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Title: The Devil Man (1931)
Author: Edgar Wallace
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Language: English
Date first posted: October 2008
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Title: The Devil Man (1931)
Author: Edgar Wallace




CHAPTER I


On the western outskirts of Sheffield--the Sheffield of 1875--there was a
dingy red factory that had seen the bankruptcies of at least three
concerns which had been housed within its high walls. In this year it was
occupied by the staff of a Mr Wertheimer, who produced nothing that was
of commercial value, and was rather secretive about what he hoped to
produce at all. He called himself and his partner, known and unknown,
"The Silver Steel Company", which, as Baldy said subsequently, was a
contradiction in terms.

On a certain wintry night a young man dropped a rope ladder from one of
the walls and came gingerly to the ground. His name was Kuhl, he was a
Swiss from the Canton de Vaud, by profession an engineer, and by
disposition an admirer of attractive ladies.

He picked his way across the uneven ground towards the road and was met
halfway by two men. A woman, driving into Sheffield, saw the three
talking by the side of the road where a closed wagonette, drawn by two
horses, was standing. The men were talking loudly and gesticulating at
one another. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw what was apparently
a free fight in progress, and whipped up her horse.

She did not inform the police because, as she said, it was none of her
business, and, besides, fights were pretty frequent in those days and in
that part of the world.

Later she informed Sergeant Eltham, but could give no satisfactory
account of how the fight finished.

This Sergeant Eltham was a police officer who never ceased to apologize
for being seen in public without his uniform. But for this it might
almost have been forgotten that he had ever worn a uniform at all, since
he was the most astute of the "plain clothes men" that ever went on the
roll of the Sheffield Police Force. He was tall, broad-shouldered,
bushy-bearded, bald. Wrongdoers, who did not like him and never spoke of
him except in the most lurid terms, called him "Baldy" or "Whiskers" as
the fancy seized them.

He was a man who was seldom at a loss even in the most baffling
situation, but he confessed to being beaten when the Silver Steel Company
called upon him, for the second time in three months, to ask him to solve
the mystery of a lost employee.

He came into Alan Mainford's surgery one cold night in December to drink
hot rum and water and gossip about people and things, as was his
practice. The sergeant was a bachelor living with a widowed sister, and
his recreations were few. Dr Mainford often wondered what he did to pass
the time before the beginning of their friendship--it had its genesis in
a violent toothache which Alan ended summarily and in the early hours of
the morning with a No. 3 forcep and a muscular forearm.

"I don't know about these Silver Steel people, doctor," he said.

He had a deliberate method of speaking and a weakness for long words, was
known as an orator at social functions, held important office in the
Order of Oddfellows, and was a Buffalo of the highest grade.

Alan smiled as he filled his pipe.

He was a good-looking young man, who sacrificed a certain amount of
confidence amongst elderly patients because he shaved clean, a habit that
made him look even younger; so that people often referred to him as a
"bit of a boy", and expressed their firm determination of never allowing
him so much as to bandage a cut finger. He had hardly lost the tan of
India, spent more time out of doors than his brother professionals, kept
a couple of hunters in the Melton country and might, had he desired, have
found an easier and a more lucrative practice in more pleasant
surroundings, for he enjoyed a good income and had expectations which
must inevitably be realized.

"What don't you know about the Silver Steel Company?" he asked.

Baldy shook his shiny head. "In the first place, silver is silver and
steel's steel," he said. "It's ridiculous and absurd to mix 'em up. In
the second place, they're foreigners. I don't like foreigners. Give me
the true-born Briton!"

Alan chuckled. "You are what Mr Gladstone calls 'insular'," he began, and
Baldy snorted.

"Gladstone! Don't talk about that man! He'll ruin the country one of
these days, mark my words! Now, Dizzy--"

"Don't let's talk politics. Go on with your foreigners."

Baldy sipped his rum and made a little face.

"Sheffield's full of 'em lately. There's this Silver Steel lot and
there's Madame What's-her-name over in--" He snapped his fingers in an
effort to recall the location. Baldy could never remember names, that was
the most colossal of all his weaknesses.

"Anyway, there's her, and that German lot that are experimenting at
what-do-you-call-the-place? Taking the bread out of our mouths."

"We're probably taking the bread out of their mouth, too," said Alan good
humouredly. "Don't forget, Baldy--"

"Say Eltham, or say sergeant," pleaded the other. "Baldy is low."

"Well, don't forget that Sheffield is the centre of the steel world and
people come here from all over Europe to pick up wrinkles. What are the
Silver Steel people doing?"

"The Lord knows," said Baldy piously. "Turnin' silver into steel or vice
versa--a Latin expression. Only a little factory, and all the workmen
sleep in cottages inside the walls--the cottages were built by a feller
in Eccleshall who got sixty pounds apiece for 'em. Foreigners all of 'em.
Can't speak a word of English. Works guarded by men with guns. I've seen
it with my own eyes! I've warned 'em about that."

Alan picked up a small log and put it carefully on the top of the glowing
coals in the grate.

"It's a secret process, I expect," he said. "Sheffield is packed tight
with mysterious factories trying some new-fangled scheme."

Baldy nodded. "With electricity, according to what I hear. It doesn't
seem possible. Electricity is lights and cures rheumatism. I had a
penn'orth at the winter fair. You hold two brass handles and a feller
pulls out a piston and you have pins and needles all up your arm. I don't
know how it's done, there's a trick in it somewhere. But what's
electricity got to do with steel? It's absurd, ridiculous and confusing.
It's against the laws of nature, too." There had been, he explained, some
rum things happening at the Silver Steel works. One of the workmen went
for a walk on a Sunday night and had not been seen since. Then a month
later another workman, who had learnt enough English to correspond with a
Sheffield young lady, had climbed over the wall and gone to see her
"clandestinely". He had not been seen since, except by a woman who saw
him in the company of two men.

"Fightin', accordin' to this witness, a woman named...bless my life, I'll
forget my own name next! Anyway, he's gone. And why not? According to Mr
What's-his-name, who owns the works, this man lives in Switzerland among
the Alps. Who would live in Sheffield if he had an Alp to go to?"

"I know Wertheimer," nodded Alan. "One of his men had a hand crushed and
I attended him. What do you suspect about the missing men--foul play?"

"Foul grandmothers!" snorted Baldy. "Gone home--that's all. Run away with
gels. This feller was writing to a girl--a Miss--dear me! I've got it on
the tip of my tongue! She went away the same night. Nobody knows where.
It's the old story--marry in haste and repent at leisure."

"Who is Mr Dyson?" asked Alan.

Baldy frowned. "Dyson? Don't know him. Who is he?"

"He's an engineer, I think. I met him at the works. An enormously tall
man. He's been in America and seemed to know Wertheimer."

"Dyson--I know him. A long un! He's all right--a gentleman. He's with the
railway. Got a pretty sharp tongue, too." Baldy mixed another glass of
grog, using his own bottle--he insisted upon this act of partnership.
"Too many foreigners--not enough good Yorkshiremen in Sheffield. What's
the use of foreigners to us? Nothing."

Alan was interested in the missing men and asked questions.

"I don't know any more than that. I've got too much work to do to bother
about 'em. There's a regular outbreak of burglary in this neighbourhood
and I pretty well know the man that's doing it. When I say 'man', I ask
pardon of my Maker, for this chap is no man. He's a monstrosity. He
oughtn't to be on the face of the earth."

"In fact, he's no gentleman," laughed Alan. "I am going to turn you out,
Baldy. Don't scowl--It's a term of affection. I'm off to bed. And perhaps
tonight a few expected babies will postpone their arrival until I've had
a spell of sleep."

No maternity case brought Alan out of his warm bed. The hammerings on his
door that woke him were the hammer blows of fate. He went out into the
raw night to face new and tremendous factors which were to change and
reshape his life.



CHAPTER II


Dr Alan Mainford was at the age when even a night call from an unknown
patient had in it the stuff of adventure. Dixon brought round the pony
trap and offered a few bitter comments on the weather, the hour, the
difficulty of harnessing the cob by the light of a lantern which the wind
blew out every few minutes, and, above all, and most insistently, the
futility of obeying every summons that comes out of the night.

"The old doctor used to say. 'If they can't last till mornin' I can't
save 'em tonight'--that's what the old doctor used to say," he said
darkly.

Dixon was stocky and bow-legged, as became a groom. On the finest summer
morning he would have been disgruntled, for it was his habit to complain.

"The old doctor--" he began again.

"Blow the old doctor!" said Alan.

"He's dead," said Dixon, hurt and reproachful.

"Of course he's dead--your grousing killed him."

Dixon never liked the word "grousing"; it was an army word and
outlandish. He resented Alan's three years of service as an army doctor,
did his best to hide from the world that his employer had ever had that
experience. It was a tradition of the medical profession in the year 1875
that army doctors were without quality, and Dixon had been brought up in
the traditions of the profession.

Alan took the reins in his hand and looked up and down the dreary street.
Snow and sleet were driving down from the north-west; the gas-lamps were
dim nebulae of foggy light.

"Thank Gawd I rough-shod him yesterday." said Dixon, his mind, as ever,
on the impatient and rather annoyed animal between the shafts. "Mind that
hill near the Cross--he's fresh tonight, poor little feller." He held the
horse's head as Alan stepped up into the trap, wrapped a leather covered
rug waist-high about him and sat on the driver's seat.

"All right--let go his head." The cob slipped, recovered, found his feet
and his gait and went swiftly down the white-covered road. Wet snow beat
into Alan's face, blinding him. Clear of Banner Cross the street lights
vanished, and he drove into a black void which the faint light of his
trap lamps did little to illuminate.

Happily, the cob knew the road, knew, in his peculiar way, every hedge,
every isolated house. Where the road turned sharply he checked of his own
will; he fell into a walk at every sharp rise and picked his way
cautiously down every declivity.

Alan dreamed his waking dreams, which were in the main as fantastical and
unreal as the shadows about him. He dreamed of a day when the railroad
would run to the least village; perhaps there would some day be road
locomotives on the lines of traction engines and steam rollers, but less
cumbersome and cheaper. Perhaps a time would come when every man would
have his own little engine which ran at incredible speeds--twenty miles
an hour possibly--along every highway.

He hoped Mrs Stahm's servants would be able to give him tea or
coffee--the latter for choice. The Germans made good coffee, or was she
Swedish? He had seen her often, riding in the foreign-looking victoria
with her coachman and her footman on the box, a dark-eyed, inscrutable
woman of uncertain age. Nobody knew her; his small circle of friends used
to speculate upon her identity and wonder what brought her to the
outskirts of Sheffield and the loneliness of Brinley Hall, until they
learnt that she was the widow of a Swiss engineer who had invented a new
steel which was yet in its experimental stage. Apparently she lived near
to the scene of the experiments, not because her interest in her
husband's invention was academic or sentimental, but because she herself
had had something of a scientific training. Young Dibden, whose father
was senior partner of the firm that were trying out the invention, spoke
of her with respect.

"By gad, she's clever! A woman, too...! You wouldn't expect a woman to
know anything about the chemistry of steel, but she does. Got the process
from A to Z...told Furley that he was old-fashioned...what was the word?
Archaic! But she's odd--deuced odd. None of the women likes her--they
loathe her. She doesn't ask 'em to tea and they don't ask her. She makes
'em shiver, and by heavens she makes me shiver too!" Alan grinned into
the dark night. Would Madame Stahm make him shiver? He saw humanity from
his own peculiar angle. Men and women could be majestic and terrifying
and all the things that impress, but usually they were never really
interesting until he was called in to see them: rather pitiful creatures
who had shed their majesty and were neither impressive nor awe-inspiring.

The cob went at a steady gait, clop-clopping through the snow covering of
the road. Once he shied at something Alan could not immediately see.
Snatching up the pony, he brought him to the centre of the road and, as
he did so, he saw the figure which had startled the animal: the shape of
a man trudging through the street. He shouted abusively in a harsh voice.
Alan heard the word "lift", but he was giving no lifts that night. There
were some queer people in this neighbourhood--burglaries had been
numerous; it was not a night to invite any unknown pedestrian to share
the trap.

His gloved hands were stiff and numbed with cold when he turned the cob's
head towards the two stone pillars that flanked the drive. It wound up
through an avenue of anaemic-looking trees to the big house. No lights
showed in any of the windows.

Stiffly he descended, gathered up the reins...

"I'll take the horse." Alan almost jumped. The voice came from the
darkness of the porch. Now he was dimly aware, not only of the figure in
the dark porch, but that the door of the house was open. The hall was in
darkness.

The man spoke again in a language which Alan did not understand. It
sounded like one of the Scandinavian tongues. A second man came shambling
into the open and went to the cob's head.

"He will stable the horse and look after him, doctor. Will you come this
way?" Suddenly the lantern he was carrying threw out a strong yellow
beam. Electricity was in the days of its infancy, and this was the first
hand-lamp that Alan had ever seen--the famous Stahm lamp that was an
object of curiosity for many years afterwards.

They passed into the hall, and the heavy door closed behind them.

"One moment--I will strike a lucifer and light the gas," said the guide.

Mainford waited. A match spluttered, and in a second the hall was
illuminated.

The guide was a man of forty. He was well, even foppishly dressed. The
long, yellow face was framed in side whiskers; there hung about him the
nidor of stale cigar smoke.

"Before you go up, doctor,"--he stood squarely between Alan and the broad
staircase which led to the upper part of the house--"let me tell you that
Madame is not ill--not ill as you would say that a person is ill, eh?"
English was not his native tongue, Alan realized. Though his accent was
pure, the construction of his sentences, no less than his choice of
words, betrayed him.

"She has storms in her brain; fears of death groundless. She is too
clever. In a woman that is terrible. For a long while she will go on, but
sometimes there comes to her a sense of...bafflement. There is no such
word, eh? But you understood. Good! A wall confronts her. She screams,
she tries to climb up, she tries to burrow beneath, she tears at the
stones with her pretty fingers. Absurd! Wait, I say, and the wall she
will vanish. Mind"--he tapped his narrow forehead--"always mind will
triumph! In such times the nasty little man can soothe her. You know him?
I am sure you know him. Ach! Such a man! But the good Lord makes them in
all shapes and sizes." He went on, hardly stopping to find his breath,
and all the time his long, white hands gesticulated every emphasis.

"What is the matter with her now?" asked Alan, a little bewildered to
discover that "Madame" was not ill. It was a cool greeting after a
six-mile drive on a stormy night. He did not trouble to wonder who this
man was, or in what relationship he stood to his patient. Such matters
did not greatly interest him. The name of his companion and his
profession he was to learn immediately.

"Hysteria--no more. It is alarming, but I would not have sent for you.
Madame thinks she will die. A doctor and a priest and the nasty little
man. The priest, no! She shall not die, but she shall be ill if I do not
bring her relief. I am Baumgarten--engineer. Dr Stahm was my master--I
his disciple. Eckhardt was also his disciple. He is dead. All thieves die
sometime. He died in America of consumption. There is a God!" Abruptly he
turned and walked up the stairs, Alan, carrying the bag he had taken from
underneath the seat of the trap, following. Who was Eckhardt? Why the
malignant satisfaction that he had died so painfully? Eckhardt was a
thief; what had he stolen?

At the head of the stairs was a wide landing. The walls were hung with
tapestries; there was a suggestion of luxury, of immense wealth, and with
it went an air of neglect and decay. There was a certain mustiness about
the house which betokened a total disregard for fresh air or ventilation.
Two of the tapestries hung crookedly; Alan saw that they were supported
en loops of string from tenpenny nails driven into the panels.

"This way, my dear sir." Baumgarten opened a recessed door and they
passed, not into a bedroom, as Alan had expected, but into a great
drawing-room. Though from the centre of the black ceiling hung a gas
chandelier, where three yellow flames were burning within glass globes,
it was almost as if he had walked into the outer dark. The walls, the
carpets, the curtains were papered or draped in black. The furniture,
when he could pick it out, was upholstered and lacquered in the same
gloomy hue. The only relief to this manufactured gloom was the woman in
pale green velvet who sat on the raised dais at one end of the long room,
and the white-clad nurse who stood by her side, watching Alan with a
relief in her eyes which she did not attempt to disguise.

It was not on the patient, but on the nurse, that Dr Mainford's attention
was riveted. In her simple uniform she looked like some exquisite
creature of the Renaissance with her dull gold hair which the nurse's
bonnet could not hide, and her slim, perfectly poised figure. The
exquisite moulding of her face, the red rose lips, the firm little chin,
the ivory whiteness of her skin, left him breathless.

He knew most of the nurses in Sheffield, but this was a stranger to him.

"Well, well, well." It was Baumgarten's impatient voice. "There is madame
to be seen, is it not?" And then, almost with a wrench, Alan turned his
attention to the woman in green. It was difficult to believe that she was
human. Her face was an enamelled white, the dark eyes stared ahead of
her; she seemed oblivious of her surroundings, of his presence, of
anything that was earthly.

From her face, plastered thick with powder, he could not judge her age.
It was only when he saw the hands, tightly clenched on the arms of her
velvet chair, that he judged her to be over fifty. She sat, stiff,
motionless, bolt upright, her chin raised, her face expressionless. About
her neck was a great circle of green stones. From their size he was
satisfied they could not be emeralds; but here he was mistaken. A big
emerald ring glittered on one finger. About each arm was bracelet upon
bracelet, until she glittered from wrist to elbow.

Alan experienced a queer sense of embarrassment as he went to her and
tried to take her hand. The clutching fingers could not be pried loose
from their grip. He pushed up the jewelled circles, found her pulse and
took out his watch. The pulse was faint but regular.

"Are you feeling ill?" he asked.

Madame Stahm made no answer, and he looked at the nurse inquiringly.

"She has been like this for nearly an hour," said the girl in a low
voice. "I have tried everything. It looks like a cataleptic seizure, but
Mr Baumgarten says it is not unusual and that she will recover in time.
She was taken ill last night at about seven," she went on. "It was
dreadful!"

"Screaming?" She nodded. He heard her quick sigh.

"Yes...dreadful. Mr Baumgarten was alarmed. But the attack passed off,
and he thought it was over. At eleven o'clock it came on again, worse."
She did not take her eyes from his when she spoke, and he saw in them the
shadow of fear, which is very rarely met with in the eyes of a woman of
her profession.

"What is your name?" he asked.

"Jane Garden. I am from St Mary's Hospital in London. I've been here a
month." She glanced past him towards Baumgarten, who stood motionless,
his head bent, a frank and unabashed listener.

Alan stooped and looked at the woman's eyes. They were set; the pupils
were pin-pointed, and he made a little grimace.

"It is either hysteria or drugs--" he began.

"Neither--fool!" It was the green woman who almost snarled the words, and
he was so startled that he dropped the stethoscope he was fitting.

She did not move, did not even turn her eyes in his direction. Only the
thin lips moved.

"You have no sense, no brains! You see only material things! You do not
examine the soul! I project myself into the infinite, and you say
'hysteria'! I walk with Stahm and his shadow, Eckhardt, and you say
'drugs'! I live in the shades, I go out of the world, and you feel my
pulse and listen to my heart and say; 'Ah, well, she is mad.'"

And then the dead figure came to life. He saw the bosom rise as she
inhaled a deep breath; the eyes moved slowly in his direction. The figure
became suddenly alive.

"Who sent for this man? Who sent for him?" She almost screamed the words.

"I sent for him," said Baumgarten calmly. "You said you were dying, you
asked for a doctor, a priest and the ugly man. Here is your doctor. The
ugly man is coming--the priest, no." She began speaking rapidly to him in
a language which was neither Scandinavian nor German. One word gave him
the clue. They were talking in Russian. Both Baumgarten and Madame Stahm
were Russian by birth, he discovered later.

The first part of her speech was obviously a flood of abuse; but
gradually her voice and manner grew calmer, and the thin lips curled in a
smile. When she turned to the doctor and spoke her manner was entirely
changed.

"Most stupid of me, doctor," she said, so graciously that he was
staggered. "I have these--what is the word?--fits! Hysteria? It is
possible. But drugs--I do not think I have taken drugs--no, Baumgarten?"
He shook his head slowly, his eyes upon her.

"That is the truth," she said. "Now you shall feel my pulse." She held
out her hand almost gaily, and Alan's fingers closed upon a wrist that
pulsated so strongly that it might not have been the same woman he had
examined a few seconds before.

"It is hysteria possibly. I am a great trial to all my friends. But then,
what woman is not? You are psychic, doctor?" It was a word not very
commonly used, and he frowned.

"Psychic? Do you mean seeing spooks and things?"

"Spooks and things," she repeated with an ironic little smile. "Eh? That
is your idea of the psychic? Well, perhaps you are right, doctor. My
nerves are bad." She turned abruptly to Baumgarten. "The ugly man, is he
coming?"

Baumgarten looked at his watch. "He should be here," he said, and went
out of the room.

Madame Stahm regarded her professional caller with a quizzical smile.
"You do not know my nasty little man, I suppose? Or does everybody know
him? He is a seer. People do not believe so, but he has divinity!"

Alan for the moment was not interested in psychic things, or even ugly
men who had divine qualities. He was intensely practical. "Don't you
think you should undress and go to bed?" he said. "I can give you a
bromide draught which can be made up at the chemists--there is one at the
village two miles away."

She laughed a low, amused laugh.

"You say I take drugs, so you give me more, eh. That is funny!"

"Rest will be very good for you," he said.

The nurse started from her contemplation of Alan. "It will be very good
for you," she urged. "You remember, I suggested a sleeping draught--"

"A sleeping draught, ach!" Madame Stahm snapped her jewelled fingers.
"No, will have my ugly man and he will rest me. Jane doesn't like my ugly
man."

There was no need for the girl to confirm this--her face told the story.
The squeak of the door handle made Alan Mainford turn, and then he saw
Madame's seer.



CHAPTER III


He was a queer, incongruous figure of a man. His height could not have
been more than five feet; the big, dark, deep-set eyes were the one
pleasant feature in a face which was utterly repulsive. They were the
eyes of an intelligent animal. The forehead was grotesquely high, running
in furrows almost to where, at the crown of the head, a mop of grey hair
rolled back. The unshaven cheeks were cadaverous, deeply lined and
hollow. There was a ferocity in the overthrust jaw as the little man
moved it from side to side. His thick, rough coat was soddened with
sleet, his boots left little pools of water on the black carpet. He wore
home-knitted mittens, and in one hand clutched an ancient violin case.

"Delighted!" murmured madame. "You are a good man to come. I am in need
of your inspiration. Play, play, play!"

The little man was glaring malignantly at Alan. "You couldn't stop and
gimme a lift, mister?" he demanded resentfully. "I must trudge through
the muck and the mire. I called to tha', but no, he goes on--him
ridin'--me walkin'!" Alan's eyes had wandered to the nurse. She stood
rigid, and in her face was a look of horror that helped to tell a story
he intended knowing before he left the house that night.

"Play!" The order was imperious. The little man squatted down on a chair
and opened the case on his knees. He took out an old violin and a bow and
cuddled the fiddle under his chin.

Then he began to play, and all the time those animal eyes of his were
fixed on Jane Garden's face. He played a queer obbligato and he was
extemporizing every note. There were moments when he defied every law of
harmony, when he became so musically illiterate that Alan, who was no
music-lover, winced. There were times when he achieved a breath-taking
peak of beauty, when the very soul of humanity trembled on the taut
strings of the instrument.

And always he looked at Jane, and it came to Alan Mainford that this man
was playing her as though she were a piece of music, translating thought,
discordant fear, jarring uncertainty, wild despair, into the terms of
melody.

"Play me, ugly man! Leaf her! You hear, play me!" Madame's voice was an
angry wail. It was true then--that was what this ugly little devil was
doing--playing souls.

He saw the violinist turn his eyes to the older woman and the pace of the
music quickened, became distorted, wild, dreamy and strident. Then,
suddenly, in a discord that set Alan's teeth on edge, the music ceased.

"Out of me head!" The ugly man pronounced his boast loudly. He was
pleased with himself, triumphant was the better word. His deep chest
swelled, he wiped his streaming forehead with a brightly coloured
handkerchief, and the thick lips were unlatched in a grin.

"Out of me head! You're an educated man. I'm self-learnt--but I got more
cleverness in me than you! Next time I say give me a lift, you give it!"
He had become suddenly a bully, overbearing. Alan, who had reason for
being annoyed, was amused; for all this bluster was for the benefit of
Jane Garden. The little ugly man was showing off.

"I can sing, recite, do a dance," he went on. "I bin before public in
real theatres. I can whistle like a bird--" He pursed his lips and of a
sudden there was a blackbird in the room, singing with the joy of life
and the unborn spring in its little heart. Alan listened, fascinated.

"No more, you have done well, my dear little friend." Madame arrested a
further demonstration. "Here is the money." She thrust her hand into a
bag that hung from her wrist. They heard the jingle of gold and then she
held out two sovereigns to the whistler. He accepted the gift with an odd
air of condescension: it was as though he was the donor and she the
recipient.

"You are a truly great man,"--her tone was almost caressing. "Some day
you shall be the greatest man in the world. I love you, because you are
so ugly and dirty. Tomorrow--or on Sunday--I will send for you. Goodbye."

He hesitated, his dark eyes again sought Jane Garden. "I don't walk back,
missus. You ain't going to let a poor old man walk back?"

"I'll give you a lift as far as the city," said Alan, still amused. "I
didn't know you were coming to this house or I would have picked you up."

The little man's lips curled in a sneer. "I daresay you would," he said.

And then Alan caught the girl's eyes, saw the urgency of the summons in
them, and went across to her. To his amazement she was breathless, hardly
able to speak.

"I want you to get me away from here," she said in a low tone. "Can
you--will you"?"

"But how--?"

"I don't care how you do it. I know you can't take me away tonight, but
can't you send for me tomorrow and give me some instructions about Mrs
Stahm's treatment? They won't let me go near Sheffield--please!"

Mainford thought quickly. Both Madame Stahm and Baumgarten were watching
him closely. It almost seemed as though they had expected her to approach
him.

"I'll send the trap over for you tomorrow, Nurse Garden," he said in a
loud voice. "The test won't take very long, and I think that it should--"

"Send the trap over?" repeated Madame sharply. "Why?"

He looked at her steadily. "Because Nurse Garden is not particularly
well, and I would like to make a blood test," he said.

"It can be made here," said Baumgarten quickly.

"It will be made just where I want it to be made!" Here was the imperious
army doctor speaking, authority in his tone.

There was a brief and embarrassing silence.

"I'm afraid I can't spare the nurse," said Madame Stahm acidly, and
quailed under Alan Mainford's cold gaze. He had that effect upon some
people; this woman might not be a coward, but she was incapable of
resisting authority.

"Is there any reason why she should not go into Sheffield?" he asked.

"None at all," snapped Madame. "But I think a sick patient is entitled to
be consulted before a nurse is taken away from her."

Alan smiled. "You are consulted, Madame Stahm. I will send the trap for
this young lady at three o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Either my groom will
drive over or my friend Sergeant Eltham, who is an expert driver, will
call for her." It was a threat; nobody in that room mistook the
significance of Alan's alternative suggestion. He heard a low grumble
behind him, like the growl of an animal, and out of the corner of his eye
he saw the little man's face pucker in anger.

"Very good," said Madame Stahm hastily. "There is no reason why the nurse
should not go, though it will be very inconvenient. Mr Baumgarten will
pay you your fee, doctor. I shall not require you again."

Alan bowed. "That is for you to decide, Madame Stahm. But I would advise
you, if you have another such attack as you had today, not to let your
prejudice against me stand in the way of calling me in. You have a very
bad heart, but I suppose you know that?"

She glared down at him malignantly from her raised seat. "It's a lie!"
She spoke with difficulty. "I have goot health--goot health! You shall
not say that I am sick because I have visions...you said this to anger
me? Tell me, doctor, you said this to anger me, and I will forgive you."

"You have a bad heart," repeated Alan quietly. "Your pulse is not at all
as it should be, and you have certain facial symptoms which are rather
alarming. I repeat, don't let the fact that I have annoyed you stop you
from calling me in if you cannot get another doctor." He nodded to the
girl, made another little bow to Madame Stahm and walked out of the room,
followed by Baumgarten. At the door he turned to look back at Jane. She
had already disappeared, but the ugly little man had made his way to
Madame Stahm's side and was talking to her eagerly in a low voice. She
nodded, nodded again, shook her head and smiled.

"Have no fear, little friend," she said. "You shall have all you desire."
As the man came towards them, Baumgarten, with some ostentation, opened a
purse which he took from his trousers pocket and put a golden sovereign
and a shilling in Alan's palm.

"That, I think, is a generous fee," he said, a little pompously. And then
his voice changed. "Do you think she's ill--yes? Really, with her heart?"
He tapped his own anxiously.

"I think so," replied Alan.

He was not anxious to discuss the symptoms of his patient with the
mysterious Mr Baumgarten and made his way down the stairs into the dimly
lit hall.

"One question, doctor--Do you know a dull, stupid man--a Swiss--who has a
factory; the Silver Steel Company, eh?"

"No," said Alan shortly.

The cob and the trap were standing at the door and Alan mounted to his
seat. He had just taken up the reins when there came a sound that made
his blood run cold. It was a long, muffled shriek, that ended in an
agonized wail, and it came from somewhere in the house.

"What was that?" he asked quickly.

"It is the railway whistle, my friend," said Baumgarten's voice. He could
hardly see him in the darkness. "You are nervous!"

"That was no railway whistle," said Alan, and waited, listening, but the
scream was not repeated.

He had forgotten all about the little man until he began clambering up on
the opposite side and fell into the more comfortable seat.

"Give me some of that apron, will you?" he growled. "Haven't you got any
heart for an old man?...Ought to be ashamed of yourself." Alan unwrapped
the driving apron which he had drawn around himself; slipping one of the
leather loops round the iron batten at his side, he passed the rest of
the cover to his unwelcome passenger. A touch of the reins and the cob
was heading down the drive.

He was half annoyed, half amused with himself. Why on earth had he taken
this line with Madame Stahm? He had deliberately tried to frighten her,
and he had most certainly antagonized her beyond forgiveness, though this
was a matter of no account.

He was amused to find himself acting in the role of champion to
distressed nurses, but there was something behind that girl's terror,
something peculiarly sinister in the atmosphere of the house. He had not
hesitated; the only uneasiness he had in his mind was whether he should
leave her there for another night. All the time he had been in that queer
habitation he had a sense that it was overtenanted.

He was conscious of the presence of men whom he did not see, and had a
feeling that strange and unfriendly eyes had watched him all the time he
had been there...

That shriek--it was a shriek; it could not have been anything else. Was
Mrs Stahm passing through another hysterical crisis? The little man at
his side fidgeted uneasily, grumbling under his breath.

"You've got too much of the apron." He tugged at it savagely. "Do you
want to make me ill so as you can cure me? I wouldn't have you for a
doctor! I hate the sight of doctors. They go round telling people they're
sick when there's nowt wrong with 'em."

"Why did you come out at this hour of the night?" asked Alan, ignoring
the abuse. "Is it a practice of yours?"

"Mind your own business," snarled the other. "I go out any hour of the
night I like--do you see?"

"If you're not civil I'll stop the trap and throw you out," said Alan
angrily.

"It'd take a better man than you--" began the other, when the young
doctor pulled his horse to a standstill.

"Get out and walk," he said curtly.

"See this?" The little man stretched out his arm. In the reflected light
of the lamp Alan saw, dangling from his wrist, a snub-nosed revolver,
evidently fastened by a strap to his wrist.

"That's a shooter, young man. You know what a shooter is--hold hard,
don't hit!" He had seen Alan's hand go back, and the bullying tone became
suddenly a supplicating whine. "You wouldn't hit an old man, would you?
Mind you, I could throw you out of this trap as easy as cutting butter!
But I don't want to get into any trouble with you or with anybody else.
I'm an old man, and all I want is peace and quietness."

"Then sit quiet," said Alan savagely. He flung the apron back over the
man's knees and tchk-ed to the cob. "And shut your mouth," he added.

The latter injunction was instantly disobeyed.

"I don't wonder you're surprised seeing me here," said the little man.
"But I go out when I'm sent for. And they send for me all hours of the
day and night--women! They take a liking to me--they go off their heads
about me. There was a girl in Sheffield--" He told a story to which Alan
found it difficult to listen with patience.

"Madame is a lady bred and born," he went on. "That woman knows me better
than I know myself. I heard what you said, mister--I play her! I can play
anybody! I see inside 'em and put it into the fiddle. There ain't another
man in England could do that. There ain't another man in England who can
recite like I can recite. I've been on the stage." He went on in this
strain for ten minutes, and then abruptly broke off and asked: "What do
you think of my girl?"

"Your girl?"

"That's what I said," said the other; "the young nurse lady; the one
you're going to operate on tomorrow."

"I'm not operating on anybody tomorrow, but if you mean the nurse, will
you explain what you mean by 'your girl'?" asked Alan in a cold fury.

The little man chuckled continuously, beating his knees in the ecstasy of
his humour.

"She'll be mine," he said at last. "I don't say she is at the minute.
Notice her looking at me as if I was a snake? I've seen dozens of 'em do
that, and how have they ended up?"

"I don't particularly want to know," said Alan.

But his passenger could not be snubbed.

"There's a lady bred and born coming to live near me. Her husband's a
gentleman, but she's coming to live next door to me, and for why? Because
she's off her head about me--and a lady! You ought to see her,
mister--young--" He smacked his lips and became physically descriptive.

Alan was not easily revolted. He was not revolted even now. He listened
with a sort of resentful amazement to the boasting of this little
blackguard, and if once or twice he had the temptation to hit him on the
head with the butt of his whip he restrained himself.

"Where do you work?" he asked, more to turn the conversation than to
elicit the information.

"Work? What--me? I'm a master man. I don't work for nobody. I'm
independent. I can earn my living in a dozen ways. My wood-carving is
better than any woodcarving you've ever seen. I can frame pictures, I can
make a cabinet--there's nothing I couldn't do. Some of these lah-de-da-dy
swells in Sheffield think they're clever, but I've forgot more than they
knew. You're not going to drop me here, are you?" Alan pulled up the cob
before his house. "Take me on to Darnell, mister. It's only a couple of
miles."

"Walk," said Alan laconically.

"I'm an old man," wailed his dogged passenger. "You wouldn't let an old
man walk through the slush and the snow on a night like this? It's not
human!"

"You're not human either. Get down!" Out of the shadow of the porch
before Alan's house came a burly figure.

"Hullo, doctor! You're the man I wanted to see." It was Sergeant Eltham,
and at the sound of his voice the little man slipped from the trap on the
offside and vanished into the night.

"Thought you had somebody with you? He went quickly enough--not so quick
that I didn't see him," said Sergeant Eltham. "What kind of persons are
you picking up at night, doctor?"

"Do you know him?" asked Alan, in surprise.

"Know him?" scoffed Baldy. "I should say I did know him! The cleverest
burglar in the north of England, the nastiest little brute in the world."

"What is his name?" asked Alan, suspecting another demonstration of
Baldy's weakness, but for once Sergeant Eltham had the name on the tip of
his tongue and could pronounce it.

"His name is Charles Peace," he said.



CHAPTER IV


Charles Peace? The name meant nothing to Dr Mainford. "He's certainly a
nasty fellow. Come in and have some coffee. What are you doing in the
middle of the night?"

"I'll tell you later." The sergeant stopped to stamp the snow from his
feet on the doorstep, and heaved a sigh of relief as he came into the
snug warmth of Alan's study.

"Have a look to see that you haven't lost your watch," he said. "Peace is
as good a pickpocket as he is a burglar. There's nothing he can't do,
from shove-ha'penny to murder. Did he give you any trouble?" Alan
laughed.

"A little bit," he said. "I nearly threw him out of the trap."

"I'm glad you didn't try." Baldy was very serious. "That man has got the
strength of ten. I went for him once in Sheffield, and it took seven
policemen to get him to the station, and then we had to frog-march him."

Alan was not convinced. "He didn't give me that impression. He showed me
a revolver when I threatened him."

"A revolver, eh?" said the other quickly. "By gum, I wish I'd known that,
I'd have pinched him. I've always heard he carried a pistol, but I never
found one on him. How did you come to meet him?"

Briefly Alan told the story of his visit to Madame Stahm, though he made
no reference to the beautiful nurse or to the shriek he had heard. When
he had finished, Baldy nodded. "Yes, I know all about his fiddle playing.
Personally, I know nothing about music and harmony, but I'm told he plays
on the stage. In fact, he has been on the stage. Did he tell you anything
about wild beasts?"

"Wild beasts?" repeated the startled young doctor. "Is he an animal
tamer, too?" he asked ironically.

To his surprise Baldy nodded. "He can tame wild elephants! I've seen him
go into a lions' den at Wombwell's menagerie and take a bone from under
the nose of a lion. His father was in the animal training business, and
so was Peace--that's why he's a good burglar: dogs never bark at him."

"Are you serious?" asked Alan, pausing as he poured out the coffee which
the sleepy-eyed Dixon had brought in.

"It's the truth," said Sergeant Eltham. "Dogs never bark at Peace. You
can get the most savage retriever and chain him in a kennel outside your
door, and Peace will come in in the middle of the night, pat the dog and
send him back to sleep. He plays the piano--in fact, there's nothing he
can't do in the musical line. And they tell me he can make up poetry."
Out of curiosity Alan repeated some of the man's boasts of conquests, and
was amazed when Baldy confirmed the little man's claims.

"You wouldn't think it possible, but it's a fact. I could tell you some
pretty bad cases--decent women who've left their homes for him. He's
lame--did you notice that? And one of his fingers was shot off when he
was a boy, and his face--good Lord! Well, you've seen him!"

"He's a pretty old man, isn't he?" Baldy shook his head.

"No, sir. Peace can't be much more than forty-three. He looks seventy,
but round about forty is his real age. Did he cry to you about being a
poor old man? He always does." He told Alan something of the man's
record. He had started as a pickpocket, gone on to be a burglar.

"I pinched him twenty years ago, when he burgled a house in this city. He
got a stretch of four years, but that wasn't his first conviction. He got
one dose of six years at Manchester, and then went back and got another.
In fact, he knows more prisons than any bad character I've ever met
with." Alan listened, fascinated.

"He's been out three years now," explained Baldy in answer to his
question. "I don't often see him, except when I'm making inquiries about
a job, and then he's got an alibi tied to his left ear! Funny you met him
tonight. What was he doing at Mrs Stahm's? That's the puzzle." The
sergeant ran his fingers through his long beard. "She's very kind and
charitable, by all accounts. I think somebody ought to see her and warn
her."

Alan shook his head. "I don't think that's necessary," he said quietly.
"Madame Stahm has a pretty good idea of the kind of man he is. Now, tell
me what you want to see me about."

Baldy sat for a little while, ordering his brief narrative. "Do you
remember that fellow I spoke to you about--the foreigner, who disappeared
from the Silver Gilt works?"

"Silver Steel." suggested Alan.

Sergeant Eltham brushed aside the correction impatiently. "Whatever it
is. Well, it appears he hasn't turned up in Switzerland. His relations
have written to Mr What's-his-name--"

"Wertheimer?"

"That's the feller--asking for the allowance he used to make to his
sister. What's more, the first man that ran away hasn't been seen at his
home since he disappeared from Sheffield. I've got a few facts about the
business that you might like to know, doctor. You've been a good friend
of mine, and your brain and education have helped me when I've been stuck
before." He opened his book, turned the leaves slowly to refresh his
memory, closed the book and slipped it in his pocket, and began.

"Over in Switzerland there was a man, whose name I can't exactly remember
and can't read, who got an idea he could make steel that wouldn't rust.
Which, on the face of it, is absurd and ridiculous. This Professor
What's-his-name had a lab--what's the word? It begins with an L."

"Laboratory?" suggested Alan.

The sergeant nodded.

"That's the thing. He was pretty high up in science and he built or
borrowed or rented this lab...--the word you said--and got a lot of young
professors to come in and help him. They didn't quite make what they were
looking for, but they got near enough to it for them to see that they
were near the secret. Then one of the young men who were helping the old
man bolted to America, and took away with him all the papers and
calculations and the likes of that, thinking that he could invent the
thing himself and get all the money there was for inventing it."

A light dawned on Alan Mainford. "Is the professor alive?" he asked.

"No," said Baldy. "This feller running away so much upset the old man,
Professor What's-his-name, that he took sick and died. Another assistant
carried on the work, but the widow of the professor was so suspicious
that she kicked him out, and he came to England and started experimenting
on his own. That is the man at the Silver Steel works."

"Wertheimer?"

"That's him, Wertheimer. In the meantime the feller that went away to
America and opened a sort of lab...--whatever it is--on his own, died.
The man at the Silver Steel works heard about this, sent to America and
brought over two or three of the head men who had been working for the
American fellow, and two out of the three have already disappeared.
Wertheimer (don't say I can't remember names) is very upset about it,
because he was sure that both these men had the secret of the new steel,
and would have worked it out for him if they had remained. What is
worrying him is that they may have gone over to this very woman you're
speaking about."

"Madame Stahm? Why, of course. Eckhardt was the man who ran away--"

"That's his name," said Baldy, as triumphantly as though he had himself
remembered it. "Eckhardt!" And Wertheimer was the dull, stupid man about
whom he had been questioned. "I'm going to drive over to see the lady
tomorrow," Baldy went on, "and I was wondering if you could lend me your
trap."

"I'll lend you my trap, and you can bring back the nurse who is there, a
Miss Jane Garden," said Alan quickly. "Have any inquiries been made at
Dibdens, where Mrs Stahm is having her experiments made?"

Baldy nodded. "Yes, according to Mr--the Silver Steel man--he's been into
that. He's had a chat with Mr Dibden himself, and neither of the two men
are employed at the works. My own theory is that they've gone off with
girls--they're foreigners, and naturally they run after women."

"I know a few Englishmen who do that," said Alan dryly. "Your friend
Peace--"

"Don't call him my friend." Baldy raised his voice protestingly. "There's
a dirty little skunk if you like! I remember once he fell into the river;
he couldn't swim, but, bless your heart, I said to the people on the
bank: 'Don't worry about him: he's born to be hung, and a man who's born
to be hung can never be drowned.' It's a funny thing--have you ever
noticed it as a medical man?"

"I can't say that I have," said Alan, yawning. "But I still don't know
why you go out in the middle of the night to pursue these inquiries of
yours."

"The Silver Steel man came round and knocked me up. I've been with him
for two hours, and I was so wide awake when he'd gone that I popped round
to see if there was a light in the surgery." Alan dozed off that morning
with an uneasy consciousness that there was a vital something that he had
forgotten to tell the sergeant. In the first hour of waking he realized
that that something was--the scream in the night.



CHAPTER V


Baumgarten waited until the sound of the trap wheels had passed beyond
his hearing, closed the half-open door through which he had watched the
departure, and went swiftly upstairs to Madame Stahm. Madame was alone;
she had dismissed the nurse, and was half sitting, half reclining in her
big throne chair. She saw something in the man's face that brought her
bolt upright.

"What is wrong?" she asked.

"Did you hear it?" His black eyebrows made an inquiring arch. "If you did
not, our doctor did."

"Lamonte?"

"The ventilator must have been left open. I will go and see. Tomorrow we
shall have the police here, and that will be extremely awkward."

She was galvanized to life by the words and came instantly to her feet.

"The police?" she said shrilly. "You are mad! And if they come it will be
your fault. You are careless, Peter." He said no word, but, passing down
into the hall, took the lantern from the table and descended a flight of
stone stairs, through an underground kitchen and along a passage, the end
of which was barred by an ironclad door. He unlocked this; beyond was a
chamber that had once been a wine cellar, a large, low-vaulted room,
lined with iron shelves. He stopped here to light a gas bracket and went
on through another door to a smaller cellar.

It was part of a much older building. The stone-vaulted roofs were
supported on pillars that seemed over-massive in that confined space.
Again he lit a gas bracket and looked round. A table, a chair and a bed
practically comprised the furnishing of the room. On the bed lay a man,
and from beneath the blanket ran a thin, steel chain which was fastened
to a staple in the wall.

The man on the bed lay on his back, his white, disfigured face upturned.
He glared at Baumgarten as he approached.

"Why did you make that noise, you pig?" demanded Baumgarten without heat.

The man blinked at him. "I am cold, and there are rats here," he said
thickly. "I must have been dreaming." He stretched out his hand, took a
mug of water from the table and drank eagerly, supporting himself on his
elbow.

"It is very cold," he said again. "You must give me some more blankets."

"I will give you something else to warm you." Baumgarten showed his white
teeth in a smile from which mirth was absent. "You are fortunate to be
alive, my breaker of oaths!"

The man on the bed passed his thin hand over his face wearily, and turned
on his side. "I took no oaths; I am not a traitor," he said. "I was
little more than a workman--you know that, Herr Baumgarten. It is true
that I worked for Eckhardt, but would Eckhardt give me any of his
secrets? It is true that I worked for Wertheimer, but does he tell me his
formula? A hundred and fifty francs a week, Herr Baumgarten--that is my
salary. Is it the pay of a genius to whom you trust formulas?"

"You're a liar," said Baumgarten dispassionately. "Every month you sent a
thousand francs to your bank in Lausanne. We shall make you talk, my
friend."

The face of Lamonte puckered with rage. "Your whip--no. Some day I shall
talk, Baumgarten, before an English judge--and I shall tell them of the
man who was here before, and who left a message written on the wall...ah,
you did not know that. Where is he--you devil!" Suddenly he leaped from
the bed. Baumgarten had just time to throw himself out of reach before
the chain about the man's ankles caught him and flung him to the stone
floor.

Peter Baumgarten was no coward. He could meet violence with violence, but
this news the man had given him threw him off balance.

"My friend, you had him here; what did you do with him?" screamed the
prisoner, straining at the chain. "You murdered him--you and that hag! I
will have you on the scaffold with a rope round your necks!"

"Your friend is in Switzerland." Baumgarten was practically breathless,
panic stricken by the discovery of his secret. "He was very foolish; he
could have had a lot of money. Instead, he preferred to be a traitor."

"He is dead," wailed Lamonte.

"He is alive--I swear it. He went from here a very sick man, but he is
alive." Here he spoke the truth, for the prisoner this cell had held was
alive and on the Continent in the mental hospital for which his
sufferings had qualified him. "Go back to bed. Be sensible. We have not
hurt you. What is a little whip? You are the better for it. Tell us all
that Eckhardt told you, and you will be a rich man and free."

The man crawled back to bed with a groan and pulled the blankets over
him. "I know nothing, I can tell nothing," he said.

Baumgarten went out, extinguished the light and locked the doors behind
him. He found Madame sitting as he had left her. "Well?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"I am worried about this man. His mentality is stronger. We cannot
present him to the alienist and say: 'His mind is deranged; do not
believe anything he says.'"

"He may die," she said indifferently.

"I hope not." Baumgarten's voice was curt, emphatic. "What use is it to
you or to me, Clarice, if we have millions in our hands, and after be
locked up behind an iron door, with an English judge eating his eggs and
bacon and saying: 'I think I will send these people to the gallows
today,' hein? That is no end for a gentleman! All the money in the world
is not worth it. We have already gone too far, spent too much, chasing
this miracle dream of ours."

"You're a fool, too," she snapped. And then, after a moment's thought:
'The little man would kill him.'

"Peace?" He laughed. "You do not know that man, madame! He could not kill
Lamonte--he must dramatize his every action. If Lamonte were part of a
drama--yes. But if you took him down to a cold cellar and said: 'Kill
this man,' he would be horrified. He is highly moral, a little
religious."

She stared at him in amazement: "Peace I am talking about," she said.

He nodded. "That is Peace. I mean, this dirty little man has a peculiar
moral standard. Strange that you have not noticed that. It is the
standard of sentiment, a little elastic, but very real. And yet, he is
loathsome; and I feel that I could put my foot on him every time I see
him."

She smiled to herself. "He is very admirable. Some day he will be very
useful."

"To calm your nerves?" He could not resist the sneer.

"To save us all," she replied.



CHAPTER VI


While Alan was shaving next morning, he sent Dixon round to find the
police officer, but Baldy was out on one of those mysterious missions
which made up his life. He would see him later in the day, when he
brought Jane Garden back; and here a new train of thought started. Jane
Garden was a problem which had to be solved, and the solution of this
particular difficulty did not immediately present itself.

This ugly burglar Peace had excited his curiosity and interest, and these
were big enough to overcome the natural revulsion he felt towards the
man. He was something of a humanist, and had all the detachment of the
scientific observer. He could regard the little man as foul beyond
tolerance, and yet could find the same interest in him as he discovered
in the obscure diseases which came under his notice at rare intervals.

