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Title: The Fellowship of the Frog (1923)
Author: Edgar Wallace
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Language: English
Date first posted: March 2009
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Title: The Fellowship of the Frog (1923)
Author: Edgar Wallace


First published in serial form 1923 by the Chicago News
First published in book form 1925 by Ward, Lock & Co, Limited


CONTENTS

        FOREWORD: THE FROGS
I       AT MAYTREE COTTAGE
II      A TALK ABOUT FROGS
III     THE FROG
IV      ELK
V       MR. MAITLAND GOES HOME.
VI      MR. MAITLAND GOES SHOPPING
VII     A CALL ON MR. MAITLAND
VIII    THE OFFENSIVE RAY
IX      THE MAN WHO WAS WRECKED
X       ON HARLEY TERRACE
XI      MR. BROAD EXPLAINS
XII     THE EMBELLISHMENT OF MR. MAITLAND
XIII    A RAID ON ELDOR STREET
XIV     "ALL BULLS HEAR!"
XV      TEE MORNING AFTER
XVI     RAY LEARNS THE TRUTH
XVII    THE COMING OF MILLS
XVIII   THE BROADCAST
XIX     IN ELSHAM WOOD
XX      HAGN
XXI     MR. JOHNSON'S VISITOR
XXII    THE INQUIRY
XXIII   A MEETING
XXIV    WHY MAITLAND CAME
XXV     IN REGARD TO SAUL MORRIS
XXVI    PROMOTION FOR BALDER
XXVII   MR. BROAD IS INTERESTING
XXVIII  MURDER
XXIX    THE FOOTMAN
XXX     THE TRAMPS
XXXI    THE CHEMICAL CORPORATION
XXXII   IN GLOUCESTER PRISON
XXXIII  THE FROG OF THE NIGHT
XXXIV   THE PHOTO-PLAY
XXXV    GETTING THROUGH
XXXVI   THE POWER CABLE
XXXVII  THE GET-AWAY
XXXVIII THE MYSTERY MAN
XXXIX   THE AWAKENING
XL      FROG
XLI     IN QUARRY HOUSE
XLII    JOSHUA BROAD EXPLAINS




THE FROGS


It was of interest to those who study the psychology of the mass that,
until the prosperous but otherwise insignificant James G. Bliss became
the object of their attention, the doings and growth of the Frogs were
almost unnoticed. There were strong references in some of the country
newspapers to the lawless character of the association; one Sunday
journal had an amusing article headed:

"TRAMPS' TRADE UNION TAKES FROG FOR SYMBOL OF MYSTIC ORDER"

It gave a humorous and quite fanciful extract from its rules and ritual.
The average man made casual references: "I say, have you seen this story
about the tramps' Union--every member a walking delegate?..."

There was a more serious leading article on the growth of trade unionism,
in which the Frogs were cited, and although from time to time came
accounts of mysterious outrages which had been put to the discredit of
the Frogs, the generality of citizens regarded the society, order, or
whatever it was, as something benevolent in its intentions and
necessarily eccentric in its constitution, and, believing this, were in
their turn benevolently tolerant. In some such manner as the mass may
learn with mild interest of a distant outbreak of epidemic disease, which
slays its few, and wake one morning to find the sinister malady tapping
at their front doors, so did the world become alive and alarmed at the
terror-growth which suddenly loomed from the mists.

James G. Bliss was a hardware merchant, and a man well known on exchange,
where he augmented the steady profits of the Bliss General Hardware
Corporation with occasional windfalls from legitimate speculation. A
somewhat pompous and, in argument, aggressive person, he had the
advantage which mediocrity, blended with a certain expansive generosity,
gives to a man, in that he had no enemies; and since his generosity was
run on sane business principles, it could no: even be said of him, as is
so often said of others, that his worst enemy was himself. He held, and
still holds, the bulk of the stock in the B.G.H. Corporation--a fact
which should be noted because it was a practice of Mr. Bliss to
manipulate from time to time the price of his shares by judicious
operations. It was at a time coincident with the little boom in
industrials which brought Bliss Hardware stock at a jump from 12.50 to
23.75, that the strange happening occurred which focussed for the moment
all eyes upon the Frogs.

Mr. Bliss has a country place at Long Beach, Hampshire. It is referred to
as "The Hut," but is the sort of hut that King Solomon might have built
for the Queen of Sheba, had that adventurous man been sufficiently well
acquainted with modern plumbing, the newest systems of heating and
lighting, and the exigent requirements of up-to-date chauffeurs. In these
respects Mr. Bliss was wiser than Solomon.

He bad returned to his country home after a strenuous day in the City,
and was walking in the garden in the cool of the evening. He was (and is)
married, but his wife and two daughters were spending the spring in Par
is--a wise course, since the spring is the only season when Paris has the
slightest pretensions to being a beautiful city.

He had come from his kennels, and was seen walking across the home park
toward a covert which bordered his property. Hearing a scream, his kennel
man and a groom ran toward the wood, to discover Bliss lying on the
ground unconscious, his face and shoulders covered with blood. He had
been struck down by some heavy weapon: there were a slight fracture of
the parietal bone and several very ugly scalp wounds.

For three weeks this unfortunate man hovered between life and death,
unconscious except at intervals, and unable during his lucid moments to
throw any light on, or make any coherent statement concerning, the
assault, except to murmur, "Frog...frog...left arm...frog."

It was the first of many similar outrages, seemingly purposeless and
wanton, in no case to be connected with robbery, and invariably (except
once) committed upon people occupied fairly unimportant positions in the
social hierarchy. The Frogs advanced instantly to a first-class topic.
The disease was found to be widespread, and men who had read,
light-heartedly, of minor victimizations, began to bolt their own doors
and carry lethal weapons when they went abroad at nights.

And they were wise, for there was a force in being that had been born in
fear and had matured in obscurity (to the wonder of its creator) so that
it wielded the tyrannical power of governments.

In the centre of many ramifications sat the Frog, drunk with authority,
merciless, terrible. One who lived two lives and took full pleasure from
both, and all the time nursing the terror that Saul Morris had inspired
one foggy night in London, when the grimy streets were filled with armed
policemen looking for the man who cleaned the strong-room of the S.S.
_Mantania_ of three million pounds between the port of Southampton and
the port of Cherbourg.



CHAPTER I - AT MAYTREE COTTAGE


A dry radiator coincided with a burst tyre. The second coincidence was
the proximity of Maytree Cottage on the Horsham Road. The cottage was
larger than most, with a timbered front and a thatched roof. Standing at
the gate, Richard Gordon stopped to admire. The house dated back to the
days of Elizabeth, but his interest and admiration were not those of the
antiquary.

Nor, though he loved flowers, of the horticulturist, though the broad
garden was a patchwork of colour and the fragrance of cabbage roses came
to delight his senses. Nor was it the air of comfort and cleanliness that
pervaded the place, the scrubbed red-brick pathway that led to the door,
the spotless curtains behind leaded panes.

It was the girl, in the red-lined basket chair, that arrested his gaze.
She sat on a little lawn in the shade of a mulberry tree, with her
shapely young limbs stiffly extended, a book in her hand, a large box of
chocolates by her side. Her hair, the colour of old gold, an old gold
that held life and sheen; a flawless complexion, and, when she turned her
head in his direction, a pair of grave, questioning eyes, deeper than
grey, yet greyer than blue...

She drew up her feet hurriedly and rose.

"I'm so sorry to disturb you,"--Dick, hat in hand, smiled his
apology--"but I want water for my poor little Lizzie. She's developed a
prodigious thirst."

She frowned for a second, and then laughed.

"Lizzie--you mean a car? If you'll come to the back of the cottage I'll
show you where the well is."

He followed, wondering who she was. The tiny hint of patronage in her
tone he understood. It was the tone of matured girlhood addressing a boy
of her own age. Dick, who was thirty and looked eighteen, with his
smooth, boyish face, had been greeted in that "little boy" tone before,
and was inwardly amused.

"Here is the bucket and that is the well," she pointed. "I would send a
maid to help you, only we haven't a maid, and never had a maid, and I
don't think ever shall have a maid!"

"Then some maid has missed a very good job," said Dick, "for this garden
is delightful."

She neither agreed nor dissented. Perhaps she regretted the familiarity
she had shown. She conveyed to him an impression of aloofness, as she
watched the process of filling the buckets, and when he carried them to
the car on the road outside, she followed.

"I thought it was a--a--what did you call it--Lizzie?"

"She is Lizzie to me," said Dick stoutly as he filled the radiator of the
big Rolls, "and she will never be anything else. There are people who
think she should be called Diana,' but those high-flown names never had
any attraction for me. She is Liz--and will always be Liz."

She walked round the machine, examining it curiously.

"Aren't you afraid to be driving a big car like that?" she asked. "I
should be scared to death. It is so tremendous and...and unmanageable."

Dick paused with a bucket in hand.

"Fear," he boasted, "is a word which I have expunged from the bright
lexicon of my youth."

For a second puzzled, she began to laugh softly.

"Did you come by way of Welford?" she asked.

He nodded.

"I wonder if you saw my father on the road?"

"I saw nobody on the road except a sour-looking gentleman of middle age
who was breaking the Sabbath by carrying a large brown box on his back."

"Where did you pass him?" she asked, interested.

"Two miles away--less than that." And then, a doubt intruding: "I hope
that I wasn't describing your parent?"

"It sounds rather like him," she said without annoyance. "Daddy is a
naturalist photographer. He takes moving pictures of birds and things--he
is an amateur, of course."

"Of course," agreed Dick.

He brought the buckets back to where he had found them and lingered.
Searching for an excuse, he found it in the garden. How far he might have
exploited this subject is a matter for conjecture. Interruption came in
the shape of a young man who emerged from the front door of the cottage.
He was tall and athletic, good-looking...Dick put his age at twenty.

"Hello, Ella! Father back?" he began, and then saw the visitor.

"This is my brother," said the girl, and Dick Gordon nodded. He was
conscious that this free-and-easy method of getting acquainted was due
largely, if not entirely, to his youthful appearance. To be treated as an
inconsiderable boy had its advantages. And so it appeared.

"I was telling him that boys ought not to be allowed to drive big cars,"
she said. "You remember the awful smash there was at the Shoreham cross
roads?"

Ray Bennett chuckled.

"This is all part of a conspiracy to keep me from getting a
motor-bicycle. Father thinks I'll kill somebody, and Ella thinks I'll
kill myself."

Perhaps there was something in Dick Gordon's quick smile that warned the
girl that she had been premature in her appraisement of his age, for
suddenly, almost abruptly, she nodded an emphatic dismissal and turned
away. Dick was at the gate when a further respite arrived. It was the man
he had passed on the road. Tall, loose-framed, grey and gaunt of face, he
regarded the stranger with suspicion in his deep-set eyes.

"Good morning," he said curtly. "Car broken down?"

"No, thank you. I ran out of water, and Miss--er--"

"Bennett," said the man. "She gave you the water, eh Well, good morning."

He stood aside to let Gordon pass, but Dick opened the gate and waited
till the owner of Maytree Cottage had entered.

"My name is Gordon," he said. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ella
had turned back and stood with her brother within earshot. "I am greatly
obliged to you for your kindness." The old man, with a nod, went on
carrying his heavy burden into the house, and Dick in desperation turned
to the girl.

"You are wrong when you think this is a difficult car to drive--won't you
experiment? Or perhaps your brother?"

The girl hesitated, but not so young Bennett.

"I'd like to try," he said eagerly. "I've never handled a big machine."

That he could handle one if the opportunity came, he showed. They watched
the car gliding round the corner, the girl with a little frown gathering
between her eyes, Dick Gordon oblivious to everything except that he had
snatched a few minutes' closer association with the girl. He was behaving
absurdly, he told himself. He, a public official, an experienced lawyer,
was carrying on like an irresponsible, love-smitten youth of nineteen.
The girl's words emphasized his folly.

"I wish you hadn't let Ray drive," she said. "It doesn't help a boy who
is always wanting something better, to put him in charge of a beautiful
car...perhaps you don't understand me. Ray is very ambitious and dreams
in millions. A thing like this unsettles him."

The older man came out at that moment, a black pipe between his teeth,
and, seeing the two at the gate, a cloud passed over his face.

"Let him drive your car, have you?" he said grimly. "I wish you
hadn't--it was very kind of you, Mr. Gordon, but in Ray's case a mistaken
kindness."

"I'm very sorry," said the penitent Dick. "Here he comes!" The big car
spun toward them and halted before the gate.

"She's a beauty!"

Ray Bennett jumped out and looked at the machine with admiration and
regret.

"My word, if she were mine!"

"She isn't," snapped the old man, and then, as though regretting his
petulance: "Some clay perhaps you'll own a fleet, Ray--are you going to
London, Mr. Gordon?"

Dick nodded.

"Maybe you wouldn't care to stop and eat a very frugal meal with us?"
asked the elder Bennett, to his surprise and joy. "And you'll be able to
tell this foolish son of mine that owning a big car isn't all
joy-riding."

Dick's first impression was of the girl's astonishment. Apparently he was
unusually honoured, and this was confirmed after John Bennett had left
them.

"You're the first boy that has ever been asked to dinner," she said when
they were alone. "Isn't he, Ray?" Ray smiled.

"Dad doesn't go in for the social life, and that's a fact," he said. "I
asked him to have Philo Johnson down for a week-end, and he killed the
idea before it was born. And the old philosopher is a good fellow and the
boss's confidential secretary. You've heard of Maitlands Consolidated, I
suppose?"

Dick nodded. The marble palace on the Strand Embankment in which the
fabulously rich Mr. Maitland operated, was one of the show buildings of
London.

"I'm in his office--exchange clerk," said the young man, "and Philo could
do a whole lot for me if dad would pull out an invitation. As it is, I
seem doomed to be a clerk for the rest of my life."

The white hand of the girl touched his lips.

"You'll be rich some day, Ray dear, and it is foolish to blame daddy."

The young man growled something under the hand, and then laughed a little
bitterly.

"Dad has tried every get-rich-quick scheme that the mind and ingenuity of
man--"

"And why?"

The voice was harsh, tremulous with anger. None of them had noticed the
reappearance of John Bennett.

"You're doing work you don't like. My God! What of me? I've been trying
for twenty years to get out. I've tried every silly scheme--that's true.
But it was for you--"

He stopped abruptly at the sight of Gordon's embarrassment.

"I invited you to dinner, and I'm pulling out the family skeleton," he
said with rough good-humour.

He took Dick's arm and led him down the garden path between the serried
ranks of rose bushes.

"I don't know why I asked you to stay, young man," he said. "An impulse,
I suppose...maybe a bad con science. I don't give these young people all
the company they ought to have at home, and I'm not much of a companion
for them. It's too bad that you should be the witness of the first family
jar we've had for years."

His voice and manner were those of an educated man. Dick wondered what
occupation he followed, and why it should be so particularly obnoxious
that he should be seeking some escape.

The girl was quiet throughout the meal. She sat at Dick's left hand and
she spoke very seldom. Stealing an occasional glance at her, he thought
she looked preoccupied and troubled, and blamed his presence as the
cause.

Apparently no servant was kept at the cottage. She did the waiting
herself, and she had replaced the plates when the old man asked:

"I shouldn't think you were as young as you look, Mr. Gordon--what do you
do for a living?"

"I'm quite old," smiled Dick. "Thirty-one."

"Thirty-one?" gasped Ella, going red. "And I've been talking to you as
though you were a child!"

"Think of me as a child at heart," he said gravely. "As to my
occupation--I'm a persecutor of thieves and murderers and bad characters
generally. My name is Richard Gordon--"

The knife fell with a clatter from John Bennett's hand and his face went
white.

"Gordon--Richard Gordon?" he said hollowly.

For a second their eyes met, the clear blue and the faded blue.

"Yes--I am the Assistant Director of Prosecutions," said Gordon quietly.
"And I have an idea that you and I have met before."

The pale eyes did not waver. John Bennett's face was a mask.

"Not professionally, I hope," he said, and there was a challenge in his
voice.

Dick laughed again as at the absurdity of the question. "Not
professionally," he said with mock gravity.

On his way back to London that night his memory worked overtime, but he
failed to place John Bennett of Horsham.



CHAPTER II - A TALK ABOUT FROGS


Maitlands Consolidated had grown from one small office to its present
palatial proportions in a comparatively short space of time. Maitland was
a man advanced in years, patriarchal in appearance, sparing of speech. He
had arrived in London unheralded, and had arrived, in the less accurate
sense of the word, before London was aware of his existence.

Dick Gordon saw the speculator for the first time as he was waiting in
the marble-walled vestibule. A man of middle height, bearded to his
waist; his eyes almost hidden under heavy white brows; stout and
laborious of gait, he came slowly through the outer office, where a score
of clerks sat working under their green-shaded lamps, and, looking
neither to the right nor left, walked into the elevator and was lost to
view.

"That is the old man: have you seen him before?" asked Ray Bennett, who
had come out to meet the caller a second before. "He's a venerable old
cuss, but as tight as a soundproof door. You couldn't pry money from him,
not if you used dynamite! He pays Philo a salary that the average
secretary wouldn't look at, and if Philo wasn't such an easygoing devil,
he'd have left years ago."

Dick Gordon was feeling a little uncomfortable. His presence at Maitlands
was freakish, his excuse for calling as feeble as any weak brain could
conceive. If he had spoken the truth to the flattered young man on whom
he called in business hours, he would have said: "I have idiotically
fallen in love with your sister. I am not especially interested in you,
but I regard you as a line that will lead me to another meeting,
therefore I have made my being in the neighbourhood an excuse for
calling. And because of this insane love I have for your sister, I am
willing to meet even Philo, who will surely bore me." Instead he said:

"You are a friend of Philo--why do you call him that?"

"Because he's a philosophical old horse--his other name is Philip," said
the other with a twinkle in his eye. "Everybody is a friend of
Philo's--he's the kind of man that makes friendship easy."

The elevator door opened at that moment and a man came out. Instinctively
Dick Gordon knew that this bald and middle-aged man with the
good-humoured face was the subject of their discussion. His round, fat
face creased in a smile as he recognized Ray, and after he had handed a
bundle of documents to one of the clerks, he came over to where they were
standing.

"Meet Mr. Gordon," said Ray. "This is my friend Johnson." Philo grasped
the extended hand warmly. "Warm" was a word which had a special
significance in relation to Mr. Johnson. He seemed to radiate a warming
and quickening influence. Even Dick Gordon, who was not too ready to
respond, came under the immediate influence of his geniality.

"You're Mr. Gordon of the Public Prosecution Department--Ray was telling
me," he said. "I should like you to come one day and prosecute old man
Maitland! He is certainly the most prosecutable gentleman I've met for
years!"

The jest tickled Mr. Johnson. He was, thought Dick, inclined to laugh at
himself.

"I've got to get back: he's in a tantrum this morning. Anyone would think
the Frogs were after him."

Philo Johnson, with a cheery nod, hurried back to the lift. Was it
imagination on Dick's part? He could have sworn the face of Ray Bennett
was a deeper shade of red, and that there was a look of anxiety in his
eyes.

"It's very good of you to keep your promise and call...yes, I'll be glad
to lunch with you, Gordon. And my sister will also, I'm sure. She is
often in town."

His adieux were hurried and somewhat confused. Dick Gordon went out into
the street puzzled. Of one thing he was certain: that behind the young
man's distress lay that joking reference to the Frogs.

When he returned to his office, still sore with himself that he had acted
rather like a moon-calf or a farm hand making his awkward advances to the
village belle, he found a troubled-looking chief of police waiting for
him, and at the sight of him Dick's eyes narrowed.

"Well?" he asked. "What of Genter?"

The police chief made a grimace like one who was swallowing an unpleasant
potion.

"They slipped me," he said. "The Frog arrived in a car--I wasn't prepared
for that. Genter got in, and they were gone before I realized what had
happened. Not that I'm worried. Genter has a gun, and he's a pretty tough
fellow in a rough house."

Dick Gordon stared at and through the man, and then: "I think you should
have been prepared for the car," he said. "If Genter's message was well
founded, and he is on the track of the Frog, you should have expected a
car. Sit down, Wellingdale."

The grey-haired man obeyed.

"I'm not excusing myself," he growled. "The Frogs have got me rattled. I
treated them as a joke once."

"Maybe we'd be wiser if we treated them as a joke now," suggested Dick,
biting off the end of a cigar. "They may be nothing but a foolish secret
society. Even tramps are entitled to their lodges and pass-words, grips
and signs." Wellingdale shook his head.

"You can't get away from the record of the past seven years," he said.
"It isn't the fact that every other bad road-criminal we pull in has the
frog tattooed on his wrist. That might be sheer imitation--and, in any
case, all crooks of low mentality have tattoo marks. But in that seven
years we've had a series of very unpleasant crimes. First there
was the attack upon the chargé d'affaires of the United States
Embassy--bludgeoned to sleep in Hyde Park. Then there was the case of the
President of the Northern Trading Company--clubbed as he was stepping out
of his car in Park Lane. Then the big fire which destroyed the Mersey
Rubber Stores, where four million pounds' worth of raw rubber went up in
smoke. Obviously the work of a dozen fire bugs, for the stores consist of
six big warehouses and each was fired simultaneously and in two places.
And the Frogs were in it. We caught two of the men for the Rubber job;
they were both 'Frogs' and bore the totem of the tribe--they were both
ex-convicts, and one of them admitted that he had had instructions to
carry out the job, but took back his words next day. I never saw a man
more scared than he was. And I can't blame him. If half that is said
about the Frog is true, his admission cost him something. There it is,
Mr. Gordon. I can give you a dozen cases. Genter has been two years on
their track. He has been tramping the country, sleeping under hedges,
hogging in with all sorts of tramps, stealing rides with them and
thieving with them; and when he wrote me and said he had got into touch
with the organization and expected to be initiated, I thought we were
near to getting them. I've had Genter shadowed since he struck town. I'm
sick about this morning."

Dick Gordon opened a drawer of his desk, took out a leather folder and
turned the leaves of its contents. They consisted of pages of photographs
of men's wrists. He studied them carefully, as though he were looking at
them for the first time, though, in truth, he had examined these records
of captured men almost every day for years. Then he closed the portfolio
thoughtfully and put it away in the drawer. For a few minutes he sat,
drumming his fingers on the edge of the writing-table, a frown on his
youthful face.

"The frog is always on the left wrist, always a little lob-sided, and
there is always one small blob tattooed underneath," he said. "Does that
strike you as being remarkable?"

The Superintendent, who was not a brilliant man, saw nothing remarkable
in the fact.


CHAPTER III - THE FROG


It was growing dark when the two tramps, skirting the village of Morby,
came again to the post road. The circumvention of Morby had been a
painful and tiring business, for the rain which had been falling all day
had transformed the ploughed fields into glutinous brown seas that made
walking a test of patience.

One was tall, unshaven, shabby, his faded brown coat was buttoned to his
chin, his sagged and battered hat rested on the back of his head. His
companion seemed short by comparison, though he was a well-made,
broad-shouldered man, above the average height.

They spoke no word as they plodded along the muddy road. Twice the
shorter man stopped and peered backward in the gathering darkness, as
though searching for a pursuer, and once he clutched the big man's arm
and drew him to hiding behind the bushes that fringed the road. This was
when a car tore past with a roar and a splattering of liquid mud.

After a while they turned off the road, and crossing a field, came to the
edge of a wild waste of land traversed by an ancient cart track.

"We're nearly there," growled the smaller man, and the other grunted. But
for all his seeming indifference, his keen eyes were taking in every
detail of the scene. Solitary building on the horizon...looked like a
barn. Essex County (he guessed this from the indicator number on the car
that had passed); waste land probably led to a disused clay pit...or was
it quarry? There was an old notice-board fixed to a groggy post near the
gate through which the cart track passed. It was too dark to read the
faded lettering, but he saw the word "lime." Limestone? It would be easy
to locate.

The only danger was if the Frogs were present in force. Under cover of
his overcoat, he felt for the Browning and slipped it into his overcoat
pocket.

If the Frogs were in strength, there might be a tough fight. Help there
was none. He never expected there would be. Carlo had picked him up on
the outskirts of the city in his disreputable car, and had driven him
through the ram, tacking and turning, following secondary roads, avoiding
towns and hamlets, so that, had he been sitting by the driver's side, he
might have grown confused. But he was not. He was sitting in the darkness
of the little van, and saw nothing. Wellingdale, with the shadows who had
been watching him, had not been prepared for the car. A tramp with a
motorcar was a monstrosity. Even Genter himself was taken aback when the
car drew up to the pavement where he was waiting, and the voice of Carlo
hissed, "Jump in!"

They crossed the crest of a weed-grown ridge. Below, Genter saw a stretch
of ground littered with rusting trollies, twisted Decourville rails, and
pitted with deep, rain-filled holes. Beyond, on the sharp line of the
quarry's edge, was a small wooden hut, and towards this Carlo led the
way.

"Not nervous, are you?" he asked, and there was a sneer in his voice.

"Not very," said the other coolly. "I suppose the fellows are in that
shack?"

Carlo laughed softly.

"There are no others," he said, "only the Frog himself. He comes up the
quarry face--there's a flight of steps that come up under the hut. Good
idea, eh? The hut hangs over the edge, and you can't even see the steps,
not if you hang over. I tried once. They'd never catch him, not if they
brought forty million cops."

"Suppose they surrounded the quarry?" suggested Genter, but the man
scoffed.

"Wouldn't he know it was being surrounded before he came in? He knows
everything, does the Frog." He looked down at the other's hand.

"It won't hurt," he said, "and it's worth it if it does! You'll never be
without a friend again, Harry. If you get into trouble, there's always
the best lawyer to defend you. And you're the kind of chap we're looking
for--there is plenty of trash. Poor fools that want to get in for the
sake of the pickings. But you'll get big work, and if you do a special
job for him, there's hundreds and hundreds of money for you If you're
hungry or ill, the Frogs will find you out and help you. That's pretty
good, ain't it?"

Genter said nothing. They were within a dozen yards of the hut now, a
strong structure built of stout timber bulks, with one door and a
shuttered window.

Motioning Genter to remain where he was, the man called Carlo went
forward arid tapped on the door. Genter heard a voice, and then he saw
the man step to the window, and the shutter open an inch. There followed
a long conversation in an undertone, and then Carlo came back.

"He says he has a job for you that will bring in a thousand--you're
lucky! Do you know Rochmore?"

Genter nodded. He knew that aristocratic suburb.

"There's a man there that has got to be coshed. He comes home from his
club every night by the eleven-five. Walks to his house. It is up a dark
road, and a fellow could get him with a club without trouble. Just one
smack and he's finished. It's not killing, you understand."

"Why does he want me to do it?" asked the tall tramp curiously.

The explanation was logical.

"All new fellows have to do something to show their pluck and
straightness. What do you say?"

Genter had not hesitated. "I'll do it," he said.

Carlo returned to the window, and presently he called his companion.

"Stand here and put your left arm through the window," he ordered.

Genter pulled back the cuff of his soddened coat and thrust his bare arm
through the opening. His hand was caught in a firm grip, and immediately
he felt something soft and wet pressed against his wrist. A rubber stamp,
he noted mentally, and braced himself for the pain which would follow. It
came, the rapid pricking of a thousand needles, and he winced. Then the
grip on his hand relaxed and he withdrew it, to look wonderingly on the
blurred design of ink and blood that the tattooer had left.

"Don't wipe it," said a muffled voice from the darkness of the hut. "Now
you may come in."

The shutter closed and was bolted. Then came the snick of a lock turning
and the door opened. Genter went into the pitch-black darkness of the hut
and heard the door locked by the unseen occupant.

"Your number is K 971," said the hollow voice. "When you see that in the
personal column of The Times, you report here, wherever you are. Take
that..."

Genter put out his hand and an envelope was placed in his outstretched
palm. It was as though the mysterious Frog could see, even in that
blackness.

"There is journey money and a map of the district. If you spend the
journey money, or if you fail to come when you are wanted, you will be
killed. Is that clear?"

"Yes."

"You will find other money--that you can use for your expenses. Now
listen. At Rochmore, 17 Park Avenue, lives Hallwell Jones, the banker--"

He must have sensed the start of surprise which the recruit gave.

"You know him?"

"Yes--worked for him years ago," said Genter. Stealthily, he drew his
Browning from his pocket and thumbed down the safety catch.

"Between now and Friday he has to be clubbed. You need not kill him. If
you do, it doesn't matter. I expect his head's too hard--"

Genter located the man now, and, growing accustomed to the darkness,
guessed rather than saw the bulk of him. Suddenly his hand shot out and
grasped the arm of the Frog.

"I've got a gun and I'll shoot," he said between his teeth. "I want you,
Frog! I am Inspector Genter from police headquarters, and if you resist
I'll kill you!"

For a second there was a deathly silence. Then Genter felt his pistol
wrist seized in a vice-like grip. He struck out with his other hand, but
the man stooped and the blow fell in the air, and then with a wrench the
pistol was forced out of the big man's hand and he closed with his
prisoner. So doing, his face touched the Frog's. Was it a mask he was
wearing?...The cold mica goggles came against his cheek. That accounted
for the muffled voice...

Powerful as he was, he could not break away from the arms which encircled
him, and they struggled backward and forward in the darkness.

Suddenly the Frog lifted his foot, and Genter, anticipating the kick,
swerved round. There was a crash of broken glass, and then something came
to the detective--a faint but pungent odour. He tried to breathe, but
found himself strangling, and his arms fell feebly by his side.

The Frog held him for a minute, and then let the limp figure tall with a
thud to the ground. In the morning a London police patrol found the body
of Inspector Genter lying in the garden of an empty house, and rang for
an ambulance. But a man who has been gassed by the concentrated fumes of
hydrocyanic acid dies very quickly, and Genter had been dead ten seconds
after the Frog smashed the thin class cylinder which he kept in the hut
for such emergencies as these.



CHAPTER IV - ELK


There was no detective in the world who looked less like a police
officer, and a clever police officer, than Elk. He was tall and thin, and
a slight stoop accentuated his weediness. His clothes seemed ill-fitting,
and hung upon rather than fitted him. His dark, cadaverous face was set
permanently in an expression of the deepest gloom, and few had ever seen
him smile. His superiors found him generally a depressing influence, for
his outlook on life was prejudiced and apparently embittered by his
failure to secure promotion. Faulty education stood in his way here. Ten
times he had come up for examination, and ten times he had failed,
invariably in the same subject--history.

Dick, who knew him better than his immediate chiefs, guessed that these
failures did not worry Mr. Elk as much as people thought. Indeed, he
often detected a glum pride in his inability to remember historical
dates, and once, in a moment of astonishing confidence, Elk had confessed
that promotion would be an embarrassment to a man of his limited
educational attainments. For Elk's everyday English was one of his
weaknesses.

"There's no rest for the wicked, Mr. Gordon," he sighed as he sat down.
"I thought I'd get a holiday after my trip to the U.S.A."

"I want to know all about Lola Bassano--who are her friends, why she has
suddenly attached herself to Raymond Bennett, a clerk in the employ of
Maitlands Consolidated. Particularly why she picked him up at the corner
of St. James's Square and drove him to Horsham last night. I saw them by
accident as I was coming out of my club, and followed. They sat in her
coupe for the greater part of two hours within a hundred yards of
Bennett's house, and they were talking. I know, because I stood in the
rain behind the car, listening. If he had been making love to her I
should have understood--a little. But they were talking, and talking
money. I heard certain sums mentioned. At four o'clock he got out of the
car and went into his house, and Lola drove off."

Elk, puffing, sadly shook his head.

"Lola wouldn't talk about anything but money anyway," he said. "She's
like Queen What's-her-name who died in 1077, or maybe it was 1573. She
married King Henry, or it may have been Charles, because she wanted a
gold snuff-box he had. I'm not sure whether it was a gold snuff-box or a
silver bed. Anyway, she got it an' was be'eaded in...I don't remember the
date."

"Thank you for the parallel," smiled Dick. "But Lola is not after
snuff-boxes of gold or silver. Young Bennett hasn't twopence of his own.
There is something particularly interesting to me about this
acquaintance."

Elk smoked thoughtfully, watching the smoke rings rise to the ceiling.

"Bennett's got a sister," he said, to the other's amazement. "Pretty, as
far as looks go. Old man Bennett's a crook of some kind. Doesn't do any
regular work, but goes away for days at a time and comes back looking
ill."

"You know them?"

Elk nodded.

"Old man Bennett attracted me. Somebody reported his movements as
suspicious--the local police. They've got nothing to do except guard
chickens, and naturally they look on anybody who doesn't keep chickens as
bein' a suspicious character. I kept old Bennett under observation, but I
never got to the bottom of his movements. He has run lots of queer
stunts. He wrote a play once and put it on. It went dead on the fourth
night. Then he took to playing the races on a system. That nearly broke
him. Then he started a correspondence school at Horsham--' How to write
good English'--and he lost money. Now he's taking pictures."

"How long has he been trying those methods of getting a living?"

"Years. I traced a typewriting agency to him seventeen years ago. They
haven't all been failures. He made money out of some. But I'd give my
head to know what his regular game is. Once a month regular, sometimes
twice, sometimes more often, he disappears and you can't find him or
trail him. I've sounded every crook in town, but they're as much puzzled
as I am. Lew Brady--that's the big sporting fellow who worked with
Lola--he's interested too. He hates Bennett. Years ago he tackled the old
man and tried to bully him into telling him what his lay was, and Bennett
handled him rough."

"The old man?" asked Dick incredulously.

"The old man. He's as strong as an ox. Don't forget it. I'll see Lola.
She's not a bad girl--up to a point. Personally, vamps never appeal to
me. Genter's dead, they tell me? The Frog's in that too?"

"There's no doubt about it," said Dick, rising. "And here, Elk, is one of
the men who killed him."

He walked to the window and looked out, Elk behind him. The man who had
stood on the sidewalk had disappeared. "Where?" asked Elk.

"He's gone now!"

At that moment the window shattered inward, and splinters of glass stung
his face. Another second, and Elk was dragged violently to cover.

"From the roof of Onslow Gardens," said Richard Gordon calmly. "I
wondered where the devils would shoot from--that's twice they've tried to
get me since daylight."

A spent cartridge on the flat roof of 94, Onslow Gardens, and the print
of feet, were all the evidence that the assassin left behind. No. 94 was
empty except for a caretaker, who admitted that he was in the habit of
going out every morning to buy provisions for the day. Admission had been
gained by the front door; there was a tradesman who saw a man let himself
into the house, carrying what looked to be a fishing-rod under his arm,
but which undoubtedly was a rifle in a cloth case.

"Very simple," said Dick; "and, of course, from the Frog's point of
view, effective. The shooter had half-a-dozen ways, of escape, including
the fire-escape."

Elk was silent and glum. Dick Gordon as silent, but cheerful, until the
two men were back in his office.

"It was my inquiry at the garage that annoyed them," he said, "and I'll
give them this credit, that they are rapid! I was returning to my house
when the first attempt was made. The most ingenious effort to run me down
with a light car--the darned thing even mounted the pavement after me.

"Number?"

"XL.19741," said Dick, "but fake. There is no such number on the
register. The driver was gone before I could stop him."

Elk scratched his chin, surveying the youthful Public Prosecutor with a
dubious eye.

"Almost sounds interesting to me," he said. "Of course I've heard of the
Frogs, but I didn't give much attention. Nowadays secret societies are so
common that every time a man shakes hands with me, he looks sort of
disappointed if I don't pull my ear or flap my feet. And gang work on a
large scale I've always looked upon as something you only hear about in
exciting novels by my old friend Shylock--"

"Sherlock--and he didn't write them," murmured Dick.

Again Elk fingered his cheek.

"I don't believe in it, anyway," he said after thought. "It's not natural
that tramps should do anything systematic. It's too much like work. I'll
bet there's nothing in it, only a lot of wild coincidences stickin'
together. I'll bet that the Frogs are just a silly society without any
plan or reason. And I'll bet that Lola knows all about 'em," he added
inconsistently.

Elk walked back to "The Yard" by the most circuitous route. With his
furled and ancient umbrella hanging on his arm, he had the appearance of
an out-of-work clerk. His steel-rimmed spectacles, clipped at a groggy
angle, assisted the illusion. Winter and summer he wore a soiled fawn
top-coat, which was invariably unbuttoned, and he had worn the same
yellowish-brown suit for as long as anybody could remember. The rain came
down, not in any great quantities, but incessantly. His hard derby hat
glistened with moisture, but he did not put up his umbrella. Nobody had
ever seen that article opened.

He walked to Trafalgar Square and then stopped, stood in thought for some
time, and retraced his steps. Opposite the Public Prosecutor's office
stood a tall street-seller with a little tray of matches, key-rings,
pencils and the odds and ends that such men sell. His wares, for the
moment, were covered by a shining oil-cloth. Elk had not noticed him
before, and wondered why the man had taken up so unfavourable a stand,
for the end of Onslow Gardens, the windiest and least comfortable
position in Whitehall, is not a place where the hurrying pedestrian would
stop to buy, even on a fine day. The hawker was dressed in a shabby
raincoat that reached to his heels; a soft felt hat was pulled down over
his eyes, but Elk saw the hawk-like face and stopped.

"Busy?"

"Naw."

Elk was immediately interested. This man was American, and was trying to
disguise his voice so that it appeared Cockney--the most impossible task
that any American had ever undertaken, for the whine and intonation of
the Cockney are inimitable.

"You're American--what state?"

"Georgia," was the reply, and this time the hawker made no attempt at
disguise. "Came over on a cattle boat during the war."

Elk held out his hand.

"Let me see that licence of yours, brother," he said.

Without hesitation the man produced the written police permit to sell on
the streets. It was made out in the name of "Joshua Broad," and was in
order.

"You're not from Georgia," said Elk, "but that doesn't matter. You're
from Hampshire or Massachusetts."

"Connecticut, to be exact," said the man coolly, "but I've lived in
Georgia. Want a key-ring?"

There was a gleam of amusement in his eyes--the merest flash.

"No. Never had a key. Never had anything worth locking up," said Elk,
fingering the articles on the tray. "Not a good pitch, this."

"No," said the other; "too near to Scotland Yard, Mr. Elk."

Elk cast a swift glance at the man.

"Know me, do you?"

"Most people do, don't they?" asked the other innocently.

Elk took the pedlar in from the soles of his stout shoes to his soddened
hat, and, with a nod, went on. The hawker looked after the detective
until he was out of sight, and then, fixing a cover over his tray,
strapped it tight and walked in the direction Elk had taken.

Coming out of Maitlands to lunch, Ray Bennett saw a shabby and saturnine
man standing on the edge of the pavement, but gave him no more than a
passing glance. He, at any rate, did not know Elk and was quite
unconscious of the fact that he was being followed to the little
chophouse where Philo Johnson and he took their modest luncheon.

In any circumstances Ray would not have observed the shadow, but to-day,
in his condition of mind, he had no thought for anybody but himself, or
any offence but the bearded and ancient Maitland's outrageous behaviour.

"The old devil!" he said as he walked by Johnson's side. "To make a ten
per cent cut in salaries and to start on me And this morning the papers
say that he has given five thousand to the Northern Hospitals!"

"He's a charitable cuss, and as to the cut, it was either that or
standing you off," said Johnson cheerfully. "What's the use of kicking?
Trade has been bad, and the stock market is as dead as Ptolemy. The old
man wanted to put you off--said that you were superfluous anyway. If
you'd only look on the bright side of things, Ray--"

"Bright!" snorted the young man, his face going pink with anger. "I'm
getting a boy's salary, and I want money mighty badly, Philo."

Philo sighed, and for once his good-humoured face was clouded. Then it
relaxed into a broad grin.

"If I thought the same way as you, I'd go mad or turn into a first-class
crook. I only earn about fifty per cent more than you, and yet the old
man allows me to handle hundreds of thousands. It's too bad."

Nevertheless, the "badness" of the parsimonious Maitland did not
interfere with his appetite.

"The art of being happy," he said as he pushed back his plate and lit a
cigarette, "is to want nothing. Then you're always getting more than you
need. How is your sister?"

"She's all right," said Ray indifferently. "Ella's the same mind as you.
It's easy to be a philosopher over other people's worries, Who's that
disreputable bird?" he added, as a man seated himself at a table opposite
to them.

Philo fixed his glasses--he was a little near-sighted.

"That's Elk--a Scotland Yard man," he said, and grinned at the
new-corner, a recognition which, to Ray's annoyance--and his annoyance
was tinged with uneasiness--brought the seedy man to their table.

"This is my friend, Mr. Bennett--Inspector Elk, Ray."

"Sergeant," suggested Elk dourly. "Fate has always been against me in the
matter of promotion. Can't remember dates."

So far from making a secret of his failure, Mr. Elk was never tired of
discussing the cause.

"Though why a man is a better thief-taker for knowin' when George
Washington was born and when Napoleon Bonaparte died, is a mystery to me.
Dine here every day, Mr. Bennett?"

Ray nodded.

"Know your father, I think--John Bennett of Horsham, isn't it? Thought
so."

In desperation Ray got up with an excuse and left them alone.

"Nice boy, that," said Elk.



CHAPTER V - MR. MAITLAND GOES HOME


They were nearing the imposing home of Maitlands Consolidated, when Mr.
Johnson suddenly broke off in the middle of an interesting exposition of
his philosophy and quickened his pace. On the pavement ahead of them he
saw Ray Bennett, and by his side the slim figure of a girl. Their backs
were toward the two men, but Elk guessed rightly when he decided that the
girl was Ella Bennett. He had seen her twice before, and he had a
wonderful memory for backs. Turning as the stout man came up to her, hat
in hand, she greeted him with a quick and friendly smile.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, Miss Bennett."

There was a pink tinge to Johnson's homely face ("Sweet on her," thought
Elk, interested), and his handshake was warm and something more than
cordial.

"I didn't intend coming to town, but father has gone off on one of his
mysterious excursions," she said with a little laugh, "this time to the
West. And, curiously enough, am absolutely sure I saw him on a 'bus just
now, though his train left two hours ago."

She glanced at Elk hovering in the background, and the sight of his glum
countenance seemed to arouse some unpleasant memory, for the brightness
went out of her face.

"My friend, Mr. Elk," said Johnson a little awkwardly, and Elk nodded.

"Glad to meet you, Miss Bennett," he said, and noted Ray's annoyance with
inward satisfaction which, in a more cheerful man, would have been mirth.

She bowed slightly and then said something in a low tone to her brother.
Elk saw the boy frown.

"I shan't be very late," he said, loudly enough for the detective to
hear.

She put out her hand to Johnson, Elk she favoured with a distant
inclination of her head, and was gone, leaving the three men looking
after her. Two, for when Mr. Elk looked around, the boy had disappeared
into the building.

"You know Miss Bennett?"

"Slightly," said Elk grudgingly. "I know almost everybody slightly. Good
people and bad people. The gooder they are, the slighter I know 'em.
Queer devil."

"Who?" asked the startled Johnson. "You mean her father? I wish he wasn't
so chilly with me."

Elk's lips twitched.

"I guess you do," he said drily. "So long."

He strolled aimlessly away as Johnson walked up the steps into Maitlands,
but he did not go far. Crossing the road, he retraced his steps and took
up his station in the doorway.

At four o'clock a taxicab drew up before the imposing door of Maitlands
Consolidated, and a few minutes later the old man shuffled out, looking
neither to the right nor to the left. Elk regarded him with more than
ordinary interest. He knew the financier by sight, and had paid two or
three visits to the office in connection with certain petty thefts
committed by cleaners. In this way he had become acquainted with Philo
Johnson, for old Maitland had delegated the interview to his subordinate.

Elk judged the old man to be in the region of seventy, and wondered for
the first time where he lived, and in what state. Had he relations? It
was a curious fact that he knew nothing whatever about the financier, the
least paragraphed of any of the big City forces.

The detective had no business with the head of this flourishing firm. His
task was to discover the association between Lola Bassano and this
impecunious clerk. He knew inside him that Dick Gordon's interest in the
young man was not altogether disinterested, and suspected rightly that
the pretty sister of Ray Bennett lay behind it.

But the itch for knowledge about Maitland, suddenly aroused by the
realization that the old man's home life was an unknown quantity, was too
strong to be resisted. As the taxicab moved off, Elk beckoned another.

"Follow that cab," he said, and the driver nodded his agreement without
question, for there was no taximan on the streets who did not know this
melancholy policeman.

The first of the cabs drove rapidly in the direction of North London, and
halted at a busy junction of streets in Finsbury Park. This is a part of
the town which great financiers do riot as a rule choose for their
habitations. It is a working-class district, full of small houses,
usually occupied by two or more families; and when the cab stopped and
the old man nimbly descended, Elk's mouth opened in an '0' of surprise.

Maitland did not pay the cabman, but hurried round the corner into the
busy thoroughfare, with Elk at his heels. He walked a hundred yards, and
then boarded a street car. Elk sprinted, and swung himself on board as
the car was moving. The old man found a seat, took a battered newspaper
from his pocket, and began reading.

The car ran down Seven Sisters Road into Tottenham, and here Mr. Maitland
descended. He turned into a side street of apparently interminable
length, crossed the road, and came into a narrow and even meaner street
than that which he had traversed; and then, to Elk's amazement, pushed
open the iron gate of a dark and dirty little house, opened the door and
went in, closing it behind him.

The detective looked up and down the street. It was crowded with poor
children. Elk looked at the house again, scarcely believing his eyes. The
windows were unclean, the soiled curtains visible were ragged, and the
tiny forecourt bore an appearance of neglect. And this was the home of
Ezra Maitland, a master of millions, the man who gave £5,000 to the
London hospitals! It was incredible.

He made up his mind, and, walking to the door, knocked. For some time
there was no reply, and then he heard the shuffle of slippered feet in
the passage, and an old woman with a yellow face opened the door.

"Excuse me," said Elk "I think the gentleman who just came in dropped
this." He produced a handkerchief from his pocket, and she glared at it
for a moment, and then, reaching out her hand, took it from him and
slammed the door in his face.

"And that's the last of my good handkerchief," thought Elk bitterly.

He had caught one glimpse of the interior. A grimy-looking passage with a
strip of faded carpet, and a flight of uncovered stairs. He proceeded to
make a few local inquiries. "Maitland or Mainland, I don't know which,"
said a tradesman who kept a general store at the corner. "The old
gentleman goes out every morning at nine, and comes home just about this
hour. I don't know who or what he is. I can tell you this, though: he
doesn't eat much! He buys all his goods here. What those two people live
on, an ordinary healthy child would eat at one meal!"

Elk went back to the west, a little mystified. The miser was a common
figure of fiction, and not uncommonly met with in real life. But old
Maitland must be a super-miser, he thought, and decided to give the
matter a little further attention. For the moment, he was concentrating
his efforts upon Miss Lola Bassano, that interesting lady.

In one of the fashionable thoroughfares leading from Cavendish Square is
a block of flats, occupied by wealthy tenants. Its rents are remarkably
high, even for that exclusive quarter, and even Elk, who was not easily
surprised, was a little staggered when he learnt that Lola Bassano
occupied a suite in this expensive building.

It was to Caverley House that he made his way after returning to
Maitland's office, to find the premises closed. There was no indicator on
the wall, but the lift-man, who regarded Elk with some suspicion, as he
was entitled to do, announced that Miss Bassano lived on the third floor.
"How long has she been here?" asked Elk.

"That's no business of yours," said the lift-man; "and I think what you
want, my friend, is the tradesmen's entrance."

"I've often wondered," ruminated Elk, "what people like you do their
thinking with."

"Now look here--!" began the lift-man indignantly. "Look here," retorted
Elk, and at the sight of his badge the man grew more polite and more
informative.

"She's been here two months," he said. "And, to tell you the truth, Mr.
Elk, I've often wondered how she got a suite in Caverley House. They tell
me she used to run a gambling joint on Jermyn Street. You haven't come to
raid her, have you?" he asked anxiously. "That'd get Caverley House a
pretty bad name."

"I've come to make a friendly call," said Elk carefully. "That's the
door." The man stepped out of the lift and pointed to one of the two
sober mahogany doors on the landing. "This other flat belongs to an
American millionaire."

"Is there such a thing?" asked Elk. He was about to say something more
when the lift-man walked to the door and peered at one of its polished
panels. "That's queer," he said. "What do you make of this?" Elk joined
him, and at a glance saw and understood. On the panel had been stamped a
small white frog--an exact replica of those he had seen that morning on
the photographs that Dick Gordon had shown him. A squatting frog,
slightly askew.

He touched it. The ink was still wet and showed on his finger. And then
the strangest thing of all happened. The door opened suddenly, and a man
of middle age appeared in the doorway. In his hand was a long-barrelled
Browning, and it covered the detective's heart.

"Put up your hands," he said sharply. Then he stopped and stared at the
detective.

Elk returned the gaze, speechless; for the elegantly dressed man who
stood there was the hawk-faced pedlar he had seen in Whitehall!

The American was the first to recover. Not a muscle of his face moved,
but Elk saw again that light of amusement in his eyes as he stepped back
and opened the door still wider. "Come right in, Mr. Elk," he said, and,
to the amazed lift-man: "It's all right, Worth. I was practising a little
joke on Mr. Elk."

He closed the door behind him, and with a gesture beckoned the detective
into a prettily furnished drawing-room. Elk went in, leaving the matter
of the frog on the door for discussion later.

"We're quite alone, Mr. Elk, so you needn't lower your voice when you
talk of my indiscretions. Will you smoke a cigar?"

Elk stretched out his fingers mechanically and selected a big Cabana.

"Unless I'm greatly mistaken, I saw you this morning," he began.

"You weren't mistaken at all," interrupted the other coolly. "You saw me
on Whitehall. I was peddling key-rings. My name is Joshua Broad. You
haven't anything on me for trading in a false name."

The detective lit his cigar before he spoke.

"This apartment must cost you a whole lot to keep up," he said slowly,
"and I don't blame you for trying to earn something on the side. But it
seems to me that peddling key-rings is a very poor proposition for a
first-class business man."

Joshua Broad nodded.

"I haven't made a million out of that business," he said, "but it amuses
me, Mr. Elk. I am something of a philosopher."

He lit a cigar and settled himself comfortably in a deep, chintz-covered
arm-chair, his legs crossed, the picture of contentment.

"As an American, I am interested in social problems, and I have found
that the best way to understand the very poor of any country is to get
right down amongst them."

His tone was easy, apologetic, but quite self-possessed.

"I think I forestalled any question on your part as to whether I had a
licence in my own name, by telling you that had."

Elk settled his glasses more firmly on his nose, and his eyes strayed to
Mr. Broad's pocket, whither the pistol had returned.

"This is a pretty free country," he said in his deliberate way, "and a
man can peddle key-rings, even if he's a member of the House of Lords.
But one thing he mustn't do, Mr. Broad, is to stick fire-arms under the
noses of respectable policemen."

Broad Chuckled.

"I'm afraid I was a little rattled," he said. "But the truth is, I've
been waiting for the greater part of an hour, expecting somebody to come
to my door, and when I heard your stealthy footsteps"--he shrugged--"it
was a fool mistake for a grown man to make," he said, "and I guess I'm
feeling as badly about it as you would have me feel."

The unwavering eyes of Mr. Elk did not leave his face.

"I won't insult your intelligence by asking you if you were expecting a
friend," he said. "But I should like to know the name of the other
guest."

"So should I," said the other, "and so would a whole lot of people."

He reached out his hand to flick the ash from his cigar, looking at Elk
thoughtfully the while.

"I was expecting a man who has every reason to be very much afraid of
me," he said. "His name is--well, it doesn't matter, and I've only met
him once in my life, and then I didn't see his face."

"And you beat him up?" suggested Elk.

The other man laughed.

"I didn't even beat him up. In fact, I behaved most generously to him,"
he said quietly. "I was not with him more than five minutes, in a
darkened room, the only light being a lantern which was on the table. And
I guess that's about all I can tell you, Inspector."

"Sergeant," murmured Elk. "It's curious the number of people who think
I'm an Inspector."

There was an awkward pause. Elk could think of no other questions he
wanted to ask, and his host displayed as little inclination to advance
any further statement.

"Neighbours friends of yours?" asked Elk, and jerked his head toward the
passage.

"Who--Bassano and her friend? No. Are you after them?" he asked quickly.

Elk shook his head.

"Making a friendly call," he said. "Just that. I've just country, back
from your country, Mr. Broad. A good country but too full of distances."

He ruminated, looking down at the carpet for a long time, and presently
he said:

"I'd like to meet that friend of yours, Mr. Broad--American?"

Broad shook his head. Not a word was spoken as they went up the passage
to the front door, and it almost seemed as if Elk was going without
saying good-bye, for he walked out absent-mindedly, and only turned as
though the question of any farewell had occurred to him.

"Shall be glad to meet you again, Mr. Broad," he said. "Perhaps I shall
see you in Whitehall--"

And then his eyes strayed to the grotesque white frog on the door. Broad
said nothing. He put his finger on the imprint and it smudged under his
touch.

"Recently stamped," he drawled. "Well, now, what do you think of that,
Mr. Elk?"

Elk was examining the mat before the door. There was a little spot of
white, and he stooped and smeared his finger over it.

"Yes, quite recent. It must have been done just before I came in," he
said. And there his interest in the Frog seemed to evaporate. "I'll be
going along now," he said with a nod.

In the exquisitely appointed drawing-room of Suite No. 6, Lola Bassano
sat cuddled up in a deep, over-cushioned chair, her feet tucked under
her, a thin cigarette between her lips, a scowl upon her pretty face.
From time to time she glanced at the man who stood by the window, hands
in pockets, staring down into the square. He was tall, heavily built,
heavily jowled, unprepossessing. All the help that tailor and valet gave
to him could not disguise his origin. He was pugilist, run to fat. For a
time, a very short time, Lew Brady had been welter-weight champion of
Europe, a terrific fighter with just that yellow thread in his
composition which makes all the difference between greatness and
mediocrity in the ring. A harder man had discovered his weakness, and the
glory of Lew Brady faded with remarkable rapidity. He had one advantage
over his fellows which saved him from utter extinction. A philanthropist
had found him in the gutter as a child, and had given him an education.
He had gone to a good school and associated with boys who spoke good
English. The benefit of that association he had never lost, and his voice
was so curiously cultured that people who for the first time heard this
brute-man speak, listened open-mouthed.

"What time do you expect that rat of yours?" he asked. Lola lifted her
silk-clad shoulders, took out her cigarette to yawn, and settled herself
more cosily.

"I don't know. He leaves his office at five."

The man turned from the window and began to pace the room slowly.

"Why Frog worries about him I don't know," he grumbled. "Lola, I'm surely
getting tired of old man Frog."

Lola smiled and blew out a ring of smoke.

"Perhaps you're tired of getting money for nothing, Brady," she said.
"Personally speaking, that kind of weariness never comes to me. There is
one thing sure: Frog wouldn't bother with young Bennett if there wasn't
something in it."

He pulled out a watch and glanced at its jewelled face.

"Five o'clock. I suppose that fellow doesn't know you're married to me?"

"Don't be a fool," said Lola wearily. "Am I likely to boast about it?"

He grinned and resumed his pacings. Presently he heard the faint tinkle
of the bell and glanced at the girl. She got up, shook the cushions and
nodded.

"Open the door," she said, and the man went out of the room obediently.

Ray Bennett crossed the room with quick strides and caught the girl's
hand in both of his.

"I'm late. Old Johnson kept me running round after the clerks had gone.
Moses, this is a fine room, Lola! I hadn't any idea you lived in such
style."

"You know Lew Brady?"

Ray nodded smilingly. He was a picture of happiness, and the presence of
Lew Brady made no difference to him. He had met Lola at a supper club,
and knew that she and Brady had some business association. Moreover, Ray
prided himself upon that confusion of standards which is called
"broad-mindedness." He visualized a new social condition which was
superior to the bondage which old-fashioned rules of conduct imposed upon
men and women in their relationship one to the other. He was young,
clean-minded, saw things as he would have them be. Breadth of mind not
infrequently accompanies limitation of knowledge.

"Now for your wonderful scheme," he said as, at a gesture from her, he
settled himself by the girl's side. "Does Brady know?"

"It is Lew's idea," she said lightly. "He is always looking out for
opportunities--not for himself but for other people."

"It's a weakness of mine," said Lew apologetically. "And anyway, I don't
know if you'll like the scheme. I'd have taken it on myself, but I'm too
busy. Did Lola tell you anything about it?"

Ray nodded.

"I can't believe it," he said. "I always thought such things belonged to
magazine stories! Lola says that the Government of Japan wants a secret
agent in London. Somebody they can disown, if necessary. But what is the
work?"

"There you've got me," said Lew, shaking his head. "So far as I can
discover, you've nothing to do but live! Perhaps they'll want you to keep
track of what is going on in the political world. The thing I don't like
about it is that you'll have to live a double life. Nobody must know that
you're a clerk at Maitlands. You can call yourself by any name you like,
and you'll have to make your domestic arrangements as best you know."

"That will be easy," interrupted the boy. "My father says I ought to have
a room in town--he thinks the journey to and from Horsham every day is
too expensive. I fixed that with him on Sunday. I shall have to go down
to the cottage some week-ends--but what am I to do, and to whom do I
report?"

Lola laughed softly.

"Poor boy," she mocked. "The prospect of owning a beautiful flat and
seeing me every day is worrying him."



CHAPTER VI - MR. MAITLAND GOES SHOPPING


Eldor Street, Tottenham, was one of thousands of drab and ugly
thoroughfares that make up the central suburbs of London. Imagine two
rows of houses set on either side of a straight street, lighted at
economic intervals by yellow lamps. Each house has a protuberance, called
a bay window; each house is separated from the road by iron railings
pierced by an iron gate. There is a tiny forecourt in which the hardiest
of shrubs battle desperately for existence; there is one recessed door,
and on the floor above two windows exactly alike.

Elk found himself in Eldor Street at nine o'clock that night. The rain
was pelting down, and the street in consequence was a desert. Most of the
houses were dark, for Eldor Street lives in its kitchens, which are back
of the houses. In the front window of No. 47 one crack of light showed
past the edge of the lowered blind, and, creeping up to the window, he
heard, at long intervals, the mumble of conversation.

It was difficult to believe that he was standing at the door of Ezra
Maitland's home. That morning the newspapers had given prominence to the
newest speculation of Maitlands Consolidated--a deal involving something
over a million. And the master-mind of the concern lived in this squalor!

Whilst he was standing there, the light was extinguished and there came
to him the sound of feet in the uncarpeted passage. He had time to reach
the obscurity of the other side of the street, when the door opened and
two people came out: Maitland and the old woman he had seen. By the light
of a street-lamp he saw that Maitland wore an overcoat buttoned to his
chin. The old woman had on a long ulster, and in her hand she carried a
string bag. They were going marketing! It was Saturday night, and the
main street, through which Elk had passed, had been thronged with late
shoppers--Tottenham leaves its buying to the last, when food can be had
at bargain prices.

Waiting until they were out of sight, Elk walked down the street to the
end and turned to the left. He followed a wall covered with posters until
he reached a narrow opening. This was the passage between the gardens--a
dark, unlighted alleyway, three feet wide and running between tar-coated
wooden fences. He counted the gates on his left with the help of his
flash-lamp, and after a while stopped before one of them and pushed
gently. The gate was locked--it was not bolted. There was a keyhole that
had the appearance of use. Elk grunted his satisfaction, and, taking from
his pocket a wallet, extracted a small wooden handle, into which he
fitted a steel hook, chosen with care from a dozen others. This he
inserted into the lock and turned. Evidently the lock was more
complicated than he had expected. He tried another hook of a different
shape, and yet another. At the fourth trial the lock turned and he pushed
open the door gently.

The back of the house was in darkness, the yard singularly free from the
obstructions which he had anticipated. He crossed to the door leading
into the house. To his surprise it was unfastened, and he replaced his
tools in his pocket. He found himself in a small scullery. Passing
through a door into the bare passage, he came to the room in which he had
seen the light. It was meanly and shabbily furnished. The armchair near
the fire-place had broken springs, there was an untidy bed in one corner,
and in the centre of the room a table covered with a patched cloth. On
this were two or three books and a few sheets of paper covered with the
awkward writing of a child. Elk read curiously.

"Look at the dog," it ran. "The man goes up to the dog and the dog barks
at the man."

There was more in similar strain. The books were children's primers of an
elementary kind. Looking round, he saw a cheap gramophone and on the
sideboard half a dozen scratched and chipped records.

The child must be in the house. Turning on the gas, he lit it, after
slipping a bolt in the front door to guard against surprise. In the more
brilliant light, the poverty of the room staggered him. The carpet was
worn and full of holes; there was not one article of furniture which had
not been repaired at some time or other. On the dingy sideboard was a
child's abacus--a frame holding wires on which beads were strung, and by
means of which the young are taught to count. A paper on the mantelpiece
attracted him. It was a copy of the million pound contract which Maitland
had signed that morning. His neat signature, with the characteristic
flourish beneath, was at the foot.

Elk replaced the paper and began a search of the apartment. In a cupboard
by the side of the fire-place he found an iron money-box, which he judged
was half-full of coins In addition, there were nearly a hundred letters
addressed to E. Maitland, 47 Eldor Street, Tottenham. Elk, glancing
through them, recognized their unimportance. Every one was either a
tradesman's circular or those political pamphlets with which candidates
flood their constituencies. And they were all unopened. Mr. Maitland
evidently knew what they were also, and had not troubled to examine their
contents Probably the hoarding instincts of age had made him keep them.
There was nothing else in the room of interest. He was certain that this
was where the old man slept--where was the child?

Turning out the light, he went upstairs. One door was locked, and here
his instruments were of no avail, for the lock was a patent one and was
recently fixed. Possibly the child was there, he thought. The second
room, obviously the old woman's, was as meanly furnished as the parlour.

Coming back to the landing, his foot was poised to reach the first stair
when he heard a faint "click." It came from below, and was the sound of
a door closing. Elk waited, listening. The sound was not repeated, and he
descended softly. At first he thought that the old man had returned, and
was trying his key on the bolted door, but when he crept to the door to
listen, he heard no sound, and slipping back the bolt, he went to the
second of the rooms on the ground floor and put his light on the door.

Elk was a man of keen observation; very little escaped him, and he was
perfectly certain that this door had been ajar when he had passed it on
entering the house. It was closed now and fastened from the inside, the
key being in the lock.

Was it the child, frightened by his presence? Elk was wise enough a man
not to investigate too closely. He made the best of his way back to the
garden passage and into the street. Here he waited, taking up a position
which enabled him to see the length of Eldor Street and the passage
opening in the wall. Presently he saw Maitland returning. The old man was
carrying the string bag, which now bulged. Elk saw the green of a cabbage
as they passed under the light. He watched them until the darkness
swallowed them up, and heard the sound of their closing door. Five
minutes later, a dark figure came from the passage behind the houses. It
was a man, and Elk, alert and watchful, swung off in pursuit.

The stranger plunged into a labyrinth of little streets with the
detective at his heels. He was walking quickly, but not too quickly for
Elk, who was something of a pedestrian. Into the glare of the main road
the stranger turned, Elk a dozen paces behind him. He could not see his
face, nor did he until his quarry stopped by the side of a waiting car,
opened the door and jumped in. Then it was that Elk came abreast and
raised his hand in cheery salutation.

For a second the man in the closed limousine was taken aback, and then he
opened the door.

"Come right in out of the rain, Elk," he said, and Elk obeyed.

"Been doing your Sunday shopping?" he asked innocently.

The man's hawk-like face relaxed into a smile.

"I never eat on Sundays," he said.

It was Joshua Broad, that rich American who peddled key-rings in
Whitehall, lived in the most expensive flats in London, and found time to
be intensely interested in Ezra Maitland.

He turned abruptly as Elk seated himself.

"Say, Elk, did you see the child?"

Elk shook his head.

"No," he said, and heard the chuckle of his companion as the car moved
toward the civilized west.

"Yes, I saw that baby," said Mr. Broad, puffing gently at the cigar he
had lit; "and, believe me, Elk, I've stopped loving children. Yes, sir.
The education of the young means less than nothing to me for evermore."

"Where was she?"

"It's a 'he,'" replied Broad calmly, "and I hope I'll be excused
answering your question. I had been in the house an hour when you
arrived--I was in the back room, which is empty, by the way. You scared
me. I heard you come in and thought it was old St. Nicholas of the
Whiskers. Especially when I saw the light go on. I'd had it on when you
opened the scullery door--I left that unfastened, by the way. Didn't want
to stop my bolt hole. Well, what do you think?"

"About Maitland?"

"Eccentric, eh? You don't know how eccentric!"

As the car stopped before the door of Caverley House, Elk broke a long
silence.

"What are you, Mr. Broad?"

"I'll give you ten guesses," said the other cheerfully as they got out.

"Secret Service man," suggested Elk promptly.

"Wrong--you mean U.S.? No, you're wrong. I'm a private detective who
makes a hobby of studying the criminal classes--will you come up and have
a drink?"

"I will come up, but I won't drink," said Elk virtuously, "not if you
offer gin and orange. That visit to the United States has spoilt my
digestion."

Broad was fitting a key in the lock of his flat, when a strange cold
sensation ran down the spine of the detective, and he laid his hand on
the American's arm.

"Don't open that door," he said huskily.

Broad looked round in surprise. The yard man's face was tense and drawn.

"Why not?"

"I don't know...just a feeling, that's all. I'm Scot by birth...we've got
a word 'fey,' which means something supernatural. And it says inside me,
'don't open that door.'"

Broad put down his hand.

"Are you being fey or funny?" he asked.

"If I look funny," said Elk, "I'm entitled to sue my face for libel.
There's something at the other side of that door that isn't good. I'll
take an oath on it! Give me that!" He took the key from the unwilling
hand of Joshua Broad, thrust it in the lock and turned it. Then, with a
quick push, he threw open the door, pushing Broad to the cover of the
wall.

Nothing happened for a second, and then:

"Run!" cried Elk, and leapt for the stairs.

The American saw the first large billow of greenish-yellowy mist that
rolled from the open door, and followed. The hall-porter was closing his
office for the night when Elk appeared, hatless and breathless.

"Can you 'phone the flats?--good! Get on at once to every one on and
below the third floor, and tell them on no account to open their doors.
Tell 'em to close all cracks with paper, to stop up their letter-boxes,
and open all windows. Don't argue--do it! The building is full of poison
gas!"

He himself 'phoned the fire station, and in a few seconds the jangle of
bells sounded in the street outside, and men in gas-masks were clattering
up the stairs.

Fortunately, every tenant except Broad arid his neighbour was out of town
for the week-end.

"And Miss Bassano doesn't come in till early morning," said the porter.

It was daylight before the building was cleared by the aid of
high-pressure air-hoses and chemical precipitants. Except that his silver
was tarnished black, and every window glass and mirror covered with a
yellow deposit, little harm had been done. A musty odour pervaded the
flat in spite of the open windows, but later came the morning breeze to
dispel the last trace of this malodorous souvenir of the attempt.

Together the two men made a search of the rooms to discover the manner in
which the gas was introduced.

"Through that open fire-place," Elk pointed. "The gas is heavier than air,
and could be poured down the chimney as easily as pouring water."

A search of the flat roof satisfied him that his theory was right. They
found ten large glass cylinders and a long rope, to which a wicker cradle
was attached. Moreover, one of the chimney-pots (easily reached from the
roof) was scratched and discoloured.

"The operator came into the building when the porter was busy--working
the lift probably. He made his way to the roof, carrying the rope and the
basket. Somebody in the street fixed the cylinders in the basket, which
the man hauled to the roof one by one. It was dead easy, but ingenious.
They must have made a pretty careful survey beforehand, or they wouldn't
have known which chimney led to your room."

They returned to the flat, and for once Joshua Broad was serious.

"Fortunately, my servant is on a holiday," he said, "or he would have
been in heaven!"

"I hope so," responded Elk piously.

The sun was tipping the roofs of the houses when he finally left, a
sleepy and a baffled man. He heard the sound of boisterous voices before
he reached the vestibule. A big car stood at the entrance of the flats,
and, seated at the wheel, was a young man in evening dress. By him sat
Lew Brady, and on the pavement was a girl in evening finery.

"A jolly evening, eh, Lola! When I get going, I'm a mover, eh?"

Ray Bennett's voice was thick and unsteady. He had been drinking--was
within measurable distance of being drunk.

With a yell he recognized the detective as he came into the street.

"Why, it's old Elk--the Elk of Elks! Greetings, most noble copper! Lola,
meet Elky of Elksburg, the Sherlock of Fact, the Sleuth--"

"Shut up!" hissed the savage-voiced Lew Brady in his ear, but Ray was in
too exalted a mood to be silenced.

"Where's the priceless Gordon?--say, Elk, watch Gordon! Look after poor
old Gordon--my sister's very much attached to Gordon."

"Fine car, Mr. Bennett," said Elk, regarding the machine thoughtfully.
"Present from your father!"

The mention of his father's name seemed to sober the young man.

"No, it isn't," he snapped, "it belongs to a friend. 'Night, Lola." He
pumped at the starter, missed picking up, and stamped again. "S'Iong,
Elk!"

With a jerk the ear started, and Elk watched it out of sight. "That young
fellow is certainly in danger of knocking his nut against the moon," he
said. "Had a good time, Lola?"

"Yes--why?"

She fixed her suspicious eyes upon him expectantly.

"Didn't forget to turn off the gas when you went out, did you? If I was
Shylock Holmes, maybe I'd tell from the stain on your glove that you
didn't."

"What do you mean about gas? I never use the cooker."

"Somebody does, and he nearly cooked me and a friend of mine--nearly
cooked us good!"

He saw her frown. Since she was a woman he expected her to be an actress,
but somehow he was ready to believe in her sincerity.

"There's been a gas attack on Caverley House," he explained, "and not
cooking gas either. I guess you'll smell it as you go up."

"What kind of gas--poison?"

Elk nodded.

"But who put it there--emptied it, or whatever is done with gas?"

Elk looked at her with that wounded expression which so justly irritated
his victims.

"If I knew, Lola, would I be standing here discussing the matter? Maybe
my old friend Shylock Holmes would, but I wouldn't. I don't know. It was
upset in Mr. Broad's flat."

"That is the American who lives opposite to us--to me," she said. "I've
only seen him once. He seems a nice man."

"Somebody didn't think so," said Elk. "I say, Lola, what's that boy
doing--young Bennett?"

"Why do you ask me? He is making a lot of money just now, and I suppose
he is running a little wild. They all do."

"I didn't," said Elk; "but if I'd made money and started something, I'd
have chosen a better pacemaker than a dud fighting man."

The angry colour rose to her pretty face, and the glance she shot at him
was as venomous as the gas he had fought all night.

"And I think I'd have put through a few enquiries to central office about
my female acquaintances," Elk went on remorselessly. "I can understand
why you're glued to the game, because money naturally attracts you. But
what gets me is where the money comes from."

"That won't be the only thing that will get you," she said between her
teeth as she flounced into the half-opened door of Caverley House.

Elk stood where she had left him, his melancholy face expressionless. For
five minutes he stood so, and then walked slowly in the direction of his
modest bachelor home.

He lived over a lock-up shop, a cigar store, and he was the sole occupant
of the building. As he crossed Gray's Inn Road, he glanced idly up at the
windows of his rooms and noted that they were closed. He noticed
something more. Every pane of glass was misty with some yellow,
opalescent substance.

Elk looked up and down the silent street, and at a short distance away
saw where road repairers had been at work. The night watchman dozed
before his fire, and did not hear Elk's approach or remark his unusual
action. The detective found in a heap of gravel, three rounded pebbles,
and these he took back with him. Standing in the centre of the road, he
threw one of the pebbles unerringly.

There was a crash of glass as the window splintered. Elk waited, and
presently he saw a yellow wraith of poison-vapour curl out and downward
through the broken pane.

"This is getting monotonous," said Elk wearily, and walked to the nearest
fire alarm.



CHAPTER VII - A CALL ON MR. MAITLAND


Outwardly, John Bennett accepted his son's new life as a very natural
development which might be expected in a young man. Inwardly he was
uneasy, fearful. Ray was his only son; the pride of his life, though this
he never showed. None knew better than John Bennett the snares that await
the feet of independent youth in a great city. Worst of all, for his
peace of mind, he knew Ray.

Ella did not discuss the matter with her father, but she guessed his
trouble and made up her mind as to what action she would take.

The Sunday before, Ray had complained bitterly about the new cut to his
salary. He bad been desperate and had talked wildly of throwing up his
work and finding a new place. And that possibility filled Ella with
dismay. The Bennetts lived frugally on a very limited income. Apparently
her father had few resources, though he always gave her the impression
that from one of these he received a fairly comfortable income.

The cottage was Bennett's own property, and the cost of living was
ridiculously cheap. A woman from the village came in every morning to do
heavy work, and once a week to assist with the wash. That was the only
luxury which her father's meagre allowance provided for. So that she
faced the prospect of an out-of-work Ray with alarm and decided upon her
line of action.

One morning Johnson, crossing the marble floor of Maitland's main office,
saw a delicious figure come through the swing doors, and almost ran to
meet it.

"My dear Miss Bennett, this is a wonderful surprise--Ray is out, but if
you'll wait--"

"I'm glad he is out," she said, relieved. "I want to see Mr. Maitland. Is
it possible?"

The cheery face of the philosopher clouded.

"I'm afraid that will be difficult," he said. "The old man never sees
people--even the biggest men in the City. He hates women and strangers,
and although I've been with him all these years, I'm not so sure that he
has got used to me! What is it about?"

She hesitated.

"It's about Ray's salary," and then, as he shook his head, she went on
urgently: "It is so important, Mr. Johnson. Ray has extravagant tastes,
and if they cut his salary it means--well, you know Ray so well!--"

He nodded.

"I don't know whether I can do anything," he said dubiously. "I'll go up
and ask Mr. Maitland, but I'm afraid that it is a million to one chance
against his seeing you."

When he came back, the jovial face of Mr. Johnson was one broad smile.

"Come up before he changes his mind," he said, and led her to the lift.
"You'll have to do all the talking, Miss Bennett--he's an eccentric old
cuss and as hard as flint."

He showed her into a small and comfortably furnished room, and waved his
hand to a writing-table littered with papers.

"My little den," he explained.

From the "den" a large rosewood door opened upon Mr. Maitland's office.

Johnson knocked softly, and, with a heart that beat a little faster, Ella
was ushered into the presence of the strange old man who at that moment
was dominating the money market.

The room was large, and the luxury of the fittings took her breath away.
The walls were of rosewood inlaid with exquisite silver inlay. Light came
from concealed lamps in the cornice as well as from the long
stained-glass windows. Each article of furniture in the room was worth a
fortune, and she guessed that the carpet, into which her feet sank,
equalled in costliness the whole contents of an average house.

Behind a vast ormolu writing-table sat the great Maitland, bolt upright,
watching her from under his shaggy white brows. A few stray hairs of his
spotless beard rested on the desk, and as he raised his hand to sweep
them into place, she saw he wore fingerless woollen gloves. His head was
completely bald...she looked at his big ears, standing away from his
head, fascinated. Patriarchal, yet repulsive. There was something gross,
obscene, about him that hurt her. It was not the untidiness of his dress,
it was not his years. Age brings refinement, that beauty of decay that
the purists call caducity. This old man had grown old coarsely.

His scrutiny lacked the assurance she expected. It almost seemed that he
was nervous, ill at ease. His gaze shifted from the girl to his
secretary, and then to the rich colouring of the windows, and then
furtively back to Ella again.

"This is Miss Bennett, sir. You remember that Bennett is our exchange
clerk, and a very smart fellow indeed. Miss Bennett wants you to
reconsider your decision about that salary cut."

"You see, Mr. Maitland," Ella broke in, "we're not particularly well off,
and the reduction makes a whole lot of difference to us."

Mr. Maitland wagged his bald head impatiently.

"I don't care whether you're well off or not well off," he said loudly.
"When I reduces salaries I reduces 'um, see?"

She stared at him in amazement. The voice was harsh and common. The
language and tone were of the gutter. In that sentence he confirmed all
her first impressions.

"If he don't like it he can go, and if you don't like it"--he fixed his
dull eyes on the uncomfortable-looking Johnson--"you can go too. There's
lots of fellers I can get--pick 'um up on the streets! Millions of 'um!
That's all." Johnson tiptoed from the presence and closed the door behind
her.

"He's a horror!" she gasped. "How can you endure contact with him, Mr.
Johnson?"

The stout man smiled quietly.

"'Millions of 'um,'" he repeated, "and he's right. With a million and a
half unemployed on the streets, I can't throw up a good job--"

"I'm sorry," she said, impulsively putting her hand on his arm. "I didn't
know he was like that," she went on more mildly. "He's--terrible!"

"He's a self-made man, and perhaps he would have been well advised to
have got an artisan to do the job," smiled Johnson, "but he's not really
bad. I wonder why he saw you?"

"Doesn't he see people?"

He shook his head.

"Not unless it is absolutely necessary, and that only happens about twice
a year. I don't think there is anybody in this building that he's ever
spoken to--not even the managers."

He took her down to the general office. Ray had not come back.

"The truth is," confessed Johnson when she asked him, "that Ray hasn't
been to the office this morning. He sent word to say that he wasn't
feeling any too good, and I fixed it so that he has a day off."

"He's not ill?" she asked in alarm, but Johnson reassured her.

"No. I got on the telephone to him--he has a telephone at his new flat."

"I thought he had an ordinary apartment!" she said, aghast, the housewife
in her perturbed. "A flat--where is it?"

"In Knightsbridge," replied Johnson quietly. "Yes, it sounds expensive,
but I believe he has a bargain. A man who was going abroad sub-let it to
him for a song. I suppose he wrote to you from the lodgings in Bloomsbury
where he intended going. May I be candid, Miss Bennett?"

"If it is about Ray, I wish you would," she answered quickly.

"Ray is rather worrying me," said Johnson. "Naturally I want to do all
that I can for him, for I am fond of him. At present my job is covering
up his rather frequent absences from the office--you need not mention
this fact to him--but it is rather a strain, for the old man has an
uncanny instinct for a shirker. He is living in better style than he
ought to be able to afford, and I've seen him dressed to kill with some
of the swellest people in town--at least, they looked swell."

The girl felt herself go cold, and the vague unrest in her mind became
instantly a panic.

"There isn't...anything wrong at the office?" she asked anxiously.

"No. I took the liberty of going through his books. They're square. His
cash account is right to a centimo. Crudely stated, he isn't stealing--at
least, not from us. There's another thing. He calls himself Raymond
Lester at Knightsbridge. I found this out by accident, and asked him why
he had taken another name. His explanation was fairly plausible. He
didn't want Mr. Bennett to hear that he was cutting a shine. He has some
profitable outside work, but he won't tell me what it is."

Ella was glad to get away, glad to reach the seclusion which the wide
spaces of the park afforded. She must think and decide upon the course
she would take. Ray was not the kind of boy to accept the draconic
attitude, either in her or in John Bennett. His father must not know--she
must appeal to Ray. Perhaps it was true that he had found a remunerative
sideline. Lots of young men ran spare time work with profit to
themselves--only Ray was not a worker.

She sat down on a park chair to wrestle with the problem, and so intent
was she upon its solution that she did not realize that somebody had
stopped before her.

"This is a miracle!" said a laughing voice, and she looked up into the
blue eyes of Dick Gordon. "And now you can tell me what is the
difficulty?" he asked as he pulled another chair toward her and sat down.

"Difficulty...who...who said I was in difficulties?" she countered.

"Your face is the traitor," he smiled. "Forgive this attire. I have been
to make an official call at the United States Embassy."

She noticed for the first time that he wore the punctilious costume of
officialdom, the well-fitting tail-coat, the polished top-hat and
regulation cravat. She observed first of all that he looked very well in
them, and that he seemed even younger.

"I have an idea it is your brother," he said. "I saw him a few minutes
ago--there he is now."

She followed the direction of his eyes, and half rose from her chair in
her astonishment. Riding on the tan track which ran parallel to the park
road, were a man and a girl. The man was Ray. He was smartly dressed, and
from the toes of his polished riding-boots to the crown of his grey hat,
was all that was creditable to expensive tailoring. The girl at his side
was young, pretty, petite.

The riders passed without Ray noticing the interested spectators. He was
in his gayest mood, and the sound of his laughter came back to the
dumbfounded girl.

"But...I don't understand--do you know the lady, Mr. Gordon?"

"Very well by repute," said Dick drily. "Her name is Lola Bassano."

"Is she--a lady?"

Dick's eyes twinkled.

"Elk says she's not, but Elk is prejudiced. She has money and education
and breed. Whether or not these three assets are sufficient to constitute
a lady, I don't know. Elk says not, but, as I say, Elk is considerably
prejudiced."

She sat silent, her mind in a whirl.

"I have an idea that you want help...about your brother," said Dick
quietly. "He is frightening you, isn't he?"

She nodded.

"I thought so. He is puzzling _me_. I know all about him, his salary and
prospects and his queer masquerade under an alias. I'm not troubling
about that, because boys love those kinds of mysteries. Unfortunately,
they are expensive mysteries, and I want to know how he can afford to
keep up this suddenly acquired position."

He mentioned a sum and she gasped.

"It costs all that," said Dick. "Elk, who has a passion for exact detail,
and who knows to a penny what the riding suit costs, supplied me with
particulars."

She interrupted him with such a gesture of despair that he felt a brute.

"What can I do...what can I do?" she asked. "Everybody body wants to
help--you Mr. Johnson, and, I'm sure, Mr. Elk. But he is
impossible--Ray, I mean. It will be fighting a feather bed. It may seem
absurd to you, so much fuss over Ray's foolish escapade, but it means,
oh, so much to us, father and me!"

Dick said nothing. It was too delicate a matter for an outsider to
intrude upon. But the real delicacy of the situation was comprised in the
boy's riding companion. As though guessing his thoughts, she asked
suddenly:

"Is she a nice girl--Miss Bassano? I mean, is she one whom Ray should
know?"

"She is very charming," he answered after a pause, and she noted the
evasion and carried the subject no farther. Presently she turned the talk
to her call on Ezra Maitland, and he heard her description without
expressing surprise.

"He's a rough diamond," he said. "Elk knows something about him which he
refuses to tell. Elk enjoys mystifying his chiefs even more than
detecting criminals. But I've heard about Maitland from other sources."

"Why does he wear gloves in the office?" she asked unexpectedly.

"Gloves--I didn't know that," he said, surprised. "Why shouldn't he?"

She shook her head.

"I don't know...it was a silly idea, but I thought--it has only occurred
to me since..."

He waited.

"When he put up his hand to smooth his beard, I'm almost sure I saw a
tattoo mark on his left wrist--just the edge of it showing above the end
of the glove--the head and eyes of frog."

Dick Gordon listened, thunderstruck.

"Are you sure it wasn't your imagination, Miss Bennett?" he asked. "I am
afraid the Frog is getting on all our nerves.

"It may have been," she nodded "but I from within a few feet of him, and
a patch of light, reflected from his blotter, caught the wrist for a
second."

"Did you speak to Johnson about it?"

She shook her head.

"I thought afterwards that even he, with all his long years of service,
might not have observed the tattoo mark. I remember now that Ray told me
Mr. Maitland always wore gloves, summer or winter."

Dick was puzzled. It was unlikely that this man, the head of a great
financial corporation, should be associated with a gang of tramps. And
yet--

"When is your brother going to Horsham?" he asked.

"On Sunday," said the girl. "He has promised father to come to lunch."

"I suppose," said the cunning young man, "that it isn't possible to ask
me to be a fourth?"

"You will be a fifth," she smiled. "Mr. Johnson is coming down too. Poor
Mr. Johnson is scared of father, and I think the fear is mutual. Father
resembles Maitland in that respect, that he does not like strangers. I'll
invite you anyway," she said, and the prospect of the Sunday meeting
cheered her.

Elk came to see him that night, just as he was going out to a theatre,
and Dick related the girl's suspicion. To his surprise, Elk took the
startling theory very coolly.

"It's possible," he said, "but it's more likely that the tattoo mark
isn't a frog at all. Old Maitland was a seaman as a boy--at least, that
is what the only biography of him in existence says. It's a half-column
that appeared in a London newspaper about twelve years ago, when he
bought up Lord Meister's place on the Embankment and began to enlarge his
offices. I'll tell you this, Mr. Gordon, that I'm quite prepared to
believe anything of old Maitland."

"Why?" asked Dick in astonishment. He knew nothing of the discoveries
which the detective had made.

"Because I just should," said Elk. "Men who make millions are not
ordinary. If they were ordinary they wouldn't be millionaires. I'll
inquire about that tat too mark."

Dick's attention was diverted from the Frogs that week by an unusual
circumstance. On the Tuesday he was sent for by the Foreign Minister's
secretary, and, to his surprise, he was received personally by the august
head of that department. The reason for this signal honour was disclosed.

"Captain Gordon," said the Minister, "I am expecting from France the
draft commercial treaty that is to be signed as between ourselves and the
French and Italian Governments. It is very important that this document
should be well guarded because--and I tell you this in confidence--it
deals with a revision of tariff rates. I won't compromise you by telling
you in what manner the revisions are applied, but it is essential that
the King's Messenger who is bringing the treaty should be well guarded,
and I wish to supplement the ordinary police protection by sending you to
Dover to meet him. It is a little outside your duties, but your
Intelligence work during the war must be my excuse for saddling you with
this responsibility. Three members of the French and Italian secret
police will accompany him to Dover, when you and your men will take on
the guard duty, and remain until you personally see the document
deposited in my own safe."

Like many other important duties, this proved to be wholly unexciting.
The Messenger was picked up on the quay at Dover, shepherded into a
Pullman coupe which had been reserved for him, and the passage-way
outside the coupe was patrolled by two men from Scotland Yard. At
Victoria a car, driven by a chauffeur-policeman and guarded by armed men,
picked up the Messenger and Dick, and drove them to Calden Gardens. In
his library the Foreign Secretary examined the seals carefully, and then,
in the presence of Dick and the Detective-Inspector who had commanded the
escort, placed the envelope in the safe.

"I don't suppose for one moment," said the Foreign Minister with a smile,
after all the visitors but Dick had departed, "that our friends the Frogs
are greatly interested. Yet, curiously enough, I had them in my mind, and
this was responsible for the extraordinary precautions we have taken.
There is, I suppose, no further clue in the Genter murder?"

"None, sir--so far as I know. Domestic crime isn't really in my
department. And any kind of crime does not come to the Public Prosecutor
until the case against an accused person is ready to be presented."

"It is a pity," said Lord Farmley. "I could wish that the matter of the
Frogs was not entirely in the hands of Scotland Yard. It is so out of the
ordinary, and such a menace to society, that I should feel more happy if
some extra department were controlling the investigations."

Dick Gordon might have said that he was itching to assume that control,
but he refrained. His lordship fingered his shaven chin thoughtfully. He
was an austere man of sixty, delicately featured, as delicately wrinkled,
the product of that subtle school of diplomacy which is at once urbane
and ruthless, which slays with a bow, and is never quite so dangerous as
when it is most polite.

"I will speak to the Prime Minister," he said. "Will you dine with me,
Captain Gordon?"

Early in the next afternoon, Dick Gordon was summoned to Downing Street,
and was informed that a special department had been created to deal
exclusively with this social menace.

"You have carte blanche, Captain Gordon. I may be criticized for giving
you this appointment, but I am perfectly satisfied that I have the right
man," said the Prime Minister; "and you may employ any officer from
Scotland Yard you wish."

"I'll take Sergeant Elk," said Dick promptly, and the Prime Minister
looked dubious.

"That is not a very high rank," he demurred.

"He is a man with thirty years' service," said Dick; "and I believe that
only his failure in the educational test has stopped his further
promotion. Let me have him, sir, and give him the temporary rank of
Inspector."

The older man laughed.

"Have it your own way," he said.

Sergeant Elk, lounging in to report progress that afternoon, was greeted
by a new title. For a while he was dazed, and then a slow smile dawned on
his homely face.

"I'll bet I'm the only inspector in England who doesn't know where Queen
Elizabeth is buried!" he said, not without pride.



CHAPTER VIII - THE OFFENSIVE RAY


It was perfectly absurd, Dick told himself a dozen times during the days
which followed, that a grown man of his experience should punctiliously
and solemnly strike from the calendar, one by one, the days which
separated him from Sunday. A schoolboy might so behave, but it would have
to be a very callow schoolboy. And a schoolboy might sit at his desk and
dream away the time that might have been, devoted to official
correspondence.

A pretty face...? Dick had admired many. A graciousness of carriage, an
inspiring refinement of manner...? He gave up the attempt to analyse the
attraction which Ella Bennett held. All that he knew was, that he was
waiting impatiently for Sunday.

When Dick opened the garden gate, he saw the plump figure of
philosophical Johnson ensconced cosily in a garden chair. The secretary
rose with a beaming smile and held out his hand. Dick liked the man. He
stood for that patient class which, struggling under the stifling
handicap of its own mediocrity, has its superlative virtue in loyalty and
unremitting application to the task it finds at hand.

"Ray told me you were coming, Mr. Gordon--he is with Miss Bennett in the
orchard, and from a casual view of him just now, he is hearing a few home
truths. What do you make of it?"

"Has he given up coming to the office?" asked Dick, as he stripped his
dust-coat.

"I am afraid he is out for good." Johnson's face was sad. "I had to tell
him to go. The old man found out that he'd been staying away, and by some
uncanny and underground system of intelligence he has learnt that Ray was
going the pace. He had an accountant in to see the books, but thank
heaven they were O.K. I was very nearly fired myself."

This was an opportunity not to be missed.

"Do you know where Maitland lives--in what state? Has he a town house?"

Johnson smiled.

"Oh yes, he has a town house all right," he said sarcastically. "I only
discovered where it was a year ago, and I've never told a single soul
until now. And even now I won't give details. But old Maitland is living
in some place that is nearly a slum--living meanly and horribly like an
unemployed labourer! And he is worth millions! He has a cheap house in
one of the suburbs, a place I wouldn't use to stable a cow! He and his
sister live there; she looks after the place and does the housekeeping. I
guess she has a soft job. I've never known Maitland to spend a penny on
himself. I'm sure that he is wearing the suit he wore when I first came
to him. He has a penny glass of milk and a penny roll for lunch, and
tries to swindle me into paying for that, some days!"

"Tell me, Mr. Johnson, why does the old man wear gloves in the office?"

Johnson shook his head.

"I don't know. I used to think it was to hide the scar on the back of his
hand, but he's not the kind of man to wear gloves for that. He is
tattooed with crowns and anchors and dolphins all up his arms..."

"And frogs?" asked Dick quietly, and the question seemed to surprise the
other.

"No, I've never seen a frog. There's a bunch of snakes on one wrist--I've
seen that. Why, old man Maitland wouldn't be a Frog, would he?" he asked,
and Dick smiled at the anxiety in his tone.

"I wondered," he said.

Johnson's usually cheerful countenance was glum.

"I reckon he is mean enough to be a Frog or 'most anything," he said, and
at that minute Ray and his sister came into view. On Ray's forehead sat a
thundercloud, which deepened at the sight of Dick Gordon. The girl was
flushed and obviously on the verge of tears.

"Hello, Gordon!" the boy began without preliminary. "I fancy you're the
fellow that has been carrying yarns to my sister. You set Elk to spy on
me--I know, because I found Elk in the act."

"Ray, you're not to speak like that to Mr. Gordon," interrupted the girl
hotly. "He has never told me anything to your discredit. All I know I
have seen. You seem to forget that Mr. Gordon is father's guest."

"Everybody is fussing over me," Ray grumbled. "Even old Johnson!" He
grinned sheepishly at the bald man, but Johnson did not return the smile.

"Somebody has got to worry about you, boy," he said. The strained
situation was only relieved when John Bennett, camera on back, came up
the red path to greet his visitors.

"Why, Mr. Johnson, I owe you many apologies for putting you off, but I'm
glad to see you here at last. How is Ray doing at the office?"

Johnson shot a helpless and pathetic glance at Dick. "Er--fine, Mr.
Bennett," he blurted.

So John Bennett was not to be told that his son had launched forth on a
new career? The fact that he was fathering this deception made Dick
Gordon a little uncomfortable. Apparently it reduced Mr. Johnson to
despair, for when a somewhat tense luncheon had ended and they were alone
again in the garden, that worthy man unburdened himself of his trouble.

"I feel that I'm playing it low on old Bennett," he said. "Ray should
have told him."

Dick could only agree. He was in no mood to discuss Ray at the moment.
The boy's annoyance and self-assurance irritated him, and it did not help
matters to recognize the sudden and frank hostility which the brother of
Ella Bennett was showing toward him. That was disconcerting, and
emphasized his anomalous position in relation to the Bennetts. He was
discovering what many young men in love have to discover: that the
glamour which surrounds their dears does not extend to the relations and
friends of their dears. He made yet another discovery. The plump Mr.
Johnson was in love with the girl. He was nervous and incoherent in her
presence; miserable when she went away. More miserable still when Dick
boldly took her arm and led her into the rose-garden behind the house.

"I don't know why that fellow comes here," said Ray savagely as the two
disappeared. "He isn't a man of our class, and he loathes me."

"I don't know that he loathes you, Ray," said Johnson, waking from the
unhappy daydream into which he seemed to have fallen. "He's an extremely
nice man--"

"Fiddlesticks!" said the other scornfully. "He's a snob! Anyway, he's a
policeman, and I hate cops! If you imagine that he doesn't look down on
you and me, you're wrong. I'm as good as he is, and I bet I'll make more
money before I'm finished!"

"Money isn't everything," said Johnson tritely. "What work are you doing,
Ray?"

It required a great effort on his part to bring his mind back to his
friend's affairs.

"I can't tell you. It's very confidential," said Ray mysteriously. "I
couldn't even tell Ella, though she's been jawing at me for hours. There
are some jobs that a man can't speak about without betraying secrets that
aren't his to tell. This is one of them."

Mr. Johnson said nothing. He was thinking of Ella and wondering how long
it would be before her good-looking companion brought her back.

Good-looking and young. Mr. Johnson was not good-looking, and only just
on the right side of fifty. And he was bald. But, worst of all, in her
presence he was tongue-tied. He was rather amazed with himself.

In the seclusion of the rose-garden another member of the Bennett family
was relating her fears to a more sympathetic audience.

"I feel that father guesses," she said. "He was out most of last night. I
was awake when he came in, and he looked terrible. He said he had been
walking about half the night, and by the mud on his boots I think he must
have been."

Dick did not agree.

"Knowing very little about Mr. Bennett, I should hardly think he is the
kind of man to suffer in silence where your brother is concerned," he
said. "I could better imagine a most unholy row. Why has your brother
become so unpleasant to me?"

She shook her head.

"I don't know. Ray has changed suddenly. This morning when he kissed me,
his breath smelt of whisky--he never used to drink. This new life is
ruining him--why should he take a false name if...if the work he is doing
is quite straight?"

She had ceased addressing him as "Mr. Gordon." The compromise of calling
him by no name at all was very pleasant to Dick Gordon, because he
recognized that it was a compromise. The day was hot and the sky
cloudless. Ella had made arrangements to serve tea on the lawn, and she
found two eager helpers in Dick and Johnson, galvanized to radiant
activity by the opportunity of assisting. The boy's attitude remained
antagonistic, and after a few futile attempts to overcome this, Dick gave
it up.

Even the presence of his father, who had kept aloof from the party al!
afternoon, brought no change for the better.

"The worst of being a policeman is that you're always on duty," he said
during the meal. "I suppose you're storing every scrap of talk in your
mind, in ease you have to use it."

Dick folded a thin slice of bread and butter very deliberately before he
replied.

"I have certainly a good memory," he said. "It helps me to forget. It
also helps me keep silent in circumstances which are very difficult and
trying."

Suddenly Ray spun round in his chair.

"I told you he was on duty!" he cried triumphantly. "Look! There's the
chief of the spy corps! The faithful Elk!"

Dick looked in astonishment. He had left Elk on the point of going north
to follow up a new Frog clue that had come to light. And there he was,
his hands resting on the gate, his chin on his chest, gazing mournfully
over his glasses at the group.

"Can I come in, Mr. Bennett?"

John Bennett, alert and watchful, beckoned.

"Happened to be round about here, so I thought I'd call. Good afternoon,
miss--good afternoon, Mr. Johnson."

"Give Sergeant Elk your chair," growled John Bennett, and his son rose
with a scowl.

"Inspector," said Elk. "No, I'd rather stand, mister. Stand and grow
good, eh? Yes, I'm Inspector. I don't realize it myself sometimes,
especially when the men salute me--forget to salute 'em back. Now, in
America I believe patrol men salute sergeants. That's as it should be."

His sad eyes moved from one to the other.

"I suppose your promotion has made a lot of crooks very scared, Elk?"
sneered Ray.

"Why, yes. I believe it has. Especially the amatchoors," said Elk. "The
crooks that are only fly-nuts. The fancy crooks, who think they know it
all, and will go on thinking so till one day somebody says, 'Get your
hat--the chief wants you!' Otherwise," confessed Elk modestly, "the
news has created no sensation, and London is just as full as ever of
tale-pitchers who'll let you distribute their money amongst the poor if
you'll only loan 'em a hundred to prove your confidence. And," Elk
continued after a moment's cogitation, "there's nearly as many dud
prize-fighters living on blackmail an' robbery, an' almost as many
beautiful young ladies running faro parlours and dance emporiums."

Ray's face went a dull red, and if looks could blast, Inspector Elk's
friends would have been speaking of him in hushed tones.

Only then did he turn his attention to Dick Gordon.

"I was wondering, Captain, if I could have a day off next week--I've a
little family trouble."

Dick, who did not even know that his friend had a family was startled.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Elk," he said sympathetically. Elk sighed.

"It's hard on me," he said, "but I feel I ought to tell you, if you'll
excuse me, Miss Bennett?"

Dick rose and followed the detective to the gate, and then Elk spoke in a
low tone.

"Lord Farmley's house was burgled at one o'clock this morning, and the
Frogs have got away with the draft treaty!"

Watching the two furtively, the girl saw nothing in Dick Gordon's
demeanour to indicate that he had received any news which was of
consequence to himself. He came slowly back to the table.

"I am afraid I must go," he said. "Elk's trouble is sufficiently
important to take me back to town."

He saw the regret in Ella's eyes and was satisfied. The leave-taking was
short, for it was very necessary that he should get back to town as
quickly as his car could carry him.

On the journey Elk told all that he knew. Lord Farmley had spent the
week-end in his town house. He was working on two new clauses which had
been inserted on the private representation of the American ambassador,
who, as usual, held a watching brief in the matter, but managed (also as
usual) to secure the amendment of a clause dealing with transhipments
that, had it remained unamended, would have proved detrimental to his
country. All this Dick learnt later. He was unaware at the time that the
embassy knew of the treaty's existence.

Lord Farmley had replaced the document in the safe, which was a "Cham" of
the latest make, and built into the wall of his study, locked and
double-locked the steel doors, switched on the burglar alarm, and went to
bed.

He had no occasion to go to the safe until after lunch. To all
appearances, the safe-doors had not been touched. After lunch, intending
to work again on the treaty, he put his key in the lock, to discover
that, when it turned, the wards met no resistance. He pulled at the
handle. It came away in his hand. The safe was open in the sense that it
was not locked, and the treaty, together with his notes and amendments,
had gone.

"How did they get in?" asked Dick as the car whizzed furiously along the
country road.

"Pantry window--butlers' pantries were invented by a burglar-architect,"
said Elk. "It's a real job--the finest bit of work I've seen in twenty
years, and there are only two men in the world who could have done it. No
finger-prints, no ugly holes blown into the safe, everything neat and
beautifully done. It's a pleasure to see."

"I hope Lord Farmley has got as much satisfaction out of the workmanship
as you have," said Dick grimly, and Elk sniffed.

"He wasn't laughing," he said, "at least, not when I came away."

His lordship was not laughing when Elk returned.

"This is terrible, Gordon--terrible! We're holding a Cabinet on the
matter this evening; the Prime Minister has returned to town. This means
political ruin for me."

"You think the Frogs are responsible?"

Lord Farmley's answer was to pull open the door of the safe. On the
inside panel was a white imprint, an exact replica of that which Elk had
seen on the door of Mr. Broad's flat. It was almost impossible for the
non-expert to discover how the safe had been opened. It was Elk who
showed the fine work that had extracted the handle and had enabled the
thieves to shatter the lock by some powerful explosive which nobody in
the house had beard.

"They used a silencer," said Elk. "It's just as easy to prevent gases
escaping too quickly from a lock as it is from a gun barrel. I tell you,
there are only two men who could have done this."

"Who are they?"

"Young Harry Lyme is one--he's been dead for years. And Saul Morris is
the other--and Saul's dead too."

"As the work is obviously not that of two dead men, you would be well
advised to think of a third," said his lordship, pardonably annoyed.

Elk shook his head slowly.

"There must be a third, and he's the cleverest of the lot," he said,
speaking his thoughts aloud. "I know the lot--Wal Cormon, George the
Rat, Billy Harp, Ike Velleco, Pheeny Moore--and I'll take an oath that
it wasn't any of them. This is master work, my lord. It's the work of a
great artist such as we seldom meet nowadays. And I fancy I know who he
is."

Lord Farmley, who had listened as patiently as he could to this rhapsody,
stalked from the library soon after, leaving the men alone.

"Captain," said Elk, walking after the peer and closing the door, "do you
happen to know where old Bennett was last night?"

Elk's tone was careless, but Dick Gordon felt the underlying significance
of the question, and for a moment, realizing all that lay behind the
question, all that it meant to the girl, who was dearer to him than he
had guessed, his breath came more quickly.

"He was out most of the night," he said. "Miss Bennett told me that he
went away on Friday and did not return until this morning at daybreak.
Why?"

Elk took a paper from his pocket, unfolded it slowly and adjusted his
glasses.

"I've had a man keeping tag of Bennett's absences from home," he said
slowly. "It was easy, because the woman who goes every morning to clean
his house has a wonderful memory. He has been away fifteen times this
past year, and every time he has gone there's been a first-class burglary
committed somewhere!"

Dick drew a long breath.

"What are you suggesting?" he asked.

"I'm suggesting," replied Elk deliberately, "that if Bennett can't
account for his movements on Saturday night, I'm going to pull him in.
Saul Morris I've never met, nor young Wal Cormon either--they were before
I did big work. But if my idea is right, Saul Morris isn't as dead as he
ought to be. I'm going down to see Brother Bennett, and I think perhaps
I'll be doing a bit of resurrecting!"



CHAPTER IX - THE MAN WHO WAS WRECKED


John Bennett was working in his garden in the early morning when Elk
called, and the inspector came straight to the point.

"There was a burglary committed at the residence of Lord Farmley on
Saturday night and Sunday morning. Probably between midnight and three
o'clock. The safe was blown and important documents stolen. I'm asking
you to account for your movements on Saturday night and Sunday morning."

Bennett looked the detective straight in the eyes.

"I was on the London road--I walked from town. At two o'clock I was
speaking with a policeman in Dorking. At midnight I was in Kingbridge,
and again I spoke to a policeman. Both these men know me because I
frequently walk to Dorking and Kingbridge. The man at Dorking is an
amateur photographer like myself."

Elk considered.

"I've a car here; suppose you come along and see these policemen?" he
suggested, and to his surprise Bennett agreed at once.

At Dorking they discovered their man; he was just going off duty.

"Yes, Inspector, I remember Mr. Bennett speaking to me. We were
discussing animal photography."

"You're sure of the time?"

"Absolutely. At two o'clock the patrol sergeant visits me, and he came up
whilst we were talking."

The patrol sergeant, wakened from his morning sleep, confirmed this
statement. The result of the Kingbridge inquiries produced the same
results.

Elk ordered the driver of his car to return to Horsham.

"I'm not going to apologize to you, Bennett," he said, "and you know
enough about my work to appreciate my position."

"I'm not complaining," said Bennett gruffly. "Duty is duty. But I'm
entitled to know why you suspect me of all men in the world."

Elk tapped the window of the car and it stopped.

"Walk along the road: I can talk better," he said.

They got out and went some distance without speaking.

"Bennett, you're under suspicion for two reasons. You're a mystery man in
the sense that nobody knows how you get a living. You haven't an income
of your own. You haven't an occupation, and at odd intervals you
disappear from home and nobody knows where you go. If you were a younger
man I'd suspect a double life in the usual sense. But you're not that
kind. That is suspicious circumstance Number One. Here is Number Two.
Every time you disappear there's a big burglary somewhere. And I've an
idea it's a Frog steal. I'll give you my theory. These Frogs are mostly
dirt. There isn't enough brain in the whole outfit to fill an average
nut--I'm talking about the mass of 'em. There are clever men higher up, I
grant. But they don't include the regular fellows who make a living from
crime. These boys haven't any time for such nonsense. They plan a job and
pull it off, or they get pinched. If they make a getaway, they divide up
the stuff and sit around in cafés with girls till all the stuff is gone,
and then they go out for some more. But the Frogs are willing to pay good
men who are outside the organization for extra work."

"And you suggest that I may be one of the 'good men'?" said Bennett.

"That's just what I am suggesting. This Frog job at Lord Farmley's was
done by an expert--it looks like Saul Morris."

His keen eyes were focused upon Bennett's face, but not by so much as a
flicker of an eyelash did he betray his thoughts.

"I remember Saul Morris," said Bennett slowly. "I've never seen him, but
I've heard of his work. Was he--anything like me?"

Elk pursed his lips, his chin went nearer to his chest, and his gaze
became more and more intensified.

"If you know anything about Saul Morris," he said slowly, "you also know
that he was never in the hands of the police, that nobody except his own
gang ever saw him, so as to be able to recognize him again."

Another silence.

"I wasn't aware of that," said Bennett.

On the way back to the car, Bennett spoke again.

"I bear no malice. My movements are suspicious, but there is a good
reason. As to the burglaries--I know nothing about them. I should say
that in any case, whether I knew or not. I ask you not to mention this
matter to my daughter, because--well, you don't want me to tell you why."

Ella was standing at the garden gate when the car came up, and at the
sight of Elk the smile left her face. Elk knew instinctively that the
thought of her brother, and the possibility of his being in trouble, were
the causes of her apprehension.

"Mr. Elk came down to ask me a few questions about the attack on Mr.
Gordon," said her father briefly.

Whatever else he was, thought Elk, he was a poor and unconvincing liar.
That the girl was not convinced, he was sure. When they were alone she
asked:

"Is anything wrong, Mr. Elk?"

"Nothing, miss. Just come down to refresh my memory--which was never a
good one, especially in the matter of dates. The only date I really
remember is the landing of William the Conqueror-1140 or thereabouts.
Brother gone back to town?"

"He went last night," she said, and then, almost defiantly: "He is in a
good position now, Mr. Elk."

"So they tell me," said Elk. "I wish he wasn't working in the same shop
as the bunch who are with him. I'm not letting him out of my sight, Miss
Bennett," he said in a kinder tone. "Perhaps I'll be able to slip in the
right word one of these days. He wouldn't listen now if I said
'get!'--he's naturally in the condition of mind when he's making up
press cuttings about himself. And in a way he's right. If you don't know
it all at twenty-one you never will. What's that word that begins
with a 'z'?--'zenith,' that's it. He's at the zenith of his
sure-and-certainness. From now on he'll start unloading his cargo of
dreams an' take in ballast. But he'll hate to hear the derricks at
work."

"You talk like a sailor," she smiled in spite of her trouble.

"I was that once," said Elk, "the same as old man Maitland--though I've
never sailed with him--I guess he left the sea years before I was born.
Like him?"

"Mr. Maitland? No!" she shivered. "I think he is a terrible man."

Elk did not disagree.

To Dick Gordon that morning he confessed his error.

"I don't know why I jumped at Bennett," he said. "I'm getting young! I
see the evening newspapers have got the burglary."

"But they do not know what was stolen," said Dick in a low voice. "That
must be kept secret."

They were in the inner bureau, which Dick occupied temporarily. Two men
were at work in his larger office replacing a panel which had been
shattered by the bullet which had been fired at him on the morning Elk
came into the case, and it was symptomatic of the effect that the Frogs
had had upon headquarters that both men had almost mechanically
scrutinized the left arms of the workmen. The sight of the damaged panel
switched Elk's thoughts to a matter which he had intended raising
before--the identity of the tramp Carlo. In spite of the precautions
Gordon had taken, and although the man was under observation, Carlo had
vanished, and the combined efforts of headquarters and the country
offices had failed to locate him. It was a sore point with Gordon, as Elk
had reason to know.

For Carlo was the reputable "Number Seven," the most important man in
the organization after the Frog himself.

"I'd like to see this Carlo," he said thoughtfully. "There's not much use
in putting another man out on the road to follow up Genter's work. That
system doesn't work twice. I wonder how much Lola knows?"

"Of the Frogs? They wouldn't trust a woman," said Dick. "She may work for
them, but, as you said, it is likely they bring in outsiders for special
jobs and pay them well."

Elk did not carry the matter any further, and spent the rest of the day
in making fruitless inquiries. Returning to his room at headquarters that
night, he sat for along time hunched up in his chair, his hands thrust
into his trousers pockets, staring down at the blotting-pad. Then he
pressed a bell, and his clerk, Balder, came.

"Go to Records, get me all that is known about every safe-breaker known
in this country. You needn't worry about the German and French, but
there's a Swede or two who are mighty clever with the lamp, and of course
there are the Americans."

They came after a long interval--a considerable pile of papers,
photographs and finger-prints.

"You can go, Balder--the night man can take them back." He settled
himself down to an enjoyable night's reading.

He was nearing the end of the pile when he came to the portrait of a
young man with a drooping moustache and a bush of curly hair. It was one
of those sharp positives that unromantic police officials take, and
showed whatever imperfections of skin there were. Beneath the photograph
was the name, carefully printed: "Henry John Lyme, R.V."

"R.V." was the prison code. Every year from 1874 to 1899 was indicated by
a capital letter in the alphabet. Thereafter ran the small letters. The
"R" meant that Henry J. Lyme had been sentenced to penal servitude in
1891. The "V" that he had suffered a further term of convict
imprisonment in 1895.

Elk read the short and terrible record. Born in Guernsey in 1873, the man
had been six times convicted before he was twenty (the minor convictions
are not designated by letters in the code). In the space at the foot of
the blank in which particulars were given of his crime, were the words:

"Dangerous; carries firearms." In another hand, and in the red ink which
is used to close a criminal career, was written: "Died at sea. Channel
Queen. Black Rock. Feb. 1, 1898."

Elk remembered the wreck of the Guernsey mail packet on the Black Rocks.

He turned back the page to read particulars of the dead man's crimes, and
the comments of those who from time to time had been brought into
official contact with him. In these scraps of description was the real
biography. "Works alone," was one comment, and another: "No women
clue--women never seen with him." A third scrawl was difficult to
decipher, but when Elk mastered the evil writing, he half rose from the
chair in his excitement. It was:

"Add to body marks in general D.C.P.14 frog tattooed left wrist. New.
J.J.M."

The date against which this was written was the date of the man's last
conviction. Elk turned up the printed blank "D.C.P.14" and found it to be
a form headed "Description of Convicted Person." The number was the
classification. There was no mention of tattooed frogs: somebody had been
careless. Word by word he read the description:

"Henry John Lyme, a. Young Harry, a. Thomas Martin, a. Boy Peace, a. Boy
Harry (there were five lines of aliases). Burglar (dangerous; carries
firearms). Height 5 ft. 6 in. Chest 38. Complexion fresh, eyes grey,
teeth good, mouth regular, dimple in chin. Nose straight. Hair brown,
wavy, worn long. Face round. Moustache drooping; wears side-whiskers.
Feet and hands normal. Little toe left foot amputated first joint owing
to accident, H.M. Prison, Portland. Speaks well, writes good hand.
Hobbies none. Smokes cigarettes. Poses as public official, tax collector,
sanitary inspector, gas or water man. Speaks French and Italian fluently.
Never drinks; plays cards but no gambler. Favourite hiding place, Rome or
Milan. No conviction abroad. No relations. Excellent organizer.
Immediately after crime, look for him at good hotel in Midlands or
working to Hull for the Dutch or Scandinavian boats. Has been known to
visit Guernsey..."

Here followed the Bertillon measurements and body marks--this was in the
days before the introduction of the fingerprint system. But there was no
mention of the Frog on the left wrist. Elk dropped his pen in the ink and
wrote in the missing data. Underneath he added:

"This man may still be alive," and signed his initials.



CHAPTER X - ON HARLEY TERRACE


So writing, the telephone buzzed, and in his unhurried way he finished
his entry and blotted it before he took up the instrument.

"Captain Gordon wishes you to take the first taxi you can find and come
to his house--the matter is very urgent," said a voice. "I am speaking
from Harley Terrace."

"All right." Elk found his hat and umbrella, stopped long enough to
return the records to their home, and went out into the dark courtyard.

There are two entrances to Scotland Yard: one that opens into Whitehall
and was by far the best route for him, since Whitehall is filled with
cabs; the other on to the Thames Embankment, which, in addition to
offering the longest way round, would bring him to a thoroughfare where,
at this hour of the night, taxis would be few and far between. So
engrossed was Elk with his thoughts that he was on the Embankment before
he realized where he was going. He turned toward the Houses of Parliament
into Bridge Street, found an ancient cab and gave the address. The driver
was elderly and probably a little fuddled, for, instead of stopping at
No. 273, he overshot the mark by a dozen houses, and only stopped at all
on the vitriolic representations of his fare.

"What's the matter with you, Noah?--this ain't Mount Ararat!" snapped Elk
as he descended. "You're boozed, you poor fish."

"Wish I was," murmured the driver, holding out his hand for the fare.

Elk would have argued the matter but for the urgency of the summons.
Whilst he was waiting for the driver to unbutton his many coats to find
change, he glanced back along the street. A car was standing near the
door of Dick Gordon's house, its head lights dimmed to the least possible
degree. That in itself was not remarkable. The two men who waited on the
pavement were. They stood with their backs to the railings, one (as he
guessed) on either side of the door. To him came the soft purring of the
motor-car's engine. He took a step back and brought the opposite pavement
into his range of vision. There were two other men, also lounging idly,
and they were exactly opposite 273.

Elk looked round. The cab had stopped before a doctor's house, and the
detective did not take a long time to make up his mind.

"Wait till I come out."

"Don't be long," pleaded the aged driver. "The bars will be shut in a
quarter of an hour."

"Wait, Batchus," said Elk, who had a nodding acquaintance with ancient
mythology, but only a hazy idea of pronunciation. Bacchus growled, but
waited.

Fortunately, the doctor was at home, and to him Elk revealed his
identity. In a few seconds he was connected with Mary Lane Police
Station.

"Elk, Central Office, speaking," he said rapidly, and gave his code
number. "Send every man you can put your hand on, to close Harley Terrace
north and south of 273. Stop all cars from the moment you get my
signal--two long two short flashes. How soon can your men be in place?"

"In five minutes, Mr. Elk. The night reliefs are parading, and I have a
couple of motor-trucks here--just pinched the drivers for being drunk."

He replaced the receiver and went into the hall.

"Anything wrong?" asked the startled doctor as Elk slid back the jacket
of his automatic and pushed the safety catch into place.

"I hope so, sir," said Elk truthfully. "If I've turned out the division
because a few innocent fellows are leaning against the railings of Harley
Terrace, I'm going to get myself into trouble."

He waited five minutes, then opened the door and went out. The men were
still in their positions, and as he stood there two motor-trucks drove
into the thoroughfare from either end, turned broadside in the middle of
the road and stopped.

Elk's pocket lamp flashed to left and right, and he jumped for the
pavement.

And now he saw that his suspicions were justified. The men on the
opposite pavement came across the road at the double, and leapt to the
running-board of the car with the dim lights as it moved. Simultaneously
the two who had been guarding the entrance of 273 sprang into the
machine. But the fugitives were too late. The car swerved to avoid the
blocking motor-truck, but even as it turned, the truck ran backwards.
There was a crash, a sound of splintering glass, and by the time Elk
arrived, the five occupants of the car were in the hands of the uniformed
policemen who swarmed at the end of the street.

The prisoners accepted their capture without resistance. One (the
chauffeur) who tried to throw away a revolver unobtrusively, was detected
in the act and handcuffed, but the remainder gave no trouble.

At the police-station Elk had a view of his prisoners. Four very fine
specimens of the genus tramp, wearing their new ready-to-wear suits
awkwardly. The fifth, who gave a Russian name, and was obviously the
driver, a little man with small, sharp eyes that glanced uneasily from
face to face.

Two of the prisoners carried loaded revolvers; in the car they found four
walking-sticks heavily weighted.

"Take off your coats and roll up your sleeves," commanded the inspector.

"You needn't trouble, Elk." It was the little chauffeur speaking. "All us
boys are good Frogs."

"There ain't any good Frogs," said Elk. "There's only bad Frogs and worse
Frogs and the worst Frog of all. But we won't argue. Let these men into
their cells, sergeant, and keep them separate. I'll take Litnov to
headquarters."

The chauffeur looked uneasily from Elk to the station sergeant.

"What's the great idea?" he asked. "You're not allowed to use the third
degree in England."

"The law has been altered," said Elk ominously, and re-snapped the
handcuffs on the man's wrists.

The law had not been altered, but this the little Russian did not know.
Throughout the journey to headquarters he communed with himself, and when
he was pushed into Elk's bare-looking room, he was prepared to talk...

Dick was waiting for the detective when he came back to Harley Terrace,
and heard the story.

"I never dreamt that it was a plant until I spotted the lads waiting for
me," said Elk. "Of course you didn't telephone; they caught me napping
there. Thorough! The Frogs are all that! They expected me to leave
headquarters by the Whitehall entrance, and had a taxi waiting to pick me
up, but in case they missed me that way, they told off a party to meet me
in Harley Terrace. Thorough!"

"'Who gave them their orders?"

Elk shrugged.

"Mr. Nobody. Litnov had his by post. It was signed 'Seven,' and gave him
the rendezvous, and that was all. He says he has never seen a Frog since
he was initiated. Where he was sworn in he doesn't remember. The car
belongs to Frogs, and he receives so much a week for looking after it.
Ordinarily he is employed by Heron's Club--drives a truck for them. He
tells me that there are twenty other cars cached in London somewhere,
just standing in their garages, and each has its own driver, who goes
once a week to give it a clean up."

"Heron's Club--that is the dance club which Lola and Lew Brady are
interested in!" said Dick thoughtfully, and Elk considered.

"I never thought of that. Of course, it doesn't mean that the management
of Heron's know anything about Litnov's evening work. I'll look up that
club."

He was saved the trouble, for the next morning, when he reached the
office, he found a man waiting to see him.

"I'm Mr. Hagn, the manager of the Heron's Club," he introduced himself.
"I understand one of my men has been in trouble."

Hagn was a tall, good-looking Swede who spoke without any trace of a
foreign accent.

"How have you heard that, Mr. Hagn?" asked Elk suspiciously. "The man has
been under lock and key since last night, and he hasn't held any
communication with anybody."

Mr. Hagn smiled.

"You can't arrest people and take them to a police-station without
somebody knowing all about it," he said with truth. "One of my waiters
saw Litnov being taken to Mary Lane handcuffed, and as Litnov hasn't
reported for duty this morning, there was only one conclusion to be
drawn. What is the trouble, Mr. Elk?"

Elk shook his head.

"I can't give you any information on the matter," he said. "Can I see
him?"

"You can't even see him," said Elk. "He has slept well, and sends his
love to all kind friends."

Mr. Hagn seemed distressed.

"Is it possible to discover where he put the key of the coal cellar?" he
urged. "This is rather important to me. This man usually keeps it."

The detective hesitated.

"I can find out," he said, and, leaving Mr. Hagn under the watchful eyes
of his secretary, he crossed the yard to the cells where the Russian was
held.

Litnov rose from his plank bed as the cell door opened.

"Friend of yours called," said Elk. "Wants to know where you put the key
of the coal cellar."

It was only the merest flicker of light and understanding that came to
the little man's eyes, but Elk saw it.

"Tell him I believe I left it with the Wandsworth man," he said.

"Um!" said Elk, and went back to the waiting Hagn.

"He said he left it in the Pentonville Road," said Elk untruthfully, but
Mr. Hagn seemed satisfied.

Returning to the cells, Elk saw the gaoler.

"Has this man asked you where he was to be taken from here?"

"Yes, sir," said the officer. "I told him he was going to Wandsworth
Prison--we usually tell prisoners where they are going on remand, in case
they wish to let their relatives know."

Elk had guessed right. The inquiry about the key was prearranged. A
telephone message to Mary Lane, where the remainder of the gang were
held, produced the curious information that a woman, reputedly the wife
of one of the men, had called that morning, and, on being refused an
interview, begged for news about the missing key of the coal cellar, and
had been told that it was in the possession of "the Brixton man."

"The men are to be remitted to Wormwood Scrubbs Prison, and they are not
to be told where they are going," ordered Elk.

That afternoon a horse-driven prison-van drew out of Cannon Row and
rumbled along Whitehall. At the juncture of St. Martin's Lane and
Shaftesbury Avenue, a carelessly-driven motor lorry smashed into its
side, slicing off the near wheel. Instantly there came from nowhere a
crowd of remarkable appearance. It seemed as if all the tramps in the
world had been lying in wait to crowd about the crippled van. The door
was wrenched open, and the gaoler on duty hauled forth. Before he could
be handled, the van disgorged twenty Central Office men, and from the
side streets came a score of mounted policemen, clubs in hand. The riot
lasted less then three minutes. Some of the wild-looking men succeeded in
making their escape, but the majority, chained in twos, went, meekly
enough, between their mounted escorts.

Dick Gordon, who was also something of an organizer, watched the fight
from the top of an omnibus, which, laden with policemen, had shadowed the
van. He joined Elk after the excitement had subsided.

"Have you arrested anybody of importance?" he asked.

"It's too early to say," said Elk. "They look like ordinary tadpoles to
me. I guess Litnov is in Wandsworth by now--I sent him in a closed police
car before the van left."

Arrived at Scotland Yard, he paraded the Frogs in two open ranks,
watched, at a distance, by the curious crowd which packed both entrances.
One by one he examined their wrists, and in every case the tattoo mark
was present.

He finished his scrutiny at last, and his captives were herded into an
inner yard under an armed guard.

"One man wants to speak to you, sir."

The last file had disappeared when the officer in charge reported, and
Elk exchanged a glance with his chief.

"See him," said Dick. "We can't afford to miss any information."

A policeman brought the Frog to them--a tall man with a week's growth of
beard, poorly dressed and grimy. His battered hat was pulled down over
his eyes, his powerful wrists visible beneath the sleeves of a jacket
that was made for a smaller man.

"Well, Frog?" said Elk, glowering at him. "What's your croak?"

"Croak is a good word," said the man, and at the sound of his voice Elk
stared. "You don't think that old police car of yours is going to reach
Wandsworth, do you?"

"Who are you?" asked Elk, peering forward.

"They want Litnov badly," said the Frog. "They want to settle with him,
and if the poor fish thinks it's brotherly love that makes old man Frog
go to all this trouble, he's reserved a big jar for himself."

"Broad! What...!"

The American licked his finger and wiped away the frog from his wrist.

"I'll explain after, Mr. Elk, but take a friend's advice and call up
Wandsworth."

Elk's telephone was buzzing furiously when he reached his office.

It was Wandsworth station calling.

"Your police car was held up on the Common, two of your men were wounded,
and the prisoner was shot dead," was the report.

"Thank you!" said Elk bitterly.



CHAPTER XI - MR. BROAD EXPLAINS


Detained under police supervision, Mr. Broad did not seem in any way
surprised or disconcerted. Dick Gordon and his assistant reached
Wandsworth Common ten minutes after the news came through, and found the
wreckage of the police car surrounded by a large crowd, kept at a
distance by police.

The dead prisoner had been taken into the prison, together with one of
the attackers, who had been captured by a party of warders, returning to
the gaol after their luncheon hour.

A brief examination of Litnov told them no more than they knew. He had
been shot through the heart, and death must have been instantaneous.

The prisoner, brought from a cell, was a man of thirty and better
educated than the average run of Frogs. No weapon had been found upon him
and he protested his innocence of any complicity in the plot. According
to his story, he was an out-of-work clerk who had been strolling across
the Common when the ambush occurred. He had seen the fight, seen the
second motor-car which carried the attackers away, and had been arrested
whilst running in pursuit of the murderers.

His captors told a different story. The warder responsible for his arrest
said that the man was on the point of boarding the car when the officer
had thrown his truncheon at him and brought him down. The car was moving
at the time, and the remainder of the party had not dared to stop and
pick up their comrade. Most damning evidence of all was the tattoo mark
on his wrist.

"Frog, you're a dead man," said Elk in his most sepulchral voice. "Where
did you live when you were alive?" The captive confessed that his home was
in North London. "North Londoners don't come to Wandsworth to walk on the
Common," said Elk.

He had a conference with the chief warder, and, taking the prisoner into
the courtyard, Elk spoke his mind.

"What happens to you if you spill the beans, Frog?" he asked.

The man showed his teeth in an unpleasant smile.

"The beans aren't grown that I can spill," he said.

Elk looked around. The courtyard was a small, stone-paved quadrangle,
surrounded by high, discoloured walls. Against one of these was a little
shed with grey sliding doors.

"Come here," said Elk.

He took the key that the chief warder had given him, unlocked the doors
and slid them back. They were looking into a bare, clean apartment with
whitewashed walls. Across the ceiling ran two stout oak beams, and
between them three stubby steel bars.

The prisoner frowned as Elk walked to a long steel lever near one of the
walls.

"Watch, Frog!" he said.

He pulled at the lever, and the centre of the floor divided and fell with
a crash, revealing a deep, brick-lined pit.

"See that trap...see that 'T' mark in chalk? That's where a man puts
his feet when the hangman straps his legs. The rope hangs from that
beam, Frog!"

The man's face was livid as he shrank back.

"You...can't...hang--me," he breathed. "I've done nothing!"

"You've killed a man," said Elk as he pulled the doors to and locked
them. "You're the only fellow we've got, and you'll have to suffer for
the lot. Are them beans growin'?"

The prisoner raised his shaking hand to his lips.

"I'll tell you all I know," he said huskily.

Elk led him back to his cell.

An hour later, Dick was speeding back to his headquarters with
considerable information. His first act was to send for Joshua Broad, and
the eagle-faced "tramp" came cheerfully.

"Now, Mr. Broad, I'll have your story," said Dick, and motioned the other
to be seated.

Joshua seated himself slowly.

"There's nothing much to tell," he said. "For a week I've been getting
acquainted with the Frogs. I guessed that it was unlikely that the bulk
of them would be unknown to one another, and I just froze on to the first
I found. Met him in a Deptford lodging-house. Then I heard there was a
hurry-up call for a big job to-day and joined. The Frogs knew that the
real attack might be somewhere else, and on the way to Scotland Yard I
heard that a party had been told off to watch for Litnov at Wandsworth."

"Did you see any of the big men?"

Broad shook his head.

"They looked all alike, but undoubtedly there were two or three section
leaders in charge. There was never any question of rescuing. They were
out to kill. They knew that Litnov had told all that he knew, and he was
doomed--they got him, I suppose?"

"Yes--they got him!" said Dick, and then: "What is your interest in the
Frogs?"

"Purely adventitious," replied the other lazily. "I'm a rich man with a
whole lot of time on my hands, and I have a big interest in criminology.
A few years ago I heard about the Frogs, and they seized on my
imagination. Since then I've been trailing them."

His gaze did not waver under Dick Gordon's scrutiny.

"Now will you tell me," said Dick quietly, "how you became a rich man? In
the latter days of the war you arrived in this country on a cattle
boat--with about twenty dollars in your pocket. You told Elk you had
arrived by that method, and you spoke the truth. I've been almost as much
interested in you as you have been in the Frogs," he said with a half
smile, "and I have been putting through a few inquiries. You came to
England 1917 and deserted your ship. In May, 1917, you negotiated for the
hire of an old tumbledown shack near Eastleigh, Hampshire. There you
lived, patching up this crazy cottage and living, so far as I can
discover, on the few dollars you brought from the ship. Then suddenly you
disappeared, and were next seen in Pans on Christmas Eve of that year.
You were conspicuous in rescuing a family that had been buried in a house
bombed in an air raid, and your name was taken by the police with the
idea of giving you some reward. The French police report is that you were
'very poorly dressed'--they thought you might be a deserter from the
American Army. Yet in February you were staying at the Hotel de Paris in
Monte Carlo, with plenty of money and an extensive wardrobe--"

Joshua Broad sat through the recital unmoved, except for the ghost of a
smile which showed at the corner of his unshaven mouth.

"Surely, Captain, Monte Carlo is the place where a man _would_ have
money?"

"If he brought it there," said Dick, and went on: "I'm not suggesting
that you are a bad character, or that your money came in any other way
than honestly. I merely state the facts that your sudden rise from
poverty to riches was, to say the least, remarkable."

"It surely was," agreed the other; "and, judging by appearances, my
change from riches to poverty is as sudden."

Dick looked at the dirty-looking tramp who sat on the other side of the
table and laughed silently.

"You mean, if it is possible for you to masquerade now, it was possible
then, and that, even though you were apparently broke in 5917, you might
very well have been a rich man?"

"Exactly," said Mr. Joshua Broad.

Gordon was serious again.

"I would prefer that you remained your more presentable self," he said.
"I hate telling an American that I may have to deport him, because that
sounds as if it is a punishment to return to the United States. But I may
find myself with no other alternative."

Joshua Broad rose.

"That, Captain Gordon, is too broad for a hint and too
kindly for a threat--henceforth, Joshua Broad is a respectable member of
society. Maybe I'll take the Prince of Caux's house and entertain bims
and be a modern Harun al Raschid. I've got to meet them somehow."

At the mention of that show house that had cost a king's ransom to build
and a queen's dowry to furnish, Dick smiled.

"It isn't necessary you should advertise your respectability that way,"
he said. But Broad was not smiling.

"The only thing I ask is that you do not advise the police to withdraw my
permits," he said.

Dick's eyebrows rose.

"Permits?"

"I carry two guns, and the time is coming when two won't be enough," said
Mr. Broad. "And it is coming soon."



CHAPTER XII - THE EMBELLISHMENT OF MR. MAITLAND


There was a concert that night at the Queen's Hall, and the spacious
auditorium was crowded to hear the summer recital of a great violinist.
Dick Gordon, in the midst of an evening's work, remembered that he had
reserved a seat. He felt fagged, baffled, inclined to hopelessness. A
note from Lord Farmley had come to him, urging instant action to recover
the lost commercial treaty. It was such a letter as a man, himself
worried, would write without realizing that in so doing he was passing on
his panic to those who it was very necessary should not be stampeded into
precipitate action. It was a human letter, but not statesmanlike. Dick
decided upon the concert.

He had finished dressing when he remembered that it was more than likely
that the omniscient Frogs would know of his reservation. He must take the
risk, if risk there was. He 'phoned to the garage where his own machine
was housed and hired a closed car, and in ten minutes was one of two
thousand people who were listening, entranced, to the master. In the
interval he strolled out to the lobby to smoke, and almost, the first
person he saw was a Central Office man who avoided his eye. Another
detective stood by the stairway leading to the bar, a third was smoking
on the steps of the hall outside. But the sensation of the evening was
not this evidence of Elk's foresight. The warning bell had sounded, and
Dick was in the act of throwing away his cigarette, when a magnificent
limousine drew up before the building, a smart footman alighted to open
the door, and there stepped heavily to the pavement--Mr. Ezra Maitland.

Dick heard a gasp behind him, and turned his head to see Elk in the one
and only dress suit he had ever possessed.

"Mother of Moses!" he said in an awed voice.

And there was reason for his astonishment. Not only was Mr. Maitland's
equipage worthy of a reigning monarch, with its silver fittings,
lacquered body and expensively uniformed servants, but the old man was
wearing a dress suit of the latest fashion. His beard had been shortened
a few inches, and across the spotless white waistcoat was stretched a
heavy gold chain. On his hand many rings blazed and flashed in the light
of the street standard. There was a camellia in his perfect lapel, and on
his head the glossiest of silk hats. Leaning on a stick of ebony and
ivory, he strutted across the pavement.

"Silk socks...patent leather shoes. My God! Look at his _rings_," hissed
Elk.

His profanity was almost excusable. The vision of splendour passed
through the doors into the hall.

"He's gone gay!" said Elk hollowly, and followed like a man in a dream.

From where he was placed, Dick had a good view of the millionaire. He sat
throughout the second part of the programme with closed eyes, and so slow
was he to start applauding after each item, that Dick was certain that he
had been asleep and the clapping had awakened him.

Once he detected the old man stifling a yawn in the very midst of the
second movement of Elgar's violin concerto, which held the audience
spellbound by its delicate beauty. With his big hands, now enshrined in
white kid gloves, crossed on his stomach, the head of Mr. Maitland nodded
and jerked.

When at last the concert was over, he looked round fearfully, as though
to make absolutely certain that it was over, then rose and made his way
out of the hall, his silk hat held clumsily in his hand.

A manager came in haste to meet him.

"I hope, Mr. Maitland, you enjoyed yourself?" Dick heard him say.

"Very pooty--very pooty," replied Maitland hoarsely. "That fiddler ought
to play a few toons, though--nothing like a hornpipe on a fiddle."

The manager looked after him open-mouthed, then hurried out to help the
old man into his car.

"Gay--he's gay!" said Elk, as bewildered as the manager. "Jumping snakes!
Who was that?"

He addressed the unnecessary question to the manager, who had returned
from his duty.

"That is Maitland, the millionaire, Mr. Elk," said the other. "First time
we've had him here, but now that he's come to live in town--"

"Where is he living?" asked Elk.

"He has taken the Prince of Caux's house in Berkeley Square," said the
manager.

Elk blinked at him.

"Say that again?"

"He has taken the Prince of Caux's house," said the manager. "And what is
more, has bought it--the agent told me this afternoon."

Elk was incapable of comment, and the manager continued his surprising
narrative.

"I don't think he knows much about music, but he has booked seats for
every big musical event next season--his secretary came in this
afternoon. He seemed a bit dazed."

Poor Johnson! thought Dick.

"He wanted me to fix dancing lessons for the old boy--" Elk clapped his
hand to his mouth--he had an insane desire to scream.

"And as a matter of fact, I fixed them. He's a bit old, but Socrates or
somebody learnt Greek at eighty, and maybe Mr. Maitland's regretting the
wasted years of his life. I admit it is a bit late to start night
clubs--"

Elk laid a chiding hand upon the managerial shoulder.

"You certainly deceived me, brother," he said. "And here was I, drinking
it all in, and you with a face as serious as the dial of a poor-house
clock! You've put it all over Elk, and I'm man enough to admit you fooled
me."

"I don't think our friend is trying to fool you," said Dick quietly. "You
really mean what you say--old Maitland has started dancing and night
clubs?"

"Certainly!" said the other. "He hasn't started dancing, but that is
where he has gone to-night--to the Heron's. I heard him tell the
chauffeur."

It was incredible, but a little amusing--most amusing of all to see Elk's
face.

The detective was frankly dumbfounded by the news.

"Heron's is my idea of a good finish to a happy evening," said Elk at
last, drawing a long breath. He beckoned one of his escort. "How many man
do you want to cover Heron's Club?" he asked.

"Six," was the prompt reply. "Ten to raid it, and twenty for a rough
house."

"Get thirty!" said Elk emphatically.

Heron's from the exterior was an unpretentious building. But once under
the curtained doors, and the character of its exterior was forgotten. A
luxurious lounge, softly lit and heavily carpeted, led to the large
saloon, which was at once restaurant and dance-hall.

Dick stood in the doorway awaiting the arrival of the manager, and
admired the richness and subtle suggestion of cosiness which the room
conveyed. The tables were set about an oblong square of polished
flooring; from a gallery at the far end came the strain of a coloured
orchestra; and on the floor itself a dozen couples swayed and glided in
rhythm to the staccato melody.

"Gilded vice," said Elk disparagingly. "A regular haunt of sin and
self-indulgence. I wonder what they charge for the food--there's
Mathusalem."

"Mathusalem" was sitting, a conspicuous figure, at the most prominent
table in the room. His polished head glistened in the light from the
crystal candelabras, and in the shadow that it cast, his patriarchal
beard so melted into the white of his snowy shirt front that for a moment
Dick did not recognize him.

Before him was set a large glass mug filled with beer. "He's human
anyway," said Elk.

Hagn came at that moment, smiling, affable, willing to oblige.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, Captain," he said. "You want me to pass
you in? Gentlemen, there is no necessity! Every police officer of rank is
an honorary member of the club."

He bustled in, threading his way between the tables, and found them a
vacant sofa in one of the alcoves. There were revellers whose faces
showed alarm at the arrival of the new guests--one at least stole forth
and did not come back.

"We have many notable people here to-night," said Hagn, rubbing his
hands. "There are Lord and Lady Belfin "...he mentioned others; "and
that gentleman with the beard is the great Maitland...his secretary is
here somewhere. Poor gentleman, I fear he is not happy. But I invited him
myself--it is sometimes desirable that we should elect the...what shall I
say?...higher servants of important people?"

"Johnson?" asked Dick in surprise. "Where?"

Presently he saw that plump and philosophical man. He sat in a remote
corner, looking awkward and miserable in his old-fashioned dress clothes.
Before him was a glass which, Dick guessed, contained orange squash.

A solemn, frightened figure he made, sitting on the edge of his chair,
his big red hands resting on the table. Dick Gordon laughed softly and
whispered to Elk:

"Go and get him"

Elk, who was never self-conscious, walked through the dancers and reached
Mr. Johnson, who looked up startled and shook hands with the vigour of
one rescued from a desert island.

"It was good of you to ask me to come over," said Johnson, as he greeted
Dick. "This is new to me, and I'm feeling about as much at home as a
chicken in a pie."

"Your first visit?"

"And my last," said Johnson emphatically. "This isn't the kind of life
that I care for. It interferes with my reading, and it--well, it's sad."

His eyes were fixed on a noisy little party in the opposite alcove.
Gordon had seen them almost as soon as he had sat down. Ray, in his most
hectic mood, Lola Bassano, beautifully and daringly gowned, and the
heavy-looking ex-pugilist, Lew Brady.

Presently, with a sigh, Johnson's eyes roved toward the old man and
remained fixed on him, fascinated.

"Isn't it a miracle?" he asked in a hushed voice. "He changes his habits
in a day! Bought the house in Berkeley Square, called in an army of
tailors, sent me rushing round to fix theatre seats, bought jewellery..."

He shook his head.

"I can't understand it," he confessed, "because it has made no difference
to him in the office. He's the same old hog. He wanted me to become his
resident secretary, but I struck at that. I must have some sort of life
worth living. What scares me is that he may fire me if I don't agree.
He's been very unpleasant this week. I wonder if Ray has seen him? Ray
Bennett had not seen his late employer. He was too completely engrossed
in the joy of being with Lola, too, inspired and stimulated from more
material sources, to take an interest in anything but himself and the
immediate object of his affections.

"You are making a fool of yourself, Ray. Everybody is looking at you,"
warned Lola.

He glanced round, and for the first time began to notice who was in the
room. Presently his eyes fell upon the shining pate of Mr. Maitland, and
his jaw dropped. He could not believe the evidence of his vision, and,
rising, walked unsteadily across the floor, shouldering the other guests,
stumbling against chairs and tables, until he stood by the table of his
late employer.

"Gosh!" he gasped. "It is you--"

The old man raised his eyes slowly from the cloth which he had been
contemplating steadily for ten minutes, and his steely eyes met the gaze
steadily.

"You hoary old sinner!" breathed Ray.

"Go away," snarled Mr. Maitland.

"'Go away,' is it? I'm going to talk to you and give you a few words of
advice and warning, Moses!"

Ray sat down suddenly in a chair, and faced his glaring victim with
drunken solemnity. His words of warning remained unuttered. Somebody
gripped his arm and jerked him to his feet, and he looked into the dark
face of Lew Brady.

"Here, what--" he began. But Brady led him and pushed him back to his own
table.

"You fool!" he hissed. "Why do you want to advertise yourself in this
way? You're a hell of a Secret Service man!"

"I don't want any of that stuff from you," said Ray roughly as he jerked
his arm free.

"Sit down, Ray," said Lola in a low voice. "Half Scotland Yard is in the
club, watching you."

He followed the direction of her eyes and saw Dick Gordon regarding him
gravely, and the sight and knowledge of that surveillance maddened him.
Leaping to his feet, he crossed the room to where they sat.

"Looking for me?" he asked loudly. "Want me for anything?"

Dick shook his head.

"You damned police spy!" stormed the youth, white with unreasoning
passion. "Bringing your bloodhounds after me! What are you doing with
this gang, Johnson? Are you turned policeman too?"

"My dear Ray," murmured Johnson.

"My dear Ray!" sneered the other. "You're jealous, you poor worm--jealous
because I've got away from the bloodsucker's clutches! As to you "--he
waved a threatening finger in Dick's face--"you leave me alone--see?
You've got a whole lot of work to do without carrying tales to my
sister."

"I think you had better go back to your friends," said Dick coolly. "Or,
better still, go home and sleep."

All this had occurred between the dances, and now the band struck up, but
if the attention of the crowded clubroom was in no wise relaxed, there
was this change, that Ray's high voice now did not rise above the efforts
of the trap drummer.

Dick looked round for the watchful Hagn. He knew that the manager, or one
of the officials of the club, would interfere instantly. It was not Hagn,
but a head waiter, who came up and pushed the young man back.

So intent was everybody on that little scene that followed, in the
spectacle of that flushed youth struggling against the steady pressure
which the head waiter and his fellows asserted, that nobody saw the man
who for a while stood in the doorway surveying the scene, before pushing
aside the attendants he strode into the centre of the room.

Ray, looking round, was almost sobered by the sight of his father.

The rugged, grey-haired man, in his worn, tweed suit, made a striking
contrast to that gaily-dressed throng. He stood, his hands behind him,
his face white and set, surveying his son, and the boy's eyes dropped
before him.

"I want you, Ray," he said simply.

The floor was deserted; the music ceased, as though the leader of the
orchestra had been signalled that something was wrong.

"Come back with me to Horsham, boy."

"I'm not going," said Ray sullenly.

"He is not with you, Mr. Gordon?"

Dick shook his head, and at this intervention the fury of Ray Bennett
flamed again.

"With him!" he said scornfully. "Would I be with a sneaking policeman?"

"Go with your father, Ray." It was Johnson's urgent advice, and his hand
lay for a second on the boy's shoulder.

Ray shook him off.

"I'll stay here," he said, and his voice was loud and defiant. "I'm not a
baby, that I can't be trusted out alone. You've no right to come here,
making me look a fool." He glowered at his father. "You've kept me down
all these years, denied me money that I ought to have had--and who are
you that you should pretend to be shocked because I'm in a decent club,
wearing decent clothes? I'm straight: can you say the same? If I wasn't
straight, could you blame me? You're not going to put any of that kind
father stuff over--"

"Come away." John Bennett's voice was hoarse.

"I'm staying here," said Ray violently. "And in future you can leave me
alone. The break had to come some time, and it might as well come now."

They stood facing one another, father and son, and in the tired eyes of
John Bennett was a look of infinite sadness.

"You're a silly boy, Ray. Perhaps I haven't done all I could--"

"Perhaps!" sneered the other. "Why, you know it! You get out!"

And then, as he turned his head, he saw the suppressed smiles on the face
of the audience, and the hurt to his vanity drove him mad.

"Come," said John gently, and laid his hand on the boy's arm. With a roar
of fury Ray broke loose...in a second the thing was done. The blow that
struck John Bennett staggered him, but he did not fall.

And then, through the guests who thronged about the two, came Ella. She
realized instantly what had happened. Elk had slipped from his seat and
was standing behind the boy, ready to pin him if he raised his hand
again. But Ray Bennett stood, frozen with horror, speechless, incapable
of movement.

"Father!" The white-faced girl whispered the word.

The head of John Bennett dropped, and he suffered himself to be led away.

Dick Gordon wanted to follow and comfort, but he saw Johnson going after
them and went back to his table. Again the music started, and they took
Ray Bennett back to his table, where he sat, head on hand, till Lola
signalled a waiter to bring more wine.

"There are times," said Elk, "when the prodigal son and the fatted calf
look so like one another that you can't tell 'em apart."

Dick said nothing, but his heart bled for the mystery man of Horsham. For
he had seen in John Bennett's face the agony of the damned.



CHAPTER XIII - A RAID ON ELDOR STREET


Johnson did not come back, and in many respects the two men were glad.
Elk had been on the point of telling the secretary to clear, and he hoped
that Mr. Maitland would follow his example. As if reading his thoughts,
the old man rose soon after the room had quietened down. He had sat
through the scene which had followed Ray's meeting with his father, and
had apparently displayed not the slightest interest in the proceedings.
It was as though his mind were so far away that he could not bring
himself to a realization of actualities.

"He's going, and he hasn't paid his bill," whispered Elk.

In spite of his remissness, the aged millionaire was escorted to the door
by the three chief waiters, his topcoat, silk hat and walking-stick were
brought to him, and he was out of Dick Gordon's sight before the bowing
servants had straightened themselves.

Elk looked at his watch: it wanted five minutes of one. Hagn had not
returned--a circumstance which irritated the detective and was a source
of uneasiness to Dick Gordon. The merriment again worked up to its
highest point, when the two men rose from the table and strolled toward
the door. A waiter came after them hurriedly.

"Monsieur has not paid his bill."

"We will pay that later," said Dick, and at that moment the hands of the
clock pointed to the hour.

Precisely five minutes later the club was in the hands of the police. By
1.15 it was empty, save for the thirty raiding detectives and the staff.

"Where is Hagn?" Dick asked the chief waiter.

"He has gone home, monsieur," said the man sullenly. "He always goes home
early."

"That's a lie," said Elk. "Show me to his room." Hagn's office was in the
basement, a part of the old mission hall that had remained untouched.
They were shown to a large, windowless cubicle, comfortably furnished,
which was Hagn's private bureau, but the man had disappeared. Whilst his
subordinates were searching for the books and examining, sheet by sheet,
the documents in the clerk's office, Elk made an examination of the room.
In one corner was a small safe, upon which he put the police seal; and
lying on a sofa in some disorder was a suit of clothes, evidently
discarded in a hurry. Elk looked at them, carried them under the ceiling
light, and examined them. It was the suit Hagn had been wearing when he
had shown them to their seats.

"Bring in that head waiter," said Elk.

The head waiter either wouldn't or couldn't give information.

"Mr. Hagn always changes his clothes before he goes home," he said.

"Why did he go before the club was closed?"

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know anything about his private affairs," he said, and Elk
dismissed him.

Against the wall was a dressing-table and a mirror, and on each side of
the mirror stood a small table-lamp, which differed from other
table-lamps in that it was not shaded. Elk turned the switch, and in the
glaring light scrutinized the table. Presently he found two wisps of
hair, and held them against the sleeve of his black coat. In the drawer
he found a small bottle of spirit gum, and examined the brush. Then he
picked up a little wastepaper basket and turned its contents upon the
table. He found a few torn bills, business letters, a tradesman's
advertisement, three charred cigarette ends, and some odd scraps of
paper. One of these was covered with gum and stuck together.

"I reckon he wiped the brush on this," said Elk, and with some difficulty
pulled the folded slip apart.

It was typewritten, and consisted of three lines:

"Urgent. See Seven at E.S.2. No raid. Get M.'s statement. Urgent. F.1."

Dick took the paper from his subordinate's hand and read it.

"He's wrong about the no raid," he said. "E. S., of course, is Eldor
Street, arid two is either the number two or two o'clock."

"Who's 'M.'?" asked Elk, frowning.

"Obviously Mills--the man we caught at Wandsworth. He made a written
statement, didn't he?"

"He has signed one," said Elk thoughtfully.

He turned the papers over, and after a while found what he was looking
for--a small envelope. It was addressed in typewritten characters to "G.
V. Hagn," and bore on the back the stamp of the District Messenger
service.

The staff were still held by the police, and Elk sent for the doorkeeper.

"What time was this delivered?" he asked.

The man was an ex-soldier, the only one of the prisoners who seemed to
feel his position.

"It came at about nine o'clock, sir," he said readily, and produced the
letter-book in confirmation. "It was brought by a District Messenger
boy," he explained unnecessarily.

"Does Mr. Hagn get many notes by District Messenger?"

"Very few, sir," said the doorkeeper, and added an anxious inquiry as to
his own fate.

"You can go," said Elk. "Under escort," he added, "to your own home.
You're not to communicate with anybody, or tell any of the servants here
that I have made inquiries about this letter. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

To make assurance doubly sure, Elk had called up exchange and placed a
ban upon all 'phone communications. It was now a quarter to two, arid,
leaving half-a-dozen detectives in charge of the club, he got the
remainder on to the car that had brought them, and, accompanied by Dick,
went full speed for Tottenham.

Within a hundred yards of Eldor Street the car stopped and unloaded. The
first essential was that whoever was meeting No. 7 in Eldor Street should
not be warned of their approach. It was more than possible that Frog
scouts would be watching at each end of the street.

"I don't know why they should," said Elk, when Dick put this possibility
forward.

"I can give you one very excellent reason," said Dick quietly. "It is
this: that the Frogs know all about your previous visit to Maitland's
slum residence."

"What makes you think that?" asked Elk in surprise, but Dick did not
enlighten him.

Sending the men round by circuitous routes, he went forward with Elk, and
at the very corner of Eldor Street, Elk found that his chief's surmise
was well founded. Under a lamp-post Elk saw the dim figure of a man
standing, and instantly began an animated and raucous conversation
concerning a mythical Mr. Brown. Realizing that this was intended for the
watcher, Gordon joined in. The man under the lamp-post hesitated just a
little too long. As they came abreast of him, Elk turned.

"Have you got a match?" he asked.

"No," growled the other, and the next instant was on the ground, with
Elk's knee on his chest and the detective's bony hand around his throat.

"Shout, Frog, and I'll throttle you," hissed the detective ferociously.

There was no scuffle, no sound. The thing was done so quickly that, if
there were other watchers in the street, they could not have known what
had happened, or have received any warning from their comrade's fate. The
man was in the hands of the following detective, gagged and handcuffed,
and on his way to the police car, before he knew exactly what tornado had
struck him.

"Do you mind if I sing?" said Elk as they turned into the street on the
opposite side to that where Mr. Maitland's late residence was situated.

Without waiting permission Elk broke into song. His voice was thin and
flat. As a singer, he was a miserable failure, and Dick Gordon had never
in his life listened with so much patience to sounds more hideous. But
there would be watchers at each end of the street, he thought, and soon
saw that Elk's precautions were necessary.

Again it was in the shadow of a street lamp that the sentinel stood--a
tall, thickset man, more conscientious in the discharge of his duties
than his friend, for Dick saw something glittering in his mouth, and knew
that it was a whistle.

"Give me the world for a wishing well," wailed Elk, staggering slightly,
"Say that my dre-em will come true..."

And as he sang he made appropriate gestures. His outflung hand caught the
whistle and knocked it from the man's mouth, and in a second the two
sprang at him and flung him face downward on the pavement. Elk pulled his
prisoner's cap over his mouth; something black and shiny flashed before
the sentry's eyes, and a cold, circular instrument was thrust against the
back of his ear.

"If you make a sound, you're a dead Frog," said Elk; and that portion of
his party which had made the circuit coming up at that moment, he handed
his prisoner over and replaced his fountain-pen in his pocket.

"Everything now depends upon whether the gentleman who is patrolling the
passage between the gardens has witnessed this disgusting fracas," said
Elk, dusting himself. "If he was standing at the entrance to the passage
he has seen it, and there's going to be trouble."

Apparently the patrol was in the alleyway itself and had heard no sound.
Creeping to the entrance, Elk listened and presently heard the soft pad
of footsteps. He signalled to Dick to remain where he was, and slipped
into the passage, walking softly, but not so softly that the man on guard
at the back gate of Mr. Maitland's house did not hear him.

"Who's that?" he demanded in a gruff voice.

"It's me," whispered Elk. "Don't make so much noise."

"You're not supposed to be here," said the other in a tone of authority.
"I told you to stay under the lamp-post--"

Elk's eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness, and now he saw his man.

"There are two queer-looking people in the street: I wanted you to see
them," he whispered.

All turned now upon the discipline which the Frogs maintained.

"Who are they?" asked the unknown in a low voice.

"A man and a woman," whispered Elk.

"I don't suppose they're anybody important," grumbled the other.

In his youth Elk had played football; and, measuring the distance as best
he could, he dropped suddenly and tackled low. The man struck the earth
with a jerk which knocked all the breath out of his body and made him
incapable of any other sound than the involuntary gasp which followed his
knock-out. In a second Elk was on him, his bony knee on the man's throat.

"Pray, Frog," he whispered in the man's ear, "but don't shout!"

The stricken man was incapable of shouting, and was still breathless when
willing hands threw him into the patrol wagon.

"We'll have to go the back way, boys," said Elk in a whisper.

This time his task was facilitated by the fact that the garden gate was
not locked. The door into the scullery was, however, but there was a
window, the catch of which Elk forced noiselessly. He had pulled off his
boots and was in his stockinged feet, and he sidled along the darkened
passage. Apparently none of the dilapidated furniture had been removed
from the house, for he felt the small table that had stood in the hall on
his last visit. Gently turning the handle of Maitland's room, he pushed.

The door was open, the room in darkness and empty. Elk came back to the
scullery.

"There's nobody here on the ground floor," he said. "We'll try upstairs."

He was half-way up when he heard the murmur of voices and stopped.
Raising his eyes to the level of the floor, he saw a crack of light under
the doorway of the front room--the apartment which had been occupied by
Maitland's housekeeper. He listened, but could distinguish no consecutive
words. Then, with a bound, he took the remaining stairs in three strides,
flew along the landing, and flung himself upon the door. It was locked.
At the sound of his footsteps the light inside went out. Twice he threw
himself with all his weight at the frail door, and at the third attempt
it crashed in.

"Hands up, everybody!" he shouted.

The room was in darkness, and there was a complete silence. Crouching
down in the doorway, he flung the gleam of his electric torch into the
room. It was empty!

His officers came crowding in at his heels, the lamp on the table was
relit--the glass chimney was hot--and a search was made of the room. It
was too small to require a great deal of investigation. There was a bed,
under which it was possible to hide, but they drew blank in this respect.
At one end of the room near the bed was a wardrobe, which was filled with
old dresses suspended from hangers.

"Throw out those clothes," ordered Elk. "There must be a door there into
the next house."

A glance at the window showed him that it was impossible for the inmates
of the room to have escaped that way. Presently the clothes were heaped
on the floor, and the detectives were attacking the wooden back of the
wardrobe, which did, in fact, prove to be a door leading into the next
house. Whilst they were so engaged, Dick made a scrutiny of the table,
which was littered with papers. He saw something and called Elk.

"What is this, Elk?"

The detective took the four closely-typed sheets of paper from his hand.

"Mills' confession," he said in amazement. "There are only two copies,
one of which I have, and the other is in the possession of your
department, Captain Gordon."

At this moment the wardrobe backing was smashed in, and the detectives
were pouring through to the next house.

And then it was that they made the interesting discovery that, to all
intents and purposes, communication was continuous between a block of ten
houses that ran to the end of the street. And they were not untenanted.
Three typical Frogs occupied the first room into which they burst. They
found others on the lower floor; and it soon became clear that the whole
of the houses comprising the end block had been turned into a sleeping
place for the recruits of Frogdom. Since any one of these might have been
No. 7, they were placed under arrest.

All the communicating doors were now opened. Except in the case of
Maitland's house, no attempt had been made to camouflage the entrances,
which in the other houses consisted of oblong apertures, roughly cut
through the brick party walls.

"We may have got him, but I doubt it," said Elk, coming back, breathless
and grimy, to where Dick was examining the remainder of the documents
which he had found. "I haven't seen any man who looks like owning
brains."

"Nobody has escaped from the block?"

Elk shook his head.

"My men are in the passage and the street. In addition, the uniformed
police are here. Didn't you hear the whistle?" Elk's assistant reported
at that moment.

"A man has been found in one of the back yards, sir," he said. "I've
taken the liberty of relieving the constable of his prisoner. Would you
like to see him?"

"Bring him up," said Elk, and a few minutes later a handcuffed man was
pushed into the room.

He was above medium height; his hair was fair and long, his yellow beard
was trimmed to a point.

For a moment Dick looked at him wonderingly, and then:

"Carlo, I think?" he said.

"Hagn, I'm sure!" said Elk. "Get those whiskers off, you Frog, and we'll
talk numbers, beginning with seven!"

Hagn! Even now Dick could not believe his eyes. The wig was so perfectly
made, the beard so cunningly fixed, that he could not believe it was the
manager of Heron's Club. But when he heard the voice, he knew that Elk
was right.

"Number Seven, eh?" drawled Hagn. "I guess Number Seven will get through
your cordon without being challenged, Mr. Elk. He's friendly with the
police. What do you want me for?"

"I want you for the part you played in the murder of Chief Inspector
Genter on the night of the fourteenth of May," said Elk.

Hagn's lips curled.

"Why don't you take Broad?--he was there. Perhaps he'll come as witness
for me."

"When I see him--" began Elk.

"Look out of the window," interrupted Hagn. "He's there!"

Dick walked to the window and, throwing up the sash, leant out. A crowd
of locals in shawls and overcoats were watching the transference of the
prisoners. Dick caught the sheen of a silk hat and the unmistakable voice
of Broad hailed him.

"Good morning, Captain Gordon--Frog stock kind of slumped, hasn't it? By
the way, did you see the baby?"



CHAPTER XIV - "ALL BULLS HEAR"


Elk went out on the street to see the American. Mr. Broad was in
faultless evening dress, and the gleaming head-lamps of his car
illuminated the mean street.

"You've certainly a nose for trouble," said Elk with respect; "and whilst
you're telling me how you came to know about this raid, which hadn't been
decided on until half-an-hour ago, I'll do some quiet wondering."

"I didn't know there was a raid," confessed Joshua Broad, "but when I saw
twenty Central Office men dash out of Heron's Club and drive furiously
away, I am entitled to guess that their haste doesn't indicate their
anxiety to get to bed before the clock strikes two. I usually call at
Heron's Club in the early hours. In many ways its members are less
desirable acquaintances than the general run of Frogs, but they amuse me.
And they are mildly instructive. That is my explanation--I saw you leave
in a hurry and I followed you. And I repeat my question. Did you see the
dear little baby who is learning to spell R-A-T, Rat?"

"No," said Elk shortly. He had a feeling that the suave and
self-possessed American was laughing at him. "Come in and see the chief."

Broad followed the inspector to the bedroom, where Dick was assembling
the papers which in his hurried departure No. 7 had left behind. The
capture was the most important that had been made since the campaign
against the Frogs was seriously undertaken.

In addition to the copy of the secret report on Mills, there was a bundle
of notes, many of them cryptic and unintelligible to the reader. Some,
however, were in plain English. They were typewritten, and obviously they
corresponded to the General Orders of an army. They were, in fact, the
Frog's own instructions, issued under the name of his chief of staff, for
each bore the signature "Seven."

One ran:

"Raymond Bennett must go faster. L. to tell him that he is a Frog.
Whatever is done with him must be carried out with somebody unknown as
Frog."

Another slip:

"Gordon has an engagement to dine American Embassy Thursday. Settle. Elk
has fixed new alarm under fourth tread of stairs. Elk goes to Wandsworth
4.15 to-morrow for interview with Mills."

There were other notes dealing with people of whom Dick had never heard.
He was reading again the reference to himself, and smiling over the
laconic instruction "settle," when the American came in.

"Sit down, Mr. Broad--by the sad look on Elk's face I guess you have
explained your presence satisfactorily?" Broad nodded smilingly.

"And Mr. Elk takes quite a lot of convincing," he said. His eyes fell
upon the papers on the table. "Would it be indiscreet to ask if that is
Frog stuff?" he asked.

"Very," said Dick, "In fact, any reference to the Frogs would be the
height of indiscretion, unless you're prepared to add to the sum of our
knowledge."

"I can tell you, without committing myself, that Frog Seven has made a
getaway," said the American calmly.

"How do you know?"

"I heard the Frogs jubilating as they passed down the street in custody,"
said Broad. "Frog Seven's disguise was perfect--he wore the uniform of a
policeman."

Elk swore softly but savagely.

"That was it!" he said. "He was the 'policeman' who was spiriting Hagn
away under the pretence of arresting him! And if one of my men had not
taken his prisoner from him they would both have escaped. Wait!"

He went in search of the detective who had brought in Hagn.

"I don't know the constable," said that officer. "This is a strange
division to me. He was a tallish man with a heavy black moustache. If it
was a disguise, it was perfect, sir."

Elk returned to report and question. But again Mr. Broad's explanation
was a simple one.

"I tell you that the Frogs were openly enjoying the joke. I heard one say
that the 'rozzer' got away--and another refers to the escaped man as a
'Hattie'--both, I believe, are cant terms for policemen?"

Elk nodded.

"What is your interest in the Frogs, Broad?" he asked bluntly. "Forget
for the minute that you're a parlour criminologist and imagine that
you're writin' the true story of your life."

Broad considered for a while, examining the cigar he had been smoking.

"The Frogs mean nothing to me--the Frog everything." The American puffed
a ring of smoke into the air and watched it dissolve.

"I'm mighty curious to know what game he is playing with Ray Bennett," he
said. "That is certainly the most intriguing feature of Frog strategy."

He rose and took up his hat.

"I envy you your search of this fine old mansion," he said, and, with a
twinkle in his eye: "Don't forget the kindergarten, Mr. Elk."

When he had gone, Elk made a close scrutiny of the house. He found two
children's books, both well-thumbed, and an elementary copybook, in which
a childish hand had followed, shakily, the excellent copperplate
examples. The abacus was gone, however. In the cupboard where he had seen
the unopened circulars, he made a discovery. It was a complete outfit, as
far as he could judge, for a boy of six or seven. Every article was
new--not one had been worn. Elk carried his find to where Dick was still
puzzling over some of the more obscure notes which "No. 7" had left in
his flight.

"What do you make of these?" he asked.

The Prosecutor turned over the articles one by one, then leant back in
his chair and stared into vacancy.

"All new," he said absently, and then a slow smile dawned on his face.

Elk, who saw nothing funny in the little bundle, wondered what was
amusing him.

"I think these clothes supply a very valuable clue; does this?" He passed
a paper across the table, and Elk read:

"All bulls hear on Wednesday 3.1.A. L.V.M.B. Important."

"There are twenty-five copies of that simple but moving message," said
Dick; "and as there are no envelopes for any of the instructions, I can
only suppose that they are despatched by Hagn either from the club or his
home. This is how far I have got in figuring the organization of the
Frogs. Frog Number One works through Seven,' who may or may not be aware
of his chief's identity. Hagn--whose number is thirteen, by the way, and
mighty unlucky it will be for him--is the executive chief of Number
Seven's bureau, and actually communicates with the section chiefs. He may
or may not know Seven '--probably he does. Seven takes orders from the
Frog, but may act without consultation if emergencies arise. There is
here," he tapped the paper, "an apology for employing Mills, which bears
this out."

"No handwriting?"

"None--nor finger-prints."

Elk took up one of the slips on which the messages were written, and held
it to the light.

"Watermark Three Lion Bond," he read. "Typewriter new, written by
somebody who was taught and has a weak little finger of the left
hand--the 'q' and 'a' are faint. That shows he's a touch typist--uses the
same finger every time. Self-taught typists seldom use their little
fingers. Especially the little finger of the left hand. I once caught a
bank thief through knowing this." He read the message again.

"All bulls hear on Wednesday...' Bulls are the big men, the bull frogs,
eh? Where do they hear? 3.1.A.? That certainly leaves me guessing,
Captain. Why, what do you think?"

Dick was regarding him oddly.

"It doesn't get me guessing," he said slowly. "At 3.1 a.m. on Wednesday
morning, I shall be listening in for the code signal L.V.M.B.--we are
going to hear that great Frog talk!"

"Will he talk about the durned treaty?" growled Elk.



CHAPTER XV - THE MORNING AFTER


Ray Bennett woke with a groan. His temples were splitting, his tongue was
parched and dry. When he tried to lift his aching head from the pillow he
groaned again, but with an effort of will succeeded in dragging himself
from the bed and staggering to the window. He pushed open a leaded
casement and looked out upon the green of Hyde Park, and all the time his
temples throbbed painfully.

Pouring a glass of water from a carafe, he drank greedily, and, sitting
down on the edge of the bed, his head between his hands, he tried to
think. Only dimly did he recall the events of the night before, but he
was conscious that something dreadful had happened. Slowly his mind
started to sort out his experiences, and with a sinking heart he
remembered he had struck his father! He shuddered at the recollection,
and then began a frantic mental search for justification. The vanity of
youth does not readily reject excuses for its own excesses, and Ray was
no exception. By the time he had had his bath and was in the first stages
of dressing, he had come to the conclusion that he had been very badly
treated. It was unpardonable in him to strike his father--he must write
to him expressing his sorrow and urging his condition as a reason for the
act. It would not be a crawling letter (he told himself) but something
dignified and a little distant. After all, these quarrels occurred in
every family. Parents were temporarily estranged from their children, and
were eventually reconciled. Some day he would go to his father a rich
man...

He pursed his lips uneasily. A rich man? He was well off now. He had an
expensive flat. Every week crisp new banknotes came by registered post.
He had the loan of a car--how long would this state of affairs continue?

He was no fool. Not perhaps as clever as he thought he was, but no fool.
Why should the Japanese or any other Government pay him for information
they could get from any handbook available to all and purchasable for a
few shillings at most booksellers?

He dismissed the thought--he had the gift of putting out of his mind
those matters which troubled him. Opening the door which led into his
dining-room, he stood stock-still, paralysed with astonishment.

Ella was sitting at the open window, her elbow on the ledge, her chin in
her hand. She looked pale, and there were heavy shadows under her eyes.

"Why, Ella, what on earth are you doing here?" he asked. "How did you get
in?"

"The porter opened the door with his pass-key when I told him I was your
sister," she said listlessly. "I came early this morning. Oh, Ray--aren't
you...aren't you ashamed?"

He scowled.

"Why should I be?" he asked loudly. "Father ought to have known better
than tackle me when I was lit up! Of course, it was an awful thing to do,
but I wasn't responsible for my actions at the time. What did he say?" he
asked uncomfortably.

"Nothing--he said nothing. I wish he had. Won't you go to Horsham and see
him, Ray?"

"No--let it blow over for a day or two," he said hastily. He most
assuredly had no anxiety to meet his father. "If...if he forgives me
he'll only want me to come back and chuck this life. He had no right to
make me look little before all those people. I suppose you've been to see
your friend Gordon?" he sneered.

"No," she said simply, "I have been nowhere but here. I came up by the
workmen's train. Would it be a dreadful sacrifice, Ray, to give up this?"

Be made an impatient gesture.

"It isn't--this, my dear Ella, if by 'this' you mean the flat. It is my
work that you and father want me to give up. I have to live up to my
position."

"What is your work?" she asked.

"You wouldn't understand," he said loftily, and her lips twitched.

"It would have to be very extraordinary if I could not understand it,"
she said. "Is it Secret Service work?"

Ray went red.

"I suppose Gordon has been talking to you," he complained bitterly. "If
that fellow sticks his nose into my affairs he is going to have it
pulled!"

"Why shouldn't he?" she asked.

This was a new tone in her, and one that made him stare at her. Ella had
always been the indulgent, approving, excusing sister. The buffer who
stood between him and his father's reproof.

"Why shouldn't he?" she repeated. "Mr. Gordon should know something of
Secret Service work--he himself is an officer of the law. You are either
working lawfully, in which case it doesn't matter what he knows, or
unlawfully, and the fact that he knows should make a difference to you."

He looked at her searchingly.

"Why are you so interested in Gordon--are you in love with him?" he
asked.

Her steady eyes did not waver, and only the faintest tinge of pink came
to the skin that sleeplessness had paled.

"That is the kind of question that a gentleman does not ask in such a
tone," she said quietly, "not even of his sister. Ray, you are coming
back to daddy, aren't you--to-day?"

He shook his head.

"No. I'm not. I'm going to write to him. I admit I did wrong. I shall
tell him so in my letter. I can't do more than that."

There came a discreet knock on the door.

"Come in," growled Ray. It was his servant, a man who came by the day.

"Will you see Miss Bassano and Mr. Brady, sir?" he asked in a hoarse
whisper, and glanced significantly at Ella.

"Of course he'll see me," said a voice outside. "Why all this
formality--oh, I see."

Lola Bassano's eyes fell upon the girl seated by the window.

"This is my sister--Ella, this is Miss Bassano and Mr. Brady."

Ella looked at the petite figure in the doorway, and, looking, could only
admire. It was the first time they had met face to face, and she thought
Lola was lovely.

"Glad to meet you, Miss Bennett. I suppose you've come up to roast this
brother of yours for his disgraceful conduct last night. Boy, you were
certainly mad! It _was_ your father, Miss Bennett?"

Ella nodded and heard with gratitude the sympathetic click of Lew Brady's
lips.

"If I'd been near you, Ray, I'd have beaten you. Too bad, Miss Bennett."

A strange coldness came suddenly to the girl--and a second before she had
glowed to their sympathy. It was the suspicion of their insincerity that
chilled her. Their kindness was just a little too glib and too ready.
Brady's just a little too overpowering.

"Do you like your brother's flat?" asked Lola, sitting down and
stretching her silk-covered legs to a patch of sunlight.

"It is very--handsome," said Ella. "He will find Horsham rather dull when
he comes back."

"Will he go back?" Lola flashed a smile at the youth as she asked the
question.

"Not much I won't," said Ray energetically. "I've been trying to make
Ella understand that my business is too important to leave."

Lola nodded, and now the antagonism which Ella in her charity was holding
back came with a rush.

"What is the business?" she asked.

He went on to give her a vague and cautious exposition of his work, and
she listened without comment.

"So if you think that I'm doing anything crooked, or have friends that
aren't as straight as you and father are, get the idea out of your head.
I'm not afraid of Gordon or Elk or any of that lot. Don't think I am. Nor
is Brady, nor Miss Bassano. Gordon is one of those cheap detectives who
has got his ideas out of books."

"That's perfectly true, Miss Bennett," said Lew virtuously. "Gordon is
just a bit too clever. He's got the idea that everybody but himself is
crook. Why, he sent Elk down to cross-examine your own father! Believe
me, I'm not scared of Gordon, or any--"

Tap...tap...tappity...tap.

The taps were on the door, slow, deliberate, unmistakable. The effect on
Lew Brady was remarkable. His big body seemed to shrink, his puffed face
grew suddenly hollow.

Tap...tap...tappity...tap.

The hand that went up to Brady's mouth was trembling. Ella looked from
the man to Lola, and she saw, to her amazement, that Lola had grown pale
under her rouge. Brady stumbled to the door, and the sound of his heavy
breathing sounded loud in the silence.

"Come in," he muttered, and flung the door wide open. It was Dick Gordon
who entered.

He looked from one to the other, laughter in his eyes.

"The old Frog tap seems to frighten some of you," he said pleasantly.



CHAPTER XVI - RAY LEARNS THE TRUTH


Lola was the quickest to recover.

"What do you mean...Frog tap? Got that Frog stuff roaming loose in your
head, haven't you?"

"It is a new accomplishment," said Dick with mock gravity. "A
thirty-third degree Frog taught me. It's the signal the old Grand Master
Frog gives when he enters the presence of his inferiors."

"Your thirty-third degree Frog is probably lying," said Lola, her colour
returning. "Anyway, Mills--"

"I never mentioned Mills," said Dick.

"I know it was he. His arrest was in the newspapers."

"It hasn't even appeared in the newspapers," said Dick, "unless it was
splashed in _The Frog Gazette_--probably on the personality page."

He inclined his head toward the girl. Ray, for the moment, he would have
ignored if the young man had not taken a step towards him.

"Do you want anything, Gordon?" he asked.

"I want a private talk with you, Bennett," said Dick.

"There's nothing you can't say before my friends," said Ray, his ready
temper rising.

"The only person I recognize by that title is your sister," replied
Gordon.

"Let's go, Lew," said Lola with a shrug, but Ray Bennett stopped them.

"Wait a minute! Is this my house, or isn't it?" he demanded furiously.
"You can clear out, Gordon! I've had just about as much of your
interference as I want. You push your way in here, you're offensive to my
friends--you practically tell them to get out--I like your nerve There's
the door--you can go."

"I'll go if you feel that way," said Dick, "but I want to warn you--"

"Pshaw I'm sick of your warnings."

"I want to warn you that the Frog has decided that you've got to earn
your money! That is all."

There was a dead silence, which Ella broke.

"The Frog?" she repeated, open-eyed. "But...but, Mr. Gordon, Ray
isn't...with the Frogs?"

"Perhaps it will be news to him--but he is," said Dick. "These two people
are faithful servants of the reptile," he pointed. "Lola is financed by
him--her husband is financed by him--"

"You're a liar!" screamed Ray. "Lola isn't married! You're a sneaking
liar--get out before I throw you out! You poor Frog-chaser--you think
everything that's green lives in a pond! Get out and stay out!"

It was Ella's appealing glance that made Dick Gordon walk to the door.
Turning, his cold gaze rested on Lew Brady.

"There is a big question-mark against your name in the Frog-book, Brady.
You watch out!"

Lew shrank under the blow, for blow it was, Had he dared, he would have
followed Gordon into the corridor and sought further information. But
here his moral courage failed him, and he stood, a pathetic figure,
looking wistfully at the door that the visitor had closed behind him.

"For God's sake let us get some air in the room!" snarled Ray, thrusting
open the windows. "That fellow is a pestilence Married Trying to get me
to believe that!"

Ella had taken up her handbag from the sideboard where she had placed it.

"Going, Ella?"

She nodded.

"Tell father...I'll write anyway. Talk to him, Ella, and show him where
he was wrong."

She held out her hand.

"Good-bye, Ray," she said. "Perhaps one day you will come back to us.
Please God this madness will end soon. Oh, Ray, it isn't true about the
Frogs, is it? You aren't with those people?"

His laugh reassured her for the moment.

"Of course I'm not--it's about as true as the yarn that Lola is married!
Gordon was trying to make a sensation; that's the worst of these
third-rate detectives, they live on sensation."

She nodded to Lola as he escorted her to the lift. Lew Brady watched her
with hungry eyes.

"What did he mean, Lola?" asked Brady as the door closed behind the two.
"That fellow knows something! There's a mark against my name in the Frog
book! That sounds bad to me. Lola, I'm finished with these Frogs! They're
getting on my nerves."

"You're a fool," she said calmly. "Gordon has got just the effect he
wanted--he has scared you!"

"Scared?" he answered savagely. "Nothing scares me. You're not scared
because you've no imagination. I'm...not scared, but worried, because I'm
beginning to see that the Frogs are bigger than I dreamt. They killed
that Scotsman Maclean the other day, and they're not going to think twice
about settling with me. I've talked to these Frogs, Lola--they'd do
anything from murder upwards. They look on the Frog as a god--he's a
religion with them! A question mark against my name! I believe it
too--I've talked flip about 'em, and they won't forgive that."

"Hush!" she warned him in a low voice as the door handle turned and Ray
came back.

"Phew!" he said. "Thank God she's gone What a morning!
Frogs--Frogs--Frogs! The poor fool!"

Lola opened a small jewelled case and took out a cigarette and lit it,
extinguishing the match with a snick of her fingers. Then she turned her
beautiful eyes upon Ray.

"What is the matter with the Frogs anyway?" she asked coolly. "They pay
well and they ask for little."

Ray gaped at her.

"You're not working for them, are you?" he asked astonished. "Why,
they're just low tramps who murder people!"

She shook her head.

"Not all of them," she corrected. "They are only the body--the big Frogs
are different. I am one and Lew is one."

"What the devil are you talking about?" demanded Lew, half in fear, half
in wrath.

"He ought to know--and he has got to know sooner or later," said Lola,
unperturbed. "He's too sensible a boy to imagine that the Japanese or any
other embassy is paying his overhead charges. He's a Frog."

Ray collapsed into a chair, incapable of speech.

"A Frog?" he repeated mechanically. "What...what do you mean?"

Lola laughed.

"I don't see that it is any worse being a Frog than an agent of another
country, selling your own country's secrets," she said. "Don't be silly,
Ray! You ought to be pleased and honoured. They chose you from thousands
because they wanted the right kind of intelligence..."

And so she flattered and soothed him, until his plastic mind, wax in her
hands, took another shape.

"I suppose it is all right," he said at last. "Of course, I wouldn't do
anything really bad, and I don't approve of all this clubbing, but, as
you say, the Frog can't be responsible for all that his people do. But on
one thing I'm firm, Lola! I'll have no tattooing!"

She laughed and extended her white arm.

"Am I marked?" she asked. "Is Lew marked? No; the big people aren't
marked at all. Boy, you've a great future."

Ray took her hand and fondled it.

"Lola...about that story that Gordon told...your being married: it isn't
true?"

She laughed again and patted the hand on hers.

"Gordon is jealous," she said. "I can't tell you why--now. But he has
good reasons." Suddenly her mood grew gay, and she slipped away. "Listen,
I'm going to 'phone for a table for lunch, and you will join us, and
we'll drink to the great little Frog who feeds us!"

"The telephone was on the sideboard, and as she lifted the receiver she
saw the square black metal box clamped to its base.

"Something new in 'phones, Ray?" she asked.

"They fixed it yesterday. It's a resistance. The man told me that
somebody who was talking into a 'phone during a thunderstorm had a bad
shock, so they're fitting these things as an experiment. It makes the
instrument heavier, and it's ugly, but--"

Slowly she put the receiver down and stooped to look at the attachment.

"It's a dictaphone," she said quietly. "And all the time we've been
talking somebody has been making a note of our conversation."

She walked to the fire-place, took up a poker and brought it down with a
crash on the little box...

Inspector Elk, with a pair of receivers clamped to his head, sat in a
tiny office on the Thames Embankment, and put down his pencil with a
sigh. Then he took up his telephone and called Headquarters Exchange.

"You can switch off that detectaphone to Knightsbridge 93718," he said.
"I don't think we shall want it any more.

"Did I put you through in time, sir?" asked the operator's voice. "They
had only just started talking when I called you."

"Plenty of time, Angus," said Elk, "plenty of time." He gathered up his
notes and went to his desk and placed them tidily by the side of his
blotting-pad.

Strolling to the window, he looked out upon the sunlit Aver, and there
was peace and comfort in his heart, for overnight the prisoner Mills had
decided to tell all he knew about the Frogs on the promise of a free
pardon and a passage to Canada. And Mills knew more than he had, as yet,
told.

"I can give you a line to Number 7 that will put him into your hands,"
his note had run.

Number Seven! Elk caught a long breath. No. 7 was the hub on which the
wheel turned.

He rubbed his hands cheerfully, for it seemed that the mystery of the
Frog was at last to be solved. Perhaps "the line" would lead to the
missing treaty--and at the thought of the lost document Elk's face
clouded. Two ministers, a great state department and innumerable
under-secretaries spent their time in writing frantic notes of inquiry to
headquarters concerning Lord Farmley's loss.

"They want miracles," said Elk, and wondered if the day would produce one.

He went to his overcoat pocket to find a cigar, aria his hand touched a
thick roll of papers. He pulled them out and threw them upon the desk,
and as he did so the first words on the first sheet caught his eye.

"_By the King's Most Excellent Majesty in Council--_"

Elk tried to yell, but his voice failed him, and then he snatched up the
paper from the desk and turned the leaves with trembling hands.

It was the lost treaty!

Elk held the precious document in his hand, and his mind went back
quickly over the night's adventures. When had he taken off his top-coat?
When had he last put his hand in his pocket? He had taken off the coat at
Heron's Club, and he could not remember having used the pockets since. It
was a light coat that he either carried or wore, summer or winter. He had
brought it to the office that morning on his arm.

At the club! Probably when he had parted with the garment to the
cloak-room attendant. Then the Frog must have been there. One of the
waiters probably--an admirable disguise for the chief of the gang. Elk
sat down to think.

To question anybody in the building would be futile. Nobody had touched
the coat but himself.

"Dear me!" said Elk, as he hung up the coat again. At the touch of his
Bell Balder came.

"Balder, do you remember seeing me pass your room?"

"Yes, sir."

"I had my coat on my arm, didn't I?"

"I never looked," said Balder with satisfaction.

He invariably gave Elk the impression that he derived a great deal of
satisfaction out of not being able to help.

"It's queer," said Elk.

"Anything wrong, sir?"

"No, not exactly. You understand what has to be done with Mills? He is to
see nobody. Immediately he arrives he is to be put into the
waiting-room--alone. There is to be no conversation of any kind, and, if
he speaks, he is not to be answered."

In the privacy of his office he inspected his find again.

Everything was there--the treaty and Lord Farmley's notes. Elk called up
his lordship and told the good news. Later came a small deputation from
the Foreign Office to collect the precious document, and to offer, in the
name of the Ministry, their thanks for his services in recovering the
lost papers. All of which Elk accepted graciously. He would have been
cursed with as great heartiness if he had failed, and would have been
equally innocent of responsibility.

He had arranged for Mills to be brought to Headquarters at noon. There
remained an hour to be filled, and he spent that hour unprofitably in a
rough interrogation of Hagn, who, stripped of his beard, occupied a
special cell segregated from the ordinary places of confinement in Cannon
Row Station--which is virtually Scotland Yard itself.

Hagn refused to make any statement--even when formally charged with the
murder of Inspector Genter. He did, however, make a comment on the charge
when Elk saw him this morning.

"You have no proof, Elk," he said, "and you know that I am innocent."

"You were the last man seen in Genter's company," said Elk sternly. "It
is established that you brought his body back to town. In addition to
which, Mills has spilt everything."

"I'm aware what Mills has said," remarked the other.

"You're not so aware either," suggested Elk. "And now I'll tell you
something: we've had Number Seven under lock and key since morning--now
laugh--"

To his amazement the man's face relaxed in a broad grin.

"Bluff!" he said. "And cheap bluff. It might deceive a poor little thief,
but it doesn't get past with me. If you'd caught 'Seven,' you wouldn't
be talking fresh to me. Go and find him, Elk" he mocked, "and when you
ye got him, hold him tight. Don't let him get away--as Mills will."

Elk returned from the interview feeling that it had not gone as well as
it might--but as he was leaving the station he beckoned the chief
inspector.

"I'm planting a pigeon on Hagn this afternoon. Put 'um together and leave
'um alone," he said.

The inspector nodded understandingly.



CHAPTER XVII - THE COMING OF MILLS


On the morning that Elk waited for the arrival of the informer, elaborate
precautions were being made to transfer the man to headquarters. All
night the prison had been surrounded by a cordon of armed guards, whilst
patrols had remained on duty in the yard where he was confined.

The captured Frog was a well-educated man who had fallen on evil times
and had been recruited when "on the road" through the agency of two
tramping members of the fraternity. From the first statement he made, it
appeared that he had acted as section leader, his duty being to pass on
instructions and "calls" to the rank and file, to report casualties and
to assist in the attacks which were made from time to time upon those
people who had earned the Frog's enmity. Apparently only section leaders
and trustees were given this type of work.

They brought him from his cell at eleven o'clock, and the man, despite
his assurance, was nervous and apprehensive. Moreover, he had a cold and
was coughing. This may have been a symptom of nerves also.

At eleven-fifteen the gates of the prison were opened, and three
motor-cyclists came out abreast. A closed car followed, the curtains
drawn. On either side of the car rode other armed men on motor-cycles,
and a second car, containing Central Office men, followed.

The cortege reached Scotland Yard without mishap; the gates at both ends
were closed, and the prisoner was rushed into the building.

Balder, Elk's clerk, and a detective sergeant, took charge of the man,
who was now white and shaking, and he was put into a small room adjoining
Elk's office, a room the windows of which were heavily barred (it had
been used for the safe holding of spies during the war). Two men were put
on duty outside the door, and the discontented Balder reported.

"We've put that fellow in the waiting-room, Mr. Elk."

"Did he say anything?" asked Dick, who had arrived for the interrogation.

"No, sir--except to ask if the window could be shut. I shut it-"

"Bring the prisoner," said Elk.

They waited a while, heard the clash of keys, and then an excited buzz of
talk. Then Balder rushed in.

"He's ill...fainted or something," he gasped, and Elk sprang past him,
along the corridor into the guard-room.

Mills half sat, half lay, against the wall. His eyes were closed, his
face was ashen.

Dick bent over the prisoner and laid him flat on the ground. Then he
stooped and smelt.

"Cyanide of potassium," he said. "The man is dead."

That morning Mills had been stripped to the skin and every article of
clothing searched thoroughly and well. As an additional precaution his
pockets had been sewn up. To the two detectives who accompanied him in
the car he had spoken hopefully of his forthcoming departure to Canada.
None but police officers had touched him, and he had had no communication
with any outsider.

The first thing that Dick Gordon noticed was the window, which Balder
said he had shut. It was open some six inches at the bottom.

"Yes, sir, I'm sure I shut it," said the clerk emphatically. "Sergeant
Jeller saw me."

The sergeant was also under that impression. Dick lifted the window
higher and looked out. Four horizontal bars traversed the brickwork, but,
by craning his head, he saw that, a foot away from the window and
attached to the wall was a long steel ladder running from the roof (as he
guessed) to the ground. The room was on the third floor, and beneath was
a patch of shrub-filled gardens. Beyond that, high railings.

"What are those gardens?" he asked, pointing to the space on the other
side of the railings.

"They belong to Onslow Gardens," said Elk.

"Onslow Gardens?" said Dick thoughtfully. "Wasn't it from Onslow Gardens
that the Frogs tried to shoot me?" Elk shook his head helplessly.

"What do you suggest, Captain Gordon?"

"I don't know what to suggest," admitted Dick. "It doesn't seem an
intelligent theory that somebody climbed the ladder and handed poison to
Mills--less acceptable, that he would be willing to take the dose. There
is the fact. Balder swears that the window was shut, and now the window
is open. You can trust Balder?"

Elk nodded.

The divisional surgeon came soon after, and, as Dick had expected,
pronounced life extinct, and supported the view that cyanide was the
cause.

"Cyanide has a peculiar odour," he said. "I don't think there's any doubt
at all that the man was killed, either by poison administered from
outside, or by poison taken voluntarily by himself."

After the body had been removed, Elk accompanied Dick Gordon to his
Whitehall office.

"I have never been frightened in my life," said Elk, "but these Frogs
are now on top of me! Here is a man killed practically under our eyes!
He was guarded, he was never let out of our sight, except for the few
minutes he was in that room, and yet the Frog can reach him--it's
frightening, Captain Gordon."

Dick unlocked the door of his office and ushered Elk into the cosy
interior.

"I know of no better cure for shaken nerves than a Cabana Cesare," he
said cheerfully. "And without desiring to indulge in a boastful gesture,
I can only tell you, Elk, that they don't frighten me, any more than they
frighten you. Frog is human, and has very human fears. Where is friend
Broad?"

"The American?"

Dick nodded, and Elk, without a second's hesitation, pulled the telephone
toward him and gave a number.

After a little delay, Broad's voice answered him.

"That you, Mr. Broad? What are you doing now?" asked Elk, in that
caressing tone he adopted for telephone conversation.

"Is that Elk? I'm just going out."

"Thought I saw you in Whitehall about five minutes ago," said Elk.

"Then you must have seen my double," replied the other, "for I haven't
been out of my bath ten minutes. Do you want me?"

"No, no," cooed Elk. "Just wanted to know you were all right."

"Why, is anything wrong?" came the sharp question.

"Everything's fine," said Elk untruthfully. "Perhaps you'll call round
and see me at my office one of these days--good-bye!"

He pushed the telephone back, and raising his eyes to the ceiling, made a
quick calculation.

"From Whitehall to Cavendish Square takes four minutes in a good car," he
said. "So his being in the flat means nothing."

He pulled the telephone toward him again, and this time called
Headquarters.

"I want a man to shadow Mr. Joshua Broad, of Caverley House; not to leave
him until eight o'clock to-night; to report to me."

When he had finished, he sat back in his chair and lit the long cigar
that Dick had pressed upon him.

"To-day is Tuesday," he ruminated, "to-morrow's Wednesday. Where do you
propose to listen in, Captain Gordon?"

"At the Admiralty," said Dick. "I have arranged with the First Lord to be
in the instrument room at a quarter to three."

He bought the early editions of the evening newspapers, and was relieved
to find that no reference had been made to the murder--as murder he
believed it to be. Once, in the course of the day, looking out from his
window on to Whitehall, he saw Elk walking along on the other side 01 the
road" his umbrella hanging on his arm, his ancient derby hat at the back
of his head, an untidy and unimposing figure. Then, an hour later, he saw
him again, coming from the opposite direction. He wondered what
particular business the detective was engaged in. He learnt, quite by
accident, that Elk had made two visits to the Admiralty that day, but he
did not discover the reason until they met later in the evening.

"Don't know much about wireless," said Elk, "though I'm not one of those
people who believe that, if God had intended us to use wireless,
telegraph poles would have been born without wires. But it seems to me
that I remember reading something about 'directional.' If you want to
know where a wireless message is coming from, you listen in at two or
three different points--"

"Of course! What a fool I am!" said Dick, annoyed with himself. "It never
occurred to me that we might pick up the broadcasting station."

"I get these ideas," explained Elk modestly. "The Admiralty have sent
messages to Milford Haven, Harwich, Portsmouth and Plymouth, telling
ships to listen in and give us the direction. The evening papers haven't
got that story."

"You mean about Mills? No, thank heaven! It is certain to come out at the
inquest, but I've arranged for that to be postponed for a week or two;
and somehow I feel that within the next few weeks things will happen."

"To us," said Elk ominously. "I dare not eat a grilled sausage since that
fellow was killed! And I'm partial to sausages."



CHAPTER XVIII - THE BROADCAST


His jaundiced clerk was, as usual, in a complaining mood. "Records have
been making a fuss and have been blaming me," he said bitterly. "Records
give themselves more airs than the whole darned office."

The war between Balder and "Records"--which was a short title for that
section of Headquarters which kept exact data of criminals' pasts,--was
of long standing. "Records" was aloof, detached, sublimely superior to
everything except tabulated facts. It was no respecter of persons; would
as soon snap at a Chief Commissioner who broke its inflexible rules, as
it would at the latest joined constable.

"What's the trouble?" asked Elk.

"You remember you had a lot of stuff out the other day about a man
called--I can't remember his name now."

"Lyme?" suggested Elk.

"That's the fellow. Well, it appears that one of the portraits is
missing. The morning after you were looking at them, I went to Records
and got the documents again for you, thinking you wanted to see them in
the morning. When you didn't turn up, I returned them, and now they say
the portrait and measurements are short."

"Do you mean to say they're lost?"

"If they're lost," said the morose Balder, "then Records have lost 'em! I
suppose they think I'm a Frog or somethin'. They're always accusing me of
mislaying their fingerprint cards."

"I've promised you a chance to make a big noise, Balder, and now I'm
going to give it to you. You've been passed over for promotion, son,
because the men upstairs think you were one of the leaders of the last
strike. I know that 'passed over' feeling--it turns you sour. Will you
take a big chance?"

Balder nodded, holding his breath.

"Hagn's in the special cell," said Elk. "Change into your civilian kit,
roughen yourself up a bit, and I'll put you in with him. If you're scared
I'll let you carry a guru and fix it so that you won't be searched. Get
Hagn to talk. Tell him that you were pulled in over the Dundee murder, He
won't know you. Get that story, Balder, and I'll have the stripes on your
arm in a week."

Balder nodded. The querulous character of his voice had changed when he
spoke again.

"It's a chance," he said; "and thank you, Mr. Elk, for giving it to me."

An hour later, a detective brought a grimy looking prisoner into Cannon
Row and pushed him into the steel pen, and the only man who recognized
the prisoner was the chief inspector who had waited for the arrival of
the pigeon.

It was that high official himself who conducted Balder to the separate
cell and pushed him in.

"Good night, Frog!" he said.

Balder's reply was unprintable.

After seeing his subordinate safely caged, Elk went back to his room,
locked the door, cut off his telephone and lay down to snatch a few
hours' sleep. It was a practice of his, when he was engaged in any work
which kept him up at night, to take these intermediate siestas, and he
had trained himself to sleep as and when the opportunity presented
itself. It was unusual in him, however, to avail himself of the' office
sofa, a piece of furniture to which he was not entitled, and which, as
his superiors had often pointed out, occupied space which might better be
employed.

For once, however, he could not sleep. His mind ranged from Balder to
Dick Gordon, from Lola Bassano to the dead man Mills. His own position
had been seriously jeopardized, but that worried him not at all. He was a
bachelor, had a snug sum invested. His mind went to the puzzling
Maitland. His association with the Frogs had been proved almost up to the
hilt. And Maitland was in a position to benefit by these many
inexplicable attacks which had been made upon seemingly inoffensive
people.

The old man lived a double life. By day the business martinet, before
whom his staff trembled, the cutter of salaries, the shrewd manipulator
of properties; by night the associate of thieves and worse than thieves.
Who was the child? That was another snag.

"Nothing but snags!" growled Elk, his hands under his head, looking
resentfully at the ceiling. "Nothing but snags."

Finding he could not sleep, he got up and went across to Cannon Row. The
gaoler told him that the new prisoner had been talking a lot to Hagn, and
Elk grinned. He only hoped that the "new prisoner" would not be tempted
to discuss his grievances against the police administration.

At a quarter to three he joined Dick Gordon in the instrument room at the
Admiralty. An operator had been placed at their disposal; and after the
preliminary instructions they took their place at the table where he
manipulated his keys. Dick listened, fascinated, hearing the calls of
far-off ships and the chatter of transmitting stations. Once he heard a
faint squeak of sound, so faint that he wasn't sure that he had not been
mistaken.

"Cape Race," said the operator. "You'll hear Chicago in a minute. He
usually gets talkative round about now."

As the hands of the clock approached three, the operator began varying
his wave lengths, reaching out into the ether for the message which was
coming. Exactly at one minute after three he said suddenly:

"There is your L.V.M.B."

Dick listened to the staccato sounds, and then:

_"All Frogs listen. Mills is dead. Number Seven finished him this
morning. Number Seven receives a bonus of a hundred pounds."_

The voice was clear and singularly sweet. It was a woman's.

_"Twenty-third district will arrange to receive Number Seven's
instructions at the usual place."_

Dick's heart was beating thunderously. He recognized the speaker, knew
the soft cadences, the gentle intonations.

There could he no doubt at all: it was Ella Bennett's voice! Dick felt a
sudden sensation of sickness, but, looking across the table and seeing
Elk's eyes fixed upon him, he made an effort to control his emotions.

"There doesn't seem to be any more coming through," said the operator
after a few minutes' wait.

Dick took off the headpiece and rose.

"We must wait for the direction signals to come through," he said as
steadily as he could.

Presently they began to arrive, and were worked out by a naval officer on
a large scale map.

"The broadcasting station is in London," he said. "All the lines meet
somewhere in the West End, I should imagine; possibly in the very heart
of town. Did you find any difficulty in picking up the Frog call?" he
asked the operator.

"Yes, sir," said the man. "I think they were sending from very close at
hand."

"In what part of town would you say it would be?" asked Elk.

The officer indicated a pencil mark that he had ruled across the page.

"It is somewhere on this mark," he said, and Elk, peering over, saw that
the line passed through Cavendish Square and Cavendish Place and that,
whilst the Portsmouth line missed Cavendish Place only by a block, the
Harwich line crossed the Plymouth line a little to the south of the
square.

"Caverley House, obviously," said Dick.

He wanted to get out in the open, he wanted to talk, to discuss this
monstrous thing with Elk. Had the detective also recognized the voice, he
wondered? Any doubt he had on that point was set at rest. He had hardly
reached Whitehall before Elk said:

"Sounded very like a friend of ours, Captain Gordon?" Dick made no reply.

"Very like," said Elk as if he were speaking half to himself. "In fact,
I'll take any number of oaths that I know the young lady who was talking
for old man Frog.

"Why should she do it?" groaned Dick. "Why, for the love of heaven,
should she do it?"

"I remember years ago hearing her," said Elk reminiscently.

Dick Gordon stopped, and, turning, glared at the other.

"You remember...what do you mean?" he demanded.

"She was on the stage at the time--quite a kid," continued Elk. "They
called her 'The Child Mimic.' There's another thing I've noticed,
Captain: if you take a magnifying glass and look at your skin, you see
its defects, don't you? That wireless telephone acts as a sort of
magnifying glass to the voice. She always had a little lisp that I jumped
at straight away. You may not have noticed it, but I've got pretty sharp
ears. She can't pronounce her 'S's' properly, there's a sort of faint
'th' sound in 'um. You heard that?"

Dick had heard, and nodded.

"I never knew that she was ever on the stage," he said more calmly. "You
are sure, Elk?"

"Sure. In some things I'm...what's the word?--infall-i-able. I'm a bit
shaky on dates, such as when Henry the First an' all that bunch got
born--I never was struck on birthdays anyway--but I know voices an'
noses. Never forget 'um."

They were turning into the dark entrance of Scotland Yard when Dick said
in a tone of despair:

"It was her voice, of course. I had no idea she had been on the stage--is
her father in this business?"

"She hasn't a father so far as I know," was the staggering reply, and
again Gordon halted.

"Are you mad?" he asked. "Ella Bennett has a father--"

"I'm not talking about Ella Bennett," said the calm Elk. "I'm talking
about Lola Bassano."

There was a silence.

"Was it her voice?" asked Gordon a little breathlessly.

"Sure it was Lola. It was a pretty good imitation of Miss Bennett, but
any mimic will tell you that these soft voices are easy. It's the pace of
a voice that makes it--"

"You villain!" said Dick Gordon, as a weight rolled from his heart. "You
knew I meant Ella Bennett when I was talking, and you strung me alone!"

"Blame me," said Elk. "What's the time?"

It was half-past three. He gathered his reserves, and ten minutes later
the police cars dropped a party at the closed door of Caverley House. The
bell brought the night porter, who recognized Elk.

"More gas trouble?" he asked.

"Want to see the house plan," said Elk, and listened as the porter
detailed the names, occupations and peculiarities of the tenants.

"Who owns this block?" asked the detective.

"This is one of Maitland's properties--Maitlands Consolidated. He's got
the Prince of Caux's house in Berkeley Square and--"

"Don't worry about giving me his family history. What time did Miss
Bassano come in?"

"She's been in all the evening--since eleven."

"Anybody with her?"

The man hesitated.

"Mr. Maitland came in with her, but he went soon after."

"Nobody else?"

"Nobody except Mr. Maitland."

"Give me your master-key."

The porter demurred.

"I'll lose my job," he pleaded. "Can't you knock?"

"Knocking is my speciality--I don't pass a day without knocking
somebody," replied Elk, "but I want that key."

He did not doubt that Lola would have bolted her door, and his surmise
proved sound. He had both to knock and ring before the light showed
behind the transom, and Lola in a kimono and boudoir cap appeared.

"What is the meaning of this, Mr. Elk?" she demanded. She did not even
attempt to appear surprised.

"A friendly call--can I come in?"

She opened the door wider, and Elk went in, followed by Gordon and two
detectives. Dick she ignored.

"I'm seeing the Commissioner to-morrow," she said, "and if he doesn't
give me satisfaction I'll get on to the newspapers. This persecution is
disgraceful. To break into a single girl's flat in the middle of the
night, when she is alone and unprotected--"

"If there is any time when a single girl should be alone and unprotected,
it is in the middle of the night," said Elk primly. "I'm just going to
have a look at your little home, Lola. We've got information that you've
been burgled, Lola. Perhaps at this very minute there's a sinister man
hidden under your bed. The idea of leaving you alone, so to speak, at the
mercy of unlawful characters, is repugnant to our feelin's. Try the
dining-room, Williams; I'll search the parlour--_and_ the bedroom."

"You'll keep out of my room if you've any sense of decency," said the
girl.

"I haven't," admitted Elk, "no false sense, anyway. Besides, Lola, I'm a
family man. One of ten. And when there's anything I shouldn't see, just
say 'Shut your eyes' and I'll shut 'um."

To all appearances there was nothing that looked in the slightest degree
suspicious. A bathroom led from the bedroom, and the bathroom window was
open. Flashing his lamp along the wall outside, Elk saw a small glass
spool attached to the wall.

"Looks to me like an insulator," he said.

Returning to the bedroom, he began to search for the instrument. There
was a tall mahogany wardrobe against one of the walls. Opening the door,
he saw row upon row of dresses and thrust in his hand.

It was the shallowest wardrobe he had ever seen, and the backing was warm
to the touch.

"Hot cupboard, Lola?" he asked.

She did not reply, but stood watching him, a scowl on her pretty face,
her arms folded.

Elk closed the door and his sensitive fingers searched the surface for a
spring. It took him a long time to discover it, but at last he found a
slip of wood that yielded to the pressure of his hand.

There was a "click" and the front of the wardrobe began to fall.

"A wardrobe bed, eh? Grand little things for a flat."

But it was no sleeping-place that was revealed (and he would have been
disappointed if it had been) as he eased down the "bed." Set on a frame
were row upon row of valve lamps, transformers--all the apparatus
requisite for broadcasting.

Elk looked, and, looking, admired.

"You've got a licence, I suppose?" asked Elk. He supposed nothing of the
kind, for licences to transmit are jealously issued in England. He was
surprised when she went to a bureau and produced the document. Elk read
and nodded.

"You've got _some_ pull," he said with respect. "Now I'll see your Frog
licence."

"Don't get funny, Elk," she said tartly. "I'd like to know whether you're
in the habit of waking people to ask for their permits."

"You've been using this to-night to broadcast the Frogs," Elk nodded
accusingly; "and perhaps you'll explain to Captain Gordon why?"

She turned to Dick for the first time.

"I've not used the instrument for weeks," she said. "But the sister of a
friend of mine--perhaps you know her--asked if she might use it. She left
here an hour ago."

"You mean Miss Bennett, of course," said Gordon, and she raised her
eyebrows in simulated astonishment.

"Why, how did you guess that?"

"I guessed it," said Elk, "the moment I heard you giving one of your
famous imitations. I guessed she was around, teaching you how to talk
like her. Lola, you're cooked! Miss Bennett was standing right alongside
me when you started talking Frog-language. She was right at my very side,
and she said 'Now, Mr. Elk, isn't she the artfullest thing!' You're
cooked, Lola, and you can't do better than sit right down and tell us the
truth. I'll make it right for you. We caught 'Seven' last night and
he's told us everything. Frog will be in irons to-day, and I came here to
give you the last final chance of getting out of all your trouble."

"Isn't that wonderful of you?" she mocked him. "So you've caught 'Seven'
and you're catching the Frog! Put a pinch of salt on his tail!"

"Yes," said the imperturbable Elk, untruthfully, "we caught Seven and
Hagn's split. But I like you, Lol--always did. There's something about
you that reminds me of a girl I used to be crazy about--I never married
her; it was a tragedy.

"Not for her," said Lola. "Now I'll tell you something, Elk! You haven't
caught anybody and you won't. You've put a flat-footed stool pigeon named
Balder into the same cell as Hagn, with the idea of getting information,
and you're going to have a jar."

In other circumstances Dick Gordon would have been amused by the effect
of this revelation upon Elk. The jaw of the unhappy detective dropped as
he glared helplessly over his glasses at the girl, smiling her triumph.
Then the smile vanished.

"Hagn wouldn't talk, because Frog could reach him, as he reached Mills
and Litnov. As he will reach you when he decides you're worth while. And
now you can take me if you want. I'm a Frog--I never pretend I'm not. You
heard all the tale that I told Ray Bennett--heard it over the
detectaphone you planted. Take me and charge me!"

Elk knew that there was no charge upon which he could hold her. And she
knew that he knew.

"Do you think you'll get away with it, Bassano?"

It was Gordon who spoke, and she turned her wrathful eyes upon him.

"I've got a Miss to my name, Gordon," she rapped at him.

"Sooner or later you'll have a number," said Dick calmly. "You and your
crowd are having the time of your young lives--perhaps because I'm
incompetent, or because I'm unfortunate. But some day we shall get you,
either I or my successor. You can't fight the law and win because the law
is everlasting and constant."

"A search of my flat I don't mind--but a sermon I will not have," she
said contemptuously. "And now, if you men have finished, I should like to
get a little beauty sleep."

"That is the one thing you don't require," said the gallant Elk, and she
laughed.

"You're not a bad man, Elk," she said. "You're a bad detective, but
you've a heart of gold."

"If I had, I shouldn't trust myself alone with you," was Elk's parting
shot.



CHAPTER XIX - IN ELSHAM WOOD


Dick Gordon, in the sudden lightening of his heart which had come to him
when he realized that his horrible fears were without foundation, was
inclined to regard the night as having been well spent. This was not
Elk's view. He was genuinely grave as they drove back to headquarters.

"I'm frightened of these Frogs, and I admit it," he confessed. "There's a
bad leakage somewhere--how should she know that I put Balder in with
Hagn? That has staggered me. Nobody but two men, in addition to
ourselves, is in the secret; and if the Frogs are capable of getting that
kind of news, it is any odds on Hagn knowing that he is being drawn. They
frighten me, I tell you, Captain Gordon. If they only knew a little, and
hadn't got that quite right, I should be worried. But they know
everything!"

Dick nodded.

"The whole trouble, Elk, is that the Frogs are not an illegal
association. It may be necessary to ask the Prime Minister to proclaim
the society."

"Perhaps he's a Frog too," said Elk gloomily. "Don't laugh, Captain
Gordon! There are big people behind these Frogs. I'm beginning to suspect
everybody."

"Start by suspecting me," said Gordon good-humouredly.

"I have," was the frank reply. "Then it occurred to me that possibly I
walk in my sleep--I used to as a boy. Likely I lead a double life, and I
am a detective by day and a Frog by night--you never know. It is clear
that there is a genius at the back of the Frogs," he went on, with
unconscious immodesty.

"Lola Bassano?" suggested Dick.

"I've thought of her, but she's no organizer. She had a company on the
road when she was nineteen, and it died the death from bad organization.
I suppose you think that that doesn't mean she couldn't run the
Frogs--but it does. You want exactly the same type of intelligence to
control the Frogs as you want to control a bank. Maitland is the man. I
narrowed the circle down to him after I had a talk with Johnson. Johnson
says he's never seen the old man's pass-book, and although he is his
private secretary, knows nothing whatever of his business transactions
except that he buys property and sells it. The money old Maitland makes
on the side never appears in the books, and Johnson was a very surprised
man when I suggested that Maitland transacted any business at all outside
the general routine of the company. And it's not a company at all--not an
incorporated company. It's a one man show. Would you like to make sure,
Captain Gordon?"

"Sure of what?" asked Dick, startled.

"That Miss Bennett isn't in this at all."

"You don't think for one moment she is?" asked Dick, aghast at the
thought.

"I'm prepared to believe anything," said Elk. "We've got a clear road; we
could be at Horsham in an hour, and it is our business to make sure. In
my mind I'm perfectly satisfied that it was not Miss Bennett's voice. But
when we come down to writing out reports for the people upstairs to read,
('the people upstairs,' was Elk's invariable symbol for his superiors),
we are going to look silly if we say that we heard Miss Bennett's voice
and didn't trouble to find out where Miss Bennett was."

"That is true," said Dick thoughtfully, and, leaning out to the driver,
Elk gave new directions.

The grey of dawn was in the sky as the car ran through the deserted
streets of Horsham and began the steady climb toward Maytree Cottage,
which lay on the slope of the Shoreham Road.

The cottage showed no signs of life. The blinds were drawn; there was no
light of any kind. Dick hesitated, with his hand on the gate.

"I don't like waking these people," he confessed. "Old Bennett will
probably think that I've brought some bad news about his son."

"I have no conscience," said Elk, and walked up the brick path.

But John Bennett required no waking. Elk was hailed from one of the
windows above, and, looking up, saw the mystery man leaning with his
elbows on the window-sill.

"What's the trouble, Elk?" he asked in a low voice, as though he did not
wish to awaken his daughter.

"No trouble at all," said Elk cheerfully. "We picked up a wireless
telephone message in the night, and Fin under the impression that it was
your daughter's voice I heard."

John Bennett frowned, and Dick saw that he doubted the truth of this
explanation.

"It is perfectly true, Mr. Bennett," he said. "I heard the voice too. We
were listening in for a rather important message, and we heard Miss
Bennett in circumstances whirl, make it necessary for us to assure
ourselves that it was not she who was speaking."

The cloud passed from John Bennett's face.

"That's a queer sort of story, Captain Gordon, but I believe you. I'll
come down and let you in."

Wearing an old dressing-gown, he opened the door and ushered them into
the darkened sitting-room.

"I'll call Ella, and perhaps she'll be able to satisfy you hat she was in
bed at ten o'clock last night."

He went out of the room, after drawing the curtains to let in the light,
and Dick waited with a certain amount of pleasurable anticipation. He had
been only too glad of the excuse to come to Horsham, if the truth be
told. This girl had so gripped his heart that the days between their
meetings seemed like eternity. They heard the feet of Bennett on the
stairs, and presently the old man came in, and distress was written
largely on his face.

"I can't understand it," he said. "Ella is not in her room! The bed has
been slept in, but she has evidently dressed and gone out."

Elk scratched his chin, avoiding Dick's eyes.

"A lot of young people like getting up early," he said. "When I was a
young man, nothing gave me greater pleasure than to see the sun
rise--before I went to bed. Is she in the habit of taking a morning
stroll?"

John Bennett shook his head.

"I've never known her to do that before. It's curious I did not hear her,
because I slept very badly last night. Will you excuse me, gentlemen?"

He went upstairs and came down in a few minutes, dressed. Together they
passed out into the garden It was now quite light, though the sun had not
yet tipped the horizon. John Bennett made a brief but fruitless search of
the ground behind the cottage, and came hack to them with a confession of
failure. He was no more troubled than Dick Gordon. It was impossible that
it could have been she, that Elk was mistaken. Yet Lola had been
emphatic. Against that, the hall-porter at Caverley House had been
equally certain that the only visitor to Lola's flat that night was the
aged Mr. Maitland; and so far as he knew, or Elk had been able to
discover, there was no other entrance into the building.

"I see you have a car here. You came down by road. Did you pass anybody?"

Dick shook his head.

"Do you mind if we take the car in the opposite direction toward
Shoreham?"

"I was going to suggest that," said Gordon, "Isn't it rather dangerous
for her, walking at this hour? The roads are thronged with tramps."

The older man made no reply. He sat with the driver, his eyes fixed
anxiously upon the road ahead. The car went ten miles at express speed,
then turned, and began a search of the side roads. Nearing the cottage
again, Dick pointed.

"'What is that wood?" he asked pointing to a dense wood to which a narrow
road led.

"That is Elsham Wood; she wouldn't go there," he hesitated.

"Let us try it," said Dick, and the bonnet of the car was turned on to a
narrow road. In a few minutes they were running through a glade of high
trees, the entwining tops of which made the road a place of gloom.

"There are car tracks here," said Dick suddenly, but John Bennett shook
his head.

"People come here for picnics," he said, but Dick was not satisfied.

These marks were new, and presently he saw them turn off the road to a
'ride' between the trees. He caught no glimpse of a car, however. The
direction of the tracks supported the old man's theory. The road ended a
mile farther along, and beyond that was a waste of bracken and tree
stumps, for the wood had been extensively thinned during the war.

With some difficulty the car was turned and headed back again. They carne
through the glade into the open, and then Dick uttered a cry.

John Bennett had already seen the girl. She was walking quickly in the
centre of the road, and stepped on to the grassy border without looking
round as the car came abreast of her. Then, looking up, she saw her
father, and went pale.

He was in the road in a moment.

"My dear," he said reproachfully, "where have you been at this hour?"

She looked frightened, Dick thought. The eyes of Elk narrowed as he
surveyed her.

"I couldn't sleep, so I dressed and went out, father," she said, and
nodded to Dick. "You're a surprising person, Captain Gordon. Why are you
here at this hour?"

"I carne to interview you," said Dick, forcing a smile.

"Me!" She was genuinely astonished. "Why me?"

"Captain Gordon heard your voice on a wireless telephone in the middle of
the night, and wanted to know ail about it," said her father.

If he was relieved, he was also troubled. Looking at him, Elk suddenly
saw the relief intensified, and with his quick intuition guessed the
cause before John Bennett put the question.

"Was it Ray?" he asked eagerly. "Did he come down?"

She shook her head.

"No, father," she said quietly. "And as to the wireless telephone, I have
never spoken into a wireless telephone, and I don't think I've ever seen
one," she said.

"Of course you haven't," said Dick. "Only we were rather worried when we
heard your voice, but Mr. Elk's explanation, that it was somebody
speaking whose voice was very mulch like yours, is obviously correct."

"Tell me this, Miss Bennett," said Elk quietly. "Were you in town last
night?"

She did not reply.

"My daughter went to bed at ten," said John Bennett roughly. "What is the
sense of asking her whether she was in London last night?"

"Were you in town in the early hours of this morning. Miss Bennett?"
persisted Elk, and to Dick's amazement she nodded.

"Were you at Caverley House?"

"No," she answered instantly.

"But, Ella, what were you doing in town?" asked John Bennett. "Did you go
to see that wretched brother of yours?"

Again the hesitation, and then:

"No."

"Did you go by yourself?"

"No," said Ella, and her lip trembled. "I wish you wouldn't ask me any
further questions. I'm not a free agent in the matter. Daddy, you've
always trusted me: you'll trust me now, won't you?"

He took her hand and held it in both of his.

"I'll trust you always, girlie," he said; "and these gentlemen must do
the same."

Her challenging eyes met Dick's, and he nodded.

"I am one who will share that trust," he said, and something in her look
rewarded him.

Elk rubbed his chin fiercely.

"Being naturally of a trusting nature, I should no more think of doubting
your word, Miss Bennett, than I should of believing myself." He looked at
his watch. "I think we'll go along and fetch poor old Balder from the
house of sin," he said.

"You'll stop and have some breakfast?"

Dick looked pleadingly at Elk, and the detective, with an air of
resignation, agreed.

"Anyway, Balder won't mind an hour more or less," he said. Whilst Ella
was preparing the breakfast, Dick and Elk paced the road outside.

"Well, what do you think of it, Captain?"

"I don't understand, but I have every confidence that Miss Bennett has
not lied," said Dick.

"Faith is a wonderful thing," murmured Elk, and Dick turned on him
sharply.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean what I say. I have got faith in Miss Bennett," he said
soothingly; "and, after all, she's only another little hit of the jigsaw
puzzle that will fall into place when we fix the piece that's shaped like
a Frog. And John Bennett's another." he said after a moment's thought.

From where they stood they could see, looking toward Shoreham, the
opening of the narrow Elsham Wood road.

"The thing that puzzles me," Elk was saying, "is why she should go into
that wood in the middle of the night--" He stopped, lowering his head.
There came to them the soft purr of a motor-car. "Where is that?" he
asked.

The question was answered instantly. Slowly there came into view from the
wood road the bonnet of a car, followed immediately by the remainder of a
large limousine, which turned toward them, gathering speed as it came. A
moment later it flashed past them, and they saw the solitary occupant.

"Well, I'm damned!" said Elk, who very infrequently indulged in
profanity, but Dick felt that on this occasion at least he was justified.
For the man in the limousine was the bearded Ezra Maitland; and he knew
that it was to see Maitland that the girl had gone to Elsham Wood.



CHAPTER XX - HAGN


A minute later Ella came to the door to call them. "Was that a car went
past?" she asked, and they detected a note of anxiety in her tone.

"Yes," said Elk, "it was a big car. Didn't sec who was in it, but it was
a big car."

Dick heard her sigh of relief.

"Will you come in, please?" she said. "Breakfast is waiting for you."

They left half an hour later, and each man was so busy with his own
thoughts that Dick did not speak until they were passing the villas where
the body of Genter had been found. It was near Horsham that Genter was
killed, the remembered with a little shudder. Outside of Horsham he
himself had seen the dead man's feet extended beyond the back of a
motor-van. Hagn should die for that; whether he was Frog or not, he was
party to that murder. As if reading his thoughts, Elk turned to him and
said:

"DO you think your evidence is strong enough to hang Hagn?"

"I was wondering," said Dick. "There is no supporting evidence,
unfortunately, but the car which you have under lock and key, and the
fact that the garage keeper may be able to identify him."

"With his beard?" asked Elk significantly. "There is going to be some
difficulty in securing a conviction against this frog, believe me,
Captain Gordon. And unless old Balder induces him to make a statement, we
shall have all the difficulty in the world in convincing a jury.
Personally," he added, "if I was condemned to spend a night with Balder,
I should tell the truth, if it was only to get rid of him. He's a pretty
clever fellow, is Balder. People don't realize that--he has the makings
of a first-class detective, if we could only get him to take a happier
view of life."

He directed the driver to go straight to the door of Cannon Row.

Dick's mind was on another matter.

"What did she want with Maitland?" he asked. Elk shook his head.

"I don't know," he confessed. "Of course, she might have been persuading
him to take back her brother, but old Maitland isn't the kind of
adventurer who'd get up in the middle of the night to discuss giving Ray
Bennett his job back. If he was a younger man, yes. But he's not young.
He's darned old. And he's a wicked old man, who doesn't care two cents
whether Ray Bennett is working at his desk for so much per, or whether
he's breaking stones on Dartmoor. I tell you, that's one of the minor
mysteries which will be cleared up when we get the Frog piece in its
place."

The car stopped at the entrance of Cannon Row police station, and the men
jumped down. The desk sergeant stood up as they came in, and eyed them
wonderingly.

"I'm going to take Balder out, sergeant."

"Balder?" said the man in surprise. "I didn't know Balder was in."

"I put him in with Hagn."

A light dawned upon the station official.

"That's queer. I didn't know it was Balder," he said. "I wasn't on duty
when he came in, but the other sergeant told me that a man had been put
in with Hagn. Here is the gaoler."

That official came in at that moment, and was as astonished as the
sergeant to learn the identity of the second prisoner.

"I had no idea it was Balder, sir," he said. "That accounts for the long
talk they had--they were talking up till one o'clock."

"Are they still talking?" asked Elk.

"No, sir, they're sleeping now. I had a look at them a little time
ago--you remember you gave me orders to leave them alone and not to go
near them."

Dick Gordon and his subordinate followed the gaoler down a long passage
faced with glazed brick, the wall of which was studded at intervals by
narrow black doors. Reaching the end of the corridor, they turned at
right angles. The second passage had only one door, and that was at the
end. Snapping back the lock, the gaoler threw open the door, and Elk went
in.

Elk went to the first of the figures and pulled aside the blanket which
covered the face. Then, with an oath, he drew the blanket clear.

It was Balder, and he was lying on his back, covered from head to foot
with a blanket. A silk scarf was twisted round his mouth; his wrists were
not only handcuffed but strapped, as were his legs.

Elk dashed at the second figure, but as he touched the blanket, it sank
under his hands. A folded coat, to give resemblance to a human figure, a
lair of battered shoes, placed artificially at the end of the
blanket--these were all. Hagn had disappeared!

When they got the man into Elk's office, and had given him brandy, and
Elk, by sheer bullying, had reduced him to coherence, Balder told his
story.

"I think it was round about two o'clock when it happened," he said. "I'd
been talking all the evening to this Hagn, though it was very clear to
me, with my experience, that he spotted me the moment I came in, as a
police officer, and was kidding me along all the evening. Still, I
persevered, Mr. Elk. I'm the sort o man that never says die. That's the
peculiar thing about me--"

"The peculiar thing about you," said Elk wearily, "is your passionate
admiration of Balder. Get on!"

"Anyway, I did try," said Balder in an injured voice; "and I thought I'd
got over his suspicion, because he began talking about Frogs, and telling
me that there was going to be a wireless call to all the heads
to-night--that is, last night. He told me that Number Seven would never
be captured, because he was too clever. He asked me how Mills had been
killed, but I'm perfectly sure, the way he put the question, that he
knew. We didn't talk very much after one, and at a quarter past one I lay
down, and I must have gone to sleep almost at once. The first thing I
knew was that they were putting a gag in my mouth. I tried to struggle,
but they held me--"

"They?" said Elk. "How many were there?"

"There may have been two or three--I'm not certain," said Balder. "If it
had been only two, I think I could have managed, for I am naturally
strong. There must have been more. I only saw two besides Hagn."

"Was the cell door open?"

"Yes, sir, it was ajar," said Balder after he had considered a moment.

"What did they look like?"

"They were wearing long black overcoats, but they made no attempt to hide
their faces. I should know them anywhere. They were young men--at least,
one was. What happened after that I don't know. They put a strap round my
legs, pulled the blanket over me, and that's all I saw or heard until the
cell door closed. I have been lying there all night, sir, thinking of my
wife and children..."

Elk cut him short, and, leaving the man in charge of another police
clerk, he went across to make a more careful examination of the cell. The
two passages were shaped like a capital L, the special cell being at the
end of the shorter branch. At the elbow was a barred door leading into
the courtyard, where men waiting trial were loaded into the prison van
and distributed to various places of detention. The warder sat at the top
of the L, in a small glass-panelled cubby-hole, where the cell indicators
were. Each cell was equipped with a bell-push in case of illness, and the
signals showed in this tiny office. From where he sat, the warder
commanded, not only a view of the passage, but a side view of the door.
Questioned, he admitted that he had been twice into the charge room for a
few minutes at a time; once when a man arrested for drunkenness had
demanded to see a doctor, and another time, about half-past two in the
morning, to take over a burglar who had been captured in the course of
the night.

"And, of course, it was during that time that the men got away," said Elk.

The door into the courtyard was locked but not bolted. It could be opened
from either side. The cell door could also open from both sides. In this
respect it differed from every other cell in the station; but the
explanation was that it was frequently used for important prisoners, whom
it was necessary to subject to lengthy interrogations; and the lock had
been chosen to give the police officers who were inside an opportunity of
leaving the cell when they desired, without calling for the gaoler. The
lock had not been picked, neither had the lock of the yard door.

Elk sent immediately for the policemen who were on duty at either
entrance of Scotland Yard. The officer who was on guard at the Embankment
entrance had seen nobody. The Irian at the Whitehall opening remembered
seeing an inspector of police pass out at half-past two. He was perfectly
sure the officer was an inspector, because he wore the hanging
sword-belt, and the policeman had seen the star on his shoulder and had
saluted him--a salute which the officer had returned.

"This may or may not be one of them," said Elk. "If it is, what happened
to the other two?"

But here evidence failed. The men had disappeared as though they had
dissipated into air.

"We're going to get a roasting for this, Captain Gordon," said Elk; "and
if we escape without being scorched, we're lucky. Fortunately, nobody but
ourselves knows that Hagn has been arrested; and when I say 'ourselves,'
I wish I meant it! You had better go home and go to bed; I had some sleep
in the night. If you'll wait while I send this bleating clerk of mine
home to his well-advertised wife and family, I'll walk home with you."

Dick was waiting on the edge of Whitehall when Elk joined him.

"There will be a departmental inquiry, of course. We can't help that," he
said. "The only thing that worries me is that I've got poor old Balder
into bad odour, and I was trying to put him right. I don't know what the
experience of the Boy Scouts is," he went off at a tangent, "but my own
is that the worst service you can render to any man is to try to do him a
good turn."

It was now nearly ten o'clock, and Dick was feeling faint with hunger and
lack of sleep, for he had eaten nothing at Horsham. Once or twice, as
they walked toward Harley Terrace, Elk looked back over his shoulder.

"Expecting anybody?" asked Dick, suddenly alive to the possibility of
danger.

"No-o, not exactly," said Elk. "But I've got a hunch that we're being
followed."

"I saw a man just now who I thought was following us," said Dick, "a man
in a fawn raincoat."

"Oh, him?" said Elk, indifferent alike to the rules of grammar and the
presence of his shadow. "That is one of my men. There's another on the
other side of the road. I'm not thinking of them, my mind for the moment
being fixed on Frogs. Do you mind if we cross the road?" he asked
hurriedly, and, without waiting for a reply, caught Gordon's arm and led
him across the broad thoroughfare. "I always object to walking on the
same side of a street as the traffic runs. I like to meet traffic; it's
not good to be overtaken. I thought so!"

A small Ford van, painted with the name of a laundry, which had been
crawling along behind them, suddenly spurted and went ahead at top speed.
Elk followed the car with his eyes until it reached the Trafalgar Square
end of Whitehall. Instead of branching left toward Pall Mall or right to
the Strand, the van swung round in a half-circle and came back to meet
them. Elk half turned and made a signal.

"This is where we follow the example of the chicken," said Elk, and made
another hurried crossing.

When they reached the pavement he looked round. The detectives who were
following him had understood his signal, and one had leaped on the
running-board of the van, which was pulled up to the pavement. There was
a few minutes' talk between the driver and the officer, and then they all
drove off together.

"Pinched," said Elk laconically. "He'll take him to the station on some
charge or other and hold him. I guessed he'd see what I was after--my
man, I mean. The easiest way to shadow is to shadow in a trade truck,"
said Elk. "A trade van can do anything it likes; it can loiter by the
pavement, it can turn round and go back, it can go fast or slow, and
nobody takes the slightest notice. If that had been a limousine, it would
have attracted the attention of every policeman by drawling along by the
pavement, so as to over take us just at the right minute. Probably it
wasn't any more than a shadow, but to me," he said with a quiver of his
shoulder, "it felt rather like sudden death!"

Whether Elk's cheerfulness was assumed or natural, he succeeded in
impressing his companion.

"Let's take a cab," said Dick, and such was his doubt that he waited for
three empty taxis to pass before he hailed the fourth. "Come in," said
Dick when the cab dropped them at Harley Terrace. "I've got a spare room
if you want to sleep."

Elk shook his head to the latter suggestion, but accompanied Gordon into
the house. The man who opened the door had evidently something to say.

"There's a gentleman waiting to see you, sir. He's been here for half an
hour."

"What is his name?"

"Mr. Johnson, sir."

"Johnson?" said Dick in surprise, and hurried to the dining-room, into
which the visitor had been ushered.

It was, indeed, "the philosopher," though Mr. Johnson lacked for the
moment evidence of that equilibrium which is the chiefest of his
possessions. The stout man was worried; his face was unusually long; and
when Dick went into the room, he was sitting uncomfortably on the edge of
a chair, as he had seen him sitting at Heron's Club, his gloomy eyes
fixed upon the carpet.

"I hope you'll forgive me for coming to see you, Captain Gordon," he
said. "I've really no right to bring my troubles to you."

"I hope your troubles aren't as pressing as mine," smiled Dick as he
shook hands. "You know Mr. Elk?"

"Mr. Elk is an old friend," said Johnson, almost cheerful for a second.

"Well, what is your kick?--sit down, won't you?" 'aid Dick. "I'm going to
have a real breakfast. Will you join me?"

"With pleasure, sir. I've eaten nothing this morning. I usually have a
little lunch about eleven, but I can't say that I feel very hungry. The
fact is, Captain Gordon, I'm fired."

Dick raised his eyebrows.

"What--has Maitland fired you?"

Johnson nodded.

"And to think that I've served the old devil all these years faithfully,
on a clerk's salary! I've never given him any cause for complaint, I've
handled hundreds of thousands--yes, and millions! And although it's not
for me to blow my own trumpet, I've never once been a penny out in my
accounts. Of course, if I had been, he would have found it out in less
than no time, for he is the greatest mathematician I've ever met. And as
sharp as a needle! He can write twice as fast as any other man I've
known," he added with reluctant admiration.

"It's rather curious that a man of his uncouth appearance and speech
should have those attainments," said Dick.

"It's a wonder to me," confessed Johnson. "In fact, it has been a
standing wonder to me ever since I've known him. You'd think he was a
dustman or a tramp, to hear him talk, yet he's a very well-read man, of
extraordinary educational qualities."

"Can he remember dates?" asked Elk.

"He can even remember dates," replied Johnson seriously. "A queer old
man, and in many ways an unpleasant old man. I'm not saying this because
he's fired me; I've always had the same view. He's without a single spark
of kindness; I think the only human thing about him is his love for this
little boy."

"What little boy?" asked Elk, immediately interested.

"I've never seen him," said Johnson. "The child has never been brought to
the office. I don't know who he is or whose he is; I've an idea he's a
grandchild of Maitland's."

There was a pause.

"I see," said Dick softly, and well he did see, for in that second began
his understanding of the Frog and the secret of the Frog.

"Why were you fired?" he asked.

Johnson shrugged his shoulders.

"Over a stupid thing; in fact, it's hardly worth talking about. It
appears the old man saw me at Heron's Club the other night, and ever
since then he's been going carefully into my petty cash account, probably
under the impression that I was living a fast life! Beyond the usual
grousing, there was nothing in his manner to suggest that he intended
getting rid of me; but this morning, when I came, I found that he had
already arrived, which was an unusual circumstance. He doesn't as a rule
get to the office until about an hour after we start work. 'Johnson,' he
said, 'I understand that you know a Miss Ella Bennett.'I replied that I
was fortunate enough to know the lady. 'And I understand,' he went on,
'that you've been down there to lunch on one or two occasions.' 'That is
perfectly true, Mr. Maitland,' I replied. 'Very well, Johnson,' said
Maitland, 'you're fired.'"

"And that was all?" asked Dick in amazement.

"That was all," said Johnson in a hushed voice. "Can you understand it?"

Dick could have said yes, but he did not. Elk, more curious, and
passionately anxious to extend his knowledge of the mysterious Maitland,
had something to ask.

"Johnson, you've been right close to this man Maitland for years. Have
you noticed anything about him that's particularly suspicious?"

"Like what, Mr. Elk?"

"Has he had any visitors for whom you couldn't account? Have you known
him, for example, to do anything which would suggest to you that he had
something to do with the Frogs?"

"The Frogs?" Johnson opened his eyes wide, and his voice emphasized his
incredulity. "Bless you, no! I shouldn't imagine he knows anything about
these people. You mean the tramps who have committed so many crimes? No,
Mr. Elk, I've never heard or seen or read anything which gave me that
impression."

"You've seen the records of most of his transactions: are there any that
he has made which would lead you to believe that he had benefited, say,
by the death of Mr. Maclean in Dundee, or by the attack which was made
upon the woollen merchant at Derby? For example, do you know whether he
has been engaged in the buying or selling of French brandies or
perfumes?"

Johnson shook his head.

"No, sir, he deals only in real estate. He has properties in this country
and in the South of France and in America. He has done a little business
in exchanges; in fact, we did a very large exchange business until the
mark broke."

"What are you going to do now, Mr. Johnson?" asked Dick.

The other made a gesture of helplessness.

"What can I do, sir?" he asked. "I am nearly fifty; I've spent most of my
working life in one job, and it is very unlikely that I can get another.
Fortunately for me, I've not only saved money, but I have had one or two
lucky investments, and for those I must be grateful to the old man. I
don't think he was particularly pleased when he found that I'd followed
his advice, but that's beside the question. I do owe him that. I've just
about enough money to keep me for the rest of my life if I go quietly and
do riot engage in any extraordinary speculations. Why I came to see you
was to ask you, Captain Gordon, if you had any kind of opening. I should
like a little spare time work, and I'd be most happy to work with you."

Dick was rather embarrassed, because the opportunities for employing Mr.
Johnson were few and far between. Nevertheless, he was anxious to help
the man.

"Let me give the matter a day or two's thought," he said. "What is
Maitland doing for a secretary?"

"I don't know. That is my chief worry. I saw a letter lying on his desk,
addressed to Miss Ella Bennett, and I have got an idea that he intends
offering her the job."

Dick could hardly believe his ears.

"What makes you think that?"

"I don't know, sir, only once or twice the old man has inquired whether
Ray has a sister. He took quite an interest in her for two or three days.
and then let the matter drop. It is as astonishing as anything he has
ever done."

Elk for some reason felt immensely sorry for the man. He as so obviously
and patently unfitted for the rough and humble of competition. And the
opportunities which awaited a man of fifty worn to one groove were
practically non-existent.

"I don't know that! can help you either, Mr. Johnson," he said. "As far
as Miss Bennett is concerned, I imagine that there is no possibility of
her accepting any such offer, supposing Maitland made it. I'll have your
address in case I want to communicate with you."

"431, Fitzroy Square," replied Johnson, and produced a somewhat soiled
card with an apology. "I haven't much use for cards," he said.

He walked to the door and hesitated with his hand on its edge.

"I'm--I'm very fond of Miss Bennett," he said, "and I'd like her to know
that Maitland isn't as bad as he looks. I've got to be fair to him!"

"Poor devil!" said Elk, watching the man through the window as he walked
dejectedly along Harley Terrace. "It's tough on him. You nearly told him
about seeing Maitland this morning! I saw that, and was ready to jump in.
It's the young lady's secret."

"I wish to heaven it wasn't," said Dick sincerely, and remembered that he
had asked Johnson to stay to breakfast.



CHAPTER XXI - MR. JOHNSON'S VISITOR


There is a certain murky likeness between the houses in Fitzroy Square,
London, and Gramercy Park, New York. Fitzroy Square belongs to the
Georgian days, when Soho was a fashionable suburb, and St.
Martins-in-the-Fields was really in the fields, and was not tucked away
between a Vaudeville house and a picture gallery.

No. 431 had been subdivided by its owner into three self-contained flats,
Johnson's being situated on the ground floor. There was a fourth basement
flat, which was occupied by a man and his wife who acted for the owners,
and, incidentally, were responsible, in the case of Johnson, for keeping
his apartments clean and supplying him with the very few meals that he
had on the premises.

It was nearly ten o'clock when philosopher Johnson arrived home that
evening, and he was a very tired man. He had spent the greater part of
the day in making a series of calls upon financial and real estate
houses. To his inevitable inquiries he received an inevitable answer.
There were no vacancies, and certainly no openings for a stoutish man of
fifty, who looked, to the discerning eyes of the merchants concerned or
their managing clerks, past his best years of work. Patient Mr. Johnson
accepted each rebuff and moved on to another field, only to find his
experience repeated.

He let himself in with a latchkey, walked wearily into a little
sitting-room, and dropped with a sigh to the Chesterfield, for he was not
given to violent exercise.

The room in which he sat was prettily, but not expensively furnished. A
large green carpet covered the floor; the walls were hidden by
book-shelves; and there was about the place a certain cosiness which
money cannot buy. Rising after some little time, he walked to his
book-shelf, took down a volume and spent the next two hours in reading.
It was nearly midnight when he turned out the light and went to bed.

His bedroom was at the farther end of the short corridor, and in five
minutes he was undressed and asleep.

Mr. Johnson was usually a light but consistent sleeper, but to-night he
had not been asleep an hour before he was awake again. And wider awake
than he had been at any portion of the day. Softly he got out of bed, put
on his slippers and pulled a dressing-gown round him; then, taking
something from a drawer in his bureau, he opened the door and crept
softly along the carpeted passage toward his sitting-room.

He had heard no sound; it was sheer premonition of a pressing danger
which had wakened him. His hand was on the door-knob, and he had turned
it, when he heard a faint click. It was the sound of a light being turned
off, and the sound came from the sitting-room.

With a quick jerk he threw open the door and reached out his hand for the
switch; and then, from the blackness of the room, came a warning voice.

"Touch that light and you die! I've got you covered. Put your gun on the
floor at your feet--quick!"

Johnson stooped and laid down the revolver he had taken from his bureau.

"Now step inside, and step lively," said the voice.

"Who are you?" asked Johnson steadily.

He strained his eyes to pierce the darkness, and saw the figure now. It
was standing by his desk, and the shine of something in its hand warned
him that the threat was no idle one.

"Never met me?" There was a chuckle of laughter in the voice of the
Unknown. "I'll bet you haven't! Friend--meet the Frog!"

"The Frog?" Johnson repeated the words mechanically. "One name's as good
as another. That will do for mine," said the stranger. "Throw over the
key of your desk."

There was a silence.

"I haven't my key here," said Johnson. "It is in the bedroom."

"Stay where you are," warned the voice.

Johnson had kicked off his slippers softly, and was feeling with his feet
for the pistol he had laid so obediently on the floor in the first shock
of surprise. Presently he found it and drew it toward him with his bare
toes.

"What do you want?" he asked, temporizing.

"I want to see your office papers--all the papers you've brought from
Maitlands."

"There is nothing here of any value," said Johnson.

The revolver was now at his feet and a little ahead of him. He kept his
toes upon the butt, ready to drop just as soon as he could locate with
any certainty the position of the burglar. But now, though his eyes were
growing accustomed to the darkness, he could no longer see the owner of
the voice.

"Come nearer," said the stranger, "and hold out your hands."

Johnson made as though to obey, but dropped suddenly to his knees. The
explosion deafened him. He heard a cry, saw, in the flash of his pistol,
a dark figure, and then something struck him.

He came to consciousness ten minutes later, to find the room empty.
Staggering to his feet, he put on the light and walked unsteadily back to
his bedroom, to examine the extent of his injuries. He felt the bump on
his head gingerly, and grinned. Somebody was knocking at the outer door,
a peremptory, authoritative knocking. With a wet towel to his injured
head he went out into the passage and opened the front door. He found two
policemen at the step and a small crowd gathered on the pavement.

"Has there been shooting here?"

"Yes, constable," said Johnson, "I did a little shooting, but I don't
think I hit anything."

"Have you been hurt, sir? Was it burglars?"

"I can't tell you. Come in," said Johnson, and led the way back to the
disordered library.

The blind was flapping in the draught, for the window, which looked out
upon a side street, was open.

"Have you missed anything?"

"No, I don't think so," said Johnson. "I think it was rather more
important than an ordinary burglary. I am going to call Inspector Elk of
Scotland Yard, and I think you had better leave the room as it is until
he arrives."

Elk was in his office, laboriously preparing a report on the escape of
Hagn, when the call came through. He listened attentively, and then:

"I'll come down, Johnson. Tell the constable to leave things--ask him to
speak to me."

By the time Elk had arrived, the philosopher was dressed. "He gave you a
pretty hefty one," said Elk, examining the contusion with a professional
eye.

"I wasn't prepared for it. I expected him to shoot, and he must have
struck at me as I fired."

"You say it was the Frog himself?" said the sceptical Elk. "I doubt it.
The Frog has never undertaken a job on his own, so far as I can
remember."

"It was either the Frog or one of his trusted emissaries," said Johnson
with a good-humoured smile. "Look a t this."

On the centre of his pink blotting-pad was stamped the inevitable Frog.
It appeared also on the panel of the door.

"That is supposed to be a warning, isn't it?" said Johnson. "Well, I
hadn't time to get acquainted with the warning before I got mine!"

"There are worse things than a clubbing," said Elk cheerfully. "You've
missed nothing?"

Johnson shook his head.

"No, nothing."

Elk's inspection of the room was short but thorough. It was near the open
window, blown by the breeze into the folds of the curtain, that he found
the parcel-room ticket. It was a green slip acknowledging the reception
of a handbag, and it was issued at the terminus of the Great Northern
Railway.

"Is this yours?" he asked.

Johnson took the slip from him, examined it and shook his head.

"No," he said, "I've never seen it before."

"Anybody else in your flat likely to have left a bag at King's Cross
station?"

Again Johnson shook his head and smiled.

"There is nobody else in this flat," he said, "except myself."

Elk took the paper under the light and scrutinized the date-stamp. The
luggage had been deposited a fortnight before, and, as is usual in such
tickets, the name of the depositor was not given.

"It may have blown in from the garden," he said. "There is a stiff breeze
to-night, but I should not imagine that anybody who had got an important
piece of luggage would leave the ticket to fly around. I'll investigate
this," he said, and put the ticket carefully away in his pocket-book.
"You didn't see the man?"

"I caught a glimpse of him as I fired, and I am under the impression that
he was masked."

"Did you recognize his voice?"

"No," said Johnson, shaking his head.

Elk examined the window. The catch had been cleverly forced--"cleverly"
because it was a new type of patent fastening familiar to him, and which
he did not remember ever having seen forced from the outside before.
Instinctively his mind went back to the burglary at Lord Farmley's, to
that beautifully cut handle and blown lock; and though, by no stretch of
imagination, could the two jobs be compared, yet there was a similarity
in finish and workmanship which immediately struck him.

What made this burglary all the more remarkable was that, for the first
time, there had appeared somebody who claimed to be the Frog himself.
Never before had the Frog given tangible proof of his existence. He
understood the organization well enough to know that none of the Frog's
willing slaves would have dared to use his name. And why did he consider
that Johnson was worthy of his personal attention?

"No," said Johnson in answer to his question, "there are no documents
here of the slightest value. I used to bring home a great deal of work
from Maitlands; in fact, I have often worked into the middle of the
night. That is why my dismissal is such a scandalous piece of
ingratitude."

"You have never had any private papers of Maitland's here, which perhaps
you might have forgotten to return?" asked Elk thoughtfully, and
Johnson's ready smile and twinkling eyes supplied an answer.

"That's rather a graceful way of putting the matter," he said. "No, I
have none of Maitland's documents here. If you care, you can see the
contents of all my cupboards, drawers and boxes, but I can assure you
that I'm a very methodical man; I know practically every paper in my
possession."

Walking home, Elk reviewed the matter of this surprising appearance. If
the truth be told, he was very glad to have some additional problem to
keep his mind off the very unpleasant interview which was promised for
the morning. Captain Dick Gordon would assume all responsibility, and
probably the Commissioners would exonerate Elk from any blame; but to the
detective, the "people upstairs" were almost as formidable as the Frog
himself.



CHAPTER XXII - THE INQUIRY


He intended making an early call at King's Cross to examine the contents
of the bag, but awoke the next morning, his mind filled with the coming
inquiry to the exclusion of all other matters; and although he entered
Johnson's burglary in his report book very carefully, and locked away the
cloak-room ticket in his safe, he was much too absorbed and worried to
make immediate inquiries.

Dick arrived for the inquiry, and his assistant gave him a brief sketch
of the burglary in Fitzroy Square.

"Let me see that ticket," he asked.

Elk, unlocking the safe, produced the green slip.

"The ticket has been attached to something," said Dick, carrying the slip
to the window. "There is the mark of a paper-fastener, and the mark is
recent. This may produce a little information," he said as he handed it
back.

"It's very unlikely," said Elk despondently as he kicked the door of the
safe. "Those people upstairs are going to give us hell."

"Don't worry," said Dick. "I tell you, our friends above are so tickled
to death at recovering the Treaty that they're not going to worry much
about Hagn."

It was a remarkable prophecy, remarkably fulfilled. Elk was gratified and
surprised when he was called into the presence of the great--every
Commissioner and Chief Constable sat round the green board of
judgment--to discover that the attitude of his superiors was rather one
of benevolent interest than of disapproval.

"With an organization of this character we are prepared for very
unexpected developments," said the Chief Commissioner. "In ordinary
circumstances, the escape of Hagn would be a matter calling for severe
measures against those responsible. But I really cannot apportion the
blame in this particular case. Balder seems to have behaved with perfect
propriety; I quite approve of your having put him into the cell with
Hagn; and I do not see what I can do with the gaoler. The truth is, that
the Frogs are immensely powerful--more powerful than the agents of an
enemy Government, because they are working with inside knowledge, and in
addition, of course, they are our own people. You think it is possible,
Captain Gordon, to round up the Frogs?--I know it will be a tremendous
business. Is it worth while?"

Dick shook his head.

"No, sir," he replied. "They are too numerous, and the really dangerous
men are going to be difficult to identify. It has come to our knowledge
that the chiefs of this organization--at least, some of them--are not so
marked."

Not all the members of the Board of Inquiry were as pleasant as the Chief
Commissioner.

"It comes to this," said a white-haired Chief Constable, "that in the
space of a week we have had two prisoners killed under the eyes of the
police, and one who has practically walked out of the cell in which he
was guarded by a police officer, without being arrested or any clue being
furnished as to the method the Frogs employed." He shook his head.
"That's bad, Captain Gordon."

"Perhaps you would like to take charge of the inquiry, sir," said Dick.
"This is not the ordinary petty larceny type, of crime, and I seem to
remember having dealt with a case of yours whilst I was in the
Prosecutor's Department, presenting less complicated features, in which
you were no more successful than I and my officers have been in dealing
with the Frogs. You must allow me the greatest latitude and exercise
patience beyond the ordinary. I know the Frog," he said simply.

For some time they did not realize what he had said.

"You know him?" asked the Chief Commissioner incredulously.

Dick nodded.

"If I were to tell you who it was," he said, "you would probably laugh at
me. And obviously, whilst it is quite possible for me to secure an arrest
this morning, it is not as easy a matter to produce overwhelming evidence
that will convict. You must give me rope if I am to succeed."

"But how did you discover him, Captain Gordon?" asked the Chief, and Elk,
who had listened, dumbfounded, to this claim of his superior, waited
breathlessly for the reply.

"It was clear to me," said Dick, speaking slowly and deliberately, "when
I learnt from Mr. Johnson, who was Maitland's secretary, that somewhere
concealed in the old man's house was a mysterious child." He smiled as he
looked at the blank faces of the Board. "That doesn't sound very
convincing, I'm afraid," he said, "but nevertheless, you will learn in
due course why, when I discovered this, I was perfectly satisfied that I
could take the Frog whenever I wished. It is not necessary to say that,
knowing as I do, or as I am convinced I do, the identity of this
individual, events from now on will take a more interesting and a more
satisfactory course. I do not profess to be able to explain how Hagn came
to make his escape. I have a suspicion--it is no more than a
suspicion--but even that event is soluble if my other theory is right, as
I am sure it is."

Until the meeting was over and the two men were again in Elk's office,
the detective spoke no word. Then, closing the door carefully, he said:

"If that was a bluff of yours, Captain Gordon, it was the finest bluff I
have ever heard, and I've an idea it wasn't a bluff."

"It was no bluff," said Dick quietly. "I tell you I am satisfied that I
know the Frog."

"Who is it?"

Dick shook his head.

"This isn't the time to tell you. I don't think any useful purpose would
be served if I made my views known--even to you. Now what about your
cloak-room ticket?"

Dick did not accompany him to King's Cross, for he had sonic work to do
in his office, and Elk went alone to the cloakroom. Producing the ticket,
he paid the extra fees for the additional period of storage, and received
from the attendant a locked brown leather bag.

"Now, son," said Elk, having revealed his identity, "perhaps you will
tell me if you remember who brought this bag?" The attendant grinned.

"I haven't that kind of memory," he said.

"I sympathize with you," said Elk, "but possibly if you concentrated your
mind, you might be able to recall something. Faces aren't dates."

The attendant turned over the leaves of his book to make sure.

"Yes, I was on duty that day."

"What time was it handed in?"

He examined the counterfoils.

"About eleven o'clock in the morning," he said. He shook his head. "I
can't remember who brought it. We get so much luggage entered at that
time in the morning that it's almost impossible for me to recall any
particular person. I know one thing, that there wasn't anything peculiar
about him, or I should have remembered."

"You mean that the person who handed this in was very ordinary. Was he an
American?"

Again the attendant thought.

"No, I don't think he was an American, sir," he said. "I should have
remembered that. I don't think we have had an American here for weeks."

Elk took the bag to the office of the station police inspector, and with
the aid of his key unlocked and pulled it wide open. Its contents were
unusual. A suit of clothes, a shirt, collar and tie, a brand-new shaving
outfit, a small bottle of Annatto, a colouring material used by dairymen,
a passport made out in the name of "John Henry Smith," but with the
photograph missing, a Browning pistol, fully loaded, an envelope
containing 5,000 francs and five one-hundred-dollar bills; these
comprised the contents.

Elk surveyed the articles as they were spread on the inspector's table.

"What do you make of that?"

The railwayman shook his head.

"It's a fairly complete outfit," he said.

"You mean a get-away outfit? That's what I think," said Elk; "and I'd
like to bet that one of these bags is stored at every railway terminus in
London!"

The clothing bore no marks, the Browning was of Belgian manufacture,
whilst the passport might, or might not, have been forged, though the
blank on which it was written was obviously genuine. (A later inquiry put
through to the Foreign Office revealed the fact that it had not been
officially issued.)

Elk packed away the outfit into the bag.

"I shall take these to the Yard. Perhaps they'll be called for--but more
likely they won't."

Elk came out of the Inspector's office on to the broad platform,
wondering what it would be best to do. Should he leave the bag in the
cloak-room and set a man to watch?...That would be a little futile, for
nobody could call unless he had the ticket, and it would mean employing a
good officer for nothing. He decided in the end to take the bag to the
Yard and hand it over for a more thorough inspection.

One of the Northern expresses had just pulled into the station, two hours
late, due to a breakdown on the line. Elk stood looking idly at the
stream of passengers passing out through the barrier, and, so watching,
he saw a familiar face. His mind being occupied with this, the
familiarity did not force itself upon his attention until the man he had
recognized had passed out of view. It was John Bennett--a furtive,
hurrying figure, with his battered suit-case in his hand, a dark felt hat
pulled over his eyes.

Elk strolled across to the barrier where a station official was standing.

"Where does this train come from?"

"Aberdeen, sir."

"Last stop?" asked Elk.

"Last stop Doncaster," said the official.

Whilst he was speaking, Elk saw Bennett returning Apparently he had
forgotten something, for there was a frown, of annoyance on his face. He
pushed his way through the stream of people that were coming from the
barriers, and Elk wondered what was the cause of his return. He had not
long to wait before he learnt.

When Bennett appeared again, he was carrying a heavy brown box, fastened
with a strap, and Elk recognized the motion-picture camera with which
this strange man pursued his paying hobby.

"Queer bird!" said Elk to himself and, calling a cab, carried his find
back to headquarters.

He put the bag in his safe, and sent for two of his best men.

"I want the cloak-rooms of every London terminus inspected for bags of
this kind," he said, showing the bag. "It has probably been left for
weeks. Push the usual inquiries as to the party who made the deposit,
select all likely bags, and, to make sure, have them opened on the spot.
If they contained a complete shaving kit, a gun, a passport and money,
they are to be brought to Scotland Yard and held for me."

Gordon, whom he afterwards saw, agreed with his explanation for the
presence of this interesting find.

"At any hour of the day or night he's ready to jump for safety," said Elk
admiringly; "and at any terminus we shall find money, a change of kit and
the necessary passport to carry him abroad, Annatto to stain his face and
hands--I expect he carries his own photograph. And by the way, I saw John
Bennett."

"At the station?" asked Dick.

Elk nodded.

"He was returning from the north, from one of five towns--Aberdeen,
Arbroath, Edinburgh, York or Doncaster. He didn't see me, and I didn't
push myself forward. Captain, what do you think of this man Bennett?"

Dick did not reply.

"Is he your Frog?" challenged Elk, and Dick Gordon chuckled.

"You're not going to get my Frog by a process of elimination, Elk, and
you can save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you cut out the idea that
cross-examining me will produce good results."

"I never thought anything so silly," said Elk. "But John Bennett gets me
guessing. If he were the Frog, he couldn't have been in Johnson's
sitting-room last night."

"Not unless he motored to Doncaster to catch an alibi train," said Dick,
and then: "I wonder if the Doncaster police are going to call in
headquarters, or whether they'll rely upon their own intelligence
department."

"About what?" asked Elk surprised.

"Mabberley Hall, which is just outside Doncaster, was burgled last
night," said Dick, "and Lady FitzHerman's diamond tiara was
stolen--rather supports your theory, doesn't it, Elk?"

Elk said nothing, but he wished most fervently that he had some excuse or
other for searching John Bennett's bag.



CHAPTER XXIII - A MEETING


Heron's club had been temporarily closed by order of the police, but now
was allowed to open its doors again. Ray invariably lunched at Heron's
unless he was taking the meal with Lola, who preferred a brighter
atmosphere than the club offered at midday.

Only a few tables were occupied when he arrived. The stigma of the police
raid lay upon Heron's, 'and its more cautious clients had not yet begun
to drift back. It was fairly well known that something had happened to
Hagn, the manager, for the man had not appeared since the night of the
raid. There were unconfirmed rumours of his arrest. Ray had not troubled
to call for letters as he passed through the hall, for very little
correspondence came to him at the club. He was therefore surprised when
the waiter, having taken his order, returned, accompanied by the clerk
carrying in his hand two letters, one heavily sealed and weighty, the
other smaller.

He opened the big envelope first, and was putting in his fingers to
extract the contents when he realized that the envelope contained nothing
but money. He did not care to draw out the contents, even before the
limited public. Peeping, he was gratified to observe the number and
denomination of the bills. There was no message, but the other letter was
addressed in the same handwriting. He tore this open. It was innocent of
address or date, and the typewritten message ran:


"On Friday morning you will assume a dress which will be sent to you, and
you will make your way towards Nottingham by road. You will take the name
of Jim Carter, and papers of identification in that name will be found in
the pockets of the clothes which will reach you by special messenger
to-morrow. From now onward you are not to appear in public, you are not
to shave, receive visitors or pay visits. Your business at Nottingham
will be communicated to you. Remember that you are to travel by road,
sleeping in such lodging-houses, casual wards or Salvation Army shelters
as tramps usually patronize. At Barnet, on the Great North Road, near the
ninth milestone, you will meet another whom you know, and will accompany
him for the remainder of the journey. At Nottingham you will receive
further orders. It is very likely that you will not be required, and
certainly, the work you will be asked to do will not compromise you in
any way. Remember your name is Carter. Remember you are not to shave.
Remember also the ninth milestone on Friday morning. When these facts are
impressed upon you, take this letter, the envelope, and the envelope
containing the money, to the club fire-place, and burn them. I shall see
you."


The letter was signed "Frog."

So the hour had come when the Frogs had need of him. He had dreaded the
day, and yet in a way had looked forward to it as one who wished to know
the worst.

He faithfully carried out the instructions, and, under the curious eyes
of the guests, carried the letter and the envelopes to the empty brick
fire-place, lit a match and burnt them, putting his foot upon the ashes.

His pulse beat a little quicker, the thump of his heart was a little more
pronounced, as he went back to his untouched lunch. So the Frog would see
him--was here! He looked round the sparsely filled tables, and presently
he met the gaze of a man whose eyes had been fixed upon him ever since he
had sat down. The face was familiar, and yet unfamiliar. He beckoned the
waiter.

"Don't look immediately," he said in a low voice, "but tell me who is
that gentleman sitting in the second alcove." The waiter looked
carelessly round.

"That is Mr. Joshua Broad, sir," he said.

Almost as the waiter spoke, Joshua Broad rose from his seat, walked
across the room to where Ray was sitting.

"Good morning, Mr. Bennett. I don't think we have met before, though we
are fellow-members of Heron's and I've seen you a lot of times here. My
name is Broad."

"Won't you sit down?" Ray had some difficulty in controlling his voice.
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Broad. Have you finished your lunch? If not,
perhaps you'll take it with me."

"No," he said, "I've finished lunch. I eat very little. But if it doesn't
annoy you, I'll smoke a cigarette."

Ray offered his case.

"I'm a neighbour of a friend of yours," said Broad, choosing a cigarette,
"Miss Lola Bassano. She has an apartment facing mine in Caverley House--I
guess that's where I've seen you most often."

Now Ray remembered. This was the strange American who lived opposite to
Lola, and about whose business he had so often heard Lola and Lew Brady
speculate.

"And I think we have a mutual friend in--Captain Gordon," suggested the
other, his keen eyes fixed upon the boy.

"Captain Gordon is not a friend of mine," said Ray quickly. "I'm not
particularly keen on police folk as friends."

"They can be mighty interesting," said Broad, "but I can quite understand
your feeling in the matter. Have you known Brady long?"

"Lew? No, I can't say that I have. He's a very nice fellow," said Ray
unenthusiastically. "He's not exactly the kind of friend I'd have chosen,
but it happens that he is a particularly close friend of a friend of
mine.

"Of Miss Bassano," said Broad. "You used to be at Maitlands?"

"I was there once," said Ray indifferently, and from his tone one might
have imagined that he had merely been a visitor attracted by morbid
curiosity to that establishment.

"Queer cuss, old Maitland."

"I know very little of him," said Ray.

"A very queer fellow. He's got a smart secretary, though."

"You mean Johnson?" Ray smiled. "Poor old philosopher, he's lost his
job?"

"You don't say? When did this happen?" Mr. Broad's voice was urgent,
eager.

"The other day--I don't know when I met Johnson this morning and he told
me. I don't know how the old boy will get on without Philo."

"I was wondering the same thing," said Broad softly. "You surprise me. I
wonder he has the nerve, though I don't think he's lacking in that
quality."

"The nerve?" said the puzzled Ray. "I don't think it requires much nerve
to fire a secretary."

A fleeting smile played on the hard face of the American.

"By that I meant that it requires nerve for a man of Maitland's character
to dismiss a man who must share a fair number of his secrets. Not that I
should imagine there would be any great confidence between these two.
What is Johnson doing?"

"He's looking for a job, I think," said Ray. He was getting a little
irritated by the persistence of the stranger's questions. He had a
feeling that he was being "pumped." Possibly Mr. Broad sensed this
suspicion, for he dropped his flow of interrogations and switched to the
police raid, a prolific source of discussion amongst the members of
Heron's.

Ray looked after him as he walked out a little later and was puzzled. Why
was he so keen on knowing all these things? Was he testing him? He was
glad to be alone to consider this extraordinary commission which had come
to him. The adventure of it, the disguise of it, all were particularly
appealing to a romantic young man; and Ray Bennett lacked nothing in the
matter of romance. There was a certain delightful suggestion of danger, a
hint almost as thrilling of lawlessness, in these instructions. What
might be the end of the adventure, he did not trouble to consider. It was
well for his peace of mind that he was no seer; for, if he had been, he
would have flown that very moment, seeking for some desolate place, some
hole in time ground where he could lie and shiver and hide.



CHAPTER XXIV - WHY MAITLAND CAME


Ella Bennett was cooking the dinner when her father Ed came in,
depositing his heavy camera on the floor of the sitting-room, but
carrying, as was usual, his grip to the bedroom. She heard the closing of
the cupboard door and the turning of the lock, but had long ceased to
wonder why he invariably kept his bag locked in that cupboard. He was
looking very tired and old; there were deeper lines under his eves, and
the pallor of his cheeks was even more pronounced.

"Did you have a good time, father?" she asked. It was the invariable
question, and invariably John Bennett made no other reply than a nod.

"I nearly lost my camera this morning--forgot it," he said. "It was quite
a success--taking the camera away with me--but I must get used to
remembering that I have it. I found a stretch of country full of wild
fowl, and got some really good pictures. Round about Horsham my
opportunities are limited, and I think I shall take the machine with me
wherever I go."

He seated himself in the old chair by the fireplace and was filling his
pipe slowly.

"I saw Elk on the platform at King's Cross," he said. "I suppose he was
looking for somebody."

"What time did you leave where you were?" she asked. "Last night," he
replied briefly, but did not volunteer any further information about his
movements.

She was in and out of the kitchen, laying the table, and she did not
speak to him on the matter which was near her heart, until he had drawn
up his chair, and then:

"I had a letter from Ray this morning, father," she said. It was the
first time she had mentioned the boy's name since that night of horrible
memories at Heron's Club.

"Yes?" he answered, without looking up from his plate.

"He wanted to know if you had his letter."

"Yes, I had his letter," said John Bennett, "but I didn't answer it. If
Ray wants to see me, he knows where I am. Did you hear from anybody
else?" he asked, with surprising calm.

She had been dreading what might follow the mention of Ray's name.

"I heard from Mr. Johnson. He has left Maitlands." Bennett finished his
glass of water and set it down before he replied.

"He had a good job, too. I'm sorry. I suppose he couldn't get on with the
old man."

Should she tell him? she wondered again. She had been debating the
advisability of taking her father into her confidence ever since--

"Father, I've met Mr. Maitland," she said.

"I know. You saw him at his office; you told me."

"I've met him since. You remember the morning I was out, when Captain
Gordon came--the morning I went to the wood? I went to see Mr. Maitland."

He put down his knife and fork and stared at her incredulously.

"But why on earth did you see him at that hour of the morning? Had you
made arrangements to meet him?"

She shook her head.

"I hadn't any idea that I was going to see him," she said, "but that
night I was wakened by somebody throwing a stone at the window. I thought
it was Ray, who had come back late. That was his habit; I never told you,
but sometimes he was very late indeed, and he used to wake me that way.
It was just dawn, and when I looked out, to my astonishment, I saw Mr.
Maitland. He asked me to come down in that queerly abrupt way of his,
and, thinking it had something to do with Ray, I dressed and went out
into the garden, not daring to wake you. 'We walked up the road to where
his car was. It was the queerest interview you could imagine, because he
said--nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Well, he asked me if I'd be his friend. If it had been anybody else but
Mr. Maitland, I should have been frightened. But he was so pathetic, so
very old, so appealing. He kept saying 'I'll tell you something, miss,'
but every time he spoke he looked round with a frightened air. 'Let's go
where we can't be seen,' he said, and begged me to step into the car. Of
course I refused, until I discovered that the chauffeur was a woman--a
very old woman, his sister. It was a most extraordinary experience. I
think she must be nearly seventy, but during the war she learnt to drive
a motor-car, and apparently she was wearing one of the chauffeur's coats,
and a more ludicrous sight you could not imagine, once you realized that
she was a woman.

"I let him drive me down to the wood, and then: 'Is it about Ray?' I
asked. But it wasn't about Ray at all that he wanted to speak. He was so
incoherent, so strange, that I really did get nervous. And then, when he
had begun to compose himself and had even made a few connected remarks,
you came along in Mr. Elk's car. He was terrified and was shaking from
head to foot! He begged me to go away, and almost went on his knees to
implore me not to say that I had seen him."

"Phew!" John Bennett pushed back his chair. "And you learnt nothing?"

She shook her head.

"He came again last night," she said, "but this time I did not go out,
and he refused to come in. He struck me as a man who was expecting to be
trapped."

"Did he give you any idea of what he wanted to say?"

"No, but it was something which was vitally important to him, I think. I
couldn't understand half that he said. He spoke in loud whispers, and
I've told you how harsh his voice is."

Bennett relit his pipe, and sat for a while with downcast eyes, revolving
the matter in his mind.

"The next time he comes you'd better let me see him," he said.

"I don't think so, daddy," she answered quietly. "If he has anything very
important to say, I think I ought to know what it is. I have a feeling
that he is asking for help."

John Bennett looked up.

"A millionaire asking for help? Ella, that sounds queer to me."

"And it is queer," she insisted. "He didn't seem half so terrible as he
appeared when I first saw him. There was something tragic about him,
something very sad. He will come to-night, and I've promised to see him.
May I?"

Her father considered.

"Yes, you may see him, provided you do not go outside this garden. I
promise that I will not appear, but I shall he on hand. Do you think it
is about Ray--that Ray has committed some act of folly that he wants to
tell you about?" he asked with a note of anxiety.

"I don't think so, daddy. Maitland was quite indifferent to Ray or what
becomes of him. I've been wondering whether I ought to tell somebody.

"Captain Gordon or Mr. Elk," suggested her father dryly, and the girl
flushed. "You like that young man, Ella No, I'm not referring to Elk, who
is anything but young; I mean Dick Gordon.

"Yes," she said after a pause, "I like him very much."

"I hope you aren't going to like him too much, darling," said John
Bennett, and their eyes met.

"Why not, daddy?" It almost hurt her to ask.

"Because,"--he seemed at a loss as to how he should proceed--"because
it's not desirable. He occupies a different position from ourselves, but
that isn't the only reason. I don't want you to have a heartache, and I
say this, knowing that, if that heartache comes, I shall be the cause."

He saw her face change, and then:

"What do you wish me to do?" she asked.

He rose slowly, and, walking to her, put his arm about her shoulder.

"Do whatever you like, Ella," he said gently. "There is a curse upon me,
and you must suffer for my sin. Perhaps he will never know--but I am
tired of expecting miracles."

"Father, what do you mean?" she asked anxiously.

"I don't know what I mean," he said as he patted her shoulder. "Things
may work out as they do in stories. Perhaps..." He ruminated for a while.
"Those pictures I took yesterday may be the making of me, Ella. But I've
thought that of so many things. Always there seems to be a great
possibility opening out, and always I have been disappointed. But I'm
getting the knack of this picture taking. The apparatus is working
splendidly, and the man who buys them--he has a shop in Wardour
Street--told me that the quality of the films is improving with every new
'shot.' I took a mother duck on the nest, just as the youngsters were
hatching out. I'm not quite sure how the picture will develop, because I
had to be at some distance from the nest. As it was, I nearly scared the
poor lady when I fixed the camera." Very wisely she did not pursue a
subject which was painful to her.

That afternoon she saw a strange man standing in the roadway opposite the
gate, looking toward the house. He was a gentleman, well dressed, and he
was smoking a long cigar. She thought, by his shell glasses, that he
might be an American, and when he spoke to her, his New England accent
left no doubt. He came toward the gate, hat in hand.

"Am I right in thinking that I'm speaking to Miss Bennett?" he asked, and
when she nodded: "My name is Broad. I was just taking a look round, and I
seemed to remember that you lived somewhere in the neighbourhood. In
fact, I think your brother told me to-day."

"Are you a friend of Ray?" she asked.

"Why, no," said Broad with a smile. "I can't say that I'm a friend of Mr.
Bennett; I'm what you might call a club acquaintance."

He made no attempt to approach her any closer, and apparently he did not
expect to be invited into the house on the strength of his acquaintance
with Ray Bennett. Presently, with a commonplace remark about the weather
(he had caught the English habit perfectly) he moved off, and from the
gate she saw him walking up towards the wood road. That long cul-de-sac
was a favourite parking place of motorists who came to the neighbourhood,
and she was not surprised when, a few minutes later, she saw the car
conic out. Mr. Broad raised his hat as he passed, and waved a little
greeting to some person who was invisible to her. Her curiosity whetted,
she opened the gate and walked on to the road. A little way down, a man
was sitting on a tree trunk, reading a newspaper and smoking a
large-bowled pipe. An hour later, when she came out, he was still there,
but this time he was standing: a tall, soldier-like-looking man, who
turned his head away when she looked in his direction. A detective, she
thought, in dismay.

Her instinct was not at fault: of that she was sure. For some reason or
other, Maytree Cottage was under observation. At first she was
frightened, then indignant. She had half a mind to go into the village
and telephone to Elk, to demand an explanation. Somehow it never occurred
to her to be angry with Dick, though he was solely responsible for
placing the men who were guarding her day and night.

She went to bed early, setting her alarm for three o'clock. She woke
before the bell roused her, and, dressing quickly, went down to make some
coffee. As she passed her father's door, he called her.

"I'm up, if you want me, Ella."

"Thank you, daddy," she said gratefully. She was glad to know that he was
around. It gave her a feeling of confidence which she had never before
possessed in the presence of this old man.

The first light was showing in the sky when she saw the silhouette of Mr.
Maitland against the dawn, and heard the soft click of the latch as he
opened the garden gate. She had not heard the car nor seen it. This time
Maitland had alighted some distance short of the house.

He was, as usual, nervous arid for the time being speechless. A heavy
overcoat, which had seen its best clays, was buttoned up to his neck, and
a big cap covered his hairless head.

"That you, miss?" he asked in a husky whisper.

"Yes, Mr. Maitland."

"You coming along for a little walk?...Got something to tell you...Very
important, miss."

"We will walk in the garden," she said, lowering her voice.

He demurred.

"Suppose anybody sees us, eh? That'd be a fine lookout for me! Just a
little way up the road, miss," he pleaded. "Nobody will hear us."

"We can go on to the lawn. There are some chairs there."

"Is everybody asleep? All your servant gels?"

"We have no servant girls," she smiled.

He shook his head.

"I don't blame you I hate 'um. Got six fellows in uniform at my house.
They frighten me stiff!"

She led him across the lawn, carrying a cushion, and, settling him in a
chair, waited. The beginnings of these interviews had always seemed as
promising, but after a while Mr. Maitland had a trick of rambling off at
a tangent into depths which she could not plumb.

"You're a nice gel," said Maitland huskily. "I thought so the first time
I saw you...you wouldn't do a poor old man any 'arm, would you, miss?"

"Why, of course not, Mr. Maitland."

"I know you wouldn't. I told Matilda you wouldn't. She says you're all
right...Ever been in the workhouse, miss?

"In the poorhouse?" she said, smiling in spite of herself. "Why, no, I've
never been in a poorhouse."

He looked round fearfully from side to side, peering under his white
eyebrows at a clump of bushes which might conceal an eavesdropper.

"Ever been in quod?"

She did not recognize the word.

"I have," he went on. "Quad's prison, miss. Naturally you wouldn't
understand them words."

Again he looked round.

"Suppose you was me...It all comes to that question--suppose you was me!"

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Mr. Maitland."

She watched his frightened scrutiny of the grounds, and then he bent over
toward her.

"Them fellows will get me," he said slowly and impressively. "They'll get
me, and Matilda. And I've left all my money to a certain person. That's
the joke. That's the whole joke of it, miss." He chuckled wheezily. "And
then they'll get him."

He slapped his knee, convulsed with silent laughter, and the girl
honestly thought he was mad and edged away from him. "But I've got a
great idea--got it when I saw you. It's one of the greatest ideas I've
ever had, miss. Are you a typewriter?"

"A typist?" she smiled. "No, I can type, but I'm not a very good typist."

His voice sank until it was almost unintelligible.

"You come up to my office one day, and we'll have a great joke. Wouldn't
think I was a joker, would yon? Eighty-seven I am, miss. You come up to
my office and I'll make you laugh!"

Suddenly he became more serious.

"They'll get me--I know it. I haven't told Matilda, because she'd start
screaming. But I know. _And_ the baby!"

This seemed to afford the saturnine old man the greatest Possible
enjoyment. He rocked from side to side with mirth, until a fit of
coughing attacked him.

"That's all, miss. You come up to my office. Old Johnson isn't there. You
come up and see me. Never had a letter from me, have you?" he suddenly
asked, as he rose.

"No, Mr. Maitland," she said in surprise.

"There was one wrote," said he. "Maybe I didn't post it Maybe I thought
better. I dunno."

He started and drew back as a figure appeared before the house.

"Who's that?" he asked, and she felt a hand on her arm that trembled.

"That is my father, Mr. Maitland," she said. "I expect he got a little
nervous about my being out."

"Your father, eh?" He was more relieved than resentful. "Mr. John
Bennett, his name is, by all accounts. Don't tell him I've been in the
workhouse," he urged, "or in quod. And I have been in quod, miss. Met all
the big men, every one of 'um. And met a few of 'um out, too. I bet I'm
the only man in this country that's ever seen Saul Morris, the grandest
feller in the business. Only met him once, but I shall never forget him."

John Bennett saw them pacing toward him, and stood undecided as to
whether he should join them or whether Ella would be embarrassed by such
a move. Maitland decided the matter by hobbling over to him.

"Morning, mister," he said. "Just having a talk to your gel. Rather early
in the morning, eh? Hope you don't mind, Mr. Bennett."

"I don't mind," said John Bennett. "Won't you come inside, Mr.
Maitland?"

"No, no, no," said the other fearfully. "I've got to get on. Matilda will
be waiting for me. Don't forget, miss: come up to my office and have that
joke!"

He did not offer to shake hands, nor did he take off his hat. In fact,
his manners were deplorable. A curt nod to the girl, and then:

"Well, so long, mister---" he began, and at that moment John Bennett
moved out from the shadow of the house.

"Good-bye, Mr. Maitland," he said.

Maitland did not speak. His eyes were open wide with terror, his face
blanched to the colour of death.

"You...you!" he croaked. "Oh, my God!"

He seemed to totter, and the girl sprang to catch him, but he recovered
himself, and, turning, ran down the path with an agility which was
surprising in one of his age, tore open the gate and flew along the road.
They heard his dry sobs coming back to them.

"Father," whispered the girl in fear, "did he know you? Did he recognize
you?"

"I wonder," said John Bennett of Horsham.



CHAPTER XXV - IN REGARD TO SAUL MORRIS


Dick Gordon 'phoned across to headquarters, and Elk reported immediately.

"I've discovered six good get-away bags, and each one is equipped as
completely and exactly as the one we found at King's Cross."

"No clue as to the gentleman who deposited them?

"No, sir, not so much as a clue. We've tested them all for finger-prints,
and we've got a few results; but as they have been handled by half a
dozen attendants, I don't think we shall get much out of it. Still, we
can but try."

"Elk, I would give a few years of my life to get to the inside of this
Frog mystery. I'm having Lola shadowed, though I shouldn't think she'd be
in that lot. I know of nobody who looks less like a tramp than Lola
Bassano! Lew has disappeared, and when I sent a man round this morning to
discover what had happened to that young man about town, Mr. Raymond
Bennett, he was not visible. He refused to see the caller on the plea
that he was ill, and is staying in his room all day. Elk, who's the
Frog?"

Elk paced up and down the apartment, his hands in his pockets, his
steel-rimmed spectacles sliding lower and lower down his long nose.

"There are only two possibilities," he said. "One is Harry Lyme--an
ex-convict who was supposed to have been drowned in the _Channel Queen_
some years ago. I put him amongst them, because all the records we have
of him show that he was a brilliant organizer, a super-crook, and one of
the two men capable of opening Lord Farmley's safe and slipping that
patent catch on Johnson's window. And believe me, Captain Gordon, it was
an artist who burgled Johnson!"

"The other man?" said Dick.

"He's also comfortably dead," said Elk grimly. "Saul Morris, the
cleverest of all. He's got Lyme skinned to death--an expression I picked
up in my recent travels, Captain. And Morris is American; and although
I'm as patriotic as any man in this country, I hand it to the Americans
when it comes to smashing safes. I've examined two thousand records of
known criminals, and I've fined it down to these two fellows--and they're
both dead! They say that dead men leave no trails, and if Frog is Morris
or Lyme, they're about right. Lyme's dead--drowned. Morris was killed in
a railway accident in the United States. The question is, which of the
ghosts we can charge."

Dick Gordon pulled open the drawer of his desk and took out an envelope
that bore the inscription of the Western Union. He threw it across the
table.

"What's this, Captain Gordon?"

"It's an answer to a question. You mentioned Saul Morris before, and I
have been making inquiries in New York. Here's the reply."

The cablegram was from the Chief of Police, New York City.


"Answering your inquiry. Saul Morris is alive, and is believed to be in
England at this moment. No charges pending against him here, but
generally supposed to be the man who cleared out strong room of s.s.
_Mantania_, February 17, 1898, Southampton, England, and got away with
55,000,000 francs. Acknowledge."


Elk read and re-read the cablegram, then he folded it carefully, put it
back in its envelope and passed it across the table.

"Saul Morris is in England." he said mechanically. "That Seems to explain
a whole lot."

The search which detectives had conducted at the railway termini had
produced nine bags, all of which contained identical outfits. In every
case there was a spare suit, a clean shirt, two collars, one tie, a
Browning pistol with cartridges, a forged passport without photograph,
the Annatio and money. Only in one respect did the grips differ. At
Paddington the police had recovered one which was a little larger than
its fellows, all of which were of the same pattern and size. This held
the same outfit as the remainder, with the exception that, in addition,
there was a thick pad of cheque forms, every cheque representing a
different branch of a different bank. There were cheques upon the Credit
Lyonnais, upon the Ninth National Bank of New York, upon the Burrowstown
Trust, upon the Bank of Spain, the Banks of Italy and Roumania, in
addition to about fifty branches of the five principal banks of England.
Occupied as he had been, Elk had not had time to make a very close
inspection, but in the morning he determined to deal seriously with the
cheques. He was satisfied that inquiries made at the banks and branches
would reveal different depositors; but the numbers might enable him to
bring the ownership home to one man or one group of men.

As the bags were brought in, they had been examined superficially and
placed in Elk's safe, and to accommodate them, the ordinary contents of
the safe had been taken out and placed in other repositories. Each bag
had been numbered and labelled with the name of the station from whence
it was taken, the name of the officer who had brought it in, and
particulars of its contents. These facts are important, as having a
bearing upon what subsequently happened.

Elk arrived at his office soon after ten o'clock, having enjoyed the
first full night's sleep he had had for weeks. He had, as his assistants,
Balder and a detective-sergeant named Fayre, a promising young man, in
whom Elk placed considerable trust. Dick Gordon arrived almost
simultaneously with the detective chief, and they went into the building
together.

"There isn't the ghost of a chance that we shall be rewarded for the
trouble we've taken to trace these cheques," said Elk, "and I am inclined
to place more hope upon the possibility of the handbags yielding a few
items which were not apparent at first examination. All these bags are
lined, and there is a possibility that they have false bottoms. I am
going to cut them up thoroughly, and if there's anything left after I'm
through, the Frogs are welcome to their secret."

In the office, Balder and the detective-sergeant were waiting, and Elk
searched for his key. The production of the key of the safe was
invariably something of a ritual where Elk was concerned. He gave Dick
Gordon the impression that he was preparing to disrobe, for the key
reposed in some mysterious region which involved the loosening of coat,
waistcoat, and the diving into a pocket where no pocket should be.
Presently the ceremony was through, Elk solemnly inserted the key and
swung back the door.

The safe was so packed with bags that they began to slide toward him,
when the restraining pressure of the door was removed. One by one he
handed them out, and Fayre put them on the table.

"We'll take that Paddington one first," said Elk, pointing to the largest
of the bags. "And get me that other knife, Balder."

The two men walked out into the passage, leaving Fayre alone.

"Can you see the end of this, Captain Gordon?" asked Elk. "The end of the
Frogs? Why, yes, I think I can. I could almost say I was sure."

They had reached the door of the clerk's office and found Balder holding
a murderous looking weapon in his hand.

"Here it is--" he began, and the next instant Dick was flung violently to
the floor, with Elk on top of him.

There was the shrill shriek of smashed glass, a pressure of wind, and,
through all this violence, the deafening thunder of an explosion.

Elk was first to his feet and flew back to his room. The door hung on its
hinges; every pane of glass was gone, and the sashes with them. From his
room poured a dense volume of smoke, into which he plunged. He had hardly
taken a step before he tripped on the prostrate figure of Fayre, and,
stooping, he half-lifted and half-dragged him into the corridor. One
glance was sufficient to show that, if the man was not dead, there seemed
little hope of his recovery. The fire-bells were ringing throughout the
building. A swift rush of feet on the stairs, and the fire squad came
pelting down the corridor, dragging their hose behind them.

What fire there was, was soon extinguished, but Elk's office was a wreck.
Even the door of the safe had been blown from its hinges. There was not
a single article of furniture left, and a big hole gaped in the floor.

"Save those bags," said Elk and went back to look after the injured man,
and not until he had seen his assistant placed in the ambulance did he
return to a contemplation of the ruin which the bomb had made.

"Oh, yes, it was a bomb, sir," said Elk.

A group of senior officers stood in the corridor, looking at the havoc.

"And something particularly heavy in the shape of bombs. The wonder is
that Captain Gordon and I were not there. I told Fayre to open the bag,
but I thought he'd wait until we returned with the knife--we intended
examining the lining. Fayre must have opened the bag and the bomb
exploded."

"But weren't the bags examined before?" asked the Commissioner
wrathfully.

Elk nodded.

"They were examined by me yesterday--every one. The Paddington bag was
turned inside out, every article it contained was placed on my table, and
catalogued. I myself returned them. There was no bomb."

"But how could they be got at?" asked the other.

Elk shook his head.

"I don't know, sir. The only other person who has a key to this safe is
the Assistant Commissioner of my department, Colonel McClintock, who is
on his holidays. We might all have been killed."

"What was the explosive?"

"Dynamite," said Elk promptly. "It blew down." He pointed to the hole in
the floor. "Nitro-glycerine blows up and sideways," he sniffed. "There's
no doubt about it being dynamite."

In his search of the office he found a twisted coil of thin steel, later
the blackened and crumpled face of a cheap alarm clock.

"Both time and contact," he said. "Those Frogs are taking no chances."

He shifted such of his belongings as he could discover into Balder's
office.

There was little chance that this outrage would be kept from the
newspapers. The explosion had blown out the window and a portion of the
brickwork and had attracted a crowd on the Embankment' outside. Indeed,
when Elk left headquarters, he was confronted by newspaper bills telling
of the event.

His first call was at the near-by hospital, to where the unfortunate
Fayre had been taken, acid the news he received was encouraging. The
doctors thought that, with any kind of luck, they would not only save the
man's life, but also save him from any serious mutilation.

"He may lose a finger or two, and he's had a most amazing escape," said
the house surgeon. "I can't understand why he wasn't blown to pieces."

"What I can't understand," said Elk emphatically, "is why I wasn't blown
to pieces."

The surgeon nodded.

"These high explosives play curious tricks," said the surgeon. "I
understand that the force of the explosion blew off the door of the safe,
and yet this paper, which must also have been within range, is scarcely
singed."

He took a square of paper out of his pocket; the edges were blackened;
one corner had been burnt off.

"I found this in his clothing. It must have been driven there when the
bomb detonated," said the surgeon.

Elk smoothed out the paper and read:

_"With the compliments of Number Seven._"

Carefully he folded the paper.

"I'll take this," he said, and put it tenderly away in the interior of
his spectacle case. "Do you believe in hunches, doctor?"

"Do you mean premonitions?" smiled the surgeon.

"To an extent I do."

Elk nodded.

"I have a hunch that I'm going to meet Number Seven--very shortly," he
said.



CHAPTER XXVI - PROMOTION FOR BALDER


A week had passed, and the explosion at headquarters was ancient history.
The injured detective was making fair progress toward recovery, and in
some respects the situation was stagnant.

Elk apparently accepted failure as an inevitability, and seemed, even to
his greatest admirer, to be hypnotized into a fatalistic acceptance of
the situation. His attitude was a little deceptive. On the sixth day
following the explosion, headquarters made a raid upon the cloak-rooms,
and again, as Elk had expected, produced from every single terminus
parcels office, a brand-new bag with exactly the same equipment as the
others had had, except that the Paddington find differed from none of its
fellows.

The bags were opened by an Inspector of Explosives, after very careful
preliminary tests; but they contained nothing more deadly than the
Belgian pistols and the self-same passports, this time made out in the
name of "Clarence Fielding."

"These fellows are certainly thorough," said Elk with reluctant
admiration, surveying his haul.

"Are you keeping the bags in your office?" asked Dick, but Elk shook his
melancholy head.

"I think not," said he.

He had had the bags immediately emptied, their contents sent to the
Research Department; the bags themselves were now stripped of leather and
steel frames, for they had been scientifically sliced, inch by inch.

"My own opinion," said Balder oracularly, "is that there's somebody at
police headquarters who is working against us. I've been considering it
for a long time, and after consulting my wife--"

"You haven't consulted your children, too, have you?" asked Elk
unpleasantly. "The less you talk about headquarters' affairs in your
domestic circle, the better will be your chance of promotion."

Mr. Balder sniffed.

"There's no fear of that, anyway," he said sourly. "I've got myself in
their bad books. And I did think there was a chance for me--it all comes
of your putting me in with Hagn."

"You're an ungrateful devil," said Elk.

"Who's this Number Seven, sir?" asked Balder. "Thinking the matter over,
and having discussed it with my wife, I've come to the conclusion that
he's one of the most important Frogs, and if we could only get him, we'd
be a long way towards catching the big fellow."

Elk put down his pen--he was writing his report at the time--and favoured
his subordinate with a patient and weary smile.

"You ought to have gone into politics," he said, and waved his
subordinate from the room with the end of his penholder.

He had finished his report and was reading it over with a critical eye,
when the service 'phone announced a visitor.

"Send him up," said Elk when he had heard the name. He rang his bell for
Balder. "This report goes to Captain Gordon to initial," he said, and as
he put down the envelope, Joshua Broad stood in the doorway.

"Good morning, Mr. Elk." He nodded to Balder, although he had never met
him. "Good morning," he said.

"Good morning," said Elk. "Come right in and sit down, Mr. Broad. To what
do I owe the pleasure of this call? excuse my politeness, but in the
early morning I'm that way. All right, Balder, you can go."

Broad offered his cigar-case to the detective. "I've come on a curious
errand," he said.

"Nobody ever comes to headquarters on any other," replied Elk.

"It concerns a neighbour of mine."

"Lola Bassano?"

"Her husband," said the other, "Lew Brady." Elk pushed up his spectacles.

"You don't tell me that she's properly married to Lew Brady?" he asked in
surprise.

"I don't think there's any doubt about that," said Broad, "though I'm
perfectly certain that her young friend Bennett is not aware of the fact.
Brady has been staying at Caverley House for a week, and during that time
he has not gone out of doors. What is more, the boy hasn't called; I
don't think there's a quarrel--I have a notion there's something much
deeper than that. I saw Brady by accident as I was coming out of my door.
Bassano's door also happened to be open: the maid was taking in the milk:
and I caught a glimpse of him. He has the finest crop of whiskers I've
seen on a retired pugilist and their ambitions do not as a rule run to
hair! That made me pretty curious," he said, carefully knocking the ash
of his cigar into a tray that was on the table, "and I wondered if there
was any connection between this sudden defiance of the barber and Ray
Bennett's actions. I made a call on him--I met him the other day at the
club and had, as an excuse, the fact that I have also managed to meet
Miss Ella Bennett. His servant--he has a man in by the day to brush his
clothes and tidy up the place--told me that he was not well and was not
visible."

Mr. Broad blew out a ring of smoke and watched it thoughtfully.

"If you want a servant to be faithful, he must live on the premises," he
said. "These occasional men aren't with you long enough to get
trustworthy. It cost me, at the present rate of exchange, two dollars and
thirty-five cents to discover that Mr. Ray Bennett is also in the
hair-restoring business. If there were an election on, these two fellows
might be political cranks who had vowed a vow that they wouldn't touch
their razors until their party was returned to power. And if Lew Brady
were a real sportsman, I should guess that they were doing this for a
bet. As it is, I'm rather intrigued."

Elk rolled his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other.

"I'm not well acquainted with the Statute Book," he said, "but I'm under
the impression there is no law preventing people from cultivating
undergrowth. The--what's the word?--psych--"

"Psychology," suggested Mr. Broad.

"That's it. The psychology of whiskers has never quite reached me.
You're American, aren't you, Mr. Broad?"

"I have the distinction," said the other with that half-smile that came
so readily to his eyes.

"Ah!" said Elk absently, as he stared through the window. "Ever heard of
a man called Saul Morris?"

He brought his eyes back to the other's face. Mr. Joshua Broad was
frowning in an effort of thought.

"I seem to remember the name. He was a criminal of sorts, wasn't he--an
American criminal, if I remember rightly? Yes, I've heard of hint. I seem
to remember that he was killed a few years ago."

Elk scratched his chin irritably.

"I'd like to meet somebody who was at his funeral," he said, "somebody I
could believe on oath."

"You're not suggesting that Lew Brady--"

"No. I'm not suggesting anything about Lew Brady, except that he's a very
poor boxer. I'll look into this distressing whisker competition, Mr.
Broad, and thank you for telling me."

He wasn't especially interested in the eccentric toilet of Ray Bennett.
At five o'clock Balder came to him and asked if he might go home.

"I promised my wife--" he began.

"Keep it," said Elk.

After his subordinate's departure there came an official letter to
Inspector Elk, and, reading its contents, Mr. Elk beamed. It was a letter
from the Superintendent who controlled the official careers of police
officers at headquarters.

"Sir," it ran, "I am directed by the Chief Commissioner of Police to
inform you that the promotion of Police-Constable J. J. Balder to the
rank of Acting-Sergeant has been approved, The appointment will date as
from the 1st May."

Elk folded up the paper and was genuinely pleased. He rang the bell for
Balder before he remembered that he had sent his assistant home. Elk's
evening was free, and in the kindness of his heart he decided upon
conveying the news personally.

"I'd like to see this wife of his," said Elk, addressing nobody, "and the
children!"

Elk turned up the official pass register, and found that Balder lived at
93, Leaford Road, Uxbridge. The names of his wife and children were not
entered, to Elk's disappointment. He would like to have addressed the
latter personally, but no new entry had been made on the sheet since
Balder's enlistment.

His police car took him to Leaford Road; 93 was a respectable little
house--such a house as Elk always imagined his assistant would live in.
His knock was answered by an elderly woman who was dressed for going out,
and Elk was surprised to see that she wore the uniform of a nurse.

"Yes, Mr. Balder lives here," she said, apparently surprised to see the
visitor. "That is to say, he has two rooms here, though he very seldom
stays here the night. He usually comes here to change, and then I think
he goes on to his friends."

"Does his wife live here?"

"His wife?" said the woman in surprise. "I didn't know that he was
married."

Elk had brought Balder's official record with him, to procure some dates
which it was necessary he should certify for pension purposes. In the
space against Balder's address, he noticed for the first time that there
were two addresses given, and that Leaford Road had been crossed out with
ink so pale that he only noticed it now that he saw the paper in
daylight. The second address was one in Stepney.

"I seem to have made a mistake," he said. "His address here is Orchard
Street, Stepney." But the nurse smiled.

"He was with me many years ago," she said, "then he went to Stepney, but
during the war he came here, because the air raids were rather bad in the
East End of London. I am under the impression he has still a room in
Stepney."

"Oh?" said Elk thoughtfully.

He was at the gate when the nurse called him back.

"I don't think he goes to Stepney, though I don't know whether I ought to
talk about his business to a stranger; but if you want him particularly,
I should imagine you would find him at Slough. I'm a monthly nurse," she
said, "and I've seen his car twice going into Seven Gables on the Slough
Road. I think he must have a friend there."

"Whose car?" asked the startled Elk.

"It may be his or his friend's car," said the nurse. "Is he a friend of
yours?"

"He is in a way," said Elk cautiously.

She stood for a moment thinking.

"Will you come in, please?"

He followed her into the clean and tidy little parlour.

"I don't know why I told you, or why I've been talking so freely to you,"
she said, "but the truth is, I've given Mr. Balder notice. He makes so
many complaints, and he's so difficult to please, that I can't satisfy
him. It isn't as though he paid me a lot of money--he doesn't. I make
very little profit out of his rooms, and I've a chance of letting them at
a better rent. And then he's so particular about his letters. I've had a
letter-box put on the door, but even that is not big enough to hold them
some days. What his other business is, I don't know. The letters that
come here are for the Didcot Chemical Works. You probably think that I am
a very difficult woman to please, because, after all, he's out all day
and seldom sleeps here at night."

Elk drew a long breath.

"I think you're nearly the finest woman I've ever met," he said. "Are you
going out now?"

She nodded.

"I've an all night case, and I shan't be back till eleven to-morrow. You
were very fortunate in finding anybody at home."

"I think you said 'his car'; what sort of a car is it?" asked Elk.

"It's a black machine--I don't know the make; I think it is an American
make. And he must have something to do with the ownership because once I
found a lot of tyre catalogues in his bedroom, and some of the tyres he
had marked with a pencil, so I suppose he's responsible to an extent."

One last question Elk asked.

"Does he come back here at night after you've gone?"

"Very rarely, I imagine," replied the woman. "He has his own key, and as
I'm very often out at night I'm not sure whether he returns or not."

Elk stood with one foot on the running-board of his car.

"Perhaps I can drop you somewhere, madam?" he said, and the elderly woman
gratefully accepted.

Elk went back to headquarters, opened a drawer of his desk and took out a
few implements of his profession, and, after filing a number of urgent
instructions, returned to the waiting car, driving to Harley Terrace.
Dick Gordon had an engagement that night to join a theatre party with the
members of the American Embassy, and he was in one of the boxes at the
Hilarity Theatre when Elk opened the door quietly, tapped him on the
shoulder, and brought him out into the corridor, without the remainder of
the party being aware that their guest had retired.

"Anything wrong, Elk?" asked Gordon.

"Balder's got his promotion," said Elk solemnly, and Dick stared at him.
"He's an Acting-Sergeant," Elk went on, "and I don't know a better rank
for Balder. When this news comes to him and his wife and children,
there'll be some happy hearts, believe me."

Elk never drank: this was the first thought that came to Dick Gordon's
mind; but there was a possibility that the anxieties and worries of the
past few weeks might have got on top of him.

"I'm very glad for Balder," he said gently, "and I'm glad for you too,
Elk, because I know you tried hard to get this miserable devil a step in
the right direction."

"Go on with what you were thinking," said Elk.

"I don't know that I was thinking anything," laughed Dick.

"You were thinking that I must be suffering from sunstroke, or I
shouldn't take you out of your comfortable theatre to announce Balder's
promotion. Now will you get your coat, Captain Gordon, and come along
with me? I want to break the news to Balder."

Mystified, but asking no further questions, Gordon went to the
cloak-room, got his coat, and joined the detective in the vestibule.

"We're going to Slough--to the Seven Gables," he added. "It's a fine
house. I haven't seen it, but I know it's a fine house, with a carriage
drive and grand furniture, electric light, telephone and a modern
bath-room. That's deduction. I'll tell you something else--also
deduction. There are trip wires on the lawn, burglar alarms in the
windows, about a hundred servants--"

"What the devil are you talking about?" asked Dick, and Elk chuckled
hysterically.

They were running through Uxbridge when a long-bodied motor-car whizzed
past them at full speed. It was crowded with men who were jammed into the
seats or sat upon one another's knees.

"That's a merry little party," said Dick.

"Very," replied Elk laconically.

A few seconds later, a second car flashed past, going much faster than
they.

"That looks to me like one of your police cars," said Dick. This, too,
was crowded.

"It certainly looks like one of my police cars," agreed Elk. "In America
they've got a better stunt. As you probably know, they've a fine patrol
wagon system. I'd like to introduce it into this country; it's very
handy."

As the car slowed to pass through the narrow, crooked street of
Colnebrook, a third of the big machines squeezed past, and this time
there was no mistaking its character. The man who sat with the driver,
Dick knew as a detective inspector. He winked at Elk as he passed, and
Elk winked back with great solemnity.

"What is the idea?" asked Dick, his curiosity now thoroughly piqued.

"We're having a smoking concert," said Elk, "to celebrate Balder's
promotion. And it will be one of the greatest successes that we've had in
the history of the Force. There will be the brothers Mick and Mac, the
trick cyclists, in their unrivalled act..." He babbled on foolishly.

At Langley the fourth and fifth police cars came past. Dick had long
since realized that the slow pace at which his own car was moving was
designed to allow these laden machines to overtake them. Beyond Langley,
the Windsor road turned abruptly to the left, and, leaning over the
driver, Elk gave new instructions. There was no sign of the police cars:
they had apparently gone on to Slough. A solitary country policeman stood
at the cross-roads and watched them as they disappeared in the dusk with
a certain languid interest.

"We'll stop here," said Elk, and the car was pulled from the road on to
the green sidewalk.

Elk got down.

"Walk a little up the road while I talk to Captain Gordon, he said to the
chauffeur, and then he talked, and Dick listened in amazement and
unbelief.

"Now," said Elk, "we've got about five minutes' walk, as far as I can
remember. I haven't been to Windsor races for so long that I've almost
forgotten where the houses are."

They found the entrance to the Seven Gables between two stiff yew hedges.
There was no gateway; a broad, gravelled path ran between a thick belt of
pine trees, behind which the house was hidden. Elk went a little ahead.
Presently be stopped and raised his hand warningly. Dick came a little
nearer, and, looking over the shoulder of the detective, had his first
view of Seven Gables.

It was a large house, with timbered walls and high, twisted
chimney-stacks.

"Pseudo-Elizabethan," said Dick admiringly.

"1066," murmured Elk, "or was it 1599? That's _some_ house!"

It was growing dusk, and lights were showing from a broad window at the
farther end of the building. The arched doorway was facing them.

"Let us go back," whispered Elk, and they retraced their steps.

It was not until darkness had fallen that he led the way up the carriage
drive to the point they had reached on their earlier excursion. The light
still showed in the window, but the cream-coloured blinds were drawn
down.

"It is safe up as far as the door," whispered Elk; "but right and left of
that, watch out!"

He had pulled a pair of thick stockings over his shoes, and handed
another pair to Dick; and then, with an electric torch in his hand, he
began to move along the path which ran parallel with the building.
Presently he stopped.

"Step over," he whispered.

Dick, looking down, saw the black thread traversing the path, and very
cautiously avoided the obstacle.

A few more paces, and again Elk stopped and warned Dick to step high,
turning to show his light upon the second of the threads, almost
invisible even in the powerful glare of the electric lamp. He did not
move from where he stood until he had made a careful examination of the
path ahead; and it was well that he did so, for the third trip wire was
less than two feet from the second.

They were half-an-hour covering the twenty yards which separated them
from the window. The night was warm, and one of the casements was open.
Elk crept close under the window-sill, his sensitive fingers feeling for
the alarm which he expected to find protecting the broad sill. This he
discovered and avoided, and, raising his hand, he gently drew aside the
window blind.

He saw a large, oaken-panelled room, luxuriously furnished. The wide,
open stone fireplace was banked with flowers, and before it, at a small
table, sat two men. The first was Balder--unmistakably Balder, and
strangely good-looking. Balder's red nose was no longer red. He was in
evening dress and between his teeth was a long amber cigarette-holder.

Dick saw it all, his cheek against EIk's head, heard the quick intake of
the detective's breath, and then noticed the second man. It was Mr.
Maitland.

Mr. Maitland sat, his face in his hands, and Balder was locking at him
with a cynical smile.

They were too far away to hear what the men were saving, but apparently
Maitland was being made the object of reproof. He looked up after a
while, and got on to his feet and began talking. They heard the rumble of
his excited voice, but again no word was intelligible. Then they saw him
raise his fist and shake it at the smiling man, who watched him with a
calm, detached interest, as though he were some strange insect which had
come into his ken. With this parting gesture of defiance, old Maitland
shuffled from the room and the door closed behind him. In a few minutes
he came out of the house, not through the doorway, as they expected, but
apparently through a gateway on the other side of the hedge, for they saw
the gleam of the headlights of his car as it passed.

Left alone, Balder poured himself a drink and apparently rang for one of
the servants. The man who came in arrested Dick's attention instantly. He
wore the conventional uniform of a footman, the dark trousers and the
striped waistcoat, but it was easy to see, from the way he moved, that he
was not an ordinary type of servant. A big man, powerfully built, his
every action was slow and curiously deliberate. Balder said something to
him, and the footman nodded, and, taking up the tray, went out with the
same leisurely, almost pompous, step that had distinguished his entry.

And then it flashed upon Dick, and he whispered into the detective's ear
one word.

"Blind!"

Elk nodded. Again the door opened, and this time three footmen came in,
carrying a heavy-looking table with a canvas cover. At first Gordon
thought that it was Balder's meal that was being brought, but he was soon
to discover the truth. Above the fireplace, hanging on a single wire, was
a large electric lamp, which was not alight. Standing on a chair, one of
the footmen took out the lamp and inserted a plug from the end of which
ran a wire connecting with the table.

"They're all blind," said Elk in a whisper. "And that is Balder's own
broadcasting apparatus, and the aerial is attached to the lamp."

The three servants went out, and, rising, Balder walked to the door and
locked it.

There were another set of windows in the room, looking out upon the side
of the house, and one by one Balder closed and shuttered them. He was
busy with the second of the three, when Elk put his foot upon a ledge of
brick, and, tearing aside the curtain, leapt into the room.

At the sound, Balder spun round.

"Evening, Balder," said Elk.

The man made no reply. He stood, watching his sometime chief, with eyes
that did not waver.

"Thought I'd come along and tell you that you've got your promotion,"
said Elk, "as Acting-Sergeant from the 1st of May, in recognition of the
services you've rendered to the State by poisoning Frog Mills, loosing
Frog Hagn, and blowing up my office with a bomb that you planted
overnight."

Still the man did not speak, nor did he move; and here he was discreet,
for the long-barrelled Browning in Elk's hand covered the lower button of
his white piqué waistcoat.

"And now," said Elk--there was a ring of triumph in his voice--"you'll
take a little walk with me--I want you, _Number Seven!_"

"Haven't you made a mistake?" drawled Balder, so unlike his usual voice
that Elk was for a moment taken aback.

"I never have made a mistake except about the date when Henry the Eighth
married," said Elk.

"Who do you imagine I am?" asked this debonair man of the world.

"I've ceased imagining anything about you, Balder--I know!"

Elk walked with a quick movement toward him and thrust the muzzle of the
pistol in his prisoner's diaphragm.

"Put up your hands and turn round," he said.

Balder obeyed. Slipping a pair of handcuffs from his pocket, Elk snapped
them on to the wrists. Deftly the detective strapped the arms from
behind, drawing them tight, so that the manacled hands had no play.

"This is very uncomfortable," said Balder. "Is it usual for you to make
mistakes of this character, Mr. Elk? My name is Collett-Banson."

"Your name is Mud," said Elk, "but I'm willing to listen to anything you
like to say. I'd rather have your views on cyanide of potassium than
anything. You can sit down."

Dick saw a gleam come to the man's eye; it flashed for a second and was
gone. Evidently Elk saw it too.

"Don't let your hopes rest upon any monkey tricks that might be played by
your attendants," he said, "because fifty C.I.D. men, most of whom are
known personally to you, are disposed round this house."

Balder laughed.

"If they were round the house and on top of the house, they wouldn't
worry me," he said. "I tell you, inspector, you've made a very grave
error, and one which will cost you dear. If a gentleman cannot sit in his
own drawing-room,"--he glanced at the table--"listening to a wireless
concert at The Hague without interfering policemen--then it is about time
the police force was disbanded."

He walked across to the fireplace carelessly and stood with his back to
it; then, lifting his foot, he kicked back one of the steel fire-dogs
which stood on either side of the wide hearth, and the "dog" fell over
on its side. It was a nervous act of a man who was greatly worried and
was not quite conscious of what be was doing. Even Elk, who was all
suspicion, saw nothing to excite his apprehension.

"Yon think my name is Balder, do you?" the man went on. "Well, all I can
say is--"

Suddenly he flung himself sideways on to the hearthrug, but Elk was
quicker. As an oblong slip of the floor gave way beneath the man's
weight, Elk gripped him by the collar and together they dragged him back
to the room.

In a second the three were struggling on the floor together, and in his
desperation Balder's strength was unbelievable. His roaring cry for help
was heard. There came a heavy blow on the door, the babble of angry
voices without, and then, from the ground outside, a series of sharp
explosions, as the army of detectives raced across the lawn, oblivious to
the presence of the alarm-guns.

The fight was short and sharp. The six blind men who comprised the
household of No. 7 were hustled away, and in the last car travelled
Acting-Sergeant Balder, that redoubtable No. 7, who was the right hand
and the left hand of the terrible Frog.



CHAPTER XXVII - MR. BROAD IS INTERESTING


Dick Gordon ended his interview with Mr. Ezra Maitland at three o'clock
in the morning, and went to Headquarters, to find the charge-room at
Cannon Row singularly empty. When he had left, it was impossible to get
in or out for the crowd of detectives which filled or surrounded the
place.

"On the whole, Pentonville is safest, and I've got him there. I asked the
Governor to put him in the condemned cell, but it is not etiquette.
Anyway, Pentonville is the safest spot I know, and I think that, unless
Frogs eat stones, he'll stay. What has Maitland got to say, Captain?"

"Maitland's story, so far as one can get a story from him, is that he
went to see Balder by invitation. 'When you're sent for by the police,
what can you do?' he asked, and the question is unanswerable."

"There is no doubt at all," said Elk, "that Maitland knew Balder's
character, and it was not in his capacity as policeman that the old man
visited him. There is less doubt that this man is hand in glove with the
Frog, but it is going to be very difficult to prove."

"Maitland puzzles me," said Dick. "He's such a bully, and yet such a
frightened old man. I thought he was going to drop through the floor when
I told him who I was, and why I had come. And when I mentioned the fact
that Balder had been arrested, he almost collapsed."

"That line has to be followed," said Elk thoughtfully. "I have sent for
Johnson. He ought to be here by now. Johnson must know something about
the old man's business, and he will be a very valuable witness if we can
connect the two."

The philosopher arrived half-an-hour later, having been aroused from his
sleep to learn that his presence was required at Headquarters.

"Mr. Elk will tell you something which will be public property in a day
or two," said Gordon. "Balder has been arrested in connection with the
explosion which occurred in Mr. Elk's office."

It was necessary to explain to Johnson exactly who Balder was, and Dick
went on to tell him of the old man's visit to Slough. Johnson shook his
head.

"I didn't know that Maitland had a friend of that name," he said.
"Balder? What other name had he?"

"He called himself Collet-Banson," said Dick, and a look of understanding
came to the face of Johnson.

"I know that name very well. Mr. Banson used frequently to call at the
office, generally late in the evenings--Maitland spends three nights a
week working after the clerks have gone, as I know to my cost," he said.
"A rather tall, good looking fellow of about forty?"

"Yes, that is the man."

"He has a house near Windsor. I have never been there, but I know because
I have posted letters to him."

"What sort of business did Collett-Banson have with Maitland?"

"I've never been able to discover. I always thought of him as a man who
had property to sell, for that was the only type of outsider who was ever
admitted to Maitland's presence. I remember that he had the child staying
with him for about a week--"

"That is, the child in Maitland's house?"

Johnson nodded.

"You don't know what association there is between the child and these two
men?"

"No, sir, except that I am certain that Mr. Collett-Banson had the little
boy with him, because I sent toys--mechanical engines or something of the
sort--by Mr. Maitland's directions. It was the day that Mr. Maitland made
his will, about eighteen months ago. I remember the day particularly for
a peculiar reason. I had expected Mr. Maitland to ask me to witness the
will and was piqued, for no cause, because he brought two clerks up from
the office to sign. These little things impress themselves upon one," he
added.

"Was the will made in favour of the child?"

Johnson shook his head.

"I haven't the slightest knowledge of how the property goes," he said.
"He never discussed the matter with me; he wouldn't even employ a lawyer.
In fact, I don't remember his ever employing a lawyer all the time I was
with him, except for conveyancing work. He told me he had copied the form
of will from a book, but beyond feeling hurt that I, an old and faithful
servant of his, hadn't been taken a little into his confidence, I wasn't
greatly interested in the matter. But I do remember that that morning I
went down to a store and bought a whole lot of toys, had them packed and
brought them back to the office. The old man played with them all the
afternoon!"

Early in the morning Dick Gordon interviewed the prisoners at
Pentonville, and found them in a very obstinate mood.

"I know nothing about babies or children; and if Johnson says he sent
toys, he is lying," said Balder defiantly. "I refuse to make any
statement about Maitland or my association with Maitland. I am the victim
of police persecution, and I defy you to bring any proof that I have
committed a single act in my life--unless it is a crime to live like a
gentleman--for which you can imprison me."

"Have you any message for your wife and children?" asked Dick
sarcastically, and the sullen features of the man relaxed for a second.

"No, Elk will look after them," he said humorously.

The most stringent precautions had been taken to prevent a rescue, and
the greatest care was exercised that no communication passed between No.
7 and the outside world. He was charged at Bow Street an hour before the
court usually sat. Evidence of arrest was taken, and he was remanded,
being removed to Pentonville in a motor-van under armed guard.

On the third night of his imprisonment, romance came into the life of the
second chief warder of Pentonville Prison. He was comparatively young and
single, not without good looks, and lived, with his widowed mother, at
Shepherd's Bush. It was his practice to return home after his day's duty
by omnibus, and he was alighting on this day when a lady, who had got off
before him, stumbled and fell. Instantly he was by her side, and had
lifted her to her feet. She was young and astonishingly pretty and he
helped her gain the pavement.

"It was nothing," she said smilingly, but with a grimace of pain. "It was
very foolish of me to come by 'bus; I was visiting an old servant of mine
who is ill. Will you call me a taxi, please?"

"Certainly, madam," said the gallant chief warder.

The taxi which was passing was beckoned to the kerb. The girl looked
round helplessly.

"I wish I could see somebody I know. I don't want to go home alone; I'm
so afraid of fainting."

"If you would not object to my escort," said the man, with all the
warm-hearted earnestness which the sight of a woman in distress awakens
in the bosom of impressionable man, "I will see you home."

She shot a glance at him which was full of gratitude and accepted his
escort, murmuring her regret for the trouble she was giving him.

It was a beautiful apartment she occupied. The chief warder thought he
had never met so gracious and beautiful a lady before, so appropriately
housed, and he was right. He would have attended to her injury, but she
felt so much better, and her maid was coming in soon, and would he have a
whisky-and-soda, and would he please smoke? She indicated where the
cigarettes were to be found, and for an hour the chief warder spoke about
himself, and had an enjoyable evening.

"I'm very much obliged to you, Mr. Bron," she said at parting. "I feel
I've wasted your evening.

"I can assure you," said Mr. Bron earnestly, "that if this is a waste of
time, then time has no use!"

She laughed.

"That is a pretty speech," she said, "and I will let you call to-morrow
and see me."

He took a careful note of the address; it was an exclusive maisonette in
Bloomsbury Square; and the next evening found him ringing the bell, but
this time he was not in uniform.

He left at ten o'clock, an ecstatic man who held his head high and dreamt
golden dreams, for the fragrance of her charm (as he wrote her)
"permeated his very being." Ten minutes after he had gone, the girl came
out, closed the door behind her and went out into the street, and the
idler who had been promenading the pavement threw away his cigar.

"Good evening, Miss Bassano," he said.

She drew herself up.

"I am afraid you have made a mistake," she said stiffly.

"Not at all. You're Miss Bassano, and my only excuse for addressing you
is that I am a neighbour of yours."

She looked more closely at him.

"Oh, Mr. Broad!" she said in a more gracious tone. "I've been visiting a
friend of mine who is rather ill."

"So I'm told, and a nice flat your friend occupies," he said as he fell
in by her side. "I was thinking of hiring it a few days ago. These
furnished apartments are difficult to find. Maybe it was a week ago--yes,
it was a week ago," he said carefully; "it was the day before you had
your lamentable accident in Shepherd's Bush."

"I don't quite understand you," she said, on her guard at once.

"The truth is," said Mr. Broad apologetically, "that I've been trying to
get at Bron too. I've been making a very careful study of the prison
staff for the past two months, and I've a list of the easy boys that has
cost me a lot of money to compile. I suppose you didn't reach the stage
where you persuaded him to talk about his interesting prisoner? I tried
him last week," he went on reminiscently. "He roes to a dance club at
Hammersmith, and I got acquainted with him through a girl he's keen
about--you're not the only young love of his life, by the way."

She laughed softly.

"What a clever man you are, Mr. Broad!" she said. "No, I'm not very
interested in prisoners. By the way, who this person you were referring
to?"

"I was referring to Number Seven, who is in Pentonville Gaol," said Mr.
Broad coolly, "and I've got an idea he is a friend of yours."

"Number Seven?" Her perplexity would have convinced a less hardened man
than Joshua Broad. "I have an idea that that is something to do with the
Frogs."

"That is something to do with the Frogs," agreed the other gravely,
"about whom I daresay you have read. Miss Bassano, I'll make you an
offer."

"Offer me a taxi, for I'm tired of walking," she said, and when they were
seated side by side she asked: "What your offer?"

"I offer you all that you require to get out of this country and to keep
you out for a few years, until this old Frog busts--as he will bust! I've
been watching you for a long time, and, if you won't consider it an
impertinence, I like you. There's something about you that is very
attractive--Don't stop me, because I'm not going to get fresh with you,
or suggest that you're the only girl that ever made tobacco taste like
molasses--I like you in a kind of pitying way, and you needn't get
offended at that either. And I don't want to see you hurt."

He was very serious; she recognized his sincerity, and the word of
sarcasm that rose to her lips remained unuttered.

"Are you wholly disinterested?" she asked.

"So far as you are concerned, I am," he replied. "There is going to be an
almighty smash, and it is more than likely that you'll get in the way of
some of the flying pieces."

She did not answer him at once. What he had said merely intensified her
own uneasiness.

"I suppose you know I'm married?"

"I guessed that," he answered. "Take your husband with you. What are you
going to do with that boy?"

"You mean Ray Bennett?"

It was curious that she made no attempt to disguise either her position
or the part that she was playing. She wondered at herself after she was
home. But Joshua Broad had a compelling way, and she never dreamt of
deceiving him.

"I don't know," she said. "I wish he wasn't in it. He is on my
conscience. Are you smiling?"

"At your having a conscience? No, I fancied that was how you stood. And
the growing beard?"

She did not laugh.

"I don't know about that. All I know is that we've had--why am I telling
you this? Who are you, Mr. Broad?" He chuckled.

"Some day I'll tell you," he said; "and I promise you that, if you're
handy, you shall be the first to know. Go easy with that boy, Lola."

She did not resent the employment of her first name, but rather it warmed
her towards this mystery man.

"And write to Mr. Bron, Assistant Chief Warder of Pentonville Gaol, and
tell him that you've been called out of town and won't be able to see him
again for ten years."

To this she made no rejoinder. He left her at the door of her flat and
took her little hand in his.

"If you want money to get away, I'll send you a blank cheque," he said.
"There is no one else on the face of the earth that I'd give a blank
cheque to, believe me."

She nodded, most unusual tears in her eyes. Lola was breaking under the
strain, and nobody knew it better than the hawk-faced man who watched her
as she passed into her flat.



CHAPTER XXVIII - MURDER


The stone which woke Ella Bennett was aimed with such force that the pane
cracked. She slipped quickly from bed and pulled aside the curtains.
There had been a thunderstorm in the night, and the skies were so grey
and heavy, and the light so bad, that she could only distinguish the
shape of the man that stood under her window. John Bennett heard her go
from her room and came to his door.

"Is it Maitland?" he asked.

"I think so," she said.

He frowned.

"I can't understand these visits," he said. "Do you think he's mad?"

She shook her head. After the precipitate flight of the old man on his
last visit, she had not expected that he would come again, and guessed
that only some matter of the greatest urgency would bring him. She heard
her father moving about his room as she went through the darkened
dining-room into the passage which opened directly on to the garden.

"Is that you, miss?" quavered a voice in the darkness.

"Yes, Mr. Maitland."

"Is _he_ up?" he asked in an awe-stricken whisper.

"You mean my father? Yes, he's awake."

"I've got to see you," the old man almost wailed. "They've took him."

"Taken whom?" she asked with a catch in her voice.

"That fellow Balder. I knew they would."

She remembered having heard Elk mention Balder.

"The policeman?" she asked. "Mr. Elk's man?"

But he was off on another tack.

"It's you he's after." He came nearer to her and clutched her arm. "I
warned you--don't forget I warned you. Tell him that I warned you. He'll
make it good for me, won't he?" he almost pleaded, and she began to
understand dimly that the "he" to whom the old man was referring was
Dick Gordon. "He's been with me most of the night, prying and asking
questions. I've had a terrible night, miss, terrible," he almost sobbed.
"First Balder and then him. He'll get you--not that police gentleman I
don't mean, but Frog. That's why I wrote you the letter, telling you to
come up. You didn't get no letter, did you, miss?"

She could not make head or tail of what he was saying or to whom he was
referring, as he went on babbling his story of fear, a story interspersed
with wild imprecations against "him."

"Tell your father, dearie, what I said to you." He became suddenly
calmer. "Matilda said I ought to have told your father, but I'm afraid of
him, my dear, I'm afraid of him!"

He took one of her hands in his and fondled it.

"You'll speak a word for me, won't you?" She knew he was weeping, though
she could not see his face.

"Of course I'll speak a word for you, Mr. Maitland, Oughtn't you to see a
doctor?" she asked anxiously.

"No, no, no doctors for me. But tell him, won't you--not your father, I
mean, the other feller--that I did all I could for you. That's what I've
come to see you about. They've got Balder--" He stopped short suddenly
and craned his head forward. "Is that your father?" he asked in a husky
whisper.

She had heard the footsteps of John Bennett on the stairs.

"Yes, I think it is, Mr. Maitland," and at her words he pulled his hand
from hers with a jerk and went shuffling down the pathway into the road
and out of sight.

"What did he want?"

"I really don't know, father," she said. "I don't think he can be very
well."

"Do you mean mad?"

"Yes, and yet he was quite sensible for a little time. He said they've
got Balder."

He did not reply to her, and she thought he had not heard her.

"They've taken Balder, Mr. Elk's assistant. I suppose that means he has
been arrested?"

"I suppose so," said John Bennett, and then: "My dear, you ought to be in
bed. Which way did he go?"

"He went toward Shoreham," said the girl. "Are you going after him,
father?" she asked in surprise.

"I'll walk up the road. I'd like to see him," said John Bennett. "You go
to bed, my dear."

But she stood waiting by the door, long after his footsteps had ceased to
sound on the road. Five minutes, ten minutes passed, a quarter of an
hour, and then she heard the whine of a car and the big limousine flew
past the gate, spattering mud, and then came John Bennett.

"Aren't you in bed?" he asked almost roughly.

"No, father, I don't feel sleepy. It is late now, so I think I'll do some
work. Did you see him?"

"Who, the old man? Yes, I saw him for a minute or two.

"Did you speak to him?"

"Yes, I spoke to him." The man did not seem inclined to pursue the
subject, but this time Ella persisted.

"Father, why is he frightened of you?"

"Will you make me some coffee?" said Bennett.

"Why is he frightened of you?"

"How do I know? My dear, don't ask so many questions. You worry me. He
knows me, he's seen me--that is all. Balder is held for murder. I think
he is a very bad man."

Later in the day she revived the subject of Maitland's visit.

"I wish he would not come," she said. "He frightens me."

"He will not come again," said John Bennett prophetically.

* * * * *

The house in Berkeley Square which had passed into the possession of Ezra
Maitland had been built by a nobleman to whom money had no significance.
Loosely described as one of the show places of the Metropolis, very few
outsiders had ever marvelled at the beauty of its interior. It was a
palace, though none could guess as much from viewing its conventional
exterior. In the gorgeous saloon, with its lapis-lazuli columns, its
fireplaces of onyx and silver, its delicately panelled walls and silken
hangings, Mr. Ezra Maitland sat huddled in a large Louis Quinze chair, a
glass of beer before him, a blackened clay pipe between his gums. The
muddy marks of his feet showed on the priceless Persian carpet; his hat
half eclipsed a golden Venus of Marrionnet, which stood on a pedestal by
his side. His hands clasped across his stomach, he glared from under his
white eyebrows at the floor. One shaded lamp relieved the gloom, for the
silken curtains were drawn and the light of day did not enter.

Presently, with an effort, he reached out, took the mug of beer, which
had gone flat, and drained its contents. This dare and the mug replaced,
he sank back into his former condition of torpor. There was a gentle
knock at the door and a footman came in, a man of powder and calves.

"Three gentlemen to see you, sir. Captain Gordon, Mr. Elk, and Mr.
Johnson."

The old man suddenly sat up.

"Johnson?" he said. "What does he want?"

"They are in the little drawing-room, sir."

"Push them in," growled the old man.

He seemed indifferent to the presence of the two police officers, and it
was Johnson he addressed.

"What do you want?" he asked violently. "What do you mean by coming
here?"

"It was my suggestion that Mr. Johnson should come," said Dick.

"Oh, your suggestion, was it?" said the old man, and his attitude was
strangely insolent compared with his dejection of the early morning.

Elk's eyes fell upon the empty beer-mug, and he wondered how often that
had been filled since Ezra Maitland had returned to the house. He guessed
it had been employed fairly often, for there was a truculence in the
ancient man's tone, a defiance in his eye, which suggested something more
than spiritual exaltation.

"I'm not going to answer any questions," he said loudly. "I'm not going
to tell any truth, and I'm not going to tell any lies."

"Mr. Maitland," said Johnson hesitatingly, "these gentlemen are anxious
to know about the child."

The old man closed his eyes.

"I'm not going to tell no truth and I'm not going to tell no lies," he
repeated monotonously.

"Now, Mr. Maitland," said the good-humoured Elk, "forget your good
resolution and tell us just why you lived in that slum of Eldor Street."

"No truth and no lies," murmured the old man. "You can lock me up but I
won't tell you anything. Lock me up. My name's Ezra Maitland; I am a
millionaire. I've got millions and millions and millions! I could buy you
up and I could buy up mostly anybody! Old Ezra Maitland! I've been in the
workhouse and I've been in quod."

Dick and his companion exchanged glances, and Elk shook his head to
signify the futility of further questioning the old man. Nevertheless,
Dick tried again.

"Why did you go to Horsham this morning?" he asked, and could have bitten
his tongue when he realized his blunder. Instantly the old man was wide
awake.

"I never went to Horsham," he roared. "Don't know what you're talking
about. I'm not going to tell you anything. Throw 'em out, Johnson."

When they were in the street again, Elk asked a question.

"No, I've never known him to drink before," said Johnson. "He has always
been very abstemious so long as I've known him. I never thought I could
persuade him to talk."

"Nor did I," said Dick Gordon--a statement which more than a little
surprised the detective.

Dick signalled to the other to get rid of Johnson, and when that
philosophical gentleman had been thanked and sent away, Dick Gordon spoke
urgently.

"We must have two men in this house at once. What excuse can we offer for
planting detectives on Maitland?" Elk pursed his lips.

"I don't know," he confessed. "We shall have to get a warrant before we
arrest him; we could easily get another warrant to search the house; but
beyond that I fear we can't go, unless he asks for protection."

"Then put him under arrest," said Dick promptly. "What is the charge?"

"Hold him on suspicion of being associated with the Frogs, and if
necessary move him to the nearest police station. But it has to be done
at once."

Elk was perturbed.

"It isn't a small matter to arrest a millionaire, you know, Captain
Gordon. I daresay in America it is simple, and I am told you could pinch
the President if you found him with a flask in his pocket. But here it is
a little different."

How very different it was, Dick discovered when he made application in
private for the necessary warrants. At four o'clock they were delivered
to him by the clerk of a reluctant magistrate, and, accompanied by police
officers, be went back to Maitland's palatial home.

The footman who admitted them said that Mr. Maitland was lying down and
that he did not care to disturb him. In proof, he sent for a second
footman, who confirmed the statement.

"Which is his room?" said Dick Gordon. "I am a police officer and I want
to see him."

"On the second floor, sir."

He showed them to an electric lift, which carried the five to the second
floor. Opposite the lift grille was a large double door, heavily
burnished and elaborately gilded.

"Looks more like the entrance to a theatre," said Elk. in an undertone.

Dick knocked. There was no answer. He knocked louder. Still there was no
answer. And then, to Elk's surprise, the young man launched himself at
the door with all his strength. There was a sound of splitting wood and
the door parted. Dick stood in the entrance, rooted to the ground.

Ezra Maitland lay half on the bed, his legs dragging over the side. At
his feet was the prostrate figure of the old woman whom he called
Matilda. They were both dead, and the pungent fumes of cordite still hung
in a blue cloud beneath the ceiling.



CHAPTER XXIX - THE FOOTMAN


Dick ran to the bedside, and one glance at the still figures told him all
he wanted to know.

"Both shot," he said, and looked up at the filmy cloud under the ceiling.
"May have happened any time--a quarter of an hour ago. This stuff hangs
about for hours."

"Hold every servant in the house," said Elk in an undertone to the men
who were with him.

A doorway led to a smaller bedroom, which was evidently that occupied by
Maitland's sister.

"The shot was fired from this entrance," said Dick. "Probably a silencer
was used, but we shall hear about that later."

He searched the floor and found two spent cartridges of a heavy calibre
automatic.

"They killed the woman, of course," he said, speaking his thoughts aloud.
"I was afraid of this. If I could only have got our men in!"

"You expected him to be murdered?" said Elk in astonishment.

Dick nodded. He was trying the window of the woman's room. It was
unfastened, and led on to a narrow parapet, protected by a low
balustrade. From there, access could be had into another room on the same
floor, and no attempt had been made by the murderer to conceal the fact
that this was the way he had passed. The window was wide open, and there
were wet footmarks on the floor. It was a guest room, slightly
overcrowded with surplus furniture, which had been put there apparently
by the housekeeper instead of in a lumber-room.

The door opened again into the corridor, and faced a narrow flight of
stairs leading to the servants' quarters above. Elk went down on his
knees and examined the tread of the carpet carefully.

"Up here, I think," he said, and ran ahead of his chief.

The third floor consisted entirely of servants' rooms, and i t was some
time before Elk could pick up the footprints which led directly to No. 1.
He tried the handle: it was locked. Taking a pace backward, he raised his
foot and kicked open the door. He found himself in a servant's bedroom,
which was empty. An attic window opened on to the sloping roof of another
parapet, and without a second's hesitation Dick went out, following the
course of that very precarious alleyway. Farther along, iron rails
protected the walker, and this was evidently one of the ways of escape in
case of fire. He followed the "path" across three roofs until he came
to a short flight of iron stairs, which reached down to the flat roof of
another house, and a guard fire-escape. Guarded it had been, but now the
iron gate which barred progress was open, and Dick ran down the narrow
stairs into a concrete yard surrounded on three sides by high walls and
on the fourth by the back of a house, which was apparently unoccupied,
for the blinds were all drawn.

There was a gate in the third wall, and it was ajar. Passing through, he
was in a mews. A man was washing a motorcar a dozen paces from where he
stood, and they hurried toward him.

"Yes, sir," said the cleaner, wiping his streaming forehead with the back
of his hand, "I saw a man come out of there about five minutes ago. He
was a servant--a footman or something--I didn't recognize him, but he
seemed in a hurry."

"Did he wear a hat?"

The man considered.

"Yes, sir, I think he did," he said. "He went out that way," and he
pointed.

The two men hurried along, turned into Berkeley Street, and as they did
so, the car-washer turned to the closed doors of his garage and whistled
softly. The door opened slowly and Mr. Joshua Broad came out.

"Thank you," he said, and a piece of crisp and crackling paper went into
the washer's hand.

He was out of sight before Dick and the detective came back from their
vain quest.

No doubt existed in Dick's mind as to who the murderer was. One of the
footmen was missing. The remaining servants were respectable individuals
of unimpeachable character. The seventh had come at the same time as Mr.
Maitland; and although he wore a footman's livery, he had apparently no
previous experience of the duties which he was expected to perform. He
was an ill-favoured man, who spoke very little, and "kept himself to
himself," as they described it; took part in none of their pleasures or
gossip; was never in the servants' hall a second longer than was
necessary.

"Obviously a Frog," said Elk, and was overjoyed to learn that there was a
photograph of the man in existence.

The photograph had its origin in an elaborate and somewhat pointless joke
which had been played on the cook by the youngest of the footmen. The
joke consisted of finding in the cook's workbasket a photograph of the
ugly footman, and for this purpose the young servant had taken a snap of
the man.

"Do you know him?" asked Dick, looking at the picture. Elk nodded.

"He has been through my hands, and I don't think I shall have any
difficulty in placing him, although for the moment his name escapes me."

A search of the records, however, revealed the identity of the missing
man, and by the evening an enlargement of the photograph, and his name,
aliases and general characteristics, were locked into the form of every
newspaper in the metropolis.

One of the servants had heard the shot, but thought it was the door being
slammed--a pardonable mistake, because Mr. Maitland was in the habit of
banging doors.

"Maitland was a Frog all right," reported Elk after he had seen the body
removed to the mortuary. "He's well decorated on the left wrist--yes,
slightly askew. That is one of the points that you've never cleared up to
me, Captain Gordon. Why they should be tattooed on the left wrist I can
understand, but why the frog shouldn't be stamped square I've never
understood."

"That is one of the little mysteries that can't be cleared up until we
are through with the big ones," said Dick.

A telegram had been received that afternoon by the missing footman. This
fact was not remembered until after Elk had returned to headquarters. A
'phone message through to the district post-office brought a copy of the
message. It was very simple.

"Finish and clear," were the three words. The message was unsigned. It
had been handed in at the Temple Post Office at two o'clock, and the
murderer had lost no time in carrying out his instructions.

Maitland's office was in the hands of the police, and a systematic search
had already begun of its documents and books. At seven o'clock that night
Elk went to Fitzroy Square, and Johnson opened the door to him. Looking
past him, Elk saw that the passage was filled with furniture and packing
cases, and remembered that early in the morning Johnson had mentioned
that he was moving, and had taken two cheaper rooms in South London.

"You've packed?"

Johnson nodded.

"I hate leaving this place," he said, "but it's much too expensive. It
seems as though I shall never get another job, and I'd better face that
fact sensibly. If I live at Balham, I can live comfortably. I've very few
expensive tastes."

"If you have, you can indulge them," said Elk. "We found the old man's
will. He has left you everything!"

Johnson's jaw dropped, his eyes opened wide.

"Are you joking?" he said.

"I was never more serious in my life. The old man has left you every
penny he had. Here is a copy of the will: I thought you'd like to see
it."

He opened his pocket-case, producing a sheet of foolscap, and Johnson
read:

"I, Ezra Maitland, of 593, Eldor Road, in the County of Middlesex,
declare this to be my last will and testament, and I formally revoke all
other wills and codicils to such wills. I bequeath all my property,
movable or immovable, all lands, houses, deeds, shares in stock companies
whatsoever, and all jewellery, reversions, carriages, motor-cars, and all
other possessions absolutely, to Philip Johnson, of 475, Fitzroy Square,
in the County of London, clerk. I declare him to be the only honest man I
have ever met with in my long and sorrowful life, and I direct him to
devote himself with unremitting care to the destruction of that society
or organization which is known as the Frogs, and which for four and
twenty years has extracted large sums of blackmail from me."

It was signed in a clerkly hand familiar to Johnson, and was witnessed by
two men whose names he knew.

He sat down and did not attempt to speak for a long time.

"I read of the murder in the evening paper," he said after a while. "In
fact, I've been up to the house, but the policemen referred me to you,
and I knew you were too busy to be bothered. How was he killed?"

"Shot," said Elk.

"Have they caught the man?"

"We shall have him by the morning," said Elk with confidence. "Now that
we've taken Balder, there'll be nobody to warn the men we want."

"It is very dreadful," said Johnson after a while. "But this,"--he looked
at the paper--"this has quite knocked me out. I don't know what to say.
Where was it found?"

"In one of his deed boxes."

"I wish he hadn't," said Johnson with emphasis. "I mean, left me his
money. I hate responsibility. I'm temperamentally unfitted to run a big
business...I wish he hadn't!"

"How did he take it?" asked Dick when Elk had returned.

"He's absolutely hazed. Poor devil, I felt sorry for him, and I never
thought I should feel sorry for any man who came into money. He was just
getting ready to move into a cheaper house when I arrived. I suppose he
won't go to the Prince of Caux's mansion. The change in Johnson's
prospects might make a difference to Ray Bennett: does that strike you,
Captain Gordon?"

"I thought of that possibility," said Dick shortly.

He had an interview in the afternoon with the Director of Public
Prosecutions in regard to Balder. And that learned gentleman echoed his
own fears.

"I can't see how we're going to get a verdict of murder against this man,
although it is as plain as daylight that he poisoned Mills and was
responsible for the bomb outrage. But you can't hang a man on suspicion,
even though the suspicion is not open to doubt. How did he kill Mills, do
you think?"

"Mills had a cold," said Dick. "He had been coughing all the way up in
the car, and had asked Balder to close the window of the room. Balder
obviously closed, or nearly closed the window, and probably slipped a
cyanide tablet to the man, telling him it was good for his cold. It was a
fairly natural thing for Mills to take and swallow the tablet, and that,
I am sure, is what happened. We made a search of Balder's house at
Slough, and found a duplicate set of keys, including one to Elk's safe.
Balder got there early in the morning and planted the bomb, knowing that
Elk and I would be opening the bags that morning."

"And helped Hagn to escape," said the Public Prosecutor.

"That was much more simple," explained Dick. "I gather that the inspector
who was seen walking out at half past two was Hagn. When Balder went into
the cell to keep the man company; be must have been dressed underneath in
the police uniform, and have carried the necessary handcuffs and
pass-keys with him. He was not searched--a fact for which I am as much
responsible as Elk: The chief danger we had to fear from Balder came from
his closeness to us, and his ability to communicate immediately to his
chief every movement which we made. His name is Kramer, and he is by
birth a Lithuanian. He was expelled from Germany at the age of eighteen
for his revolutionary activities, and came to this country two years
later, where he joined the police. At what time he came into contact with
the Frogs I do not know, but it is fairly clear, from evidence we have
obtained, that the man has been engaged in various illegal operations for
many years past. I'm afraid you are right about Balder: it will be
immensely difficult to get a conviction until we have caught Frog
himself."

"And will you catch the Frog, do you think?"

Dick Gordon smiled cryptically.

No fresh news had come about the murder of Maitland and his sister, and
he seized the opportunity which the lull gave to him. Ella Bennett was in
the vegetable garden, engaged in the prosaic task of digging potatoes
when he appeared, and she came running toward him, stripping her leather
gloves.

"This is a splendid surprise," she said, and flushed at the consciousness
of her own enthusiasm. "Poor man, you must be having a terrible time! I
saw the newspaper this morning. Isn't it dreadful about poor Mr.
Maitland? He was here yesterday morning."

He nodded.

"Is it true that Mr. Johnson has been left the whole of Maitland's money?
Isn't that splendid!"

"Do you like Johnson?" he asked.

"Yes, he's a nice man," she nodded. "I don't know a great deal about him;
indeed, I've only met him once or twice, but he was very kind to Ray, and
saved him from getting into trouble. I am wondering whether, now that he
is rich, he will induce Ray to go back to Maitlands."

"I wonder if he will induce you--" He stopped.

"Induce me to what?" she asked in astonishment.

"Johnson is rather fond of you--he's never made any disguise of the fact,
and he's a very rich man. Not that I think that would make any difference
to you," he added hastily. "I'm not a very rich man, but I'm comfortably
off."

The fingers in his hand stole round his, and pressed them tightly, and
then suddenly they relaxed.

"I don't know," she said, and drew herself free.

"Father said--" She hesitated. "I don't think father would like it. He
thinks there is such a difference between our social positions."

"Rats!" said Dick inelegantly.

"And there's something else." She found it an effort to tell him what
that something was. "I don't know what father does for a living, but it
is...work that he never wishes to speak about; something that he looks
upon as disgraceful."

The last words were spoken so low that he hardly caught them.

"Suppose I know the worst about your father?" he asked quietly, and she
stood back, looking at him from under knit brows.

"Do you mean that? What is it, Dick?"

He shook his head.

"I may know or I may not. It is only a wild guess. And you're not to tell
him that I know, or that I'm in any way suspicious. Will you please do
that for me?"

"And knowing this, would it make any difference to you?"

"None."

She had plucked a flower, and was pulling it petal from petal in her
abstraction.

"Is it very dreadful?" she asked. "Has he committed a crime? No, no,
don't tell me."

Once more he was near her, his arm about her trembling shoulders, his
hand beneath her chin.

"My dear!" murmured the youthful Public Prosecutor, and forgot there was
such a thing as murder in the world.

John Bennett was glad to see him, eager to tell the news of his triumph.
He had a drawer full of press cuttings, headed "Wonderful Nature
Studies. Remarkable Pictures by an Amateur," and others equally
flattering. And there had come to him a cheque which had left him
gasping.

"This means--you don't know what it means to me, Mr. Gordon," he said,
"or Captain Gordon--I always forget you've got a military title. When
that boy of mine recovers his senses and returns home, he's going to have
just the good time he wants. He's at the age when most boys are
fools--what I call the showing-off age. Sometimes it runs to pimples and
introspection, sometimes to the kind of life that a man doesn't like to
look back on. Ray has probably taken the less vicious course."

It was a relief to hear the man speak so. Dick always thought of Ray
Bennett as one who had committed the unforgiveable sin.

"This time next year I'm going to be an artist of leisure," said John
Bennett, who looked ten years younger.

Dick offered to drive him to town, but this he would not hear of. He had
to make a call at Dorking. Apparently he had letters addressed to him in
that town (Dick learnt of this from the girl) concerning his mysterious
errands. Dick left Horsham with a heart lighter than he had brought w
that little country town, and was in the mood to rally Inspector Elk for
the profound gloom which had settled on him since he had discovered that
there was not sufficient evidence to try Balder for his life.



CHAPTER XXX - THE TRAMPS


Lew Brady sat disconsolately in Lola Bassano's pretty drawing-room, and a
more incongruous figure in that delicate setting it was impossible to
imagine. A week's growth of beard had transfigured him into the most
unsavoury looking ruffian, and the soiled old clothes he wore, the broken
and discoloured boots, the grimy shirt, no less than his own personal
uncleanliness of appearance made him a revolting object.

So Lola thought, eyeing him anxiously, a foreboding of trouble in her
heart.

"I'm finished with the Frog," growled Brady. "He pays--of course he pays!
But how long is it going on, Lola? You brought me into this!" He glowered
at her.

"I brought you in, when you wanted to be brought into something," she
said calmly. "You can't live on my savings all your life, Lew, and it was
nearly time you made a little on the side."

He played with a silver seal, twiddling it between his fingers, his eyes
gloomily downcast.

"Balder's caught, and the old man's dead," he said. "They're the big
people. What chance have I got?"

"What were your instructions, Lew?" she asked for the twentieth time that
day.

He shook his head.

"I'm taking no risks, Lola. I don't trust anybody, not even you."

He took a small bottle from his pocket and examined it.

"What is that?" she asked curiously.

"Dope of some kind."

"Is that part of the instructions too?"

He nodded.

"Are you going in your own name?"

"No, I'm not," he snapped. "Don't ask questions. I'm not going to tell
you anything, see? This trip's going to last a fortnight, and when it's
finished, I'm finished with Frog."

"The boy--is he going with you?"

"How do I know? I'm to meet somebody somewhere, and that's all about it."
He looked at the clock and rose with a grunt. "It's the last time I shall
sit in a decent parlour for a fortnight." He gave a curt nod and walked
to the door.

There was a servants' entrance, a gallery which was reached through the
kitchen, and he passed down the stairs unobserved, into the night.

It was dark by the time he reached Barnet; his feet were aching; he was
hot and wretched. He had, suffered the indignity of being chased off the
pavement by a policeman he could have licked with one hand, and he cursed
the Frog with every step he took. There was still a long walk ahead of
him once he was clear of Barnet; and it was not until a village clock was
striking the hour of eleven that he ambled up to a figure that was
sitting on the side of the road, just visible in the pale moonlight, but
only recognizable when he spoke.

"Is that you?" said a voice.

"Yes, it's me. You're Cartes aren't you?"

"Good Lord!" gasped Ray as he recognized the voice.

"It's Lew Brady!"

"It's nothing of the kind!" snarled the other man. "My name's Phenan.
Yours is Carter. Sit down for a bit. I'm dead beat."

"What is the idea?" asked the youth as they sat side by side.

"How the devil do I know?" said the other savagely as, with a tender
movement, he slipped off his boots and rubbed his bruised feet.

"I had no idea it was you," said Ray.

"I knew it was you, all right," said the other. "And why I should be
called upon to take a mug around this country, God knows!"

After a while he was rested sufficiently to continue the tramp.

"There's a barn belonging to a shopkeeper in the next village. He'll let
us sleep there for a few pence."

"Why not try to get a room?"

"Don't be a fool," snapped Lew. "Who's going to take in a couple of
tramps, do you think? We know we're clean, but they don't. No, we've got
to go the way the tramps go.

"Where? To Nottingham?"

"I don't know. If they told you Nottingham, I should say that's the last
place in the world we shall go to. I've got a sealed envelope in my
pocket. When we reach Baldock I shall open it."

They slept that night in the accommodating barn--a draughty shed,
populated, it seemed, by chickens and rats, and Ray had a restless night
and thought longingly of his own little bed at Maytree Cottage. Strangely
enough, be did not dwell on the more palatial establishment in
Knightsbridge.

The next day it rained, and they did not reach Baldock until late in the
afternoon, and, sitting down under the cover of a hedge, Brady opened the
envelope and read its contents, his companion watching him expectantly.

"You will branch from Baldock and take the nearest G.W. train for Bath.
Then by road to Gloucester. At the village of Laverstock you will reveal
to Carter the fact that you are married to Lola Bassano. You should take
him to the _Red Lion_ for this purpose, and tell him as offensively as
possible in order to force a quarrel, but in no circumstances are you to
allow him to part company from you. Go on to Ibbley Copse. You will find
an open space near where three dead trees stand, and there you will stop,
take back the statement you made that you are married to Lola, and make
an apology. You are carrying with you a whisky flask; you must have the
dope and the whisky together at this point. After he is asleep, you will
make your way to Gloucester, to 289 Hendry Street, where you will find a
complete change of clothing. Here you will shave and return to town by
the 2.19."

Every word, every syllable, he read over and over again, until he had
mastered the details. Then, striking a match, he set fire to the paper
and watched it burn.

"What are the orders?" asked Ray.

"The same as yours, I suppose. What did you do with yours?"

"Burnt them," said Ray. "Did he tell you where we're going?"

"We are going to take the Gloucester Road; I thought we should. That
means striking across country till we reach the Bath Road. We can take a
train to Bath."

"Thank goodness for that!" said Ray fervently. "I don't feel I can walk
another step."

At seven o'clock that night, two tramps turned out of a third-class
carriage on Bath station. One, the younger, was limping slightly, and sat
down on a station seat.

"Come on, you can't stay here," said the other gruffly. "We'll get a bed
in the town. There's a Salvation Army shelter somewhere in Bath."

"Wait a bit," said the other. "I'm so cramped with sitting in that
infernal carriage that I can hardly move."

They had joined the London train at Reading, and the passengers were
pouring down the steps to the subway. Ray looked at them enviously. They
had homes to go to, clean and comfortable beds to sleep in. The thought
of it gave him a pain. And then he saw a figure and shrank back. A tall,
angular man, who carried a heavy box in one hand and a bag in the other.

It was his father.

John Bennett went down the steps, with a casual glance at the two
unsavoury tramps on the seat, never dreaming that one was the son whose
future he was at that moment planning.

John Bennett spent an ugly night, and an even more ugly early morning. He
collected the camera where he had left it, at a beerhouse on the
outskirts of the town, and, fixing the improvised carrier, he slipped the
big box on his back, and, with his bag in his hand, took the road. A
policeman eyed him disapprovingly as he passed, and seemed in two minds
as to whether or not he should stop him, but refrained. The strength and
stamina of this grey man were remarkable. He breasted a hill and, without
slackening his pace, reached the top, and strode steadily along the white
road that was cut in the face of the hill. Below him stretched the meadow
lands of Somerset, vast fields speckled with herds, glittering streaks of
light where the river wound; above his head a blue sky, flecked white
here and there. As he walked, the load on his heart was absorbed. All
that was bright and happy in life came to him. His hand strayed to his
waistcoat pocket mechanically. There were the precious press cuttings
that he had brought from town and had read and re-read in the sleepless
hours of the night.

He thought of Ella, and all that Ella meant to him, and of Dick
Gordon--but that made him wince, and he came back to the comfort of his
pictures. Somebody had told him that there were badgers to be seen; a man
in the train had carefully located a veritable paradise for the lover of
Nature; and it was toward this beauty spot that he was making his way
with the aid of a survey map which he had bought overnight at a
stationer's shop.

Another hour's tramp brought him to a wooden hollow, and, consulting his
map, he found he had reached his objective. There was ample evidence of
the truth that his chance-found friend had told him. He saw a stoat,
flying on the heels of a terrified rabbit; a hawk wheeled ceaselessly on
stiff pinions above him; and presently he found the "run" he was
looking for, the artfully concealed entrance to a badger's lair.

In the years he had been following his hobby he had overcome many
difficulties, learnt much. To-day, failure had taught him something of
the art of concealment, It took him time to poise and hide the camera in
a bus of wild laurel, and even then it was necessary that he should take
a long shot, for the badger is the shyest of its kind. There were young
ones in the lair: he saw evidence of that; and a badger who has young is
doubly shy.

He had replaced the pneumatic attachment which set the camera moving, by
an electrical contrivance, and this enabled him to work with greater
surety. He unwound the long flex and laid it to its fullest extent,
taking a position on the slope of the hill eighty yards away, making
himself comfortable. Taking off his coat, which acted as a pillow on
which his arms rested, he put his field-glasses near at hand.

He had been waiting half an hour when he thought he saw a movement at the
mouth of the burrow, and slowly focussed his glasses. It was the tip of a
black nose he saw, and he took the switch of the starter in his hand,
ready to set the camera revolving. Minutes followed minutes;
five--ten--fifteen--but there was no further movement in the burrow, and
in a dull way John Bennett was glad, because the warmth of the day,
combined with his own weariness and his relaxed position, brought to him
a rare sensation of bodily comfort and well-being. Deeper and deeper grew
the languorous haze of comfort that fell on him like a fog, until it
obscured all that was visible and audible. John Bennett slept, and,
sleeping, dreamed of success and of peace and of freedom from all that
had broken his heart, and had dried up the sweet waters of life within
him. In his dream he heard voices and a sharp sound, like a shot. But he
knew it was not a shot, and shivered. He knew that "crack," and in his
sleep clenched his hands convulsively. The electric starter was still in
his hand.

* * * * * *

At nine o'clock that morning there had come into Laverstock two limping
tramps, though one limped more than the other. The bigger of the two
stopped at the door of the _Red Lion_, and an unfriendly landlord
surveyed the men over the top of the curtain which gave the habitués of
the bar a semi-privacy.

"Come in," growled Lew Brady.

Ray was glad to follow. The landlord' bulk blacked the entrance to the
bar.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"I want a drink."

"There's no free drinks going in this parish," said the landlord, looking
at the unpromising customer.

"Where did you get that 'free drink' stuff from?" snarled Lew. "My
money's as good as anybody else's, isn't it?"

"If it's honestly come by," said the landlord. "Let us have a look at
it."

Lew pulled out a handful of silver, and the master of the Red Lion stood
back.

"Come in," he said, "but don't make a home of my bar. You can have your
drink and go."

Lew growled the order, and the landlord poured out the two portions of
whisky.

"Here's yours, Carter," said Lew, and Ray swallowed the fiery dram and
choked.

"I'll be glad to get back," said Lew in a low voice. "It's all right for
you single men, but this tramping is pretty tough on us fellows who've
got wives--even though the wives aren't all they might be."

"I didn't know you were married," said Ray, faintly interested.

"There's a lot you don't know," sneered the other. "Of course I'm
married. You were told once, and you hadn't the brains to believe it."

Ray looked at the man open-mouthed.

"Do you mean--what Gordon said?"

The other nodded.

"You mean that Lola is your wife?"

"Why, certainly she's my wife," said Lew coolly. "I don't know how many
husbands she's had, but I'm her present one."

"Oh, my God!"

Ray whispered the words.

"What's the matter with you? And take that look off your face," said Lew
Brady viciously. "I'm not blaming you for being sweet on her. I like to
see people admire my wife, even such kids as you."

"Your wife!" said Ray again. He could not believe the man was speaking
the truth. "Is she--is she a Frog?"

"Why shouldn't she be?" said Brady. "And keep your voice down, can't you?
That fat old devil behind the counter is trying hard to listen. Of course
she's Frog, and she's crook. We're all crooks. You're crook too. That's
the way with Lola, she likes the crooks best. Perhaps you'll have a
chance, after you've done a job or two--"

"You beast!" hissed Ray, and struck the man full in the face.

Before Lew Brady could come to his feet, the landlord was between them.

"Outside, both of you!" he shouted, and, dashing to the door, roared half
a dozen names. He was back in time to see Lew Brady on his feet, glaring
at the other.

"You'll know all about that, Mr. Carter, one of these days," he said.
"I'll settle with you!"

"And, by God, I'll settle with you!" said Ray furiously, and at that
moment a brawny ostler caught him by the arm and flung him into the road
outside.

He waited for Brady to come out.

"I've finished with you," he said. His face was white, his voice was
quivering. "Finished with the whole rotten shoot of you! I'm going back."

"You're not going back," said Lew. "Oh, listen, boy, what's making you
mad? We've got to go on to Gloucester, and we might as well finish our
job. And if you don't want to be with me after that--well, you can go
ahead just as you like."

"I'm going alone," said Ray.

"Don'ts be a fool." Lew Brady came after him and seized his arm.

For a second the situation looked ugly to the onlookers, and then, with a
shrug, Ray Bennett suffered the arm to remain.

"I don't believe you," he said--the first words he spoke for half an hour
after they had left the _Red Lion_. "Why should you have lied?"

"I've got sick of your good temper, that's the whole truth, Ray--just
sick to death of it. I had to make you mad, or I'd have gone mad myself."

"But is it true about Lola?"

"Of course it's not true," lied Brady contemptuously.

"Do you think she'd have anything to do with a chap like me? Not likely!
Lola's a good 'girl. Forget all I said, Ray."

"I shall ask her myself. She wouldn't he to me," said the boy.

"Of course she wouldn't lie to you," agreed the other.

They were nearing their rendezvous now--the tree-furred cut in the
hills--and his eyes were searching for the three white trunks that the
lightning had struck. Presently he saw them.

"Come on in, and I'll tell you all about it," he said. "I'm not going to
walk much farther to-day. My feet are so raw you couldn't cook 'em!"

He led the way between the trees, over the age-old carpet of pine
needles, and presently he stopped.

"Sit down here, boy," he said, "and let us have a drink and a smoke."

Ray sat with his head on his hands, a figure so supremely miserable that
any other man than Lew Brady would have felt sorry for him.

"The whole truth is," began Lew slowly, "that Lola's very strong for you,
boy."

"Then why did you tell me the other thing? Who was that?" He looked
round.

"What is it?" asked Lew. His own nerves were on edge.

"I thought I heard somebody moving."

"A twig broke. Rabbits, it may be; there are thousands of 'em round
here," said Lew. "No, Lola's a good girl." He fished from his pocket a
flask, pulled off the cup at the bottom and unscrewed the stopper,
holding the flask to the light. "She's a good girl," he repeated, "and
may she never be anything else."

He poured out a cupful, looked at the remainder in the Mottle.

"I'm going to drink her health, No, you drink first." Ray shook his head.

"I don't like the stuff," he said. The other man laughed.

"For a fellow who's been pickled night after night, that's certainly an
amusing view to take," he said. "If you can't hold a dram of whisky for
the sake of drinking Lola's health, well, you re a poor--"

"Give it to me." Ray snatched the cup, but spilt a portion, and, drinking
down the contents at a draught, he threw the metal holder to his
companion.

"Ugh! I don't care for that whisky. I don't think I care for any whisky
at all. There's nothing harder to pretend you like than drinking, if you
don't happen to like it."

"I don't think anybody likes it at first," said Lew. "It's like
tomatoes--a cultivated taste."

He was watching his companion keenly.

"Where do we go from Gloucester?" asked Ray.

"We don't go anywhere from Gloucester. We just stop there for a day, and
then we change and come back."

"It's a stupid idea," said Ray Bennett, screwing up his eyes and yawning.
"Who is this Frog, Lew?" He yawned again, lay back on the grass, his
hands under his head.

Lew Brady emptied the remainder of the flask's contents upon the grass,
screwed up the stopper and shook the cup before he rose and walked across
to the sleeping boy.

"Hi, get up!" he said.

There was no answer.

"Get up, you!"

With a groan, Ray turned over, his head on his arms, and did not move
again. A sudden misgiving carne to Lew Brady. Suppose he was dead? He
went livid at the thought. That quarrel, so cleverly engineered by the
Frog, would be enough to convict him. He whipped the flask from his
pocket and slipped it into the coat pocket of the sleeper. And then he
heard a sound, and, turning, saw a man watching him. Lew stared, opened
his mouth to speak, and:

"Plop!"

He saw the flash of the flame before the bullet struck him. He tried to
open his mouth to speak, and:

"Plop!"

Lew Brady was dead before he touched the ground.

The man removed the silencer of the pistol, walked leisurely across to
where Ray Bennett was sleeping, and put the pistol by his hand. Then he
came back and turned over the body of the dead man, looking down into the
face. Taking one of three cigars from his waistcoat pocket, he lit it,
being careful to put the match in the box whence he had taken it. He
liked smoking cigars--especially other men's cigars. Then, without haste,
he walked back the way he had come, gained the main road after a careful
reconnaissance, and reached the car he had left by the roadside.

Inside the car a youth was sitting in the shelter of the curtained hood,
loose-mouthed, glassy-eyed, staring at nothing. He wore an ill-fitting
suit and one end of his collar was unfastened.

"You know this place, Bill?"

"Yes, sir." The voice was guttural and hoarse. "Ibbley Copse."

"You have just killed a man: you shot him, just as you said you did in
your confession."

The half-witted youth nodded.

"I killed him because I hated him," he said.

The Frog nodded obediently and got into the driver's seat...

John Bennett woke with a start. He looked at the damp bell-push in his
hand with a rueful smile, and began winding up the flex. Presently he
reached the bush where the camera was concealed, and, to his dismay,
found that the indicator showed the loss--for loss it was--of five
hundred feet. He looked at the badger hole resentfully, and there, as in
mockery, he saw again the tip of a black nose, and shook his fist at it.
Beyond, he saw two men lying, both asleep, and both, apparently, tramps.

He carried the camera back to where he had left his coat, put it on,
hoisted the box into position and set off for Laverstock village, where,
if his watch was right, he could catch the local that would connect him
with Bath in time for the London express; and as he walked, he calculated
his loss.



CHAPTER XXXI - THE CHEMICAL CORPORATION


El had promised to dine at Gordon's club. Dick waited for him until
twenty minutes past the hour of appointment, and Elk had neither
telephoned nor put in an appearance. At twenty-five minutes past he
arrived in a hurry.

"Good Lord!" he gasped, looking at the clock. ".I had no idea it was so
late, Captain. I must buy a watch."

They went into the dining-hall together, and Elk felt that he was
entering a church, there was such solemn dignity about the stately room,
with its prim and silent diners.

"It certainly has Heron's beat in the matter of Dicky-Orum."

"I don't know the gentleman," said the puzzled Dick. "Oh, do you mean
decorum? Yes, this is a little more sedate. What kept you, Elk? I'm not
complaining, but when you're not on time, I worry as to what has happened
to you."

"Nothing has happened to me," said Elk, nodding pleasantly to an
embarrassed club waiter. "Only we had an inquiry in Gloucester. I thought
we'd struck another Frog case, but the two men involved had no Frog
marks."

"Who are they?"

"Phenan is one--he's the man that's dead."

"A murder?"

"I think so," said Elk, spearing a sardine. "I think he was thoroughly
dead when they found him at Ibbley Copse. They pinched the man who was
with him; he was drunk. Apparently they'd been to Laverstock and had
quarrelled and fought in the bar of the Red Lion. The police were
informed later, and telephoned through to the next village, to tell the
constable to keep his eye on these two fellows, but they hadn't passed
through, so they sent a bicycle patrol to look for them--there's been one
or two housebreakings in that neighbourhood."

"And they found them?"

Elk nodded.

"One man dead and the other man bottled. Apparently they'd quarrelled,
and the drunken gentleman shot the other. They're both tramps or of that
class. Identification marks on them show they've come from Wales. They
slept at Bath last night, at Rooney's lodging-house, and that's all
that's known of 'em. Carter is the murderer--they've taken him to
Gloucester Gaol. It's a very simple case, and the Gloucester police gave
a haughty smile at the idea of calling in Headquarters. It is a crime,
anyway, that is up to the intellectual level of the country police."

Dick's lips twitched.

"Just now, the country police are passing unpleasant comments on our
intelligence," he said.

"Let 'um," scoffed Elk. "Those people are certainly entitled to their
simple pleasures, and I'd be the last to deny them the right. I saw John
Bennett in town to-night, at Paddington this time. I'm always knocking
against him at railway stations. That man is certainly a traveller. He
had his old camera with him too. I spoke to him this time, and he's full
of trouble; went to sleep, pushed the gadget in his dreams and wasted a
fortune in film. But he's pleased with himself, and I don't wonder. I saw
a note about his pictures the other day in one of the newspapers. He
looks like turning into a first-class success."

"I sincerely hope so," said Dick quietly, and something in his tone made
his guest look up.

"Which reminds me," he said, "that I had a note from friend Johnson
asking me whether I knew Ray Bennett's address. He said he called up
Heron's Club, but-Ray hadn't been there for days. He wants to give him a
job. Quite a big position, too. There's a lot that's very fine in
Johnson."

"Did you give the address?"

Elk nodded.

"I gave him the address, and I called on the boy, but he's out of
town--went out a few days ago, and is not likely to be back for a
fortnight. It will be too bad if he loses this job. I think Johnson was
sore with the side young Bennett put on, but he doesn't seem to bear any
malice. Perhaps there's another influence at work," he said significantly.

Dick knew that he meant Ella, but did not accept the opening.

They adjourned to the smoke-room after dinner, and whilst Elk puffed
luxuriously at one of his host's best cigars, Dick wrote a brief note to
the girl, who had been in his thoughts all that day. It was an
unnecessary note, as such epistles are liable to be; but it might have
had, as its excuse, the news that he had heard from Elk, only, for some
reason, he never thought of that until after the letter was finished and
sealed. When he turned to his companion, Elk propounded a theory.

"I sent a man up to look at some chemical works. It's a fake
company--less than a dozen hands employed, and those only occasionally.
But it has a very powerful electrical installation. It is an old poison
gas factory. The present company bought it for a song, and two fellows we
are holding were the nominal purchasers."

"Where is it?" asked Dick.

"Between Newbury and Didcot. I found out a great deal about them for a
curious reason. It appears there was some arrangement between the
factory, when it was under Government control, that it should make an
annual contribution to the Newbury Fire Brigade, and, in taking over the
property, the company also took over that contract, which they're now
trying to get out of, for the charge is a stiff one. They told the
Newbury Brigade, in so many words, to disconnect the factory from their
alarm service, but the Newbury Brigade, being on a good thing and having
lost money by the arrangement during the war, refused to cancel the
contract, which has still three years to run."

Dick was not interested in the slightest degree in the quarrel between
the chemical factory and the fire brigade. Later, he had cause to be
thankful that conversation had drifted into such a prosaic channel; but
this he could not foresee.

"Yes, very remarkable," he said absent-mindedly.

* * *

A fortnight after the disappearance from town of Ray Bennett, Elk
accepted the invitation of the American to lunch. It was an invitation
often given, and only accepted now because there had arisen in Elk's mind
a certain doubt about Joshua Broad--a doubt which he wished to mould into
assurance.

Broad was waiting for the detective when he 'arrived, and Elk, to whom
time had no particular significance, arrived ten minutes late.

"Ten minutes after one," said Elk. "I can't keep on time anyhow. There's
been a lot of trouble at the office over the new safe they've got me.
Somethin's wrong with it, and even the lock-maker doesn't know what it
is."

"Can't you open it?"

"That's just it, I can't, and I've got to get some papers out to-day that
are mighty important," said Elk. "I was wondering, as I came along,
whether, having such a wide experience of the criminal classes, you've
ever heard any way by which it could be opened--it needs a proper
engineer, and, if I remember rightly, you told me you were an engineer
once, Mr. Broad?"

"Your memory is at fault," said the other calmly as he unfolded his
napkin and regarded the detective with a twinkle in his eye.
"Safe-opening is not my profession."

"And I never dreamt it was," said Elk heartily. "But it has always struck
me that the Americans are much more clever with their hands than the
people in this country, and I thought that you might be able to give me a
word of advice."

"Maybe I'll introduce you to my pet burglar," said Broad gravely, and
they laughed together. "What do you think of me?" asked the American
unexpectedly. "I'm not expecting you to give your view of my character or
personal appearance, but what do you think I am doing in London, dodging
around, doing nothing but a whole lot of amateur police work?"

"I've never given you much thought," said Elk untruthfully. "Being an
American, I expect you to be out of the ordinary--"

"Flatterer," murmured Mr. Broad.

"I wouldn't go so far as to flatter you," protested Elk. "Flattery is
repugnant to me anyway."

He unfolded an evening newspaper he had brought. "Looking for those
tailless amphibians?"

"Eh?" Elk looked up puzzled.

"Frogs," explained the other.

"No, I'm not exactly looking for Frogs, though I understand a few of 'em
are looking for me. As a matter of fact, there's very little in the
newspaper about those interesting animals, but there's going to be!"

"When?"

The question was a challenge.

"When we get Frog Number One."

Mr. Broad crumpled a roll in his hand, and broke it.

"Do you think you'll get Number One before I get him?" he asked quietly,
and Elk looked across the table over his spectacles.

"I've been wondering that for a long time," he said, and for a second
their eyes met.

"Do you think I shall get him?" asked Broad.

"If all my speculations and surmises are what they ought to be, I think
you will," said Elk, and suddenly his attention was focussed upon a
paragraph. "Quick work," he said. "We beat you Americans in that
respect."

"In what respect is that?" asked Broad. "I'm sufficient of a cosmopolitan
to agree that there are many things in England which you do better than
we in America."

Elk looked up at the ceiling.

"Fifteen days?" he said. "Of course, he just managed to catch the
Assizes."

"Who's that?"

"That man Carter, who shot a tramp near Gloucester," said Elk.

"What has happened to him?" asked the other.

"He was sentenced to death this morning," said the detective.

Joshua Broad frowned.

"Sentenced to death this morning? Carter, you say? I didn't read the
story of the murder."

"There was nothing complicated about it," said Elk. "Two tramps had a
quarrel--I think they got drinking--and one shot the other and was found
lying in a drunken sleep by the dead man's side. There's practically no
evidence; the prisoner refused to make any statement, or to instruct a
lawyer--it must have been one of the shortest murder trials on record."

"Where did this happen?" asked Broad, arousing himself from the reverie
into which he had fallen.

"Near Gloucester. There was little in the paper; it wasn't a really
interesting murder. There was no woman in it, so far as the evidence
went, and who cared a cent about two tramps?"

He folded the paper and put it down, and for the rest of the meal was
engaged in a much more fascinating discussion, the police methods of the
United States, on which matter Mr. Broad was, apparently, something of an
authority.

The object of the American's invitation was very apparent. Again and
again he attempted to turn the conversation to the man under arrest; and
as skilfully as he introduced the subject of Balder, did Elk turn the
discussion back to the merits of the third degree as a method of crime
detection.

"Elk, you're as close as an oyster," said Broad, beckoning a waiter to
bring his bill. "And yet I could tell you almost as much about this man
Balder as you know."

"Tell me the prison he's in?" demanded Elk.

"He's in Pentonville, Ward Seven, Cell Eighty-four," said the other
immediately, and Elk sat bolt upright. "And you needn't trouble to shift
him to somewhere else, just because I happen to know his exact location;
I should be just as well informed if he was at Brixton, Wandsworth,
Holloway, Wormwood Scrubbs, Maidstone, or Chelmsford."



CHAPTER XXXII - IN GLOUCESTER PRISON


There is a cell in Gloucester Prison; the end cell in a long corridor of
the old building. Next door is another cell, which is never occupied,
for an excellent reason. That in which Ray Bennett sat was furnished
more expensively than any other in the prison. There was an iron
bedstead, a plain deal table, a comfortable Windsor chair and two other
chairs, on one of which, night and day, sat a warder.

The walls were distempered pink. One big window, near the ceiling,
heavily barred, covered with toughened opaque glass, admitted light,
which was augmented all the time by an electric globe in the arched
ceiling.

Three doors led from the cell: one into the corridor, the other into a
little annexe fitted with a washing-bowl and a bath; the third into the
unoccupied cell, which had a wooden floor, and in the centre of the floor
a square trap. Ray Bennett did not know then how close he was to the
death house, and if he had known he would not have cared. For death was
the least of the terrors which oppressed him.

He had awakened from his drugged sleep, to find himself in the cell of a
country lock-up, and had heard, bemused, the charge of murder that had
been made against him. He had no clear recollection of what had happened.
All that he knew was that he had hated Lew Brady and that he had wanted
to kill him. After that, he had a recollection of walking with him and of
sitting down somewhere.

They told him that Brady was dead, and that the weapon with which the
murder was committed had been found in his hand. Ray had racked his
brains in an effort to remember whether he had a revolver or not. He must
have had. And of course he had been drugged. They had had whisky at the
Red Lion, and Lew must have said something about Lola and he had shot
him. It was strange that he did not think longingly of Lola. His love for
her had gone. He thought of her as he thought of Lew Brady, as something
unimportant that belonged to the past. All that mattered now was that his
father and Ella should not know. At all costs the disgrace must be kept
from them. He had waited in a fever of impatience for the trial to end,
so that he might get away from the public gaze. Fortunately, the murder
was not of sufficient interest even for the ubiquitous press
photographers. He wanted to be done with it all, to go out of life
unknown. The greatest tragedy that could occur to him was that he should
be identified.

He dared not think of Ella or of his father. He was Jim Carter, without
parents or friends; and if he died as Jim Carter, he must spend his last
days of life as Jim Carter. He was not frightened; he had no fear, his
only nightmare was that he should be recognized.

The warder who was with him, and who was not supposed to speak to him,
had told him that, by the law, three clear Sundays must elapse between
his sentence and execution. The chaplain visited him every day, and the
Governor. A tap at the cell door told him it was the Governor's hour, and
he rose as the grey-haired official carne in.

"Any complaints, Carter?"

"None, sir."

"Is there anything you want?"

"No, sir."

The Governor looked at the table. The writing-pad, which had been placed
for the condemned prisoner's use, had not been touched.

"You have no letters to write? I suppose you can write?"

"Yes, sir. I've no letters to write."

"What are you, Carter? You're not an ordinary tramp. You're better educated
than that class."

"I'm an ordinary tramp, sir," said Ray quietly.

"Have you all the books you need?"

Ray nodded, and the Governor went out. Every day came these inevitable
inquiries. Sometimes the Governor made reference to his friends, but he
grew tired of asking questions about the unused blotting-pad.

Ray Bennett had reached the stage of sane understanding where he did not
even regret. It was inevitable. He had been caught up in the machinery of
circumstance, and must go slowly round to the crashing-place. Every
morning and afternoon he paced the square exercise yard, watched by three
men in uniform, and jealously screened from the observation of other
prisoners; and his serenity amazed all who saw him. He was caught up in
the wheel and must go the full round. He could even smile at himself,
observe his own vanity with the eye of an outsider. And he could not
weep, because there was nothing left to weep about. He was already a dead
man. Nobody troubled to organize a reprieve for him; he was too
uninteresting a murderer. The newspapers did not flame into headlines,
demanding a new trial. Fashionable lawyers would not foregather to
discuss an appeal. He had murdered; he must die.

Once, when he was washing, and was about to put his hand in the water, he
saw the reflection of his face staring back at him, and he did not
recognize himself, for his beard had grown weedily. He laughed, and when
the wondering warders looked at him, he said:

"I'm only now beginning to cultivate a sense of humour---I've left it
rather late, haven't I?"

He could have had visitors, could have seen anybody he wished, but
derived a strange satisfaction from his isolation. He had done with all
that was artificial and emotional in life. Lola? He thought of her again
and shook his head. She was very pretty. He wondered what she would do
now that Lew was dead; what she was doing at that moment. He thought,
too, of Dick Gordon, remembered that he liked him that day when Dick had
given him a ride in his big Rolls. How queerly far off that seemed! And
yet it could have only been a few months ago.

One day the Governor came in a more ceremonial style, and with him was a
gentleman whom Ray remembered having seen in the court-house on the day
of the trial. It was the Under Sheriff, and there was an important
communication to be made. The Governor had to clear his throat twice.

"Carter," he said a little unsteadily, "the Secretary of State has
informed me that he sees no reason for interfering with the course of the
law. The High Sheriff has fixed next Wednesday morning at eight o'clock
as the date and hour of your execution."

Ray inclined his head.

"Thank you, sir," he said.



CHAPTER XXXIII - THE FROG OF THE NIGHT


John Bennett emerged from the wood-shed, which he had converted into a
dark room, bearing a flat square box in either hand.

"Don't talk to me for a minute, Ella," he said as she rose from her
knees--she was weeding her own pet garden--"or I shall get these blamed
things mixed. This one"--he shook his right hand--"is a picture of trout,
and it is a great picture," he said enthusiastically. "The man who runs
the trout farm, let me take it through the glass side of the trench, and
it was a beautifully sunny day."

"What is the other one, daddy?" she asked, and John Bennett pulled a
face.

"That is the dud," he said regretfully. "Five hundred feet of good film
gone west! I may have got a picture by accident, but I can't afford to
have it developed on the off-chance. I'll keep it by, and one day, when
I'm rolling in money, I'll go to the expense of satisfying my curiosity."

He took the boxes into the house, and turned round to his stationery rack
to find two adhesive labels, and had finished writing them, when Dick
Gordon's cheery voice came through the open window. He rose eagerly and
went out to him.

"Well, Captain Gordon, did you get it?" he asked.

"I got it," said Dick solemnly, waving an envelope. "You're the first
cinematographer that has been allowed in the Zoological Gardens, and I
had to crawl to the powers that be to secure the permission!"

The pale face of John Bennett flushed with pleasure.

"It is a tremendous thing," he said. "The Zoo has never been put on the
pictures, and Selinski has promised me a fabulous sum for the film if I
can take it."

"The fabulous sum is in your pocket, Mr. Bennett," said Dick, "and I am
glad that you mentioned it."

"I am under the impression you mentioned it first," said John Bennett.
Ella did not remember having seen her father smile before.

"Perhaps I did," said Dick cheerfully. "I knew you were interested in
animal photography."

He did not tell John Bennett that it was Ella who had first spoken about
the difficulties of securing Zoo photographs and her father's inability
to obtain the necessary permission.

John Bennett went back to his labelling with a lighter heart than he had
borne for many a day. He wrote the two slips, wetted the gum and
hesitated. Then he laid down the papers and went into the garden.

"Ella, do you remember which of those boxes had the trout in?"

"The one in your right hand, daddy," she said.

"I thought so," he said, and went to finish his work.

It was only after the boxes were labelled that he had any misgivings.
Where had he stood when he put them down? On which side of the table?
Then, with a shrug, he began to wrap the trout picture, and they saw him
carrying it under his arm to the village post-office.

"No news of Ray?" asked Dick.

The girl shook her head.

"What does your father think?"

"He doesn't talk about Ray, and I haven't emphasized the fact that it is
such a long time since I had a letter."

They were strolling through the garden toward the little summer-house
that John Bennett had built in the days when Ray was a schoolboy.

"You have not heard?" she asked. "I credit you with an omniscience which
perhaps isn't deserved. You have not found the man who killed Mr.
Maitland?"

"No," said Dick. "I don't expect we shall until we catch Frog himself."

"Will you?" she asked quietly.

He nodded.

"Yes, he can't go on for ever. Even Elk is taking a cheerful view. Ella,"
he asked suddenly, "are you the kind of person who keeps a promise?"

"Yes," she said in surprise, "In all circumstances, if you make a promise,
do you keep it?"

"Why, of course. If I do not think I can keep it, I do not make a
promise. Why?"

"Well, I want you to make me a promise--and to keep it," he said.

She looked past him, and then:

"It depends what the promise is."

"I want you to promise to be my wife," said Dick Gordon.

Her hand lay in his, and she did not draw it from him.

"It is...very...businesslike, isn't it?" she said, biting her unruly
underlip.

"Will you promise?"

She looked round at him, tears in her eyes, though her lips were smiling,
and he caught her in his arms.

John Bennett waited a long time for his lunch that day. Going out to see
where his daughter was, he met Dick, and in a few words Dick Gordon told
him all. He saw the pain in the man's face, and dropped his hand upon the
broad shoulder.

"Ella has promised me, and she will not go back on her promise. Whatever
happens, whatever she learns."

The man raised his eyes to the other's face.

"Will you go back on your promise?" he asked huskily. "Whatever you
learn?

"I know," said Dick simply.

Ella Bennett walked on air that day. A new and splendid colour had come
into her life; a tremendous certainty which banished all the fears and
doubts she had felt; a light which revealed delightful vistas.

Her father went over to Dorking that afternoon, and came back hurriedly,
wearing that strained look which it hurt her to see.

"I shall have to go to town, dearie," he said. "There's been a letter
waiting for me for two days. I've been so absorbed in my picture work
that I'd forgotten I had any other responsibility."

He did not look for her in the garden to kiss her goodbye, and when she
came back to the house he was gone, and in such a hurry that he had not
taken his camera with him.

Ella did not mind being alone; in the days when Ray was at home, she had
spent many nights in the cottage by herself, and the house was on the
main road. She made some tea and sat down to write to Dick, though she
told herself reprovingly that he hadn't been gone more than two or three
hours. Nevertheless, she wrote, for the spirit of logic avoids the lover.

There was a postal box a hundred yards up the road; it was a bright night
and people were standing at their cottage gates, gossipping, as she
passed. The letter dropped in the box, she came back to the cottage, went
inside, locked and bolted the door, and sat down with a work-basket by
her side to fill in the hour which separated her from bedtime.

So working, her mind was completely occupied, to the exclusion of all
other thoughts, by Dick Gordon. Once or twice the thought of her father
and Ray strayed across her mind, but it was to Dick she returned.

The only illumination in the cosy dining-room was a shaded kerosene lamp
which stood on the table by her side and gave her sufficient light for
her work. All outside the range of the lamp was shadow. She had finished
darning a pair of her father's socks, and had laid down the needle with a
happy sigh, when her eyes went to the door leading to the kitchen. It was
ajar, and it was opening slowly.

For a moment she sat paralysed with terror, and then leapt to her feet.

"Who's there?" she called.

There carne into the shadowy doorway a figure, the very sight of which
choked the scream in her throat. It looked tall, by reason of the
tightly-fitting black coat it wore. The face and head were hidden behind
a hideous mask of rubber and mica. The reflection of the lamp shone on
the big goggles and filled them with a baleful fire.

"Don't scream, don't move!" said the masked man, and his voice sounded
hollow and far away. "I will not hurt you."

"Who are you?" she managed to gasp.

"I am The Frog," said the stranger.

For an eternity, as it seemed, she stood helpless, incapable of movement,
and it was he who spoke.

"How many men love you, Ella Bennett?" he asked. "Gordon and Johnson--and
The Frog, who loves you most of all!"

He paused, as though he expected her to speak, but she was incapable of
answering him.

"Men work for women, and they murder for women, and behind all that they
do, respectably or unrespectably, there is a woman," said the Frog. "And
you are that woman for me, Ella."

"Who are you?" she managed to say.

"I am The Frog," he replied again, "and you shall know my name when I
have given it to you. I want you! Not now "--he raised his hand as he saw
the terror rising in her face. "You shall come to me willingly."

"You're mad!" she cried. "I do not know you. How can I--oh, it's too
wicked to suggest...please go away."

"I will go presently," said the Frog. "Will you marry me Ella?"

She shook her head.

"Will you marry me, Ella?" he asked again.

"No." She had recovered her calm and something of her self-possession. "I
will give you--"

"If you gave me all the money there was in the world, I would not marry
you," she said.

"I will give you something more precious." His voice was softer, scarcely
audible. "I will give you a life!"

She thought he was speaking of Dick Gordon.

"I will give you the life of your brother."

"For a second the room spun round and she clutched a chair to keep her
feet.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I will give you the life of your brother, who is lying in Gloucester
Gaol under sentence of death!" said the Frog. With a supreme effort Ella
guided herself to a chair and sat down.

"My brother?" she said dully. "Under sentence of death?"

"To-day is Monday," said the Frog. "On Wednesday he dies. Give me your
word that when I send for you, you will come, and I will save him."

"How can you save him?" The question came mechanically.

"A man has made a confession--a man named Gill, a half-witted fellow who
thinks he killed Lew Brady."

"Brady?" she gasped.

The Frog nodded.

"It isn't true," she breathed. "You're lying! You're telling me this to
frighten me."

"Will you marry me?" he asked.

"Never, never!" she cried. "I would rather die. You are lying to me."

"When you want me, send for me," said the Frog. "Put in your window a
white card, and I will save your brother."

She half lay on the table, her head upon her folded arms.

"It's not true, it's not true," she muttered.

There was no reply, and, looking up, she saw that the room was empty.
Staggering to her feet, she went out into the kitchen. The kitchen door
was open; and, peering into the dark garden, she saw no sign of the man.
She had strength to bolt the door, and dragged herself up to her room and
to her bed, and then she fainted.

Daylight showed in the windows when she sat up. She was painfully weary,
her eyes were red with weeping, her head was in a whirl. It had been a
night of horror--and it was not true, it could not be true. She had heard
of no murder; and if there had been, it could not be Ray. She would have
known; Ray would have sent for her father.

She dragged her aching limbs to the bathroom and turned the cold-water
tap. Half an hour later she was sane, and looking at her experience
dispassionately. Ray was alive. The man had tried to frighten her. Who
was he? She shivered.

She saw only one solution to her terrible problem, and after she had made
herself a cup of tea, she dressed and walked down into the town, in time
to catch an early train. What other thought came to her, she never dreamt
for one moment of surrender, never so much as glanced at the window where
a white card could be placed, might save the life of her brother. In her
heart of hearts, she knew that this man would not have come to her with
such a story unless it was well founded. That was not the Frog's way.
What advantage would he gain if he had invented this tragedy?
Nevertheless, she did not even look for a white card, or think of its
possible use.

Dick was at breakfast when she arrived, and a glance at her face told him
that she brought bad news.

"Don't go, Mr. Elk," she said as the inspector pushed back his chair.
"You must know this."

As briefly as she could, she narrated the events of the night before, and
Dick listened with rising wrath until she came to the climax of the
story.

"Ray under sentence?" he said incredulously. "Of course it isn't true."

"Where did he say the boy was?" asked Elk. "In Gloucester Prison."

In their presence her reserve had melted and she was near to tears.

"Gloucester Prison?" repeated Elk slowly. "There is a man there under
sentence of death, a man named,"---he strove to remember--"Carter," he
said at last. "That is it--Carter, a tramp. He killed another tramp named
Phenan."

"Of course it isn't Ray," said Dick, laying his hand on hers. "This brute
tried to frighten you. When did he say the execution had been fixed for?

"To-morrow." She was weeping; now that the tension had relaxed, it seemed
that she had reached the reserve of her strength.

"Ray is probably on the Continent," Dick soothed her, and here Elk
thought it expedient and delicate to steal silently forth.

He was not as convinced as Gordon that the Frog had made a bluff. No
sooner was he in his office than he rang for his new clerk.

"Records," he said briefly. "I want particulars of a man named Carter,
now lying under sentence of death in Gloucester Prison--photograph,
finger-prints, and record of the crime."

The man was gone ten minutes, and returned with a small portfolio.

"No photograph has been received yet, sir," he said. "In murder cases we
do not get the full records from the County police until after the
execution."

Elk cursed the County police fluently, and addressed himself to the
examination of the dossier. That told him little or nothing. The height
and weight of the man tallied, he guessed, with Ray's. There were no body
marks and the description "Slight beard."

He sat bolt upright. Slight beard! Ray Bennett had been growing a beard
for some reason. He remembered that Broad had told him this.

"Pshaw!" he said, throwing down the finger-print card. "It is
impossible!"

It was impossible, and yet--

He drew a telegraph pad toward him and wrote a wire.

"Governor, H.M. Prison, Gloucester. Very urgent. Send by special
messenger prison photograph of James Carter under sentence of death in
your prison to Headquarters Records. Messenger must leave by first train.
Very urgent."

He took the liberty of signing it with the name of the Chief
Commissioner. The telegram despatched, he returned to a scrutiny of the
description sheet, and presently he saw a remark which he had overlooked.

"Vaccination marks on right forearm."

That was unusual. People are usually vaccinated on the left arm, a little
below the shoulder. He made a note of this fait and turned to the work
that was waiting for him. At noon a wire arrived from Gloucester, saying
that the photograph was on its way. That, at least, was satisfactory;
though, even if it proved to be Rag, what could be done? In his heart Elk
prayed most fervently that the Frog had bluffed.

Just before one, Dick telephoned him and asked him to lunch with them at
the Auto Club, an invitation which, in any circumstances, was not to be
refused, for Elk had a passion for visiting other people's clubs.

When he arrived--on this occasion strictly on time--he found the girl in
a calm, even a cheerful mood, and his quick eye detected upon her finger
a ring of surprising brilliance that he had not seen before. Dick Gordon
had made very good use of his spare time that morning.

"I feel I'm neglecting my business, Elk," he said after he had led them
into the palatial dining-room of the Auto, and had found a cushion for
the girl's back, and had placed her chair exactly where it was least
comfortable, "but I guess you've got through the morning without feeling
my loss."

"I certainly have," said Elk. "A very interesting morning. There is a
smallpox scare in the East End," he went on, "and I've heard some talk at
Headquarters of having the whole staff vaccinated. If there's one thing
that I do not approve of, it is vaccination. At my time of life I ought
to be immune from any germ that happens to be going round."

The girl laughed.

"Poor Mr. Elk! I sympathize with you. Ray and I had a dreadful time when
we were vaccinated about five years ago during the big epidemic, although
I didn't have so bad a time as Ray. And neither of us had such an
experience as the majority of victims, because we had an excellent
doctor, with unique views on vaccination."

She pulled back the sleeve of her blouse and showed three tiny scars on
the underside of the right forearm.

"The doctor said he would put it where it wouldn't show. Isn't that a
good idea?"

"Yes," said Elk slowly. "And did he vaccinate your brother the same way?"

She nodded, and then:

"What is the matter, Mr. Elk?"

"I swallowed an olive stone," said Elk. "I wonder somebody doesn't start
cultivating olives without stones." He looked out of the window. "You've
got a pretty fine day for your visit, Miss Bennett," he said, and
launched forth into a rambling condemnation of the English climate.

It seemed hours to Elk before the meal was finished. The girl was going
back to Gordon's house to look at catalogues which Dick Lad ordered to be
sent to Harley Terrace by telephone.

"You won't be coming to the office?" asked Elk. "No: do you think it is
necessary?"

"I wanted to see you for ten minutes," drawled the other, "perhaps a
quarter of an hour."

"Come back to the house."

"Well, I wasn't thinking of coming back to the house," said Elk. "Perhaps
you've got a lady's drawing-room. I remember seeing one as I came through
the marble hall, and Miss Bennett would not mind--"

"Why, of course not," she said. "If I'm in the way, I'll do anything you
wish. Show me your lady's drawing room."

When Dick had come back, the detective was smoking, his elbows on the
table, his thin, brown hands clasped under his chin, and he was
examining, with the eye of a connoisseur, the beautifully carved ceiling.

"What's the trouble, Elk?" said Gordon as he sat down. "The man under
sentence of death is Ray Bennett," said Elk without preliminary.



CHAPTER XXXIV - THE PHOTO-PLAY


Dick's face went white.

"How do you know this?"

"Well, there's a photograph coming along; it will be in London this
afternoon; but I needn't see that. This man under sentence has three
vaccination marks on the right forearm."

There was a dead silence.

"I wondered why you turned the talk to vaccination," said Dick quietly.
"I ought to have known there was something in it. What can we do?"

"I'll tell you what you can't do," said Elk. "You can't let that girl
know. For good and sufficient reasons, Ray Bennett has decided not to
reveal his identity, and he must pass out. You're going to have a rotten
afternoon, Captain Gordon," said Elk gently, "and I'd rather be me than
you. But you've got to keep up your light-hearted chatter, or that young
woman is going to guess that something is wrong."

"My God! How dreadful!" said Dick in a low voice.

"Yes, it is," admitted Elk, "and we can do nothing. We've got to accept
it as a fact that he's guilty. If you thought any other way, it would
drive you mad. And even if he was as innocent as you or I, what chance
have we of getting an inquiry or stopping the sentence being carried into
execution?"

"Poor John Bennett!" said Dick in a hushed voice.

"If you're starting to get sentimental," snarled Elk, blinking furiously,
"I'm going into a more practical atmosphere. Good afternoon."

"Wait. I can't face this girl for a moment. Come back to the house with
me."

Elk hesitated, and then grudgingly agreed.

Ella could not guess, from their demeanour, the horror that was in the
minds of these men. Elk fell back upon history and dates--a prolific and
a favourite subject.

"Thank heaven those catalogues have arrived!" said Dick, as, with a sigh
of relief, he saw the huge pile of literature on his study table.

"Why 'thank heaven'?" she smiled.

"Because his conscience is pricking him, and he wants an excuse for
working." Elk came to the rescue.

The strain was one which even he found almost insupportable; and when,
after a pleading glance at the other, Dick nodded, he got up with a sense
of holiday.

"I'll be going now, bliss Bennett," he said. "I expect you'll be busy all
the afternoon furnishing your cottage. I must come down and see it," he
went on, wilfully dense. "Though it struck me that there wouldn't be much
room for new furniture at Maytree."

So far he got when he heard voices in the hall--the excited voice of a
woman, shrill, insistent, hysterical. Before Dick could get to the door,
it was flung open, and Lola rushed in.

"Gordon! Gordon! Oh, my God!" she sobbed. "Do you know?"

"Hush!" said Dick, but the girl was beside herself.

"They've got Ray! They're going to hang him! Lew's dead."

The mischief was done. Ella carne slowly to her feet, rigid with fear.

"My brother?" she asked, and then Lola saw her for the first time and
nodded.

"I found out," she sobbed. "I had a suspicion, and I wrote...I've got a
photograph of Phenan. I knew it was Lew at once, and I guessed the rest.
The Frog did it! He planned it; months in advance he planned it. I'm not
sorry about Lew; I swear I'm not sorry about Lew! It's the boy. I sent
him to his death, Gordon--" And then she broke into a fit of hysterical
sobbing.

"Put her out," said Gordon, and Elk lifted the helpless girl in his arms
and carried her into the dining-room.

"True!" Ella whispered the word, and Dick nodded. "I'm afraid it's true,
Ella."

She sat down slowly.

"I wonder where I can find father," she said, as calmly as though she
were discussing some everyday event.

"You can do nothing. He knows nothing. Do you think it is kind to tell
him?"

She searched his face wonderingly.

"I think you're right. Of course you're right, Dick. I'm sure you're
right. Father mustn't know. Couldn't I see him--Ray, I mean?"

Dick shook his head.

"Ella, if Ray has kept silent to save you from this, all his forbearance,
all his courage will be wasted if you go to him."

Again her lips drooped.

"Yes. It is good of you to think for me." She put her hand on his, and he
felt no tremor. "I don't know what I can do," she said. "It is
so--stunning. What can I do?"

"You can do nothing, my dear." His arm went round her and her tired head
fell upon his shoulder.

"No, I can do nothing," she whispered.

Elk came in.

"A telegram for Miss Bennett," he said. "The messenger just arrived with
it. Been redirected from Horsham, I expect."

Dick took the wire.

"Open it, please," said the girl. "It may be from father."

He tore open the envelope. The telegram ran:

"Have printed your picture. Cannot understand the murder. Were you trying
take photo-play? Come and see me. Silenski House, Wardour Street."

"What does it mean?" she asked.

"It is Greek to me," said Dick. "'Cannot understand murder'--has your
father been trying to take photo-plays?"

"No, dear, I'm sure he hasn't; he would have told me."

"What photographs did your father take?"

"It was a picture of trout," she said, gathering her scattered thoughts;
"but he took another picture--in his sleep. He was in the country waiting
for a badger, and dozed. He must have pressed the starter; he thought
that picture was a failure. It can't be the trout; it doesn't mention the
trout; it must be the other."

"We will go to Wardour Street."

It was Elk who spoke so definitely, Elk who called a cab and hustled the
two people into it. When they arrived at Wardour Street, Mr. Silenski was
out at lunch, and nobody knew anything whatever about the film, or had
authority to show it.

For an hour and a half they waited, fuming, in that dingy office, whilst
messengers went in search of Silenski. He arrived at last, a polite and
pleasant little Hebrew, who was all apologies, though no apology was
called for, since he had not expected his visitors.

"Yes, it is a curious picture," he said. "Your father, miss, is a very
good amateur; in fact, he's a professional now; and if it is true that he
can get these Zoo photographs, he ought to be in the first rank of nature
photographers."

They followed him up a flight of stairs into a big room across which were
row upon row of chairs. Facing them as they sat was a small white screen,
and behind them an iron partition with two square holes.

"This is our theatre," he explained. "You've no idea whether your father
is trying to take motion pictures--I mean photo-plays? If he is, then
this scene was pretty well acted, but I can't understand why he did it.
It's labelled 'Trout in a Pond' or something of the sort, but there are
no trout here, and there is no pond either!"

There was a click, and the room went black; and then there was shown on
the screen a picture which showed in the foreground a stretch of grey,
sandy soil, and the dark opening of a burrow, out of which peeped a
queer-looking animal.

"That's a badger," explained Mr. Silenski. "It looked very promising up
to there, and then I don't know what he did. You'll see he changed the
elevation of the camera."

As he spoke, the picture jerked round a little to the right, as though it
had been pulled violently. And they were looking upon two men, obviously
tramps. One was sitting with his head on his hands, the other, close by
him, was pouring out whisky into a container.

"That's Lew Brady," whispered Elk fiercely, and at that moment the other
man looked up, and Ella Bennett uttered a cry.

"It is Ray! Oh, Dick, it is Ray!"

There was no question of it. The light beard he wore melted into the
shadows which the strong sunlight cast.

They saw Brady offer him a drink, saw him toss It down and throw the cup
back to the man; watched him as his arms stretched in a yawn; and then
saw him curl up to sleep, lie back, and Lew Brady standing over him. The
prostrate figure turned on to its face, and Lew, stooping, put something
in his pocket. They caught the reflection of glass.

"The flask," said Elk.

And then the figure standing in the centre of the picture spun round.
There walked toward him a man. His face was invisible. Never once during
that period did he turn his face to that eager audience.

They saw his arm go up quickly, saw the flash of the two shots, watched
breathless, spellbound, horrified, the tragedy that followed.

The man stooped and placed the pistol by the side of the sleeping Ray,
and then, as he turned, the screen went white.

"That's the end of the picture," said Mr. Silenski. "And what it means,
heaven knows."

"He's innocent! Dick, he's innocent!" the girl cried wildly. "Don't you
see, it was not he who fired?"

She was half-mad with grief and terror, and Dick caught her firmly by the
shoulders, the dumbfounded Silenski gaping at the scene.

"You are going back to my house and you will read! Do you hear, Ella?
You're to do nothing until you hear from me. You are not to go out; you
are to sit and read! I don't care what you read--the Bible, the Police
News, anything you like. But you must not think of this business. Elk and
I will do all that is possible."

She mastered her wild terror and tried to smile.

"I know you will," she said between her chattering teeth. "Get me to your
house, please."

He left Elk to go to Fleet Street to collect every scrap of information
about the murder he could from the newspaper offices, and brought the
girl back to. Harley Terrace. As he got out of the cab, he saw a man
waiting on the steps. It was Joshua Broad. One glance at his face told
Dick that he knew of the murder, and he guessed the source.

He waited in the hall until Dick had put the girl in the study, and had
collected every illustrated newspaper, every book he could find.

"Lola told me of this business."

"I guessed so," said Dick. "Do you know anything about it?"

"I knew these two men started out in the disguise of tramps," said Broad,
"but I understood they were going north. This is Frog work--why?

"I don't know. Yes, I do," Dick said suddenly. "The Frog came to Miss
Bennett last night and asked her to marry him, promising that he would
save her brother if she agreed. But it can hardly be that he planned this
diabolical trick to that end."

"To no other end," said Broad coolly. "You don't know Frog, Gordon! The
man is a strategist--probably the greatest strategist in the world. Can I
do anything?"

"I would ask you to stay and keep Miss Bennett amused--" Dick began.

"I think you might do worse," said the American quietly.

Ella looked up with a look of pain as the visitor entered the room. She
felt that she could not endure the presence of a stranger at this moment,
that she would break under any new strain, and she glanced at Dick
imploringly.

"If you don't want me to stay, Miss Bennett," smiled Broad, "well, I'll
go just as soon as you tell me. But I've one piece of information to pass
to you, and it is this: that your brother will not die."

His eyes met Dick Gordon's, and the Prosecutor bit his lip to restrain
the cry that came involuntarily.

"Why?" she asked eagerly, but neither of the men could tell her.

Dick telephoned to the garage for his car, the very machine that Ray
Bennett had driven the first day they had met. His first call was at the
office of the Public Prosecutor, and to him he stated the facts.

"It is a most remarkable story, and I can do nothing, of course. You'd
better see the Secretary of State at once, Gordon."

"Is the House of Commons sitting, sir?"

"No--I've an idea that the Secretary, who is the only man that can do
anything for you--is out of town. He may be on the Continent. I'm not
sure. There was a conference at San Remo last week, and I've a dim notion
that he went there."

Dick's heart almost stood still.

"Is there nobody else at the Home Office who could help?"

"There is the Under Secretary: you'd better see him."

The Public Prosecutor's Department was housed in the Home Office
building, and Dick went straight away in search of the responsible
official. The permanent secretary, to whom he explained the
circumstances, shook his head.

"I'm afraid we can do nothing now, Gordon," he said, "and the Secretary
of State is in the country and very ill."

"Where is the Under Secretary?" asked Dick desperately.

"He's at San Remo."

"How far out of town is Mr. Whitby's house?" The official considered.

"About thirty miles--this side of Tunbridge Wells," and Dick wrote the
address on a slip of paper.

Half an hour later, a long yellow Rolls was flying across Westminster
Bridge, threading the traffic with a recklessness which brought the
hearts of hardened chauffeurs to their mouths; and forty minutes after he
had left Whitehall, Dick was speeding up an elm-bordered avenue to the
home of the Secretary of State.

The butler who met him could give him no encouragement.

"I'm afraid Mr. Whitby cannot see you, sir. He has a very bad attack of
gout, and the doctors have told him that he mustn't touch any kind of
business whatever.

"This is a matter of life and death," said Dick, "and I must see him. Or,
failing him, I must see the King."

This message, conveyed to the invalid, produced an invitation to walk
upstairs.

"What is it, sir?" asked the Minister sharply as Dick tame in. "I cannot
possibly attend to any business whatever. I'm suffering the tortures of
the damned with this infernal foot of mine. Now tell me, what is it?"

Quickly Gordon related his discovery.

"An astounding story," said the Minister, and winced. "Where is the
picture?"

"In London, sir."

"I can't come to London: it is humanly impossible. Can't you get somebody
at the Home Office to certify this? When is this man to be hanged?

"To-morrow morning, sir, at eight o'clock."

The Secretary of State considered, rubbing his chin irritably. "I should
be no man if I refused to see this damned picture," he said, and Dick
made allowance for his language as he rubbed his suffering limb. "But I
can't go to town unless you get me an ambulance. You had better 'phone a
garage in London to send a car down, or, better still, get one from the
local hospital."

Everything seemed to be conspiring against him, for the local hospital's
ambulance was under repair, but at last Dick put through a message to
town, with the promise that an ambulance would be on its way in ten
minutes.

"An extraordinary story, a perfectly amazing story! And of course, I can
grant you a respite. Or, if I'm convinced of the truth of this astounding
romance, we could get the King to-night; I could even promise you a
reprieve. But my death will lie at your door if I catch cold."

Two hours passed before the ambulance came. The chauffeur had had to
change his tyres twice on the journey. Very gingerly, accompanied by
furious imprecations from the Cabinet Minister, his stretcher was lifted
into the ambulance.

To Dick the journey seemed interminable. He had telephoned through to
Silenski, asking him to keep his office open until his arrival. It was
eight o'clock by the time the Minister was assisted up to the theatre,
and the picture was thrown upon the screen.

Mr. Whitby watched the drama with the keenest interest, and when it was
finished he drew a long breath.

"That's all right so far as it goes," he said, "but how do I know this
hasn't been play-acted in order to get this man a reprieve? And how am I
to be sure that this wretched tramp is your man?"

"I can assure you of that, sir," said Elk. "I got the photograph up from
Gloucester this afternoon."

He produced from his pocket-book two photographs, one in profile and one
full-face, and put them on the table before the Minister.

"Show the picture again," he ordered, and again they watched the
presentation of the tragedy. "But how on earth did the man manage to take
this picture?"

"I've since discovered, sir, that he was in the neighbourhood on that
very day. He went out to get a photograph of a badger--I know this, sir,
because Mr. Silenski has given me all the information in his power."

Mr. Whitby looked up at Dick.

"You're in the Public Prosecutor's Department? I remember you very well,
Captain Gordon. I must take your word. This is not a matter for respite,
but for reprieve, until the whole of the circumstances are investigated."

"Thank you, sir," said Dick, wiping his streaming forehead.

"You'd better take me along to the Home Office," grumbled the great man.
"To-morrow I shall be cursing your name and memory, though I must confess
that I'm feeling better for the drive. I want that picture."

They had to wait until the picture was replaced in its box, and then Dick
Gordon and Elk assisted the Secretary of State to the waiting ambulance.

At a quarter-past eight, a reprieve, ready for the Royal
counter-signature, was in Dick's hand, and the miracle, which Mr. Whitby
had not dared expect, had happened. He was able, with the aid of a stick,
to hobble to a car. Before the great Palace, streams of carriages and
motor-cars were passing. It was the night of the first ball of the
season, and the hall of the Palace was a brilliant sight. The glitter of
women's jewels, the scarlet, blue and green of diplomatic uniforms, the
flash of innumerable Orders, no less than the organization of this
gorgeous gathering, interested Dick as he stood, a strangely contrasting
figure, watching the pageant pass him.

The Minister had disappeared into an ante-room and presently came back
and crooked his finger; Dick followed him down a red-carpeted passage
past white-haired footmen in scarlet and gold, until they came to a door,
before which another footman stood. A whispered word, the footman
knocked, and a voice bade them enter. The servant opened the door and
they went in.

The man who was sitting at the table rose. He wore the scarlet uniform of
a general; across his breast was the blue ribbon of the Garter. There was
in his eyes a kindliness and humanity which Dick had not imagined he
would find.

"Will you be seated? Now please tell me the story as quickly as you can,
because I have an appointment elsewhere, and punctuality is the
politeness of princes," he smiled.

He listened attentively, stopping Gordon now and again to ask a question.
When Dick had finished, he took up a pen and wrote a word in a bold,
boyish hand, blotted it punctiliously and handed it to the Secretary of
State.

"There is your reprieve. I am very glad," he said, and Dick, bowing over
the extended hand, felt the music of triumph in his soul, forgot for the
moment the terrible danger in which this boy had stood; and forgot, too,
the most important factor of all--the Frog, still vigilant, still
vengeful, still powerful!

When he got back to the Home Office and had taken farewell, with a very
earnest expression of gratitude, of the irascible, but kindly Minister,
Dick flew up the stairs to his own office and seized the telephone.

"Put me through to Gloucester 8585 Official," he said, and waited for the
long-distance signal.

It came after a few minutes.

"Sorry, sir, no call through to Gloucester. Line out of order. Trunk
wires cut."

Dick put down the 'phone slowly. Then it was that he remembered that the
Frog still lived.



CHAPTER XXXV - GETTING THROUGH


When Elk carne up to the Prosecutor's room, Dick was sitting at the
table, writing telegrams. They were each addressed to the Governor of
Gloucester Prison, and contained a brief intimation that a reprieve for
James Carter was on its way. Each was marked via a different route.

"What's the idea?" said Elk.

"The 'phone to Gloucester is out of order," said Dick, and Elk bit his
lip thoughtfully.

"Is that so?" he drawled. "Then if the 'phone's out of order--"

"I don't want to think that," said Dick.

Elk took up the instrument.

"Give me the Central Telegraph Office, miss," he said. "I want to speak
to the Chief Clerk...Yes, Inspector Elk, C.I.D."

After a pause, he announced himself again.

"We're putting some wires through to Gloucester. I suppose the lines are
all right?"

His face did not move a muscle while he listened, then:

"I see," he said. "Any roundabout route we can get? What's the nearest
town open?" A wait. "Is that so? Thank you."

He put down the instrument.

"All wires to Gloucester are cut. The trunk wire has been cut in three
places; the connection with Birmingham, which runs in an earthenware pipe
underground, has been blown up, also in three places." Dick's eyes
narrowed.

"Try the Radio Company," he said. "They've got a station at Devizes, and
another one somewhere near Cheltenham, and they could send on a message."

Again Elk applied himself to the telephone.

"Is that the Radio Station? Inspector Elk, Headquarters Police, speaking.
I want to get a message through to Gloucester, to Gloucester Prison,
via--eh?...But I thought you'd overcome that difficulty. How long has it
been jammed?...Thank you," he said, and put down the telephone for the
second time.

"There's a jam," he said. "No messages are getting through. The radio
people say that somebody in this country has got a secret apparatus which
was used by the Germans during the war, and that when the jam is on, it
is impossible to get anything through."

Dick looked at his watch. It was now half-past nine.

"You can catch the ten-five for Gloucester, Elk, but somehow I don't
think it will get through."

"As a telephone expert," said Elk, as he patiently applied himself to the
instrument, "I have many of the qualities that make, so to speak, for
greatness. Hullo! Get me Great Western, please. Great Western
Stationmaster...I have a perfect voice, a tremendous amount of
patience, and a faith in my fellow-man, and--Hullo! Is that you,
Stationmaster?...Inspector Elk. I told you that before--no, it was
somebody else. Inspector Elk, C.I.D. Is there any trouble on your road
to-night?"...A longer pause this time. "Glory be!" said Elk
unemotionally. "Any chance of getting through?...None whatever? What time
will you have trains running?...Thank you."

He turned to Dick.

"Three culverts and a bridge down at Swindon, blown at seven o'clock; two
men in custody; one man dead, shot by rail guard. Two culverts down at
Reading; the metals blown up at Slough. I won't trouble to call up the
other roads, because--well, the Frog's thorough."

Dick Gordon opened a cupboard and took out a leather coat and a soft
leather helmet. In his drawer he found two ugly-looking Browning pistols
and examined their magazines before he slipped them into his pocket. Then
he selected half-a-dozen cigars, and packed them carefully in the breast
pocket of the coat.

"You're not going alone, Gordon?" asked Elk sternly. Dick nodded.

"I'm going alone," he said. "If I don't get through, you follow. Send a
police car after me and tell them to drive carefully. I don't think
they'll stop me this side of Newbury," he said. "I can make that before
the light goes. Tell Miss Bennett that the reprieve is signed, and that I
am on my way."

Elk said nothing, but followed his chief into the street, and stood by
him with the policeman who had been left in charge of the car, while Dick
made a careful scrutiny of the tyres and petrol tank.

So Dick Gordon took the Bath road; and the party of gunmen that waited at
the two aerodromes of London to shoot him down if he attempted to leave
by the aerial route, waited in vain. He avoided the direct road to
Reading, and was taking the longer way round. He came into Newbury at
eleven o'clock, and learnt of more dynamited culverts. The town was full
of it. Two laden trains were held up on the down line, and their
passengers thronged the old-fashioned streets of the town. Outside The
Chequers he spoke to the local inspector of police. Beyond the outrages
they hail heard nothing, and apparently the road was in good order, for a
car had come through from Swindon only ten minutes before Dick arrived.

"You're safe as far as Swindon, anyway," said the inspector. "The
countryside has been swarming with tramps lately, but my mounted patrols,
that have just come in, have seen none on the roads."

A thought struck Dick, and he drove the inspector round to the
police-station and went inside with him.

"I want an envelope and some official paper," he said, and, sitting down
at the desk, he made a rough copy of the reprieve with its quaint
terminology, sealed the envelope with wax and put it into his pocket.
Then he took the real reprieve, and, taking off his shoe and sock, put it
between his bare foot and his sock. Replacing his shoe, he jumped on to
the car and started his cautious way toward Didcot. Both his glare lamps
were on, and the road before him was as light as day. Nevertheless, he
went at half speed, one of his Brownings on the cushion beside him.

Against the afterglow of the sunset, a faint, pale light which is the
glory of late summer, he saw three inverted V's and knew they were the
ends of a building, possibly an aerodrome. And then he remembered that
Elk had told him of the chemical factory. Probably this was the place,
and he drove with greater caution. He had turned the bend, when, ahead of
him, he saw three red lights stretched across the road, and in the light
of the head-lamps stood a policeman. He slowed the machine and stopped
within a few yards of the officer.

"You can't go this way, sir. The road's up."

"How long has it been up?" asked Dick.

"It's been blown up, sir, about twenty minutes ago," was the reply.
"There's a side road a mile back, which will bring you to the other side
of the railway lines. You can back in here."

He indicated a gateway evidently leading to the factory. Dick pulled
back his lever to the reverse, and sent the Rolls spinning backward into
the opening.

His hand was reaching to change the direction, when the policeman, who
had walked to the side of the car, struck at him.

Gordon's head was bent. He was incapable of resistance. Only the helmet
he wore saved him from death. He saw nothing, only suddenly the world
went black. Scarcely had the blow been struck when half-a-dozen men came
from the shadows. Somebody jumped into the driver's seat, and, flinging
out the limp figure of its owner, brought the car still further backward,
and switched off the lights. Another of the partly removed the red lamps.
The policeman bent over the prostrate figure of Dick Gordon.

"I thought I'd settled him," he said, disappointed.

"Well, settle him now," said somebody in the darkness, but evidently the
assailant changed his mind.

"Hagn will want him," he said. "Lift him up."

They carried the inanimate figure over the rough ground, through a
sliding door, into a big, ill-lit factory hall, bare of machinery. At the
far end was a brick partition forming an office, and into this he was
carried and flung on the floor.

"Here's your man, Hagn," growled the policeman. "I think he's through."

Hagn got up from his table and walked across to where Dick Gordon lay.

"I don't think there's much wrong with him," he said. "You couldn't kill
a man through that helmet, anyway. Take it off."

They took the leather helmet from the head of the unconscious man, and
Hagn made a brief inspection.

"No, he's all right," he said. "Throw some water over him. Wait; you'd
better search him first. Those cigars," he said, pointing to the brown
cylinders that protruded from his breast pocket, "I want."

The first thing found was the blue envelope, and this Hagn tore open and
read.

"It seems all right," he said, and locked it away in the roll-top desk at
which he was sitting when Dick had been brought in. "Now give him the
water!"

Dick came to his senses with a throbbing head and a feeling of resentment
against the consciousness which was being forced upon him. He sat up,
rubbing his face like a man roused from a heavy sleep, screwed up his
eyes in the face of the bright light, and unsteadily stumbled to his
feet, looking around from one to the other of the grinning faces.

"Oh!" he said at last. "I seem to have struck it. Who hit me?"

"We'll give you his card presently," sneered Hagn. "Where are you off to
at this time of night?"

"I'm going to Gloucester," said Dick.

"Like hell you are!" scoffed Hagn. "Put him upstairs, boys."

Leading up from the office was a flight of unpainted pine stairs, and up
this he was partly pushed and partly dragged. The room above had been
used in war time as an additional supervisor's office. It had a large
window, commanding a view of the whole of the floor space. The window was
now thick with grime, and the floor littered with rubbish which the
present occupants had not thought it worth while to move.

"Search him again, and make sure he hasn't any gun on him. And take away
his boots," said Hagn.

A small carbon filament lamp cast a sickly yellow light upon the sinister
group that surrounded Dick Gordon. He had time to take his bearings. The
window he had seen, and escape that way was impossible; the ceiling was
covered with matchboards that had once been varnished. There was no
other way out, save down the steps.

"You've got to stay here for a day or two, Gordon, but perhaps, if the
Government will give us Balder, you'll get away with your life. If they
don't, then it'll be a case of 'good-night, nurse!'"



CHAPTER XXXVI - THE POWER CABLE


Dick Gordon knew that any discussion with his captors was a waste of
breath, and that repartee was profitless. His head was aching, but no
sooner was he left alone than he gave himself a treatment which an
osteopath had taught him. He put his chin on his breast, and his two open
hands behind his neck, the finger-tips pressing hard, then he slowly
raised his head (it was an agony to do so), bringing his fingers down
over the jugular. Three times repeated, his head was comparatively clear.

The door was of thin wood and could easily be forced, but the room below
was filled with men. Presently the light below went out, and the place
was in darkness. He guessed that it was because Hagn did not wish the
light to be seen from the road; though it was unlikely that there would
come any inquiries, he had taken effective steps to deal with the police
car which he knew would follow.

They had not taken his matches away, and Dick struck one and looked
round. Standing before a fireplace filled with an indescribable litter of
half-burnt papers and dust, was a steel plate, with holes for rivets,
evidently part of a tank which had not been assembled. There was a heavy
switch on the wall, and Dick turned it, hoping that it controlled the
light; but apparently that was on the same circuit as the light below. He
struck another match and followed the casing of the switch. By and by he
saw a thick black cable running in the angle of the wall and the ceiling.
It terminated abruptly on the right of the fireplace; and from the marks
on the floor, Dick guessed that at some time or other there had been an
experimental welding plant housed there. He turned the switch again and
sat down to consider what would be the best thing to do. He could hear
the murmur of voices below, and, lying on the floor, put his ear to the
trap, which he cleared with a piece of wire he found in the fireplace.
Hagn seemed to do most of the talking.

"If we blow up the road between here and Newbury, they'll smell a rat,"
he said.

"It's a stupid idea you put forward, Hagn. What are you going to do with
the chap upstairs?"

"I don't know. I'm waiting to hear from Frog. Perhaps the Frog will want
him killed."

"He'd be a good man to hold for Balder, though, if Frog thought it was
worth while."

Towards five o'clock, Hagn, who had been out of the office, came back.

"Frog says he's got to die," he said in a low voice.

* * * * *

Two people sat in Dick Gordon's study. The hour was four o'clock in the
morning. Elk had gone, for the twentieth time to Headquarters, and for
the twentieth time was on his way back. Ella Bennett had tried
desperately hard to carry out Dick's instructions, and turned page after
page determinedly, but had read and yet had seen nothing. With a deep
sigh she put down the book and clasped her hands, her eyes fixed upon the
clock.

"Do you think he will get to Gloucester?" she asked.

"I certainly do," said Broad confidently. "That young man will get
anywhere. He is the right kind and the right type, and nothing is going
to hold him."

She picked up the book but did not look at its printed page.

"What happened to the police cars? Mr. Elk was telling me a lot about
them last night," she said. "I haven't heard since."

Joshua Broad licked his dry lips.

"Oh, they got through all right," he said vaguely.

He did not tell her that two police cars had been ditched between Newbury
and Reading, the cars smashed and three men injured by a mine which had
been sprung under them. Nor did he give her the news, that had arrived by
motor-cyclist from Swindon, that Dick's car had not been seen.

"They are dreadful people, dreadful!" She shivered. "How did they come
into existence, Mr. Broad?"

Broad was smoking (at her request) a long, thin cigar, and he puffed for
a long time before he spoke.

"I guess I'm the father of the Frogs," he said to her amazement.

"You!"

He nodded.

"I didn't know I was producing this outfit, but there it is." How, he did
not seem disposed to explain at that moment.

Soon he heard the whirr of the bell, and thinking that Elk had perhaps
forgotten the key, he rose, and, going along the passage, opened the
door. It was not Elk.

"Forgive me for calling. Is that Mr. Broad?" The visitor peered forward
in the darkness.

"I'm Broad all right. You're Mr. Johnson, aren't you? Come right in, Mr.
Johnson."

He closed the door behind him and turned on the light.

The stout man was in a state of pitiable agitation.

"I was up late last night," he said, "and my servant brought me an early
copy of the Post Herald.

"So you know, eh?"

"It's terrible, terrible! I can't believe it!"

He took a crumpled paper from his pocket and looked at the stop-press
space as though to reassure himself.

"I didn't know it was in the paper."

Johnson handed the newspaper to the American.

"Yes, they've got it. I suppose old man Whitby must have given away the
story."

"I think it came from the picture man, Silenski. Is it true that Ray is
under sentence of death?"

Broad nodded.

"How dreadful!" said Johnson in a hushed voice. "Thank God they've found
it out in time! Mr. Broad," he said earnestly, "I hope you will tell Ella
Bennett that she can rely on me for every penny I possess to establish
her brother's innocence. I suppose there will be a respite and a new
trial? If there is, the very best lawyers must be employed."

"She's here. Won't you come in and see her?"

"Here?" Johnson's jaw dropped. "I had no idea," he stammered.

"Come in."

Broad returned to the girl.

"Here is a friend of yours who has turned up--Mr. Johnson." The
philosopher crossed the room with quick, nervous strides, and held out
both his hands to the girl.

"I'm so sorry, Miss Bennett," he said, "so very, very sorry! It must be
dreadful for you, dreadful! Can I do anything?"

She shook her head, tears of gratitude in her eyes.

"It is very sweet of you, Mr. Johnson. You've done so much for Ray, and
Inspector Elk was telling me that you had offered him a position in your
office."

Johnson shook his head.

"It is nothing. I'm very fond of Ray, and he really has splendid
capabilities. Once we get him out of this mess, I'll put him on his feet
again. Your father doesn't know? Thank God for that!"

"I wish this news hadn't got into the papers," she said, when he told her
how he had learnt of the happening.

"Silenski, of course," said Broad. "A motion picture publicity man would
use his own funeral to get a free par. How are you feeling in your new
position, Johnson?" he asked, to distract the girl's mind from the tragic
thoughts which were oppressing her.

Johnson smiled.

"I'm bewildered. I can't understand why poor Mr. Maitland did this. But I
had my first Frog warning to-day; I feel almost important," he said.

From a worn pocket-case he extracted a sheet of paper. It contained only
three words:

"You are next!"

It bore the familiar sign manual of the Frog.

"I don't know what harm I have done to these people, but I presume that
it is something fairly bad, for within ten minutes of getting this note,
the porter brought me my afternoon tea. I took one sip and it tasted so
bitter that I washed my mouth out with a disinfectant."

"When was this?"

"Yesterday," said Johnson. "This morning I had the analysis--I had the
tea bottled and sent off at once to an analytical chemist. It contained
enough hydrocyanic acid to kill a hundred people. The chemist cannot
understand how I could have taken the sip I did without very serious
consequences. I am going to put the matter in the hands of the police
to-day."

The front door opened, and Elk came in.

"What is the news?" asked the girl eagerly, rising to meet him.

"Fine!" said Elk. "You needn't worry at all, Miss Bennett. That Gordon
man can certainly move. I guess he's in Gloucester by now, sleeping in
the best bed in the city."

"But do you _know_ he's in Gloucester?" she asked stubbornly.

"I've had no exact news, but I can tell you this, that we've had no bad
news," said Elk; "and when there's no news, you can bet that things are
going according to schedule."

"How did you hear about it, Johnson?"

The new millionaire explained.

"I ought to have pulled in Silenski and his operator," said Elk
thoughtfully. "These motion picture men lack reticence. And how does it
feel to be rich, Johnson?" he asked.

"Mr. Johnson doesn't think it feels too good," said Broad. "He has
attracted the attention of old man Frog."

Elk examined the warning carefully.

"When did this come?"

"I found it on my desk yesterday morning," said Johnson, and told him of
the tea incident. "Do you think, Mr. Elk, you will ever put your hand on
the Frog?"

"I'm as certain as that I'm standing here, that Frog will go the way--"
Elk checked himself, and fortunately the girl was not listening.

It was getting light when Johnson left, and Elk walked with him to the
door and watched him passing down the deserted street.

"There's a lot about that boy I like," he said; "and he's certainly
fortunate. Why the old man didn't leave his money to that baby of his--"

"Did you ever find the baby?" interrupted Broad.

"No, sir, there was no sign of that innocent child in the house. That's
another Frog mystery to be cleared up."

Johnson had reached the corner, and they saw him crossing the road, when
a man came out of the shadow to meet him. There was a brief parley, and
then Elk saw the flash of a pistol, and heard a shot. Johnson staggered
back, and his opponent, turning, fled. In a second Elk was flying along
the street. Apparently the philosopher was not hurt, though he seemed
shaken.

The inspector ran round the corner, but the assassin had disappeared. He
returned to the philosopher, to find him sitting on the edge of the
pavement, and at first he thought he had been wounded.

"No, I think I just had a shock," gasped Johnson, "I was quite unprepared
for that method of attack."

"What happened?" asked Elk.

"I can hardly realize," said the other, who appeared dazed. "I was
crossing the road when a man came up and asked me if my name was Johnson;
then, before I knew what had happened, he had fired."

His coat was singed by the flame of the shot, but the bullet must have
gone wide. Later in the day, Elk found it embedded in the brickwork of a
house.

"No, no, I won't come back," said Johnson. "I don't suppose they'll
repeat the attempt."

By this time one of the two detectives who had been guarding Harley
Terrace had come up, and under his escort Johnson was sent home.

"They're certainly the busiest little fellows," said Elk, shaking his
head. "You'd think they'd be satisfied with the work they were doing at
Gloucester, without running sidelines."

Joshua Broad was silent until they were going up the steps of the house.

"When you know as much about the Frog as I know, you'll be surprised at
nothing," he said, and did not add to this cryptic remark.

Six o'clock came, and there was no further news from the west. Seven
o'clock, and the girl's condition became pitiable. She had borne herself
throughout the night with a courage that excited the admiration of the
men; but now, as the hour was drawing close, she seemed on the verge of
collapse. At half-past seven the telephone bell rang, and Elk answered.

It was the Chief of Police at Newbury speaking.

"Captain Gordon left Didcot an hour ago," was the message.

"Didcot!" gasped Elk in consternation. He looked at the clock. "An hour
ago--and he had to make Gloucester in sixty minutes!"

The girl, who had been in the dining-room trying to take coffee which
Gordon's servant had prepared, came into the study, and Elk dared not
continue the conversation.

"All right," he said loudly, and smashed down the receiver.

"What is the news, Mr. Elk?" The girl's voice was a wail.

"The news," said Elk, twisting his face into a smile, "is fine!"

"What do they say?" she persisted.

"Oh, them?" said Elk, looking at the telephone. "That was a friend of
mine, asking me if I'd dine with him to-night." She went back to the
dining-room, only half-satisfied, and Elk called the American to him.

"Go and get a doctor," he said in a low voice, "and tell him to bring
something that'll put this young lady to sleep for twelve hours."

"Why?" asked Broad. "Is the news bad?"

Elk nodded.

"There isn't a chance of saving this boy--not the ghost of a chance!" he
said.



CHAPTER XXXVII - THE GET-AWAY


Dick, with his ear to the floor, heard the words "Frog says he's got to
die," and his cracked lips parted in a grin. "Have you heard him moving
about?" asked Hagn.

"No, he's asleep, I expect," said another voice. "We shall have to wait
for light. We can't do it in the dark. We shall be killing one another."

This view commended itself to most of the men present. Dick counted six
voices. He struck a match for another survey, and again his eye fell upon
the cable. And then an inspiration came to him. Moving stealthily across
the floor, he reached up, and, gripping the cable, pulled on it steadily.
Under his weight, the supporting insulator broke loose. By great good
luck it fell upon the heap of rubbish in the fireplace and made no sound.
For the next half-hour he worked feverishly, unwrapping the rubber
insulation from the wires of the cable, pulling the copper strands free.
His hands were bleeding, his nails broken; but after half-an-hour's hard
work, he had the end of the cable frayed. The door opened outward, he
remembered with satisfaction, and, lifting the steel plate, he laid it
tight against the door, so that whoever entered must step upon it. Then
he began to fasten the frayed copper wires of the cable to the rivet
holes; and he had hardly finished his work before he heard a stealthy
sound on the stairs.

Day had come now, and light was streaming through the glass roof of the
factory. He heard a faint whisper, and even as faint a click, as the
bolts of the door were pulled; and, creeping to e switch, he turned it
down.

The door was jerked open, and a man stepped upon the plate. Before his
scream could warn him who followed the second of the party had been flung
senseless to the floor.

"What the devil's wrong?" It was Hagn's voice. He came running up the
stairs, put one foot on the electric plate, and stood for the space of a
second motionless. Then, with a gasping sob, he fell backward, and Dick
heard the crash as he struck the stairs.

He did not wait any longer. Jumping over the plate, he leapt down the
stairs, treading underfoot the senseless figure of Hagn. The little
office was empty. On the table lay one of his pistols. He gripped it, and
fled along the bare factory hall, through a door into the open. He heard
a shout, and, looking round, saw two of the party coming at him, and,
raising his pistol, he pressed the trigger. There was a click--Hagn had
emptied the magazine.

A Browning is an excellent weapon even if it is not loaded, and Dick
Gordon brought the barrel down with smashing force upon the head of the
man who tried to grapple with him. Then he turned and ran.

He had made a mistake when he thought there were only six men in the
building; there must have been twenty, and most of them were in full cry.

He tried to reach the road, and was separated only by a line of bushes.
But here he blundered. The bushes concealed a barbed wire fence, and he
had to run along uneven ground, and in his stockinged feet the effort was
painful. His slow progress enabled his pursuers to get ahead. Doubling
back, Dick flew for the second of the three buildings, and as he ran, he
took out the magazine of his pistol. As he feared, it was empty.

Now they were on him. He could hear the leading man's breath, and he
himself was nearly spent. And then, before him, he saw a round
fire-alarm, fixed to the wall, and in a flash the memory of an almost
forgotten conversation came back to him. With his bare hands he smashed
the glass and tugged at the alarm, and at that minute they were on him.
He fought desperately, but against their numbers resistance was almost
useless. He must gain time.

"Get up, you fellows!" he shouted. "Hagn's dead."

It was an unfortunate statement, for Hagn came out of the next building
at that moment, very shaken but very alive. He was livid with rage, and
babbled in some language which Dick did not know, but which he guessed
was Swedish.

"I'll fix you for that. You shall try electric shock yourself, you dog!"

He drove his fist at the prisoner's face, but Dick twisted his head and
the blow struck the brickwork of the building against which he stood.
With a scream, the man leapt at him, clawing and tearing with open hands,
and this was Dick's salvation. For the men who were gripping his arms
released their hold, that their chief might have freer play. Dick struck
out, hitting scientifically for the body, and with a yell Hagn collapsed.
Before they could stop him, Gordon was away like the wind, this time
making for the gate.

He had reached it when the hand of the nearest man fell on him. He flung
him aside and staggered into the roadway, and then, from down the
straight road, came the clang of bells, a glitter of brass and a touch of
crimson. A motor fire-engine was coming at full speed.

For a moment the men grouped about the gate stared at this intervention.
Then, without taking any further notice of their quarry, they turned and
ran. A word to the fire chief explained the situation. Another engine was
coming, at breakneck speed, and firemen were men for whom Frogs had no
terror.

Whilst Hagn was being carried to one of the waiting wagons, Dick looked
at his watch; it was six o'clock. He went in search of his car, fearing
the worst. Hagn, however, had made no attempt to put the car out of gear;
probably he had some plan for using it himself. Three minutes later,
Dick, dishevelled, grimy, bearing the marks of Hagn's talons upon his
face, swung out into the road and set the bonnet of the car for
Gloucester. He could not have gone faster even had he known that his
watch was stopped.

Through Swindon at breakneck speed, and he was on the Gloucester Road. He
looked at his watch again. The hands still pointed to six, and he gave a
gasp. He was going all out now, but the road was bad, full of windings,
and once he was nearly thrown out of the car when he struck a ridge on
the road.

A tyre burst, and he almost swerved into the hedge, but he got her nose
straight again and continued on a flat tyre. It brought his speed down
appreciably, and he grew hot and cold, as mile after mile of the road
flashed past without a sign of the town.

And then, with Gloucester Cathedral showing its spires above the hill, a
second tyre exploded. He could not stop: he must go on, if he had to run
in to Gloucester on the rims. And now the pace was painfully slow in
comparison with that frantic rush which had carried him through Berkshire
and Wiltshire to the edge of Somerset.

He was entering the straggling suburbs of the town. The roads were
terrible; he was held up by a street car, but, disregarding a policeman's
warning, flew past almost under the wheels of a great traction engine.
And now he saw the time--two minutes to eight, and the gaol was half a
mile farther on. He set his teeth end prayed.

As he turned into the main street, with the gaol gates before him, the
clocks of the cathedral struck eight, and to Dick Gordon they were the
notes of doom.

They would delay the carrying out of the death penalty for nothing short
of the reprieve he carried. Punctually to the second, Ray Bennett would
die. The agony of that moment was a memory that turned him grey. He
brought the bumping car to a halt before the prison gates and staggered
to the bell. Twice he pulled, but the gates remained closed. Dick pulled
off his sock and found the soddened reprieve, streaky with blood, for his
feet were bleeding. Again he rang with the fury of despair. Then a little
wicket opened and the dark face of a warder appeared.

"You're not allowed in," he said curtly. "You know what is happening
here."

"Home Office," said Dick thickly, "Home Office messenger. I have a
reprieve!"

The wicket closed, and, after an eternity, the lock turned and the heavy
door opened.

"I'm Captain Gordon," gasped Dick, "from the Public Prosecutor's office,
and I carry a reprieve for James Carter."

The warder shook his head.

"The execution took place five minutes ago, sir," he said.

"But the Cathedral clock!" gasped Dick.

"The Cathedral clock is four minutes slow," said the warder. "I am afraid
Carter is dead."



CHAPTER XXXVIII - THE MYSTERY MAN


Ray Bennett woke from a refreshing sleep and sat up in bed. One of the
warders, who had watched him all night, got up and came over.

"Do you want your clothes, Carter?" he said. "The Governor thought you
wouldn't care to wear those old things of yours."

"And he was right," said the grateful Ray. "This looks a good suit," he
said as he pulled on the trousers.

The warder coughed.

"Yes, it's a good suit," he agreed.

He did not say more, but something in his demeanour betrayed the truth.
These were the clothes in which some man had been hanged, and yet Ray's
hands did not shake as he fixed the webbed braces which held them. Poor
clothes, to do duty on two such dismal occasions! He hoped they would be
spared the indignity of a third experience.

They brought him his breakfast at six o'clock. Yet once more his eyes
strayed toward the writing-pad, and then, with breakfast over, came the
chaplain, a quiet man in minister's garb, strength in every line of his
mobile face. They talked awhile, end then the warder suggested that Ray
should go to take exercise in the paved yard outside. He was glad of the
privilege. He wanted once more to look upon the blue sky, to draw into
his lungs the balm of God's air.

Yet he knew that it was not a disinterested kindness, and well guessed
why this privilege had been afforded to him, as he walked slowly round
the exercise yard, arm in arm with the clergyman. He knew now what lay
behind the third door. They were going to try the trap in the death
house, and they wished to spare his feelings.

In half an hour he was back in the cell.

"Do you want to make any confession, Carter? Is that your name?"

"No, it is not my name, sir," said Ray quietly, "but that doesn't
matter."

"Did you kill this man?"

"I don't know," said Ray. "I wanted to kill him, and therefore it is
likely that I did."

At ten minutes to eight came the Governor to shake hands, and with him
the Sheriff. The clock in the prison hall moved slowly, inexorably
forward. Through the open door of the cell Ray could see it, and, knowing
this, the Governor closed the door, for it was one minute to eight, and
it would soon open again. Ray saw the door move. For a second his
self-possession deserted him, and he turned his back to the man who came
with a quick step, and, gripping his hands, strapped them.

"God forgive me! God forgive me!" murmured somebody behind him, and at
the sound of that voice Ray spun round and faced the executioner.

The hangman was John Bennett!

Father and son, executioner and convicted murderer soon to be launched to
death, they faced one another, and then, in a voice that was almost
inaudible, John Bennett breathed the word:

"Ray!"

Ray nodded. It was strange that, in that moment, his mind was going back
over the mysterious errands of his father, his hatred of the job into
which circumstances had forced him.

"Ray!" breathed the man again.

"Do you know this man?" It was the Governor, and his voice was shaking
with emotion.

John Bennett turned.

"He is my son," he said, and with a quick pull loosed the strap.

"You must go on with this, Bennett." The Governor's voice was stern and
terrible.

"Go on with it?" repeated John Bennett mechanically. "Go on with this?
Kill my own son? Are you mad? Do you think I am mad?" He took the boy in
his arms, his cheek against the hairy face. "My boy! Oh, my boy!" he
said, and smoothed his hair as he had done in the days when Ray was a
child. Then, recovering himself instantly, he thrust the boy through the
open door into the death chamber, followed him and slammed the door,
bolting it.

There was no other doorway except that, to which he had the key, and this
he thrust into the lock that it might not be opened from the other side.
Ray looked at the bare chamber, the dangling yellow rope, the marks of
the trap, and fell back against the wail, his eyes shut, shivering. Then,
standing in the middle of the trap, John Bennett hacked the rope until it
was severed, hacked it in pieces as it lay on the floor. Then:

Crack, crash!

The two traps dropped, and into the yawning gap he flung the cut rope.

"Father!"

Ray was staring at him; oblivious to the thunderous blows which were
being rained on the door, the old man came towards him, took the boy's
face between his hands and kissed him.

"Will you forgive me, Ray?" he asked brokenly. "I had to do this. I was
forced to do it. I starved before I did it. I came once...out of
curiosity to help the executioner--a broken-down doctor, who had taken on
the work. And he was ill...I hanged the murderer. I had just come from
the medical school. It didn't seem so dreadful to me then. I tried to
find some other way of making money, and lived in dread all my life that
somebody would point his finger at me, and say: 'There goes Benn, the
executioner.'"

"Benn, the executioner!" said Ray wonderingly. "Are you Benn?"

The old man nodded.

"Benn, come out! I give you my word of honour that I will postpone the
execution until to-morrow. You can't stay there."

John Bennett looked round at the grating, then up to the cut rope. The
execution could not proceed. Such was the routine of death that the rope
must he expressly issued from the headquarter gaol. No other rope would
serve. All the paraphernalia of execution, down to the piece of chalk
that marks the "T" on the trap where a man must put his feet, must be
punctiliously forwarded from prison headquarters, and as punctiliously
returned.

John shot back the bolts, opened the door and stepped out.

The faces of the men in the condemned cell were ghastly. The Governor's
was white and drawn, the prison doctor seemed to have shrunk, and the
Sheriff sat on the bed, his face hidden in his hands.

"I will telegraph to London and tell them the circumstances," said the
Governor. "I'm not condemning you for what you're doing, Benn. It would
be monstrous to expect you to have done--this thing."

A warder came along the corridor and through the door of the cell. And
behind him, entering the prison by virtue of his authority, a
dishevelled, dust-stained, limping figure, his face scratched, streaks of
dried blood on his face, his eyes red with weariness. For a second John
Bennett did not recognize him, and then:

"A reprieve, by the King's own hand," said Dick Gordon unsteadily, and
handed the stained envelope to the Governor.



CHAPTER XXXIX - THE AWAKENING


Throughout the night Ella Bennett lay, half waking, half sleeping. She
remembered the doctor coming; she remembered Elk's urgent request that
she should drink the draught he had prepared; and though she had
suspected its nature and at first had fought against drinking that
milky-white potion, she had at last succumbed, and had lain down on the
sofa, determined that she would not sleep until she knew the worst or the
best. She was exhausted with the mental fight she had put up to preserve
her sanity, and then she had dozed.

She was dimly conscious, as she came back to understanding, that she was
lying on a bed, and that somebody had taken off her shoes and loosened
her hair. With a tremendous effort she opened her eyes and saw a woman,
sitting by a window, reading. The room was intensely masculine; it smelt
faintly of smoke.

"Dick's bed," she muttered, and the woman put down her book and got up.

Ella looked at her, puzzled. Why did she wear those white bands about her
hair, and that butcher-blue wrapper and the white cuffs? She was a nurse,
of course. Satisfied with having solved that problem, Ella closed her
eyes and went back again into the land of dreams.

She woke again. The woman was still there, but this time the girl's mind
was in order.

"What time is it?" she asked.

The nurse came over with a glass of water, and Ella drank greedily.

"It is seven o'clock," she said.

"Seven!" The girl shivered, and then, with a cry, tried to rise. "It is
evening!" she gasped. "Oh, what happened?"

"Your father is downstairs, miss," said the nurse. "I'll call him."

"Father--here?" She frowned. "Is there any other news?"

"Mr. Gordon is downstairs too, miss, and Mr. Johnson." The woman was
faithfully carrying out the instructions which had been given to her.

"Nobody--else?" asked Ella in a whisper.

"No, miss, the other gentleman is coming to-morrow or the next day--your
brother, I mean."

With a sob the girl buried her face in the pillow. "You are not telling
the truth!"

"Oh yes, I am," said the woman, and there was something in her laugh
which made Ella look up.

The nurse went out of the room and was gone a little while. Presently the
door opened, and John Bennett came in. Instantly she was in his arms,
sobbing her joy.

"It is true, it is true, daddy!"

"Yes, my love, it is true," said Bennett. "Ray will be here to-morrow.
There are some formalities to be gone through; they can't secure a
release immediately, as they do in story-books. We are discussing his
future. Oh, my girl, my poor girl!"

"When did you know, daddy?"

"I knew this morning," said her father quietly.

"Were you--were you dreadfully hurt?" she asked. He nodded.

"Johnson wants to give Ray the management of Maitlands Consolidated," he
said. "It would be a splendid thing for Ray. Ella, our boy has changed."

"Have you seen him?" she asked in surprise.

"Yes, I saw him this morning."

She thought it was natural that her father should have seen him, and did
not question him as to how he managed to get behind the jealously guarded
doors of the prison.

"I don't think Ray will accept Johnson's offer," he said. "If I know him
as he is now, I am sure he will not accept. He will not take any
ready-made position; he wants to work for himself. He is coming back to
us, Ella."

She wanted to ask him something, but feared to hurt him.

"Daddy, when Ray comes back," she said after a long silence, "will it be
possible for you to leave this--this work you hate so much?"

"I have left it, dear," he replied quietly. "Never again--never
again--never again, thank God!"

She did not see his face, but she felt the tremor that passed through the
frame of the man who held her.

Downstairs, the study was blue with smoke. Dick Gordon, conspicuously
bandaged about the head, something of his good looks spoiled by three
latitudinal scratches which ran down his face, sat in his dressing-gown
and slippers, a rig pipe clenched between his teeth, the picture of
battered contentment.

"Very good of you, Johnson," he said. "I wonder whether Bennett will take
your offer. Honestly, do you think he's competent to act as the manager
of this enormous business?"

Johnson looked dubious.

"He was a clerk at Maitlands. You can have no knowledge of his
administrative qualities. Aren't you being just a little too generous?"

"I don't know. Perhaps I am," said Johnson quietly. "I naturally want to
help. There may be other positions less important, and perhaps, as you
say, Ray might not care to take any quite as responsible."

"I'm sure he won't," said Dick decidedly.

"It seems to me," said Elk, "that the biggest job of all is to get young
Bennett out of the clutches of the Frogs. Once a Frog, always a Frog, and
this old man is not going to sit down and take his beating like a little
gentleman. We had a proof of that yesterday morning. They shot at Johnson
in this very street."

Dick took out his pipe, sent a cloud of blue smoke toward the haze that
lay on the room.

"The Frog is finished," he said. "The only question now is, what is the
best and most effective way to make an end? Balder is caught; Hagn is in
gaol; Lew Brady, who was one of their most helpful agents, though he did
not hold any executive position--Lew is dead; Lola--"

"Lola is through." It was the American who spoke. "She left this morning
for the United States, and I took the liberty of facilitating her
passage--there remains Frog himself, and the organization which Frog
controls. Catch him, and you've finished with the gang."

John Bennett came back at that moment, and the conversation took another
turn; soon after, Joshua Broad and Johnson went away together.

"You have not told Ella anything, Mr. Bennett?"

"About myself?--no. Is it necessary?"

"I hope you will not think so," said Dick quietly. "Let that remain your
own secret, and Ray's secret. It has been known to me for a very long
time. The day Elk told me he had seen you coming from King's Cross
station, and that a burglary had been committed, I saw in the newspapers
that a man had been executed in York Prison. And then I took the trouble
to look up the files of the newspapers, and I found that your absences
had certainly coincided with burglaries--and there are so many burglaries
in England in the course of a year that it would have been remarkable if
they had not coincided--there were also other coincidences. On the day
the murder was committed at Ibbley Copse, you were in Gloucester, and on
that day Waldsen, the Hereford murderer, was executed."

John Bennett hung his head.

"You knew, and yet..." he hesitated.

Dick nodded.

"I knew none of the circumstances which drove you to this dreadful
business, Mr. Bennett," he said gently. "To me you are an officer of the
law--no more and no less terrible than I, who have helped send many men
to the scaffold. No more unclean than the judge who sentences them and
signs the warrant for their death. We are instruments of Order."

Ella and her father stayed that night at Harley Terrace, and in the
morning drove down to Paddington Station to meet the boy. Neither Dick
nor Elk accompanied them.

"There are two things which strike me as remarkable--" said Elk. "One is,
that neither you nor I recognized Bennett."

"Why should we?" asked Dick. "Neither you nor I attend executions, and
the identity of the hangman has always been more or less unknown except
to a very few people. If he cares to advertise himself, he is known.
Bennett shrank from publicity, avoided even the stations of the towns
where the executions took place, and usually alighted at some wayside
village and tramped into the town on foot. The chief warder at Gloucester
told me that he never arrived at the gaol until midnight before an
execution. Nobody saw him come or go."

"Old man Maitland must have recognized him."

"He did," nodded Dick. "At some period Maitland was in gaol, and it is
possible for prisoners, especially privileged prisoners, to catch a
glimpse of the hangman. By 'privileged prisoners' I mean men who, by
reason of their good conduct, were allowed to move about the gaol freely.
Maitland told Miss Bennett that he had been in 'quod,' and I am certain
that that is the true explanation. All Bennett's official letters came to
him at Dorking, where he rented a room for years. His mysterious journeys
to town were not mysterious to the people of Dorking, who did not know
him by sight or name."

To Elk's surprise, when he came back to Harley Terrace, Dick was not
there. His servant said that his master had had a short sleep, had
dressed and gone out, and had left no message as to where he was going.
Dick did not, as a rule, go out on these solitary expeditions, and Elk's
first thought was that he had gone to Horsham. He ate his dinner, and
thought longingly of his comfortable bed. He did not wish to retire for
the night until he had seen his chief.

He made himself comfortable in the study, and was fast asleep, when
somebody shook him gently by the shoulder. He looked up and saw Dick.

"Hullo!" he said sleepily. "Are you staying up all night?"

"I've got the car at the door," said Dick. "Get your top-coat. We're
going to Horsham."

Elk yawned at the clock.

"She'll be thinking of bed," he protested.

"I hope so," said Dick, "but I have my fears. Frog was seen on the
Horsham Road at nine o'clock to-night."

"How do you know?" asked Elk, now wide awake. "I've been shadowing him
all the evening," said Dick, "but he slipped me."

"You've been watching Frog?" repeated Elk slowly.

"Do you know him?"

"I've known him for the greater part of a month," said Dick Gordon. "Get
your gun!"



CHAPTER XL - FROG


There is a happiness which has no parallel in life--the happiness which
comes when a dear one is restored.

Ray Bennett sat by his father's chair, and was content to absorb the love
and tenderness which made the room radiant. It seemed like a dream to be
back in this cosy sitting-room with its cretonnes, its faint odour of
lavender, the wide chimney-place, the leaded windows, and Ella, most
glorious vision of all. The rainstorm that lashed the window-panes gave
the comfort and peace of his home a new and a more beautiful value. From
time to time he fingered his shaven face absently. It was the only sure
evidence to him that he was awake and that this experience belonged to
the word of reality.

"Full up your chair, boy," said John Bennett as Ella carried in a
steaming teapot and put it on the table.

Ray rose obediently and placed the big it had always been when he lived
at home, on his father's right hand.

John Bennett sat at the table, his head bent forward. It was the old
grace that his father had said for years and years, and which secretly
amused him in other days, but which now was invested with a beautiful
significance that made him choke.

_"For all the blessings we have received this day, may the Lord make us
truly thankful!"_

It was a wonderful meal, more wonderful than any he had eaten at Heron's
or at those expensive restaurants which he had favoured. Home-cured
tongue, home-made bread, and a great jar of home-made preserves, tea that
was fragrant with the bouquet of the East. He laid down his knife and
fork and leant back with a happy smile.

"Home," he said simply, and his father gripped his hand under cover of
the table-cloth, gripped and held it so tightly that the boy winced.

"Ray, they want you to take over the management of Maitlands--Johnson
does. What do you think of that, son?"

Ray shook his head.

"I'm no more fit to manage Maitlands than I am to be President of the
Bank of England," he said with a little laugh. "No, dad, my views are
less exalted than they were. I think I might earn a respectable living
hoeing potatoes--and I should be happy to do so!"

The older man was looking thoughtfully at the table.

"I--I shall want an assistant if these pictures of mine are the success
that Silenski says they will be. Perhaps you can hoe potatoes between
whiles--when Ella is married."

The girl went red.

"Is Ella going to be married? Are you EIla?" Ray jumped up and, going to
the girl, kissed her. "Ella, it won't make a difference, will it--about
me, I mean?"

"I don't think so, dear. I've promised."

"What is the matter?" asked John Bennett, as he saw the cloud that came
to the girl's face.

"I was thinking of something unpleasant, daddy," she said, and for the
first time told of the hideous visitation.

"The Frog wanted to marry you?" said Ray with a frown. "It is incredible!
Did you see his face?"

She shook her head.

"He was masked," she said. "Don't let us talk about it."

She got up quickly and began to clear away the meal, and, for the first
time for many years, Ray helped her.

"A terrible night," she said, coming back from the kitchen. "The wind
burst open the window and blew out the lamp, and the rain is corning down
in torrents!"

"All nights are good nights to me," said Ray, and in his chuckle she
detected a little sob.

No word had been spoken since they met of his terrible ordeal; it was
tacitly agreed that that nightmare should remain in the region of bad
dreams, and only now and again did he betray the horror of those three
weeks of waiting.

"Bolt the back door, darling," said John Bennett, looking up as she went
out.

The two men sat smoking, each busy with his own thoughts. Then Ray spoke
of Lola.

"I do not think she was bad, father," he said. "She could not have known
what was going to happen. The thing was so diabolically planned that even
to the very last, until I learnt from Gordon the true story, I was under
the impression that I had killed Brady. This man must have the brain of a
general."

Bennett nodded.

"I always used to think," Ray went on, "that Maitland had something to do
with the Frogs. I suppose he had, really. I first guessed that much after
he turned up at Heron's Club--what is the matter?"

"Ella!" called the old man.

There was no answer from the kitchen.

"I don't want her to stay out there, washing up. Ray, boy, call her in."

Ray got up and opened the door of the kitchen. It was in darkness.

"Bring the lamp, father," he called, and John Bennett came hurrying after
him.

The door of the kitchen was closed but not bolted. Something white lay on
the floor, and Ray stooped to pick it up. It was a torn portion of the
apron Which Ella had been wearing.

The two men looked at one another, and Ray, running up to his room, came
down with a storm lanterns which he lit.

"She may be in the garden," he said in a strained voice, and, throwing
open the door, went out into the storm.

The rain beat down unmercifully; tire men were wet through before they
had gone a dozen yards. Ray held the light down to the ground. There were
tracks of many feet in the soft mud, and presently he found one of
Ella's. The tracks disappeared on to the edge of the lawn, but they were
making straight for the side gate which opened into a narrow lane. This
passage-way connected the road with a meadow behind Maytree Cottage, and
the roadway gate was usually kept chained and padlocked. Ray was the
first to see the car tracks, and then he found that the gate was open and
the broken chain lay in the muddy roadway. Running out into the road, he
saw that the tracks turned to the right.

"We had better search the garden first to make absolutely sure, father,"
he said. "I will arouse some of the cottagers and get them to help."

By the time he came back to the house, John Bennett had made a thorough
search of the garden and the house, but the girl had disappeared.

"Go down to the town and telephone to Gordon," he said, and his voice was
strangely calm.

In a quarter of an hour Ray Bennett jumped off his old bicycle at the
door of Maytree Cottage, to tell his grave news.

"The 'phone line has been cut," he said tersely. "I've ordered a car to
be sent up from the garage. We will try to follow the tracks."

The machine had arrived when the blazing head-lamps of Dick's car carne
into view. Gordon knew the worst before he had sprung to the ground.
There was a brief, unemotional consultation. Dick went rapidly through
the kitchen and followed the tracks until they came back to the road, to
find Elk going slowly along the opposite side, examining the ground with
an electric lamp.

"There's a small wheel track over here," he said. "Too heavy for a
bicycle, too light for a car; looks to me like a motor-cycle."

"It was a car," said Dick briefly, "and a very big one."

He sent Ray and his father to the house to change; insisted on this being
done before they moved a step. They came out, wrapped in mackintoshes,
and leapt into the car as it was moving.

For five miles the tracks were visible, and then they came to a village.
A policeman had seen a car come through "a little time ago"--and a
motor-cyclist.

"Where was the cyclist?" asked Elk.

"He was behind, about a hundred yards," said the policeman. "I tried to
pull him up because his lamp was out, but he took no notice."

They went on for another mile, and then struck the hard surface of a
newly tarred road, and here all trace of the tracks was lost. Going on
for a mile farther, they reached a point where the road broke into three.
Two of these were macadamized and showed no wheel tracks; nor did the
third, although it had a soft surface, offer any encouragement to follow.

"It is one of these two," said Dick. "We had better try the right-hand
road first."

The macadam lasted until they reached another village. The road was
undergoing repair in the village itself, but the night watchman shook his
head when Dick asked him.

"No, sir, no car has passed here for two hours."

"We must drive back," said Dick, despair in his heart, and the car spun
round and flew at top speed to the juncture of the roads.

Down this they went, and they had not gone far before Dick half leapt at
the sight of the red tail-lamp of the machine ahead. His hopes, however,
were fated to be dashed. A car had broken down on the side of the road,
but the disgruntled driver was able to give them valuable information. A
car had passed him three-quarters of an hour before; he described it
minutely, had even been able to distinguish its make. The cyclist was
driving a Red Indian.

Again the cyclist!

"How far was he behind the car?"

"A good hundred yards I should say," was the reply.

From now on they received frequent news of the car, but at the second
village, the motor-cyclist had not been seen, nor at subsequent places
where the machine had been identified, was there any reference to a
motor-cyclist.

It was past midnight when they came up with the machine they were
chasing. It stood outside a garage on the Shoreham Road, and Elk was the
first to reach it. It was empty and unattended. Inside the garage, the
owner of that establishment was busy making room for the last corner.

"Yes, sir, a quarter of an hour ago," he said, when Elk had produced his
authority. "The chauffeur said he was going to find lodgings in the
town."

With the aid of a powerful electric lamp they made an examination of the
car's interior. There was no doubt whatever that Ella had been an inmate.
A little ivory pin which John Bennett had given her on her birthday, was
found, broken, in a corner of the floor.

"It is not worth while looking for the chauffeur," said Elk. "Our only
chance is that he'll come back to the garage."

The local police were called into consultation.

"Shoreham is a very big place," said the police chief. "If you had luck,
you might find your man immediately. If he's with a gang of crooks, it is
more likely that you'll not find him at all, or that he'll never come
back for the machine."

One matter puzzled Elk more than any other. It was the disappearance of
the motor-cyclist. If the story was true, that he had been riding a
hundred yards behind and that he had fallen out between two villages,
they must have passed him. There were a few cottages on the road, into
which he might have turned, but Elk dismissed this possibility.

"We had better go back," he said. "It is fairly certain that Miss Bennett
has been taken out somewhere on the road. The motor-cyclist is now the
best clue, because she evidently went with him. This cyclist was either
the Frog, or one of his men."

"They disappeared somewhere between Shoreham and Morby," said Dick. "You
know the country about here, Mr. Bennett. Is there any place where they'd
be likely to go near Morby?"

"I know the country," agreed Bennett, "and I've been trying to think.
There is nothing but a very few houses outside of Morby. Of course, there
is Morby Fields, but I can't imagine Ella being taken there."

"What are Morby Fields?" asked Dick, as the car went slowly back the way
it had come.

"Morby Fields is a disused quarry. The company went into liquidation some
years ago," replied Bennett.

They passed through Morby at snail pace, stopping at the local
policeman's house for any further news which might have been gleaned in
their absence. There was, however, nothing fresh.

"You are perfectly certain that you did not see the motorcyclist?"

"I am quite certain, sir," said the man. "The car was as close to me as I
am to you. In fact, I had to step to the pavement to prevent myself being
splashed with mud; and there was no motor-cyclist. In fact, the
impression I had was that the car was empty."

"Why did you think that?" asked Elk quickly.

"It was riding light, for one thing, and the chauffeur was smoking for
another. I always associate a smoking chauffeur with an empty car."

"Son," said the admiring Elk, "there are possibilities about you," and a
recruit to Headquarters was noted.

"I'm inclined to agree with that village policeman," said Dick when they
walked back to their machine. "The car was empty when it came through
here, and that accounts for the absence of the motor-cyclist. It is
between Morby and Wellan that we've got to look."

And now they moved at a walking pace. The brackets that held the
head-lamps were wrenched round to throw a light upon the ditch and hedge
on either side of the road. They had not gone five hundred yards when Elk
roared:

"Stop!" and jumped into the roadway.

He was gone a few minutes, and then he called Dick, and the three men
went back to where the detective was standing, looking at a big red
motor-cycle that stood under the shelter of a crumbling stone wall. They
had passed it without observation, for its owner had chosen the other
side of the wall, and it was only the gleam of the light on a handlebar
which showed just above its screen, that had led to its detection.

Dick ran to the car and backed it so that the wall and machine were
visible. The cycle was almost new; it was splattered with mud, and its
acetylene head-lamps were cold to the touch. Elk had an inspiration. At
the back of the seat was a heavy tool-wallet, attached by a firm strap,
and this he began to unfasten.

"If this is a new machine, the maker will have put the name and address
of the owner in his wallet," he said.

Presently the tool-bag was detached, and Elk unstrapped the last
fastening and turned back the flap.

"Great Moses!" said Elk.

Neatly painted on the undressed leather was:

"Joshua Broad, 6, Caverley House, Cavendish Square!"



CHAPTER XLI - IN QUARRY HOUSE


"Walk," hissed a voice, and she discovered her feet were loosened.

She could see nothing, only she could feel the rain beating down upon the
cloth that covered her head, and the strength of the wind against her
face. It blew the cloth so tightly over her mouth and nose that she could
hardly breathe. Where they were taking her she could only guess. It was
not until she felt her feet squelch in liquid mud that she knew she was
in the lane by the side of the house. She had hardly identified the place
before she was lifted bodily into the waiting car; she heard somebody
scrambling in by her side, and the car jerked forward. Then with
dexterous hand, one of the men sitting at her side whisked the cloth from
her head. Ahead, in one of the two bucket seats, the only one occupied,
was a dark figure, the face of which she could not see.

"What are you doing? Who are you?" she asked, and no sooner did the voice
of the man before her come to her ears than she knew she was in the power
of the Frog.

"I'm going to give you your last chance," he said. "After to-night that
chance is gone."

She composed the tremor in her voice with an effort, and then:

"What do you mean by my last chance?" she asked.

"You will undertake to marry me, and to leave the country with me in the
morning. I've such faith in you that I will take your word," he said.

She shook her head, until she realized that, in the darkness, he could
not see her.

"I will never do that," she answered quietly, and no other word was
spoken through the journey. Once, at a whispered word from the man in the
mask--she saw the reflection of his mica eye-pieces even though the
blinds were drawn, as the car went through some village street--one of
the men looked back through the glass in the hood.

"Nothing," he said.

No violence was offered to her; she was not bound, or restricted in any
way, though she knew it was perfectly hopeless for her to dream of
escape.

They were running along a dark country road when the car slowed and
stopped. The passengers turned out quickly, she was the last. A man
caught her arm as she descended and led her, through an opening of the
hedge, into what seemed to her to be a ploughed field.

The other came after her, bringing her an oilskin coat and helping her
into it.

The rain flogged across the waste, rattling against the oil-coat; she
heard the man holding her arm mutter something under his breath. The Frog
walked ahead, only looking back once. She slipped and stumbled, and would
have often fallen but for the hand which held her up.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked at last.

There was no reply. She wondered if she could wrench herself free, and
trust to the cover of darkness to hide her, but even as the thought
occurred, she saw a gleam of water to the right--a round, ghostly patch.

"These are Morby Fields," she said suddenly, recognizing the place.
"You're taking me to the quarry."

Again no answer. They tramped on doggedly, until she knew they were
within measurable distance of the quarry itself. She wondered what would
be her fate when she finally refused, as she would refuse. Did this
terrible man intend to kill her?

"Wait," said the Frog suddenly, and disappeared into the gloom.

Then she saw a light, which came from a small wooden house; two patches
of light, one long, one square--a window and a door. The window
disappeared as he closed the shutter. Then his figure stood silhouetted
in the doorway.

"Come," he said, and she went forward.

At the door of the hut she drew back, but the hand on her arm tightened.
She was pushed into the interior, and the door was slammed and bolted.

She was alone with Frog. Curiosity overcame her fear. She looked round
the little room. It was about ten feet long by six feet broad. The
furnishings were simple: a bed, a table, two chairs and a fireplace. The
wooden floor was covered by an old and grimy rug. Against one of the
walls were piled two shallow wooden boxes, and the wood was new. The
mask followed the direction of her eyes and she heard his slow chuckle.

"Money," he said tersely, "your money and my money, there is a million
there."

She looked, fascinated. Near the boxes were four long glass cylinders,
containing an opaque substance or liquid--she could not tell from where
she stood. The nature of this the Frog did not then trouble to explain.

"Sit down," he said.

His manner was brisk and businesslike. She expected him to take off his
mask as he seated himself opposite her, but in this she was disappointed.
He sat, and through the mica pieces she saw his hard eyes watching her.

"Well, Ella Bennett, what do you say? Will you marry me, or will you go
into a welcome oblivion? You leave this hut either as my wife, or we
leave together--dead."

He got up and went to where the glass cylinders lay and touched one.

"I will smash one of these with my foot and take off my mask, and you
shall have at least the satisfaction that you know who I am before you
die--but only just before you die!"

She looked at him steadily.

"I will never marry you," she said, "never! If for no other reason, for
your villainous plot against my brother."

"Your brother is a fool," said the hollow voice. "He need never have gone
through that agony, if you had only promised to marry me. I had a man
ready to confess, I myself would have taken the risk of supporting his
confession."

"Why do you want to marry me?" she asked.

It sounded banal, stupid. Yet so grotesque was the suggestion, that she
could talk of the matter in cold blood and almost without emotion.

"Because I love you," was the reply. "Whether I love you as Dick Gordon
loves you, I do not know. It may well be that you are something which I
cannot possess, and therefore are all the more precious to me--I have
never been thwarted in any desire."

"I would welcome death," she said quickly, and she heard the muffled
chuckle.

"There are worse things than death to a sensitive woman," he said
significantly, "and you shall not die until the end."

He did not attempt to speak again, but, pulling a pack of cards from his
pocket, played solitaire. After an hour's play, he swept the cards into
the fireplace and rose.

He looked at her and there was something in his eyes that froze her
blood.

"Perhaps you will never see my face," he said, and reached out his hand
to the oil lamp which stood on the table.

Lower and lower sank the flame, and then came a gentle tap at the door.

Tap...tap...tappity...tap!

The Frog stood still, his hand upon the lamp.

Tap...tap...tappity...tap!

It came again. He turned up the light a little and went to the door.

"Who's that?" he asked.

"Hagn," said a deep voice, and the Frog took a startled step backward.
"Quick! Open!"

The mask turned the heavy bar, and, taking a key from his pocket, he drew
back the lock.

"Hagn, how did you get away?"

The door was pushed open with such violence that he was flung back
against the wall, and Ella uttered a scream of joy.

Standing in the doorway was a bare-headed man, in a shining trench-coat.
It was Joshua Broad.

"Keep back!"

He did not look round, but she knew the words were addressed to her and
stood stock-still. Both Broad's hands were in the deep pockets of his
coat; his eyes did not leave the mask.

"Harry," he said softly, "you know what I want."

"Take yours!" screeched the Frog. His hand moved so quickly that the girl
could not follow it.

Two shots rang out together and the Frog staggered back against the wall.
His foot was within a few inches of the glass cylinders, and he raised
it. Again Broad fired, and the Frog fell backward, his head in the
fireplace. He came struggling to his feet, and then, with a little
choking sob, fell backward, his arms outstretched.

There was a sound of voices outside, a scraping of feet on the muddy
path, and John Bennett came into the hut. In a moment the girl was in his
arms. Broad looked round. Elk and Dick Gordon were standing in the
doorway, taking in the scene.

"Gentlemen," said Joshua Broad, "I call you to witness that I killed this
man in self-defence."

"Who is it?" said Dick.

"It is the Frog," said Joshua Broad calmly. "His other name is Harry
Lyme. He is an English convict."

"I knew it was Harry Lyme." It was Elk who spoke. "Is he dead?"

Broad stooped and thrust his hand under the man's waistcoat.

"Yes, he is dead," he announced simply. "I'm sorry that I have robbed you
of your prey, Mr. Elk, but it was vitally necessary that he should be
killed before I was, and one of us had to die this night!"

Elk knelt by the still figure and began to unfasten the hideous rubber
mask.

"It was here that Genter was killed," said Dick Gordon in a low voice.
"Do you see the gas?"

Elk looked at the glass cylinders and nodded. Then his eyes came back to
the bareheaded American.

"Saul Morris, I believe?" he said, and "Joshua Broad" nodded.

Elk pursed his lips thoughtfully, and his eyes went back to the still
figure at his feet.

"Now, Frog, let me see you," he said, and tore away the mask.

He looked down into the face of Philosopher Johnson!



CHAPTER XLII - JOSHUA BROAD EXPLAINS


The sunlight was pouring through the windows of May-tree Cottage; the
breakfast things still stood upon the table, when the American began his
story.

"My name, as you rightly surmised, Mr. Elk, is Saul Morris. I am, by all
moral standards, a criminal, though I have not been guilty of any
criminal practice for the past ten years. I was born at Hertford in
Connecticut.

"I am not going to offer you an apology, conventional or unconventional,
for my ultimate choice; nor will I insult your intelligence by inviting
sympathy for my first fail. I guess I was born with light fingers and a
desire for money that I had not earned. I was not corrupted, I was not
tempted, I had no evil companions; in fact, the beginnings of my career
were singularly unlike any of the careers of criminals which I have ever
read.

"I studied bank robberies as a doctor might take up the study of anatomy.
I understand perfectly every system of banking--and there are only two,
one of which succeeds, the other produces a plentiful crop of fraudulent
directors--and I have added to this a knowledge of lockcraft. A burglar
who starts business without understanding the difficulties and obstacles
he has to overcome is--to use the parallel I have already employed--like
the doctor who starts off to operate without knowing what arteries,
tissues and nerves he will be severing. The difference between a surgeon
and a butcher is that one doesn't know the name of the tissues he is
cutting!

"When I decided upon my career, I served for five years in the factory of
the greatest English safe-maker in Wolverhampton. I studied locks, safes,
the tensile qualities of steel, until I was proficient, and my spare time
I gave up to as important a study--the transportation of negotiable
currency. That in itself is a study which might well occupy a man s full
time.

"I returned to America at the age of twenty-five, and accumulated a kit
of tools, which cost me several thousand dollars, and with these, and
alone, I smashed the Ninth National Bank, getting away, on my first
attempt, with three hundred thousand dollars. I will not give you a long
list of my many crimes; some of them I have conveniently forgotten.
Others are too unimportant, and contain too many disappointments to tell
you in detail. It is sufficient to say that there is no proof, other than
my word, that I was responsible for any of these depredations. My name
has only been associated with one--the robbery of the strong-room on the
_Mantania_.

"In 1898 I learnt that the _Mantania_ was carrying to France fifty-five
million francs in paper currency. The money was packed in two stout
wooden cases, and before being packed, was submitted to hydraulic
pressure in order to reduce the bulk. In one case were thirty-five
packets, each containing a thousand mille notes, and in the second case
twenty packets. I particularly want you to remember that there were two
cases, because you will understand a little better what happened
subsequently.

"It was intended that the ship should call at a French port; I think it
was Havre, because the trans-Atlantic boats in those days did not call at
Cherbourg. I had made all my plans for getting away with the stuff, and
the robbery had actually been committed and the boxes were in my cabin
trunk, substitute boxes of an exact shape having been left in the
strong-room of the _Mantania_, when to my dismay we lost a propeller
blade whilst off the coast of Ireland, and the captain of the _Mantania_
decided to put in to Southampton without making the French port.

"A change of plans, to a man of my profession, is almost as embarrassing
as a change of plan in the middle of a battle. I had on this occasion an
assistant--a man who afterwards died in _delirium tremens_. It was
absolutely impossible to work alone; the job was too big, and my
assistant was a man I had every reason to trust."

"Harry Lyme?" suggested Elk.

"Joshua Broad" shook his head.

"No, you're wrong. I will not tell you his name--the man is dead, and he
was a very faithful arid loyal fellow, though inclined to booze, a
weakness which I never shared. However, the reason we were so embarrassed
was that, had we gone ashore at the French port, the robbery In the
strongroom would not have been discovered, because it was unlikely that
the purser would go to the strong-room until the ship was in Southampton
Water. I had fixed everything, the passing of my bags through the Customs
being the most important. This change meant that we must improvise a
method to get ashore at Southampton before the hue and cry was raised,
and, if possible, before the robbery was discovered, though it did not
seem possible that we should succeed.

"Fortunately, there was a fog in the Solent, and we had to go dead slow;
and, if you remember the circumstances, as the _Mantania_ came up the
Solent, she collided with a steam dredger that was going into Portsmouth.
The dredger's foremast became entangled in the bowsprit of the _Mantania_
and it was some time before they were extricated. It was then that I
seized my opportunity. From an open port-way on my deck, where we were
waiting with our baggage, ready to land, we were level with the side of
the dredger as she swung round under the impact. I flung the two grips
that held the boxes on to the dredger's deck, and I and my friend jumped
together.

"As I say, a fog lay on the water, and we were not seen, and not
discovered by the crew of the dredger until we had parted company with
the _Mantania_, and although the story we told to the dredger's captain
was the thinnest imaginable--namely, that we thought it was a tender that
had come off to collect us--he very readily accepted it, and the
twenty-dollar bill which I gave him.

"We made Portsmouth after a great deal of difficulty late in the evening.
There was no Customs inspection and we got our bags safely on land. I
intended staying the night at Portsmouth, but after we had taken our
lodgings, my friend and I went round to a little bar to get a drink, and
there we heard something which sent us back to our rooms at full pelt.
What we heard was that the robbery had been discovered, and that the
police were looking for two men who had made their escape on the dredger.
As it was the dredger's captain who had recommended our lodgings, I had
little expectation of getting into the room and out again without
capture.

"However, we did, and as we passed out of the street at one end, the
police came in at the other. I carried one bag, my friend the lighter,
and we started on foot across country, and before the morning we had
reached a place called Eastleigh. It was to Eastleigh, you will remember,
Mr. Elk, that I came when I left the cattle-boat during the war and
suddenly changed my character from a hard-up cattle-puncher to a wealthy
gambler at Monte Carlo.

"That matter I will explain later. When we reached Eastleigh, I had a
talk with my companion, and it was a pretty straight talk, because he'd
got a load of liquor on board and was becoming more and more unreliable.
It ended by his going into the town to buy some food and not returning.
When I went in search of him, I found him lying in the street, incapably
drunk. There was nothing to do but to leave him; and getting a little
food, I took the two bags and struck the road. The bags, however, were
much too heavy for, me, and I had to consider my position.

"Standing by the road was an old cottage, and on a board was an
announcement that it was to be sold. I took the address; it was the name
of a Winchester lawyer; and then I got over the fence and made an
inspection of the ground, to find that, at the lower end of the rank
garden, was an old, disused well, boarded over by rotten planks. I could
in safety drop the lighter of my burdens down the well and cover it up
with the rubble, of which there was plenty around. I might have buried
both; in many ways a lot of trouble would have been saved if I had. But I
was loth to leave all that I had striven for with such care and pains,
and I took the second box on with me, reached Winchester, bought a change
of clothing, and spent a comfortable day there, interviewing the lawyer,
who owned the cottage.

"I had some English money with me, and the purchase was effected. I gave
strict instructions that the place was not to be let in any
circumstances, and that it was to remain as it was until I came back from
Australia--I posed as a wealthy Australian who was repurchasing the house
in which he was born.

"From Winchester I reached London, never dreaming that I was in any
danger. My companion had given me the name of an English crook, an
acquaintance of his, who, he said, was the finest safe-man in Europe--a
man who was called 'Lyme' and who, I discovered many years after, was the
same Harry Lyme. He told me Lyme would help me in any emergency.

"And that emergency soon arose. The first man I saw when I put my
foot on the platform at Waterloo was the purser of the _Mantania_, and
with him was the ship's detective. I dodged back, and, fortunately for
me, there was a suburban train leaving from the opposite platform, and I
went on to Surbiton, reaching London by another route. Afterwards, I
learnt that my companion had been arrested, and in his half-drunken state
had told all he knew. The thing to do now was to cache the remainder of
the money--thirty-five million francs. I immediately thought of Harry
Lyme. I have never suffered from the illusion that there is honour
amongst thieves. My own experience is that that is one of the most stupid
of proverbs. But I thought that at least I might make it worth Lyme's
while to help me out of a mess.

"I learnt from the newspapers that there was a special force of police
looking for me, and that they were watching the houses of well-known
criminals, to whom, they thought, I might gravitate. At first I thought
this was a bluff, but I was to discover that this was not the case. I
reached Lyme's house, in a disreputable thoroughfare in Camden Town. The
fog was thick and yellow, and I had some difficulty in finding my way. It
was a small house in a mean, squalid street, and at first I could get no
reply to my knocking. Then the door was opened cautiously.

"'Is that Lyme?' I asked. 'He's not at home,' said a man, and he would
have shut the door, but my instinct told me this was the fellow I was
seeking, and I put my foot in the way of the closing door. 'Come in,' he
said at last, and led the way into a small room, the only light of which
was a lantern which stood on the table. The room was thick with fog, for
the window was open, as I learnt afterwards, to allow Lyme to make his
escape.

"'Are you the American?' he asked. 'You're mad to come here. The police
have been watching this place ever since this afternoon.' I told him
briefly what my difficulty was. 'I have here thirty-five million
francs--that's a million, three hundred thousand pounds,' said I, 'and
there's enough for both of us. Can you plant this whilst I make a
get-away?' 'Yes, I will,' he said. 'What do I get out of it?' 'I'll give
you half,' I promised, and he seemed to be satisfied with that.

"I was surprised that he spoke in the voice and tone of an educated man,
and I learnt afterwards that he also had been intended for some
profession, and, like myself, had chosen the easier way. Now, you'll not
believe me when I tell you that I did not see his face, and that I
carried no very vivid impression away with me. This is due to the fact
that I concentrated my attention upon the frog which was tattooed on his
wrist, and which afterwards, at great expense, he succeeded in having
removed by a Spanish doctor it Valladolid, who specialized in that kind
of work. That frog was tattooed a little askew, and I knew, and he knew
too, that, whether I remembered his face or not, he had a mark which was
certain to guide me back to him.

"The arrangement I made was that, when I got back to America, I should
send a cable to him, at an address we agreed upon, and that he was then
to send me, by registered post to the Grand Hotel, Montreal, a half of
the money he had in the box. To cut a long story short, I made my escape,
and eventually reached the Continent by way of Hook of Holland.
Encumbered with any baggage, that would have been impossible. In due
course I left for the United States from Bremen, Germany, and immediately
on my arrival sent the cable to Lyme, and went up to Montreal to await
the arrival of the money. It did not come. I cabled again; still it did
not come.

"It was months after that I learnt what had happened. It came from a
cutting of a newspaper, saying that Lyme had been drowned on his way to
Guernsey. How he sent that, I don't know and never have inquired. Lyme
was, in fact, very much alive. He had some six million dollars' worth of
French notes, and his job was to negotiate them. His first step was to
move to a Midland town, where for six months he posed as a man of
business, in the meantime changing his whole appearance, shaving off his
moustache and producing an artificial baldness by the application of some
chemical.

"Whilst he was doing this, and determined that every penny he had taken
from me he would hold, he decided to make assurance doubly sure, and
started in a small crag the Fellowship of the Frog. The object of this
was to spread the mark of identification by which I should know him, as
far and wide as possible. He may have had no other idea in his mind, and
probably had not, but to broadcast this mark of the frog, a little askew,
the exact replica of his. Obviously no class would be willing to suffer
the tortures of tattooing for nothing. So began this curious Benefit Fund
of hip, From this little beginning grew the great Frog organization.
Almost one of the first men he came into contact with was an old criminal
named Maitland, a man who could neither read nor write."

There was a gasp.

"Why, of course!" said Elk, and smacked his knee impatiently. "That is
the explanation of the baby!"

"There never was a baby," smiled 'Broad.' "The baby was Maitland himself,
learning to write. The clothes of the baby, which were planted for your
special benefit in the Eldor Street house, were put there by Johnson. The
toys for the baby were inventions to keep you guessing. There never was a
baby. Once he had Maitland properly coached, he came to London, and
Maitiands Consolidated was formed. Maitland had nothing to do except to
sit around and look picturesque. His alleged clerk, one of the cleverest
actors I have ever met, was the real head of the business, and remained
Maitland's clerk just as long as it suited him. When he thought suspicion
was veering toward him, he had himself dismissed; just as, when he
thought you had identified him with the Frog, he made one of his men
shoot at him with a blank cartridge in Harley Terrace. He was the real
Maitland.

"In the meantime the Frog organization was growing, and he sat down to
consider how best he could use the society for his advantage. Money was
going out, and he naturally hated to see it go. New recruits were
appearing every day, and they all cost money. But what he did get from
this rabble were one or two brilliant minds. Balder was one, Hagn was
one, and there were others, who perhaps will now never be known.

"As the controlling force of Maitlands Consolidated, he had not the
slightest difficulty in disposing of his francs. And then he set
Maitlands speculating in other directions, and when his speculations were
failing, he found ways of cutting his loss. He was once caught short in a
wool transaction--the Frog maimed the only man who could have ruined him.
Whenever he found it expedient for the benefit of himself to club a man,
whether he was a military attaché or a very plain City merchant
speculating in his own stocks, Johnson never hesitated. People who were
bothering him were put beyond the opportunities of mischief. He made one
great mistake. He allowed Maitland to live like a hog in a house he had
bought. That was folly. When he found that the old man had been trailed,
he shifted him to Berkeley Square, got him tailored, and eventually
murdered him for daring to go to Horsham. I saw the murderer escape, for
I was on the roof when the shots were fired. Incidentally, I had a narrow
escape myself.

"But to return to my own narrative. Five years ago I was broke, and I
decided to have another attempt to get my money; and there was also the
fact that a very large sum of money waited reclaiming at Eastleigh,
always providing that I had not been identified as the man who bought the
house. It took me a long time before I made absolutely certain that I was
unknown, and then, with the title deeds in my pocket, I sailed on a
cattle-boat and landed, as you have said, Mr. Elk, with a few dollars in
my pocket, at Southampton. I went straight to the house, which was now in
a shocking state of repair, and there I made myself as comfortable as I
possibly could whilst, night after night, I toiled in the well to recover
the small box of money, amounting to a very considerable sum. When this
was recovered, I left for Paris, and the rest, so far as my public
history is concerned, you know.

"I then began my search for. Frog, and I very soon saw that, if I
depended upon the identification of the tattoo marks, my search was
hopeless. Naturally, when I discovered, as I soon did, that Maitland was
a Frog, I narrowed my search to that office. I discovered that Maitland
was an illiterate by the simple expedient of stopping him in the street
one day near his house, and showing him an envelope on which I had
written 'You are a fake,' and asking him if he knew the address. He
pointed to a house farther along the street, and hurried in."

"I knew that Maitland could neither read nor write when I learnt that the
children's clothes had been left at Eclat Street," said Dick, "and from
that moment I knew that Johnson was the Frog.

"Joshua Broad" nodded.

"That, I think, is about all I have to say. Johnson was a genius. The way
he handled that huge organization, which he ran practically in his spare
time when he was away from the office, was a revelation. He drew
everybody into his net, and yet nobody knew him. Balder was a godsend; he
was perhaps the highest paid agent of the lot. You will find that his
income ran into six figures!"

* * * * *

When "Joshua Broad" had gone back to London, Dick walked with Elk to the
garden gate.

"I shan't be coming up for a little while," he said.

"I never expected you would," said Elk. "Say, Captain Gordon, what
happened to those two wooden boxes that were in the quarry hut last
night?"

"I didn't see the boxes."

"I saw them," said Elk, nodding. "They were there when we took Miss
Bennett away, and when I came back with the police they were gone, and
'Joshua Broad' was there all the time," he added.

They looked at one another.

"I don't think I should inquire too closely into that matter," said Dick.
"I owe 'Broad' something."

"I owe him a bit too," said Elk with a hint of enthusiasm. "Do you know,
he taught me a rhyme last night? There are about a hundred and fifty
verses, but I only know four. It starts:

"William the Conqueror started his tricks,
Battle of Hastings, ten sixty-six.

"That's a grand rhyme, Captain Gordon. If I'd only known that ten years
ago I might have been a Chief Commissioner by now!"

He walked down the road towards the station, for be was returning by
train. The sun glittered upon the rain-fringed banners of the hollyhocks
that filled the cottagers' gardens. Then from the hedge a tiny green
figure hopped, and Elk stood still and watched it. The little reptile
looked round and eyed the detective with black, staring eyes.

"Frog," Elk raised a reproachful finger, "have a heart and go home--this
is not your Day!"

And, as if he understood what the man had said, the frog leaped back to
the shelter of the long grass.



THE END



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