question staggered the night wanderer, and he was silent for a
moment.

"Why should I give you the price of a night's lodging--or give you
anything at all which you have not earned?"

There was nothing harsh in the tone: it was gentle and friendly, and the
man took heart.

"Because you've got it an' I ain't," he said--to him a convincing and
unanswerable argument.

The gentleman shook his head.

"That is no reason," he said. "How long is it since you did any work?"

The man hesitated. There was authority in the voice, despite its
mildness. He might be a "split"--and it would not pay to lie to one of
those busy fellows.

"I've worked orf an' on," he said sullenly. "I can't get work what with
foreyners takin' the bread out of me mouth an' undersellin' us."

It was an old argument, and one which he had found profitable,
particularly with a certain type of philanthropist.

"Have you ever done a week's work in your life, my brother?" asked the
gentleman.

One of the "my brother" sort, thought the tramp, and drew from his
armoury the necessary weapons for the attack.

"Well, sir," he said meekly, "the Lord has laid a grievous affliction on
me head--"

The gentleman shook his head again.

"There is no use in the world for you, my friend," he said softly. "You
occupy the place and breathe the air which might be better employed.
You're the sort that absorbs everything and grows nothing: you live on
the charity of working people who cannot afford to give you the
hard-earned pence your misery evokes."

"Are you goin' to allow a feller creature to walk about all night?"
demanded the tramp aggressively.

"I have nothing to do with it, my brother," said the other coolly. "If I
had the ordering of things I should not let you walk about."

"Very well, then," began the beggar, a little appeased.

"I should treat you in exactly the same way as I should treat any other
stray dog--I should put you out of the world."

And he turned to walk on.

The tramp hesitated for a moment, black rage in his heart. The Embankment
was deserted--there was no sign of a policeman.

"Here!" he said roughly, and gripped King Kerry's arm.

Only for a second, then a hand like teak struck him under the jaw, and he
went blundering into the roadway, striving to regain his balance.

Dazed and shaken he stood on the kerb watching the leisurely
disappearance of his assailant. Perhaps if he followed and made a row the
stranger would give him a shilling to avoid the publicity of the courts;
but then the tramp was as anxious as the stranger, probably more anxious,
to avoid publicity. To do him justice, he had not allowed his beard to
grow or refrained from cutting his hair because he wished to resemble an
anchorite, there was another reason. He would like to get even with the
man who had struck him--but there were risks.

"You made a mistake, didn't you?"

The beggar turned with a snarl.

At his elbow stood Hermann Zeberlieff, King Kerry's shadower, who had
been an interested spectator of all that had happened.

"You mind your own business!" growled the beggar, and would have slouched
on his way.

"Wait a moment!" The young man stepped in his path. His hand went into
his pocket, and when he withdrew it he had a little handful of gold and
silver. He shook it; it jingled musically.

"What would you do for a tenner?" he asked.

The man's wolf eyes were glued to the money.

"Anything," he whispered, "anything, bar murder."

"What would you do for fifty?" asked the young man.

"I'd--I'd do most anything," croaked the tramp hoarsely.

"For five hundred and a free passage to Australia?" suggested the young
man, and his piercing eyes were fixed on the beggar.

"Anything--anything!" almost howled the man.


The young man nodded.

"Follow me," he said, "on the other side of the road."

They had not been gone more than ten minutes when two men came briskly
from the direction of Westminster. They stopped every now and again to
flash the light of an electric lamp upon the human wreckage which lolled
in every conceivable attitude of slumber upon the seats of the
Embankment. Nor were they content with this, for they scrutinized every
passer-by--very few at this hour in the morning.

They met a leisurely gentleman strolling toward them, and put a question
to him.

"Yes," said he, "curiously enough I have just spoken with him--a man of
medium height, who spoke with a queer accent. I guess you think I speak
with a queer accent too," he smiled, "but this was a provincial, I
reckon."

"That's the man, inspector," said one of the two turning to the other.
"Did he have a trick when speaking of putting his head on one side?"

The gentleman nodded.

"Might I ask if he is wanted--I gather that you are police officers?"

The man addressed hesitated and looked to his superior.

"Yes, sir," said the inspector. "There's no harm in telling you that his
name is Horace Baggin, and he's wanted for murder--killed a warder of
Devizes Gaol and escaped whilst serving the first portion of a lifer for
manslaughter. We had word that he's been seen about here."

They passed on with a salute, and King Kerry, for it was he, continued
his stroll thoughtfully.

"What a man for Hermann Zeberlieff to find?" he thought, and it was a
coincidence that at that precise moment the effeminate-looking Zeberlieff
was entertaining an unsavoury tramp in his Park Lane study, plying him
with a particularly villainous kind of vodka; and the tramp, with his
bearded head on one side as he listened, was learning more about the
pernicious ways of American millionaires than he had ever dreamt.

"Off the earth fellers like that ought to be," he said thickly. "Give me
a chance--hit me on the jaw, he did, the swine--I'll millionaire him!"


"Have another drink," said Zeberlieff.

CHAPTER II

The "tube" lift was crowded, and Elsie Marion, with an apprehensive
glance at the clock, rapidly weighed in her mind whether it would be best
to wait for the next lift and risk the censure of Mr. Tack or whether she
should squeeze in before the great sliding doors clanged together. She
hated lifts, and most of all she hated crowded lifts. Whilst she
hesitated the doors rolled together with a "Next lift, please!"

She stared at the door blankly, annoyed at her own folly. This was the
morning of all mornings when she wished to be punctual.

Tack had been mildly grieved by her innumerable failings, and had nagged
her persistently for the greater part of the week. She was unpunctual,
she was untidy, she was slack to a criminal extent for a lady cashier
whose efficiency is reckoned by the qualities which, as Tack insisted,
she did not possess.

The night before he had assembled the cash girls and had solemnly warned
them that he wished to see them in their places at nine o'clock sharp.
Not, he was at trouble to explain, at nine-ten, or at nine-five, not even
at nine-one--but as the clock in the tower above Tack and Brighton's
magnificent establishment chimed the preliminary quarters before booming
out the precise information that nine o'clock had indeed arrived, he
wished every lady to be in her place.

There had been stirring times at Tack and Brighton's during the past
three months. An unaccountable spirit of generosity had been evinced by
the proprietors--but it had been exercised towards the public rather than
in favour of the unfortunate employees. The most extraordinary reductions
in the sale price of their goods and the most cheeseparing curtailments
of selling cost had resulted--so traitorous members of the counting-house
staff said secretly--in a vastly increased turnover and, in some
mysterious fashion, in vastly increased profits.

Some hinted that those profits were entirely fictitious, but that were
slander only to be hinted at, for why should Tack and Brighten, a private
company with no shareholders to please or pain, go out of their way to
fake margins?  For the moment, the stability of the firm was a minor
consideration.

It wanted seven minutes to nine, and here was Elsie Marion at Westminster
Bridge Road Tube Station, and Tack and Brighton's Oxford Street premises
exactly twelve minutes away. She shrugged her pretty shoulders. One might
as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, she thought. But she was angry
with herself at her own stupidity. The next lift would be as crowded--she
was left in no doubt as to that, for it was full as soon as the doors
were open--and she might have saved three precious minutes.

She was crowded to the side of the lift and was thankful that the
unsavoury and often uncleanly patrons of the line at this hour in the
morning were separated from her by a tall man who stood immediately
before her.

He was bareheaded, and his grey hair was neatly brushed and pomaded. His
high forehead, clean-cut aquiline nose and firm chin, gave him an air of
refinement and suggested breed. His eyes were blue and deep-set, his lips
a trifle thin, and his cheek-bones, without being prominent, were
noticeable on his sun-tanned face. All this she took in in one idle
glance. She wondered who he was, and for what reason he was a traveller
so early in the morning. He was well-dressed, and a single black pearl in
his cravat was suggestive of wealth. His hat he held between his two
hands across his breast. He was an American, she gathered, because
Americans invariably removed their hats in elevators when women were
present.

The lift sank downward to the platform sixty feet below, and as it did
she heard the faint sound of a "ting," which told her she had missed a
train. That would mean another three minutes' wait. She could have cried
with vexation. It was a serious matter for her--an orphan girl absolutely
alone in the world and dependent upon her own exertions for a livelihood.
Cashiers were a drug on the market, and her shorthand and typewriting
lessons had only advanced to a stage where she despaired of their getting
any further.

Her salary was very small, and she thought regretfully of the days when
she had spent more than that on shoes, before dear old spendthrift Aunt
Martha had died, leaving her adopted daughter with no greater provision
for the future than a Cheltenham education, a ten-pound note, and a
massive brooch containing a lock from the head of Aunt Martha's love of
the sixties.

Between the beginning of a lift's ascent and the moment the doors open
again a girl with the cares of life upon her can review more than a man
can write in a year. Before the giant elevator touched bottom Elsie
Marion had faced the future and found it a little bleak. She was aware,
as she turned to make her exit, that the tall man before her was watching
her curiously. It was not the rude stare to which she had now grown
callous, but the deeper, piercing glance of one who was genuinely
interested. She suspected the inevitable smut on her nose, and fumbled
for her handkerchief.

The stranger stepped aside to let her pass down first, and she was
compelled to acknowledge the courtesy with a little nod. He followed her
closely, instinct told her that; but so many people were following
closely in that hurried slither to the platform.

There was some time to wait--two full minutes--and she strolled to the
deserted end of the platform to get away from the crowd. She disliked
crowds at all times, and this morning she hated them.

"Excuse me!"

She had heard that form of introduction before, but there was something
in the voice which now addressed her which was unlike any of the
impertinent overtures to which she had grown accustomed.

She turned and confronted the stranger. He was looking at her with a
pleasant little smile.

"You'll think I'm crazy, I guess," he said; "but somehow I just had to
come along and talk to you--you're scared of elevators?"

She might have frozen him--at least, she might have tried--but for some
unaccountable reason she felt glad to talk to him. He was the kind of man
she had known in the heyday of Aunt Martha's prosperity.

"I am a little scared," she said, with a quick smile. "It is absurd,
because they are so safe."

He nodded.

"I'm a little scared myself," he confessed easily. "Not that I'm afraid
of dying, but when I think of the thousands of human beings whose future
rests upon me and my life--why my hair goes up every time I cross the
street."

He was not asking her to be interested in himself. She felt that he was
just voicing a thought that had occurred to him in a simple, natural way.
She looked at him with greater interest.

"I've just been buying a lunatic asylum," he said, and with an inquiring
lift of his eyebrows, which at once asked permission and offered thanks
when it was granted, he lit a cigar.

She stared at him and he laughed.

Whilst suspicion was gathering in her eyes, the train came hissing into
the station.

The girl saw with dismay that it was crowded, and the mob which besieged
each doorway was ten deep.

"You won't catch this," said the man calmly. "There'll be another in a
minute."

"I'm afraid I must try," said the girl, and hurried along to where the
surging throng were struggling to get aboard.

Her strange companion followed with long strides, but even with his
assistance there was no chance of obtaining foothold, and she was left
behind with a score of others. "Time's money," said the grey-haired
stranger cheerfully. "Don't be mean with it!"

"I can't afford to be anything else," said the girl, pardonably
exasperated. "Possibly you haven't to face the wrath of an employer with
a watch in his hand and doom on his face."

She laughed a little in spite of her vexation.

"I'm so sorry," she pleaded; "but I did not intend allowing myself the
luxury of a grumble about my worries--you were saying you have bought a
lunatic asylum."

He nodded, a twinkle in his eye.

"And you were thinking I had just escaped from one," he said accusingly.
"Yes, I've just bought the Coldharbour Asylum--lock, stock, and barrel--"

She looked at him incredulously.

"Do you mean that?" she asked, and her scepticism was justified, for the
Coldharbour Asylum is the largest in London, and the second largest in
the world.

"I mean it," he said. "I am going to build the cutest residential club in
London on that site."

There was no time to say any more. Another train came in and, escorted by
the grey-haired man, who in the shortest space of time had assumed a
guardianship over her which was at once comforting and disconcerting, she
found a seat in a smoking carriage. It was so easy to chat with him, so
easy to confide hopes and fears which till that moment she had not put
into words.

She found herself at Oxford Circus all too soon, and oblivious of the
fact that the hands of the station clock pointed to twenty minutes after
nine. "A sheep as a lamb," said her footsteps hollowly, as she went
leisurely along the vaulted passage-way to the lift.

"Were you going to Oxford Circus?" she asked, suddenly seized with a fear
that she had taken this purchaser of lunatic asylums out of his way.

"Curiously enough, I was," he said. "I'm buying some shops in Oxford
Street at half-past nine."

Again she shot a swift glance at him, and he chuckled as he saw her
shrink back a little.

"I am perfectly harmless," he said mockingly.

They stepped out into Argyll Street together, and he offered his hand.

"I hope to meet you again," he said, but did not tell her his name--it
was King Kerry--though, he had read hers in the book she was carrying.

She felt a little uncomfortable, but gave him a smiling farewell. He
stood for some time looking after her.

A man, unkempt, with a fixed, glassy look in his eye, had been watching
the lift doors from the opposite side of the street. He started to cross
as the grey-haired stranger made his appearance. Suddenly two shots rang
out, and a bullet buzzed angrily past the grey man's face.

"That's yours, Mister!" howled a voice, and the next instant the owner
was grabbed by two policemen.

A slow smile gathered at the corners of the grey man's lips.

"Horace," he said, and shook his head disapprovingly, "you're a rotten
shot!"

On the opposite side of Oxford Street, a man watched the scene from the
upper window of a block of offices.

He saw the racing policemen, the huge crowd which gathered in a moment,
and the swaying figures of the officers of the law and their half-mad
prisoner. He saw, too, a grey-haired man, unharmed and calm, slowly
moving away, talking with a sergeant of police who had arrived on the
scene at the moment. The watcher shook a white fist in the direction of
King Kerry.

"Some day, my friend!" he said between his clenched teeth, "I will find a
bullet that goes to its mark--and the girl from Denver City will be
free!"

CHAPTER III

Mr. Tack stood by the cashier's desk in the ready-made department. He
wore upon his face the pained look of one who had set himself the
pleasant task of being disagreeable, and yet feared the absence of
opportunity.

"She won't come; we'll get a wire at eleven, saying she's ill, or her
mother has been taken to the infirmary," he said bitterly, and three
sycophantic shop-walkers, immaculately attired in the most perfect
fitting of frock-coats who stood at a respectful distance, said in
audible tones that it was really disgraceful.

They would have laughed at Mr. Tack's comment on the sick mother, but
they weren't sure whether he wanted them to laugh, because Mr. Tack was a
strict Churchman, and usually regarded sickness as part and parcel of the
solemn ritual of life.

"She goes on Saturday week--whatever happens," said Mr. Tack grimly, and
examined his watch. "She would go at once if it wasn't for the fact that
I can'tget anybody to take her place at a minute's notice." One of the
shop-walkers, feeling by reason of his seniority of service that
something was expected from him, remarked that he did not know what
things were coming to.

It was to this unhappy group that Elsie Marion, flushed and a little
breathless, came in haste from the stuffy dressing-room which Tack and
Brighton's provided for their female employees.

"I'm so sorry!" she said, as she opened the glass-panelled door of the
cash rostrum and swung herself up to the high stool.

Mr. Tack looked at her. There he stood, as she had predicted, his gold
chronometer in his hand, the doom on his face, an oppressive figure.

"Nine o'clock I was here, miss," he said.

She made no reply, opening her desk, and taking out the check pads and
the spikes of her craft.

"Nine o'clock I was here, miss," repeated the patient Mr. Tack--who was
far from patient, being, in fact, in a white heat of temper.

"I'm very sorry!" she repeated.

A young man had strolled into the store, and since the officials
responsible for piloting him to the counter of his desire were at that
moment forming an admiring audience about Mr. Tack, he was allowed to
wander aimlessly. He was a bright boy, in a fawn dustcoat, and his soft
felt hat was stuck on the back of his head. He had all the savoir-faire
and the careless confidence which is associated with one profession in
the world--and one only. He drew nearer to the little group, having no
false sense of modesty.

"You are sorry!" said Mr. Tack with great restraint. He was a stout
little man with a shiny bald head and a heavy, yellow moustache. "You are
sorry! Well, that's a comfort! You've absolutely set the rules--my
rules--at defiance. You have ignored my special request to be here at
nine o'clock--and you're sorry!"

Still the girl made no reply, but the young man in the soft felt hat was
intensely interested.

"If I can get here, Miss Marion, you can get here!" said Mr. Tack.

"I'm very sorry," said the girl again. "I overslept. As it is, I have
come without any breakfast."

"I could get up in time," went on Mr. Tack.

Elsie Marion turned on him, her patience exhausted. This was his way--he
would nag from now till she left, and she wanted to see the end of it.
She scented dismissal, anyway.

"What do you think I care?" she asked, stung to wrath, "about what time
you got up?  You're horribly old compared to me; you eat more than I, and
you haven't my digestion. You get up because you can't sleep, probably. I
sleep because I can't get up."

It was a speech foreign to her nature, but she was stung to resentment.

Mr. Tack was dumbfounded. Here were at least six statements, many of them
unthinkably outrageous, which called for reprimand.

"You're discharged," he snorted. The girl slipped down from her stool,
very white of face.

"Not now--not now!" said Mr. Tack hastily. "You take a week's notice from
Saturday."

"I'd rather go now," she said quietly.

"You'll stay to suit my convenience," breathed Mr. Tack, "and then you
will be discharged without a character."

She climbed back to her stool, strangely elated.

"Then you've got to stop nagging me," she said boldly. "I'll do whatever
it is my duty to do, but I won't be bullied. I don't want your
linen-draper's sarcasms," she went on recklessly, encouraged by the
sympathetic smile of the young man in the soft felt hat, who was now an
unabashed member of the audience, "and I won't have your ponderous
rebukes. You are the head of a beastly establishment in which your
hirelings insult defenceless girls who dare not resent. One of these days
I'm going to take the story of Tack and Brighten to The Monitor.'"

It was a terrible threat born of a waning courage, for the girl was fast
losing her exhilaration which came to her in her moment of temporary
triumph; but Mr. Tack, who was no psychologist, and did not inquire into
first causes, turned pink and white. Already The Monitor had hinted at
scandal in "a prosperous sweating establishment in Oxford Street," and
Mr. Tack had the righteous man's fear of publicity.

"You--you dare!" he spluttered. "You--you be careful, Miss--I'll have you
out of here, by Jove! Yes--neck and crop! What can we do for you, sir?"

He turned sharply to the young man in the trilby hat, having observed him
for the first time.

"My name's Gillett," said the youth bluntly, "and I am a representative
of The Monitor--er--I want to see this young lady for two minutes.

"Go to the devil!" said Mr. Tack defiantly.

The young man bowed.

"After I have interviewed this young lady," he said.

"I forbid you to give this man information about my business," exploded
the enraged partner.

The reporter closed his eyes wearily.

"My poor fellow," he said, shaking his head, "it isn't about your
business I want to see this lady, it's about King Kerry."

Mr. Tack opened his mouth in astonishment.

"Mr. King Kerry?" he said. "Why, that's the gentleman  who is buying this
business!"

He blurted it out--a secret which he had so jealously guarded. He
explained in one sentence the reason for the economies, the sales at less
than cost, the whole disastrous and nefarious history of the past months.

"Buying this business, is he?" said Gillett, unimpressed. "Why, that's
nothing! He was nearly murdered at Oxford Circus Tube Station half an
hour ago, and he's bought Portland Place Mansions since then."

He turned to the alarmed girl.

"Told me to come along and find you," he said. "Described you so that I
couldn't make any mistake."

"What does he want?" she asked, shaking.

"Wants you to come to lunch at the Savoy," said Mr. Gillett, "and tell
him whether Tack and Brighton's is worth buying at the price."

Mr. Tack did not swoon, he was too well trained. But as he walked to his
private office he swayed unsteadily, and the shop-walker in the Ribbon
Department, who was a member of the Anti-Profanity League, heard what Mr.
Tack was saying to himself, and put his fingers in his ears.

CHAPTER IV

A bewildered man sat in a cell at Vine Street, his aching head between
his large, grimy hands. He was trying, in his dull brutish way, to piece
together the events of the previous night and of that morning. He
remembered that he had met a man on the Thames Embankment. A gentleman
who had spoken coldly, whose words had cut like a steel knife, and yet
who had all the outward evidence of benevolence. And then that this man
had struck him, and there had come another, a smooth-faced, young-looking
man, who had taken him to a house and given him a drink.

The stranger had led him to a place, and told him to watch, and they had
followed this grey-haired man through streets in a taxi-cab.

Horace Baggin had never ridden in a motor car of any description before,
and he remembered this. He remembered all that had happened through a
thin alcoholic haze. They had gone to South London and then they had come
back, and the man had left him at a tube station with a pistol. Presently
the grey-haired man had made his appearance, and Baggin, mad with
artificial rage, unthinking, unreasoning, had stepped forward and shot
wildly, and then the police had come. That was all.

Suddenly a thought struck him, and he started up with an oath. He was
wanted for that other affair in Wiltshire. Would they recognize him?  He
pressed a little electric bell, which was placed in the wall of the cell,
and the turnkey came and surveyed him gravely through the grating.

"What is the charge?" Baggin asked eagerly.

"You know what the charge is," said the other; "it was read over to you
in the charge-room."

"But I have forgotten," said the man sullenly. "It won't hurt you to tell
me what I am charged with, will it?"

The officer hesitated. Then--

"You are charged with attempted murder and with manslaughter."

"What manslaughter?" asked Baggin quickly.

"Oh, an old affair, you know, Baggin!"

"Baggin!"

So they knew his name.

Well, there was one gleam of hope, one chance for him. This rich stranger
who had lured him out to shoot the grey-haired man, he could help. He was
a toff, he was; he lived in a grand house.

What was his name?

Baggin paced his cell for some quarter of an hour, racking his aching
brain for the name which eluded him. Yes, curiously enough, he had seen
the name, though the other might not have suspected the fact. In the
hallway of the house to which the stranger took him was a tiny stand with
glass and silver things, fragile and dainty, on which, as they had
entered, Baggin had seen some letters addressed to the man, and he,
naturally curious, and gifted moreover with the ability to read
handwriting, had deciphered the name as--as--Zeberlieff!

That was the name, "Zeberlieff," and Park Lane, too--the house was in
Park Lane. He remembered it now. He was elated at the result of his
thought, a little exhausted too.

He called the gaoler again, and the weary official obeyed, not without
resentment.

"What do you want now?" he asked bitterly.

"Can you let me have a sheet of paper, an envelope and a pencil?"

"I can," said the gaoler. "Who do you want to write to--a lawyer?"

"That's it," said Baggin. "He is my own private lawyer," he said proudly.
"A regular 'nut' he is, too; he won't half put it across you people if
you don't behave properly."

"Not so much lip!" said the gaoler, and went away, to return in a few
moments with the necessary vehicles of communication.

He passed them through the open grating in the door, and Horace sat down
to the unaccustomed task of composing a letter, which was not
incriminating to his employer, but which conveyed to him a sense of his
responsibility, and the danger in which he stood if he did not offer, the
succour which was required of him.

"Honoured Sir," the letter ran (it would serve no useful purpose to
faithfully expose the liberties he took with the English language), "some
time ago I did a job of work for you. I am now in great trouble having
shot the gentleman, and I should be very much obliged if you would assist
me to the best of your ability."

It was a noteworthy contribution to the literature of artfulness. Horace
Baggin had been inspired to remember Zeberlieff as an old employer in the
mythical period when Horace Baggin preferred hard work to the illicit
calling which had ended so disastrously for him.

"Zeberlieff," said the gaoler as he read the address and scanned the
letter; "why, that's an American millionaire, ain't it?"

"That's so," said Horace Baggin complacently; "he's been a good friend of
mine. I used to be his "--he hesitated--"his gamekeeper," he said. "He
had an estate down our way," he went on grimly. "Very good shot, too."

"I will send it down if you like," said the gaoler; "though he will
probably only give you the cold shoulder. You know when a man gets into
trouble he can't expect his old master to come prancing round getting him
out. Not in these days, anyway."

Nevertheless, he sent it on at Baggin's request.

After that effort of thought and diplomacy Horace Baggin felt at peace
with the world. In the afternoon he was called before the magistrate.
Formal evidence was taken, and he was remanded for one day and removed
back to the cell; that meant another day at the police court.

Well, he was prepared to face it. It was not the first time he had been
in trouble, but it was the first time he had been in a position where, in
spite of the enormity of the crime, hope had extended so rosy a vista of
possibilities. He had received news that his letter had been delivered,
and waited hopefully for his partner in crime to make a move. It was
fine, he thought, to have such a pal. The prospect of succour had almost
entirely eclipsed the seriousness of the charges which the man had to
face.

Morning found Baggin more sober and more bitter. So this sweet pal of his
had gone back on him, had made no attempt to answer his call of distress,
even though the imprisoned man had made it apparent that no immediate
danger threatened the confederate. Well, there was another way out of it,
another way in which he might excuse his conduct and find himself the
centre of a sensational case. He waited till the gaoler passed, and then--

"I want to see the inspector in charge of this case," he said. "I have
got a statement to make."

"Right-o!" said the gaoler. "You had better have your breakfast first.
You will be one of the first to go into court, you know."

Baggin nodded.

"Coffee and toast have been sent in for you."

"Who by?" asked Baggin, with some show of interest.

"One of your pals," said the gaoler, and vouchsafed no further
information.

So Zeberlieff had moved, had he?

Baggin had no pals, save the pal for whom he was waiting, and in whom he
had placed his faith. His spirits rose again. He remembered that it would
be as well not to be too emphatic. There might come a time when it would
be necessary to admit the existence of the other man.

"Here is your breakfast," said a detective, as the door swung open again,
and he was accompanied by a warder with a little tray, carrying a
steaming jug of coffee and a plate of toast. "Now, just think it out, and
let me know how you feel before you go into court. It might make all the
difference in the world to you. Why should you stand the racket for
another man's crime?" the detective asked.

Baggin was not to be cajoled, but no sooner had the door closed behind
the detective than he moved mechanically across to where the writing-pad
lay and picked it up. He would give the stranger a chance; in the
meantime he was hungry.

He took a draught of the coffee, at the same time wondering how his
new-found pal would get him out of the scrape.

Five minutes later a detective and the gaoler strolled down to his cell.

"I will have a talk with him," said the detective, and the gaoler,
without troubling to look through the grating, inserted the key and
pulled the door open.

The detective uttered an exclamation and sprang into the cell.  Baggin
lay in a huddled heap amongst a litter of broken china and spilt coffee.
The detective lifted him up bodily and turned him over.

"My God!" he said, "he's dead! He has been poisoned! There is the scent
of cyanide of potassium in this cell."

"Poisoned?" asked the startled gaoler. "Who did it?  How did he get it?"

"It was in the coffee," replied the detective slowly, "and the man that
sent it in was the man who employed Baggin to do his dirty work."

CHAPTER V

Before the lunch hour arrived at Tack and Brighton's, there came to Elsie
Marion, through the medium of the senior shopwalker, an invitation to
attend upon Mr. Tack. It was couched in such elegant language, and
delivered with grace that no doubt could exist in the mind of any
intelligent being that message and messenger had been most carefully
rehearsed.

At five minutes to one Elsie presented herself at the partners' office.
Mr. Tack was not alone; his partner sat bunched up in a chair, biting his
knuckles and scowling furiously.

The firm of Tack and Brighten was not distinguished by the fact that one
member of the firm whose name appeared upon the facade had no incorporate
existence. There may have been a Brighten in the old days, but nobody had
ever seen him or met him. He was a business legend. The dominant partner
of the firm was James Leete.

He was a stout man, stouter than the fiery Mr. Tack. He walked with a
waddle, and his face was not pleasant. It was creased and puffed into a
score of unhealthy rolls and crevices; his nose was red and bulbous and
to accentuate and emphasize his unloveliness, he wore a black-rimmed
monocle. Immensely rich, he fawned a way through life, for he sought
inclusion in ducal house parties and was happiest in the society of rank.

"This is the girl?" he asked.

He had a thick, husky voice, naturally coarse, through which ran with
grotesque insistence a tone of mock culture which he had acquired by
conscientious imitation of his models.

"This is Miss Marion," said Tack gloomily.

Leete leered up at him.

"Pretty girl! I suppose you know it, Miss What's-your-name?"

Elsie made no reply, though the colour came to her cheek at the
undisguised insolence of the man.

"Now, look here!"--Leete swung his gross shape round on the revolving
chair till he faced her and wagged a fat finger in her direction--"you've
got to be very careful what you say to my friend King Kerry: everything
you tell him he'll repeat to me, and if you tell one solitary, single lie
about this business I can have you clapped into gaol for criminal libel."

The girl smiled in spite of herself.

"You can grin!" growled Leete; "but I mean it--see?  Not that you know
anything that we mind you saying. You're not exactly in the confidence of
the firm--and if you were," he added quickly, "you'd know no more to our
detriment than you do."

"Don't worry!" answered the girl coolly. "I shall tell him nothing except
that you have said you are a friend of his."


"It's not necessary to tell him that," said Leete hastily.

"I think it is only fair to him to know what awful things people are
saying about him," said Elsie sweetly. She was in her "sheep and lamb"
mood, and she was very hungry. Later she was to marvel at her courage and
her impertinence, but just at the moment she was conscious of nothing so
much as a terrible sense of absence in the region of her little
diaphragm.

"My girl," said Leete slowly, "I don't inquire as to how you got to know
my friend Kerry, and I won't inquire, and I won't hint--"

"You'd jolly well better not!" flared the girl, her eyes shining angrily;
"because as I'm feeling just now I'd throw this inkstand at your head for
two pins!"

Mr. Leete pushed his chair back in alarm as the girl lifted the inkwell
from the table and gripped it suggestively.

"Don't misunderstand me!" he begged with a warding arm raised. "I'm only
talking to you for your good. I want to see you get on. I'll tell you
what I've suggested, Miss Marion: we keep you on, we double your salary,
and we put you in charge of the checking department."

For one moment only the magnificence of the offer overcame her. A larger
room--the little luxuries which on her old salary were impossible--

"And," added Mr. Leete impressively, "a bonus of a hundred pounds the day
this business is transferred to its new proprietor."

"A hundred pounds!" she repeated.

She put down the inkwell: it was out of place under the circumstances.

"And what would you ask me to do for this?" she demanded.

"Nothing," put in Tack, a silent spectator till now.

"You shut up, Tack!" snarled the partner. "Yes, of course, we want
something: we want you to tell Mr. Kerry all the good you can about the
firm."

She understood now.

"That will take me exactly half a second," said Elsie.

Her duty was clear. They were binding her to lie. She had not taken
Gillett's message seriously. She had not even grasped the elementary fact
that the grey-haired stranger in the tube was the great King Kerry,
multi-millionaire and controller of billions. Her head was whirling with
the happenings of the day--she was intoxicated by novelty, and only the
natural and buoyant healthy outlook of the girl kept her anyway near to
normal.

Leete took stock of her and wondered he had not noticed her before. She
was a beautiful girl with her fine grey eyes, and the mass of hair that
half-framed her face in a cloud of russet gold. The hands were small and
shapely, the figure slender and straight. Even the unattractive uniform
which Messrs. Tack and Brighten insisted upon their girls wearing did not
detract from her beauty. Now, with faint shadows which an insufficiency
of sleep and a lack of food had painted beneath her eyes, she was
ethereal and rather adorable. So thought Mr. Leete, no mean judge, and he
stroked his bristly grey-black moustache reflectively.

She half turned to the door.

"You will not require me any more?" she asked.

"Remember!" Again Leete was shaking his ridiculous finger at her.
"Criminal libel means imprisonment."

"I don't feel like laughing this morning," said Elsie Marion; "but you
are tempting me awfully."

She closed the door behind her before Mr. Leete had time to express his
wishes about her eyes, her soul, and her obscure relations. For Mr. Leete
had no respect for anybody whose name was not in Burke's "Landed Gentry."

She turned up to the dressing-room and found herself besieged by an
admiring crowd of girls, for the news that Miss Marion had "cheeked" Tack
and lived to tell the tale was common property.

She repressed a natural and human inclination to reveal the fact that she
was lunching at the Savoy, and fled from the building before she betrayed
her great secret.

Mr. Kerry was waiting in the entrance hall of the hotel alone. It seemed
to the girl that every eye in the great vestibule was focused on him and
in this surmise she was probably right, for a billionaire is something
out of the ordinary; but a billionaire who had escaped assassination at
the hands of a former "friend," and whose name in consequence, was on
every evening newspaper placard in London, was most wonderful of all.