Alan, despite his youth, had retained and enlarged the practice of the
old doctor from whose executors he had acquired it. In the main it was an
upper middle-class clientele, and none of these could be expected to give
a first-hand impression of the little nondescript. It was not until he
began his charity calls in the poorer suburbs that he learned that Peace
was quite a well-known character, had a reputation none too savoury, but
on the whole was reluctantly admired by his law-abiding friends and
neighbours.

Peace himself lived in a poor class district, and was by all accounts a
great lover of animals: his canaries and parrots were famous in the
neighbourhood. He was believed to be a man of superior education, and was
credited with gifts to which, to Alan personally, he had made no claim.

If these poor people looked askance at him at all, their distrust was
based on other causes than his anti-social activities. There were mothers
of daughters who did not call his name blessed; but if he was hated in
such quarters as these he was also feared. Alan confirmed the stories of
his extraordinary strength. He was a frequent attraction at local
sing-songs, and was believed to have not only written his own lyrics but
composed the music.

Nobody loved him; nobody even liked him; the most that could be said of
him was that he was respected. Hereabouts his boastfulness was not
regarded as such, but rather as a statement of fact offered by the only
person who could be an authority.

By a coincidence, Alan came upon some of his handiwork: a wooden
crucifix, carved from cedar, and, despite certain crudities, a beautiful
piece of work. In another house the mention of the man's name produced an
ingenious mechanical toy, which he had made for a child. Alan had a chat
with a doctor who did most of his work amongst this particular class.

"A terrible little beast," said the other medico, and, speaking as doctor
to doctor, he explained why. "He's done time, too, but his neighbours
don't know that."

"Would it make any difference?" asked Alan, and to his surprise the other
doctor was emphatic.

"Good heavens, yes! The respectable poor are terribly proper, and would
have nothing to do with a man who'd been in the jug, as they call it."

Alan was again to hear of Peace, for when he got back from his afternoon
calls, which he did on foot, since he had lent the cob and the trap to
Baldy, he found that gentleman waiting for him.

"I've brought the young lady. She's gone upstairs to her room--is she
staying here?"

"For a little while." Alan had made this eleventh-hour arrangement with
his housekeeper, and had scrawled a hurried note to the girl telling her
his plans.

"A very nice young person," said Baldy. "Very nice. That Madame
What's-her-name wasn't too pleased to see me, doctor, although she seemed
to be expecting me."

Alan started guiltily, "Good heavens, yes! I'd forgotten that I half
threatened her with you--at least, I said I'd probably send you out to
bring back Nurse Garden. The spirit of prophecy was on me, Baldy!"

Sergeant Eltham closed his eyes in resignation. "Don't call me Baldy," he
murmured.

"Sorry. She wasn't pleased to see you, eh? What do you think of her?"

Baldy pursed his bearded lips. "She may be, and she may not be," he said
cryptically. "I'm not sure. She must have been a fine woman when she was
young, but, of course, she's a foreigner, and that makes all the
difference. She's got a rough side to her tongue, doctor; when I started
inquiring about the missing men she let me have it in French, German,
Russian, Eyetalian, Spanish and Chinese--at least, that's what it sounded
like. When she got back to English she started to tell me what she was
going to do when she saw my superintendent. Naturally, I shook in my
shoes: I always do when I'm threatened."

"Whom did you see?" asked Alan curiously. "Baumgarten?"

"I wouldn't remember the names even if I'd heard 'em," confessed Baldy.
"I saw a couple of menservants, and tough-looking customers they were.
And, of course, I saw the lady and the nurse, but I didn't see her till I
was going. And I saw three or four rough-looking loafers walking about
the grounds. They might have been gardeners, but they didn't look like
it. Well, the long and the short of it is, doctor, she knows nothing
about the missing men, and has never employed them. She said Mr
What's-his-name of the Silver Steel Company was a thief and a dull man
and other abusive epitaphs--"

"Epithets," suggested Alan.

"Well, whatever it is. Rum-looking woman, not my idea of something to
come home to. I saw that other woman this morning--the farmer's wife, Mrs
How-d'you-call-him--the woman who saw the fight the day the man
disappeared. She said one of the men who was talking to this young feller
on the night that he disappeared was a little man with an ugly face.
Recognize the description?"

"You mean Peace?" Baldy nodded.

"I'm taking her round tonight to see if she can identify him. Of course,
Peace will swear he wasn't anywhere near the spot--he's the man who
invented alibis. He's poisonous." He took his leave soon after to go in
search of the farmer's wife. Mrs Haggerty, the housekeeper, had laid tea
and had brought in the pot and the muffin dish when Jane Garden came down
the narrow staircase through the hall and into the little study.

Alan looked at her and gasped. She wore a dark, closely-fitting taffeta
dress, with a little white lace collar, and her deep gold hair was
uncovered. Beauty sometimes owes some of its quality to the frame in
which it is set. Alan always said that a nurse who was not pretty in
uniform must be very plain without; but the radiant beauty of this girl
was enhanced by the severity of her 'civilian' attire.

There was a new light in her eyes; her face was transformed. The haggard
fear which had sat on her on the previous night had departed, and there
was now an assurance in her poise and a radiance in the smile that parted
her red lips.

"Well, doctor, you certainly got me away! What are you going to do with
me?" she said almost gaily.

"You're not going back to Madame Stahm's?"

She shook her head. "Never," she said emphatically. "I may return to
London; I expect the institution that sent me will be very angry that I
left Madame in a hurry, but I must risk that. Is there no place in
Yorkshire where I could find work?"

"Must you work?" he asked.

She nodded. "Yes," she said quietly. "I have to earn my living, and it's
the only way I know." She sat down and, at his invitation, began pouring
out the tea.

"What was the trouble at Brinley Hall?" he asked.

She did not reply immediately. She handed him his cup, sliced a muffin
upon his plate, and then."

"Everything," she said. "The atmosphere was terrible--sinister. That's a
dramatic word, but I can't think of anything better. And all those
dreadful men--"

"Are there many there?"

She hesitated. "About ten, I think," she said, to his surprise. "Madame
Stahm has a private laboratory in the grounds. Some of them work, some of
them are servants; one is always meeting them in the house, and they're
rather--well, embarrassing."

"Baumgarten--what of him?" She dropped her eyes quickly.

"I don't know. He's not very nice--rather friendly--too friendly--and
he's absolutely all-powerful there; he rules the house and rules Madame
Stahm, although he pretends all the time that he's a sort of upper
servant. Actually he is her secretary. I don't know what correspondence
she has, but he seems to be with her all the time, except when that
horrid little man Peace is there--"

"Does he come often?" asked Alan quickly.

"Very often. He's an amazing little creature, isn't he? I confess that
the sight of him makes me sick here"--she laid her hand on her diaphragm.
"He's the only man in the world I couldn't be alone with without
screaming. But Madame Stahm is never tired of him, says he's a
genius--'God-gifted' is her word. What makes him more terrible is the
delusion he seems to hold that he is irresistible to all women." She gave
a little shiver, and her pretty face puckered into a grimace. "He must
belong to absolutely the lowest grade of mankind. I've seen the type in
hospitals, but never quite so bad as he. His face in itself is
extraordinary. He can make it change so that you would never recognize
it--from hideous to more hideous!" And then her sense of humour overcame
her disgust, and she laughed softly. "He asked if he might take me out
one afternoon."

"Asked whom?" demanded Alan, aghast.

"Madame Stahm--and she gave permission! Not immediately, but in future.
She told me it was one of the rewards she was holding out to the little
man, and practically commanded me to grant his request. I told her I
would sooner go walking with a large family of snakes, but that only
seemed to amuse her."

"He goes there very often, does he?" said Alan thoughtfully. "That will
be news to Baldy."

"Who is Baldy? Oh, you mean Sergeant Eltham? Isn't he wonderful? He must
have pointed out fifty people or places on the way back, and didn't know
the name of any! Am I staying here tonight?"

"Yes. It's quite proper," said Alan hastily. "My housekeeper sleeps on
the premises--"

"Don't be silly," she interrupted. "I'm supposed to be a trained nurse,
and I've been alone in a house all night with a lunatic!"

Usually Alan Mainford took his time when he made his evening calls, but
this night he found himself hurrying one after the other, skipping
unimportant cases where ordinarily he would have called if only to
gossip, and he was back in the house within an hour, and found, to his
disappointment, that she was just going to bed.

"And I'll sleep well tonight. No screams--"

"Screams?" he said quickly. "What do you mean?"

She was annoyed with herself. "I shouldn't have said that. But there were
screams--hideous noises sometimes. I thought it was Madame Stahm shouting
in her sleep, but once I heard it when I was talking with her, and she
was so agitated that I knew she had heard the sound before."

"What did she do?" asked Alan.

"She sent for Baumgarten and talked to him vigorously in Russian; and
when I say 'vigorously' I mean--vigorously! The night you left--you heard
it?"

He nodded. "It was dreadful, wasn't it? It made my blood run cold." She
was looking a little white and peaked again, and Alan summarily ordered
her off to bed. He sat for a long time turning in his mind the problem of
Madame Stahm, weaving about her the most fantastic theories, none of
which was perhaps as fantastic as the truth.

Thought passed quickly to dream. Alan jerked up his head with a start,
and was conscious of coldness. The fire was out; the clock on the
mantelpiece pointed to half-past two. With a yawn he walked upstairs,
opened the door of his room, and stepped in. A soft voice from the
darkness said: "Is this your room, doctor? I'm so sorry." With an
incoherent apology he shut the door and went into the back room that his
housekeeper had prepared for him.

He carried his embarrassment into his dreams.



CHAPTER VII

AT Brinley Hall Madame Stahm sat at a black-lacquered table, resting her
elbows on its polished surface, her long chin in the palm of her hand. At
the far end of the table Baumgarten half sat, half sprawled.

"Twelve o'clock. The doctor's cart was to bring her back." Madame Stahm
spoke in Russian.

Baumgarten sat up and stretched, flicked a speck from his immaculate
evening coat and yawned.

"And I, my dear Clarice, told you that she would never come back."

A deep frown gathered on Madame's brow. "Another spy to combat." she
said, her eyes glowering. "And a woman! They are the worst!"

Baumgarten yawned again. "She is no spy. She is frightened, partly of the
beast, partly of the noises, but mainly of the beast, I think. You were
very stupid to let her see him."

Madame shrugged. "She is a spy, she has been listening at doors. I have
found her in my bureau when she was not supposed to be there. If she does
not come back--" She looked at the jewelled watch that lay on the table
before her.

"She will not come back--have no fear."

"She could have sent a message--" began the woman.

"The doctor could have sent the message, but he did not. We are a long
way out. If these barbarians had telephones we could speak to Sheffield.
To be sure, I will myself go to the doctor, but I know exactly what he
will tell me--that he has taken a blood test of the beautiful nurse and
that she is unable to continue her work for a week or two."

Madame Stahm brooded for ten minutes. "I did not send for her--" she
began.

"I sent for her, yes," said Baumgarten calmly. "If you die without
medical attention, what will people say? They will say: 'Baumgarten, to
whom this dear, good lady has left all her money, must have poisoned
her.' The English are ready to believe anything of foreigners."

Again that brooding silence. "The little man would bring her back," she
said.

Mr Baumgarten smiled, and stroked his long face reflectively. "Indeed?
You overrate the beast. He can do many things; he is very strong, cunning
and wicked. I myself have never met a worse man. He can play divinely and
bring you out of your tantrums, Clarice, and that in itself is wonderful.
He can do other things that require violence. How shall he bring the girl
here? Shall he hit her on the head, lift her into a wagonette, and will
your doctor do nothing? Beware of that young man, Clarice. He is clever
and he is a soldier. Mr Dibden, who knows him, tells me he is the
cleverest revolver shot in the country. Also he has killed his man. That
to me is very important. Kill one--the rest are so easy, even though the
one be a marauding Somali. Also he heard the noise."

She shrugged. "So you said."

"I told you the truth," said Baumgarten coolly, "because I could not
afford to have another night of nerves and screamings and
teeth-grindings. I did not emphasize the fact, but he heard." Another ten
minutes passed by, the silence broken only by the periodical puffs of his
cigar.

"Was there any result?" she asked.

He shook his head. "The result was negative--for the moment. I am not so
sure that Lamonte knows nothing. He was with Eckhardt in America. One
thing he told us, and that is important, that Eckhardt had a friend in
Cleveland, an engineer, a man who is now in Yorkshire, and has been in
communication with Wertheimer. Eckhardt and this man spent many evenings
together, especially when Eckhardt was ill. This gentleman is an engineer
by profession and a draughtsman. He took notes. He is apparently the kind
of man who would take notes methodically. Also--and this I learned from
our friend--Dyson (which is his name) has offered to help Wertheimer on
certain conditions which that treacherous dog has not granted. He could
only bargain if he had something to bargain with. Also certain observers
of mine, who have shadowed him, say that Dyson boasts that he has in his
narrow head a secret that would revolutionize the world. That can only be
the formula."

"Is it possible to get his notes?" asked Madame Stahm. "Who is this man?
What does he do for a living? Where does he work?"

Baumgarten sighed wearily. "I have told you a hundred times, Clarice,
that you are so not of this world that you refuse to hear me. He is an
engineer; his name is Dyson; he lived or worked in Cleveland, Ohio--"

"But if he has the documents they can be found." Her voice had risen to a
shrill treble, a certain symptom of her growing excitement, which the man
did not fail to notice.

"If you keep calm and quiet I will tell you more, but if you are going to
scream and clench your hands and be mystic, I am going to bed." She was
breathing deeply through her nose, and that, too, was symptomatic of the
grip she had taken on herself.

"It is a waste of time to find his notes if he carries the vital
information here." Baumgarten tapped his forehead. "We are prepared to
make him an offer, I suppose?"

"Of course," impatiently. "What are you doing about this, Peter?"

He shrugged his shapely shoulders. "I don't know. It is all in the realms
of conjecture. Dyson has a very charming wife, a pretty woman who drinks
a little--which means she has vulgar tastes. She is a woman, I should
imagine, on whom the beast would make a great impression."

A look of disgust wrinkled Madame Stahm's face. "Ach! Who but you would
think that, Peter?"

"You might," he said calmly. "I am paying compliments to your little
horror--you should be grateful to me! Always he tells me that he is
attractive to women, and I believe him. There are stories about him in
the city. I speak often with the workmen, and I have discussed him. Your
little man is irresistible." She struck the table with the flat of her
palm.

"Bring him now," she said imperiously. "Let him be sent for. Have the
horses harnessed in the victoria, and let him be brought at once."

There was an amused look in the tired eyes of the Russian. "Manana!" he
said. "Tomorrow is also a day, beloved." He rose from the table and
stretched himself, his arms outflung tautly. "I don't like your
doctor--he is too intelligent, and he doesn't like me, which is
unfortunate. He will give you trouble, especially if the nurse arouses
him. He is in love with her.

"Glouposli!"

"It is not rubbish," said Baumgarten.

He walked behind her, dropped his hands on her thin shoulders and swayed
her to and fro.

"Beloved, while there is money left shall we go back to a country of
clean snow and blue skies? These English are a peculiarly unimaginative
people. They hang men rather too readily, and women too. They have no
emotion, no sentiment, no romance. Think of it, Clarice--in a day and a
night we could be in the shadow of the Matterhorn!"

"Never!" she stormed. "Never! Until I recover the work of John Stahm's
life, and the secret they stole from him, I will never rest. If you are
too soft for this work, go, Peter. I am not afraid of prisons and ropes.
I will go on to the end."

"Very well." Baumgarten was calmness itself. "If you stay, I must, for I
adore you! I will do as you desire--everything, except engage myself to
work with the nasty little man. There I cry 'Never!' He offends me,
socially and aesthetically. There is nothing in him that is not--what is
the English word? They have a fine one--ah, squalid. He is squalor, he is
foul, he is something to be decently burnt and turned into clean ashes."

He heard her low, amused laugh. "He is divine," she said, with a little
gurgle of laughter, "beyond price. Also extraordinarily useful, Peter, as
you have proved. He may be more useful yet."

In the morning Baumgarten sent a messenger to Peace. He was not at home;
he had left on the previous night for Manchester, a city in which he took
a very great interest, though it had sent him to penal servitude for
twelve years. None the less, the lure of the cotton city never failed. In
every moment of financial crisis Manchester was the city.

Charles Peace limped to the railway station, took a third-class ticket to
the northern city, and spent a profitable and instructive two hours of
the journey arguing theology. For Charles Peace held strong and orthodox
views, though it was his boast that he believed in God and the devil but
feared neither.

He went away with the amount of his return fare and a golden sovereign in
his pocket; he came back with a small bag filled with miscellaneous
articles, some of which he put into the fire. Most precious of all the
loot was a new and beautifully fitted concertina, and throughout the day
of his return his neighbours heard strange melodies issue from the Peace
house, for he was improvising a hymn, making up the lyric as he went
along. It was all about love and heaven and beautiful white angels, and
dear little children waiting to receive their earthly parents. Mr Peace
had lost a child; it had been born and died whilst he was in prison. But
to him it was a dream child, surprising and dazzlingly lovely. He often
wept over the baby he had never seen, and composed poetry about him; for
he was a sentimentalist and easily moved by a vision of angels playing
harps. He himself was always on the look-out for a harp, for he was
certain he would excel upon it, but never found one.

"There's no instrument I can't play," was his boast.

Since there was no harp, a concertina was an effective substitute.

When he sat back in the chair tilted against the kitchen wall,
manipulating the keys under his fingers, his eyes closed dreamily, he
could almost imagine harp-like qualities in the wailing harmonies that
the little leather bellow blew.

"I value that concertina," the owner of the burgled house was telling a
sympathetic policeman. "I paid a lot of money for it."

"Have you lost anything else?" asked the police officer.

The other compiled a list of spoons, clocks and portable silverware. Mr
Peace could have compiled a fuller list and have claimed greater
accuracy, for all the articles which had been lost lay snug in the coal
cellar, and that night would be fenced for a tenth of their value.

He had no friends, this lone wolf. His dowdy wife feared him; his stepson
hated him; the child of his marriage was petrified in his presence. He
had a quick and heavy hand for wife or child, though he could be
generous. Sometimes he would be unaccountably flush with money; golden
sovereigns would jingle in his pockets; the bar of his favourite
public-house would yield him a sycophantic audience.

"There's no instrument I couldn't play, sitha. Piano? I can an' all.
Trumpet, bugle, organ--"

"Harp?" suggested somebody at random.

The ugly face grew uglier. "We'll say nowt about religion, lad. I'm
religious." He was particularly religious at that moment, for he had
escaped arrest by the skin of his teeth, and by luck was without his
six-shooter.

Subsequently he told a chaplain that he ascribed his escape from justice
to a direct answer to prayer. He prayed for things and got them, he said,
and related how he once paid his address to a sweetheart, who had
received them coldly, and after an evening spent in supplication he had
changed her attitude to him in twenty-four hours.

Madame Stahm, who never prayed, sent for her faithful servant, and he,
hiring a car, drove out to her in the dark of the night, smoking a cigar
which was wholly distasteful to him, but which seemed consistent with his
importance.

A plain clothes man saw him as he left the outskirts of the city, and
reported his movements to headquarters on a dial telegraph. Baldy, who
was at the station, took the report and sniffed at it.

"Let him go," he said. "If there's any burglary in that direction, pull
him in, and ask the patrol to pick him up on his return." Baldy Eltham
was taking an unusual interest in his pet abomination. Curiously enough,
Peace at that moment was especially interested in Sergeant Eltham.



CHAPTER VIII


A remarkable woman was Madame Stahm: she was indefatigable, tireless.

Baumgarten, who, curiously enough, never spoke good German, called her
the Wonderfrau. She could live on the minimum of sleep; she ate no more
than would have kept a canary alive; and, except for these hysterical
outbreaks of hers, did not know a day's sickness. She had an unusual
knowledge of mechanics, was a particularly brilliant chemist, though she
had taken no degree in the subject, and during her married life had
acquired some of her husband's uncanny instinct which is nine-tenths of
inspiration.

She was a wealthy woman, too, could afford, as Baumgarten reminded her at
frequent intervals, to drop this quest of hers and, retiring, live an
amusing and comfortable life. But the attainment of the goal which her
husband had set forth to reach was her life's passion. Without it, life
could have no meaning.

Her interest in Peace was no affectation. There was in her a leaning
towards the bizarre, and there was this creditable factor in her
perversity, that she saw through the ugly coating of things and detected
qualities which were hidden from the normal eye.

"Dirt? Show me dirt, and I will show you the most delightful chemical
constituents," was her favourite saying.

Baumgarten was a man of vision, but could never see, in the slouching
little man with the repulsive face, more than something slightly removed
from the baser form of animal life. He conceded to him a genius for
music, for Baumgarten was not musical, and he was fair. For all he knew,
the little man was a prodigy.

He received Peace in the bare ante-room that led off the square stone
hall, and the visitor came in, rubbing his mittened hands.

"It's cold here," he croaked. "Ain't you got a fire here anywhere?"

"Attend to me!" Baumgarten barked the words. He never attempted to
disguise his antipathy to the man he employed. "Madame wishes to ask you
questions and to give you some work. You may earn ten or twenty
pounds--more than you will ever make from a burglary."

Peace scowled at him. "I don't know what you mean by burglary. That's a
nice word to use to a respectable man, I must say! I wouldn't have come
out if I thought you was going to jaw me! Twenty pounds! A friend of mine
makes hundreds--thousands!" He carried under his arm a bundle wrapped in
a piece of calico, obviously torn from a bed sheet. "I've brought her
something that'll surprise her--look at this!" He unwrapped the bundle
and showed a small violin of an unusual shape. Most unusual feature of
all, it had only one string.

"I invented it. When you hear it you'll be surprised. It will cause a bit
of a stir in London when they hear it, though I'll have to learn 'em how
to play it. I've learnt some of the biggest fiddlers in England--do you
know what they call me? 'The Second Paganini.' I've got playbills to
prove it. 'Charles Peace, the Second Paganini.' I've had some of the
highest people in the land come up to me and say: 'Why don't you go on
the stage, Mr Peace?' I can prove that too."

"I daresay you can," interrupted the other impatiently. "But I am not
interested in fiddles, nor does madame desire music. It is on another
matter I wish to speak to you before you see her. She will ask you to do
something in Sheffield--possibly to take somebody away. Nothing you must
do without first consulting me--you understand? You must take no steps
until I have gone over every detail of your plans." Peace shifted his
movable jaw restlessly, his deep-set eyes on the Russian.

"Is she here?" he asked suddenly.

"Madame--oh, no, you mean the Nurse Garden?" The little man nodded. "No,
she has gone--the Sergeant Eltham came yesterday and drove her into
Sheffield to see the doctor."

"Sergeant Eltham...a bald man with whiskers?" Peace scratched his chin
uneasily.

"Do you know him?"

A moment's hesitation. "Yes, I know the old hound! He swore my life
away--stood up in the witness box and perjured himself so that I wonder
the roof didn't fall in. They say these London detectives are liars, but
this man could teach 'em something! Ain't she coming back, the nurse?"

"She is staying with Dr Mainford."

The jaw of the little man thrust out. "That puppy! Said he'd throw me out
of the trap, and I could have put him across my knee and broken his back!
Nobody knows how strong I am. I once took a six foot navvy and threw him
over a hedge, and I've got people to prove it. There was a lord who bet I
couldn't carry a twenty-score pig for half a mile, and I done it for a
mile, and nobody would have thought, to look at me, that I'd--"

"Yes, yes--you are wonderful, but that is not the point. This young woman
must not be hurted--hurt--you understand? Whatever madame says."

Peace looked at him cunningly through half-closed eyes. "You tell me what
I got to do and what I ain't got to do? Suppose I tell her ladyship what
you're telling me, you'd get into a bit of a row, wouldn't you?"

If Baumgarten had followed his natural inclination he would have taken
the long-barrelled pistol that he could see in the drawer of his desk and
wiped out of existence the man who was an offence to him. "You may tell
madame if you wish. She already knows my views. Now you may see her. You
need not bring your fiddle, for she does not require music." He led the
way up the stairs, Peace following, carrying, in spite of his
instructions, the one-string fiddle and its bow.

It was into a smaller room, which he had never seen before, that he was
ushered.

Madame sat at her secretaire, wearing a padded gown. She was smoking a
brown cigarette, a remarkable spectacle. Peace had never seen a woman
smoking before, though he had seen men indulging in the offensive
practice of cigarette smoking.

"Sit down, nice man," she said. "Give him the stool, Peter. He will look
so odd! What have you there?"

Peace handed the fiddle to her with a smirk. "He said you wouldn't want
to see it."

She examined the home-made instrument curiously. "I have seen such things
in Russia," she said, as she handed it back, and the little man's face
fell.

"I invented that out of me head--" he began.

"I have seen it in Russia, my man. It is very interesting and some day
you shall play it for me." She swept the secretaire clear of papers and
rested her elbows upon it, staring at her visitor thoughtfully.

"Sergeant Eltham--do you know him? Is he important?"

"He is a liar," said Peace promptly.

"All policemen are liars," said madame. "I am not interested in their
moral characters. But is he of great importance?"

"He is nobody," said Peace. "He's only a copper, a sergeant. Would he be
only a sergeant if he was clever? Suppose he had my brains, where would
he be? Chief Constable of England--that's where he'd be, sitting in a
grand office in Parliament, ordering people about."

"Nobody has your brains, little man," she cooed.

"Nor his modesty," muttered Baumgarten, and Peace shot him a baleful
glare in his direction.

"And Dr Mainford--what of him? Is he clever?"

"A whippersnapper," said Peace. "I could break him in two across my knee.
I've got the strength of ten men."

"Is he well known?" she persisted patiently. "Suppose he went away, said
nothing to anybody, would he be missed very much?"

"There's hundreds of doctors in Sheffield," said Peace. "They'd go to
somebody else."

"That is not what I want to know." She drummed her fingers irritably upon
the mahogany writing desk. "Is his--what do you call it?--practice very
large?"

Here Mr Peace was at sea. He knew nothing of practices, had only the
vaguest idea of the system under which doctors work.

"I told you it was useless to ask him this," interrupted Baumgarten, a
touch of asperity in his tone. "The man can only tell you what he knows,
and he knows nothing."

The face of the little man went livid. Baumgarten had touched him on the
raw. His colossal vanity was hurt. To question his omniscience was to
commit a deadly offence. "Know nothing, don't I?" he spluttered, but she
calmed him again.

"I see that you have not studied the doctor, and why should you? Now, my
friend, listen." From a pigeon-hole she took a slip of paper. "You can
read, of course?"

"I went to the best school in England--" began Peace.

"Here are some names and some addresses. They are friends of the man
Wertheimer. The first one is the young woman to whom he has paid his
addresses."

"Courting her?" She nodded.

"They are engaged perhaps--I am not sure. He writes to her regularly. Do
you know Manchester?"

Peace leered at her. "Do I know me own right hand?" he asked,

"I see you do," she went on. "She lives there. She is young and romantic.
Possibly she keeps all his letters--where I do not know. The bureau,
under her pillow, near to her heart--God knows! You are a clever little
man; I have always said so. You are adorable. I am your friend and your
disciple, isn't it--is that not so? You will make inquiries in your own
way. You are too clever to be told. Possibly a servant will tell you
where the young lady keeps her letters. I would like those."

He eyed her suspiciously, a little resentfully. Nobody must think ill of
him or regard him disparagingly. "Anyone would think I was a burglar, the
way you're talking!" he complained, and she smiled at him.

"How absurd! Of course you are not a burglar; you are a very clever man,
and you are a wonderful spy. In Russia you would be a great man, earning
thousands of roubles."

Peace considered the matter. He was a little ruffled. The polite fiction
of his integrity had to be maintained. Burglary was vulgar and low, but
spying--He could dramatize himself into any role. Already he was slinking
through the snowy streets of St Petersburg in pursuit of Nihilists.

"Can you do this for me, my dear friend?"

He hesitated. "I know a man." he said slowly, "a common man who does a
bit of burglaring. I ain't seen him for years, but he'd do anything to
oblige me. I saved his life--jumped into the river when he'd gone down
for the third time and brought him out. They wanted to give me a medal,
but I got away--never even so much as left me name."

"Modesty again," murmured the irrepressible Baumgarten.

"There is another thing I want to speak to you about." madame went on
quickly, to check the little man's snarling retort. "You remember the
girl--the nurse? You wanted to take her for a walk. You remember you
asked me?"

"I'd have treated her like a lady," said Peace vehemently. "I always
treat ladies as such. I'd have took her into the best public-house and
given her nothing but wine. Nobody's ever said I wasn't a gentleman--"

"Yes, yes, yes, that I know. But she has run away from me, to the doctor.
I think he is her lover."

The man's face became distorted with rage. "If he does any harm to that
young girl I'll smash his head in!" he growled. "I can't abear seeing
women treated cruel."

She was secretly amused, but did not show it. She knew something of Mr
Peace and his private reputation; knew, though he was not aware of this,
that he had so beaten his wife that her face was permanently disfigured;
knew other unwholesome facts which did not accord with this profession of
chivalry.

"You are quite right," she said. "It is admirable of you! You have the
heart of a chevalier, my little man. She is in bad hands. I would like to
bring her back to me. She may tell stories about us--about you, for
example. This doctor is a busybody, very arrogant and unscrupulous. Also
he is a friend of your Sergeant Eltham. That is very bad for us all."

"I'll get her back," interjected Peace excitedly. "It's just come to me
how I can do it! That's how my mind works, my ladyship. Other people
think hours and days and months--it comes to me of a sudden! I'll follow
her round when she goes out for a walk; I'll talk to her. She can't shake
me off. Then I'll have a handsome pony chaise and ask her to go for a
ride and bring her here."

"Very clever," said Baumgarten. "And suppose the doctor is out walking
with her?"

"I'll settle him," said Peace with an ugly grin. "You mark my words,
mister." Baumgarten and the woman exchanged a glance. He shook his head
slightly, and he saw agreement in her eyes.

"That will not be good, I think. We must try some other plan. But in the
meantime these letters--I must have them. There is twenty pounds for
you--ten pounds today and ten pounds when the letters come. The girl in
Manchester, I mean. Afterwards you must try this man." She pointed to the
second name on the list. "He is a friend also of Wertheimer. Do you know
Mr Dyson?"

"I know everybody in Sheffield," said Peace, and ignored the sarcastic
click of Mr Baumgarten's lips. "Dyson? He's got a greengrocer's shop
in--"

"He is an engineer on the railway," said madame. "He has a very
attractive wife."

"Leave it to me," said the little man.

That satyr smile of his sickened Baumgarten, and he was a man with a
strong stomach.

"I will tell you about him later." said madame. "First"--her finger went
to the top of the list--"this girl. Here is the address. I do not know
what kind of house it is, but that you will find out. If anything happens
you will not, of course, speak of me."

"Don't worry." Peace would have taken the slip of paper, but she held it
under her hand.

"Have you a book? I will write it for you."

"I can write." he said gruffly.

He was very touchy on the point of his education.

She watched him whilst laboriously he copied the name and address in a
little notebook with a stub of pencil. He wrote as a child writes, letter
by letter, muttering each as he set it down.

"That's good writing." He showed her the illiterate scrawl triumphantly.
"There's people been to Oxford and Cambridge that couldn't write better
than that."



CHAPTER IX


Half an hour later Peace left the house, driving back through the silent
country lanes and the deserted streets of Sheffield with a sense of
importance that he had never experienced before. He was going to prove
himself an expert craftsman.

He was in bed by four o'clock, up again at eight in his dingy little work
room, littered with gluepots and frame mouldings. He selected his tools
with the greatest care, and left by the last train that night for
Manchester with a pleasing sense of his own exalted value.

Nor had the day been spent idly. Dyson he located and observed: a tall,
thin, querulous man, who spoke occasionally with an American accent, in
the manner of Englishmen who have lived in the United States. Peace
wondered what the wife was like, and hoped that she was a lady. He had a
weakness for real ladies who wore rings and silk dresses and scented
themselves lavishly.

He reached Manchester late at night, and was slipping through the barrier
when a commanding voice hailed him.

"Hi, come here!" He turned with a scowl, and, recognizing the
military-looking man in the long ulster as a member of the Manchester
police force, he went towards him with an ingratiating smile.

"What are you doing here?"

"Why, inspector, who'd have thought of seeing you? This is a joyful
surprise!"

"You look happy about it." said the other sarcastically. "You were in
Manchester two nights ago."

Peace shook his head. "No, sir, I was here last week; I'm doing a bit of
business."

"Somebody cracked a nice little crib in Victoria Park. Was that the
business?"

The eyes of the ugly little man opened, his big mouth drooped. "Me, sir?
I'm going straight now! No more of the narrow path that leadeth to
destruction, as the Good Book says. No, sir, I've got a trade of my
own--I'm picture-framing, making a living. What I say is, thank Gawd I've
got a trade in my hands! People come to me and say: 'Charlie, come and
help crack a crib,' but I'll have nowt of it. I've seen prison for the
last time, inspector. It's a mug's game."

"How long are you going to be in Manchester?" interrupted the sceptical
police officer.

 Peace hesitated. "A couple of days. I'm trying to get a contract from
 one of the big firms."

"Where will you be staying?"

This time without hesitation Peace gave an address: one of the three
lodgings he used, but not that at which he had stayed on his previous
visit.

"Come into the station inspector's office," said the police officer
abruptly.

He pushed the man ahead of him until they came to a tiny, ill-lit room
with a desk and a couple of chairs.

"Now let's have a look inside that bag of yours," he suggested.

Meekly the little man opened the big carpet-bag he carried, and the
inspector pulled out a few articles of clothing. Beneath these was an
assortment of picture frame mouldings and such tools as were proper to
the craft Peace was following.

"That's a nice, handy-looking chisel. And what do you want a centre bit
for?"

"I'm a joiner," said Peace. "There's a gimlet there, too." The inspector
looked at the chisel; it was broad, sharp, an instrument of tempered
steel that could be used for the carving of wood, but would also make an
effective jemmy to force a window. But there, also, were the samples of
mouldings. Peace never travelled without them. They were the articles
which cancelled out the instruments of his trade, his sure defence in
case of arrest on suspicion.

The inspector threw the tools back into the bag and did not attempt to
disguise his disappointment.

"Have you got a shooter?" he asked.

"A what, sir?" Peace was amazed and hurt. "You don't mean firearms, do
you, sir? Good Gawd, I've never heard of such things! I wouldn't dare
carry one, I'd be afraid of it going off."

The tall inspector in the ulster looked at him straightly. "If anything's
cracked while you're here, Peace, we shall pull you in. By the way, what
are you calling yourself now, Ward or Peace?"

"By my own name, sir--Charles Peace, the same as I was christened by
according to law and the Gospel." He hurried with his bag from the
station, got on to a 'bus and was driven two miles. He lodged in a dingy
little house in a street remarkable for its griminess. Not until he was
in the privacy of his own room, with the blinds drawn down, did he take
off his hard felt hat and remove from the webbing that held it the
snub-nosed little revolver with the leather wrist-band. He broke the
pistol, carefully examined the old-fashioned pin fire cartridges, and put
the revolver under his pillow.

He did not go out that night, but spent the evening carving the head of a
cherub; he had begun the work in Sheffield and designed it as a present
for the lady of Brinley Hall, or, alternatively, for the pretty nurse. He
was an opportunist, though he had never heard the word.



CHAPTER X


Long after he had left, Madame Stahm sat at her writing desk, chin in
hand, discussing certain urgent matters with her secretary. She seemed to
be impervious to fatigue, and Baumgarten, who was cast in more normal
mould, had learned to snatch what sleep he could in the middle of the
day, in preparation for these midnight and early morning conferences.

"We are so near to everything, it is madness," he said, for the fourth
time.

"Inspiration will come," said the other. "And then..."

"This doctor--what will you do with him?"

"Dr Mainford?" She shrugged her lean shoulders. "I don't know. If he is
troublesome--" She did not complete the sentence.

"You must find another method." Baumgarten was firm on this. "This doctor
is not like the others. He has friends; he knows the police station, who
will miss him. He is well born, too. It is not easy, Clarice. Do you
think you are wise in trusting this little devil of yours?" He stopped
suddenly. Madame had raised her finger to enjoin silence. He, too, had
heard the sound, a curious swish as if somebody had brushed against the
wooden panels which lined the room.

"What was that?" she asked in a low voice.

"Rats, I think. The house is full of them," said Baumgarten.

He looked uneasily towards one ancient, panelled wall.

"It came from there, didn't it?" Again she put her finger to her lips,
and they were quiet for a few minutes. The sound was not repeated, "Did
you not say there was a passage behind that panel?"

"There is a passage behind most of the panels," said Baumgarten sourly.
"The place is honeycombed with them! It is a very old house--one of the
men found a tunnel in the garden; it leads heaven knows where. I will
have it blocked up one day." They listened again, but there was no sound.

Suddenly a thought occurred to Baumgarten. He hurried from the room, ran
down the stairs, through the kitchen, unlocked the door of the cellar and
passed through the door of the cell. That, too, was locked, and almost he
turned back, reassured. Then a thought struck him, and he went into the
cell.

A light was burning, though he distinctly remembered turning it out when
he had gone down to give the prisoner his evening meal. The bed was
humped up. At first sight it seemed as if somebody was in it, but a
closer glance showed that there was nothing more substantial than the
bolster and the bed--the prisoner was gone! But where? He looked round.
There was no place he could possibly be hiding; the walls were of solid
stone. He looked under the bed. There was nobody there--Then he saw in a
corner of the floor a square aperture. A grey flagstone had evidently
been lifted. He pulled aside the bed, struck a match and looked down. Six
feet below he saw the floor of a small passage. He had no light, and less
inclination to explore. He did no doubt that the sound he had heard was
the man threading his way between the panelling and Madame Stahm's
bedroom, A new surprise awaited him when he reached the hall. The door
was wide open.

Somebody had gone out in the brief space of time it had taken for him to
reach the cellar and return; somebody who had probably been watching him.
A panel swung idly on the wall where it had appeared solid. One of the
worm-eaten panels was a secret door.

Flying up the stairs two at a time, he burst into Madame Stahm's
presence.

"He's gone!" he said. His voice was unsteady, his hands shaking. "Now,
madame, I think we must decide--prison or the Continent."

She did not answer. Her dark eyes were fixed on his. "We will go to
neither place," she said. She shivered, brushed her correspondence
towards the pigeon-holes and closed the flap of her desk, locking it with
two keys.

"Send somebody to remove the bed and the chain--and let Weiss and Bermans
go out in search of him--they must take riding horses."

"But suppose Lamonte--" he began.

"He will go straight to Wertheimer--and Wertheimer will do nothing. He
would not dare. He would do no more than use his information to buy
reconciliation with me. Now, go and do as I say!" He hurried to convey
her orders. When he came back she was staring gloomily into the little
fire that burnt on the hearth. She looked around with a start as he came
in.

"Yes? You have done this? Good! Now listen. I am worried about the girl
Garden. Could you not see her, Peter? You have finesse, you could tell
her I am ill--dying, if you like."

He made a grimace at this. "The doctor would come with her. How would you
explain if I said I did not want the doctor? Besides, he has written,
saying that she is not in a fit state to work. I'll see her if you wish.
What is Mainford's address?" She had to unlock her bureau to find her
book and read it to him. He repeated, writing it down on his white shirt
cuff.

"That man is our worst enemy," were her parting words.

Baumgarten could have laughed. He had met so many worst enemies that one
more or less did not seem worth while bothering about. Worst enemy of all
might be Lamonte...

All that day Alan Mainford had turned over and over in his mind the
superlatively important question of Jane Garden's future. He had made
several calls at nursing institutions and the local hospitals, without
finding the employment which he felt her abilities deserved. He had been
surprised to discover the importance of her qualifications. If his
practice were larger...

He coquetted with this idea, trying to convince himself that he was
justified in the extravagance of employing a private nurse on the
off-chance of his own patients requiring her. It was not an unusual
practice: he could name three doctors who maintained their own nursing
staff; and he became enthusiastic as he reconciled himself to the
extravagance.

He put his suggestion to her at dinner that night, and she took the view
that he had expected of her.

"Will there be enough work for me to do?"

"Frankly, I don't know," he said. "Of course, I shall have to find some
lodgings for you."

She nodded. "I've been thinking about that. Would you let me the
coachman's flat over your second stable?"

He stared at her. "Why, that's a hovel!"

She laughed. "No, it isn't; there are three nice rooms there--there's
even a bathroom. Dixon was telling me that the old doctor--of whom, by
the way, he never speaks except with awe--kept four horses and two
grooms. It's the second groom's rooms I want. I'll have my own front
door; I needn't bother to come near the house, and I know I shall be
awfully comfortable. Some girls at St Mary's had a room over some stables
in Devonshire Mews, and they made a very charming home of it."

Here was a way out of one difficulty, though he was dubious as to its
possibilities. To tell the truth, he had never explored the rooms of the
second groom. The old doctor, whose practice he had bought, was something
of an aristocrat, and from what he knew of the conveniences of his own
house, Alan was certain that the rooms would be at least habitable. He
said he would see them in the morning, and gave a tentative agreement,
haggled for an hour over the rent she would pay--a delightful hour--and
altogether had a pleasant evening.

He could get her to say very little about the life at Brinley Hall. She
came here against a sense of loyalty to her late employer. She was very
vague about Baumgarten and about his employer. Apparently she knew
nothing about the business side of Madame Stahm's life, except that she
went three or four times a week to Sheffield, where, at the works of
Dibden and Payne, two small outbuildings had been equipped and set apart
for her experiments. Dibden and Payne had lien upon the patent--if it
ever materialized.

At a quarter past ten the maternity case which Alan had been expecting
for three days arrived urgently, in the shape of an agitated, perspiring
young father, who almost dragged Alan into the street. He had not far to
go, and, as he was to discover, arrived some two or three hours before
his presence was necessary.

In one respect his coming was providential. The slatternly nurse, who was
not a nurse at all but a woman who engaged herself in these delicate
functions, was slightly the worse for drink, and her uselessness became
more apparent as the night progressed. He scribbled a note and sent it
round to Jane Garden, and in half an hour she appeared, cool, immensely
capable, able to deal not only with the case but with the inebriated lady
she was replacing, and who eventually had to be thrown into the street
and handed to the paternal care of the police. At two o'clock a howling
morsel of humanity qualified for the English census. He left Jane to look
after the woman and walked home.

Very capable, very sweet, very wonderful. He mused upon the phenomenon as
he walked slowly homewards. She had dropped beautifully into her
appointed place. It was true that the people he was attending could not
afford the services of a highly trained nurse, but this was in the nature
of an experiment, and from his point of view the experiment had already
succeeded.

He was not a bit tired when he unlocked the door and went into his house.
He took his casebook from the shelf, entered up and amplified the
particulars of one or two interesting cases he had visited that day, and
had just finished when he heard a knock at the door. Whoever it was did
not ring, but hammered with a fist on the panel. Somebody in a hurry, for
he or she knocked again, frantically.

He jumped to his feet. Something must have gone wrong with the woman he
had just left. He strode into the passage and pulled open the door. A man
fell forward into his arms. The weight of him and the force of the fall
almost threw Alan off his feet. Recovering, he caught him round the
armpits, dragged him into the surgery where he received his patients, and
laid him on the floor before he struck a match and lit the gas.

The man was grimy, unwashed. Despite the coldness of the night, he wore
only shirt and trousers. It was raining outside, but there was no sign of
moisture on his shoulders, and this was accounted for later when outside
the house was discovered the big, brown blanket that had covered him, and
which had dropped off as he fell forward. His unshaven face was drawn and
blue. On one side of his head were the marks of an old wound that had not
properly healed, and across his bony face were three red weals.

Alan looked at the grimy, emaciated hands and felt the pulse. It was so
faint as to be almost imperceptible. His feet were bare, blue with cold
and streaked with blood.

Going into his little dispensary, he filled a hypodermic syringe and shot
its contents into the man's forearm. He made no sign, lying apparently
lifeless.

The doctor was puzzled. Who was this stranger? Whence had he come?
Leaving the man on the floor, he ran through the kitchen into the stable
yard and called Dixon. When he returned the man had recovered
consciousness. He was staring up at the ceiling from wide-open eyes.

"Are you feeling better?" Slowly the wreck turned his eyes on him and
muttered something in a cracked voice which Alan could not distinguish.
He bent down and listened. Again the man spoke, in French.

"This cannot go on. I cannot endure..." Alan heard a heavy footstep in
the hall. At first he thought it was Dixon, but when over his shoulder he
saw the burly figure of Sergeant Eltham: "You're the very man I could
have prayed for."

"What's this?" Eltham had over his arm a big blanket. "I saw your door
was open and found this outside. I wondered if Mr Peace had been doing a
little burglary. Hullo! Has he been run over?" Briefly Alan told him what
had happened and how the man had come. The wreck on the floor had
subsided into unconsciousness.

"Do you know him?"

Baldy shook his head. "No, he's a stranger to me." He threw the rug over
the man's feet. "We ought to get him to hospital. What's the matter with
him?"

"Exhaustion, and he's got a scorching temperature."

Baldy lifted the thin hand and examined the wrist curiously. "He's had
the darbies on. Look!" Round the wrist was a raw, red mark. They found
its fellow on the other wrist.

"That's funny." He pulled up the trousers leg, and here the marking was
unmistakable. The flesh had been rubbed raw round the bone of the ankle.
The two men looked at one another.

"What do you make of it?" For a little while the sergeant did not speak;
then, with a cry, he thrust his hand into his inside pocket, and, taking
out a photograph, examined it intently, looking from the man's face to
the picture in his hand.

"By God, It's him!" he gasped.

"Who?" asked Alan.

"The man who disappeared from the Silver Steel works a couple of weeks
ago!"



CHAPTER XI


"It's him all right," said the agitated sergeant, bending down and
scrutinizing the wasted face. "Look, doctor." He handed the photograph to
Alan, who identified the original the more readily because he had seen
him when his eyes were open.

"I don't know his name--" began the sergeant.

Alan looked at the back of the photograph, where some particulars had
been scribbled.

"Lamonte, isn't it?"

"That's right, Lamonte. Now, where did he come from?" Baldy examined the
wounded feet of the man. "A long way, a devil of a long way. Look at his
trousers--the mud's still wet. He must have had this blanket over him.
I'll go out and find a policeman, and we'll get a stretcher and take him
to the hospital." He blundered out of the house, and came back in five
minutes to find Alan forcing brandy down the throat of the unconscious
man.

"He's pretty bad, isn't he?"

"Very bad," said Alan gravely. "I don't think there's a possible hope for
him. He has acute pneumonia, amongst other things, and his heart's just
about finished."

At that moment Lamonte opened his eyes and stared about him, wildly. "I
have told you everything--everything there is to be told," he said
shrilly. "I can tell you no more--I know no more--I am a workman; I do
not know the technique..."

"What is he saying?" asked Baldy urgently.

Alan was scribbling down the words, and roughly translated them.

"Listen to everything he says," urged Baldy. "Don't make any mistake,
doctor. This may mean hanging dues for somebody."

The man did not speak again. He lay very quietly, scarcely breathing.
Once he murmured something indistinguishable. Then, there was a little
grimace of pain and he lay quiet, and it seemed to Sergeant Eltham, as he
watched the poor, stricken thing, that all the anguish that was in the
thin face suddenly smoothed itself out into a marvellous serenity.

The ambulance came; two policemen clumped into the passage and stood,
watching, at the door. "Ought we to move him?" asked the sergeant
anxiously.

Alan nodded. "He's dead," he said.

Henri Lamonte, sometime technical engineer in the employ of the Silver
Steel company, had gone, carrying his great and painful secret with him.

 * * * * *

Jane Garden came into breakfast the next morning, looking as fresh as
though she had risen from a perfect night of rest. There was little or
nothing for her to report. The baby's grandmother had arrived and had
taken charge.

"A very normal case," she said.

Alan speared a piece of bacon from the dish.

"I had a case that was not quite so normal," he said grimly, and told her
of the coming and passing of Lamonte. "In fact, I've had a hectic night
and feel like a wet rag trying to walk a tight-rope," he said. "I suppose
you've never seen this fellow?" Baldy had inadvertently left behind the
photograph of the man, and Alan had propped it on the mantelpiece so that
the sergeant could not miss it when he called again. She rose and took it
down, looked at it for a long time, then shook her head.

"No, I've never seen him--I have never met him in madame's house. Didn't
you sleep at all?"

He had gone to bed at four, and had been awakened by Dixon at eight. "You
must tell me how you manage to look as you do without sleep," he bantered
her.

She explained that she had slept all the previous afternoon. Apparently
at Brinley Hall madame was never active until nearly midnight, unless she
were going to the city. The affairs and routine of the household had been
adjusted to meet Madame Stahm's activities, and the afternoon sleep was
part of the general routine.

