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Title:      Room 13
Author:     Edgar Wallace
eBook No.:  0501201.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          December 2005
Date most recently updated: December 2005


Title:      Room 13
Author:     Edgar Wallace


CHAPTER I

OVER the grim stone archway was carved the words:

 PARCERE SUBJECTIS.

In cold weather, and employing the argot of his companions Johnny Gray
translated this as "Parky Subjects"--it certainly had no significance as
"Spare the Vanquished" for he had been neither vanquished nor spared.

Day by day, harnessed to the shafts, he and Lal Morgon had pulled a heavy
hand-cart up the steep slope, and day by day had watched absently the
red-bearded gate-warder put his key in the big polished lock and snap
open the gates. And then the little party had passed through, an armed
warder leading, an armed warder behind, and the gate had closed.

And at four o'clock he had walked back under the archway and waited
whilst the gate was unlocked and the handcart admitted.

Every building was hideously familiar. The gaunt "halls," pitch painted
against the Dartmoor storms, the low-roofed office, the gas house, the
big, barn-like laundry, the ancient bakery, the exercise yard with its
broken asphalt, the ugly church, garishly decorated, the long, scrubbed
benches with the raised seats for the warders...and the graveyard
where the happily released lifers rested from their labours.

One morning in spring, he went out of the gate with a working-party. They
were building a shed, and he had taken the style and responsibility of
bricklayer's labourer. He liked the work because you can talk more freely
on a job like that, and he wanted to hear all that Lal Morgon had to say
about the Big Printer.

"Not so much talking to-day." said the warder in charge, seating himself
on a sack-covered brick heap.

"No, sir." said Lal.

He was a wizened man of fifty and a lifer, and he had no ambition, which
was to live long enough to get another "lagging."

"But not burglary. Gray," he said as he leisurely set a brick in its
place; "and not shootin', like old Legge got his packet. And not faking
Spider King, like you got yours."

"I didn't get mine for faking Spider King," said Johnny calmly. "I didn't
know that Spider King had been rung in when I took him on the course, and
was another horse altogether. They framed up Spider King to catch me. I
am not complaining."

"I know you're innocent--everybody is." said Lal soothingly. "I'm the
only guilty man in boob. That's what the governor says. 'Morgon,' he
says, 'it does my heart good to meet a guilty man that ain't the victim
of circumstantiality. Like everybody else is in boob,' he says."

Johnny did not pursue the subject. There was no reason why he should.
This fact was beyond dispute. He had known all about the big racecourse
swindles that were being worked, and had been an associate of men who
backed the "rung in" horses. He accepted the sentence of three years'
penal servitude that had been passed without appeal or complaint. Not
because he was guilty of the act for which he was charged--there was
another excellent reason.

"If they lumbered you with the crime, it was because you was a mug," said
old Lal complacently. "That's what mugs are for--to be lumbered. What did
old Kane say?"

"I didn't see Mr. Kane." said Johnny shortly.

"He'd think you was a mug, too," said Lal with satisfaction--"hand me a
brick. Gray, and shut up! That nosey screw's coming over." The "nosey
screw" was no more inquisitive than any other warder. He strolled across,
the handle of his truncheon showing from his pocket, the well-worn strap
dangling. "Not so much talking," he said mechanically.

"I was asking for a brick, sir,-" said Lal humbly. "These bricks ain't so
good as the last lot."

"I've noticed that," said the warder, examining a half-brick with a
professional and disapproving eye.

"Trust you to notice that, sir," said the sycophant with the right blend
of admiration and awe. And, when the warder had passed:

"That boss-eyed perisher don't know a brick from a gas-stove," said Lal
without heat. "He's the bloke that old Legge got straightened when he was
in here--used to have private letters brought in every other day. But
then, old Legge's got money. Him and Peter Kane smashed the strong-room
'of the Orsonic and got away with a million dollars. They never caught
Peter, but Legge was easy. He shot a copper and got life."

Johnny had heard Legge's biography a hundred times, but Lal Morgon had
reached the stage of life when every story he told was new.

"That's why he hates Peter," said the garrulous bricklayer. "That's why
young Legge and him are going to get Peter. And young Legge's hot! Thirty
years of age by all accounts, and the biggest printer of slush in the
world! And it's not ord'nary slush. Experts get all mixed up when they
see young Legge's notes--can't tell 'em from real Bank of England stuff.
And the police and the secret service after him for years--and then never
got him!"

The day was warm, and Lal stripped off his red and blue striped working
jacket. He wore, as did the rest of the party, the stained yellow
breeches faintly stamped with the broad arrow. Around his calves were
buttoned yellow gaiters. His shirt was of stout cotton, white with narrow
blue stripes, and on his head was a cap adorned with mystic letters of
the alphabet to indicate the dates of his convictions. A week later, when
the letters were abolished, Lal Morgon had a grievance. He felt as a
soldier might feel when he was deprived of his decorations.

"You've never met young Jeff?" stated rather than asked Lal, smoothing a
dab of mortar with a leisurely touch.

"I've seen him--I have not met him," said Johnny grimly, and something in
his tone made the old convict look up.

"He 'shopped' me," said Johnny, and Lal indicated his surprise with an
inclination of his head that was ridiculously like a bow.

"I don't know why, but I do know that he 'shopped 'me," said Johnny. "He
was the man who fixed up the fake, got me persuaded to bring the horse on
to the course, and then squeaked. Until then I did not know that the
alleged Spider King was in reality Boy Saunders cleverly camouflaged."

"Squeaking's hidjus," said the shocked Lal, and he seemed troubled. "And
Emanuel Legge's boy, too! Why did he do it--did you catch him over
money?"

Johnny shook his head.

"I don't know. If it's true that he hates Peter Kane he may have done it
out of revenge, knowing that I'm fond of Peter, and...well, I'm fond
of Peter. He warned me about mixing with the crowd I ran with--"

"Stop that talking, will you?" They worked for some time in silence.
Then: "That screw will get somebody hung one of these days," said Lal in
a tone of quiet despair. "He's the feller that little Lew Morse got a
bashing for--over clouting him with a spanner in the blacksmith's shop.
He was nearly killed. What a pity! Lew wasn't much account, an' he's
often said he'd as soon be dead as sober."

At four o'clock the working-party fell in and marched or shuffled down
the narrow road to the prison gates. Parcere Subjectis. Johnny looked up
and winked at the grim jest, and he had the illusion that the archway
winked back at him. At half-past four he turned into the deep-recessed
doorway of his cell, and the yellow door closed on him with a metallic
snap of a lock.

It was a big, vaulted cell, and the colour of the folded blanket ends
gave it a rakish touch of gaiety. On a shelf in one corner was a
photograph of a fox terrier, a pretty head turned inquiringly toward him.
He poured out a mugful of water and drank it, looking up at the barred
window. Presently his tea would come, and then the lock would be put on
for eighteen and a half hours. And for eighteen and a half hours he must
amuse himself as best he could. He could read whilst the light held--a
volume of travel was on the ledge that served as a table. Or he could
write on his slate, or draw horses and dogs, or work out interminable
problems in mathematics, or write poetry...or think. That was the
worst exercise of all. He crossed the cell and took down the photograph.
The mount had worn limp with much handling, and he looked with a
half-smile into the big eyes of the terrier.

"It is a pity you can't write, old Spot." he said. Other people could
write, and did, he thought as he replaced the photograph. But Peter Kane
never once mentioned Marney, and Marney had not written since...a long
time. It was ominous, informative, in some ways decisive. A brief
reference, "Marney is well," or "Marney thanks you for your inquiry," and
that was all.

The whole story was clearly written in those curt phrases, the story of
Peter's love for the girl, and his determination that she should not
marry a man with the prison taint. Peter's adoration of his daughter was
almost a mania--her happiness and her future came first, and must always
be first. Peter loved him--Johnny had sensed that. He had given him the
affection that a man might give his grown son. If this tragic folly of
his had not led to the entanglement which brought him to a convict
prison, Peter would have given Marney to him, as she was willing to give
herself. "That's that," said Johnny, in his role of philosopher. And then
came tea and the final lock-up, and silence...and thoughts again.

Why did young Legge trap him? He had only seen the man once; they had
never even met. It was only by chance that he had ever seen this young
printer of forged notes. He could not guess that he was known to the man
he "shopped," for Jeff Legge was an illusive person. One never met him in
the usual rendezvous where the half-underworld foregather to boast and
plot or drink and love.

A key rattled in the lock, and Johnny got up. He forgot that it was the
evening when the chaplain visited him. "Sit down. Gray." The door closed
on the clergyman, and he seated himself on Johnny's bed. It was curious
that he should take up the thread of Johnny's interrupted thoughts.

"I want to get your mind straight about this man Legge...the son, I
mean. It is pretty bad to brood on grievances, real or fancied, and you
are nearing the end of your term of imprisonment, when your resentment
will have a chance of expressing itself. And, Gray, I don't want to see
you here again."

Johnny Gray smiled.

"You won't see me here!" he emphasised the word. "As to Jeff Legge, I
know little about him, though I've done some fairly fluent guessing and
I've heard a lot."

The chaplain shook his head thoughtfully.

"I have heard a little; he's the man they call the Big Printer, isn't he?
Of course, I know all about the flooding of Europe with spurious notes,
and that the police had failed to catch the man who was putting them into
circulation. Is that Jeff Legge?"

Johnny did not answer, and the chaplain smiled a little sadly. "Thou
shalt not squeak'--the eleventh commandment, isn't it?" he asked
good-humouredly. "I am afraid I have been indiscreet. When does your
sentence end?"

"In six months," replied Johnny, "and I'll not be sorry."

"What are you going to do? Have you any money?"

The convict's lips twitched.

"Yes, I have three thousand a year," he said quietly. "That is a fact
which did not come out at the trial, for certain reasons. No, padre,
money isn't my difficulty. I suppose I shall travel. I certainly shall
not attempt to live down my grisly past."

"That means you're not going to change your name," said the chaplain with
a twinkle in his eye. "Well, with three thousand a year, I can't see you
coming here again." Suddenly he remembered. Putting his hand in his
pocket, he took out a letter. "The Deputy gave me this, and I'd nearly
forgotten. It arrived this morning."

The letter was opened, as were all letters that came to convicts, and
Johnny glanced carelessly at the envelope. It was not, as he had
expected, a letter from his lawyer. The bold handwriting was Peter
Kane's--the first letter he had written for six months. He waited until
the door had closed upon the visitor, and then he took the letter from
the envelope. There were only a few lines of writing.

'Dear Johnny, I hope you are not going to be very much upset by the news
I am telling you. Marney is marrying Major Floyd, of Toronto, and I know
that you're big enough and fine enough to wish her luck. The man she is
marrying is a real good fellow who will make her happy.

Johnny put down the letter on to the ledge, and for ten minutes paced the
narrow length of his cell, his hands clasped behind him. Marney to be
married! His face was white, tense, his eyes dark with gloom. He stopped
and poured out a mugful of water with a hand that shook, then raised the
glass to the barred window that looked eastward.

"Good luck to you, Marney!" he said huskily, and drank the mug empty.

CHAPTER II

Two days later, Johnny Gray was summoned to the Governor's office and
heard the momentous news.

"Gray, I have good news for you. You are to be released immediately. I
have just had the authority."

Johnny inclined his head.

"Thank you, sir," he said.

A warder took him to a bathroom, where he stripped, and, with a blanket
about him, came out to a cubicle, where his civilian clothes were
waiting. He dressed with a queer air of unfamiliarity, and went back to
his cell. The warder brought him a looking-glass and a safety-razor, and
he completed his toilet.

The rest of the day was his own. He was a privileged man, and could
wander about the prison in his strangely-feeling attire, the envy of men
whom he had come to know and to loathe; the half madmen who for a year
had been whispering their futilities into his ear.

As he stood there in the hall at a loose end, the door was flung open
violently, and a group of men staggered in. In the midst of them was a
howling, shrieking thing that was neither man nor beast, his face bloody,
his wild arms gripped by struggling warders.

He watched the tragic group as it made its way to the punishment cells.

"Fenner," said somebody under his breath. "He coshed a screw, but they
can't give him another bashing."

"Isn't Fenner that twelve-year man, that's doing his full time?" asked
Johnny, remembering the convict. "And he's going out to-morrow, too!"

"That's him," said his informant, one of the hall sweepers. "He'd have
got out with nine, but old Legge reported him. Game to the last, eh? They
can't bash him after to-morrow, and the visiting justices won't be here
for a week."

Johnny remembered the case. Legge had been witness to a brutal assault on
the man by one of the warders, who had since been discharged from the
service. In desperation the unfortunate Fenner had hit back, and had been
tried. Legge's evidence might have saved him from the flogging which
followed, but Legge was too good a friend of the warders--or they were
too good friends of his--to betray a "screw." So Fenner had gone to the
triangle, as he would not go again.

He could not sleep the last night in the cell. His mind was on Marney. He
did not reproach her for a second. Nor did he feel bitter toward her
father. It was only right and proper that Peter Kane should do what was
best for his girl. The old man's ever-present fear for his daughter's
future was almost an obsession. Johnny guessed that when this presentable
Canadian had come along, Peter had done all in his power to further the
match.

Johnny Gray walked up the steep slope for the last time. A key turned in
the big lock, and he stood outside the gates, a free man. The red-bearded
head warder put out his hand.

"Good luck to you," he said gruffly. "Don't you come over the Alps
again."

"I've given up mountain climbing," said Johnny.

He had taken his farewell of the Governor, and now the only thing to
remind him of his association with the grim prison he had left was the
warder who walked by his side to the station. He had some time to wait,
and Johnny tried to get some information from another angle.

"No, I don't know Jeff Legge," said the warder, shaking his head. "I knew
the old man: he was here until twelve months ago--you were here, too,
weren't you, Gray?"

Johnny nodded.

"Mr. Jeff Legge has never been over the Alps, then?" he asked
sardonically.

"No, not in this prison, and he wasn't in Parkhurst or Portland, so far
as I can remember. I've been at both places. I've heard the men talking
about him. They say he's clever, which means that he'll be putting out
his tins one morning. Good-bye, Gray, and be good!"

Johnny gripped the outstretched hand of the man, and, when he was in the
carriage, took out his silk handkerchief and wiped his hand of the last
prison contact.

His servant was waiting for him at Paddington when he arrived that
afternoon, and with him, straining at a leash, a small, lop-eared fox
terrier, who howled his greeting long before Johnny had seen the group.
In another second the dog was struggling in his arms, licking his face,
his ears and his hair, and whining his joy at the reunion. There were
tears in Johnny's eyes when he put the dog down on the platform.

"There are a number of letters for you, sir. Will you dine at home?"

The excellent Parker might have been welcoming his master from a short
sojourn at Monte Carlo, so very unemotional was he.

"Yes, I'll dine at home," said Johnny. He stepped into the taxicab that
Parker had hired, and Spot leapt after him.

"There is no baggage, sir?" asked Parker gravely through the open window.

"There is no baggage," said Johnny as gravely. "You had better ride back
with me, Parker."

The man hesitated.

"It would be a very great liberty, sir," he said.

"Not so great a liberty as I have had taken with me during the past year
and nine months," said Johnny.

As the cab came out into dismal Chapel Street, the greatly daring Parker
asked:

"I hope you have not had too bad a time, sir?"

Johnny laughed.

"It has not been pleasant, Parker. Prisons seldom are."

"I suppose not, sir," agreed Parker, and added unnecessarily: "I have
never been in prison, sir."

Johnny's flat was in Queen's Gate, and at the sight of the peaceful
luxury of his study he caught his breath.

"You're a fool," he said aloud to himself.

"Yes, sir," said the obliging Parker.

That night many men came furtively to the flat in Queen's Gate, and
Johnny, after admitting the first of these, called Parker into his small
dining-room.

"Parker, I am told that during my absence in the country even staid men
have acquired the habit of attending cinema performances?"

"Well, sir, I like the pictures myself," admitted Parker.

"Then go and find one that lasts until eleven o'clock," said Johnny.

"You mean, sir--?"

"I mean I don't want you here to-night."

Parker's face fell, but he was a good servant.

"Very good, sir," he said, and went out, wondering sorrowfully what
desperate plans his master was hatching.

At half-past ten the last of the visitors took his leave.

"I'll see Peter to-morrow," said Johnny, tossing the end of his cigarette
into the hall fireplace. "You know nothing of this wedding, when it is to
take place?"

"No, Captain. I only know Peter slightly."

"Who is the bridegroom?"

"A swell, by all accounts--Peter is a plausible chap, and he'd pull in
the right kind. A major in the Canadian Army, I've heard, and a very nice
man. Peter can catch mugs easier than some people can catch flies--"

"Peter was never a mug-catcher," said John Gray sharply.

"I don't know," said the other. "There's one born every minute."

"But they take a long time to grow up, and the women get first pluck,"
said Johnny good-humouredly.

Parker, returning at 11.15, found his master sitting before a fireplace
which was choked with burnt paper.

Johnny reached Horsham the next afternoon soon after lunch, and none who
saw the athletic figure striding up the Horsham Road would guess that
less than two days before he had been the inmate of a convict cell.

He had come to make his last desperate fight for happiness. How it would
end, what argument to employ, he did not know. There was one, and one
only, but that he could not use.

As he turned into Down Road he saw two big limousines standing one behind
the other, and wondered what social event was in progress.

Manor Hill stood aloof from its suburban neighbours, a sedate, red-brick
house, its walls gay with clematis. Johnny avoided the front gates and
passed down a side path which, as he knew, led to the big lawn behind,
where Peter loved to sun himself at this hour.

He paused as he emerged into the open. A pretty parlourmaid was talking
to an elderly man, who wore without distinction the livery of a butler.
His lined face was puckered uncomfortably, and his head was bent in a
listening attitude, though it was next to impossible for a man totally
deaf to miss hearing all that was said.

"I don't know what sort of houses you've been in, and what sort of people
you've been working for, but I can tell you that if I find you in my room
again, looking in my boxes, I shall tell Mr. Kane. I won't have it, Mr.
Ford!"

"No, miss," said the butler, huskily.

It was not, Johnny knew, emotion which produced the huskiness. Barney
Ford had been husky from his youth--probably squawked huskily in his
cradle.

"If you are a burglar and trying to keep your hand in, I understand it,"
the girl continued hotly, "but you're supposed to be a respectable man! I
won't have this underhand prying and sneaking. Understand that! I won't
have it!"

"No, miss," said the hoarse Barney. John Gray surveyed the scene with
amusement. Barney he knew very well. He had quitted the shadier walks of
life when Peter Kane had found it expedient to retire from his hazardous
calling. Ex-convict, ex-burglar and ex-prizefighter, his seamy past was
in some degree redeemed by his affection for the man whose bread he ate
and in whose service he pretended to be, though a worse butler had never
put on uniform than Barney.

The girl was pretty, with hair of dull gold and a figure that was both
straight and supple. Now her face was flushed with annoyance, and the
dark eyes were ablaze. Barney certainly had prying habits, the heritage
of his unregenerate days. Other servants had left the house for the same
reason, and Peter had cursed and threatened without wholly reforming his
servitor.

The girl did not see him as she turned and flounced into the house,
leaving the old man to stare after her. "You've made her cross," said
John, coming up behind him. Barney Ford spun round and stared. Then his
jaw dropped. "Good Lord, Johnny, when did you come down from college?"
The visitor laughed softly.

"Term ended yesterday," he said. "How is Peter?"

Before he replied the servant blew his nose violently, all the time
keeping his eye upon the newcomer. "How long have you bin here?" he
asked at length. "I arrived at the tail-end of your conversation," said
Johnny, amused. "Barney, you haven't reformed!" Barney Ford screwed up
his face into an expression of scorn. "They think you're a hook even if
you ain't one," he said. "What does she know about life? You ain't seen
Peter? He's in the house; I'll tell him in a minute. He's all right. All
beans and bacon about the girl. That fellow adores the ground she walks
on. It's not natural, being fond of your kids like that. I never was." He
shook his head despairingly. "There's too much lovey-dovey and not enough
strap nowadays. Spare the rod and spoil the child, as the good old poet
says."

John Grey turned his head at the sound of a foot upon a stone step. It
was Peter, Peter radiant yet troubled. Straight as a ramrod, for all his
sixty years and white hair. He was wearing a morning coat and pearl-grey
waistcoat--an innovation. For a second he hesitated, the smile struck
from his-face, frowning, and then he came quickly his hand outstretched.

"Well, Johnny boy, had a rotten time?"

His hand fell on the young man's shoulder, his voice had the old pleasure
of pride and affection.

"Fairly rotten," said Johnny; "but any sympathy with me is wasted.
Personally, I prefer Dartmoor to Parkhurst--it is more robust, and there
are fewer imbeciles."

Peter took his arm and led him to a chair beneath the big Japanese
umbrella planted on the lawn. There was something in his manner, a
certain awkwardness which the newcomer could not understand.

"Did you meet anybody...there...that I know, Johnny boy?"

"Legge," said the other laconically, his eyes on Peter's face.

"That's the man I'm thinking of. How is he?"

The tone was careless, but Johnny was not deceived. Peter was intensely
interested.

"He's been out six months--didn't you know?"

The other's face clouded.

"Out six months? Are you sure?"

Johnny nodded.

"I didn't know."

"I should have thought you would have heard from him," said John quietly.
"He doesn't love you!"

Peter's slow smile broadened.

"I know he doesn't; did you get a chance of talking with him?"

"Plenty of chances. He was in the laundry, and he straightened a couple
of screws so that he could do what he liked. He hates you, Peter. He says
you shopped him."

"He's a liar," said Peter calmly. "I wouldn't shop my worst enemy, Ho
shopped himself. Johnny, the police get a reputation for smartness, but
the truth is, every other criminal arrests himself. Criminals aren't
clever. They wear gloves to hide fingerprints, and then write their names
in the visitors book. Legge and I smashed the strong-room of the Orsonic
and got away with a hundred and twenty thousand pounds in American
currency--it was the last job I did. It was dead easy getting away, but
Emanuel started boasting what a clever fellow he was; and he drank a bit.
An honest man can drink and wake up in his own bed. But a crook who
drinks says good morning to the gaoler."

He dropped the subject abruptly, and again his hand fell on the younger
man's shoulder.

"Johnny, you're not feeling sore, are you?"

Johnny did not answer.

"Are you?"

And now the fight was to begin. John Gray steeled himself for the forlorn
hope.

"About Marney? No, only--"

"Old boy, I had to do it." Peter's voice was urgent, pleading. "You know
what she is to me. I liked you well enough to take a chance, but after
they dragged you I did some hard thinking. It would have smashed me,
Johnny, if she'd been your wife then. I couldn't bear to see her cry even
when she was quite a little baby. Think what it would have meant to her.
It was bad enough as it was. And then this fellow came along--a good,
straight, clean, cheery fellow--a gentleman. And well, I'll tell you the
truth--I helped him. You'll like him. He's the sort of man anybody would
like. And she loves him, Johnny."

There was a silence.

"I don't bear him any ill-will. It would be absurd if I did. Only, Peter,
before she marries I want to say--"

"Before she marries?" Peter Kane's voice shook. "John, didn't Barney tell
you? She was married this morning."

CHAPTER HI

"MARRIED?"

Johnny repeated the word dully.

Marney married...! It was incredible, impossible to comprehend. For a
moment the stays and supports of existence dissolved into dust, and the
fabric of life fell into chaos.

"Married this morning, Johnny. You'll like him. He isn't one of us, old
boy. He's as straight as...well, you understand, Johnny boy? I've
worked for her and planned for her all these years; I'd have been rotten
if I took a chance with her future."

Peter Kane was pleading, his big hand on the other's shoulder, his fine
face clouded with anxiety and the fear that he had hurt this man beyond
remedy.

"I should have wired..."

"It would have made no difference," said Peter Kane almost doggedly.
"Nothing could have been changed, Johnny, nothing. It had to be. If you
had been convicted innocently--I don't say you weren't--I couldn't have
the memory of your imprisonment hanging over her; I couldn't have endured
the uncertainty myself. Johnny, I've been crook all my life--up to
fifteen years ago. I take a broader view than most men because I am what
I am. But she doesn't know that. Craig's here to-day--"

"Craig--the Scotland Yard man?"

Peter nodded, a look of faint amusement in his eyes.

"We're good friends; we have been for years. And do you know what he said
this morning? He said, 'Peter, you've done well to marry that girl into
the straight way,' and I know he's right."

Johnny stretched back in the deep cane chair, his hand shading his eyes,
as though he found the light too strong for him.

"I'm not going to be sorry for myself," he said with a smile, and
stretching out his hand, gripped Kane's arm. "You'll not have another
vendetta on your hands, Peter. I have an idea that Emanuel Legge will
keep you busy--"

He stopped suddenly. The ill-fitted butler had made a stealthy
appearance.

"Peter," he began in his husky whisper, "he's come. Do you want to see
him?"

"Who?"

"Emanuel Legge--uglier than ever."

Peter Kane's face set, mask-like.

"Where is Miss Marney--Mrs. Floyd?"

"She's gettin' into her weddin' things and falderals for the
photogrypher," said Barney. "She had 'em off once, but the photogrypher's
just come, and he's puttin' up his things in the front garden. I sez to
Marney--"

"You're a talkative old gentleman," said Peter grimly. "Send Emanuel
through. Do you want to see him, Johnny?"

John Gray rose.

"No," he said. "I'll wander through your alleged rosary. I want nothing
to remind me of The Awful Place, thank you."

Johnny had disappeared through an opening of the box hedge at the lower
end of the lawn when Barney returned with the visitor.

Mr. Emanuel Legge was a man below middle height, thin of body and face,
grey and a little bald. On his nose perched a pair of horn-rimmed
spectacles. He stood for a second or two surveying the scene, his chin
lifted, his thin lips drawn in between his teeth. His attire was shabby,
a steel chain served as a watch-guard, and, as if to emphasise the
rustiness of his wrinkled suit, he wore boots that were patently new and
vividly yellow. Hat in hand, he waited, his eyes slowly sweeping the
domain of his enemy, until at last they came to rest upon his host.

It was Peter Kane who broke the deadly silence.

"Well, Emanuel? Come over and sit down."

Legge moved slowly toward his host. "Quite a swell place, Peter.
Everything of the best, eh? Trust you! Still got old Barney, I see. Has
he reformed too? That's the word, ain't it--'reformed'?"

His voice was thin and complaining. His pale blue eyes blinked coldly at
the other.

"He doesn't go thieving any more, if that is what you mean," said Peter
shortly, and a look of pain distorted the visitor's face.

"Don't use that word; it's low--"

"Let me take your hat." Peter held out his hand, but the man drew his
away.

"No, thanks. I promised a young friend of mine that I wouldn't lose
anything while I was here. How long have you been at this place, Peter?"

"About fourteen years."

Peter sat down, and the unwelcome guest followed his example, pulling his
chair round so that he faced the other squarely.

"Ah!" he said thoughtfully. "Living very comfortable, plenty to eat, go
out and come in when you like. Good way of spending fourteen years.
Better than having the key on you four o'clock in the afternoon.
Princetown's the same old place--oh, I forgot you'd never been there."

"I've motored through," said Peter coolly, deliberately, and knew that he
had touched a raw place before the lips of the man curled back in a
snarl.

"Oh, you've motored through!" he sneered. "I wish I'd known; I'd have
hung my flags out! They ought to have decorated Princetown that day.
Peter. You drove through!" he almost spat the words.

"Have a cigar?"

Emanuel Legge waved aside the invitation.

"No, thanks. I've got out of the habit--you do in fifteen years. You can
get into some, too. Fifteen years is a long time out of a life."

So Emanuel had come to make trouble, and had chosen his day well. Peter
took up the challenge.

"The man you shot would have been glad of a few--he died two years
after," he said curtly, and all the pent fury of his sometime comrade
flamed in his eyes.

"I hope he's in hell," he hissed, "the dirty flattie!" With an effort he
mastered himself. "You've had a real good time, Peter? Nice house, that
wasn't bought for nothing. Servants and whatnot and motoring through the
moor! You're clever!"

"I admit it."

The little man's hands were trembling, his thin lips twitched
convulsively.

"Leave your pal in the lurch and get away yourself, eh? Every man for
himself--well, that's the law of nature, ain't it? And if you think he's
going to squeak, send a line to the busies in charge of the case and drop
a few hundred to 'em and there you are!" He paused, but no reply came.
"That's how it's done, ain't it, Peter?"

Kane shrugged his shoulders indifferently.

"I don't know--I'm never too old to learn."

"But that's the way it's done?" insisted the man, showing his teeth
again. "That's the way you keep out of boob, ain't it?"

Peter looked at his tormentor, outwardly untroubled.

"I won't argue with you," he said.

"You can't," said the other. "I'm logical." He gazed around. "This house
cost a bit of money. What's half of two hundred thousand? I'm a bad
counter!" Peter did not accept the opening. "It's a hundred thousand,
ain't it? I got sixty thousand--you owe me forty."

"We got less than a hundred and twenty thousand pounds, if you're talking
about the ship job. You got sixty thousand, which was more than your
share. I paid it into your bank the day you went down."

Legge smiled sceptically.

"The newspapers said a million dollars," he murmured.

"You don't believe what you read in the newspapers, do you? Emanuel,
you're getting childish." Then suddenly: "Are you trying to put the
'black' on me?"

"Blackmail?" Emanuel was shocked. "There's honour amongst--friends
surely, Peter. I only want what's right and fair."

Peter laughed softly, amusedly.

"Comic, is it? You can afford to laugh at a poor old fellow who's been in
'stir' for fifteen years."

The master of Manor Hill snapped round on him.

"If you'd been in hell for fifty I should still laugh."

Emanuel was sorry for himself. That was ever a weakness of his; he said
as much.

"You wouldn't, would you? You've got a daughter, haven't you? Young?
Married to-day, wasn't she?

"Yes."

"Married money--a swell?"

"Yes. She married a good man."

"He doesn't know what you are, Peter?" Emanuel asked the question
carelessly, and his host fixed him with a steely glance.

"No. What's the idea? Do you think you'll get forty thousand that way?"

"I've got a boy. You've never sat in a damp cell with the mists of the
moor hanging on the walls and thought and thought till your heart ached?
You can get people through their children." He paused. "I could get you
that way."

In a second Peter Kane was towering above him, an ominous figure.

"The day my heart ached," he said slowly, "yours would not beat! You're
an old man, and you're afraid of death! I can see it in your eyes. I am
afraid of nothing. I'd kill you!"

Before the ferocity of voice and mien, Legge shrank farther into his
chair.

"What's all this talk about killing? I only want what's fair. Fond of
her, ain't you, Peter? I'll bet you are. They say that you're crazy about
her. Is she pretty? I don't suppose she takes after you. Young Johnny
Gray was sweet on her too. Peter, I'll get you through her--"

So far he got, and then a hand like a steel clamp fell on his neck, and
he was jerked from his chair.

Peter spoke no word but, dragging the squirming figure behind him, as if
it had neither weight nor resistance, he strode up the narrow pathway by
the side of the house, across the strip of garden, through the gate and
into the road. A jerk of his arm, and Emanuel Legge was floundering in
the dusty road.

"Don't come back, Emanuel," he said, and did not stop to listen to the
reply.

John Gray passed out of sight and hearing of the two men, being neither
curious to know Legge's business nor anxious to renew a prison
acquaintance.

Below the box hedge were three broad terraces, blazing with colour,
blanketed with the subtle fragrance of flowers. Beyond that, a sloping
meadow leading to a little river. Peter had bought his property wisely. A
great cedar of Lebanon stood at the garden's edge; to the right, massed
bushes were patched with purple and heliotrope blooms.

He sat down on a marble seat, glad of the solitude which he shared only
with a noisy thrush and a lark invisible in the blue above him.

Marney was married. That was the beginning and the end of him. But happy.
He recognised his very human vanity in the instant doubt that she could
be happy with anybody but him.

How dear she was! And then a voice came to him, a shrill, hateful voice.
It was Legge's--he was threatening the girl, and Johnny's blood went
cold. Here was the vulnerable point in Peter Kane's armour; the crevice
through which he could be hurt.

He started to his feet and went up the broad steps of the terrace, three
at a time. The garden was empty, save for Barney setting a table. Kane
and his guest had disappeared. He was crossing the lawn when he saw
something white shining in the gloom beyond the open French windows of a
room. Something that took glorious shape. A girl in bridal white, and her
hands were outstretched to him. So ethereal, so unearthly was her beauty,
that at first he did not recognise her.

"Johnny!"

A soldierly figure was at her side, Peter Kane was behind her, but he had
no eyes for any but Marney.

She came flying toward him, both his hands were clasped in her warm palm.

"Oh, Johnny...Johnny!"

Then he looked up into the smiling face of the bridegroom, that fine,
straight man to whom Peter had entrusted his beloved girl. For a second
their eyes met, the debonair Major Floyd and his. Not by a flicker of
eyelash did Johnny Gray betray himself.

The husband of the woman he loved was Jeff Legge, forger and traitor, the
man sworn with his father to break the heart of Peter Kane.

CHAPTER IV

HAD he betrayed himself, he wondered? All his willpower was exercised to
prevent such a betrayal. Though a tornado of fury swept through and
through him, though he saw the face of the man distorted and blurred, and
brute instinct urged his limbs to savage action, he remained outwardly
unmoved. It was impossible for the beholder to be sure whether he had
paled, for the sun and wind of Dartmoor had tanned his lean face the
colour of mahogany. For a while so terrific was the shock that he was
incapable of speech or movement.

"Major Floyd" was Jeff Legge! In a flash he realised the horrible plot.
This was Emanuel's revenge--to marry his crook son to the daughter of
Peter Kane.

Jeff was watching him narrowly, but by no sign did Johnny betray his
recognition. It was all over in a fraction of a second. He brought his
eyes back to the girl, smiling mechanically. She seemed oblivious to her
surroundings. That her new husband stood by, watching her with a gleam of
amusement in his eyes, that Peter was frowning anxiously, and that even
old Barney was staring open-mouthed, meant nothing. "Johnny, poor Johnny!
You aren't hating me, are you?"

John smiled and patted the hand that lay in his. "Are you happy?" he
asked in a low voice.

"Yes, oh yes, I'm happily married--that's what you mean, isn't it? I'm
very happy...Johnny, was it terrible? I haven't stopped thinking about
you, I haven't. Though I didn't write...after...Don't you think I
was a beast? I know I was. Johnny, didn't it hurt you, old boy?"

He shook his head.

"There's one thing you mustn't be in Dartmoor--sorry for yourself. Are
you happy?"

She did not meet his eyes.

"That is twice you've asked in a minute! Isn't it disloyal to say that I
am? Don't you want to meet Jeffrey?"

"Why, of course, I want to meet Jeffrey."

He crossed to the man, and Jeff Legge watched him.

"I want you to meet Captain Gray, a very old friend of mine," she said
with a catch in her voice.

Jeffrey Legge's cold hand gripped his.

"I'm glad to meet you, Captain Gray."

Had he been recognised? Apparently not, for the face turned to him was
puckered in an embarrassed smile.

"You've just come back from East Africa, haven't you? Get any shooting?"

"No, I didn't do any shooting," said Johnny.

"Lots of lions, aren't there?" said Jeff.

The lips of the ex-convict twitched.

"In that part of the country where I was living, the lions are singularly
tame," he said dryly.

"Marney, darling, you're glad to see Gray on your wedding day, aren't
you?--it was good of you to come, Gray. Mrs. Floyd has often spoken about
you."

