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Title: The Romance of the Secret Service Fund: The Mazaroff Rifle Author: Fred Merrick White * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0600481h.html Edition: 1 Language: English Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit Date first posted: April 2006 Date most recently updated: January 2012 This eBook was produced by: Jon Jermey and Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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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."
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