Throughout the meal, taken at a table overlooking the river, they talked
on a variety of subjects. He was an especially well-read man, with a
penchant for the Persian poets, and was a delighted and unconventionally
demonstrative man--leaning across the table to stroke her hand--when she
capped a couplet from Hafiz with a verse from Sadi--

"Though we are straws laid down to warm the sod, We once were flowers in
the eyes of God."

"Excellent! splendid!" he cried. "I don't remember that rendering of the
poem."

"It is a rendering I made myself," she confessed. She had seen a
translation and had improved upon it.

They meandered through the most delicious lunch Elsie had eaten since the
extravagant days of Aunt Martha. He encouraged her to talk of that
relative. "A fine woman," he called her enthusiastically. "I love these
people who spend all their money."

She shook her head laughingly.

"That is not your creed, Mr. Kerry," she challenged.

"It is--it is!" he said eagerly; "here is my parable of finance. Money is
water. The sea is the wealth of the nations. It is evaporated and drawn
up to the sky and is sprinkled upon the earth. For some of us it runs in
deep channels, and if we are skilful we can dam it for our use. Some of
us dam it deeply, and some shallowly. With some it just filters away and
is swallowed up, only to reappear in somebody else's dam."

She nodded. It was a new imagery, and the conceit pleased her.

"If you keep it stagnant it is no use," he went on, as eager as a boy.
"You must let it pass along, always keeping a reserve; it shouldn't run
out faster than it runs in. I have a big dam--high up on the hills it
stands; a great and mighty reservoir always filling, always running off.
Farther down the hill hundreds of other men are collecting the waste from
my overflow; farther down smaller men with smaller dams, and so on--till
it runs away to the sea, as it must in time, to the great ocean of
world-wealth which collects everything and gives back everything."

She looked at him in amazement, this man who had escaped death by an inch
and was so absorbed in his philosophy of wealth that he had forgotten how
near he had stood to the brink of eternity, and her heart warmed to this
courageous man.

He came to earth quickly, fished in his inside pocket and produced a fat
little book with a soiled leather cover. He placed it tenderly on the
table and opened it. It was a book which had been in use for years. Some
of the pages were covered with minute writings, some had become detached
and had been carefully fastened in again.

"I owe you an explanation," he said, and sorted from a few loose papers a
photograph. He looked at it for a moment and laid it on the table for the
girl to see.

She gave a gasp.

"Why, that is me!" she said, and looked at him in amazement.

"It is rather like you, isn't it?" He replaced the photograph, his lips
pressed tight together. "As a matter of fact it isn't you; some time you
shall know who it is--that is," he smiled again, "if I am not the victim
of an imitator of the late Horace--"

"Late?" she repeated.

The other nodded gravely.

"He took cyanide of potassium in his cell at Marlborough Street," he
said, "leaving his good work for his employer to carry on. What time have
you to be back?" he asked suddenly.

"Two o'clock," she said in a sudden panic, for no great reason.

"It's now three," he said. "You need not go back till four."

"But, Mr. Tack--"

"I am the head of the firm," he smiled. "I have bought Tack and
Brighton's--closed the deal on the 'phone just before you arrived. I have
taken the liberty of raising your wages to fifteen pounds a week. Shall I
order you another coffee?"

Elsie opened her mouth to say "yes," but no sound came. For the first
time in her life she was at a loss for words.

CHAPTER VI

Though all the world now knows of King Kerry, and his life and
achievements are inscribed more or less accurately in the scrappy works
of reference which are so popular nowadays, only a privileged few know of
the inception of the great Trust which came to London in 19--.


It came about indirectly as a result of the Shearman Anti-Trust Law which
caused wholesale resignations from the boards of American companies, and
drove what is known on the other side of the Atlantic as the "mergers"
out of business. These were Trust men who had done nothing in their lives
but combine conflicting business interests into one great monopoly. They
found themselves scarcely within the pale of the law--they found, too,
that their opportunities were limited. These men had dealt in millions.
They had liquid assets, hard cash ready for employment at a moment's
notice. They came in a body to England--the eight greatest financiers of
the United States. Bolscombe E. Grant rented Tamby Hall from the Earl of
Dichester; Thomas A. Logge (the Wire King) settled in London; Gould
Lampest bought an estate in Lincolnshire; and the others--Verity
Sullivan, Combare Lee, Big Jack Simms, and King Kerry--settled down in
London.

There were others who joined forces with them; but they were unimportant.
Cagely H. Smith put a million into the pool, but backed out after the
Orange Street affair. The eight dispensed with his million without
noticing that it had gone. He was a little man, and they made clear, for
when Cagely tried to sneak back into the pool offering, not only the five
million dollars he had originally staked, but half a million pounds in
addition as evidence of his faith, his overtures were rejected. Another
small man was Morris Lochmann, who subscribed roughly 600,000 pounds--and
there were several of his kidney. The "L Trust," as it called itself, was
autocratic to a degree. Men who came in with inflated ideas as to their
importance were quashed as effectively as a fly is swotted. Hermann
Zeberlieff was one of these. He was a big man in a small place, one of
the little kings of industry, who measured themselves by the standard of
local publicity. He threw some 1,200,000 pounds into the pool--but he
talked. The fever for notoriety was so strong in him that he committed the
unpardonable crime of having a photograph of "this mammoth cheque" (so
the letterpress typed on the back of the picture called it) sent to all
the papers.

The cheque was never presented. He had jeopardized the success of the
project by alarming a public too ready to be scared by one of two
words--"trust" and "conscription."

Zeberlieff was a large holder of United Western Railway stock. On the
morning the photograph appeared the stock stood at 23 per share in the
market. By the next afternoon it had beaten down to 12 10s. On the
following day it slumped to 8--a sensational drop. The most powerful
group in the world had "beared" it. Hermann crawled out of the mess with
a loss of 800,000.

"What can I do?" he wailed to Bolscombe Grant, that gaunt man of money.

"I guess the best thing you can do," said Mr. Grant, chewing the end of
his cigar thoughtfully, "is to send a picture of yourself to the papers."

It was the first hint to Hermann Zeberlieff that he was the subject of
disciplinary measures.

It was typical of the Trust that it made no attempt to act collectively
in the sense that it was guided by a majority. It delegated all its
powers to one man, gave him a white card to scribble liabilities; neither
asked for explanations nor expected them. They found the money, and they
placed it at the disposal of King Kerry because King Kerry was the one
man of their number who understood the value of real estate properties.
They worked on a simple basis. The rateable value of London was
45,000,000. They computed that London's income was 150,000,000 a year.
They were satisfied that with the expenditure of 50,000,000 they could
extract ten per cent of London's income.

That was roughly the idea, and to this was added the knowledge that vast
as was the importance of the metropolis, it had only reached the fringe
of its possibilities. London would one day be twice its present size, and
ground value would be enormously increased. Its unique situation, the
security which came from the geographic insularity of England and the
strength of its navy, the feeding quality of its colonies, all combined
to mark London as a world capital.

"I see London extended to St. Albans on the north, Newbury on the west,
and Brighton on the south," wrote King Kerry in his diary. "It may even
extend to Colchester on the east; but the east side of any township is
always an unknown quantity in a scheme of development."

There were difficulties to overcome, almost insuperable difficulties, but
that was part of the game and made the players keener. Patience would do
much: judicious pressure tactfully applied would do more.

King Kerry wanted to buy the big block of buildings comprising Goulding's
Universal Stores. Goulding's stood out, so Kerry bought the next block,
which was Tack and Brighten's.

Elsie Marion presented herself at ten o'clock punctually at the modest
suite of offices which the "L Trust" occupied in Glasshouse Street. It
was unusual that a great financial corporation should be habited so far
west, but a peculiarity of the Trust and its operations was the fact that
never once did it attempt to handle property in the area between Temple
Bar and Aldgate Pump. It was not in the scheme of King Kerry to disturb
conditions in the City of London itself.

The office in Glasshouse Street occupied the ground floor of a modern
block. The floors above were let out to an insurance company, a firm of
solicitors, and an estate agent--all firms of undoubted integrity, and
all, moreover, largely associated with the working of the Trust.

The girl had read something of this office in the newspapers. A flippant
evening journal had christened it "The Jewel House," because it bore some
resemblance to the famous store of Britain's treasures in the Tower of
London. In her desire to be punctual she had arrived a quarter of an hour
before the appointed time, and she had leisure to inspect the remarkable
facade. A small brass plate against the entrance gave the seeker after
information the news that this was the registered office of the "L
Financial Corporation, Limited," for a small company with a ridiculous
capital had been registered as a matter of expediency. The company owned
the building in which it was situated and little more, but it served as a
cover for everyday purposes. It supplied an office and a repository for
the documents of larger concerns, and, by the very publicity it afforded,
effectively veiled the private transactions of its select shareholders.

The windows of the office reached to the ground. They were made of three
huge sheets of plate-glass set roughly bow-shaped between solid brass
pillars. Before them were three screens of large-meshed steel netting,
held in their place by pillars of gun-metal.

It was this which inspired the reference to "The Jewel House," for here
the resemblance ended. Yet the interior of the front office was
remarkable. It was bare of furnishing. A blood-red carpet covered the
floor, and in the centre, supported by a square pedestal of granite which
ran up from the basement, was a big safe. Apparently, it rested on the
floor, but no ordinary floor could support the weight of metal, and the
central pedestal had been put in whilst the building was in course of
erection.

Nor was this the only remarkable feature of the room.

The walls were completely covered by lengths of mirror, two of which were
set at an angle in the far corners of the room. Add six arc lamps
depending upon independent supplies, and hung so that their rays fell
upon the safe at every aspect and burning day and night, and you have
some idea of this unique department which attracted all London and became
one of the sights of the metropolis.

Day or night, the passer-by had a full view of the safe, and no man
entered that room save King Kerry and the armed guard which watched the
cleaners at their work every morning.

Even in the clear light of day it was an impressive sight, and Elsie
entered the building a little awe-stricken. She was taken to the back
office by a uniformed commissionaire and found the grey-haired young man
alone in his office, writing. He jumped up as she came in and pulled
forward a luxurious chair.

"Sit down, Miss Marion," he said. "I shall be calling you Elsie soon,
because"--he smiled at the little flush that came to her cheek--"in
America, why, I guess we're more friendly to our business associates than
you are in this country."

He pushed a button and the commissionaire came in.

"Are your two comrades outside?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," said the man.

"Tell them to come in."

A few seconds later the man returned, bringing two other commissionaires.
They stood stiffly by the door.

"This is Miss Marion," said King Kerry, and the girl rose.

The men scrutinized her seriously.

"Do you mind standing over by the wall?" asked Kerry.

She obediently walked across the room as Kerry switched on all the
lights.

"You will know Miss Marion now," said Kerry, "in whatever light she
appears. She is to have access to this office day or night. That is all."

The men saluted and withdrew as Kerry extinguished the electric bulbs.

"I'm sorry to bother you," he said; "but since you are the only other
person in the world who will have this privilege, it is necessary that I
should be very thorough. These men are in charge of the guards, and one
of them is on duty day and night."

She seated herself again with a pleasurable sense of importance.

"May I ask you one question?" she said.

He nodded.

"Why have you chosen me? I am not a proficient secretary, and you know
nothing whatever about me. I may be an associate of the worst
characters."

He leant back in a padded chair, surveying her quizzically.

"All that I know about you," he said, "is that you are the daughter of
the Rev. George Marion, a widower, who died seven years ago and left you
little more than would carry you to your aunt in London. That you have an
uncle in America, who is raising a large family and innumerable mortgages
in the middle west; that you had a brother who died in childhood; and
that you have been engaged by three firms--Meddlesohn, of Eastcheap--you
left them because you refused to be party to a gross fraud: Highlaw and
Sons, of Moorgate Street--which you left because the firm failed; and
Tack and Brighten--which you would have left, anyway."

She stared at him in amazement.

"How did you find this out?"

"My dear child," he said, rising and laying a fatherly hand upon her
shoulder, "how does one find things out? By asking the people who know. I
take few risks; I came down to Southwark to see you, and if possible to
speak to you before I engaged you or you knew that I wanted to engage
you. Now!"

He returned to his desk briskly.

"This is business. You receive fifteen pounds weekly from me and a bonus
at the end of every year. Your duty is to act as my confidante, to write
letters--not as I shall dictate them, for I hate dictating--but in the
sense of my instructions."

She nodded.

"There is one other thing," he said, and lowered his voice as he leant
across the desk. "I want you to remember three words."

She waited, expecting a conventional little motto which pointed out the
way of efficiency.

"Those three words," he went on in the same tone, "must never be uttered
to a living soul whilst I am alive; must be repeated to nobody but
myself."

Elsie felt incapable of being further amazed than she was. The last
twenty-four hours had held, so it seemed to her, the very limit of
surprises.

"To my partners, to my friends, or to my enemies--and especially to my
enemies," he continued with a fleeting smile, "you must never employ
them--until I am dead. Then, in the presence of the gentlemen who are
connected with this corporation you shall say "--he dropped his voice to
a whisper--"you shall say, 'Kingsway needs Paving.'"

"'Kingsway needs Paving,'" she repeated in a whisper.

"Whatever happens do not forget those words," he said gravely. "Repeat
them to yourself till you know them as you know your own name."

She nodded again. Bewildered as she was, half inclined to laugh, with the
old suspicion as to his sanity recurring, she knew that immense issues
hung upon those meaningless words--"Kingsway needs Paving."

CHAPTER VII

At the moment when Elsie was being initiated into the mysteries of King
Kerry's office, two men sat at breakfast in the sumptuous dining-room of
Mr. Leete's flat in Charles Street.

One of these was the redoubtable Leete himself, in a dressing-gown of
flowered silk, and the other the young-looking Mr. Hermann Zeberlieff. He
was a man of thirty-eight, but had one of those faces which defy the
ravages of time and the consequence of excess.

Leete and he were friends. They had met in Paris in the days when
Millionaire Zeberlieff's name was in every paper as the man who had
cornered wheat.

They had something in common, these two men, and when a Wall Street
syndicate had smashed the corner, ruining hundreds of small speculators,
but leaving Hermann Zeberlieff ten times over a dollar millionaire, Leete
had accompanied the young man on the yachting cruise which the execration
of the American public and the virulence of the Press had made advisable,
and the friendship ripened.

Later Millionaire Zeberlieff was to court publicity more disastrously to
himself, and the operations of the "L Trust" were to rob him of half his
fortune. They were talking of money now. It was a subject which absorbed
both men.

"You're a pretty rich man yourself, aren't you, Leete?"

Zeberlieff put the question in a tone that suggested that he was not
particular whether he was answered or not.

"Fairly," admitted the unprepossessing Mr. Leete.

"A millionaire?"

Leete nodded.

"Then why the devil did you sell Kerry your store?" asked the other in
astonishment.

Mr. Leete's face puckered into a grin.

"There was a bigger store next door," he said cheerfully. "Goulding's
were doing twice the trade--taking all our customers, and prospering.
They've got the best position--street corner and a double show of shop
fronts. That's why!"

"But why hasn't he bought Goulding's?"

The smile on Mr. Leete's face was expressive.

"Goulding's won't sell. He bought the land and is ground landlord, but he
can't disturb Goulding's because they've eighty years' lease to run."

Zeberlieff whistled.

"That will upset him," he said with satisfaction.

"As a matter of fact, Tack and Brighton's is a dying concern," Mr. Leete
went on frankly. "Unless he can buy Goulding's he's as good as lost his
money. Goulding's will sell--at a price."

He winked.

"By the way," he said suddenly, "did you hear that Kerry had been
attacked in the public street--shot at?" The other nodded. "Well, the man
that shot at him is dead!"

Zeberlieff raised his eyebrows.

"Indeed!"

Mr. Leete nodded.

"Apparently he was mad drunk when he got to the station, and when one of
his pals sent him in a mug of coffee the police let him have it--thought
it would sober him."

"And did it?" asked the other without any great show of interest.

Mr. Leete nodded again.

"It killed him--cyanide of potassium in the coffee. My doctor," he paused
and raised his voice ever so little, "my doctor, Sir John Burcheston, who
happened to be passing, was called in, and he told me all about it."

"Extraordinary!" said Mr. Zeberlieff, obviously bored. "How did it get to
him?"

"I don't know--they found the boy who brought the coffee, but he says he
was sent by a stranger who can't be found."

"Sounds thrilling," said Zeberlieff coolly.

"Thought you'd be interested," said the other.

"I'm more interested in your deal with Kerry. Didn't he know that
Goulding's wouldn't sell?" asked Zeberlieff incredulously; "it doesn't
seem possible!"

"He thinks he has got a bargain," chuckled the other. "We knocked the
prices down and put the profits up--your Trust folk aren't as clever as
they pretend."

But Zeberlieff shook his head. "If you underrate the ability of the 'Big
L,'" he said seriously, "you're going to nose trouble--that's all. King
Kerry smells the value of property just as crows scent carrion: he
doesn't make mistakes."

Leete looked up at the other, showing his yellow teeth in a sneer.

"If I'm speaking disparagingly of a friend of yours--" he began.

The plump baby-face of Zeberlieff went a dull red and his eyes glittered
ominously.

"A friend of mine?" he cried savagely. "A friend of mine--Leete, I hate
that man so much that I'm afraid of myself! I hate the look of him and
the sound of his voice: I hate him, and yet he fascinates me."

He strode rapidly up and down the long room.

"Do you know," he asked, stopping suddenly in his walk, "that I often
follow him for hours on end--dog his footsteps literally, for no other
reason than because I hate him so much that I cannot let him out of my
sight?"  His face was pale now; his hands, moist with perspiration, were
clenched till the knuckles showed whitely. "You think I'm mad--but you
don't know the fascination of hate. I hate him, my God, how I hate him!"

He hissed the last words between his clenched teeth. Mr. Leete nodded
approvingly. "Then I'm going to give you good news," he said slowly.
"Kerry is going to be bled."

"Bled?"  There was no mistaking the almost brutal joy in the other's
tone.

"Not the way you mean," said Mr. Leete facetiously; "but we're going to
make him pay for Goulding's."

"We?"


"We," repeated Leete, "My dear man, Goulding's is mine--has always been
my business. I built up Goulding's out of Tack and Brighten. I have sold
the failure; I have kept the success."

Again Zeberlieff frowned.

"Kerry didn't know?" he asked, his incredulity apparent.

Mr. Leete shook his head, and laughed--he laughed a curiously high laugh,
almost falsetto. Zeberlieff waited until he had finished.

"I'd like to bet you all the money in the world he did know," he said,
and the smile vanished from Mr. Leete's homely face.

"He knows now," he said, "because I've told him."

"He knew all the time," said the other. "I wonder what dirt he has in
store for you."

He thought a moment. That active brain which had foreseen the drought of
'04 and banked on the cotton famine of '08 was very busy.

"What is he going to do?" he asked suddenly. "What is the plan on which
he is working?--I don't know, although I was in the syndicate: none of
the others know. He has got the whole thing written out and deposited in
the Jewel House. No eye but his has seen it."

Leete rose to change into his street clothes.

"We could smash Kerry if we knew," continued Zeberlieff thoughtfully.
"I'd give a million dollars to know what his plans are."

Whilst Leete dressed, the other sat with his chin on his clenched fists,
frowning at the street below. Now and again he would change his position
to make a note.

When Leete returned, ready for an interview which he had arranged with
King Kerry, Zeberlieff was almost cheerful.

"Don't go till Gleber comes," he said. And Mr. Leete looked at his watch
regretfully. Before he could excuse himself, the servant announced the
man for whom Zeberlieff was waiting.

Gleber proved to be a little colourless man, with a very bald head and a
manner which was bird-like and mysterious.

"Well?"

"The young lady came at ten o'clock," he said. "She stood outside the
office for ten minutes, then went in."

"The same girl that lunched at the Savoy?" asked Zeberlieff, and the man
nodded.

"That's the Marion girl," said Leete with a grin, "A bit of a
shop-girl--is he that sort of fellow?"

Zeberlieff shook his head with a frown.

"He's a pretty good judge. How long did she stay?" he asked the man.

"She hadn't come out when I left. I think she's permanent there."

"Rot!" snapped Leete. "What is he going to keep a girl in his office
for--a girl of that class?"

Still Zeberlieff indicated that he did not accept the other's view.

"This is the perfect secretary he has always been chasing," he said.
"That girl is going to be a factor, Leete--perhaps she is already." He
bit his forefinger reflectively. "If she knew!" he said half to himself.

Leete took a hurried farewell, and reached the office of the Big Trust a
few minutes after time.

King Kerry was there, and Miss Marion was also there, seated at a
rosewood desk behind a pile of papers with every indication of
permanency.

"Sit down, Mr. Leete," invited Kerry with a nod, as his visitor was
announced. "Now, exactly what is your proposition?"

Mr. Leete glanced significantly at Elsie, and the girl half rose. A
movement of Kerry's hand checked her.

"I have no business secrets from Miss Marion," he said.

Mr. Leete's irascible bosom glowed with wrath. That he, a magnate by all
standards, should be obliged to speak openly before a shop-girl--even an
ex-shop-girl--was galling to his proud spirit.

"There's not much to say," he said with an assumption of carelessness
which he was far from feeling. "I've told you in my letter, that I am
Goulding's, and I sell at a price."

"You did not reveal the fact that you were the guiding spirit of
Goulding's before I bought your other business," said Kerry with a little
smile. "You were not even on the board--your solicitor acted for you, I
presume?"

Mr. Leete nodded.

"Of course, I knew all about it," said King Kerry calmly. "That is why I
bought the cheaper property. What do you want for your precious store?"

"A million and a quarter," replied Leete emphatically; "and not a penny
less."

Kerry shook his head.

"Yours is a hand to mouth business," he said slowly. "You pay medium
dividends and you have no reserves."

"We made a profit of a hundred and fifty thousand last year," responded
Leete with a quiet smile.

"Exactly--a little over ten per cent. of the price you ask--yet I offer
you five hundred thousand pounds in cash for your business."

Mr. Leete got up from his chair very deliberately and pulled on his
gloves.

"Your offer is ridiculous," he said. And, indeed, he thought it was.

King Kerry rose with him.

"It is a little under what the property is worth," he said; "but I am
allowing a margin to recoup me for the sum I gave for Tack and
Brighten--the sum in excess of its value."

He walked with the visitor to the door.

"I would ask you to come to lunch and talk it over," he said; "but,
unfortunately, I have to go to Liverpool this afternoon."

"All the talking-over in the world wouldn't alter my offer," said Mr.
Leete grimly. "Your proposition is absurd!"

"You'll be glad to take it before the year's out," said King Kerry, and
closed the door behind the inwardly raging Mr. Leete.

He hailed a taxi, and arrived at his flat incoherent with wrath, and
Hermann Zeberlieff listened with calm interest to a story calculated to
bring tears to the eyes of any speculative financier.

That afternoon a young and cheerful reporter of The Monitor, prowling
about Middlesex Street in search of copy, saw a familiar face disappear
into the "Am Tag," a frowsy club frequented by Continental gentlemen who
described themselves variously as "Social Democrats" and "Anarchists,"
but who were undoubtedly expatriated criminals of a very high order of
proficiency.

The enterprising reporter recognized the gentleman in spite of his poor
dress, and followed him into the club with all the aplomb peculiar to the
journalist who scents a good story.

CHAPTER VIII

Elsie Marion went back to her lodgings in Smith Street, Southwark,
humming a little tune. It was incredible, yet here was the patent fact.
She patted her little suede bag tenderly, and the crackle of stationery
brought a happy little smile to her lips.

For in the bag was deposited that most wonderful of possessions--a
contract. A contract drawn up in the most lucid phraseology which lawyers
permit themselves, typed on a stiff sheet of paper inscribed with the
tiny "L" and an address which characterized the stationery of the Big
Trust, in which she "hereinafter called the employee of the one part,"
agreed to serve for the term of five years the president of the London
Land Trust, "hereinafter called the employers of the other part," for the
sum of 780 per annum, payable weekly.

Presently, she thought, she would wake up from her dream to the sordid
realities of life spent amidst the bricks and mortar of mean streets, to
the weary, hungry round of days divided between a high stool and a lumpy
flock bed. Yet though her heart sang gaily at the new vistas opening for
her, at the wondrous potentialities of her miraculously-acquired wealth,
something like a pang came to her at the thought of leaving Smith Street.
The bed was lumpy, the breakfast served solidly, thick bread and butter
on thick plates, and glutinous coffee in what she had christened Mrs.
Gritter's sound-proof cups; the room, with its tiny bookshelves, its
window-boxes, and its general neatness was redolent of much happiness. It
was home to her--the only one of her own where she was mistress--that she
had known.

Mrs. Glitter's daughter was a trial certainly. Henrietta was a slatternly
girl of twenty-four, mysteriously married and as mysteriously
deserted--(the mystery was all Mrs. Gritter's, for the neighbourhood knew
the story). She was now a chronic inebriate, and the lodgers of 107,
Smith Street were for ever meeting her in her most dazed condition, to
the intense annoyance of Mrs. Gritter, who was in the habit of saying
that she did not mind Henrietta's weakness, but strongly condemned
Henrietta's indiscretion in making it known.

But there were pleasant associations. Elsie had made friends amongst
people who worked hard and lived decently on salaries which would
scarcely suffice to pay for her Savoy lunch. As she was about to insert
her key in the door of number 107, it opened and a young man stood in the
entrance.

"Hullo, Miss Marion," he said cheerily. "You're home early to-night."

Gordon Bray occupied the second floor front, and was something outside of
the run of men she had met. He was a splendid specimen of the
self-educated man who had triumphed over the disadvantages which a
poverty-stricken upbringing and inadequate schooling had brought him. He
had been denied even the opportunities for securing a scholarship through
the council schools, for his association with the unbeautiful school in
Latimer Road had ended abruptly when he found himself the sole support of
a widowed mother at the age of fourteen. Errand boy, printers' devil,
shop boy, clerk--he had progressed till the death of his mother had
shocked him to a realization of actualities. Tragic as that death had
been, it had offered him a larger opportunity for advancing himself. His
tiny income, which had sufficed for both, now offered a margin of
surplus, and he had thrown himself into new fields of study.

There are thousands of Gordon Brays in the world: young men fighting
bravely against almost insuperable odds. Handicapped by a lack of
influence, they must fight for their own openings, and woe to them if
they have no goal or, having one, deviate by one hairbreadth from the
path they have set themselves.

The girl looked at him kindly. She was not in love with this good-looking
boy, nor he with her. Between them existed a sympathy rarer than love.
They were fellow-fighters in the big conflict of life, possessed common
enemies, found similar inspirations.

"I'm off to the 'Tec,'" he said, and swung a bundle of books without
shame. "I'm getting so tired of Holdron's--they raised my salary by five
shillings a week to-day and expected me to be overwhelmed with
gratitude."

She wanted to tell him her great news, but the fear that even a tiny
spark of envy might be kindled in his heart stopped her. She would tell
him another time when he was more cheerful.

"How are the models?" she asked. His goal was architecture, and those
splendid models of his were the joy of his life. Moreover, they had
material value, for he had won two gold medals at the school with a
couple.

A momentary cloud passed over his face; then he grinned cheerfully.

"Oh, they're all right," he said, and with a nod left her.

She ran up the stairs lightheartedly, passing on her way Mrs. Gritter's
disreputable daughter already far advanced in intoxication. Mrs. Gritter
brought the inevitable tea herself, and offered the inevitable comments
on the weather and the inevitable apology for her daughter's condition.

"I'm going to leave you, Mrs. Gritter," said the girl.

"Oh, indeed?" Mrs. Gritter felt such occasions called for an expression
of injured innocence. She regarded "notice" in the light of a censure
upon her domestic capacities.

"I--I've got something better to do," the girl went on; "and I can afford
a little more rent--"

"There's the first floor front, with foldin' doors," suggested Mrs.
Gritter hopefully. "If you could afford another ten shillings."

The girl shook her head laughingly.

"Thank you, Mrs. Gritter," she said; "but I want to live nearer my
work--"

"Tube practically opposite the 'ouse," persisted the landlady; "'buses to
and fro, so to speak. It's very hard on me losin' two lodgers in a week."

"Two?" asked the girl in surprise.

The landlady nodded.

"Between you and me and the gatepost," she said confidentially and
polishing her spectacles with the corner of her alpaca apron, "Mr. Bray
has been a trial--always behind with his rent an' owes me three weeks."

The girl was shocked. She had never troubled to inquire into the young
man's affairs. She knew, of course, that he was not any too well off, but
it never occurred to her that he was so desperately hard up. She
understood now the bitterness in his voice when he spoke of his five
shillings rise.

"It's studying that does it," said Mrs. Gritter mournfully; "wastin'
money on puttin' things in your head instead of puttin' 'em in your
stummick an' on your back. What's the good of it? Education! It fills the
prisons an' the workhouses and--and the army!"

She had a son in the army, and she bore the junior service a grudge in
consequence; for sons in Southwark mean a contribution to the family
finance.

The girl bit her lip in thought.

"Perhaps," she hesitated. "Perhaps if I were to pay you--the arrears?"

A gleam came into the landlady's eyes only to vanish again. .

"That's no good," she said. "Besides, he's given me some things to hold
for the money."

"Some things?" Elsie looked at the woman from under her brows. "What
things?"

Mrs. Gritter avoided her eyes.

"Not his models?" asked the girl quickly.

Mrs. Gritter nodded.

"To 'ave and to 'old," she said, mistakenly imagining she was indulging
in legal terminology, "until he doth pay."

She had a passion for phrases of a certain sonorous type.

"You ought not to have allowed him to do so," said the girl, stamping her
foot. "You knew that he would pay in time!"

Mrs. Gritter sniffed.

"He didn't exactly give 'em to me," she said; "but I seized 'em according
to lawr!"

The girl stared at her as though she were some strange new insect.

"You seized them?" she asked. "Took them out of his room?"

Mrs. Gritter nodded complacently.

"According to the lawr," she justified herself.

"Why--why, you're not honest!" cried the girl.

A dull red rose to the cheeks of the excellent Mrs. Gritter. "Not
honest!" she said, raising her voice to its full strident pitch. "Don't
you go saying things like that about respectable people, miss--"

There came a knock at the door, a sharp authoritative knock. Then,
without waiting for permission to enter, the door opened and two men came
in.

"Marion?" asked one.

"I am Miss Marion," replied the girl, wondering what this unceremonious
entry meant.

The man nodded in a friendly way.

"I am Sergeant Colestaff of the Metropolitan Police," he said, "and I
shall take you into custody on a charge of stealing the sum of fourteen
pounds, the property of your employers, Messrs. Tack and Brighten."

She did not faint.

She stood like a figure carved in stone, motionless.

Mrs. Gritter eyed her darkly and muttered, "Not honest!"

"Who charges me?" the girl asked faintly.

"Mr. King Kerry," said the detective.

"King Kerry--no, no!" her hands went out and caught the detective's arm
imploringly.

"It is Mr. King Kerry," he said gently. "I am executing this warrant on
information which he has sworn."

"It's impossible--impossible!" she cried, her eyes filling with tears.
"It can't be--there must be a mistake! He couldn't do it--he wouldn't do
it!"

The detective shook his head.

"There may be a mistake. Miss Marion," he said gently; "but what I have
said is true."

The girl sank into a chair and covered her face with her hands.

The detective's hand fell upon her shoulder. "Gome along, please," he
said. She rose, and, putting on her hat mechanically, went down the
stairs with the two men, leaving the landlady speechless.

"Not honest!" she said at last. "My gawd! What airs these shop-girls give
theirselves!"

She waited till she heard the front door close, then she stooped to pull
the girl's box from under the bed. If ever there was a time to pick up a
few unexpected trifles it was now.

CHAPTER IX

Elsie Marion sat on the wooden bed and stared at the whitewashed wall of
her cell. She heard a church clock strike twelve. She had been six hours
in custody; it seemed six years. She could not understand it.

King Kerry had parted from her cheerfully that afternoon to go to
Liverpool to meet Cyrus Hatparl, newly arrived from America. She had
accompanied the millionaire to the station and had stood chatting with
him, taking his instructions for the work he wished her to do on the
following day.

At Liverpool--so she had gathered from a sympathetic station
inspector--he had sworn an affidavit before a justice of the peace, and
at the telegraphed request of the Liverpool police a London magistrate
had issued the warrant.