"I promised I would go back tonight. There is a little trouble in that
household. They're terribly poor, aren't they?" Alan nodded.

"That kind of trouble is fairly general in Sheffield," he said, "though,
as a town, we're progressing at such a tremendous rate that we shall be a
city before we know where we are!"

She sipped her tea, looking at him. "It isn't the poverty. Apparently the
wife is a little flighty--do you mind the scandals of the poor? When he
had recovered from his hysteria, the father wasn't as happy about the
child as you might have expected, remembering it is their first baby. She
has a friend to whom he very much objects to and is very much afraid
of--guess who it is?"

He looked up, startled. "Not Peace?" he said in amazement.

She nodded. "Charles Peace." Then, with a twinkle in her eye, she added:
"Squire of dames!"

After breakfast came Baldy, acting for the moment as coroner's officer.
He served a notice upon the doctor.

"We've fixed the inquest for three o'clock tomorrow, doctor. The old boy
wanted to have it in the morning, but I knew you'd be busy."

"Have you found out anything about Lamonte?"

"A lot of things," said the sergeant. "I had Mr What's-his-name of the
Silver Steel Company over--"

"It's a wonder to me that you can remember Silver Steel. You mean
Wertheimer, of course?"

"That's the fellow. He knew him at once. Terribly upset he was. He's
wondering what happened to that other fellow of his who disappeared."

"Does this upset your theory that Lamonte ran away with a girl? You
remember that there was a girl missing?"

"A mistake on my part," said Baldy, unabashed. "She's gone away to see
some friends in the country. I knew that, but I didn't tell anybody. This
fellow from the Silver Steel cried--actually cried, doctor. Broke down
when he saw this fellow. Foreigners often cry; they kiss one another
too--men! I've seen it done at Victoria Station in London. It oughtn't to
be allowed."

"What else did you learn?"

"He'd come a very long way. One of our mounted men saw him trudging
through the snow--thought it was a woman with a shawl round her. That was
just outside the town. The mounted man was at a cross-roads and wasn't
sure which way he had come, and didn't trouble to inquire. That's mounted
men all over! The moment you put a policeman on horseback he seems to
lose his intelligence. I've said it before, and I'll say it again."

"What else did you discover?"

The sergeant consulted his notebook. "He'd been thrashed. There were
marks on his body. There were marks also on his face. The police surgeon
says they're whip marks, too. The thing's a mystery to me."

Alan thought for a long time, then he asked slowly: "Do you connect
Madame Stahm with this man's death?"

Sergeant Eltham opened his mouth and eyes. "Good heavens, no!"

"I'll tell you something," said Alan, and related in greater detail the
story of his visit to Brinley Hall and the scream he had heard.

Baldy tugged at his beard. "It might have been a railway whistle--" he
began.

"That was the half-witted explanation offered to me by one who knew
better." said Alan acidly. "No, if I were you I'd make inquiries. See
Madame Stahm and Baumgarten--you'd better write those names down: you'll
never remember them--and if you can find any excuse, search the house."
Baldy demurred at this. It was a high matter, to be undertaken only by
his superiors. For his own part he would not like to interfere or even to
suggest such a thing. It was a terrible thing to accuse a woman, even if
she was a foreigner, and the police just then were not popular. All these
views he offered.

"The police never are popular--don't be silly." said Alan tersely. "If
you're clever, you might even associate your friend Charles Peace with
the death. Do you remember, you told me a small man was one of the two
people who were seen attacking Lamonte?"

"It was not Peace," said the other. "He wasn't in town. He went to
Manchester the night before last. Why they don't pinch him the minute he
arrives at the station I can't find out. I've got a friend of mine--an
inspector--and I always notify him when Peace goes to Manchester, but
nothing ever happens. And while he's there there's generally a burglary
or two."

"There's probably a few when he's not there," smiled Alan. And then, more
seriously: "What does the police surgeon think about Lamonte?"

"Starvation, exhaustion, ill-treatment," said Baldy. "It's murder within
the meaning of the Act. If we caught the fellow that did it he'd be
meeting Mr Marwood--nice fellow, Marwood. You'd never think he was a
hangman, to talk to him. He's a true blue Tory, and what he says about Mr
Gladstone would make your hair curl."

The politics of hangmen did not interest Alan, and he said as much. He
spent the brief time between the departure of Eltham and the beginning of
his "round" in drafting a rough report for the coroner. Baldy had
promised to convey Alan's suspicions of Madame Stahm and her household to
his superior officer. Whether he did so or not, no steps were taken to
explore that avenue. In all probability Sergeant Eltham had not pressed
the point with his chief, for he made no secret of the fact that he
regarded the suggestion as fantastical.

Throughout his rounds that morning Alan was considering the possibility
of pursuing an independent line of investigation, and had half made up
his mind to call on Madame Stahm, when he returned to the house for
lunch. His housekeeper opened the door to him.

"There is a lady to see you. She is in the waiting-room--Madame Stahm."

"Indeed and indeed!" said Alan, a little staggered. "The mountain has
come to the prophet, eh?" And then, in a low voice: "If Miss Garden wakes
up, do not let her come down until Madame Stahm has gone."

Madame Stahm had a trick of enthroning herself in the most prosaic
surroundings. She sat on a high chair that was in the very centre of the
room, her magenta silk frock outspread, her hands primly folded in her
lap. She carried with her the atmosphere of a court and greeted Alan with
a quizzical smile, which was not without its queenly consideration.

"The invalid has come to you," she said gaily. "The lady with a bad
heart, eh? But I have a good heart for you, doctor. My poor Jane, is she
better?" There was a hint of sarcasm in this which was not overlooked by
Alan.

"Much better," he said. "So much better that she is in bed!"

Madame Stahm smiled. "Young ladies who are out all night, attending
maternity cases, must sleep sometimes. Her blood was too bad to look
after me, but not too bad to look after the mother of little brats--it is
too unkind of you, doctor."

He returned no answer to this. Evidently she had made a very judicious
use of the time she had been waiting; also his housekeeper was a little
loquacious. "You have had a terrible case here, I am told, last night,
eh? How trying to be a doctor!"

"A man who died in this room," said Alan untruthfully. But, if he had
hoped to impress Madame Stahm with a sense of tragedy, he was
disappointed.

"It is a very nice room to die in," she said.

"Did you know Lamonte?"

She frowned at this. "Lamonte? The name is familiar. My husband had a
workman named Lamonte. It is very common in Vaud. All names there are
French. They become German when you cross the mountains into the
Oberland, and Italian in the Trentino. In Basel they are German."

"Madame Stahm," Alan was smiling, "you haven't come here to discuss the
ethnological divisions of Switzerland, have you? Do you know anything
about the death of Lamonte?"

She lifted her shoulder. "I? How absurd! Why should I know? The poor man
was killed by an accident, I understand. I knew nothing about him till
your housekeeper spoke to me. You do not like me, Herr Doctor? You think
I am a bad woman, eh? You think I killed Lamonte--cut his t'roat or
something? Absurd! Presently you will say that I am in love with Peace,
that ugly little man. You are unreasonable, my dear frien', because you
are prejudiced. You are like that funny policeman who does not remember
names. You think I am bad because I am foreign!" She had a very musical
laugh when she was amused, and she seemed amused now.

"I came here, first"--she ticked off the items delicately on her
fingers--"first, to ask after my dear Jane. Naturally, I am attached to
the girl, and I have her good name to think of. You are a doctor, a man
of the world; is it good that a young woman should live in your house,
where you have no mother, no sister, aunt, Gott knows what, to look after
her? Two, I came because I owe you an apology. I was very, very rude to
you. I was angry with you. Peter Baumgarten told me I should be ashamed,
so I came to apologize and ask you please to continue seeing me."

Alan shook his head. "That is not why you came. Lamonte was alive when he
reached here; he was able to speak. You want to know what he said."

A look of blank astonishment was his answer. "Why should I care what he
said? How does it interest me, my friend, what any man in the delirium of
death may say? When people are dying they are not sensible; they say wild
things. Is it not true? You are a doctor and you know." She waited a
while, but Alan was silent, and she went on. "He might have spoken about
me--why should he not? If he was one of my husband's employees, it would
be very likely. He might also speak about Mr Wertheimer, for whom he
worked, or Mr Eckhardt, whom he joined in America, or about you,
doctor--what would it matter? Nothing. If he said anything--" She paused
expectantly.

"What he said you will read in the account of the inquest which will be
published in the Sheffield Telegraph."

"Why not at the court?" she asked.

"Will you attend?" he asked, and instantly realized the mistake he had
made.

There was triumph in her smile. "Then I am not to be called as a witness?
And he said nothing about me at all! Not even in his dying delirium. My
dear doctor, you are almost simple. I shall never dare trust your advice
again!" She had learned all she wanted to know. As she rose, pulling on
her gloves and adjusting her bonnet before the square of looking-glass,
she was still smiling. "You must not think I am a wicked woman, or blame
me for everything. If I had lived here in those days you would have said:
'This woman made the Bradfield flood'--and that wouldn't be true! No, no,
there are quite a number of my acts which are innocent."

When he took her to the door, her victoria was there, with its footman
standing, rug on arm, to assist her into the carriage. "You will come and
see me, doctor, and bring me all the news, eh? My friend Baumgarten likes
you--and bring my little nurse, We are lonely without her. But she must
come back without scandal to her name, you understand?" There was a
malicious little smile on her lips as she drove off.

Alan went into the house and had a lot to think about during his frugal
lunch. He did not see the mother and the child until late in the evening,
and then found another patient. The husband of the woman sat in the tiny,
stone-flagged kitchen, nursing a bruised face. It was the anxious wife
who asked Alan to see him, for she feared some permanent injury to an
eye. The eyesight was unaffected, however, though the flesh surrounding
the priceless organ was blue and purple.

"Had a fight," mumbled the man. "He hit me when I wasn't looking...up at
the railway station. I waited all day for him to come back."

"Who is 'him'?" asked Alan. "Peace?"

The man looked up with a scowl. "You heard about it, too, did you. I
won't have him near my house."

"You're a fool--leave him alone," said Alan, "especially while your wife
is ill. If she runs a temperature I'll have her taken to the infirmary."
The man winced at this. Like all his class, the very proximity of the
workhouse was in itself a disgrace.

The woman's mother had arrived, and there was no necessity for Jane
Garden to return to her nursing, he decided. He arrived home in time to
stop her going out.

They had an uninterrupted evening, when he taught her ecarte. She was an
apt pupil, but the game for him had less interest than the player. He
realized this night that he was desperately in love, and when, on the
following day, she suggested she should go round the shops, trying to
find a few simple articles of furniture, he insisted on placing at her
disposal the very considerable quantity of his own household goods that
was stored in the town.



CHAPTER XII


Medical men loathe inquests: they are time wasters of the worst kind, and
there is always the possibility that the ordeal may be interrupted by the
too zealous questionings of a juryman. For it is a peculiar delusion of
coroner's juries that something is being kept from them.

The inquest on Lamonte, however, was a brief affair, the verdict being an
open one. There was not sufficient evidence to justify a verdict of
wilful murder, and the jury, after the way of all juries, played for
safety, and returned one of those curiously obscure pronouncements which
mean nothing.

He did not see Charles Peace, though he had reason to know he had
returned.

Baldy told him that Peace had been stopped on his departure from
Manchester and his bag searched, for during his stay there had been two
flagrant burglaries. In one case a house had been broken into, a desk
forced and all its contents taken away. Curiously enough, although there
were many valuable articles in the house and within the burglar's reach,
he had taken nothing.

The second burglary was a more serious affair; nearly five hundred
pounds' worth of property, mainly silver, had been stolen. The search of
Peace and his few belongings at the station had revealed nothing.
Indubitably he had been engaged in legitimate business, for he showed
orders that he had given and paid for, to a wholesale manufacturer of
mouldings. No trace of the stolen property could be found.

If the police had gone to the booking clerk they would have discovered
that the man had taken two tickets from Manchester to Sheffield, and that
the second was for a boy who passed the barrier well ahead of Peace,
carrying a heavy parcel under his arm.

"Don't you pretend you know me, boy," warned Peace. "When we get to
Sheffield you just follow me home, and there's a golden sovereign for
you." In this way the stolen property passed under the nose of a strong
force of police that were gathered to intercept the burglar at the
station, and the three plain-clothes officers who awaited the arrival of
the train at Sheffield.

Peace sat in the bosom of his family that night, tuning his fiddle and
discoursing upon his favourite subject, which was Charles Peace.

"I'm too clever for 'em. If they had people like me in the police force
there'd be no crime. I'd fill the prisons, but they wouldn't be prisons
like they are now. All the screws would have to treat men like men, and
the prisoners would have beds to sleep on and good food to eat, and
they'd be able to smoke and read the newspapers, and their families could
come and stay with 'em for a few days every month."

His worn wife said nothing. She was sewing a garment by the shaded light
of a paraffin lamp.

"Hear what I said?" he snarled.

"I hear you, Charles," she said meekly.

"Well, say something," he said savagely. "Don't sit there like a stuffed
image! I don't know why I've come home to this place at all. I could have
the best home in the land if I wanted it. All the lovely women are off
their heads about me. Not ugly old devils like you, but lovely ones--put
that in your pipe and smoke it!"

"I'm sure, Charles," she said with a sigh.

"There's a lady bred and born out there"--he pointed vaguely--"who says
I'm God. What do you think of that?"

"I think it's blasphemy," she said, and in his whimsical mood he agreed.

He had certain deep religious convictions, and though he did not believe
in the hereafter, or think that he would develop such a belief, be bad a
keen desire to be on the safe side. He bad moments of enthusiastic
frenzy, when he composed hymns and prayers, and on one occasion went to
the length of asking a prison chaplain to publish some examples of the
latter activity, "for the good of the world".

He packed his family off to bed; be bad some private work to do, he said.
This was no new experience. His private work took him out late at night.
Twice he had not come back for six years, and at odd intervals there had
come to them letters written on blue paper, bearing the superscription of
various of Her Majesty's prisons. They usually began:

"Dear Wife and Children, this comes hoping to find you quite well as it
leaves me, thank God." Usually the letters were filled with pious and
praiseworthy promises as to his future, and plentifully sprinkled with
samples of more intensive piety, for they were written for the prison
chaplain to read and for the prison governor to censor. A man who
expresses penitence, gives nobody any trouble, calls warders 'sir'
punctiliously, and is ready and willing to pass on a little private
information that he had acquired from his fellow prisoners, has a better
chance of getting his ticket than one who is unregenerate.

At half-past one Peace slipped the key of his house into his pocket,
fastened the revolver inside his high-crowned hat, and, pulling on a new
ulster he had bought, went out to the rendezvous where Madame Stahm's
victoria, drawn by two dashing bays, was waiting for him. He covered
himself up well, and shrank back inside the hood, though, if he had had
his wish, he would have made the journey in daylight under the admiring
or astonished eyes of the multitude. Some day he would have a pair of
horses, but the carriage would be a bit different. He invented a new
victoria as he drove through the night, for he could not resist improving
on the best. He would turn a carriage like this into a little room where
he could change his clothing when the necessity arose; he would have
candle lamps to read by, and india-rubber tyres--why not? If bicycles had
india-rubber tyres why should carriages run on steel? He had once tried
to ride a bicycle and had fallen off. It had a very high, big, wheel and
a little wheel behind it, and you wore frogged tunics and little round
caps--nobody knew why. There were several in Sheffield; it was a nine
days' wonder, people said, and would pass away. Peace thought it would
last, that everybody would have bicycles, and was laughed at for his
pains.

When he had got into the carriage he had tucked away a small packet of
letters under one of the cushions. You never knew what the police were
going to do. He had been searched twice that day, and maybe they were
watching him when he came out of the house and were following him. He
lifted the leather flap of the little window at the back of the hood, but
saw no lamps in view. They weren't clever enough to follow him. That was
the trouble with the police: they hadn't his intelligence.

He reached Brinley Hail behind the sweating horses in an incredibly short
space of time, retrieved his letters and went importantly into Madame
Stahm's bureau.

The first question she asked him was if he had been followed.

"They'd have to come fast to follow me, my lady, behind them horses of
yours."

"Did you get what I sent you for?"

He took out the letters and laid them down. "All the rest was bills," he
said.

He had also found six five-pound notes, but he did not mention these. He
would sell them on the morrow for two pounds apiece to a fence who would
send them to the Continent.

"Give me the letters." She was impatient and almost snatched them from
his hand. Turning them over, she scanned them one by one, her brow
furrowed.

"These are not what I want," she said. "The girl's name isn't Emily."

The man's face fell. "I did what you told me to do. You gave me the
address--I got it here."

He fumbled in his pocket for his book, and she gave it one glance.
"Thirty-nine, you fool. You've written 'fifty-nine'. You went to the
wrong house."

"My friend must have made a mistake--" began Peace.

"Don't exasperate me, little man. Your friend! Why should you be afraid
of my knowing? Of course it was you!" The crestfallen man was staring at
the notebook. There were almost tears in his eyes.

"It was a hard crib, too," he whined. "Took me all day to find the
servant girl, and the best part of a night to do the place. I thought it
was funny. There was nothing in the letters about love--I read 'em
careful, too!"

She mastered her fury with an effort. "It is lamentable, but you must try
again. These letters have no value whatever. They are stupid letters from
a woman to another woman."

"There was no young lady stayin' in the place," began Peace.

"Then why did you go there?" she snapped. "I told you there was a young
lady living in the house."

The man bridled. He had been called a fool, touched in his tenderest
place, that sensitive vanity of his. "All I can say is, missus, you'd
better do the job yourself," he growled. "I'm not used to havin' females
call me names."

Baumgarten, who, as a rule, took no attitude sympathetic with Peace,
tried to pour oil on troubled waters. "It was an error anybody could
make, Clarice," he said suavely. "Our friend here made a pardonable
mistake. I might have done the same, so might you." Madame recovered an
appearance of calm. She caught and heeded the warning in her
'secretary's' tone.

"Yes, yes, it is stupid of me, but my heart was set on this thing. I am
sorry, little man. You shall be paid just as if you had given me what I
wanted." If she had read the mind of Charles Peace she could have made no
stronger appeal.

"Not me--I don't take a penny till I give you the letters. Thirty-nine,
was it? I know the layout of the whole street, but I've got to get into
Manchester some other way. I'll go down to London and take a train to
Manchester, and get out at the station before where they examine the
tickets. And I'll come back the same way. If I say I'll do a thing, I do
it! That's me! It's not money that makes me--It's pride!" She let him
talk about himself for a little while and then she gave him news, and
incidentally unfolded a part of her plan.

"The woman I spoke to you about, and the tall man, are moving to Darnall.
There are two empty houses in a terrace there; she has taken one. Would
it be a good idea if you moved into the other, supposing I paid your rent
and the expenses of moving?"

The idea appealed to Peace. He was by nature a restive soul, and had
never lived long in any place. Darnall was an old haunt of his and a
place of pleasant associations. Moving meant nothing more than exchanging
one brick box, with all its inconveniences, for another. And there was
adventure in it--human adventure, which was very pleasing to him.

He had never seen Mrs Dyson, and could therefore create the image of her
in his mind. It made the early morning journey to London pass in a very
little time, and carried him into the outskirts of Manchester almost
before the journey seemed begun.

There was no time to scrape acquaintance with any of the household staff
of the house in Seymour Grove. He must take his chance.

He reached Whalley Range in the dusk of the evening, and reconnoitred the
house. Luck was with him: he saw a light appear in one of the upper
windows, and a girl of twenty-five or twenty-six pull down the blinds. By
the light of the lamp her shadow was thrown against the white window
blind, and he saw that she was writing. This was luck with a vengeance.
Greater luck was his when, later, he saw a man call at the house. He was
in there half an hour, and both came out together. Peace gathered, from
what he overheard, that the man was some relation.

As they passed him where he crouched behind the bushes in the garden, he
heard the girl say something in a foreign language. The man with her
laughed and then she said in English, "I don't like leaving the house
empty, even for an evening. Papa will not be home till midnight." Empty?
That meant no servants. And so it proved. The back door was easily
forced. He reached the bedroom, broke the bureau and took the letters.
They were tied together with blue ribbon. Subsequently he discovered, to
his disgust, that they were written in French. At least, he supposed they
were French. He had looked forward to reading them: he had that kind of
mentality.

Carefully buttoning them into a pocket on the inside of his coat pocket,
he came out of the back door, passed up a side passage and into the front
garden.

There was on that beat an officious police constable who was not
particularly popular with such of the lower orders as lived in the
neighbourhood. Peace, who could see in the dark, saw the uniformed man
from a long distance, and crossed the road. The policeman crossed to meet
him.

"Hallo! Where are you going?"

"Home, sir." It was a great mistake for him to say 'sir'. The policeman,
a shrewd man, sensed a member of the criminal classes.

"Where have you been?"

"I have come from Manchester; I'm going back."

"Let's have a look at you." The constable caught him by the lapel of his
coat, not too gently, and at that moment Peace struck out with all his
strength, and with all the concentrated hatred he had in his heart for
authority. The blow caught the policeman under the jaw, and he went down
like a log.



CHAPTER XIII


In an instant Peace ran.

He turned down a side lane, clambered over a fence, crossed a field and
came on to the main road. He saw a horse 'bus coming along and swung
himself on to the step, clambered up the iron rungs of a perpendicular
ladder on to the top.

If the policeman had recognized him, or could describe him, it might mean
a stretch for him. He reached a station where he knew the trains would
stop, and, learning that a fast train for Sheffield was due in a few
minutes, he concealed himself on the dingy platform, got into an empty
carriage and hid himself under the seat.

To take a ticket would be fatal. Booking clerks and ticket inspectors
would be able to describe him, and whether he was journeying to London or
Sheffield, but particularly if he was going to Sheffield.

The train was evidently an express. After a while he came out of his
place of concealment and began examining the letters. Then it was he had
his disappointment, for the most amorous passages were as Greek to him.

The signals were against the engine driver outside a station five miles
north-west of Sheffield, and the train slowed down and stopped.

The opportunity was too good to be lost: opening the carriage door he
dropped on to the permanent way, climbed down a steep embankment, and,
after half an hour's tramping through snowy fields, reached a deserted
highway.

It was a coincidence that the only man who saw him that night was
Sergeant Eltham, and Baldy's not too friendly greeting took a load off
the little man's mind.

"Didn't I see you outside the Norfolk Hall this afternoon?"

"Yes, sir," said Peace promptly.

"Why did you run away?"

Peace replied glibly. His alibi was established; and he had need of it,
for Police Constable Cock had circulated a fair description of him, which
did not come to Sheffield, however, until the following morning.

Peace was pulled into the station as a matter of routine. He could
triumphantly produce his arch-enemy to testify that he was in Sheffield
that afternoon.

"And when I come to think it over," said the disgruntled Baldy, "I'm not
so sure that it was him! The little devil answered so quick that I ought
to have known he was kidding me. Anyway, he didn't arrive at the railway
station, and so far as I know, he didn't leave for Manchester. That Peace
is as artful as a waggon load of monkeys!"

When Baldy accosted him that night, near the Town Hall, he was standing
on the edge of the kerb, running his hands up and down his long trousers'
pockets, listening to the musical jingle of golden coins.

"I'm not so sure I saw you outside the Norfolk Hall--" began Baldy.

"Then you should be sure," snarled the other. "You shouldn't go making
statements if you ain't prepared to stick to 'em. You saw me and I saw
you."

Sergeant Eltham swallowed something. "They tell me you're moving--going
over to Darnall?"

"I don't like this neighbourhood. It's low."

It had been agreed that if he succeeded in getting the letters he would
send a message notifying Madame Stahm, and that Baumgarten should come
over and collect them. This was not to Peace's liking. He wanted to
parade his success and his efficiency before the woman who had condemned
him. But her orders were imperative. There were very excellent reasons
why he should keep away since the death of Lamonte.

He met Baumgarten at a little wayside inn a few miles out of Sheffield,
and the packet was handed over. Baumgarten took one look at the letters
and his eyes sparkled.

"Can you read it, mister?" And, when the other nodded: "Read us a bit--a
courting bit!" said Peace eagerly.

"My friend"--Baumgarten tapped him on the shoulder benignly--"you require
no lessons in the art of writing love letters." The little man almost
purred at the compliment.

Madame Stahm very graciously consented to receive him a week later. He
had to come with three picture frames and go through the formalities of
being a tradesman calling for orders, a proceeding which, for some reason
or other, irked him. He was a very vain little man. Nothing pleased him
better than to be described as a gentleman; nothing drove him to such
fury as a suggestion of his illiteracy. If he could play her emotions, no
less could she play him.

An ingenious woman was Madame Stahm. She would sit for hours, dreaming
great schemes, ingenious schemes, unbelievably clever in their intricacy.
She had thought a lot about Jane Garden and the doctor, and she had woven
into her fanciful stories this crude, ugly man.

Thoroughness was her keynote. She had not been content to discover the
antecedents of the girl and her history so far as the hospital could
supply it; she went farther afield, made inquiries in the little Midland
village where the girl had been born. Jane's mother and father were dead.
They had been an unhappy pair, and had separated a few months before
Jane's birth. Mr Garden had married beneath him, a pretty girl from a
travelling circus. There was some talk of a former lover--the whole
matter had to be thrashed out in the divorce court; but the evidence was
not sufficiently convincing to secure their complete separation.

The villagers talked, as villagers will continue their gossip, long after
the turf had been laid upon the two people mostly concerned.

Madame was fascinated by the news she garnered and pressed her inquiries
farther, and all the time that ingenious brain of hers was seeking a
recipe as to how the material she had gathered could be cooked into a
meal that would be most unpalatable to the man she hated without any
reservations--the doctor, who had defied her, had threatened her by
inference, and who guessed her ghastly secret.

Her plan took definite shape the day Peace arrived. That he should come
into it at all was due to the fortuitous circumstance of his arrival. She
gave him the reward she had promised him; generously increased it; found
a malignant delight in adding to her kindness by translating one of the
letters that he had stolen; and then brought the conversation to Jane.

"I don't like stuck-up people. She's too stuck-up for me," he said. "And
she's only a bit of a girl, too. I like women of the world, and they like
me. I'm not good looking, m'lady, but I've got a way with me." He
continued in the same strain, and she did not interrupt him. When she did
speak she brought the conversation back to Jane. Anyway, his idea that
they should be better friends was very impossible, and for many reasons.

"Like what?" he demanded resentfully.

She told him, and he nearly jumped out of the chair.

For two hours they sat together, talking eagerly. Baumgarten, who looked
in once or twice, withdrew as quickly as he appeared, glad to escape from
the atmosphere Peace brought with him.

It was past dark when the victoria carried Charles Peace back to Darnall.
The carriage always dropped him in a lonely place near the village; he
hated this idea, but madame was adamant. His mind was now completely
occupied. The Dysons had moved in; he had had a first glimpse of the lady
and approved of her. He found no difficulty in making the acquaintance of
the woman and her acid-tongued husband.

Men were always more difficult than women, for men never trusted him, and
some women trusted him too much. The acquaintance had become as much of a
friendship as the lanky Dyson would permit. The American woman found him
ugly but fascinating.

It was a week after his visit that Jane Garden met the little man, and it
was a curious fact that she never spoke to Alan of the meeting. She would
have passed on, but the man spoke to her, and out of sheer civility she
stopped. He had something to say to her, something that could not be said
in a public place. He was very respectful, rather sad. She found herself
pitying him.

And then he mentioned a name she had not heard for years, and her marrow
froze. She had an hour to spare; Alan was away and would not be back
until the evening. She went with the ugly man into the new Frith Park
which had just opened.

And here he told her what he swore he had never told a soul, and as she
listened she grew sick at heart, and once would have fainted but for a
supreme effort of self control.

At the gates of the park she left him. He wanted to see her again in a
few days, but she shook her head.

"I don't want to see you. I never want to see you again," she said
breathlessly. "I hate you--my God, how I hate you now"

A cab was passing and she hailed it and drove back to Alan's house. He
saw how white she was when he came in, and thought she was ill.

"I really do think you ought to have a rest. That job with Madame Stahm
must have taken a lot of vitality out of you."

"I'm all right--I'm quite all right," she said.

She spent her evenings in her room, sewing the chintzes she had bought
for her new home. To Alan it seemed she had suddenly become a new person,
a Jane Garden he did not know, and he was puzzled to explain the change
of attitude. He asked her point-blank one morning what the trouble was;
she answered him a little shortly, and he decided not to interfere. She
certainly had her own troubles, her own life. A little pang of jealousy
grew out of this consideration. Did any man form part of her own life? he
wondered. But she would have told him: he was sure of that.

Once, when he spoke of Peace, she changed the subject abruptly, almost
rudely.

He was talking about the woman whose child had been born and whose
husband was still nursing a grievance against her, and out of this arose
the reference to Peace.

"Please don't talk about him--it is horrible," she said in a low voice,
and he saw that the hands that held the needle and chintz were shaking.

He could diagnose this as nerves: it could be nothing else. Trained
nurses do not take too prim a view of the ugly things of life. The
mystery of her attitude was to remain unsolved for a long time and
develop into a greater and more horrible mystery.

She was younger than he had thought, had begun her nursing experiences
before she was sixteen.

"I had to work," she explained. "I lived with an aunt who wasn't
particularly fond of me, and there were certain other complications."
What they were she did not tell him.

The death of Lamonte brought to Alan a considerable amount of
correspondence, and he was glad of her assistance in such odd hours as
she could give him, for her French was perfect. Lamonte had relations,
who wrote either to him or to the police. For some reason or other the
police decided to turn over all the correspondence to Alan as it arrived,
and the thing became a little wearisome; the more so as most of the
relations seemed interested in only one subject--the amount of money the
dead man had left.

 She made an admirable secretary; wrote in a beautiful hand. He almost
 regretted that he had chosen the nurse's role for her. Except for this
 strange sense of restraint, this invisible barrier which had grown
 between them, the time which followed was ideal, though he was very
 little in her society.

He could not remember the time when she had not been an essential factor
in his life, someone to think of when he woke, some sure guide to his
dreams. He had a trick of paying little compliments, directly or by
inference. They used to amuse her in the first days of their
acquaintance, and pleased her, too. Now they seemed to worry her, and he
either stopped paying them or felt self-consciously foolish when he saw
their effect.

Yet she came to him with all her difficulties and by implication
emphasized her dependence on him. But always there was that aloofness
which distressed him, so that once he asked her bluntly about her
health, and, more bluntly still, if he was boring her. Her emphatic "No"
to the last question kept him happy for a week.



CHAPTER XIV


Letters came for her: how or when they were delivered he could not guess.
They did not come by post. Once he saw a ragged little messenger leave
the front door hurriedly and, entering the house, surprised her reading a
note. She was standing by the window, her face in profile, her fine
eyebrows bent, and he saw by the rise and fall of her bosom that
something had agitated her.

"Anything wrong?" he asked.

Quickly she crumpled the letter in her hand and put it behind her.

"Nothing--nothing," she said.

He could not ask her particulars about her correspondence. A reference to
the letter later in the day seemed to cause her distress. She went out in
the afternoon and came back looking like death.

"In the name of heaven, what's wrong with you?"

"Nothing." She was almost defiant.

Then came his astonishing discovery. He had been called to a distant
case, and was driving back late one afternoon, when Dixon decided to take
a short cut through a lane, the road surface of which was bad, but which
undoubtedly cut off a long and tiresome angle. At one point of the lane,
set back in the hedge, was a gate leading into a field. He was dimly
conscious of seeing two people standing by the gate, but not until he was
abreast of them did he recognize them. The woman was Jane. The little
man, who was leering into her face, was Charles Peace!

His heart nearly stopped beating. For a moment he had a wild inclination
to jump from the carriage and go back and demand an explanation, but he
checked himself.

She came home three-quarters of an hour after he arrived, and she offered
no explanation, nor did he ask for one. He was baffled, bewildered, in
some degree horrified. That this girl, refined and delicate, should find
in Peace an acceptable companion was unthinkable.

Patiently he waited, day after day, for Jane to take him into her
confidence; but apparently she did not think it was necessary. Whether
she had seen him he could not guess. She certainly gave no sign, never
once by a word betraying the least uneasiness.

Peace! It was incredible. A foul little burglar, a man whose name was a
byword even amongst the lower sort...Was there any truth in this story of
an ultra-human fascination? He rejected the idea as unbelievable.

Other people had seen them together. One of his patients called him back
as he was leaving the house. "Oh, by the way, that nurse of yours--Miss
Garden...the girl who came here for two days...don't you think she ought
to be told?"

"Told what?" asked Alan curtly.

"I saw her the other day in Frith Park with a most dreadful little man. I
believe he is a well-known character in these parts. And Mrs Hackitt also
saw them together on another day. She ought not to do a thing like that."

"I think Nurse Garden is quite capable of looking after herself," said
Alan, and offended a wealthy patient almost beyond forgiveness.

There must be a reason for it. Was it something connected with Madame
Stahm and her establishment, some secret that Peace had unearthed? The
more he thought, the more confused he became.

It hurt him that she did not volunteer some statement about this peculiar
friendship of hers. How could she reconcile her vehement declarations
that she hated him with these fugitive meetings? She never saw him except
by day. Sometimes she would snatch an hour from a case she was nursing to
meet him at a convenient but isolated place, and always Alan knew when
these meetings had taken place. She was graver, more laconic of speech,
less able to concentrate her mind.

Sometimes he thought she was labouring under great mental agony, and once
he bluntly suggested that she had something on her mind and that it would
be to her advantage to tell him. The suggestion was received coldly, and
he realized that if their friendship was to continue he must make no
further reference to this amazing acquaintance of hers.

It worried him a great deal, even though there was something impersonal
in the friendship she maintained with the disreputable little blackguard.
She was so serene, so infinitely sane, and his loyalty to her was such
that the commonplace explanation did not enter into his calculations. No
intelligent woman could fall under the spell of the little picture-frame
maker. He could believe anything but that.

He discovered that even when she did not meet him, Peace dogged her
footsteps. He was seen waiting outside houses where she was nursing, and
was moved on by the police. Baldy was puzzled, and came to Alan for an
explanation.

"I run the rule over him in the street, but I couldn't find any burglar's
tools in his pocket, but there's the fact: he has been watching that
house for two days. I think I am entitled to pull him in."

Alan shook his head. "I shouldn't if I were you."

Baldy looked at him oddly. "There's no truth in that story--?" He
hesitated.

"What story?" asked Alan.

"That he's hanging around--well, Miss Garden?"

Alan thought for a long time, then said: "No," but not very convincingly.
"I'll tell you what I think, Eltham," he said. "This man must know a
friend of Miss Garden's, somebody she does not wish to offend. The little
devil is using this as an excuse for speaking to her."

"Has he annoyed her at all?" asked Baldy quickly. "I'll put him inside if
he has."

"She has not complained." replied Alan. "So far as I know, he has said
nothing to offend her."

Sergeant Eltham rubbed his shining head in perplexity. "I can't
understand it--he bought her a present--"

"A what?" said Alan, startled.

"A present--a silver ring with an imitation stone. He bought it all
right: one of our plain-clothes men saw him. He bought it for her, and
gave it to her that afternoon, and she chucked it into the road. My man
saw her throw something away, and after she'd gone Peace was looking for
it, but my fellow found it--a silver ring with a glass sapphire."

"I give it up," said Alan.

"It must have given him a pain to buy it, anyway," said Baldy. "All that
his lady friends get are the things he pinches and can't sell."

"Miss Garden is not a lady friend," said Alan coldly, "and it's
ridiculous to refer to her as such."

It was during this more acute period of anxiety that Alan Mainford
renewed an old and not a very welcome association. The renewal was brief,
and ended for the moment abruptly.

He had worked through a number of attending patients, and now he struck
the little bell on the side of his desk. It was the signal for the next,
and, he hoped, his last morning patient.

The man who walked in, fingering nervously the brim of a high-crowned
bowler hat, looked the picture of health and embarrassment. He had waited
for a long time outside the house before he had dared enter; waited
whilst patient after patient had passed into and from the consulting
room. And now he obeyed the summons.

"Well, what is the matter with you?" asked Alan pleasantly.

And then he frowned.

"I've seen you somewhere."

"Yes, sir--Carton, sir." The man's eyes never left him.

"Carton? Good Lord! You were my servant in my army days, weren't you?"

"Yes, sir," said Carton, and coughed.

"Wasn't there a question of a watch being lost--my watch, in fact?"

"There was, sir," said Carton very respectfully. "It is the one act of my
life that I have never stopped regretting, sir. Yielding to a sudden
temptation, and having a sick wife--"

"You weren't married," said Alan promptly, and his visitor shuffled his
feet uneasily. He had hoped that Dr Alan Mainford, in his new and
engrossing practice, would have forgotten those petty details of a former
life.

"When I say 'wife', sir, I mean sister-in-law. I can only tell you, I've
never forgotten my debt to you, and some day I'm going to pay you back."

"And in the meantime?" suggested Alan.

Carton coughed again. "There's a chance of getting a job and going
straight, sir," he said. "A gentleman in the north of England wants a
parlour-man--he is a titled gentleman."

"In that case he should have two parlour-men," said Alan sardonically.
"You haven't come to ask me to give you a good character, have you?"

"Carton obviously had. This gentleman's very particular, sir. It would
make a big difference to me if you could speak for me." He gave with
every confidence the name and address of his future employer.

Alan was staggered by the audacity of the request. "I remember quite a
lot about you now. You've been in prison, haven't you?"

The man nodded.

"How many times?"

Mr Carton looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "About twice, sir," he
said vaguely.

"Once for leaving the house where you were employed with the lady's
jewels?"

"They weren't real jewels, sir," Carton hastened to correct a bad
impression. "Most of 'em were imitation. I took them away to show my--my
sister-in-law--she was very keen on jewels--and I lost 'em on my way
back, and hadn't the nerve to face the missus." All this very glibly,
like a man who had well rehearsed his speech.

The young doctor leaned back in his chair, an amused smile in his eyes.
"And now all you want is for me to write to your gentleman and say that
you're 'honest, sober and trustworthy'? I'm afraid it can't be done,
Carton. I am willing to forgive you the little incident of the watch,
which was not very valuable--"

"I got eight shillings for it," interposed Carton.

"That's too bad! Your respect for me must have dropped to zero! No, it
can't be done, Carton. But I'm glad you called to see me. In these days
of strain and hysteria it is delightful to meet somebody who has all his
nerve! That will do."

Still Carton lingered. "You don't want a servant yourself, sir?" he
suggested.

Alan waved the stem of his pipe towards the door, and Mr Carton, with a
courteous little bow, went out, a shabby but undefeated man, for he had a
friend in Manchester who, for a small consideration, would prepare the
most glowing testimonials, all written in different hands upon headed
sheets of notepaper, and with every letter went a guarantee that the
alleged writer was either dead or living abroad.

As he crossed the street he was looking round for oncoming traffic when
he collided with a little man, who scowled at him and demanded in florid
language where he thought he was going. He hardly noticed his offensive
acquaintance, the only impression that was left on him being that his
collision-partner was repulsively and extremely ugly. They stopped in the
middle of the road, at some danger to themselves, to argue
responsibility, and were parted by a swift-trotting butcher's cart.

"That's a man I never want to meet again," said Carton, addressing his
remarks to the first person he met when he reached the pathway.

If he could have foreseen the future he would have said this with greater
fervour.

Alan was in some dilemma. He recalled now every incident of the man
leaving him. He was treacherous--an unregenerate thief. Nothing was more
certain than that he would get his job with forged references--Dr
Mainford recalled the circumstances of Carton's prosecution, and he
remembered that forged characters had figured in the evidence.

Yet he was loth, as all decent men are loth, to make life any harder for
those who have been under the iron heel of the law. He took up his pen,
hesitated for a long time, and then wrote a brief note to the gentleman
whose name Carton had given him. He could not let his former servant
engage himself in a decent household without being an accessory before
the inevitable crime.

It was a thankless task, as he discovered a couple of weeks later, when
he received a haughty letter from the employer, saying that he was
perfectly satisfied with Carton's references and with Carton himself, and
that it was a pity that he (Alan) had allowed his prejudices over 'an
unfortunate affair' to take such strong expression. Alan wondered exactly
what was the unfortunate affair that Carton had represented to his new
boss.

He dismissed the matter from his mind, and never saw his ex-butler again
until that fatal night when he drove him from Banner Cross to the railway
station.

On the day he saw Carton and wrote the letter he received another
visitor; and this one was a little more disturbing. He sent in his card:
it bore the name of a Leeds agency, though in what particular commodity
the agency dealt was not specified. A young, rather confident man, the
caller came quickly to the point. Was a Miss Garden staying in the house,
and could he tell him anything about her antecedents?

Alan was too taken aback for the moment to reply. "I don't understand
you. What do you mean?"

"Do you know anything of her past?" asked the caller cold-bloodedly.

Alan got up from his chair. "Who sent you--Madame Stahm?" he demanded
wrathfully.

"I merely want to know--"

"Get out!" He left hurriedly. An inquiry agent!



CHAPTER XV


The winter passed; spring came, and the spring of 1876 was a particularly
busy one for doctors.

Jane Garden had found her niche. Within a week of furnishing her little
home over the stables, Alan had placed her in charge of a serious case in
a wealthy family, and thence onwards she hardly spent a week in her
little home before she was again sent off on yet another case.

Alan saw her every day, since she was attending his own patients, and in
the spring she contrived to spend several Sundays with him, driving
through the country.

He saw Madame Stahm very frequently: she was almost a daily visitor to
her experimental plant. There were rumours that the new formula she was
applying had given successful results, though as yet the product could
not be made in commercial quantities. Silver Steel had boldly made an
announcement, and had given a date when their manufacture would be on the
market; but in neither case had the samples satisfied the experts.

He saw Peace very rarely, heard a little about him from Sergeant Eltham,
who, however, seemed less interested in the little man since he and Alan
had discussed the odd friendship which Peace was cultivating with Jane
Garden.

One blazing hot day in July he saw the little man, dressed in his Sunday
best, and with him a woman whom Alan did not remember having seen before.
She was young, about twenty-five, fresh-coloured and rather plump. Her
face was bold and with no particularly intellectual expression.

It was a Friday afternoon in a country lane, and his attention was first
directed to them--he was resting under the shade of a tree whilst his
groom fixed a broken piece of harness--when he saw the little man vault a
fence with no effort and collect a handful of flowers. They were not
difficult to acquire, for Peace had chosen a nursery garden, and
presently the irate voice of the owner or foreman demanded angrily what
the intruder was at, and a minute afterwards the lawful custodian of the
flowers, a slight young man, came running across the field.

"Put those flowers back where you found them!" he demanded.

By this time Peace was on the lawful side of the fence, but the man had
jumped it and was confronting him.

"Put them back!" The florist caught Peace by the collar. In another
second he was hurtling through the air, across a fence, which must have
been four or five feet high, and fell with a crash into a glass frame on
the other side. Alan got down quickly, thinking the man had been killed,
but he scrambled up, his face streaming with blood.

"You dirty little brute, why did you do that?" asked Alan furiously.

If ever he saw death, it was in the horribly distorted face of Charles
Peace.

"I'll serve you the same." The woman screamed and grasped him by the arm,
but, shaking her off, he leaped at Mainford. This time, however, he had
to deal with a trained athlete and a boxer who had won his way into the
Indian Army finals. Alan stepped aside and like lightning brought his
left to the man's throat. He spluttered, gurgled, almost went on to his
knees, but he was beaten. He had no heart except for a winning fight; he
was incapable of taking one hard blow. From the frenzied murderer he
became, of a sudden, the whining supplicant. The change was startling,
more than a little revolting. Even the pink-faced woman by his side
stared at him open-mouthed.

"What did you hit me for? I'll have the law on you for this!" he whined.
"A big bloke like you hitting a little feller like me!" But Alan was
attending to the dazed young man who had been thrown over the fence.
Except for two or three cuts on his face he was unhurt.

"If you take my advice you will charge this man. His name is Charles
Peace; he is an ex-convict with three convictions."

Peace heard him and let out a howl of anguish. "Don't do that, mister!
Don't let him do that! I'll pay him for his trouble." He took a handful
of coins from his pocket and pressed two or three into the reluctant hand
of the injured man. "You oughtn't to have told him that, doctor--you
really oughtn't. It's throwing my trouble in my face--I don't think its
right!"

"What's not right?" asked the woman.

It was the first time she had spoken. Her voice was a trifle thick; her
eyes were glassy. Alan took a very uncharitable view of her condition.

"It's all right, my dear. This gentleman knows me. He's a doctor--one of
the greatest doctors in Sheffield. If ever you get ill you send for him!"
And then, to Alan, pleadingly: "I'm always saying this about you, doctor,
and you go and take my character away because you're a rich man and I'm a
poor man. There's no justice--there really isn't--no justice at all."

It occurred to Alan then that this woman knew nothing of his real
character, and had probably not heard the unflattering description of her
swain. And it appeared that the little man was most anxious that she
should not know, for, taking her arm, he hurried her on out of earshot.

"Three quid," said the young man, dabbing his bloodstained face with a
handkerchief. "He's got plenty of money--I suppose he's done a burglary."

"Do you know him?"

"Charles Peace? Yes, I know him," said the other. "And he'll know me--I
shall carry a mark of his for a year or two. If I'd had an axe I'd have
killed him."

"Who is the woman?"

"She's the wife of an engineer. They live next door to one another at
Darnall. People say..." He told Alan what people said, and did not err on
the side of charity to Mrs Dyson, as her name proved to be.

"They're as thick as thieves," said the florist. "I'm always meeting 'em
together, and other people tell me she goes out with him to music-halls.
Her husband's a gentleman, too. What any woman can see in that little
fellow..." He left nothing to the imagination.

Alan went back to the victoria that he had recently bought, and drove on
to his next patient. He wasn't greatly interested in Mrs Dyson, or,
indeed, in any of the numerous amours of this surprisingly ugly and
unspeakably nasty man. For his part he did not ruminate as to what women
saw in men. His experience had taught him the futility of any such
speculation.

Peace, except in one important particular, had almost passed out of his
life. Mrs Stahm had become a confused memory. The dead man, Lamonte, was
forgotten, even by the jury that had inquired into his death.

He took Jane to the theatre that night, and in the course of the evening
remarked upon the shortness of memory.

"I belong to that period, too," she smiled.

"You aren't forgotten: you're very much in the glowing present," he said
quietly, "and you're becoming just a little too dominant for my peace of
mind." She shot one quick glance at him, and he saw her colour come and
go, but she made no comment until they were walking home after the
theatre.

"Am I really worrying you?" she asked.

"Not a scrap."

"Seriously, I mean. Do you think I ought to do anything?"

"Yes, I think you ought to marry me." He tried to be nonchalant, but his
voice broke.

She did not answer. He thought she quickened her pace a little.

She could have gone through the house to her own rooms, but she left him
at the door, taking the carriage way.

"You're not leaving me like that?" he asked breathlessly, and held her
hand. "I love you--you know that."

"Do you love Charles Peace?" she asked in a strained voice.

"Charles Peace? For God's sake, what do you mean?" He heard her breathing
heavily.

"I am his daughter," she said, and, tearing her hand from his, she fled
round the corner of the house out of sight.



CHAPTER XVI


Alan Mainford stood, petrified with amazement. For a second he could not
move.

He had read the words "rooted to the spot" before, and they had had no
significance for him; but now he knew exactly what the imaginative
writers had meant.

Recovering his normal activity, he ran after her, flew up the wooden
ladder and reached the landing just as she slammed the door.

"Open the door, Jane."

"Go away." He heard the break in her voice; she was too near to tears for
his comfort.

"Open the door or I'll break the lock!"

The key turned, and he went into the darkened room. She had flung herself
on the small sofa, her head upon her arms. He gripped her by the
shoulders and pulled her upright.

"Now just tell me what you mean about that piece of nonsense. Is that
what has been worrying you all this time?"

"I'm his daughter--isn't it terrible? Isn't it horrible!" she sobbed.
"I've known it for months." Now he understood and a great load rolled
from his mind.

"Is that why you have been meeting him?" She nodded.

"Who told you he was your father?" She would not answer, and he shook her
gently. "Who told you this lie?"

"He did. It's true, my dear--he knows everything. It couldn't be anything
but true. He went by the name of Fenner...Auntie always spoke of the ugly
man who was my father, taunted me with it. I knew he was with a circus,
but I didn't dream..." Her voice broke.

He got from her, sentence by sentence, the story of her youth; of the two
parents, who, utterly unsuited to one another, had finally parted; of the
scandal; of the abortive divorce case.

"He may have read it."

"He couldn't have read it. He knows the man's nickname--everything."