He put his arm about the girl, his eyes never leaving Johnny's face. He
designed to hurt--to hurt them both. She stood rigidly, neither yielding
nor resisting, tense, breathless, pale. She knew! The realisation came to
John Gray like a blow. She knew that this man was a liar and a villain.
She knew the trick that had been played upon her father!

"Happy, darling?"

"Very--oh, very."

There was a flutter in her voice, and now Johnny was hurt and the fight
to hold himself in became terrific. It was Peter who for the moment saved
the situation.

"Johnny, I want you to know this boy. The best in the world. And I want
you to think with me that he's the best husband in the world for Marney."

Jeff Legge laughed softly. "Mr. Kane, you embarrass me terribly. I'm not
half good enough for her--I'm just an awkward brute that doesn't deserve
my good luck."

He bent and kissed the white-faced girl. Johnny did not take his eyes
from the man. "Happy, eh? I'll bet you're happy; you rascal," chuckled
Kane.

Marney pulled herself away from the encircling arm. "Daddy, I don't think
this is altogether amusing Johnny."

Her voice shook. The man from Dartmoor knew that she was on the verge of
tears.

"It takes a lot to bore me." John Gray found his voice. "Indeed, the
happiness of young people--I feel very old just now--is a joy. You're a
Canadian, Major Floyd?"

"Yes--a French Canadian, though you wouldn't guess that from my name. My
people were habitant and went west in the 'sixties--to Alberta and
Saskatchewan, long before the railway came. You ought to go to Canada;
you'd like it better than the place you've been to."

"I'm sure I should."

Peter had strolled away, the girl's arm in his.

"No lions in Canada, tame or wild," said Jeff, regarding him from under
his drooped eyelids. Gray had lit a cigarette. He was steady now, steady
of nerve and hand.

"I should feel lonely without lions," he said coolly, and then: "If you
will forgive my impertinence. Major Floyd, you have married a very nice
girl."

"The very, very best."

"I would go a long way to serve her--a long way. Even back to the lions."
Their eyes met. In the bridegroom's was a challenge; in Johnny Gray's
cold murder. Jeff Legge's eyes fell and he shivered. "I suppose you
like--hunting?" he said. "Oh, no, you said you didn't. I wonder why a man
of your--er--character went abroad?"

"I was sent," said Johnny, and he emphasised every word. "Somebody had a
reason for sending me abroad--they wanted me out of the way. I should
have gone, anyhow, but this man hurried the process."

"Do you know who it was?"

The East African pretence had been tacitly dropped. Jeff might do so
safely, for he would know that the cause of John Gray's retirement from
the world was no secret.

"I don't know the man. He was a stranger to me. Very few people know him
personally. In his set--our set--not half a dozen people could identify
him. Only one man in the police knows him--"

"Who is that?" interrupted the other quickly.

"A man named Reeder. I heard that in prison--of course you knew I had
come from Dartmoor?"

Jeff nodded with a smile.

"That is the fellow who is called The Great Unknown," he said, striving
to thin the contempt from his voice. "I've heard about him in the club.
He is a very stupid person of middle age, who lives in Peckham. So he
isn't as much unknown as your mystery man."

"It is very likely," said the other. "Convicts invest their heroes and
enemies with extraordinary gifts and qualities. I only know what I have
been told. At Dartmoor they say Reeder knows everything. The Government
gave him carte blanche to find the Big Printer--"

"And has he found him?" asked Jeff Legge innocently.

"He'll find him," said Johnny. "Sooner or later there will be a squeak."

"May I be there to hear it," said Jeff Legge, and showed his white teeth
in a mirthless smile.

CHAPTER V

JOHNNY was alone in the lower garden, huddled up on a corner of the
marble bench, out of sight but not out of hearing of the guests who were
assembling on the lawn. He had to think, and think quickly. Marney knew!
But Marney had not told, and Johnny guessed why.

When had Jeff Legge told her? On the way back from the church, perhaps.
She would not let Peter know--Peter, who deemed her future assured, her
happiness beyond question. What had Jeff said? Not much, Johnny guessed.
He had given her just a hint that the charming Major Floyd she had
married was not the Major Floyd with whom she was to live.

Johnny was cool now--icy cold was a better description. He must be sure,
absolutely sure, beyond any question of doubt. There might be some
resemblance between Jeff Legge and this Major Floyd. He had only seen the
crook once, and that at a distance.

He heard the rustle of skirts and looked round quickly. It was the maid
he had seen quarrelling with Barney.

"Mr. Kane says, would you care to be in the group that is being
photographed. Captain Gray?" she asked.

He did not immediately reply. His eyes were scanning her with a new
interest.

"Tell him I'd rather not, and come back."

"Come back, sir?" she repeated in astonishment.

"Yes, I want to talk to you," said Johnny with a smile. "Have mercy on a
disgruntled guest, who can find nobody to entertain him."

She stood, hesitating. He could see the indecision in her face.

"I don't know if Mr. Kane would like that," she said, and a smile
trembled at the corner of her mouth. "Very well, I'll come back."

It was not till ten minutes later, when he judged the photograph had been
taken and the guests had gone again to the house, that she appeared,
demure but curious.

"Sit down," said Johnny. He threw away his cigarette and moved to the end
of the stone bench.

"Don't stop smoking for me, Captain Gray," she said.

"How long have you been here?" he asked.

"With Mr. Kane? About six months," she said.

"Pretty good job?" he asked carelessly.

"Oh, yes, sir, very."

"What is your name?"

"My name is Lila. Why do you ask?"

"I think you and I ought to get better acquainted, Lila," he said, and
took her unresisting hand.

Secretly she was amused; on the surface she showed some sign of being
shocked.

"I didn't know you were that type of flirting man, Mr. Gray--you're a
Captain, though, aren't you?"

"'Captain' is a purely honorary title, Lila," said Johnny. "I suppose
you'll miss your lady?"

"Yes, I shall miss her," said Lila.

"A nice girl, eh?" bantered Johnny.

"And a very nice husband," she said tartly.

"Do you think so?"

"Yes, I suppose he is a nice fellow. I don't know much about him."

"Good-looking?" suggested Johnny.

The woman shrugged her shoulders.

"I suppose he is."

"And very much in love with Miss Kane. That fellow adores her," said
Johnny. "In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen a man so much in love
with a woman."

She suppressed a sigh.

"Oh, yes, I suppose he is," she said impatiently. "Do you want me any
more, Captain Gray, because I've a lot of work to do?"

"Don't run away," said Johnny in his most gentle voice, "Weddings always
make me romantic." He took up the thread where it was interrupted. "I
don't expect the Major will have eyes for any other girl for years," he
said. "He's head over heels in love, and why shouldn't he be? I suppose,"
he said reminiscently, avoiding her eyes, "he is the sort of man who
would have had many love affairs in the past." He shrugged his shoulders.
"With the kind of girls that one picks up and puts down at pleasure."

Now a flush, deep and even, had come to her face, and her eyes held a
peculiar brightness.

"I don't know anything about Major Floyd," she said shortly, and was
rising, but his hand fell upon her arm.

"Don't run away, Lila."

"I'm not going to stay," she said with sudden vehemence. "I don't want to
discuss Major Floyd or anybody else. If you want me to talk to you--"

"I want to talk to you about the honeymoon. Can't you picture them, say,
on Lake Como, in a bower of roses? Can't you imagine him forgetting all
that's past, all the old follies, all the old girls--?"

She wrenched her arm from his grip and stood up, and her face was deadly
white.

"What are you getting at. Gray?" she asked, all the deference, all the
demureness, gone from her voice.

"I'm getting at you, Miss Lila Sain," he said, "and if you attempt to get
away from me, I'll throttle you!"

She stared at him, her breath coming quickly. "You were supposed to be a
gentleman, too," she said.

"I'm supposed to be Johnny Gray from Dartmoor. Sit down. What's the
graft, Lila?"

"I don't understand what you're talking about."

"What's the graft?" asked Johnny with deadly calm. "Jeff Legge put you
here to nose the house for him, and keep him wise as to what was going
on."

"I don't know Jeff Legge," she faltered.

"You're a liar," said Johnny ungently. "I know you, Lila. You run with
Legge and you're a cheap squeak. I've seen you a dozen times. Who is
Major Floyd?"

"Go and ask him," she said defiantly.

"Who is Major Floyd?"

The grip on her arm tightened.

"You know," she said sullenly. "It's Jeff Legge."

"Now listen, Lila. Come here." He had released her, and now he crooked
his finger. "Go and blow to Jeff, and I'll squeak on you both--you
understand that? I'll put Jeff just where I want him to be--there's a
vacant cell at Dartmoor, anyway. That gives you a twinge, doesn't it?
You're keen on Jeff?"

She did not reply.

"I'll put him where I want him to be," he repeated slowly and
deliberately, "unless you do as I tell you."

"You're going to put the 'black' on him?" she said, her lips curling.

"'Black' doesn't mean anything in my young life," said Johnny. "But I
tell you this, that I'll find Reeder and squeak the whole pageful unless
I have my way."

"What do you want?" she asked.

"I want to know where they're going, and where they're staying. I want to
know their plans for the future. Are you married to him, by any chance?"

A glance at her face gave him the answer.

"You're not? Well, you may be yet, Lila. Aren't you tired of doing his
dirty work?"

"Perhaps I am and perhaps I'm not," she replied defiantly. "You can do
nothing to him now, anyway, Johnny Gray. He's got your girl, and if you
squeaked like a garden of birds you couldn't undo what that old God-man
did this morning! Jeff's too clever for you. He'll get you, Gray--"

"If he knows," said Johnny quietly. "But if he knows, Reeder knows too.
Do you get that?"

"What are you going to do?" she asked after a silence.

"I'm having one of my little jokes," said Johnny between his teeth. "A
real good joke! It is starting now. I can't tell Peter, because he'd kill
your young man, and I have a particular objection to Peter going to the
drop. And you can't tell Jeff, because there'd be a case for a jury, and
when Jeff came out you'd be an old woman. That's not a good prospect, eh?
Now tell me all you've got to tell, and speak slowly, because I don't
write shorthand."

He whipped a small notebook from his pocket, and as she spoke,
reluctantly, sulkily, yet fearfully, he wrote rapidly. When he had
finished: "You can go now, my gentle child," he said, and she stood up,
her eyes blazing with rage.

"If you squeak, Johnny Gray, I'll kill you. I never was keen on this
marriage business--naturally. I knew old Legge wanted him to marry
Peter's daughter, because Legge wanted to get one back on him. But Jeff's
been good to me; and the day the busies come for Legge I'll come for you,
and I'll shoot you stone dead, Johnny, as God's my judge!"

"Beat it!" said Johnny tersely.

He waited till she was gone through one of the openings in the box hedge,
then passed along to the other and stopped. Peter Kane was standing in
the open, shielded from view by the thin box bush, and Peter's face was
inscrutable.

CHAPTER VI

"HALLO, Johnny! Running for the compensation stakes?"

Johnny laughed.

"You mean the maid? She is rather pretty, isn't she?"

"Very," said the other.

Had he heard? That was a question and a fear in Johnny's mind. The marble
bench was less than six feet from the bush where Peter Kane stood. If he
had been there any time--

"Been waiting long for me, Peter?" he asked.

"No! I just saw you take a farewell of Lila--very nice girl, that,
Johnny--an extraordinarily nice girl. I don't know when I've seen a
nicer. What did you find to talk about?"

"The weather, dicky-birds and the course of true love," said Johnny, as
Kane took his arm and led him across the lawn.

"Everything variable and flighty, eh?" said Peter with a little smile.
"Come and eat, Johnny. These people are going away soon. Marney is
changing now. What do you think of my new son-in-law, eh?"

His old jovial manner held. When they came into the big reception-room,
and Peter Kane's arm went round his son-in-law's shoulder, Johnny
breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God he did not know! He had sweated in
his fear of what might follow a discovery.

Thirty-six people sat down in the dining-room, and, contrary to
convention, Marney, who sat at the head of the table, was wearing her
going-away dress. John shot a quick glance at her as he came in, but she
averted her eyes. Her father sat on her left; next to him was the
clergyman who had performed the ceremony. Next came a girl friend, and
then a man, by whose side Johnny sat.

He recognised the leathery features instantly.

"Been away, Johnny?" Detective-Superintendent Craig asked the question in
a voice so carefully pitched that it did not reach any farther than the
man to whom he spoke.

The chatter and buzz of conversation, the little ripples of laughter that
ran up and down the table, did something to make the privacy of their
talk assured.

As Old Barney bent over to serve a dish, Craig gave a sidelong glance at
his companion.

"Peter's got old Barney still--keeping honest, Barney?"

"I'm naturally that way," said Barney sotto voce. "It's not meeting
policemen that keeps me straight."

The hard features of the detective relaxed.

"There are lots of other people who could say that, Barney," he said, and
when the man had passed to the next guest: "He's all right. Barney never
was a bad man. I think he only did one stretch--he wouldn't have done
that if he'd had Peter's imagination, Johnny."

"Peter's imagination?"

"I'm not referring to his present imagination, but the gift he had
fourteen--fifteen years ago. Peter was the cleverest of them all. The
brilliant way his attack was planned, the masterly line of retreat, the
wonderful alibis, so beautifully dovetailed into one another that, if we
had pinched him, he'd not only have been discharged, but he would have
got something from the poor box! It used to be the life ambition of every
young officer to catch him, to find some error of judgment, some flaw in
his plan. But it was police-proof and foolproof."

"He'd blush to hear you," said the other dryly.

"But it's true, Johnny! The clever letters he used to write, all to fool
us. He did a lot of work with letters--getting people together, luring
'em to the place he wanted 'em and where their presence served him best.
I remember how he got my chief to be at Charing Cross under the clock at
ten-past nine, and showed up himself and made him prove-his alibi!" He
laughed gently.

"I suppose," said Gray, "people would think it remarkable that you and he
are such good friends?"

"They wouldn't say it was remarkable; they'd say it was damned
suspicious!" growled the other. "Having a drink?" he said suddenly, and
pulled a wine bottle across the table.

"No, thanks--I seldom drink. We have to keep a very clear head in our
business. We can't afford to dream."

"We can't afford anything else," said Craig. "Why 'our business,' old
man? You're out of that?"

Johnny saw the girl look toward him. It was only a glance--but in that
brief flash he saw all that he feared to see--the terror, the
bewilderment, the helplessness. He set his teeth and turned abruptly to
the detective.

"How is your business?" he asked.

"Quiet."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said John Gray with mock concern, "But trade's
bad everywhere, isn't it?"

"What sort of time did you have--in the country?" asked Craig, and his
companion grinned.

"Wonderful! My bedroom wanted papering, but the service was quite good."

Craig sighed.

"Ah well, we live and learn," he said heavily. "I was sorry about it,
Johnny, very sorry. It's a misfortune, but there's no use grieving about
it. You were one of the unlucky ones. If all the people who deserved
prison were in prison--why, there wouldn't be any housing problems. I
hear there were quite a lot of stars there," Craig went on. "Harry
Becker, and young Lew Storing--why, old Legge must have been there in
your time. And another fellow--now, what's his name? The slush man--ah.
Carper, that's it. Ever see him?"

"Yes; he and I were once harnessed to the same cart."

"Ah!" said Craig encouragingly. "I'll bet you heard a few things. He'd
talk to you."

"He did."

Craig bent toward him, lowering his voice.

"Suppose I told you a certain party coppered you, and suppose I said I've
reason to believe that your copper is the man I want. Now couldn't we
exchange confidences?" he asked.

"Yes, we might squeak together, and it would sound like one of those
syncopated orchestras. But we won't. Honestly, Craig, I can't tell you
about the Big Printer. Reeder ought to know all about him!"

"Reeder!" said the other scornfully. "An amateur! All this fal-de-lal
about secret service men gets my goat! If they'd left the matter to the
police, we'd have had the Big Printer--ever seen him, Johnny?"

"No," said Johnny untruthfully.

"Reeder, eh?" said the thoughtful detective. "They used to have an office
man named Golden once, an old fellow that thought he could catch slushers
by sitting in an office and thinking hard. Reeder isn't much better by
all accounts. I saw him once, a soft fellow on the edge of senile decay!"

Craig sighed deeply, looked up and down the happy board with a bleak and
grudging glance, and then: "Just for a little heart-to-heart talk, I know
where you could get an easy 'monkey,' Johnny," he said softly.

Johnny did not smile.

"It would have to be a monkey on a stick, Craig--"

"We're both men of the world," interrupted the detective imploringly.

"Yes," said Johnny Gray, "but not the same world, Craig."

One last despairing effort the detective made, though he knew that, in
angling for a squeak, he might as well have tried Peter himself.

"The Bank of England will pay a thousand pounds for the information I
want."

"And who can afford it better?" said Johnny heartily. "Now, shut up,
Craig; somebody's going to make a speech."

It was a mild and beatific oration delivered by the officiating
clergyman. When it came to its machine-made peroration Craig, who was
intensely interested in the sonorous platitudes, looked round and saw
that his companion had gone from his side--later he saw him leaning over
Peter's chair, and Peter was nodding vigorously. Then Johnny passed
through the door.

Somebody else was watching him. The bridegroom, twiddling the stem of his
wineglass between his fingers, saw him go, and was more than ordinarily
interested. He was sufficiently curious, at any rate, to catch the eye of
the pretty maid and look significantly at the door. At that signal Lila
followed Johnny Gray. He was not in the hall, and she went out into the
road, but here saw no sign of the man she sought. There was, however,
somebody else, and she obeyed his call to her.

"Tell Jeff I want him before he starts on that honeymoon of his," snarled
Emanuel Legge, glaring at her through the glasses. "He's been talking to
that girl--I saw her face. What did he say?"

"How do I know?" she Snapped back. "You and your Jeff! I wish to the Lord
I'd never come into this job. What's the graft, anyway? That flash crook
knows all about it, Legge."

"Wh--Johnny Gray? Is he here? He did come, then?"

She nodded.

"What do you mean--'he knows'?"

"He knows Jeff--recognised him first pop," said the girl inelegantly, and
Emanuel Legge whistled.

"Have you told Jeff that he has been recognised?"

The harsh features of Emanuel Legge were drawn and tense.

"What is the use of asking me? I haven't had a word with him. He's so
taken up with this girl--"

"Forget it," said Legge with a gesture. "Tell me what this Johnny Gray
says."

"I'll tell you one thing that amused me," said the girl grimly. "He said
he'd throttle me if I squeaked! And he's got a fascinating pair of hands.
I shouldn't like to play rough with that fellow--there's no use in
tut-tutting me, Emanuel. I've told you all he said. He knows Jeff; he
must have seen him before he went 'over the Alps'."

The old man was thinking, his brow furrowed, his lips pursed.

"It's pretty bad if he guesses, because he's sweet on the girl, and
there's going to be trouble. Get Jeff out quick!"

"If you stay here, Peter will see you," she warned him. "Go down the lane
and turn into the private path. I'll send Jeff to you in the lower
garden." Nodding, he hurried away. It took her some time to find an
opportunity, but presently she signalled the man with her eyes, and he
followed her to the lawn.

"The old man's waiting down in the lower garden," she said in a low
voice. "Hurry."

"What is wrong?" he asked quickly, sensing trouble.

"He'll tell you."

With a glance round Jeff hurried on to the terrace just as his father
reached the rendezvous.

"Jeff, Gray knows."

The man drew a quick breath. "Me?" he said incredulously. "He didn't so
much as bat a lid when I met him."

Emanuel nodded.

"That fellow's hell cool--the most dangerous crook in the world. I was in
the Awful Place with him, and I know his reputation. There's nothing he's
afraid of. If he tells Peter...shoot first! Peter won't be carrying a
gun, but he's sure to have one within travelling distance--and Peter is a
quick mover. I'll cover you; I've got two boys handy that 'mind' me, and
Johnny...well, he'll get what's coming."

"What am I to do?"

Jeff Legge was biting his nails thoughtfully.

"Get the girl away--you're due to leave by car, ain't you? Get her to the
Charlton Hotel. You're supposed to stay there a week--make it a day.
Clear to Switzerland to-morrow and atop her writing. I'll fix Peter.
He'll pay."

"For what?"

"To get his girl back; forty thousand--maybe more."

Jeff Legge whistled.

"I didn't see that side of the graft before. It's a new variety of
'black'."

"It's what I choose to call it!" hissed his father. "You're in
fifty-fifty. You can have the lot so far as I care. You make that girl
eat dirt, d'ye hear? Put her right down to earth, Jeff...Peter will
pay."

"I promised Lila..." began the other, hesitant.

"Promise your Aunt Rebecca Jane!" Emanuel almost screamed. "Lila! That
trash, and you the big man, too--what are ye running? A girls' refuge
society? Get!"

"What about Gray?"

"I'll fix Gray!"

CHAPTER VII

THE old man made his way back to the road and passed quickly along until
he came to the main highway. Two men were seated in the shade of a bush,
eating bread and cheese. They came quickly enough when he whistled them,
tall, broad-shouldered men whose heavy jowls had not felt a lather-brush
for days.

"Either of you boys know Johnny Gray?" he asked.

"I was on the 'moor' with him," said one gruffly, "if he's the fellow
that went down for 'ringing in 'horses?"

Emanuel nodded.

"He's in the house, and it's likely he'll walk to the station, and likely
enough take the short cut across the fields. That'll be easy for you.
He's got to be coshed--you understand? Get him good, even if you have to
do it in the open. If there's anybody with him, get him in London. But
get him."

Emanuel came back to his observation post as the first of the cars went
into the drive. Jeff was moving quickly--and there was need.

Presently the car came out. Emanuel caught a glimpse of Jeff and the
frightened face of the girl, and rubbed his hands in an ecstasy of
satisfaction. Peter was standing in the middle of the road, watching the
car. If he knew! The smile vanished from the old man's face. Peter did
not know; he had not been told. Why? Johnny would not let her go,
knowing. Perhaps Lila was lying. You can never trust women of that kind;
they love sensation. Johnny...dangerous. The two words left one
impression. And there was Johnny, standing, one hand in pocket, the other
waving at the car as it came into brief view on the Shoreham road, as
unconcerned as though he were the least interested.

A second car went in and came out. Some guests were leaving. Now, if
Johnny had sense, he would be driven to London with a party. But Johnny
hadn't sense. He was just a poor sucker, like all cheap crooks are. He
came out alone, crossed the road and went down the narrow passage that
led to the field path.

Emanuel looked backward. His bulldogs had seen and were moving parallel
to the unconscious Gray.

From the road two paths led to the field, forming a Y where they met.
Johnny had passed the fork when he heard the footsteps behind him.
Glancing back, he saw a familiar face and did some shrewd guessing. He
could run and easily outdistance these clumsy men. He preferred to face
them, and turned, holding his malacca cane in both hands.

"'Lo, Gray," said the bigger of the men. "Where'n thunder are you going
in such a hurry? I want to talk with you, you dirty squeaker! You're the
fellow that told the deputy I was getting tobacco in through a screw!"

It was a crude invention, but good enough to justify the rough house that
was booked to follow. They carried sticks in their hands, pliable canes,
shotted at the end.

The blow missed Johnny as he stepped back, and then something long and
bright glittered in the afternoon sun. The scabbard of the sword cane he
held defensively before him, the sword, thin and deadly, was pointed to
the nearer of his enemies. They stopped, Saxon-like, appalled by the
sight of steel. "Bad boy!" said Johnny reproachfully.

The razor-pointed rapier flickered from face to face, and the men
stumbled back, getting into one another's way. One of the men felt
something wet on his cheek, and put up his hand. When it came down it was
wet and red.

"Beast, you have my brand!" said Johnny with deadly pleasantry. "Come
when I call you."

He clicked the sword back in its wooden sheath and strode away. His
indifference, his immense superiority, was almost as tremendously
impressive as his cold toleration.

"He's ice, that fellow," said the man with the cut cheek. A sob of rage
softened the rasp of his voice. "By...I'll kill him for that!"

But he made no attempt to follow, and his companion was glad.

John Gray increased his pace, and after a while emerged into the
outskirts of the town. Here he found a Ford cab and reached the station
in time to see the train pull out. He had made a mistake; the time-table
had been changed that day, but in half an hour there was a fast train
from Brighton that stopped only at Horsham.

He crossed the station yard to an hotel and was in the telephone booth
for a quarter of an hour before he emerged, his collar limp, perspiration
streaming down his face.

There was no sign of a familiar face when he came back to the platform.
He expected to see Emanuel eventually, and here he was not disappointed,
for Emanuel arrived a few minutes before the Brighton train came in.

Officially, it was their first meeting since they had been members of the
same farm gang at Dartmoor, and Legge's expression of surprise was
therefore appropriate.

"Why, if it isn't Gray! Well, fancy meeting you, old man! Well, this is a
surprise! When did you come out?"

"Cease your friendly badinage," said Johnny shortly. "If we can get an
empty compartment, I've got a few words to say to you, Emanuel."

"Been down to the wedding?" asked the old man slyly. "Nice girl, eh? Done
well for herself? They tell me he's a Canadian millionaire. Ain't that
Peter's luck! That fellow would fall off rock and drop in feathers, he's
that lucky."

Johnny made no answer. When the train stopped and he found himself
opposite a first-class carriage, he opened the door and Emanuel hopped
in.

"If you're short of money--" began Legge.

"I'm not," said the other curtly. "I'm short of nothing except bad
company. Now listen, Emanuel,"--the train was puffing slowly from the
station when he spoke again--"I'm going to give you a chance."

The wide-eyed astonishment of Emanuel Legge was very convincing, but
Johnny was not open to conviction at the moment.

"I don't get you, Johnny," he said. "What's all this talk about giving me
a chance? Have you been drinking?"

Johnny had seated himself opposite the man, and now he leant forward and
placed his hand upon the other's knee.

"Emanuel," he said gently, "call off that boy, and there'll be no squeak.
Take that wounded fawn look from your face, because I haven't any time
for fooling. You call off Jeff and send the girl back home to-night, or I
squeak. Do you understand that?"

"I understand your words, Johnny Gray, but what they mean is a mystery to
me." Emanuel Legge shook his head. "What boy are you talking about? I've
only got one boy, and he's at college--"


"You're a paltry old liar. I'm talking about Jeff Legge, who married
Peter's daughter to-day. I've tumbled to your scheme, Emanuel. You're
getting even with Peter. Well, get even with him, but try some other
way."

"She's married him of her own free will," began the man. "There's no law
against that, is there, Johnny? Fell in love with him right on the spot!
That's what I like to see, Johnny--young people in love."

If he hoped to rattle his companion he was disappointed.

"Now he can unmarry of his own free will," said Johnny calmly. "Listen to
me, Emanuel Legge. When you arrive in London, you'll go straight away to
the Charlton Hotel and talk very plainly to your son. He, being a
sensible man, will carry out your instructions--"

"Your instructions," corrected Emanuel, his mouth twisted in a permanent
smile. "And what happens if I don't, Johnny?"

"I squeak," said Johnny, and the smile broadened.

"They are married, old man. You can't divorce 'em. You can turn a brown
horse into a black 'un, but you can't turn Mrs. Jeffrey Legge into Miss
Marney Kane, clever as you are."

Johnny leant forward.

"I can turn Mr. Jeffrey Legge into Dartmoor Jail," he said unpleasantly,
"and that's what I propose to do."

"On what charge?" Emanuel raised his eyebrows. "Give us a little
rehearsal of this squeal of yours, Gray."

"He's the Big Printer," said Johnny, and the smile slowly dissolved. "The
Government has spent thousands to catch him; they've employed the best
secret service men in the world to pull him down, and I can give them
just the information they want. I know where his stuff is planted. I know
where it is printed; I know at least four of his agents. You think Jeff's
secret is his own and yours, but you're mistaken, Emanuel. Craig knows
he's the Big Printer; he told me so at lunch. All he wants is evidence,
and the evidence I can give him. Old Reeder knows--you think he's a fool,
but he knows. I could give him a squeak that would make him the cleverest
lad in the world."

Emanuel Legge licked his dry lips.

"Going in for the 'con business, Johnny?" he asked banteringly. There was
no amusement in his voice. "What a confidence man you'd make! You look
like a gentleman, and talk like one. Why, they'd fall for you and never
think twice! But that confidence stuff doesn't mean anything to me,
Johnny. I'm too old and too wide to be bluffed--"

"There's no bluff here," interrupted Johnny. "I have got your boy like
that!" He held out his hand and slowly clenched it.

For fully five minutes Emanuel Legge sat huddled in a corner of the
compartment, staring out upon the flying scenery.

"You've got him like that, have you, Johnny boy?" he said gently. "Well,
there's no use deceiving you, I can see. Slush is funny stuff--they call
it 'phoney 'in America. Did you know that? I guess you would, because
you're well educated. But it's good slush, Johnny. Look at this. He's a
note. Is it good or bad?"

His fingers had gone into his waistcoat pocket and withdrew a thin pad of
paper an inch square. Fold by fold he opened it out and showed a
five-pound note. He caressed the paper with finger and thumb. The eyes
behind the powerful glasses gleamed; the thin-lined face softened with
pride.

"Is it good or bad, Johnny?"

Though the day was bright and hot, and not a cloud was in the sky, the
four electric lamps in the carriage lit up suddenly. In the powerful
light of day they seemed pale ghosts of flame, queerly dim. As the
sunshine fell upon them their shadows were cast upon the white cornice of
the carriage.

"There's a tunnel coming," said Emanuel. "It will give you a chance of
seeing them at their best--feel 'em, Johnny! The real paper; bankers have
fallen for 'em...."

With a roar the train plunged into the blackness of the tunnel. Emanuel
stood with his back to the carriage door, the note held taut between his
hands.

"There's only one flaw--the watermark. I'm giving away secrets, eh?
Look!"

He stretched his arms up until he held the note against one of the
bracket lamps. To see, John Gray had to come behind him and peer over his
shoulder. The thunder of the train in the narrow tunnel was almost
deafening.

"Look at the 'F'," shouted Emanuel. "See...that 'F' in 'Five'--it's
printed too shallow...."

As Johnny bent forward the old man thrust at him with his shoulder, and
behind that lurch of his was all the weight and strength of his body.
Taken by surprise, John Gray was thrown from his balance. He staggered
back against the carriage door, felt it give and tried to recover his
equilibrium. But the thrust was too well timed. The door flew open, and
he dropped into the black void, clutching as he did so the window ledge.
For a second he swayed with the in and out swinging of the door. Then
Legge's clenched fist hammered down on his fingers, and he dropped...

CHAPTER VIII

HE struck a layer of thick sand and turned a complete somersault. The
wall of the tunnel caught and almost dislocated his arm, and he rebounded
toward the whirling wheels. One wheel flicked him back against the wall,
and he slid, his arms covering his face, the flint ballast of the road
ripping his sleeves to ribbons....

He was alive. The train had passed. He saw the red tail-lights closing to
one another. Gingerly he moved first one leg and then the other; then he
rolled over toward the wall and lay on his back without further movement.
His heart was pounding furiously; he felt a soreness working through the
numb overlay of shock. Shock...shock sometimes killed men. His heart
was going faster yet; he experienced a horrible nausea, and he found
himself trembling violently.

The proper thing to do was to inject a solution of gum-acacia into his
veins (his thoughts were curiously well ordered). Doctors did that; he
remembered the doctor telling him at Dartmoor.

But there was no gum-acacia to be had....Ten minutes later he lifted
his body on his elbow and struggled to a sitting position. His head swam,
but it did not ache; his arms...he felt them carefully. They were
very sore, but no bones were broken.

A roadman at the exit of the tunnel nearly dropped with amazement as a
grimy young man whose clothes were in rags emerged, limping.

"I fell out," said Johnny. "Can you tell me if there is anywhere I can
hire a car?"

The roadman was going off duty and was willing to act as guide. Johnny
hobbled up the steep slopes of the railway cutting, and with the
assistance of the interested workman, traversed a wide field to the road.
And then came a blessed sportsman on his way back from Gatwick Races, and
he was alone in his car.

At first he looked suspicious at the bruised and ragged figure that had
held him up. In the end he flung open the door by his side.

"Step up," he said.

To the railway worker Johnny had a few words to say.

"Here's five," he said. "Two for your help and three to stop your
talking. I don't want this business to be reported, you understand? The
truth is, I had been looking on the wine when it was red and gaveth its
colour aright."

Johnny had evidently touched a sympathetic chord.

"You mean you was boozed?" said the man. "You can trust me."

The angel who drove him to London was not a talkative angel. Beyond
expressing the wish that something drastic had happened to him before he
went racing, and the advancement of his view that all racing was crooked
and all jockeys thieves, he contributed little to the entertainment of
his passenger, and the passenger was glad.

At the first cab-rank they struck--it was in Sutton--Johnny insisting
upon alighting.

"I'll take you home if you like," said his gloomy benefactor.

Gently the other declined.

"My name is Lawford," said the motorist in a sudden outburst of
confidence. "I've got an idea I know your face. Haven't I seen you on the
track?"

"Not for some time," said Johnny.

"Rather like a fellow I once met...well, introduced to...fellow
named Gay or Gray...regular rascal. He got time."

"Thanks," said Johnny, "that was I!" and the hitherto reticent Mr.
Lawford became almost conversational in his apologies.

The young man finished the journey in a Sutton taxi and reached Queen's
Gate late in the afternoon. Parker, who opened the door to him, asked no
questions. "I have laid out another suit for you, sir," he returned to
the study to say--the only oblique reference he made to his employer's
disorder.

As he lay in a hot bath, soaking the stiffness out of his limbs, Johnny
examined his injuries. They were more or less superficial, but he had had
a terribly narrow escape from death, and he was not wholly recovered from
the violence of it. Emanuel had intended his destruction. The attempt did
not surprise him. Men of Legge's type worked that way. He met them in
Dartmoor. They would go to a killing without fire of rage or frenzy of
despair. Once he had seen a convict select with deliberation and care a
large jagged stone and drop it upon the head of a man working in the
quarry below. Fortunately, a warder had seen the act, and his shout saved
the intended victim from mutilation. The assailant had only one excuse.
The man he had attacked had slighted him in some way.

In the hearts of these men lived a cold beast. Johnny often pictured it,
an obscene shape with pale, lidless eyes and a straight slit of a mouth.
He had seen the beast staring at him from a hundred distorted faces, had
heard its voice, had seen its hatefulness expressed in actions that he
shivered to recall. Something of the beast had saturated into his own
soul.

When he came from his bath, the masseur whom Parker had summoned was
waiting, and for half an hour he groaned under the kneading hands.

The evening newspaper that Parker procured contained no news of the
"accident "--Emanuel was hardly likely to report the matter, even for his
own protection. There were explanations he could offer--Johnny thought of
several.

Free from the hands of the masseur, he rested in his dressing-gown.

"Has anybody called?" he asked.

"A Mr. Reeder, sir."

Johnny frowned.

"Mr. Reeder?" he repeated. "What did he want?"

"I don't know, sir. He merely asked for you. A middle-aged man, with
rather a sad face," said Parker. "I told him you were not at home, and
that I would take any message for you, but he gave none."

His employer made no reply. For some reason, the call of the mysterious
Mr. Reeder worried him more than the memory of the tragic happening of
that afternoon, more, for the moment, than the marriage of Marney Kane.

CHAPTER IX

MARNEY made her journey to London that afternoon in almost complete
silence. She sat in a corner of the limousine, and felt herself separated
from the man she had married by a distance which was becoming
immeasurable. Once or twice she stole a timid glance at him, but he was
so preoccupied with his thoughts that he did not even notice. They were
not pleasant thoughts, to judge by his unchanging scowl. All the way up
he nibbled at his nails; a wrinkle between his eyes.