Why could he not have waited until he returned? She could have
explained--whatever there was to be explained--but he was too impatient
to shatter the little paradise which he so lately created. All through
the evening she had sat wondering, racking her brains to think of some
explanation for this terrible change in her fortunes. The thing was
inexplicable--too vast a tragedy for her comprehension.

She had never handled large sums of money; accounts were made up daily,
and they had never been questioned. There was another mystery. At eight
o'clock that night her dinner had been sent in. It had been brought in a
cab from the best hotel in London, the newly-erected Sweizerhof; as
perfect a meal as even an epicure could desire. She was young and
healthy, and in spite of the seriousness other position, she enjoyed the
meal. As to why it came she could only elicit the information that it had
been ordered by telephone from Liverpool by a gentleman.

The inconsistency of the man was amazing. He could cause her arrest for a
charge of stealing a few pounds and could spend almost as much as she was
supposed to have stolen on one meal.

One o'clock struck; she tried to sleep but could not.

At half-past one the wardress came down the corridor and unlocked her
cell door.

"Come this way, miss," she said, and the girl followed her through
another steel-faced door, up a flight of steps to the charge-room. She
stopped dead as she entered the room, for standing by the inspector's
desk was King Kerry.

He came towards her with outstretched hands. "My poor child!" he said,
and she could not doubt the genuineness of his concern. He led her to the
desk. The girl was too dazed to resist.

"I think it is all right, inspector," he said.

"Quite all right, sir," said the officer, smiling at the girl. "You are
at liberty, miss."

"But I don't understand," she began. Then King Kerry took her arm and led
her from the room.

Outside three cars were waiting and little groups stood on the side-walk
chatting. They turned as if at an order as the two came down the steps of
the station, and one came up and raised his hat.

"I think, sir, we had better go to 107, Smith Street, first," he said.

"I agree, superintendent," said Kerry gravely.

He opened the door of the first car and lifted the girl in.

"My child," he said when they were alone, "you must suspend your judgment
on me; none of my friends were in town. I had to take a drastic action,
one which I was sure would not miscarry."

"But, but--why?" she was crying, and her sobs went straight to the man's
heart.

"Suspend your judgment," he said gently. "I believe that in arresting you
I saved your life."

He spoke so earnestly, so solemnly, that the tears ceased as a natural
curiosity overcame her sense of grievance.

"I had a telegram on the train," he said. "I got it just as we were
pulling into Liverpool--it must have come aboard at Edgehill. It was from
my agent--a youngster on The Monitor--and was to the effect that for a
reason which I understand and which, one of these days, you will
understand, an attempt was to be made, to-night, on your life."

"Impossible!"

He nodded.

"I could have informed the police, but I doubt whether they would have
taken me seriously. I was terrified lest they protected you in some
half-hearted way."

"But who would want to harm me?" she asked. "I haven't an enemy in the
world."

He nodded.

"You have as many enemies as any other member of society," he said; "that
is to say, you have the enemies which are invariably opposed to the
honest and decent members of society."

He did not speak again until the car stopped before her lodging. The
other cars were pulling up as she descended with her employer, and there
was a brief consultation between Kerry and the detectives--for Scotland
Yard and Pinkerton's men they were. Then King Kerry walked to the door of
the dark and silent house and knocked along, thundering roll.

He turned to the girl.

"Is your room in the front of the house?" he asked.

She shook her head smilingly.

"That has been far too expensive a situation," she said. "No, I have a
room at the back on the first floor, with an excellent view of other
people's back windows and a private promenade--if I had the courage to
climb out."

"A private promenade?"

He asked the question sharply, and she hastened to explain her facetious
reference.

"I can step out of my window on to the leads," she said. "They form the
roof of the kitchen. I rather like the idea because I am terrified of
fire."

"So am I," said the multi-millionaire grimly.

The door opened as he spoke and Gordon Bray stood in the doorway fully
dressed. He recognized Elsie immediately.

"Thank God, you have come!" he said. "I've been worrying myself to death
about you; I called at the station. I suppose they didn't tell you?" She
introduced the millionaire, and the young man glanced curiously at her
large escort.

"Mr. Bray," said Kerry, "we want to arouse your landlady; can you do this
for us?"

"Certainly."

He led the way to the fusty little sitting-room and lit the gas.

"Couldn't I?" asked the girl. "I have to go up to my room."

"Not yet, please," answered Kerry quickly. "Whatever happens, you are not
to sleep in your room to-night. I have arranged a suite at the
Sweizerhof, and I have already sent two ladies there to chaperon you," he
chuckled. "You wouldn't think it was possible to get a chaperon in the
middle of the night, would you?"

"No," she smiled.

"Yet I got two," he said. "I telegraphed to the London Hospital and told
them to send two of their nicest nurses--there was a chance that you
might have collapsed and I knew that they would serve as guardians
anyway. One thing more."

He was very serious now.

"Yesterday I told you to remember three words--words I made you swear you
would never reveal to any soul save me, or in the event of my death to my
executors!"

She nodded. He had dropped his voice to a little above a whisper.

"You remember them?"

"Yes," she replied in the same tone; "the words were 'Kingsway needs
paving.'"

He nodded. "I asked you never even to use words."!

"I kept my promise," said the girl quickly.

He smiled. "You need not, any more," he said. "After to-night you may
employ them as often as you like. I ought not to have told you."

They were interrupted by the return of Bray.

"Mrs. Gritter is on her way down," he said. "She isn't an elaborate
dresser."

King Kerry threw a swift glance at the young man, a glance which took him
in from head to toe. He saw a fair-haired youth of twenty-two, with two
honest blue eyes and as firm a chin as he himself possessed. The forehead
was high and broad and the fingers which drummed noiselessly on the table
were long and delicate.

It was said of King Kerry that he understood two things well--land and
men, and in the general term "men" was included woman in some of her
aspects. He knew Gordon Bray from that moment of scrutiny, and never knew
him better--as a man.

Mrs. Gritter came blinking into the light; a shawl, a skirt, and a pair
of slippers, plus an assortment of safety pins, being sufficient to veil
her night attire. "Hello!" she said, a little flustered by the sight of
Kerry and not a little embarrassed by the unexpected spectacle of Elsie;
"thought you was safe for the night."

Her humour was forced, and she was obviously uncomfortable.

"I wish to go to Miss Marion's room and collect some other things," said
Kerry to the girl's surprise.

Mrs. Gritter was more embarrassed than ever, but it was not at the
impropriety of a gentleman invading a lady's bedroom in the small hours
of the morning.

"Oh," she said a little blankly, "that's awkward, my dear."

She fixed a speculative and thoughtful eye upon Elsie.

"The fact is "--she cleared her throat with a little cough--"the fact is.
Miss Marion, I've taken a great liberty." They waited. "Ria happened to
come in at ten minutes to eleven," said the landlady apologetically, "an'
not feelin' well."

Elsie concealed a smile. She had seen the lack-lustre eyes of Ria when
she was "not feeling well."

"'Mother,' she sez to me," continued Mrs. Gritter with relish, "'Mother,'
she sez, 'you're not goin' to turn your only daughter into the
street,' she sez. 'Well,' I sez, 'well, Ria, you know how I'm placed.
There ain't a bed to spare except Miss Marion's, who's gone away to the
country.' I said that," exclaimed Mrs. Gritter, seeking approval, "to
keep the matter quiet."

"In fact, your daughter is sleeping in Miss Marion's bed?" asked Kerry,
and Elsie made a wry little face.

"And tools the liberty of borrowin' Miss Marion's night-gown," added Mrs.
Gritter, with a desire to get her sin off her mind.

Elsie laughed helplessly, but King Kerry was serious.

"Let us go in," he said. "You stay here, my child!"

Mrs. Gritter walked to the door slowly.

"She's a heavy sleeper when she ain't well," she said resentfully. "What
do you want to go up for?"

"I want to find out whether you are speaking the truth or not," said
Kerry, "and whether it is your daughter or some other person occupying
Miss Marion's room."

"Oh, is that all?" asked Mrs. Glitter, relieved; "well, come up!"

She led the way, taking a lamp from the hall and lighting it. She paused
outside the door of the first floor back.

"If Miss Marion misses anything from her box," she said, "it's nothing to
do with me, or with my daughter."

She turned the handle of the door and entered. Kerry followed. By the
light of the lamp he saw a figure huddled beneath the bedclothes, and a
tangle of disorderly hair spread on the pillow.

"Ria!" called Mrs. Gritter loudly; "Ria, wake up!" But the woman in the
bed did not move.

Kerry passed the landlady swiftly, and laid the back of his hand on the
pale cheek.

"I think you'd better go down," he said gently, "and tell the men you see
outside the door I want them."

"What do you mean?" asked the trembling landlady. He took the lamp from
her shaking hand and put it on the chest of drawers.

"Your daughter is dead," he said quietly. "She has been murdered by
somebody who came across the leads through that window." He pointed to
the window that was open.

King Kerry was speaking the truth in that solemn voice of his. She was
dead, this poor, drunken soul, murdered by men who had come to force from
Elsie's lips the words which would unfasten the combination lock on King
Kerry's giant safe.

For Hermann Zeberlieff in his prescience had guessed right--King Kerry
still locked his safe with the name of a street, and that street was
"Kingsway."

CHAPTER X

It was a nine days' wonder, this murder of a drunken slut, and many were
the theories which were advanced. The inquest proved that the woman had
suffered from rough treatment at the hands of her assailants. She owed
her death to strangulation.

No arrests were made, and the crime was added to the list of London's
unravelled mysteries.

Four days after the sensational discovery, Elsie Marion sat behind her
desk--an article of furniture which in itself was a pleasure to
her--sorting over King Kerry's correspondence. Like many other great men,
he was possessed of amiable weaknesses, and one of these was a
disinclination to answer letters save those which were vital to his
schemes. He recognized his own shortcomings in this respect and the
growing pile of letters, opened and unopened, produced a wince every time
he had seen it.

Elsie had reduced the heap to something like a minimum. With the majority
she found no occasion to consult her chief. They were begging letters, or
the letters of cranks who offered wonderful inventions which would make
their, and the exploiters', fortunes at small cost of time of money.
There was a sprinkling of religious letters, too--texts heavily
underlined admonishing or commending. Every post brought appeals from
benevolent institutions.

In the drawer of her desk she had a cheque-book which enabled her to draw
money on an account which had been opened in her name. It was King
Kerry's charity account, and she used her discretion as to the amount she
should send, and the worthiness of the object. At first the
responsibility had frightened her, but she had tackled her task
courageously.

"It needs as much courage to sign a cheque as it does to starve," was one
of King Kerry's curious epigrams.

She worked splendidly through the pile of letters before her. Some went
into the waste-paper basket; on some, after a knitting of brows and a
biting of penholder, she scribbled a figure. She knew the people she was
dealing with; she had lived amongst them, had eaten her frugal lunch at a
marble-topped table across which professional begging letter-writers had
compared notes unashamed.

She looked up as the commissionaire on duty came in with a card. She made
a little grimace as she read the name.

"Does he know that Mr. Kerry is out of town?" she asked.

"I told him, miss, but he particularly asked to see you," said the man.
She looked at the card again dubiously. It had its humorous side, this
situation. A week ago, the perky Mr. Tack never dreamt that he would be
sending in his card to "our Miss Marion" asking for an interview.

"Show him in, please--and, Carter "--as the man was at the door.

"Yes, miss?"

"I want you to stay in the room, please, whilst Mr. Tack is here."

The man touched his cap and went out, returning to usher in the late
junior partner of Messrs. Tack and Brighten.

He was all smiles and smirks, and offered his gloved hand with immense
affability. "Well, well!" he said in genial surprise, "who'd have thought
to see you in a comfortable situation like this!"

"Who, indeed!" she replied.

Uninvited he drew a chair up to the desk. "You must admit that the
training you had under me, and what I might term the corrective
discipline--never harsh and always justified--has fitted you for this;
now don't deny it!"  He shook a finger playfully at her.

"It has certainly helped me to appreciate the change," she said.

Mr. Tack looked round at the waiting commissionaire, and then back to the
girl with a meaning look.

"I'd like a few private words with you," he said mysteriously.

"This is as private an interview as I can give you, Mr. Tack," said the
girl with a smile. "You see, I am not exactly a principal in the
business, and I have neither the authority nor the desire to engage in
any undertaking which is not also my employer's business."

Mr. Tack swallowed something in his throat, but inclined his head
graciously.

"Very proper! very proper, indeed!" he agreed, with hollow cordiality.
"The more so since I hear rumours of a certain little trouble--" He
looked at her archly.

The colour rose to her cheeks.

"There is no need to refer to that, Mr. Tack," she Said coldly. "Mr.
Kerry had me arrested because he knew that my life was in danger--he has
given me fullest permission to tell why. When you go out you will see a
steel safe in the front office--it has a combination lock which opened to
the word 'Kingsway.' Mr. Kerry gave me three words, the first of which
would be the word which would open the safe. He told me this because he
dare not write the word down. Then he realized that by doing so he had
placed me in great danger. Men were sent to Smith Street, by somebody who
guessed I knew the word, to force it from me, and Mr. Kerry, guessing the
plot, had me arrested, knowing that I should be safe in a police station.
He came to London by special train to release me."

She might have added that Kerry had spent three hours in London searching
for the Home Secretary before he could secure an order of release, for it
is easier to lock up than to unlock.

"Moreover," she added, "Mr. Kerry generously offered me any sum I cared
to mention to compensate me for the indignity."

"What did you ask?" demanded Mr. Tack eagerly, a contemptuous smile
playing about his lips.

"Nothing," she replied curtly, and waited for him to state his business.

Again he looked round at the solid commissionaire, but received no
encouragement from the girl.

"Miss Marion," he said, dropping his voice, "you and I have always been
good friends--I want you to help me now."

She ignored the wilful misstatement of fact, and he went on. "You know
Mr. Kerry's mind--you're the sort of young lady any gentleman would
confide in: now tell me, as friend to friend, what is the highest Mr.
Kerry will give for Goulding's?"

"Are you in it, too?" she asked in surprise. She somehow never regarded
him as sufficiently ingenious to be connected with the plot, but he
nodded.

"The highest," he repeated persuasively.

"Half a million," said the girl. It was marvellous how easily the fat sum
tripped from her lips.

"But, seriously?"

"Half a million, and the offer is open till Saturday," she said. "I have
just written Goulding's a letter to that effect."

"Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear!" said Mr. Tack rapidly, but wearily.
"Why don't you persuade the old gentleman to be reasonable?"

A steely gleam came into her eyes. He remembered the episode of the
inkpot and grew apprehensive.

"Which 'old gentleman' are you referring to?" she asked icily.

Tack made haste to repair his error, and blundered still further. "Of
course," he apologized, "I oughtn't to speak like that about Mr. Kerry."

"Oh, Mr. Kerry!"  She smiled pityingly at the other. "Mr. Kerry is not, I
should imagine, as old as you by ten years," she said brutally. "A
strenuous life often brings grey hairs to a young man just as a sedentary
life brings grossness to a middle-aged man."

Mr. Tack showed his teeth in a smile from which genuine merriment was
noticeably absent.

"Ah, well," he said, offering his hand, "we mustn't quarrel--use your
influence with Mr. Kerry for good."

"I hope I shall," she said, "though I cannot see how that is going to
help you."

He was in the street before he thought of a suitable response.

Oxford Street, and especially the drapery and soft goods section of
Oxford Street, was frankly puzzled by the situation as it stood between
Goulding's Universal Store and Tack and Brighten. It was recognized that
Tack's--as it was called in drapery circles--could not fight against the
rush and hustle of its powerful neighbour. Apparently King Kerry was
doing nothing wonderful in the shape of resuscitating the business. He
had discharged some of the old overseers, and had appointed a new
manager, but there was nothing to show that he was going to put up a
fight against his rival, who surrounded him literally and figuratively.

Goulding's offer had leaked out, and experts' view placed it as being
exactly thirty-three per cent more than the business was worth; but what
was Kerry to do?

Kerry was content apparently to flit from one department of trade to
another. He bought in one week Tabards, the famous confectioner, the
Regent Treweller Company's business, and Transome's, the famous Transome,
whose art fabrics were the wonder and the joy of the world.

"What's his game?" asked the West End, and finding no game comprehensible
to its own views, or measurable by its own standard, the West End decided
that King Kerry was riding for a fall. Some say that the ground landlords
had been taken into the Big Buyers' confidence; but this is very
doubtful. The Duke of Pallan, in his recently published autobiography,
certainly does make a passing reference to the matter which might be so
construed; but it is not very definite. His Grace says--

"The question of selling my land in the neighbourhood of Regency,
Colemarker, and Tollorton Streets was satisfactorily settled by
arrangement with my friend Mr. King Kerry. I felt it a duty in these days
of predatory and pernicious electioneering. . . ."

The remainder is purely political, but it does point to the fact that
whether King Kerry bought the land, or came to a working arrangement with
the ground landlords, he was certainly at one time in negotiation for
their purchase. No effort was spared by those interested to discover
exactly the extent of the "L Trust's" aspirations.

Elsie, returning to her Chelsea flat one night, was met by a well-dressed
stranger who, without any preliminary, offered her 5,000 for information
as to the Trust's intended purchases. Her first impulse was to walk on,
her second to be very angry. Her third and final resolution was to answer.

"You must tell your employer that it is useless to offer me money,
because I have no knowledge whatever concerning Mr. King Kerry's
intentions."

She went on, very annoyed, thereby obeying all her impulses together.

She told the millionaire of the attempt the next morning, and he nodded
cheerily. "The man's name was Gelber; he is a private detective in the
employ of a Hermann Zeberlieff, and he will not bother you again," he
said.

"How do you know?" she asked in surprise.

He was always surprising her with odd pieces of information, It was a
stock joke of his that he knew what his enemies had for dinner, but could
never remember where he put his gloves.

"You never go home without an escort," he said. "One of my men was
watching you."

She was silent for a moment, then she asked, "Does Zeberlieff dislike
you?"

He nodded slowly. Into his face crept a look of infinite weariness.

"He hates me," he said softly, "and I hate him like the devil."

She looked across at him and met his eyes. Was it over a question of
business that their quarrel arose? As clear as though she had put the
question in so many words, he read the unspoken query and shook his head.
"I hate him "--he hesitated--"because he behaved badly to--a woman."

It seemed that an icy hand closed over Elsie's heart, and for a few
seconds she could hardly breathe. She felt the colour leave her face, and
the room appeared blurred and indistinct.

She lowered her face, and fingered the letters on the desk before her.
"Indeed?" she said politely. "That was--that was horrid of him!"

She heard the telephone bell ring, and he took up the receiver.

He exchanged a few words, then--"I shall be back shortly," he said. "Mr.
Grant wants to see me."

She nodded. Presently the door closed behind him with a click, and she
dropped her head in her arms upon the table and burst into a passion
of weeping. Love had indeed come into the life of Elsie Marion. It had
all come upon her unawares, and with its light had brought its shadow
of sorrow.

CHAPTER XI

"Where are you going to-night, Vera?"

Hermann Zeberlieff addressed the girl who stood by the window with a
touch of asperity. The girl was standing by the window looking out across
Park Lane to the Park itself. A cigarette glowed between her lips, and
the soft, grey eyes were fixed far beyond the limit of human vision. She
turned with a start to her half-brother and raised her dainty eyebrows as
he repeated the question.

A simple gown of black velvet showed this slim, beautiful girl to the
best advantage. The delicate pallor of the face contrasted oddly with the
full, red lips. The shapely throat was uncovered in the fashion of the
moment, and the neck of the bodice cut down to a blunt V, showed the
patch of pure white bosom.

"Where am I going to-night?" she repeated; "why, that's a strange
question, Hermann--you aren't usually interested in my comings and
goings."

"I'm expecting some men to-night," he said carelessly. "You know some of
them--Leete is one."

She gave a little shudder.

"A most unwholesome person," she said. "Really, Hermann, you have the
most wonderful collection of bric-a-brac in the shape of friends I have
ever known. They are positively futurist."

He scowled up at her. In many ways he was afraid of this girl, with her
rich, drawling, southern voice. She had a trick of piercing the armour of
his indifference, touching the raw places of his self-esteem. They had
never been good friends, and only the provision of his father's will had
kept them together so long. Old Frederick Zeberlieff had left his fortune
in two portions. The first half was to be divided equally between his
son--the child of his dead wife--and the girl, whose mother had only
survived her arrival in the world by a few hours.

The second portion was to be again divided equally between the two,
"providing they shall live together for a period of five years following
my death, neither of them to marry during that period. For," the will
concluded, "it is my desire that they shall know each other better, and
that the bad feeling which has existed between them shall be dissipated
by a mutual understanding of each other's qualities." There were also
other provisions.

The girl was thinking of the will as she walked across to the fire-place,
and flicked the ash off her cigarette upon the marble hearth. "Our menage
as it is constituted ends next month," she said, and he nodded.

"I shall be glad to get the money," he confessed, "and not particularly
sorry to--"

"To see the end of me," she finished the sentence. "In that, at least, we
find a subject upon which we are mutually agreed."

He did not speak. He always came out worst in these encounters, and she
puffed away in thoughtful silence.

"I am going to the Technical College to a distribution of prizes," she
said, and waited for the inevitable sarcasm.

"The Southwood Institute?"  She nodded. "You are getting to be quite a
person in the charitable world," he said, with a sneer. "I shall never be
surprised to learn that you have become a nun."

"I know somebody who will!" she said.

"Who?" he asked quickly.

"Me," said the girl coolly.

He sank back again in his chair with a growl.

"It is hard lines on you--my not getting married," she went on. "You get
the whole of the inheritance if I do--during the period of probation."

"I don't want you to marry," he snarled.

She smiled behind the hand that held the cigarette to her lips. "Poor
soul!" she mocked; then, more seriously: "Hermann, people are saying
rather horrid things about you just now."

He stared up at her coldly. "What things, and what people?" he asked.

"Oh, paper people and the sort of bounder person one meets. They say you
were in some way associated with--"

She stopped and looked at him, and he met her gaze unflinchingly.

"Well?"

"With a rather ghastly murder in Southwark," she said slowly.

"Rubbish!" he laughed. "They would suspect the Archbishop of
Canterbury--it is too preposterous."

"I don't know about that," said the girl. "I'm positively afraid of you
sometimes; you'd just do anything for money and power."

"Like what?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, murder and things like that," she said
vaguely. "There is a lot of good Czech in our blood, Hermann; why,
sometimes you exasperate me so that I could cheerfully kill you."

He grinned a little uncomfortably.  "Keep your door locked," he said, and
his lips tightened as at an unpleasant thought.

"I do," she replied promptly, "and I always sleep with a little revolver
under my pillow."

He muttered something about childishness, and continued his study of the
evening paper.

"You see," she went on thoughtfully, "it would make an awful big
difference to you, Hermann, if I died suddenly from ptomaine
poisoning--or whatever weird diseases people die from--or if I walked in
my sleep and fell out of a window."

"Don't say such beastly things!" he snapped.

"It would make you richer by seven million dollars--recoup all your
losses, and place you in a position where you could go on fighting that
nice grey man--King Kerry."

He got up from his chair; there was a ghost of a smile on his face.

"If you're going to talk nonsense, I'm going," he said. "You ought to get
married; you're getting vixenish."

She laughed, throwing her head back in an ecstasy of enjoyment.

"Why don't you pick up one of your tame students?" he sneered. "Marry
him--you'll be able to do it in a month--and make him happy. You could
teach him to sound his h's with a little trouble."

She had stopped laughing, and was eyeing him as he stood with the edge of
the open door in his hand.

"You've a merry wit," she said. "Poor daddy never realized it as well as
I. There's a coarse fibre in the maternal ancestry of your line,
Hermann."

"You leave my mother's relations alone!" he said in a burst of anger.

"God knows I do," she said piously. "If various United States marshals
and divers grand juries had also left them alone, many of them would have
died natural deaths."

He slammed the door behind him before she had concluded her sentence. The
mocking smile passed from her face as the door closed, and in its place
came a troubled frown. She threw away the end of her cigarette and
crossed the room to a small writing-table between the two big windows.

She sat for some time, a pen in her hand and a sheet of paper before her,
undecided. If she wrote she would be acting disloyally to her
half-brother--yet she owed him no loyalty. Behind her drawling contempt
was an ever-present fear, a fear which sometimes amounted to a terror.
Not once, but many times in the last year, she had intercepted a glance
of his, a look so cold and speculative, and having in it a design so
baleful that it had frozen her soul with horror. She thought of the
insidious attempts he had made to get her married. The men he had thrown
in her way, the almost compromising situations he had forced upon her
with every variety of man from college youth to middle-aged man about
town.

If she were married she were dead so far as the inheritance went--if she
were not married by the thirtieth of the month, would she still be alive?

There was, as she knew, a streak of madness on Hermann's side of the
family. His mother had died in an insane asylum. Two of her blood
relations had died violently at the hands of the law, and a cousin had
horrified San Francisco with a sense of murder of a peculiarly brutal
character.

She had reason to believe that Hermann himself had been mixed up in some
particularly disgraceful episode in New York, and that only on the
payment of huge sums amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars the
victim and her relations had staved off an exposure. Then there was the
case of Sadie Mars, the beautiful young daughter of a Boston banker. No
money could have hushed that up--but here family pride and the position
of the girl's parents saved Hermann. He went abroad, and the girl had
taken an overdose of chloral with fatal results. Wherever he went,
disaster followed; whatever he touched, he made rotten and bad; he lifted
the wine of life to the lips of the innocent, and it was vinegar and
gall. She thought all this, and then she began to write rapidly, covering
sheet after sheet with her fine calligraphy. She finished at last,
enclosed her letter in an envelope, and addressed it. She heard his
footstep in the hall without, and hastily thrust the letter into her
bosom.

He looked across at the writing-table as he entered.

"Writing?" he asked.

"Doing a few polite chores," she answered.

"Shall I post them for you?"

He made a show of politeness.

"No, thank you!" said the girl. "They can be posted in the ordinary
way--Martin can take them."

"Martin is out," he said.


She walked quickly to the bell and pushed it. Hermann looked at her
strangely.

"There's no use ringing," he said. "I have sent Martin and Dennis out
with messages."

She checked the inclination to panic which arose in her bosom. Her heart
was beating wildly. Instinct told her that she stood in deadly peril of
this man with the sinister glint in his eyes.

"Give me that letter!" he said suddenly.

"Which letter?"

"The letter you have been writing so industriously for the last ten
minutes," he said.

A scornful smile curved her lips. "Not the keyhole, Hermann!" she
protested with mock pain. "Surely not the keyhole--the servants' entrance
to domestic secrets!"

"Give me that letter!" he said roughly.

She had edged away and backward till she stood near one of the big french
windows. It was ajar, for the evening had been close. With a sudden
movement she turned, flung open the long glass door, and stepped out on
to the tiny balcony.

He went livid with rage, and took two quick steps towards her, then
stopped. She was addressing somebody.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr. Bray; have you been ringing long?"  An indistinct
voice answered her.  "My brother will let you in; thank you so much for
calling for me."

She turned to Hermann Zeberlieff.

"Would you mind opening the door to one of my 'tame students'? You will
find he sounds his h's quite nicely!" she said sweetly.

"Damn you!" snarled the man, but obeyed.

CHAPTER XII

"Will you entertain Mr. Bray whilst I get ready to go out?"

Hermann muttered his sulky compliance. He would have liked to refuse
point blank, to have indulged himself in a display of temper, if only to
embarrass the girl; but he had sufficient command of himself to check his
natural desire. He scowled at the young man with whom he was left alone,
and answered in monosyllables the polite observations which Gordon Bray
offered upon men and things. There was no evidence in either the attire
or in the speech of the technical student to suggest that he was of any
other class than that of the man who examined him so superciliously.

"I gather you're one of the people my sister is distributing prizes to,"
said Hermann rudely.

"Not exactly," said the other quietly. "Miss Zeberlieff is very kindly
giving the gold medal for drawing, but the Countess of Danbery is
actually making the award."

"It doesn't matter much who makes it so long as you get it," answered
Hermann, summarizing his philosophy of life in one pregnant sentence.

"As a matter of fact I am not even getting it," said the other. "I took
this medal last year--it represents an intermediate stage of tuition."
Hermann walked up and down the room impatiently. Suddenly he turned to
the visitor.

"What do you think of my sister?" he asked.

Gordon went red: the directness of the question flung at him at that
moment caught him unawares. "I think she is very charming," he said
frankly, "and very generous. As you know, she interests herself in
education and particularly in the schools."

Zeberlieff sniffed. He had never set himself the task of keeping track of
his sister's amusements except in so far as they affected his own future.
His own future! He frowned at the thought. He had had heavy losses
lately. His judgment had been at fault to an extraordinary degree. He had
been caught in a recent financial flurry, and had been in some danger of
going farther under than he had any desire to go. He had plenty of
schemes--big schemes with millions at their end, but millions require
millions. He had put a proposition to the girl, which she had instantly
rejected, that on the day of the inheritance they should pool their
interests, and that he should control the united fortunes.

If the truth be told, there was little to come to him. He had anticipated
his share of the fortune, which was already half mortgaged. In twelve
days' time Vera would be free to leave him--free to will her property
wherever she wished. Much might happen in twelve days--the young man
might also be very useful.

His manner suddenly changed. He was perfectly learned in the amenities of
his class, and there were people who vowed that he was the ideal of what
a gentleman should be. His sister was not amongst these.

"Why don't you sit down?" he asked, and took up the thread of technical
education with the convincing touch of the dilettante who has all the
jargon of science with little backing of knowledge. He kept the young man
pleasantly engaged till Vera returned.

Her car was waiting at the door, and he assisted her to enter. "My
brother was very entertaining, I gather?" she said.

"Very."

She glanced at him, reading his face.

"You are very enthusiastic," she said mockingly.

He smiled.  "I don't think he knows much about architecture," he said. He
had the habit of wholesome frankness, appreciated here, however, by one
who lived in an atmosphere which was neither candid nor wholesome.

He thought he had offended her, for she did not speak again till the car
was running over Westminster Bridge. Then--"You will meet my brother
again," she said. "He will discover your address and invite you to lunch.
Let me think." She knitted her forehead. "I am trying to remember what
happened before--Oh, yes! he will invite you to lunch at his club, and
encourage you to speak about me; and he will tell you that I am awfully
fond of chocolates, and a couple of days afterwards you will receive a
box of the most beautiful chocolates from an unknown benefactor, and,
naturally, when you have recovered from your astonishment at the gift,
you will send it along to me with a little note."

Whatever astonishment such a happening might have had upon him, it could
not exceed that which he now felt. "What an extraordinary thing you
should have said that!" he remarked.

"Why extraordinary?" she asked.

"Well," he hesitated. "As a matter of fact, he has already asked me my
address, and he did mention not once, but twice, that you were awfully
fond--not of chocolates, but of crystallized violets."

She looked at him a little blankly. "How crude!" was all she said then;
but later she half turned on the seat of the limousine and faced him.

"When those violets arrive," she said quietly, "I want you to take the
parcel just as it is--wrapping and string and postmark--to Mr. King
Kerry: he will understand."

"King Kerry?"

"Don't you like him?" She asked quickly.

He hesitated.  "I think I do," he replied, "in spite of his somewhat
drastic methods."

Elsie had told him the story of the arrest--indeed, King Kerry had half
explained--and now he repeated the story of Elsie's peril.

The girl listened eagerly.

"What a perfectly splendid idea," she said enthusiastically, "and how
like King Kerry!"

After the distribution, the speechmaking, the votes of thanks, and the
impromptu concert which followed the function, the girl sought Bray out,
the centre of a group of his fellow-students, who were offering their
congratulations, for many prizes had come his way.

"I want you to take me home!" she said.

She was a lovely and a radiant figure in her long grey silk coat and her
tiny beaver hat; but he saw with tender solicitude that she looked tired,
and there were faint shadows under her eyes.

They had reached a point in their friendship where they could afford to
be silent in one another's society. To him she was a dream woman,
something aloof and wonderful, in the world, but not of it--a beautiful
fragile thing that filled his thoughts day and night. He was not a fool,
but he was a man. He could not hope, but he could--and did--love. From
the day she came into his life, an interested--and perhaps
amused--visitor to the schools, his outlook had changed. She was very
worshipful, inspiring all that is beautiful in the love of youth, all
that is pure and tender and self-sacrificing.

She was, he knew, very wealthy; he dreamt no dreams of miracles, yet he
did not regard her money as being an obstacle. It was she, the atmosphere
which surrounded her, that held him adoring but passive.

"I want you to do something for me," she said.

"I will do anything."