Alan sat by her side, biting his lips. That the story was a lie he was
certain. Who could have primed the little devil with all the details?
Then it flashed on him--Madame Stahm. "Did you ever tell madame the story
of your life?"

"No. She wanted to know all about my parents, but I would never tell her.
I remember she was very much annoyed and said that she could easily find
out if she was curious enough." He got up and began to pace the room, his
hands in his pockets.

"That's where it's come from--Madame Stahm! She has managed to get the
story somehow, and has told this little beast, giving him dates, names,
particulars, everything."

She looked up at him. "You don't think it's true?"

"Of course it isn't true!" he scoffed. "Look at yourself in the mirror
and tell me if It's true! Orchids grow on muck-heaps, but they're odd
kinds of orchids. I'm going to find out the truth about this." He called
that night on a brother doctor and arranged for him to see his patients.

Early in the morning he left for Warwickshire. Jane was not at home when
he returned, and he was glad, for he had not finished his investigations.
They carried him to Leeds, and to the office of the private inquiry
agency which had sent its representative to call upon him.

The agency proved to be a very reticent organization until Alan
threatened to make a police court matter of it.

They had been engaged by a client, a lady. (They were discreet to the
point of refusing her name, but Alan could guess that.) They had pursued
their inquiries, had interviewed the girl's aunt--"A difficult woman,"
said the investigator.

"Very. I interviewed her myself this morning--a cat of cats."

"I'm inclined to agree with you," said the investigator.

From this lady they had learned everything they wanted, coloured a little
maliciously. The dead scandal had, so to speak, been wrapped in wet moss
and its roots still sprouted.

He got back to Sheffield, picked up the girl at the house where she had
been attending an elderly lady, who required a companion rather than a
nurse, and in the drive home he told her the result of his inquiries.

"It was a lie from beginning to end. Peace was primed to tell you this
foul story, and how like madame to invent it! I owe her that one. As for
Peace, I owe him a very important duty." She did not ask what it was,
nor, when she retired to her lodgings, why he seemed so anxious to get
rid of her.

In the hall of Alan Mainford's house was a square, polished board, and,
resting on double hooks, were a number of hunting crops. He tried them
all, chose one, and ordered the complaining Dixon to bring the victoria
to the door.

For three hours he searched various public-houses. It was in Darnall, in
a low beer-shop, that he found his quarry and beckoned him out into the
street.

Peace was without fear in some respects. He could face the violence of
the law and its officers with equanimity. But here he harboured the
illusion that it was he who had triumphed and the law which had failed.
Now he was face to face with his master, a man physically equal and
morally ascendant.

"I want to talk to you, Peace." They walked along the road in silence,
the little man eyeing the hunting crop apprehensively. At a lonely spot
Alan stopped.

"Is Miss Jane Garden your daughter?"

"That's no business--" began the man.

"I want the truth from you. If you lie to me, I'll beat the soul out of
you--I may even kill you. Is Jean Garden your daughter?" A sudden
silence. Alan stood back; the thong of the whip whistled through the air.

"No!" screamed the little man. "I was kidding her--that's a joke."

"Madame Stahm's joke or yours?"

"I don't know nothing about Madame Stahm." Then, as the crop came up: "It
was the lady's idea...a little joke."

"If It's a joke, laugh, you swine!" snarled Alan, and the lash fell.

With a scream, Peace backed against the hedge. His hand dropped to his
right hand pocket. The pistol was half out when Alan struck again and he
fell with a sob to the ground.

"I'll never forgive you for that, Peace!" Alan spoke between his teeth.
"You're such an ignorant brute that you don't know how beastly you've
been."

"And I'll never forgive you either, master"--the little man's face was
white with fury. "No man's ever hit me--twice you've done it. Nobody's
done it, nobody's dared do it, not screws or anyone! One of these days
I'll kill you for it." And then Alan, who was as great a psychologist as
he was a surgeon, delivered his moral coup de grace. He knew this man
through and through. If he had not known him, Peace would certainly have
killed him in his time.

"Some day," he said slowly, "you will be brought into my surgery, or into
the hospital where I operate, and I shall remember your threat." He had
touched the real weakness of the man. Peace fell on his knees and clawed
at his arm.

"For God's sake don't say that, master! It's cruel...It's wicked!
Supposed I had an accident...got shot...you wouldn't do that? You're a
doctor, you mean mercy. Tell me you wouldn't do that!...It'll haunt me,
mister. There ain't a braver man than me, not in the whole world, but
that's what I'm always frightened of. That's why I never touch a doctor's
house. I never stole a penny from a doctor in my life. You wouldn't do
it, master! You couldn't be so wicked! The Lord would strike you dead if
you did it!" He was almost sobbing when Alan jerked him to his feet.

"Behave yourself, Peace. And take that blow as quits." The man jerked his
head up and down. He was incapable of speech for a moment. When
eventually he did speak, his voice was the old familiar whine.

"That settles it--everything. I'll write to the young lady and tell her."
The letter came to Jane the next morning. It was hand-delivered by a
little girl whom Alan recognized as Peace's daughter.

"DERE MISS,--it was a jok i never ment abut been yor farthur i maid it up
so fergif mi prisumson and parden yor hum bel survint.

"Dere Miss, yor farthur i dunt no nore eard of him it was a jok maid up
so plese furgif yor obent servint becars i ony ment a jok.

"Yor servint and humbel, CHAS. PEACE." The girl read the scrawl and,
with Alan's assistance, deciphered it.

"Thank God it was a joke!" she said fervently.

"'Jok' is the word you want," suggested Alan.

It was on that day that Peace, after a heated exchange with Mr Dyson,
ended his tirade with the memorable words: "You don't deserve to have an
educated man for your friend!"



CHAPTER XVII


Mr Arthur Dyson, the neighbour of Mr Peace, was dyspeptic,
short-tempered, secretive. It was his misfortune that he suffered from a
superiority sense, which made him a little unendurable, and certainly had
not popularized him either in the surveyor's office at York or in his new
post.

Possibly the superiority was based upon his foreign experience, which is
one of the most oppressive forms of vanity. Though he was not a talkative
man, there were moments when he would hold forth on the advantage of
American institutions over British, or, alternatively, the appalling
character of the American people. He was the type of Englishman in whom
foreign travel creates new standards for disparagement.

He was insular, narrow, rather querulous, but above all, secretive. The
people who met him, or who worked with him, knew as little about him as
his neighbours, or, for the matter of that, his wife.

He never ceased to regard her as a social inferior, and it was generally
believed that he had married beneath him. If he had a hobby at all, it
was steel. This was a period when almost every other man that was to be
met in Sheffield had the germ of a patent in his head, or sketched on
paper; patent processes, patent converters, methods of extracting
silicon, methods of tempering, strange, weird and possibly expensive ways
of manufacture; and in the little club which he frequented, inventors
were as thick as a smoky atmosphere.

He would sit there, pulling at a thin cigar, listening with a knowing
smile to the arguments which waged furiously, or be one of the throng
which crowded round a table when some triumphant inventor exhibited a
model converter that had "come to him" in a flashing moment of
inspiration.

Mr Dyson said very little. He could have said a great deal. It gave him a
tremendous amount of satisfaction to know just how much he could say if
he so willed. He could tell the stupid engineers, ironmasters and
chemists something that would strike them dumb with amazement. He could
produce from its hiding-place a phial of pinky-white crystals that would
revolutionize the steel industry. And in good time he would.

For the moment he was rather uncertain as to his legal position. He was a
cautious man, with a powerful respect for the law. He was all for
respectability, desiring the good opinions of his fellows, and this was
probably his greatest weakness. For few people are respected by anybody,
and honesty is a negative quality. He was regarded as a safe man, quiet
and well spoken. His acquaintances said of him that he was 'quite the
gentleman', which, indeed, he was.

His home life was a continuous strain. His wife, twenty years his junior,
was twenty degrees lower in the social scale. He had, he told himself,
been deceived by the apparent social equality of all Americans, and had
not a sufficient acquaintance with the country and its customs to
differentiate between the grades of society which were so subtly but
surely separated in the 'seventies.

If he had lived fifty years later he would have occupied a new detached
villa, for which he would have paid by instalments. He would have been a
member of a golf club, and owned a small car. But the gradations of
English society in the 'seventies recognized only two classes: the upper
and the lower. The lower middle class was slowly emerging from its parent
stem and had not yet split into its multitude of branches and twigs.

It irritated him that he should live, because of his limited means, in a
poor-class neighbourhood, the tenant of a cheap house, and have as his
neighbours common and illiterate working men. Victoria Terrace epitomized
a social dead level. That he should have next door but one--happily
separated by empty premises--a horrible little man who followed the trade
of picture-frame maker and had, by all accounts, a most unwholesome past,
was a source of irritation. He resented Mr Peace; he bitterly resented
his wife's friendship with him. Intermittently he hated the ugly little
man who came sidling in at tea-time to have a clean cup set for him.
Worst of all, Peace was obviously trying to ingratiate himself into Mr
Dyson's good graces.

He was foul; kept secreted in a pocket a greasy packet of postcards which
somebody had brought from Paris. Judged by a later standard, they were no
more than indelicate, but the prim male in Mr Dyson was revolted by the
frills and the nudes and the leering smiles of his neighbour as he
exhibited them.

"I can't understand how you have that man in the house--faugh!" he said,
and opened the window ostentatiously. Mr Peace had paid one of his
evening calls.

"He's cute." said Mrs Dyson, "and a gentleman." she added. "I wish I
could say the same of you."

"Gentleman--huh!" Mr Dyson put on his carpet slippers and his worn
smoking jacket, and took down the meerschaum pipe which he kept on the
mantelshelf, and which was reaching a stage of ripe brownness.

"I like him; he's very clever; and when a man's clever you can forgive
anything," said the woman. "A clever man doesn't depend on weekly wages.
He'll always earn big money--and spend it."

Dyson looked at her with a cold and unfriendly eye. "Do you get enough to
eat, woman?" he asked.

"Just enough." she retorted, "and I earn it. I'm a hired help, but I get
no wages, and I've got the job for life!"

"You can go when you're tired of it," he said loftily.

"I'll go just when I want to go"--she did not raise her voice--"I'm a
slave here. You never take me out; I haven't had a dress for six months."

"Ask Peace to buy you a dress." It was an unfortunate remark. He dodged
just in time, and the saucer crashed into splinters on the wall behind
his head. In an instant he was on his feet.

"One of these days I'll give you a beating that you won't forget!" he
stormed.

She went out of the room and slammed the door behind her, and was gone a
long time. Half an hour passed; he put down the book he was reading and
went out into the garden behind. His wife was leaning on the separating
wall, talking to the abominable little man. Peace had a big, green parrot
perched upon his forefinger, and she was laughing loudly at its antics.
He called to her; she barely turned her head in his direction. Mrs Dyson
could be very trying.

Peace fascinated her. His repulsive ugliness was almost an attraction. He
was a mine of information (mainly wrong) on all sorts of subjects, about
which the average man had no knowledge. He could sing; he was an
excellent mimic; he could do things with his face that held her in an
almost hypnotic stupor. He could recite long scenes from Shakespeare,
play tunes of his own composition. One afternoon Mr Dyson returned home
early and found his wife sitting on the sofa, listening raptly to a
violin obbligato performed on a fiddle with one string. Even he was held
by the wild melody, and did not interrupt. When the tune was finished and
Peace was smirking his acknowledgments of her ecstatic praise, the storm
broke.

"Get out of here before I throw you out!" He gripped the little man by
the arm.

Peace very gently pried the fingers loose without an effort.

It was the first exhibition he had given the long man of his amazing
strength, and Mr Dyson was impressed, and his manner became milder.
Perhaps he thought that the quality of the little man's music raised him
from his lowliness, brought him nearer to the exalted plane on which
moved an engineer--a qualified professional man. He was quite affable the
next night, and of his own free will invited Peace in to tea. His
surrender set a disastrous example. When Mrs Dyson announced her
intention, a little defiantly, of going to Sheffield to see some pictures
at a gallery with her neighbour, he did not demur. Thereafter the trips
were made without any notification to him.

He was pleased, too, with the almost reverent way the little man had
framed some photographs of his. He told an acquaintance: "This man Peace
is not so bad. He's very common, of course, but he's rather amusing." The
man who finds vulgarity amusing takes two steps down.

She came back occasionally from these trips a little incoherent of speech
and flushed of face, too ready at the first hint of reproof to pick up
the thing nearest to her hand and throw it at the tall man. Except from
the annoying hurt to his dignity, he was glad to see her go out, because
he was a great dreamer.

He would go into his bedroom, lock the door, and, opening a bottom
drawer, take out a blue octagonal bottle of liniment, corked and sealed.
It was not exactly what it seemed. By pulling, the whole base of the
bottle came away, and in its centre was a small white phial, also corked
and sealed, full of little crystals which rattled musically when the
phial was shaken.

He used to muse on this, turning it over and over in his hand, dreaming
of a palatial London house, carriages and horses, and a box at the opera.
He had other dreams: of a wasted man who died in Cleveland, telling his
story with feverish and disconcerting rapidity. Mr Dyson had learned his
French from the dying man. The exercises of his youth, the confusion of
irregular verbs, had suddenly become a language, so that he could follow
the story that Eckhardt told, could even understand the intricate
processes which he described.

Eckhardt had taken a great liking to Mr Dyson, had probably mistaken his
dull silences for wisdom. It had been a fascinating page of life for Mr
Dyson. The golden gates of romance had come ajar and he had had a peep at
shattering visions. In this little phial was all the glamour of buried
treasure hunts, of hidden goldfields, without any of the fatigue and
expense of the seeking.

In his dreams Mrs Dyson had no part. She was a chattel, a difficult
servant, and no friend. If he ever wanted to take that step he could
divorce her. She was degrading him by her association with a man like
Peace...But Peace was quite amusing. An ugly little beast, but amusing.
Some days he loathed the man, would hardly speak to him in the street,
would brush past him with long strides and a gruff "I haven't any time."
There were scenes in the Dyson household; oppositions of quivering fury;
dramatic gestures; a sprinkling of bad language; much broken crockery. He
threw a hammer at her and bruised her shoulder. For a week afterwards he
had his meals out, and never drank a cup of tea until he had poured out a
little in a saucer for the cat, for Mrs Dyson had talked darkly of
prussic acid as a solution to her married misery. And he gathered that
she had no intention of committing suicide.

Dyson was proceeding slowly to the realization of his dreams. He had
visited Mr Wertheimer, a slim, volatile man who did most of his talking
with his hands; so full of energy that he ran where he could have walked,
and leapt where he could have run. A clever man, without that divine
spark of genius essential to complete success.

Mr Dyson used to spend evenings in the little cottage built within the
walls of the Silver Steel factory and talk of Eckhardt, who had once been
a personal friend and a daily companion of Wertheimer's. And whenever the
little Frenchman led the conversation in a dangerous direction, Mr Dyson
would temporize.

He released his information cautiously, item by item. They had known one
another for three months before Wertheimer had even a hint that the dead
man had discussed the formula with his visitor.

Eckhardt never had a chance of proving his crystals. He was taken ill
before the new crucibles were laid down; and, of course, he had no
money--not a dollar. The men who intended financing him were ruined in
the war--they were on the Confederacy side. Step by step he roused
Wertheimer's interest to fever pitch, and then one day he revealed the
fact that Eckhardt's secret was in his hands.

"He has made the steel! Look at that!" From his pocket he took a thin
strip of steel that had the appearance of silver.

Wertheimer seized it excitedly and carried it to the light.

"You have tested it? It is good?" he almost shouted, bending the strip
backwards and forwards. "You will give me this, that I may test it--?"

Dyson shook his head. "No fear," he said. He almost snatched the strip
from the reluctant hand of his host. "I am not a fool. You could analyse
that. No, that stays with me." Thenceforward began a haggling over terms.
Wertheimer did not speak for a week. Mr Dyson sat in his lonely
sitting-room with a pencil and paper, working out terms that would be
advantageous to himself.

Peace was a being transfigured in these days; wore his best suit almost
every day, and a flower in his buttonhole; was shaved by a barber and had
his shoes polished by a public boot-black. He was in love and exalted in
his passion. He also had his dreams: he would take Mrs Dyson to
Manchester, open a magnificent shop for her, spending as much as a
hundred pounds on stock. Owning a shop was, for Peace, the banner of
respectability. He had opened many, legitimately and illegitimately; had
plans in his head for an eating-house. This probably followed a
successful burglary of a Sheffield provision store, the perpetrator of
which was never discovered.

("Peace," said Baldy Eltham emphatically, "though it's a new lay with
him. Two cases of butter, four hams and a side of bacon. How he got 'em
away is a mystery to me. There was no money in the desk, and he couldn't
open the safe.")



CHAPTER XVIII


Madame Stahm had employed the Leeds inquiry agents for many other
purposes.

The list of her suspects now covered two sheets of paper. She had traced
not only the associates but the servants of the traitor Eckhardt.
Apparently the man had worked at Birmingham for a year before he went to
America, and she was obsessed with the notion that one of these was privy
to the very secret she was striving to unearth. Moreover, she had
succeeded in insinuating an agent of hers into the Silver Steel works,
and from him received bi-weekly reports. They were very comforting to
madame. She expressed her jubilation to her secretary.

"Wertheimer has failed. Yet I have an idea that the formula has been in
his hands and that he hasn't had the sense to understand it. This girl of
his in Manchester has studied science. Their correspondence has become
more and more vital, and I would like so much to know what he has told
her."

"You can't make a second attempt," suggested Baumgarten.

"Why not?" she demanded. "The girl's father is a diamond dealer. The
police hardly noticed the loss of the letters; they thought the burglar
was after a packet of stones which was in the house. They say that he was
disturbed, and think that he took the letters under the impression that
amongst them was the packet of diamonds. Why shouldn't he try again?
There would be nothing in the house of any value, so there would be no
extra guard. I must know what this man is writing to her."

Baumgarten bit off the end of a cigar and lit it. "We have not seen our
dear Charles for quite a long time. Has he made any report about the
Dysons?"

A glint of laughter came into the hard eyes of Madame Stahm. "Not yet. He
is making no progress at all, except in the wrong direction. He has
fallen in love with Madame Dyson."

Baumgarten leaned back in his chair and laughed softly. "The rat!" he
said. "Has it become serious?"

"As serious as it can become. They write each other letters, they meet
secretly, the husband is jealous, our Charles is boastful, but I have
learned nothing of Eckhardt which is of importance."

Baumgarten sharpened a pencil with maddening deliberation. "If the
husband is jealous does that seem to you very promising, my friend? Is it
not from the husband all information must be obtained? And if he is
antagonizing Herr Dyson, he seems to be defeating our ends. Does that
occur to you?"

"I don't know," she said. "Peace has been through their house while they
were away; he has examined all their papers, and could find nothing
directly or indirectly connected with Eckhardt and his experiments."

"Perhaps there is nothing to discover. Who knows?"

That Peace was madly in love, not for the first time in his life, was
ludicrously true. That he should choose the man who had flogged him as
the recipient of his confidences seemed amazingly impossible.

He came into Alan's surgery about eight o'clock one night, when the last
of the patients attending had gone. Alan's first inclination was to kick
him out, but the little man, with his ingratiating smile, his cheerful
buoyancy and his staggering friendliness, carried too many moral guns.

"I want to see you, doctor. You've always been a good friend of mine"
(Alan almost reeled under this shocking accusation) "and I'm in trouble.
I always say 'Go to a doctor if you're in trouble, not to a parson.'
Doctors are men of the world, parsons know all about heaven and hell and
sim'lar fancies, but they know nowt about life."

Alan pointed to a chair. "Sit down, you unspeakable little blackguard,"
he said, and Peace grinned and obeyed.

Apparently he was tickled by this method of address, for, when it soaked
into his mind, he rocked with silent laughter for fully a minute. When he
had recovered: "It's about a fancy matter. As a matter of fact, it's a
lady. She's one of the most lovely women I've ever seen, or you've ever
seen, doctor. There ain't a woman in England, not at Queen Victoria's
court or on the theatrical stage, that can hold a candle to her. And
she's gone off her head about me."

"You mean she's mad? I can well understand that," said Alan, wilfully
dense.

"She loves me and I love her; but her husband can't stand me."

"That is remarkable." said Alan.

Sarcasm was wasted on Peace. He was entirely devoid of any sense of
humour, and it struck Alan afterwards that if he had grown mirthful over
the gross insult he had offered him when he came into the surgery, it was
because he had regarded the description of himself as being grotesquely
wide of the mark and overstated.

"This lady--and she is a lady, bred and born--"

"Is she the woman I saw you with?" interrupted Alan brutally. "The woman
who was slightly the worse for drink?"

"She drinks very little," said Peace gravely, "and only then for pains in
her inside, so you might say its medicine. You can't deny, doctor, that
she's got beauty and grace."

"I do deny it rather emphatically," said Alan. "But don't let that arrest
the smooth flow of your ecstasies."

"I don't know what that means," said Peace, a little shortly, "but there
she is. And me and her don't know what to do. We thought of running away
to America, where she comes from--Cleveland, Ohio: it's near New York."

"And leaving her husband?" Peace nodded. "And leaving your wife?"

"She'd be better off without me," said Mr Peace comfortably. "I'm only a
lot of trouble to her. She'd be happier in the workhouse." The
cold-blooded relegation of his responsibility to the ratepayers took
Alan's breath away.

"I've given up thieving and burglaring," Peace went on. "I've seen the
error of my ways, doctor. I lay awake at night, thinking. Suppose I died
in my sin?"

He said this impressively. Alan could supply an immediate rejoinder. "I
expect the police are worrying about your not dying in your sins! Well,
what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to lend me a hundred pounds to pay me fare to America--me and
my love," said Peace, and the effrontery of it left Alan helpless.

"Have you asked Madame Stahm?" he demanded.

Peace shook his head. "I want another hundred pounds from her."

Alan eyed him steadily. He was no longer finding the interview funny. "I
suggest an easy way of getting a hundred pounds," he said. "Mr Wertheimer
offers that amount for any information that will lead to the arrest of
the people who kidnapped and killed the man Lamonte."

Peace stared at him blankly. "Never heard of him."

"You helped to kidnap him. I'm not suggesting that you killed him, but
you'll be an accessory before the fact, Peace, if we ever find the
murderer. I suggest to you that you see Mr Wertheimer, claim the reward,
suffer a few years' imprisonment, and come out and live a virtuous
life--in America, for preference."

Peace shook his head. "I've never heard of the man. I wouldn't hurt a fly
meself. You won't lend me the money? I thought you wouldn't."

"How right you were!" chuckled Alan. "Is that all you want to see me
about?"

"That's all." Peace put on his old cap and shuffled out of the surgery
without any adieu.

Why had he come at all? Not to borrow money. He could not have had a hope
of being successful. And if he hadn't come to borrow money, what was the
reason for this visit? the psychologist in Alan Mainford examined the
situation and found understanding. This little man was genuinely in love.
All the extravagant claims he made for Mrs Dyson he believed and
reaffirmed. It so obsessed him that he had to talk about it. When events
were on his mind he felt impelled to translate them into words for the
benefit of an audience, sympathetic or unsympathetic. He was so much in
love with this dreary, commonplace woman that he resented the commission
that Madame Stahm sent to him, even though it carried a reward greater
than any she had ever paid him before--that very hundred pounds which
would transport him to a land where his record was not known.

He met Baumgarten at the rendezvous and complained.

"The Manchester police are after me like a bird after seed," he grumbled.
"I dare not stick my nose there. I'm watched day and night. The
government know that I'm one of the most dangerous and cleverest
criminals in England."

"Are you afraid that whilst you're away somebody will steal your lady
love?" asked Baumgarten tactlessly, and Peace turned on him in a fury.

"Nobody could ever take a lady away from me!" he stormed. "If you think
you can, try it! They worship the ground I walk on. I'll smash your face
in if you say they don't! You've never been doted on--you don't know what
it's like. Women dote on me, and I'm a gentleman to them always!"

Baumgarten reported to his employer. "This man is getting dangerous. Let
me meet him one night and put him out...I could kill him so easily, and
it would be fun!"



CHAPTER XIX


Peace went to Manchester by a new route. He travelled by carrier's cart
to Leeds, a long and a tiresome journey which occupied the greater part
of the day. Avoiding the main stations, he picked up a slow train,
travelled through the night, and reached Liverpool in the early morning.
He came from Liverpool by an express that stopped at one station, and
stepped out at Manchester Central under the very eyes of the watchful
detectives without being recognized.

They saw only an old sailor man who, in place of one hand, showed a stump
and a steel hook. He had a seafaring cap on the back of his head and a
growth of grey beard. As he crossed the station, labouring under the
weight of a big, white kit-bag, nobody could have imagined that he was
anything but what he appeared--one of the hands of a ship that had been
paid off at Liverpool. His face was stained a dark brown, as though by a
tropical sun, though in reality he owed his rich brownness to the
well-applied matrix of a walnut, rubbed on his face between Liverpool and
his destination.

Hiring a cab, he drove to a new address, one that he had never used
before, and that evening set forth on what was to be the first serious
adventure of his life.

Police Constable Cock, who patrolled a beat at Whalley Range, was a man
with many enemies. He was, as has been said, officious, and, to a certain
class, offensive. Zeal in the performance of his duty had brought him
into conflict with the large class which lives on the edge of a criminal
career.

There were three brothers who lived in a little hut in a nursery garden;
steady men, except when one of them was in drink. Cock, who patrolled
near their dwelling place, was their bete noir. He had had them in court,
and they in turn had offered the usual threats as to what would happen to
an officious police constable if he continued to stick his nose into
their business.

Of a truth, their business was honest. They were hard-working men, who
tied lettuces and picked raspberries in the fields, and went to bed early
and rose with the dawn. Of their existence Peace had no knowledge.

He was not concerned with private feuds that night when he dropped over a
back wall and made his way to the house that he had burgled before. He
had only one desire, and that was to get back to Darnall and to the woman
who had enslaved him and who was now showing a distressing coolness.

It was an August night, rather cool. Rain had fallen, and that was all to
the good, for it emptied the streets of possible witnesses by the time
the moon "came out". The house from the back was in darkness. He saw no
light in the kitchen, but when he made an attempt to force the door, as
he had done on a previous occasion, he found it was bolted, and had
recourse to the pantry window, that never-failing avenue to illicit
gains.

He had an extraordinary memory for detail, observed unerringly that the
grandfather clock had been moved from one side of the passage to the
other, and that the stairs, which on his previous visit had had a red
carpet, were now covered with a carpet of a greenish hue.

The girl's bedroom was locked, but that presented no difficulty. In five
minutes he was in the room, and by the shaded light which a candle
lantern cast had cleared the bureau of correspondence.

There was no interruption; he closed the door behind him, went quickly
down the stairs, unbolted the back door and let himself out. Very
cautiously he came to the front of the house, walking on the grass to
avoid the noisy gravel. Although he could see or hear nothing, and there
was no apparent danger, he moved stealthily from one cover to another.

There was, it appeared, justification for this, for presently he heard
voices, and, peeping over the hedge, saw two policemen and a civilian
talking together three houses down the street, and on the opposite side
of the road. He saw one of the policemen go into a garden, presumably to
test the door. There was no time to be lost; he vaulted over the wall.

As he did so he saw a policeman crossing the road to meet him and
increased his pace. He heard the scrunch of heavy boots, and a hand
gripped him and pulled him round.

"I thought so!" said an exultant voice. "You're the little dog that gave
me a punch on the jaw!" Peace wrenched back, trying to free himself. The
policeman was groping for his whistle. Exerting all his strength, he tore
himself away. But the man was at his heels.

Peace spun round with a snarl. Before him he saw the drab vision of
Dartmoor, the loss of liberty, the loss of the woman...obliteration...a
life sentence.

His revolver came up. There was a crashing report...another. The
policeman staggered. Leaping over the wall, Peace ran quickly round a
house, crossed a fence at the back, over a field. He had no remorse, no
compunction. He had shot a natural enemy, killed him perhaps, and it did
not disturb his night's sleep.

He was back in Sheffield by the following afternoon, having taken a
circuitous route. But the real cause of his delay was his efforts to get
rid of the walnut stains on his face. In this he was partly
successful--Sergeant Eltham saw him in town and noticed nothing peculiar
about him.

There was no search for Peace, and for a good reason. When he opened the
newspaper that evening he read that three brothers named Harbron had been
arrested for the crime and would be charged with murder. The news
promised a novel and not unpleasing experience.

"I am going up to Manchester to hear that trial," he said.

Life was becoming a little difficult for him. Madame Stahm was more and
more exacting; but her chief offence lay in her vanished interest in
Peace the musician. No longer did she call him from his bed to soothe her
nerves. Once he had taken his fiddle with him, and had been expressly
asked not to play. He was cut to the quick, was almost in tears when he
left that grim house.

Mrs Dyson, too, was hurting him, had grown conscious of her power and was
avoiding him, giving as an excuse the jealousy of her husband. Peace had
tried to make friends with him, had waylaid him in odd places, forced his
attentions upon the thin man, and had been rebuffed rudely. And when he
had tried to speak to this bold pink-faced woman she had met his advances
coldly, and her studied politeness developed into recriminations. She
could storm like a fish-wife, arms akimbo, wagging her head in her fury.

"How dare you tell my husband you'll take him out and show him the
sights!" she demanded shrilly. "My husband is a gentleman!"

"Ain't I a gentleman?" demanded the little man, tremulous with rage.

"He'll be a rich gentleman, too. He could buy Darnall lock, stock and
barrel. He'll be worth millions..." Peace was desperate. Out came that
snub-nosed revolver of his; his face was working convulsively, his lips
flecked with foam. He had the appearance of a savage dog of an uncertain
breed. They screamed at one another like two furies before she went in
and slammed the door behind her.

He was losing ground, becoming unimportant. It worried him, set him
gnawing his knuckles in the little kitchen which he had turned into a
workroom. Not once did he think of the dead policeman and three agonized
men awaiting trial for their lives for the crime he had committed. If he
read about them, as he did in the newspapers, he took an impersonal
interest in the event, and found the satisfaction which is only to be had
by the man who has exclusive knowledge, and knows all outside conjectures
to be hopelessly wrong.

He had read of the inquest and the account of the police court
proceedings, had noticed certain discrepancies which he felt like
rectifying. One witness said he saw a dirty little tramp near the scene
of the murder. Peace was furious, knowing that it was he who had been
seen. But these were the merest sidelights of interest: he concentrated
his attention upon the woman who had loved him, spent his nights prowling
round the house, peering into windows, overlooking the couple as they sat
at their meal, hurtling notes at her, some of which never reached their
objective.

He did everything he could to bring her back to him. The heart of the man
was wrung with grief in those days. He set his parrot and his canaries on
the wall, where she could see them; left in her path significant
souvenirs of their secret rendezvous; and when he learned that she was
preparing to move away he grew frenzied, attacked the husband in the
street and threatened him. The dyspeptic Mr Dyson, in genuine fear of his
life, applied for a warrant. When Baldy came to serve it, his quarry,
warned in advance, had gone. It was Madame Stahm who offered him
seclusion and sanctuary.

But one night spent in that big house was enough for Peace. He came back
to his old haunts secretly. He saw the woman go out and dogged her
footsteps, watched the preparations for their departure and decided to
trail them.

One night Mrs Dyson went out and left by train for an unknown
destination. Peace came back like a lost soul to the house she had left.
He was watching it, brooding on it from a secluded hiding-place, when a
cab drove up and a man alighted. Evidently he instructed the cabman to
wait farther up the road. He talked to the man for a while, and in the
light of the lamp Peace recognized the visitor.

Wertheimer!

He became suddenly the bond slave of Madame Stahm, and for once pleasure
accorded with duty, for Wertheimer went straight to the Dysons' house and
was instantly admitted by a servant, who had evidently been waiting for
the arrival of the cab.

A slight mist was rising. If it grew thicker it would be to the advantage
of the little mall. He slipped round the back of the house and made a
brief survey of the situation. The kitchen door was unlocked. The Dysons
had an occasional servant, but she was a daily girl.

Slipping off his shoes, he walked into the kitchen, opened the door
carefully and listened. He heard the murmur of voices in the front room.
To all appearance from the front of the house this room was in darkness.
He discovered later that the heavy curtains had been drawn across the
windows. The door of the drawing-room was closed and he heard
Wertheimer's excited voice: "...Proof, my friend, proof...Always you are
telling me, but never you give me proof."

"Wait a minute!" He heard the high-pitched voice of Dyson and his step as
he crossed the room.

Peace had time to shrink under the stair when the door opened and the man
came out. If he went to the kitchen and turned his head he could not fail
to see the intruder. Fortunately, he went upstairs, was gone a few
minutes, returned again and closed the door behind him, a little
carelessly, for the catch did not fasten, and after a while the door
moved slightly ajar. Peace crept nearer.

Through this narrow aperture he saw the two men. The room itself was in
disorder; the pictures had been taken down in preparation for the Dysons'
departure to another house. They sat at the bare table, and the long man,
who towered grotesquely above his companion, held in his hand a large
phial which was heavily sealed and bore a white label. It contained
something which rattled metallically when he shook it.

"Now, I'm telling you," said Dyson. He had a slight American accent.
"Eckhardt gave me this a week before he died."

"Why didn't you say so before?" demanded the agitated voice of
Wertheimer.

"I wasn't going to show my hand. I made you an offer--you have to trust
me--"

"I trust nobody," said Wertheimer, "nobody, nobody! Why should I? She has
taken my men, and she has killed them--I know. Am I a fool? Am I stupid?
Do I not see? I can trust nobody. If you had told me you had the
crystals--"

"I told you yesterday."

"May I have the bottle?" demanded Wertheimer.

Peace saw the tall man draw the phial back.

"No, you can' t. I'd look foolish if I let you have the phial. All you'd
have to do would be to analyse it, and where should I be? I can give you
all the information you want--temperatures, everything. He told me that
before he died and I made a note of it, here!" He tapped his narrow
forehead.

Wertheimer was half convinced. He looked hungrily at the little bottle
which contained all that he had sought for so many years. The crystals
were agglomerate, he guessed. There would be half a dozen or more
chemical elements that must be separated.

"You have tried to sell to Madame Stahm?"

"I won't deal with her." Dyson's voice was raised haughtily. "Eckhardt
told me about her, and I promised him. I'm the sort of man that never
breaks a promise. There's my price, Mr Wertheimer: I want sixty thousand
pounds cash, which I'll undertake to put in a bank and not touch. I'll
also undertake that if this process does not give you what you want, the
money shall be refunded. I can't say fairer than that."

Sixty thousand pounds! Peace gasped. Sixty thousand...! His head swam at
the colossal figure. That bottle was worth all that money! Beads of sweat
broke out on his forehead as the significance of this conversation slowly
began to dawn upon him.

He made up his mind quickly. If Wertheimer agreed and carried the bottle
away with him, he would take it. If the bottle remained in the house he
would take it. Madame Stahm must know.

Dyson crossed the room to close the door. Peace shrank back down the
passage and waited in the kitchen, listening to the murmur of voices.
There was no need to take any risk. When the door opened, somebody would
say something which would tell him all he wanted to know. He had not long
to wait: the parlour door opened again, and he heard Wertheimer's voice:
"...not so much money at the bank, but it is procurable. You will see me
on Saturday, when I shall arrange." So the phial was to remain in the
house.

Peace slipped out through the kitchen door and regained his place of
observation at the front of the house. He saw Wertheimer come out and
drive away, and ten minutes after the front door opened and Dyson, in a
heavy ulster, came out and walked swiftly in the direction that his
visitor had taken.

Peace waited till he was out of sight and worked his way to the back of
the house. But now the kitchen door was closed and bolted. With the
agility of a monkey he swung himself up to the top of the kitchen roof,
pushed up a sash and was in the house and the Dysons' bedroom in a few
minutes.

He was handicapped by having made no preparations for a search. There was
a street lamp which afforded a certain amount of light. He dared not put
a match to a candle for fear Dyson came back or somebody saw him. He
began his search of the untidy bedroom in the half dark, groping beneath
pillows, under mattresses, in drawers and cupboards, fumbling through
packets and finding nothing.

None of the drawers was locked; that was an ominous sign. Would the long
man have taken the bottle with him? It seemed possible. Indeed, it
amounted to a certainty, he decided.

He crept out of the house the way he had come, closed the window
noiselessly behind him, and dropped from the kitchen roof to the ground.

Where had Dyson gone? He was not a man who went abroad at night, though
he was a member of a political club. All that night Peace hung about,
waiting for the tall man's return. When he came, and Peace saw his
companion, he knew that for the night no attempt could be made. Walking
by Dyson's side, and looking absurdly small, was the bearded Baldy. He
was talking loudly. Peace heard his name mentioned as he melted into the
darkness.

It was nearly two o'clock in the morning when he pulled the rusty bell at
Brinley Hall. He had had a long and tiring walk; he was hungry; jealousy
and cupidity had intensified his natural ferocity. Baumgarten, a man of
keen mental perceptions, sensed the mood of the man when he admitted him,
and did not attempt to be facetious.

"Madame is in bed."

"Then Madame had better get up," said Peace loudly. "And I want some food
and a quart of beer." Peter Baumgarten was more intrigued than annoyed.
He showed his visitor into a small dining-room and, ringing the bell for
a servant, gave orders for a meal to be served.

"What brings you out so late tonight, Mr Peace?"

"Mr Peace, eh?" sneered the little man. "That's not the way you talked
to me the last time I was here. Are you going to wake the old girl?"

"Madame Stahm has been informed that you are here. If she wishes to see
you she will see you." They brought in a folding table and opened it
before the uncouth figure who sat huddled in a chair. Baumgarten went to
his desk; this was his own bureau.

"I've got something private to tell her. She knows me. I don't come out
here in the middle of the night for nowt." He was in his ugliest temper.
Baumgarten had never seen him in such a mood before, and wondered what
would be the effect one upon the other of this truculent little man and
Madame Stahm. All day long she had been moody, difficult to deal with.
She had had a fit of hysteria following Baumgarten's very sane revelation
that already she had spent more money in pursuing the phantom steel than
she could hope to recover in her lifetime.

Whilst he was pondering this matter she swept into the room. Usually she
was careful about her appearance, fussed over her toilette for hours. The
very fact that she came into the room wearing her oldest dressing-gown
was in itself a danger signal.

"What do you want?" she demanded of Peace. He glowered up at her, his
jaws munching. "Do you think you can come here when you wish, little
murderer?"

He thought of a dozen retorts, but offered the only one that was likely
to produce a sensational reaction. "That Dyson has got a bottle of
crystals that he's selling to Wertheimer for sixty thousand pounds."

There was a dead silence.

"Crystals? What do you mean?" Her voice and her manner changed instantly.
"Now, little man, don't be cross with me. I do not like to be wakened up
in the middle of the night. What crystals?"

He enjoyed his sensation. "A fellow gave them to him in
America--Eck--something."

"Eckhardt!" Baumgarten and the woman spoke together. Peace nodded.

"That's what the long fellow said. Eckhardt lived with him."

"I know that," said Madame Stahm. "He is offering them for sixty thousand
pounds...has he sold the crystals to Wertheimer?"

"No, he hasn't," said Peace. "Wertheimer ain't got the money. After
they'd both gone out I got into the house and searched the bedroom, but
there was nothing there; no drawers locked, or cupboards or trunks or
anything, I didn't lose any time, me lady. When I heard what they were
talking about, said I to meself: 'That bottle goes to Madame Stahm.'"

She leaned over and patted his hand, her face, beaming. "Good man! And
you got them?"

"No, I keep telling you I didn't get them," he growled. "This fellow must
have had 'em with him. I waited till he came back, but Baldy was with
him, and Baldy carries a shooter."

She said something very quickly to Baumgarten in Russian, and he replied
in the same language.

"Now tell me everything, my dear little friend--every word."

Peace had one remarkable gift: his memory was stenographic. What he told
his attentive audience now was a faithful record of the conversation he
had overheard, adding nothing, subtracting nothing. The woman pinched her
lower lip, deep in thought, her eyes fixed upon the carpet.

"He had it all the time, then," she said slowly, "waiting for the moment.
That is why he has been negotiating with Wertheimer. He would not come
here because Eckhardt made him promise--Eckhardt is a devil, a beast!"
Baumgarten said something else in Russian and she nodded. "You can get
him? You can watch him day and night."

"No, I can't," growled Peace. "There's a warrant out for me. I dare not
go near the place. If I could get them to withdraw that it would be
easy." Evidently she knew about the warrant. There must have been
something in the newspapers about it.

"You are a little fool to threaten people and to produce your ridiculous
revolver in public. You are too free with that revolver. Some day it will
bring you to the gallows."

He was in no mood to be told his faults. Rather, he desired a little
praise for his enterprise and acumen. He said as much.

"Of course you have been wonderful," she soothed him. "But that bottle of
crystals, my friend, that we must have." Again Baumgarten spoke in
Russian, and she replied at some length.

"Very good," she said. "You can stay here, my little dear. I will have a
bed made for you, and you shall go out again and find me the bottle and
the crystals, and you shall be a rich man."

Peace lay in a bed of unparalleled luxury that night, but he did not
sleep. Where had Dyson hidden the phial? He was almost certain that the
man had not taken it out with him, that it was still somewhere in that
room, in a place easy of access.

What had he seen in the room? In one of the drawers he had found an
octagonal bottle of liniment; it was securely corked and sealed, a bottle
of a popular remedy which could be bought at the chemist's and obviously
had not been opened. He had found a set of surveyors' drawing
instruments, an old tobacco jar. There could be no panels in the wall;
the room was papered and the walls were of the thinness one expects in
that class of house. Behind the pictures? Or in the box mattress?

No, it was somewhere where he could slip it away in an instant, recover
it in an instant. He had not been upstairs more than a minute. He had
followed Wertheimer out of the house in almost as short a space of time,
and even then he had had leisure to lock and bolt the back door.

Peace tossed from side to side all through the night, long after dawn
came, thinking over and revisualizing every object he had seen in the
room, and an idea began to take definite shape in his mind--he resolved
to put his theory to the test that night.

He had many friends in Darnall, friends he met frequently, who gave him
information as to the activities of the police. One of these he had
charged to see Dyson and bring them to withdraw the charge against him.

To say that his neighbours were ignorant of his true character is paying
small tribute to their intelligence. Mr Dyson might suspect, but surely
the shrewd Mrs Dyson knew. Peace was a boaster, a man who could not keep
that glib tongue of his from wagging. Mrs Dyson, in fact, had no doubt as
to the truth about the man long before the break came.

Peace managed to convey word to a crony and met him in a field. He gave
detailed instructions to the man, who was all too willing to be his
agent. At eleven o'clock that night, when most of the shops were closed,
there came a knock at the Dysons' door and the tall man answered it. He
recognized the neighbour.

"Well, what do you want?" He was a man superior to his environment and
never lost sight of the fact.

The caller told a glib story. One of his children had been taken ill, and
he wanted to know if they had any Selby's Liniment in the house.

"No, we haven't," said Dyson brusquely, and shut the door in the caller's
face.

That ruffled man went in search of Peace and told him, and Charles Peace
grinned. Now he knew that his guess had been a shrewd one. The bottle
contained no liniment, was not even a bottle in the strict sense of the
word. There was an aperture in its base, into which a smaller phial might
fit. He had seen such things used by people who smuggled narcotics from
the Continent. That was where the precious crystals were.

When he went to sleep it was broad daylight, but he slept long and
soundly, for he had the contented mind of one who had overcome great
difficulties.



CHAPTER XX


There came to Alan Mainford's surgery that day, at the usual visiting
hour, an abnormally tall man. He had the superior manner of one who
desired to be regarded as an equal, and Alan had too large an
acquaintance with the type to look upon him as being in any way singular.

His complaint was a prosaic one; a fish-bone had lodged in his attenuated
throat, and if he had been enduring a major operation without the
employment of anaesthetics he could not have made a greater fuss. Lying
on a couch, which his long legs overlapped, he demanded caution, care,
particulars of the instruments to be used, the amount of pain to be
inflicted, the danger to be faced, the possibilities of complications and
after-effects--all this preliminary to the insertion of a mirror and
forceps. When the actual extraction began he writhed, gripped Alan's arm,
almost swallowed the mirror. Finally Alan went in search of Jane Garden.
She was in her room, enjoying a day's rest.

"I've got two yards of childhood on my sofa. He's got a fish-bone in his
throat. Will you come and help me? Perhaps your presence will shame him
into behaving like a grown-up man." She put down her book and followed
him down the wooden steps into the yard.

But her presence had little effect upon the patient, except to increase
his alarm, when she was introduced as "Nurse Garden."

"My God, is it as bad as that?" he asked, hollowly. "Do you think you
ought to see another surgeon, doctor?"

"I've brought this lady here," said Alan wearily, "in the hope that
you'll be so heartily ashamed of making a fuss in a woman's presence that
you'll let me do this simple little job--it isn't even an operation." It
was a quarter of an hour before he grabbed the end of the bone and
brought it to light.

"Thank God that's over!" said the visitor, mopping his brow. "Dyson's my
name. I'm an engineer up at L.N.E. I'm not used to English surgeons; I've
been in America for some time. The surgery is more up-to-date there."

"Do they swallow fish-bones in America too?" asked Alan innocently.

"I don't know whether they swallow fish-bones," said the other stiffly,
"but they know how to take them out. What is your fee?"

"I shall charge you nothing," said Alan; "the experience has been worth
the money." His visitor evidently had little sense of humour. He also had
no regular medical attendant, he confessed. What was very apparent was
that he had been very frightened and very much shaken by this little
inconvenience, Alan bade him sit down for a little while before he went
out, and brought him a brandy and soda.

Under the influence of the stimulant he relaxed, and though he was not
usually a talkative man, and his pomposity was a little irritating, he
became quite interesting on the habits and customs of the native-born
American.

"In Cleveland I had a wonderful home. It's quite different here. A slum,
sir, with the most dreadful people for neighbours. There is no
accommodation in Sheffield for a gentleman of limited means: he must
either herd with the swine or go out into the country, which is extremely
inconvenient, although naturally I should have a free pass over the
railway. Are you interested in steel?" Alan was not interested in steel.

"I have a slight interest in a patent converter," began Mr Dyson.

Alan laughed.

"It's difficult to meet anybody in Sheffield who hasn't a slight interest
in a patent converter," he said. "You can't get into the Patent Office
for the crowd. Everybody in Sheffield is inventing something, if it's
only an excuse for not paying their doctors."

"If--" began Dyson, his hand moving towards his pocket.

"That was a tactless remark, but I am not your doctor; and it is
notorious that the good Samaritan had no pay for his service. All the bad
Samaritans, one presumes, charge double." He had Mr Dyson at sea here.
Just as he was going, the tall man--he must have stood six feet six in
height--asked casually: "I suppose you wouldn't know--no, of course, you
wouldn't."

"I wouldn't know a converter from a crucible, if that's what you were
going to ask me."

"No, I was not," said Mr Dyson testily. "You've told me you know nothing
about steel--that is sufficient. The man I was going to mention is a
person called Peace."

"What--Charles Peace?" Alan's eyebrows rose.

"Do you know him?"

"In a sense I know him," smiled Alan. "I had the satisfaction of
horsewhipping him the other day, and on a previous occasion I had the
great pleasure of knocking him down in the presence of his fair but
inebriated lady friend."

Dyson blinked at this. "You knocked him down? Was that about...?" He gave
a date, and Alan, considering, nodded.

 "Did he throw a man over the fence into a glass frame?"

"Oh! You saw it, too, did you?" asked Alan.

"No, sir," said Mr Dyson. He had become suddenly very stiff. "The
lady--um--was not his lady friend, as you call it, she was--um--my
wife." He coughed. Alan was momentarily embarrassed. "When you say she
was--um--inebriated--"

"I mean, of course, that she was overcome by the heat," said Alan.

The tall man considered this for a long time, staring gloomily at the
carpet. "She is a good wife, but a little--um--wilful. It is a great
mistake to marry, as it were, beneath one. Classes should not mix. I am
moving my home in consequence. It is--um--very unfortunate." He paused
again. Alan was at a loss for words, excuses, pleasing lies. He also
maintained a silence which had in it the quality of discretion. "But she
was not inebriated. Good morning."

"An extraordinary man," said Jane, when he rejoined her in the
sitting-room.

"A friend of a friend of Peace, he said, but not, I gather, a personal
friend of Peace. Mr Dyson--I've got an idea I've heard about him. He's so
tall he had to have a special desk built for him."



CHAPTER XXI


In the evening business took Peace to Banner Cross, and here he had a
shock.

Almost the first person he saw when he reached that suburb was Mr Dyson.
There was no mistaking that lanky man; he towered above all other
pedestrians. Mrs Dyson was trotting at his side, a subdued but rather
dignified Mrs Dyson, conscious of her coming wealth and position,
fearfully anxious perhaps to end a friendship which was proving as
dangerous as it was distasteful.