It was not until the big car was bowling across one of the river bridges
that the strain was relieved, and he turned his head, regarding her
coldly.

"We're going abroad to-morrow," he said, and her heart sank.

"I thought you were staying in town for a week, Jeff," she asked, trouble
in her eyes. "I told father--"

"Does it matter?" he said roughly, and then she found courage to ask him
a question that had been in her mind during that dreary ride.

"Jeff, what did you mean this morning, on the way back from the
church...? You frightened me."

Jeff Legge chuckled softly.

"I frightened you, did I?" he sneered. "Well, if that's all that's going
to happen to you, you're a lucky girl!"

"But you're so changed..." she was bewildered. "I--I didn't want to
marry you...I thought you wanted...and father was so very
anxious..."

"Your father was very anxious that you should marry a man in good society
with plenty of money," he said, emphasising every word. "Well, you've
married him, haven't you? When I told you this morning that I'd got your
father like that "--he put out his thumb suggestively--"I meant it. I
suppose you know your father's a crook?"

The beautiful face flushed and went pale again.

"How dare you say that?" she asked, her voice trembling with anger. "You
know it isn't true. You know!"

Jeffrey Legge closed his eyes wearily. "There's a whole lot of
revelations coming to you, my good girl," he said, "but I guess we'd
better wait till we reach the hotel."

Silence followed, until the car drew up before the awning of the
Charlton, and then Jeff became his smiling, courteous self, and so
remained until the door of their sitting-room closed upon them.

"Now, you've got to know something, and you can't know it too soon," he
said, throwing his hat upon a settee. "My name isn't Floyd at all. I'm
Jeffrey Legge. My father was a convict until six months ago. He was put
in prison by Peter Kane."

She listened, open-mouthed, stricken dumb with amazement and fear.

"Peter Kane is a bank robber--or he was till fifteen years ago, when he
did a job with my father, got away with a million dollars, and squeaked
on his pal."

"Squeaked?" she said, bewildered.

"Your father betrayed him," said Jeffrey patiently. "I'm surprised that
Peter hasn't made you acquainted with the technical terms of the
business. He squeaked on his pal, and my father went down for twenty
years."

"It is not true," she said indignantly. "You are inventing this story. My
father was a broker. He never did a dishonest thing in his life. And if
he had, he would never have betrayed his friend!"

The answer seemed to amuse Legge.

"Broker, was he? I suppose that means he's a man who's broken into
strong-rooms? That's the best joke I've heard for a long time! Your
father's crook! Johnny knows he's crook. Craig knows he's crook. Why in
hell do you think a broker should be a pal of a 'busy'? And take that
look off your face--a 'busy' is a detective. Peter has certainly
neglected your education!"

"Johnny knows?" she said, horror-stricken. "Johnny knows father is--I
don't believe it! All you have told me is lies. If it were so, why should
you want to marry me?"

Suddenly she realised the truth, and stood, frozen with horror, staring
back at the smiling man.

"You've guessed, eh? We've been waiting to get under Peter's skin for
years. And I guess we've got there. And now, if you like, you can tell
him. There's a telephone; call him up. Tell him I'm Jeff Legge, and that
all the wonderful dreams he has had of seeing you happy and comfortable
are gone! Phone him! Tell him you never wanted to marry me, and it was
only to make him happy that you did--you've got to break his heart,
anyway. You might as well start now."

"He'd kill you," she breathed.

"Maybe he would. And that'd be a fine idea too. We'd have Peter on the
trap. It would be worth dying for. But I guess he wouldn't kill me. At
the sight of a gun in his hands, I'd shoot him like a dog. But don't let
that stop you telling him, Marney darling."

He stretched out his hand, but she recoiled from him to horror and
loathing.

"You planned it all...this was your revenge?"

He nodded.

"But Johnny...Johnny doesn't know."

She saw the change in the man's face, that suave assurance of his vanish.

"He does know." She pointed an accusing finger at him. "He knows!"

"He knows, but he let you go, honey," said Jeff. "He's one of us, and we
never squeak. One of us!" he repeated the words mechanically.

She sat down and covered her face with her hands, and Jeffrey, watching
her, thought at first that she was crying. When she raised her face, her
eyes were dry. And, more extraordinary to him, the fear that he had seen
was no longer there.

"Johnny will kill you," she said simply. "He wouldn't let me go...like
that...if he knew. It isn't reasonable to suppose that he would, is
it?"

It was Jeff Legge's turn to be uncomfortable. Not at the menace of
Johnny's vengeance, but at her utter calmness. She might have been
discussing the matter impartially with a third person. For a moment he
lost his grip of the situation. All that she said was so obviously, so
patently logical, and instinctively he looked round as though he expected
to find Johnny Gray at his elbow. The absurdity of the situation struck
him, and he chuckled nervously.

"Johnny!" he sneered. "What do you expect Johnny to do, eh? He's just out
of 'bird'--that's jail; it is sometimes called 'boob'--I see there's a
whole lot of stuff you've got to learn before you get right into the
family ways."

He lounged toward her and dropped his hands on her shoulders.

"Now, old girl," he said, "there are two things you can do. You can call
up Peter and put him wise, or you can make the best of a bad job."

"I'll call father," she said, springing up. Before she could reach the
telephone, his arm was round her, and he had swung her back.

"You'll call nothing," he said. "There's no alternative, my little girl.
You're Mrs. Legge, and I lowered myself to marry the daughter of such a
squealing old hound! Marney, give me a kiss. You've not been very free
with your tokens of affection, and I haven't pressed you, for fear of
scaring you off. Always the considerate gentleman--that's Jeff Legge."

Suddenly she was in his arms, struggling desperately. He tried to reach
her lips, but she buried her face in his coat, until, with a savage jerk
that almost dislocated her shoulder, he had flung her at arm's distance.
She looked up at the inflamed face and shuddered.

"I've got you, Marney." His voice was hoarse with triumph. "I've got you
properly...legally. You're my wife! You realise that? No man can come
between you and me."

He pulled her toward him, caught her pale face between his hands, and
turned it up to his. With all the strength of utter horror and loathing,
she tore herself free, fled to the door, flung it open, and stood back,
wide-eyed with amazement.

In the doorway stood a tall, broad woman, with vividly red hair and a
broad, good-humoured face. From her costume she was evidently one of the
chambermaids of the hotel. From her voice she was most obviously Welsh.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Jeff. "Get out, damn you!"

"Why do you talk so at me now, look you? I will not have this bad
language. The maid of this suite I am!"

Marney saw her chance of escaping, and, running into the room, slammed
the door and locked it.

CHAPTER X

FOR a moment Jeff Legge stood, helpless with rage. Then he flung all his
weight against the door, but it did not yield. He took up the telephone,
but changed his mind. He did not want a scandal. Least of all did he wish
to be advertised as Jeffrey Legge. Compromise was a blessed word--he
knocked at the door.

"Marney, come out and be sensible," he said, "I was only joking. The
whole thing was just to try you--"

She offered no reply. There was probably a telephone in the bedroom, he
thought. Would she dare call her father?  He heard another door unlocked.
The bedroom gave on to the corridor, and he went out, to see the big
chambermaid emerging. She was alone, and no sooner was she outside the
door than it was locked upon her.

"I'll report you to the management," he said furiously. He could have
murdered her without compunction. But his rage made no impression upon
the phlegmatic Welsh woman.

"A good character I have, look you, from all my employers. To be in the
bedroom, it was my business. You shall not use bad language to me, look
you, or I will have the law on you!"

Jeffrey thought quickly. He waited in the corridor until the woman had
disappeared, then he beckoned from the far end a man who was evidently
the floor waiter.

"Go down to the office and ask the manager, with my compliments, if I can
have a second set of keys to my rooms," he said suavely. "My wife wishes
to have her own."

He slipped a bill into the man's hand, of such magnitude that the waiter
was overwhelmed.

"Certainly, sir. I think I can arrange," he said.

"And perhaps you would lend me your pass key," said Jeff carelessly.

"I haven't a pass key, sir. Only the management have that," replied the
man; "but I believe I can get you what you want."

He came back in a few minutes to the sitting-room with many apologies.
There were no duplicate sets of keys.

Jeff closed the sitting-room door on the man and locked it. Then he went
over to the bedroom door.

"Marney!" he called, and this time she answered him. "Are you going to be
sensible?"

"I think I'm being very sensible," was her reply.

"Come out and talk to me."

"Thank you, I would rather remain here."

There was a pause.

"If you go to your father, I will follow and kill him. I've got to shoot
first, you know, Marney, after what you've told me."

There was a silence, and he knew that his words had impressed her.

"Think it over," he suggested. "Take your time about it."

"Will you promise to leave me alone?" she asked.

"Why, sure, I'll promise anything," he said, and meant it. "Come out,
Marney," he wheedled. "You can't stay there all day. You've got to eat."

"The woman will bring me my dinner," was the instant reply, and Jeffrey
cursed her softly.

"All right, have it your own way," he said. "But I tell you this, that if
you don't come out to-night, there will be trouble in your happy family."

He was satisfied, even though she did not answer him, that Marney would
make no attempt to communicate with her father--that night, at least.
After that night, nothing mattered.

He got on to the telephone, but the man he sought had not arrived. A
quarter of an hour later, as he was opening his second bottle of
champagne, the telephone bell tinkled and Emanuel Legge's voice answered
him.

"She's giving me trouble," he said in a low voice, relating what had
happened.

He heard his father's click of annoyance and hastened to excuse his own
precipitancy.

"She had to know sooner or later."

"You're a fool," snarled the old man. "Why couldn't you leave it?"

"You've got to cover me here," said Jeff urgently. "If she phones to
Peter, there is going to be trouble. And Johnny--"

"Don't worry about Johnny," said Emanuel Legge unpleasantly. "There will
be no kick coming from him."

He did not offer any explanation, and Jeff was too relieved by the
assurance in his father's voice to question him on the subject.

"Take a look at the keyhole," said Emanuel, "and tell me if the key's in
the lock. Anyway, I'll send you a couple of tools, and you'll open that
door in two jiffs--but you've got to wait until the middle of the night,
when she's asleep."

Half an hour later a small package arrived by district messenger, and
Jeffrey, cutting the sealed cord, opened the little box and picked out
two curiously wrought instruments. For an hour he practised on the door
of the second bedroom leading from the saloon, and succeeded in turning
the key from the reverse side. Toward dinner-time he heard voices in
Marney's bedroom, and, creeping to the door, listened. It was the Welsh
woman, and there came to his ears the clatter of plates and cutlery, and
he smiled. He had hardly got back to his chair and his newspaper when the
telephone bell rang. It was the reception clerk.

"There's a lady to see you. She asked if you'd come down. She says it is
very important."

"Who is it?" asked Jeffrey, frowning.

"Miss Lila."

"Lila!" He hesitated. "Send her up, please," he said, and drew a heavy
velvet curtain across the door of Marney's room.

At the first sight of Peter Kane's maid he knew that she had left Horsham
in a hurry. Under the light coat she wore he saw the white collar of her
uniform.

"What's the trouble with you, Lila?" he asked.

"Where is Marney?" she asked.

He nodded to the curtained room.

"Have you locked her in?"

"To be exact, she locked herself in," said Jeff with a twisted smile.

The eyes of the woman narrowed. "Oh, it's like that, is it?" she asked
harshly. "You haven't lost much time, Jeff."

"Don't get silly ideas in your nut," he said coolly. "I told her who I
was, and there was a row--that's all there is to it. Now, what's the
trouble?"

"Peter Kane's left Horsham with a gun in his pocket, that's all," she
said, and Jeffrey paled.

"Sit down and tell me just what you mean."

"After you'd gone I went up to my room, because I was feeling mighty
bad," she said. "I've got my feelings, and there isn't a woman breathing
that can see a man go away with another girl--"

"Cut out all the sentiment and let's get right down to the facts,"
commanded Jeff.

"I'll tell it in my own way if you don't mind, Jeffrey Legge," said Lila.

"Well, get on with it," he said impatiently.

"I wasn't there long before I heard Peter in his room--it is underneath
mine--and he was talking to himself. I guess curiosity got the better of
my worry, and I went down and listened. I couldn't hear what he was
saying, and so I opened the door of his room a little bit. He had just
changed. The moment I went in he was slipping the magazine in the butt of
a Browning--I saw him put it in his coat pocket, and then I went
downstairs. After a while he came down too, and, Jeff, I didn't like the
look of his face. It was all grey and pinched, and if ever I saw a devil
in a man's eyes I saw it in Peter Kane's. I heard him order the car, and
then I went down into the kitchen, thinking he was going at once. But he
didn't leave for about half an hour."

"What was he doing?"

"He was in his own room, writing. I don't know what he was writing,
because he always uses a black blotting-pad. He must have written a lot,
because I know there were half a dozen sheets of stationery in the rack,
and when I went in after he'd left they had all gone. There was nothing
torn up in the waste-paper basket, and he'd burnt nothing, so he must
have taken all the stuff with him. I tried to get you on the phone, but
you hadn't arrived, and I decided to come up."

"How did you come up--by train or car?"

"By taxi. There wasn't a train for nearly two hours."

"You didn't overtake Peter by any chance?" She shook her head.

"I wouldn't. He was driving himself; his machine is a Spanz, and it
moves!"

Jeff bit his nails. "That gun of Peter's worries me a little," he said
after a while, "because he isn't a gunman. Wait."

He took up the telephone and again called his father, and in a few words
conveyed the story which Lila had brought.

"You'll have to cover me now," he said anxiously. "Peter knows."

A long pause. "Johnny must have told him. I didn't dream he would," said
Emanuel. "Keep to the hotel, and don't go out. I'll have a couple of boys
watching both entrances, and if Peter shows his nose in Pall Mall he's
going to be hurt."

Jeff hung up the receiver slowly and turned to the girl. "Thank you,
Lila. That's all you can do for me."

"It is not all you can do for me," said Lila. "Jeff, what is going to
happen now? I've tried to pin you down, but you're a little too shifty
for me. You told me that this was going to be one of those high-class
platonic marriages which figure in the divorce courts, and, Jeff, I'm
beginning to doubt."

"Then you're a wise woman," said Jeffrey calmly. For a moment she did not
understand the significance of the words.

"I'm a wise woman?" she repeated. "Jeff, you don't mean--"

"I'm entitled to my adventures," said Jeffrey, settling himself
comfortably in the big armchair and crossing his legs. "I have a dear
little wife, and for the moment, Lila, our little romance is finished."

"You don't mean that?" she asked unsteadily. "Jeff, you're kidding. You
told me that all you wanted was to get a share of Peter's money, and
Emanuel told me the same. He said he was going to put the 'black' on
Peter and get away with forty thousand."

"In the meantime I've got away with the girl," said Jeffrey comfortably,
"and there's no sense in kicking up a fuss, Lila. We've had a good time,
and change is everything in life."

She was on her feet now, glaring down at him.

"And have I been six months doing slavey work, nosing for you, Jeffrey
Legge, to be told that our little romance is finished?" she asked
shrilly. "You've double-crossed me, you dirty thief! And if I don't fix
you, my name's not Lila."

"It isn't," said Jeffrey. He reached for a cigar and lit it. "And never
was. Your name's Jane--that is, if you haven't been telling me lies. Now,
Lila, be an intelligent human being. I've put aside five hundred for
you--"

"Real money, I hope," she sneered. "No, you're not going to get away with
it so easy, Mr. Jeffrey Legge. You've fooled me from beginning to end,
and you either carry out your promise or I'll--"

"Don't say you'll squeak," said Jeffrey, closing his eyes in mock
resignation. "You're all squeakers. I'm tired of you! You don't think I'd
give you anything to squeak about, do you? That I'd trust you farther
than I could fling you? No, my girl, I'm four kinds of a fool, but not
that kind. You know just as much about me as the police know, or as
Johnny Gray knows. You can't tell my new wife, because she knows too. And
Peter knows--in fact, I shouldn't be surprised if somebody didn't write a
story about it in the newspapers to-morrow!"

He took out his pocket-case, opened it, and from a thick wad of notes
peeled five, which he flung on to the table. "There's your 'monkey,' and
au revoir, beauteous maiden,'" he said.

She took up the notes slowly, folded them, and slipped them into her bag.
Her eyes were burning fires, her face colourless. If she had flown at him
in a fury he would have understood, and was, in fact, prepared. But she
said nothing until she stood, the knob of the door in her hand.

"There are three men after you, Jeffrey Legge," she said, "and one will
get you. Reeder, or Johnny, or Peter--and if they fail, you look out for
me!"

And on this threat she took her departure, slamming the door behind her,
and Jeffrey settled down again to his newspaper, with the feeling of
satisfaction which comes to a man who has got through a very unpleasant
task.

CHAPTER XI

IN a long sedate road in suburban Brockley lived a man who had apparently
no fixed occupation. He was tall, thin, somewhat cadaverous, and he was
known locally as a furtive night-bird. Few had seen him in the daytime,
and the inquisitive who, by skilful cross-examination, endeavoured to
discover his business from a reticent housekeeper learnt comparatively
little, and that little inaccurate. Policemen on night duty, morning
wayfarers had seen him walking up Brockley Road in the early hours,
coming apparently from the direction of London. He was known as Mr. J. G.
Reeder. Letters in that name came addressed to him--large blue letters,
officially stamped and sealed, and in consequence it was understood in
postal circles that he held a Government position.

The local police force never troubled him. He was one of the subjects
which it was not permissible to discuss. Until the advent of Emanuel
Legge that afternoon, nobody ever remembered Mr. Reeder having a caller.

Emanuel had come from prison to the affairs of the everyday world with a
clearer perception of values than his son. He was too old a criminal to
be under any illusions. Sooner or later, the net of the law would close
upon Jeffrey, and the immunity which he at present enjoyed would be at an
end. To every graft came its inevitable lagging. Emanuel, wise in his
generation, had decided upon taking the boldest step of his career. And
that he did so was not flattering to the administration of justice; nor
could it be regarded as a tribute to the integrity of the police.

Emanuel had "straightened" many a young detective, and not a few advanced
in years. He knew the art of "dropping" to perfection. In all his life he
had only met three or four men who were superior to the well-camouflaged
bribe. A hundred here and there makes things easier for the big crook; a
thousand will keep him out of the limelight; but, once the light is on
him, not a million can disturb the inevitable march of justice. Emanuel
was working in the pre-limelight stage, and hoped for success.

If his many inquiries were truthfully answered, the police had not
greatly changed since his young days. Secret service men were new to him.
He had thought, in spite of the enormous sums allocated to that purpose
in every year's budget, that secret service was an invention of the
sensational novelist and even now, he imagined Mr. Reeder to be one who
was subsidised from the comparatively private resources of the banks
rather than from the Treasury.

It was Emanuel's action to grasp the nettle firmly. "Infighting is not
much worse than hugging," was a favourite saying of his, and once he had
located Mr. J. G. Reeder, the night-hawk--and that had been the labour of
months--the rest was easy. Always providing that Mr. Reeder was amenable
to argument.

The middle-aged woman who opened the door to him gave him an unpromising
reception.

"Mr. Reeder is engaged," she said, "and he doesn't want to see any
visitors."

"Will you kindly tell him," said Emanuel with his most winning smile and
a beam of benevolence behind his thick glasses, "that Mr. Legge from
Devonshire would like to see him on a very particular matter of
business?"

She closed the door in his face, and kept him so long waiting that he
decided that even the magic of his name and its familiar association (he
guessed) had not procured him an entry. But here he was mistaken. The
door was opened for him, closed and bolted behind him, and he was led up
a flight of stairs to the first floor.

The house was, to all appearance, well and comfortably furnished. The
room into which he was ushered, if somewhat bare and official-looking,
had an austerity of its own. Sitting behind a large writing-table, his
back to the fireplace, was a man whom he judged to be between fifty and
sixty. His face was thin, his expression sad. Almost on the end of his
nose was clipped a pair of large, circular pince-nez. His hair was of
that peculiar tint, red turning to grey, and his ears were large and
prominent, seeming to go away from his head at right angles. All this
Emanuel noted in a glance.

"Good morning, or good afternoon, Mr. Legge," said the man at the desk.
He half rose and offered a cold and lifeless hand. "Sit down, will you?"
he said wearily. "I don't as a rule receive visitors, but I seem to
remember your name. Now where have I heard it?"

He dropped his chin to his breast and looked over his spectacles
dolefully. Emanuel's expansive smile struck against the polished surface
of his indifference and rebounded. He felt for the first time the waste
of expansiveness.

"I had a little piece of information I thought I'd bring to you, Mr.
Reeder," he said. "I suppose you know that I'm one of those unfortunate
people who, through the treachery of others, have suffered imprisonment?"

"Yes, yes, of course," said Mr. Reeder in his weak voice, his chin still
bent, his pale blue eyes fixed unwaveringly on the other. "Of course, I
remember. You were the man who robbed the strong-room. Of course you
were. Legge, Legge? I seem to remember the name too. Haven't you a son?"

"I have a son, the best boy in the world," said Emanuel fervently.

There was a telephone receiver at Mr. Reeder's right hand and throughout
the interview he was polishing the black stem with the cuff of his alpaca
coat, a nervous little trick which first amused and then irritated the
caller.

"He has never been in trouble, Mr. Legge? Ah, that's a blessing," he
sighed. "So many young people get into trouble nowadays."

If there was one person whom Legge did not want to discuss it was his
son. He got off the subject as well as he could.

"I understand, Mr. Reeder, that you're doing special work for the
Government--in the police department?"

"Not in the police department," murmured the other. "No, no, certainly
not--not in the police department. I scarcely know a policeman. I see
them often in the streets, and very picturesque figures they are. Mostly
young men in the vigour and prime of youth. What a wonderful thing is
youth, Mr. Legge! I suppose you're very proud of your son?"

"He's a good boy," said Emanuel shortly, and Mr. Reeder sighed again.
"Children are a great expense," he said. "I often wonder whether I ought
to be glad that I never married. What is your son by occupation, Mr.
Legge?"

"An export agent," said Emanuel promptly.

"Dear, dear!" said the other, and shook his head. Emanuel did not know
whether he was impressed or only sympathising.

"Being in Dartmoor, naturally I met a number of bad characters," said the
virtuous Emanuel; "men who did not appeal to me, since I was perfectly
innocent and only got my stretch--lagging--imprisonment through a
conspiracy on the part of a man I've done many a good turn to--"

"Ingratitude," interrupted Mr. Reeder, drawing in his breath. "What a
terrible thing is ingratitude! How grateful your son must be that he has
a father who looks after him, who has properly educated him and brought
him up in the straight way, in spite of his own deplorable lapses!"

"Now, look here, Mr. Reeder." Emanuel thought it was time to get more
definitely to business. "I'm a very plain man, and I'm going to speak
plainly to you. It has come to my knowledge that the gentlemen you are
acting for are under the impression that my boy's got to do with the
printing of 'slush'--counterfeit notes. I was never more hurt in my life
than when I heard this rumour. I said to myself: 'I'll go straight away
to Mr. Reeder and discuss the matter with him. I know he's a man of the
world, and he will understand my feelings as a father Some people, Mr.
Reeder "--his elbows were on the table and he leant over and adopted a
more confidential tone--"some people get wrong impressions. Only the
other day somebody was saying to me: 'That Mr. Reeder is broke. He's got
three county court summonses for money owed--"

"A temporary embarrassment," murmured Mr. Reeder. "One has those periods
of financial--er--depression." He was polishing the stem of the telephone
more vigorously.

"I don't suppose you're very well paid? I'm taking a liberty in making
that personal statement, but as a man of the world you'll understand. I
know what it is to be poor. I've had some of the best society people in
my office,"--Emanuel invented the office on the spur of the moment--"the
highest people in the land, and if they've said: 'Mr. Legge, can you
oblige me with a thousand or a couple of thousand?' why, I've pulled it
out, as it were, like this."

He put his hand in his pocket and withdrew it, holding a large roll of
money fastened with a rubber band.

For a second Mr. J. G. Reeder allowed his attention to be distracted, and
surveyed the pile of wealth with the same detached interest which he had
given to Emanuel. Then, reaching out his hand cautiously, he took the
note from the top, felt it, fingered it, rustled it, and looked quickly
at the watermark.

"Genuine money," he said in a hushed voice, and handed the note back with
apparent reluctance.

"If a man is broke," said Legge emphatically, "I don't care who he is or
what he is, I say: 'Is a thousand or two thousand any good to you?"

"And is it?" asked Mr. Reeder.

"Is what?" said Emanuel, taken off his guard.

"Is it any good to him?"

"Well, of course it is," said Legge. "My point is this; a gentleman may
be very hard pressed, and yet be the most solvent person in the world. If
he can only get a couple of thousand just when he wants it--why, there's
no scandal, no appearance in court which might injure him in his job--"

"How very true! How very, very true!" Mr. Reeder seemed profoundly
touched. "I hope you pass on these wise and original statements to your
dear son, Mr. Legge?" he said. "What a splendid thing it is that he has
such a father!"

Emanuel cursed him under his breath.

"Two thousand pounds," mused Mr. Reeder. "Now, if you had said five
thousand pounds--"

"I do say five thousand," said Emanuel eagerly. "I'm not going to spoil
the ship for a ha'porth of tar."

"If you had said five thousand pounds," Mr. Reeder went on, "I should
have known that three thousand was 'slush,' or shall we say
'phoney'--because you only drew two thousand from the City and Birmingham
Bank this morning, all in hundred pound notes, series GI.19721 to 19740.
Correct me if I'm wrong. Of course, you might have some other genuine
money stowed away in your little hotel, Mr. Legge; or your dear boy may
have given you another three thousand as a sort of wedding present--I
forgot, though, a bridegroom doesn't give wedding presents, does he? He
receives them. How foolish of me! Put away your money, Mr. Legge. This
room is very draughty, and it might catch cold. Do you ever go to the
Hilly Fields? It is a delightful spot. You must come to tea with me one
Sunday, and we will go up and hear the band. It is a very inexpensive but
satisfactory method of spending two hours. As to those judgment
summonses,"--he coughed, and rubbed his nose with his long
forefinger--"those summonses were arranged in order to bring you here, I
did so want to meet you, and I knew the bait of my impecuniosity would be
almost irresistible."

Emanuel Legge sat, dumbfounded.

"Do you know a man named 'Golden'? Ah, he would be before your time. Have
you ever heard of him? He was my predecessor. I don't think you met him.
He had a great saying--set a 'brief' to catch a thief. We called a note a
'brief 'in those days. Good afternoon, Mr. Legge. You will find your way
down."

Legge rose, and with that the sad-faced man dropped his eyes and resumed
the work he had been at when the visitor had interrupted him.

"I only want to say this, Mr. Reeder---" began Legge.

"Tell my housekeeper," pleaded Reeder weakly, and he did not look up.
"She's frightfully interested in fairy stories--I think she must be
getting towards her second childhood. Good afternoon, Mr. Legge."

CHAPTER XII

EMANUEL LEGGE was half-way home before he could sort out his impressions.
He went back to the Bloomsbury Hotel where he was staying. There was no
message for him, and there had been no callers. It was now seven o'clock.
He wondered whether Jeff had restrained his impatience. Jeff must be told
and warned. Johnny Gray, dead or maimed in a hospital, had ceased to be a
factor. Peter Kane, for all his cunning and his vengefulness, might be
dismissed as a source of danger. It was Mr. J. G. Reeder who filled his
thoughts,  the bored Civil Servant with a weak voice, who had such a
surprising knowledge of things, and whose continuous pointed references
to Jeffrey filled him with unquiet. Jeffrey must clear out of the
country, and must go while the going was good. If he hadn't been such a
fool, he would have moved that night. Now, that was impossible.

Peter had not arrived at the Charlton, or the men whom Legge had set to
watch would have reported. If it had not been for the disturbing
interview he had had with Reeder, he would have been more worried about
Peter Kane; for when Peter delayed action, he was dangerous.

At eight o'clock that night, a small boy brought him a note to the hotel.
It was addressed "E. Legge," and the envelope was grimy with much
handling. Emanuel took the letter to his room and locked the door before
he opened it. It was from a man who was very much on the inside of
things, one of Jeff's shrewd but illiterate assistants, first lieutenant
of the Big Printer, and a man to be implicitly trusted.

There were six closely written pages, ill-spelt and blotted. Emanuel read
the letter a dozen times, and when he finished, there was panic in his
heart.

"Johnny Gray got out of the tunnel all right, and he's going to squeak to
Reeder," was the dramatic beginning, and there was a great deal more....

Emanuel knew a club in the West End of London, and his name was numbered
amongst the members, even in the days when he had little opportunity of
exercising his membership. It was a club rather unlike any other, and
occupied the third and fourth floor of a building, the lower floors being
in the possession of an Italian restaurateur. Normally, the proprietor of
a fairly popular restaurant would not hire out his upper floors to so
formidable a rival; but the proprietors of the club were also proprietors
of the building, the restaurant keeper being merely a tenant.

It suited the membership of the Highlow Club to have their premises a
little remote. It suited them better that no stairway led from the lower
to the upper floors. Members of the club went down a narrow passage by
the side of the restaurant entrance. From the end of the passage ran a
small elevator, which carried them to the third floor. The County
Council, in granting this concession, insisted upon a very complete fire
escape system outside the building--a command which very well suited the
members. Some there were who found it convenient to enter the premises by
this latter method and a window leading into the club was left unfastened
day and night against such a contingency.

On the flat roof of the building was a small superstructure, which was
never used by the club members; whilst another part of the building,
which also belonged exclusively to the Highlow, was the basement, to
which the restaurant proprietor had no access--much to his annoyance,
since it necessitated the building of a wine storage room in the limited
space in the courtyard behind.

Stepping out of the elevator into a broad passage, well carpeted, its
austere walls hung with etchings, Emanuel Legge was greeted respectfully
by the liveried porter who sat behind a desk within sight of the lift.
There was every reason why Emanuel should be respected at the Highlow,
for he was, in truth, the proprietor of the club, and his son had
exercised control of the place during many of the years his father had
been in prison.

The porter, who was a big ex-prize fighter, expressly engaged for the
purpose for which he was frequently required, hurried from his tiny perch
to stand deferentially before his master.

"Anybody here?" asked Legge.

The man mentioned a few names.

"Let me see the engagement book," said the other, and the man produced
from beneath the ledge of his desk a small, red book, and Emanuel turned
the pages. The old man's hand ran down the list, and suddenly stopped.

"Oh, yes," he said softly, closing the book and handing it back.

"Are you expecting anybody, Mr. Legge?" asked the porter.

"No, I'm not expecting anybody...only I wondered..."

"Mr. Jeffrey got married to-day, I hear, sir? I'm sure all the staff wish
him joy."

All the staff did not wish Mr. Jeffrey Legge joy, for neither he nor his
father were greatly popular, even in the tolerant society of the Highlow,
and moreover, strange as it may appear, very few people knew him by
sight.

"That's very good of you, very good indeed," murmured Emanuel absently.

"Are you dining here, sir?"

"No, no, I'm not dining here. I just looked in, that is all." He stepped
back into the elevator, and the porter watched it drop with pleasure. It
was half-past eight; the glow was dying in the sky, and the lights were
beginning to twinkle in the streets, as Emanuel walked steadily towards
Shaftesbury Avenue.

Providentially, he was at the corner of a side street when he saw Peter
Kane. He was near enough to note that under his thin overcoat Peter was
in evening dress. Slipping into the doorway, he watched the man pass.
Peter was absorbed in thought; his eyes were on the ground, and he had no
interest for anything but the tremendous problem which occupied his mind.

Legge came back to the corner of the street and watched him furtively.
Opposite the club, Peter stopped, looked up for a while, and passed on.
The watcher laughed to himself. That club could have no pleasant memories
for Peter Kane that night; it was in the Highlow that he had met the
"young Canadian officer" and had "rescued" him, as he had thought, from
his dangerous surroundings. There had Peter been trapped, for the
introduction of Jeff Legge was most skilfully arranged. Going into the
club one night, Peter saw, as he thought, a young, good-looking soldier
boy in the hands of a gang of cardsharpers, and the "rescued officer" had
been most grateful, and had called upon Peter at the earliest
opportunity. So simple, so very simple, to catch Peter. It would be a
more difficult matter, thought Emanuel, for Peter to catch him.

He waited until the figure had disappeared in the gloom of the evening,
and then walked back to the Avenue. This comedy over, there remained the
knowledge of stark tragedy, of danger to his boy, and the upsetting of
all his plans, and, the most dreadful of all possibilities, the snaring
of the Big Printer. This night would the battle be fought, this night of
nights would victory or defeat be in his hands, Reeder--Johnny--Peter
Kane--all opposed him, innocent of their co-operation, and in his hands a
hostage beyond price--the body and soul of Marney Legge.

He had scarcely disappeared when another person known to him came quickly
along the quiet street, turned into the club entrance, and, despite the
expostulations of the elevator man, insisted upon being taken up. The
porter had heard the warning bell and stood waiting to receive her when
the door of the elevator opened.

"Where's Emanuel?" she asked.

"Just gone," said the porter.

"That's a lie. I should have seen him if he'd just gone."

She was obviously labouring under some emotion, and the porter, an expert
on all stages of feminine emotionalism, shrewdly diagnosed the reason for
her wildness of manner and speech.

"Been a wedding to-day, hasn't there?" he asked with heavy jocularity.
"Now, Lila, what's the good of kicking up a fuss? You know you oughtn't
to come here. Mr. Legge gave orders you weren't to be admitted whilst you
were at Kane's."

"Where is Emanuel?" she asked.

"I tell you he's just gone out," said the porter in a tone of ponderous
despair. "What a woman you are! You don't believe anything!"

"Has he gone back to his hotel?"

"That's just where he has gone. Now be wise, girl, and beat it. Anybody
might be coming here--Johnny Gray was in last night, and he's a pal of
Peter's."

"Johnny knows all about me," she said impatiently. "Besides, I've left
Peter's house."

She stood undecidedly at the entrance of the open elevator, and then,
when the porter was preparing some of his finest arguments for her rapid
disappearance, she stepped into the lift and was taken down.

The Highlow was a curious club, for it had no common room. Fourteen
private dining-rooms and a large and elegantly furnished card-room
constituted the premises. Meals were served from the restaurant below,
being brought up by service lift to a small pantry. The members of the
club had not the club feeling in the best sense of the word. They
included men and women, but the chief reason for the club's existence was
that it afforded a safe and not unpleasant meeting-place for members of
the common class, and gave necessary seclusion for the slaughter of such
innocents as came within the influence of its more dexterous members. How
well its inner secrets were kept is best illustrated by the fact that
Peter Kane had been a member for twenty years without knowing that his
sometime companion in crime had any official connection with its control.
Nor was it ever hinted to him that the man who was directing the club's
activities during Emanuel's enforced absence, was his son.

Peter was a very infrequent visitor to the Highlow; and indeed, on the
occasion of his first meeting with the spurious Major Floyd, he had been
tricked into coming, though this he did not know.

The porter was busy until half-past nine. Little parties came, were
checked off in the book, and then--he looked at his watch.

"Twenty-five to ten," he said, and pushed a bell button.

A waiter appeared from the side passage.

"Put a bottle of wine in No. 13," he said.

The waiter looked at him surprised.

"No. 13?" he said, as if he could not believe his ears.

"I said it," confirmed the porter.

Jeffrey ate a solitary dinner. The humour of the situation did not appeal
to him. On his honeymoon, he and his wife were dining, a locked door
between them. But he could wait.