There was no emphasis, no fervour in his voice, yet there was something
in the very simplicity of the declaration which brought the colour to her
cheek.

"I am sure you would," she answered almost impulsively; "but this is
something which you may find distasteful. I want you to meet me in Regent
Street to-morrow evening," she said. "I--I am rather a coward, and I am
afraid of people--"

She did not finish the sentence, and offered no further elucidation to
the mystery of a meeting which, so far from being distasteful, set the
young man's heart a-flutter afresh.

"At nine o'clock, at the corner of Vigo Street," she said, when she left
him, at the door of the Park Lane house, "and you will have to be very
obedient and very patient."

She offered her hand, and he took it. She raised it higher and higher,
and for a moment he did not understand. Then he bent and kissed it.

She had taken off her glove in the car with that idea.

CHAPTER XIII

King Kerry re-read a letter which had arrived by the morning post, and,
contrary to his custom, placed it in the inside pocket of his coat. His
secretary watched the proceedings with apprehension, as marking a return
to the bad old days; but he smiled and shook his head. He had a habit of
reading her thoughts which was at once uncanny and embarrassing.

"This is a 'really' letter," he said, referring to a passage at arms they
had had whether a letter was "really private" or just "private"--she had
opened a score bearing the latter inscription, only to find that they
were of the really begging-letter variety. Henceforth he passed the
private letters under review, and judged only by the handwriting or the
crest whether it was a confidential communication within the meaning of
the Act.

Kerry sat for a long time at his desk, thinking; then, by and by, he took
out the letter again and re-read it. Whatever were its contents, they
worried him, and presently he called a number on the 'phone which she
recognized as being a firm of detectives allied to Pinkerton's. "Send a
man to me for instructions!" he said, and hung up the receiver.

For a long time he was writing furiously, and when the detective was
announced, he had still a few more pages to write. He finished at last
and handed the papers to the waiting man. "This paper is to be carefully
read, digested, and destroyed," he said. "The instructions are to be
carried out without reservation, and you are to tell your chief to draw
upon me to any extent in the execution of my orders."

When the man had gone, he turned to the girl. "It is a very hard world
for women," he said sadly, and that was all the reference he made to the
letter or its sequel.

On the wall of the office hung a remarkable map. It was a large scale map
of London, which had been especially prepared for "The King" (the Press
called him ironically "The King of London"). Scarcely a day passed but an
employee of the maker called to mark some little square, representing a
shop or house, with green water-colour paint, King Kerry standing by and
directing precisely where the colour patches were to be placed. The green
was growing in the map. The Trust was buying up land and house property
north, south, and west. Baling, Forest Hill, Brockley and Greenwich were
almost all green. Kennington, Southwark, Wandsworth, Brixton, Clapham,
and Tooting were well patched; but the object of the Trust was,
apparently, to put a green belt around a centre represented by a spot
midway between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly. Inside this circle,
representing a mile radius, lay the immediate problem of the Trust.

The girl was looking across at the map, noting that the three new green
patches which had been added that morning were almost dry, when she
caught King Kerry's amused eyes fixed upon her. "How would you like to
pay a visit to the scene of your servitude?" he asked good-humouredly.

"Tack's?" she asked in wonder.

He nodded.

"I don't know," she demurred. "I should feel rather shy, I think."

"You must get over that," he said cheerfully. "Besides, you will find
very few people in the same positions in which you left them."

A few moments later the car came round, and she took her place by his
side.

"People are asking what I am going to do," he said, as if reading her
thoughts, "and this old town is just shaking its hoary head at me. Tack's
sold a hundred thousand pounds' worth of goods last year--they will sell
half a million pounds' worth next year."

She smiled, as at a good joke.

"You doubt it?" he asked, with a suggestion of that affectionate
amusement which so often sent the colour to her cheeks.

"Do you know anything about a drapery store?" she asked, answering one
question with another.

He shook his head; the word "drapery" puzzled him.

"Drapery?--we call them soft goods," he said. "No, I know no more than I
know about boots or railway trucks. People who learn in
compartments--there are hundreds of proud fathers who boast their sons
are learning their business from office boy to manager; but my opinion is
that they usually pass their true vocation half way between top and
bottom. You needn't start life as a junior clerk to discover that you're
an excellent salesman, and because you're an excellent salesman you
needn't necessarily be a heaven-born president--you call them managing
directors."

She loved to listen to him when he was in this mood. It was a pity that
Tack's was so near, but a block in the Regent Street traffic gave him
time to expound his philosophy of business. "The man who watches the
window to see the articles that are sold will learn a lot if he has
patience and plenty of time; but he will get cold feet. You've got to go
to the manufacturing end to judge sales, and you have got to go to the
man who pulls money out of manufacturing to learn that Mrs. So-and-So
prefers four buttons on her kid gloves to three. It all comes back to the
money behind the manufacturer. There are very few bank managers in
Manchester who did not know when beads ceased to be a fashionable attire
in the Fiji Islands."

He went back to Tack's and its future.

"Half a million pounds' worth of goods!" he laughed quietly, "and all to
be sold in a year at a little store that never had a bigger turnover than
a hundred thousand--it means selling sixteen hundred pounds' worth of
goods a day; it means many other things. My child, you are going to
witness some sale!"

She laughed in sheer glee.

There was a considerable change in the appearance of Tack's even in the
short space of time she had been away. The building was a fairly modern
one. King Kerry was already reshaping it, and a small army of workmen was
engaged day and night in effecting alterations which he had planned.

There had been a tiny little "annexe," too small to dignify with the
name. It had owed its existence to the discovery, after the building had
been erected, that a piece of land, some twenty feet by twenty, which had
been used by Goulding's as a temporary dumping ground for old
packing-cases, and for some extraordinary reason had not been built upon,
was part of this freehold. Mr. Leete had run up a tiny building on the
site (this was before he had acquired a controlling interest in
Goulding's), and the place had been used as auxiliary storerooms. Workmen
were engaged in removing the floors from the roof to the ground.

"I am having two large lifts put in there," explained Kerry. "They will
be about the same size as tube lifts, only they will be much faster."

Tack had always set his face against the elevator system, adopting the
view-point that, as it was, people did not get sufficient exercise, and
that he had no intention of encouraging laziness.

"But won't they be very large?" asked the girl. "I mean too large?"

Kerry shook his head. "Sixteen hundred pounds a day means about sixteen
thousand purchasers a day, or a little under a thousand an hour."

She thought she detected a flaw in his arithmetic, but did not correct
him; he was surely calculating upon a twenty-four hour day!

Other re-arrangements included new dressing-rooms on the roof. Some of
the counters had been taken away, and the broad window spaces upon which
so much depended in the old days had been reduced by seventy-five per
cent and the additional space afforded had been utilized for the erection
of large flat trays. In place of the old window display, electricians
were fitting long, endless belts of black velvet running the whole width
of each window, upon which the lighter goods were to be displayed.

"Each article will have a big number attached and the price in plain
figures: there will be a sample-room on the ground floor, where all the
customer has to do is to ask to see the number she wants to purchase.
When she has decided what she wants, she goes upstairs to the first floor
and it is handed to her ready wrapped. There will be no waiting. Every
sample clerk will have a little 'phone in front of her. She will be in
constant communication with the packing-room. She will signal the
purchases, and the customer has only to go to the counter, or one of the
counters, bearing her initial, mention her name, and take the parcel."

The girl looked at him in amazement. It seemed remarkable to her that he
had thought all this out and that she was unaware of the fact.

"You are preparing for a rush?" she asked, and she said it in such a tone
that he laughed.

"You don't think we shall be so busy, eh? Well, nous verrons!"

Elsie caught many envious glances cast in her direction. Old
acquaintances have a trick of remembering friendships which never
existed--especially with those who have been fortunate in life. She had
had no close friends in the business, but there were many who now
regarded her as a sometime bosom confidante, and were prepared to harbour
a grievance against her if she did not hold them in like regard. Some
called her "Elsie," who had never before taken that liberty, doubtless
with the desire to establish their intimacy before she advanced too far
along the golden road. This is the way of the world. But Elsie was too
warm-hearted to be cynical, and responded readily to their overtures of
friendship.

Their salaries had been substantially raised, so "Fluff," a pretty little
girl in the "White" department, told her. "All the rotters have been
sacked, three of the shop-walkers, and the manager of the 'ready-mades,'"
said the girl enthusiastically. "Oh, Miss Marion, it was splendid to see
that beast Tack walk out for the last time."

"Things are awfully comfortable," said another--Elsie had an opportunity
for gossiping whilst King Kerry interviewed the new manager--"but there
is going to be an awful rush, and those awful fines have been abolished.
Oh! and they're taking on an awful number of girls, though where they're
going to put 'em all heaven knows--we shall be awfully crowded!"

The girl bore the nickname of "Awful Agnes," not without reason.

King Kerry rejoined Elsie, and they drove back to the office together.
"Had to take a big warehouse to stock our goods," he explained. "We shall
sell a few! Every other shop in the street for two hundred yards in each
direction is engaged in the same business as us. I have offered to buy
the lot, but I guess they've got an exaggerated idea of the value of
things."

Whether they had or not, there were some who were prepared to fight the
"Big L."

That same night there appeared in all the London evening papers the
announcement that "The Federal Trades of London" had been incorporated as
a limited company. The list of the firms in the new combine included
every store in Oxford Street engaged in the same business as Tack and
Brighton's.

"The object of the Federation" (said the announcement) "is to afford
mutual protection against unfair competition. Each firm concerned will
act independently so far as its finances are concerned, and the
shareholders' interests will remain undisturbed. By means of this combine
it is hoped that the pernicious operations of a certain American Trust
will be successfully checked."

The list of directors included Hermann Zeberlieff, Esq. (independent
gentleman), and John Leete (managing director of Goulding's, Limited).

"Pernicious operations!" repeated King Kerry. "Say, this paper doesn't
like us!"  He turned over the sheets of the Evening Herald. "A bright
little paper," he mused. Then he took out his cheque-book and signed his
name in the bottom right-hand corner.

He blotted the signature, and passed the slip across to the girl.

"Elsie," he said, and the girl flushed, for he had never before called
her by her first name. "The Evening Herald is on the market. They want
sixty thousand pounds for the concern; they may take less. Here's a blank
cheque. Go down and buy that durned paper."

"Buy?" the girl gasped. "I--but I don't--I can't--I'm not a business
woman!"

"It's for sale--go and buy it; tell them you're King Kerry's partner." He
smiled encouragingly and laid his hand on hers. "My partner," he said
softly. "My dear little partner!"

CHAPTER XIV

Four men had been invited to dinner at 410, Park Lane, but only three had
so far arrived. Worse than that, Vera, whom Hermann had particularly
asked to grace the board with her presence, had pleaded the usual
headache and had most emphatically refused to come down.

"You are trying to make me look a fool before these people," he stormed.
He interviewed her in her little den, and she was palpably unprepared for
social functions of any description, being in her dressing-gown.

"My dear Hermann," she said, "don't rave! I have a headache--it is a
woman's privilege."

"You always have headaches when I want you," he said sulkily.

She did not look any too well. He wondered--

"No," she answered his unspoken thought. "I noticed that the gas was
turned on at the stove and off at the main, so I just turned it off at
the stove, too."

"What do you mean?" he asked roughly.

She smiled.

"I have always appreciated your gift--a stove in Sevres ware must have
cost a lot of money. When I lay down this afternoon the main was turned
off--that I'll swear. When I woke up, it was on, though why anybody
should turn on the gas on a warm July afternoon, I can't think."

"Martin--" he began.

"Martin didn't touch it," she said. "I have asked him. Fortunately, no
harm was done, because I had noticed the little tap was turned before I
began to sleep. I am getting frightened, Hermann."

His face was ghastly pale, but he forced a smile.

"Frightened, Vera--why?" he asked in his friendliest tone.

She shook her head at him slowly, her eyes never leaving his face.

"It is getting so near the time," she said, "and I feel somehow that I
cannot bear up against the strain of always fighting for my life."

"Rubbish!" he cried genially. "Come along and see my people. Leete is
one, Hubbard, one of the Federation directors, is another. Bolscombe
hasn't turned up. Why don't you get rid of the worry of your money?" he
said with a show of solicitude. "Pool it with mine, as I suggested months
ago. You'll go mad if you don't." He stopped short and eyed her
curiously. "I think you're a little mad now," he said slowly, and she
shook her distress off and laughed.

"Hermann, you're the most versatile man I know," she said; "but so
horribly unoriginal."

"Are you going out to-night?"

He paused at the door to ask the question, and she nodded.

"With your headache?" he sneered.

"To get rid of it," she replied.

He went downstairs to his guests.

"My sister is not very well," he said. "She's rather depressed lately---"

Then occurred the devilish idea: that flash of inspiration to villainy
which has sent men to the gallows and has tenanted Broadmoor with
horrible gibing things that once were human. Ten days! said the brain of
Hermann Zeberlieff. Do it now!

With scarcely a pause he went on--

"We're all friends here, and I don't mind telling you that she is
worrying me--she has distinctly suicidal tendencies."

There was a murmur of commiseration.

"I'll just see how she is," he said; "and then we'll start dinner."

"I thought I saw your sister standing at her window," said Leete, and
added with a smirk: "I rather flattered myself that she was waving her
hand to me."

Hermann looked at him in frank surprise. He knew that Vera hated Leete as
intensely as a woman with fine instincts could hate a man. It would be an
unsuspected weakness in her if she endeavoured to make friends with his
associates; but it bore out all that the girl had said. She was
frightened, was clutching at straws, even so unsavoury a straw as Leete.

He walked carelessly from the room and mounted the stairs. He had in his
heart neither fear nor remorse for the dreadful deed he contemplated. He
did not go straight to where she was, but slipped into her bedroom, which
communicated with the sitting-room.

He stepped stealthily, silently.

By the side of the window was a long curtain-cord of silk. He drew a
chair, stepped noiselessly upon it and severed the cord high up. He
stepped down as noiselessly. He had three minutes to do the work. In
three minutes' time he would be with his guests smiling apologetically
for his sister's absence, what time this beautiful creature of "suicidal
tendencies" would be hanging limply from--

He looked round for a suitable hook and found a peg behind the door which
bore his weight.

That would be the place. Rapidly he made a noose at one end of the rope
and held it in his hand behind him.

He turned the handle of the door and walked into the dressing-room. She
was sitting by the window and rose, startled.

"What were you doing in my room?" she demanded.

"Stealing your jewels," he said with humour. But she was not appeased by
his simulated playfulness.

"How dare you go into my room?" she cried. The fear of death was upon
her, through her brain ran a criss-cross of plans for escape.

"I want to talk things over," he said and reached out his hand to touch
her. She shrank back.

"What have you got behind your back?" she asked in a terrified whisper.

He sprang at her, flinging one arm about her so that he pinioned both
arms. Then she saw his design as his other hand rose to close over her
mouth. The coils slipped down on his arm and he shifted his left hand up
to silence her.

"Mercy!" she gasped.

He smiled in her face. He found the noose and slipped it over her
head. Then--

"Kerry knows--Kerry knows!" said her muffled voice. "I wrote to him.
There is a detective watching this house day and night--ah!"

The loop had touched her neck.

"You wrote?"

"Told him--murder--me--I signal every half-hour--due in five minutes--"

Very gently he released her, laughing the while. He had moved her to
where he could see through the window. A man stood with his back to the
railings of the Park, smoking a short cigar. He was watching the house
for the half-hour signal.

"You never thought I was such a good actor," said Hermann with his set
smile.

She staggered to the window and sank in a chair.

"I didn't frighten you, did I?" he asked with a certain resemblance of
tenderness.

She was shaking from head to foot. "Go out!" she said. "Go away! I know
your secret now!"

With a little shrug he left her, taking the silk cord with him, for that
evidence was too damning to leave behind. She waited till she heard him
speaking in the hall below, then she fled to her room and locked the
door. With shaking hands she made her preparations. She dressed as
quickly as she had dressed in her life and descended the stairs. In the
hall she saw Martin, and paused. "Get me a walking-stick--any one will
do--quickly!"

The man went away and, returning with the ivory-headed cane of her
brother, found her by the open door.

She looked at her watch. It wanted twenty minutes to nine.

A taxi-cab carried her to Vigo Street, and the nearer she came to the man
who she knew loved her, and to the freedom which was ahead the higher
rose her spirits.

Gordon Bray was waiting. She paid the cab and dismissed it. "I knew you
would be here!" she said impulsively, and took his arm. "Gordon," she
said breathlessly--it is strange how two people that day had been
thrilled by the utterance of a Christian name--"you have known me for
three years."

"And twenty-five days, Miss Zeberlieff," said the young man. "I count the
days."

The eyes turned to him were bright with a light he had never seen.

"Call me Vera," she said softly. "Please don't think I'm bold--but I just
want you to--you love me, don't you?"

The street lights went round and round in a giddy whirl before the man.
"I worship you!" he said hoarsely.

"Then bear with me for a little while," she said tenderly; "and if I do
things which you do not approve--"

"You couldn't do that," he said.

There in Regent Street, before all the hurrying world, shocked, amused or
interested, according to its several temperaments, she raised her lips to
his and he kissed her.

"Now," she said, and thrust him away, her eyes dancing, "show me the new
shop that King Kerry bought."

"This is it "--he pointed along the block--"the art fabric people. It was
in all the papers."

She ran along the pavement till she came to the darkened windows of the
store. Then, without a warning, she raised her stick and sent the ivory
head smashing through the plate glass.

A policeman seized her.

"My God!" said Gordon Bray. "Why did you do that?"

"Votes for Women!" cried Vera and laughed. She was laughing still when
they took her away in a cab to Marlborough Street, and laughing the next
morning when she was sentenced to three weeks in the second division.

King Kerry, sitting at the solicitors' table with Bray, was not unamused.
In three weeks Vera would be entitled to her share of her father's
fortune, and her brother's machinations would be in vain. She would come
out of prison a free woman in every sense of the word.

As for Bray, though he watched that delicate figure anxiously, he
understood. It would be three weeks of hell for him with only the memory
of those fragrant lips to help him bear the parting.

CHAPTER XV

"I couldn't get back to the office last night," said Elsie, "and I tried
to get you on the 'phone, but you weren't anywhere you ought to have
been." Her voice was a little reproachful, for she had really wanted to
see him to communicate a wonderful piece of news.

"I suppose I wasn't," admitted King Kerry, smoothing his grey hair. There
was something almost childlike about the millionaire when he was
penitent, and Elsie's heart was very tender to him in such moments as
these.

"A young friend of mine smashed one of my windows in Regent Street," he
said in extenuation. "Really, I'm never out of these infernal police
stations," he added ruefully.

"A suffragette?"

"I guess so," nodded Kerry, biting off the end of a cigar. "Anyway, she's
gaoled!"

"Oh!" protested the girl in horror. "You didn't allow her to go to gaol?"

"I surely did," admitted King Kerry with his brightest smile, "and
instructed a lawyer to press for it."

He saw the troubled look on the girl's face and waited.

"It isn't like you, somehow," she said, with a note of reproach in her
voice. "You're so kind and so tender to people in trouble--I just hate
the thought of you being anything else than what I think you are."

"Everybody is different to what people think they are," he said
mournfully. "I guess you've never read what some of the New York papers
said about my big railroad combine. I thought not," as she shook her
head. "One of these days I'll hunt up the cuttings for you, and you'll
see how black it is possible for a man to be--and escape gaoling."

"You'll not convince me," she said with decision. "I'm not even satisfied
that you did what you said this morning."

He nodded vigorously.

"Sure," he said; "but I might as well tell you right here that the lady
was a friend of mine, and she was most anxious to go to gaol--and I was
obliged to help her."

"She is really a suffragette?"

King Kerry considered before he made a reply, drawing thoughtfully at his
cigar.

"No, she isn't," he said. "She's had enough to make her. If I were she, I
guess I'd burn the whole of Regent Street. You'll read about it in the
papers, anyway," he said.

She opened a drawer and took out a copy of the Evening Herald.

"Read about it in your own paper," she said proudly, and handed him the
early edition.

He whistled. "I'd almost forgotten that," he said. "So you bought it!"

She nodded. She made a pretty picture standing there with her hands
behind her back, her cheeks flushed and her lovely eyes bright with
excitement. She stood like a child who had deserved commendation and was
waiting expectantly for her due.

"What did you give?" he asked.

"Guess?" she countered.

"Sixty thousand?" he suggested.

She shook her head.

"Fifty?" with raised eyebrows.

Again she shook her head.

"I'll tell you the whole story," she said. "When I got to the office of
the Evening Herald I found the staff had gone home, but the editor, the
manager, and the proprietor were in the board room, and I found out
afterwards that there had been a most unholy row."

"There always is when those three gentlemen meet," said King Kerry with
knowledge. "If the publisher had been there too, you would have been
obliged to ring for the ambulance."

"Well," she went on with a smile, "I sent in your name and was admitted
at once."

"Such is the magic of a name," murmured the millionaire.

"They were awfully surprised to see me, and the proprietor, Mr.
Bolscombe, started to 'my girl' me, but he didn't continue when I put it
to him straight away that I had called to buy the paper."

"Did he faint?" asked Kerry, anxiously.

She smiled.

"Not exactly; but he asked sixty thousand pounds, whereupon I did all the
fainting necessary. The paper is a young one--you know that?"--King Kerry
nodded--"and is just on the point of paying--"

"That's the editor's view," suggested Kerry, and the girl nodded.

"Especially if the policy was changed a little--"

"Do I hear the manager speaking?" asked Kerry, looking up at the ceiling.

"Yes--but on the other hand it may not, and there was a doubt as to
whether it was wise to throw good money after bad."

Kerry laughed uproariously for him.

"That is the proprietor," he said. "I know what he'd say because I've
seen him once or twice."

"So we talked and we talked, and the end of it was I got the paper for
forty thousand pounds," she said triumphantly.

He rose and patted her on the shoulder.

"Excellent, child!" he said. "I shall put that in my red book."

He had a locked ledger in which from time to time he made entries, the
nature of which was unknown save to the writer.

"I've something else to say," said the girl. "After I'd given the cheque
and got the receipt I went home, and Mr. Bolscombe, who was dining
with--you'll never guess whom?" she challenged.

"Hermann Zeberlieff--yes?" retorted Kerry. "Go on!"

She was a little disappointed that her baby bomb had not so much as
fizzed.

"I went back to my flat. Three hours later Mr. Bolscombe called, though
how he got the address--"

"From Zeberlieff."

"Of course--how absurd of me to forget. He called and offered to buy back
the paper for seventy thousand pounds!"

"Excellent!" laughed King Kerry.

"He wanted to say that it wasn't a proper sale, but I made him include
all the considerations in the receipt--was I right?"

"Child," said the admiring Kerry solemnly, "I shall take you into
partnership one of these days. What was the end?"

She handed him the receipt. She had something more to say.

"The editor is rather a clever young man," she said, hesitatingly; "and
the manager seems pretty capable. I told them that you would make no
immediate changes."

"Right again," said Kerry heartily. "A new man isn't always the best man,
and the old man isn't necessarily a fool. Never change for change
sake--except your dress."

He stood by his desk meditatively.

"This deserves more than the ordinary recognition," he said with mock
solemnity. "Nothing less than a dinner can celebrate our first joint
victory over the enemy."

She looked at him with laughing eyes too near to tears for her complete
satisfaction. That she had pleased the "grey man," as she called him in
her heart, was enough.

She had seen two handsome men in the past twenty-four hours--she puzzled
her head to remember who the other was.

But it had not been the type that this man represented, the healthy skin
and the laughing eyes, and that masterful chin--and the other had most
certainly not been the owner of the greyest hair she had ever seen in a
young man. She wondered why he was so grey. She had often wished to ask
him, but something which was not the fear of impertinence (they had
progressed too far in friendship for that fear to weigh with her) had
prevented her.

"Dinner at eight at the Sweizerhof," he said; "and if you feel incapable
of coming without a chaperon, bring somebody nice."

"I don't know anybody nice enough," she smiled, "so you must bear with me
alone."

She had a day's work before her, and she tackled it with an energy which
the prospect of an evening's enjoyment increased. In the middle of the
morning she stopped.

"I know!" she said suddenly.

He looked up.

"What do you know?"

"The name of the other man--I mean," she said hastily, "the man who came
with Mr. Bolscombe to the flat. It was Mr. Martin Hubbard."

"Oh!" he said dubiously, "The Beauty '?"

"Is that what they call him? I can understand it. He's good looking in a
way, but--" She hesitated.

"There are lots of 'buts' about Martin," said Kerry quietly. "I met him
in New York. He's some dollar chaser."

He stared meditatively at the wall ahead of him.

"A man who marries for money," he said, "is like a dog that climbs a
steeple for a bone. He gets his meal, but there isn't any comfortable
place to sleep it off."

He made no further reference to Martin, and was busy for the rest of the
day.

For he was drafting the advertisement which was to shake the drapery
world to its foundations.

CHAPTER XVI

"When a man with no great moral perceptions, with no sense of obligation
to his conscience, his pride, or his humanity, finds himself thwarted of
his heart's desire, his mind naturally turns to murder. Murder, indeed,
is a natural instinct of man, as maternity is a natural instinct of
woman. Thousands of years of civilization have called into being a
super-instinct which is voluntary in application and is termed
self-restraint. The wild waters of will have been directed through
artificial courses, and woe to the errant stream that overleaps the bank
and runs to its natural level."

So wrote Hermann Zeberlieff in his diary two nights after the sentence of
his sister. It embodied his philosophy, and was one of the most
interesting articles of his creed and certainly one of the most coherent
passages in the diary which was read in public on a subsequent occasion,
Hermann Zeberlieff being unavoidably absent.

His worst enemies will not deny to this perverse man a certain literary
quality or cavil at the description given to him by Simnizberg, the
anthropologist of "Immoral Visionary."

He finished the entry and put away the book in its private and proper
place. He glanced with a sneer at the little stack of letters he had
answered. Everybody who knew him had written kindly, indulgently, or
humorously of his sister's exploit. Little did they know how touch that
freak of hers had cost him. It might have cost him dearer had she not
gone, but this he would never accept as a possibility.

He went to his room to dress. Checked as he was by his sister's action,
he was in a sense relieved that the necessity for removing her had
departed. She would make a will in prison--he did not doubt that.
Cassman, her solicitor, had been sent for to Holloway for that purpose.
His attitude of mind would have baffled the average psychologist, for now
he had no feeling, of resentment toward her. Frankly, he wanted her
money, as, frankly, he had not abandoned hope of getting it. But the
method must be more subtle--he had invited Martin Hubbard to dinner with
that object on the night of the extraordinary behaviour of Vera.

"Bolscombe is a fool "--he had a trick of talking to himself, and he was
dressing without the aid of a valet--"to sell the paper to that swine!"

"That swine" was King Kerry, toward whom this strange man directed the
full force of his implacable hatred. He wondered what use King Kerry
would make of his new toy--it was a weapon which might be easily employed
to harass Hermann. It would not be the first time that "The King of
London" had bought newspapers to harass him. He had finished dressing
when a discreet knock came to the door.

"There is a man who wishes to see you, sir," said the servant who entered
at Hermann's invitation.

"What kind of man?"

The servant was at a loss to describe the visitor.

"Poorish--foreign," he said.

Poorish and foreign! Hermann could not place the visitor.

"Tell him to come up."

"Here, sir?"

"Here," said the master sharply. "Where do you think I want to see him?"

The man was used to these unreasonable outbursts and was undisturbed by
them. He went away and came back with a little man, rather pallid of
face, who wore a straggling, irregular beard and clothes of sufficient
poverty to justify the "poorish" and just enough eccentricity to make
"foreign" an accurate guess.

"Oh, it is you, is it?" said Hermann coolly. "Sit down--you need not
wait, Martin."

"Well?" he asked when they were alone. "What do you want?"

He spoke in French, and the little man raised his expressive hands
deprecatingly.

"What else, mon vieu--but money? Ah, money is a horrible thing, but
necessary."

Hermann opened a gold cigarette case deliberately and selected a
cigarette before he replied.

"Exactly why should you come to me?"

The little man shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the ceiling for
inspiration. He was an unpleasant-looking man with a short, squat nose
and small, twinkling eyes set wide apart. His skin was blotched and
unhealthy, and his hands were big and red.

"You were generous to us once, mon aviateur," he said. "Ah, the
generosity!--but it was for "--he looked round--"murder!" he whispered
dramatically.

"Are you suggesting that I hired you to kill the young woman who was
found dead in Smith Street?" asked the other coolly. "You were told not
to kill."

The man shrugged his shoulders again. "She was drunk--we thought she was
obstinate," he said. "How were we to know? Joseph gave her an extra
squeeze, and, voila! she was dead."

Hermann eyed him as a naturalist might eye a new and a strange species of
beetle. "Suppose I say I will give you nothing?" he asked.

The big red hands were outstretched in pain. "It would be unfortunate,"
said the man, "for you, for us, for all!" He seemed absurdly pleased with
the rhyme of "vous," "nous," and "tout," and repeated it.

He was standing now an arm's length from the other. "Are you very strong,
my friend?" asked Hermann.

"I am considered so," said the man complacently.

"Attention!" cried Hermann, and his small white hand shot out and gripped
the visitor by the throat. He struggled, but he was in the hands of one
who had had Le Cinq as a master, and Le Cinq was the greatest strangler
of his day.

The fingers tightened on the other's throat, skilful fingers of steel
that gripped the carotid artery and compressed the windpipe in one
action. Down he went to the ground limply, then, when death stared at
him, the fingers released their clutch. "Get up," said Hermann, and
laughed noiselessly. The man staggered to his feet, fear in his eyes, his
face blue and swollen. "Mon Dieu!" he gasped.

"Another minute, my infant," said Hermann genially, "and you would have
been in hell. I do this to show you that I am better than you in your own
profession. Years ago," he went on reminiscently, "your fellow
countryman, Le Cinq, escaped from Devil's Island and came to New York. I
paid him five thousand dollars to teach me to grip. You were in good
hands, ma foi!"

The man stood shaking in every limb, his face twitching horribly, one
hand feeling tenderly at his bruised throat.

"Here is a hundred pounds: if you wish, you may go to the police--but you
must not come to me for money unless you have something to offer me for
it. When I need you I will send for you. Bonsoir."

"Bonsoir, mon professeur!" said the man with some remnants of his humour.

Hermann was flattered.

It was he who kept Martin Hubbard waiting, but Martin could afford to
wait, though he had ordered dinner to be ready to the minute. Hermann
found his host sitting patiently in the Palm Court of the Sweizerhof.

"Sorry to keep you, but I had an unexpected engagement--a pressing
engagement," he added with a smile.

"You millionaires!" said Martin Hubbard admiringly.

Handsome is a loose word applied to passable people, but Martin Hubbard
had the features and the figure of a young Greek god. If his mouth was on
the weak side, his small golden moustache was sufficient to hide it. Now,
as he walked with his guest through the court eyes were raised to watch
him, eyes admiring, eyes approving, eyes resentful and suspicious.

Hermann Zeberlieff neither admired nor resented the good looks of his
friend. Himself a man of striking appearance, with his youthful face and
his superb strength visible in the breadth of shoulder and the set of his
body, appearances were outside his philosophy. There were certain
conventions which must be obeyed, certain ephemeral fashions which must
be endured unless one wished to be regarded as eccentric, but he was
satisfied to be advised as to these by competent authority.

His vanity ran in the direction of power: he was greedy for tribute to
his wealth, his influence, and his position in the world of which he was
a member.

"Here we are," said Martin, and indicated a table.

Hermann glanced round the room and an ugly frown settled on his face.
Three tables away sat King Kerry with a lady. From where he sat Hermann
could not see her face, but a swift survey told him that since her gown
was neither modish nor expensive, and her throat and hair were Innocent
of jewels, she was one of those pleasant nobodies whom King Kerry was
always finding.

"Old Kerry and his secretary," said Hubbard, following the direction of
the other's eyes and desirous of finding an explanation for the frown.




Hermann looked at the girl with a new interest. His lips curled in a
sarcastic smile as he remembered that, but for the luck of the game, this
girl might have lain where the drunken daughter of her landlady was
found.

He went through dinner talking on such events of the time as usually form
the subject of prandial conversation. The real business of the meeting
came later in the Palm Court when the two sat over their coffees and
their cigarettes.

"Hubbard," said the guest, "I want you to marry my sister."

He watched his man as he spoke, and saw a gleam of satisfaction come to
the man's eyes.

"That's rather unexpected," said Hubbard, stroking his moustache.