They turned abruptly and went into a house. The "To Let" signs were still
pasted on the windows. This was where they were moving, then. Peace noted
the house, and, making his way to the region of Darnall, met his wife and
made secret arrangements for moving his home to Hull. Obviously he could
no longer stay in that neighbourhood unless the warrant against him was
withdrawn.

The Dysons' house at Darnall was dark, untenanted. Somebody told him that
the moving had not begun. He went round to the back, found the kitchen
window open and got inside. The furniture was packed up ready for
removal. The bed in the front room had been taken to pieces, and was a
disordered litter of iron laths and rolled mattresses. He saw that the
dressing-table had been moved, and his heart sank. Pulling open drawer
after drawer, his fears were realized; the contents had been taken out.
The bottle was probably in Dyson's pocket at that moment.

If he could see the woman, have a few words with her, his quest might be
simplified. But he dared not show his face in daylight--not in Darnall.

He slept in the town that night and was at Banner Cross early in the
morning. He even went into the house to reconnoitre before the furniture
van arrived. After a few hours it came. Mr Dyson had a day off from the
office, arriving genteelly by cab. Peace waited till the man had gone in,
then made his bold move. The woman heard her name called and turned with
a frightened start.

"What are you doing here?" she quavered. "You wicked man...don't you know
there's a warrant out for you?"

"There'll be a warrant out for you, me lady," he said unpleasantly. "I
want you to help me--get him to go to the police and withdraw that
summons."

She looked round fearfully; her husband was not in sight, but there were
curious spectators, some of whom must have recognized Peace. She had made
a solemn vow to her husband that she would never see the man again. "I
can't; he wouldn't do it."

"Suppose I show him the letters?"

Her eyes opened wide. "Have you got them? You said you burnt them!"

Peace grinned. "It doesn't matter what I said, I've got them all right.
Suppose I show him those little notes that the grocer's boy brought, eh?
That'd make him sit up! And you too. See me tonight."

"I can't," she said desperately. "Be reasonable, Charles."

"Don't call me Charles; my name's Mr Peace," he said bitterly. "After all
I've done for you, the music I've played for you, the things I've told
you, the money I've spent on you!"

"We're going away tonight," she said quickly. "Come back in a week's
time. Our living-room is at the back. If you whistle I'll hear you."

"What are you going away for?" he asked suspiciously.

"We're going to London. Mr Dyson has a holiday."

Should he tell her about the bottle? The idea occurred to him but was
instantly rejected. In her present mood she would certainly betray him,
and Dyson would find some other hiding place.

She was terrified now lest her husband should see her and almost pushed
him away just before Dyson came to the door to look for her.

"Who was that man?" He was a little short-sighted and had not recognized
Peace.

"The milkman," she said glibly. "He wanted to know if he could supply us
with butter and eggs." Whether she was telling the truth about going away
for her holiday, Peace did not trouble to investigate. His curiosity was
calling him to Manchester. The trial of the Harbron brothers was to start
on the following Tuesday. Mr Peace promised himself a new sensation. It
was characteristic of him that when he arrived in Manchester, though he
was unchallenged at the station, he should go immediately to the Central
Police Office and report his presence.

"I'm up here on business, sir," he said to the inspector.

"What business?" asked that sceptical official.

Peace told the truth.

"Want to go into court and hear the trial?" said the amazed inspector.
"Don't you get enough experience out of your own trials, Peace--we've had
you here twice, haven't we?"

"Yes, sir, twice for a sixer. I was innocent, but I bear no malice. One
thing they do teach you in prison, sir, is Christian charity. I'm a
different man now, sir--I'd rather have me right hand cut off than take a
penny that didn't belong to me."

"Where's your harp, angel?" asked the brutal cynic. "No, I'm afraid I
can't get you a ticket for the public gallery: you'll have to take your
place and get admission with the others. You'll be doing a little
burglary, I suppose, to pass the long winter evenings?"

Peace smiled sadly. "In the evenings," he said simply, "I knit!" Which
was true. Most of the socks he wore were of his own manufacture. The
inspector had something facetious to say about fancy needlework, but he
was in a good humour and that was everything.

Peace watched the opening of the trial with professional interest. He
knew all the routine of it, though he had never seen a murder trial
before or noticed that the Clerk of the Court used the phrase with which
the trial opened.

"Gentlemen of the jury, the prisoner whom you have in charge pleads not
guilty and puts himself on God and his country." He wondered if he, when
he stood in exactly the same place as the two anxious looking men were
standing (one had been discharged), would put himself on God and his
country. He rather liked the phrase and repeated it to himself. Yet...

Suppose a man were an atheist? They'd no right to bring religion into it
without a prisoner's permission. And suppose he were a foreigner, how
about his country then? Peace invariably argued matters like this.

The men in the dock interested him: big, ungainly fellows, obviously
distressed by their position. He was curious to know what circumstances
had brought them there. It was a great lark, sitting up in the gallery,
elbows on the ledge, chin resting on the back of his mittened hands,
watching two men being tried for a murder which he had committed! He felt
no compunction, no pity, no uneasy stirring of conscience.

He was impatient to know how the police had pieced together this charge
against them. Lies, of course--the police always lied. They were never
happy unless they were getting some poor bloke into quod. But what kind
of lies?

He sat immobile whilst the opening counsel eulogized the devotion and
patriotism of the dead policeman. How did the prisoners come into it? He
learned very soon. There had been a police court case against them; they
had threatened the dead man in the hearing of landladies and barmaids and
casual drinkers at the pub which they frequented. They were poor men: two
of three brothers, who lived in a hut planted in the middle of a fruit
garden owned by a nurseryman. Nobody had seen them shoot the man, but
there were the footprints.

A pompous and completely self-satisfied inspector produced the boots.
Peace knew that thousands of men were wearing boots of a similar pattern,
with exactly the same number of nails, but the jury were impressed. He
was highly dramatic, this police inspector; described his deductions, how
he rushed into the hut where the prisoners were sleeping, how, with great
prescience, and before he knew anything about the footprints, he had
taken the prisoners' boots away; and the jury were more impressed.

The judge was nervous; a new man to Peace, obviously inexperienced. He
had not even the courage of other people's convictions, for he
vacillated, disagreed with both counsel in turn, and offered conclusions
which were acceptable to neither.

Day after day Peace listened, until there arrived the fatal moment when
the black cap was spread on the judge's head, and, in sober terms, he
sent one of the brothers to the scaffold and one to freedom.

"I don't believe he done it."

The member of the public who offered this opinion to his fellow occupant
of the public gallery was Mr Charles Peace.

"I think," said the man to whom he addressed the remark, "they all ought
to have been hung--all three of 'em. There's too many Irish in
Manchester." He was a typical member of the great proletariat.

Peace was very impressed and moved, for he had never seen a murder trial
before. The inspector, who happened to be in the court, met him as he
emerged and asked him his impressions.

"I don't think he done it, sir," said Peace again.

"Can you suggest who did?" asked the other sarcastically. "You wouldn't
like to say that you did it, would you?"

Peace shook his head. "Human life is sacred to me, sir," he said. "I've
never hurt a fly."

"I'd like to hear what the flies say about that before I believe you,"
said the officer.

Which, as Peace said, was ridiculous, for flies can't talk, unless their
buzzing is a language.



CHAPTER XXII


His stay in Manchester had not been unprofitable. There were others who
were less fortunate. The man who sat next to him on the first day
confessed to him over a pot of beer and some bread and cheese that he was
on his beam-ends. He was a very respectable-looking man, smooth-faced,
deferential, nicely spoken. He had been a butler in a noble family at St
Anne's. Butler--like, he put this interpretation upon his employment. He
had, in fact, been a parlour-man to a wealthy Liverpool shipbroker, who,
in some mysterious fashion, and for services which were rather obscure,
had received the honour of knighthood. He had left because he couldn't
stand her ladyship.

All this he said over the first lunch. At the second Peace heard more of
the truth. The handyman had left in a hurry, and his exit had been
accelerated by the toe of the broker's boot. There was a little silver
missing, not enough to justify a prosecution. There was a weeping
housemaid and a furious mother to be appeased.

The broker knight very generously said that the girl could come back and
resume her employment after it was all over.

Peace had no patience with liars, and, once he had discovered a
discrepancy, was not satisfied until he had the stark truth. But he liked
the man; he was well spoken, a gentleman; more of a gentleman than Mr
Dyson. He might be extremely useful.

Peace pigeon-holed him for future reference, asked questions about the
house, the quantity and quality of the silver, the method of safeguarding
the household treasures. Was there a dog? The pantry window, now--did it
have all those silly bars in front of it? All of which the ex-servant
answered to Peace's satisfaction, but added information which was less
entertaining.

"The governor's a great pistol shot," he said. "The walls of the library
are covered with prizes--a left-handed shooter. I've seen him hit a
sixpence when it was tossed in the air. He's got seven revolvers in the
gun-room, all of them presented to him..." Peace changed the subject and
lost all interest in the broker knight and his indubitable treasures.

It was on his advice that Carton--that was the name he gave--came with
him to Sheffield.

"I know Sheffield--I used to work for a gentleman."

"He must have come to Sheffield when I wasn't there," said Peace
sarcastically.

Until this moment Peace had been very reticent, and spoken scarcely at
all of himself. On the journey, warming to the companionship and sympathy
of his newfound friend, he told the story of his life, his loves, and
some of his adventures. He explained his importance, hinted at wealthy
friends; but always the subject came back to the chatelaine of a newly
rented house in Banner Cross.

"I've only got to lift me finger and she'd leave her husband tomorrow.
She's always saying 'Charles, take me away.' Wants me to open a shop in
Liverpool. A lady, mind you. There ain't a prettier girl in England."

"This girl I was telling you about--" began the ex-butler.

"It's funny how women dote on me," Peace went on. "There was a girl in
Hull that used to follow me about the streets like a dog. I had to stop
her. I said: 'It's not ladylike.' When I got up in the morning she'd be
sitting on the step, waiting for me to open the door. She was one of the
most beautiful creatures you ever saw; rather a stout girl with red hair.
I never did like thin women."

"This girl I was telling you about--" the butler began again.

"I've broke up more homes than any man you could name," said Peace. "I've
never wanted to--I'm a God-fearing man. There's a woman up in Manchester
who committed suicide because I wouldn't talk to her--as pretty as a
picture, she was, and her husband was a titled gentleman. There's a
ladyship down in Sheffield that cries if I don't go and see her."

"This girl I was talking about--" said the butler for the third and last
time.

"It's something in a man," said Peace. "It's not his looks or his age or
his height, It's his spirit."

"I daresay," said the butler, relapsing into baffled silence.

When Peace reached the house of call where messages were left for him, he
received an urgent summons to attend upon his wealthy employer. He had
only five minutes to reach the place where the victoria was waiting, but
he might have been more leisurely if he had foreseen the slowness of that
drive. A heavy fog had settled on the countryside, and the horses moved
at a walking pace almost throughout the whole of the journey.

He did not go to the Hall. Half-way from Sheffield a big cottage stood
back from the road. To Peace's knowledge it had been unoccupied for four
years and was reputedly haunted, since its previous owner had hanged
himself in an outhouse.

Before this habitation the victoria stopped.

"The lady's in there," said the coachman, speaking with some difficulty,
for he had a very slight knowledge of the English language.

Peace got down grumbling, opened the gate, walked down the flagged path
and knocked at the door. It was Baumgarten who admitted him.

"You're late, my friend," he said, and closed the door. Then, taking the
little man almost affectionately by the arm, he led him into a large
front room, which smelt musty and was only half furnished.

"Madame Stahm will be down in a little time," he said. "She has taken
this cottage to be nearer to the works. Also"--he looked Peace straight
in the eyes "to make a home for a little friend of ours who may find it
convenient to be a long time absent from Sheffield."

"Me, do you mean?" asked Peace in surprise.

Baumgarten nodded. "We have heard of your sufferings and the trouble you
have had with the police, my poor friend." His sympathy was entirely
spurious, but Peace, for all his peculiar perceptions, was impervious to
sarcasm, and seldom recognized it. On the other hand, he was ready to
accept even oblique tributes to his importance. "Madame bought the house
for a few hundred pounds. There are provisions here; these will save you
the trouble and risk of going to the shops. If you could think of a man
who would act as servant here without exciting the suspicion of the
police, that would make it easier."

"Don't talk to me about servants," said Peace, roughly. "What's the lay?
You mean I've got to stay here till things blow over? Suppose the police
came?"

"This is the last place in the world they would think of searching."

The little man looked around uneasily. "I don't see through all this
gammon," he said. "The police warrant is nothing. I'm going to get the
lady to withdraw the summons. What can they charge me with? Nothing!"

"The police warrant is unimportant," said Baumgarten. "What follows may
be another matter. We are prepared for all emergencies. Above this
floor"--he pointed upwards--"is a little attic. Nobody would dream there
was an attic there at all. You might hide there for years and nobody
would suspect. If you had a friend who could act as servant it would be
all the easier--I am thinking only of your convenience." The nimble mind
of Peace went immediately to his newest acquaintance--Carton, the
ex-butler. But such a man could only be trusted to a limited degree; to
what extent must he be taken into his confidence?

"What do you want me to do--is it the bottle? That's easy. I'll do that
job any night, and I'll defy the best copper in Sheffield to say it was
me. I don't want a servant for that, do I?"

There was a rustle of silk skirts in the hall. "Here is madame," said
Baumgarten.

She came: in, radiant, both hands outstretched. Peace had never received
such a welcome in his life, and was embarrassed.

"My little friend, you don't know how we have wanted you! Have you
brought your fiddle? No? That will do some other time. Sit down. Do you
like your new home?" The words gave him a new interest in the cottage--a
proprietorial interest that was novel and pleasing.

He looked around him. He had never occupied such a house as this. It was
too big, too much fresh air in it perhaps, and for this reason the
prospect of settling in an establishment of this size was not
particularly alluring.

Also, his mentality was such that he could only appreciate that which was
hardest to come by. He could spend a night stealing trumpery articles of
jewellery and find a great contentment in exaggerating their value,
deceiving nobody but himself. The gift horse became almost automatically
a thing of flaws.

"My wife wouldn't like it--"

"Oh, la! Your wife! Do I ever speak of your wife, little friend? To me
you are singular; you have no bonds or chains. This is for you alone."
She turned to Baumgarten. "Did you tell him?"

He shook his head. "Only that this would be a good place to hide."

"But why he should hide?"

"No," he said shortly.

She sat down opposite Peace and leaned towards him, dropping her voice.
"Those crystals you spoke of, they are life and death to me! I must have
them, you understand? Yes, yes, I know you are so clever that you would
take them from under his nose and nobody would be the wiser. But you must
take them--you understand? You must go to every length."

"What's that?" asked Peace, puzzled.

"You must, if necessary, kill him," she said calmly, "but that bottle
must be put in my hands before the end of the week. Also, this man has a
small piece of steel. That also I must have." She leaned back. "For this
I shall pay you two thousand pounds," she said.

Two thousand pounds! The little man's head reeled. To him the limit of
extreme wealth was a hundred. He had never possessed as much at anyone
moment, though he had stolen property of twenty times the value.

"Two thousand sovereigns in a bag--almost as much as you can carry,
little man. That is the price I will pay. This small house"--she made a
gesture of contempt--"that also you can have; it is of no value to me.
There must be no ifs or buts or whys or whens. By Saturday those crystals
must be had. Listen, my ugly dear; there is a man in Sheffield, a bad
man, a fool. On Saturday he will have money to buy these things, and we
shall lose them. You remember the factory where you found poor
Lamonte--alas! he is dead."

"I didn't kill him," said Peace quickly. "I hit him a clip on the jaw,
but that didn't do him any harm."

"Let us forget that. You remember the place?"

He nodded. "I know Wertheimer's place. You want me to go there?"

She shook her head. "Not yet. It may be necessary. I may want you to go
over that wall. But if you're clever and quick it will not be necessary."

He rolled his ugly little head from side to side. "I'll get that bottle
for you--tomorrow, perhaps. They've moved their house--the Dysons."

"Yes, I know that. They have gone to Banner Cross. At the moment he is
not attending at his office--this man Dyson. He is waiting whilst
Wertheimer arranges the money. He never goes out of the house, but spends
his time in his room, where he has a double-barrelled shot-gun."

"How do you know this, ma'am?" demanded Peace in amazement.

"Do not let us talk about how I know, or why I know," she said
impatiently. "That is the truth. At all costs you must get what I want.
Tonight you must go out and make inquiries--only to inquire; you must not
do anything premature."

He sought an explanation. "Premature" was a foreign word.

"Before the right time, I mean. And the right time is not tonight. Have
you a friend you can trust?" Peace hesitated. He trusted nobody. Carton
was down on his luck, and it tickled his vanity to be in the position of
a patron who could offer him work. He, Charles Peace, with a butler! He
chuckled at the picture he conjectured.

"All right, your ladyship. I might as well stay here now, I suppose?"

"There is food in the house--biscuits, canned meat, flour, everything.
You can live here even with the house shut. But then the police would
search it. It is very necessary you should have a servant." The mention
of the servant reminded him that he would have to return to Sheffield. It
was a long walk, but walking would be almost as quick a method as driving
on a night like this. At the same time, locomotion might be a difficulty,
and he made a tentative suggestion to Baumgarten, and to his surprise,
though the scheme entailed considerable outlay, it was accepted.



CHAPTER XXIII


After Madame Stahm and Baumgarten had departed he set out alone, carrying
a candle-lamp, and picked up Carton at an agreed rendezvous. To him he
put the plan and an offer of employment. The wages he could not specify.

"I don't care what they are," said the ex-servant, "so long as I get food
and lodging. I haven't enough to pay for either." Peace left him, after
arranging that they should meet later. Going on to Banner Cross, he
reconnoitred the position. There were no lights in the darkened house,
but, creeping close to the window, he listened and heard voices, both
raised in acrimony. What they said he could not distinguish. Then
apparently Mr Dyson did not spend all his nights in his own room, and he
would hardly carry a shot-gun round the house.

He examined the fastening of the kitchen window and made a survey of
other means of entry. Satisfied, he went back to the town, joined his
chilly companion and with him trudged out to their new home.

"There won't be much walking," said Peace. "I'll be having my own
carriage and pair next week--mark my words!" On the way the ex-butler
became more expansive, unreeling yet another length of his picturesque
past. He had been in prison at Strangeways for obtaining a berth with
forged references; he had also been in Chatham and Maidstone prisons.

"You're a low character, then?" said Peace virtuously.

The man said he liked Chatham Prison, and added inconsequentially that he
was a Kentish man.

It was difficult to believe that this smooth-faced, nice-spoken gentleman
who walked by Mr Peace's side was an ex-convict, a gaol-bird. Peace was a
little shocked and more than a little relieved. On the way he outlined
his plans. He was doing some work of a very secret and important
character. It was quite honest, but the police wouldn't like it, and so
it might be necessary for him to lie up in the cottage for a few days.
"You'll be there, looking after the place, to answer the door and say
that the owner hasn't moved in yet. If you sell me I'll shoot you stone
dead."

"I've always been honourable in dealing with any friends who trusted me!"
said Mr Carton indignantly.

"Perhaps you never had any friends who trusted you," said Peace, and was
painfully near the mark.

He would be useful as a cover on the night when Peace made his attempt.
He had already conceived alternative plans, one of which he was sure
would be successful. In the afternoon he gave his 'servant' further
details and Mr Carton realized that the secret mission in which he was to
assist had all the appearance of a vulgar burglary.

Peace could draw a plan remarkably well, and he reduced the topography of
Banner Cross to paper.

"Here's the house, and there's the field opposite, where you'll stay and
watch out. If you see a slop, you whistle. I'll get to you, whatever
happens, and give you the bottle. You stick it in your pocket and make
your way back to the cottage. If I'm caught and searched, there'll be
nothing on me, see?"

"What bottle? a beer bottle?" asked Carton, mystified.

Peace eyed this disturber of his romantic dreams with some malignity. "A
medicine bottle about so big. And don't ask questions. People who work
for me ain't expected to ask questions. And don't try to shop me. I
killed a feller once--he shopped me. The police don't know that." He
loaded his revolver with great deliberation under the awed eyes of his
assistant.

"You're not going to use that, are you?" said the man, in alarm. He had
all the normal criminal's horror of firearms. Peace took his perturbation
as a compliment.

"I keep it in case of accidents. If I go up, I go up for life--I'd sooner
be hung. That's why the police are frightened of me; that's why they
never tackle me! Go down to Scotland Yard and see my record; you'll see
on it 'Dangerous; carries firearms'--that's me. When I'm in prison it's
'Mr Peace this,' and 'Mr Peace that.' Even the screws daren't offend me.
I escaped once." [This was partially true. He succeeded in getting out of
his cell, but not from the prison building.--EW] "I tell you, it makes a
few screws tremble in their shoes when they hear Charlie Peace is
inside--"

"I've heard about you," said the man respectfully.

"Of course you have! I've done two sixers and a four. I've been in every
prison in England. They don't keep me long, they like to push me off to
another governor. I give too much trouble. I've heard screws say: 'You
have him, I don't want him!'"

"It's the same with me," said Carton, in a moment of reckless emulation,
but this self-testimony to his bad qualities was coldly received.

"Don't talk so much about yourself," snarled Peace. "I hate a chap who's
always boasting!" He was reconciled to his new home, and had shown the
man over the house with all the aplomb of a proprietor. Also he had
inspected the windows and found them good. There were folding shutters,
and, in addition, the curtains which covered them were heavy and
light-proof. Over the front door was a transparent circular fanlight,
which Peace, curiously enough, called a transom, a word generally used in
America to describe that form of illumination. He had never been to
America, but had probably got the word from a fellow convict during his
sojourn in Dartmoor.

There were no curtains to this, and he spent an evening making it
impossible for light to shine through. Every window in the house was
covered. An inspection of the attic, which was to be his place of refuge
in case of danger, revealed that it was admirably approached through what
looked to be a cupboard in one corner of the upper room. From here a
flight of stairs led to the attic proper. It had no window, but in the
roof was a circular skylight which could be raised or lowered, and was
not visible from the road. A hinged wooden lid, which could be buttoned
or bolted, covered this from the inside presumably as a protection
against burglars, but providentially from Peace's point of view, since he
could have a light in his oddly shaped apartment.

There was plenty of space. A bed had already been erected; the mattresses
and blankets lay on the ground. For some reason or other it had received
recent attention from the former owner of the cottage. The walls had been
newly papered, and he found carpenters' tools here, which he
appropriated. The hammer and nails, which were subsequently found, were
on a shelf too high for him to detect.

He spent some time arranging the entrance to the lower bedroom so that it
had the appearance of a cupboard, and he was again fortunate, for he
found in one of the bedrooms a number of old dresses that had been left
behind by the previous occupant. These he hung on strings behind the door
at the foot of the stairs, so that when the door was opened it had all
the appearance of being a very ordinary clothes closet, and the illusion
could, he saw, be heightened.

He took a rough measurement, went out into the kitchen and came back
carrying the coal-cellar door. It fitted exactly, and he propped it up
against the wall for use in an emergency.

Carton made tea and they discussed their plans for the night. Peace was
something of a general; he had certainly the gift of direction; and
though Carton was apparently a stupid man, he could repeat instructions
without a flaw after an hour's tuition.

"But I don't understand what's in that bottle. Is it drugs?"

"It's a curio," said Peace, "worth nothing to anybody but the owner. I
wouldn't pinch it, but this man's given me a lot of trouble. He's a
fellow that had a warrant out for me. It's highly valuable, but you
couldn't sell it--and you're getting a twenty-pun' note for the job."

Carton was impressed. "You're not going to take a shooter, are you?"

"Mind your own business," growled the other. "I'm taking you, and if
you're a shooter I'm a Dutchman!" He had his own private affairs to set
in order. His family did not worry him very much, for he had moved them
into Hull, where an eating-house had been opened for them. Hannah, his
wife, had to be financed through some circuitous channel which would
betray neither his identity nor his location. He sent two five-pound
notes by post, enclosed in a half sheet of paper, "From a true friend."
Hannah would know him by this strange title. The bank notes came from the
pocket-book of a wealthy-looking man who had come on to the platform at
Manchester to see off some relations. Evidently one was his daughter,
going on a holiday or to school. When he took out his pocket-book with a
flourish, extracted a crinkly note and handed it to the girl, Peace made
a mental note. He went along the platform to get a paper, and was reading
it as he passed the prosperous owner of the pocket-book. So absorbed was
Peace in his reading that he ran into the gentleman. He apologized
humbly--the owner did not miss the money until he was home again. Peace
had slipped the pocket-case into Carton's pocket until they had passed
the station barrier, when he retrieved it--all without the knowledge of
his companion.

The numbers of the notes had probably been taken and circulated--that
would be bad luck for Hannah. But, anyway, she hadn't pinched them, and
"From a true friend" was surely an alibi?

He had a daughter, but this young lady did not occupy any considerable
portion of his thoughts, no more, indeed, than did his lady wife. He
could have wished that he had entirely obliterated Mrs Dyson, but she
persisted. She had given him some quality that he had never known before.
There was a fragrance and a beauty in her association that had been
foreign to him, and the thought that he was losing her was his only
sorrow.

Yet he was a dreamer of dreams, could visualize himself returning at some
distant day, immensely wealthy, respected by his fellow citizens, riding
perhaps in the mayor's carriage, and exchanging jokes with good-natured
inspectors of police who had been mere constables in his day. Perhaps
giving a dinner at the Grand.

Though the constables might age into portly officers, Mrs Dyson and he
remained the same, in these visions of his, though she was perhaps a
little more etherealized.

She would ride by his side, holding his hand in hers, as she did that day
when they drove out into the country for the first time together. A
clammy hand, hers, but it was the kind of hand that Peace could not
imagine on any lesser woman. She had qualities the thought of which made
him shiver. He hoped he would see her tonight, that she would listen to
one last appeal.

Just before they left the cottage an idea struck him, and, excusing
himself, he went back to the room where he was to sleep that night, shut
the door, and, kneeling reverently by the bed, said his prayers. God and
Mrs Dyson became oddly associated in that confused supplication. Peace
felt all the better for his spiritual efforts.

He had a collection of prayers, written down on little sheets of paper,
which he claimed he had composed, but which were obviously memorized from
innumerable prison church services. Once he said he was called upon to
preach to his fellow prisoners, but he never repeated that assertion.

He stopped to drink a little weak brandy and water, and stepped out into
the murk, where his shivering companion was waiting. It was not cold
enough to justify the teeth-chattering of Carton.

For a long time they walked in silence, then Carton spoke nervously.

"I suppose there's no danger tonight?"

"Depends on what you call danger," said Peace tartly. "What are you
worrying about? Nobody's going to touch you--you're not going into the
house to meet a man with a double-barrelled gun, the same as I am. You're
not going to risk your life, as I've done hundreds of times, and only got
fourpence-ha'penny for me trouble, which happened to me in Durby, and in
a house you'd think was full of money--fourpence-ha-penny!"

"I'll bet you laughed!" said Carton.

Peace scowled at him. "Why should a man laugh when he expects hundreds of
pounds and only gets fourpence-ha-penny?" he demanded angrily, and there
was logic in his wrath.

Carton did not understand him, and was already under the spell of terror
that the man exercised. He wished he had never 'taken up' with this
dangerous creature, that he had tried a new trick of making money that he
had worked out when he was last in prison. It was too late now. A
straight-out burglary--the thought made him cold.

Inside jobs he understood, but to go in from outside, to explore a
strange house where people were sleeping that might wake--that was a
nightmare. And the shooter...

Suppose Peace used the revolver, that would be hanging dues for
everybody. He had sat through the Manchester trial and seen the black cap
go on...He broke into a cold perspiration.



CHAPTER XXIV


Two thousand pounds! That was the golden vision that swam before the
little man as he trudged through the drizzle. Two thousand pounds! An
incredible sum. There were lords in the land who hadn't that much. He was
going to get it, Dyson or no Dyson.

His confederate would perhaps take the punishment. He did not like
Carton, he decided. He was a coward, full of complaints. One concession
he made to him. As they reached the outskirts of the town he allowed his
companion to take a 'bus directly to Banner Cross. Peace could not be
seen in Sheffield; he must go by a more circuitous route to avoid the
unpleasant possibility of meeting a policeman.

Before they parted he gave very elaborate instructions as to where they
were to meet. Peace had his own plan. The first thing he must do was to
establish the reason for his return--his personal feud against Dyson must
be his excuse. He hoped he would see somebody who knew him, so that he
could discuss that aspect. If he could get the small bottle without being
detected, there must be a good reason for his being in the neighbourhood.
If the worst came to the worst, the police warrant would bring him no
more than six months' hard labour, and he could do that on his head. But
that must be his excuse.

There would have been no necessity to explain to the neighbours in
Darnall why he was returning. The Dyson affair was common property. Women
stood at their doors and shook their heads when she passed, and looked at
one another with meaning glances when she was near. She was a terrible
example of a so-called lady, for all respectable women to study as one
studies the habits of unpleasant insects.

Two thousand pounds! Suppose you put two thousand sovereigns in a row,
how far would they reach? Over a thousand inches...twenty-six yards. He
stopped under a lamp-post in a deserted lane and paced off twenty-six
yards. It wasn't as far as he thought, but still, it was far enough.

That night Dr Alan Mainford had an interesting experience. There arrived
with dinner a letter from an irate but apologetic baronet broker. He was
irate for a very excellent reason, apologetic because, as he wrote: "I'm
afraid I was a little rude to you when you wrote warning me about Carton.
He seemed such an excellent servant, and I thought you were a little bit
uncharitable, the more so since I hadn't written to you for a reference.
My agent tells me that it was he who wrote. Carton let out your name by
accident as having employed him, and seemed so anxious to impress him
that you had gone abroad. The man is a dreadful blackguard..."

"Is that letter very amusing?" Jane had snatched a few hours to dine with
him.

"Well, it is in a way," he said. "I had a servant when I was in the army,
a terrible rascal, and in a fit of mental aberration he gave my name as a
reference to this man's agent--after I had warned him not to do so." He
tapped the letter. "I wrote and told the innocent employer all about him
and got kicked for my pains. I hadn't heard about the beggar since then,
but I'll bet he doesn't give my name as reference in his next place!"

"In ordinary circumstances you wouldn't hear of him again," she said,
"but you'll probably see him in a day or two. Those things always
happen." She was a true prophet. Alan was called out immediately after
dinner to attend a patient who had had a relapse. He could do very
little, and when that little was done he walked home--he had sent the
victoria away under the impression that his stay would be a long one.

The streets were thronged with people, in spite of the fact that the
night was raw and distinctly unpleasant. Most of the shops were open, and
although it wanted six weeks to Christmas, the shopping season had begun.

He stepped aside to allow three long-skirted girls with linked arms to
sweep along the narrow pavement, and as he recovered the sidewalk he came
face to face with the one man in the world he did not expect to see.
Carton's jaw dropped.

"Why, why, Captain--" he said.

"You infernal villain!" said Alan good-humouredly. "What are you doing in
this town?"

"I left me last job, sir," said Carton glibly. "Couldn't get on with the
people. Her ladyship used to drink, sir--"

"First you rob them, then you libel them. Are you working here?"

"Yes, sir; I've got a good job to go to. I hope, sir, you'll let bygones
be bygones. Some day I'll pay you back for that watch. It's a funny
thing, sir, I passed your house about ten minutes ago, saw the brass
plate on the railings and wondered if I'd call. I've always said, sir,
you were one of the kindest men I've ever had to deal with--" Alan
motioned him past with a jerk of his head. The meeting tickled him, a
point for Jane Garden the seer.

When Alan reached home he found a letter waiting for him. It was written
in a clerkly hand which he did not recognize, and was couched a little
more pompously than most letters are. It was addressed from Banner Cross
Terrace, Eccleshall Road, and ran:

"SIR,--You may recall the circumstance of meeting me when I called at
1038 your establishment with a bone in my throat, which you, sir, with
the skill peculiar to the English medical man, removed both expeditiously
and painlessly.

"I am living now at the above address, and I should be happy if you would
at the first moment available to your good self make it your business to
call upon me with reference to a distressing disorder of the mind.
Business and domestic troubles have tended to disturb my mental
equilibrium, and I think it would be wise of me if I took time by the
forelock and anticipated a serious breakdown rather than enlisted your
skill to remedy its consequences.

"Your obedient servant,

"ARTHUR DYSON."

Arthur Dyson? The name was familiar, but Alan could not place him for the
moment. And then he remembered the tall man and the fish bone. He read
the letter again; it was perfectly punctuated, pedantic and
self-important. He looked at his watch; it was seven o'clock. He had
dined early; in fact, his dinner always had something of the character of
a high tea when Jane slipped away from her duties to take the meal with
him. Invariably she had to return early in the evening to attend her
patient. He sent a message to Dixon, who complained bitterly to the
stable boy, his assistant, that this man had no hours, no systems, none
of the comfortable values of the old doctor.

To Dixon Dr Mainford was always 'the new man', though he had been in
practice for two or three years. Not that Dixon disliked him: he had
complained as persistently of the peculiar habits of the old doctor, and
had compared them unfavourably in turn with an earlier employer.

He climbed into his heavy coat, jammed his top-hat down on his head, and
brought the victoria round to the door.

There was no reason in the world why Alan should go out that night, for
Dyson was not an important patient, not even a patient at all. But,
remembering him, he was interested in the long man; the type rather
fascinated Alan Mainford, Two patients unexpectedly arrived, and it was
half-past seven before he stepped into the victoria with a pleasant sense
of anticipation, and never dreaming that he was driving straight to the
heart of squalid tragedy.



CHAPTER XXV


A greengrocer's cart brought Peace the greater part of his journey. He
was a great beggar of lifts, always giving his great age as his excuse.
Though he was but forty-four, he could pass for sixty-seven, and had
successfully imposed upon prison officers in this way.

The assumption of age gave him great advantages. People were sorry for
him; tradesmen would place their carts at his disposal; in prison he was
given the lighter tasks, though he was stronger than any of the ruffians
that occupied the wards. He could always obtain admission to the prison
hospital. The pity he excited was one of his strongest assets.

He arrived at Banner Cross before his companion and loafed around in the
hope of finding somebody he knew. The rain had cleared and it was a
moonlit night, which did not particularly please him. He peeped into the
Banner Cross Hotel, a public house that stood on the corner of the block
where the Dysons' house was situated, but saw no familiar face.

He was hoping for two things: first, that he would see Mrs Dyson and
enlist her help; secondly, that he would find somebody who knew him to
whom he could supply a motive for his visit.

He had been there half an hour when he saw, on the opposite side of the
road, the hesitant figure of Carton, and crossed to speak to him. He
pointed at some gardens behind a low wall.

"You stay there. If you see me coming out of that house and walk away
quietly, you go back to the cottage. But if I run, I'll come over this
wall; you can either pretend you're one of the public chasing me, or you
can walk down the road, get into a 'bus and go back to Sheffield. If you
lose the bottle I give you--I'll follow you wherever you go and cut your
throat--d'ye hear me?" The man's teeth were chattering again.

"It doesn't look like a place for a burglary," he said.

"Never mind what it looks like," said Peace roughly. "You understand what
I've told you?"

"There's a man over there...under the lamp-post," shivered Carton.

"I'll look after him. When I've got his back turned to you, nip over." He
crossed to where the man was standing beneath the lamp. He was a stranger
to Peace, but evidently belonged to the neighbourhood.

"Looking for anybody, mate?" he asked.

"Yes," said Peace, "I'm looking for some friends of mine. They've moved
in to a house about here. Know any strange people who've come here
lately?" The man didn't.

"A lady--a great friend of mine." Peace took some letters and photographs
from his pocket and handed them to the man. It was crudely done, but the
purpose was defeated, for the stranger could not read. Peace looked over
his shoulder: Carton had taken advantage of the stranger's attention
being held and disappeared.

"That's what I've come here for--to find her," he said; "he shan't have
her--I'll shoot her first."

He found little difficulty in working up his enthusiasm for Mrs Dyson,
and the semblance of a man broken by jealousy.

But the man, apparently, had no interest in love affairs, and with a
muttered excuse turned and walked away.

There was no sign of Mrs Dyson. Peace drew nearer to the house. He looked
for a light upstairs; there was none. By the side of the house ran a
passage, on the left hand side of which were some outhouses. Softly he
passed through the alleyway to the back of the premises, and saw a light
in one of the upstairs rooms. A figure was moving. He recognized Mrs
Dyson, and his heart thumped.

There was one signal he always gave--he gave it now. Twice he whistled
softly. The second time she heard it, for he saw her turn with a start
towards the window and peer out into the darkness. She might have seen
him in the moonlight. The light went out. She was coming downstairs.

He would have to wait for hours, till they were all asleep, unless--He
heard the sound of her clogged feet on the pathway, and then out of the
darkness she came, and he sensed her antagonism before she spoke.

"What do you want?" she asked shrilly. "There's a warrant out for
you--you know that. How dare you come here!"

"Drop your voice, will tha?" he growled. "I want you to get him to
withdraw that warrant. I want to be friends with you both."

"Friends with you!" she cried contemptuously. "My husband's a gentleman;
he wouldn't dream of knowing scum like you. You know what he wrote to
you--he means it."

Peace always carried the little card that had been flung so
contemptuously over the garden wall when he was at Darnall. He carried it
now. "Charles Peace is requested not to interfere with my family."

"Listen, Kate--"

"Don't call me Kate. I'm Mrs Dyson."

"Listen--and keep your mouth shut, or I'll strangle you!" She shrank back
with a little scream as he advanced towards her.

"Help me, and I'll make a lady of you; give you everything you want. I've
got thousands of pounds coming to me. Get your husband to withdraw the
warrant: that's why I've come here. I've come here for no other reason.
If anybody sees you here, that's what I've come for, I don't want to show
you up, but I will, me lady. I've got letters from you that'd look fine
if they was read in court." She heard the back door open, and raised her
voice for the benefit of her invisible audience.

"I don't want to see you, I don't want to know you. You're not fit for my
husband to wipe his boots on. You're a low, common--" His hand went out
and gripped her. It was a fatal mistake, for she screamed.

"Who's that?" A voice came from the darkness. Dyson! Peace flung her off
and turned to fly, but the long-legged man caught him and gripped him by
the collar. He had the advantage of height. Peace struck blindly at him,
and the two men went rolling together on the ground; fighting like a fury
to throw off the weight of the man, Peace reached for his revolver.

"Stand back!" He had wriggled free, but his assailant came on. The crack
of the first explosion sounded thunderously. The man stumbled and fell.
Peace fired again and fled.

He had one thought--the bottle. He doubled back to the house, along the
passage and through the door; in a few seconds he was in the bedroom.
Pulling open the drawers, he saw the liniment bottle in the second,
fumbled with its base, then, with a croak of joy, slipped out the phial
it contained and dropped it into his pocket.

He came out into the street, saw men running, and, flying across the
road, leapt the wall.

Carton was waiting for him. "What was that I heard--a shot? You didn't
shoot anybody?" he whispered. "Oh, my God! You didn't kill anybody?"

"Take this!" Peace thrust the bottle into the man's pocket. "Get back
over the wall--nobody will see you. Go straight to the cottage and wait
for me. Remember what I told you, Carton." In another instant he had
disappeared into the darkness.

Carton ran in the shadow of the wall through the garden before he came
through a gateway into the road. It was well for him that he did this,
for the flight of the murderer had been observed. A police whistle was
blowing. What had happened?

Carton crossed to the public house and drank a stiff brandy. Men came in
and out with the news. A man had been killed--shot dead.

"I've seen him myself. He's laying up there in a back yard...go and have
a look." Fortified by the brandy, Carton followed the advice.

Killed--murdered! The horror of it appalled him; the danger turned his
blood to water. He made his way through dark passages, guided by the
stream of men and women who had been attracted by the shooting, and found
himself in a back yard.

There it was--a lank, sprawling figure. From the house came the screams
of an hysterical woman. Somebody said: "Peace--Charlie Peace." Mrs Dyson
had screamed his name.

A policeman was already there, making elaborate notes which he was never
afterwards to decipher. The book in his hand was shaking, and there on
the ground was Arthur Dyson, ludicrously dead.

A surgeon came and made an examination. The policeman, recovering from
his dumb inertia, ordered the crowd to disperse, but there was no
authority in his voice, and Carton lingered on, held to the spot by a
gallows complex.

Then he heard a voice and turned with a start. It was Alan Mainford; he
was talking to the surgeon, and frowning down at the limp figure
stretched on the earth, a dark pool near his head, his face mercifully
hidden from Carton. He heard Alan ask: "When did it happen?" and a dozen
voices volunteered.

The surgeon looked up sharply.

"Can't you get all these people away?" he asked the policeman, and only
then were the morbid onlookers dispersed.

Outside Carton saw a victoria standing by the side of the road, and
guessed it was Alan's. He waited, too. The instructions of Peace were
forgotten, or, if remembered, voided by the horror he had seen with his
own eyes. Go back to the cottage...? To be killed perhaps...savage little
beast. No, Carton could not face that. To stay in a lone house with him,
miles from everywhere, at his mercy, or face inquiring detectives and
pretend to be at his ease. Stealing spoons and forks, indulging in more
pleasant villainies, a forged character or two--that was nothing. This
was murder. He had seen the dead man and the blood, and heard his wife's
maniacal laughter.

He put his hand in his pocket, touched the bottle and drew out his hand
quickly.

People who passed him were talking about Charles Peace. They all knew
him; every man had seen him. They were eager to discover or invent an
acquaintance with this celebrity.

"A little fellow about so high," said one man. "He used to work with me
in the Millsands Mill...that's where he hurt his leg...a lame little
fellow, but you'd hardly notice it." What a celebrity the man was! Carton
could have said something, if he could have spoken a word. But his mouth
was dry. He went back into the Banner Cross Hotel and had another drink,
swallowing it down quickly for fear Alan went away without his seeing
him. What he could say to him he did not know, but Alan was a gentleman
and an officer, and Carton had served seven years in the army and had
acquired the habit of faith in military authority. Officers were still
godlike to him, and Alan had been an officer--only a medical officer, it
is true, but still an officer, whom one had to salute and before whom one
stood to attention.

What was he to say to him? He did not know. He would just wait till he
came out and then say--something.

Three police officers arrived in a trap, the horse in a muck sweat. The
policeman who drove him got down and covered him with a rug. Carton
watched, fascinated.

The men who came by that cart would think nothing of taking him, putting
handcuffs on his hands and driving him off to the police station,
discussing their private affairs, and, leaving him in a cell, go home to
their wives as though nothing had happened. It was just their ordinary
business. And the screws would come in one morning, followed by a bearded
man, who would shake hands with him, and say."

"I'm very sorry I've got to do this, and I hope you don't bear any ill
will." Marwood always said the same thing to all condemned prisoners, and
if they asked him whether the rope would hurt he used to say: "I'll make
it easy for you." Suppose he didn't make it easy for them? There was no
opportunity for reproaching him.

Carton's mouth was dry again. He had to hold his chin to keep his teeth
from dancing against one another. Then he saw Alan come out, and
impulsively went towards him.

"Oh, sir!" he said.

Alan looked round and stared at the man. "You again?" he said. "What the
devil are you doing here?"

Carton tried to speak. "I've got some relations here," he managed to
stammer at last. "Ain't it awful, sir?"

"Did you hear anything--the shots fired?"

"No, sir; I was along the road," lied Carton. "I've got to get back to
Sheffield now--to the station."

"Don't let me detain you," said Alan. And then: "Have you got your fare
back? There'll be a bus along in a minute." The man shook his head. "Get
up with Dixon--I'll drop you." He slipped and scrambled up to the seat
beside the driver. Dixon, perched in the middle, moved his box a little
to the right, eyed the shivering man with no particular liking, and did
not offer him a share of the apron.

All the way back to Sheffield the man was living with murder and the
scaffold and bearded Marwood. Every minute Marwood was shaking hands with
him, and saying how sorry he was, and hoping he would forgive him his
unpleasant duty.

Near the station the victoria drew up, and the man, weak-kneed, got to
the ground somehow and made his desperate appeal. "I want to get to
London, sir. I've got no money. I've no right to ask you, but, as God's
my judge, I'm going to go straight. I know just where this life is taking
me." He was sincere. Alan realized that the sight of the murdered man had
affected him terribly. He took a golden coin out of his pocket.

"Goodbye, sovereign," he said flippantly. "You know my address, if you're
honest." The man took the pound and quavered his thanks. Then a thought
struck him. He took the bottle out of his pocket. "I found this, sir...in
the road. I think somebody dropped it."

Alan took the phial and examined the contents casually. "It doesn't look
particularly valuable. I should throw it away."

"No, sir, I'd keep it. I'm sure it's valuable." Carton was strangely
agitated. "Perhaps somebody will miss the bottle and advertise...I found
it on the road--in the gutter." He took off his hat and ran in the
direction of the station. Alan Mainford did not see him again for a long
time.

When he got home he put the phial at the back of a shelf in his poison
cupboard and forgot it.



CHAPTER XXVI


Peace reached the cottage in the early hours of the morning. The clouds
which had gathered at midnight had cleared again, and it was as bright as
day. Twice he had to hide behind a hedge to avoid detection by a mounted
police patrol. Two o'clock was striking--he heard a church clock which
must have been miles away in the still morning air--when he unlocked the
door of the cottage and went in.

The place was a pit of gloom; there was neither light nor sound in the
house.

Peace growled under his breath. Carton had not come back. He had probably
passed him on the way. A man like that would be frightened of his own
shadow and would hide at the sound of every footfall. He wouldn't dare
play false. Peace had considerable faith in his own frightening
qualities.

He lay down on his bed in the dark, waiting for his companion's return.
He wondered if he had hurt Dyson. He wouldn't have shot him at all if the
man had left him alone, if that woman hadn't screamed. He was finished
with Mrs Dyson. She was a bad woman, unworthy of him. He had been wasting
his time with her.

He was half dozing when he heard a sound which brought him to his feet--a
key being stealthily inserted in the front door. He went swiftly into the
passage, revolver in hand. He saw a figure silhouetted against the
moonlight, and it was not Carton.

"What do you want? Stand or I'll fire!"

"All right, all right!" It was Baumgarten's voice. "Put up your pistol,
my friend. You've done enough shooting tonight."

"Have you heard?" asked Peace eagerly.

"All Sheffield has heard," said Baumgarten dryly. "Why did you kill him?"

Peace gaped at him in the darkness. "Kill him? Is he dead?"

"Yes. Come somewhere where we can put on a light."

"You can put it on anywhere in the house," said Peace, struck a match on
his trousers, and, lifting off a glass chimney, lit a paraffin lamp.

Baumgarten looked old and tired. He was wearing riding breeches and
gaiters, and carried a whip in his hand.

"Is your horse outside?" asked Peace, in alarm.

"Don't be a fool--no, I've tied him up in the orchard at the back. Why
did you kill him?"

"I had to," said Peace doggedly. "I didn't want to, but he grabbed at me
and I had to shoot."

Baumgarten fingered his chin thoughtfully. "You've got the crystals?"
And, when Peace nodded, his eyes lit up. "Are you sure?" he asked
eagerly. "Let me see them."

"I haven't got 'em with me. A friend is bringing them on--the man who was
working with me. I didn't want to have them ill my pocket and be caught
with them."

Baumgarten stood, slapping his gaitered leg gently with the whip, his
lower lip protruding, his brows knit. "Can you trust this man? Why didn't
you bring them here yourself?"

For the first time doubt came to Peace. Had he made a mistake? "He
wouldn't dare play with me. He's a frightened rat and--"

"If he's a frightened rat he will not come back here. Murder is a serious
thing, my friend."

"So's other things!" growled Peace. "So's keeping a foreigner locked up
in a cell and beating him to death! Don't you go telling me what's
serious--or I'll tell you something!"

Baumgarten winced at that; his nerves were getting a little frayed. Just
now he was looking longingly at an avenue which led to his pleasant villa
at Interlaken. "Yes, I suppose so. I will wait for the man to come."

"Have you brought the money?"

"No," said Baumgarten, and Peace knew that he lied. But the little man
was fair: he was not entitled to the money till the goods were delivered.
They waited an hour--two hours. By this time Peace was patently uneasy.

"I'll go now," said Baumgarten, getting up and stretching himself.

He had paid two visits to the orchard to see that his horse had not
shaken off the rug he had thrown over it.

"I'd better get home before daylight. You stay here; keep all the doors
locked; a policeman sometimes comes in to try them--and the windows. It
doesn't matter about the shutters being closed." He rode off soon after.
Peace heard the clip-clop of the horse's hooves for a long time.

He was in no mood for sleep. He must know what had happened to Carton.

Would the man have betrayed his hiding-place? If he had, the police would
have been here by now. All through the day he waited, not daring to show
himself abroad.

They would be scouring the countryside for him, and his description would
be circulated. That would not be the first time he had been wanted
urgently, but never for so important an offence.

Only one man came near the house. He saw two mounted policemen riding
abreast, coming along the road. They stopped before the cottage and one
dismounted, opened the gate and came in. Peace heard him trying the door
and the windows. Apparently he went all round the house before he came
back and, joining his companion, mounted and rode off.

The little man had a big carpet bag in which he kept his belongings, and
when he had learned that he had to make this his headquarters he had
asked Baumgarten to arrange for it to be brought to the cottage. He found
it in the attic, and opening it, made a selection.

It was no exaggeration to say that Peace was a master of disguise, in
spite of the unpromising basis upon which he had to work, for it seemed
impossible that a face so marked, so out of the ordinary, could be
changed. Again he had recourse to his walnut disguise; he stained his
face and hands a deep, sunburnt brown, and brushed carefully into his
hair some of the contents of a little bottle containing a dark solution.
Shaving himself carefully, he put on a beard almost hair by hair, and
with such meticulous care that the operation took him more than two
hours. A pair of blue trousers, a blue jersey, bearing in red letters the
name of a steam packet, almost completed his disguise.

One artistic etcetera remained. Removing his left shoe, he drew on a
second and third sock, and over these he wound a calico bandage. When
this was done, he produced from the bag a crutch. It was made in three
pieces and screwed together.

This time he would not take the iron hook. People in Sheffield knew that
too well. The coldness of the weather excused the woollen gloves. The
crutch and bandaged foot hid his one detectable affliction--his lame leg.

In the dusk he stepped out of the house, his crutch under his arm. Whilst
nobody was in sight he could walk, and for this purpose he had provided
himself with a carpet slipper, ordinarily three sizes too large for him.
This he took off and concealed in his pocket whenever a cart or a
pedestrian came into sight.

He reached a cross roads and waited for a likely conveyance. It came in
the shape of a milk-cart, carrying two full churns into the town. The
crutch and the bandaged foot were his passport, and he reached the very
centre of Sheffield without the least discomfort. It would be more
difficult getting back.

The first thing he saw, as he stumped along the street, his crutch under
his arm, was a small crowd gathered before a hoarding on which a man was
pasting a bill. He stopped and read:

"MURDER

"One Hundred Pounds Reward.

"WHEREAS on the 29th of November Mr Arthur Dyson, C.E., was murdered at
Banner Cross, Sheffield, having been shot in the head in the presence of
his wife by Charles Peace, who escaped in the darkness of the night, and
is still at large, NOTICE is hereby given that a reward of One Hundred
Pounds will be paid by Her Majesty's Government to any person other than
a person employed in a police office in the United Kingdom who shall give
such information and evidence as will lead to the discovery and
conviction of the said Charles Peace."

He read it, fascinated. Later, when the bill was amplified as the result
of the coroner's verdict, it was so familiar to him that he did not even
stop to read it.

His disguise was perfect, but he took no risks, not venturing into any of
the public-houses where he expected to find Carton, but contenting
himself with a furtive peep into the bar. He went the complete round
without finding any indication of the man, and was giving up the search
when it occurred to him that he might inquire at the lodgings which
Carton had taken on his arrival.

He went to the house and had a shock: the landlord did not recognize him.

"Your brother, is he? Well, all I can tell you is that he's a swindler.
Tried to get away without paying his rent, he did! My son's a porter on
the station, and he sees him get into the London train, and says he to
himself: 'I wonder if he's paid the old man his rent?' and with that he
goes up to him."

"When was this?" quavered Peace, in the deep voice he had adopted.

"Night before last. Anyway, my son got five shillings out of him."

"Gone to London, has he?" the heart of the little man sank like lead.

"It's my belief," said the landlord, 'that he was in with this fellow
Charles Peace. I wouldn't be a bit surprised."

"Who is Charles Peace?" asked the bearded little stranger.

"A murderer," said the other emphatically; "and they'll catch him--you
mark my words! And Carton too." Peace ambled down the street, his mind a
violent, bubbling sea of hate. Carton had gone away, had he? And taken
the bottle. But perhaps he was only scared. He was a frightened cur of a
man who would fly in terror, though there was no danger to him. That was
the only hope.

In the street he heard his name spoken at every few yards. The town was
being scoured; every lodging-house had been raided. Near Fargate he saw
Baldy Eltham, looking surprisingly smart in uniform.

To reach home he had to take a cab for part of the way, and there was a
long and dreary wait till a carrier's cart came in sight and dropped him
at the cross-roads near his new home. The carrier was actually passing
the cottage, but Peace asked to be dropped, indicating that he lived in
another direction.

There was one relief for him. Carton had not told the police. Peace had
an old time-table in his bag, and this he studied. The man must have
driven straight from Banner Cross and caught the last train to London. He
wouldn't have had time to tell all he knew. That was it! He was
frightened; he hadn't Peace's nerve. On this comforting thought the
little man fell asleep, without even attempting to remove his disguise.

He improved upon and perfected it the next day. When Baumgarten called
towards evening, it completely deceived him. The visitor looked at the
little man with a new respect, but he was very grave. Madame had taken a
very serious view of the murder, and would not in any case be associated
with Peace. He brought fifty pounds in gold. If the crystals arrived, the
reward would come in addition.

"There's no sense in me keeping meself locked up here," said Peace.
"Nobody would know me. All want is a little pony cart and a pony. I asked
you for that the other day, and you said 'Yes', but where is it? There's
a stable out at the back, and it would save you coming here, too."

It struck Baumgarten as an excellent idea. He promised to bring the
matter up again. Without consulting Madame Stahm, he bought a pony, cart
and harness and left it outside the cottage that same night.

Peace was almost jubilant. His instructions had been carried out; the
cart was loaded with fodder, and he led the pony down the lane by the
side of the cottage into the stable he had prepared for him.

Thereafter, farmers and labourers in the neighbourhood became familiar
with the sight of the bearded, seafaring man, who drove his pony and
cart. When the bearded, seafaring man disappeared, and his place was
taken by a groom who wore steel spectacles and a cavalry moustache, they
hardly remarked upon it.

The low pony cart served his purpose admirably. It made it impossible to
detect his height, and the smartly-fitting livery coat he wore changed
his entire appearance.

To the world Charles Peace had disappeared as though the ground had
opened and swallowed him. Even more effectively had Carton vanished; no
news came from him; he did not reappear in Sheffield. Generally it was
believed that he had gone abroad. One theory was that he had left for
Hull the same night.



CHAPTER XXVII


Ordinarily Peace did not read the daily newspapers: he reserved his
reading for Sundays, and devoured every line that dealt with crime. The
police court proceedings, fashionable trials, divorce news--he read them
and re-read them, gloating over every detail. But now he was an assiduous
subscriber to the Telegraph. Every item of news concerning the Banner
Cross murder be examined and memorized.

A great many of the stories set down were purely apocryphal. He called
them lies, and added various adjectives. There was not a word about the
crystals: that was a relief, not only to him, but to the troubled people
at Brinley Hall. Madame Stahm had her boxes packed ready for flight.
Baumgarten had already transferred the greater part of his account to a
Swiss bank. As the days progressed and no police inquiries came their way
they decided to remain.

The inquest was reported in full, and again there was no mention of the
missing phial. Mrs Dyson knew nothing of it. Peace never expected she
would, but thought that the man might have had a confidant. He had, but
there were excellent reasons why Wertheimer should not mention his
negotiations. He could not have raised the money; he had no desire that
the world should know that such a valuable secret existed. He himself
attended Dyson's funeral, and later that night called on the sorrowing
widow. It was easy to discover that she knew very little about her
husband's business. She was, in fact, very voluble, since the occasion
called for stimulants.

"Do you remember, madam," said Wertheimer, in the first moment they were
alone, "what your poor, dear husband did with the little phial of
crystals I left with him? I called one evening, you remember, to discuss
certain matters with him--possibly you were out; I think you were--and I
left him a sample of a new oxide."

She shook her head. "Don't bother me, mister," she said wearily. "I
haven't seen anything. What do they look like?"

He described them. "Go up to his room and look," she said, and he went up
with a bounding heart. He searched drawers, cupboards and boxes, but
found nothing. There was in one of the drawers a curious bottle of
liniment, the bottom of which was apparently hollow, but he saw in this
no more than an honest attempt by a manufacturer to cheat the purchaser
in the matter of quantity.

He was so long and so thorough in his search that she came up to him and
demanded irritably whether he expected to stay there for ever.

He followed this up by a visit to Dyson's office. There was a locker
there, where he had kept a few personal belongings. His desk had been
cleared and the contents put aside; these were available for inspection,
and though Wertheimer had no authority his right to examine was not
questioned.

He was puzzled and alarmed. Dyson at the last moment might have changed
his mind about disposing of the crystals to Madame Stahm. He decided upon
taking a bold step; he wrote to that worthy lady, humbly, flatteringly,
begging the privilege of an interview. To his surprise and gratification
it was granted.

He drove himself out to Brinley Hall one afternoon, prepared for all
eventualities.

In each pocket he had a loaded derringer. Madame received him graciously,
however, cut short all the polite preamble and came down to business. She
demanded perfect frankness about his negotiations with Dyson (he was
staggered here, for he had never dreamed she knew), and when he gave his
confidence he learned in return that the worst had not happened. Dyson
had neither offered the crystals nor had she bought them.

They parted excellent friends and potential partners. His treason was
forgotten and forgiven. He also had one or two things to forgive, and
made no inquiry as to the fate of the lamented Lamonte. It was
unfortunate that such things should happen, but such was life.

On his way back he passed a little pony cart driven by a very
stiff-looking groom who wore spectacles. He had never before seen a groom
wearing spectacles, which practice was essentially the prerogative of the
indoor or learned classes.

Another week passed. Peace read the account of the inquest both in the
daily and the weekly newspapers. He learned that he had been seen in
London and at Portsmouth, and that a man answering to his description had
been arrested in Newcastle.

"Every limping man is a suspect," said the newspaper.

Charles Peace was grateful for the hint.

The pony cart enabled him to travel far afield. He went to Mansfield one
day, put his horse up at a livery stable and journeyed on to London. He
had to find another bolt-hole. Besides which, his family were in trouble
with the eating-house at Hull, and he must bring them to a new nest.

He spent three days in London, a bearded seaman with a bandaged foot, and
finally decided to take a house in Peckham. It was a two-storeyed villa
in a poor neighbourhood, but it was distinctly better than any house he
had ever occupied. It had bow windows, and there was a certain touch of
respectability in the steps which led to the front door, and in the area
and basement. He paid a month's rent down.

The house, he said, was for his nephew and his sister-in-law, who were
arriving from Wales.

By the time he had finished negotiations, his wife and family had left
Hull secretly and apparently unnoticed. Police methods in 1876 were loose
and inadequate. Nobody seemed to bother about Mrs Peace and her plans,
though it was certain that sooner or later a careful watch on her would
bring the observers to the much-wanted Charles.

Peace had plenty of money. In the course of a brief meeting with his wife
in London he gave her sufficient to furnish the house, and insisted that
one article of furniture should be a piano.

Returning to Mansfield, he retrieved his pony and trap and drove back to
the cottage. That was the first of many excursions. The image of Mrs
Dyson had eclipsed an earlier love. With the disappearance of the
faithless Kate, the tender memories of an older attachment came back to
the little man, and he sought out the lady, whose name was Thompson.

The excitement over the murder had died down. He was getting tired of his
country life, and had made up his mind to drive by easy stages to London,
when a letter came to him. He found it thrust under the front door when
he returned from a visit to Sheffield. It bore the London postmark and
was addressed to "Mr Gray", the name by which he had decided to be known
when he took possession of the cottage.

He turned it over and over in his hand. It was not in his wife's writing
or in his daughter's, and yet the postmark was "London, S.E." He tore
open the flap and took out a single sheet of paper. There was no address
on the top, and it began abruptly:

"I haven't told a soul, but I can't stand things like that. I'm doing
well now and am going straight. I gave the bottle to Dr Mainford. He
lives in Sheffield. He was in the army with me. I said I'd found it in
the road."

That was all--but it was enough to make the little man grow in stature.
The deep, dog eyes sparkled with life. Alan Mainford--that puppy! There
was going to be a lark here. He grew almost young at the thought of
adventure. Charles Peace, wanted for murder in Sheffield, would go into
Sheffield and do another job right under the nose of the police. Nobody
else would dare do it, only Charles Peace. Or perhaps he wouldn't have to
'do' the house at all. Suppose he tried one of his little tricks--the
sort of trick that only Charles Peace could think of and have the nerve
to carry out.

He cogitated on the matter, strolling up and down beneath the bare,
wind-blown branches of the little orchard at the back of the cottage,
stroking the beard that wasn't his.

Alan Mainford returned from his early visits one morning and learned from
his housekeeper that an elderly gentleman had called on a strange errand.

"He said he had lost a phial of valuable chemicals, sir, on the night of
the murder at Banner Cross, and that he'd heard you'd found them. Of
course I knew nothing about it."

Alan had forgotten all about the phial. "Good Lord, yes! I remember." He
went to his poison cupboard and fished out the little bottle. "What sort
of a man was he?"

"He looked like a sailor, sir. He had a very bad foot; it was all
bandaged up and in a sling. What he said was that the chemicals were the
only things that were good for his foot. He said that if you could find
them and leave them for him, he'd call tomorrow or send his groom."

"A sailor with a groom sounds a little curious to me. I'd like to see the
gentleman. If he calls again you can tell him I have the crystals, and I
shall be happy to hand them to him if he will prove his ownership."

A groom with steel spectacles and a cavalry moustache called and received
the message without betraying his natural annoyance. "The gentleman's
very ill with a bad foot," he said, with an indignation which was not
simulated. "I'm surprised at the doctor keeping my governor's property."

"That's what he says: if the gentleman will call he will hand the bottle
over to him."

"He's got it, has he?"

She nodded. "Yes, I saw it myself," said the garrulous woman. "It's kept
in the poison cupboard. So, if your gentleman will call--"

"He'll call, ma'am," said Peace grimly, and drove home with a light
heart.



CHAPTER XXVIII


He didn't want any more shooting. He certainly did not wish to meet Alan
Mainford with no other defence than his fists. But doctors are called out
late at nights, and the house would be patently empty and easy.

Yet it was not an easy place to burgle. It stood on a main thoroughfare,
with a police station not a hundred yards away. There was traffic of
sorts day and night, and at the back of the house a stable building which
was apparently doubly occupied.

Peace did not know then that Miss Garden had her lodgings there, but he
knew that the groom slept over his stables and that a stable boy slept in
a loft.

In the middle of the paved yard was an ornamental lamp-post, an
eccentricity of the old doctor, and, more eccentrically still,
remembering it was a private lamppost, its gas burner was lit every night
and extinguished every morning.

The house was detached; there was no way of gaining access except from
the front or the rear. The only windows at the side were out of reach,
and a ladder would be instantly detected by the passers by.

Leaving his horse and trap in a neighbouring stable, he watched Alan go
out hurriedly one night, carrying a small black bag, and hardly waited
until he was out of sight before he attacked the front window. Luck was
with him, for there was no pedestrian within a hundred yards. He was
inside and had closed the window down within a few seconds.

He found himself in the waiting-room. He had taken a very careful note of
the topography, and, crossing the passage noiselessly, reached the small
dispensary, a narrow apartment which had been formed by putting up a
party wall that cut off a portion of the surgery and consulting room. He
had hardly closed the door behind him when there came a knock at the
front door, which was repeated. To his alarm, he heard the housekeeper go
along the passage and turn the key. He had counted upon her being asleep.

"Is the doctor in?" asked a well-known voice. Baldy Eltham! Peace looked
round for a way of escape. The room was at the side of the house. There
were no windows, the light being supplied by two powerful gas burners.
Nor was there any key or bolt on the inside of the door. His only escape
was along the passage and either out of the front door or by the way he
had come.

"I'll wait." said Baldy's voice. "My other tooth is aching like the
devil. I want the doctor to give me some of that stuff he put in the
other night. I could go right in and find it--I know exactly where it
is--in the poison cupboard." The hair on the back of the little man's
neck stood up. He drew his revolver from his pocket and clicked round the
cylinder.

"The poison cupboard's locked, Mr Eltham." said the housekeeper's voice.
"You'll have to wait till the doctor returns. He won't be very long--the
baby was born before they sent for him."

The heavy foot of Eltham sounded in the passage. He gripped the handle of
the dispensary door, turned it and opened the door a few inches. Peace
crouched down near the floor, rested his pistol hand on his knee. He had
extra cartridges in his pocket, but he would have no time to reload. He
held six in his left hand in case...

One slipped and fell to the floor. It made a clatter which the man
outside must hear.

"Well, perhaps I'd better wait." The door slammed and his voice
retreated--but not far enough. He had gone into the snuggery, which was
no more than a big recess behind the stairs. Peace pulled his lantern
from under his coat, turned the slide and examined the room quickly.

That must be the poison cupboard--the white one. He tried it. It was
locked. And here he had another shock: the cupboard was made of steel,
and the lock was really a lock. To force it open would not be a very
difficult task, but it would be a noisy job, and a little too risky.

He was considering what to do when he heard a key in the street door
lock, a light step in the passage, and Alan's voice. "A false alarm. The
other doctor was there before me. Hallo, Baldy! What's the matter with
you?"

"Toothache, doctor."

"We'll settle that," said Alan's voice.

It was now or never. Pulling the door open quickly, Peace stepped into
the passage. The doctor had not come into sight. Noiselessly he opened
the front door and slipped out, leaving it ajar.

"What the deuce is that?" said Alan. He had caught one glimpse of the
vanishing figure.

"What's wrong?" asked Baldy.

Alan ran to the door, pulled it open and stepped into the street. There
was no sign of the intruder. "Somebody was in the house. Have you been
into the dispensary?" He saw the open door.

"I haven't been in, but I opened and shut the door."

"Are you sure you left it shut?"

"I'll swear to it with a prayer-book in each hand," said Baldy.

Alan went in and lit the gas. Nothing had been moved or disturbed. With a
final glance round he was turning out the gas, when a bright object on
the floor caught his eye. Stooping, he picked it up.

"Here's a pin-fire cartridge." Baldy almost snatched it from his hand and
examined it carefully.

"Pin-fire?" he said slowly. "A revolver cartridge, of the same calibre as
the bullet that killed Arthur Dyson. You know the name of the man who was
in here, don't you? If you don't, I'll tell you--it was Charles Peace."



CHAPTER XXIX


The police kept their secret well. None of the general public knew that
the presence of Peace in Sheffield was as much as suspected. The search
that was made of the town was thorough; it was also futile. Before dawn
every questionable resort, every common lodging-house, every one of his
old haunts had been combed and sifted.

Baldy came to breakfast, weary-eyed, baffled. Every railway station for
twenty miles in every direction was being picketed and watched.

"The nerve of the fellow, to come back here! And to think I nearly went
into that dispensary! He couldn't have got out."

"And you mightn't have got out either, except on a stretcher," said Alan.
"On the whole I'm glad you changed your mind about going in."

"Why did he come here?" asked the sergeant. "There's nothing to steal."

"Don't be rude, Baldy. Why shouldn't my house be burgled? It's simply
full of valuable property. Seriously, I've got over a thousand pounds'
worth of old silver in the house, and it must have seemed easy to him. My
theory is that he watched until I went out last night, got in through the
waiting-room window--if you look you'll see where It's been forced
up--heard your knock at the door, and nipped into the dispensary."

"Why the dispensary?" asked Baldy, and Alan groaned.

"Because it was the only place he could go. The door is exactly opposite
the waiting-room door. It is the last place he would have chosen. There
is no way out except by the door."

"What nerve!" said Baldy, with reluctant admiration. "To come back to
Sheffield--"

"Has he ever been away?" asked Alan quietly.

"He's away now," said the sergeant, "but he'll be lucky to get right
away! He won't put his nose in Sheffield for many a day." But here he was
wrong.

Alan did not for one moment connect the phial of crystals with this
unpleasant visitation. The caller who wanted to retrieve his property
passed out of his mind.

Two or three days later, Jane Garden came home for a long rest. She had
been continuously working almost since the day this strange partnership
had been formed. Christmas was approaching, and she planned a visit to
the south coast.

"Why not follow the example of your late employer and see some white snow
and blue skies?"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Madame Stahm has departed for Switzerland, lock, stock and barrel, with
all her personal staff, her Mr Baumgarten, her furniture, hangings and
tapestries. In fact, the Hall is for sale." She hardly credited the news.

"Madame will leave nothing behind in England," he went on, "but some
forty thousand pounds which she has foolishly spent in her fruitless
attempts to make a new kind of steel. She will also leave a bad
impression and a disconsolate minstrel boy. Mr Charles Peace never had
such an appreciative audience." The rumour was that she had formed some
sort of business alliance with her arch-enemy, Wertheimer. At any rate,
they had been seen together at one of the leading lawyers' offices three
times in a week, and it was accepted that a working arrangement had been
signed, sealed and delivered.

"And I think she's wise. She had some sort of connection with that little
beast. Possibly he knows a little too much about her, and she is wise to
go before he's arrested and opens his mouth." He told her of the midnight
intruder, and was frank about it. "I'm telling you," he said, "because,
if I didn't, our dear housekeeper would make a song about it. That woman
ought to have been a reporter: she can keep nothing to herself."

Jane was staggered when she heard the story. "Here? Peace? Alan, It's
impossible!"

"I should have thought so, but it isn't. He'll not come here again, so
you can sleep sound at nights!" He might not believe that Peace had left
Sheffield. He was dangerously confident that the little man would not
repeat his foray, but here he underrated the audacity of one who boasted
that he believed in God and the devil and feared neither.

Two mornings after the burglary an unexpected visitor called upon Dr
Mainford, and on seeing him Alan almost gasped.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

Carton grinned. "I came up to bring down one of our young gentlemen who
goes to school near here, sir," he said. "I thought I'd call in and pay
you the money I owe you." He took a sovereign from his pocket and put it
on the table.

"An unexpected windfall for me--I hope you got it fairly, Carton?"

"I'm going straight, sir. All old lags say that, but I'm telling the
truth. I've got a good job, and I've told the governor all about my past.
It took a bit of courage, but I did it."

"Good luck to you! And keep the sovereign as a souvenir of our unpleasant
acquaintance!"

The man shook his head with a smile. "No, thank you, sir; I've always
looked forward to the day when I'd pay you back." There was a note of
anxiety in his tone when he asked: "Has anything more been heard about
Peace?"

Alan was almost inclined to tell him of his recent experience, but
thought better of it. "He hasn't been caught."

"People think he's in London," said the man in a troubled voice. "I hope
he isn't. Not that I'm likely to meet him--I live on the outskirts. That
was a lesson to me."

"Were you with him that night?" asked Alan quietly, and when Carton did
not answer he thought it wise not to press the question.

He was saying good-bye to the man when a thought occurred to him. "You
remember that bottle of chemicals you left with me? I wish you'd take it
away. I'm afraid I shall lose it, and I'd like to hand the responsibility
on to you--not that there's very much responsibility attached to it."

The man shifted awkwardly, cleared his throat. "If it's a bother, sir,
I'll take it." He had often wondered whether the doctor had thrown the
phial into the dustbin. Alan unlocked the poison cupboard, took out the
bottle and brought it from the dispensary.

"Here you are," he said.

Carton took it gingerly and dropped it into his pocket. The very motion
brought back a too poignant memory of another occasion when some one else
had given him that bottle to dispose of.

Jane came in just before the man went, and Alan told her the story of the
phial, but it had no special significance for her.

When he had gone, she chatted about her patient, and, as a thought struck
her: "I saw such an odd-looking man, a groom, today. He was driving a
pony cart. A queer-looking man with steel spectacles and a moustache."

"What did he do that was odd?"

"He looked at me," she said, and he laughed uproariously.

"That wasn't odd, it was the most perfectly natural thing to do. I look
at you. I'm never tired of looking at you. Where did this terrible
happening occur?"

"Outside Mrs Elford's house. I had a feeling he was following me in the
pony cart, but probably he was only waiting for somebody. It looked
rather like a doctor's trap, but I've never seen the man before. It was
his eyes that were so strange; it may have been my imagination, but they
seemed to glare at me."

"To look at you is praiseworthy; to glare at you is unpardonable. Find me
this groom and I'll poison him," said Alan. "I think I know the pony
cart--I've seen it several times. Sometimes it's driven by the groom, and
sometimes by a rather nice old gentleman in a square felt hat. I'll look
out for him and tell him not to glare. By the way, I was wrong when I
told you that Madame Stahm had gone--she did not leave until yesterday
morning. Apparently she has been staying in a Sheffield hotel for a
week."



CHAPTER XXX


The first intimation received by Peace that his patroness was departing
had come with the arrival of Baumgarten in the red dusk of a wintry
evening. Peace listened incredulously.

"She's going away?" And then, with righteous indignation: "What about
me?"

"To be exact, she has gone away," said Baumgarten. "She crossed the
Channel yesterday, and I am leaving this afternoon. Madame is not well;
she is very unhappy; she has lost money, and people who might have helped
her have been stupid. It was stupid to trust a man you had not met till a
week before; it was stupid to shoot when you might have threatened."

"What about me?" demanded Peace again. It was easy to act the wrathful,
ill-used man. "After all I've done and the risks I took! I wouldn't have
taken 'em for anybody else in the world."

Baumgarten sat down at the discoloured table--it had once been white, but
Peace was an untidy eater--and laid down a heavy leather wallet, opened
it and poured out a stream of shining gold.

"There is a hundred pounds there. Recover for us the crystals, and there
will be two thousand in addition. Have you a good memory, my friend?"
Peace nodded. "You know Madame's name and how it is spelt? Yes, I
remember, you do. You know my name and how it is spelt? Add the two names
together. Madame and I are to be married. Remember, Madame
Stahm-Baumgarten, and our address will be the National Bank, Berne. Write
it down, commit it to memory, and destroy the paper."

"I never forget anything," said Peace. "I've only got to read a scene in
Shakespeare twice and get the words in me head, and I never forget it."

"A letter will find madame, or, better still, a telegram. If you find the
crystals, send a telegraphic message, telling me where I can meet you,
and I will be with you in twenty-four hours. If you do not find them"--he
shrugged--"this is the end." He waved his hand to the shining heap on the
table. "And now, I will go."

"I hope you have a pleasant journey, sir," said Peace, and held out his
hand, but Mr Baumgarten apparently did not see it.

Peace gathered up the gold, counted it and adjusted it in ten little
heaps, and then in five larger heaps, and then balanced the hundred coins
one on top of the other, finally wrapping them in paper so that they made
rouleaux of twenty each.

These he secreted in various odd pockets and belts.

In a sense the departure of Madame Stahm was a relief. He intended
leaving the cottage and putting it into the hands of an agent to sell. It
would be worth three or four hundred pounds. He drove into Sheffield,
interviewed an estate agent, who was most agreeable to carrying out his
instructions.

"You can either sell it or mortgage it," he said. "If you will let me
have the title deeds, I will see what is the best arrangement." It was on
the tip of the little man's tongue to say that he had no title deeds, but
instinct told him that that would be a false move on his part. He
searched the house for them, thinking they were left behind, and resolved
to write to Madame Stahm to supply the missing documents. She had given
him the cottage--Baumgarten had said so. A gentleman's word ought to be
his bond.

He would stay at the cottage a little longer, for he had not given up his
quest.

Though Alan was unaware of the fact, Peace haunted the house, gaining an
extensive knowledge of the doctor's movements.

He found another interest--the presence of Jane Garden. He could put only
one construction upon the friendship between Alan and the girl, because
he knew no other variety of friendship. That whipper-snapper must be very
fond of her, he mused; and who wouldn't be? She wasn't as fine a creature
as Mrs Dyson. He thought she was rather namby-pamby, and namby-pambyness
in a woman cancelled out most of her attractions. But she was a
good-looker, a high-stepper--and a lady. That factor had an irresistible
appeal to Peace. He worshipped gentility.

If the truth be told, he had been none too pleased with the impish role
which Madame Stahm had assigned to him on a certain occasion. His vanity
rebelled against the suggestion that he was old enough to be the father
of any woman of attractive age and appearance, and he was almost glad
when the deception had been revealed.

Yet, for all her beauty, Jane Garden had something of a neutral quality
in his mind. His gross day-dreams took baser shapes. Her rare and
delicate beauty was beyond his appreciation, for he progressed by
comparisons. Kate Dyson was prettier than Thompson; Thompson was prettier
than that girl in Hull. Between the most ravishing beauty in his drab
life and Jane Garden was an unbridgeable gulf.

But she had a rare figure and good teeth. Peace, who had few serviceable
teeth, set great store by this gift of nature. She lived in a little
house over the stable. At first he could not believe that any man who
called himself a gentleman could allow a lady to live over a stable like
a common groom; but apparently she did not feel the disgrace of it. She
would have been surprised and alarmed to know how often those dog-like
eyes of Charles Peace watched her running up the wooden steps to her room
in the course of the next few weeks.

There was a small walled enclosure where stable refuse was thrown. Peace
found this a convenient hiding-place one night, when Alan and the girl
went out together. It offered no great opportunity to the little man, for
the housekeeper had been nervous since the burglary, and had brought in a
stalwart nephew to keep her company when she was in the place alone.

Dixon also was out. It was a boisterous night. Creeping from his
hiding-place, Peace took the long pole which hung on one of the stable
walls under a protecting ledge, and extinguished the lamp, replacing the
pole where he had found it. He was curious to see what kind of a hovel
the girl had for a home, and, passing swiftly up the steps, he tried the
door, and, when that failed him, a narrow window which was within reach.
He clambered into a room, pulled down the dark blinds and lit a candle
end. He was surprised to discover how cosy and pleasant it was, and
continued his leisurely inspection.

There was a possibility that he might find something to his advantage,
but there was nothing in either of the two rooms that it would have paid
him to take away, even if it had been wise to do so.

He extinguished his candle end, pulled up the blinds and let himself out
of the door. As he crossed the yard he could see through the kitchen
window the faint light of the room where the housekeeper and her nephew
were sitting. But the place was too small to burgle whilst anybody was
awake inside.

He tried the flanking wall of the house, hoping for an inspiration. The
roof was no use. This was going to be a very difficult job. He was
meditating upon ways and means when he saw the victoria pulling up at the
house, and hastened to his hiding place.

Usually Alan and the girl went indoors, but tonight they walked around
through the gateway into the yard.

"Hallo!" he heard Alan say. "The light's blown out. One minute--I'll
light it for you." He walked across the yard, found the lighter's pole.
and, after several attempts, set light to the methylated wick at the end,
and, pushing up the governing tap, relit the lamp. "There's always that
profession for me if medicine fails," he said, as he hung up the pole.
"Are you sure you won't have supper?"

"No, I'm going to bed--I'm tired."

Alan glanced up at the stable building. "Dixon won't be back till late. I
hate leaving you there alone. If anything happened to you, Jane, I think
I'd go raving mad."

She laughed softly. "What can happen to me except a good night's sleep?"

"I wish to heavens they'd find this man. He's getting a little on my
nerves."

"You mean Peace?"

"Yes."

She laughed again. "How silly of you! He wouldn't hurt me."

"He'd cut the throat of his own mother if it served him," said Alan.

The hidden man smirked as at a compliment.

"Good night!" He heard a kiss, and her light feet on the steps. It was
funny that they should part with a kiss, like two people who were only
just courting.

He caught a glimpse of her on the landing at the top, waving her hand,
and heard the door close. That house would never be burgled, he told
himself as he drove homeward. The young doctor was too wide, and it was
dangerous. He'd probably have a gun or a pistol in the house-bound to
have, he being an old army man. And there in that house was a
fortune--that was the maddening thing about it. If he could only lay his
hands on that phial! If he only had a friend there! If he could get round
the housekeeper, or have a talk with the girl! He only wanted a chance of
meeting her and talking her over. Women would do anything for him.

Peace had no doubt at all about his powers of fascination. His mind went
back again and again to the girl and Alan. Sloppy, that's what it was.
Going on like two school kids. He couldn't understand it. If "anything
happened" to her, Alan had said...

His lips curled, then suddenly drooped. A splendid idea dawned in his
brain--a wonderful idea. It was one of the grandest ideas he had ever
had. He almost shouted for joy as he whipped up the pony into a gallop,
and he pottered about the house for the greater part of the night,
singing, in his not unpleasant falsetto, a song which he himself had
written and composed. It was called: "If the Angels Should Take Me Away",
and it was about heaven and mothers and lonely lovers.

This was to be a job after his own heart, a job that required planning
and timing and rehearsing.

He snatched a few hours' sleep, and prepared the house for certain
contingencies; fed and groomed his pony, and washed down the trap with
water that he drew from a well at the back of the cottage. There was an
air of gaiety about the equipage that drove into Sheffield. This time he
did not bait the horse, but walked him slowly round and round until he
stopped by the side of a dark road within view of Alan's house. He waited
half an hour, saw the doctor come out and drive away. Leaving the pony
unattended, he walked across the road, and, taking a letter from his
pocket, slipped it into the letter-box, knocked a sharp rat-tat and
hurried away.

The housekeeper, who carried the letter to Jane Garden, did not mention
the fact that it had been put in the letter-box, although it had been
brought by hand.

Jane opened the envelope and read the ill-written scrawl.

"If you please, miss, Mrs Elford has been taken very ill again. Can you
come at once?

"Yours truly,

"MARY SMITH."

It looked like a letter that a servant might have written. Mrs Elford had
been one of her patients--the last she had attended--and she had left her
a picture of robust health. She could not suspect that the little man,
who, unknown to her, had been collecting information about her for days,
was well aware that she had nursed Mrs Elford.

It was only a short journey; she decided to go on foot. Peace, watching
the house, saw her come out and his heart sang within him. Turning the
pony, he followed her at a distance, overtaking her just as she was
turning into the gate of a house.

"Excuse me, miss!" She heard the urgent voice and looked round. "Is that
Nurse Garden?"

"Yes," she said, wondering.

"Mrs Elford isn't there. She's gone out into the country, on the
Chesterfield Road. I was sent to bring you to her."

Jane hesitated. "Does the doctor know?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, miss." Beyond the fact that he had a high, squeaky voice and
was a seemingly inoffensive old man with a beard, she scarcely noticed
the driver, and got into the trap without further demur. Peace urged on
the pony, and she noticed, as a curious fact, that he avoided the main
exit from the town, and took a bumpy side road which eventually joined
the main road where Sheffield proper ended and the country began.

She was a little puzzled. Mrs Elford was a woman who told her all that
she knew, and she had never made any reference to relations who lived
outside of Sheffield.

"Who wrote the note?"

"The cook, miss," said the driver.

She asked him one or two questions, and when he again turned off to a
side road she thought they were near their destination. What Peace was
doing was to avoid the cross-roads where police patrols sometimes met.

"You're going a long way round," she said when they were again on the
Derby road.

"The pony don't like traffic, miss. He's a bit shy, so I keep him to the
quiet lanes." They drew up before the cottage, and Peace drove the pony
up the side path to the back of the house. He apologized for keeping her
waiting while he unharnessed the horse and put him in the stable. This
done, he led her back to the front of the house, unlocked the door and
flung it open. The place was in darkness.

"Are there no lights?" she asked, and for answer found herself roughly
pushed into the passage. She stumbled and nearly fell. Before she could
recover herself the heavy door was closed with a crash, and a voice which
struck terror to her soul, said."

"You'll have all the lights you want, my girl. Get in there and keep your
mouth shut, or you'll be sorry."



CHAPTER XXXI


"Miss Garden has been called away," reported the housekeeper. "Mrs Elford
was taken very ill tonight and sent round for her."

Alan stopped himself in the act of hanging up his overcoat. "Mrs Elford
ill?" he said incredulously. "Did she send for me?"

"No, sir, the letter was for Miss Garden."

He looked at her blankly. "But I saw Mrs Elford this afternoon and she
was perfectly well." He went over the case in his mind. Though there was
a possibility of a relapse, it was extremely unlikely. He put on his coat
and hat again and went out. The house was no great distance from his own,
and in ten minutes he was pulling the bell at his patient's residence.
Mrs Elford was in the drawing-room, said the maid, evidently surprised to
see him.

"Is Nurse Garden here?" he asked.

"Nurse Garden, sir? No. The missus is quite well."

"Let me see her," said Alan sharply.

He was shown into the drawing-room. Mrs Elford was sitting by the fire, a
newspaper on her lap. "No, I didn't send for the nurse, doctor. Why
should I? I haven't felt as well for a long time."

"There must be some mistake," he said, and hurried home.

His housekeeper had made mistakes before, but now she was emphatic.

"Where is the letter that came for Miss Garden?"

"It's in her room, I think."

"Let me have the key." He ran across the yard, flew up the steps, and,
opening the door, lit the gas. The letter and envelope were on the table.
He took one glance and his heart almost stood still. He knew that
writing; Jane should have known it. It was unmistakably the hand of
Charles Peace.

"Do you want me, doctor?" Dixon heard him running down the stairs.

"Yes; harness the bay and put him in the trap."

"Anything wrong, doctor?" Dixon came pattering down to the stables.

"Miss Garden's gone away, and I'm rather worried about her. Send the boy
round to Sergeant Eltham's house and tell him I want him urgently. If he
can't find him, we'll go to the station." He returned to the house and
closely questioned the frightened woman. She had nothing to tell him,
except that she had found the letter in the letter-box and there had been
a sharp rat-tat preceding it. She had looked out--this Peace had not
noticed--but could see nothing except the lights of a trap on the other
side of the road some distance away.

Then there flashed upon the doctor an earlier experience of Jane's: the
groom with the steel-rimmed glasses and the pony cart, who had followed
her. There was a hundred to one chance that there might be something in
this.

Going up to his bedroom, he unlocked a drawer and took out a
long-barrelled Service revolver, a relic of his army days. He broke the
breach and loaded it. Peace would be an unfortunate man if he met Dr Alan
Mainford that night.

Putting the revolver into his overcoat pocket, he came downstairs again.
He could guess what had happened. Somebody had picked up the girl near
the Elfords' house, in which case he would continue in the same direction
she had taken, which was towards the south. Peace would hardly double
back through the town, where the trap could be identified and traced.

If Madame Stahm were still in England there might be an explanation for
the disappearance. He would have driven straight out to Brinley Hall and
searched the place from basement to attic. But the Hall was shut up, its
presiding genius had departed.

This could only be the work of Peace.

Baldy Eltham came in half-dressed. He had been sleeping after a day and a
night's search for a wanted man. Alan told him the story briefly, and by
this time the trap was at the door.

"You'd better call at the Central Station. It's going to be difficult to
get any more men out on the job. The reserves are dead beat. You think it
was Peace in the pony trap, do you? I've seen the man half a dozen
times--wears a sort of dark green livery coat and a top hat with a
cockade. I can't see any likeness to him, though. He's a cunning devil,
and we know he does disguise himself."

They were only a few minutes at the station and then went back to the
road in which Mrs Elford's house stood. They found a policeman who had
seen the cart, and remembered seeing the nurse. Jane wore a long veil for
a bonnet, and this was flying out behind her when the cart had passed the
officer.

"We're on the right track, at any rate. We'll make for the Derby road."
They drove as far as the cross-roads, and here they had a check. Since
the general alarm had been sent out for Peace, a mounted officer had been
on duty day and night at this point. He had taken careful note of all the
traffic, which was not considerable at this time of the night, but he had
seen no trap answering the rough description they gave.

It was curious, but quite usual, that although the pony cart had been
seen by a dozen different people, no two agreed as to its colour or
shape. Baldy thought it was a dark blue; an officer at the station was
equally sure it was varnished brown.

"We'll go on as far as Brinley," said Alan, and sent the long-striding
bay flying along the hard road. There were very few habitations, and
these he noted as they passed.

"Who lives in that cottage?" He pointed with his whip.

"I don't know. It's been empty some time, then a gentleman took it some
months ago--a Mr Gray." Brinley drew blank, and here they had definite
negative news. The place had been under observation by the county
constabulary, and the man on duty almost opposite the entrance gates was
very definite that nothing had entered or left that night.

"The gates were padlocked anyway, and there's no other way of reaching
the house," he said.

Alan stopped at the local inn to water and rest the horse.

It was one o'clock in the morning when they got up into the trap and
began their return journey.



CHAPTER XXXII


Peace eyed the girl critically and admiringly. She was pale, but she
showed none of the signs of fear he expected. She was looking at him
intently, trying to pierce his disguise and reconstruct the evil face she
knew. She saw now how perfectly he had hidden every characteristic
feature--except those glowing, animal eyes of his. Those she would have
known anywhere in any disguise.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I'm going to keep you here for a day or two, and see if we can persuade
that doctor of yours to do me a little favour. Now, listen, miss. I'll do
you no harm. I'll swear it on the Bible. I'm a gentleman. You do what I
tell you and nowt will come of this. If you don't--well, I can only be
hung once!" There was some relief in this news. She was being held as
hostage, then; he had no personal venom against her.

"Remember the time when you and me met, lass?" he asked. He sat astride a
chair, his arms resting on the back, feasting his eyes upon her. "I said
to her ladyship: 'That's a nice nuss you've got,' and I said to her:
'What about me taking her out for a stroll and showing her the sights of
Sheffield?'"

She wished he wouldn't look at her so continuously. She turned her own
eyes away, hoping to induce a relaxation of his scrutiny, but when she
looked again he was still regarding her with that same steadfast,
desiring stare. "The doctor's sweetheart, ain't you? I heard him talking
to you the other night. You didn't know I was there, but I was. Charles
Peace is everywhere. A hundred pound reward for me, me girl, but they'll
never take me. I'm too clever for them. Listen to that!" He thumped his
waistcoat and she heard the dull chink of money.

"The doctor! I could buy him up! Do you know what he did to me? Took a
whip to me! And do you know why he did it? Because of my little joke
about being your father." He chuckled. Mr Peace was in high spirits.

"What do you want of the doctor?" she asked.

"What do I want of the doctor?" he repeated. "Well, for one thing I want
him to give me a little bottle of stuff that he's got in his poison
cupboard. I tried to get it the other day."

She opened her eyes wide. "The phial of chemicals that Carton gave him?"

He nodded eagerly. "Have you seen it, miss?"

"No," she said. "But the doctor hasn't got it."

He smiled at this. "Don't you tell me no lies! I know the doctor's got
it. I tell you it's in his poison cupboard. I'd have had it, too, if that
flat-footed copper hadn't come in."

"He hasn't got it," she insisted. "Carton called two or three days ago,
and the doctor gave it to him."

He grinned again. "That's comic, that is. Carton called, did he? Why, he
wouldn't dare put his nose in Sheffield. I'd snuff him out! He knows what
Charles Peace is."

"I tell you he called," she insisted desperately. "He came to pay back a
sovereign the doctor had lent him to take him out of Sheffield on the
night of the Banner Cross murder." It was strange and terrible to think
that she was sitting at that moment vis a vis the very murderer, the
loathsome little man with a price on his head, and the scaffold looming
before him.

Peace was impressed.

"You tell me the truth, my girl, or look out for yourself! If they catch
me, I hang, and they can't hang me twice, can they, whatever I do? I
could murder you, and they could still only hang me once--if they caught
me. Not that I'm going to murder you--don't be frightened, love. You're
better-looking than Kate, and you're a lady. I've always been partial to
ladies. Now just you tell me about Carton, and don't tell no lies. A lady
shouldn't tell no lies."

"He came to see Dr Mainford," she repeated, "to pay him back the money.
The doctor drove him from Banner Cross to the station on the night of the
murder. But perhaps you know that?" He didn't know it, but this story
fitted in with the remarkable rapidity of Carton's movements, which had
enabled him to catch the last train to London.

"The doctor told him he still had the phial, that he was afraid of losing
it, and asked him to take it back. He took it back."

"Where does Carton live?"

"I don't know--he's in London somewhere."

He looked at her suspiciously. "I don't believe it. You're telling me
this because you think I'll let you go." He got up from his chair and,
walking across to where she sat by the table, took her chin in his hand
and lifted up her face to his.

"You're better-looking than Kate Dyson," he said. "You're a beauty." The
touch of her soft throat set him a-quiver. The dark eyes glowed like dull
fire. To show fear now would be fatal: she pushed his hand aside gently.

"Mr Peace, why do you stay in this neighbourhood? You know there's a
reward for you, and that the police are looking for you?"

"They don't know I'm here."

She nodded. "They know. You left one of your cartridges behind in the
doctor's dispensary." He stared at this.

"I dropped a cartridge, did I? Yes, I did an' all! Well, anybody might
drop a cartridge. Who said it was mine?"

Was she talking too much, she wondered. She must risk that, make him
think of his danger, of anything but her. "Sergeant Eltham said it was
the same kind of cartridge that had killed Mr Dyson--they know you're
here; they've been searching the town for you. Why don't you go away?"

He grinned at this. "Searching the town? And where was Charles Peace?
Driving through the town as bold as brass! I got a policeman to hold my
pony's head tonight--that'll make you laugh. A policeman looking for me,
and he held the reins and I gave him sixpence for his trouble. No, nuss,
you're staying here. I've got a nice little room for you, right up in the
roof; you lay snug there till the morning and then you'll write a letter
to the doctor and I'll get it sent to him."

She got up. "Which is the way?" she said.

A room to herself gave her at any rate a fort to hold, flimsy or strong.
He took up the lighted lamp. "Go first," he said, and she went ahead of
him up the stairs, through the bedroom. "Open that door." She thought it
was a cupboard, filled with old dresses, and he was flattered.

"I did that. Nobody would think there were stairs there. Push through the
dresses, lass, and turn to the right." She went up before him, stooping
her head to avoid contact with the sloping ceiling.

"Here's your room. You stay here quiet." He could not take his eyes off
her. "I'll leave you the lamp. There's another downstairs. I'll take the
key out of that door." He leered at her. "Nobody's going to hurt you,
lass, though I'd get no more for it. They can only hang a man once if he
commits twenty-six million murders!" She said nothing, and heard his
retreating footsteps with heartfelt thankfulness.

There was a chair, a small washstand and a bed in the room. The water jug
had been newly filled. She poured out a glass and, raising it to her lips
with a trembling hand, drank eagerly.

The place was stuffy, airless. She looked round for a window, but there
was none. Listening at the head of the stairs, she heard him go down to
the ground floor.

His heavy boots sounded hollowly on the bare boards. There was no time to
be lost: she began to draw the bed across the room. The castors squeaked
a little, and she paused, listening for some sound from below. She heard
a voice singing: it was Peace, and he was singing a hymn!

Desperately she pulled at the bed. It ran readily across the floor, and
she clamped the head of it against the closed door. But she knew a strong
man could push it aside, and she must find something to keep it in
position. The opposite wall was too far away, the articles of furniture
too few to jam the door tight.

Searching the room, she found a hammer and a paper of nails lying on a
shelf.

Workmen had been here, and evidently the tool had been overlooked because
of the height of the shelf. Then to her joy she found that the thick
shelf was movable, and lifted it down. Fitting one end against the rails
at the back of the bed, she began nailing the loose end into the floor.
She had never used a hammer before, but her very terror gave her skill.
She heard the clatter of feet on the stairs below, and worked
frantically.

He was shouting at her, but she did not desist. It was a bungling job. If
she had not used twice as many nails as were necessary she would have
failed. His fist came hammering at the door.

"What's the row? What are you doing?" He tried to open the door. The bed
moved a fraction of an inch, but the board held in its place.

"Open the door and let me in!" he howled. "I gave you a chance. Now
you're going to get what you asked for, my girl." She waited, breathless,
exhausted, leaning on the end of the bed and lending her weight to take
the strain he was imposing on the barrier.

"Got the bed here, have you?..." He poured out a volume of foulest
threats. She, who had seen the worst of humanity, had never till then
plumbed the depths of its vileness.

Presently he became calm.

"Open the door, miss. Don't be silly--I wouldn't hurt a hair of your
head. You can trust old Charles Peace. I've never harmed a lady in my
life. Don't get my temper up, miss--it'll be all the worse for you. I'll
let you go. Will you open the door?"

"No," she said.

He expected her to scream, to be crying, to be broken by terror. The
steadiness of her voice took him aback and to some extent calmed him.

"What's the use of being silly, miss?" he wheedled. "You can't sleep if
I'm hammering on the door all night, can you? Put the bed back in its
place and I'll let you have the key."

"Put it under the door," she said.

A long pause.

"Here it is, miss. Put your fingers under." But she was not to be caught.

Another interregnum of silence.

"You don't think I can't get in, do you? Charlie Peace could go through a
steel door: he's done it millions of times! I'll have the panels out of
that before you can say Jack Robinson, and when I get in, me lady, you'll
be sorry you was born." He went downstairs again, and was gone a long
time. He came back, and she heard the rasp of metal cutting wood, and
after a while the bright end of a bit showed in one corner of the panel.
Then the end of a thin saw thrust through, and as it did she struck it,
breaking it off short. He howled his imprecations at her, threw his
weight against the door, and for a moment she thought that the barrier
would give way.

Again he went down, and was absent for an even longer time. He was
searching the house for a hatchet, and when he failed to find one,
continued his search in the stable. He found an axe with a rotten handle.
It took him some time to improvise a new one with the help of a stable
yard broom. Then she heard him coming up, and waited.

"Are you going to open the door?" She did not answer.

Crash! The panel split under the impact of the axe head.

"Get aside if you don't want to be hurt!" he yelled, and struck again.

Not only the panel but the supporting frame splintered. There was an
aperture wide enough for a man to scramble through. Beating down the
jagged edges of the wood with the back of the axe, he wriggled through on
to the bed.

The beard was gone, though stray hairs still clung to the bristle on his
cheeks.

Here was Charles Peace in all his ugliness, in all his menace. She could
not mistake the message of his eyes, but she stood calmly in the centre
of the room waiting for him.

Peace saw a woman subdued, ready for surrender, her hands hanging limply
by her side. He never suspected the hammer that the folds of her dress
concealed.

"Got you, me lady! You remember what I told you? They can only hang me
once. You'll write that letter, and be glad to write that letter. You'll
do it because you love me. Women get used to me--they dote on
me...worship the ground I walk on." He was coming towards her stealthily,
cat-like, his long fingers curved like the paws of a wild animal. "I like
the looks of you," he went on huskily. "I've never seen a young lady I
liked so much...you brought it on yourself...they can only hang me once."

With incredible swiftness she struck, turned sick as she heard the thud
of the blow. Peace went down on his knees and sprawled forward on the
floor, blood on his temple.

She dropped the hammer and leapt on to the bed. She had seen the cover
that hid the skylight, and guessed that there was a window beyond. In a
second she was on the bed, unbolted the cover and dropped it. She pushed
up the circular window with such force that it fell back on the slates.
She must have a light of some kind.

The man was moving on the floor. She flew across the room and took the
lamp, and, hastily snatching up a chair, planted it insecurely on the bed
and mounted.

Peace was rising to his feet. She had not a second to lose. She pushed
the lamp high over her head, and with a superhuman effort drew herself up
on to the sloping roof. It was terribly steep; she could not possibly
keep her foothold and the lamp, she thought. Her shoes slid on the damp
tiles, and she kicked them off one by one, and, setting her teeth,
scrambled up to the roof ridge.

It was a still night. The lamp flickered but did not go out. Somebody
must see her--there must be neighbours.

The dark bulk of the man's head and shoulders came through the broken
skylight. He was half mad with rage, and at the sight of him she screamed
again and again. He scrambled up after her; his hands had almost grasped
her dress when his nailed boots slid on the tiles and, but for their
tripping the gutter, he would have fallen to the ground.

She made another attempt. She was screaming now--somebody would hear her.

In his rage was terror. The nearest house was a mile away, but there
might be somebody passing along the road. Something was coming. She saw
two bright lights appear round the bend of the road, heard the beat of
horse's hooves and waved the lamp frantically. At that moment Peace
reached up and gripped her knee. She kicked herself free, but he grabbed
at her ankle.

He made another attempt to reach the roof tree some distance from her,
and began working his way along. He had not seen the cart, but suddenly
he heard the sound of men's voices, and, looking down, saw the trap at
the door and somebody leap out. There was only one thing to do, he slid
down the roof towards the back of the house and caught the gutter in his
hands. There was a crack; the cast-iron gutter broke, and he dropped into
a bush. As he ran round the corner of the house he drew his revolver and
fired point-blank at the man who barred him.

It was Baldy, and as he staggered back to avoid the consequences of a
second shot, Peace flung past him. He reached the front garden when a
pencil of flame leapt from the other corner of the house and a bullet
whizzed so close to his face that he thought he had been hit. Screaming
with terror and rage, he turned and fired at the second man, and an
answering shot came back instantly.

There was only one hope: he dashed through the gate, banging it behind
him.

The restive horse was prancing at the sound of the shots. Peace was in
the driver's seat in a second; the whip flopped down, and the maddened
beast leaped forward.

Alan was not concerned about the escape. He was looking anxiously at the
dark figure on the roof. The lamp had gone out: it had slipped from her
hand and smashed; the fragments were at his feet.

"Is that you, Jane? Are you all right? Can you hold on until I get up?"

"Yes, I'm frightened, but I'm quite all right," came her reassuring
voice. "But I can't get back the way I came."

"Is it possible to force the door or the window?" Baldy, searching at the
back of the house, found a ladder that reached to the height of the roof,
and ran up. It was a nervous task in the darkness of the night, bringing
the girl to earth. She was trembling in every limb; felt physically sick;
and sat for ten minutes on the high stone doorstep of the cottage, her
head on her hands, whilst Baldy went round and put the pony in the little
cart.

By the time he was ready she had recovered.

"I feel I ought to faint. I suppose it's because I'm not what Mr Peace
calls a lady."

"You're sure he didn't hurt you?" Alan was beside himself with anxiety.

She smiled. "That is the one thing I'm quite sure about," she said.

All the way back to Sheffield he was cursing his bad marksmanship.

"The light was bad, and I'm out of practice, I suppose. There is no other
excuse." He would not allow her to go to the stable that night. Peace was
quite capable of returning. He sent her up to his own room, and sat up
for the rest of the night, waiting for Sergeant Eltham to report.

Alan's trap and his distressed bay had been found abandoned in a field
near Mansfield, and the horse was being taken care of locally.

"There goes eighty guineas' worth of good horse-flesh," said Alan; "the
brute!" He was not speaking of the horse.

The trains from Mansfield were being watched all down the line. A man
answering the description of Peace had been seen near the station, but
nobody seemed to have noticed whether he got on the train or not.

All day long false clues abounded, and the usual innocent citizens were
placed under arrest or observation. For the second time Peace had
entirely vanished. There was some interest when the body of a man was
taken out of the Trent, and in many particulars the description tallied
with the wanted murderer.

"We've sent a man down to identify him," said Baldy, "but bless your
heart, it's not Charlie! There's an old saying and a true one--a man who
is born to be hanged will never be drowned--"

"I'm so tired of hearing that," said Alan. "He may probably never be
arrested, but leave me the hope that he'll get drunk and fall into the
canal!" At the first opportunity he saw Jane Garden alone. "You are
staying in this house permanently, Jane," he said firmly. "And what's
more, you're going to figure in the newspaper. 'After a brief honeymoon,
Mr and Mrs Alan Mainford returned to their well-known surgery.'"

She smiled faintly at this; then a look of alarm came to her face. "Do
the newspapers know--about last night?"

He shook his head. "For some reason or other the police are not anxious
to advertise the fact that they have had Charles Peace as a close
neighbour," he said drily.



CHAPTER XXXIII


A letter arrived at Berne, via the National Bank. It was in a strange
handwriting, and the composition was more literate than was usual.

"DEAR MADAME" (it began), "I am Charles Peace, who you know served you
faithfully and suffered cruelly in your loyal service. Dear Madame, I am
in a terrible position owing to the way I have looked after your
interests, and I can't get any money because of the title deeds of the
cottage. Dear Madame, could you send the title deeds to me in the name of
Grey, and I can get them transferred to another gentleman who will pay me
well for them, because I am in very sad circumstances and starving to
death because of the way I looked after your interests, turning out in
the middle of the cold nights to play the fiddle when you was feeling
poorly, and all the trouble I got into with the police because of you
know who being killed by accident which was not design, which I had no
intention of killing the man, because nothing is further from my thoughts
than taking human life which is sacred according to the Bible I honour.
Dear Madame, if you will send the title deeds to a friend of mine, Mr
Thompson, 5 East Terrace, Evelina Road, Peckham, London, he will see that
I get justice done to me which I have never had since I was a boy owing
to the perjury of the police which as you know are always ready to swear
away a man's life for a few shillings. And that nurse turned against me.
She is a low woman as you can't deny when I tell you she is carrying on
with the doctor and brazen about it. She has sweared my life away and
your life away too, and the doctor tried to murder me and the police
tried to murder me by firing arms at me which it is against the law for
the police to carry firearms and they have kept it quiet or the
Government would have had his coat off his back. It's a bad day for
England if police carry firearms because they are not trained to use them
and all sorts of accidents would happen as you will see from the piece of
newspaper I have put in this letter when the Home Secretary said in the
Houses of Parliament that the police must not use firearms and it is
against public policy. I had to come away from Sheffield for my life and
left behind the money which you so humbly gave me, and I am now destitute
and starving and God knows what will become of me. But He looketh after
the fallen sparrows and comforteth them. If you have Bibles in
Switzerland you will see this. God knows how I shall live through today
and tomorrow. I am weak with want of food, so, dear madame, please send
me the title deeds before the end of the month because you are my last
hope and if the police take me, which they'll be clever to do, I shall
have to tell them everything about Mr Lamonte and the goings on at the
house which I have seen with my own eyes and can bring witnesses. Is
there any justice? No, there is none. Oh, God, who seest thy servant
inflicted by thy enemies, lift up thy hand and help thy humble servant.

"Yours obediently and respectfully,

"CHARLES PEACE.

"J. THOMPSON."

Mr Peace, remembering in time that, being a foreigner, Madame Stahm was
probably a Roman Catholic, had drawn a neat crucifix with emanations.

Madame Stahm read through this epistle, glanced at the newspaper cutting,
and handed the letter back to her husband. "Tell him to go to the devil,"
she said.

Mr Baumgarten would have addressed himself to this task with considerable
pleasure if he had not glanced at the back of the second foolscap sheet
and seen the postscript:

"DEAR MADAM,--The cristals are safe. The doctor gave them to Carton and I
am looking for Carton. You will hear from me by return of post."

"Do you believe him?" asked Baumgarten.

"Do you?" she challenged.

He pursed his lips.

"I don't know. I think I do. Possibly it would be safest to send him a
little money--a thousand francs."

She was not especially eager to send money to anybody. "We haven't heard
from the reptile for a year--more than that, Peter. If the crystals could
be recovered they would have been in his hands by now."

"Nevertheless, my dear, I should send him a thousand francs," said
Baumgarten.

He could afford to be judicial in the matter, because it was not his
thousand francs.

Mr Peace received the letter addressed to Mr Thompson, because at the
moment he was Mr Thompson. He was not starving: he was eating a large
steak in a comfortably furnished room. He had taken kindly to his new
life in London, as his wife had been pleasantly complaisant. There was a
Mrs Thompson in addition to a Mrs Peace, who called herself Ward. She had
appeared out of the blue, a bold throw-back to pre-Dyson days, an
especially well-favoured lady in the matter of looks, being blonde and
winsome; more to the point, comfortable, in the sense that she and Mrs
Peace--the real Mrs Peace, who lived in the basement--were on the
friendliest terms.

The little man with the dark face was popular in the neighbourhood;
attended a local church; made and mended kites for small boys;
manufactured toys of all kinds and distributed them gratuitously. He had
a kindly word for everybody. His neighbours said of him that he was quite
the gentleman, which had been said before by witnesses who had a better
opportunity of testing his gentility.

On the whole he was pleased with himself, though there had been one or
two irritating circumstances that had occurred since his arrival in
London. For example, the man Harbron, who had been sentenced to death for
the murder of Police Constable Cock, had been reprieved by a
pusillanimous Home Secretary. By this reprieve he had robbed Peace of a
permanent illustration that justice sometimes miscarries. He could cite
the case if ever misfortune overtook him; if necessary, plead guilty to
the crime to prove his point. He felt that the reprieve robbed him of
some importance, and was glad that he had not followed his inclination,
which was to go to Manchester when the petition for reprieve was being
circulated and put his name to it. He would have done this, because he
was quite certain that the petition would produce no effect. Petitions
never did. The petitions he had sent to the Home Secretary from Dartmoor,
Chatham, Wakefield, a dozen prisons; the heartrending appeals he had made
to the official heart, and which probably had never gone beyond the
cunning governor of the prison, were proof of this. The world was full of
injustice: he used to enlarge on this theme when he had company at No. 5
East Terrace, for he often gave musical evenings and played on a Spanish
guitar, to the delight of his guests.

There were people who thought he had once had something to do with the
law, he was such an authority on the subject, and this surmise was so
near the truth that he never denied it.

They were broadminded people in Peckham; they did not object to the touch
of colour in his blood, for how else might he attain to that swarthy
complexion? He was not above admitting relationship with African kings.
Generally it was believed that he was a much-travelled and widely-read
man. He was thinner than he had been, wore glasses on occasions, and the
deep wolf eyes had acquired a benevolent glint.

People liked Mrs Thompson very much; they did not like the faded Mrs
Ward, who was believed to be a poor relation of the Thompsons. Mrs
Thompson was pretty, had fair hair and a good figure. If she had any
drawbacks it was her weakness for strong drink. Therein she followed the
example of other ladies, whom Peace had known, and who also found
consolation and forgetfulness through the same medium.

'Mr Thompson' was an active man. He did a great deal of night work;
sometimes left home as late as ten o'clock and did not return till the
morning. The number of petty burglaries in New Cross, Lewisham and
Camberwell showed an alarming increase. Scarcely a week passed but there
was an account of them in the Sunday newspapers.

Peace folded the thousand-franc note with a grunt of satisfaction and put
it in his waistcoat pocket.

"What's that?" asked his pretty companion.

"Ask no questions and you'll hear no lies," said Peace.

It was true, as he had said, that he had not lost hope of finding Carton.
In point of fact he had seen the traitor, but too late to accost him. It
was on London Bridge station; their two trains stood parallel on either
side of one platform. The train in which Peace was moved out first, and
as he was passing the last carriage he saw a man, smoking a pipe and
reading a newspaper. It was Carton: there was no doubt about it. It was a
Woolwich train, he noted, and for a week after he hung about the station
in the hope of seeing his sometime partner again. Luck was against him,
and though he paid many visits to the station at the same hour, he caught
no further glimpse of the villain who, rightly or wrongly, he decided had
betrayed him. It was not outside the range of possibility that Carton had
also seen him.

He spent quite a lot of time in Woolwich and Greenwich, hoping to pick up
his quarry; but Carton had vanished. He was in London, and in south-east
London.

Peace had infinite faith in his luck. All would come right. He added to
the petitions he offered to his Maker one very important item: that he
should meet Carton and that Carton should be reasonable.

He had had one or two good hauls at railway stations, absent-mindedly
picking up other people's baggage and carrying it away; but he was
checked in this new branch of activity when he witnessed a clever arrest
for this particular crime, and realized that a special staff of
detectives had been turned on to watch the luggage thieves. It was too
dangerous, especially in London and in daylight. He went back to the
easier business of housebreaking; made one or two coups that were quite
valuable, and one or two that proved very troublesome and yielded little
profit.

He had established contact with a fair-dealing fence in East Greenwich,
but he was too wily a man to be content to dispose of his stolen property
through one channel, and he made new connections in places as wide apart
as Poplar is from Hammersmith.

Once, returning from an unsuccessful foray in the early hours of the
morning, he had been stopped by a policeman and summarily searched in the
street. Fortunately, he carried no housebreaking tools. There was an
early morning coffee shop in a side street near New Cross, where you
could leave a bag and be sure that no prying eyes would search it. His
indignation at this outrage against the liberty of the subject expressed
itself in a complaint personally presented to the nearest police station.

The delinquent officer would have been reprimanded, but Peace generously
pleaded for him and excused his zeal on account of his youth.

Thereafter this particular policeman always touched his helmet when Mr
Thompson passed. Peace got more satisfaction out of this than he would
have done if a gold medal had been pinned on his bosom for spotless
integrity.

Sometimes his operations carried him far afield. He liked to indulge in
travel, and on a certain Sunday morning he was sniffing the air of
Brighton as he strolled leisurely along the front, when a newly-married
couple on their honeymoon drove past. The girl turned with a little cry.
She couldn't be mistaken.

"What is it, darling?" asked Alan, looking back.

He saw that her face had gone white.

"Aren't you well?"

"No, no. Only I thought I saw somebody I knew--somebody who is dead." She
lied recklessly, for she remembered that spiteful snub-nosed revolver
which never left the little man's pocket, and it was the second day of
her honeymoon and she wanted life and many bright years with the man who
sat at her side.

He had a trick of reading her thoughts, and when they got back to the
hotel from their drive: "You saw Peace?" he said, and she nodded. "On the
front?"

"Yes, darling. He was walking--I am sure it was he. Don't go and
look--please, please!"

"I do not intend joining any more search parties after that little
villain," he laughed, "but I think the police should know." He sent a
note round to the inspector, who was at first sceptical, and then, when
he had interviewed Jane, very much alive to the possibilities of a
capture.

Mr Thompson had not seen the girl and was quite oblivious of the
recognition. Later in the afternoon he was having tea in a flamboyant
restaurant, when he heard somebody say: "Did you hear that Charles Peace
has been seen in Brighton? It's a fact--a bobby told me." Peace paid his
bill and left the restaurant at his leisure. He went back to London via
Shoreham and Littlehampton. He was alarmed and worried. Who had
recognized him? His curiosity was piqued, and curiosity was a vice in a
man who needed no embellishment of his viciousness. It couldn't be an
inhabitant of the seaside town, because he had never been there before.
It must have been a visitor, and he remembered seeing on the bookstall at
the station a visitors' list. He had thought at the time what a joke it
would be if somebody had put in 'Charles Peace'.

A few days later the bookstall clerk at Brighton station received a
request for a copy of the visitors' list, two penny stamps being
enclosed. Mr Thompson settled himself down to an enjoyable evening,
scanning the long columns of names.

Presently he found what he wanted: "Mr and Mrs Alan Mainford." There were
two surprises here. He looked up over his glasses at his companion.

"He's made an honest woman of her after ail."

"Who?" asked Mrs Thompson.

"A certain party," said Peace. "I used to keep company with her, but she
drank too much for me." So he had married the nurse, and they were the
people who had given him away.

For all they cared he might have been in a police cell now, facing the
certainty of the gallows. A cold rage possessed him. Honeymooning...she
probably had to marry him in a hurry. He brooded on this, became an
assiduous collector of south coast visitors' lists and located them at
Bognor. Peace took an afternoon train, arrived at Bognor after dark, with
no especial plan of campaign in his head, but with a general bias towards
wickedness.

It was a poky little place, with scarcely any front, and few people were
visible, for the sky was overcast and a chill wind blew down from the
north-east. He knew their hotel, and he kept watch opposite the entrance,
and later in the evening saw them both come out and drive away. He waited
till midnight, but they did not return, and he made friends with an
outside porter.

"Mr and Mrs Mainford? Oh, they've gone away to London--left two hours
ago."

"I didn't see any baggage."

"That went on to the station before them." Peace trudged in search of a
lodging, and on his way threw into the sea the small bottle of vitriol
that he had purchased at a local chemist's.

Gloat over him, would they? Laugh at him, sitting in the condemned cell
and waiting for Marwood to come in? Everybody knew what Marwood did: it
was the talk of the prisons, common gossip. Every man discharged from a
convict prison told the same story. There was Marwood, stocky,
broad-shouldered, bearded, the dangling straps in one hand and offering
the other.

"I am very sorry I have got to do this, but it's my duty and I hope you
will forgive me,"

And the prisoner saying: "Will it hurt?" and Marwood saying he would make
it very comfortable for him.

That was the kind of morning this nurse wanted to give him. His heart was
bitter with hate. All the way up to London the next morning he thought
out ingenious methods by which they could be brought to ruin. Suppose
they had a baby? They were bound to have one some day, and in the morning
they'd wake up and find it gone, and a note in the cradle saying:
"Charles Peace never forgives." Probably he'd throw it in the river or
under a steam-roller, or they might never know what happened to it. He'd
give it to gipsies. And you know what gipsies did to children.

He had wasted two good days at a time when the thousand francs were
nearly exhausted, and the profits from his evening excursions were
abnormally low.

On a Saturday evening he liked to frequent some busy marketing place. His
old profession came back to him readily, and his fingers were as nimble
as ever they were. He could take a purse out of a woman's back pocket and
she'd never know she'd lost it. He made one or two good 'gets'--fat
purses, crammed with the week's wages, which women had taken out to
provide for the weekend marketing. Working women mostly. It was his
practice to justify himself, and his main justification was: "This'll
teach them a lesson," though what the lesson was he never explained, even
to himself.

He was in High Street, Deptford, one night; he had worked Broadway, and
had turned into the crowded market street, which looked full of
possibilities. He saw a stoutish man walking in front of him, smoking a
pipe, which he filled from a silver tobacco box, and the tobacco box went
into the man's side jacket pocket. It wasn't worth much, but every little
helped. Peace passed him, glancing away towards the street and dropped
his hand into the other's pocket nonchalantly. His fingers had closed on
the box when his wrist was gripped.

"Hi! What's the game?" He turned and stared at his victim.

"Oh, my God!" said Mr Carton, his jaw dropping.

In a moment Peace had recovered his presence of mind. "Come down this
side street; I want to talk to you," he said.

Carton obeyed meekly. He, too, was conscious of that revolver which never
left Peace day or night. He lived in terror of Peace and his
ruthlessness; more dangerous now, with the rope hanging over his head.

"That is a very pleasant surprise, I must say." They had reached a dark,
narrow and ill-lit street, and Peace had stopped him against a wooden
gate that formed the entrance to a back yard.

"I--I didn't have time to see you," stammered Carton. "Lord! You're
changed, Mr Peace. I couldn't believe it was you at first. What have you
done with your face?"

"Never mind my face. Where's that bottle?"

Carton licked his dry lips. "It's like this--" he began.

"Where's that bottle? Don't shilly-shally about. I'm a desperate man,
Carton. I'm starving because of you. Where's the bottle?"

"It's up at the house." The man blurted out the truth.

"What house?"

"Where I'm working."

"Where is that?" There was a second's hesitation, which was a second too
long.

"In Lewisham."

"You're a liar. What's it doing there?"

"The doctor gave it to me," said the man earnestly. "I didn't want it. I
asked him to take charge of it because it was valuable. I might have
thrown it away but I wouldn't do a dirty trick like that on you, Mr
Peace, so I asked the doctor to look after it, and then when I went up to
Sheffield to pay him some money lowed him, he handed it to me back. I
knew sooner or later you'd turn up, and I dursn't get rid of it, so I
gave it to the governor to mind."

Peace drew a long breath. "If I did the right thing, do you know what I'd
do to you? I'd shoot you right through the heart. If I wasn't a Christian
man who never took life, which the Maker of all things giveth to us, I'd
kill you, you hound!"

Carton was shaking with terror. He saw a tragic end to an evening which
he had hoped would finish more pleasantly, for he had a young lady,
contemplated matrimony in three rooms with the use of a kitchen, and all
his pleasant dreams were to be wiped out--unless--"I can get the bottle
for you. The governor's away on holiday just now, and I don't exactly
know where it's kept; but I swear to you, Mr Peace--"

"My name's not Peace. Don't call me that. Call me Ward. And don't
swear--take not the Name in vain, Carton. Was you brought up as a heathen
or wasn't you? Where do you live?" Courage came to Carton with a vision
of the fresh-faced girl he was to meet that night.

"I shan't tell you," he said doggedly. "If you want to shoot, start
shooting!" A certain reckless courage came struggling through his fear.
His voice grew loud. A man and a woman, passing on the opposite side of
the street, turned and stopped in anticipation of a fight--a form of
entertainment which costs nothing to see and provides a topic of
conversation for a week.

"Shut up, will you!" hissed Peace. "Who's going to shoot you? I'm a
reasonable man, and you're a reasonable man. I forgive everybody who's
done me harm. When can you get the bottle?"

"In a couple of weeks," said the man sullenly.

"You needn't be afraid of me knowing who your boss is," said Peace. "I
could go up and tell him the kind of man you are, all about your low life
and the time you've had--"

"And perhaps you'd tell him about yourself?" said Carton, exulting in his
newfound courage. "That would do you a fat lot of good, for him to know
you was Charlie Peace!"

Mr Peace restrained himself with an effort. "I tell you I wouldn't go to
him and split on you."

"It wouldn't matter if you did," said the other defiantly. "When I took
this job I told him everything, except that I'd made friends with a
murderer." Peace winced at this. That any man should be ashamed of his
acquaintance with him was an unpardonable effront. "Where do you live?"
he asked again.

"Find out," said the other.

"I'll find out," growled Peace. "There's nothing I couldn't find out.
I'll track and trail you wherever you go. I'll search every house in
Greenwich"--he was looking at the man--"and Blackheath--ah, that's where
you live, my boy! I'll track and trail you there, and I'll never leave
you!"

"You can go to hell," said Carton, shook off the detaining hand, and
stalked majestically back to the High Street.



CHAPTER XXXIV


Peace waited until he had turned the corner, crossed the High Street
quickly, and, taking cover behind two stout women who were moving in his
direction, kept the man under observation.

There was a possibility--a grave possibility that if Carton was too much
terrified he might blab. The man walked on. He had already located his
shadow, and took a bold step. A policeman was standing under the railway
arch, jotting down notes in his book. Carton walked up to him.

"Excuse me, sir, could you tell me where Evelyn Road is?" The policeman
pointed. The accusing finger moved in the direction of the alarmed spy.
Peace turned and walked quickly away. He was taking no chances.

Carton might have been pointing him out; on the other hand, he might have
been bluffing. Peace had often gone to a policeman to impress somebody
who was suspicious of him.

From a safer place of observation he watched. The constable and Carton
parted.

The ex-butler was moving in his direction. Peace waited in the cover of a
side road for his former companion to appear. He waited ten minutes;
there was no sign of Carton. But it was too late: the man had slipped
into Deptford Road Station in time to catch a Greenwich train.

That was where he lived then--Blackheath! He cursed himself for not
having given the man an address to which he could send the crystals.
Probably it was true that he couldn't get them. And now, if he found
them, how could he pass them on to their lawful owner? That was a
mistake: Peace was magnanimous enough to acknowledge it to himself. The
next time he met Carton he must adopt another attitude.

For weeks afterwards he haunted Blackheath, always by night; but Carton
stayed indoors after dark: he knew that that was the only time his enemy
would be abroad.

He had spoken the truth: his employer was away in France, and the phial
was locked up somewhere perhaps in the safe.

The little man's luck was out. Again he was stopped by the police and
this time taken to a police station and searched. It happened in Peckham
High Street on a Saturday night. There had been some complaints about
pocket-picking, and special plain-clothes officers had been detailed for
observation. Peace had time to drop the purses which would have convicted
him behind a barrel of meal outside a corn chandler's. When he was
arrested he was volubly innocent. He had money, plenty of money, in his
pocket, for he had emptied the purses as fast as he had taken them. There
was nobody to identify one sovereign from another, or one hard-earned
florin from its neighbour.

"The papers are going to hear about this," said Peace, quivering with
indignation as he was escorted to the door. "Here am I, a respectable
householder, dragged through the streets by a lot of common coppers and
boys hooting at me! How can I go to chapel tomorrow and face my
fellow-men and my Maker?"

"It's very unfortunate," said the tactful inspector, "but you must
understand, Mr Thompson, that there has been a lot of pocket-picking on
Saturday nights in this neighbourhood, and we' re here to protect the
poor as well as the rich."

"And punish the wrong-doer." said Peace. That's the text--"Protect the
children of the poor and punish the wrong-doer." The inspector, startled
to discover that he had been quoting Scripture with the same
unconsciousness as Moliere's gentleman spoke prose, offered his personal
apologies.

"If you like to make a case, and submit a written statement to me, I will
see that it goes forward to the proper quarter," he said. "Our men are
only doing what they think is right, and they were under the impression
that you behaved in a suspicious manner. The woman said she brushed
against you--"

"A common woman like that! I wouldn't even brush against her," said
Peace. "I'm a gentleman, as I can prove." He went home, bristling with
wrath, and arrived at East Terrace in time to hand his wife two
sovereigns to do her Saturday's marketing before the shops closed--Sunday
morning marketing he would never countenance.

"Mind where you keep that two pounds." he warned her as she went out.
"There's a lot of pickpockets down by Rye Lane." He gave up his night
searches for Carton and went out to look by day, choosing Sunday. He
sauntered from morning till night up and down the strip of asphalt
pavement which fringes Blackheath, and it was on the third Sunday that he
found his man. He was walking with a young lady who was beautifully
attired, and from their attitude one to the other he gathered that they
were something more than friends.

"Old enough to be her father," he muttered.

All the afternoon he dogged them, through Greenwich Park to the
Observatory, down the hill to the Naval College, and along to the church
gates. Here were eating houses, where you could buy a good tea with
shrimps for sixpence.

He waited patiently until they had satisfied their gross appetites,
picked them up when they boarded a horse tram, and followed them through
Greenwich to the foot of Blackheath Hill, where they alighted. He had
gone up to the top roof of the tramcar, though it was not at all outside
weather. He waited till their backs were turned, stepped off the noisy
vehicle while it was in motion, and followed them up Blackheath Hill,
past a police station with which he was to be better acquainted some day.

At the top of the hill they parted. Carton kissed her, raising his hat in
a gentlemanly way as he did so.

"Old enough to be her father," said the disgusted Peace.

She wasn't a bad little piece, either. He had a good look at her as she
passed him.

He liked the way she walked, and wondered what her name was. Then he
turned to follow his quarry, who strolled along, twirling a lah-de-da
walking-stick;--an elaborate piece of acting on the part of Carton, for,
whilst Peace was observing the girl, the ex-butler had recognized him and
knew that he had been followed.

He had made acquaintance with a footman at a house in St John's Park. He
knew the family were out that day, because he had been invited to tea. It
was too late for tea, but not too late to deceive Mr Peace. Unconcerned,
he strolled through the gates, mounted the steps and pulled the bell,
and, as luck would have it, it was his friend who opened the door to him.

"Hallo! You're late. I thought you weren't coming."

"Do you mind me stepping in? There's a man been following me all the
afternoon."

The footman closed the door on him. "Do you owe him money?" he asked
naturally. "Or is he a girl's father or something?"

"I owe him a bit of money."

"Come on down in the kitchen," said the footman.

Peace made a note of the address: No. 2 St John's Park. It looked a good
house, too--a place you could 'do' without a lot of trouble. There were
men-servants, but they did not matter. It was the woman servants that
gave all the trouble, screaming and squawking all over the place.

He came up two nights in succession to reconnoitre the house. Yes, it was
easy enough, but where would the bottle be kept, supposing Carton had
been speaking the truth? Apparently he himself didn't know. He resolved
to get in touch with the man, but that was more easily planned than
accomplished. Again he waited on the Sunday, but this time he took
another post of observation--the foot of Blackheath Hill. He reasoned,
knowing something of his fellow-men, that Carton would reverse his walk
and start from the Blackheath Hill end and finish through the park, and
he was not wrong.

Carton saw him when he mounted the tram, and, excusing himself to his
young lady, climbed up on to the top.

"What are you following me about for?" he demanded truculently.

Peace was unusually mild. "If I knew where I could write to you, or what
name you was going under--"

"Carton is the name I'm going under," said Carton. "It may seem a bit
funny to you, a man going under his own name."

"I know where you live, but I'm not going to call on your governor. All I
want to know is, speaking as man to man, where does he keep that bottle?"

"It's in the safe, or else it's in one of the drawers of his desk. He's a
gentleman in the City--keeps a lot of papers in his desk. They're always
locked up. I shouldn't think it's in the safe, because I remember his
opening a drawer and putting it in the desk when I gave it to him."

"That's all I want to know," said Peace. "Why the trouble? Why the lack
of harmony? I'm not going to ask you for it; I'm not going to wait till
this man comes back; I'm just going to take it. It ain't much to ask you
to leave the kitchen door unfastened, is it?"

"You can go on asking me," said the exasperated Carton, "till you're blue
in the face, till you choke yourself, till you drop dead on this very
tram, and then I wouldn't do it. If you want to get into the house, get
in, but don't ask me to help you. That's my last word to you." He got up
abruptly and went downstairs. His indignation seemed real. But there was,
working at the back of Carton's mind, a counter plan, which involved a
supreme act of treachery, though he owed nothing to Peace but
considerable disquietude of mind.

He had been promoted to butler at the modest establishment which he
managed. It was nearly half a mile away from the house at St John's Park;
it was on the same police beat, and as butler and dispenser of culinary
favours he was friendly with the policeman, even with the sergeant, who
sometimes dropped in to drink a forbidden glass of beer.

The sergeant either dropped in or popped in on Saturday night. There was
a subtle distinction between the two acts. On the Monday night a sergeant
popped in, which meant that he was not really on duty, and was at liberty
to pay a friendly call, and with him Carton discussed the vulnerable
character of certain houses on the heath.

"There have been a few burglaries, but none up here." said the sergeant,
"or next to none." To Carton's credit it must be said that he had taken
the sergeant and the divisional inspector into his confidence regarding
his own past, and the friendliness of the police force may be better
understood from this fact.

"You know what I am, sergeant." They were sitting alone in the kitchen,
but Carton lowered his voice. "I've been an old lag, but I know a better
game. A lot of other old lags don't believe I've turned over a new leaf,
and I get to hear things. It's not for me to give away people I've worked
on the same landing with, but you're either on the side of the law or
you're against it. Correct me if I'm wrong."

"There never was a truer statement." said the sergeant earnestly, and
added: "Have you heard anything?"

"I've heard a lot." Carton was very deliberate. "From information
received--no names, no pack drill--I've got an idea there's going to be a
job done at St John's Park. Number Two is the number, but I can't tell
you when." The sergeant jotted down the information in his notebook. "I
don't want to be brought into this--"

"Naturally." said the sergeant; "and you won't be brought in." They shook
hands solemnly when they parted.

Did Peace have some premonition of coming danger? For the next six months
he shunned Blackheath, confining himself to small burglaries in the
middle-class districts that surround Dulwich.

He had made a survey of the West End, where at one time he thought good
pickings could be found, but had learned, almost at a glance, the
insuperable difficulties which confronted a single-handed worker. The
place was too well lit; the mewses which form the backs of the big houses
were too densely populated. It was impossible to get in with the
servants. He confined himself to the 'cook-parlourmaid houses' in the
vicinity of Lordship Lane. But there was too much electro-plate there,
and many of the imposing silver bowls that decorated front drawing-rooms
were so thin that you could bend them with your finger. There was a lot
of German silver about, too, and German silver is so called because it is
not silver and was made in Birmingham.

Always at the back of his mind was that house on Blackheath, which had
been rigorously watched and guarded for three months, and which was in a
condition of normal unprotection now.

The sergeant was gently reproachful. "You made me look a bit of a fool,
Carton, but I know your intentions were good," he said.

"I tell you I'm right." said Carton, stung to self-defence. "And what's
more, sergeant, when you capture this fellow you're going to catch a man
that'll make you famous."

"Nobody would make me famous," said the sergeant, who had been long
enough in the force to have lost his illusions. "The inspector'll get a
bit of the credit, but Scotland Yard will get most of it. You wouldn't
like to tell me who it is?" For one second Carton was tempted to tell the
truth, and then he remembered the revolver.

"No, I wouldn't. But I can tell you he's armed--never goes about without
a shooter."

The sergeant laughed. "There's not many of them about, since Charles
Peace got out of the country," he said, putting into words the prevalent
police delusion.

Carton said nothing. He felt hurt at the inactivity of Peace. Had he lost
his nerve, or was he suspicious? This thought made him sweat. He took to
meeting his young lady in unusual places, which involved a considerable
outlay in railway fares.

Every small man he met in the street was Peace; every noise he heard at
night was the stealthy footstep of an armed and resentful burglar. Peace
became an obsession to him, kept him awake at night, robbed him of sleep
and comfort. His young lady noticed and remarked on the change.

"You're not half as loving as you used to be," she complained, and hinted
that there were as good fish in the sea as ever came out, which Carton
had known all along.

Relief came unexpectedly, violently. Peace came to Blackheath, with no
intention of burgling unless there was a fog, and there was no fog. He
decided to make a third reconnaissance of the house. It was very quiet,
and he passed into the garden and round to the back of the house without
difficulty. He could hear no sound...such an opportunity might never
offer again.

He did not realize then that the back of the house was visible from the
avenue which connects Blackheath with St John's Park; and, even if he
had, the complete quietude of the night--it was nearly two o'clock in the
morning--would have encouraged him..

He took a jemmy from his pocket and made an attempt upon a window. It
yielded readily and without sound. He found himself in the drawing-room,
and, lighting a small dark lantern, his own invention, he made a quick
survey of the valuables. There was no sense in devoting all his attention
to a search for the crystals.

He took such articles as came to his hand, slipped them into his pocket
and made his way to another room, where there was a desk. He had hardly
started on this when he heard the sound of voices on the lawn outside. A
policeman had seen his light from the avenue, and, summoning a brother
constable, was crossing the lawn.

Peace saw them and heard the front door bell ring. He thought he could
still escape unobserved and, stuffing his jemmy into his trousers'
pocket, he jumped to the ground and ran. He misjudged the distance.

The man at the front of the house came round to intercept him. He made a
dive at the little man, but Peace fought him off. Turning, he doubled
towards the bottom of the garden, the policeman at his heels. Suddenly
Peace turned and his hand shot out. He was holding a revolver, clearly
seen in the moonlight.

"Keep off, or by God I'll shoot you!" snarled Peace.

The policeman's reply was not heroic. "You'd better not," he said.

Before the words were out, Peace fired--once, twice, three times. By a
miracle the constable was not hit. He leaped at his man, and Peace fired
again. With his left hand he struck at the burglar, knocking down the
pistol hand with his right. There was a fifth shot: this time it took
effect, passing through the policeman's arm.

Nevertheless he would not release his grip of his prisoner, and flung him
to the earth. The policeman doubled up his arm, gripped the revolver,
still strapped to the burglar's wrist, and struck him on the head with
the weapon. Then, turning him face down, he held him till assistance
came.

Peace was in a fury. He spat venom at his captor, but presently consented
to go quietly, and, escorted by three officers, including the wounded
man, trotted down Blackheath Hill with his captors.

Carton had heard the shots and had leaped out of bed. One, two, three, he
counted, then a fourth, and a fifth, and no more. He was terrified, but
he must know the truth. Drawing on his clothes and shoes, he raced out of
the house on to the moonlit wilderness of the heath.

If it was Peace! He ran on, breathing strenuously towards St John's Park,
and arrived as the prisoner and the three officers came out through the
gate. He saw half-clad servants following at a distance and learned the
truth.

"An ugly little man. He looked like a nigger...Shot a policeman."

"Dead?" gasped Carton.

"No, he's only wounded. Come along, I'll show you the blood on the
grass." People always seemed to be showing Carton blood on the grass,
blood that Peace had shed. He declined the invitation.

Returning to his house, he dressed more completely and walked down to
Blackheath Hill, hoping to find an officer he knew. It happened that a
friend of his was on duty at the desk, and showed him, with some pride,
the revolver with the strap attached. He recognized it instantly as
Peace's pistol.

"Would you like to see him?" asked the sergeant. "The inspector has gone
up to the house, and if you promise not to let on I'll give you a squint
at him." He took a key and opened a heavy door, and Carton found himself
on familiar ground: the corridor of the cells. Stopping before one of the
closed doors, the sergeant moved a peep-hole aside and beckoned his
companion.

At first the shaking man hardly dared look. At last he summoned up his
courage and put his eyes to the observation hole. A man lay on the hard
plank, a thin blanket over his legs. There was no doubt about his
identity--it was Peace, and he was sleeping as calmly as if he were in
his own bed. That in spite of the wounds which lay under the heavy
bandages about his head.

Carton tiptoed out into the Charge room.

"Never let on I showed him," said the sergeant again. "He's a tough
customer. Thank God there are not many like him!"

"What is his name?"

"Ward--that's the name he gave. Usually they are Smiths, but this one's
Ward. Ever seen him before?" It was on the tip of the man's tongue to
tell the truth, but such was the terror that Peace inspired that the
words would not come. He'd get a long stretch for burglary and would be
out of the way for years. Shooting a copper, too--that was serious.
Better he went down for that than for the Banner Cross job. Carton might
be dragged into that--you never knew what lies Peace would tell.

"Ever seen him before?" asked the sergeant.

"No," said Carton.

He went back to his house, treading on air; up the steep hill, across the
heath he swaggered. Going into the kitchen he brewed himself a cup of
tea, found notepaper and envelopes and wrote to his young lady.

"Meet me at the usual place on Sunday," ran the letter. "The gentleman I
spoke about that I didn't want to see me because he wanted me to marry
his daughter, which I would never do, because you're the only true love
of my life, has gone away for good." There were five pages more, one of
which was entirely covered with crosses.

Carton was nearing fifty, had been the inmate of several prisons, had
narrowly escaped penal servitude, but his sentiment endured; and anyway,
crosses are almost a relaxation to draw.



CHAPTER XXXV


Peace woke in the morning, blinked round the cell and swung his feet to
the ground. John Ward--that was his name. No address. If they wanted to
find out where he lived, let 'em find out. That was what they were paid
for.

The gaoler brought him in coffee and bread and butter.

"I'm entitled to two ounces of bacon," said Peace, "and I want my
rights."

"You've been in before, have you?"

"That's nothing to do with you. I'm entitled to two ounces of bacon--"

"A prisoner on remand is entitled to a little extra," said the gaoler
patiently. "But you're not on remand. You'd better wait till tomorrow;
you'll be on remand then all right, and you'll be eating government food
for a good many years, you old so and so."

Peace scowled at him. "As a bird is known by his note, so is a man by his
conversation," he said reproachfully.

The gaoler's reply was unprintable.

The prisoner sipped the weak coffee, munched at the bread and butter and
calmly surveyed the situation. There was a solicitor he had consulted in
reference to the cottage property. He must communicate with him without
delay. Hannah must know and Mrs Thompson, who had enough money to last
her for a few months, must surrender a little--all of it if necessary.

Shooting with intent to murder--that was the charge. He might get a seven
for that, or perhaps less. It depended on the judge. He hoped this man
Hawkins wouldn't try him. Hawkins' reputation ran through the gaols of
England. He was inhuman, without even the lesser bowels of compassion.
Men like Hawkins made criminals; every criminal agreed on this. He had a
dog in court, which he kept under his feet all through the trial, which
in itself was unlawful. How could judges expect poor, hard-working people
to keep the law if they broke it themselves?

He wrote a note to his solicitor and got it sent off by police messenger;
later he made a brief appearance before a magistrate and was remanded.
There was a lot of interest in the case. The court was crowded, more
crowded than it had ever been before when he had made an appearance at
the bar of justice. He was an important man. How much more important
would it be if they knew they had got Charles Peace! But Sheffield was
far away, over a hundred and fifty miles.

That would have stirred them up a bit--Charles Peace in court! Instead of
which he was John Ward, and if he was fullied he'd probably get seven
years at the most five, perhaps--and then he could be ill and be released
on ticket.

There was nobody in the police court who recognized him. They hardly
would: he was a master of disguises...He wondered if Jane Garden would
know him. Then he remembered that she had seen and identified him at
Brighton. It must have been the girl: that doctor hadn't brains enough to
see something under his nose.

* * * * *

Alan Mainford put down the London newspaper he was reading.

"John Ward!" he said. "That name sounds a little familiar."

Jane Mainford looked round from the chrysanthemums she was arranging.
"Who is John Ward, and what has he been doing?"

"He's been shooting a policeman."

She shivered. "How dreadful! In Sheffield?"

He saw the look of anxiety in her eyes and laughed. "No, it's in London.
You were thinking of Mr Peace." He looked up at the ceiling with a
perplexed frown. "I seem to have an idea at the back of my mind that he
did call himself Ward at one time. I must ask Baldy when I see him."

"Have they arrested him?" she asked.

"Yes, he was charged on remand yesterday morning at Greenwich. He seems
to be a particularly ferocious kind of fellow; in many ways the
description tallies with Peace, except that they say this man is half a
negro."

She looked at him open-mouthed. "Half a negro? That's how he was when I
saw him at Brighton. His face was so dark when I saw him in full light
that I wouldn't have recognized him. It was only because I saw him in
profile as the carriage was overtaking him that I knew him."

Alan considered the possibilities. "Rubbish! It isn't he. I'll never be
surprised if the little devil comes back to Sheffield."

"Oh, don't!" she begged, and he was all penitence.

She was very quiet for the rest of the day. In the evening, when they
were sitting together, she said: "I'd like to be absolutely sure. He's so
much on my mind, Alan. I wake up in the night sometimes, terrified!"

"Peace? Do you mean the man who has been arrested at Blackheath? Well,
that is very easily settled. The trial comes on next week. I'll go down
to London and see him at the Old Bailey. I know the Associate there."

"I wish you would," she said. "I have a very special reason for not
wishing to dream about ugly people."

"That isn't a reason, that's a superstition," he laughed. "But I'll set
your mind at ease. I'll see if I can get old Baldy to go down with me."
He looked at his watch, and at that moment there was a knock at the outer
door.

He was like clockwork, that man. Baldy was very cheerful: he had obtained
a committal against a gang of coiners that day, and he was very
cock-a-hoop.

"They'll go before Mr Justice What's-his-name, and that means we shan't
see 'em for a long time," he said.

"Do you know Ward--John Ward?"

Baldy knew several. "There's a John Ward who kept that
what-do-you-call-it public-house on the Eccleshall Road. There's another
John Ward whose father was manager for What's their name?"

"I'm talking about a criminal."

Baldy mused on this. "I've got an idea I've heard it before," he said.
And then he slapped his knee. "It's one of the names that Peace used," he
said, and husband and wife exchanged glances.

"Read this." Alan handed him the newspaper. Baldy, adjusting his newly
purchased glasses, read slowly to the finish.

"That's not Peace," he said. "He never looked like a negro. If they'd
said 'just ugly' it might have been he."

"Mrs Mainford saw him at Brighton. She said he had a dark skin then."

Baldy shook his head. "No, he's abroad, in Switzerland. Didn't he send me
a postcard with an insulting message on it, addressed to 'Baldy,
Sheffield Police Force'?"

"Somebody else may have posted it."

"That's impossible," said Sergeant Eltham. "There was a picture of the
Alps on it."

"You can even buy those in London." But the sergeant took the very
confident view that Peace had left England by the machinations of some
wealthy friend, and that he might no longer be regarded as an active
factor in criminal circles.

"Bless your life, Peace has any number of imitators! There was a feller
down at Northampton who did everything that Peace did, including
disguising himself. There was that man, What's-his-name, at Bristol--the
feller who got ten years--you might have sworn he was Peace. They're
imitators; they've got no brains."

"I'm going down to London to the trial to make sure, and I'd like you to
come along with me." Baldy, however, did not like London, and excused
himself. It was too noisy a place, and he had a personal feud with
Scotland Yard over the question of a police reward which had been denied
him and wrongly credited to a member of the London detective force. "If
Scotland Yard says he's Peace, you can be sure he's not. If they say he's
not Peace, you can take the coroner's warrant down and pinch him."

"Will this man get a heavy sentence?" asked Jane.

"Ten years to life," said Baldy indifferently. "Shooting a policeman, you
know, is not only an offence against the law of the land, but a crime
against nature. They ought to hang 'em for it--one of these days they
will. By the way, doctor, I've found out who the cottage belongs to--that
Swiss woman, Madame Stahm. She put it in the hands of an agent. Peace
tried to sell it--did you know that? That fellow!" He shook his head in
wonder. "No, we shall never see Peace again. He'll be elected Lord Mayor
of Switzerland or something. He'd kid the hair off a baby's head."



CHAPTER XXXVI


He voiced an opinion which was pretty general. Mr Peace was preparing for
his trial, and the fatal news came to him a week before. It was to be
Hawkins! The name did not send shivers down his back, but it aroused him
to a pitch of indignation that such men should be appointed to judge and
try their fellow creatures.

By judicious inquiry he discovered the great judge's age--a warder
procured the fact from the prison library. Peace had marshalled all his
reserves: every penny of money had to go to his defence. Hannah was
ordered to sell and sell and sell, to collect debts of dubious
authenticity, to borrow money. The main point was that he must be saved.
His solicitor, at his own suggestion, briefed a barrister who had just
then come into fame.

"Montagu Williams--I don't think I know him," frowned Peace. He had heard
of him at any rate.

His consultation with his lawyer was a memorable one. For a quarter of an
hour the speechless barrister sat whilst Peace laid down the system of
defence. "The point you've got to make is this, mister--you've got to say
to this judge: 'What? Are you going to send an old man like that to his
grave?'--just like that." Peace gave an imitation of sorrowful, pleading
anguish.

"I'm afraid I can't say it just like that." Mr Williams's eyes twinkled.

"Well, somehow like that," said Peace. "And another thing is this: if he
knows that I'm an old man, he's not going to give me a long stretch. He's
going to say: 'Poor old devil! He ain't got long to live, anyway!' Do you
see my meaning?"

"I follow your reasoning, yes."

"What you've got to say is this:"--again Peace grew dramatic and
declamatory: 'My Lord, you see before you an old man of sixty-seven,
tottering on the verge of the grave'--rub that in! 'He's got no time to
live, my Lord and gentlemen of the jury, so why pass a terrible sentence
on him? Why not give him a year? He's penitent. I give you my word,
gentlemen of the jury, he'll go straight."

"That, I'm afraid, I'm not allowed to do," said Mr Williams.
"Sixty-seven. Are you sixty-seven?"

"Sixty-eight," said Peace. He was then approaching his forty-fifth
birthday. "That's the point you've got to make--about me age. Get me a
short sentence. What's the good of 'em giving me ten years? I shouldn't
live to serve it. Do you see what I mean? You know what Hawkins is--you
might touch his heart."

"That's all very well," said counsel, "but what age was the policeman you
fired at? Was he so old that it didn't matter if he died or not?"

Peace made an impatient 'tchk!' "You're not on his side, are you? You're
on my side. Never mind about the policeman--he's alive and well. I could
have killed him seven times over. I'm one of the best shots in the land.
But did I? No. When I shot him it was done by accident. He pushed my hand
and the pistol went off. Didn't he admit it with his own mouth that he
hit me on the head with my own hand and my own pistol?" Counsel left the
consultation room not very considerably assisted. He had tried his best
to bring home to Peace the seriousness of the crime. Peace had harped
upon the desirability of a light sentence.

"Never mind whether I'm sixty-eight or not. I'll look ninety when I get
into the box." He tried to dodge the sessions and find a lighter judge;
was found in a fit, foaming at the mouth, in his cell. This was a day or
two before the trial. The unimaginative prison doctor tested the foam and
found it was soap.

"It's the first time he's ever used it for any purpose," said the chief
warder unkindly.

Peace came feebly into the dock of the old Bailey, gazed pathetically at
the judge, and was allowed a chair. If he did not look ninety, he looked
the years that appeared upon the bill of indictment. His pathetic survey
embraced the jury; he looked at them with a dog-like pleading in his eye,
and shook his head slightly, as a beggar shakes his head when he is
appealing for charity.

"I have never seen such a lousy, uneducated lot in my life," he said to
the warder on his left when he sat down. "There's not one of them that
can sign his own name, I'll lay!" His comments on the judge were
unprintable in the columns of a family journal.

So that was Hawkins--granite-faced, hard-eyed, iron-lipped! What a dog!
What an unfeeling hound of a man! It was going to take the mouthpiece all
his time to get him off with three. Not less than five, that lawyer said,
maybe seven. It'd be an outrage to send an old man of sixty-seven to quod
for seven years. He wondered how judges slept in their beds at night,
inflicting suffering and pain on their fellow creatures.

"It's hard to believe, mate," he said sotto voce to the warder,
indicating with a nod of his head the great judge, 'that him and me was
produced by the same Maker."

"I expect he thinks so too," said the warder.

"You're all as bad as one another," growled Peace, folded his arms and
appeared to fall asleep.

Now and again, when a police witness was giving testimony as to what
happened that night on Blackheath, he opened his eyes, shook his head and
murmured: "Lies! All lies! They can't speak the truth!" Once his counsel
had to rebuke him sharply.

He was not too pleased with Mr Montagu Williams. He didn't seem to be
enough on his side, and when it came to the speech for the defence, what
a defence it was!

He could have done better himself. Messing about with all sorts of fancy
ideas instead of getting down to the point that you oughtn't to give a
man of sixty-seven a long sentence.

No wonder the jury came back so quickly with its verdict. And yet, did he
expect any other than the verdict of "Guilty? It was hardly likely; but
he was a magnificent actor. At the word 'Guilty' he staggered, looked,
bewildered, from face to face, stepped forward, broken in voice and
attitude.

"I haven't been fairly dealt with," he sobbed. "I declare before God that
I never had the intention to kill him. All I meant to do was to frighten
him, so I could get away. If I'd wanted to kill him I could have done it,
but I never did. I really didn't know the pistol was loaded. I hope, my
lord, you'll have mercy on me. I feel that I'm that base and bad that I'm
neither fit to live nor die. For I've disgraced myself, for I have
disgraced my friends." His voice quavered, "I'm not fit to live among
mankind. I'm not fit to meet my God. So, oh, my lord, I know I'm base and
bad to the uttermost, but I know, at the same time, they have painted my
case blacker than what it really is. I hope you will take all this into
consideration and not pass upon me a sentence of imprisonment which will
be the means of causing me to die in prison, where it is very possible I
shall not have a chance amongst my associates to prepare myself to meet
my God, that I hope I shall meet. So, my lord, do have mercy upon me!" he
wailed, wringing his hands over the edge of the dock at the imperturbable
man whose mask of a face never changed. "I beseech you, give me a chance,
my lord, to regain my freedom and you shall not, with the help of my God,
have any cause to repent passing a merciful sentence upon me. Oh, my
lord, you yourself do expect mercy from the hands of your great and
merciful God. Oh, my lord, do have mercy upon me, a most wretched
miserable man, a man that am not fit to die. I am not fit to live; but
with the help of my God I will try to become a good man. I will try to
become a man that will be able in the last day to meet my God, my Great
Judge, to meet Him and to receive the great reward at His hands for my
true repentance. So, oh, my lord, have mercy upon me, I pray and beseech
you. I will say no more; but oh, my lord, have mercy upon me; my lord,
have mercy upon me!" [This is an actual verbatim report of that
extraordinary outburst from the dock, the most superb piece of acting
that has ever been seen in a criminal court--EW.]

The judge moved, rested his arms on the desk before him, his cold eyes
fixed on Peace. Briefly, mercilessly, he sketched the character of the
man before him. He saw the soul of Peace, naked. Not three years, not
five years...

"Notwithstanding your age, therefore, I feel I should fail in my duty to
the public if I did not pass upon you the extreme sentence of the law for
the offence of which you have been convicted, which is that you be sent
to penal servitude for the rest of your natural life." Peace accepted the
sentence more calmly than he had taken the verdict. He had shot his last
bolt; he could do no more. Natural life! That meant natural life--all the
days of his living in prison; no hope of release. It was final--final for
all except for Peace.

"There ain't such a sentence," he told the warder on his way to
Pentonville. "It's against the law, and I'm sending a letter to our
Gracious Majesty about it."

There was a merciful release for him at hand. As he paraded round the
swing on his first morning in Pentonville, he saw a group of police
officers and civilians in the centre. Two men walked out, and somebody
called him by name, "Ward!" and urged him into the centre of the ring. He
came face to face with Alan.

"Do you know this gentleman?" asked somebody.

"Yes," said Peace boldly; "he's the man who tried to poison my wife by
giving her arsenic in her beer." Only the solemnity of the moment checked
Alan's laugh.

"Do you know him, doctor?"

"Yes. His name is Charles Peace."



CHAPTER XXXVII


That day Hannah, his wife, was privileged to see him at Pentonville. She
had not had the opportunity before he was removed from Newgate. He saw
her in the usual office, spoke a few commonplaces, of the necessity of
raising further money. No king levied tribute upon his subjects more
ruthlessly than Peace upon his family.

When she was going: "Here," he called, "send a telegraph message to Mrs
Mainford." He gave her the address and made her repeat it. "Mrs Dr
Mainford. Send this telegram the moment you get outside the prison, or
I'll never forgive you. This is what you say: 'Deepest sorrow to tell you
your husband, Dr Mainford, was run over in the street today and is
dead.'"

"Is he?" asked Hannah..

"Never mind about 'is he'!" snarled Peace. "Can you remember that--the
address? Send it. Maybe she's going to have a baby." The telegram never
reached Jane, partly because an official of the prison stopped the woman
in the lobby and terrified her into promising that such a message should
not be sent, and partly because Hannah could never have remembered it;
and if she had remembered it she couldn't have sent it, for she could
neither read nor write.

Whether she sent it or not was a matter of indifference to Peace, who
knew as well as anybody the limitations of her intellectual equipment. He
had the satisfaction of devising the shock. There was a certain relief in
being Charles Peace again, the famous Charles Peace, the Charles Peace
that everybody was talking about and writing about and thinking about.
How they'd talk in Sheffield! They'd come from miles to see him. There'd
be crowds at the station; they'd have to get the soldiers to keep the
court cleared. He wished they had an Assize Court in Sheffield: it robbed
him of some of his glory to be transferred to Leeds. Who would be there?

He procured a copy of the inquest proceedings and re-read it carefully.
Kate Dyson--she was in America. Would they bring her back? That would
cost a lot of money--hundreds of pounds. Fancy spending hundreds of
pounds to bring that (whatever she was) from America! It was wasting the
public money. In such matters he was a rigid economist.

Carton! He bared his gums at the name. If that man came into court he'd
jump over the dock and strangle him. They'd never pry his fingers loose
from the traitor's throat. He was pretty strong; he always was powerful
in the arm. That would be a sensation if you liked--Charlie Peace
strangling a man in court in front of judges and juries and everything.

He knew now the part that Carton had played in trapping him. It wasn't
his house at all. His solicitor had asked at the preliminary police court
proceedings if there was such a man working for the owner of the house,
and had been told "No".

By various methods Peace came to learn who his actual employer was. He
had sold him, horn, hide and hoof, to the enemy. A man he had befriended,
looked after. He went back in his mind to recall the services he had
rendered the traitor, but could remember no more than that he had paid
his fare from Manchester to Sheffield--or was it half the fare? Anyway,
he had helped him. He could bring Carton into the case, perhaps get him
put in the dock with him. He consulted his London solicitors about this,
but they shook their heads.

"He has never been mentioned. He could not be arrested on your word."

"Why not?" asked Peace indignantly.

The solicitors were tired of arguing with him.

He passed hours planning vengeance on the ex-butler, and in the face of
his shocking perverseness could find excuses for Alan Mainford. After
all, Alan Mainford was a gentleman bred and born, whilst Carton was just
a (whatever he was).

He spent quite a lot of time in a voluminous correspondence with the Home
Office, demanding that certain photographs which he had kept as a
pleasant souvenir of his association with Mrs Dyson, and which had been
taken from him at Blackheath Road station, should be restored to him.
There were letters, too, if they could be called such; notes she had
written to him, all rather cryptic, all having a peculiar significance
which, he asserted and she was to deny a little unconvincingly, was
discreditable to her honourable name.

Mrs Dyson was enjoying the dignity and honour of a cataclysmic widowhood.
She must be brought down to her place. The notes would prove it; the
photographs might prove it. Face to face with justice, she might, under
pressure, volunteer to prove it.

"The beginning and end of the argument," said his solicitor, "being that
if he could prove that she and he had a love affair, then the murder of
her husband was the merest trifle." They did not like Peace at
Pentonville. In every sense he was a nasty man, crude, undisciplined,
lacking even the rough polish of civilization. He confounded fear with
disgust, and preened himself upon his importance.

He wrote a letter to Alan (the spelling has been rectified):

"DEAR SIR,--I am that wretched and unhappy man, Charles Peace or John
Ward, who you know, and which had never done wrong to you but always
spoken highly of your merits. Dear Sir, you and your dear wife, who I
love as my own child because she's so dear and true as any woman can be,
which you're lucky to get her, as I have always said, you know I am under
misfortune, that my very life is being sworn away by people who are
jealous of me though I've never done anything and am a poor old man of
sixty-eight with one foot in the grave, they still persecute me for
righteousness' sake, as it is written in the Bible. So I ask all my
friends to rally round me especially those who are not my friends but
will take pity upon my helpless state knowing that some day an account
will be rendered of them according to their works. Dear Sir and Doctor,
be kind, let your noble heart speak, forgive bygones and suchlike
misunderstandings. Your word would go a long way to the judge and the
gentlemen of the jury (so called) if you could speak for me or send me a
few pounds, my wife is starving, I have given her everything I have and
she is being hounded by the police as you well know they do if they've
got a down on anybody which they have for It's Charles Peace this and
Charles Peace that, and never taking the trouble to find out if I did it.

"Dear Sir Alan Mainford, life is short and time is on the wing, and no man
knows what tomorrow bringeth forth, no not one, and if we help our
enemies then, dear sir, there is a heavenly crown for us, but if we spit
upon our enemies bad luck will follow us hither we go and whither. A few
shillings will not hurt you, but especially if you can come and say a few
words about how I've always been the first to help others. Oh, dear sir,
perhaps you will have a son of your own, please God you may, and what
will happen to him, says you, if he's in the same position as Charles
Peace (John Ward)? Oh, how terrible that would be for his mother! So do
help, for many can help one but one cannot help many.

"Your obedient servant,

"CHARLES PEACE,

"JOHN WARD."

"Do you know," said Alan, "I'm inclined to send the drivelling old devil
a ten pound note?"

"He'd hate you if you sent ten. He'll not forgive you if it isn't a
hundred," said lane quietly, and it was a pretty accurate diagnosis. A
great weight had been lifted from her mind when the identity was
established.

On his return Alan told her of the message Peace had dictated--the prison
authorities had got into touch with him immediately, in case he wanted to
prepare his wife. She was not shocked but a little sad.

"Isn't there something in him, some brilliant mind-atom, that might have
placed him among the great geniuses of the world? Even in his vileness
there is an odd novelty which in a perverse way is charming."

"I'm glad you see it like that," said Alan, astounded.

He saw it like that himself a day or two later, when he heard some
private gossip about Peace. Peace had learned that Carton was leaving his
employer and was opening a fish shop on Black heath Hill. The news drove
him into paroxysms of jealous fury. From his point of view it was the act
of an upstart, venturing into the kingdom reserved for greater men with
greater minds. Always to Peace the shopkeeper was the aristocrat of the
lower classes. He thought of no finish to the most magnificent of his
dreams but that it would end in a magnificent store of which he would be
the proprietor. A patron of pretty shop girls, with a new kind of
shutters that rolled down and rolled up. He would come to business every
morning in a small brougham, drawn by two proud and high-stepping horses.
If he ever made any wonderful promise to any woman of his acquaintance,
the culminating and crowning argument was that she should be set up in
business with a shop of her own.

Carton in a fried fish shop, and married to that young girl in magenta
silk! Carton living away from his place of business, in three rooms with
the use of the kitchen! It was not to be endured. He spent time that he
might have given to his defence, writing a letter to Carton, so vile in
tone and expression that it never got beyond the office of the prison
censor...

Here he was on his way to Sheffield, wearing convict garb, handcuffs on
his wrists; a warder beside him, one in front of him, blinds drawn at
every station and let up after the train steamed out. A whole compartment
to himself. For many reasons it was not a pleasant journey for the
warders.

Pollard, the rising man at the Treasury, was sent down to prosecute. The
defence was hastily organized by the shrewdest of local solicitors, who
was neither in awe of Pollard nor abashed by the immense character of his
task. Whatever discouragement there was, was supplied by the prisoner.

Peace was in his most truculent and arrogant mood. His reception had
fizzled out, owing to the earliness of his arrival. It was not even
necessary to have soldiers to keep people out of the court, which was,
however, uncomfortably crowded. There were no familiar faces to be seen
as yet--yes, there was: he saw a veiled woman.

"You wouldn't think she'd have the face to come here," he said to the
warder at his side; "the sauce of it!" They'd brought her all across the
Atlantic Ocean, thousands and thousands of miles, from Cleveland, Ohio!
She'd better have stayed away. There was a showing up coming for her, if
she only knew it. Modesty? She didn't know the meaning of the word. If he
was her he'd run a thousand miles rather than stand up in that box and
hear the things that she was going to hear, if his solicitor did his
duty. He rather suspected all solicitors and counsel: they were too
friendly with one another. He had seen the prosecuting counsel and the
defending counsel shake hands at the Old Bailey. That wasn't right. They
had probably made it up before they came into court, what they were going
to say. A nice state of affairs!

There was Baldy, leaning with his back to the wall of the court, eyeing
him with a benevolence which would not have been out of place in a rose
grower showing a championship exhibit. That's what he was! Charles Peace,
the champion of Sheffield.

Peace could never interpret, though he received unerring reactions. He
could not put into words Baldy's attitude of mind, but he knew the effect
that attitude produced in itself, and could express it.

Who else? The doctor wasn't here, but there was a bench of magistrates,
with a stipendiary in the middle. He didn't bother much about this
stipendiary; by all accounts there wasn't a great deal to him.

The stipendiary was inclined to have preconceived notions. He was
obviously anxious to shift the case from his own court to a superior
tribunal. He started by being a little in awe of the Treasury counsel,
and ended by being respectful to the solicitor for the defence. He was
neither strong nor weak, good nor bad: he was adequate for the occasion.
Peace was held on a coroner's warrant, and it was not absolutely
necessary that he should come into the magistrate's court at all.

The doctor was not here: Peace made sure of that. Nor the nuss--nor
Carton. Carton ought to be sitting up here, and so ought her ladyship,
Madame Stahm, and that long-faced foreigner. He wished they'd let him
have his fiddle in prison. He wondered, if he asked the magistrate,
whether he could get it. But no, that would disturb the other prisoners.
Being tried for his life, he ought to have just what he wanted. That was
the law.

He listened while his lawyer pleaded for an adjournment, battling with
the Treasury counsel, and, if the truth be told, with the stipendiary
too. The case was shockingly presented; no amateur could have done worse
than the Treasury. The rules of evidence were flagrantly ignored. The
magistrate allowed reference to previous charges to be made--the very
presence of Peace in the dock, wearing convict's uniform, would have been
sufficient, if he had been tried fifty years later, to quash the trial.

There was something farcical about it. Everybody knew he was guilty, and
wanted to get to the point where someone in authority would say so. They
resented as a waste of time taking any point that might properly be
offered in the man's defence. Peace was a little deaf--whether naturally
so or conveniently does not matter. He interrupted occasionally, but,
generally speaking, his attitude towards the first witnesses was one of
indifference. It was when the veiled woman went into the box that he sat
up.

Let her show her face, not hide herself so that nobody could tell what
she was saying and what she meant. He whispered excitedly to his
solicitor, pleaded and gibbered.

Would the lady remove her veil? The lady removed her veil. Peace shook
his head. No, she wasn't what she had been. Put her beside Thompson, and
what was she? Put her beside that nuss, and she was just a common drab.
He felt very superior to her; he had never felt so superior before. He
was fighting for his life. As for Mrs Dyson, who had come all these
thousands of miles to testify against him, she was fighting for her
reputation, which was much more precious to her than anybody's life.

She was very emphatic where she could be, very evasive where she had to
be; glossed over extremely awkward questions with a complete loss of
memory. Peace her lover? The idea was absurd. She had always looked upon
him as rather a vulgar little man, not to be compared with her husband,
who was a gentleman in every sense of the word.

There was a wrangle between bench and advocate on the production of
letters. The stipendiary, with one eye upon the Treasury, would have none
of them. That dogged solicitor would not be denied. He was persistent,
unimpressed by this particular majesty of law, thrusting spear-points of
logic towards a vacillating bench, which burst a few bubbles and ruffled
a few tempers. In the end he had his way.

There were the letters written, said Peace, by the woman to him;
appointments made, assignations arranged. She had never written the
letters; they were forgeries.

Her attitude seemed to say: "Here is a man charged with murder. Why
shouldn't he also commit forgery? How can you doubt me, who have never
been charged with murder? Forgeries, all of them!" That she was lying,
nobody doubted. That between these two people there had been criminal
knowledge, the most callow or the most charitable must believe. The
Treasury believed it. Mr Pollard was a little pompous; in a wearisome
way, majestic.

There had been an earlier passage of arms between him and Peace, and
once, when the prisoner interrupted, the Treasury counsel rose in his
might and became the legal pedant, explaining to the justices just what
they could do. They seemed to know.

Peace went back to London, depressed. The dice were loaded against him;
he was not having a fair deal. He hadn't a chance. He told the warders
this. The warders agreed.

"Anything to keep the little beast in an amiable mood."



CHAPTER XXXVIII


He was remanded to Pentonville, for he was still in the custody of the
governor of that prison, and would remain so until he was committed to
another gaol.

In the intervening period he conceived a great idea. That he should be
hanged was little matter. To be buried in gaol--that was an ugly end to a
man of affairs. He questioned the chief warder about it. What happened to
a man who died in prison? Did his relations have his body?

"Certainly they do." said the chief warder.

"But suppose a man is being tried for murder, and he dies before he's
sentenced, do his relations have his body?" There was a point of law
raised here. Offhand, the warder thought they would have the right to
claim all that was mortal of him and dispose of it reverently and
decently, until the judge uttered the fateful words: "And your body shall
afterwards be buried in the prison in which you were last confined." The
fleshly part of him was a responsibility for his relations. Peace split
hairs.

"Suppose a man died just before the judge came to that bit--eh? That's a
tickler for you! I'll bet nobody's ever thought of that before." He grew
quite animated. "I've set posers to judges that they couldn't answer. And
lawyers--I've got 'em all tied up! Just ask your bloke what he thinks of
that." He was very pleased with himself, that he had set a difficult
case. He had forgotten the matter the next morning, having made definite
plans for the disposal of his own body. There would be an inquest at the
Duke of York, and a quiet, mournful procession to the cemetery.
Spectators would take off their hats as it passed, and drop a silent
tear. Mothers would bring their children and say: "There goes Charlie
Peace. You remember that, my boy, when you grow up." To have the cause of
your death and the state of your mind amicably settled over a pot of
ale--that seemed a very attractive proposition. Peace considered the
matter from every angle and found it good.

The whining coward in him was too apparent to be true. It belonged to the
pageantry of his misfortune, was never revealed, except publicly and
within the hearing of reporters. He was too much without fear to be as
contemptible as he seemed to be; his whining, his sycophancy, his
nauseating supplications were all parts appropriate to the roles he
played. Largely they were as mechanical as the beggar's whine or the
milkman's howl.

A five-pound note came to him from Sheffield. Alan Mainford made no
attempt to disguise the fact that he was the donor, for though he sent no
letter, the money was enclosed in a sheet of his notepaper. Peace shed
tears and wrote an incoherent letter of thanks. To his wife he also
wrote: "If you can get up to see this man Mainford, he's a doctor, and
you pitch it strong, you might get 50 out of him. Dear wife, if anything
happens to me, you go on writing to him about every three months.
Remember, dear wife, that the rich must help the poor. Did you sell my
violin and have you got the money I told you about? Dear wife, ask Mrs
Thompson to see her husband and get some money. And, dear wife, don't go
gossiping about my business. I'm not dead yet." He put a P.S. to this
letter: "Don't send the money until you hear I'm fullied." He had reason
for this warning. On the morning of the 22nd of January, with handcuffs
on his wrists, he was taken from Pentonville Gaol by cab and hurried into
a third-class carriage on the milk train, the earliest train. He gave
more than ordinary trouble on the journey, exasperating his custodians to
the last point of endurance.

Just before the train reached Darnall he asked to have the window down.
The warders were not averse. Apparently he had been grumbling, but had
quietened down. Their attention was distracted for the briefest space of
time, and Peace seized the opportunity. Like a cat he leaped for the
narrow opening of the window. The warders spun round just in time to
catch him by the ankle. They held him as long as they could; pulling
frantically at the communication cord.

The man leaning out of the window strove desperately to get a firmer
grip. Peace was lying head downwards, flying rather, spreadeagled away
from the train. And then the warders' grip loosened and he fell by the
side of the line, turning over and over. They got the train stopped at
last and the warders flew back along the rails to where the inert figure
lay. That he was dead, neither doubted. One may suppose they were a
little relieved, whatever reprimand might come to them.

Peace lay in the snow, unconscious, bleeding from the head. One of his
ribs was broken. A slow local train came to a standstill behind the
express; they lifted him into the guard's van and covered him with rugs.
He missed the big crowd that was waiting for his reappearance; they
waited in vain. He lay in a cell, moaning, weeping and cursing. He cursed
very hard.

He gave Sheffield another sensation, which brought the stipendiary, his
brother magistrates and the Treasury counsel a considerable amount of
discomfort. It produced a macabre setting for the second hearing that was
in the atmosphere of the crime and the criminal.

No more would he sit in the dock, noisily protesting against reporters
sketching his picture. He knew his rights there, could frustrate the lese
majeste which expedient journalism practised. Now he came to his own.
Enfeebled with age and debility, doubly underlined by the eerie setting
of his own misfortune. Dosed with milk and brandy, he appeared to sleep
through the night, but denied that he had as much as closed his eyes in
slumber.

They brought him out of his cell the next morning for the second hearing.
The court was the corridor before his cell at Water Lane Police Station.
Candles were lit to illuminate the gloom. The lighting and the
composition of the picture was a subject for Hogarth, the central figure
being a man swathed in blankets, huddled up in a chair, who said he
wished he was dead, and at times appeared to be dying, but was never far
from his arrogant self.

Fully committed for trial.

"Please don't put your feet on my table," said the stipendiary
plaintively.

Here they played out the second scene of the first act, with Mrs Dyson
present to deny, to forget and sometimes to affirm with too great
heartiness. Some events she could remember to the day, the hour, the
minute; other events which, if they had developed, must be discreditable
to herself, she could not recall within a year or two, if she could
recall them at all.

There was the usual passage between the cold and shivering stipendiary
and the razor-sharp solicitor for the defence. Always in the end the
stipendiary leaned back in his chair and looked helplessly for sympathy
from his colleagues, very few of whom knew what it was all about.

Peace was for calling witnesses then and there. They were prepared to be
called.

He cared nothing for the routine of preliminary examinations. He wanted
justice--that was all he wanted--and he was very cold; he wanted to sit
before a fire and take the chill out of himself.

They committed him to take his trial and put him back into the cell. He
went, groaning. A few minutes later he called in his solicitor and
offered emphatic views about the line his defence should take. He had a
retinue that a distinguished person might envy when they removed him to
Armley Gaol by easy stages. The prison van must move slowly; he must have
a soft mattress beneath him.

That night there were two happy men in Sheffield: a chief warder and a
warder from Pentonville Prison, who went back to London alone. "Thank God
they won't hang him in London!" said one, and the other may or may not
have said: "Amen!"

"I saw him before he went away," said Baldy. "I don't know whether he's
hurt or whether he's acting. In my opinion you couldn't hurt him. You
remember Carton? Peace says that it was he who fired the shot and he
shielded him. He told me a rigmarole story about some crystals that
Carton was trying to get for a foreign woman, and he's given me a long
list of burglaries that he has committed. By 'he' I mean Carton.

"He said Carton put him up to abducting your lady--"

"By 'he' you mean Peace."

"I gather he doesn't like Carton. He'll have some difficulty in bringing
him into it."

"That's what I say," said Baldy. "Carton isn't a Sheffield man anyway,
and you wouldn't kill a rat on Peace's evidence."

Alan leaned back in his chair. "I don't know. I suppose it's all right.
The man's a murderer, a most unscrupulous little beast, but, of course,
he won't get a fair trial. The jury will go into the box with the express
intention of hanging him; they'll know every detail of his career; and
when the judge asks them to disabuse their minds of what they've heard
before, he might as well be asking them to forget that they've a pain in
the stomach, if they have one. The only evidence against the man is Mrs
Dyson's. There's nobody else. And Mrs Dyson is admittedly a--well, a
prevaricator. Any lawyer could prove that. She's another on whose
evidence you wouldn't hang a rabbit!"

Baldy listened in amazement. "If ever a man deserved death--" he began.

"Yes, yes, I know," nodded Alan. "And if ever a bottle deserved to be
kicked into oblivion as a public nuisance, it is one filled with
asafoetida. It was designed to hold whatever was put into it--an Eastern
scent, rare wine, slime from a stagnant pool. Have you ever thought what
might have happened to Peace if somebody had taken him by the ear and led
him out of the circumstances where he looked after the animals, and sent
him to a school, put him in a dentist's chair and saw to his teeth,
whacked him when he didn't clean his hands, and gradually instilled into
him the healthy education that I had? Do you realize what he would have
been?"

That was indeed a little beyond Baldy, who was accustomed to dealing with
facts and stark realities.

"There it is," said Alan. "He'll go up before a judge, posture and whine,
strike attitudes, and the end of it all will be that he will hang by the
neck until he's dead, and that will be the last of him. Nothing can save
him. There's no doubt, no mercy, no hope. But you couldn't convict him,
strictly on the evidence. It's his word against Mrs Dyson's--that and no
more. The other evidence hardly counts. And who can believe her? Who
would believe her on the facts as stated? And they do not require more
than superficial examination. Yet on her word Peace will die--rightly, as
it happens; wrongly from the strict point of view of equity."

Alan's ears should have burnt. At that very moment Peace was talking to a
warder who was attending him.

"There's people I've helped," he groaned. "I've given away hundreds.
There's a woman in Switzerland that owes me two thousand--a foreigner.
Down in Sheffield there's a doctor called Mainford who wouldn't be
anywhere if it wasn't for me. I got him the house he lives in; he
wouldn't have known his missus, only I introduced 'em. She used to go
down on her knees an' ask me to take her away, but I wouldn't. Nuss
Garden she was--a whipper-snapper. But now I'm down she don't know me!
That's gratitude, because I'm old and poor and helpless--mind my head,
you clumsy lout!" He wrote letters. Caesar was no more assiduous in
correspondence than Peace.

They were weird-looking letters, scrawled, ill-spelt, full of phrases
that had neither beginning nor end. Taken as entities, they were
objective. Always he required something, and what that something was he
never left any doubt in the mind of the person to whom they were
addressed.

He wrote to his wife, a letter full of instructions for raising money,
and signed himself her affectionate and unhappy husband. Almost by the
same post he wrote to his lady friend, the blonde, vivacious Mrs
Thompson, and begged her not to forget the love they had for one another.
He signed it "Your ever true lover till death." Was it by accident that
he put his own name and followed it with the name he had borne when they
lived under the same roof?



CHAPTER XXXIX


Leeds Assizes opened on the 30th of January, 1879, and the grand jury
voted a bill of indictment against Charles Peace, alias John Ward, joiner
or carver or gilder. They put his age as forty-seven. This saved his
counsel from a lot of unnecessary instructions.

Here was Charles Peace, on the last grand lap of his course. A man of
tremendous importance, all eyes focused on him.

Carton got a holiday, came up to Leeds with the greatest assurance,
secured admission to the court, and at the last moment funked it, not
daring to meet the accusing eye of the joiner or carver or gilder, who
stood indicted in that he did kill and slay Arthur Dyson by shooting at
him with a revolver. He sneaked out of court, and, finding an
eating-house, ordered his breakfast, for he had been travelling the
greater part of the night. When he attempted to get a place in the public
gallery later in the day he was told that the court was full. He was not
sorry.

Though the weather was bitterly cold, and powdery snow had fallen, there
was an immense crowd about the Town Hall. It was rumoured that Peace
would be brought to Armley Gaol under a strong escort of hussars, that an
attempt would be made to rescue him. By whom was never suggested. He had
no friends; he was no leader of desperate gangs; in all the thousands
that filled the court or looked around it, there was not one but was
impatient to see the end of the trial come and Peace stand up to take his
medicine.

How would he take it? What would he say? Would he whine, grovel, as he
did at the Old Bailey? Would he hurl imprecations at the witnesses, defy
the judge? That was the only thing that mattered--the end of it. Not the
bald result, but the spectacle it might afford.

Nobody spoke a word for him. There were joking admirers, who knew nothing
about him, or had any cause for admiration. He was dead and damned too,
if public opinion could control the hereafter.

"If, when I saw him in the yard at Pentonville," said Alan, "I had walked
up to him and said 'You are Charles Peace' and shot him dead, that would
have been a logical and praiseworthy disposal of the matter." Alan
snatched a day to witness part of the trial, but did not stay long. It
was imperative that he should be within call in Sheffield. He tried to
keep the subject from Jane, but she discussed it very calmly.

"He'll die before his time--that is all. There is nothing really tragic
in that. The tragedy is his life, but of that he is probably quite
unconscious. Don't worry, darling. I'll even read an account of the
execution and not be hurt by it."

"I won't test your philosophy," said Alan.

The judge was a new man to Peace--Lopes. "Never heard of him." He was
better than Hawkins. Anybody was better then Hawkins. Suppose there was a
verdict of guilty and they scragged him? That'd be a smack in the eye for
Hawkins, who wanted him to live in prison all his life and die there.

He was more comfortable about his new counsel: a gentleman, every inch of
him. The junior counsel was another gentleman. And he didn't mind the
Treasury man, who put the case fairly--up to a point. Of course, it was
his job to make it hot for the prisoner: that was what he was paid for.
Peace prided himself upon being a sensible man. He didn't put it like
that fellow Pollard put it, but he brought up the escape, which had
nothing to do with the business. When Lockwood got up and told him off
and the judge approved, Peace felt that he was getting his money's worth.

The same old dreary procession of witnesses. He was expecting Mrs Dyson
to be called last. He sat up in the windsor chair, and observed with
interest when her name was called early on in the proceedings. There she
was as brazen as ever. She was getting fatter, too. He eyed her
critically. Really, it was a wonder the woman wasn't struck dead. And
they wouldn't let her be asked questions about the letters; that was an
injustice--he boiled at it. Some legal quibble, one of those lawyer
tricks. The letters hadn't been handed in, so they couldn't be talked
about. Of all the injustices!

He depended on those letters and photographs. Mrs Dyson was 'couldn't
remembering' all over again. How she twisted and turned, and how that
memory of hers turned blank at the snap of the finger! She couldn't
remember when she moved to Darnall. Peace laughed aloud. Nobody took any
notice of him. It might have been 1875 or '76 or '74 or '73.

"I cannot tell...I cannot tell." Peace wanted to stand up and shout at
her, ask her if she'd been drinking again, if she remembered that night
at the Duke of York.

But that Lockwood got over her artfulness. He managed to get the letters
in somehow. They were forgeries; she had never seen them. He leaned back
in his chair, looking from one warder to the other, and shook his head in
resignation.

Once he was amused; it was when she admitted that she had left a
public-house 'slightly inebriated'. He repeated the words to a warder.
Somebody near heard him say "A lady!" Throughout the trial he was
reasonable. Smothered comments on witnesses, a reference to one as a
villain...It was over at last--speech for the prosecution, speech for
defence. He ceased to be the practical man of affairs. Everything right
and proper--inevitable. Part of the speech for the defence pleased him
very much.

He said "Hear, hear!" very loudly, and was surprised that the applause
was not more general.

The charge to the jury. The inevitable and invariable appeal to men who
were steeped in every detail of the case to forget that they had ever
heard anything about it; to be impartial, which is the eminent quality of
Englishmen. Peace listened blankly to the charge, seemingly unmoved.

The jury were out twelve minutes, and they were agreed upon their
verdict. The prisoner at the bar was guilty of murder.

Peace stood up, blinking round the court. He was overcome by the grandeur
of the moment, and when the Clerk of Arraigns asked him what he would say
why the court should not pass sentence according to law, he replied:
"It's no use saying anything." Which was one of the most intelligent
things said in the court that day.

That was all. The black cap on the judge's wig. Where had he seen that
before?

At the Harbrons' trial, of course. It looked different when you were
looking at it from the public gallery. A little point falls over the
front of the wig. The clerk hadn't put it on straight; it had a rakish
angle to it. The judge in his scarlet robes said what it was proper to
say. He had had a patient trial; every argument that could be used in his
favour had been used by counsel, to whose superlative genius he paid
tribute.

This was the way he, Charles Peace, must go. He was to be taken hence to
the place whence he came; thence he would be taken to the place of
execution, and there he would be hanged by the neck until he was dead,
and his body would afterwards be buried in the precincts of the gaol
wherein he was last confined. The judge expressed the hope that the Lord
would have mercy upon his soul.

Somebody said "Amen!" Peace stood irresolutely, fumbling at his cap. The
warder touched him on the arm. They always did that at every trial. They
turned to go to the place whence they came, and thence to a place of
execution.

Peace said nothing. What was the use of saying anything? There was no
despair in that remark, just cold intelligence. It meant ever so much
more than his supplication before Hawkins, Justice.

A great crowd gathered outside to see his removal to the place whence he
came, but they were disappointed. A few people hooted, which seemed a
little superfluous. They were hooting Peace because he had been a wicked
man and had shot a man who was not so wicked. One man had been shot, the
other man was going to be hanged, just to level things up. And Mrs Dyson
would go across the Atlantic to proper oblivion.

Charles Peace was to die, the judge was to die, the two counsel for the
prosecution and the two counsel for the defence, two of them painfully,
were all to die, and the only one of them to be remembered was this ugly
little blackguard, foul of mind and speech and thought, yet hiding in his
toad head a jewel that none could appraise.

On the way to Armley he asked if he could read what the papers said about
him on the following morning.

"I don't think you'd better see that," said the warder.

"Why not?" demanded Peace. "They're not going to leave me out altogether,
are they?" You never quite knew where you were with him. Sometimes the
soiled rag of his mind lifted like a curtain and gave you a flashing
vision of the radiance behind. Then the nasty, soiled thing fell down
again, and you saw him materially as he was--a nasty little man.

Quite a number of newspapers glorified the law on the following morning
and spoke learnedly of Nemesis and justice. They forgot to mention the
fact that he played the fiddle...Nobody seemed to think that was a point
in his favour.

So went Charles Peace on the first stage of his last lap, to the place
whence he came, and all England was satisfied, and said: "Hanging's too
good for him." As if hanging was too good for anybody.



CHAPTER XL


In the dark of the morning, a policeman patrolling the vicinity of Armley
Gaol saw a man slouching slowly along. He passed the policeman, and a
quarter of an hour later the officer observed him coming back again and
challenged him.

He was a wild-looking man, unshaven, white-faced, sack-eyed. He wore a
rough pea jacket, the collar turned up to his ears, and a pot hat. Most
remarkable feature of his attire was a pair of kid gloves.

"I've got a friend inside"--he shivered in the cold wind which swept
round the corner of the prison--"going to be hung...Charles Peace."

The policeman eyed him with an interest. "Charles Peace, a friend of
yours, eh? Well, what are you doing around here?"

The man shook his head helplessly. "I can't keep away--that's the
trouble," he said. "Went off to London and had to come back. Couldn't
sleep...thinking of him in the condemned cell...My God, it was awful!"

The policeman thought the matter over, and found an explanation.

"So you thought you'd like to be near him, did you?"

The man nodded quickly. And then the man behind the constable asserted
itself. He had a wife who nagged him all the time for news of Peace. If a
policeman did not know, and a policeman, moreover, who had the gaol on
his beat, who would? "Have you been in to see him?" he asked.

The man shook his head. "No, I haven't been in to see him, and I'm not
going. I don't want to see him...awful, ain't it--him living there, and
he'll be dead in a week!"

"Three clear Sundays," murmured the policeman.

"Awful, awful!" quavered the walker of the night. "I've been here since
three. I walk round and round, or as near round as I can get--until I'm
ready to drop. He'll be sleeping--yes, he will; you don't know Charles. I
see him sleeping the day he was pinched at Blackheath. With my own eyes."

"What's your name?" asked the policeman suspiciously.

"Carton--that's my name. I've got a good job in London, and a young lady,
and a business of my own...master man. The landlord's done up the shop
free of charge. The counter was there. Fried fish...and stewed eels.
There's a lot of profit in it." He glanced fearfully up at the walls of
the gaol. "Where's the condemned cell, sir?" he asked. "It'll be in one
of the main wards. I suppose? A feller told me the execution place was
just about there." He pointed. "I hear a young builder has got the job of
putting up the scaffold."

"Don't you worry your head too much about hanging, my boy," said the
policeman paternally. "We've all got to come to it sooner or later--I
don't mean hanging, I mean passing away. You'll go mad if you think about
things like this, it's worse than penny dreadfuls." The next night he saw
the same man and spoke to him. In the meantime he had reported the matter
to his superior and had received certain instructions. Carton was told
just where he could walk and where his perambulations were forbidden.

"You wasn't at the trial?" said the policeman.

Carton hesitated. "No," he said; "my body wasn't there, but I was there!
My body ain't inside that prison, but I'm there!" He was looking even
more unkempt than he had been when the policeman had seen him before. "He
wouldn't be here at all but for me--It's awful! It can't be worse to have
murder on your hands...to wake up every morning from your sleep and say:
'There's a man in that condemned cell, waiting to be hung, and I put him
there'. He's having his breakfast with two warders looking on'; and going
to bed every night and saying: 'Well, in three or four nights' time I
shan't be going to bed at all'; and waking up every morning and seeing
the light come in, and saying: 'I'll only see this about three more
times.'--And I did it! That's what you can't understand and nobody else
can understand. I didn't like him, and never shall like him, and he
didn't like me. But that's nothing--there he is."

He pointed his gloved finger towards the gaol. "I'll bet he's sleeping.
I'll bet he's giving more trouble than any man inside! I'll bet he don't
care a half, or a hundredth part, of what I care, or feel anything like I
feel!"

The policeman thought over this matter, and reached the conclusion that
we all had our troubles to bear. Carton apparently had other troubles,
and he mentioned them casually. He had detected his young lady
surreptitiously walking out with another man, a young clerk from Penn's
Ironworks. And after he'd taken the shop and had it painted blue, and
purchased the apparatus for fish-frying! A nice thing!

The story of this wanderer of the night came by obvious channels of
transmission to the prison officials, and in some mysterious fashion,
remembering that all news of the outside world was shut from him, to
Peace himself. He derived considerable satisfaction from the knowledge.

"And so he ought to be," he said, referring to the man's misery. "After
what I done for him! Took him in when he hadn't got a friend in the
world, and looked after him--and what did he do to me? He put the police
up to me--got 'em to swear my life away. He's more of a murderer than I
am, because I didn't intend killing anybody and he did intend doing me
in!" He had grown a little gloomy, but was not more tractable than he had
been. To the warders who watched him day and night he was a source of
constant anxiety. They suspected his ingenuity, which might at any time
put into his hand a weapon which would enable him to cheat the hangman.

One cause of his depression he revealed to the visiting clergyman.
"People have forgot all about Charles Peace now," he said.

He was conservative, something of a ritualist, and demanded, sometimes
with acerbity, all the material and spiritual etceteras to which his
position entitled him. The chaplain's visits were part of his rights. He
went farther afield and sought the spiritual counsel of a Sheffield
pastor to whom he was known. Because he was at heart an actor, and the
circus blood in him still tingled, he must have the lines and properties
which his setting demanded.

He was not a hypocrite, not even an opportunist. He was, in his crude
way, an artist.

One morning he swung his legs out of bed, a light in his dog's eyes, a
bright idea working confusedly in his mind.

"You'd better go back to bed," said one of the watchers. "It's only four
o'clock."

"I'm going to write," said Peace, and dressed himself.

Write he did with a vengeance; for in the night there had come to him the
spectacle of Harbron, working in a convict prison, under a life sentence
for a murder he did not commit. Only Peace could know his own mind, but
to those who have studied him it was not penitence, not a belated sense
of justice, nothing, indeed, but a passion for the grand gesture and the
knowledge that his act would set tongues wagging all over the world,
which produced his confession.

For confess he did. To the minister who called that day; to the Home
Secretary in more elaborate manner, illustrated by sketches of his own
design, he told the story of Cock and the shooting.

All the penitent things he should have said he did say, but crowded them
into the smallest possible space. His chief interest was to recall
details exactly, and here in some respects he failed.

He would have let William Harbron die without compunction. The sufferings
of this innocent man never disturbed his mind for a second. The grand
gesture produced all he anticipated. The loss to him was that he could
not read the newspapers and revel in the new-found sensation.

One sensation remained for him. Three days before the end, an application
was made for permission to visit him. He was consulted, and, on seeing
the name of his visitor, grew pleasantly excited.

"It's the woman I was talking to you about," he said exultantly. "All the
way from abroad she's come--what did I tell you? They never forget old
Charlie Peace."

The interview took place in the room proper for the purpose. Madame
Stahm, in her stiff silk, sat at one end of the table, the bearded little
convict at the other. She was very bright, beautifully human.

"I have come all the way from Switzerland to see you, my little friend. I
heard you were in trouble, and from the newspapers I have seen that you
have very few friends."

"After all I've done for people!" said Peace. "It's worse than Judas
Iscariot, my lady!"

"I also am going to die," she said with a smile. "The doctor has given me
six months--three months perhaps, if I was so silly as to take this
journey. But three months or six months, what does it matter?"

Peace was interested. "I shouldn't believe no doctors if I was you, my
lady," he said. "A couple of bottles of medicine'll put you right. I used
to take sarsaparilla."

She laughed softly. "One doctor, two doctors, six doctors--they all tell
the same lie!" She did not speak English as fluently as she had done, had
found some difficulty in finding the right word. "Well, I have come, I
have seen you, and I say 'au revoir'. Somebody in Switzerland will think
of you whilst she thinks at all! My love to you, little man!" She kissed
her finger-tips daintily, this gaunt woman, and rose.

Peace went back to his cell, cursing monotonously. "If I'd only
remembered it, and she'd stopped jawing about herself, I could have got
hundreds of pounds out of her. As a matter of fact, I'm here because of
her. Die? She won't die."

Somebody else did. They found him stiff and cold, propped against the
wall of the prison, his head hanging drunkenly. It was on the morning,
just before the big crowd began to assemble on the snow powdered road.
The policeman who had met him before had missed him for a day or two, but
recognized the pilot jacket and the gloved hands folded helplessly in his
lap.

"His name's Carton," he said to the doctor who was called. "Is it
suicide?"

The doctor shook his head. "No, not so far as I can tell at the moment.
It seems to me to be a case of exhaustion, possibly alcoholism." The
policeman had never heard the word and sought a translation.

"Booze," said the doctor coarsely.

The policeman had a romantic mind. "Might it be broken heart?" he
suggested.

"Don't be ridiculous," said the doctor.

Peace took his time over his toilet that morning. One of the warders, his
nerves on edge, asked fretfully how long he was going to be. Those deep
eyes of Peace transfixed him; the restive jaw moved from side to side.

"What's the hurry?" he asked. "Are you being hung or me?" He was all for
his rights. He was entitled to his leisure, to his smoke, to the best
breakfast he could procure, to a glass of brandy if he wanted it. He was
the most important person in Leeds. No king, no eastern potentate, could
command such ceremonial. Politeness from governors, reverence from
chaplains, attention from all the world. All England was standing still,
its face turned towards the grim gaol at Leeds.

Reporters were flocking from the four corners of the kingdom; newspaper
presses were waiting, the centre of small armies of distributors. At tens
of thousands of breakfast tables people would be saying: "That rascal was
hanged this morning." Peace was conscious of this fact; he had already
composed the speech which he would make to the reporters, and which would
be printed all over the world. A speech necessarily charged with piety,
because the situation demanded an acknowledgment of his penitence. It was
the convention of executions that the condemned man should also offer
advice to those whose feet were straying towards evil, and that he should
cite himself, with a melancholy pride, as an awful example of the place
to which wrongdoing brings a man. He would maintain all the best
traditions.

So he thanked the governor and the warders, remarked on the coldness of
the morning and the dullness of it, and hoped all his enemies would be
forgiven, and mentioned a few he hadn't forgiven himself.

A man came into the cell, a man with a beard; stocky, not too well
dressed, but obviously The Man. In one hand he carried a body strap; the
other hand, rather podgy, was extended.

"I'm very sorry that I've got to do this, but it's my duty," he said.

Peace nodded approvingly, and Marwood, the hangman, waited; but the
inevitable query did not come. Peace did not ask if it would hurt. He had
always strongly disapproved of that question, and was true to his
principles.

"I have to do this, and I hope there's no ill-feeling," said Marwood,
busy with the body strap about the little man's waist.

"That's all right," said Peace...

The speech to the reporters was over. He mounted the scaffold with a firm
step, because that was also part of the convention.

And here he was at the end of the path, upon a trap that slightly sagged
beneath him, with a cloth upon his face and a rope round his neck. He had
been taken hence from the place whence he came, and he was now at the
place of execution.

Everything according to plan and in order. He was hanged by the neck
until he was dead.

On the afternoon of that day a prosperous hop merchant in Blackheath,
rummaging through his desk, found a small bottle of crystals, frowned at
them, rattled them, took out the cork and smelt them.

"I don't know where these came from," he said to his wife. "No, my dear,
don't throw them on the fire: they may explode. Give them to the maid and
tell her to pour them down the kitchen sink."



THE END



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