Again he tried the queer-shaped pliers upon the key of the second
bedroom. The key turned readily. He put the tool into his pocket with a
sense of power. The clatter of a table being cleared came to him from the
other room, and presently he heard the outer door close and a click of
the key turning. He lit his fourth cigar and stepped out on to the
balcony, surveying the crowded street with a dispassionate interest. It
was theatre time. Cars were rolling up to the Haymarket; the long queue
that he had seen waiting at the doors of the cheaper parts of the house
had disappeared; a restaurant immediately opposite was blazing with
lights; and on a corner of the street a band of ex-soldiers were playing
the overture of "Lohengrin."

Glancing down into the street, he distinguished one of the "minders" his
father had put there for his protection, and grinned. Peter could not
know; he would have been here before. As to Johnny...? Emanuel had
been very confident that Johnny presented no danger, and it rather looked
as though Emanuel's view was right. But if Peter knew, why hadn't he
come?

He strolled back to the room, looked at the girl's door and walked toward
it.

"Marney!" he called softly.

There was no answer. He knocked on the panel.

"Marney, come along. I want to talk to you. You needn't open the door. I
just wanted to ask you something."

Still there was no answer. He tried the door; it was locked.

"Are you there?" he called sharply, but she did not reply.

He pulled the pliers from his pocket, and, pushing the narrow nose into
the keyhole, gripped the end of the key and turned it. Then, flinging
open the door, he rushed in.

The room was empty, and the big bathroom that led out of the suite was
empty also. He ran to the passage door: it was locked--locked from the
outside. In a sweat of fear he flew through the saloon into the corridor,
and the first person he saw was the floor waiter.

"Madam, sir? Yes, she went out a little time ago."

"Went out, you fool? Where?" stormed Jeff.

"I don't know, sir. She just went out. I saw her going along the
corridor."

Jeff seized his hat and went down the stairs three at a time. The
reception clerk had not seen the girl, nor had any of the pages, or the
porter on the door. Oblivious to any immediate danger, he dashed out into
the street, and, looking up and down, saw the minder and called him.

"She hasn't come out this entrance. There's another in 'Pall Mall,'" he
explained. "Jimmy Low's there."

But the second man on the Pall Mall entrance had not seen her either.
Jeff went back to interview the manager.

"There is no other way out. Sir, unless she went down the service
stairs."

"It was that cursed maid, the Welsh woman," snarled Jeffrey. "Who is she?
Can I see her?"

"She went off duty this afternoon, sir," said the manager. "Is there
anything I can do? Perhaps the lady has gone out for a little walk? Does
she know London?"

Jeff did not stop to reply: he fled up the stairs, back to the room, and
made a quick search. The girl's dressing-case, which he knew had been
taken into the bedroom, was gone. Something on the floor attracted his
attention. He picked it up, and read the few scribbled lines, torn from a
notebook; and as he read, a light came into his eyes. Very carefully he
folded the crumpled sheet and put it into his pocket. Then he went back
to his sitting-room, and sat for a long time in the big arm-chair, his
legs thrust out before him, his hands deep in his trousers pockets, and
his thoughts were not wholly unpleasant.

The light was now nearly gone, and he got up. "Room thirteen," he said.
"Room thirteen is going to hold a few surprises to-night!"

CHAPTER XIII

To Parker, the valet, as he laid out Johnny's dress clothes, there was a
misfortune and a tragedy deeper than any to which Johnny had been a
spectator. Johnny, loafing into his bedroom, a long, black, ebonite
cigarette-holder between his teeth, found his man profoundly agitated.

"The buckle of your white dress waistcoat has in some unaccountable way
disappeared," he said in a hushed voice. "I'm extremely sorry, sir,
because this is the only white dress waistcoat you have."

"Be cheerful," said Johnny. "Take a happier view of life. You can tie the
tapes behind. You could even sew me together, Parker. Are you an expert
needle worker, or do you crochet?"

"My needlework has been admired, sir," said Parker complacently. "I think
yours is an excellent suggestion. Otherwise, the waistcoat will not sit
as it should. Especially in the case of a gentleman with your figure."

"Parker," said Johnny, as he began to dress leisurely, "have you ever
killed a man?"

"No, sir, I have never killed a man," said Parker gravely. "When I was a
young man, I once ran over a cat--I was a great cyclist in my youth."

"But you never killed a man? And, what is more, you've never even wanted
to kill a man?"

"No, sir, I can't say that I ever have," said Parker after a few moments'
consideration, as though it were possible that some experience had been
his which had been overlooked in the hurry of his answering.

"It is quite a nice feeling, Parker. Is there a hip pocket to these--yes,
there is," he said, patting his trousers.

"I'm sorry there is," said Parker, "very sorry indeed. Gentlemen get into
the habit of carrying their cigarette cases in the hip pocket, with the
result that the coat tail is thrown out of shape. That is where the
dinner jacket has its advantages--the Tuxedo, as an American gentleman
once called it, though I've never understood why a dinner jacket should
be named after a Scottish town."

"Tuxedo is in Dixie," said Johnny humorously, "and Dixie is America's
lost Atlantis. Don't worry about the set of my coat tail. I am not
carrying my cigarette case there."

"Anything more bulky would of course be worse, sir," said Parker, and
Johnny did not carry the discussion any farther.

"Get me a cab," he ordered.

When Parker returned, he found his master was fully dressed.

"You will want your cane, sir. Gentlemen are carrying them now in evening
dress. There is one matter I would like to speak to you about before you
go--it is something that has been rather worrying me for the past few
days."

Johnny was leaving the room, and turned.

"Anything serious?" he asked, for a moment deceived.

"I don't like telling you, sir, but I have discussed the matter with very
knowledgeable people, and they are agreed that French shapes are no
longer worn in silk hats. You occasionally see them in theatrical
circles--" |

Johnny put up a solemn hand.

"Parker, do not let us discuss my general shabbiness. I didn't even know
I had a hat of French shape." He took off his hat and looked at it
critically. "It is a much better shape than the hat I was wearing a week
ago, Parker, believe me!"

"Of course I believe you, sir," agreed Parker, and turned to the door.

Johnny dismissed his cab in Shaftesbury Avenue and walked down toward the
club. It was dark now; half-past nine had chimed as he came along
Piccadilly.

It was a point of honour with all members of the Highlow that nobody
drove up to the club, and its very existence was unknown to the taximen.
That was a rule that had been made, and most faithfully adhered to; and
the members of the Highlow observed their rules, for, if a breach did not
involve a demand for their resignation, it occasionally brought about a
broken head.

Just before he reached the club, he saw somebody cross the road. It was
not difficult to recognise Jeff Legge. Just at that moment it would have
been rather embarassing for Johnny to have met the man. He turned and
walked back the way he had come, to avoid the chance of their both going
up in the elevator together.

Jeff Legge was in a hurry: the elevator did not move fast enough for him,
and he stepped out on to the third floor and asked a question.

"No, sir, nobody has come. If they do, I'll send them along to you. Where
will you be? You haven't a room engaged--your own room is taken. We don't
often let it, but we're full to-night, and Mr. Legge raised no
objection."

"No, I don't object," said Jeff; "but don't you worry about that. Let me
see the book."

Again the red-covered engagement book was opened. Jeff read and nodded.

"Fine," he said. "Now tell me again who is here."

"There is Mr. George Kurlu, with a party of friends in No. 3; there's Mr.
Bob Albutt and those two young ladies he goes about with--they're in No.
4." And so he recited until he came to No. 13.

"I know all about No. 13," said Jeff Legge between his teeth. "You
needn't bother about me, however. That will do."

He strode along the carpeted hallway, turned abruptly into the
right-angled passage, and presently stopped before a door with a neat
golden "13" painted on its polished panel. He opened the door and went
in. On the red-covered table was a bottle of wine and two glasses.

It was a moderately large room, furnished with a sofa, four dining chairs
and a deep easy chair, whilst against one wall was a small buffet. The
room was brilliantly lighted. Six bracket lamps were blazing; the centre
light above the table, with its frosted bulbs, was full on. He did not
shut the door, leaving it slightly ajar. There was too much light for his
purpose. He first switched out the bracket lamps, and then all but one of
the frosted bulbs in the big shaded lamp over the table. Then he sat
down, his back to the door, his eyes on the empty fire-grate.

Presently he heard a sound, the whining of the elevator, and smiled.
Johnny stepped out to the porter's desk with a friendly nod.

"Good evening. Captain," said the porter with a broad grin. "Glad to see
you back, sir. I wasn't here last night when you came in. Hope you
haven't had too bad a time in the country?"

"Abroad, my dear fellow, abroad," murmured the other reproachfully, and
the porter chuckled. "Same old crowd, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir."

"Same old bolt down the fire-escape when the 'busies' call--or have you
got all the 'busies 'straightened?"

"I don't think there's much trouble, sir," said the porter. "We often
have a couple of those gentlemen in here to dinner. The club's very
convenient sometimes. I shouldn't think they'll ever shut us up."

"I shouldn't think so, either," said Johnny. "Which of the 'busies' do
you get?"

"Well, sir, we get Mr. Craig, and--once we had that Reeder. He came here
alone, booked a table and came alone! Can you beat it? Came and had his
dinner, saw nobody and went away again. I don't think he's right up there
"--he tapped his forehead significantly. "Anything less like a 'busy'
I've never seen."

"I don't know whether he is a detective," said Johnny carelessly. "From
all I've heard, he has nothing whatever to do with the police."

"Private, is he?" said the other in a tone of disappointment.

"Not exactly private. Anyway," with a smile, "he's not going to bother
you or our honourable members. Anybody here?"

The porter looked to left and right, and lowered his voice.

"A certain person you know is here," he said meaningly.

Johnny laughed.

"It would be a funny club if there wasn't somebody I knew," he said.
"Don't worry about me; I'll find a little corner for myself...."

* * * * *

Jeff looked at his watch; it was a quarter to ten, and he glanced up at
the light; catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror of the buffet, was
satisfied.

Room 13! And Marney was his wife! The blood surged up into his face,
gorging the thick veins in his temples at the thought. She should pay! He
had helped the old man, as he would help him in any graft, but he had
never identified himself so completely with the plan as he did at that
moment.

"Put her down to the earth," had said Emanuel, and by God he would do it.
As for Johnny Gray....

The door opened stealthily, and a hand came in, holding a Browning. He
heard the creak of the door but did not look round, and then: "Bang!"

Once the pistol fired. Jeff felt a sharp twitch of pain, exquisite,
unbearable, and fell forward on his knees.

Twice he endeavoured to rise, then with a groan fell in a huddled heap,
his head in the empty fireplace.

CHAPTER XIV

THE doors and the walls of the private dining-rooms were almost
sound-proof. No stir followed the shot. In the hall outside, the porter
lifted his head and listened.

"What was that?" he asked the waiting elevator man.

"Didn't hear anything," said the other laconically. "Somebody slammed a
door."

"Maybe," said the porter, and went back to his book. He was filling in
the names of that night's visitors, an indispensable record in such a
club, and he was filling them in with pencil, an equally necessary act of
caution, for sometimes the club members desired a quick expungement of
this evidence.

In Room 13 silence reigned. A thin blue cloud floated to the ceiling; the
door opened a little farther, and Johnny Gray came in, his right hand in
his overcoat pocket.

Slowly he crossed the room to where the huddled figure lay, and,
stooping, turned it upon its back. Then, after a brief scrutiny, his
quick hands went through the man's pockets. He found something, carried
to it the light, read with a frown and pushed the paper into his own
pocket. Going out, he closed the door carefully behind him and strolled
back to the hall.

"Not staying, Captain?" asked the porter in surprise.

"No, nobody I know here. Queer how the membership changes."

The man on duty was too well trained to ask inconvenient questions.

"Excuse me. Captain." He went over to Johnny and bent down. "You've got
some blood on your cuff."

He took out his handkerchief and wiped the stain clean. Then his frowning
eyes met the young man's.

"Anything wrong, Captain?"

"Nothing that I can tell you about," said Johnny; "Good night."

"Good night, sir," said the porter.

He stood by his desk, looking hard at the glass doors of the elevator,
heard the rattle of the gate as it opened, and the whine of the lift as
it rose again.

"Just stay here, and don't answer any rings till I come back," he said.

He hurried along the corridor into the side passage and, coming to No.
13, knocked. There was no answer. He turned the handle. One glance told
him all he wanted to know. Gently he closed the door and hurried back to
the telephone on his desk.

Before he raised the receiver he called the gaping lift-boy.

"Go to all the rooms, and say a murder has been committed. Get everybody
out."

He was still clasping the telephone with damp hands when the last
frightened guest crowded into the elevator, then:

"Highlow Club speaking. Is that the Charing Cross Hospital?...I want
an ambulance here...Yes, 38, Boburn Street...There's been an
accident."

He rung off and called another number.

"Highlow Club. Is that the police station?...It's the porter at the
Highlow Club speaking, sir. One of our members has shot himself."

He put down the instrument and turned his face to the scared elevator man
who had returned to the high level. At the end of the passage stood a
crowd of worried waiters.

"Benny," he said, "Captain Gray hasn't been here to-night. You
understand? Captain--Gray--has--not--been--here--to-night."

The guest-book was open on the desk. He took his pencil and wrote, on the
line where Johnny Gray's name should have been, "Mr. William Brown of
Toronto."

CHAPTER XV

THE last of the guests had escaped, when the police came, and,
simultaneously with the ambulance, Divisional-Inspector Craig, who had
happened to be making a call in the neighbourhood. The doctor who came
with the ambulance made a brief examination.

"He is not dead, though he may be before he reaches hospital," he said.

"Is it a case of suicide?"

The doctor shook his head.

"Suicides do not, as a rule, shoot themselves under the right
shoulder-blade. It would be a difficult operation: try it yourself. I
should say he'd been shot from the open doorway."

He applied a rough first dressing, and Jeffrey was carried into the
elevator. In the bottom passage a stretcher was prepared, and upon this
he was laid, and, covered with a blanket, carried through the crowd which
had assembled at the entrance.

"Murder, or attempted murder, as the case may be," said Craig. "Someone
has tipped off the guests. You, I suppose, Stevens? Let me see your
book."

The inspector ran his finger down the list, and stopped at Room 13.

"Mr. William Brown of Toronto, Who is Mr. Brown of Toronto?"

"I don't know, sir. He engaged a room by telephone, I didn't see him go."

"That old fire-escape of yours still working?" asked Craig sardonically.
"Anybody else been here? Who is the wounded man? His face seemed familiar
to me."

"Major Floyd, sir."

"Who?" asked Craig sharply. "Impossible! Major Floyd is--" It was Floyd!
He remembered now. Floyd, with whom he had sat that day--that
happily-married man!

"What was he doing here?" he asked. "Now, spill it, Stevens, unless you
want to get yourself into pretty bad trouble."

"I've spilled all I know, sir," said Stevens doggedly. "It was Major
Floyd."

And then an inspiration came to him.

"If you want to know who it was, it was Jeff Legge. Floyd's his fancy
name."

"Who?"

Craig had had many shocks in his life, but, this was the greatest he had
had for years.

"Jeff Legge? Old Legge's son?"

Stevens nodded.

"Nobody knows that but a couple of us," he said. "Jeff doesn't work in
the light."

The officer nodded slowly.

"I've never seen him," he admitted. "I knew Legge had a son, but I didn't
know he was running crook. I thought he was a bit of a boy."

"He's some boy, let me tell you!" said Stevens.

Craig sat down, his chin in his hands.

"Mrs. Floyd will have to be told. Good God! Peter Kane's daughter! Peter
didn't know that he'd married her to Legge's son?"

"I don't know whether he knew or not," said Stevens, "but if I know old
Peter, he'd as soon know that she'd gone to the devil as marry her to a
son of Emanuel Legge's. I'm squeaking in a way," he said apologetically,
"but you've got to know--Emanuel will tell you as soon as he gets the
news."

"Come here," said Craig. He took the man's arm and led him to the passage
where the detectives were listening, opened the door of a private room,
the table giving evidence of the hasty flight of the diners. "Now," he
said, closing the door, "what's the strength of this story?"

"I don't know it all, Mr. Craig, but I know they were putting a point on
Peter Kane a long time ago. Then one night they brought Peter along and
kidded him into thinking that Jeff was a sucker in the hands of the boys.
Peter had never seen Jeff before--as a matter of fact, I didn't know he
was Jeff at the time; I'd heard a lot about him, but, like a lot of other
people, I hadn't seen him. Well, they fooled Peter all right. He took the
lad away with him. Jeff was wearing a Canadian officer's uniform, and, of
course, Jeff told the tale. He wouldn't be the son of his father if he
didn't. That's how he got to know the Kanes, and was taken to their home.
When I heard about the marriage, I thought Peter must have known. I never
dreamt they were playing a trick on him."

"Peter didn't know," said Craig slowly. "Where's the girl?"

"I can't tell you. She's in London somewhere."

"At the Charlton," nodded the other. "Now, you've got to tell me, Stevens,
who is Mr. Brown of Toronto? It's written differently from your usual
hand--written by a man who has had a bad scare. In other words, it was
written after you'd found the body."

Stevens said nothing.

"You saw him come out; who was he?"

"If I die this minute--" began Stevens.

"You might in a few months, as 'accessory after,'" said the other
ominously; "and that's what you'll do if you conceal a murderer. Who is
Mr. Brown?"

Stevens was struggling with himself, and after a while it came out.

"Johnny was here to-night," he said huskily. "Johnny Gray."

Craig whistled.

There was a knock at the door. A police officer, wanting instructions.

"There's a woman down below, pretty nigh mad. I think you know her, sir."

"Not Lila?" blurted Stevens.

"That's the girl. Shall I let her come up?"

"Yes," said Craig. "Bring her in here."

She came in a minute, distracted, incoherent, her hair dishevelled, her
hands trembling.

"Is he dead?" she gasped. "For God's sake tell me. I see it in your
face--he's dead. Oh, Jeff, Jeff!"

"Now you sit down," said the kindly Craig. "He's no more dead than you or
I are. Ask Stevens. Jeff's doing very well indeed. Just a slight wound,
my dear--nothing to worry about. What was the trouble? Do you know
anything about it?"

She could not answer him.

"He's dead," she moaned. "My God, I killed him! I saw him and followed
him here!"

"Give her a glass of wine, Stevens."

The porter poured out a glass of white wine from one of the many deserted
bottles on the table, and put it to her chattering teeth.

"Now, Lila, let's get some sense out of you. I tell you, Jeff's not dead.
What is he to you, anyway?"

"Everything," she muttered. She was shivering from head to foot. "I
married him three years ago. No, I didn't," she said in a sudden frenzy.

"Go on; tell us the truth," said Craig. "We're not going to pull him for
bigamy, anyway."

"I married him three years ago," she said. "He wasn't a bad fellow to me.
It was the old man's idea, his marrying this girl, and there was a
thousand for me in it. He put me down in Horsham to look after her, and
see that there were no letters going to Johnny. There wasn't any need of
that, because she never wrote. I didn't like the marriage idea, but he
swore to me that it was only to get Peter's money, and I believed him.
Then to-night he told me the truth, knowing I wouldn't squeak. I wish to
God I had now, I wish I had! He is dead, isn't he? I know he's dead!"

"He's not dead, you poor fish," said Craig impatiently. "I might be
congratulating you if he was. No, he's got a bit of a wound."

"Who shot him?"

"That's just what I want to know," said Craig. "Was it you?"

"Me!" Her look of horror supplied a satisfactory answer to his question.
"No, I didn't. I didn't know he was here, or coming here. I thought he
was at the hotel, till I saw him. Yet I had a feeling that he was coming
here to-night, and I've been waiting about all evening. I saw Peter and
dodged him."

"Peter? Has he been near the club?"

She shook her head.

"I don't know. He was on his way. I thought he was going to the Highlow.
There's nowhere else he'd go in this street--I saw him twice."

Craig turned his bright, suspicious eyes upon the porter.

"Peter been here? I didn't see anything about Mr. Brown of Montreal?" he
asked sarcastically.

"No, he hasn't. I haven't seen Peter since the Lord knows when," said the
porter emphatically. "That's the truth. You can give the elevator boy
permission to tell you all he knows, and if Peter was here to-night you
can hang me."

Craig considered for a long time.

"Does Peter know his way in by the easy route?" he asked.

"You mean the fire-escape? Yes, Peter knows that way, but members never
come in by the back nowadays. They've got nothing to hide."

Craig went out of the room and walked down the passage stopping at No.
13. Immediately opposite the door was a window, and it was wide open.
Beyond was the grille of the fire-escape landing. He stepped out through
the window and peered down into the dark yard where the escape ended. By
the light of a street lamp he saw a stout gate, in turn pierced by a
door, and this led to the street. The door was open, a fact which might
be accounted for by the presence in the yard of two uniformed policemen,
the flash of whose lanterns he saw. He came back into the corridor and to
Stevens.

"Somebody may have used the fire-escape to-night, and they may not," he
said. "What time did Gray come in? Who came in first?"

"Jeff came first, about five minutes before Gray."

"Then what happened?"

"I had a chat with Captain Gray," said the porter, after a second's
hesitation. "He went round into the side passage--"

"The same way that Jeff had gone?"

The porter nodded.

"About a minute later--in fact, it was shorter than a minute--I heard
what I thought was a door slammed. I remarked upon the fact to the
elevator man."

"And then?"

"I suppose four or five minutes passed after that, and Captain Gray came
out. Said he might look in later."

"There was no sign of a struggle in Captain Gray's clothes?"

"No, sir. I'm sure there was no struggle."

"I should think not," agreed Craig. "Jeff Legge never had a chance of
showing fight."

The girl was lying on the sofa, her head buried in her arms, her
shoulders shaking, and the sound of her weeping drew the detective's
attention to her.

"Has she been here before to-night?"

"Yes, she came, and I had to throw her out--Emanuel told me she was not
to be admitted."

Craig made a few notes in his book, closed it with a snap and put it in
his pocket.

"You understand, Stevens, that, if you're not under arrest, you're under
open arrest. You'll close the club for to-night and admit no more people.
I shall leave a couple of men on the premises."

"I'll lock up the beer," said Stevens facetiously.

"And you needn't be funny," was the sharp retort. "If we close this club
you'll lose your job--and if they don't close it now they never will."

He took aside his assistant.

"I'm afraid Johnny's got to go through the hoop to-night," he said. "Send
a couple of men to pull him in. He lives at Albert Mansions. I'll go
along and break the news to the girl, and somebody'll have to tell
Peter--I hope there's need for Peter to be told," he added grimly.

CHAPTER XVI

A SURPRISE awaited him when he came to the Charlton. Mrs. Floyd had
gone--nobody knew whither. Her husband had followed her some time
afterwards, and neither had returned. Somebody had called her on the
telephone, but had left no name.

"I know all about her husband not returning," said Craig. "But haven't
you the slightest idea where the lady is?"

"No."

The negative reply was uncompromising.

"Her father hasn't been here?"

His informant hesitated.

"Yes, sir; he was on Mrs. Floyd's floor when she was missing--in fact,
when Major Floyd was down here making inquiries. The floor waiter
recognised him, but did not see him come or go."

Calling up the house at Horsham he learnt, what he already knew, that
Peter was away from home. Barney, who answered him, had heard nothing of
the girl; indeed, this was the first intimation he had had that all was
not well. And a further disappointment lay in store for him. The
detective he had sent to find Johnny returned with the news that the
quarry had gone. According to the valet, his master had returned and
changed in a hurry, and, taking a small suit-case, had gone off to an
unknown destination.

An inquiry late that night elicited the fact that Jeff was still living,
but unconscious. The bullet had been extracted, and a hopeful view was
taken of the future. His father had arrived early in the evening, and was
half mad with anxiety and rage. "And if he isn't quite mad by the
morning, I shall be surprised," said the surgeon. "I'm going to keep him
here and give him a little bromide to ease him down."

"Poison him," suggested Craig.

When the old detective was on the point of going home, there arrived a
telephone message from the Horsham police, whom he had enlisted to watch
Peter's house.

"Mr. Kane and his daughter arrived in separate motorcars at a quarter
past twelve," was the report. "They came within a few minutes of one
another."

Craig was on the point of getting through to the house, but thought
better of it. A fast police car got him to Horsham under the hour, the
road being clear and the night a bright one. Lights were burning in
Peter's snuggery, and it was he himself who, at the sound of the motor
wheels, came to the door.

"Who's that?" he asked, as Craig came up the dark drive, and, at the
sound of the detective's voice, he came half-way down the drive to meet
him. "What's wrong, Craig? Anything special?"

"Jeff's shot. I suppose you know who Jeff is?"

"I know, to my sorrow," said Peter Kane promptly. "Shot? How? Where?"

"He was shot this evening between a quarter to ten and ten o'clock, at
the Highlow Club."

"Come in. You'd better not tell my girl--she's had as much as she can
bear tonight. Not that I'm worrying a damn about Jeff Legge. He'd better
die, and die quick, for if I get him--"

He did not finish his sentence, and the detective drew the man's arm
through his.

"Now, listen, Peter, you've got to go very slow on this case, and not
talk such a darned lot. You're under suspicion too, old man. You were
seen in the vicinity of the club."

"Yes, I was seen in the vicinity of the club," repeated Peter, nodding.
"I was waiting there--well, I was waiting there for a purpose. I went to
the Charlton, but my girl had gone--I suppose they told you--and then I
went on to the Highlow, and saw that infernal Lila--by the way, she's one
of Jeff's women, isn't she?"

"To be exact," said the other quietly, "she's his wife."

Peter Kane stopped dead.

"His wife?" he whispered. "Thank God for that! Thank God for that! I
forgive her everything. Though she is a brute--how a woman could
allow--but I can't judge her. That graft has always been dirty to me. It
is hateful and loathsome. But, thank God she's his wife, Craig!" Then:
"Who shot this fellow?"

"I don't know. I'm going to pull Johnny for it."

They were in the hall, and Peter Kane spun round, open-mouthed, terror in
his eyes.

"You're going to pull Johnny?" he said. "Do you know what you're saying,
Craig? You're mad! Johnny didn't do it. Johnny was nowhere near--"

"Johnny was there. And, what is more, Johnny was in the room, either at
the moment of the shooting or immediately after. The elevator boy has
spoken what's in his mind, which isn't much, but enough to convict Johnny
if this fellow dies."

"Johnny there!" Peter's voice did not rise above a whisper.

"I tell you frankly, Peter, I thought it was you."

Craig was facing him squarely, his keen eyes searching the man's pallid
face. "When I heard you were around, and that you had got to know that
this fellow was a fake. Why were you waiting?"

"I can't tell you that--not now," said the other, after turning the
matter over in his mind. "I should have seen Johnny if he was there. I
saw this girl Lila, and I was afraid she'd recognise me. I think she did,
too. I went straight on into Shaftesbury Avenue, to a bar I know. I was
feeling queer over this--this discovery of mine. I can prove I was there
from a quarter to ten till ten, if you want any proof. Oh, Johnny,
Johnny!"

All this went on in the hall. Then came a quick patter of footsteps, and
Marney appeared in the doorway.

"Who is it--Johnny? Oh, it is you, Mr. Craig? Has any-thing happened?"
She looked in alarm from face to face. "Nothing has happened to Johnny?"

"No, nothing has happened to Johnny," said Craig soothingly. He glanced
at Peter. "You ought to know this, Marney," he said. "I can call you
Marney--I've known you since you were five. Jeff Legge has been shot."

He thought she was going to faint, and sprang to catch her, but with an
effort of will she recovered.

"Jeff shot?" she asked shakily. "Who shot him?"

"I don't know. That's just what we are trying to discover. Perhaps you
can help us. Why did you leave the hotel, Was Johnny with you?"

She shook her head. "I haven't seen Johnny," she said, "but I owe
him--everything. There was a woman in the hotel." She glanced timidly at
her father. "I think she was an hotel thief or something of the sort. She
was there to--to steal. A big Welsh woman."

"A Welsh woman?" said Craig quickly. "What is her name?"

"Mrs. Gwenda Jones. Johnny knew about her, and telephoned her to tell her
to take care of me until he could get to me. She got me out of the hotel,
and then we walked down the Duke of York steps into the Mall. And then a
curious thing happened--I was just telling daddy when you came. Mrs.
Jones--she's such a big woman--"

"I know the lady," said Craig.

"Well, she disappeared. She wasn't exactly swallowed up by the earth,"
she said with a faint smile, "and she didn't go without warning. Suddenly
she said to me: 'I must leave you now, my dear. I don't want that man to
see me.' I looked round to find who it was that she was so terribly
afraid of, and there seemed to be the most harmless lot of people about.
When I turned, Mrs. Jones was running up the steps. I didn't wish to call
her back, I felt so ridiculous. And then a man came up to me, a
middle-aged man with the saddest face you could imagine. I told you that,
daddy?"

He nodded.

"He took his hat off--his hair was almost white--and asked me if my name
was Kane. I didn't tell him the other name," she said with a shiver.
"'May I take you to a place of safety, Miss Kane?' he said. 'I don't
think you ought to be seen with that raw-boned female.' I didn't know
what to do, I was so frightened, and I was glad of the company and
protection of any man, and, when he called a cab, I got in without the
slightest hesitation. He was such a gentle soul, Mr. Craig. He talked of
nothing but the weather and chickens! I think we talked about chickens
all the way to Lewisham."

"Are you sure it was Lewisham?"

"It was somewhere in that neighbourhood. What other places are there
there?

"New Cross, Brockley--" began Craig.

"That's the place--Brockley. It was the Brockley Road. I saw it printed
on the corner of the street. He took me into his house. There was a nice,
motherly old woman whom he introduced to me as his housekeeper."

"And what did he talk about?" asked the fascinated Craig.

"Chickens," she said solemnly. "Do you know what chickens lay the best
eggs? I'm sure you don't. Do you know the best breed for England and the
best for America? Do you know the most economical chickens to keep? I do!
I wondered what he was going to do with me. I tried to ask him, but he
invariably turned me back to the question of incubators and patent feeds,
and the cubic space that a sitting hen requires as compared with an
ordinary hen. It was the quaintest, most fantastic experience. It seems
now almost like one of Alice's dreams! Then, at ten o'clock, I found a
motor-car had come for me. 'I'm sending you home, young lady,' he said."

"Were you with him all the time, by the way?" asked Craig.

She shook her head.

"No, some part of the time I was with his housekeeper, who didn't even
talk about chickens, but knitted large and shapeless jumpers, and
sniffed. That was when he was telephoning. I knew he was telephoning
because I could hear the drone of his voice."

"He didn't bring you back?"

"No, he just put me into the car and told me that I should be perfectly
safe. I arrived just a few minutes ahead of daddy."

The detective scratched his chin, irritated and baffled.

"That's certainly got me," he said. "The raw-boned lady I know, but the
chicken gentleman is mysterious. You didn't hear his name, by any
chance?"

She shook her head.

"Do you know the number of the house?"

"Yes," she said frankly, "but he particularly asked me to forget it, and
I've forgotten it." Then, in a more serious tone: "Is my--my--"

"Your nothing," interrupted Peter. "The blackguard was married--married
to Lila. I think I must have gone daft, but I didn't realise this woman
was planted in my house for a purpose. That type of girl wouldn't come at
the wages she did if she had been genuine. Barney was always suspicious
of her, by the way."

"Have you seen Johnny?" the girl asked Craig.

"No, I haven't seen him," said Craig carefully. "I thought of calling on
him pretty soon."

Then it came to her in a flash, and she gasped.

"You don't think Johnny shot this man? You can't think that?"

"Of course he didn't shoot him," said Peter loudly. "It is a ridiculous
idea. But you'll understand that Mr. Craig has to make inquiries in all
sorts of unlikely quarters. You haven't been able to get hold of Johnny
to-night?"

A glance passed between them, and Peter groaned.

"What a fool! What a fool!" he said. "Oh, my God, what a fool!"

"Father, Johnny hasn't done this? It isn't true, Mr. Craig. Johnny
wouldn't shoot a man. Did anybody see him? How was he shot?"

"He was shot in the back."

"Then it wasn't Johnny." she said. "He couldn't shoot a man in the back!"

"I think, young lady," said Craig with a little smile, "that you'd better
go to bed and dream about butterflies. You've had a perfect hell of a
day, if you'll excuse my language. Say the firm word to her, Peter. Who's
that?" He turned his head, listening.

"Barney," said Peter. "He has a distressing habit of wearing slippers.
You can hear him miles away. He's opening the door to somebody--one of
your people, perhaps. Or he's taking your chauffeur a drink. Barney has
an enormous admiration for chauffeurs. They represent mechanical genius
to him."

The girl was calmer now.

"I have too much to thank God for to-day, for this terrible thing to be
true," she said in a low voice. "Mr. Craig, there is a mistake, I'm sure.
Johnny couldn't have committed such a crime. It was somebody else--one of
Jeffrey Legge's associates, somebody who hated him. He told me once that
lots of people hated him, and I thought he was joking; he seemed so nice,
so considerate. Daddy, I was mad to go through that, even to make you
happy."

Peter Kane nodded.

"If you were mad, I was criminal, girlie," he said. "There was only one
man in the world for you--"

The door opened slowly, and Barney sidled in. "Johnny to see you folks,"
he said, and pulled the door wider.

John Gray was standing in the passage, and his eyes fell upon Craig with
a look of quiet amusement.

CHAPTER XVII

IN another second the girl was in his arms, clinging to him, weeping
convulsively on his shoulder, her face against his, her clasped hands
about his neck.

Craig could only look, wondering and fearing. Johnny would not have
walked into the net unwarned. Barney would have told him that he was
there. What amazed Craig, as the fact slowly dawned upon him, was that
Johnny was still in evening dress. He took a step toward him, and gently
Johnny disengaged the girl from his arms.

"I'll like to see the right cuff of your shirt, Johnny," said Craig.

Without a word. Gray held up his arm, and the inspector scrutinised the
spotless linen, for spotless it was. No sign of a stain was visible.

"Either somebody's doing some tall lying, or you're being extraordinarily
clever, Johnny. I'll see that other cuff if I may."

The second scrutiny produced no tangible result.

"Didn't you go home and change to-night?"

"No, I haven't been near my flat," he said.

Craig was staggered.

"But your man said that you came in, changed, took a suit-case and went
away."

"Then Parker has been drinking," was the calm reply "I have been enjoying
the unusual experience of dining with the detective officer who was
responsible for my holiday in Devonshire."

Craig took a step back.

"With Inspector Flaherty?" he asked.

Johnny nodded.

"With the good Inspector Flaherty. We have been exchanging confidences
about our mutual acquaintances."

"But who was it went to your flat?" asked the bewildered Craig.

"My double. I've always contended that I have a double," said Johnny
serenely.

He stood in the centre of the astounded group. Into Marney's heart had
crept a wild hope.

"Johnny," she said, "was it this man who committed the crime for which
you were punished?"

To her disappointment he shook his head.

"No, I am the gentleman who was arrested and sent to Dartmoor--my double
stops short of these unpleasant experiences, and I can't say that I blame
him."

"But do you mean to say that he deceived your servant?"

"Apparently," said Johnny, turning again to the detective who had asked
the question.

"I take your word, of course, Johnny, as an individual."

Johnny chuckled.

"I like the pretty distinction. As an official, you want corroboration.
Very well, that is not hard to get. If you take me back to Flaherty, he
will support all I have told you."

Peter and the detective had the good taste to allow him to take leave of
the girl without the embarrassment of their presence.

"It beats me--utterly beats me. Have you ever heard of this before,
Peter?"

"That Johnny had a double? No, I can't say that I have."