"I want you to marry her," Hermann went on, taking no notice of the
interruption, "because I see no other way of getting her money."

Hubbard looked across from under his brows and answered with no great
show of geniality.

"Exactly what do you mean?"

"I shall explain what I mean," said Hermann. "But before we go any
further I would ask that we have no exhibitions of high horse-riding, no
family honour, or duties of gentlemen, or any of that highbrow nonsense,
if you please."

He said this quietly, but he was in sober earnest, and Hubbard checked a
platitude which rose to his lips.

"Go on!" he said.

"I offer you a share of my sister's fortune--I offer you exceptional
opportunities for meeting her, and I trust your singularly handsome
person to do the rest."

Hubbard caressed his moustache thoughtfully. "Of course," he said, "if
the lady is willing?"

"She isn't," said Hermann frankly. "She thinks that you are an insipid
ass." Mr. Hubbard's face went very red. "But she is young, and you
haven't really had an opportunity of impressing your personality upon
her."




"Where do--" began Martin Hubbard a little stiffly.

"Listen," commanded the other sharply, "and for God's sake don't
interrupt! By the terms of my father's will the sum of five million
dollars is settled on the man she chooses to marry. Nobody knows this,
except her and me and the lawyers. That sum represents about one half of
the money which my father left to her. I want you to marry her and give
me an agreement to pay me the sum of seven hundred and fifty thousand
pounds on the day of your wedding."

Calmly put, without anything in Hermann's tone to suggest that he was
making a proposition out of the ordinary, it staggered his vis-a-vis. It
did not stagger him sufficiently to make him forget that the arrangement
was scarcely equitable.

"That is rather steep!" he demurred.

"That you should have a quarter of a million?" Hermann raised his
eyebrows.

"I am not exactly a beggar, Zeberlieff," said "The Beauty," flushed and
somewhat angry.

"You're not exactly a beggar," agreed Hermann. "You're a society
sponge--now don't interrupt," as Hubbard half rose from his seat. "I am
speaking plainly, but the occasion warrants it. Let us have no beating
about the bush. You haven't a nickel to your name; you're on the
Federated board because I put you there, and I put you there because I
thought that sooner or later you would be useful. You are known from
Mayfair to Pimlico as a fortune-hunter who has failed, and if you fail
here you'll probably marry your landlady as an easy alternative to paying
your arrears."

Martin Hubbard's face went pink and white as the other continued with his
insolent drawl. For the cursed thing about all that Hermann had said was
that it was true--true even to the marked attention which the bourgeoise
proprietress of his flat had paid to him. But if he was furious, as only
a vain and handsome man could be furious at such a humiliating
experience, he had sense to see that a quarter of a million pounds was a
fortune beyond his dreams.

"You're a damned Jew!" he growled, and Zeberlieff laughed.

"As a matter of fact, I have not a drop of Jewish blood in me," he said.
"I often wish I had. I gather you accept?"

"Suppose she won't have anything to do with me?" asked the other.

"You must trust me," said Hermann.




He stopped suddenly. King Kerry was coming toward him walking a little
ahead of the girl he had been dining with. Even now Zeberlieff could not
see her face, for from where he sat it was hidden by her escort's
shoulder.

"Suppose--" Martin Hubbard was suggesting difficulties, but Hermann was
not listening. He was curious to see the face of the girl whom Kerry had
picked out from a crowd--according to report--to help him manipulate his
millions.

They were nearly abreast of the two men when Kerry slackened his pace and
for the first time Hermann Zeberlieff looked upon the face of Elsie
Marion.

He leapt up from his chair as if he had been shot. His face was white and
drawn, and beads of perspiration stood on his temples as he pointed a
trembling finger at the startled girl.

"You--you!" he croaked hoarsely, and fell fainting to the ground.

CHAPTER XVII

"To the General Public--

"I have recently acquired the business known as Tack and Brighten, and
this is to give notice that I intend carrying on that business on new
lines and by new methods under the title of Kerry's Stores. I have
quadrupled the variety of stock, which now includes every kind of ladies'
and children's outfitting and men's hosiery.

"There is no article of ready-made attire, no material which may be
purchased in Oxford Street, which is not to be found in the Kerry Store.

"The building has undergone extensive alterations, a new tea lounge has
been added, two powerful electric elevators have been erected, and a rest
room has been built on the first floor.

"To inaugurate this business I announce a halt-price sale year. For
twelve months from to-day you will be able to purchase goods for exactly
half of what you pay for the same goods in any other shop in Oxford
Street.

"Nor is this all.

"Three shifts of employers will attend to customers, and the shop will be
open day and night--except on Sundays and for two hours daily. All goods
will be marked in the figures at which they are sold in other
establishments and the following reductions will be made.

"Purchasers between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., the article may be had at half
the marked price. From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at 55 per cent. reduction; from
11 p.m. to 1 a.m. 60 per cent.; and from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. 65 per cent.
reduction. From 8 till 10 the Store will be in the hands of the cleaners.

"Example: Article marked 10s.

"From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. our price is 5s.

"From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. our price 4s. 6d.

"From 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. our price 4s.

"From 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. our price 3s. 6d.

"You will be waited upon by a staff which is paid higher wages and works
shorter hours than any other staff in London. Everything will be marked
in plain figures. Choose your goods in the sample room--they will be
delivered in the rest room.

"This advertisement will appear for three days, at the end of which time
the Store will be advertising itself.

"Yours faithfully,

"KING KERRY."

"P.S.--I am actually giving away a minimum ?300,000 in the course of the
next twelve months; it is open for you to take your share. There is no
chance of our stock running short. I have ten of the greatest firms of
manufacturers under contract to deliver me goods to the value of 600,000
for the half-year ending December twenty-three, and to the value of
800,000 for the following half-year."

The advertisement occupied a full page of the most important of the
available full pages in every newspaper in London. It was on a Monday
that the first intimation of the sale appeared in the shape of a great
poster on every hoarding of the metropolis. The announcement was simple
to a point of baldness.

KERRY'S STORE, 989-997, OXFORD STREET, W.

MADAM,--Any article of wear you may see in the window of any drapery
store or ladies' outfitters in Oxford Street may be purchased from my
store on and after Monday next at exactly half the price, and even less.
See Wednesday's newspapers for particulars.

KING KERRY.

This, in huge letters, confronted the citizens of London wherever they
walked abroad. It faced them in the tube trains and in the tube lifts. It
was plastered on railway stations and covered the ends of dead walls. It
was printed in a modified form on the back of tram tickets and on the
boards of 'buses and cars. Sandwich men in hundreds perambulated London
bearing this announcement. It appeared unexpectedly on the screens of
cinemas, was to be found in theatre programmes and even crept into the
pages of parish magazines.

A week later came the newspaper advertising, and at eleven o'clock on the
morning there was formed the most extraordinary queue that London had
ever seen. It began forming at seven o'clock in the morning. At nine
o'clock reserves of "E" division were called out to marshal the line.
Four deep the queue stretched from Kerry's Store to New Oxford Street, a
distance of a mile and a quarter.

There was no doubt in the mind of the thrifty Londoner that the goods
were of the quality stated. Endless velvet belts had for three days
displayed samples of the treasures within. Still less was there any
question as to the willingness of the munificent proprietor to allow all
these goods to go out at half price. There was some doubt in the public
mind as to how long these sacrifices would go on.

The doors opened at eleven, and Kerry's system worked with the utmost
smoothness. As fast as customers were supplied they went out through the
new doors at the rear of the building. They learnt that they must come on
any future occasion with their minds made up as to the article they
desired. Once they had passed from the sample room to the rest chamber
above they were not re-admitted. If they remembered something they had
wanted they must take their place in the queue again.

Every class of society was represented in that mammoth bargain hunt.
Motor cars dropped their befurred occupants to walk side by side with the
dingy little woman from the poorer streets of the East and South. Women
with command of capital went in with well-filled purses and came out
proudly conscious of the fact that they had bought double supplies for
the price of one.

At three o'clock in the afternoon the queue was a quarter of a mile long,
at ten o'clock at night some fifteen hundred people were moving slowly to
the doors, and when two o'clock struck a queue of respectable dimensions
still waited for the extra reductions.

"It is wonderful!"

Elsie surveyed the sight from an upper window of the Store at half-past
one in the morning. The street behind the building was filled with motor
lorries and vans which had brought up fresh supplies from the warehouse
which King Kerry had taken in South London, and whilst one gang of men
were busily unloading, another was stripping the packing cases and
sorting out the contents for delivery in the wrapping room on the fourth
floor.

King Kerry, smoking a cigar, was by her side.

"We're doing fine," he said. "We can't have lost more than a thousand
pounds. We may not have lost that."

"My idea is that we shall drop something like a thousand a day," he went
on, "but the margin of profit on these kinds of goods is so large that we
might easily lose nothing after the system has shaken down."

There were other spectators equally interested. Leete and Zeberlieff sat
in the shadowy interior of the latter's car and watched the midnight
queue. "How long will this farce last?" growled Leete.

The other made no reply. He looked ill and weary. There were little lines
about his eyes which were unusual in him. He looked malignantly at the
building which shielded his enemy. So that was why he had chosen his
secretary from the crowd. Because she had resembled to a miraculous
degree the girl whose death lay at Hermann's door.

There had been tragedy there--for the girl. Hermann had been embarrassed,
but no more. It had widened the breach with King Kerry, for the grey
man--who was not grey in those days--had loved the child in his way. Even
Hermann credited that way with being all that was benevolent and sweet.
She was a child in King's eyes, scarcely emerged from the doll and candy
stage when all Boston had awakened with a shock to the knowledge that she
was indeed a woman, with a woman's capacity for joy, a woman's
fore-ordained measure of sorrow.

"He can't keep this up," Leete was saying, and Hermann turned with a
start from his bitter memories.

"Can't!" he said savagely. "He can and will--you don't know him. He's a
damned Yankee magnate--you've never dealt with that kind before, I guess!
Can't! Don't you bank on his giving up. Has it affected Goulding's?"

"Affected it!" the other laughed harshly. "I doubt if we've taken ten
pounds to-day, and the running expenses of the place are from forty to
fifty a day. I'll apply for an injunction to stop this queue--it's
illegal."

"And advertise him?" asked Hermann; "give him a gratuitous ad.? Nothing
doing! We've got to find another way."

He bit his nails in thought, his eyes watching the slow-moving procession
of customers as it moved before the gaily-lit store.

"Suppose this goes on," he asked, "and your takings dwindle to ten pounds
or less, what will be the result?"

Mr. Leete swallowed something in the darkness.

"Ruin," he said; "we should go under. We couldn't afford to compete, we
should pay no dividends, for we've no reserves. And it won't only be
us--there are half a dozen firms in the neighbourhood who are worse off
than we. They would all go smash."

"Suppose you all agree to sell your stuff in competition?"

Leete shook his head with an oath.

"What is the use of talking? There is a fact we can't get over. He can
afford to throw a million pounds into the gutter--we can't. Who is going
to finance a business under the present conditions? There isn't a City
house which would lend us a red cent till it is definitely known what is
the limit of King Kerry's operations. Our only hope is that he gets
tired."

"He'll not get tired," said the other.

He glanced round along the pavement by the side of which the car was
drawn up. A little group of sightseers were watching the strange scene of
London's midnight shopping. One of these was a young man whose face
Hermann remembered having seen before. For a little time he couldn't
"place" the stranger, then he remembered that he had seen him in Park
Lane.

This was Vera's gallant young student. He was alone apparently and was
watching with every evidence of interest the remarkable happening. Near
by stood another young man, smoking a cigar and watching the proceedings
with an approving eye.

CHAPTER XVIII

To think was to act with Hermann Zeberlieff. He must chance whether Vera
had antagonized the youth. He stepped out of the car and made his way to
where Gordon Bray stood. "I think we have met before," he greeted him,
and the cordiality which his appearance excited dispelled any doubt as to
the other's attitude of mind.

They stood chatting for a little while, discussing the peculiarities of
King Kerry. "Don't you think he is very wonderful?" asked the enthusiast.

"Very," replied Hermann dryly.

"He is such a splendid fellow to his employees, too," the young man went
on, utterly oblivious of the fact that no word in praise of King Kerry
was calculated to arouse a responsive glow in the breast of the other. "I
met Elsie Marion at lunch to-day."

"Elsie Marion?" repeated Hermann with obvious interest.

Gordon nodded.

"Yes, she is his secretary, you know; we used to live under the same
roof"--he smiled--"before Elsie made good."

"And what has she to say about this great man?" asked Hermann, with
gentle irony.

The young man laughed. "I'm afraid I'm a little too enthused," he said,
"and probably you being an American and used to the hustle and enterprise
of your fellow-countrymen, are not so struck as I am with his methods."

"I am immensely struck by them," replied Hermann, but did not mean
exactly what the other meant. "I should like to have a talk with you, Mr.
Bray; there are so many matters we could discuss. They tell me you were
in court when my sister was sentenced."

The young man turned and surveyed him with grave eyes. "Yes," he said
quietly.

"It was an awful pity, don't you think, that she should make such a fool
of herself?" asked Hermann. Gordon Bray flushed.

"I think she must have had a very excellent reason for doing it," he
said.

The other concealed a smile. Here was a devoted swain indeed, one of the
"worship at a distance" brigade he placed him, a tame dog to be petted or
kicked by the wealthy woman who had the patience to keep him to heel.

"It is a matter of opinion," he said aloud; "personally, I detest the
Suffragette, and it was a revelation and a shock to discover that my
sister could be included in their numbers; but that is beside the point.
Will you come along and have a chat?"

"When?" asked the other.

"There is no time like the present," said Mr. Zeberlieff good-humouredly.

The young man stared.

"But it is rather late, isn't it?" he said.

"Not at all," said the other, "if you can spare the time."

He walked back and introduced the youth to his companion, and Mr. Leete
submitted with bad grace to the presence of a third party at a moment
when he intended sounding Zeberlieff as to his willingness to help
finance Goulding's against the competition which had come to them.

They dropped Leete at his flat and went on to Park Lane, and in Hermann's
little study the two men settled down to cigarettes and coffee, which was
served with such little delay as to suggest that the excellent Martin had
produced the liquid part of the entertainment from a thermos flask.

"I'm coming straight to the point with you, Mr. Bray," said Hermann after
a while. "I'm a very rich man, as you possibly know, and you, as far as I
am able to judge, have not too much of this world's wealth."

Gordon Bray nodded. "That is perfectly true," he said quietly.

"Now I am willing to serve you if you will serve me," Hermann went on.
"You possibly know that my sister is engaged."

There was a little pause, and then Gordon said in so low a voice that the
other hardly heard him--"No, I did not know this."

Hermann looked at him sharply.

"Yes, she is engaged all right, to my friend Martin Hubbard--you may have
heard of him; he is one of the best known men in town, and is especially
precious to me, since he has the same name as my servant, and I never
forget him," he smiled.

Up till then Hermann had not dreamt that he was, in any way, hurting the
feelings of the other. It never occurred to him that this man of the
people should harbour any serious thought of love for the woman who was
so far beyond his reach. Something in the young man's face arrested him,
and he glanced suspiciously at his visitor. "I hope my sister's
engagement has your approval," he said with good-natured irony.

"It is not for me to approve or disapprove," said the young man calmly.
"I can only express the hope that she will be very happy."

Whatever suspicion might have been in Hermann's mind was dissipated by
the attitude of the other.

"I don't suppose that she will be very happy," he said carelessly. "After
all, happiness is a relative term. A woman with a couple of million
pounds in her own right can find happiness where a less fortunate
creature--"

"How can I help you?" interrupted Gordon. He had to say something. It
seemed to him that the beating of his heart could be heard in the room,
and the horrible sense of depression which had come to him when the other
broke the news was patent in his face.

"I have reason to know," said Hermann slowly, "that my sister has a very
high opinion of your judgment. I seem to remember that she has spoken to
me several times about you. It very often happens," he went on with an
insolent disregard for the other's feelings, "that girls of my sister's
class are considerably influenced by the advice of men of your class, and
I believe this is so in the case of my sister and yourself. You can help
me a great deal," he said emphatically, "if, when my sister comes out,
when she recovers her normal position in society, you use whatever
influence you possess to further this marriage. I expect," he went on
thoughtfully, "she will kick up a row when she finds that I have arranged
her affairs for her."

"Then she doesn't know?" interrupted the other quickly.

"Not yet," replied Hermann. "You see, my sister is a very extraordinary
girl; she has been a source of great trouble to me during the years I
have been responsible for her well-being. You will understand, Mr. Bray,
as a man of the world, something of my responsibility, and my anxiety to
see her happily settled in life. At present, with her independence, and
with her enormous fortune," he spoke emphatically, tapping the polished
surface of the table before him with every sentence, "she is the prey of
every fortune-hunter who happens along. My friend Hubbard is a man
against whom such a charge could not lie."

He was depending upon Gordon Bray being perfectly innocent of the gossip
in which society indulged; that he knew nothing of the shaking heads
which followed Martin Hubbard's advent to the drawing-rooms of Mayfair,
or the elaborate care with which the mothers and the aunts of eligible
wards withdrew their charges at the first opportunity.

Gordon Bray made no response. If he knew any of these things he did not
betray the fact. He sat in the soft cushioned chair, facing the other,
and was silent. Hermann Zeberlieff made the mistake of confusing his
silence with acquiescence, and continued--

"I am willing to give you whatever chance you want in the world," he said
slowly, "in return for your good offices. On the day my sister marries I
am prepared to give you a couple of thousand pounds--a very considerable
sum, and one which would assist you materially to reach that place in the
world which I have no doubt as an ambitious young man you have set
yourself to attain."

Again Bray did not answer. He was looking at the other, relief in his
heart, contempt for the man before him occupying his thoughts. To have
asked him of all people in the world to assist in coercing this dream
lady of his! He could have laughed at the grotesque absurdity of it. As
it was, he waited until Hermann had concluded his expression of views
upon the responsibility of safeguarding the millionairess before he
spoke. Then he rose, and reached out for his hat, which he had placed
upon a chair near by.

"There's no necessity for your going," said Hermann in surprise.

"Nevertheless, I am going," answered the other. "I'm afraid, Mr.
Zeberlieff, you have made a great mistake in confiding so much to me, but
you may be sure that I shall respect your confidence."

Hermann lowered his brows.

"What do you mean?" he asked harshly.

"Just what I say," said Gordon Bray quietly. "You ask me to do the kind
of work which it would be disgraceful and discreditable to do even if I
had no "--he hesitated--"no friendship for your sister."

"You refuse--why?" asked Hermann in surprise.

It was indeed a matter for surprise that this man, who at best was only a
superior type of clerk, should throw away an opportunity of earning two
thousand pounds.

"If I were strong enough to influence Miss Zeberlieff," the young man
went on, "it would not be in the direction of Mr. Martin Hubbard, or any
other human being in the world, that I would influence her."

"Why?" asked Hermann again.

"Because I love her," said his visitor calmly, "and because I believe she
loves me."

If somebody had thrown a bomb into the room Hermann Zeberlieff could not
have been more surprised than he was.

"You love her," he repeated incredulously; "how absurd!" Something in the
young man's face should have warned him, but he went on--"No, no, my
good man," he said with an unpleasant smile. "You must find another easy
way to wealth than marrying my sister. So that was the idea of--"

"Stop!" Gordon Bray took a step towards him, his eyes bright with anger.
"I don't allow you or any other man to say that sort of thing," he said.
"I can make allowances for your anger. I can well imagine that I am not
the sort of man that you would care to have as a brother-in-law. At the
same time, it is only fair to say," he went on, "that you are the very
last type of man in the world that I should have chosen for the same
office. I love your sister, and I am going to marry her, but I am not
going to marry her until I have secured some sort of position in the
world for myself, without her aid, save for such help and inspiration as
her splendid character will give me."

"Excuse me if I laugh," interrupted Hermann. He had got back to himself
with extraordinary quickness.

"Without her aid," the young man went on, ignoring the insult, "I am
going to establish a place for myself in the world, and when I have I
shall take her. As to the proposal you make, in which Mr. Hubbard plays
so prominent a part, I most strongly advise you to put that matter
entirely out of your head." He was bold now, bold with the sense of
power.

Hermann's face was not good to look upon. He was desperate--desperate in
the knowledge of his own perilous position if his plans for securing
something of his sister's fortune were frustrated.

Zeberlieff's command over himself was marvellous. Shocked as he was,
beaten as he might well be, he pulled himself together with an effort and
smiled. "If my sister has to wait until you establish a position in
London," he said, "I am afraid you will be marrying a middle-aged woman."

"That may be," said the other quietly; "but if Mr. King Kerry--"

"King Kerry," repeated Hermann quickly; "is he in this scheme too?"

"Mr. King Kerry knows nothing about the matter," said the young man, "but
he has promised me an opportunity just as soon as he starts building." He
stopped.

"He starts building--what?" asked Hermann quickly. "What is he going to
build; what is the great idea; where is he going to pull down and build?
Tell me that!"

"I can tell you nothing," said the other, and walked to the door.

"I ask you one question." Hermann stood by the fireplace, his elbow
resting upon the marble mantelpiece, his head on his hand. "Will you
swear to me that my sister loves you?"

It was an unexpected question, and almost took Gordon's breath away by
reason of its unlikeliness.

"I cannot swear to that," he smiled; "yet I believe it."

"She has told you?"  Gordon nodded. "Then that is all right," smiled
Hermann. "Now I will show you out."

He led the way downstairs. On the ground floor was the dining-room and
his little library.

"Perhaps you would like to drink the health of my sister?" he said.

Gordon hesitated. He had evidently done this man an injustice.

"I should indeed," he said genially, and Hermann led the way into the
dining-room, closing the door behind him.

He walked to a little cupboard and took out a quart black bottle and two
tiny glasses. "This is the most powerful liqueur in the world--Van der
Merwe. We will drink to my sister's release--and our better
acquaintance."

"With all the pleasure in life," said the young man heartily.

First Hermann poured a glass full of the amber-coloured fluid and handed
it to his guest, then he filled his own glass, and Gordon could know
nothing of the tiny black button half-way down the neck that the other
had pressed when the first glass had been poured.

The presence of that button had been sufficient to discharge into the
glass a minute quantity of a colourless liquid.

"Good luck!" said Hermann, and drank his glassful.

Gordon followed suit.

"And now," said Hermann easily, "you must sit down and smoke a cigarette
whilst I tell you something of Vera."

His narrative had not proceeded far before Gordon Bray's head sank on his
breast, and he fell back in the chair, in which the other had placed him,
in a dreamless sleep.

CHAPTER XIX

On the opposite side of the road a young man, smoking the end of a cigar,
his felt hat on the back of his head, and his hands thrust deep into his
heavy overcoat pockets, waited patiently for Gordon Bray to come out. The
light had gone out in the upstairs sitting-room nearly an hour ago.
Whither had they adjourned?

He lit another cigar, and prepared for an extension of his vigil. A
reporter with his heart in his work counts neither time nor hardship as
wasted if he can secure a story. And this young reporter of the Evening
Herald was no exception to the general rule.

He waited, chatting with such policemen as passed. Half-past four came,
and with it the pearl-grey of dawning daylight, but still nobody came out
from the ornamental door of 410, Park Lane. Five, six, and seven came,
and the world began to wake up drowsily, and the early morning populace
of London went hurrying north and south along the fashionable
thoroughfare.

"He can't be staying the night," muttered the young reporter.

He scribbled a note and sent it off by the first likely messenger, and in
half an hour a man came briskly down Park Lane until he reached the place
where the watcher stood.

"You can go off now," he said.

"I don't want to go off until I've seen this thing through," said the
reporter.

"Do you think he went in?" asked the newcomer.

"I'm sure," said the other emphatically. "I followed them in a taxi-cab.
They dropped old Leete in Piccadilly and came on here. I saw him get out.
I saw the car drive off, and, moreover, the two men go in. I've been
watching ever since."

"Is there a back way?" asked the other.

"No--the servants' entrance is in the basement, down the flight of stairs
here to the left."

He indicated the area.

At seven-thirty from this same area there issued a man who was evidently
a servant. The reporter crossed the road and followed him up Park Lane,
quickening his pace until he came abreast of them. "Excuse me," he said.

The man-servant, Martin, turned with surprise.

"Do you want me?" he asked civilly; then, with a change of expression to
one of pleasant recognition he said: "You're the reporter who came to the
house about Miss Zeberlieff, aren't you?"

The young man nodded. "Guilty," he said with a smile. "Any news of her?"

"She's coming out to-day," said the man. "I can't understand it; as nice
a lady as ever drew breath." He shook his head mournfully.

"I suppose you'll be glad to see her back, won't you?"

"She won't come back to the house," said Martin emphatically. "Her maid
has taken all her things to a hotel. I don't suppose she likes the idea
of returning after what has happened," he speculated. "That's all I can
tell you," he said, and was moving off with a nod.

"One minute," said the reporter; "you're in a hurry to get away when a
poor devil of a reporter wants to earn a few shillings from you."

The man grinned. "I wish I earned as many shillings as you earned
pounds," he said enviously. "I shouldn't be working for him." He jerked
his head in the direction of the house.

"I suppose it isn't exactly lively?" suggested the reporter.

The man shook his head.

"We haven't had a guest for goodness knows how long," he said. "He
brought a chap home last night, but he was gone again in an hour. There
were times when--" He checked himself, thinking perhaps he was saying
too much, else he might have given a very graphic resume of a period in
Mr. Zeberlieff's social life when guests were frequent and sovereign tips
were of daily occurrence.

"Did he stay the night?" asked the reporter carelessly.

"Who?" demanded the man.

"The gentleman who came to the house last night."

The servant shook his head.

"I tell you, he was only there an hour, and I never as much as opened the
door to him."

"Is Mr. Zeberlieff up yet?" asked the reporter.

"It's no good going to him," said the servant hastily, "and if you do,
for the Lord's sake, don't mention that I've been chatting with you. Yes,
he's up; as a matter of fact, he hasn't been in bed. He sent me to bed at
two, and he's been up writing most of the night. Anyhow, he hasn't
worried me."

He held a letter in his hand, and was evidently taking it to the post.

"He writes a curious hand," said the reporter, half to himself.

The man lifted the letter up and eyed it critically.

"I don't know--it isn't so bad," he said. "I've known worse."

In that second the journalist had read the name and the address, and had
all his work cut out to suppress the whistle which was part of the ritual
of surprise.

"Well," he said, with seeming reluctance, "if he's been up all night he
won't want to see me; anyway, I'll go up to Holloway and meet Miss
Zeberlieff," and with a nod the men parted.

The reporter strolled leisurely across the road and joined his relief.
"You can hang on here," he said, "but I don't think you'll see anything.
I'm going home to have a bath and then get into communication with King
Kerry."

"What is up?" asked the other man.

"I don't know yet," was the reply. "You just watch the house and let me
know--and if Bray comes out, follow him. But I especially want to know if
Zeberlieff himself goes out."

Inside the house in Park Lane, Hermann Zeberlieff was walking
thoughtfully up and down his drawing-room. He had bathed and showed no
evidence of his absence from bed save for the tiny lines about his eyes,
which really owed their existence to quite another cause. He looked fresh
and bright and eminently handsome in the searching light of the morning
sun. Martin came to summon him to breakfast, and was pouring out the
coffee for him when Hermann said suddenly--

"Oh, by the way, Martin, you wanted to go down into Cornwall to see your
people the other day."

"Yes, sir," said the servant; "but you couldn't spare me, sir."

"I can spare you now," said Hermann. "You can go by the eleven train this
morning."

The man looked at him in astonishment. "And have you made arrangements,
sir, as to who will look after you while I'm away?"

"I shall go to a hotel," said Hermann carelessly. "You're not exactly
indispensable, Martin."

"Of course not, sir," said the dutiful servant. "I beg your pardon, sir."
The man hesitated.

"Well?"

"I've lost the key of the wine cellar somewhere," said Martin
apologetically. "I laid it down on the hall table last night and forgot
all about it."

"Don't bother, I've a key of my own," said Zeberlieff.

"I can get it open easily," said the man.

"I don't want you to go anywhere near the wine cellar," said Zeberlieff
sharply. "Who was that man I saw you speaking with?"

The guilty Martin went red.

"He's a reporter, sir," he stammered. "He came to inquire about Miss
Zeberlieff."

"H'm!" said Hermann. "I don't want you to chat with that kind of people.
I told you before."

"Well, sir--" began the man.

"I understand about Miss Zeberlieff. What did you tell him?"

"I told him, sir, that we could give him no information whatsoever," said
the unveracious Martin glibly, "and I forbade him ever to speak to me in
the street again."

"Admirable liar!" responded Hermann with a little smile. "He asked
nothing else?"

"Nothing, sir," answered the man emphatically.

"I don't like reporters," Hermann went on, "they have not exactly been
mascots to me. About the wine cellar," he said, after a pause, "I suppose
you want to take a sample of my port to your Cornish friends?"

The man was too used to the insults of the other to be overmuch hurt; but
he was very angry indeed.

Hermann was unusually cheerful during the morning, though his servant
strode about with a black face and did only what work was required of
him. He did not go near the wine cellar, nor did he think it worth his
while to report to his master that in some mysterious way a big oaken
arm-chair had disappeared from the study.

"He'll probably think I've taken that to Cornwall, too!" muttered the
man.

At a quarter to eleven a taxi-cab was called to 410, Park Lane, and
Martin's luggage was deposited on top. An interested reporter of the
Evening Herald--he had been at one time a bright and particular star on
The Monitor--watched the departure with mixed feelings, and when a
quarter of an hour later Hermann himself issued from the house and closed
the door carefully behind him, he was followed at a respectful distance
by two men, neither of whom was the reporter.

CHAPTER XX

Vera Zeberlieff had been released from prison that morning with a batch
of other Suffragettes, and had laughingly declined the official welcome
which the political enthusiasts had prepared at a restaurant in Holborn.

She had looked around eagerly when she emerged from the prison gates for
one face, but it was not there. She felt a sense of disappointment out of
all proportion, as she told herself, to the need of the occasion. She
remembered that he had his living to earn, that he might find it very
embarrassing to obtain the necessary leave to meet a friend coming from
prison. She smiled to herself at the thought. He would hardly lie. He was
not that kind of man, and herein her estimate of Gordon Bray was an
accurate one.

The taxi she hailed carried her to the hotel where she had engaged a
suite, and there she found a tearful maid awaiting her. A few brusque but
kindly words dried the tears and stemmed the flow, and arrested, too, a
volume of altogether mistaken sympathy which the girl had prepared.

"I will have some breakfast," said Vera.

She felt happy and strong, and her healthy young spirit had enabled her
to overcome the little twinge of depression which had been hers at the
disappointment of not seeing the man who loved her.

There were innumerable letters waiting for her; she singled out one
directed in her brother's writing; it was very brief. There was no word
of recrimination, no reproach. The tone was one almost of cordiality. He
told her that he would call upon her at half-past eleven on the morning
of her release, and he asked her to be so kind as to afford him this
opportunity for an interview. It was a most correct epistle.

She could do no less, she thought; and gave instructions that he was to
be announced the moment he arrived.

King Kerry sent a cheerful little note of welcome, and this and the
conventional expressions of approval or disapproval which her conduct had
called for from her numerous friends constituted her correspondence. At
half-past eleven Hermann came, and was shown up into the sitting-room. He
did not offer his hand, nor did he take the chair which she offered him.

"Well, Vera," he said, "I think we might as well understand each other
now. I am going to make some very startling confessions, which, since you
and I are alone, and we have got to start afresh, it is both expedient
and necessary for me to make. In the first place, you will not be
surprised to learn," he smiled, "that if you had died before the second
portion of the legacy became due I should not have been particularly
sorry."

She nodded, and surveyed him strangely.

"Does it occur to you," she asked, "that if you, on the other hand, had
died before the legacy became due, that I should not have mourned to any
great extent; and do you also realize that I should have benefited
considerably by such a death?"

He looked at her startled. Was she of that kind? It could not be
possible, he thought; but she was jesting, he saw the laughter in her
eyes, her mocking merriment at his surprise.

"Since we are both homicidal," he said humorously, "there is very little
to be made in the way of confession. Now that you have inherited your
money, and I understand you saw your solicitor in gaol--"

She agreed with an inclination of her head.

"Nothing is gained by me, unless, of course," again with that sly smile,
"you've executed a will in my favour."

"You must never regard that project with any certainty," she remarked.

"So I gathered," he said. "Therefore, as far as I can see, the only
chance I have of securing any of this money which you have, and which is
so necessary to me--I beg you to believe that--is to find a husband for
you."

