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Title:      The Romance of the Secret Service Fund:
            The Mazaroff Rifle
Author:     Fred Merrick White
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Language:   English
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Title:      The Romance of the Secret Service Fund:
            The Mazaroff Rifle
Author:     Fredreick Merrick White

*

First published in Pearson's Magazine, US edition, August 1900

*

Newton Moore came into the War Office in response to a code telegram and
a hint that speed was the essence of the contract. Sir George Morley
plunged immediately into his subject.

"I've got a pretty case for you," he said. "I suppose you have never
heard of such a thing as the Mazaroff rifle?"

Moore admitted his ignorance. He opined that it was something new, and
that something had gone wrong with the lethal weapon in question.

"Quite right, and it will be your business to recover it," Sir George
explained. "The gun is the invention of a clever young Russian, Nicholas
Mazaroff by name. We have tested the weapon, which, as a matter of fact,
we have purchased from Mazaroff. The rifle is destined to entirely
revolutionise infantry tactics, and, indeed, it is a most wonderful
affair. The projectile is fired by liquid air, there are no cartridges,
and, as there is practically no friction beyond the passage of the
bullet from the barrel, it is possible to fire the rifle some four
hundred times before recharging. In addition, there is absolutely no
smoke and no noise. You can imagine the value of the discovery."

"I can indeed," Moore observed. "I should very much like to see it."

"And I should like you to see it of all things," Sir George said drily;
"indeed, I hope you will be the very first to see it, considering that
the gun and its sectional plans have been stolen."

Newton Moore smiled. He knew now why he had been sent for.

"Stolen from here, Sir George?" he asked.

"Stolen from here yesterday afternoon by means of a trick. Mazaroff
called to see me, but I was very busy. Then he asked to see my
assistant, Colonel Parkinson. He seemed to be in considerable trouble,
so Parkinson told me. He had discovered a flaw in his rifle, a tendency
for the projectile to jam, which constituted a danger to the marksman.
Could he have the rifle and the plans for a day or two, he asked?
Naturally, there was no objection to this, and the boon was granted.
Mazaroff came here an hour ago, and when I asked him if he had remedied
the defect, he paralysed me by declaring that he knew nothing whatever
about the caller yesterday; indeed, he is prepared to prove that he was
in Liverpool till a late hour last night. Some clever rascal
impersonated him and got clear away with the booty."

"I presume Colonel Parkinson knew Mazaroff?"

"Not very well, but well enough to have no doubt as to his identity.
Naturally, Parkinson is fearfully upset over the business; indeed, he
seems to fancy that Mazaroff is lying to us. Mazaroff generally comes
here in a queer, old Inverness cloak, with ragged braid, and a shovel
hat with a brown stain on the left side. Parkinson swears that he
noticed both these things yesterday."

"I should like to see Mazaroff," Moore replied.

Sir George touched a bell, and from an inner room a young man, with a
high, broad forehead, and dark, restless eyes, emerged. He was badly
dressed, and, sooth to say, not over clean. Newton Moore's half-shy
glance took him in from head to foot with the swiftness of a snapshot.

"This is the Russian gentleman I spoke of," said Sir George. "Mr. Newton
Moore."

"Russian only in name," said Mazaroff swiftly. "I am English. If you
help me to get my gun back I shall never be sufficiently grateful."

"I am going to have a good try," Moore replied. "Meanwhile, I shall
require your undivided attention for some little time. I should like to
walk with you as far as your lodgings and have a chat with you there."

Moore had made up his mind as to his man. He felt perfectly convinced
that he was speaking the truth. He piloted Mazaroff into the street, and
then took his arm.

"I am going to get you to conduct me to your rooms," he said. "And I am
going to ask you a prodigious lot of questions. First, and most
important--does anyone, to your knowledge, know of the new rifle?"

"Not a soul; I had a friend, a partner two years ago, who saw the thing
nearly complete, but he is dead."

"Your partner might have mentioned the matter to somebody else."

"He might. Poor Franz was of a convivial nature. He did not possess the
real secret."

"No, but he might have hinted to somebody that you were on the verge of
a gigantic discovery. That somebody might have kept his eye upon you; he
might have seen you coming from and going into the War Office."

Mazaroff nodded gravely. All these things were on the knees of the gods.

"At any rate somebody must have known, and somebody must have
impersonated you," Moore proceeded. "You haven't a notion who it was, so
I will not bother you any further in that direction. I have to look for
a cool and clever scoundrel, and one, moreover, who is a consummate
actor."