"He may have invented the story for the sake of the girl. But there is
the fact: he's in evening dress, whilst his servant distinctly described
him as wearing a grey tweed suit. There is no mark of blood on his cuff,
and I'm perfectly certain that Stevens wouldn't have tried to get Johnny
in bad. He is very fond of the boy. Of course, he may be spinning this
yarn for the sake of Marney, but it'll be easy enough to corroborate.
I'll use your phone, Peter," he said suddenly. "I've got Flaherty's
number in my book."

The biggest surprise of the evening came when a sleepy voice, undeniably
Flaherty's, answered him.

"Craig's speaking. Who have you been dining with tonight, Flaherty?"

"You don't mean to tell me that you've called me up in the middle of the
night," began the annoyed Irishman, "to ask me who I've been dining
with?"

"This is serious, Flaherty. I want to know."

"Why, with Johnny, of course--Johnny Gray. I asked him to come to
dinner."

"What time did he leave you?"

"Nearer eleven than ten," was the reply. "No, it was after eleven."

"And he was with you all that time? He didn't leave for a quarter of an
hour?"

"Not for a quarter of a minute. We just talked and talked...."

Craig hung up the receiver and turned away from the instrument, shaking
his head.

"Any other alibi would have hanged you, Johnny. But Flaherty's the
straightest man in the C.I.D."

In view of what followed when Johnny reached his flat in the early hours
of the morning, this testimony to the integrity of Inspector Flaherty
seemed a little misguided.

"Nobody else been here?"

"No, sir," said Parker.

"What did you do with the shirt I took off?"

"I cut off the cuffs and burnt them, sir. I did it with a greater
pleasure, because the rounded corner cuff is just a little demode, if you
do not mind my saying so, just a little--how shall I call
it?--theatrical."

"The rest of the shirt--?"

"The rest of the shirt, sir," said Parker deferentially, "I am wearing.
It is rather warm to wear two shirts, but I could think of no other way
of disposing of it, sir. Shall I put your bath ready?"

Johnny nodded.

"If you will forgive the impertinence, did you succeed in persuading the
gentleman you were going to see, to support your statement?"

"Flaherty? Oh, yes. Flaherty owes me a lot. Good night, Parker."

"Good night, sir. I hope you sleep well. Er--may I take that pistol out
of your pocket, sir? It is spoiling the set of your trousers. Thank you
very much."

He took the Browning gingerly between his finger and thumb and laid it on
Johnny's writing-table.

"You don't mind my being up a little late, sir?" he said. "I think I
would like to clean this weapon before I retire."

CHAPTER XVIII

JEFF LEGGE reclined in a long cane chair on a lawn which stretched to the
edge of a cliff. Before him were the blue waters of the Channel, and the
more gorgeous blue of an unflecked sky. He reached out his hand and took
a glass that stood on the table by his side, sipped it with a wry face
and called a name pettishly.

It was Lila who came running to his side.

"Take this stuff away, and bring me a whisky-and-soda," he said.

"The doctor said you weren't to have anything but lime juice. Oh, Jeff,
you must do as he tells you," she pleaded.

"I'll break your head for you when I get up," he snarled. "Do as you're
told. Where's the governor?"

"He's gone into the village to post some letters."

He ruminated on this, and then:

"If that busy comes, you can tell him I'm too ill to be seen."

"Who--Craig?"

"Yes," he growled, "the dirty, twisting thief! Johnny would have been in
boob for this if he hadn't straightened Craig. If he didn't drop a
thousand to keep off the moor, I'm a dead man!"

She pulled up a low chair to his side.

"I don't think Johnny did it," she said. "The old man thinks it was
Peter. The window was found open after. He could have come in by the
fire-escape--he knows the way."

He grumbled something under his breath, and very discreetly she did not
press home her view.

"Where's Marney--back with her father?"

She nodded.

"Who told him I was married to you?"

"I don't know, Jeff," she said.

"You liar! You told him; nobody else could have known. If I get 'bird'
for this marriage, I'll kill you, Lila. That's twice you've squeaked on
me."

"I didn't know what I was saying. I was half mad with worry."

"I wish you'd gone the whole journey," he said bitterly. "It isn't the
woman--I don't care a damn about that. It's the old man's quarrel, and
he's got to get through with it. It's the other business being
disorganised that's worrying me. Unless it's running like clockwork,
you'll get a jam; and when you've got a jam, you collect a bigger crowd
than I want to see looking at my operations. You didn't squeak about
that, I suppose?"

"No, Jeff, I didn't know."

"And that's the reason you didn't squeak, eh?"

He regarded her unfavourably. And now she turned on him.

"Listen, Jeff Legge. I'm a patient woman, up to a point, and I'll stand
for all your bad temper whilst you're ill. But you're living in a new
age, Jeff, and you'd better wake up to the fact. All that Bill Sikes and
Nancy stuff never did impress me. I'm no clinger. If you got really rough
with me, I'd bat you, and that's a fact. It may not be womanly, but it's
wise. I never did believe in the equality of the sexes, but no girl is
the weaker vessel if she gets first grip of the kitchen poker."

Very wisely he changed the subject.

"I suppose they searched the club from top to bottom?" he said.

"They did."

"Did they look in the loft?"

"I believe they did. Stevens told me that they turned everything inside
out."

He grunted.

"They're clever," he said. "It must be wonderful to be clever. Who's
this?" He scowled across the lawn at a strange figure that had appeared,
apparently by way of the cliff gate.

She rose and walked to meet the stooping stranger, who stood, hat in
hand, waiting for her and smiling awkwardly.

"I'm so sorry to intrude," he said. "This is a beautiful place, is it
not? If I remember rightly, this is the Dellsea Vicarage? I used to know
the vicar--a very charming man. I suppose you have taken the house from
him?"

She was half amused, half annoyed.

"This is Dellsea Vicarage," she said curtly. "Do you want to see
anybody?"

"I wanted to see Mr. Jeffrey"--he screwed up his eyes and stared at the
sky, as though trying to withdraw from some obscure cell of memory a name
that would not come without special effort--"Mr. Jeffrey Legge--that is
the name--Mr. Jeffrey Legge."

"He is very ill and can't be seen."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said the stranger, his mild face expressing the
intensest sympathy. "Very sorry indeed."

He fixed his big, round glasses on the tip of his nose, for effect
apparently, because he looked over them at her.

"I wonder if he would see me for just a few minutes. I've called to
inquire about his health."

"What is your name?" she asked.

"Reeder--J. G. Reeder."

The girl felt her colour go, and turned quickly.

"I will ask him," she said.

Jeff heard the name and pursed his lips.

"That's the man the bank are running--or maybe it's the Government--to
trail me," he said in a low tone. "Slip him along, Lila."

Mr. Reeder was beckoned across the lawn, and came with quick, mincing
steps.

"I'm so sorry to see that you're in such a deplorable condition, Mr.
Legge," he said. "I hope your father is well?"

"Oh, you've met the old man, have you?" said Jeffrey in surprise.

Mr. Reeder nodded.

"Yes; I have met your father," he said. "A very entertaining and a very
ingenious man. Very!" The last word was spoken with emphasis.

Jeff was silent at this tribute to his parent's amiability.

"There has been a lot of talk in town lately about a certain nefarious
business that is being carried on--surreptitiously, of course," said Mr.
Reeder, choosing his words with care. "I who live out of the world, and
in the backwater of life, hear strange rumours about the distribution of
illicit money--I think the cant term is 'slush' or 'slosh'--probably it
is 'slush'."

"It is 'slush,'" agreed Jeff, not knowing whether to be amused or
alarmed, and watching the man all the time.

"Now I feel sure that the persons who are engaged in this practice cannot
be aware of the enormously serious nature of their offence," said Mr.
Reeder confidentially.

He broke off his lecture to look around the lawn and well-stocked garden
that flanked it on either side.

"How beautiful is the world, Mr. Jeff--I beg your pardon, Mr. Legge," he
said. "How lovely those flowers are! I confess that the sight of
bluebells always brings a lump to my throat. I don't suppose they are
bluebells," he added, "for it is rather late in the year. But that
peculiar shade of blue! And those wonderful roses--I can smell them from
here."

He closed his eyes, raised his nose and sniffed loudly--a ludicrous
figure; but Jeff Legge did not laugh.

"I know very little, but I understand that in Dartmoor Prison there are
only a few potted flowers, and that those are never seen by the
prisoners, except by one privileged man whose task it is to tend them. A
lifer, generally. Life without flowers must be very drab, Mr. Legge."

"I'm not especially fond of flowers," said Jeffrey.

"What a pity!" said the other regretfully. "What a thousand pities! But
there is no sea view from that establishment, no painted ships upon a
painted ocean--which is a quotation from a well-known poem; no delightful
sense of freedom; nothing really that makes life durable for a man under
sentence, let us say, of fifteen or twenty years."

Jeff did not reply.

"Do you love rabbits?" was the surprising question that was put to him.

"No, I can't say that I do."

Lila sat erect, motionless, all her senses trained to hear and
understand.

Mr. Reeder sighed.

"I am very fond of rabbits. Whenever I see a rabbit in a cage or in a
hutch, I buy it, take it to the nearest wood and release it. It may be a
foolish kindness, because, born and reared in captivity, it may not have
the necessary qualities to support itself amongst its wilder fellows. But
I like letting rabbits loose; other people like putting rabbits in
cages." He shook his finger in Jeffrey's face. "Never be a rabbit in a
cage, Mr. Jeffrey--or is it Mr. Legge? Yes, Mr. Legge."

"I am neither a rabbit, nor a chicken, nor a fox, nor a skylark," said
Jeffrey. "The cage hasn't been built that could hold me."

Again Mr. Reeder sighed.

"I remember another gentleman saying that some years ago. I forget in
what prison he was hanged. Possibly it was Wandsworth--yes, I am sure it
was Wandsworth. I saw his grave the other day. Just his initials. What a
pity! What a sad end to a promising career! He is better off, I think,
for twenty long years in a prison cell, that is a dreadful fate, Mr.
Legge! And it is a fate that would never overtake a man who decided to
reform. Suppose, let us say, he was forging Bank of England notes, and
decided that he would burn his paper and his water-markers, dismiss all
his agents...I don't think we should worry very much about that type of
person. We should meet him generously and liberally, especially if his
notes were of such excellent quality that they were difficult for the
uninitiated to detect."

"What has happened to Golden?" asked Jeffrey boldly.

The eyes of the elderly man twinkled.

"Golden was my predecessor," he said. "A very charming fellow, by some
accounts--"

Again Jeffrey cut him short.

"He used to be the man who was looking after the 'slush 'for the police.
Is he dead?"

"He has gone abroad," said Mr. Reeder gravely. "Yes, Mr. Golden could not
stand this climate. He suffered terribly from asthma, or it may have been
sciatica. I know there was an 'a 'at the end of it. Did you ever meet
him? Ah! You missed a very great opportunity," said Mr. Reeder. "Golden
was a nice fellow--not as smart, perhaps, as he might have been, or as he
should have been, but a very nice fellow. He did not work, perhaps, so
much in the open as I do; and there I think he was mistaken. It is always
an error to shut yourself up in an office and envelop yourself in an
atmosphere of mystery. I myself am prone to the same fault. Now, my dear
Mr. Legge, I am sure you will take my parable kindly, and will give it
every thought and consideration."

"I would, if I were a printer of 'slush,' but, unfortunately, I'm not,"
said Jeffrey Legge with a smile.

"You're not, of course," the other hastened to say. "I wouldn't dream of
suggesting you were. But with your vast circle of acquaintances--and, I'm
sure, admirers--you may perhaps be able to convey my simple little
illustration. I don't like to see rabbits in cages, or birds in cages, or
anything else behind bars. And I think that Dartmoor is so--what shall I
say?--unaesthetic. And it seems such a pity to spend all the years in
Devonshire. In the spring, of course, it is delightful; in the summer it
is hot; in the winter, unless you're at Torquay, it is deplorable. Good
morning, Mr. Legge."

He bowed low to the girl, and, bowing, his spectacles fell off. Stooping,
he picked them up with an apology and backed away and they watched him in
silence till he had disappeared from view.

CHAPTER XIX

"WHAT do you think of him for a busy?" asked Jeffrey contemptuously.

She did not answer. Contact with the man had frightened her. It was not
like Lila to shiver in the presence of detectives.

"I don't know what he is," she said a little breathlessly. "He's
something like a...good-natured snake. Didn't you feel that, Jeffrey?"

"Good-natured nothing," said the other with a curl of his lip. "He's
worse than Golden. These big corporations fall for that kind of man. They
never give a chance to a real clever busy."

"Who was Golden?" she asked.

"He was an old fellow too. They fired him." He chuckled to himself. "And
I was responsible for firing him. Then they brought in Mr. J. G. Reeder
with a flourish of trumpets. He's been on the game three years, and he's
just about as near to making a pull as he ever was."

"Jeff, isn't there danger?" Her voice was very serious.

"Isn't there always danger? No more danger than usual," he said. "They
can't touch me. Don't worry! I've covered myself so that they can't see
me for overcoats! Once the stuff's printed, they can never put it back on
me."

"Once it's printed." She nodded slowly. "Then you are the Big Printer,
Jeff?"

"Talk about something else," he said.

When Emanuel returned, as he did soon after, Lila met him at the gate and
told him of Reeder's visit. To her surprise, he took almost the same view
as Jeff had taken.

"He's a fool, but straight--up to five thousand, anyway. No man is
straight when you reach his figure."

"But why did he come to Jeff?" she asked.

"Doesn't everybody in the business know that Jeff's the Big Printer?
Haven't they been trying to put it on him for years? Of course he came.
It was his last, despairing stroke. How's the boy?" he asked.

"He's all right, but a little touchy."

"Of course he's a little touchy," said Emanuel indignantly. "You don't
suppose he's going to get better in a day, do you? The club's running
again."

"Has it been closed?"

"It hasn't exactly been closed, but it has been unpopular," he said,
showing his teeth in that smile of his. "Listen." He caught her arm on
the edge of the lawn. "Get your mind off that shooting, will you? I'll
fix the man responsible for that."

"Do you know?" she asked.

It was the first time he had ever discussed the matter calmly, for the
very mention of the attack upon Jeff had hitherto been sufficient to
drive him to an incoherent frenzy.

"Yes, I know," he said gratingly. "It was Peter Kane, but you needn't say
anything about that--I'll fix him, I tell you."

"Jeff thinks it was--"

"Never mind what Jeff thinks," he said impatiently. "Do as I tell you."

He sent her into the house to brew him a cup of tea--Emanuel was a great
drinker of tea--and in her absence he had something to say to his son.

"Jeff, there's a big call for your stuff," he said. "I've had a letter
from Harvey. He says there's another man started in the north of England,
and he's turning out pretty good material. But they want yours--they can
place half a million on the Continent right away. Jeff, what Harvey says
is right. If there's a slackening of supply while you're ill, the busy
fellows are going to tumble to you."

"I've thought of that," said Jeffrey. "You can tell anybody who's
interested that there'll be a printing next week."

"Are you well enough to go up?" asked his father anxiously.

Jeffrey nodded, and shifted himself more erect, but winced in the
process.

"Reeder's been here: did she tell you?"

Emanuel nodded.

"I'm not worried much about Reeder. Down in Dartmoor he's a bogey, but
then, they bogey any man they don't know. And they've got all sorts of
stories about him. It's very encouraging to get near to the real thing."

They laughed together, and for the rest of the day discussed ways and
means.

Jeffrey had said no more than was true when he had told the girl he was
well covered. In various parts of the country he had twelve banking
accounts, each in a different name, and in one of the safe deposits, an
enormous sum in currency, ready for emergency.

"You've got to stop some time, I suppose," said his father, "but it is
mighty tempting to carry on with those profits. It's a bigger graft than
I ever attempted, Jeff." And his son accepted this respectful tribute
with a smirk.

The old man sat, his clasped hands between his knees, staring, out over
the sea.

"It has got to end some day, and that would be a fine end, but I can't
quite see how it could be done."

"What are you talking about?" asked the other curiously.

"I'm thinking about Peter--the respectable Mr. Peter Kane. Not quite so
respectable in that girl's eyes as he used to be, but respectable enough
to have busies to dinner, and that crook, Johnny Gray--Johnny will marry
the girl, Jeff."

Jeffrey Legge winced.

"She can marry the devil so far as I'm concerned," he said.

"But she can't marry without divorcing you. Do you realise that, my son?
That's the law. And she can't divorce you without shopping you for
bigamy. That's the law too. And the question is, will she delay her
action until Johnny's made a bit, or will she start right in? If she
gives me just the time I want, Jeff, you'll have your girl and I'll have
Peter Kane. She's your wife in the eyes of the law."

There was a significance in his words that made the other man look at him
quickly.

"What's the great idea?" he asked.

"Suppose Peter was the Big Printer?" said Emanuel, speaking in a tone
that was little above a whisper. "Suppose he was caught with the goods?
It could be done. I don't mean by planting the stuff in his house--nobody
would accept that; but getting him right on the spot, so that his best
friend at Scotland Yard couldn't save him? How's that for an idea?"

"It couldn't be done," said the other immediately.

"Oh, couldn't it?" sneered Emanuel. "You can do any old thing you want,
if you make up your mind to do it. Or if you're game to do it."

"That wouldn't get me the girl."

Emanuel turned his head slowly toward his heir.

"If they found the Big Printer, they'll have to find the big printing,"
he said deliberately. "That means we should all have to skip, and skip
lively. We might have a few hours start, and in these days of aeroplanes,
three hours is four hundred miles. Jeff, if we are caught, and they guess
I've been in this printing all the time, I shall never see outside again.
And you'll go down for life. They can't give you any worse than that--not
if you took the girl away with you."

"By force?" asked the other in surprise. The idea had not occurred to
him.

The father nodded.

"If we have to skip, that's the only thing for you to do, son. It's no
offence--remember that. She's your wife." He looked to left and right, to
see if there was the faintest shadow of a chance that he would be
overheard, and then: "Suppose we ask Peter and his girl and Johnny Gray
to dinner? A nice little dinner party, eh?"

"Where?" asked the other suspiciously.

"In Room 13," said Emanuel Legge. "In Room 13, Jeff, boy! A nice little
dinner. What do you think? And then two whiffs of sleep stuff--"

"You're mad," said the other angrily. "What's the good of talking that
way? Do you think he's going to come to dinner and bring his girl? Oh,
you're nutty to think it!"

"Trust me," said Emanuel Legge.

CHAPTER XX

WALKING down Regent Street one morning, Johnny Gray saw a familiar
face--a man standing on the kerb selling penny trinkets. The face was
oddly familiar, but he had gone on a dozen paces before he could recall
where he had seen him before, and turned back. The man knew him; at any
rate, his uncouth features twisted in a smile.

"Good morning, my lord," he said. "What about a toy balloon for the
baby?"

"Your name is Fenner, isn't it?" said Johnny with a good-humoured gesture
of refusal.

"That's me. Captain. I didn't think you'd recognised me. How's business?"

"Quiet," said Johnny conventionally. "What are you doing?"

The man shrugged his enormous shoulders.

"Selling these, and filling in the time with a little sluicing."

Johnny shook his head reprovingly. "'Sluicing' in the argot indicates a
curious method of livelihood. In public wash-places, where men strip off
their coats to wash their hands for luncheon, there are fine pickings to
be had by a man with quick fingers and a knowledge of human nature."

"Did you ever get your towelling?"*

[*Flogging]

"No," said the other contemptuously and with a deep growl. "I knew they
couldn't, that's why I coshed the screw. I was too near my time. If I
ever see old man Legge, by God I'll--"

Jimmy raised his fingers. A policeman was strolling past, and was eyeing
the two suspiciously. Apparently, if he regarded Fenner with disfavour,
Johnny's respectability redeemed the association.

"Poor old 'flattie'!" said Fenner as the officer passed. "What a life!"

The man looked him up and down amusedly.

"You seem to have struck it, Gray," he said, with no touch of envy.
"What's your graft?"

Johnny smiled faintly.

"It is one you'll find difficult to understand, Fenner. I am being
honest!"

"That's certainly a new one on me," said the other frankly. "Have you
seen old Emanuel?" His voice was now quite calm. "Great fellow, Emanuel!
And young Emanuel--Jeffrey--what a lad!"

There was a glint in his eyes as he scrutinised Johnny that told that
young man he knew much more of recent happenings than he was prepared to
state. And his next words supported that view.

"You keep away from the Legge lot. Captain," he said earnestly. "They are
no good to anybody, and least of all to a man who's had an education like
yours. I owe Legge one, and I'll pet him, but I'm not thinking about that
so much as young Jeff. You're the fellow he would go after, because you
dress like a swell and you look like a swell--the very man to put 'slush'
about without anybody tumbling."

"The Big Printer, eh?" said Johnny, with that quizzical smile of his.

"The Big Printer," repeated the other gravely. "And he is a big printer.
You hear all sorts of lies down on the moor, but that's true. Jeff's got
the biggest graft that's ever been worked in this country. They'll get
him sooner or later, because there never was a crook game yet that hadn't
got a squeak about it somewhere. And the squeak has started, judging by
what I can read in the papers. Who shot him?" he asked bluntly.

Johnny shook his head.

"That is what is known as a mystery," he said, and, seeing the man's eyes
keenly searching his face, he laughed aloud. "It wasn't me, Fenner. I'll
assure you on that point. And as to me being a friend of Jeff"--he made a
wry little face--"that isn't like me either. How are you off for money?"

"Rotten," said the other laconically, and Johnny slipped a couple of
Treasury notes on to the tray. He was turning away when the man called
him back. "Keep out of boob," he said significantly. "And don't think I'm
handing round good advice. I'm not thinking of Dartmoor. There are other
boobs that are worse--I can tell you that, because I've seen most of
them."

He gathered up the money on the tray without so much as a word of thanks,
and put it in his waistcoat pocket.

"Keytown Jail is the worst prison in England," he said, not looking at
his benefactor but staring straight ahead. "The very worst--don't forget
that. Gray. Keytown Prison is the worst boob in England; and if you ever
find yourself there, do something to get out. So-long!"

The mentality of the criminal had been a subject for vicarious study
during Johnny's stay in Dartmoor, and he mused on the man's words as he
continued his walk along Regent Street. Here was a man offering advice
which he himself had never taken. The moral detachment of old lags was no
new phenomenon to Johnny. He had listened for hours to the wise
admonitions and warnings of convicts, who would hardly be free from the
fusty cell of the prison before they would be planning new villainies,
new qualifications for their return.

He had never heard of Keytown Jail before, but it was not remarkable that
Fenner should have some special grudge against a particular jail. The
criminal classes have their likes and their dislikes; they loathed
Wandsworth and preferred Pentonville, or vice versa, for no especial
reason. There were those who swore by Parkhurst; others regarded Dartmoor
as home, and bitterly resented any suggestion that they should be
transferred to the island prison.

So musing, he bumped into Craig. The collision was not
 accidental, for Craig had put himself in the way of the abstracted young
man.

"What are you planning, Johnny--a jewel robbery, or just ringing the
changes on the Derby favourite?"

Johnny chuckled.

"Neither. I was at that moment wondering what there was particularly bad
about Keytown Jail. Where is Keytown Jail, by the way?"

"Keytown? I don't remember--oh, yes, I do. Just outside Oxford. Why?"

"Somebody was telling me it was the worst prison in England."

"They are all the worst, Johnny," said Craig. "And if you're thinking out
a summer holiday, I can't recommend either. Keytown was pretty bad," he
admitted. "It is a little country jail, but it is no longer in the Prison
Commissioners' hands. They sold it after the war, when they closed down
so many of these little prisons. The policy now is to enlarge the bigger
places and cut out these expensive little boobs that cost money to staff.
They closed Hereford Jail in the same way, and half a dozen others, I
should think. So you needn't bother about Keytown," he smiled bleakly.
"One of your criminal acquaintances has been warning you, I guess?"

"You've guessed right," said Johnny, and advanced no information, knowing
that, if Craig continued his walk, he would sooner or later see the toy
pedlar.

"Mr. Jeffrey Legge is making a good recovery," said the detective,
changing the subject: "and there are great rejoicings at Scotland Yard.
If there is one man we want to keep alive until he is hanged in a
scientific and lawful manner, it is Mr. Jeffrey Legge. I know what you're
going to say--we've got nothing on him. That is true. Jeffrey has been
too clever for us. He has got his father skinned to death in that
respect. He makes no mistakes--a rare quality in a forger; he carries no
'slush,' keeps none in his lodgings. I can tell you that, because we've
pulled him in twice on suspicion, and searched him from occiput to tendo
achilles. Forgive the anatomical terms, but anatomy is my hobby. Hallo!"

He was looking across the street at a figure which was not unfamiliar to
Johnny. Mr. Reeder wore a shabby frock-coat and a somewhat untidy silk
hat on the back of his head. Beneath his arm he carried a partially
furled umbrella. His hands, covered in grey cotton gloves (at a distance
Johnny thought they were suede), were clasped behind him. His spectacles
were, as usual, so far down his nose that they seemed in danger of
slipping over.

"Do you know that gentleman?"

"Man named Reeder, isn't it? He's a 'busy'."

Craig's lips twitched.

"He's certainly a 'busy 'of sorts," he said dryly, "but not of our sort."

"He is a bank-man, isn't he?" asked Johnny, watching Mr. Reeder's slow
and awkward progress.

"He is in the employ of the bank," said the detective, "and he's not such
a fool as he looks. I happen to know. He was down seeing young Legge
yesterday. I was curious enough to put a man on to trail him. And he
knows more about young Legge than I gave him credit for."

When Johnny parted from the detective, Mr. Reeder had passed out of
sight. Crossing Piccadilly Circus, however, he saw the elderly man
waiting in a bus queue, and interestedly stood and watched him until the
bus arrived and Mr. Reeder boarded the machine and disappeared into its
interior. As the bus drew away, Johnny raised his eyes to the destination
board and saw that it was Victoria.

"I wonder," said Johnny, speaking his thought aloud.

For Victoria is the railway station for Horsham.

CHAPTER XXI

MR. REEDER descended from the bus at Victoria Station, bought a
third-class return ticket to Horsham, and, going on to the bookstall,
purchased a copy of the Economist and the Poultry World, and, thus
fortified for the journey, passed through the barrier, and finding an
empty carriage, ensconced himself in one corner. From thence onward,
until the train drew into Horsham Station, he was apparently alternately
absorbed in the eccentricities of Wyandottes and the fluctuations of the
mark.

There were many cabs at the station, willing and anxious to convey him to
his destination for a trifling sum; but apparently Mr. Reeder was deaf to
all the urgent offers which were made to him, for he looked through the
taxi-men, or over their heads, as though there were no such things as
grim mechanicians or drivers of emaciated horses; and, using his umbrella
as a walking-stick, he set out to walk the distance intervening between
the station and Peter Kane's residence.

Peter was in his snuggery, smoking a meditative cigar, when Barney came
in with the news.

"There's an old guy wants to see you, Peter. I don't know who he is, but
he says his name's Reeder."

Peter's brows met.

"Reeder?" he said sharply. "What sort of man is he?"

"An old fellow," said Barney. "Too shaky for a 'busy'. He looks as if
he's trying to raise subscriptions for the old chapel organ."

It was not an unfair description, as Peter knew.

"Bring him here, Barney, and keep your mouth shut. And bear in mind that
this is the busiest 'busy' you are ever likely to meet."

"A copper?" said Barney incredulously.

Peter nodded.

"Where's Marney?" he asked quickly.

"Up in her boojar," said Barney with relish. "She's writing letters. She
wrote one to Johnny. It started 'Dear old boy'."

"How do you know?" asked Peter sharply.

"Because I read it," said Barney without shame. "I'm a pretty good
reader: I can read things upside down, owing to me having been in the
printing business when I was a kid."

"Bring in Mr. Reeder," interrupted Peter ominously. "And remember,
Barney, that if ever I catch you reading anything of mine upside down,
you will be upside down! And don't argue."

Barney left the room, uttering a mechanical defiance which such threats
invariably provoked.

Mr. Reeder came in, his shabby hat in one hand, his umbrella in the
other, and a look of profound unhappiness on his face.

"Good morning, Mr. Kane," he said, laying down his impedimenta. "What a
beautiful morning it is for a walk! It is a sin and a shame to be indoors
on a day like this. Give me a garden, with roses, if I may express a
preference, and just a faint whiff of heliotrope..."

"You'd like to see me in the garden, eh?" said Peter. "Perhaps you're
wise."

Barney, his inquisitive ears glued to the keyhole, cursed softly.

"I was in a garden yesterday," murmured Mr. Reeder, as they walked across
the lawn toward the sunken terraces. "Such a lovely garden! One bed was
filled with blue flowers. There is something about a blue flower that
brings a lump into my throat. Rhododendrons infuriate me: I have never
understood why. There is that about a clump of rhododendrons which rouses
all that is evil in my nature. Daffodils, on the other hand, and
especially daffodils intermingled with hyacinths, have a most soothing
effect upon me. The garden to which I refer had the added attraction of
being on the edge of the sea--a veritable Garden of Eden, Mr. Kane,
although "---he wagged his head from side to side disparagingly--"there
were more snakes than is customary. There was a snake in a chair, and a
snake who was posting letters in the village, and another official snake
who was hiding behind a clump of bushes and had followed me all the way
from London--sent, I think, by that misguided gentleman, Mr. Craig."

"Where were you, Mr. Reeder?"

"At a seaside villa, a beautiful spot. A truly earthly paradise," sighed
Mr. Reeder. "The very place an intelligent man would go to if he were
convalescent, and the gentleman on the chair was certainly convalescent."

"You saw Jeff Legge, eh? Sit down."

He pointed to the marble bench where Johnny had sat and brooded unhappily
on a certain wedding day.

"I think not," said Mr. Reeder, shaking his head as be stared at the
marble seat. "I suffer from rheumatism, with occasional twinges of
sciatica. I think I would rather walk with you, Mr. Kane." He glanced at
the hedge. "I do not like people who listen. Sometimes one listens and
hears too much. I heard the other day of a very charming man who happened
to be standing behind a bush, and heard the direful character of his
son-in-law revealed. It was not good for him to hear so much."

Peter knew that the man was speaking about him, but gave no sign.

"I owe you something, Mr. Reeder, for the splendid way you treated my
daughter--"

Mr. Reeder stopped him with a gesture.

"A very charming girl. A very lovely girl," he said with mild enthusiasm.
"And so interested in chickens! One so seldom meets with women who take a
purely sincere interest in chickens."

They had reached a place where it was impossible they could be overheard.
Peter, who realised that the visitor would not have called unless he had
something important to say, waited for the next move. Mr. Reeder returned
to the subject of eavesdropping.

"My friend--if I may call him my friend--who learnt by accident that his
son-in-law was an infernal rascal--if you will excuse that violent
expression--might have got himself into serious trouble, very serious
trouble." He shook his head solemnly. "For you see," he went on, "my
friend--I do hope he will allow me to call him my friend?--has something
of a criminal past, and all his success has been achieved by clever
strategy. Now, was it clever strategy"--he did not look at Peter, and his
faded eyes surveyed the landscape gloomily--"was it clever of my friend
to convey to Mr. Emanuel Legge the astounding information that at a
certain hour, in a certain room--I think its number was thirteen, but I
am not sure--Mr. John Gray was meeting Mr. J. G. Reeder to convey
information which would result in Emanuel Legge's son going to prison for
a long period of penal servitude? Was it wise to forge the handwriting of
one of Emanuel Legge's disreputable associates, and induce the aforesaid
Emanuel to mount the fire-escape at the Highlow Club and shoot, as he
thought, Mr. John Gray, who wasn't Mr. Gray at all, but his own son? I
ask you, was it wise?"

Peter did not answer.

"Was it discreet, when my friend went to the hotel where his daughter was
staying, and found her gone, to leave a scribbled note on the floor,
which conveyed to Mr. Jeffrey Legge the erroneous information that the
young lady was meeting Johnny Gray in Room 13 at nine-thirty? I admit,"
said Mr. Reeder handsomely, "that by these clever manoeuvres, my friend
succeeded in getting Jeffrey Legge just where he wanted him at the proper
time; for Jeffrey naturally went to the Highlow Club in order to confront
and intimidate his wife. You're a man of the world, Mr. Kane, and I am
sure you will see how terribly indiscreet my friend was. For Jeffrey
might have been killed." He sighed heavily. "His precious life might have
been lost; and if the letters were produced at the trial, my friend
himself might have been tried for murder."

He dusted the arm of his frock-coat tenderly.

"The event had the elements of tragedy," he said, "and it was only by
accident that Jeff's face was turned away from the door; and it was only
by accident that Emanuel was not seen going out. And it was only by the
sheerest and cleverest perjury that Johnny Gray was not arrested."

"Johnny was not there," said Peter sharply.

"On the contrary, Johnny was there--please admit that he was there?"
pleaded Mr. Reeder. "Otherwise, all my theories are valueless. And a
gentleman in my profession hates to see his theories suffer extinction."

"I'll not admit anything of the sort," said Peter sharply. "Johnny spent
that evening with a police officer. It must have been his double."

"His treble perhaps," murmured the other. "Who knows? Humanity resembles,
to a very great extent, the domestic fowl, gallus domesticus. One man
resembles another--it is largely a matter of plumage."

He looked up to the sky as though he were seeking inspiration from heaven
itself.

"Mr. Jeffrey Legge has not served you very well, Mr. Kane," he said. "In
fact, I think he has served you very badly. He is obviously a person
without principle or honour, and deserves anything that may come to him."

Peter waited, and suddenly the man brought his eyes to the level of his.

"You must have heard, in the course of your travels, a great deal about
Mr. Legge?" he suggested. "Possibly more has come to you since this
unfortunate--indeed, dastardly--happening, of which I cannot remind you
without inflicting unnecessary pain. Now, Mr. Kane, don't you think that
you would be rendering a service to human society if--"

"If I squeaked," said Peter Kane quietly. "I'll put your mind at rest on
that subject immediately. I know nothing of Jeffrey Legge except that
he's a blackguard. But if I did, if I had the key to his printing works,
if I had evidence in my pocket of his guilt--" he paused.

"And if you had all these?" asked Mr. Reeder gently.

"I should not squeak," said Peter with emphasis, "because that is not the
way. A squeak is a squeak, whether you do it in cold blood or in the heat
of temper."

Again Mr. Reeder sighed heavily, took off his glasses, breathed on them
and polished them with gentle vigour, and did not speak until he had
replaced them.

"It is all very honourable," he said sadly. "This--er--faith
and--er--integrity. Again the poultry parallel comes to my mind. Certain
breeds of chickens hold together and have nothing whatever to do with
other breeds, and, though they may quarrel amongst themselves, will fight
to the death for one another. Your daughter is well, I trust?"

"She is very well," said Peter emphatically, "surprisingly so. I thought
she would have a bad time--here she is." He turned at that moment and
waved his hand to the girl, who was coming down the steps of the terrace.
"You know Mr. Reeder?" said Peter as the girl came smiling toward the
chicken expert with outstretched hand.

"Why, of course I know him," she said warmly. "Almost you have persuaded
me to run a poultry farm!"

"You might do worse," said Mr. Reeder gravely. "There are very few women
who take an intelligent interest in such matters. Men are ever so much
more interested in chickens."

Peter looked at him sharply. There was something in his tone, a glint of
unsuspected humour in his eyes, that lit and died in a second, and Peter
Kane was nearer to understanding the man at that moment than he had ever
been before.

And here Peter took a bold step.

"Mr. Reeder is a detective," he said, "employed by the banks to try and
track down the people who have been putting so many forged notes on the
market."

"A detective!"