She laughed, but watched him narrowly. "My dear Hermann," she said,
"you've been engaged in that excellent pastime for quite a while."

"And at last I have succeeded," he said.

"You have succeeded, have you?"

The irony in her voice appealed to him.

"I have succeeded," he said complacently, and sat down. "You are going to
marry my young friend, Martin Hubbard."

She made a little gesture of disgust.

"You will have the satisfaction of knowing that he is the handsomest man
in London, that he descends from William the Conqueror, and that he has
the entree into all the best society. He is perfectly educated--Eton and
Balliol, though as to that I am not sure--and, last but not least, he
plays a very excellent game of double dummy."

"Are there any other virtues which you have overlooked?" she asked.

"None," said Hermann--"that are known to me," he added.

"Of course," she said, "there is something behind all this, and you know
as well as I that I would no more think of marrying your freakish friend
than I should think of marrying your butler."

"Or one of your pupils," suggested Hermann pleasantly.

She frowned.

"My pupils! I don't quite understand."

"I mean one of those excellent students of yours at the technical college
to whom, in your large benevolence you award, from time to time, gold
medals and finely-engraved diplomas of merit. That also would be a
preposterous marriage, would it not?"

She flushed slightly.

"So you know, do you?" she asked coolly. "Preposterous or not, I think it
is a more likely marriage."

"With the admirable Mr.--I forget his name."

"With the admirable Mister whose name you forget," she rejoined.

"That makes it rather awkward for me," he said thoughtfully, "and it
makes it rather awkward for the admirable Mister--. You see, I've a
working arrangement with Martin Hubbard. He gives me a cheque for seven
hundred and fifty thousand pounds the day you are married. Do you get
me?"

"I get you," she said. "I guessed there was some such an arrangement. You
are the last person in the world I should imagine who would play the part
of a disinterested matchmaker."

"Right you are!" he said heartily. "You can avoid a great many unpleasant
consequences--and, incidentally, one of these is Martin Hubbard--if in a
fit of generosity you gave me your cheque for the same amount, or would
instruct your lawyer to cause the transfer of stock to this value from
your account to mine."

She laughed, though she was not amused.

"I think we have gone a little too far," she said. "Now, will you speak
openly what you mean and exactly what you want?"

"You know what I want," he said in his most businesslike tone. "I want
you to marry Martin Hubbard because I greatly desire three-quarters of a
million pounds, being seventy-five per cent. of the portion which comes
to your husband under our father's will. Failing that, I want the money.
I don't care whether you have a husband or not I have sense enough to
realize that Martin would be rather a trial--and, anyway, he is not worth
two hundred and fifty thousand pounds."

"I see," she said; then: "You may be as assured that I shall not be Mrs.
Hubbard as you can be that you will not have one single dollar of the
money."

"Are you so sure?" he asked.

"I am pretty sure," she said coolly.

There was a little pause.

"Are you fond of this Mr.--?"

"Mr. Gordon Bray," she supplied the name.

"Are you very fond of him?" he repeated.

She eyed him steadily.

"I fail to see that that is any business of yours," she replied, "but
since there is no reason in the world why I should not tell you, I must
admit that I am very fond of him and that he is very fond of me."

"How perfectly ideal," said Hermann with mock ecstasy. "I can see King
Kerry making two columns of it in his new paper--'The Romance of a
Technical School: Millionairess weds Technical Student. The honeymoon to
be spent at Margate, in deference to the bridegroom's wishes.'"

She was silent under his gibes, for she knew that the real issue had to
come. He would show his hand presently; it was like Hermann to wax jovial
when the business ahead was sinister. She had a little worried feeling
that her troubles were not over.

"If you are really fond of this young man," he said deliberately, "at
what figure do you value his life?"

"So that is it?"

Her face was pale: the peril which had confronted her all these years had
never been so terrible to contemplate or caused so tight a clutch upon
her heart as the knowledge that her brother would strike at her through
the man she loved.

"Come, put a value on him. None of your King Kerry half-price values," he
said, with his musical laugh, "but the full market value of a human life
that is very precious to you. Shall we say three-quarters of a million?"

There surged up in her heart such a rising flood of hate against this
smiling man who had tortured her for so many years, who had striven to
take her life for the wealth which might accrue to him. It was a hate
which blotted out and blinded all other considerations than this present
fact: here before her stood the man who had caused untold misery to
hundreds of his fellows, the man who had cornered food necessities, who
had wrecked lives, who had ridden rough-shod over susceptibilities, who
had gained his pleasure at the cost of breaking hearts.

The touch of devil which was within him was within her also. They came
from a common stock, and perhaps it was old Grandfather Zeberlieff, that
remorseless man, who spoke in her heart now.

She had an inspiration, the hate that raged within her sharpened her
perception and made her see very clearly that which she had not seen
before. Upon the inspiration she acted: she went to her desk and opened
the drawer.

He watched her with some amusement. It is curious how in such moments the
brain works upon such magnificent materials.

She found herself calculating what would be the cost of the damage done
to the wall--whether they would turn her out of the hotel; but whatever
might be the consequences, big or little, she was prepared to face it.

She knew Hermann at that moment as she had never known him before.

"At what do you value the price of your lover's life?" he asked again.

"I couldn't tell you," she said.

She took something from the drawer and handled it.

It was a revolver.


He frowned.

"We are getting melodramatic," he said, and the words were hardly out of
his mouth when the pistol exploded and a shot whizzed past his head.

He staggered back, pale to the lips.

"My God, what are you doing?" he gasped in that shrill high voice of his
which invariably betrayed his distress.

She smiled as sweetly as ever Zeberlieff had smiled in a moment of such
crisis.

"I am so sorry," she said. "I trust I haven't hurt you."

He stared at her in mortal terror for the space of a minute, and then
walked quickly to the door.

"Stop!" she said.

There was something in her voice which claimed his obedience.

"What do you want?" he asked shakily.

"I want to tell you," she said quietly, "that if any harm comes to Gordon
Bray I will kill you, that is all. Now, get out!"

He needed no second telling, and was half-way down the stairs when he met
the excited manager of the hotel running up to discover the cause for a
pistol shot--an occurrence which even the occupation of a private
sitting-room did not justify.

It was easy to explain; much easier for a lady known to be enormously
rich, and the relieved manager bowed himself out.

She took from the drawer where the revolver again reposed a little case
and opened it. On the one side was a portrait other father, and on the
other a photographic study of Gordon Bray taken by one of the technical
students.

She looked at the clear-cut face and shook her head.

"Poor dear," she said whimsically, half to herself, "you are marrying
into a queer family!"

CHAPTER XXI

Zeberlieff hurried back to Park Lane, shaken and panic-stricken. Never
before in his life had anything affected him as it had at the moment when
he had seen the pistol barrel turned slowly in his direction, and had
known before the shot was fired that it was being aimed at him. He
remembered now that she was a most excellent revolver shot.

Was it by accident she missed him?

He might have spared himself the trouble of speculating. If she had
intended killing him, he would have been dead. He was afraid of her
now--more afraid because she was the one human in the world of whom he
was in terror at any time. She was now a terrifying figure.

He had one intention, and that to release Gordon Bray from the wine
cellar, where he was at that moment secured hand and foot to a heavy
oaken chair.

He found Leete waiting on the doorstep, and inwardly cursed him; but he
could not afford to be impolite. He wanted every friend he could muster
now.

"I've been waiting for an hour," grumbled Leete. "Where the devil are all
your servants?"

"They're all out," said the other. "Come in."

He unlocked the door, and ushered Leete into the dining-room, on the
ground floor.

"What is the news?"

"Oh, he's at it again," said Leete despairingly. "He isn't satisfied with
ruining our business in Oxford Street, but he's bought up a huge block of
buildings along one side of Regent Street, and he has bought the Hilarity
Theatre. Why, soon, the man will own the best part of London."

"You haven't come all the way to tell me that, have you?" asked Hermann.

"No, there's something else. That young man you introduced me to last
night--"

"What about him?" asked Hermann quickly.

"Well, the police have been round to see me."

"The police!" Zeberlieff changed colour.

"Yes. It appears that he hasn't been home all night. He was seen to go
into your house, and since then all trace has been lost of him."

"Who saw him go in?" asked Zeberlieff.

"A reporter on Kerry's paper. They brought me round a proof of the story
they're going to run in this evening's edition. Would you like to see
it?"

"Tell me what it is--quickly!" said Hermann.

"Oh, it's a sensational story," said the other disparagingly. "They
describe it as the remarkable disappearance of a young man who
accompanied the famous Mr. Zeberlieff to his house and did not come out
again. It appears the reporter followed you and has been watching the
house all night."

Zeberlieff bit his lip.

"So that was what he was talking to my servant about, was it?" he said;
and then, seeing that the other man was regarding him curiously, he
turned with a laugh.

"My dear chap, what should I know about this man? All that I can tell you
is that he came here and he was rather impertinent. I don't mind
confessing to you that he went as far as to say that he wanted to marry
my sister--an altogether preposterous suggestion. So I kicked him out,"
he continued airily.

Leete sniffed.

"The unfortunate thing is," he said, "that nobody saw you kick him out.
That's where all the trouble is going to be. I came round here expecting
to find the police in possession of the place."

His host was startled--alarmed. If the police came-and he was taken to
the station--and searched!

"Just wait one moment," said Hermann. "Sit here!"

Without a word of explanation he went out through the door and closed it
behind him. He went down the kitchen stairs, and turned into the dark,
narrow passage which led to the wine cellar. The door was locked, but the
key was in his pocket. He entered, switching on the electric light which
dangled between the bins. The cellar was empty!

Hermann gasped.

There was the chair, the leather thongs, with which he had bound the
drugged and helpless Gordon, lay around in confusion, as though they had
been thrown hastily away; but there was no sign of Gordon Bray.

He made a careful examination of the cellar. The young man might have
escaped and be in hiding; but he searched without result. The cellar was
too small for a man to conceal himself, and the bins offered very little
shadow to any man who might seek concealment.

He came back to the chair and looked at it, and something on the ground
attracted his attention, and he stooped down and looked.

At first he thought the man had helped himself to his wine, and had spilt
some on the ground. The electric light did not show him what he wanted to
know, and he bent down and examined the stain at close range.

He sprang up again with a cry, for that which was splashed about the
ground was blood!

He ascended the stairs slowly; he was mystified and badly frightened. Who
had opened the cellar door and released the prisoner? Whose blood was it
that lay upon the ground and sprinkled the chair?

"What is the matter?" asked Leete, as his host re-entered the
dining-room.

"It was a joke," stammered the other. He was shaking, for twice to-day
had the fear of death been upon him.

"I took him into my study and gave him a drink, and he--he collapsed
under it," he said incoherently.

"Drugged?" said Leete accusingly.

"No, no, no! It was just a little too strong for him, that is all,"
protested Hermann. "For a joke I took him into the cellar and tied him up
to a chair. I swear I meant him no harm, Leete," he said eagerly. "Come
and look!"

The two men descended the stairs together, and Leete gazed in silence.

"What is that on the floor?" he asked.

"Blood," said Hermann.

Leete shivered and drew back.

"I don't want to be mixed up in this," he said.

"But I swear to you," stormed the other, "I know nothing about it. I left
him here this morning."

"I don't want to hear anything at all about it," said Leete, raising a
protesting hand. "I am not in this, and know nothing of it. I most
distinctly do not want to be drawn into a case of this description. Good
morning!" he said hurriedly, and made a hurried and undignified exit.

Hermann was left alone in the house.

"My God!" he muttered. "They will think I did it! The police will come
here and search the place. I must wash it down."

With feverish haste he descended to the cellar, and dragged up the chair
to the daylight. He cleaned the priceless tapestry as well as he could
with warm water, and set it in front of a gas stove to dry. He worked at
top speed. At any moment the men of the law might call.

With great difficulty he found a pail and some water, and the
paraphernalia of the charwoman, and not for the first time in his life he
was engaged for ten minutes on his hands and knees in his own wine cellar
removing all trace of whatever tragedy there had been.

Who could have come to the rescue? And who, having released him, would
wound him? Suppose that anarchist man had come--the man he had employed
to extract the secret of the combination safe from Elsie Marion? Suppose
he had stolen in stealthily and discovered the prisoner? Suppose the
police had already been; but no, they would not have left the house
again?

In a fever of anxiety he paced the study floor, waiting for the
inevitable. The evening came, but still no sign of the police. He was
feeling desperately hungry; he had not eaten since breakfast, and he made
a hurried toilet and went out, resolved not to return that night. He
would dine at the Carlton grill. One need not dress for that, and he
found himself at a little table in one of the recesses of that famous
underground dining-room, eating ravenously the meal which Gaston, the
head waiter, put before his client.

In the next recess a merry party was dining, if he could judge from the
laughter. He was too hungry to take much notice; but when the first
cravings of his appetite had been assuaged he found himself with an
interest in life and his surroundings. The laughter was insistent, and it
grated a little on him in his present mood. Then he thought he heard his
name mentioned, and half rose, straining his ears to catch what was said.
He heard a voice he did not recognize.

"Of course, it was a hateful thing to do, but I just had to do it, Miss
Zeberlieff."




Hermann knitted his brows. Who was this?

"It was the artistic finish which circumstances demanded. Red ink
wouldn't deceive a baby; but I'll bet it deceived him. So after I
released Mr. Bray . . ."

Hermann rose and stepped out so that he could see the diners. His sister
was one, a stranger whose face he dimly remembered was another, and
Gordon Bray was a notable third. They looked up and saw him staring down
at them, and his sister, with a smile, caught his eye.

"You seem to have had quite an exciting day, Hermann," she said with her
sweetest smile.

CHAPTER XXII

Hermann found Leete at his club, and explained the joke. It required some
explaining, and it was a long time before Leete put down the arm-length's
barrier which he had erected in that moment of fancied peril.

"You shouldn't mix yourself up with that sort of thing at all,
Zeberlieff," he said disapprovingly. "Whatever you do, keep away from the
police. You can't afford to be mixed up with them--particularly if you've
friends, as I have. There's my friend the Duke--"

"Oh, cut out your ducal friend for this evening!" said Hermann wearily;
"I'm sick to death of everything, and I do not think that I can stand
your gospel according to Burke."

"Have you had dinner?" asked Leete, anxious to mollify him.

Hermann laughed mirthlessly. "I have indeed," he said.

"Then come along and smoke; there's a lot of men up there who will be
glad to talk to you. Hubbard's there, by the way," he said.




Hermann nodded. Hubbard! Here was another proposition.

"Everybody is talking about that fellow Kerry; there's a man here from
Bolt and Waudry--young Harry Bolt. Their people are in an awful funk.
They say that the whole of their takings for the past two days have
amounted to twenty pounds. I tell you, unless we can put a stopper to
King Kerry, it is ruin for us."

"For you individually?"

Leete hesitated.

"No," he said. "I am not such a fool as that. My liability is limited by
shares, but I've a much bigger holding in Goulding's than is pleasant to
think about at this particular moment. The only thing to do," he went on,
"is to get at King Kerry."

"How is his trade?"

"Bigger than ever!" said the other promptly. "All London is flocking to
his store."

There were many gloomy faces at the Merchants' Club that night; all the
great emporium proprietors were gathered together to exchange lugubrious
notes.

"There's old Modelson!" said Leete, leading the way into the smoke-room.
"They say he'll file his petition next week."

"So soon?" asked the other.

Leete nodded. "You hardly know how hand to mouth some of these businesses
are. There ain't half a dozen of us who can lay our hands upon any
capital whatever, and even we should hesitate to use it just now."

"He offered me a hundred and twenty thousand pounds for the business," a
man was saying, the centre of a little group of compassionate souls. "I
asked him a hundred and eighty. He told me I'd be glad to take a hundred
before I was through, and upon my word I think he's right."

The senior partner of Frail and Brackenbury, a tall, good-looking man,
with a sharp, short, grey beard, walked over to Leete.

"I suppose he is hitting you pretty bad?" he asked.

Leete nodded.

There was no need to explain who "he" was.

"As bad as it can be," he said; "but we're all in the swim. I suppose it
doesn't affect you?"

"He bought me out," said the other quietly, "and if he hadn't I don't
know that the sale would have affected our business. You see we do a line
which is rather superior to that which--" He hesitated, desiring to
offend none.

"That's his scheme," said one of the club-men. "Can't you see it? Every
business he has bought spells 'quality'--Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y--throughout.
Wherever a firm was associated with quality, he bought it, paying; a
heavy price for it. It is only we poor devils who live by cutting one
another's throats that he can afford to fight. You see, we're not
quality, dear old chap!"

He turned to the sad-looking Mr. Bolt, of Bolt and Waudry. "We're just
big quantity and average quality. What I buy at your shop I can buy at
any shop in the street. We are the people he is hitting at. We cannot say
at our stores as old Frail can say," he nodded to the grey-bearded man,
"that we have something here which you cannot buy elsewhere. If we had,
why, the Yankee would have bought us up at our own price. He has gone out
for quality, and he is paying money for it. And, were it just a question
of common truck--"

"I'll have you to know, my dear sir," said the sad Mr. Bolt very firmly
and impressively, "that we supply nothing but the best."

"Yes, yes, I know," said the other with a grin; "but it is just the
ordinary best, the same best as you can get everywhere else. He can buy
it too, by the ton. He is selling your best at half your prices. You've
been making sixty per cent. profit: he is probably making a five per
cent. loss at some hour of the day, and selling square on an average.
I've got one piece of advice to offer to everybody in this room "--he
spoke with considerable emphasis, and with the evidence of
self-consciousness which comes to a man who knows that all ears are
turned in his direction--"if King Kerry has offered you money for your
businesses, you go right along tomorrow morning and take what he will
give you, because if this goes on much longer we're going to wear a
channel in the pavement between Oxford Street and Bankruptcy Chambers."

"I say fight!" said Leete. "We can hold on as long as he! Don't you
agree?"

He turned to Hermann Zeberlieff.

"I certainly do not," said Zeberlieff briefly. "You know my views; he can
sell all of you out. There may be twenty ways of smashing the big 'L
Trust,' but that is not one of them.  My suggestion is that you should
beat him at his own game."

"What is that?" asked a dozen voices.

"Under-selling," was the calm reply.

A chorus of derisive laughter met him.

"Under-selling," said Hermann Zeberlieff. "I assure you I am quite sane.
Make a pool and under-sell him. You can do it with greater ease than you
think."

"But what about the shareholders?" asked a voice. "What about dividends?
How are we going to explain at the end of the half year that instead of a
surplus we show a considerable deficit, and that we may have to issue
debenture stock. Do you think shareholders are going to stand that?"

"No, no, no!"--agreement with this view came from various corners of the
room.

"They've got to stand something," said Hermann with a smile. "Looking at
it from a purely outsider's point of view, I can't see how they'll get
dividends anyway. The suggestion that I was going to offer when you
interrupted me was--"

A sudden silence fell upon the room, and Hermann turned to seek an
explanation.

King Kerry stood in the doorway, his eyes searching the room for a face.
He found it at last. It was the white-bearded Modelson who stood alone
near the fireplace, his head bent upon his arm, dejected and sorrowful to
see. With scarcely a glance at the others. King Kerry crossed the room
and came to the old man's side.

"I want you, Mr. Modelson," he said gently.

The old man looked at him with a pathetic attempt at a smile.

"I am afraid you do!" he said apologetically.

Everybody knew that old Modelson had been the first to raise the flag of
rebellion against the encroachment of the big "L Trust" upon the sacred
dominion of Oxford Street. His store stood on the next corner to that
occupied by Goulding's,  but long before the arrival of Kerry his had
been a decaying property. Yet so long had he been established and so
straight was his business record that it was natural he should have been
chosen as chairman of the Federated Board.

Leete had seen the wisdom of electing him chairman. His concern was the
shakiest of all and his failure which, as all men knew, was only
deferred, must shake the credit of the Federation to a very damaging
extent. And fail he must, and not one of the men to whom he had applied
for assistance could help him. He had demanded what even his friends
agreed was an exorbitant price for the business, and had been offered
half. Now it seemed to the onlookers watching the two men talking
earnestly by the fireplace, that the old man would surrender and take
whatever he could to save his good name.

There were men in that room who hoped fervently that he would agree to
the terms which Kerry imposed. Failure would break the old man's heart.

Their talk ended, after a while Kerry shook hands and departed, leaving
the old man with his head in the air and his shoulders thrown back and
something like a smile on his face.

They longed to ask him what had resulted from the conference, but he was
the doyen of them all, a man of rigid ideas as to the proprieties.

He saved them any trouble, however, for presently--"Gentlemen!" he said
in his rich old voice, and there was silence.

"Gentlemen, I think you are entitled to know that Mr. Kerry has purchased
my business."

There was a little murmur of congratulation, not unmixed with relief. But
what was the price? It was too much to expect that this old man who had
been so close and uncommunicative all his life would be loquacious now;
and yet, to their surprise he was.

"Mr. Kerry has very handsomely paid me my full price," he said.

"It's a climb down!" whispered Leete excitedly. "He's going to pay--"

Hermann laughed savagely.

"Climb down, you fool!" he smiled. "Why, he's going to make you pay for
his generosity--all of you will contribute to the extra money he's giving
Modelson. Don't you understand? Suppose old Modelson had failed--there
would have been an outcry; an old-established firm ruined by unfair
competition; a pathetic old man, white-haired and white-bearded, driven
to the workhouse after a life spent in honourable toil. It would have
made him unpopular, set the tide of public opinion against him, and
possibly upset all his plans. You don't know King Kerry!"

"Anyway, I'm going to him to-morrow with my old offer," said Leete
stubbornly.

"What did he agree to pay before?" asked Zeberlieff.

"Three-quarters of a million," replied the other.

Hermann nodded.

"He'll offer you exactly a hundred thousand less than that," he said.

Well might he boast that he knew Kerry, for when, on the following
morning, supremely confident, Leete elbowed his way through the gaping
crowd that was staring through the window of the Jewel House and came to
Kerry's presence, the offer "The King" made him was exactly the sum that
Hermann had prophesied.

Nor was Leete the only man who mistook the generosity of the other, nor
the only one to be painfully undeceived.

CHAPTER XXIII

Elsie Marion was a busy girl and a happy one. The green on the map was
spreading. She called them the "marks of conquest," and took a pride in
their extension. Then came the day of days when the papers were filled
with the colossal deal which King Kerry had carried through--the purchase
of Lord George Fallington's enormous estate. Lord Fallington was a
millionaire peer, who derived an enormous income from ground rents in the
very heart of the West End of London. He may have been urged to the
action he took by the fear of new punitive legislation against
landowners, and there certainly was justification for his fear, for at
the time the government in power was the famous Jagger-Shubert Coalition
which, with its huge democratic measures to be provided for out of
revenue and its extraordinary demands in the matter of the navy (a rare
combination in any government), was framing its estimate with an
avaricious eye upon the land.

Whatever was the cause, Lord Fallington sold out, and when, following
that event Bilsbury's fell into the hands of the Trust, the battle was
half won.

One day Kerry came into the office hurriedly, and there was a look on his
face which the girl had never seen before. He closed the door behind him
without a word, and crossed the room to the steel door which opened into
the front office, that bemirrored apartment in which stood the great safe
of the Trust.

She looked up astonished as the steel door clanged behind him.

Only once since she had entered his employ had he passed that door, and
she had accompanied him, standing with her back to the safe at his
request whilst he manipulated the combination lock.

He was gone ten minutes, and when he returned he carried in his hand a
small envelope. He stood in the centre of the room, lit a match, and
applied it to one corner of the letter. He put his foot on the ashes as
they fell upon the square of linoleum and crushed them to powder. This
done he uttered a sigh of infinite relief, and smiled at the girl's
evident concern.




"Thus perish all traitors!" quoth he gaily. "There was something in that
envelope which I very much wanted to destroy."

"I gathered that," she laughed.

He walked over to her desk.

"You're getting snowed under," he said. "I'll buy you one of those
talking machines, and you can dictate your replies. There's room in the
commissionaire's office for a typist."

She shook her head. "There isn't enough work, really," she protested.

He made no further allusion to the burnt envelope. She might speculate
(as she did) upon the contents: what precious secret was here hidden,
what urgency dictated its destruction. There were such secret places in
this unknown world into which she had entered in the joyous spirit of
exploration--thick jungles where lurked the beast of prey waiting to
spring, dark woods above and morasses beneath her feet, pitfalls
cunningly dug and traps ingeniously laid.

Kerry was an experienced hunter. He skirted trap and fall, walked warily
always, with an eye to dangers of the tall grasses and never penetrated
the dim channels of his profession without being sure that every weapon
in his arsenal was in good working order and to hand.

Notes, letters, telegrams came every minute of the day. Mysterious and
brief epistles unintelligible to her, full of meaning to him. The
telephone bell would ring: "Yes!" he would reply, or "No!" and hang up
the receiver. What was his objective in this campaign of his?  The
newspapers were asking, his friends were asking, his enemies were
demanding an answer to that question. Why was he buying up unfashionable
Tottenham Court Road and Lambeth Walk and a score of other places which
just stood on the fringe of the shopping centre of London?

"He is acting," said one critic, "as though he expected shopping London
to shift from the circle the centre of which is half-way along Regent
Street to--"

Here the critic must pause irresolutely.

"To whither?"

It seemed that Kerry anticipated not so much the shifting of the centre,
as the extension of the circle. A sanguine man if he imagined that his
operations and the operations of his syndicate would so increase the
prosperity of London that he would double the shopping area of
fashionable London.

There was a Mr. Biglow Holden, a pompous, self-important man who had
earned a fortune as a designer of semi-important buildings, who wrote a
very learned article in the Building Mail. It was filled with statistical
tables (printed in small type) showing the growth of London in relation
to population, and it proved conclusively that Mr. King Kerry must wait
some three hundred and fifty years before his dream materialized.

Gordon Bray, who happened to be engaged in Mr. Holden's office, typed the
article for his employer, and heartily disagreed with every conclusion,
every split infinitive and error of taste and grammar that it contained.

Holden asked him his opinion of the article, and the young man in his
honesty hesitated before replying.

"I suppose you think you could do it better?" said Mr. Biglow Holden, in
his heavy jocular style.

"I think I could," replied Gordon innocently.

Mr. Holden glowered at him.

"You're getting a swelled head, Bray!" he said, warningly. "This isn't
the office for young fellows with swelled heads, remember that."

King Kerry read the article and frowned. He had a very good reason for
frowning. He sent for Mr. Holden, and, for one who had so openly despised
"Yankee acumen," to quote his own phrase, he obeyed the summons with
considerable alacrity.

"So you think my scheme is all wrong?" asked the millionaire.

"I think your judgment is at fault," said Mr. Holden with an ingratiating
smile.

"Does everybody think that?"

"Everybody except my draughtsman," smiled Mr. Holden again.

It was intended to be a politely crushing answer, and to convey the fact
that only the more inexperienced and menial departments of architecture
would be found ranged on the side of the amateur designer.

"Your draughtsman?" Kerry frowned again. "I have an idea we know him." He
turned to the girl.

"Mr. Bray is the gentleman, I think," said Elsie.

"You see," explained Holden hurriedly, "his ideas are rather fantastic.
He's a product of what I might term the Evening Glass--all theory and
half-digested knowledge. He has an idea that you can jump into the middle
of London and push it out."

"Humph!" said King Kerry thoughtfully--then--"And you would not advise
me to rebuild--let us say, Tottenham Court Road?"

The architect hesitated.

"No," he said--and what else could he say in the face of his article?

"I'm sorry," said King Kerry shortly, "for I was going to ask you to
submit designs--but naturally I cannot give the work to a man without
enthusiasm."

"Of course there might be something I haven't understood about your--"

Kerry shook his head.

"I think you understand all that I wish anybody to understand," he said,
and saw the discomfited Mr. Holden to the door.

Gordon Bray stood at the broad draughtsman's table employing his
compasses and his rulers to the front elevation of a particularly hideous
building which Mr. Holden was calling into being.

He was in a state of depression. The goal was very far distant to him. He
could never marry now until he had secured a position in the world. His
self-respect would not allow him to share the fortune of the woman he
loved. So far he was ignorant of the provisions of her father's will, but
enlightenment on that question would not have changed the outlook. A man
loves a woman best when he can bring gifts in his hands: it is unnatural
to come not only empty-handed but with hands to be filled. He had all the
pride and sensitiveness of youth. The whisper of the phrase "fortune
hunter" was sufficient to turn him hot and cold, though it might bear no
relationship to him and had never been intended to apply. Though,
possibly, only three persons in London knew of his love, he thought his
secret was common property, and it was a maddening thought that perhaps
there were people who spoke disparagingly or sneeringly of his beautiful
lady for her graciousness to a penniless draughtsman. He had had wild
thoughts of ending the situation. It was unfair to her. He would write a
letter and go away to Canada, and perhaps come back some day a wealthy
man to find her heart still free.

Many young men have the same heroic thought and lack the ready cash
necessary to make the change. He at any rate was in this position, and
had grown savage in the realization when Holden's bell summoned him.

Holden was very red in the face, and very angry. His fat cheeks were
puffed out and his round eyes stared comically--but he had no desire to
amuse anybody.

His stare was almost terrifying as Gordon entered.

"I've just seen that damned Yankee!" he said.

"Which damned Yankee?" demanded the young man. In his own distress of
mind he forgot to be impressed by his employer.

"There's only one," growled Mr. Holden. "He's full of silly-ass ideas
about building . . . sent for me to insult me . . . thinks he knows . . .
here, take this letter to him!"

He handed a sealed envelope across the table with a malicious grin.

"You seem to have friends in that office," he went on, and fished in the
drawer of his desk for a cheque-book. "I'm beginning to understand now
how Kerry came to buy that Borough property that my client wanted!"

He referred to a transaction which was a month old, but the memory of
which still rankled.

"What do you mean?" asked the young man, raising his voice.

"Never mind what I mean," said Mr. Holden darkly; "and don't shout at me,
Gordon!" he snorted the last word. "Here's your cheque for a month's
salary. Deliver the letter and you needn't come back: perhaps Mr. Kerry
will engage you as his architect--you've passed all the examinations, I
understand."

Gordon picked up the cheque slowly. "Do you mean that I am dismissed?"

"I mean," said Mr. Holden, "that you're too clever for this office."

It was with a heavy heart that the young man entered Kerry's office.
Elsie was not there, and Kerry received him alone, read the letter in
silence, then tore up a letter he was writing himself.

"Do you know the contents of this?" Mr. Kerry held up Holden's epistle.

"No. Mr. Kerry."

"I thought you didn't," said the big man with a smile, "otherwise you
mightn't have brought it. I'll read it to you--

"'DEAR SIR,--Since you do not require expert advice and may need
assistance to rebuild London!' ("He's put a note of exclamation there,"
said Kerry with a twinkle in his eye), "'I send you along my draughtsman,
who makes up in enthusiasm all he lacks in experience. I have no further use
for him.

"'Yours faithfully,

"'BIGLOW HOLDEN.'"

Gordon's face was crimson.

"How dare he!" he cried.

"Dare he?" Kerry's eyebrows rose. "Goodness gracious!--as you English
say--he's given you the finest testimonial I have ever had with a young
man. I gather you're sacked?"

Gordon nodded.

"Excellent!" said the other. "Now you go along to an office I have just
taken in St. James's Street and furnish it--I give you carte blanche--as
a surveyor's office should be furnished. And if anybody asks who you are,
you must say: 'I am the architect of the big L Trust,' and," he added
solemnly, "they will probably take their hats off to you."

"But, seriously, Mr. Kerry?" protested the laughing Gordon.

"Never more serious. Go along and design something."

Gordon Bray was transfixed, hypnotized--he couldn't grasp the meaning of
it all.

"Design me," said Kerry, wrinkling his brow in thought, "a public square
set around with buildings, shops, and public offices. Let the square be
exactly half the length of Regent Street from side to side."

With a curt nod he dismissed the dazed youth.

CHAPTER XXIV

"That's a weird contrivance you have, Zeberlieff!"

Martin Hubbard, immaculately dressed, stood looking over the shoulder of
his unconscious friend.

Hermann swung round with an oath. "How did you get in?" he asked roughly.

"Through the door. I was coming in when your man was going out to the
post."

Hermann get up from the table at which he had been experimenting.

"Come down into the dining-room," he said shortly. "I hate people
sneaking in behind me: it gives me the creeps!"

"But," said the other humorously, "you don't mind your future
brother-in-law, surely "--a remark which restored the good humour of the
other, for he chuckled as he led the way downstairs.

"Future brother-in-law--yes," he said.