"Cool enough," Mazaroff said drily, "seeing that the fellow actually had
the impudence to pass himself off on my landlady as myself, and borrow
my hat and Inverness--the ones I am wearing now--and cool
enough to return them."

All this Mazaroff's landlady subsequently confirmed. She had known, of
course, that her lodger had gone to Liverpool on business, and she had
been surprised to see him return. The alter ego had muttered something
about being suddenly recalled; he had taken off a frock coat and tall
hat similar to those Mazaroff had used to travel in, and he had gone out
immediately with the older and more familar garments.

"You had no suspicions?" Moore asked. The landlady was fat, but by no
means scant of breath. It was the misfortune of a lady who had fallen
from high social status that she was compelled to inhabit a house of
considerable gloom. Furthermore, her eyes were not the limpid orbs into
which many lovers had once looked languishingly. Was a body to blame
when slippery rascals were about?

"Nobody is blaming a body," Newton Moore smiled. "I don't think we need
trouble you any more, Mrs. Jarrett."

Mrs. Jarrett departed with an avowed resolution to "have the law" of
somebody or other over this business, and a blissful silence followed.
Mazaroff had stripped off his hat and coat.

"You must have been carefully watched yesterday," Moore observed. "I
suppose this is the hat and cloak your double borrowed?"

Mazaroff nodded, and Moore proceeded to examine the cloak. It was just
possible that the thief might have left some clue, however small. Moore
turned out the pockets.

"I am certain you will find nothing there," said Mazaroff. "There is a
hole in both pockets, and I am careful to carry nothing in them."

"Nothing small, I suppose you mean," Moore replied as he brought to
light some dingy looking papers folded like a brief. He threw the bundle
on the table, and Mazaroff proceeded to examine it languidly. A puzzled
look came over his face.

"These are not mine," he declared. "I never saw them before."

There were some score or more sheets fastened together with a brass
stud. The sheets were typed, the letter-press was in the form of a
dialogue. In fact the whole formed a play-part from some comedy or
drama.

"This is a most important discovery," Moore observed. "Our friend must
have been studying this on his way along and forgot it finally. We know
now what I have suspected all along--that the man who impersonated
you was by profession an actor. That is something gained."

Mazaroff caught a little of his companion's excitement.

"You can go farther," he cried. "You can find who this belongs to."

"Precisely what I am going to do," said Moore. "It is a fair inference
that our man is playing in a new comedy or is taking the part of
somebody else at short notice, or he could not have been learning this
up in the cab. I have a friend who is an inveterate theatre-goer, a man
who has a pecuniary interest in a number of playhouses, and I am in
hopes that he may be able to locate this part for me. I'll see him at
once."

Moore drove away without further delay to Ebury Street, where dwelt the
Honourable Jimmy Manningtree, an old young man with a strong taste for
the drama, and a good notion of getting value for the money he was fond
of investing therein. He was an apple-faced individual with a keen eye
and a marvellous memory for everything connected with the stage.

"Bet you I'll fit that dialogue to the play like a shot," he said when
Moore had explained his errand. "Have some breakfast?"

Moore declined. Until he had identified his man, food was a physical
impossibility. Hungry as he was he felt that the first mouthful would
choke him. He took up a cigarette and lay back in a chair whilst
Manningtree pondered over the type-written sheets before him.

"Told you I'd name the lady," he cried presently. "I don't propose to
identify and give the precise name of the character, because you'll be
able to do that for yourself by following the play carefully."

"But what is the name of the play?" Moore asked impatiently.

"It is called 'Noughts and Crosses,' one of the most popular comedies we
have ever run at the Thespian. If you weren't so buried in your stories
and your medicine mysteries at the War Office, you might have seen all
about it in last Monday's papers. Go and see the show--I'll give
you a box."

"Then the play was produced for the first time on Saturday night," Moore
was panting and eager on the scent at last. "Also, from what you say,
the Thespian is one of the theatres you are interested in?"

Manningtree executed a wink of amazing slyness. The Honourable Jimmy was
no mean comedian himself.

"I believe you, my boy," he said. "I've got ten thousand locked up
there, and I shall get it back three times over out of 'Noughts and
Crosses.' If you like to have a box to-night you can.''

"You're very kind," Moore replied. He laid his hands across his knees to
steady them. "And, as much always wants more, I shall be greatly obliged
if you will give me the run of the theatre. In other words, can I come
behind?"

"Well, I don't encourage that kind of thing as a rule," Manningtree
replied, "but as I know you have some strong reason for the request,
I'll make an exception in your favour. I don't run my show for marbles,
dear boy. I shall be at the Thespian at ten, and then, if you send round
your card, the thing is done. Only I should like to know what you are
driving at."

Moore smiled quietly.

"I dare say you would," he said. "Later on perhaps. For the present my
lips are sealed. No breakfast, thanks--I couldn't swallow a
mouthful. Only don't fail me tonight as you love your country."

* * * * *

A BRILLIANT audience filled the Thespian. The stalls were one flash of
colour and glitter of gems. The comedy was lively and sparkling, there
was a strong story on which the jewels were threaded.

From the corner of his box Moore followed the progress of the play.

The first act was nearing its close. There were two characters in the
caste still unaccounted for, and one of these must of necessity be the
man Moore was after. The crux of the act was approaching. A thin, dark
man stood on the stage. In style and carriage he had a marked
resemblance to Mazaroff. He came to the centre of the stage and laid a
hand on the shoulder of the high comedy man there.

"And where do I come in?" he asked gently.

It was a quotation, the first line of the play-part spread out on the
ledge of the box before Moore. He gave a gasp. He saw a chance here that
he determined to take. As the curtain fell on the second act he sent
round his card. A little later and he was in Manningtree's private room.

"Who is the man playing the part of Paul Gilroy?" he asked.

"Oh, come," Manningtree protested. "You're not going to deprive me of
Hermann. He has made the piece."

"I am going to do nothing of the kind," Moore replied. "We don't make
public anything we can possibly keep to ourselves. Only Hermann has some
information I require, and there is only one way of getting it. Tell me
all you know about that man."

"Well, in the first place, he is a German with an American mother. He
seems to have been everything, from a police spy up to a University
Fellow. He speaks four or five languages fluently. A shady sort of a
chap, but a brilliant actor, as you are bound to admit. Wait till you
see him in the last act."

"He has all what you call the 'fat,' I presume?"

"He is on the stage the whole time. Five-and-twenty minutes the act
plays. Take my advice and don't miss a word of it."

"I am afraid I shall miss it all," Moore replied in a dropping voice. "I
am afraid that I shall be compelled to wander into Mr. Hermann's
dressing-room by mistake. In an absent-minded kind of way I may also go
through his pockets. Don't protest, there's a good fellow. You know me
sufficiently well to be certain that I am acting in high interests. Say
nothing, but merely let me know which is my man's dressing-room."

"You're a rum chap," Manningtree grumbled, "but you always manage to get
your own way. You are running a grave risk, but you will have to take
the consequences. If you are caught I cannot save you."

"I won't ask you to," Moore replied.

Manningtree indicated the room and strolled away. The room was empty.
Hermann's dresser had disappeared, knowing probably that his services
would not be required for the next half-hour. There was a quick tinkle
of the bell, and the curtain drew up on the last act. Moore from his dim
corner heard Hermann "called," and the coast was clear at last.

Just for a moment Moore hesitated. He had literally to force himself
forward, but once the door had closed behind him his courage returned.

Hermann's ordinary clothing first. It hung up on the door. For some time
Moore could find nothing of the least value, to him at any rate. He came
at length to a pocket-book, which he opened without ceremony. There were
papers and private letters, but nothing calculated to give a clue. In
one of the flaps of the pocket a card, an ordinary visiting-card, had
been stuck. It bore the name of Emile Nobel.

Moore fairly danced across the floor. He hustled the pocket-book back in
its place and flashed out of the room. Nobody was near, nobody heard his
chuckle. The whole atmosphere trembled with applause, applause that
Moore in his strange way took to himself. He had solved the problem.

The name on the card was one perfectly well known to him. Every tyro in
the employ of the Secret Service Fund had heard of Emile Nobel. For he
was perhaps the chief rascal in the Rogues' Gallery of Europe. Newton
Moore knew him both by name and by sight.

Stolen dispatches, purloined plans, nothing came amiss to the great,
gross German, who seemed to have been at the bottom of half the mischief
which it was the business of the Secret Service to set right. Moore had
never come in actual contact with Nobel before, but he felt pretty sure
that he was going to do so on this occasion. He was dealing with a
clever coward, a man stone deaf, strange to say, but a man of infinite
resources and cunning. Added to all this, Nobel was a chemist of great
repute. The Secret Service heard vague legends of mysterious murders
done by Nobel, all strictly in the way of business. And Nobel had this
gun--Moore felt certain of that. Hermann had accomplished the
theft, doubtless for a substantial pecuniary consideration. Nobel must
be found.

Moore saw his way clearly directly. It was a mere game of chance. If
Hermann really knew Nobel--and the possession of the latter's
visiting-card seemed to prove it--the thing might be easily
accomplished. If not, then no harm would be done.

Moore made his way rapidly past the dark little box by the stage-door
into the street. Then he whistled softly. A figure emerged from the
gloom of the court.

"You called me, sir," a voice whispered.

"I did, Joseph," Moore replied. "One little thing and you can retire for
to-night. Take this card. In a few minutes you are to present
it--as your own, mind--to the keeper of the stage-door
yonder. Take care that the door-keeper does not see your face, and
address him in fair English with a strong German accent. You will ask to
see Mr. Hermann, and the stage-door keeper will inform you that you
cannot see him for some time. You are to say that you are stone deaf,
and get him to write what he says on paper. Then you leave your card for
Mr. Hermann saying that you must see him on most important business
to-night. Will he be good enough to come round and see you? That is all,
Joseph."

Then Moore slipped back into the theatre. He had the satisfaction of
hearing the message given, and his instructions carried out without a
hitch. And a little later on he had the further satisfaction of hearing
the stage-door keeper carry out Joseph's instructions as far as Hermann
was concerned. Had Nobel's address been on the card all this would have
been superfluous. As the address was missing, the little scheme was
absolutely necessary.

There was just a chance, of course, that Hermann might deny all
knowledge of Moore's prospective quarry, not that Moore had much fear of
this, after the episode of the borrowed cloak and the play-part. Hermann
stood flushed and smiling as he received the compliments of fellow
comedians. Moore watched him keenly as the stage-door keeper delivered
the card and the message.

"Most extraordinary," Hermann muttered. "You say that Mr. Nobel was here
himself. What was he like?"

"Big gentleman, sir, strong foreign accent and deaf as a post."

Hermann looked relieved, but the puzzled expression was still on his
face.

"All right, Blotton," he said. "Send somebody out to call a cab for me
in ten minutes. Sorry I can't come and sup with you fellows as arranged.
A matter of business has suddenly cropped up."

Moore left the theatre without further delay. His little scheme had
worked like a charm. All lay clear before him now. Hermann had important
business with Nobel, he knew where the latter was staying, he was going
unceremoniously to conduct Moore to his abode. And where Nobel was at
present there was the Mazaroff rifle. There could be no doubt about that
now. Naturally the upshot of all this would be that both the
conspirators would discover that someone was on the trail, but Moore
could see no way of getting the desired information without alarming the
enemy. Once he knew where to look for the thimble he felt that the
search would be easy. Also he was prepared for a bold and audacious
stroke if necessary.

With his vivid and delicate fancy, it was only the terrors conjured up
by his own marvellous imagination that terrified him. He was one bundle
of quivering nerves, and the power of the cigarettes he practically
lived on jangled the machine more terribly out of tune.

But there was a sense of exultation now; the mad, feline courage Moore
always felt when his clear, shrewd brain was shaping to success. At
moments like these he was capable of the most amazing courage. He had a
presentiment that success lay broadly before him.

A cab crawled along the dingy street at the mouth of the court, leading
to the stage-door of the Thespian. Moore hailed it and got in.

"Don't move till I give you the signal," said he, "and keep the trap
open."

The cabman grinned and chuckled. This was evidently going to be one of
the class of fares that London's gondoliers dream of but so seldom see.
Presently the cab bearing Hermann away shot past.

"Follow that," Moore cried, "and when the gentleman gets out slacken
speed, but on no account stop. I will drop out of the cab when it is
still moving. There is a sovereign for you in any case, and there is my
card in case I should have a very long journey. Now push her along."

It was a long journey. Neither cab boasted horse-flesh of high calibre,
and after a time the pursuit dawdled down to a funeral procession.

Near the flagstaff at Hampstead Heath the first cab stopped and Hermann
descended. Moore's cab trotted by, but Moore was no longer inside. If
Hermann had any suspicion of being followed, it was allayed by this neat
stroke of Moore's.

Hermann hurried forward, walking for half an hour until he came to a
long new road at the foot of the hill between Cricklewood and Hampstead.
Only one of the fairly large houses there seemed to be inhabited, the
rest were in the last stages of completion. The opposite side of the
road was an open field.

The houses were double-fronted ones with a large porch and entrance
hall, and a long strip of lawn in front. Hermann paused before the house
which appeared to be inhabited, and passing up the path opened the front
door and entered, closing the big door behind him. In the room on the
left-hand side of the hall a brilliant light gleamed, but no glimmer
showed in the hall itself. Beyond a doubt Emile Nobel was here.

Moore followed cautiously along the drive. He softly tried the front
door, only to find the key had been turned in the lock.

"They are alarmed," he muttered; "the covey has been disturbed. By this
time Nobel and Hermann know that they have been hoaxed. Also they will
have a pretty good idea why. If I am any judge of character, audacity
more than pluck is Hermann's strong point. He will leave Nobel in the
lurch as soon as possible. If I could only hear what is going on! But
that is impossible."

Moore could hear nothing beyond the murmur of Nobel's heavy voice,
Hermann of course responding with signals. For a long time this
continued.

Meanwhile Moore was not altogether idle. He had marked Hermann's
unsteady eye and the weakness of his mouth. He sized him up as a man who
would have scant consideration for others where his own personal safety
was concerned.

"Anyway I'm going on that line," Moore muttered. "If Hermann discovers
that he has been hoaxed without betraying his knowledge to Nobel, he
will be certain to say nothing to him, but will as certainly abandon him
to his fate. Nobel's deafness will be an important factor in this
direction. Hermann's walking into the house as he did seems to indicate
the absence of servants here. That will be in my favour later on.
Doubtless Nobel has taken this house as a blind--much safer than
rooms in London, anyway. There is probably little or no furniture here,
so that Nobel can slip off at any time. And now to see if I can find
some way of getting into the house."

Whilst Moore was working away steadily with a stiff clasp-knife at a
loose catch in one of the panes of the hall window, a conversation much
on the lines Moore had indicated was taking place inside.

The hall was comfortably furnished, as was also the one sitting-room,
where the brilliant light was burning. Over a table littered with plans
and drawings a ponderous German was bending. He had a huge head,
practically bald, a great red face, and cold blue eyes, and his mouth
was the mouth of a shark. There was no air of courage or resolution
about him, but a suggestion of diabolical cunning. A more brilliant
rascal Europe could not boast.

Nobel looked up with a start as Hermann touched him.

"You frightened me," he said. "My nerfs are not as gombletely under
gontrol as they might be. Is anything wrong, my tear friendt?"

"Wrong?" Hermann cried. "Why, you sent for me."

Nobel shook his head, for he had not heard a word.

"I was goming to see you to-morrow," he said. "I should have come
to-night, but you were engaged at the theatre. Eh, what?"

Hermann turned away to light a cigarette. His hands shook and his knees
trembled under him. He had been hoaxed; in a flash he saw his danger
before him. Perhaps he had been tracked and followed here. And Nobel
knew nothing of it. He was not going to know, either, if his accomplice
could help it.

"I came to warn you," he touched off on his fingers.

"Oh," Nobel cried, "there is tanger, then? You have heard something?"

Hermann proceeded to telegraph a negative reply. He had seen nothing
whatever; only the last few hours he had a strong suspicion of being
followed. He discreetly omitted to remark the absolute conviction that
he had been shadowed this evening. He had deemed it his solemn duty to
come and warn Nobel, seeing what compromising matter the latter had in
his house.

"You are a goot boy," Nobel said, patting Hermann ponderously on the
shoulder. "By the morning I shall have gomitted all the plans of that
weapon to my brain. Then I will destroy him and the plans. After, I go
to Paris, and you shall hear from me there. Meanwhile there is branty
and whiskey."

Hermann signalled that he would take nothing. It was of first importance
that he should return to London without delay. He had come down there at
great inconvenience to himself. As a matter of fact every sound in the
empty house set his nerves going like a set of cracked bells. Moore had
only just time to plunge into the darkness as the front door opened and
Hermann came out. Moore smiled grimly as he heard the lock turned, and
saw Hermann hurrying away.

Things had fallen out exactly as he had anticipated. Hermann had told
his big confederate nothing. He meant to abandon him to his fate. Nobel
was in the house, where he meant to remain for the present. Hermann had
given him no cause for alarm.

It was going to be a case of man to man; brains and agility against
cunning. Doubtless Nobel was not unprepared for an attack. There would
be nothing so clumsy as mere fire-arms--there were other and more
terrible weapons known to the German, who was a chemist and a scientist
of a high order.

But the thing had to be done and Moore meant to do it. There was no need
for silence. He worked away at the window catch, which presently flew
back with a click and the sash was opened. A moment later and Moore was
in the hall. As he dropped lightly to his feet it seemed to his quick
ear that a deep suppressed growl followed. There was darkness in the
hall with just one shaft of light crossing it from the room beyond,
where Moore could distinctly see Nobel bending over a table. The low
growl was repeated. As Moore peered into the darkness he saw two round
spots of flaming angry orange, two balls of flame close together near
the floor. He gave a startled cry that rang in the house, then paused as
if half fearful of disturbing Nobel. But the latter never moved. He
would never hear again till the last trumpet sounded.

The flaming circles crept nearer to Moore. He did not dare to turn and
fly. He saw the gleaming eyes describe an arc, and then next moment he
was on his back on the floor, with the bulldog uppermost.

A fierce flash of two rows of gleaming teeth were followed by a stinging
blow on the temple, from which the blood flowed freely. Then the dog's
grip met in the thick, fleshy part of the shoulder. As the cruel saws
gashed on Moore's collar-bone he felt faint and sick with the pain.

But he uttered no further cry; he knew how useless it was. There was
something peculiarly horrible in the idea of lying there in sight of
help and yet being totally unable to invoke it.

Moore's hand went up to his tie slowly. From it he withdrew a diamond
pin, the shaft of which, as is not uncommon with valuable pins, being
made of steel. His hand thus armed, crept under the left forearm of the
bulldog, until it rested just over the strongly-beating heart. With a
steady pressure Moore drove the pin home to the head.

There was one convulsive snap on Moore's collarbone, then the teeth
relaxed. A shudder, a long-drawn sigh, and all was still. Some minutes
passed before Moore had strength to recover his feet, A queer,
hysterical laugh escaped him as he raised the carcase of the dog in his
arms. A sudden strength possessed him, a sudden madness held him. With
the dog in his arms, he staggered into the room where Nobel was so
deeply engrossed, and flung the carcase with a crash upon the table.

A frightened cry came from Nobel as he staggered back. His great red
face grew white and flabby, his blue eyes were filled with tears. He
looked from the carcase on the table to the slight man with the blood on
his features. On the table lay the object of Moore's search, the
Mazaroff rifle.

"A ghost!" Nobel cried. "A ghost! Ah! what does it mean?"

Moore pointed to the rifle and the drawings on the table.

"Those," he signalled upon his fingers.

"I do not understand," he muttered.

"Not now," Moore replied. He was proficient with that code used by the
deaf. More than once he had proved its value. "But you hope to
understand that rifle before morning. I have come to take it away. You
need not trouble to go into explanations. I am perfectly aware how you
and Hermann managed the thing between you."

"My servants," Nobel muttered, "will--"

"You have no servants, you are quite alone in the house."

Nobel smiled in a peculiar manner, and, as if to disprove the statement,
laid a finger on the electric bell. At the same time he seemed to be
caressing his nostrils with a handkerchief. Moore was conscious of a
faint, sweet smell in the air, and the next minute a giddy feeling came
over him. A terrible smile danced in Nobel's eyes.

Some infernal juggling was at work here. Moore glanced towards the
electric bell. Then he saw that the white stud was no longer
there--there was nothing but a round hole, through which doubtless
some deadly gas was pouring. With a handkerchief held to his face, Moore
snatched up the plans from the table and crushed them into the heart of
the fire. He gripped the Mazaroff rifle by the barrel, and held it over
Nobel's huge head. "You scoundrel," he muttered, "you are trying to
murder me. Open the windows, open the windows at once, or I will beat
your brains out."

Nobel, understood enough of this from Moore's threatening gesture to
know that he had been found out and what was required of him. With his
huge, flabby form trembling like a jelly, he pulled up the curtains and
opened one of the windows. It was close to the ground, the lawn coming
up to the house. In a sudden paroxysm of rage, Moore's left hand shot
out, catching Nobel full on the side of his ponderous cheek.

There was an impact of flesh on flesh, and Nobel went down like a
magnificent ruin. As he staggered to his feet again he caught a glimpse
of a flying figure hurrying at top speed down the road.

"My kingdom for the Edgware Road and a cab," Moore panted. "I'm going to
collapse, I'm played out for the present. Thank the gods there is a
policeman. Hi, Robert, Robert. Here's a case of drunk and incapable for
you. And, whatever happens to me, don't lose my rifle. Give me your arm,
don't be too hard upon me, and we shall get to Cricklewood Police
Station all in good time."



THE END



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