Her eyes opened wide in surprise, and Mr. Reeder hastened to disclaim the
appellation.

"Not a detective. I beg of you not to misunderstand, Miss Kane. I am
merely an investigator, an inquiry agent, not a detective. 'Detective' is
a term which is wholly repugnant to me. I have never arrested a man in my
life, nor have I authority to do so."

"At any rate, you do not look like a detective, Mr. Reeder," smiled the
girl.

"I thank you," said Mr. Reeder gratefully. "I should not wish to be
mistaken for a detective. It is a profession which I admire, but do not
envy."

He took from his pocket a large note-case and opened it. Inside, fastened
by a rubber band in the centre, was a thick wad of bank-notes. Seeing
them, Peter's eyebrows rose.

"You're a bold man to carry all that money about with you, Mr. Reeder,"
he said.

"Not bold," disclaimed the investigator. "I am indeed a very timid man."

He slipped a note from under the elastic band and handed it to his
wondering host. Peter took it.

"A fiver," he said.

Mr. Reeder took another. Peter saw it was a hundred before he held it in
his hand.

"Would you cash that for me?"

Peter Kane frowned.

"What do you mean?"

"Would you cash it for me?" asked Mr. Reeder. "Or perhaps you have no
change? People do not keep such large sums in their houses."

"I'll change it for you with pleasure," said Peter, and was taking out
his own note-case when Mr. Reeder stopped him with a gesture.

"Forged," he said briefly.

Peter looked at the note in his hand.

"Forged? Impossible! That's a good note."

He rustled it scientifically and held it up to the light. The watermark
was perfect. The secret marks on the face of the note which he knew very
well were there. He moistened the corner of the note with his thumb.

"You needn't trouble," said Reeder. "It answers all the tests."

"Do you mean to tell me this is 'slush'--I mean a forgery?"

The other nodded, and Peter examined the note again with a new interest.
He who had seen so much bad money had to admit that it was the most
perfect forgery he had ever handled.

"I shouldn't have hesitated to change that for you. Is all the other
money the same?"

Again the man nodded.

"But is that really bad money?" asked Marney, taking the note from her
father. "How is it made?"

Before the evasive answer came she guessed. In a flash she pieced
together the hints, the vague scraps of gossip she had heard about the
Big Printer.

"Jeffrey Legge!" she gasped, going white. "Oh!"

"Mr. Jeffrey Legge," nodded Reeder. "Of course we can prove nothing. Now
perhaps we can sit down."

It was he who suggested that they should go back to the garden seat. Not
until, in his furtive way, he had circumnavigated the clump of bushes
that hid the lawn from view did he open his heart.

"I am going to tell you a lot, Mr. Kane," he said, "because I feel you
may be able to help me, in spite of your principles. There are two men
who could have engraved this note, one man who could manufacture the
paper. Anybody could print it--anybody, that is to say, with a knowledge
of printing. The two men are Lacey and Burns. They have both been in
prison for forgery; they were both released ten years ago, and since then
have not been seen. The third man is a paper maker, who was engaged in
the bank-note works at Wellington. He went to penal servitude for seven
years for stealing banknote paper. He also has been released a very
considerable time, and he also has vanished."

"Lacey and Bums? I have heard of them. What is the other man's name?"
asked Peter.

Mr. Reeder told him.

"Jennings? I never heard of him."

"You wouldn't because he is the most difficult type of criminal to track.
In other words, he is not a criminal in the ordinary sense of the word. I
am satisfied that he is on the Continent because, to be making paper, it
is necessary that one should have the most up-to-date machinery. The
printing is done here."

"Where?" asked the girl innocently, and for the first time she saw Mr.
Reeder smile.

"I want this man very badly, and it is a matter of interest for you,
young lady, because I could get him to-morrow--for bigamy." He saw the
girl flush. "Which I shall not do. I want Jeff the Big Printer, not Jeff
the bigamist. And oh, I want him badly!"

A sound of loud coughing came from the lawn, and Barney appeared at the
head of the steps.

"Anybody want to see Emanuel Legge?"

They looked at one another.

"I don't want to see him," said Mr. Reeder decidedly. He nodded at the
girl. "And you don't want to see him. I fear that leaves only you, Mr.
Kane."


CHAPTER XXII

PETER was as cool as ice when he came into the drawing-room and found
Emanuel examining the pictures on the wall with the air of a connoisseur.
He turned, and beamed a benevolent smile upon the man he hated.

"I didn't think you'd come here again, Legge," said Peter with dangerous
calm.

"Didn't you now?" Emanuel seemed surprised. "Well, why not? And me
wanting to fix things up, too! I'm surprised at you, Peter."

"You'll put nothing right," said the other. "The sooner you recognise
that fact and clear, the better it will be for everybody."

"If I'd known," Emanuel went on, unabashed, "if only I'd dreamt that the
young woman Jeffrey had taken up with was your daughter, I would have
stopped it at once, Peter. The boy had been brought up straight and never
had met you. It is funny the number of straight people that never met
Peter Kane. Of course, if he'd been on the crook, he'd have known at
once. Do you think my boy would have married the daughter of a man who
twisted his father? Is it likely, Peter? However, it's done now, and
what's done can't be undone. The girl's fond of him, and he's fond of the
girl--"

"When you've finished being comic, you can go," said Peter "I never laugh
before lunch."

"Don't you, Peter? And not after? I've come at a very bad time, it seems
to me. Now listen, Peter. Let's talk business."

"I've no business with you." Peter opened the door.

"Haste was always your weakness, Peter," said Emanuel, not budging from
where he stood. "Never lose your temper. I lost my temper once and shot a
copper, and did fifteen years for it. Fifteen years, whilst you were
sitting here in luxury, entertaining the lords and ladies of the
neighbourhood, and kidding 'em you were straight. I'm going to ask you a
favour, Peter."

"It is granted before you ask," said the other sardonically.

"I'm going to ask you and Johnny boy to come and have a bit of dinner
with me and Jeffrey, and let us fix this thing up. You're not going to
have this girl brought into the divorce court, are you? And you've got to
get a divorce, whether he's married or whether he isn't. As a matter of
fact, he isn't married at all. I never dreamt you'd be such a mug as to
fall for the story that Lila was properly married to Jeff. All these
girls tell you the same thing. It's vanity, Peter, a human weakness, if I
may so describe it."

"Perhaps it was the vanity of the registrar who signed their marriage
certificate, and the vanity of the people who witnessed the marriage,"
said Peter. "Your son was married to this girl at the Greenwich Registry
Office; I've got a copy of the certificate--you can see it if you like."

Still the smile on Emanuel's face did not fade.

"Ain't you smart?" he said admiringly. "Ain't you the quickest grafter
that ever grafted? Married or not, Peter, the girl's got to go into the
court for the marriage to be--what do you call it?--annulled, that's the
word. And she can't marry till she does. And they'll never annul the
marriage until you get my boy caught for bigamy, and that you won't do,
Peter, because you don't want to advertise what a damned fool you are.
Take my advice, come and talk it over. Bring Johnny with you--"

"Why should I bring Johnny? I can look after myself."

"Johnny's an interested party," said the other. "He's interested in
anything to do with Marney, eh?" He chuckled, and for a second Peter Kane
had all his work to maintain his calm.

"I'm not going to discuss Marney with you. I'll meet you and the Printer,
and I don't suppose Johnny will mind either. Though what you can do that
the law can't do, I don't know."

"I can give you evidence that you can't get any other way," said the
other. "The fact is, Peter, my poor boy has realised he's made a mistake.
He married a girl who was the daughter of a respectable gentleman, and
when I broke it to him, Peter, that he'd married into a crook family, he
was upset! He said I ought to have told him."

"I don't know what funny business you're going to try," said Peter Kane,
"but I'm not going to run away from it. You want me to meet you and your
son--where?"

"What about the old Highlow?" suggested Emanuel. "What about Room 13,
where a sad accident nearly occurred?"

"Where you shot your son?" asked Peter coolly, and only for a second did
the man's self-possession leave him. His face turned a dusky red and then
a pale yellow.

"I shot my son there, did I? Peter, you're getting old and dopy! You've
been dreaming again, Peter. Shot my son!"

"I'll come to this fool dinner of yours."

"And Marney?" suggested the other.

"Marney doesn't put her foot inside the doors of the Highlow," said Peter
calmly. "You're mad to imagine I would allow that. I can't answer for
Johnny, but I'll be there."

"What about Thursday?" suggested the old man.

"Any day will suit me," said Peter impatiently. "What time do you want
us?"

"Half-past eight. Just a snack and a talk. We may as well have a bit of
food to make it cheerful, eh, Peter? Remember that dinner we had a few
days before we smashed the Southern Bank? That must be twenty years ago.
You split fair on that, didn't you? I'll bet you did--I had the money! No
taking a million dollars and calling it a hundred and twenty thousand
pounds, eh, Peter?"

This time Peter stood by the door, and the jerk of his head told Emanuel
Legge that the moment for persiflage had passed.

"I want to settle this matter." The earnestness of his manner did not
deceive Peter. "You see, Peter, I'm getting old, and I want to go abroad
and take the boy with me. And I want to give him a chance too--a
good-looking lad like that ought to have a chance. For I'll tell you the
truth--he's a single man."

Peter smiled.

"You can laugh! He married Lila--you've got a record of that, but have
you taken a screw at the divorce list? That takes the grin off your face.
They were divorced a year after they were married. Lila got tired of the
other man and came back to Jeff. You're a looker-up; go and look up that!
Ask old Reeder--"

"Ask him yourself," said Peter "He's in the garden."

He had no sooner said the words than he regretted them. Emanuel was
silent for a while.

"So Reeder's here, in the garden, is he? He's come for a squeak. But you
can't, because you've nothing to squeak about. What does he want?"

"Why don't you ask him?"

"That fellow spends his life wandering about other people's gardens,"
grumbled Emanuel.  A disinterested observer might have imagined that Mr.
Reeder's passion for horticulture was the only grievance against him. "He
was round my garden yesterday. I dare say he told you? Came worrying poor
Jeff to death. But you always were fond of busies, weren't you, Peter?
How's your old friend Craig? I can't stand them myself, but then I am a
crook. Thursday will suit you, Peter? That gives you six days."

"Thursday will suit me," said Peter. "I hope it will suit you."

As he came back on to the lawn Reeder and the girl were coming into view
up the steps, and without preliminary he told them what had passed.

"I fear," said Mr. Reeder, shaking his head sadly, "that Emanuel is not
as truthful a man as he might be. There was no divorce. I was
sufficiently interested in the case to look up the divorce court
records." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I think your dinner party at
the Highlow--is that the name?--will be an interesting one," he said.
"Are you sure he did not invite me?" And again Peter saw that glint of
humour in his eyes.

CHAPTER XXIII

MR. EMANUEL LEGGE had a great deal of business to do in London. The
closing of the club had sadly interfered with the amenities of the
Highlow, for many of its patrons and members were, not unnaturally,
reluctant to be found on premises subject, at any moment, to the
visitation of inquisitive police officers. Stevens, the porter, had been
reinstated, though his conduct, in Emanuel's opinion, had been open to
the gravest suspicion. In other ways he was a reliable man, and one whose
services were not lightly to be dispensed with. To his surprise, when he
had come to admonish the porter, that individual had taken the wind out
of his sails by announcing his intention of retiring unless the staff was
changed. And he had his way, the staff in question being the elevator
boy, Benny.

"Benny squeaked on me," said Stevens briefly, "and I'm not going to have
a squeaker round."

"He squeaked to me, my friend," said Emanuel, showing his teeth
unpleasantly. "He told me you tried to shield Johnny Gray."

"He's a member, ain't he?" asked the porter truculently. "How do I know
what members you want put away, and what members you want hidden? Of
course, I helped the Captain--or thought I was trying to help him. That's
my job."

There was a great deal of logic in this. Benny, the elevator boy, was
replaced.

Stepping out of the lift, Emanuel saw the prints of muddy boots in the
hall, and they were wet.

"Who is here?" he asked.

"Nobody in particular."

Legge pointed to the footprints.

"Somebody has been here recently," he said.

"They're mine," said Stevens without hesitation. "I went out to get a cab
for Monty Ford."

"Are there any mats?" snapped Emanuel.

Stevens did not answer.

There was a great deal of work for Emanuel to do. For example, there was
the matter of a certain house in Berkeley Square to be cleared off.
Though he was no longer in active work, he did a lot of crooked
financing, and the house had been taken with his money. It was hired
furnished for a year, and it was the intention of his associates to run
an exclusive gambling club. Unfortunately, the owner, who had a very
valuable collection of paintings and old jewellery, discovered the
character of the new tenant (a dummy of Legge's) and had promptly
cancelled the agreement. Roughly, the venture had cost Emanuel a
thousand, and he hated losing good money.

It was late that night when he left the club. He was sleeping in town,
intending to travel down to his convalescent son by an early train in the
morning. It had been raining heavily, and the street was empty when he
went out of the club, pulling the collar of his macintosh about his neck.

He had taken two strides when a man stepped out of the shadow of a
doorway and planted himself squarely in his path. Emanuel's hand dropped
to his pocket, for he was that rarest variety of criminal, an English
gunman.

"Keep your artillery out of action, Legge," said a voice that was
strangely familiar.

He peered forward, but in the shadow he could not distinguish the
stranger's face.

"Who are you?"

"An old friend of yours," was the reply. "Don't tell me you've forgotten
all your pals! Why, you'll be passing a screw in the street one of these
days without touching your hat to him."

And then it dawned upon Emanuel.

"Oh...you're Fenner, aren't you?"

"I'm Fenner," admitted the man. "Who else could I be? I've been waiting
to see you, Mr. Emanuel Legge. I wondered if you would remember a fellow
you sent to the triangle...fifteen lashes I had. You've never had a
'bashing,' have you, Legge? It's not so nice as you'd think. When they'd
took me back to my cell and put that big bit of lint on my shoulder, I
laid on my face for a week. Naturally, that interfered with my sleeping,
though it helped me a whole lot to think. And what I thought was this,
Emanuel, that a thousand a stroke wouldn't be too much to ask from the
man who got it for me."

Legge's lip twisted in a sneer.

"Oh, it's 'the black' you're after, is it? Fifteen thousand pounds, is
that your price?"

"I could do a lot with fifteen thousand, Legge. I can go abroad and have
a good time--maybe, take a house in the country."

"What's the matter with Dartmoor?" snarled Emanuel. "You'll get no
fifteen thousand from me--not fifteen thousand cents, not fifteen
thousand grains of sand. Get out of my way!"

He lurched forward, and the man slipped aside. He had seen what was in
the old man's hand.

Legge turned as he passed, facing him and walking sideways, alert to meet
any attempt which was launched.

"That's a pretty gun of yours, Legge," drawled the convict. "Maybe I
shall meet you one of these days when you won't be in a position to pull
it."

A thought struck Emanuel Legge, and he walked slowly back to the man, and
his tone was mild, even conciliatory.

"What's the good of making a fuss, Fenner? I didn't give you away. Half a
dozen people saw you cosh that screw."

"But half a dozen didn't come forward, did they?" asked Fenner
wrathfully. "You were the only prisoner; there was not a screw in sight."

"That's a long time ago," said Emanuel after a pause. "You're not going
to make any trouble now, are you? Fifteen thousand pounds is out of the
question. It is ridiculous to ask me for that. But if a couple of hundred
will do you any good, why, I'll send it to you."

"I'll have it now," said Fenner.

"You won't have it now, because I haven't got it," replied Emanuel. "Tell
me where you're to be found, and I'll send a boy along with it in the
morning."

Fenner hesitated. He was surprised even to touch for a couple of hundred.

"I'm staying at Rowton House, Wimborne Street, Pimlico."

"In your own name?"

"In the name of Fenner," the other evaded, "and that's good enough for
you."

Emanuel memorised the address.

"It will be there at ten o'clock," he said. "You're a mug to quarrel with
me. I could put you on to a job where you could have made not fifteen,
but twenty thousand."

All the anger had died out of the burglar's tone when he asked:

"Where?"

"There's a house in Berkeley Square," said Emanuel quickly, and gave the
number.

It was providential that he had remembered that white elephant of his.
And he knew, too, that at that moment the house was empty but for a
caretaker.

"Just wait here," he said, and went back into the club and to his little
office on the third floor.

Opening a drawer of his desk, he took out a small bunch of keys, the
duplicates that had been made during the brief period that the original
keys had been in his possession. He found Fenner waiting where he had
left him.

"Here are the keys. The house is empty. One of our people borrowed the
keys and got cold feet at the last minute. There's about eight thousand
pounds' worth of jewellery in a safe--you can't miss it. It is in the
principal drawing-room--in show cases--go and take a look at it. And
there's plate worth a fortune."

The man jingled the keys in his hand.

"Why haven't you gone after it, Emanuel?"

"Because it's not my graft," said Emanuel. "I'm running straight now. But
I want my cut, Fenner. Don't run away with any idea that you're getting
this for nothing. You've got a couple of nights to do the job; after
that, you haven't the ghost of a chance, because the family will be
coming back."

"But why do you give it to me?" asked Fenner, still suspicious.

"Because there's nobody else," was the almost convincing reply. "It may
be that the jewellery is not there at all," went on Emanuel frankly. "It
may have been taken away. But there is plenty of plate. I wouldn't have
given it to you if I'd got the right man--I doubt whether I'm going to
get my cut from you."

"You'll get your cut," said the other roughly. "I'm a fool to go after
this, knowing what a squeaker you are, but I'll take the risk. If you put
a point on me over this, Emanuel, I'll kill you. And I mean it."

"I'm sick of getting news about my murder," said Emanuel calmly. "If you
don't want to do it, leave it. I'll send you up a couple of hundred in
the morning, and that's all I'll do for you. Give me back those keys."

"I'll think about it," said the man, and turned away without another word.

It was one o'clock, and Emanuel went back to the club, working the
automatic lift himself to the second floor.

"Everybody gone, Stevens?" he asked.

The porter stifled a yawn and shook his head.

"There's a lady and a gentleman"--he emphasised the word--"in No. 8.
They've been quarrelling since nine o'clock. They ought to be finished by
now."

"Put my office through to the exchange," said Emanuel. Behind the
porter's desk was a small switchboard, and he thrust in the two plugs.
Presently the disc showed him that Emanuel was through.

Mr. Legge had many friends amongst the minor members of the Criminal
Investigation Department. They were not inexpensive acquaintances, but
they could on occasion be extremely useful. That night, in some respects,
Emanuel's luck was in, when he found Sergeant Shilto in his office. There
had been a jewel theft at one of the theatres, which had kept the
sergeant busy.

"Is that you, Shilto?" asked Legge in a low voice. "It's Manileg." He
gave his telegraphic address, which also served as a nom de plume when
such delicate negotiations as these were going through.

"Yes, Mr. Manileg?" said the officer, alert, for Emanuel did not call up
police headquarters unless there was something unusual afoot.

"Do you want a cop--a real one?" asked Legge in a voice little above a
whisper. "There's a man named Fenner--"

"The old lag?" asked Shilto. "Yes, I saw him to-day. What's he doing?"

"He's knocking off a little silver, from 973, Berkeley Square. Be at the
front door: you'll probably see him go in. You want to be careful,
because he's got a gun. If you hurry, you'll get there in front of him.
Good-night."

He hung up the receiver and smiled. The simplicity of the average
criminal always amused Emanuel Legge.

CHAPTER XXIV

PETER wrote to tell of the invitation which Legge had extended to him.
Johnny Gray had the letter by the first post. He sat in his big armchair,
his silk dressing-gown wrapped around him, his chin on his fists; and
seeing him thus, the discreet Parker did not intrude upon his thoughts
until Johnny, reading the letter again, tore it in pieces and threw it
into the wastepaper-basket.

He had a whimsical practice of submitting most of his problems, either in
parable form or more directly, to his imperturbable manservant.

"Parker, if you were asked to take dinner in a lion's den, what dress
would you wear?"

Parker looked down at him thoughtfully, biting his lip.

"It would largely depend, sir, on whether there were ladies to be
present," he said. "Under those extraordinary circumstances, one should
wear full dress and a white tie."

Johnny groaned.

"There have been such dinners, sir," Parker hastened to assure him in all
seriousness. "I recall that, when I was a boy, a visiting menagerie came
to our town, and one of the novelties was a dinner which was served in a
den of ferocious lions; and I distinctly remember that the lion-tamer
wore a white dress bow and a long tail coat. He also wore top boots," he
said after a moment's consideration, "which, of course, no gentleman
could possibly wear in evening dress. But then, he was an actor."

"But supposing the lion-tamer had a working arrangement with the lions?
Wouldn't you suggest a suit of armour?" asked Johnny without smiling, and
 Parker considered the problem for a moment. |

"That would rather turn it into a fancy-dress affair, sir," he said,
"where, of course, any costume is permissible. Personally," he added, "I
should never dream of dining in a den of lions under any circumstances."

"That's the answer I've been waiting for; it is the most intelligent
thing you've said this morning," said Johnny. "Nevertheless, I shall not
follow your excellent advice. I will be dining at the Highlow Club on
Thursday. Get me the morning newspaper: I haven't seen it."

He turned the pages apathetically, for the events which were at the
moment agitating political London meant nothing in his life. On an inner
page he found a brief paragraph which, however, did interest him. It was
in the latest news column, and related to the arrest of a burglar, who
had been caught red handed breaking into a house in Berkeley Square. The
man had given his name as Fenner. Johnny shook his head sadly. He had no
doubt as to the identity of the thief, for burglary was Fenner's graft.
Since the news had come in the early hours of the morning, there were no
details, and he put the paper aside and fell into a train of thought.

Poor Fenner! He must go back to that hell, which was only better than
Keytown Jail. He would be spared the ordeal of Keytown, at any rate, if
what Craig had said was true. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was
nearly eleven and jumped up. He was taking Marney to lunch and a matinee
that day. Peter was bringing her up, and he was to meet them at Victoria.

Since his release from Dartmoor, Johnny had had no opportunity of a quiet
talk with the girl, and this promised to be a red-letter day in his life.
He had to wait some time, for the train was late; and as he stood in the
broad hall, watching with abstracted interest the never-ceasing rush and
movement and life about him, he observed, out of the corner of his eye, a
man sidling toward him.

Johnny had that sixth sense which is alike the property of the scientist,
the detective and the thief. He was immediately sensitive to what he
called the approaching spirit, and long before the shabby stranger had
spoken to him, he knew that he was the objective. Nearer at hand, he
recognised the stranger as a man he had seen in Dartmoor, and remembered
that he had come to prison at the same time as Fenner and for the same
offence, though he had been released soon after Johnny had passed through
that grim gateway.

"I followed you down here, Mr. Gray, but I didn't like to talk to you in
the street," said the stranger, apparently immersed in an evening
newspaper, and talking, as such men talk, without moving his lips.

Johnny waited, wondering what was the communication, and not doubting
that it had to do with Fenner.

"Old Fenner's been 'shopped 'by Legge," said the man, "He went to knock
off some silver from a house in Berkeley Square, and Shilto was waiting
in the hall for him."

"How do you know Legge shopped him?" asked Johnny, interested.

"It was a 'shop' all right," said the other without troubling to explain.
"If you can put in a good word for Fenner, he'd be much obliged."

"But, my dear fellow," said John with a little smile, "to whom can I put
in a good word? In the present circumstances I couldn't put a word in for
my own maiden aunt. I'll see what I can do."

There was no need to tell the furtive man to go. With all a thief's keen
perceptions he had seen the eyes of Johnny Gray light up, and with a
sidelong glance assured himself as to the cause. Johnny went toward the
girl with long strides, and, oblivious to curious spectators and Peter
Kane alike, took both her hands in his. Her loveliness always came to him
in the nature of a glorious surprise. The grace and poise of her were
indefinite quantities that he could not keep exactly in his mind, and
inevitably she surpassed his impressions of her.

After he had handed the girl into a taxi, the older man beckoned him
aside.

"I'm not any too sure about this Highlow dinner," he said. "Love feasts
are not Emanuel's specialities, and there's a kick coming somewhere,
Johnny. I hope you're prepared for it?"

Johnny nodded.

"Emanuel isn't usually so obvious," he said. "In fact, the whole thing is
so patent and so crude that I can't suspect anything more than an attempt
to straighten matters as far as Marney is concerned."

Peter's face clouded.

"There will be no straightening there," he said shortly. "If he has
committed bigamy, he goes down for it. Understand that, Johnny. It will
be very unpleasant because of Marney's name being dragged into the light,
but I'm going through with it."

He turned away with a wave of his hand, and Johnny returned to the girl.

"What is the matter with father?" she asked as the taxi drew out of the
station. "He is so quiet and thoughtful these days. I suppose the poor
dear's worrying about me, though he needn't, for I never felt happier."

"Why?" asked Johnny, indiscreetly.

"Because--oh, well, because," she said, her face flushing the faintest
shade of pink. "Because I'm unmarried, for one thing. I hated the idea,
Johnny. You don't know how I hated it. I understand now poor daddy's
anxiety to get me married into respectable society." Her sense of humour,
always irrepressible, overcame her anxiety. "I wonder if you understand
my immoral sense of importance at the discovery that poor father has done
so many illegal things! I suppose it is the kink that he has transmitted
to me."

"Was it a great shock to you, Marney?" interrupted the young man quietly.

She nodded.  "Yes, but shocks are like blows--they hurt and they fade. It
isn't pleasant to be twisted violently to another angle of view. It pains
horribly, Johnny. But I think when I found--" She hesitated.

"When you found that I was a thief."

"When I found that you were--oh, Johnny, why did you? You had so many
advantages; you were a University man, a gentleman--Johnny, it wasn't big
of you. There's an excuse for daddy; he told me about his youth and his
struggles and the fearful hardness of living. But you had opportunities
that he never had. Easy money isn't good money, is it, Johnny?"

He was silent, and then, with a quick, breath-catching sigh, she smiled
again.

"I haven't come out to lecture you, and I shall not even ask you if, for
my sake, you will go straight in the future. Because, Johnny"--she
dropped a cool palm on the back of his hand--"I'm not going to do
anything like the good fairy in the storybooks and try to save you from
yourself."

"I'm saved," said Johnny, with a quizzical smile. "You're perfectly
right: there was no reason why I should be a thief. I was the victim of
circumstances. It was possibly the fascination of the game--no, no, it
wasn't that. One of these days I will tell you why I left the straight
path of virtue. It is a long and curious story."

She made no further reference to his fall, and throughout the lunch was
her own gay self. Looking down at her hand, Johnny saw, with
satisfaction, that the platinum wedding-ring she had worn had been
replaced by a small, plain gold ring, ornamented with a single turquoise,
and his breath came faster. He had first met her at a gymkhana, a country
fair which had been organised for charity, and the ring had been the
prize he had won at a shooting match, one of the gymkhana
features--though it was stretching terminology to absurd lengths so to
describe the hotch-potch of contests which went to the making of the
programme--and had offered it to her as whimsically as it had been
accepted. Its value was something under a pound. To Johnny, all the
millions in the world would not have given him the joy that its
appearance upon her finger gave him now.

After luncheon she returned to the unpleasant side of things.

"Johnny, you're going to be very careful, aren't you? Daddy says that
Jeff Legge hates you, and he is quite serious about it. He says that
there are no lengths to which Jeffrey and his father will not go to hurt
you--and me," she added.

Johnny bent over the table, lowering his voice. "Marney, when this matter
is settled--I mean, the release from your marriage--will you take
me--whatever I am?"

She met his eyes steadily and nodded. It was the strangest of all
proposals, and Jeffrey Legge, who had watched the meeting at the station,
had followed her, and now was overlooking them from one of the balconies
of the restaurant, flushed a deeper red, guessing all that that scene
meant.

CHAPTER XXV

ON Thursday afternoon, Emanuel Legge came out of the elevator at the
Highlow Club, and, with a curt nod to Stevens, walked up the heavily
carpeted corridor, unlocked the door of his tiny office and went in. For
half an hour he sat before his desk, his hands clasped on the
blotting-pad before him, motionless, his mind completely occupied by his
thoughts. At last he opened his desk, pressed a bell by his side, and he
had hardly taken his fingers from the push when the head waiter of the
establishment, a tall, unpleasant-looking Italian, came in.

"Fernando, you have made all the arrangements about the dinner to-night?"

"Yes," said the man.

"All the finest wines, eh? The best in the house?"

He peered at the waiter, his teeth showing in a smile.

"The very best," said Fernando briskly.

"There will be four: myself and Major Floyd, Mr. Johnny Gray and Peter
Kane."

"The lady is not coming?" asked Fernando.

"No, I don't think she'll be dining with us to-night," said Emanuel
carefully.

When the waiter had gone, he rose and bolted the door and returned to an
idle examination of the desk. He found extraordinary pleasure in opening
the drawers and looking through the little works of reference which
filled a niche beneath the pigeon-holes. This was Jeffrey's desk, and
Jeff was the apple of his eye.

Presently he rose and walked to a nest of pigeon-holes which stood
against the wall, and, putting his hand into one, he turned a knob and
pulled. The nest opened like a door, exposing a narrow, spiral staircase
which led upward and downward. He left the secret door open and pulled
down a switch, which gave him light above and below. For a second he
hesitated whether he should go up or down, and decided upon the latter
course.

At the foot of the stairs was another door, which he opened, passing into
the cellar basement of the house. As the door moved, there came to him a
wave of air so super-heated that for a moment he found difficulty in
breathing. The cellar in which he found himself was innocent of
furnishing, except for a table placed under a strong light, and a great,
enclosed furnace which was responsible for the atmosphere of the room. It
was like a Turkish bath, and he had not gone two or three paces before
the perspiration was rolling down his cheeks.

A broad-shouldered, undersized man was sitting at the table, a big book
open before him. He had turned at the sound of the key in the door, and
now he came toward the intruder. He was a half-caste, and, beyond the
pair of blue dungaree trousers, he wore no clothing. His yellow skin and
his curiously animal face gave him a particularly repulsive appearance.

"Got the furnace going, eh, Pietro?" said Emanuel mildly, taking off his
spectacles to wipe the moisture which had condensed upon the lenses.

Pietro grunted something and, picking up an iron bar, lifted open the big
door of the furnace. Emanuel put up his hands to guard his face from the
blast of heat that came forth.

"Shut it, shut it!" he said testily, and when this was done, he went
nearer to the furnace.

Two feet away there ran a box-like projection, extending from two feet
above the floor to the ceiling. A stranger might have imagined that this
was an air shaft, introduced to regulate the ventilation. Emanuel was not
a stranger. He knew that the shaft ran to the roof, and that it had a
very simple explanation.

"That's a good fire you've got, eh, Pietro? You could bum up a man
there?"

"Burn anything," growled the other, "but not man."

Emanuel chuckled.

"Scared I'm going to put a murder point on you, are you? Well, you
needn't be," he said. "But it's hot enough to melt copper, eh, Pietro?"

"Melt it down to nothing."

"Burnt any lately?"

The man nodded, rubbing his enormous arms caressingly.

"They came last Monday week, after the boss had been shot," said the
other. He had a curious impediment in his speech which made his tone
harsh and guttural. "The fellows upstairs knew they were coming, so there
was nothing to see. The furnace was nearly out."

Emanuel nodded.

"The boss said the furnace was to be kept going for a week," said Pietro
complainingly. "That's pretty tough on me, Mr. Legge. I feel sometimes
I'd nearly die, the heat's so terrible."

"You get the nights off," said Emanuel, "and there are weeks when you do
no work. To-night I shall want you....Mr. Jeff has told you?"

The dwarf nodded. Emanuel passed through the door, closing it behind him;
and, contrasted with the heat of the room, it seemed that he had walked
into an ice wall. His collar was limp, his clothes were sticking to him,
as he made his way up the stairs, and, passing the open door of his
office, continued until he reached the tiny landing which scarcely gave
him foothold. He knocked twice on the door, for of this he had no key.
After a pause came an answering knock, a small spyhole opened and an
inquiring and suspicious eye examined him.

When at last the door was opened, he found he was in a small room with a
large skylight, heavily barred. At one end of the skylight was a rolled
blind, which could be drawn across at night and effectively veil the
glare of light which on occasions rose from this room.

The man who grinned a welcome was little and bald. His age was in the
region of sixty, and the grotesqueness of his appearance was due less to
his shabby attire and diminutive stature than to the gold-rimmed monocle
fixed in his right eye.

In the centre of the room was a big table littered with paraphernalia,
ranging from a small microscope to a case filled with little black
bottles. Under the brilliant overhead light which hung above the table,
and clamped to the wood by glass-headed pins, was an oblong copper plate,
on which the engraver had been working--the engraving tool was in his
hand as he opened the door.

"Good morning, Lacey. What are you working at now?" asked Emanuel with a
benevolent air of patronage appropriate to the proprietor in addressing a
favourite workman.

"The new fives," said the other. "Jeff wants a big printing. Jeff's got
brains. Anybody else would have said, 'Work from a photographic
plate'--you know what that means. After a run of a hundred, the
impression goes wrong, and before you know where you are, there's a
squeak. But engraving is engraving," he said with pride. "You can get all
the new changes without photography. I never did hold with this new
method--'boobs' are full of fellows who think they can make slush with a
camera and a zinc plate!"

It was good to hear praise of Jeffrey, and Emanuel Legge purred. He
examined the half-finished plate through his powerful glasses, and though
the art of the engraver was one with which he was not well acquainted, he
could admire the fine work which this expert forger was doing.

To the left of the table was an aperture like the opening of a service
lift. It was a continuation of the shaft which led from the basement, and
it had this value, that, however clever the police might be, long before
they could break into the engraver's room all evidence of his guilt would
have been flung into the opening and consumed in the furnace fire.
Jeffrey's idea. "What a mind!" said the admiring Lacey. "It reduces risk
to what I might term a minimum. It is a pleasure working for Jeff, Mr.
Legge. He takes no chances."

"I suppose Pietro is always on the spot?"

Mr. Lacey smiled. He took up a plate from the table and examined it back
and front.

"That is one I spoilt this morning," he said. "Spilt some acid on it.
Look!"

He went to the opening, put in his hand, and evidently pressed a bell,
for a faint tinkle came from the mouth of the shaft. When he withdrew his
hand, the plate that it held had disappeared. There came the buzz of a
bell from beneath the table.

"That plate's running like water by now," he said. "There's no chance of
a squeak if Pietro's all right. Wide! That's Jeffrey! As wide as Broad
Street! Why, Mr. Legge, would you believe that I don't know to this day
where the stuff's printed? And I'll bet the printer hasn't got the
slightest idea where the plates are made. There isn't a man in this
building who has got so much as a smell of it."

Emanuel passed down to his own office, a gratified father, and, securely
closing the pigeon-hole door, he went out into the club premises to look
at Room 13. The table was already laid. A big rose-bowl, overflowing with
the choicest blooms, filled the centre; an array of rare glass, the like
of which the habitues of the club had never seen on their tables, stood
before each plate.

His brief inspection of the room satisfied him, and he returned, not to
his office but to Stevens, the porter.

"What's the idea of telling the members that all the rooms  are engaged
to-night?" asked Stevens. "I've had to put off Lew Brady, and he pays."

"We're having a party, Stevens," said Emanuel, "and we don't want any
interruption. Johnny Gray is coming. And you can take that look off your
face; if I thought he was a pal of yours, you wouldn't be in this club
two minutes. Peter Kane's coming too."

"Looks to me like a rough house," said Stevens. "What am I to do?" he
asked sarcastically. "Bring in the police at the first squeal?"

"Bring in your friend from Toronto," snapped Emanuel, and went home to
change.

CHAPTER XXVI

JOHNNY was the first of the guests to arrive, and Stevens helped him to
take off his raincoat. As he did so, he asked in a low voice: "Got a gun,
Captain?"

"Never carry one, Stevens. It is a bad habit to get into."

"I never thought you were a mug," said Stevens in the same voice.

"Any man who has been in prison is, ex officio, one of the Ancient Order
of Muggery," said Johnny, adjusting his bow in the mirror by the porter's
desk. "What's going?"

"I don't know," said the other, bending down to wipe the mud from
Johnny's boots. "But curious things have happened in No. 13; and don't
sit with your back to the buffet. Do you get that?"

Johnny nodded.

He had reached the end of the corridor when he heard the whine of the
ascending lift, and stopped. It was Peter Kane, and to him in a low
voice, Johnny passed on the porter's advice.

"I don't think they'll start anything," said Peter under his breath. "But
if they do, there's a nurse at Charing Cross Hospital who's going to say:
'What, you here again?"

As Johnny had expected, his two hosts were waiting in Room 13. The
silence which followed their arrival was, for one member of the party, an
awkward one.

"Glad to see you, Peter," said Emanuel at last, though he made no
pretence of shaking hands. "Old friends ought to keep up acquaintances.
There's my boy, Jeffrey. I think you've met him," he said with a grin.

"I've met him," said Peter, his face a mask.

Jeffrey Legge had apparently recovered fully from his unpleasant
experience.

"Now sit down, everybody," said Emanuel, bustling around, pulling out the
chairs. "You sit here, Johnny."

"I'd rather face the buffet; I like to see myself eat," said Johnny, and,
without invitation, sat down in the position he had selected.

Not waiting, Peter seated himself on Johnny's left, and it was Emanuel
himself, a little ruffled by this preliminary upset to his plans, who sat
with his back to the buffet. Johnny noticed the quick exchange of glances
between father and son; he noticed, too, that the buffet carried none of
the side dishes for which it was designed, and wondered what particular
danger threatened from that end of the room.

By the side of the sideboard, in one corner, hung a long, blue curtain,
which, he guessed, hid a door leading to No. 12. Peter, who was better
acquainted with the club, knew that No. 12 was the sitting-room, and that
the two made one of those suites which were very much in request when a
lamb was brought to the killing.

"Now, boys," said Emanuel with spurious joviality, "there is to be no
bickering and quarrelling. We're all met round the festive board, and
we've nothing to do but find a way out that leaves my boy's good name
unsullied, if I may use that word."

"You can use any word you like," said Peter. "It'll take more than a
dinner party to restore his tarnished reputation."

"What long words you use, Peter!" said Emanuel admiringly. "It's my own
fault that I don't know them, because I had plenty of time to study when
I was away 'over the Alps'. Never been over the Alps, have you, Peter?
Well, when they call it 'time,' they use the right word. The one thing
you've got there is time!"

Peter did not answer, and it was Jeffrey who took up the conversation.

"See here, Peter," he said, "I'm not going to make a song about this
business of mine. I'm going to put all my cards on the table. I want my
wife."

"You know where Lila is better than I," said Peter. "She's not in my
employment now."

"Lila nothing!" retorted Jeffrey. "If you fall for that stuff, you're
getting soft. I certainly married Lila, but she was married already, and
I can give you proof of it."

The conversation flagged here, for the waiter came in to serve the soup.

"What wine will you have, sir?"

"The same as Mr. Emanuel," said Peter.

Emanuel Legge chuckled softly.

"Think I'm going to 'knock you out,' eh, Peter? What a suspicious old man
you are!"

"Water," said Johnny softly when the waiter came to him.

"On the water-wagon, Johnny? That's good. A young man in your business
has got to keep his wits about him. I'll have champagne, Fernando, and so
will Major Floyd. Nothing like champagne to keep your heart up," he said.

Peter watched, all his senses alert, as the wine came, bubbling and
frothing, into the long glasses.

"That will do, Fernando," said Emanuel, watching the proceedings closely.

As the door closed, Johnny could have sworn he heard an extra click.

"Locking us in?" he asked pleasantly, and Emanuel's eyebrows rose.

"Locking you in, Johnny? Why, do you think I'm afraid of losing you, like
you're afraid of losing Marney?"

Johnny sipped the glass of water, his eyes fixed on the old man's face.
What was behind that buffet? That was the thought which puzzled him. It
was a very ordinary piece of furniture, of heavy mahogany, a little
shallow, but this was accounted for by the fact that the room was not
large, and, in furnishing, the proprietors of the club had of necessity
to economise space.

There were two cupboard doors beneath the ledge on which the side dishes
should have been standing. Was it his imagination that he thought he saw
one move the fraction of an inch?

"Ever been in 'bird' before, Johnny?"

It was Emanuel who did most of the talking.

"I know they gave you three years, but was that your first conviction?"

"That was my first conviction," said Johnny.

The old man looked up at the ceiling, pulling at his chin.

"Ever been in Keytown?" he demanded. "No good asking you, Peter, I know.
You've never been in Keytown or any bad boob, have you? Clever old
Peter!"

"Let us talk about something else," said Peter. "I don't believe for one
moment the story you told me about Lila having been married before.
You've told me a fresh lie every time the matter has been discussed. I'm
going to give you a show, Emanuel, for old times' sake. You've been a
swine, and you've been nearer to death than you know, for, if your plan
had come off as you expected it would, I'd have killed you."

Emanuel chuckled derisively.

"Old Peter's going to be a gunman," he said. "And after all the lectures
you've given me! I'm surprised at you, Peter. Now I'll tell you what I'm
going to do." He rested his elbows on the table and cupped his chin in
his hands, his keen eyes, all the keener for the magnification of his
spectacles, fixed hardly upon his sometime friend. "By my reckoning, you
owe me forty thousand pounds, and I know I'm not going to get it without
a struggle. Weigh in with that money, and I'll make things easy for my
son's wife." He emphasised the last word.

"You can cut that out!"

It was Jeffrey whose rough interruption checked his father's words.

"There's no money in the world that's going to get Marney from me.
Understand that." He brought his hand down with a crash upon the table.
"She belongs to me, and I want her, Peter. Do you get it? And what is
more, I'm going to take her."

Johnny edged a little farther from the table, and folding his arms across
his chest, his lips parted in a smile. His right hand reached for the gun
that he carried under his armpit: a little Browning, but a favourite one
of Johnny's in such crises as these. For the cupboard door had moved
again, and the door of the room was locked: of that he was certain. All
this talk of Marney was sheer blind to keep them occupied.

It had long passed the time when the plates should have been cleared and
the second course make its appearance. But there was to be no second
course, at that dinner. Emanuel was speaking chidingly, reproachfully.

"Jeffrey, my boy, you mustn't spoil a good deal," he said. "The truth
is--"

And then all the lights of the room went out. Instantly Johnny was on his
feet, his back to the wall, his gun fanning the dark.

"What's the game?" asked Peter's voice sharply. "There'll be a real dead
man here if you start fooling."

"I don't know," said Emanuel, speaking from the place where he had been.
"Ring the bell, Jeff. I expect the switch has gone."

There was somebody else in the room: Johnny felt the presence
instinctively--a stealthy somebody who was moving toward him. Holding out
one hand, ready to pounce the moment it touched, he waited. A second
passed--five seconds--ten seconds--and then the lights went on again.

Peter was also standing with his back to the wall, and in his hand a
murderous looking Webley. Jeffrey and his father were side by side in the
places they had been when the lights went out. There was no fifth man in
the room.

"What's the game?" asked Peter suspiciously.

"The game, my dear Peter? What a question to ask! You don't make me
responsible for the fuses, do you? I'm not an electrician. I'm a poor old
crook who has done time that other people should have done--that's all,"
said Emanuel pleasantly. "And look at the hardware! Bad idea, carrying
guns. Let an old crook give you a word of advice, Peter," he bantered.
"I'm not surprised at Johnny, because he might be anything. Sit down, you
damned fools," he said jocularly. "Let's talk."

"I'll talk when you open that door," said Johnny quietly. "And I'll put
away my gun on the same condition."

In three strides, Emanuel was at the door. There was a jerk of his wrist,
and it flew open.

"Have the door open if you're frightened," he said contemptuously. "I
guess it's being in boob that makes you scared of the dark. I got that
way myself."

As he had turned the handle, Johnny had heard a second click. He was
confident that somebody stood outside the door, and that the words Legge
had uttered were intended for the unknown sentry. What was the idea?

Peter Kane was sipping his champagne, with an eye on his host. Had he
heard the noise, too? Johnny judged that he had. The extinguishing of the
lights had not been an accident. Some secret signal had been given, and
the lights cut off from the controlling switchboard. The doors of the
buffet cupboard were still. Turning his head, Johnny saw that Jeffrey's
eyes were fixed on his with a hard concentration which was significant.
What was he expecting?

The climax, whatever it might be, was at hand.

"It's a wonder to me, Gray, that you've never gone in for slush." Jeffrey
was speaking slowly and deliberately. "It's a good profession, and you
can make money that you couldn't dream of getting by faking racehorses."

"Perhaps you will tell me how to start in that interesting profession,"
said Johnny coolly.

"I'll put it on paper for you, if you like. It'll be easier to make a
squeak about. Or, better still, I'll show you how it's done. You'd like
that?"

"I don't know that I'm particularly interested, but I'm sure my friend
Mr. Reeder--"

"Your friend Mr. Reeder!" sneered the other. "He's a pal of yours too, is
he?"

"All law-abiding citizens are pals of mine," said Johnny gravely.

He had put his pistol back in his jacket pocket, and his hand was on it.

"Well, how's this for a start?"

Jeffrey rose from the table and went to the buffet. He bent down and must
have touched some piece of mechanism; for, without any visible
assistance, the lid of the buffet turned over on some invisible axis,
revealing a small but highly complicated piece of machinery, which Johnny
recognised instantly as one of those little presses employed by banknote
printers when a limited series of notes, generally of a high
denomination, were being made.

The audacity of this revelation momentarily took his breath away.

"You could pull that buffet to pieces," continued Jeffrey, "and then not
find it."

He pressed a switch, and the largest of the wheels began to spin, and
with it a dozen tiny platens and cylinders. Only for a few minutes, and
then he cut off the current, pressed the hidden mechanism again, and the
machine turned over out of sight, and the two astonished men stared at
the very ordinary looking surface of a very ordinary buffet.

"Easy money, eh, Gray?" said Emanuel, with an admiring smirk at his son.
"Now listen, boys," His tone grew suddenly practical and businesslike as
he came back to his chair. "I want to tell you something that's going to
be a lot of good to both of you, and we'll leave Marney out of it for the
time being."

Johnny raised his glass of water, still watchful and suspicious.

"The point is--" said Emanuel, and at that moment Johnny took a long sip
from the glass.

The liquid had hardly reached his throat when he strove vainly to reject
it. The harsh tang of it he recognised, and, flinging the glass to the
floor, jerked out his gun.

And then some tremendous force within him jerked at his brain, and the
pistol dropped from his paralysed hand.

Peter was on his feet, staring from one to the other.

"What have you done?"

He leapt forward, but before he could make a move, Emanuel sprang at him
like a cat. He tried to fight clear, but he was curiously lethargic and
weak. A vicious fist struck him on the jaw, and he went down like a log.

"Got you!" hissed Emanuel, glaring down at his enemy. "Got you, Peter, my
boy! Never been in boob, have you? I'll give you a taste of it!"

Jeffrey Legge stooped and jerked open the door of the cupboard, and a man
came stooping into the light. It was a catlike Pietro, grinning from ear
to ear in sheer enjoyment of the part he had played. Emanuel dropped his
hand on his shoulder.

"Good boy," he said. "The right stuff for the right man, eh? To every man
his dope, Jeff. I knew that this Johnny Gray was going to be the hardest,
and if I'd taken your advice and given them both a knock-out, we'd have
only knocked out one. Now they know why the lights went out. Pick 'em
up."

The little half-caste must have been enormously strong, for he lifted
Peter without an effort and propped him into an armchair. This done, he
picked up the younger man and laid him on the sofa, took a little tin box
from his pocket, and, filling a hypodermic syringe from a tiny phial,
looked round for instructions.

Jeffrey nodded, and the needle was driven into the unfeeling flesh. This
done, he lifted the eyelid of the drugged man and grinned again.

"He'll be ready to move in half an hour," he said. "My knock-out doesn't
last longer."

"Could you get him down the fire-escape into the yard?" asked Emanuel
anxiously. "He's a pretty heavy fellow, that Peter. You'll have to help
him, Jeff boy. The car's in the yard. And, Jeff, don't forget you've an
engagement at two o'clock."

His son nodded.

Again the half-caste swung up Peter Kane, and Jeffrey, holding the door
wide, helped him to carry the unconscious man through the open window and
down the steel stairway, though he needed very little help, for the
strength of the man was enormous.

He came back, apparently unmoved by his effort, and hoisted Johnny on to
his back. Again unassisted, he carried the young man to the waiting car
below, and flung him into the car.

He was followed this time by Jeffrey, wrapped from head to foot in a long
waterproof, a chauffeur's cap pulled down over his eyes. They locked both
doors of the machine, and Peitro opened the gate and glanced out. There
were few people about, and the car swung out and sped at full speed
toward Oxford Street.

Closing and locking the gate, the half-caste went up the stairs of the
fire-escape two at a time and reported to his gratified master.

Emanuel was gathering the coats and hats of his two guests into a bundle.
This done, he opened a cupboard and flung them in, and they immediately
disappeared.

"Go down and burn them," he said laconically. "You've done well, Pietro.
There's fifty for you to-night."

"Good?" asked the other laconically.

Emanuel favoured him with his benevolent smile. He took the two glasses
from which the men had drunk, and these followed the clothes. A careful
search of the room brought to light no further evidence of their
presence. Satisfied, Emanuel sat down and lit a long, thin cigar. His
night's work was not finished. Jeff had left to him what might prove the
hardest of all the tasks.

From a small cupboard he took a telephone, and pushed in the plug at the
end of a long flex. He had some time to wait for the number, but
presently he heard a voice which he knew was Marney's.

"Is that you, Marney?" he asked softly, disguising his voice so cleverly
that the girl was deceived.

"Yes, daddy. Are you all right? I've been so worried about you."

"Quite all right, darling. Johnny and I have made a very interesting
discovery. Will you tell Barney to go to bed, and will you wait up for
me--open the door yourself?"

"Is Johnny coming back with you?"

"No, no, darling; I'm coming alone."

"Are you sure everything is all right?" asked the anxious voice.

"Now, don't worry, my pet. I shall be with you at two o'clock. When you
hear the car stop at the gate, come out. I don't want to come into the
house. I'll explain everything to you."

"But--"

"Do as I ask you, darling," he said, and before she could reply had rung
off.

But could Jeff make it? He would like to go himself, but that would mean
the employment of a chauffeur, and he did not know one he could trust. He
himself was not strong enough to deal with the girl, and, crowning
impossibility, motor-car driving was a mystery--that was one of the
accomplishments which a long stay in Dartmoor had denied to him.

But could Jeff make it? He took a pencil from his pocket and worked out
the times on the white tablecloth. Satisfied, he put away his pencil, and
was pouring out a glass of champagne when there was a gentle tap-tap-tap
at the door. He looked up in surprise. The man had orders not under any
circumstances to come near Room 13, and it was his duty to keep the whole
passage clear until he received orders to the contrary.

Tap-tap-tap.

"Come in," he said.

The door opened. A man stood in the doorway. He was dressed in shabby
evening clothes; his bow was clumsily tied one stud was missing from his
white shirt-front.

"Am I intruding upon your little party?" he asked timidly.

Emanuel said nothing. For a long time he sat staring at this strange
apparition. As if unconscious of the amazement and terror he had caused,
the visitor sought to read just his frayed shirt-cuffs, which hung almost
to the knuckles of his hands. And then:

"Come in, Mr. Reeder," said Emanuel Legge a little breathlessly.

CHAPTER XXVII

MR. REEDER sidled into the room apologetically, closing the door behind
him.

"All alone, Mr. Legge?" he asked. "I thought you had company?"

"I had some friends, but they've gone."

"Your son gone, too?" Reeder stared helplessly from one corner of the
room to the other. "Dear me, this is a disappointment, a great
disappointment."

Emanuel was thinking quickly. In all probability the shabby detective had
been watching the front of the house, and would know that they had not
left that way. He took a bold step.

"They left a quarter of an hour ago. Peter and Johnny went down the
fire-escape--my boy's car was in the yard. We never like to have a car in
front of the club premises; people talk so much. And after the publicity
we've had--"

Mr. Reeder checked him with a mild murmur of agreement.

"That was the car, was it? I saw it go and wondered what it was all
about--Number XC. 9712, blue-painted limousine--Daimler--I may be wrong,
but it seemed like a Daimler to me. I know so little about motor-cars
that I could be very easily mistaken, and my eyesight is not as good as
it used to be."

Emanuel cursed him under his breath.

"Yes, it was a Daimler," he said, "one we bought cheap at the sales."

The absent-minded visitor's eyes were fixed on the table.

"Took their wine-glasses with them?" he asked gently. "I think it is a
pretty custom, taking souvenirs of a great occasion. I'm sure they were
very happy."

How had he got in, wondered Emanuel? Stevens had strict orders to stop
him, and Fernando was at the end of the L-shaped passage. As if he
divined the thought that was passing through Legge's mind, Mr. Reeder
answered the unspoken question.

"I took the liberty of coming up the fire-escape, too," he said. "It was
an interesting experience. One is a little old to begin experiments, and
I am not the sort of man that cares very much for climbing, particularly
at night."

Following the direction of his eyes, Emanuel saw that a small square of
the rusty trousers had been worn, and through the opening a bony white
knee.

"Yes, I came up the fire-escape, and fortunately the window was open. I
thought I would give you a pleasant surprise. By the way, the escape
doesn't go any higher than this floor? That is curious, because, you
know, my dear Mr. Legge, it might well happen, in the event of fire, that
people would be driven to the roof. If I remember rightly, there is
nothing on the roof but a square superstructure--store-room, isn't it?
Let me think. Yes, it's a store-room, I'm sure."

"The truth is," interrupted Emanuel, "I had two old acquaintances here,
Johnny Gray and Peter Kane. I think you know Peter?"

The other inclined his head gently.

"And they got just a little too merry. I suppose Johnny's not used to
wine, and Peter's been a teetotaller for years." He paused. "In fact,
they were rather the worse for drink."

"That's very sad." Mr. Reeder shook his head. "Personally, I am a great
believer in prohibition. I would prohibit wine and beer, and crooks and
forgers, tale-tellers, poisoners"--he paused at the word--"druggers would
be a better word," he said. "They took their glasses with them, did they?
I hope they will return them. I should not like to think that people
I--er--like would be guilty of so despicable a practice as--er--the petty
theft of--er--wine-glasses."

Again his melancholy eyes fell on the table.

"And they only had soup! It is very unusual to get bottled before you've
finished the soup, isn't it? I mean, in respectable circles," he added
apologetically.

He looked back at the open door over his spectacles.

"I wonder," he mused, "how they got down that fire-escape in the dark in
such a sad condition?"

Again his expressionless eyes returned to Emanuel.

"If you see them again, will you tell them that I expect both Mr. Kane
and Mr. Johnny--what is his name?--Gray, that is it! to keep an
appointment they made with me for to-morrow morning? And that if they do
not turn up at my house at ten o'clock..."

He stopped, pursing up his lips as though he were going to whistle.
Emanuel wondered what was coming next, and was not left long in doubt.

"Did you feel the cold very much in Dartmoor? They tell me that the
winters are very trying, particularly for people of an advanced age. Of
course," Mr. Reeder went on, "one can have friends there; one can even
have relations there. I suppose it makes things much easier if you know
your son or some other close relative is living on the same
landing--there are three landings, are there not? But it is much nicer to
live in comfort in London, Mr. Legge--to have a cosy little suite in
Bloomsbury, such as you have got; to go where you like without a screw
following you--I think 'screw' is a very vulgar word, but it means
'warder,' does it not?"

He walked to the door and turned slowly.

"You won't forget that I expect to meet Mr. Peter Kane and Mr. John Gray
tomorrow at my house at half-past ten--you won't forget, will you?"

He closed the door carefully behind him, and, with his great umbrella
hooked on to his arm, passed along the corridor into the purview of the
astounded Fernando, astounding the jailers on guard at the end.

"Good evening," murmured Mr. Reeder as he passed.

Fernando was too overcome to make a courteous reply.

Stevens saw him as he came into the main corridor, and gasped.

"When did you come in, Mr. Reeder?"

"Nobody has ever seen you come in, but lots of people see you go out,"
said Reeder good-humouredly. "On the other land, there are people who are
seen coming into this club whom nobody sees go out. Mr. Gray didn't pass
this way, or Mr. Kane?"

"No, sir," said Stevens in surprise. "Have they gone?"

Reeder sighed heavily.

"Yes, they've gone," he said. "I hope not for long, but they've certainly
gone. Good night, Stevens. By the way, your name isn't Stevens, is it? I
seem to remember you"--he screwed up his eyes as though he had
difficulty in recalling the memory--"I seem to remember your name wasn't
Stevens, let us say, eight years ago."

Stevens flushed.

"It is the name I'm known as now, sir."

"A very good name, too, an excellent name," murmured Mr. Reeder as he
stepped into the elevator. "And after all, we must try to live down the
past. And I'd be the last to remind you of your--er--misfortune."

When he reached the street, two men who had been standing on the opposite
sidewalk crossed to him.

"They've gone," said Mr. Reeder. "They were in that car, as I feared. All
stations must be warned, and particularly the town stations just outside
of London, to hold up the car. You have its number. You had better watch
this place till the morning," he said to one of them.

"Very good, sir."

"I want you especially to follow Emanuel, and keep him under observation
until to-morrow morning."

The detective left on duty waited with that philosophical patience which
is the greater part of the average detective's equipment, until three
o'clock in the morning; and at that hour, when daylight was coming into
the sky, Emanuel had not put in an appearance. Stevens went off duty half
an hour after Mr. Reeder's departure. At two o'clock the head waiter and
three others left, Fernando locking the door. Then, a few minutes before
three, the squat figure of Pietro, muffled up in a heavy overcoat, and he
too locked the door behind him, disappearing in the direction of
Shaftesbury Avenue. At half-past three the detective left a policeman to
watch the house, and got on the 'phone to Mr. Reeder, who was staying in
town.

"Dear me!" said Mr. Reeder, an even more incongruous sight in pyjamas
which were a little too small for him, though happily there were no
spectators of his agitation. "Not gone, you say? I will come round."

It was daylight when he arrived. The gate in the yard was opened with a
skeleton key (the climb so graphically described by Mr. Reeder was
entirely fictitious, and the cut in his trousers was due to catching a
jagged nail in one of the packing-cases with which the yard was
littered), and he mounted the iron stairway to the third floor.

The window through which he had made his ingress on the previous evening
was closed and fastened, but, with the skill of a professional burglar,
Mr. Reeder forced back the catch and, opening the window, stepped in.

There was enough daylight to see his whereabouts. Unerringly he made for
Emanuel's office. The door had been forced, and there was no need to use
the skeleton key. There was no sign of Emanuel, and Reeder came out to
hear the report of the detective, who had made a rapid search of the
club.

"All the doors are open except No. 13, sir," he said. "That's bolted on
the inside. I've got the lock open."

"Try No. 12," said Reeder. "There are two ways in--one by way of a door,
which you'll find behind a curtain in the corner of the room, and the
other way through the buffet, which communicates with the buffet in No.
13. Break nothing if you can help it, because I don't want my visit here
advertised."

He followed the detective into No. 12, and found that there was no
necessity to use the buffet entrance, for the communicating door was
unlocked. He stepped into No. 13; it was in complete darkness.

"Humph!" said Mr. Reeder, and sniffed. "One of you go along this wall and
find the switch. Be careful you don't step on something."

"What is there?"

"I think you'll find...however, turn on the light."

The detective felt his way along the wall, and presently his finger
touched a switch and he turned it down. And then they saw all that Mr.
Reeder suspected. Sprawled across the table was a still figure--a
horrible sight, for the man who had killed Emanuel Legge had used the
poker which, twisted and bloodstained, lay amidst the wreckage of rare
glass and once snowy napery.

CHAPTER XXVIII

IT was unnecessary to call a doctor to satisfy the police. Emanuel Legge
had passed beyond the sphere of his evil activities.

"The poker came from--where?" mused Mr. Reeder, examining the weapon
thoughtfully. He glanced down at the little fireplace. The poker and
tongs and shovel were intact, and this was of a heavier type than was
used in the sitting-rooms.

Deftly he searched the dead man's pockets, and in the waistcoat he found
a little card inscribed with a telephone number, "Horsham 98753."
Peter's. That had no special significance at the moment, and Reeder put
it with the other documents that he had extracted from the dead man's
pockets. Later came an inspector to take charge of the case.

"There was some sort of struggle, I imagine," said Mr. Reeder. "The right
wrist, I think you'll find, is broken. Legge's revolver was underneath
the table. He probably pulled it, and it was struck from his hand. I
don't think you'll want me any more, inspector."

He was examining the main corridor when the telephone switchboard at the
back of Stevens's little desk gave him an idea. He put through a call to
Horsham, and, in spite of the earliness of the hour, was almost
immediately answered.

"Who is that?" he asked.

"I'm Mr. Kane's servant," said a husky Voice.

"Oh, is it Barney? Is your master at home yet?"

"No, sir. Who is it speaking?"

"It is Mr. Reeder....Will you tell Miss Kane to come to the
telephone?"

"She's not here either. I've been trying to get on to Johnny Gray all
night, but his servant says he's out."

"Where is Miss Kane?" asked Reeder quickly.

"I don't know, sir. Somebody came for her in the night in a car, and she
went away, leaving the door open. It was the wind slamming it that woke
me up."

It was so long before Mr. Reeder answered that Barney thought he had gone
away.

"Did nobody call for her during the evening? Did she have any telephone
messages?"

"One, sir, about ten o'clock. I think it was her father, from the way she
was speaking."

Again a long interval of silence, and then: "I will come straight down to
Horsham," said Mr. Reeder, and from the pleasant and conversational
quality of his voice, Barney took comfort; though, if he had known the
man better, he would have realised that Mr. Reeder was most ordinary when
he was most perturbed.

Mr. Reeder pushed the telephone away from him and stood up.

So they had got Marney. There was no other explanation. The dinner party
had been arranged to dispose of the men who could protect her. Where had
they been taken?

He went back to the old man's office, which was undergoing a search at
the hands of a police officer.

"I particularly want to see immediately any document referring to Mr
Peter Kane," he said "any road maps which you may find here, and
especially letters address to Emanuel Legge by his son. You know, of
course, that this office was broken into? There should be something in
the shape of clues."

The officer shook his head. "I'm afraid, Mr. Reeder, we won't find much
here," he said. "So far, I've only come across old bills and business
letters which you might find in any office."

The detective looked round.

"There is no safe?" he asked.

All the timidity and deference in his manner had gone. He was patently a
man of affairs.

"Yes, sir, the safe's behind that panelling. I'll get it open this
morning. But I shouldn't imagine that Legge would leave anything
compromising on the premises. Besides, his son has had charge of the
Highlow for years. Previous to that, they had a manager who is now doing
time. Before him, if I remember right, that fellow Fenner, who has been
in boob for burglary."

"Fenner?" said the other sharply. "I didn't know he ever managed this
club."

"He used to, but he had a quarrel with the old man. I've got an idea they
were in jug together."

Fenner's was not the type of mentality one would expect to find among the
officers of a club, even a club of the standing of the Highlow: but there
was this about the Highlow, that it required less intelligence than
sympathy with a certain type of client.

Reeder was assisting the officer by taking out the contents of the
pigeon-holes, when his hand touched a knob.

"Hallo, what is this?" he said, and turned it.

The whole desk shifted slightly, and, pulling, he revealed the door to
the spiral staircase.

"This is very interesting," he said. He ascended as far as the top
landing. There was evidently a door here, but every effort he made to
force it ended in failure. He came down again, continuing to the
basement, and this time he was joined by the inspector in charge of the
case.

"Rather hot," said Mr. Reeder, as he opened the door. "I should say there
is a fire burning here."

It took him some time to discover the light connections, and when he did,
he whistled. For, lying by the side of the red-hot stove, he saw a piece
of shining metal and recognised it. It was an engraver's plate, and one
glance told him that it was the finished plate from which 5 notes could
be printed.

The basement was empty, and for a second the mystery of the copper plate
baffled him.

"We may not have found the Big Printer, but we've certainly found the Big
Engraver," he said. "This plate was engraved somewhere upstairs." He
pointed to the shaft. "What is it doing down here? Of course!" He slapped
his thigh exultantly. "I never dreamt he was right--but he always is
right!"

"Who?" asked the officer.

"An old friend of mine, whose theory was that the plates from which the
slush was printed were engraved within easy reach of a furnace, into
which, in case of a police visitation, they could be pushed and
destroyed. And, of course, the engraving plant is somewhere upstairs. But
why they should throw down a perfectly new piece of work, and at a time
when the attendant was absent, is beyond me. Unless...Get me an axe;
I want to see the room on the roof."

The space was too limited for the full swing of an axe, and it was nearly
an hour before at last the door leading to the engraver's room was
smashed in. The room was flooded with sunshine, for the skylight had not
been covered. Reeder's sharp eyes took in the table with a glance, and
then he looked beyond, and took a step backward. Lying by the wall,
dishevelled, mud-stained, his white dress-shirt crumpled to a pulp, was
Peter Kane, and he was asleep!

They dragged him to a chair, bathed his face with cold water, but even
then he took a long time to recover.

"He has been drugged: that's obvious," said Mr. Reeder, and scrutinised
the hands of the unconscious man for a sign of blood. But though they
were covered with rust and grime, Reeder found not so much as one spot of
blood; and the first words that Peter uttered, on recovering
consciousness, confirmed the view that he was ignorant of the murder.

"Where is Emanuel?" he asked drowsily. "Have you got him?"

"No; but somebody has got him," said Reeder gently, and the shock of the
news brought Peter Kane wide awake.

"Murdered!" he said unbelievingly. "Are you sure? Of course, I'm mad to
ask you that." He passed his hand wearily across his forehead. "No, I
know nothing about it. I suppose you suspect me, and I don't mind telling
you that I was willing to murder him if I could have found him."

Briefly he related what had happened at the dinner.

"I knew that I was doped, but dope works slowly on me, and the only
chance I had was to sham dead. Emanuel gave me a thump in the jaw, and
that was my excuse for going out. They got me downstairs into the yard
and put me into the car first. I slipped out the other side as soon as
the nigger went up to get Johnny. There were a lot of old cement sacks
lying about, and I threw a couple on to the floor, hoping that in the
darkness they would mistake the bundle for me. Then I lay down amongst
the packing-cases and waited. I guessed they'd brought down Johnny, but I
was powerless to help him. When the car had gone, and Pietro had gone up
again, I followed. I suppose the dope was getting busy, and if I'd had
any sense, I should have got over the gate. My first thought was that
they might have taken my gun away and left it in the room. I tried to
open the door, but it was locked."

"Are you sure of that, Peter?"

"Absolutely sure."

"How long after was this?"

"About half an hour. It took me all that time to get up the stairs,
because I had to fight the dope all the way. I heard somebody moving
about, and slipped into one of the other rooms, and then I heard the
window pulled down and locked. I didn't want to go to sleep, for fear
they discovered me; but I must have dozed, for when I woke up, it was
dark and cold, and I heard no sound at all. I tried the door of thirteen
again, but could make no impression on it. So I went to Emanuel's office.
I know the place very well: I used to go in there in the old days, before
Emanuel went to jail, and I knew all about the spiral staircase to the
roof. All along I suspected that the hut they'd put on the roof was the
place where the slush was printed. But here I was mistaken, for I had no
sooner got into the room than I saw that it was where the engraver
worked. There was a plate on the edge of a shaft. I suppose I was still
dizzy, because I fumbled at it. It slipped through my hand, and I heard
a clang come up from somewhere below."

"How did you get into this room?"

"The door was open," was the surprising reply. "I have an idea that it is
one of those doors that can only be opened and closed from the inside.
The real door of the room is in the room in Emanuel's office. It is the
only way in, and the only way out, both from the basement and the room on
the roof. I don't know what happened after that. I must have lain down,
for by now the dope was working powerfully. I ought to let Marney know
I'm all right. She'll be worried...."

He saw something in the detective's face, something that made his heart
sink.

"Marney! Is anything wrong with Marney?" he asked quickly.

"I don't know. She went out last night--or rather, early this
morning--and has not been seen since."

Peter listened, stricken dumb by the news. It seemed to Mr. Reeder that
he aged ten years in as few minutes.

"Now, Kane, you've got to tell me all you know about Legge," said Reeder
kindly. "I haven't any doubt that Jeffrey's taken her to the big printing
place. Where is it?"

Peter shook his head.

"I haven't the least idea," he said. "The earlier slush was printed in
this building; in fact, it was printed in Room 13. I've known that for a
long time. But as the business grew, young Legge had to find another
works. Where he has found it is a mystery to me, and to most other
people."

"But you must have heard rumours?" persisted Reeder.

Again Peter shook his head.

"Remember that I mix very little with people of my own profession, or my
late profession," he said. "Johnny and old Barney are about the only
crooks I know, outside of the Legge family. And Stevens, of course--he
was in jail ten years ago. I've lost touch with all the others, and my
news has come through Barney, though most of Barney's gossip is
unreliable."

They reached Barney by telephone, but he was unable to give any
information that was of the slightest use. All that he knew was that the
printing works were supposed to be somewhere in the West.

"Johnny knows more about it than I do, or than anybody. All the boys
agree as to that," said Barney. "They told him a lot in 'boob'."


Leaving Peter to return home, Mr. Reeder made a call at Johnny's flat.
Parker was up. He had been notified earlier in the morning of his
master's disappearance, but he had no explanation to offer.

He was preparing to give a list of the clothes that Johnny had been
wearing, but Reeder cut him short impatiently.

"Try to think of Mr. Gray as a human being, and not as a tailor's dummy,"
he said wrathfully. "You realise that he is in very grave danger?"

"I am not at all worried, sir," said the precise Parker. "Mr. Gray was
wearing his new sock suspenders--"

For once Mr. Reeder forgot himself.

"You're a damned fool, Parker," he said.

"I hope not, sir." said Parker as he bowed him out.

CHAPTER XXIX

IT was five minutes past two in the morning when Marney, sitting in the
drawing-room at the front of the house, heard the sound of a motor-car
stop before the house. Going into the hall, she opened the door, and,
standing on the step, peered into the darkness.

"Is that you, father?" she asked.

There was no reply, and she walked quickly up the garden path to the
gate. The car was a closed coupe, and as she looked over the gate, she
saw a hand come out and beckon her, and heard a voice whisper:

"Don't make a noise. Come in here; I want to talk to you. I don't want
Barney to see me."

Bewildered, she obeyed. Jerking open the door, she jumped into the dark
interior, by the side of the man at the wheel.

"What is it?" she asked.

Then, to her amazement, the car began to move toward the main road. It
had evidently circled before it had stopped.

"What is the matter, father?" she asked.

And then she heard a low chuckle that made her blood run cold.

"Go into the back and stay there. If you make a row, I'll spoil that
complexion of yours, Marney Legge!"

"Jeffrey!" she gasped.

She gripped the inside handle of the door and had half turned it when he
caught her with his disengaged hand and flung her into the back of the
car.

"I'll kill you if you make me do that again." There was a queer little
sob of pain in his voice, and she remembered his wound.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked.

"I'm taking you to your father," was the unexpected reply. "Will you sit
quiet? If you try to get away, or attempt to call assistance, I'll drive
you at full speed into the first tree I see and we'll finish the thing
together."

From the ferocity of his tone she did not doubt that he would carry his
threat into execution. Mile after mile the car sped on, flashing through
villages, slowing through the sparsely peopled streets of small towns. It
was nearing three o'clock when they came into the street of a town and,
looking through the window, she saw a grey facade and knew she was in
Oxford.

In ten minutes they were through the city and traversing the main western
road. And now, for the first time, Jeffrey Legge became communicative.

"You've never been in 'boob', have you, angel?" he asked.

She did not answer.

"Never been inside the little bird-house with the other canaries, eh?
Well, that's an experience ahead of you. I am going to put you in jail,
kid. Peter's never been in jail either, but he nearly had the experience
to-night."

"I don't believe you," she said. "My father has not broken the law."

"Not for a long time, at any rate," agreed Jeffrey, dexterously lighting
a cigarette with one hand. "But there's a little 'boob' waiting for him
all right now."

"A prison," she said, incredulously. "I don't believe you."

"You've said that twice, and you're the only person living that's called
me a liar that number of times."

He turned off into a side road, and for a quarter of an hour gave her
opportunity for thought.

"It might interest you to know that Johnny is there," he said. "Dear
little Johnny! The easiest crook that ever fell--and this time he's got a
lifer."

The car began to move down a sharp declivity, and, looking through the
rain-spattered windscreen, she saw a squat, dark building ahead.

"Here we are," he said, as the car stopped.

Looking through the window she saw, with a gasp of astonishment, that he
had spoken the truth. They were at the door of a prison. The great,
black, iron-studded gates were opening as she looked, and the car passed
through under the deep archway and stopped.

"Get down," said Jeff, and she obeyed.

A narrow black door led from the archway, and, following her, he caught
her by the arm and pushed her through. She was in a narrow room, the
walls of which were covered with stained and discoloured whitewash. A
large fireplace, overflowing with ashes, a rickety chair and a faded
board screwed to the wall were the only furniture. In the dim light of a
carbon lamp she saw the almost indistinguishable words: "His Majesty's
Prison, Keytown," and beneath, row after row of closely set regulations.
A rough-looking, powerfully-built man had followed her into the room,
which was obviously the gate-keeper's lodge.

"Have you got the cell ready?"

"Yes, I have." said the man. "Does she want anything to eat?"

"If she does, she'll want," said Jeff curtly.

He took off his greatcoat and hung it on a nail, and then, with Jeffrey's
hand gripping her arm, she was led again into the archway and across a
small courtyard, through an iron grille gate and a further door. A
solitary light that burnt in a bracket near the door, showed her that she
was in a small hall. Around this, at the height of about nine feet from
the ground, ran a gallery, which was reached by a flight of iron stairs.
There was no need to ask what was the meaning of those two rows of black
doors that punctured the wall. They were cells. She was in a prison!

While she was wondering what it all meant, a door near at hand was
unlocked, and she was pushed in. The cell was a small one, the floor of
worn stone, but a new bedstead had been fitted up in one corner. There
was a washstand; and, as she was to discover, the cell communicated with
another containing a stone bath and washplace.

"The condemned cell," explained Jeffrey Legge with relish. "You'll have
plenty of ghosts to keep you company to-night, Marney."

In her heart she was panic-stricken, but she showed none of her fear as
she faced him.

"A ghost would be much less repulsive to me than you, Jeffrey Legge," she
said, and he seemed taken aback by the spirit she displayed.

"You will have both," he said, as he slammed the door on her and locked
it.

The cell was illuminated by a feeble light that came through an opaque
pane of glass by the side of the door. Presently, when her eyes grew
accustomed to the semi-darkness, she was able to take stock of her
surroundings. The prison must have been a very old one, for the walls
were at one place worn smooth, probably by the back of some condemned
unfortunate who had waited day after day for the hour of doom. She
shuddered, as her imagination called to her the agony of soul which these
four walls had held.

By standing on the bed she could reach a window. That also was of
toughened glass, set in small, rusty frames. Some of the panes were
missing, but she guessed that the outlook from the window would not be
particularly promising, even supposing she could force the window.

The night had been unusually cold and raw for the time of year, and,
pulling a blanket from the bed, she wrapped it about her and sat down on
the stool, waiting for the light to grow.

And so, sitting, her weary eyes closing involuntarily, she heard a
stealthy tapping. It came from above, and her heart fluttered at the
thought that possibly, in the cell above her, her father was held...
or Johnny.

Climbing on to the bed, she rapped with her knuckles on the stone
ceiling. Somebody answered. They were tapping a message in Morse, which
she could not understand. Presently the tapping ceased. She heard
footsteps above. And then, looking by chance at the broken pane of the
window, she saw something come slowly downward and out of view. She leapt
up, gripping the window pane, and saw a piece of black silk.

With difficulty two fingers touched it at last and drew it gently in
through the window pane. She pulled it up, and, as she suspected, found a
piece of paper tied to the end. It was a bank-note. Bewildered, she gazed
at it until it occurred to her that there might be a message written on
the other side. The pencil marks were faint, and she carried the note as
near to the light as she could get.

"Who is there? Is it you, Peter? I am up above. Johnny."

She suppressed the cry that rose to her lips. Both Johnny and her father
were there. Then Jeffrey had not lied.

How could she answer? She had no pencil. Then she saw that the end of the
cotton was weighted by a small piece of pencil, the kind that is found
attached to a dance programme. With this unsatisfactory medium she wrote
a reply and pushed it through the window, and after a while she saw it
drawn up. Johnny was there--and Johnny knew. She felt strangely comforted
by his presence, impotent though he was.

For half an hour she waited at the window, but now the daylight had come,
and evidently Johnny thought it was too dangerous to make any further
communications.

Exhausted, she lay down on the bed, intending to remain awake, but within
five minutes she was sleeping heavily. The sound of a key in the lock
made her spring to her feet. It was the man she had seen in the early
morning; he was carrying a big tray, set with a clumsy cup and saucer,
six slices of bread and butter, and an enormous teapot. He put it down on
the bed, for want of a table, and without a word went out. She looked at
the little platinum watch on her wrist: it was ten o'clock. Half an hour
later the man came and took away the tray.

"Where am I?" she asked.

"You're in 'boob,'" he said with quiet amusement. "But it is better than
any other 'boob 'you've ever been in, young lady. And don't try to ask me
questions, because you'll not get a civil answer if you do."

At two o'clock came another meal, a little more tastily served this time.
It seemed, from the appearance of the plate, that Jeffrey had sent into
Oxford for a new service specially for her benefit. Again she attempted
to discover what had happened to her father, but with no more
satisfactory result.

The weary day dragged through; every minute seemed an hour, every hour
interminable. Darkness had fallen again when the last of the visits was
made, and this time it was Jeffrey Legge. At the sight of his face, all
her terror turned to wonder. He was ghastly pale, his eyes burnt
strangely, and the hand that came up to his lips was trembling as though
he were suffering from a fever. "What do you want?" she asked.

"I want you," he said brokenly. "I want you for the life of my father!"

"What do you mean?" she gasped.

"Peter Kane killed my father last night," he said.

"You're mad," she gasped. "My father is here--you told me."

"I told you a lie. What does it matter what I told you, anyway? Peter
Kane escaped on the way to Keytown, and he went back to the club and
killed my father!"

CHAPTER XXX

THE girl looked at him, speechless.

"It isn't true!" she cried.

"It's not true, isn't it?" Jeffrey almost howled the words. He was mad
with hate, with grief, with desire for cruel vengeance. "I'll show you
whether it's not true, my lady. You're my wife--do you understand that?
If you don't, you're going to."

He flung out of the cell, turning to voice his foul mind, and then the
door clanged on her, and he strode out of the hall into the little house
that was once the Governor's residence, and which was now the general
headquarters of the Big Printer.

He poured himself out a stiff dose of whisky and drank it undiluted, and
the man who had accompanied him watched him curiously.

"Jeff, it looks to me as if it's time to make a get-away. We can't keep
these people here very long. The men are scared, too."

"Scared, are they?" sneered Jeffrey Legge. "I guess they'd be more scared
if they were in front of a judge and jury."

"That's the kind of scare they're anxious to avoid," said his lieutenant
calmly. "Anyway, Jeff, we're getting near the end, and it seems to me
that it's the time for all sensible men to find a little home on the
other side of the water."

Legge thought for a long time, and when he spoke his voice was more calm.

"Perhaps you're right," he said. "Tell them they can clear to-night."

The other man was taken aback by the answer.

"To-night?" he said. "Well, I don't know that there's that hurry."

"Tell 'em to clear to-night. They've got all the money they want. I'm
shutting this down."

"Who killed your father?"

"Peter Kane," snarled Legge. "I've got the full strength of it. The
police are hiding him up, but he did the killing all right. They found
him on the premises in the morning."

He sat awhile, staring moodily at the glass in his hand.

"Let them go to-night," he said, "every one of them. I'll tell them
myself."

"Do you want me to go?" asked the other.

Legge nodded.

"Yes; I want to be alone. I'm going to fix two people tonight," he said,
between his teeth, "and I'm fixing them good."

"Some of the men like Johnny Gray; they were in boob with him," suggested
his assistant, but Jeffrey stopped him with an oath.

"That's another reason they can get out," he said, "and they can't know
too soon."

He jumped to his feet and strode out of the room, the man following at a
distance.

There were two halls to the prison, and it was into the second that he
turned. This was brilliantly illuminated. The doors had been removed from
most of the cells, and several of them were obviously sleeping-rooms for
the half a dozen men who sat about a table playing cards. At only four
places were the cell doors intact, for behind these were the delicate
printing presses which from morning till night were turning out and
numbering French, American and English paper currency. There was not one
of the men at the table, or who came to the doors of their cubicles,
attracted by the unusual appearance of Legge, who had not served long
terms of imprisonment on forgery charges. Jeffrey had recruited them as
carefully as a theatrical producer recruits his beauty chorus. They were
men without homes, without people, mainly without hope; men inured to the
prison system, and who found, in this novel method of living, a
delightful variation of the life to which they were most accustomed.

It was believed by the authorities that Keytown Jail was in the hands of
a syndicate engaged in experimental work of a highly complicated
character, and no obstacle had been placed in the way of laying power
cables to the "laboratories." Jeff had found the safest asylum in the
land, and one which was more strongly guarded than any he could have
built.

His speech was short and to the point.

"Boys, I guess that the time has come when we've got to make the best of
our way home. You've all enough money to live comfortably on for the rest
of your lives, and I advise you to get out of the country as soon as you
can. You have your passports; you know me way; and there's no time like
the present."

"Do you mean that we've got to go to-night, Jeff?" asked a voice.

"I mean to-night. I'll have a car run you into London; but you'll have to
leave your kit behind, but you can afford that."

"What are you going to do with the factory?"

"That's my business," said Jeff.

The proposal did not find universal favour, but they stood in such awe of
the Big Printer that, though they demurred, they obeyed. By ten o'clock
that night the prison was empty, except for Jeffrey and his assistant.

"I didn't see Bill Holliss go," said the latter; but Jeffrey Legge was
too intent upon his plans to give the matter a moment's thought.

"Maybe you'll see yourself go now, Jenkins," said he "You can take your
two-seater and run anywhere you like."

"Let me stay till the morning," asked the man.

"You'll go to-night. Otherwise, what's the use of sending the other
fellows away?"

He closed the big gate upon the car. He was alone with his wife and with
the man he hated. He could think calmly now. The madness of rage had
passed. He made a search of a little storeroom and found what he was
looking for. It was a stout rope. With this over his arm, and a
storm-lamp in his hand, he went out into the yard and came to a little
shed built against the wall. Unlocking the rusty padlock, he pulled the
doors apart. The shed was empty; the floor was inches thick with litter,
and, going back, he found a broom and swept it clean. With the aid of a
ladder he mounted to a beam that ran transversely across the roof, and
fastened one end of the rope securely. Coming down, he spent half an hour
in making a noose.

He was in the death-house. Under his feet was the fatal trap that a pull
of the rusty lever would spring. He wanted to make the experiment, but
the trap would take a lot of time to pull up. His face was pouring with
perspiration when he had finished. The night was close, and a flicker of
lightning illuminated for a second the gloomy recesses of the prison
yard.

As he entered the hall a low growl of thunder came to him, but the storm
in his heart was more violent than any nature could provide.

He tiptoed up the iron stairs to the landing, and came at last to No. 4
and hesitated. His enemy could wait. Creeping down the stairs again, his
heart beating thunderously, he stood outside the door of the condemned
cell. The key trembled as he inserted it in the lock. No sound broke the
stillness as the door opened stealthily, and he slipped into the room.

He waited, holding his breath, not knowing whether she were awake or
asleep, and then crept forward to the bed. He saw the outline of a
figure.

"Marney," he said huskily, groping for her face.

And then two hands like steel clamps caught him by the throat and flung
him backward.

"I want you, Jeffrey Legge," said a voice--the voice of Johnny Gray.

CHAPTER XXXI

JOHNNY GRAY came to consciousness with a violent headache and a sense of
suffocating restriction, which he discovered was due to his wing collar
holding tightly in spite of the rough usage that had been his. This fact
would have been pleasing to Parker, but was intensely discomforting to
the wearer, and in a minute he had stripped the offending collar from his
throat and had risen unsteadily to his feet.

The room in which he was had a familiar appearance. It was a cell,
and--Keytown Jail! He remembered Fenner's warning. So Fenner knew!
Keytown Jail, sold by the Government to--Jeffrey Legge! The idea was
preposterous; but why not? A timber merchant had bought a jail at
Hereford; a firm of caterers had purchased an old prison in the North of
England, and were serving afternoon teas in the cells.

Now he understood. Keytown Prison was the headquarters of the Big
Printer. The one place in the world that the police would never dream of
searching, particularly if, as he guessed, Jeffrey Legge had offered some
specious excuse for his presence and the presence of his company in this
isolated part of the world.

The sound of voices came faintly up to him, and he heard a door bang and
the clicking of locks; and with that sound he recalled the happenings of
the evening. It must be Peter: they had got him too. In spite of his
discomfiture, in spite of the awful danger in which he knew he was, he
laughed softly to himself.

Above his bed was a window with scarcely a whole pane. But there was no
escape that way. A thought struck him, and, leaning down, he tapped a
Morse message on the floor. If it was Peter, he could understand. He
heard the answering tap which came feebly, and when he signalled again he
knew that whoever was in the cell below had no knowledge of the Morse
code. He searched his pockets and found a tiny scrap of pencil, but could
find no paper, except a bundle of five-pound notes, which his captors had
not troubled to remove. Here was both stationery and the means of
writing, but how could he communicate with the occupant of the cell
below? Presently a plan suggested itself, and he tore off the lapel of
his dinner-jacket and unravelled the silk. Tying the pencil to the end to
give it weight, he slowly lowered his message, hoping, though it seemed
unlikely, that his fellow-prisoner would be able to see the paper.

To his joy he felt a tug, and when, a few minutes later, he carefully
drew up the message, it was to find, written underneath his own, one
which left him white and shaking. Marney here! He groaned aloud at the
thought. It was too light now to risk any further communication. There
was a ewer of water and a basin in the cell, and with this he relieved
the aching in his head; and when breakfast came, he was ready.

The man who brought in the tray was a stranger to him, as also was the
man who stood on guard at the door, revolver in hand.

"What's the great idea?" asked Johnny coolly, sitting on the bed and
swinging his legs. "Has Jeff bought a jail to practise in? Wouldn't it
have been cheaper to have gone over the Alps?"

"You shut up, Johnny Gray," growled the man. "You'll be sorry for
yourself before you're out of here."

"Who isn't?" asked Johnny. "How is Peter?"

"You know damned well Peter has escaped," said the other before he could
check himself.

"Escaped!" said the delighted Johnny. "You don't mean that?"

"Never mind what I mean," growled the man, realising he had said too
much. "You keep a civil tongue in your head, Gray, and you'll be treated
square. If you don't, there are plenty of men on the spot to make
Dartmoor a paradise compared with Keytown."

The door slammed in Johnny Gray's face, but he was so absorbed in the
news which the man had unwillingly given to him that he had to force
himself to eat.

Soon after the man came to take away the tray.

"What's your name, bo', anyway?" said Johnny carelessly. "I hate calling
you 'face'--it's low."

"Bill's my name," said the man, "and you needn't call me Bill either. You
say 'sir' to me."

"Woof!" said Johnny admiringly. "You're talking like a real screw!"

The door slammed in his face. He had further time to consider his plans.
They had taken away his watch and chain, his gold cigarette-case and the
small penknife he carried, but these losses did not worry him in the
slightest. His chief anxiety was to know the exact character of Keytown
Prison. And that he determined to learn at the earliest opportunity.

It was late in the afternoon; he guessed it was somewhere in the
neighbourhood of four when his lunch came, and he was quite ready to eat
it, though a little suspicious of its possible accessories.

"No poison in this, Bill?" he asked pleasantly as he took the bread and
cheese from the man's hand.

"There's no need to poison you; we could starve you, couldn't we?" said
the other. "If Jeff was here, maybe I'd get a rapping for giving you
anything."

"Gone away, has he? Well, prisons are more pleasant when the governor's
away. Am I right. Bill? Now, what do you say to a couple of hundred of
real money?"

"For what?" asked the man, stopping at the door. "If you mean it's for
letting you make a get-away, why, you're silly! You're going to stay here
till Jeff fixes you."

All the day Johnny had heard, or rather felt, a peculiar whirr of sound
coming from some remote quarter of the prison.

"Got electric light here, Bill?" he said conversationally.

"Yes, we have," said the other. "This is a model boob, this is."

"I'll bet it is," said Johnny grimly. "Are you running any electric
radiators in my cell to-night, or do you want all the power for the
press?"  He saw the man's face twitch.  "Of course, you're running the
slush factory here--everybody knows that. Take my advice. Bill--go whilst
the going's good. Or the bulls will have you inside the realest boob
you've seen." He had made the guard more than a little uncomfortable, as
he saw, and sought to press home the impression he had created.
"Jeffrey's going to shop you sooner or later, because he's a natural born
shopper. And he's got the money. Bill, to get away with, and the
motor-cars and aeroplanes. You haven't got that. You'll have to walk on
your own pads. And the bulls will get you half-way over the field."

"Oh, shut up!" said the man uncomfortably, and the conversation ended, as
in the morning, with the slamming of the door.

Presently a little spy-hole in the cell door opened.

"What made you think this is a print-shop?" asked Bill's voice.

"I don't think anything about it; I know," said Johnny decisively. "If
you like to come to me this evening I'll tell you the name of every
worker here, the position of every press, and the length of the lagging
you'll get."

The cover of the spy-hole dropped.

Jeffrey was away; that was all to the good. If he remained away for the
whole of the night....He was worried about Marney, and it required
all his strength of will not to fret himself into a state of nerves.

In an hour Bill returned, and this time he brought no guard but himself,
but, for safety's sake, carried on his conversation through a little
grille in the door.

"You're bluffing, Johnny Gray. We've got a fellow here who was in boob
with you, and he says you're the biggest bluffer that ever lived. You
don't know anything."

"I know almost everything," said Johnny immodestly. "For instance, I know
you've got a young lady in the cell below. How's she doing?"

The man was taken aback for a moment.

"Who told you?" he asked suspiciously. "Nobody else has been here, have
they?"

"Nobody at all. It is part of my general knowledge. Now listen, Bill. How
are you treating that lady? And your life hangs on your answer--don't
forget it."

"She's all right," said Bill casually. "They've given her the condemned
cell, with a bathroom and all, and a proper bed--not like yours. And you
can't scare me, Gray."

"I'll bet I can't," said Johnny. "Bring me some water."

But the water was not forthcoming, and it was dark before the man made
his reappearance. Johnny listened at the door; he was coming alone.
Johnny pulled up the leg of his trousers and showed those suspenders
which were Parker's pride. But they were not ordinary suspenders.
Strapped to the inside of the calf was a small holster. The automatic it
carried was less than four inches in length, but its little blunt-nosed
bullets were man-stoppers of a peculiarly deadly kind.

The door swung open, and Bill stepped in.

"Jeff's back--" he began, and then: "Step in, and step lively," said
Johnny.

His arm had shot out, and the pistol hand of the jailer was pinned to his
side.

"This gun may look pretty paltry, but it would blow a square inch out of
your heart, and that's enough to seriously inconvenience you for the
remainder of your short life." With a turn of his wrist he wrenched the
revolver from the man's grasp. "Sit over there," he said. "Is anybody in
the hall?"

"For God's sake, don't let Jeff see you. He'll kill me," pleaded the
agitated prisoner.

"I'd hate for him to do that," said Johnny. He peeped out into the hall:
it was empty, and he went back to his prisoner. "Stand against the wall.
I'm going to give you the twice-over."

His hands searched quickly but effectively. The key he was putting in his
pocket when he noticed the design of the ward. "Pass-key, I fancy. Now,
don't make a fuss. Bill, because you'll be let out first thing in the
morning, and maybe I'll have a good word to say for you at the Oxford
Assizes. There's something about you that I like. Give me the simple
criminal, and the Lord knows you're simple enough!"

He stepped out of the cell, snapped the lock of the door, and, keeping in
the shadow, walked swiftly along the gallery until he came to the open
stairway on to the floor below.

The hall was untenanted. Apparently Bill was the only jailer. He had
reached the floor when the door at the end of the hall opened and
somebody came in. He flattened himself in one of the recessed cell
doorways. Two men entered, and one, he guessed, was Jeff. One, two,
three, four--the fourth door from the end. That was Marney's door,
immediately under his own. He saw Jeffrey stop, heard the too-familiar
grind of the lock, and his enemy disappeared, leaving the second man on
guard outside.

If Jeffrey had made an attempt to close the door behind him, Johnny would
have shot down the guard and taken the consequences. But the man was
absent for only a few minutes. When he came out, he was shouting
incoherently threats that made the hair rise on Johnny Gray's neck. But
they were only threats.

The hall door closed on Jeffrey Legge and Johnny moved swiftly to No. 4.
As the door opened, the girl shrank back against the wall.

"Don't touch me!" she cried.

"Marney!"

At the sound of his voice she stood, rooted to the spot. The next second
she was laughing and weeping in his arms.

"But, Johnny, how did you get here?...where were you?...you won't
leave me?"

He soothed her and quietened her as only Johnny Gray could. "I'll
stay...I think this fellow will come back. If he does, he will wish
he hadn't!" And Jeffrey came. As the grip of strong hands closed on his
throat, and the hateful voice of his enemy came to his ears, Johnny's
prophecy was justified.

CHAPTER XXXII

FOR a second Legge was paralysed with rage and fear. Then, in the
wildness of his despair, he kicked at the man, who had slipped from the
bed and was holding him. He heard an exclamation, felt for a second the
fingers relax; and, slipping like an eel from the grasp, flew to the door
and closed it. He stood, breathless and panting by the doorway, until he
heard the sound of steel against the inner keyhole, and in a flash
realised that Johnny had secured the pass-key. Quick as lightning, he
slipped his own key back into the lock and turned it slightly, so that it
could not be pushed out from the other side.

Johnny Gray! How had he got there? He fled up the stairs and hammered on
the door of the cell where he thought his prisoner was held safe. A surly
voice replied to him.

"You swine!" he howled. "You let him go! You twister!  You can stay there
and starve, damn you!"

"I didn't let him go. He held me up. Look out, Jeff, he's got a gun."

The news staggered the man. The search of Johnny's clothing had been of a
perfunctory nature, but he had thought that it was impossible that any
kind of weapon could have been concealed.

"Let me out, guv'nor," pleaded the prisoner. "You've got a key."

There was a third key in his house, Jeffrey remembered. Perhaps this man
might be of use to him. He was still weak from his wound, and would need
assistance.

"All right, I'll get the key. But if you shopped me--"

"I didn't shop you, I tell you. He held me up--"

Legge went back to his room, found the key, and, taking another stiff
dose of whisky, returned and released his man.

"He's got my gun, too," explained Bill. "Where are all the fellows? We'll
soon settle with him."

"They've gone," said Jeffrey.

What a fool he had been! If he had had the sense to keep the gang
together only for a few hours--But he was safe, unless Johnny found a
means of getting through the window.

"In my room you'll find a pistol; it is in the top right-hand corner of
my desk," he said quickly. "Take it and get outside Johnny's cell--on the
yard side. If he tries to escape that way, shoot. Because, if he escapes,
you're going a long journey, my friend."

Inside the cell, a chagrined Johnny Gray sat down on the girl's bed to
consider the possibilities of the position.

"My dear, there's going to be serious trouble here, and I don't want you
to think otherwise," he said. "I should imagine there were quite a number
of men in this prison, in which case, though I shall probably get two or
three of them, they'll certainly get me in the end."

She sat by his side, holding his hand, and the pressure of her fingers
was eloquent of the faith she had in him.

"Johnny, dear, does it matter very much what happens now? They can't come
in, and we can't get out. How long will it take to starve us to death?"

Johnny had already considered that problem.

"About three days," he said, in such a matter-of-fact tone that she
laughed. "My only hope, Marney, is that your father, who, as I told you,
has escaped, may know more about this place than he has admitted."

"Did you know anything about it?" she asked.

He hesitated.

"Yes, I think I did. I wasn't sure, though I was a fool not to locate it
just as soon as Fenner warned me against Keytown Jail. These chaps like
to speak in parables, and mystery is as the breath of their nostrils.
Besides, I should have been certain that Fenner knew the jail had been
taken over from the Government."

He made a careful examination of the bars about the window, but without
instruments or tools to force them, he knew that escape that way was
impossible. When, in the early hours of the morning, he saw the patient
figure of Bill, he realised the extent of the impossibility.

"Good morning, William. I see you're out," he greeted the scowling
sentry, who immediately jumped to cover, flourishing his long-barrelled
weapon.

"Don't you show your nose, or I'll blow it off," he threatened. "We've
got you, Mr. Gray."

"They've got you, alas, my poor William," said Johnny sadly. "The busies
will be here at nine o'clock--you don't suppose that I should have let
myself come into a trap like this? Of course, I didn't. I squeaked! It
was my only chance, William. And your only chance is to sneak away at the
earliest opportunity, and turn State's evidence. I'm addressing you as a
friend."

"You'll never get away from here alive," said the man. "Jeff's going to
fix you."

"Indeed?" the prisoner began politely, when a scream made him turn.

"Johnny!"

The shutter which hid the grille in the door was swung back, and the
muzzle of Jeffrey's Browning had been pushed through one of the openings.
As Johnny dropped flat on the bed, he was stunned by the deafening sound
of an explosion. Something hit the wall, ricochetted to the roof, and
fell almost at the girl's feet. Before the pistol could be withdrawn,
Johnny Gray had fired. A jagged end of iron showed where his bullet
struck.

"The time for persiflage," said Johnny cheerfully, "is past. Now you will
sit in that corner, young lady, and will not budge without permission."
He pointed to the wall nearest the door, which afforded perfect cover,
and, dragging up a stool, he seated himself by her side. "Jeffrey's got
quite a tough proposition," he said in his conversational tone. "He can't
burn the prison, because there's nothing to burn. He can't come in, and
he mustn't go out. If he would only for one moment take away that
infernal key--"

"There is another door going out from the bathroom," she said suddenly.
"I think it leads to an exercise ground. You can just see a little
railed-off space through the window."

Johnny went into the bathroom and examined the door. Screwing his head,
he could see, through a broken pane, ten square yards of space, where in
olden times a condemned prisoner took his exercise, removed from the gaze
of his fellows. He tried the key, and to his delight, it turned. Another
minute and he was in the little paved yard.

Looking round, he saw a high and narrow gateway, which seemed to be the
only exit from the courtyard. And on the other side of that gateway was
William, the sentry, well armed and sufficiently terrified to be
dangerous. Slipping off his boots, Johnny crept to the gate and listened.
The sound of the man's footsteps pacing the flagged walk came to him.
Stooping, he squinted through the keyhole, and saw Bill standing, his
back toward him, some six yards away. There was no time to be lost. He
inserted the key, and the gate was opened before the man could turn to
face the levelled revolver.

"Don't shout," whispered Johnny. "You're either discreet or dead. Hand
over that gun, you unfortunate man." He moved swiftly toward the
terrified criminal, and relieved him of his weapon. With a gesture,
Johnny directed him to the exercise yard. "Get in and stay," he said, and
locked the door, and for the second time. Bill (his other name, Johnny
never discovered, was Holliss) was a prisoner.

Skirting the building, he came to the entrance of the hall. The door was
open, and with his hand on the uplifted hammer of the gun, and his finger
pressing the trigger, Johnny leapt into the building. "Hands up!" he
shouted.

At the words, Jeffrey Legge spun round. There was a boom of sound,
something whistled past Gray's face, and he fired twice. But now the man
was running, zigzagging to left and right, and Johnny hesitated to fire.
He disappeared through the door at the farther end of the hall, shutting
it behind him, and Johnny raced after him.

He was in the courtyard now, facing the grille-covered archway. As he
came into view, Jeffrey disappeared through the lodge-keeper's door.
Johnny tried the grille, but in vain, for a pass-key operates on all
locks save the lock of the entrance gate of a prison. That alone is
distinct, and may not be opened save by the key that was cut for it.

Covering the lodge-keeper's door with his gun, Johnny waited, and,
waiting, heard a rumbling sound. Something was coming down the centre of
the archway. The straight line of it came lower and lower. A hanging
gate! He had forgotten that most old country prisons were so equipped.
Under the cover of this ancient portcullis, Legge could escape, for it
masked the entrance of the lodge.

He turned back to the girl.

"Keep out of sight. He's got away," he warned her. "This fellow isn't
finished yet."

The gate was down. Jeffrey put on the overcoat he had left in the lodge,
slipped his pistol into his pocket and opened the great gates. He had at
least a dozen hours' start, he thought, as he stepped into the open...

"Please do not put your hand in your pocket, Mr. Jeffrey," said a
plaintive voice. "I should so hate to shoot a fellow-creature. It would
be a deed utterly repugnant to my finest feelings."

Jeffrey raised his hands to their fullest extent, for Mr. Reeder was not
alone. Behind him were four armed policemen, a cordon of mounted
constabulary, spread in a semicircle, cutting off all avenues of escape.
And, most ominous of all, was the deadly scrutiny of Peter Kane, who
stood at Feeder's right hand.

CHAPTER XXXIII

FOR the first time Jeffrey Legge felt the cold contact of handcuffs. He
was led back to the porter's lodge, whilst two of the policemen worked at
the windlass that raised the hanging gate.

"It's a cop, Craig," he said, for the inspector in charge was that
redoubtable thief-catcher. "But I'm going to squeak all I know. Johnny
Gray is in this. He's been working my slush for years. You'll find the
presses in the second hall, but the other birds have done some quick
flying."

"They've all flown into the police station at Oxford," said Craig, "and
they're singing their pretty little songs merrily. The Oxford police took
a whole carload of them about eleven o'clock last night. Unfortunately,
they weren't so ready to squeak as you."

"Johnny Gray's in it, I tell you."

"Oh, how can you say such a thing?" said the shocked Mr. Reeder. "I'm
perfectly sure Mr. Gray is quite innocent."

Jeffrey regarded him with a sneer of contempt.

"You're a pretty funny 'busy'. I suppose Craig brought you here?"

"No," murmured Mr. Reeder, "I brought myself here."

"The only thing I can say about you," said Jeffrey Legge, "is that you're
smarter than old Golden--and that's not saying much."

"Not very much," murmured Mr. Reeder.

"But you're not smart enough to know that Johnny Gray has been in this
business for years."

"Even while he was in prison?" suggested Mr. Reeder innocently. "The
opportunities are rather restricted, don't you think? But don't let us
quarrel, Mr. Jeffrey."

The portcullis was raised now, and in a few minutes the girl was in her
father's arms.

"Johnny, you've had a narrow squeak," said Craig, as he shook the man's
hand, "and there's some talk about you being in this slush business, but
I'll not believe it till I get proof."

"Who killed old Legge?" asked Johnny.

The detective shook his head.

"We don't know. But Stevens has disappeared, and Stevens was Fenner's
brother. I got it from Mr. Reeder, who seems to have remarkable sources
of information."

"Not at all," disclaimed the apologetic Reeder. "I certainly have a
remarkable source of information, and to that all credit must go. But I
think you will confirm my statement, John,  that Stevens is Fenner's
brother?"

To Peter's surprise, Johnny nodded. "Yes, I knew they were brothers; and
it is unnecessary to say that their name was neither Stevens nor Fenner.
It is pretty well established that the old man gave away Fenner--shopped
him for the Berkeley Square job--and possibly Stevens got to know of
this, and had been waiting his opportunity to settle accounts with
Emanuel. Have you caught him?"

"Not yet," said Craig.

"I hope you won't," said Johnny. "What are you going to do about me,
Peter?"

He put his arm round the girl's shoulder, and Peter smiled. "I suppose
I'll have to let her marry you, Johnny, whether you're a crook or honest.
I want you to go straight, and I'll make it worth while--"

"That I can promise you." It was Mr. Reeder who spoke. "And may I offer
an apology. I'm rather a wolf in sheep's clothing, or a sheep in wolf's
clothing. The truth is, my name is Golden."

"Golden!" gasped Craig. "But I thought Golden was out of this business?"

"He is out of it, and yet he is in it," explained Mr. Reeder carefully.
"I am an excellent office man," he confessed, in that mincing manner of
his, staring owlishly over his glasses, "but a very indifferent seeker of
information, and although, when Mr. John Gray Reeder was appointed over
me as chief inspector of my department--'

"Here, stop!" said the dazed Craig. "John Gray Reeder? Who is Inspector
John Gray Reeder?"

Mr. Golden's hand went out in the direction of the smiling Johnny.

"Johnny! You a 'busy'!" said the bewildered Peter. "But you went to jail
sure enough?"

"I certainly went to jail," said Johnny. "It was the only place I could
get any news about the Big Printer, and I found out all I wanted to know.
It was a trying two years, but well worth it, though I nearly lost the
only thing in the world that made life worth living," he said. "You've
got to forgive me, Peter, because I spied on you--a good spy doesn't play
favourites. I've been watching you and every one of your pals, and I
watched Marney most of all. And now I'm going to watch her for years and
years!"

"You see," said Mr. Golden, who seemed most anxious to exculpate himself
from any accusation of cleverness, "I was merely the listener-in, if I
may use a new-fangled expression, to the information which John
broadcasted. I knew all about this marriage, and I was the person who
appointed a woman detective to look after her at the Charlton Hotel--but
on Johnny's instructions. That is why he was able to prove his alibi,
because naturally, that section of the police which knows him, is always
ready to prove alibis for other officers of the police who are mistakenly
charged with being criminals."

"How did you guess about the prison?"

"Fenner squeaked," said Mr. Golden with a gesture of deprecation.
"'Squeak' is not a word I like, but it is rather expressive. Yes, Fenner
squeaked."

Two happy people drove home together in the car which had brought Marney
to Keytown. The country between Oxford and Horsham is the most beautiful
in the land. The road passes through great aisles of tall trees, into
which a car may be turned and be hidden from the view of those who pass
along the road. Johnny slowed the machine at an appropriate spot, and put
it toward the thickest part of the wood. And Marney, who sat with folded
hands by his side, did not seek any explanation for his eccentricity.



THE END



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