"What was that funny old machine?" persisted Hubbard. "Never knew you
were a dabbler in science. You're quite a Louis the Fourteenth with your
passion for applied mechanics.''

"It is an invention sent to me by a man," said Hermann carelessly; "did
you notice it very closely?"

Hubbard shook his head.

"Only what looked like an alarm clock and a bit of wadding and some stuff
that looked like a cinematograph film."

"It's a new kind of--er--cinema projector," explained Zeberlieff readily.
"It's automatic--wakes you up with pictures on the ceiling."

"And what were the matches for?"

"Matches!" Zeberlieff eyed him narrowly. "There were no matches."

"I must have been mistaken." Hubbard was not sufficiently interested to
pursue the subject, and went on: "I suppose you know I've come by
appointment?"

"The devil you have?"

"You told me to call," said the other a little irritated, "with the idea
of meeting your sister."

"Did I?" Hermann favoured him with a thoughtful stare. "So I did--that's
rather awkward for both of us, because she won't see you."

"Won't see me?"

The chagrin and the wounded pride in the man's voice was laughable.

"She won't see you--she won't see me, that is all; here's a letter, if it
will interest!"

Mr. Hubbard opened the grey note slowly, and read--

"I cannot receive you nor your beautiful friend. If you come anywhere
near me I send for the police.--V."

"What do you think of that?" asked the calm Hermann.

"It's monstrous!" gasped Hubbard. "How dare she--she--"

"Call you beautiful? Oh, well, there's every excuse for her," soothed
Hermann. "And really I'm not worrying now."

"Listen!" said Mr. Hubbard, "I want to ask you something. What chance
have I of raising a monkey?"

"All depends upon the care you give it," replied Hermann, wilfully dense.
"In this climate--"

"I want to borrow five hundred pounds," said Mr. Hubbard more explicitly.

"Borrow it, by all means!" suggested Zeberlieff unmoved.

"Could you let me have it?"

Hermann considered.

"No," he said, "I could not. Of course," he went on; "if I thought there
was any chance of your marrying my sister I would hang little wads of
banknotes round your throat: but I fancy your chance is down around the
zero mark."

"In fact," said the indignant Hubbard, "you think I am no more use to
you."

"What a mind you have!" admired Hermann. "You grasp these things so
quickly."

Martin Hubbard bit at his golden moustache.

"Suppose I went to your sister and told her your proposition," he
suggested.

"She would be bored to tears," replied Hermann with his smile. "You see,
I've already told her. The fact is, Hubbard, she's in love with a young
man, the son of poor but honest parents. It's working out rather like a
story. I'm afraid she's going to marry him. The only hope for you is that
you and she should be cast ashore on some desert island. At the end of
five years you might like one another--and anyway, the marriage would be
convenient for the sake of the proprieties. If you could arrange for the
shipwreck, and could guarantee that only you and she would be saved, I
might fix up the passage and the island."

He was in his most flippant mood, but his good humour touched no
responsive chord in the breast of Mr. Hubbard.

"It is all very well for you," he said miserably; "you're a jolly rich
man--but I'm broke to the wide world."

"As I shall be next week," said Hermann cheerfully. "Another week's
trading like last week, and Goulding's goes to the devil."

"Are you in it?" asked the interested Mr. Hubbard.

"Up to the neck," said Hermann shortly. "Leete got me in to the extent of
two hundred thousand. I've lost another two hundred thousand in the slump
in American rails. What are you envying me for, you silly ass?"

"When is this cut-throat sale going to stop?" demanded Hubbard.

Hermann shook his head.

"He has a warehouse filled with stuff in South London--a year's supply.
Otherwise we could have brought pressure to bear upon the manufacturers.
But he bought his stock in advance, and he's selling exactly six times
the amount of goods that any other house in Oxford Street has sold in its
biggest sale week--and he's losing practically nothing. There's a big
margin of profit on soft goods. He can sell at cost price and ruin the
other stores. So long as he's got the goods to sell, he'll sell 'em, and,
as I say, his warehouses in South London are chock-full."

"What about that five hundred?" asked Hubbard abruptly.

"Not here, my child," said Hermann. "When you come down to fifty, I'll be
listening to you--because I think you might be worth fifty--and besides,
you're on the Federated board, and I can stop it from your director's
fees."

Five minutes later he was back in his study, working at his little
machine. He took the precaution this time to lock the door.

It was now a month since the beginning of the Kerry sale, and the queues
so far from diminishing had increased. As every week passed and the fame
of the Kerry bargain "extended, the all-night shopping house attracted
even greater numbers than in the day of its novelty. Then Modelson's fell
into the Kerry combination, and promptly changed its name and its
methods. Hastily remodelled on the lines of the original Store, it ended
the rush on Kerry's.

"The same price, the same system, the same name," said a flamboyant
advertisement announcing the change. It gave Kerry's a breathing space;
but the queues came back, only now there were two--one to Kerry's, and
the other to what had been Modelson's. Between the two stores, a howling
desert, with customers as scarce as December flies, was
Goulding's--Goulding's, the once busy hive of industry, now almost
deserted.

In vain were prices reduced, in vain were enticing bargains placed in the
window. Customers went after them, it is true, but discovered that they
were already sold. "The only model of that kind we have in stock, madam!"
and came away wrathful at the trick which had been played upon them,
refusing to see "something else just as good."

Kerry had to undergo the trial of a press campaign. A savage attack on
his methods appeared in a weekly journal. Scarcely was the paper in print
and on the street, when the "King's" own journal, the Evening Herald,
replied. It was not a polite reply. It was personal and overpoweringly
informative. It gave the relationship of the attacking weekly with Leete,
printed a list of shareholders and a list of Leete's directorships. Said
unpleasant things about the editor of the weekly, and concluded with a
promise of revelations concerning "a moving spirit in this conspiracy who
hatches in Park Lane the plots which are executed in Whitechapel."

"Stop it!" was Hermann Zeberlieff's order, and the next issue of the
Weekly Discovery was notable for its dignified silence on the subject of
Kerry and his ways.

Nothing helped Goulding's. A window dressed with enticing bargains
produced a notice on the next window (which happened to be Kerry's end
show window)--

"All the 'bargains' there can be purchased in this Store at exactly half
the price demanded by our competitor."

The hand pointed remorselessly to Goulding's last hope.

Manufacturers were wavering. They could afford to be sympathetic with the
affected houses because, for the moment, they were not being called upon
to supply Kerry.

Kerry paid cash, and when another journal hinted that he was able to sell
so cheaply only because the articles he supplied were made by sweated
labour, he published a list of the manufacturers, and thus forced them to
take action for libel.

Then the Daily Courier took a hand in support of Kerry baiting, but here
the Evening Herald was careful and mild, for the Courier is a powerful
daily.

"It has been asked," said the Herald, "what association there is between
the sale in Oxford Street and Mr. Kerry's operations in land. The answer
may be supplied in a few words. Mr. Kerry desires to beautify London, and
at the same time secure a modest return from investment in land. To
secure both ends it is necessary that certain stores fall into his hands.
He has offered an equitable price and has received exorbitant demands. It
is now his business to weaken opposition, and this he intends doing."
(Here followed a list of the properties he had offered to buy; the prices
he had tendered; the profits and dividends paid by the various concerns,
and the prices demanded.) "Thus it will be seen," the journal continued,
"that the prices tendered were reasonable. We are authorized to say that
though the conditions have changed, Mr. King Kerry is willing to pay the
sums he originally tendered for these properties--this offer being open
till midday to-morrow."

Leete came to Hermann with the newspaper still wet from the press, and he
was pardonably excited.

"Look here, Zeberlieff," he said, "I'm selling!"

Hermann took the paper and read.

"I'm selling before a worse thing happens," Leete went on.

Hermann's smile was one of quiet contempt. "If you must sell--sell to
me," he said.

"To you?"

"Why not? I hold a big block of shares, and you or your nominees hold the
rest."

"And you'll give Kerry's price?"

"Yes."

Leete looked at the other.

"It's a bargain," he said. "I'm glad to be rid of it,"

"You may have lost a million," said Hermann, and went back to his study.

Elsie Marion had gone home from her office with a headache, with strict
injunction from King Kerry not to return whilst any vestige of the malady
remained. She had reached her flat a little after twelve, and with the
comfort of a cup of tea and an aspirin, had lain down on her bed with the
intention of rising at two to have a lunch. When she awoke it was nearly
dark, and she came to consciousness with that feeling of panic which is
born of a sense of wasted time and a complete ignorance of the amount of
time so wasted. She looked at her watch. It was nearly nine o'clock. She
rose and dined--her patient maid had a chop ready for her by the time she
had dressed.

It was ten o'clock before she had finished dinner. Her headache had gone,
and she felt immensely energetic. There was some work at the office which
she would bring away with her--she never liked working at the office at
night. King Kerry had a trick of working at unconscionable hours, and she
felt that on these occasions he liked to be alone.

She indulged in the luxury of a taxi to the office, and passing the guard
and the commissionaire in his little box, she unlocked the office door
and went in. She bundled her work together and put it in her bag. Then
she noticed a note on King Kerry's desk written in pencil and addressed
to her.

"I have gone to the warehouse: come down if you are feeling fit.--K. K."

"When did Mr. Kerry go out?" she asked the commissionaire.

The man shook his head.

"I didn't come on duty till nine, miss," he said. "He hasn't been here
since then."

It might have been written early in the afternoon; but he would have been
back and destroyed it if that were so.

She was feeling very much awake and rested. The spin over the water to
the big riverside warehouse would do her good. Another taxi was
requisitioned, and deposited her in the great courtyard of Kerry's
Storage. It was formed of three tall buildings so arranged to form the
three sides of a square. The ends of two of the stores were flush with
the edge of the wharf, and the third was pierced with a great gateway
through which laden wagons were coming and going.

It was a scene of extraordinary bustle and activity. The windows blazed
with lights, for a large number of workmen were now employed in unpacking
and sorting the goods prior to delivery in Oxford Street.

"Mr. Kerry is somewhere in the building, I think, miss," said the
timekeeper, "but nobody has seen him during the past hour."

"Never mind!" said the girl. "I will find him presently!"

She had the entree to all the departments and passed an amusing half-hour
watching the men and girls at work. The great packing-cases and baskets
came to the first floor and were stripped of their lids, their zinc
covers expeditiously and deftly cut, and the contents thrown upon a broad
sorting table. Here they were counted and laid on an endless belt and
conveyed to the next floor. Here they were counted again and deposited in
huge zinc-lined presses to await the requisitions from Oxford Street.

Hundreds of cases were waiting in the big storage space on the ground
floor and in the basement. Here, too, were kept huge quantities of
stuffs, satins, cottons, silks, delaines, and linens.

"Goods are arriving every day, miss," said one of the foremen. "These "--
he indicated a chaos of yellow and wood cases and dull brown bales--"will
be here a month before we handle 'em."

"I suppose they are coming from the manufacturers all the time?" she
asked.

"All the time--there's a package just arrived," he pointed to a man in
the leather apron of the carrier, a box on his shoulder.

"What would that be?" asked Elsie.

"Looks like gloves--they come in those small cases."

She waited till the package had been deposited on the weigh-bridge just
inside the entrance gate, and examined it. "Yes, miss, 'Gants
Cracroix--Lyons,'" he read.

The carter took his delivery sheet and made his way out of the building
and a man caught the case with a practised hand and sent it sliding down
the slipway.

"Are you learning something?"

She heard the deep, rich note of King Kerry, and turned, smiling.

"Headache better?" he asked.

"Quite all right, I feel awfully guilty--I've only just got up."

He led the way down to the end of the warehouse where the men were
working with that fervour which is equally induced by piecework and the
proximity of the employer.

"There's a case of wonderful lace being unpacked over there," he said;
"you ought to see it."

"I should love to!" she said, and picked her way through the cases to
where a number of women were lifting the narrow trays from the big
cabinet.

In her eagerness she failed to notice a rope that lay on the ground: her
toe caught, and she went sprawling and would have injured herself but for
her presence of mind to catch at the edges of a small case that lay in
her path.

Her arms took the strain, and her face just touched the top of the case.

"My God, she's hurt!" King Kerry leapt nimbly over the packages toward
her. He was justified in his mistake, for she lay for some time with her
head on the box where she had fallen.

But it was a smiling face she turned to him as she rose unassisted to her
feet.

"Are you sure you aren't hurt?" he asked.

She shook her head.

A man came to move the little packing-case upon which she had rested. It
was the case of gloves which she had seen arrive.

"Don't touch that, please!" she said quickly.

"What is it?"

King Kerry looked at her in amazement.

"Ask the men to lift that case on to the wharf," she said, "and tell them
to be very careful with it." Wonderingly, he turned to give the order,
and followed the men to the wharf without.

"Whatever is wrong?" he asked.

"I don't know quite," she said, "but put your ear to that box, and
listen!"

He obeyed, and rose up with a frown. He put his nose to the box, and
sniffed.

"Open the box carefully!" he said.

For he heard the loud tick-tick-tick, as plainly as she.

"It may be an infernal machine," she said; but he shook his head.

"I think I know what it is," he said quietly.

Under a powerful arc light, lowered from its standard to afford a better
view, the box was opened. On the top was a layer of paper carefully
folded, but under that the case seemed to be packed tightly with shavings
of some transparent material.

"Celluloid!" said King Kerry briefly, "an old cinema film cut up in short
lengths."

They cleared this out before they came to the machine itself.

It was screwed to the bottom of the case, and enclosed in a wicker-work
cage of flimsy material. It consisted of a clock, a small electric
battery, and few shavings.

"Set for two o'clock," said King Kerry; "the hour our men finish. The
alarm key soldered to a piece of metal so that when the alarm goes off
the strip of metal turns with the key, a contact is made, and a spark
sets the celluloid ablaze--highly ingenious! I'll show you how it is
done!" He carried the machine to the edge of the water, where there was
no danger of the fire spreading, placed it upon a steel plate, and buried
the machine in the celluloid shavings after manipulating the alarm hand.

They waited, and in a minute they heard the whirr of the alarm as it
spun; then there was a tiny flicker of light amongst the celluloid
shavings, a sudden roar of flame, and the wharf was illuminated with a
tongue of fire that leapt up from the blazing film.

They watched it in silence until it died down to the molten red of
something which had been a clock.

"I could have kept that clock for evidence," said King Kerry, "but he
will have covered his tracks. How can I thank you, Elsie?" he asked. He
turned and faced her; they stood in the shadow of a great stack of cases
piled in the centre of the wharf.

"Thank me?" she said tremulously. "Why, it is I who have to thank you."

He laid both his hands on her shoulders and looked down into her face.
She met his gaze fearlessly.

"Once there was a girl like you," he said softly, "and I loved her as a
man may love a child--too young to be shadowed with the thing we men call
love. And the thing I loved was a husk--just an outward mask, and when
she lifted the mask it nearly killed me. And here is Elsie Marion with
the face and laughing eyes--and the heart of a woman behind the face, and
the brain of a comrade behind the eyes--"

He dropped his hands suddenly, and he fell forward as though weighted
with infinite weariness.

"What is the matter?" she asked in alarm.

"Nothing!" his voice was hard. "Only I wish I hadn't been a fool--once."

She waited with a beating heart; she knew something dreadful was coming.

"I am married to the worst woman in the world. God help me!" he said
brokenly.

* * * * *


"What the dickens do you want to go to the City for?" grumbled John
Leete, "at this hour?"

He looked at his watch. It wanted a quarter to two o'clock in the
morning, and the club was an inviting place, for Leete was an inveterate
gossip.

"I love the City at this hour," said Hermann calmly. "Let us come along
and see the enemy's stronghold."

"Fat lot of good that will do," growled Leete.

"Sometimes your vulgarity appals me," said Zeberlieff with a little
smile, "and I think of all vulgarity there is none quite so hopelessly
appalling as the English variety."

His car was waiting outside, and Leete, still grumbling, allowed himself
to be led to its interior.

"It is better to breathe good fresh air than fill your lungs with the
poison of a beastly smoke-room," he said as the car went its noiseless
way eastward.

Mr. Leete made a noise of dissent. "I never do things that are
unnecessary," he said.

"It is necessary to propitiate the new proprietor of Goulding's," said
Hermann softly.

Leete grinned in the darkness. He regarded himself as "well out" of that
concern. Let Zeberlieff make his million and welcome--if he could.

"I'll send you the papers to-morrow," he said as a thought struck him.
"By the way, you might give me a line to-night to the effect that you
agree--"

"Certainly!" said the other easily. He stopped the car in King William
Street. "Walk across London Bridge and pay homage to the genius of King
Kerry," he said.

Leete grunted disrespectfully, and let himself down from the car. "Well?"

They had stopped in one of the stone recesses on the bridge, and were
gazing intently across the river. A passing policeman, walking on
noiseless soles, eyed them, and stopped at Hermann's friendly nod.

"I suppose, constable, that big building with the lights is Mr. Kerry's
famous warehouse?"

"Yes, sir," said the man, stretching himself from the belt upward in the
manner of policemen, "that is the King of London's magazine, so to
speak."

A ghost of a smile nickered over the features of Zeberlieff. "A rare
fright he gave my mate to-night," the policeman went on, "he was on the
bridge between ten and eleven and suddenly the whole of the wharf seemed
burning."

"Burning?" Zeberlieff's voice expressed interest.

"It was only a packing case--something was wrong with it, and Mr. Kerry
himself touched it off. My mate is serving a summons on him to-morrow;
it's against the law to light bonfires on a wharf."

"So he found something was wrong with it and touched it off, did he?"
repeated Hermann, without a tremor of voice; "How like Kerry to be there
when something was wrong." He offered the constable a tip, and was a
little surprised when it was courteously refused.

"Queer people these City police," said Leete.

"Not so queer as Kingy," said the other cryptically.

Not a word was spoken as they drove back westward.

Nearing Piccadilly, Leete seized the opportunity to make his bargain
solid.

"Come in, and we'll fix up that agreement," he said as the car stopped,
and he stepped heavily to the pavement.

"Which agreement?" asked Hermann coolly.

"The sale of Goulding's," said the other.

He caught the flash of Zeberlieff's white teeth as he smiled. "Don't be
silly!" he said good-naturedly. "I was joking."

To say that Leete was staggered is to express in a relatively mild phrase
a most tremendous emotion.

"But--but--" he stammered.

"Good night!" said Hermann as he slammed the door of the car and pressed
the electric signal to his driver.

He left Mr. Leete, a helpless figure, standing on the kerb, and looking
stupidly after the fast-vanishing car.

CHAPTER XXV

The secret was out. London was amazed and staggered. It went about its
several avocations, its head whizzing with figures. The Press devoted
columns to the extraordinary story.

"King Kerry has bought London!" ran a flaming headline across a whole
page of the Examiner.

It was an excusable exaggeration. If he had not bought London he had dug
into the heart of it. He had belted it with a broad belt of business
areas.

London was to be reshaped. He had laid his plans with extraordinary
genius, avoiding the Crown property as being unpurchasable, and the
adamantine ground landlord's domain. Here was the plan admirably
summarized in the columns of the Evening Herald, which spoke with
authority--

"The greater portion of the property situated between the southern end of
Portland Place on the north, Vigo Street on the south, Bond Street on the
west, and Dean Street on the east, was to be demolished, and in its place
was to be established a great Central Square to be known as The Imperial
Place. The site to be presented to the nation save the building sites
which ran on the four sides of the Square.

"A new residential suburb consisting of houses ranging from one hundred
pounds to two hundred pounds per annum to be established in Lambeth on
the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars and Westminster, and
between Blackfriars and Southwark.

"(This would entail the complete demolition of all slum property between
the river and the cross roads known as the Elephant and Castle.")

"I intend," said Kerry in an interview, "to create on the south side of
the river a new Champs Elysees. Between Westminster Bridge Road and
Waterloo Road I shall erect a noble avenue flanked by the houses of the
wealthy. It will run almost to the water's edge, and will terminate at
either end in a triumphal arch which shall be worthy to rank with the Arc
de Triomphe."

It was to an interested crowd of reporters which, had gathered in his
office.

"What will you do with the people you displace, Mr Kerry?" asked one of
the journalists. "I refer, of course, to the slum people who are
entitled, if they possibly can, to live near their places of livelihood."

"I have provided for that," said Mr. Kerry. "I recognize the necessity of
making very ample provision in that respect. I shall create my own
slums," he smiled. "It is a hateful word, and it is only one which I
employ to designate a congested area occupied by the poor. I shall not,
of course, attempt to make any provisions for the mendicant, the
semi-mendicant, or for what I might term the casual itinerant class. My
idea of a poor family is one in which the combined efforts of all its
adult members do not produce enough money to provide the necessities of
life. For these at intervals in my residential belt, I am erecting
co-operative flats."

He took from a large portfolio a series of drawings, and laid them on the
table before the crowding pressmen.

"You will see," he said, "that in point of design we have copied the
elevation of some of the most beautiful hotels in London. Indeed, I think
we may say that we have gone beyond that. These buildings will be
absolutely complete in themselves. Tenants will only be admitted who
agree to the co-operative system. Stores providing every commodity will
be found in the building itself. There will be baths, gymnasia,
playgrounds, a hospital, a creche, and a free library. Each building," he
said briefly, "will be self-governed, will contain its doctor, its
dentist, and its trained nurses, all of whom will be at the disposal of
the citizens of this little community free of all charge.

"A system of elevators will make the highest floor as accessible as the
lowest--indeed, the highest rents will be for the top floors. All the
employees in the community will be subject to the discipline of a
committee which will be elected by the tenants themselves. Although we
shall provide fireplaces, the whole of the building will be run on a
system of central heating; hot water and electric light will be included
in the rent, and we hope to give every family six thousand cubic feet of
space. Each building," he concluded, "will have accommodation for a
thousand families."

"What is your object, Mr. Kerry," asked a curious reporter, "in buying so
much valuable property in the centre of the West End and then destroying
it? Isn't it so much money thrown away?"

Kerry shook his head.

"What happens," he asked, "when a policeman rides his horse into the
centre of a crowd? Is it not a fact that the crowd swells out and covers
almost a third as much space as before? At any rate, this is a fact: that
a thousand square feet stolen from the heart of London means that ten
thousand feet more are occupied on its outskirts. Briefly," he went on,
"in the heart of London you are restricted as to space. There are many
businesses which would willingly and gladly extend their present premises
to twice the size they at present occupy but for the prohibitive cost,
and very often the absolute impossibility of securing adjacent premises
renders this impossible. We have said 'You have got to get out of this
anyway,' and now we have given the firms which have been disturbed--and
which generally are now mine," he said with a smile, "an opportunity of
taking space adequate to their needs. People are coming to the centre to
shop--do not doubt that--this is the rule of all towns. We merely extend
the boundaries of the exclusive shopping district and give an incentive
to private enterprises to assist us in our work of beautifying London.

"I am satisfied as to this," he said. "That we shall have the
satisfaction of knowing that we shall enrich thousands and impoverish
none by what we have done. You may now understand my action in regard to
my sales. It was necessary. Tack and Brighten, Modelson and Goulding,
they abutted into the square of my dreams; they are now my exclusive
property. I bought Goulding's this morning," he said with a little twitch
of his mouth at the recollection of an agitated and almost tearful Mr.
Leete, making his unconditional surrender.

"My sale will continue until the end of the year, until, in fact, I am
ready to pull down and start rebuilding. And in the meantime," he added,
"I have guaranteed the dividends of all the firms which I have not
purchased, but which are directly affected as a result of my action."

Here was enough for London to discuss; sufficient to set heads shaking
and nodding and tongues wagging from one end of London to the other. Here
began, too, the London land boom which was the feature of the memorable
year. It was found that King Kerry had acquired great blocks of property
here and there. Sometimes they comprised whole streets, but he had left
enough for the land speculator to build his fortunes upon. Automatically,
the value of land rose in certain districts by one hundred and two
hundred per cent., and it is said, though there is little evidence to
support the fact, that in one week King Kerry himself, on behalf of his
syndicate, made a profit of over a million pounds from the sale of land
which he had recently included in his purchases, but for which he himself
had no immediate use.

It is a fact when his plan became generally known he received the
heartiest co-operation from the Government, and, though he might not
touch Crown freehold, every facility was given to him to further his
scheme.

He had planned a garden city to extend in an unbroken line from Southwark
to Rotherhithe and on to Deptford--a new City Beautiful, rising out of
the dust of squalid, insanitary cottages and jerry-built dwellings. His
plan was given in detail in an issue of the Evening Herald, which
attained a circulation limited only by the capacity of its output.

It was obvious now that money had flowed like water into London, and that
it was not alone the six men who had set out to accomplish so much who
had assisted in the fulfilment of King Kerry's plans, but all the great
insurance companies of America, all the big railways, all the great
industrial concerns had contributed largely.

It was computed by a financial authority that the big "L Trust" had
incurred liabilities (and presumably they were in a position to meet
those liabilities) amounting to eighty million pounds. Somebody asked
King Kerry if this were so.

"I will tell you," he answered good-humouredly, "after I have counted the
change in my pocket."

King Kerry rented a little house in Cadogan Square. It is characteristic
of the man that he lived on the property of others. It is also remarkable
that he--the owner of millions--should have hired the house furnished,
but his action may be explained by his favourite dictum, "Never buy what
you don't want, and never hire what you need."

He did not want either the house or furniture. The house was situated in
a region beyond the scope of his speculations.

Here, with an elderly housekeeper to attend to him during the few hours
he was at home, he secured the quiet that was necessary to him. The house
was not taken in his name, and none of the people who dwelt in the Square
had the slightest idea of the identity of the tenant who usually returned
in the middle of the night and afforded them no greater opportunity for
recognition than the few seconds it took him to step from his front door
into his closed car.

Even Elsie Marion, who knew the whereabouts of the house, had never been
there, nor addressed him there. So that when he sat at his frugal dinner,
and his elderly servitor brought a message that a gentleman wished to see
Mr. Kerry, he was pardonably annoyed.

"I told him there wasn't any such person living here, sir," said the
housekeeper, who was as ignorant of her master's identity as the rest of
the Square.

Possibly a reporter who had hunted him down, thought Kerry. "Show him
into the drawing-room," he said, and finished his dinner at leisure. The
irritation quickly passed--after all, there was no longer any necessity
for concealment. In a week's time he would be on his way to the Continent
to take the rest which he felt was so necessary. All things were shaping
well.

The magnates of Oxford Street had fallen, the plan for the rebuilding of
London was public property; now was the time, if ever, to take things
easy.

He put down his serviette, walked upstairs to the first landing and
entered the little drawing-room.

A man was standing by the mantelpiece with his back to Kerry, and as the
"man who bought London" closed the door he turned.

It was Hermann Zeberlieff. For the space of a minute the two faced each
other, neither speaking.

"To what am I indebted?" began Kerry.

Hermann interrupted him, almost roughly. "Let us cut all that out," he
said, "and come right down to business."

"I do not know that I have any business that I wish to discuss with you,"
said King Kerry, quietly.

"Oh, yes, you have, Mr. Kerry," drawled Hermann, mockingly, "you probably
know that I am in a very bad place. What opportunity I had you most
ruthlessly destroyed. I was in your infernal syndicate."

"Not by my wish," said the other. "I did not know of it until you were in."

"And then you took the earliest opportunity of getting me out," said
Hermann with his twisted smile. "I'm afraid,"  he went on with a show of
regret, "I'm a vain beggar--vanity was always my undoing. The temptation
to let all the world know that I was figuring in this great combination
was too strong. However, we won't discuss that. What I do wish you to
understand is that at the present moment I have a few thousand between me
and absolute beggary."

"That is no business of mine." King Kerry was brief; he wasted no words
with his visitor.

"But it is very much a business of mine," said Hermann quickly. "Now, you
have to assist me--you've put me into an awful mess, and you must please
lend a helping hand to pull me out. You are, as I happen to know, a
particularly soft-hearted man, and you would not desire to see a
fellow-creature reduced to living within his income."

There was little softness in King Kerry's face. The humour of the other,
such as it was, made no appeal to him. His Ups were set hard, his eyes
cold and forbidding.

"I will do nothing for you," he said. "Nothing--nothing!"

Hermann shrugged his shoulders.

"Then I'm afraid," he said, "that I shall have to force you."

"Force me?" A contemptuous smile played about the grim face of the
grey-haired man.

"Force you," repeated the other. "You see, Mr. King Kerry, you have a
wife--"

"We will not discuss her," said King Kerry harshly.

"Unfortunately, I must discuss her," insisted Hermann. His tone was soft
and gentle, almost caressing. "You see, she has some claim on me. I feel
a certain responsibility towards her, remembering the honoured name she
bore before she married you, and," he added carefully, "before you
deserted her."

The other made no reply.

"Before you deserted her," repeated Hermann. "It was a peculiarly unhappy
business, was it not? And I fear you did not behave with that genial
courtesy, that largeness of heart, which the Press to-day tell me are your
chief characteristics."

"I behaved fairly to her," said Kerry steadily. "She tried to ruin me,
even went into competition against me behind my back and used the
knowledge she had secured as my wife to that end. She was an infamous
woman."

"Is," murmured the other.

"She is, then," said King Kerry. "If you come to appeal in her name you
may as well appeal to this wall."

Hermann nodded.

"But suppose I produce your wife to the admiring gaze of London; suppose
I say 'This person is Mrs. King Kerry, the unbeloved wife of Mr. King
Kerry,' and so-and-so and so forth?"

"That would not shake my determination," said Kerry. "You cannot use that
lever to force me into giving you money."

"We shall see!" said the other. He picked up his hat and favoured Kerry
with a little bow and walked from the room.

King Kerry stood as if rooted to the ground long after the door had
slammed upon his visitor, and the face of the millionaire was blanched
and old.

CHAPTER XXVI

Hember Street, Commercial Road, has long since been given over to the
stranger within the gate. Great gaunt "models," which are models in
ugliness, models in cheerless drabness, but never models of what domestic
comfort should be, raised their unshapely, lop-sided heads to the grey
skies, and between model and model are untidy doorways through which, all
the time, pass in and out never-ending strings of ugly men and stodgy,
vacant-faced children.

Here you may catch the sound of a dozen tongues; every language that is
spoken from the Baltic to the Caspian, and from the Ural Mountains to the
Finnish shore is repeated in the jibber-jabber of these uncleanly men and
frowsy girl-women. The neighbourhood is for the most part populated by
respectable and honest (if unsavoury) people, hard-working and
industrious in a sense which the average working-class man of London
would not understand, for it is an industry which rises at five and ends
its work when smarting eyes and reeling brain make further effort
impossible.

Yet there is a fair sprinkling of the Continental criminal classes to be
found here, and Hermann Zeberlieff went armed to his interview. It was of
his seeking. For some time past he had been under the impression that the
house in Park Lane was being watched. He could not afford to bring
Micheloff, that little pseudo-Frenchman with the blotchy face and the
little eyes, to the notice of the watchers.

Without knocking Zeberlieff passed through an open door, along an
uncarpeted hall, and mounted the stairs to the third floor of one of the
houses.

He tapped on a door and a cheerful voice said: "Entree!"

Micheloff, in his shirt sleeves, smoking a long, thin cigar, was neither
heroic nor domestic. He was just commonplace.

"Come in!" he roared--his joviality was expressed in measure of sound.
"Come in, mon vieux!"

He dusted a rickety chair with great ostentation, but Herman ignored the
civility.

The room was large and simply furnished--a bed, a table, a couple of
chairs, a couple of trunks well labelled, a picture of President Carnot
and a little glass ikon over the mantelpiece seemed to make this place
"home" for Micheloff.

"Lock the door," said Hermann. "I have very important business, and I do
not desire intrusion."

Obediently the smaller man turned the key.

"My friend," said Hermann, "I have big work for you--the best work in the
world so far as payment is concerned. There is a thousand pounds for you
and another thousand for distribution amongst your friends--it is the
last piece of work I shall ask you to do. If it succeeds I shall be
beyond the necessity for your help; if I fail I shall be beyond its
scope."

"You shall succeed, my ancient," said the short man, enthusiastically. "I
will work for you with greater fervour since now I know that you are one
with me in spirit. Ah! pupil of Le Cinq!" he shook his finger in heavy
jocularity. "What shall we teach you that you cannot teach us?"

Hermann smiled. He was never indifferent to praise--even the praise of a
confessed cut-throat. "There must be no killing," he said. "I am through
with that--even now the infernal police are continuing their inquiries
into the death of the girl Gritter."




"So much the better," said the other heartily. "I am a babe--these things
distress me. I have a soft heart. I could weep." There were tears in his
eyes.

"Don't weep, you fool!"

Hermann hated weeping. It was another of his pet abominations. The sight
of tears lashed him to frantic desperation.

Micheloff spread out his fat hands.

"Excellency!" he said with great impression, "I do not weep."

"Listen to me," said Hermann, lowering his voice. "Do you know King Kerry?"

The other nodded.

"You know his office?"

Micheloff shrugged his shoulders.

"Who does not know the office of the great King Kerry--the window, the
mirrors, and the safe full of millions, ma foi?"

"You will find precious few millions there," he said dryly. "But you will
find much that will be valuable to me."

Micheloff looked dubious.

"It is a great undertaking," he said--the conversation was in the
staccato French of Marseilles--"the guard--all the circumstances are
against success. And the safe--it is combination--yes?"

Hermann nodded.

"Before it was combination," said the other man regretfully, "and there
was a death regrettable."

"I have reason to think that he changes the combination every week--it
was probably changed yesterday. I will give you two. You may try--" A
light came to his eyes. "I wonder," he said to himself, then slowly, "try
'Elsie.'"

Micheloff nodded.

"That is but one," he said.

"That is all I can give you now," said Hermann, rising. "If that fails
you must use your blowpipe. I leave the details to you. Only this--I want
a packet you will find marked 'Private.' Leave everything relating to the
business, but bring all that is marked 'Private.'"

He left behind him two hundred pounds and Micheloff would have embraced
him at the sight of the money, but the other pushed him back roughly.

"I do not like your Continental customs," he said, and added, to appease
the humiliated Russian, "I have lost things like that."

He went downstairs to the accompaniment of a roar of laughter. It was an
excellent joke on Micheloff--he repeated it with discreet modification at
his club that night.

The faithful man-servant, Martin, was waiting up when Hermann arrived
home.

"Get me a strong cup of coffee, and go to bed," he said.

He went up to his study and switched on the light and folded his coat
over the back of a chair. It was one of his eccentricities that he
valeted himself.

He drew a chair up to the desk and sat, his chin on his palm, looking
vacantly before him until Martin came up with the coffee. "Leave it and
go to bed," he said.

"What time in the morning, sir?" asked the man.

Hermann jerked his head impatiently. "I will write the hour on the
slate," he said. He had a small porcelain slate affixed to his bedroom
door to convey his belated instructions. He stirred his coffee
mechanically, and drank it steaming hot. Then he addressed himself to the
correspondence that awaited him. It was characteristic of him that, face
to face with ruin as he was, he sent generous cheques to the appeals
which came to him from hospitals and charitable institutions. The few
letters he wrote in his big, sprawling handwriting were brief. Presently
he had finished all that was necessary and he resumed his old attitude.

He remained thus till the church clock struck four, and then he passed
into his bedroom, locking the door behind him.

CHAPTER XXVII

"Oh, Mr. Kerry, You can make me merry;
Buy me Trafalgar Square,
I want to keep my chicken there!
Oh, Mr. Kerry,
Just jot my wishes down;
I can comb my moustache with the Marble Arch
If you'll lend me London Town."

It was gentle wit, but the great house roared with amusement at this
latest addition to the gayest of the revues.

None laughed more heartily than Kerry in the shadow of the stage box. He
was in the company of Elsie Marion, Vera Zeberlieff, and Gordon Bray.
Elsie Marion didn't know whether she approved, but the stately girl by
her side laughed quietly.

"This is the last word in fame," said Gordon Bray.

He sat at King Kerry's elbow, and was genuinely amused.

"How embarrassed the singer would be," said Kerry with a little twinkle
in his eye, "if I stepped round to the stage door and offered him a
conveyance of a slice of London."

"When do you go away, sir?"  It was Bray who asked the question. King
Kerry turned his head and spoke over his shoulder.

"I want to get away at the end of the week," he said. "It is rather late
for Marienbad, but I must be unfashionable. I am afraid I shall be away
for a fortnight."

"Afraid!" smiled Bray.

The millionaire nodded.

"Yes," he said seriously, "I do not really want to go away at all. The
healthiest experience in life is to be interested in your work, and I
have not yet grown stale."

They saw the revue through to its pleasant end and adjourned for supper.
Vera was a member of the Six Hundred Club, and to this exclusive
establishment the party went. King Kerry seized the first opportunity to
speak to Vera alone.

"I want to see you to-morrow," he said. "There is something very
important I should like to discuss with you, something which I think you
ought to know."

His tone was so grave that the girl looked at him a little
apprehensively. "It is not Hermann again?" she asked.

He nodded. Something told her that he knew. "It is to do with Hermann,"
he said. "I am afraid you have got just a little hurt coming--I would
have spared you that, if I could."

She shrugged her shoulders with a gesture of weariness.

"I can stand just one more," she replied. "I do not think you really know
what life has been with Hermann."

"I can guess," he said grimly.

She recovered her spirits at supper, and made an excellent hostess, and
Elsie, to whom this was a new and a beautiful world, had a most
fascinating hour as the tango dancers glided and dipped between the gaily
decorated tables.

The Six Hundred is the best of the night clubs. Duchesses order tables in
advance and the most famous actresses of the world are members, and may
be seen nightly in their precious toilettes seated about the little
tables of the great dining-hall. Here was laughter and music and song,
and the murmur and magic of life, the life of the leisured and the
artistic--of the section of Bohemia which dresses for dinner.

Elsie watched the unaccustomed scenes, comforted by the light and the
glitter. It was unlike anything she had ever seen before. No staring eyes
surveyed them; the club was used to celebrities and even the whisper that
the "King of London" was in its midst aroused little more than passing
interest.

Vera was sitting next to Kerry, and after the first course had been
served she spoke to him under her breath.

"Hermann is here," she said. "He is sitting a little to your left and
behind you."

He nodded. "I saw him come in," he said. "I do not anticipate any
particular danger from him here."

He looked at his watch.

"Oh, please do not think of going yet, Mr. Kerry!" the girl begged.

"I am not going," he said. "But it is a practice of mine, as you know, to
make a call at my office before I go home, and I was just wondering what
was the hour."

Hermann Zeberlieff had seen the action, and suddenly he rose, leaving the
elegant Mr. Hubbard, whose guest he was, without any apology and strolled
across to the table.

A dead silence greeted him, but he was not in any way embarrassed. From
where he stood, he could look down at King Kerry and his sister, and
there was an ample display of good humour on his handsome face.

"Does anybody feel inclined," he asked languidly, "to do a little
scientific hatchet-burying?"

He addressed the company at large. There was not one there against whom
he had not offended. Elsie was ignorant perhaps of the part the man had
played, but she looked up at him anxiously.

Gordon Bray, with the memory of drugged drink and an awakening in a
certain wine cellar in Park Lane, went a dull red. King Kerry's face was
expressionless, and it was only Vera who smiled gaily at the man who had
neglected no effort to remove her from the world.

"Because," Hermann went on, "if at this particularly genial moment of
life you feel inclined to accept me as your guest I am in a most humble
frame of mind."

It was a situation at once delicate and trying: Vera for the moment was
deceived by his loneliness and looked a little pleadingly at King Kerry.

"Certainly," he responded. "Will you ask the waiter to put a chair for
your brother?"

"What about your guest?" asked Vera.

Hermann shrugged his shoulders.

"He is waiting for somebody else," he said, "and he will be rather
relieved than otherwise to get rid of me."

It happened that he partly spoke the truth, because Hubbard was expecting
Leete, who joined him a few minutes later. But since the two had
foregathered to talk ways and means with the man who had so calmly
deserted them, they found little consolation in one another's society.

Hermann was charming. Never before had King Kerry known him so gay, so
cheerful, so full of sparkling wit, so ready with good-natured banter.

It was a new Hermann they saw--a suave, polished man of the world, versed
in its niceties, its tone, and its standard of humour. He told stories
that were new, had anecdotes that not one member of the party had heard
before, which was strange: but never once did he address Kerry, though he
blandly included Gordon Bray in his conversation whenever the opportunity
offered.

That young man, resentful as he was, and with the memory of his
unpleasant experience behind him, found himself engaged in an animated
conversation with this man who had treated him so badly.

The coffee stage had long since come and gone. King Kerry fidgeted
uneasily, he did not like late hours, and he still had a little work to
do at the office. Late nights disorganized the following day, for he laid
down an irreducible minimum of seven hours for sleep.

Still Hermann rattled on, and they were forced against their will to
listen and be amused.

Martin Hubbard had long since gone with Leete, and Hermann had met their
scowls with his most pleasant smile. They were out of the scheme for the
moment.

The tables began to thin a little; the more sedate members had gathered
up their belongings and departed in a cloud of chatter and laughter.

Vera's table was one of the last four occupied in the room.

"'I really think we must go now," said Kerry. "It is nearly three
o'clock."

They rose, Hermann with an apology.

"I'm afraid I have kept you," he said.

Kerry returned a conventional and polite reply.

It was whilst Vera was settling the bill that young Lord Fallingham, whom
King Kerry knew slightly, came in with a most hilarious party.

He was settling upon a table when he caught sight of the millionaire and
came over.

"How do you do, Mr. King Kerry?" he said cordially. "I congratulate you
on the fruition of your scheme, and I only regret that the successful
conclusion of your business has removed so picturesque a spectacle from
London."

"Meaning me?" asked King Kerry good humouredly.

"Meaning your Jewel House," said the young man.

King Kerry shook his head.

"It will be a long time before the Jewel House departs," he said. "The
one concrete evidence of the Trust's existence will remain for many
years."

The young man looked down at him a little bewildered.

"But you are moving from Glasshouse Street," he persisted. "I went round
there to find you to-night; I have just come from there."

"You have just come from there?" repeated Kerry in astonishment.

"Yes. I have a man here," he jerked his head towards his table, "who is
home from India, and I took him round to see the wonderful sights, and,
alas! there were no longer wonderful sights to be seen."

"Exactly what do you mean?" King Kerry's voice was sharp and commanding.
"I have not moved from Glasshouse Street."

"I do not quite understand you," said Fallingham slowly. "The place is in
darkness, and you have two huge bills pasted up on the window outside
saying that your office is removed to 106, Piccadilly Circus."

For a moment Elsie's startled eyes met the millionaire's, then he turned
quickly to the smiling Hermann.

"I see," he said, without raising his voice.

"Exactly, Mr. King Kerry, what do you see?" drawled the other.

"I understand your intrusion into this party," said King Kerry, "and your
entertaining conversation is explained."

With an excuse he left them and hurried downstairs.

He hailed the first taxi-cab he could see and drove to his office. The
shop front was in darkness; he peered through, but could not see the
safe. Once the lights were out, as they had not been since the opening of
the Jewel House, the safe would be in the shadow.

He unlocked the outer door and entered, pressing over the switch on the
left of the door. But no light resulted. He went out again into the
street and called the nearest policeman.

"This place has been burgled," he said.

"Burgled, sir! Why I thought you had moved your furniture to-night."

"Who put those bills up?"

King Kerry pointed to the large printed notice on the window.

"I don't know," said the man. "When I came on duty the shop was in
darkness and these bills were posted. Naturally, when I saw there was no
light I acted according to the instructions the police had received from
you, and went across, but seeing the bills I thought it was all right."

He whistled two of his mates, and the four men entered the building, the
policemen flashing their lamps before them. In the commissionaire's box
they found the unfortunate guard whose duty it was to protect the
treasures of the safe. He was unconscious. He had been clubbed into
insensibility, gagged and bound. The arrival of the relief only came just
in time to save his life.

The commissionaire was nowhere to be seen. They found him afterwards in
the smaller office, treated in very much the same way as his assistant.
The only account he could give was that suddenly, while he was sitting in
his box, something had been squirted in his face, something that had
taken away his breath.

"I think it was ammonia," he said, and that, before he could struggle or
cry, he was knocked down, and awoke to find himself strung and gagged in
the little office.

An examination of the place showed that all the electric light cables
were cut. Possibly the burglary had been committed at the very moment
when the police were changing over.

There was no necessity to unlock the steel door leading from the inner
office to the safe room, the lock had been burnt out and the safe was
open wide, and was apparently uninjured.

King Kerry uttered a smothered exclamation.

"Lend me your lamp," he said, and rapidly examined the contents of the
safe. None of the documents affecting the Trust had been disturbed, or if
they had been moved they had been put back as they had been found. One
bundle of envelopes, the most important to him, had gone.

"You had better report this," he said, after a long silence. "I will get
somebody in to repair the damage to the electric cable."

He sat in the inner office with no more light than a candle afforded, and
there Elsie found him. Alarmed by the look in the millionaire's face she
had followed. "Is anything gone?" she asked.

"A bundle of mine," he said quietly; "but, fortunately, nothing belonging
to the business has been touched."

"Are you sure your bundle has gone?" she asked.

It was a true woman's question, the inevitable expression of distrust in
man's power of search. He smiled slightly. "You had better look for
yourself," he said. "There is a lamp over there."

She went into the office; the safe was still open and she was carefully
examining the contents before she remembered that she did not know what
she was seeking.

She went back to Kerry. "It is a bunch of long envelopes," he said,
"inscribed 'Relating to the affairs of King Kerry--Private.'"

She nodded and went back. She turned over every envelope in the safe
without making any discovery. Then she flashed her lamp over the floor.
Here she found something: One long, thin envelope, carefully sealed, had
fallen, and lay on its edge against the side of the safe, kept in its
upright position possibly by the edge of the carpet.

She picked it up and, turning the lantern light upon it, read--

"Marriage Certificate of King Kerry and Henrietta Zeberlieff."

The girl stared at the envelope.

Zeberlieff! Hermann's sister!

CHAPTER XXVIII

"Voila!" said Micheloff.

He stood in an attitude of complete satisfaction, his arms akimbo, and
the bundle of envelopes, tightly bound with string, which lay upon the
desk testified mutely to the skill of the man.

There were two red patches on Hermann's cheeks and his eyes blazed with
triumph.  "At last! You are a wonderful man," he said ironically.

Micheloff shrugged his shoulders.

"It was nothing," he said. "The genius of the idea; the forethought was
all yours, oh, mon generale! Who but you would have thought of the bills
to paste upon the windows? That was a master stroke; the rest was easy."

"You had to cut out the lock, I suppose?" asked Hermann as he untied the
strings which bound the letters.

Micheloff shook his great head. "It was simple. Here again your
perception!" He extended his arms admiringly.

"My perception!" said the other roughly. "Did you open the safe with the
name I gave?"  The man bowed his head. "With 'Elsie'?"  Again Micheloff
nodded.

The brows of Hermann Zeberlieff were knitted, his under-jaw stuck out
pugnaciously, and he was not beautiful to look upon at the moment.

"Elsie," he repeated, "damn him! I'll make him sorry for that."

He cut the cord impatiently and sorted over the envelopes.

"You have missed one," he said.

"Impossible," replied the calm Micheloff. "I examined with great care,
and my knowledge of English is almost perfect. Every one is here."

"There was one which contained a marriage certificate," said Hermann.

"That is there also," said the other. "I particularly remember placing it
there."

"It is not here now." He made another search. "You fool, you have left
behind the most valuable letter of all."

"It is a thousand pities," said Micheloff a little impatiently. He was
tired of criticism, tired of being bullied. He wanted a little praise for
the risk he had taken and the work he had done.

"Nevertheless," he said, "I think that you have sufficient for your
money."

Hermann thought a moment, and went to a little safe in the wall, opened
it, and took out a bundle of notes. He carefully counted ten and handed
them to his tool, who counted them again no less carefully. "This is
exactly half what you promised," he said.

"There is exactly all there that you will get," said Hermann. "You have
failed to secure what I asked for, what I particularly desired you to
bring to me."

"I require another thousand pounds," said Micheloff; his little eyes
twinkled coldly. "I desire another thousand pounds, monsieur, and I do
not leave here until I get it."

"You will go!" Hermann took a step towards him and stopped.

Micheloff was taking no chances that night. He had felt the strangling
white hands of the other about his throat, and it was an experience which
he did not intend should be repeated. Hermann stopped before the black
barrel of a Browning pistol.

"No, no, my ancient!" said Micheloff. "We will have no further exhibition
from the pupil of Le Cinq!"

"Put that revolver down!" cried Hermann. "You fool, put it down!"

He was terribly agitated: in a state of panic almost. He feared firearms
to an extraordinary extent, and even Micheloff was astounded at the
pallor and the shakiness of the man. Something that was human in the
little Russian made him drop his hand.

Hermann wiped his brow and licked his dry lips. "Do not ever lift a
pistol to me again," he said hoarsely. "I cannot stand it. It is one of
the things I hate worse than anything else in the world."

He went to the safe again and counted ten more notes with trembling
fingers and threw them down on the table.

"Take them!" he said.

Micheloff took them, and without stopping to count them made his way to
the door.

"My friend," he said elaborately, "I salute--and retire!"

And now Hermann Zeberlieff was alone.

Very carefully he examined the contents of the envelopes. One of them
containing a bundle of correspondence afforded him some quiet
amusement--the letters were in his own writing.

He read them through again and again and carefully burnt them. He had lit
a fire in his study with this object. There was one envelope which he did
not touch, inscribed with the name of a girl who had loved him and who
had learnt his secret with horror, and in all the frenzy of her despair
had taken her own life.

He turned the envelope over and over--something prevented him from
examining its contents.

His chin upon his palm, he sat thinking, and then the recollection of
Micheloff's words came to him, and he sat bolt upright in his chair.

"Elsie," he repeated, and his lips curled in a sneer. So that was
it--this man had fallen in love with a gutter-child he had found in
London. She was enough in his thoughts, sufficient in his life to be
entrusted with his secrets. This girl had all that Hermann Zeberlieff
desired--once he had had the opportunity of standing next to King Kerry,
first in place amongst his friends, trusted, and growing to fortune as
the millionaire had grown. He had thrown it away, and this girl had taken
all that he had scorned.

A petty thought, perhaps; but a natural thought.

Only one envelope remained to be examined. Upon his judgment as to
whether its contents should prove as he had anticipated depended his
future.

He had given a brief glance at the inscription on the envelope. So far he
was satisfied that he he not been at fault--the envelope bore the words,
"Relating to my marriage."

He cleared all the other papers away and locked them in a drawer of his
desk and opened the one remaining.

It contained twenty sheets of foolscap, closely written. He read
steadily, turning the sheets as he came to them, till he reached the
passage he sought. He had expected to find it in another form, and was
momentarily dismayed to find that the envelope contained no more than
this one statement that he was now reading.

But the paragraph cleared up all doubt in his mind--he read it again and
again, slowly absorbing its sense until he could have repeated it by
heart.

It ran--

"My marriage was a disaster. It will be understood why from the
foregoing. Henrietta's mother had died in a lunatic asylum. I did not
know this before the marriage. The mother had imparted something of her
strong will and her strong character, with an utter irresponsibility
peculiar to her wild nature, lo her daughter. . . .

"She was extraordinarily ignorant as to the law of the United States, and
this had probably led her to commit the crime which she had committed--
for her daughter's sake. When I discovered Henrietta's duplicity, when I
awoke to a full realization of her terrible and absorbing passion, when I
realized how absolutely impossible such a marriage was, I saw in what a
terrible position I had placed myself. I did not love Henrietta; I do not
think that in any time of my life she had aroused the confidence and the
trust which is the basis of love. I had been fascinated by the glamour of
a beautiful woman, had been swept off my feet by her exotic beauty--she
was little more than a child in those days.

"I consulted my lawyer. I had made my ante-nuptial arrangements, and had
settled upon her, in the terms of my will, ten million dollars upon my
death. I now desired earnestly to see how far I was bound by that
contract.

"I had no wish to rob her other inheritance, though a large portion of
her mother's estate would come to her, and she would not have felt the
loss had I been able to cancel my marriage contract, but the lawyers
informed me that it would be impossible, without a great deal of
publicity, which I did not desire, and even then there was some doubt as
to whether I should succeed.

"It is a terrible thought that this woman will so benefit by my
death--terrible, because I am confident that Hermann Zeberlieff would not
hesitate to destroy me if he knew that Henrietta would benefit."

Hermann read the sheet through and folded it with a little smile. "You
are perfectly right, my friend. Henrietta has a very loyal brother."

He locked up the document in the safe and stood cogitating by the
fireplace.

"I wonder why I hate firearms," he said, half to himself, "because it
seems to me that is the only method which is now available."

"Out you go!" he waved his hand to the ceiling. "Out you go, my King
Kerry, deserter of wives, and maker of wills! I have learnt from your own
lips the necessity for your destruction--poor Henrietta." He smiled
again.

Where was this wife of Kerry's?

Hermann knew--very well he knew.

But Elsie, who tossed restlessly, sleeplessly, from side to side in her
tumbled bed in Chelsea, thought and thought and thought again without
coming any nearer to a solution of the business.

The morning sun streamed into her room to find her awake and still
thinking.

CHAPTER XXIX

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Kerry?"

Vera was looking beautiful that morning, Kerry thought. She reminded him
somewhat of her sister--her sister as she had been at her best.

Yet there was a quality in her face that Henrietta had never had--a
softness, a humanity, a kindness, which was foreign to the older woman's
nature.

"Yes, I want to speak to you," he said. "I am going into some of your
family history, if you don't mind."

"That's rather alarming," she smiled. "Which side of my family, in
particular?"

He hesitated.

"To be exact, the only branch it touches is your father, and even he is
only a passive agent."

"You are speaking of Hermann's mother?" she said quickly.

He nodded.

"Did you ever hear of her?"

The girl shook her head.

"I have heard rather terrible stories about her," she said slowly. "She
was in a lunatic asylum for a number of years. Poor papa!--it must have
been terrible for him."

"It was," said King Kerry. "Even I am not old enough to remember all that
happened. She was a remarkable woman," he went on, plunging into the
business of his visit. "She was a Pole, a very beautiful girl. Her father
and a large family emigrated from Poland to America in the sixties, and
she met him when she was little more than a child. I have reason to
believe that the family had come from noble stock, but, if you do not
mind my speaking very plainly--"

"I would prefer it," said Vera.

"They were a pretty decadent lot."

She nodded her head.

"I know that," she said with a half-smile.

"Hermann's mother had many remarkable ideas, even as a child, and perhaps
the most remarkable of all was one which led to a great deal of
unhappiness."

He hesitated.

"Do you know that you have a half-sister?"

The girl's eyebrows rose.

"A half-sister?" she said incredulously. "No, I did not--it is news to
me."

"I married her," he said simply.

She looked at him with wondering eyes. For a moment neither of them
spoke.

"I married her," he went on. "I met her in Denver City. She had gone West
on a trip to her relatives and I was pretty young and headstrong in those
days. I met her at a ball, and became engaged to her the same night, and
was married to her within a week."

He paced up and down the room with his hands behind him.

"It is only right to say," he said slowly, "that that marriage, from the
very moment when we left the justice's parlour where we had been formally
united, was a hideous mistake--a mistake which might very well have
embittered the whole of my life. The shadow of Henrietta Zeberlieff has
hung over me for fifteen years, and there have been times when life had
been unendurable."

She was silent.

It was so startling, so extraordinary, that even now she could not grasp
it. This marriage offered an explanation for much. She looked at her
brother-in-law enviously. How strange the relationship seemed! She felt a
sudden glow of loving kindness toward one who had suffered at the hands
of her own flesh and blood.

"Is she still alive?" she asked.

Kerry nodded.

"She is still alive," he said.

"Hermann knows?" the girl said quickly.

He nodded his head.

"And he is concealing her, keeping her in the background. Is she mad,
too?"

King Kerry considered a moment. "I think she is," he said.

"How terrible."

The pain on the girl's face was pitiable to the man. "Can't I go to her?
Can't I see her?"

He shook his head. "You could do no good," he said. "You must wait
developments. I meant to have told you more, but somehow--it has stuck in
my throat. Last night, as you know, a burglary was committed at my office
and the documents relating to my wife were stolen. I have my own idea as
to why they were stolen, but I thought it possible that within the next
few days you would come to learn what I have told you and perhaps more.
It is fairer to you that I should prepare you for the shock."

He picked up his hat. The girl came towards him, her eyes filled with
tears and laid her two hands on his.

"I thought--" She looked at him steadily.

"What do you think, Miss Zeberlieff?"

"I thought," she said, with a little catch in her voice, "that Elsie--"

He nodded.

"I wish to God it were so," he said, in a low tone. "Money isn't
everything, is it?" He made a pathetic attempt to smile.




"It isn't everything," she said, in a low voice. "I think the only thing
worth while in life is love."

He nodded. "Thank God, you have found it," he said; and, raising her face
to his, he kissed her on the cheek.

"After all," he smiled, "you are my sister-in-law. That is a liberty
which my remote relationship completely exonerates."

He went back to his club to lunch, for he was in no mood to meet Elsie.
The very sight of her brought a little twinge of pain to his heart. He
loved this girl very dearly. She had grown to him as a delicate flower
might grow in the shade of a plant of sturdier growth for protection and
comfort.

His mind dwelt upon her as he sat at his lunch, and her beautiful eyes,
the perfect oval of her face, the little pout of red lips.

He shook his head--there was no way out that he could see.

He finished lunch, and stood for a moment on the steps of the club, then
hailed a taxi. Just as he was stepping into the cab a District
messenger-boy had entered the club and the chauffeur was driving off when
a club servant came flying down the steps with a letter.

"This has just arrived, sir," he said.

King Kerry opened it and read--"For the last time I want you to see me. I
am sailing for South America to-morrow to retrieve my fortunes. Come to
Park Lane. There is nothing to fear."

"'For the last time,'" repeated King Kerry. He crushed the letter and put
it in his pocket, and turning to the club waiter--

"There is no answer," he said. "Tell the driver to go to 410, Park Lane."

CHAPTER XXX

"So you've come?" said Hermann.

"For the last time," said the other.

"Assuredly "--then--"What is that?" Hermann asked quickly.

King Kerry had laid down upon the table a newspaper he had purchased on
his way. He had been suspicious of Hermann's intentions, and had bought
the journal to learn the sailing dates and to discover whether the South
American mail sailed the following day.

It happened that, as far as he could gather from a perusal of the
shipping-list, Zeberlieff had spoken the truth.

Hermann snatched up the paper, his face was drawn and haggard of a
sudden. Over his shoulder the millionaire read in the largest headlines--

"SHOOTING AFFRAY IN WHITECHAPEL. WELL-KNOWN ANARCHIST ARRESTED.
ASSAILANT MAKES FULL CONFESSION."

Hermann read the lines rapidly. The arrested man was Micheloff--and he
would tell--everything. Everything would come out now, the little Russian
would not hesitate to implicate anybody and everybody to save his own
skin or to bring about a mitigation of his sentence.

So he made a full confession! Of what! The paper only had the brief and
most guarded account: "The prisoner made a long statement, which was
being investigated," said the journal, and went on to explain that the
police sought the owner of a large sum of money which was found upon the
prisoner.

So it was all out. He threw down the paper on the table. The game was up.
He was at his last desperate throw, and then "Farewell, Hermann
Zeberlieff!"

"That has upset you rather?" said King Kerry. He had skimmed the account
on his way to the house.

"It doesn't upset me so very much," said the other. "It alters my plans a
little--it may very easily alter yours. I have very little time." He
looked at his watch. Kerry saw a packed bag and an overcoat on a chair,
and guessed that Zeberlieff was making immediate preparations for
departure.

"But that little time," Hermann went on, "must be profitably spent. For
the last time, King Kerry, will you help me?"

"With money? No! How often have I helped you, and invariably you have
employed the assistance I have given you to combat me?"

"I want exactly a million," said the other. "I am going away to South
America, where there is ample scope for a gentleman of enterprise."

"You will get nothing from me."

"Reconsider your decision--now!"

Kerry turned. A revolver covered him.

"Reconsider it, or you're a dead man!" said Zeberlieff' calmly. "I tell
you I am in desperate straits. I must get out of this country
to-day--unless you stand by me--not only with money, but in every other
way--"

There was a loud knock at the door below. Zeberlieff's haggard face went
white, yet he edged to the window and looked out. Three men, unmistakable
policemen in plain clothes, were standing about the door.

"This is the end," said Zeberlieff, and fired.

As he did so, King Kerry sprang forward and knocked up his arm. The two
closed, the white hands sought for his throat, but Kerry knew the other's
strength--and weakness.

There was a sharp scuffle, but Zeberlieff was powerless in his arms. He
swung him round as the door burst open and two men dashed in.

Before they could grasp their prisoner he had stooped to the floor and
picked up the revolver that had fallen in the struggle. There was a quick
report, and, with that little smile which was particularly Hermann
Zeberlieff's, he collapsed sideways on to the floor.

Kerry went down on his knees by his side and lifted the fallen head.

"Hullo, Kingy!" coughed the dying Hermann. "This is pretty lucky for
you--you and your Elsie!"

A frown gathered over the fast-glazing eyes, and it was with that frown
on that handsome face that Hermann Zeberlieff went to the Judge Who knows
all things.

One of the policemen leant over him.

"He's dead!" he said as he loosened the shirt about the neck of the
silent figure.

He stood up sharply.

"My God!" he gasped. "It's a woman!"

King Kerry nodded.

"My wife," he said, and looked down at the dead woman at his feet.

* * * * *

"I had never suspected it--never." Vera's eyes showed signs of tears.
"And yet, now I come to think of it, she never allowed me in her room,
never allowed a servant to valet her, and there are lots of little things
I can remember which might have aroused my suspicion."

"It was her mother's fault," said King Kerry. "Her mother was ignorant of
the laws of the United States, and was under the impression that your
father's estate would go automatically to a son, and that a daughter had
no powers of inheritance. She craved for that son, and when Henrietta
arrived, the poor soul was distracted. The doctor was bribed to certify
the child as a boy, and her aunt and her mother brought her up as a boy.
She was assisted in this deception by Henrietta's character--for
Henrietta had a man's way and a man's reason. She was a man in this, that
she had neither pity nor remorse. She allowed a beautiful girl to fall in
love with her without letting her know her secret. When it was discovered
the girl committed suicided--you probably know the circumstances."

"I know," said the faltering Vera. "But I thought--"

"Everybody thought that," said Kerry. "One other aunts was frightened and
had the girl sent to her at Denver--she had a farm there. She allowed her
hair to grow and dressed her as a girl--it was there that I met her and
married her.

"But the fascination of the old life--she had got into a speculating set
on Wall Street--was too much for her.

"She wanted to be thought a man, to hear her business abilities and her
genius praised--as a man. She made one or two very wise speculations
which were her undoing. She left me and went back to Wall Street. I
pleaded with her, but there was nothing to be gained by appealing to
Henrietta's better instincts. She laughed. The next day she turned a
'corner' against me--she smashed my market--with my money," he added
grimly. "I did not mind that, one can always get money, but she pursued
it. I was a 'bear' in corn, pulling the prices down; she and her friends
'cornered' the world's supply, so she thought. I smashed her and gave her
a million to start afresh, but she hated me from that moment and pursued
me with malignant--" He stopped.

"God help her!" he said sadly. "God help all women--good or bad!"

"Amen," said Vera Zeberlieff.

* * * * *

King Kerry came to see Elsie two months later. He arrived unexpectedly at
Geneva, where she was holiday-making, and she met him upon Quai des
Alpes, and was staggered at the sight of him.

He was young again--the lines were gone from his face--the lines of care
and memory--and his eyes were bright with health.

"I have just come along from Chamonix," he laid. "I have been fixing up a
villa."

"Are you going to live there?" she asked in consternation.

He shook his head smilingly.

A carriage drove past, and she had some work to restrain a smile.

"Who is that?" he asked.

"Do you remember Mr. Hubbard?"

He nodded. He remembered the "Beauty" very well.

"He has married the most dreadful woman, And they have come here on their
honeymoon," she said.

He nodded again.

"His landlady," he said grimly. "That's poetic justice."

"But the most poetical of all the pieces of justice," she laughed, "is
that Vera and Mr. Bray arc staying at the same hotel on their honeymoon."

"That is rough luck," admitted King Kerry with a smile, "and as you say,
horribly just."

"It is rather terrible, though," she said, "the number of honeymoon folks
who are in Geneva."

He took her by the arm and walked her along the quay.

"We shall not add to the number," he said. "We will go to Chamonix."

"When?" asked the girl faintly.

"Next week," said King Kerry.

"I love Chamonix," she said after a while, "It is so splendid--Mont Blanc
with his white smooth head always above you. I wish we could take Mont
Blanc to England with us," she added whimsically.

"I'll ask the price of it," said the Man who Bought London.



End of this Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook





This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia