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Title: Angel Esquire
Author: Edgar Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100571.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2011
Date most recently updated: August 2011

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Angel Esquire
Author: Edgar Wallace

*


CHAPTER I


THE LOMBARD STREET DEPOSIT



MR. WILLIAM SPEDDING, of the firm of Spedding, Mortimer and Larach,
Solicitors, bought the site in Lombard Street in the conventional way.
The property came into the market on the death of an old lady who lived
at Market Harborough, who has nothing to do with this story, and it was
put up to auction in the orthodox fashion. Mr. William Spedding secured
the site at 106,000, a sum sufficiently large to excite the interest of
all the evening papers and a great number of the morning journals as
well. As a matter of exact detail, I may add that plans were produced and
approved by the city surveyor for the erection of a building of a
peculiar type. The city surveyor was a little puzzled by the interior
arrangement of the new edifice, but as it fulfilled all the requirements
of the regulations governing buildings in the City of London, and no
fault could be found either with the external appearance--its facade
had been so artfully designed that you might pass a dozen times a day
without the thought occurring that this new building was anything out of
the common ruck--and as the systems of ventilation and light were
beyond reproach, he passed the plans with a shrug of his shoulders.

"I cannot understand, Mr. Spedding," he said, laying his forefinger on
the blue print, "how your client intends securing privacy. There is a
lobby and one big hall. Where are the private offices, and what is the
idea of this huge safe in the middle of the hall, and where are the
clerks to sit? I suppose he will have clerks? Why, man, he won't have a
minute's peace!"

Mr. Spedding smiled grimly. "He will have all the peace he wants," he
said. "And the vaults--I should have thought that vaults would be the
very thing you wanted for this." He tapped the corner of the sheet where
was inscribed decorously: "Plan for the erection of a New Safe Deposit."

"There is the safe," said Mr. Spedding, and smiled again.

This William Spedding, now unhappily no longer with us--he died
suddenly, as I will relate--was a large, smooth man with a suave
manner. He smoked good cigars, the ends of which he snipped off with a
gold cigar-cutter, and his smile came readily, as from a man who had no
fault to find with life. To continue the possibly unnecessary details, I
may add further that whilst tenders were requested for the erection of
the New Safe Deposit, the provision of the advertisement that the lowest
tender would not necessarily be accepted was justified by the fact that
the offer of Potham and Holloway was approved, and it is an open secret
that their tender was the highest of all.

"My client requires the very best work; he desires a building that will
stand shocks." Mr. Spedding shot a swift glance at the contractor, who
sat at the other side of the desk. "Something that a footling little
dynamite explosion would not scatter to the four winds."

The contractor nodded.

"You have read the specification," the solicitor went on--he was
cutting a new cigar, "and in regard to the pedestal--ah--the
pedestal, you know--?"

He stopped and looked at the contractor.

"It seems all very clear," said the great builder. He took a bundle of
papers from an open bag by his side and read, "The foundation to be of
concrete to the depth of twenty feet...The pedestal to be alternate
layers of dressed granite and steel...in the centre a steel-lined
compartment, ten inches by five, and half the depth of the pedestal
itself."

The solicitor inclined his head. "That pedestal is to be the most
important thing in the whole structure. The steel-lined recess--I
don't know the technical phrase--which one of these days your men will
have to fill in, is the second most important; but the safe that is to
stand fifty feet above the floor of the building is to be--but the safe
is arranged for."

An army of workmen, if the hackneyed phrase be permitted, descended upon
Lombard Street and pulled down the old buildings. They pulled them down,
and broke them down, and levered them down, and Lombard Street grew gray
with dust. The interiors of quaint old rooms with grimy oak panelling
were indecently exposed to a passing public. Clumsy, earthy carts blocked
Lombard Street, and by night flaring Wells' lights roared amidst the
chaos. And, bare-armed men sweated and delved by night and by day; and
one morning Mr. Spedding stood in a drizzle of rain, with a silk umbrella
over his head, and expressed, on behalf of his client, his intense
satisfaction at the progress made. He stood on a slippery plank that
formed a barrow road, and workmen, roused to unusual activity by the
presence of "The Firm "--Mr. Spedding's cicerone--moved to and fro at
a feverish rate of speed.

"They don't mind the rain," said the lawyer, sticking out his chin in the
direction of the toiling gangs.

"The Firm" shook his head. "Extra pay," he said laconically, "we
provided for that in the tender," he hastened to add in justification of
his munificence.

So in rain and sunshine, by day and by night, the New Safe Deposit came
into existence. Once--it was during a night shift--a brougham drove up
the deserted city street, and a footman helped from the dark interior of
the carriage a shivering old man with a white, drawn face, He showed a
written order to the foreman, and was allowed inside the unpainted gate
of the "works." He walked gingerly amidst the debris of construction,
asked no questions, made no replies to the explanations of the
bewildered foreman, who wondered what fascination there was in a building
job to bring an old man from his bed at three o'clock on a chill spring
morning.

Only once the old man spoke. "Where will that there pedestal be?" he
asked in a harsh, cracked cockney voice; and when the foreman pointed out
the spot, and the men even then busily filling in the foundation, the old
man's lips curled back in an ugly smile that showed teeth too white and
regular for a man of his age.

He said no more, but pulled the collar of his fur coat the tighter about
his lean neck and walked wearily back to his carriage. The building saw
Mr. Spedding's client no more--if, indeed, it was Mr. Spedding's client.
So far as is known, he did not again visit Lombard Street before its
completion--even when the last pane of glass had been fixed in the high
gilded dome, when the last slab of marble had been placed in the ornate
walls of the great hall, even when the solicitor came and stood in silent
contemplation before the great granite pedestal that rose amidst a
scaffolding of slim steel girders supporting a staircase that wound
upward to the gigantic mid--air safe. Not quite alone, for with him was
the contractor, awed to silence by the immensity of his creation.

"Finished!" said the contractor, and his voice came echoing back from
the dim spaces of the building.

The solicitor did not answer.

"Your client may commence business tomorrow if he wishes."

The solicitor turned from the pedestal. "He is not ready yet," he said
softly, as though afraid of the echoes. He walked to where the big steel
doors of the hall stood ajar, the contractor following. In the vestibule
he took two keys from his pocket. The heavy doors swung noiselessly
across the entrance, and Mr. Spedding locked them. Through the vestibule
and out into the busy street the two men walked, and the solicitor
fastened behind him the outer doors.

"My client asks me to convey his thanks to you for your expedition," the
lawyer said.

The builder rubbed his hands with some satisfaction.

"You have taken two days less than we expected," Mr. Spedding went on.
The builder was a man of few ideas outside his trade.

He said again: "Yes, your client may start business tomorrow."

The solicitor smiled. "My client, Mr. Potham, may not--er--start
business--for ten years," he said. "In fact, until--well, until he
dies, Mr. Potham."




CHAPTER II


THE HOUSE IN TERRINGTON SQUARE



A MAN turned into Terrington Square from Seymour Street and walked
leisurely past the policeman on point duty, bidding him a curt "good
night." The other subsequently described the passer, as a foreign-looking
gentleman with a short pointed beard. Under the light overcoat he was
apparently in evening dress, for the officer observed the shoes with the
plain black bow, and the white silk muffler and the crush hat supported
that view. The man crossed the road, and disappeared round the corner of
the railed garden that forms the centre of the square. A belated hansom
came jingling past, and an early newspaper cart, taking a short cut to
Paddington, followed; then the square was deserted save for the man and
the policeman. The grim, oppressive houses of the square werewrapped in
sleep--drawn blinds and shuttered windows and silence.

The man continued his stroll until he came abreast of No. 43. Here he
stopped for a second, gave one swift glance up and down the thoroughfare,
and mounted the three steps of the house. He fumbled a little with the
key, turned it, and entered. Inside he stood for a moment, then taking a
small electric lamp from his pocket he switched on the current. He did
not trouble to survey the wide entrance hall, but flashed the tiny beam
of light on the inside face of the door. Two thin wires and a small
coil fastened to the lintel called forth no comment. One of the wires had
been snapped by the opening of the door.

"Burglar-alarm, of course," he murmured approvingly. "All the windows
similarly treated, and goodness knows what pitfalls waiting for the
unwary."

He flashed the lamp round the hall. A heavy Turkish rug at the foot of
the winding staircase secured his attention. He took from his pocket a
telescopic stick, extended it, and fixed it rigid. Then he walked
carefully towards the rug. With his stick he lifted the corner, and what
he saw evidently satisfied him, for he returned to the door, where in
a recess stood a small marble statue. All his strength was required to
lift this, but he staggered back with it, and rolling it on its circular
base, as railway porters roll milk churns, he brought it to the edge of
the rug. With la quick push he planted it square in the centre of the
carpet. For a second only it stood, oscillating, then like a flash it
disappeared, and where the carpet had lain was a black, gaping hole.

He waited. Somewhere from the depths came a crash, and the carpet came
slowly up again and filled the space. The unperturbed visitor nodded his
head, as though again approving the householder's caution.

"I don't suppose he has learnt any new ones," he murmured regretfully,"
he is getting very old."

He took stock of the walls. They were covered with paintings and
engravings.

"He could not have fixed the cross tire in a modern house," he continued,
and taking a little run, leapt the rug and rested for a moment on the
bottom stair. A suit of half armor on the first landing held him in
thoughtful attention for a moment.

"Elizabethan body, with a Spanish bayonet," he said regretfully; "that
doesn't look like a collector's masterpiece."

He flashed the lamp up and down the silent figure that stood in menacing
attitude with a raised battle-axe.

"I don't like that axe," he murmured, and measured the distance.

Then he saw the fine wire that stretched across the landing. He stepped
across carefully, and ranged himself alongside the steel knight. Slipping
off his coat, he reached up and caught the figure by the wrist. Then with
a quick jerk of his foot he snapped the wire. He had been prepared for
the mechanical downfall of the axe; but as the wire broke the figure
turned to the right, and swish! came the axe in a semicircular cut. He
had thought to hold the arm as it descended, but he might as well have
tried to hold the piston-rod of an engine. His hand was wrenched away,
and the razor-like blade of the axe missed his head by the fraction of a
second. Then with a whir the arm rose stiffly again to its original
position and remained rigid.

The visitor moistened his lips and sighed.

"That's a new one, a very new one," he said under his breath, and the
admiration in his tone was evident. He picked up his overcoat, flung it
over his arm, and mounted half a dozen steps to the next landing. The
inspection of the Chinese cabinet was satisfactory. The white be am of
his lamp flashed into corners and crevices and showed nothing. He shook
the curtain of a window and listened, holding his breath.

"Not here," he muttered decisively, "the old man wouldn't try that game.
Snakes turned loose in a house in London, S.W., take a deal of
collecting in the morning."

He looked round. From the landing access was gained to three rooms. That
which from its position he surmised faced the street he did not attempt
to enter. The second, covered by a heavy curtain, he looked at for a
time in thought. To the third he walked, and carefully swathing the
door-handle with his silk muffler, he turned it. The door yielded. He
hesitated another moment, and jerking the door wide open, sprang
backward. The interior of the room was for a second only in pitch
darkness, save for the flicker of light that told of an open fireplace.
Then the visitor heard a click, and the room was flooded with light. In
the darkness on the landing the man waited; then a voice, a cracked old
voice, said grumblingly:

"Come in." Still the man on the landing waited. "Oh, come in, Jimmy--I
know ye."

Cautiously the man outside stepped through the entry into the light and
faced the old man, who, arrayed in a wadded dressing-gown, sat in a big
 chair by the fire, an old man, with white face and a sneering grin, who
sat with his lap full of papers. The visitor nodded a friendly
greeting.

"As far as I can gather," he said deliberately, "we are just above your
dressing-room, and if you dropped me through one of your patent traps,
Reale, I should fetch up amongst your priceless china."

Save for a momentary look of alarm on the old man's face at the mention
of the china, he preserved an imperturbable calm, never moving his eyes
from his visitor's face. Then his grin returned, and he motioned the
other to a chair on the other side of the fireplace.

Jimmy turned the cushion over with the point of his stick and sat down.

"Suspicious?" The grin broadened. "Suspicious of your old friend, Jimmy?
The old governor, eh?"

Jimmy made no reply for a moment, then--"You're a wonder, governor,
upon my word you are a wonder. That man in armour--your idea?"

The old man shook his head regretfully. "Not mine entirely, Jimmy. Ye
see, there's electricity in it, and I don't know much about
electricity, I never did, except--"

"Except?" suggested the visitor.

"Oh, that roulette board, that was my own idea; but that was magnetism,
which is different to electricity, by my way of looking."

Jimmy nodded.

"Ye got past the trap?" The old man had just a glint of admiration in
his eye.

"Yes, jumped it."

The old man nodded approvingly. "You always was a one for thinkin'
things out. I've known lots of 'em who would never have thought of
jumping it. Connor, and that pig Massey, they'd have walked right on to
it. You didn't damage anything?" he demanded suddenly and fiercely. "I
heard somethin' break, an' I was hoping that it was you."
Jimmy thought of the marble statue, and remembered that it had looked
valuable.

"Nothing at all," he lied easily, and the old man's tense look relaxed.

The pair sat on opposite sides of the fireplace, neither speaking for
fully ten minutes; then Jimmy leant forward.

"Reale," he said quietly, "how much are you worth?"

In no manner disturbed by this leading question, but rather indicating a
lively satisfaction, the other replied instantly: "Two millions an' a
bit over, Jimmy. I've got the figures in my head. Reckonin' furniture
and the things in this house at their proper value, two millions, and
forty-seven thousand and forty-three pounds--floatin', Jimmy, absolute
cash, the same as you might put your hand in your pocket an' spend--a
million an' three--quarters exact."

He leant back in his chair with a triumphant grin and watched his
visitor.

Jimmy had taken a cigarette from his pocket and was lighting it, looking
at the slowly burning match reflectively.

"A million and three-quarters," he repeated calmly, "is a lot of money."

Old Reale chuckled softly.

"All made out of the confiding public, with the aid of me--and Connor and Massey-"

"Massey is a pig!" the old man interjected spitefully.

Jimmy puffed a cloud of tobacco smoke. "Wrung with sweat and sorrow from
foolish young men who backed the tiger and played high at Reale's
Unrivalled Temple of Chance, Cairo, Egypt--with branches at Alexandria,
Port Said, and Suez."

The figure in the wadded gown writhed in a paroxysm of silent merriment.

"How many men have you ruined, Reale?" asked Jimmy.

"The Lord knows," the old man answered cheerfully; "only three as I knows
of--two of 'em's dead, one of 'em's dying. The two that's dead left
neither chick nor child; the dying one's got a daughter."

Jimmy eyed him through narrowed lids. "Why this solicitude for the
relatives--you're not going--?"

As he spoke, as if anticipating a question, the old man was nodding his
head with feverish energy, and all the while his grin broadened.

"What a one you are for long words, Jimmy! You always was. That's how you
managed to persuade your swell pals to come an' try their luck.
Solicitude! What's that mean? Frettin' about 'em, d'ye mean? Yes, that's
what I'm doin'--frettin' about 'em. And I'm. going to make, what d'ye
call it--you had it on the tip of your tongue a minute or two ago?"

"Reparation?" suggested Jimmy.

Old Reale nodded delightedly.

"How?"

"Don't you ask questions!" bullied the old man, his harsh voice rising.
"I ain't asked you why you broke into my house in the middle of the
night, though I knew it was you who came the other day to check the
electric meter. I saw you, an' I've been waitin' for you ever since."

"I knew all about that," said Jimmy calmly, and flicked the ash of his
cigarette away with his little finger, "and I thought you would--"

Suddenly he stopped speaking and listened.

"Who's in the house beside us?" he asked quickly, but the look on the old
man's face reassured him.

"Nobody," said Reale testily. "I've got a special house for the servants,
and they come in every morning after I've unfixed my--burglar-alarms."

He grinned, and then a look of alarm came into his face.

"The alarms!" he whispered; "you broke them when you came in, Jimmy. I
heard the signal. If there's some one in the house we shouldn't know it
now."

They listened. Down below in the hall something creaked, then the sound
of a soft thud came up.

"He's skipped the rug," whispered Jimmy, and switched out the light. The
two men heard a stealthy footstep on the stair, and waited. There was the
momentary glint of a light, and the sound of some one breathing heavily
Jimmy leant over and whispered in the old man's ear. Then, as the handle
of the door was turned and the door pushed open, Jimmy switched on the
light.

The new--comer was a short, thick--set man with a broad, red face. He
wore a check suit of a particularly glaring pattern, and on the back of
his head was stuck a bowler hat, the narrow brim of which seemed to
emphasize the breadth of his face. A casual observer might have placed
him for a coarse, good--natured man of rude but boisterous humour. The
ethnological student would have known him at once for what he was--a
cruel man-beast without capacity for pity.

He started back as the lights went on, blinking a little, but his hand
held an automatic pistol that covered the occupants of the room.

"Put up your hands," he growled. "Put 'em up!"

Neither man obeyed him. Jimmy was amused and looked it, stroking his
short beard with his white tapering fingers. The old man was fury
incarnate.

He it was that turned to Jimmy and croaked:

"What did I tell ye, Jimmy? What've I always said, Jimmy? Massey is a
pig--he's got the manners of a pig. Faugh!"

"Put up your hands!" hissed the man with the pistol. "Put 'em up, or I'll
put you both out!"

"If he'd come first, Jimmy!" Old Reale wrung his hands in his regret.
"S'pose he'd jumped the rug--any sneak thief could have done that--d'ye
think he'd have spotted the man in armor? If you'd only get the man
in armor ready again."

"Put your pistol down, Massey," said Jimmy I coolly, "unless you want
something to play with. Old man Reale's too ill for the gymnastics you
suggest, and I'm not inclined to oblige you."

The man blustered. "By God, if you try any of your monkey tricks with me,
either of you--"

"Oh, I'm only a visitor like yourself," said Jimmy, with a wave of his
hand; "and as to monkey tricks, why, I could have shot you before you
entered the room."

Massey frowned, and stood twiddling his pistol.

"You will find a safety catch on the left side of the barrel," continued
Jimmy, pointing to the pistol; "snick it up--you can always push it down
again with your thumb if you really mean business. You are not my idea of
a burglar. You breathe too noisily, and you are built too clumsily; why,
I heard you open the front door!"

The quiet contempt in the tone brought a deeper red into the man's face.

"Oh, you are a clever 'un, we know!" he began, and the old man, who had
recovered his self-command, motioned him to a chair.

"Sit down, Mister Massey," he snapped; "sit down, my fine fellow, an'
tell us all the news. Jimmy an' me was just speakin' about you, me an'
Jimmy was. We was saying what a fine gentleman you was"--his voice grew
shrill--"what a swine, what an overfed, lumbering fool of a pig you was,
Mister Massey!"

He sank back into the depths of his chair exhausted.

"Look here, governor," began Massey again--he had laid his pistol on a
table by his side, and waved a large red hand to give point to his
remarks--"we don't want any unpleasantness. I've been a good friend to
you, an' so has Jimmy. We've done your dirty work for years, me an' Jimmy
have, and Jimmy knows it"--turning with an ingratiating smirk to the
subject of his remarks--"and now we want a bit of our own--that is all
it amounts to, our own."

Old Reale looked under his shaggy eyebrows to  where Jimmy sat with
brooding eyes watching the fire.

"So it's a plant, eh? You're both in it. Jimmy comes first, he being the
clever one, an' puts the lay nice an' snug for the other feller."

Jimmy shook his head. "Wrong," he said. He turned his head and took a
long scrutiny of the new-comer, and the amused contempt of his gaze was
too apparent. "Look at him!" he said at last. "Our dear Massey! Does he
look the sort of person I am likely to share confidence with?"

A cold passion seemed suddenly to possess him.

"It's a coincidence that brought us both together."

He rose and walked to where Massey sat, and stared down at him. There was
something in the look that sent Massey's hand wandering to his pistol.

"Massey, you dog!" he began, then checked himself with a laugh and walked
to the other end of the room. There was a tantalus with a soda siphon,
and he poured himself a stiff portion and sent the soda fizzling into the
tumbler. He held the glass to the light and looked at the old man. There
was a look on the old man's face that he remembered to have seen before.
He drank his whisky and gave utterance to old Reale's thoughts.

"It's no good, Reale, you've got to settle with Massey, but not the way
you're thinking. We could put him away, but we should have to put
ourselves away too." He paused. "And there's me," he added.

"And Connor," said Massey thickly, "and Connor's worse than me. I'm
reasonable, Reale; I'd take a fair share--"

"You would, would you?" The old man was grinning again. "Well, your
share's exactly a million an' three-quarters in solid cash, an' a bit
over two millions--all in." He paused to notice the effect of his words.
Jimmy's calm annoyed him; Massey's indifference was outrageous.

"An' it's Jimmy's share, an' Connor's share, an' it's Miss Kathleen
Kent's share." This time the effect was better. Into Jimmy's inexpressive
face had crept a gleam of interest.

"Kent?" he asked quickly. "Wasn't that the name of the man--?"

Old Reale chuckled. "The very feller, Jimmy--the man who came in to
lose a tenner, an' lost ten thousand; who came in next night to get it
back, and left his lot. That's the feller!"

He rubbed his lean hands, as at the memory of some pleasant happening.

"Open that cupboard, Jimmy." He pointed to an old--fashioned walnut
cabinet that stood near the door. "D'ye see anything--a thing that looks
like a windmill?"

Jimmy drew out a cardboard structure that was apparently a toy
working-model. He handled it carefully, and deposited it on the table by
the old man's side. Old Reale touched it caressingly. With his little
finger he set a fly--wheel spinning, and tiny little pasteboard rods ran
to and fro, and little wooden wheels spun easily.

"That's what I did with his money, invented a noo machine that went by
itself--perpetual motion. You can grin, Massey, but that's what I did
with it. Five years' work an' a quarter of a million, that's what that
little model means. I never found the secret out. I could always make a
machine that would go for hours with a little push, but it always wanted
the push. I've been a chap that went in for inventions and puzzles. D'ye
remember the table at Suez?"

He shot a sly glance at the men.

Massey was growing impatient as the reminiscences proceeded. He had come
that night with an object; he had taken a big risk, and had not lost
sight of the fact. Now he broke in--"Damn your puzzles, Reale. What
about me; never mind about Jimmy. What's all this rotten talk about two
millions for each of us, and this girl? When you broke up the place in
Egypt you said we should stand in when the time came. Well, the time's
come!"

"Nearly, nearly," said Reale, with his death's--head grin. "It's nearly
come. You needn't have troubled to see me. My lawyer's got your
addresses. I'm nearly through," he went on cheerfully; "dead I'll be in
six months, as sure as--as death. Then you fellers will get the money"--he
spoke slowly to give effect to his words--"you, Jimmy, or Massey
or Connor or the young lady. You say you don't like puzzles, Massey?
Well, it's a bad look out for you. Jimmy's the clever un, an' most likely
he'll get it; Connor's artful, and he might get it from Jimmy; but the
young lady's got the best chance, because women are good at puzzles."

"What in hell!" roared Massey, springing to his feet.

"Sit down!" It was Jimmy that spoke, and Massey obeyed.

"There's a puzzle about these two millions," Reale went on, and his
croaky voice, with its harsh cockney accent, grew raucous in his
enjoyment of Massey's perplexity and Jimmy's knit brows. "An' the one
that finds the puzzle out, gets the money."

Had he been less engrossed in his own amusement he would have seen a
change in Massey's brute face that would have warned him.

"It's in my will," he went on. "I'm goin' to set the sharps against the
flats; the touts of the gamblin' hell--that's you two fellers--against
the pigeons. Two of the biggest pigeons is dead, an' one's dying.
Well, he's got a daughter; let's see what she can do. When I'm dead--"

"That's now!" bellowed Massey, and leant over and struck the old man.

 Jimmy, on his feet, saw the gush of blood and the knife in Massey's
 hand, and reached for his pocket. Massey's pistol covered him, and the
 man's face was a dreadful thing to look upon.

"Hands up! It's God's truth I'll kill you if you don't!" Jimmy's hands
went up.

"He's got the money here," breathed Massey, "somewhere in this house."

"You're mad," said the other contemptuously. "Why did you hit him?"

"He sat there makin' a fool of me." The murderer gave a vicious glance at
the inert figure on the floor. "I want something more than his puzzle-talk.
He asked for it."

He backed to the table where the decanter stood, and drank a tumbler
half-filled with raw spirit.

"We're both in this, Jimmy," he said, still keeping his man covered. "You
can put down your hands; no monkey tricks. Give me your pistol."

Jimmy slipped the weapon from his pocket, and handed it butt foremost to
the man. Then Massey bent over the fallen man and searched his pockets.

"Here are the keys. You stay here," said Massey, and went out, closing
the door after him. Jimmy heard the grate of the key, and knew he was a
prisoner. He bent over the old man. He lay motionless. Jimmy tried the
pulse, and felt a faint flutter. Through the clenched teeth he forced a
little whisky, and after a minute the old man's eyes opened.

"Jimmy!" he whispered; then remembering, "Where's Massey?" he asked.
There was no need to inquire the whereabouts of Massey. His blundering
footfalls sounded in the room above.

"Lookin' for money?" gasped the old man, and something like a smile
crossed his face. "Safe's up there," he whispered, and smiled again. "Got
the keys?"

Jimmy nodded. The old man's eyes wandered round the room till they rested
on what looked like a switchboard.

"See that handle marked 'seven'?" he whispered. Jimmy nodded again.
"Pull it down, Jimmy boy." His voice was growing fainter. "This is a new
one that I read in a book. Pull it down."

"Why?"

"Do as I tell you," the lips motioned, and Jimmy walked across the room
and pulled over the insulated lever.

As he did there was a heavy thud overhead that shook the room, and then
silence.

"What's that?" he asked sharply. The dying man smiled.

"That's Massey!" said the lips.

Half an hour later Jimmy left the house with a soiled slip of paper in
his waistcoat pocket, on which was written the most precious verse of
doggerel that the world has known. And the discovery of the two dead men
in the upper chambers the next morning afforded the evening press the
sensation of the year.




CHAPTER III


ANGEL ESQUIRE



Nobody quite knows how Angel Esquire came to occupy the position he does
at Scotland Yard. On his appointment, "An Officer of Twenty Years'
Standing" wrote to the Police Review and characterized the whole thing as
"a job."

Probably it was. For Angel Esquire had been many things in his short but
useful career, but never a policeman. He had been a big game shot, a
special correspondent, a "scratch" magistrate, and his nearest approach
to occupying a responsible position in any police force in the world was
when he was appointed a J.P. of Rhodesia, and, serving on the Tuli
Commission, he hanged M'Linchwe and six of that black desperado's
companions.

His circle of acquaintances extended to the suburbs of London, and the
suburbanites, who love you to make their flesh creep, would sit in
shivering but pleasurable horror whilst Angel Esquire elaborated the
story of the execution.

In Mayfair Angel Esquire was best known as a successful mediator.

"Who is that old-looking young man with the wicked eye?" asked the
Dowager Duchess of Hoeburn; and her vis-a-vis at the Honorable Mrs.
Carter-Walker's "sit-down tea"--it was in the days when Mayfair was
aping suburbia--put up his altogether unnecessary eyeglass.

"Oh, that's Angel Esquire!" he said carelessly.

"What is he?" asked the Duchess.

"A policeman."

"India?"

"Oh, no, Scotland Yard."

"Good Heavens!" said Her Grace in a shocked voice. "How very dreadful!
What is he doing? Watching the guests, or keeping a friendly eye on the
Carter woman's spoons?"

The young man guffawed. "Don't despise old Angel, Duchess," he said.
"He's a man to know. Great fellow for putting things right. If you have
a row with your governor, or get into the hands of--er--undesirables, or
generally, if you're in a mess of any kind, Angel's the chap to pull you
out"

Her Grace surveyed the admirable man with a new interest.

Angel Esquire, with a cup of tea in one hand und a thin grass sandwich
in the other, was the centre of a group of men, including the husband
of the hostess. He was talking with some animation.

"I held three aces pat, and opened the pot light to let 'em in. Young
Saville raised the opening a tenner, and the dealer went ten better.
George Manfred, who had passed, came in for a pony, and took one card. I
took two, and drew another ace. Saville took one, and the dealer stood
pat. I thought it was my money, and bet a pony. Saville raised it to
fifty, the dealer made it a hundred, and George Manfred doubled the
bet. It was up to me. I had four aces; I put Saville with a 'full,' and
the dealer with a "flush." I had the beating of that lot; but what about
Manfred? Manfred is a feller with all the sense going. He knew what the
others had. If he bet, he had the goods, so I chucked my four aces into
the discard. George had a straight flush."

A chorus of approval came from the group. If "An Officer of Twenty Years'
Standing" had been a listener, he might well have been further
strengthened in his opinion that of all persons Mr. Angel was least
fitted to fill the responsible position he did.

If the truth be told, nobody quite knew exactly what position Angel did
hold.

If you turn into New Scotland Yard and ask the janitor at the door for
Mr. Christopher Angel--Angel Esquire by the way was a nickname affixed
by a pert little girl--the constable, having satisfied himself as to
your bona fides, would take you up a flight of stairs and hand you over
to yet another officer, who would conduct you through innumerable swing
doors, and along uncounted corridors till he stopped before a portal
inscribed "647." Within, you would find Angel Esquire sitting at his
desk, doing nothing, with the aid of a Sporting Life and a small weekly
guide to the Turf.

Once Mr. Commissioner himself walked into the room unannounced, and
found Angel so immersed in an elaborate calculation, with big sheets of
paper closely filled with figures, and open books on either hand, that he
did not hear his visitor.

"What is the problem?" asked Mr. Commissioner, and Angel looked up with
his sweetest smile, and recognizing his visitor, rose.

"What's the problem?" asked Mr. Commissioner again.

"A serious flaw, sir," said Angel, with all gravity. "Here's Mimosa
handicapped at seven stone nine in the Friary Nursery, when, according to
my calculations, she can give the field a stone, and beat any one of
'em."

The Commissioner gasped. "My dear fellow," he expostulated, "I thought
you were working on the Lagos Bank business."

Angel had a far-away look in his eyes when he answered--"Oh, that is all
finished. Old Carby was poisoned by a man named--forget his name now,
but he was a Monrovian. I wired the Lagos police, and we caught the chap
this morning at Liverpool--took him off an Elder, Dempster boat."

The Police Commissioner beamed. "My congratulations, Angel. By Jove, I
thought we shouldn't have a chance of helping the people in Africa. Is
there a white man in it?"

"We don't know," said Angel absently his eye was wandering up and down a
column of figures on the paper before him. "I am inclined to fancy there
is--man named Connor, who used to be a croupier or something to old
Reale."

He frowned at the paper, and picking up a pencil from the desk, made a
rapid little calculation.

"Seven stone thirteen," he muttered.

The Commissioner tapped the table impatiently. He had sunk into a seat
opposite Angel.

"My dear man, who is old Reale? You forget that you are our tame foreign
specialist. Lord, Angel, if you heard half the horrid things that people
say about your appointment you would die of shame!"

Angel pushed aside the papers with a little laugh.

"I'm beyond shame," he said light-heartedly; "and, besides, I've heard.
you were asking about Reale. Reale is a character. For twenty years
proprietor of one of the most delightful gambling plants in Egypt,
Rome--goodness knows where. Education--none. Hobbies--invention. That's
the 'bee in his bonnet'--invention. If he's got another, it is the
common or garden puzzle. Pigs in clover, missing words, all the fake
competitions that cheap little papers run--he goes in for them all.
Lives at 43 Terrington Square."

"Where?" The Commissioner's eyebrows rose. "Reale? 43 Terrington
Square? Why, of course."

He looked at Angel queerly. "You know all about Reale?"

Angel shrugged his shoulders: "As much as anybody knows," he said.

The Commissioner nodded. "Well, take a cab and get down at once to 43
Terrington Square: Your old Reale was murdered last night."

It was peculiar of Angel Esquire that nothing surprised him. He received
the most tremendous tidings with polite interest, and now he merely
said, "Dear me!"

Later, as a swift hansom carried him along Whitehall he permitted
himself to be "blessed."

Outside No. 43 Terrington Square a small crowd of morbid sightseers
stood in gloomy anticipation of some gruesome experience or other.

A policeman admitted him, and the local inspector stopped in his
interrogation of a white-faced butler bid him a curt "Good morning."
Angel's preliminary inspection did not take any time. He saw the bodies,
which had not yet been removed. He examined the pockets of both men,
und ran his eye through the scattered papers on the floor of the room in
which the tragedy had occurred. Then he came back to the big
drawing-room and saw the inspector, who was sitting at a table writing
his report.

"The chap on the top floor committed the murder, of course," said Angel.

"I know that," said Inspector Boyden brusquely.

"And was electrocuted by a current passing through the handle of the
safe."

"I gathered that," the inspector replied as before, and went on with his
work.

"The murderer's name is Massey," continued Angel patiently, "George
Charles Massey."

The inspector turned in his seat with a sarcastic smile. "I also," he
said pointedly, "have seen the envelopes addressed in that name, which
were found in his pocket."

Angel's face was preternaturally solemn as he continued--"The third man I
am not so sure about."

The inspector looked up suspiciously. "Third man--which third man?"

Well--simulated astonishment sent Angel's eye-brows to the shape of
inverted V's.

"There was another man in it. Didn't you know that, Mr. Inspector?"

"I have found no evidence of the presence of a third party," he said
stiffly; "but I have not yet concluded my investigations."

"Good!" said Angel cheerfully. "When you have, you will find the ends of
three cigarettes--two in the room where the old man was killed, and one
in the safe room. They are marked 'Al Kam,' and are a fairly expensive
variety of Egyptian cigarettes. Massey smoked cigars; old Reale did not
smoke at all. The question is"--he went on speaking aloud to himself,
and ignoring the perplexed police official--"was it Connor or was it
Jimmy?"

The inspector struggled with a desire to satisfy his curiosity at the
expense of his dignity, and resolved to maintain an attitude of superior
incredulity.

He turned back to his work.

"It would be jolly difficult to implicate either of them," Angel went on
reflectively, addressing the back of the inspector. "They would produce
fifty unimpeachable alibis, and bring an action for wrongful arrest in
addition," he added artfully.

"They can't do that," said the inspector gruffly.

"Can't they?" asked the innocent Angel. "Well, at any rate, it's not
advisable to arrest them. Jimmy would--"

Inspector Boyden swung round in his chair. "I don't know whether you're
'pulling my leg,' Mr. Angel. You are perhaps unused to the procedure in
criminal cases in London, and I must now inform you that at present I am
in charge of  the ease, and must request that if you have any
information bearing upon this crime to give it to me at once."

"With all the pleasure in life," said Angel heartily. "In the first
place, Jimmy--"

"Full name, please." The inspector dipped his pen in ink.

"Haven't the slightest idea," said the other carelessly. "Everybody
knows Jimmy. He was old Reale's most successful decoy duck. Had the
presence and the plumage and looked alive, so that all the other little
ducks used to come flying down and settle about him, and long be fore
they could discover that the beautiful bird that attracted them was only
painted wood and feathers, 'Bang! bang!' went old Reale's double-barrel,
 and roast duck was on the menu for days on end."

Inspector Boyden threw down his pen with a grunt. "I'm afraid," he said
in despair, "that I cannot include your parable in my report. When you
have any definite information to give, I shall be pleased to receive
it."

Later, at Scotland Yard, Angel interviewed the Commissioner. "What sort
of a man is Boyden to work with?" asked Mr. Commissioner.

"A most excellent chap--good-natured, obliging, and as zealous as the
best of 'em," said Angel, which was his way.

"I shall leave him in charge of the case," said the Chief.

"You couldn't do better," said Angel decisively.

Then he went home to his flat in Jermyn Street to dress for dinner. It
was an immaculate Angel Esquire who pushed through the plate-glass,
turn-table door of the Heinz, and, walking into the magnificent old
rose dining-room, selected a table near a window looking out on to
Piccadilly.

The other occupant of the table looked up and nodded.

"Hullo, Angel!" he said easily.

"Hullo, Jimmy!" greeted the unconventional detective. He took up the card
and chose his dishes with elaborate care. A half--bottle of Beaujolais
completed his order.

"The ridiculous thing is that one has got to pay 7s. 6d. for a small
bottle of wine that any respectable grocer will sell you for tenpence
ha'penny net."

"You must pay for the magnificence," said the other, quietly amused.
Then, after the briefest pause, "What do you want?"

"Not you, Jimmy," said the amiable Angel, "though my young friend,
Boyden, Inspector of Police, and a Past Chief Templar to boot, will be
looking for you shortly."

Jimmy carefully chose a toothpick and stripped it of its tissue covering.

"Of course," he said quietly, "I wasn't in it--the killing, I mean. I
was there."

"I know all about that," said Angel; "saw your foolish cigarettes. I
didn't think you had any hand in the killing. You are a I property
criminal, not a personal criminal."

"By which I gather you convey the nice distinction as between crimes
against property and crimes against the person," said the other.

"Exactly." A pause. "Well?" said Jimmy.

"What I want to see you about is the verse," said Angel, stirring his
soup.

Jimmy laughed aloud. "What a clever little devil you are, Angel," he said
admiringly; "and not so little either, in inches or devilishness."

He relapsed into silence, and the wrinkled forehead was eloquent.

"Think hard," taunted Angel.

"I'm thinking," said Jimmy slowly. "I used a pencil, as there was no
blotting paper. I only made one copy, just as the old man dictated it,
and--"

"You used a block," said Angel obligingly, "and only tore off the top
sheet. And you pressed rather heavily on that, so that the next sheet
bore a legible impression."

Jimmy looked annoyed. "What an ass I am !" he said, and was again
silent.

"The verse?" said Angel. "Can you make head or tail of it?"

"No"--Jimmy shook his head--"can you?"

"Not a blessed thing," Angel frankly confessed.

Through the next three courses neither man spoke. When coffee had been
placed on the table, Jimmy broke the silence--"You need not worry about
the verse. I have only stolen a march of a few days. Then Connor will
have it; and some girl or other will have it. Massey would have had it
too." He smiled grimly.

"What is it all about?"

Jimmy looked at his questioner with some suspicion. "Don't you know?" he
demanded.

"Haven't got the slightest notion. That is why I came to see you."

"Curious!" mused Jimmy. "I thought of looking you up for the very same
purpose. We'll ll know in a day or two," he went on, beckoning the
waiter.

"The old man said it was all in the will. He just told me the verse
before he died. The ruling passion, don't you know. 'Learn it by heart,
Jimmy,' he croaked; 'it's two millions for you if you guess it' '-and
that's how he died. My bill, waiter. Which way do you go?" he asked as
they turned into Piccadilly.

"To the 'Plait' for an hour," said Angel.

"Business?"

"Partly; I'm looking for a man who might be there."

They crossed Piccadilly, and entered a side turning. The second on the
left and the first on the right brought them opposite a brightly-lit
hotel. From within came the sound of violins. At the little tables with
which the spacious bar-room was set about sat laughing women and
young men in evening dress. A haze of cigarette smoke clouded the
atmosphere, and the music made itself heard above a babel of laughter
and talk. They found a corner, and seated themselves.

"You seem to be fairly well known here," said Jimmy.

"Yes," replied Angel ruefully, "a jolly sight too well known. You're not
quite a stranger, Jimmy," he added.

"No," said the other a little bitterly; "but we're on different sides of
the House, Angel. You're in the Cabinet, and I'm in the everlasting
Opposition."

"Muffled sobs!" said Angel flippantly. "Pity poor Ishmael who 'ishes'
for his own pleasure! Pathos for a fallen brother! A silent tear for
this magnificent wreck who'd rather be on the rocks than floating any
day of the week. Don't  humbug yourself, Jimmy, or I shall be falling on
 your neck and appealing to your better nature. You're a thief just as
another man is a stamp collector or a hunter. It's your blooming forte.
Hi, Charles, do you ever intend serving me?"

"Yessir; d'reckly, sir" Charles bustled up. "What is it to be,
gentlemen? Good evening, Mr. Angel!"

"I'll take what my friend Dooley calls a keg of obscenth; and you?"

Jimmy's face struggled to preserve its gravity. "Lemonade," he said
soberly. The waiter brought him a whisky. If you do not know the
"Plait" you do not know your London. It is one of the queer hostels
which in a Continental city would be noted as a place to which the
"young person" might not be taken. Being in London, neither Baedeker
nor any of the infallible guides to the metropolis so much as mention
its name. For there is a law of libel.

"There's 'Snatch' Walker," said Angel idly. "Snatch isn't wanted just
now--in this country. There's 'Frisco Kate,' who'll get a lifer one of
these days. D'ye know the boy in the mustard suit, Jimmy?"

Jimmy took a sidelong glance at the young man. "No; he's new."

"Not so new either," said Angel. "Budapest in the racing season,
Jerusalem in the tourist season; a wealthy Hungarian nobleman
travelling for his health all the time--that's him."

"Ambiguous, ungrammatical, but convincing," murmured Jimmy.

"I want him, by the way!" Angel had suddenly become alert.

"If you're going to have a row, I'm off," said Jimmy, finishing his
drink.

Angel caught his arm. A man had entered the saloon, and was looking
round as though in search of somebody. He caught Jimmy's eye and
started. Then he threaded his way through the crowded room.

"Hullo, Jim--'" He stopped dead as he saw Jimmy's companion, and his
hand went into his pocket.

"Hullo, Connor!" Angel's smile was particularly disarming. "You're the
man I want to see."

"What's the game?" the other snarled. He was a big, heavily-built man,
with a drooping moustache.

"Nothing, nothing," smiled Angel. "I want you for the Lagos job, but
there's not enough evidence to convict you. Make your mind easy."

The man went white under his tan; his hand caught the edge of the table
before him.  "Lagos!" he stammered. "What--what--"

"Oh, never mind about that." Angel airily waved the matter aside. "Sit
down here."

The man hesitated, then obeyed, and dropped into a seat between the two.
 Angel looked round. So far as any danger of  being overheard went, they
were as much alone as though they sat in the centre of a desert.

"Jimmy"--Angel held him by the arm--"you said just now you'd got a
march when you admitted you'd seen old Reale's puzzle verse. It wasn't
the march you thought it was, for I had seen the will--and so has Connor
here."

He looked the heavy man straight in the eye. "There is somebody else
that benefits under that will besides you two. It is a girl."

He did not take his eyes from Connor. "I was curious to see that young
lady," Angel went on, "and this afternoon I drove to CIapham to
interview her." He stopped again. Connor made no reply, but kept his
eyes fixed on the floor.

"I went to interview her, and found that she had mysteriously
disappeared this very afternoon." Again he stopped. "A gentleman called
to see her, with a message from--who do you think, Connor?" he asked.

The easy, flippant manner was gone, and Connor looking up, caught the
steady stare of two wild blue eyes, and shivered.

"Why," Angel went on slowly, "it was a message from Inspector Angel--which
is a damned piece of impudence, Connor, for I'm not an inspector--and
the young lady drove away to Scotland Yard. And now, Connor, I want
to ask you, What have you done with old Reale's heiress?"

Connor licked his lips and said nothing.

Angel beckoned to a waiter and paid his score, then rose to go.

"You will go at once and drive Miss Kathleen Kent back to the place you
took her from. I shall call tomorrow and see her, and if one hair of
her head is harmed, Connor--"

"Well?" said Connor defiantly.

"I'll chance your alibis, and take you for the Lagos business," and with
a curt nod to Jimmy, he left the saloon.

Connor turned in a fret of fury to the man at his side. "D'ye hear him,
Jimmy? D'ye hear the dog--"

"My advice to you," interrupted the other, "is--do as Angel tells
you."

"D'ye think I'm frightened by--"

"Oh, no," was the quiet response, "you are not frightened at what Angel
may do. What he does won't matter very much. What I will do is the
trouble."




CHAPTER IV


THE "BOROUGH LOT"



IT was not a bit like Scotland Yard as Kathleen Kent had pictured it. It
was a kind of a yard certainly, for the grimy little street, flanked on
 either side with the blank faces of dirty little houses, ended abruptly
in a high wall, over which were the gray hulls and fat scarlet funnels
of ocean-going steamers. The driver of the cab had pulled up before one
 of the houses near the wall, and a door had opened. Then the man who
had sat with her in glum silence, answering her questions in
monosyllables, grasped her arm and hurried her into the house. The door
slammed behind, and she realized her deadly peril.

She had had a foreboding, an instinctive premonition that all was not
well when the cab had turned from the broad thoroughfare that led to
where she had  imagined Scotland Yard would be, and had, taking short
cuts through innumerable me an streets, moved at a sharp pace eastward.
Ignorant of that London which begins at Trafalgar Square and runs
eastward to Walthamstow, ignorant, indeed, of that practical suburb to
which the modesty of an income produced by 4,000 pounds worth of Consols
had relegated her, she felt without knowing, that Scotland Yard did not
lay at the eastern end of Commercial Road. Then when the door of the
little house slammed and a hand grasped her arm tightly, and a thick
voice whispered in her ear that if she screamed the owner of the voice
would "out" her, she gathered, without exactly knowing what an "outing"
was, that it would be wiser for her not to scream, so she quietly
accompanied her captor up the stairs. He stopped for a moment on the
rickety landing, then pushed open a door. Before the window that would
in the ordinary course of events admit the light of day hung a heavy
green curtain; behind this, though she did not know it, three army
blankets, judiciously fixed, effectively excluded the sunlight, and as
effectually veiled the rays of a swing-lamp from outside observation.

The girl made a pathetically incongruous figure, as she stood white, but
resolute before the occupants of the room.

Kathleen Kent was something more than pretty, something less than
beautiful. An oval face with gray, steadfast eyes, a straight nose and
the narrow upper lip of the aristocrat, her lips were, perhaps, too full
and too human for your connoisseur of beauty.

She looked from face to face, and but for her pallor she exhibited no
sign of fear. Although she was unaware of the fact, she had been
afforded an extraordinary privilege. By the merest accident, she had
been ushered into the presence of the "Borough Lot." Not a very heroic
title for an organized band of criminals, but, then, organized criminals
never take unto themselves generic and high-falutin' titles. Our "Silver
Hatchets" and "Red Knives" are boy hooligans who shoot off toy pistols.
The police referred to them vaguely as the "Borough Lot". Lesser lights
in the criminal world have been known to boast that they were not
unconnected with that combination; and when some desperate piece of
villainy startled the world, the police investigating the crime started
from this point: Was it committed by one of the Borough Lot, or was it
not?

As Kathleen was pushed into the room by her captor, a hum of subdued
conversation ended abruptly, and she was the focus of nine pairs of
passionless eyes that looked at her unsmilingly. When she had heard the
voices, when she took her first swift glance at the room, and had seen
the type of face that met hers, she had steeled herself for an outburst
of coarse amusement. She feared--she did not know what she feared.
Strangely enough, the dead silence that greeted her gave her courage,
the cold stare of the men nerved her. Only one of the men lost his
composure. The tall, heavy-looking man who sat at one end of the room
with bowed, attentive head listening to a little clean-shaven man with
side-whiskers, who looked for all the world like an old-fashioned jockey,
started with a muttered oath.

"Upstairs!" he roared, and said something rapidly in a foreign tongue
that sent the man who held the girl's arm staggering back with a
blanched face. "I...I..." he stammered appealingly, "I didn't understand."

The tall man, his face flushed with rage, pointed to the door, and
hastily opening the door, her captor half dragged the bewildered girl to
the darkness of the landing.

"This way," he muttered, and she could feel his hand trembling as he
stumbled up yet another flight of stairs, never once relinquishing his
hold of her.

"Don't you scream nor nothing, or you'll get into trouble. You see what
happened to me for takin' you into the wrong room. Oh, he's a devil is
Connor--Smith, I mean. Smith's his name, d'ye hear?"

He shook her arm roughly. Evidently the man was beside himself with
terror. What dreadful thing the tall man had said, Kathleen could only
judge. She herself was half dead with fright. The sinister faces of
these men, the mystery of this assembly in the shuttered room, her
abduction, all combined to add terror to her position.

Her conductor unlocked a door and pushed her in. This had evidently been
prepared for her reception, for a table had been laid, and food and
drink stood ready. The door was closed behind her, and a bolt was
slipped. Like the chamber below, all daylight was kept out by a curtain.
Her first thoughts were of escape.

She waited till the footsteps on the rickety stairs had died away, then
crossed the room swiftly. The drop from the window could not be very
far; she would risk it. She drew aside the curtain. Where the window
should have been was a sheet of steel plate. It was screwed to the
joists. Somebody had anticipated her resolve to escape by the window. In
chalk, written in an illiterate hand, was the sentence:

"You wont be hert if your senserble. We want to know some questions
then well let you go. Don't make a fuss or it will be bad for you. Keep
quite and tell us these questions and well let you go."

What had they to ask, or she to answer? She knew of nothing that she
could inform them upon. Who were these men who were detaining her?
During the next hours she asked herself these questions over and over
again. She grew faint with hunger and thirst, but the viands spread
upon the table she did not touch. The mystery of her capture bewildered
her. Of what value was she to these men? All the time the murmur of
voices in the room below was continuous. Once or twice she heard a voice
raised in anger. Once a door slammed, and somebody went clattering down
the stairs. There was a doorkeeper, she could hear him speak with the
outgoer.

Did she but know it, the question that perplexed her was an equal matter
of perplexity with others in the house that evening. The notorious men
upon whom she had looked, all innocent of their claim to notoriety, were
themselves puzzled. Bat Sands, the man who looked so ill--he had the
unhealthy appearance of one who had just come through a long sickness--was
an inquirer, Vinnis--nobody knew his Christian name--was
another, and they were two men whose inquiries were not to be put off.

Vinnis turned his dull fish eyes upon big Connor, and spoke with
deliberation.  "Connor, what's this girl business? Are we in it?"

Connor knew his men too well to temporize.  "You're in it, if it's worth
anything," he said slowly.

Bat's close-cropped red head was thrust forward. "Is there money in
it?" he demanded.

Connor nodded his head.

"Much?" Connor drew a deep breath. If the truth be told, that the "Lot"
should share, was the last thing he had intended. But for the blundering
 of his agent, they would have remained in ignorance of the girl's
presence in the house. But the very suspicion of disloyalty was
dangerous. He knew his men, and they knew him. There was not a man
there who would hesitate to destroy him at the merest hint of treachery.
Candour was the best and safest course.

"It's pretty hard to give you any idea what I've got the girl here for,
but there's a million in it," he began.

He knew they believed him. He did not expect to be disbelieved. Criminals
of the class these men represented flew high. They were out of the ruck
of petty, boasting sneak-thieves who lied to one another, knowing they
lied, and knowing that their hearers knew they lied. Only the strained,
intent look on their faces gave any indication of how the news had been
 received.

"It's old Reale's money," he continued; "he's left the lot to four of
us, Massey's dead, so that makes three." There was no need to explain
who was Reale, who Massey. A week ago Massey had himself sat in that
room and discussed with Connor the cryptic verse that played so strange
a part in the old man's will. He had been, in a way, an honorary member
of the "Borough Lot."

Connor continued. He spoke slowly, waiting for inspiration. A judicious
lie might save the situation. But no inspiration came, and he found his
reluctant tongue speaking the truth.

"The money is stored in one safe. Oh, it's no use looking like that,
Tony, you might just as well try to crack the Bank of England as that
crib. Yes, he converted every cent of a million and three-quarters into
hard, solid cash--banknotes and gold. This he put into his damned safe,
and locked. And he has left by the terms of his will a key."

Connor was a man who did not find speaking an easy matter. Every word
came slowly and hesitatingly, as though the speaker of the story were
loth to part with it.

"The key is here," he said slowly. There was a rustle of eager
anticipation as he dipped his hand in his waistcoat pocket. When he
withdrew his fingers, they contained only a slip of paper carefully
folded.

"The lock of the safe is one of Reale's inventions; it opens to no key
save this."

He hook the paper before them, then lapsed into silence.

"Well," broke in Bat impatiently, "why don't you open the safe? And what
has the girl to do with it?"

"She also has a key, or will have tomorrow. And Jimmy..."

A laugh interrupted him. "Curt" Goyle had been an attentive listener till
Jimmy's name was mentioned, then his harsh, mirthless laugh broke the
tense silence.

"Oh, Lord James is in it, is he? I'm one that's for ruling Jimmy out."

He got up on his feet and stretched himself, keeping his eye fixed on
Connor.

"If you want to know why, I'll tell ye. Jimmy's a bit too finicking for
my taste, too fond of the police for my taste. If we're in this, Jimmy's
out of it," and a mutter of approval broke from the men.

Connor's mind was working quickly. He could do without Jimmy, he could
not dispense with the help of the "Lot." He was just a little afraid of
Jimmy. The man was a type of criminal he could not understand. If he was
a rival claimant for Reale's millions, the gang would "out" Jimmy; so
much the better. Massey's removal had limited the legatees to three.
Jimmy out of the way would narrow the chance of his losing the money
still further; and the other legatee was in the room upstairs. Goyle's
declaration had set loose the tongues of the men, and he could hear no
voice that spoke for Jimmy. And then a dozen voices demanded the rest of
the story, and amid a dead silence Connor told the story of the will and
the puzzle-verse, the solving of which meant fortune to every man.

"And the girl has got to stand in and take her share. She's too dangerous
to be let loose. There's nigh on two millions at stake and I'm taking no
risks. She shall remain here till the word is found. We're not going to
see her carry off the money under our very noses."

"And Jimmy?" Goyle asked.

Connor fingered a lapel of his coat nervously. He knew what answer the
gang had already framed to the question Goyle put. He knew he would be
asked to acquiesce in the blackest piece of treachery that had ever
disfigured his evil life; but he knew, too, that Jimmy was hated by the
men who formed this strange fraternity. Jimmy worked alone; he shared
neither risk nor reward. His cold cynicism was above their heads. They
too feared him.

Connor cleared his throat. "Perhaps if we reasoned--"

Goyle and Bat exchanged swift glances. "Ask him to come and talk it over
tonight," said Goyle carelessly.

"Connor is a long time gone." Sands turned his unhealthy face to the
company as he spoke. Three hours had passed since Connor had left the
gang in his search for Jimmy.

"He'll be back soon," said Goyle confidently. He looked over the assembly
of men. "Any of you fellers who don't want to be in this business can
go."

Then he added significantly, "We're going to settle with Jimmy."

Nobody moved; no man shuddered at the dreadful suggestion his words
conveyed. "A million an' three-quarters--it's worth hanging for!" he
said callously.

He walked to a tall, narrow cupboard that ran up by the side of the
fireplace and pulled open the door. There was room for a man to stand
inside. The scrutiny of the interior gave him some satisfaction. "This is
where some one stood"--he looked meaningly at Bat Sand--"when he
coshed Ike Steen--Ike with the police money in his pocket, and ready to
sell every man jack of you."

"Who's in the next house?" a voice asked suddenly. Goyle laughed. He was
the virtual landlord so far as the hiring of the house was concerned. He
closed the cupboard door. "Not counting old George, it's empty," he said.
"Listen!"

In the deep silence there came the faint murmur of a voice through the
thin walls. "Talkin' to himself," said Goyle with a grin; "he's daft, and
he's as good as a watchman for us, or he scares away the children and
women who would come prying about here. He's--"

They heard the front door shut quickly and the voices of two men in the
passage below.

Goyle sprang to his feet, an evil look on his face. "That's Jimmy!" he
whispered hurriedly. As the feet sounded on the stairs he walked to where
his coat hung and took something from his pocket, then, almost as the
new-comers entered the room, he slipped into the cupboard and drew the
door close after him.

 Jimmy entering the room in Connor's wake, felt the chill of his
 reception. He felt, too, some indefinable sensation of danger. There was
 an ominous quiet. Bat Sands was polite, even servile. Jimmy noticed
 that, and his every sense became alert. Bat thrust forward a chair and
 placed it with its back toward the cupboard.

"Sit down, Jimmy," he said with forced heartiness. "We want a bit of a
talk."

Jimmy sat down. "I also want a bit of a talk," he said calmly. "There is
a young lady in this house, brought here against her will. You've got to
let her go."

The angry mutter of protest that he had expected did not come, rather was
his dictum received in complete silence. This was bad, and he looked
round for the danger. Then he missed a face.

"Where is our friend Goyle, our dear landlord?" he asked with pleasant
irony.

"He hasn't been here today," Bat hastened to say.

Jimmy looked at Connor standing by the door biting his nails, and Connor
avoided his eye.

"Ah!" Jimmy's unconcern was perfectly simulated.

"Jimmy wants us to send the girl back." Connor was speaking hurriedly.
"He thinks there'll be trouble, and his friend the 'tec thinks there will
be trouble too."

Jimmy heard the artfully-worded indictment unmoved. Again he noticed,
with some concern, that what was tantamount to a charge of treachery was
received without a word.

"It isn't what others think, it is what I think, Connor," he said dryly.
"The girl has got to go back. I want Reale's money as much as you, but I
have a fancy to play fair this journey."

"Oh, you have, have you," sneered Connor. He had seen the cupboard door
behind Jimmy move ever so slightly. Jimmy sat with his legs crossed on
the chair that had been placed for him. The light overcoat he had worn
over his evening dress lay across his knees. Connor knew the moment was
at hand, and concentrated his efforts to keep his former comrade's
attentions engaged. He had guessed the meaning of Goyle's absence from
the room and the moving cupboard door. In his present position Jimmy was
helpless. Connor had been nervous to a point of incoherence on the way to
the house.

Now his voice rose to a strident pitch.

"You're too clever, Jimmy," he said, "and there are too many 'musts'
about you to please us. We say that the girl has got to stay, and by--we
mean it!"

Jimmy's wits were at work. The danger was very close at hand, he felt
that. He must change his tactics. He had depended too implicitly upon
Connor's fear of him, and had reckoned without the "Borough Lot".

From which of these men did danger threaten? He took their faces in in
one comprehensive glance. He knew them--he had their black histories at
his fingertips. Then he saw a coat hanging on the wall at the farther end
of the room. He recognized the garment instantly. It was Goyle's. Where
was the owner? He temporized.

"I haven't the slightest desire to upset anybody's plans," he drawled,
and started drawing on a white glove, as though about to depart. "I am
willing to hear your views, but I would point out that I have an equal
interest in the young lady, Connor."

He gazed reflectively into the palm of his gloved hand as if admiring
the fit. There was something so peculiar in this apparently innocent
action, that Connor started forward with an oath.

"Quick, Goyle!" he shouted; but Jimmy was out of his chair and was
standing with his back against the cupboard, and in Jimmy's ungloved hand
was an ugly black weapon that was all butt and barrel.

He waved them back, and they shrank away from him.

"Let me see you all," he commanded, "none of your getting behind one
another. I want to see what you are doing. Get away from that coat of
yours, Bat, or I'll put a bullet in your stomach."

He had braced himself against the door in anticipation of the thrust of
the man, but it seemed as though the prisoner inside had accepted the
situation, for he made no sign.

"So you are all wondering how I knew about the cupboard," he jeered. He
held up the gloved hand, and in the palm something flashed back the
light of the lamp. Connor knew. The tiny mirror sewn in the palm of the
sharper's glove was recognized equipment.

"Now, gentlemen," said Jimmy with a mocking laugh, "I must insist on
having my way. Connor, you will please bring to me the lady you abducted
this afternoon."

Connor hesitated; then he intercepted a glance from Bat Sands, and
sullenly withdrew from the room. Jimmy did not speak till Connor had
returned ushering in the white-faced girl. He saw that she looked faint
and ill, and motioned one of the men to place a chair for her.

What she saw amidst that forbidding group was a young man with a little
Vandyke beard, who looked at her with grave, thoughtful eyes. He was a
gentleman, she could see that, and her heart leapt within her as she
realized that the presence of this man in the fashionably-cut clothes and
the most unfashionable pistol meant deliverance from this horrible
place.

"Miss Kent," he said kindly.

 She nodded, she could not trust herself to speak. The experience of the
 past few hours had almost reduced her to a state of collapse. Jimmy saw
 the girl was on the verge of a breakdown.

"I am going to take you home," he said, and added whimsically, "and
cannot but feel that you have underrated your opportunities. Not often
will you see gathered together so splendid a collection of our
profession."

He waved his hand in introduction. "Bat Sands, Miss Kent, a most lowly
thief, possibly worse. George Collroy, coiner and a ferocious villain.
Vinnis, who follows the lowest of all grades of dishonest
livelihood--blackmailer. Here," Jimmy went on, as he stepped aside from
the cupboard, "is the gem of the collection. I will show you our friend
who has so coyly effaced himself."

He addressed the occupant of the cupboard.

"Come out, Goyle," he said sharply. There was no response. Jimmy pointed
to one of the ruffians in the--room. "Open that door," he commanded. The
man slunk forward and pulled the door open.

"Come out, Goyle," he growled, then stepped back with blank astonishment
stamped upon his face. "Why--why," he gasped, "there's nobody there!"

With a cry, Jimmy started forward. One glance convinced him that the man
spoke the truth, and then--

There were keen wits in that crowd, men used to crises and quick to act.
Bat Sands saw Jimmy's attention diverted for a moment, and Jimmy's pistol
hand momentarily lowered.

To think with Bat Sands was to act.

Jimmy, turning back upon the "Lot," saw the life preserver descending,
and leapt on one side; then, as he recovered, somebody threw a coat at
the lamp, and the room was in darkness.

Jimmy reached out his hand and caught the girl by the arm.

"Into that cupboard," he whispered, pushing her into the recess from
which Goyle had so mysteriously vanished. Then, with one hand on the edge
of the door, he groped around with his pistol for his assailants. He
could hear their breathing and the creak of the floorboards as they came
toward him.

He crouched down by the door, judging that the "cosh" would he aimed in a
line with his head. By and by he heard the swish of the descending stick,
and "crash!" the preserver struck the wall above him.

He was confronted with a difficulty; to fire would be to invite trouble.
He had no desire to attract the attention of the police for many reasons.
Unless the life of the girl was in danger he resolved to hold his fire,
and when Ike Josephs, feeling cautiously forward with his stick,
blundered into Jimmy, Ike suddenly dropped to the floor without a cry,
because he had been hit a fairly vicious blow in that portion of the
anatomy which is dignified with the title "solar plexus."

It was just after this that he heard a startled little cry from the girl
behind him, and then a voice that sent his heart into his mouth. "All
right! All right! All right!"

There was only one man who used that tag, and Jimmy's heart rose up to
bless his name in thankfulness.

"This way, Miss Kent," said the voice, "mind the little step. Don't be
afraid of the gentleman on the floor, he's handcuffed and strapped and
gagged, and is perfectly harmless."

Jimmy chuckled. The mystery of Angel's intimate knowledge of the "Lot's"
plans and of Connor's movements, the disappearance of Goyle, were all
explained.

He did not know for certain that the occupant of the "empty" house next
door had industriously cut through the thin party-walls that separated
the two houses, and had rigged up a "back" to the cupboard that was
really a door, but he guessed it.

 Then a blinding ray of light shot into the room where the "Borough Lot"
 still groped for its enemy, and a gentle voice said: "Gentlemen, you may
 make your choice which way you go--out by the front door, where my
 friend, Inspector Collyer, with quite a large number of men, is waiting;
 or by the back door, where Sergeant Murtle and exactly seven
 plain-clothes men are impatiently expecting you."

Bat recognized the voice. "Angel Esquire!" he cried in consternation.
From the darkness behind the dazzling electric lamp that threw a narrow
lane of light into the apartment came an amused chuckle.

"What is it," asked Angel's persuasive voice, "a cop?"

"It's a fair cop," said Bat truthfully.




CHAPTER V


THE CRYPTOGRAM



MR. SPEDDING looked at his watch. He stood upon the marble-tiled floor of
the Great Deposit. High above his head, suspended from the beautiful
dome, blazed a hundred lights from an ornate electrolier. He paced before
the great pedestal that towered up from the centre of the building, and
the floor was crisscrossed with the shadows of the steel framework that
encased it. But for the dozen chairs that were placed in a semicircle
before the great granite base, the big hall was bare and unfurnished.

Mr. Spedding walked up and down, and his footsteps rang hollow; when he
spoke the misty space of the building caught up his voice and sent down
droning echoes.

"There is only the lady to come," he said, looking at his watch again.
He spoke to the two men who sat at either extreme of the crescent of
chairs.

The one was Jimmy, a brooding, thoughtful figure; the other was Connor,
ill at ease and subdued. Behind the chairs, at some distance, stood two
men who looked like artisans, as indeed they were: at their feet lay a
bag of tools, and on a small board a heap that looked like sand.

At the door a stolid-looking commissionaire waited, his breast glittering
with medals.

Footsteps sounded in the vestibule, the rustle of a woman's dress, and
Kathleen Kent entered, closely followed by Angel Esquire.

At him the lawyer looked questioningly as he walked forward to greet the
girl.

"Mr. Angel has kindly offered me his help," she said timidly--then,
recognizing Connor, her face flushed--"and if necessary, his
protection."

Mr. Spedding bowed. "I hope you will not find this part of the ceremony
trying," he said in a low voice, and led the girl to a chair. Then he
made a signal to the commissionaire.

"What is going to happen?" Kathleen whispered to her companion, and Angel
shook his head.

"I can only guess," he replied in the same tone. He was looking up at the
great safe wherein he knew was stored the wealth of the dead gambler, and
wondering at the freakish ingenuity that planned and foresaw this strange
scene.

The creak of footsteps in the doorway made him turn his head. He saw a
white-robed figure, and behind him a black-coated man in attendance,
holding on a cushion a golden casket.

Then the dread, familiar words brought him to his feet with a shiver:--"I
am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth
in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and
liveth in me shall never die." The clergyman's solemn voice resounded
through the building, and the detective realized that the ashes of the
dead man were coming to their last abiding-place.

The slow procession moved toward the silent party. Slowly it paced toward
the column; then, as the clergyman's feet rang on the steel stairway that
wound upward, he began the Psalm which of all others perhaps most fitted
the passing of old Reale:--"Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy
great goodness...Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse
me from my sin...Behold, I was shapen in wickedness...Deliver me
from bloodguiltiness, O God..." Halfway up the column a small gap
yawned in the unbroken granite face, and into this the golden cabinet was
pushed; then the workman, who had formed one of the little party that
wound upward, lifted a smooth cube of polished granite.

"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of His great mercy to take
unto Himself the soul of our dear brother here departed..." The
mason's trowel grated on the edges of the cavity, the block of stone was
thrust in until it was flush with the surface of the pedestal. Carved on
the end of the stone were four words:--

Pulvis Cinis et Nihil.

It was when the workmen had been dismissed, and the lawyer was at the
door bidding adieu to the priest whose strange duty had been performed,
that Angel crossed to where Jimmy sat. He caught Jimmy's grim smile, and
raised his eyes to where all that was mortal of Reale had been placed.

"The Latin?" asked Angel.

"Surprising, isn't it?" said the other quietly. "Reale had seen things,
you know. A man who travels picks up information." He nodded toward the
epitaph.

"He got that idea at Toledo, in the cathedral there. Do you know it? A
slab of brass over a dead king-maker, Portocarrero, 'Hic iacet pulvis
cinis et nihil'. I translated it for him; the conceit pleased him.
Sitting here, watching his strange funeral, I wondered if 'pulvis cinis
et nihil' would come into it."

And now Spedding came creaking back. The workmen had disappeared, the
outer door was closed, and the commissionaire had retired to his room
leading from the vestibule. In Spedding's hand was a bundle of papers. He
took his place with his back to the granite pedestal and lost no time in
preliminaries.

"I have here the will of the late James Ryan Reale," he began. "The
contents of this will are known to every person here except Miss Kent."

He had a dry humour of his own, this lawyer, as his next words proved.

"A week ago a very clever burglary was committed in my office; the safe
was opened, a private dispatch box forced, and my papers ransacked. I
must do my visitor justice"--he bowed slightly, first in the direction
of Connor, then toward Jimmy--"and say that nothing was taken and
practically nothing disturbed. There was plenty of evidence that the
object of the burglary was to secure a sight of this will."

Jimmy was unperturbed at the scarcely-veiled charge, and if he moved it
was only with the object of taking up an easier position in the chair.
Not even the shocked eyes of the girl that looked appealingly toward him
caused him any apparent uneasiness.

"Go on," he said, as the lawyer paused as though waiting for an
admission. He was quietly amused. He knew very well now who this
considerate burglar was.

"By copying this will the burglar or burglars obtained an unfair
advantage over the other legatee or legatees." The stiff paper crackled
noisily as he unfolded the document in his hand. "I will formally read
the will and afterwards explain it to such of you as need the
explanation," Spedding resumed. The girl listened as the lawyer began to
read. Confused by the legal terminology, the endless repetitions, and
the chaotic verbiage of the instrument, she yet realized as the reading
went on that this last will and testament of old Reale was something
extraordinary. There was mention of houses and estates, freeholds and
bonds...

"...and all the residue of any property whatsoever and wheresoever
absolutely" that went to somebody. To whom she could not gather. Once
she thought it was to herself, "to Francis Corydon Kent, Esquire, or the
heirs of his body;" once it sounded as though this huge fortune was to be
inherited by "James Cavendish Fairfax Stannard, Baronet of the United
Kingdom."

She wondered if this was Jimmy, and remembered in a vague way that she
had heard that the ninth baronet of that name was a person of
questionable character.

Then again it seemed as if the legatee was to be "Patrick George Connor."

There was a doggerel verse in the will that the lawyer gabbled through,
and something about the great safe, then the lawyer came to an end.

In the conventional declaration of the witnesses lay a sting that sent a
dull red flush to Connor's cheek and again provoked Jimmy's grim smile.
The lawyer read:--"Signed by the above James Ryan Reale as his last
will and testament (the word 'thief' after 'James Cavendish Fairfax
Stannard, Baronet of the United Kingdom' and the word 'thief' after
'Patrick George Connor,' in the twentieth and twenty-third lines from the
top hereof, having been deleted), in the presence of us..."

The lawyer folded the will perversely and put it in his pocket. Then he
took four slips of paper from an envelope. "It is quite clear to you
gentlemen."

He did not wait for the men's reply, but went on addressing the
bewildered girl.

"To you, Miss Kent, I am afraid the will is not so clear. I will explain
it in a few words. My late client was the owner of a gambling
establishment. Thus he amassed a huge fortune, which he has left to form,
if I may so put it, a large prize fund. The competitors are yourselves.
Frankly, it is a competition between the dupes, or the heirs of the
dupes, who were ruined by my late client, and the men who helped in the
fleecing."

The lawyer spoke dispassionately, as though expounding some hypothesis,
but there was that in his tone which made Connor wince.

"Your father, my dear young lady, was one of these dupes many years
ago--you must have been at school at the time. He became suddenly a poor
man."

The girl's face grew hard.

"So that was how it happened," she said slowly.

"That is how it happened," the lawyer repeated gravely. "Your father's
fortune was one of four great fortunes that went into the coffers of my
late client."

The formal description of Reale seemed to lend him an air of
respectability.

"The other three have long since died, neither of them leaving issue. You
are the sole representative of the victims. These gentlemen are--let use
 say--in opposition. This safe," he waved his hand toward the great
steel room that crowned the granite column, "contains the fortune. The
safe itself is the invention of my late client. Where the lock should be
are six dials, on each of which are the letters of the alphabet. The
dials are ranged one inside the other, and on one side is a steel
pointer. A word of six letters opens the safe. By turning the dials so
that the letters come opposite the pointer, and form this word, the door
is opened."

He stopped to wipe his forehead, for in the energy of his explanation he
had become hot.

Then he resumed--"What that word is, is for you to discover. My late
client, who had a passion for acrostics I and puzzles and inventions of
every kind, has left a doggerel verse which he most earnestly assured me
contained the solution."

He handed a slip first to the girl and then to the others.

For a moment the world swam before Kathleen's eyes.

All that hinged upon that little verse came home to her.

Carefully conning each word, as if in fear of its significance escaping
her, she read:--


"Here's a puzzle in language old,
Find my meaning and get my gold.
Take one Bolt--just one, no more--
Fix it on behind a Door.
Place it at a river's Mouth
East or west or north or south.
Take some Leaves and put them whole
In some water in a Bowl.
I found this puzzle in a book
From which some mighty truths were took."


She read again and yet again, the others watching her. With every reading
she seemed to get further from the solution of the mystery, and she
turned in despair to Angel.

"I can make nothing of it," she cried helplessly, "nothing, nothing,
nothing."

"It is, with due respect to my late client, the veriest doggerel," said
the lawyer frankly, "and yet on that the inheritance of the whole of his
fortune depends."

He had noticed that neither Connor nor Jimmy had read the slips he had
handed to them.

"The paper I have given you is a facsimile reproduction of the original
copy, and that may be inspected at any time at my office."

The girl was scanning the rhyme in an agony of perplexity. "Ishall never
do it," she said in despair.

Angel took the paper gently from her hand. "Don't attempt it," he said
kindly. "There is plenty of time. I do not think that either of your
rival competitors have gained anything by the advantage they have
secured. I also have had in my possession a copy of the rhyme for the
past week."

The girl's eyes opened wide in astonishment. "You?" she said.

Angel's explanation was arrested by a singular occurrence.

Connor sat at one end of the row of chairs moodily eying the paper.

Jimmy thoughtfully stroking his beard at the other end, suddenly rose
and walked to where his brooding confederate sat. The man shrunk back as
he approached, and Jimmy, seating himself by his side, bent forward and
said something in a low voice. He spoke rapidly, and Angel, watching them
closely, saw a look of incredulous surprise come into Connor's face. Then
wrath and incredulity mingled, and Connor sprang up, striking the back of
the chair with his fist.

"What?" he roared. "Give up a chance of a fortune? I'll see you--"

Jimmy's voice never rose, but he gripped Connor's arm and pulled him down
into his chair.

"I won't! I won't! D'ye think I'm going to throw away--"

Jimmy released the man's arm and rose with a shrug of his shoulders. He
walked to where Kathleen was standing.

"Miss Kent," he said, and hesitated. "It is difficult for me to say what
I have to say; but I want to tell you that so far as I am concerned the
fortune is yours. I shall make no claim to it, and I will afford you
every assistance that lies in my power to discover the word that is
hidden in the verse."

The girl made no reply. Her lips were set tight, and the hard look that
Angel had noticed when the lawyer had referred to her father came back
again.

Jimmy waited a moment for her to speak, but she made no sign, and with a
slight bow he walked toward the door. "Stop!" It was Kathleen that
spoke, and Jimmy turned and waited.

"As I understand this will," she said slowly, "you are one of the men to
whom my father owed his ruin."

His eyes met hers unfalteringly. "Yes," he said simply.

"One of the men that I have to thank for years of misery and sorrow," she
continued. "When I saw my father slowly sinking, a broken-hearted man,
weighed down with the knowledge of the folly that had brought his wife
and child to comparative poverty; when I saw my father die, crushed in
spirit by his misfortunes, I never thought I should meet the man who
brought his ruin about."

Still Jimmy's gaze did not waver. Impassive, calm and imperturbable, he
listened unmoved to the bitter indictment.

"This will says you were a man of my father's own class, one who knew the
tricks by which a gentle, simple man, with a childish faith in such men
as you, might be lured into temptation."

Jimmy made no reply, and the girl went on in biting tones--"A few days
ago you helped me to escape from men whom you introduced with an air of
superiority as thieves and blackmailers. That it was you who rendered me
this service I shall regret to the end of my days. You! You! You!"

She flung out her hand scornfully. "If they were thieves, what are you? A
gambler's tout? A decoy? A harpy preying on the weakness of your
unfortunate fellows?"

She turned to Connor. "Had this man offered me his help I might have
accepted it. Had he offered to forego his claim to this fortune I might
have been impressed by his generosity. From you, whom God gave advantages
of birth and education, and who utilized them to bring ruin and disaster
on such men as my father, the offer is an insult!"

Jimmy's face was deadly pale, but he made no sign. Only his eyes shone
brighter, and the hand that twisted the point of his beard twitched
nervously.

The girl turned to Angel wearily. Her outburst and the tension of the
evening had exhausted her. "Will you take me home, Mr. Angel?" she said.
She offered her hand to the lawyer, who had been an interested observer
of the scene, and ignoring the two men, she turned to go.

Then Jimmy spoke. "I do not attempt to excuse myself, Miss Kent," he said
evenly; "for my life and my acts I am unaccountable to man or woman. Your
condemnation makes it neither easier nor harder to live my life. Your
charity might have made a difference."

He held out a detaining hand, for Kathleen had gathered up her skirts to
move away. "I have considered your question fairly. I am one of the men
to whom your father owed his ruin, insomuch as I was one of Reale's
associates. I am not one of the men, insomuch as I used my every
endeavour to dissuade your father from taking the risks he took."

The humour of some recollection took hold of him, and a grim little smile
came into his face. "You say I betrayed your father," he said in the same
quiet tone. "As a fact I betrayed Reale. I was at trouble to explain to
your father the secret of Reale's electric roulette table; I demonstrated
the futility of risking another farthing." He laughed. "I have said I
would not excuse myself, and here I am pleading like a small boy, 'If you
please, it wasn't me,'" he said a little impatiently; and then he added
abruptly, "I will not detain you," and walked away.

He knew instinctively that she waited a moment hesitating for a reply,
then he heard the rustle of her dress and knew she had gone. He stood
looking upward to where the graven granite set marked the ashes of Reale,
until her footsteps had died away and the lawyer's voice broke the
silence.

"Now, Sir James--" he began, and Jimmy spun round with an oath, his face
white with passion.

"Jimmy," he said in a harsh voice, "Jimmy is my name, and I want to hear
no other, if you please."

Mr. Spedding, used as he was to the wayward phases of men, was a little
startled at the effect of his words, and hastened to atone for his
blunder. "I--I beg your pardon," he said quickly. "I merely wished to
say--"

Jimmy did not wait to hear what he said, but turned upon Connor. "I've
got a few words to say to you," he said. His voice had gone back to its
calm level, but there was a menace in its quietness. "When I persuaded
Angel to give you a chance to get away on the night the 'Borough Lot' was
arrested, I hoped I could get you to agree with me that the money should
be handed to Miss Kent when the word was found. I knew in my inmost heart
that this was a forlorn hope," he went on, "that there is no gold in the
quartz of your composition. You are just beast all through."

He paced the floor of the hall for a minute or two, then he stopped.

"Connor," he said suddenly, "you tried to take my life the other night. I
have a mind to retaliate. You may go ahead and puzzle out the word that
unlocks that safe. Get it by any means that suggest themselves to you.
Steal it, buy it--do anything you wish. The day you secure the key to
Reale's treasure I shall kill you."

He talked like a man propounding a simple business proposition, and the
lawyer, who in his early youth had written a heavy little paper on "The
Congenital Criminal," listened and watched, and, in quite a respectable
way, gloated.

Jimmy picked up his hat and coat from a chair, and nodding to the lawyer,
strolled out of the hall. In the vestibule where the one commissionaire
had been were six. Every man was a non-commissioned officer, and, as
was apparent from his medals, had seen war service. Jimmy noted the belt
about each man and the dangling revolver holster, and approved of the
lawyer's precaution.

"Night guard, sergeant--major?" he asked, addressing one whose crowned
sleeve showed his rank.

"Day and night guard, sir," replied the officer quietly.

"Good," said Jimmy, and passed out into the street. And now only the
lawyer and Connor remained, and as Jimmy left, they too prepared for
departure. The lawyer was mildly interested in the big, heavy criminal
who walked by his side. He was a fairly familiar type of the bull-headed
desperado.

"There is nothing I can explain?" asked Spedding, as they stood together
in the vestibule. Connor's eyes were on the guard, and he frowned a
little.

"You don't trust us very much," he said.

"I don't trust you at all," said the lawyer.




CHAPTER VI


A THE RED ENVELOPE



MR. SPEDDING, the admirable lawyer, lived on Clapham Common, where he
owned the freehold of that desirable residence, "High Holly Lodge." He
was a bachelor, with a taste for bridge parties and Madeira. Curious
neighbours would have been mystified if they had known that Mr. Spedding's
repair bill during the first two years of his residence was something
well over three thousand pounds.

What they did know was that Mr. Spedding "had the builders in" for an
unconscionable time, that they were men who spoke in a language entirely
foreign to Clapham, and that they were housed during the period of
renovation in a little galvanized iron bungalow erected for the purpose
in the grounds. A neighbour on visiting terms expressed his opinion that
for all the workmen had done he could discern no material difference in
the structure of the house, and from his point of view the house
presented the same appearance after the foreign builders left, as it did
before their advent. Mr. Spedding met all carelessly-applied questions
concerning the extent of the structural alterations with supreme
discretion. He spoke vaguely about a new system of ventilation, and
hinted at warmth by radiation.

Suburbia loves to show off its privately conceived improvements to
property, but Mr. Spedding met veiled hints of a desire to inspect his
work with that comfortable smile which was so valuable an asset of his
business.

It was a few evenings after the scene in the Lombard Street Deposit that
Mr. Spedding sat in solitude before his modest dinner at Clapham. An
evening newspaper lay by the side of his chair, and he picked it up at
intervals to read again the paragraph which told of the release of the
"Borough Lot."

The paragraph read:--

"The men arrested in connection with the gambling raid at Poplar were
discharged today, the police, it is understood, failing to secure
sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution."

The lawyer shook his head doubtfully. "I rather like Angel Esquire's
definition," he said with a wry smile. "It is a neat method of saving the
face of the police, but I could wish that the 'Borough Lot' were out of
the way."

Later he had occasion to change his opinion.

A tap at the door preceded the entry of a sedate butler. The lawyer
looked at the card on the tray, and hesitated; then, "Show him in," he
said.

Jimmy came into the room, and bowed slightly to the elder man, who rose
at his entrance. They waited in silence till the servant had closed the
door behind him. "To what am I indebted?" began the lawyer, and motioned
his visitor to a seat.

"May I smoke?" asked Jimmy, and Mr. Spedding nodded.

"It is in the matter of Reale's millions," said Jimmy, and allowed his
eyes to follow the cloud of smoke he blew.

"I thought it was understood that this was a subject which might only be
discussed at my office and in business hours?" said the lawyer sharply,
and Jimmy nodded again.

"You will confess, Mr. Spedding," he said easily, "that the Reale will is
sufficiently unconventional to justify any departure from established
custom on the part of the fortunate or unfortunate legatees."

Mr. Spedding made an impatient movement of his hand.

"I do not inquire into your business," Jimmy went on smoothly enough,
"and I am wholly incurious as to in what strange manner you became
acquainted with your late client, or what fees you received to undertake
so extraordinary a commission; but I am satisfied that you are
recompensed for such trifling inconveniences as--say--an after-dinner
visit from myself."

Jimmy had a way of choosing his words, hesitating for the exact
expression that would best convey every shade of his meaning. The lawyer,
too, recognized the logic of the speech, and contented himself with a
shrug which meant nothing.

"I do not inquire into your motives," Jimmy resumed; "it pleases me to
believe that they are entirely disinterested, that your attitude is the
ideal one as between client and agent."

His pause was longer this time, and the lawyer was piqued into
interjecting an impatient--"Well?"

"Well," said Jimmy slowly, "believing all this, let us say, I am at a
loss to know why at the reading of the will you gave us no indication of
the existence of a key to this mysterious verse."

"There is no key," said the lawyer quickly, and added, "so far as I
know."

"That you did not tell us," Jimmy went on, as though unconscious of any
interruption, "of the big red envelope--"

Spedding sprang to his feet white as death. "The envelope," he stammered
angrily, "what do you know--what envelope?"

Jimmy's hand waved him to his seat. "Let us have no emotions, no flights,
no outraged honour, I beg of you, dear Mr. Spedding. I do not suggest
that you have any sinister reasons for withholding information concerning
what my friend Angel would call the 'surprise packet'. In good time I do
not doubt you would have disclosed its existence."

"I know of no red envelope," said the lawyer doggedly.

"I rather fancied you would say that," said Jimmy, with a touch of
admiration in his tone. "You are not the sort of fox to curl up and howl
at the first bay of the hound--if you will permit the simile--indeed,
you would have disappointed me if you had."

The lawyer paced the room. "Look here," he said, coming to a halt before
the semi-recumbent form that lay behind a haze of cigarette smoke in the
arm-chair, "you've spent a great deal of your time telling me what I
am, describing my many doubtful qualities, and hinting more or less
broadly that I am a fairly representative scoundrel. May I ask what is is
your ultimate object? Is it blackmail?" he demanded harshly.

"No," said Jimmy, by no means disconcerted by the brutality of the
question. "Are you begging, or borrowing, or--"

"Stealing?" murmured Jimmy lazily.

"All that I have to say to you is, finish your business and go.
Furthermore, you are at liberty to come with me tomorrow morning and
search my office and question my clerks. I will accompany you to my
banks, and to the strong-room I rent at the deposit. Search for this red
envelope you speak about, and if you find it, you are at liberty to draw
the worst deductions you will."

Jimmy pulled gently at his cigarette with reflective eyes cast upward to
the ceiling. "Do you speak Spanish?" he asked.

"No," said the other impatiently.

"It's a pity," said Jimmy, with a note of genuine regret. "Spanish is a
very useful language--especially in the Argentine, for which delightful
country, I understand, lawyers who betray their trust have an especial
predilection. My Spanish needs a little furbishing, and only the other
day I was practising with a man whose name, I believe, is Murrello. Do
you know him?"

"If you have completed your business, I will ring for the servant," said
the lawyer.

"He told me--my Spaniard, I mean--a curious story. He comes from
Barcelona, and by way of being a mason or something of the sort, was
brought to England with some other of his fellow-countrymen to make some
curious alterations to the house of a Senor in--er--Clapham of all
places in the world."

The lawyer's breath came short and fast.

"From what I was able to gather," Jimmy went on languidly, "and my
Spanish is Andalusian rather than Catalonian, so that I missed some of
his interesting narrative, these alterations partook of the nature of
wonderfully concealed strong-rooms--steel doors artfully covered with
cheap wood carving, vaults cunningly constructed beneath innocent
basement kitchens, little stairways in apparently solid walls and the
like."

The levity went out of his voice, and he straightened himself in his
chair.

"I have no desire to search your office," he said quietly, "or perhaps I
should say no further desire, for I have already methodically examined
every hole and corner. No," he checked the words on Spedding's lips, "no,
it was not I who committed the blundering burglary you spoke of. You
never found traces of me, I'll swear. You may keep the keys of your
strong-room, and I shall not trouble your bankers."

"What do you want?" demanded the lawyer shortly.

"I want to see what you have got downstairs," was the reply, and there
was no doubting its earnestness, "and more especially do I want to see
the red envelope."

The lawyer bent his brows in thought. His eyes were fixed unwaveringly on
Jimmy's. "Suppose," he said slowly, "suppose that such an envelope did
exist, suppose for the sake of argument these mysterious vaults and
secret chambers are, as you suggest, in existence, what right have you,
more than any other one of the beneficiaries under the will, to demand a
private examination? Why should I give you an unfair advantage over
them?"

Jimmy rose to his feet and stretched himself before replying. "There is
only one legatee whom I recognize," he said briefly, "that is the girl.
The money is hers. I do not want a farthing. I am equally determined that
nobody else shall touch a penny--neither my young friend Connor "--he
stopped to give emphasis to the next two words--"nor yourself."

"Sir!" said the outraged Mr. Spedding.

"Nor yourself, Mr. Spedding," repeated Jimmy with conviction. "Let us
understand each other thoroughly. You are, as I read you, a fairly
respectable citizen. I would trust you with ten or a hundred thousand
pounds without experiencing the slightest anxiety. I would not trust you
with two millions in solid cash, nor would I trust any man. The magnitude
of the sum is calculated to overwhelm your moral sense. The sooner the
red envelope is in the possession of Angel Esquire the better for us
all."

Spedding stood with bent head, his fingers nervously stroking his jaw,
thinking.

"An agile mind this," thought Jimmy; "if I am not careful there will be
trouble here." He watched the lawyer's face, and noticed the lines
suddenly disappear from the troubled face, and the placid smile
returning. "Conciliation and partial confession," judged Jimmy, and his
diagnosis was correct.

"Well, Mr. Jimmy," said Spedding, with some show of heartiness, "since
you know so much, it may be as well to tell you more. As you have so
cleverly discovered, my house to a great extent is a strong-room. There
are many valuable documents that I could not with any confidence leave
deposited at my office. They are safer here under my eye, so to speak.
The papers of the late Mr. Reale are, I confess, in this house; but--now
mark me--whether the red envelope you speak of is amongst these I do not
know. There is a multitude of documents in connection with the case, all
of which I have had no time to go through. The hour is late, but--" He
paused irresolutely. "--If you would care to inspect the mysteries of
the basement "--he smiled benevolently, and was his old self--"I
shall be happy to have your assistance in a cursory search."

Jimmy was alert and watchful and to the point. "Lead the way," he said
shortly, and Spedding, after a moment's hesitation, opened the door and
Jimmy followed him into the hall.

Contrary to his expectations, the lawyer led him upstairs, and through a
plainly furnished bedroom to a small dressing room that opened off. There
was a conventional wardrobe against the wall, and this Spedding opened. A
dozen suits hung from hooks and stretchers, and the lawyer groped amongst
these for a moment. Then there was a soft click, and the back of the
wardrobe swung back. Spedding turned to his visitor with a quizzical
smile.

"Your friend Angel's method of gaining admittance to the haunt of the
'Borough Lot' was not original. Come."

Jimmy stepped gingerly through into the darkness. He heard the snap of a
button, and a soft glow of light revealed a tiny chamber, in which two
men might comfortably stand upright. The back of the wardrobe closed, and
they were alone in a little room about as large as an average cupboard.
There was a steel lever on one side of the walls, and this the lawyer
pulled cautiously. Jimmy felt a sinking sensation, and heard a faint,
far-off buzzing of machinery.

"An electric lift, I take it," he said quietly.

"An electric lift," repeated the lawyer.

Down, down, down they sank, till Jimmy calculated that they must be at
least twenty feet below the street level. Then the lift slowed down and
stopped at a door. Spedding opened this with a key he took from his
pocket, and they stepped out into a chill, earthy darkness.

"There's a light here," said the lawyer, and groped for the switch. They
were in a large vaulted apartment lit from the roof. At one end a steel
door faced them, and ranged about the vault on iron racks a number of
black japanned boxes.

Jimmy noted the inscriptions, and was a little surprised at the extent
and importance of the solicitor's practice. Spedding must have read his
thoughts, for he turned with a smile.

"Not particularly suggestive of a defaulting solicitor," he said
ironically.

"Two million pounds," replied Jimmy immediately, "that is my answer to
you, Mr. Spedding. An enormous fortune for the reaching. I wouldn't trust
the Governors of the Bank of England."

Spedding may have been annoyed as he walked to the door in the wall and
opened it, but he effectively concealed his annoyance. As the door fell
backward, Jimmy saw a little apartment, four feet by six feet, with a
roof he could touch with his hand. There was a fresh current of air, but
from whence it came he could not discover. The only articles of furniture
in the little cell were a writing table and a swing chair placed exactly
beneath the electric lamp in the roof. Spedding pulled open a drawer in
the desk.

"I do not keep my desks locked here," he said pleasantly enough. It was
characteristic of him that he indulged in no preamble, no apologetic
preliminaries, and that he showed no sign of embarrassment as he slipped
his hand into the drawer, and drawing forth a bulky red envelope, threw
it on to the desk. You might have forgotten that his last words were
denials that the red envelope had existed.

Jimmy looked at him curiously, and the lawyer returned his gaze.

"A new type?" he asked.

"Hardly," said Jimmy cheerfully. "I once knew a man like you in the
Argentine--he was hanged eventually."

"Curious," mused the lawyer, "I have often thought I might be hanged, but
have never quite seen why--" He nearly added something else, but checked
himself.

Jimmy had the red envelope in his hand and was examining it closely. It
was heavily sealed with the lawyer's own seal, and bore the inscription
in Reale's crabbed, illiterate handwriting, "Puzzle Ideas."

He weighed it and pinched it. There was a little compact packet inside.

"I shall open this," said Jimmy decisively. "You, of course, have already
examined it."

The lawyer made no reply. Jimmy broke the seal of the envelope. Half his
mind was busy in speculation as to its contents, the other half was
engaged with the lawyer's plans. Jimmy was too experienced a man to be
deceived by the complaisance of the smooth Mr. Spedding. He watched his
every move. All the while he was engaged in what appeared to be a
concentrated examination of the packet his eyes never left the lawyer.
That Spedding made no sign was a further proof in Jimmy's eyes that the
coup was to come.

"We might as well examine the envelope upstairs as here," said the
lawyer. The other man nodded, and followed him from the cell. Spedding
closed the steel door and locked it, then turned to Jimmy.

"Do you notice," he said with some satisfaction, "how skilfully this
chamber is constructed?" He waved his hand round the larger vault, at the
iron racks and the shiny black boxes.

Jimmy was alert now. The lawyer's geniality was too gratuitous, his
remarks a trifle inapropos. It was like the lame introduction to a story
which the teller was anxious to drag in at all hazards.

"Here, for instance," said the lawyer, tapping one of the boxes, "is what
appears to be an ordinary deed box. As a matter of fact, it is an
ingenious device for trapping burglars, if they should by any chance
reach the vault. It is not opened by an ordinary key, but by the pressure
of a button, either in my room or here."

He walked leisurely to the end of the vault, Jimmy following.

For a man of his build Spedding was a remarkably agile man. Jimmy had
underrated his agility. He realized this when suddenly the lights went
out. Jimmy sprang for the lawyer, and struck the rough stone wall of the
vault. He groped quickly left and right, and grasped only the air.

"Keep quiet," commanded Spedding's calm voice from the other end of the
chamber, "and keep cool. I am going to show you my burglar catcher."

Jimmy's lingers were feeling along the wall for the switch that
controlled the lights. As if divining his intention, the lawyer's voice
said: "The lights are out of control, Jimmy, and I am fairly well out of
your reach."

"We shall see," was Jimmy's even reply.

"And if you start shooting you will only make the atmosphere of this
place a little more unbreathable than it is at present," Spedding went
on.

Jimmy smiled in the darkness, and the lawyer heard the snap of a Colt
pistol as his captive loaded.

"Did you notice the little ventilator?" asked the lawyer's voice again.
"Well, I am behind that. Between my unworthy body and your nickel bullets
there are two feet of solid masonry."

Jimmy made no reply, his pistol went back to his hip again. He had his
electric lamp in his pocket, but prudently kept it there. "Before we go
any further," he said slowly, "will you be good enough to inform me as to
your intentions?"

He wanted three minutes, he wanted them very badly; perhaps two minutes
would be enough. All the time the lawyer was speaking he was actively
employed. He had kicked off his shoes when the lights went out, and now
he stole round the room, his sensitive hands flying over the stony walls.

"As to my intentions," the lawyer was saying, "it must be fairly obvious
to you that I am not going to hand you over to the police. Rather, my
young friend, in the vulgar parlance of the criminal classes, I am going
to 'do you in', meaning thereby, if you will forgive the legal
terminology, that I shall assist you to another and, I hope, though I am
not sanguine, a better world."

He heard Jimmy's insolent laugh in the blackness.

"You are a man after my own heart, Jimmy," he went on regretfully. "I
could have wished that I might have been spared this painful duty; but it
is a duty, one that I owe to society and myself."

"You are an amusing person," said Jimmy's voice.

"I am glad you think so. Jimmy, my young friend, I am afraid our
conversation must end here. Do you know anything of chemistry?"

"A little."

"Then you will appreciate my burglar catcher," said Spedding, with
uncanny satisfaction. "You, perhaps, noticed the japanned box with the
perforated lid? You did? Good! There are two compartments, and two
chemicals in certain quantities kept apart. My hand is on the key now
that will combine them. When cyanide of potassium is combined with
sulphuric acid, do you know what gas is formed?"

Jimmy did not reply. He had found what he had been searching for. His
talk with the Spanish builder had been to some purpose. It was a little
stony projection from the wall. He pressed it downward, and was sensible
of a sensation of coldness. He reached out his hand, and found where
solid wall had been a blank space.

"Do you hear, Jimmy?" asked the lawyer's voice.

"I hear," replied Jimmy, and felt for the edge of the secret door. His
fingers sliding down the smooth surface of the flange encountered the two
catches.

"It is hydrocyanic acid," said the lawyer's smooth voice, and Jimmy heard
the snap of the button. "Goodbye," said the lawyer's voice again, and
Jimmy reeled back through the open doorway swinging the door behind him,
and carrying with him a whiff of air heavily laden with the scent of
almonds.




CHAPTER VII


WHAT THE RED ENVELOPE HELD



"MY dear Angel," wrote Jimmy, "I commend to you one Mr. Spedding, an
ingenious man. If by chance you ever wish to visit him, do so in business
hours. If you desire to examine his most secret possession, effect an
entrance into a dreary-looking house at the corner of Cley's Road, a
stone's-throw from 'High Holly Lodge'. It is marked in plain characters
'To Let,' In the basement you will find a coal-cellar. Searching the
coal-cellar diligently, you will discover a flight of stone steps leading
to a subterranean passage, which burrows under the ground until it
arrives at friend Spedding's particular private vault. If this reads like
a leaf torn from Dumas or dear Harrison Ainsworth it is not my fault. I
visited our legal adviser last night, and had quite a thrilling evening.
That I am alive this morning is a tribute to my caution and foreseeing
wisdom. The result of my visit is this: I have the key of the 'safe-word'
in my hands. Come and get it."

Angel found the message awaiting him when he reached Scotland Yard that
morning. He too had spent sleepless hours in a futile attempt to unravel
the mystery of old Reale's doggerel verse.

A telegram brought Kathleen Kent to town. Angel met her at a quiet
restaurant in Rupert Street, and was struck by the delicate beauty of
this slim girl with the calm, gray eyes. She greeted him with a sad
little smile.

"I was afraid you would never see me again after my outburst of the other
night," she said. "This--this--person is a friend of yours?"

"Jimmy?" asked the detective cheerily. "Oh, yes, Jimmy's by way of being
a friend; but he deserved all you said, and he knows it, Miss Kent."

The girl's face darkened momentarily as she thought of Jimmy. "I shall
never understand," she said slowly, "how a man of his gifts allowed
himself to become--"

"But," protested the detective, "he told you he took no part in the
decoying of your father."

The girl turned with open-eyed astonishment. "Surely you do not expect me
to believe his excuses," she cried.

Angel Esquire looked grave. "That is just what I should ask you to
believe," he said quietly. "Jimmy makes no excuses, and he would
certainly tell no lie in extenuation of his faults."

"But--but," said Kathleen, bewildered, "he is a thief by his own
showing--a bad man."

"A thief," said Angel soberly, "but not a bad man. Jimmy is a puzzle to
most people. To me he is perfectly understandable; that is because I have
too much of the criminal in my own composition, perhaps."

"I wish, oh, how I wish I had your faith in him! Then I could absolve him
from suspicion of having helped ruin my poor father."

"I think you can do that," said the detective almost eagerly. "Believe
me, Jimmy is not to be judged by conventional standards. If you ask me to
describe him, I would say that he is a genius who works in an eccentric
circle that sometimes overlaps, sometimes underreaches the rigid circle
of the law. If you asked me as a policeman, and if I was his bitterest
enemy, what I could do with Jimmy, I should say, 'Nothing'. I know of no
crime with which I could charge him, save at times with associating with
doubtful characters. As a matter of fact, that equally applies to me.
Listen, Miss Kent. The first big international case I figured in was a
gigantic fraud on the Egyptian Bank. Some four hundred thousand pounds
were involved, and whilst from the outsider's point of view Jimmy was
beyond suspicion, yet we who were working at the case suspected him, and
pretty strongly. The men who owned the bank were rich Egyptians, and the
head of all was a Somebody-or-other-Pasha, as great a scoundrel as ever
drew breath. It is impossible to tell a lady exactly how big a scoundrel
he was, but you may guess. Well, the Pasha knew it was Jimmy who had done
the trick, and we knew, but we dare not say so. The arrest of Jimmy would
have automatically ruined the banker. That was where I realized the kind
of man I had to deal with, and I am always prepared when Jimmy's name is
mentioned in connection with a big crime to discover that his victim
deserved all he got, and a little more."

The girl gave a little shiver. "It sounds dreadful. Cannot such a man as
that employ his talents to a greater advantage?"

Angel shrugged his shoulders despairingly. "I've given up worrying about
misapplied talents; it is a subject that touches me too closely," he
said. "But as to Jimmy, I'm rather glad you started the conversation in
that direction, because I'm going to ask you to meet him today."

"Oh, but I couldn't," she began.

"You are thinking of what happened on the night the will was read? Well,
you must forget that. Jimmy has the key to the verse, and it is
absolutely imperative that you should be present this afternoon."

With some demur, she consented. In the sitting-room of Jimmy's flat the
three sat round a table littered with odds and ends of papers. The girl
had met him with some trepidation, and his distant bow had done more to
assure her than had he displayed a desire to rehabilitate himself in her
good opinion.

Without any preliminaries, Jimmy showed the contents of the packet. He
did not explain to the girl by what means he had come into possession of
them.

"Of all these papers," began Jimmy, tapping the letter before him, "only
one is of any service, and even that makes confusion worse confounded.
Reale had evidently had this cursed cryptogram in his mind for a long
time. He had made many experiments, and rejected many. Here is one."

He pushed over a card, which bore a few words in Reale's characteristic
hand. Angel read:--

"The word of five letters I will use, namely: 1. White every 24 sec. 2.
Fixed white and red. 3. White group two every 30 sec. 4. Group occ.
white red sec. 30 sec. 5. Fixed white and red."

Underneath was written:

"No good; too easy."

The detective's brows were bent in perplexity. "I'm blessed if I can see
where the easiness comes in," he said. "To me it seems so much gibberish,
and as difficult as the other."

Jimmy noted the detective's bewilderment with a quiet smile of
satisfaction. He did not look directly at the girl, but out of the corner
of his eyes he could see her eager young face bent over the card, her
pretty forehead wrinkled in a despairing attempt to decipher the curious
document.

"Yet it was easy," he said, "and if Reale had stuck to that word, the
safe would have been opened by now."

Angel pored over the mysterious clue. "The word, as far as I can gather,"
said Jimmy, "is 'smock,' but it may be--"

"How on earth--" began Angel in amazement.

"Oh, it's easy," said Jimmy cheerfully, "and I am surprised that an old
traveller like yourself should have missed it."

"Group occ. white red sec. 30 sec.," read Angel.

Jimmy laughed.

It was the first time the girl had seen this strange man throw aside his
habitual restraint, and she noted with an unaccountable satisfaction that
he was decidedly handsome when amused.

"Let me translate it for you," said Jimmy. "Let me expand it into, 'Group
occulting White with Red Sectors every Thirty Seconds.' Now do you
understand?"

Angel shook his head. "You may think I am shockingly dense," he said
frankly, "but even with your lucid explanation I am still in the dark."

Jimmy chuckled. "Suppose you went to Dover tonight, and sat at the end of
the Admiralty Pier. It is a beautiful night, with stars in the sky, and
you are looking toward France, and you see--?"

"Nothing," said Angel slowly; "a few ships' lights, perhaps, and the
flash of the Calais Lighthouse--"

"The occulting flash?" suggested Jimmy.

"The occ.! By Jove!"

"Glad you see it," said Jimmy briskly. "What old Reale did was to take
the names of five famous lights--any nautical almanac will give you
them: Sanda. Milford Haven. Orkneys. Caldy Island. Kinnaird Head. They
form an acrostic, and the initial letters form the work 'smock '; but it
was too easy--and too hard, because there are two or three lights,
particularly the fixed lights, that are exactly the same, so he dropped
that idea."

Angel breathed an admiring sigh. "Jimmy, you're a wonder," he said
simply.

Jimmy, busying himself amongst the papers, stole a glance at the girl.

"I am very human," he thought, and was annoyed at the discovery.

"Now we come to the more important clue," he said, and smoothed a
crumpled paper on the table. "This, I believe, to have a direct bearing
on the verse."

Then three heads came close together over the scrawled sheet.

"A picture of a duck, which means T," spelt Angel, "and that's erased;
and then it is a snake that means T--"

Jimmy nodded.

"In Reale's verse," he said deliberately, "there are six words; outside
of those six words I am convinced the verse has no meaning. Six words
strung together, and each word in capitals. Listen."

He took from his pocketbook the familiar slip on which the verse was
written:

"Here's a puzzle in language old,
Find my meaning and get my gold.
Take one BOLT--just one, no more--
Fix it on behind a DOOR.
Place it at a river's MOUTH
East or west or north or south.
Take some LEAVES and put them whole
In some WATER in a BOWL.
I found this puzzle in a book
From which some mighty truths were took."

"There are six words," said Jimmy, and scribbled them down as he spoke:

"Bolt (or Bolts). Leave (or Leaves). Door. Water. Mouth. Bowl. Each one
stands for a letter--but what letter?"

"It's rather hopeless if the old man has searched round for all sorts of
out-of-the-way objects, and allowed them to stand for letters of the
alphabet," said Angel.

The girl murmured something, and met Jimmy's inquiring eyes.

"I was only saying," she said hesitatingly, "that there seems to be a
method in all this."

"Except," said Jimmy, "for this," and he pointed to the crossed-out duck.

"By that it would seem that Reale chose his symbols hap-hazard, and that
the duck not pleasing him, he substituted the snake."

"But," said Kathleen, addressing Angel, "doesn't it seem strange that an
illiterate man like Mr. Reale should make even these rough sketches
unless he had a model to draw from?"

"Miss Kent is right," said Jimmy quickly.

"And," she went on, gaining confidence as she spoke, "is there not
something about these drawings that reminds you of something?"

"Of what?" asked Angel.

"I cannot tell," she replied, shaking her head; "and yet they remind me
of something, and worry me, just as a bar of music that I cannot play
worries me. I feel sure that I have seen them before, that they form a
part of some system--" She stopped suddenly. "I know," she continued in
a lower voice; "they are associated in my mind--with--with the Bible."

The two men stared at her in blank astonishment.

Then Jimmy sprang to his feet, alight with excitement. "Yes, yes," he
cried. "Angel, don't you see? The last two lines of Reale's doggerel--

"'I found this puzzle in a book
From which some mighty truths were took'"

"Go on, go on, Miss Kent," cried Angel eagerly. "You are on the right
track. Try to think--"

Kathleen hesitated, then turned to Jimmy to address the first remark she
had directed to him personally that day.

"You haven't got--?"

Jimmy's smile was a little hard. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, Miss Kent,
but I have got a copy," he said, with a touch of bitterness in his tone.

He walked to the bookcase at one end of the room and reached down the
book--a well-worn volume--and placed it before her.

The rebuke in his voice was deserved, she felt that. She turned the
leaves over quickly, but inspiration seemed to have died, for there was
nothing in the sacred volume that marshalled her struggling thoughts.

"Is it a text?" asked Angel.

She shook her head. "It is--something," she said. "That sounds vague,
doesn't it? I thought if I had the book in my hand, it would recall
everything."

Angel was intently studying the rebus. "Here's one letter, anyway. You
said that, Jimmy?"

"The door?" said Jimmy. "Yes, that's fairly evident. Whatever the word
is, its second letter is 'P'. You see Reale's scribbled notes? All these
are no good, the other letters are best, I suppose it means; so we can
cut out 'T,' 'O,' and 'K'. The best clue of all," he went on, "is the
notes about the 'professor'. You see them:

"Mem: To get the professor's new book on it.

"Mem: To do what the professor thinks right.

"Mem: To write to professor about--'

"Now the questions are: Who is the professor, what is his book, and what
did he advise? Reale was in correspondence with him, that is certain; in
his desire for accuracy, Reale sought his advice. In all these papers
there is no trace of a letter, and if any book exists it is still in
Sped--it is still in the place from whence this red envelope came."

The two men exchanged a swift glance.

"Yes," said Angel, as if answering the other's unspoken thought, "it
might be done."

The girl looked from one to the other in doubt.

"Does this mean an extra risk?" she asked quietly. "I have not questioned
you as to how this red envelope came into your possession, but I have a
feeling that it was not obtained without danger."

Angel disregarded Jimmy's warning frown. He was determined that the
better side of his strange friend's character should be made evident to
the girl.

"Jimmy faced death in a particularly unpleasant form to secure the
packet, Miss Kent," he said.

"Then I forbid any further risk," she said spiritedly. "I thought I had
made it clear that I would not accept favours at your friend's hands;
least of all do I want the favour of his life."

Jimmy heard her unmoved. He had a bitter tongue when he so willed, and he
chose that moment. "I do not think you can too strongly impress upon Miss
Kent the fact that I am an interested party in this matter," he said
acidly. "As she refused my offer to forego my claim to a share of the
fortune, she might remember that my interest in the legacy is at least as
great as hers. I am risking what I risk, not so much from the beautifully
quixotic motives with which she doubtless credits me, as from a natural
desire to help myself."

She winced a little at the bluntness of his speech; then recognizing she
was in the wrong, she grew angry with herself at her indiscretion.

"If the book is--where these papers were, it can be secured," Jimmy
continued, regaining his suavity. "If the professor is still alive he
will be found, and by to-morrow I shall have in my possession a list of
every book that has ever been written by a professor of anything." Some
thought tickled him, and he laughed for the second time that afternoon.
"There's a fine course of reading for us all," he said with a little
chuckle. "Heaven knows into what mysterious regions the literary
professor will lead us. I know one professor who has written a treatise
on Sociology that runs into ten volumes, and another who has spoken his
mind on Inductive Logic to the extent of twelve hundred closely-printed
pages. I have in my mind's eye a vision of three people sitting amidst a
chaos of thoughtful literature, searching ponderous tomes for esoteric
references to bolts, door, mouth, et cetera."

The picture he drew was too much for the gravity of the girl, and her
friendship with the man who was professedly a thief, and by inference
something worse, began with a ripple of laughter that greeted his sally.

Jimmy gathered up the papers, and carefully replaced them in the
envelope. This he handed to Angel.  "Place this amongst the archives,"
he said flippantly.

"Why not keep it here?" asked Angel in surprise.

Jimmy walked to one of the three French windows that opened on to a small
balcony. He took a rapid survey of the street, then beckoned to Angel.
"Do you see that man?" He pointed to a lounger sauntering along on the
opposite sidewalk. "Yes."

Jimmy walked back to the centre of the room. "That's why," he said
simply. "There will be a burglary here tonight or tomorrow night. People
aren't going to let a fortune slip through their fingers without making
some kind of effort to save it."

"What people?" demanded the girl. "You mean those dreadful men who took
me away?"

"That is very possible," said Jimmy, "although I was thinking of somebody
else."

The girl had put on her wrap, and stood irresolutely near the door, and
Angel was waiting. "Goodbye," she said hesitatingly. "I--I am afraid I
have done you an injustice, and--and I want to thank you for all you
have undergone for me. I know--I feel that I have been ungracious, and--"

"You have done me no injustice," said Jimmy in a low voice. "I am all
that you thought I was--and worse."

She held out her hand to him, and he raised it to his lips, which was
unlike Jimmy.




CHAPTER VIII


OLD GEORGE



A STRANGER making a call in that portion of North Kensington which lies
in the vicinity of Ladbroke Grove by some mischance lost his way. He
wandered through many prosperous crescents and quiet squares redolent of
the opulence of the upper middle classes, through broad avenues where
neat broughams stood waiting in small carriage-drives, and once he
blundered into a tidy mews, where horsy men with great hissings made
ready the chariots of the Notting Hill plutocracy. It may be that he was
in no particular hurry to arrive at his destination, this stranger--who
has nothing to do with the story--but certainly he did not avail himself
of opportunity in the shape of a passing policeman, and continued his
aimless wanderings. He found Kensington Park Road, a broad thoroughfare
of huge gardens and walled forecourts, then turned into a side street. He
walked about twenty paces, and found himself in the heart of slum-land.
It is no ordinary slum this little patch of property that lies between
Westbourne Grove and Kensington Park Road. There are no tumbled-down
hovels or noisome passages; there are streets of houses dignified with
flights of steps that rise to pretentious street doors and areas where
long dead menials served the need of the lower middle classes of other
days. The streets are given over to an army of squalling children in
varying styles of dirtiness, and the halls of these houses are bare of
carpet or covering, and in some the responsibility of leasehold is shared
by eight or nine families, all pigging together. They are streets of
slatternly women, who live at their front doors, arms rolled under
discoloured aprons, and on Saturday nights one street at least deserves
the pithy but profane appellation which the police have given it--"
Little Hell." In this particular thoroughfare it is held that of all
sins the greatest is that which is associated--with "spying." A "spy"
is a fairly comprehensive phrase in Cawdor Street. It may mean
policeman, detective, school--board official, rent collector, or the
gentleman appointed by the gas company to extract pennies from the
slot-meters.

To Cawdor Street came a man who rented one of the larger houses. To the
surprise of the agent, he offered his rent monthly in advance; to the
surprise of the street, he took no lodgers. It was the only detached
house in that salubrious road, and was No. 49. The furniture came by
night, which is customary amongst people who concentrate their last
fluttering rag of pride upon the respectability of their household goods.
Cawdor Street, on the qui vive for the lady of the house, learns with
genuine astonishment that there was none, and that the new-comer was a
bachelor. Years ago No. 49 had been the abode of a jobbing builder, hence
the little yard gate that flanked one side; and it was with satisfaction
that the Cawdor Streeters discovered that the new occupant intended
reviving the ancient splendour of the establishment. At any rate, a board
was prominently displayed, bearing the inscription:

J. JONES, BUILDER AND CONTRACTOR.

and the inquisitive Mr. Lane (of 76), who caught a momentary vision of
the yard through the gate, observed "Office" printed in fairly large
letters over the side door. At stated hours, mostly in the evening,
roughly-dressed men called at the "Office," stayed a while, and went
away. Two dilapidated ladders made their appearance in the yard,
conspicuously lifting their perished rungs above the gate level.

"I tried to buy an old builder's cart and wheelbarrow today," said "Mr.
Jones" to a workman. "I'll probably get it tomorrow at my own price, and
it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a few sacks of lime and a couple of
cartloads of sand and bricks in, also a few road pitchers to give it a
finishing touch."

The workman grinned. "You've got this place ready in time, Connor," he
said. Mr. Connor--for such "J. Jones, Builder and Contractor" was--nodded
and picked his teeth meditatively with a match stick.

"I've seen for a long time the other place was useless," he said with a
curse. "It was bad luck that Angel found us there last week. I've been
fixing up this house for a couple of months. It's a nice neighbourhood,
where people don't go nosing around, and the boys can meet here without
anybody being the wiser."

"And old George?"

"We'll settle him tonight," said the other with a frown. "Bat is bringing
him over, and I want to know how he came to let Angel get at us."

Old George had always been a problem to the "Borough Lot." He held the
position of trust that many contended no demented old man should hold.

"Was it safe or sane to trust him with the plate that had been so
laboriously acquired from Roebury House, and the jewels of Lady Ivy
Task-Hender, for the purloining of which one "Hog" Stander was at that
very moment doing seven stretch? Was it wise to install him as custodian
of the empty house at Blackwall, through which Angel Esquire gained
admittance to the meeting-place of the "Borough Lot"? Some there were who
said "Yes," and these included the powerful faction that numbered "Bat"
Sands, "Curt" Goyle, and Connor amongst them. They contended that
suspicion would never rest on this half-witted old gentleman, with his
stuffed birds, his goldfish, caged rabbits and mice, a view that was
supported by the fact that Lady Ivy's priceless diamonds lay concealed
for months in the false bottom of a hutch devoted to guinea pigs in old
George's strange menagerie, what time the police were turning London
inside out in their quest for the property."

But now old George was under a cloud. Notwithstanding the fact that he
had been found amongst his live stock securely bound to a chair, with a
handkerchief over his mouth, suspicion attached to him. How had Angel
worked away in the upper room without old George's knowledge? Angel might
have easily explained. Indeed, Angel might have relieved their minds to a
very large extent in regard to old George, for in marking down the haunt
of the "Borough Lot" he had been entirely deceived as to the part played
by the old man who acted as "caretaker" to the "empty" house. In a
four-wheeled cab old George, smiling foolishly and passing his hand from
time to time over his tremulous mouth, listened to the admonitions of Mr.
Bat Sands.

"Connor wants to know all about it," said Bat menacingly, "and if you
have been playing tricks, old man, the Lord help you."

"The Lord help me," smiled old George complacently. He ran his dirty
lingers through his few scanty white locks, and the smile died out of his
face, and his loose mouth dropped pathetically.

"Mr. Sands," he said, then stopped; then he repeated the name to himself
a dozen times; then he rubbed his head again. Bat, leaning forward to
catch what might be a confession, sank back again in his seat and swore
softly.

In the house of "J. Jones, Builder and Contractor," were gathered in
strength the men who composed the "Borough Lot."

"Suppose he gave us away," asked Goyle, "what shall we do with him?"

There was little doubt as to the feeling of the meeting. A low animal
growl, startling in its ferocity, ran through the gathering.

"If he's given us away"--it was Vinnis with his dull fishlike eyes
turned upon Connor who was talking--"why, we must 'out' him."

"You're talking like a fool," said Connor contemptuously. "If he has
given us away, you may rest assured that he is no sooner in this house
than the whole place will be surrounded by police. If Angel knows old
George is one of us, he'll be watched day and night, and the cab that
brings him will be followed by another bringing Angel. No, I'll stake my
life on the old man. But I want to know how Mr. Cursed Angel got into the
house next door."

They had not long to wait, for Bat's knock came almost as Connor finished
speaking. Half led, half dragged into the room, old George stood,
fumbling his hat in his hand, smiling helplessly at the dark faces that
met his. He muttered something under his breath. "What's that?" asked
Connor sharply. "I said, a gentleman--" began old George, then lapsed
into silence. "What gentleman?" asked Connor roughly.

"I am speaking of myself," said the old man, and there came into his face
a curious expression of dignity. "I say, and I maintain, that a gentleman
is a gentleman whatever company he affects. At my old college I once
reproved an undergraduate." He was speaking with stately, almost pompous
distinctness. "I said, 'There is an axiom to which I would refer you, De
gustibus non est disputandum, and--and--'"

His shaking fingers went up again to the tell-tale mouth, and the vacant
smile came back.

"Look here," said Connor, shaking his arm, "we don't want to know
anything about your damned college; we want to know how Angel got into
our crib."

The old man looked puzzled. "Yes, yes," he muttered; "of course, Mr.
Connor, you have been most kind--the crib--ah!--the young man who
wanted to rent or hire the room upstairs."

"Yes, yes," said Connor eagerly.

"A most admirable young man," old George rambled on, "but very
inquisitive. I remember once, when I was addressing a large congregation
of young men at Cheltenham--or it may have been young ladies--"

"Curse the man!" cried Goyle in a fury. "Make him answer, or stop his
mouth."

Connor warned him back. "Let him talk in his own way," he said.

"This admirable person," the old man went on, happily striking on the
subject again, "desired information that I was not disposed to give, Mr.
Connor, remembering your many kindnesses, particularly in respect to one
Mr. Vinnis."

"Yes, go on," urged Connor, and the face of Vinnis was tense.

"I fear there are times when my usually active mind takes on a
sluggishness which is foreign to my character--my normal character"--old
George was again the pedant--"when the unobservant stranger might
be deceived into regarding me as a negligible quantity. The admirable
young man so far treated me as such as to remark to his companion that
there was a rope--yes, distinctly a rope--for the said Mr. Vinnis."

The face of Vinnis was livid.

"And," asked Connor, "What happened next? There were two of them, were
there?"

The old man nodded gravely; he nodded a number of times, as though the
exercise pleased him. "The other young man--not the amiable one, but
another--upon finding that I could not rent or hire the rooms--as
indeed I could not, Mr. Connor, without your permission--engaged me in
conversation--very loudly he spoke, too--on the relative values of
cabbage and carrot as food for herbaceous mammals. Where the amiable
gentleman was at that moment I cannot say--"

"I can guess," thought Connor.

"I can remember the occasion well," old George continued, "because that
night I was alarmed and startled by strange noises from the empty rooms
upstairs, which I very naturally and properly concluded were caused--"
He stopped, and glancing fearfully about the room, went on in a lower
tone. "By certain spirits," he whispered mysteriously, and pointed and
leered first at one and then another of the occupants of the room. There
was something very eerie in the performance of the strange old man with
the queerly working face, and more than one hardened criminal present
shivered a little.

Connor broke the silence that fell on the room. "So that's how it was
done, eh? One held you in conversation while the other got upstairs and
hid himself? Well, boys, you've heard the old man. What d'ye say?" Vinnis
shifted in his seat and turned his great unemotional face to where the
old man stood, still fumbling with his hat and muttering to himself
beneath his breath; in some strange region whither his poor wandering
mind had taken him he was holding a conversation with an imaginary
person. Connor could see his eyebrows working, and caught scraps of
sentences, now in some strange dead tongue, now in the stilted English of
the schoolmaster. It was Vinnis who spoke for the assembled company.

"The old man knows a darned sight too much," he said in his level tone.

"I'm for--" He did not finish his sentence. Connor took a swift survey
of the men. "If there is any man here," he said slowly, "who wants to
wake up at seven o'clock in the morning and meet a gentleman who will
strap his hands behind him and a person who will pray over him--if
there's any man here that wants a short walk after breakfast between two
lines of warders to a little shed where a brand new rope is hanging from
the roof, he's at liberty to do what he likes with old George, but not in
this house."

He fixed his eyes on Vinnis.

"And if there's any man here," he went on, "who's already in the shadow
of the rope, so that one or two murders more won't make much difference
one way or the other, he can do as he likes--outside this house."

Vinnis shrank back.

"There's nothing against me," he growled.

"The rope," muttered the old man, "Vinnis for the rope," he chuckled to
himself. "I fear they counted too implicitly upon the fact that I am not
always quite myself--Vinnis--"

The man he spoke of sprang to his feet with a snarl like a trapped beast.

"Sit down, you." Bat Sands, with his red head close cropped, thrust his
chair in the direction of the infuriated Vinnis. "What Connor says is
true--we're not going to croak the old man, and we're not going to croak
ourselves. If we hang, it will be something worth hanging for. As to the
old man, he's soft, an' that's all you can say. He's got to be kept
close--"

A rap at the door cut him short. "Who's that?" he whispered.

Connor tiptoed to the locked door. "Who's there?" he demanded.

A familiar voice reassured him, and he opened the door and held a
conversation in a low voice with somebody outside. "There's a man who
wants to see me," he said in explanation. "Lock the door after I leave,
Bat," and he went out quickly. Not a word was spoken, but each after his
own fashion of reasoning drew some conclusion from Connor's hasty
departure.

"A full meetin'," croaked a voice from the back of the room. "We're all
asked here by Connor. Is it a plant?"

That was Bat's thought too. "No," he said; "there's nothin' against us.
Why, Angel let us off only last week because there wasn't evidence, an'
Connor's straight."

"I don't trust him, by God!" said Vinnis. "I trust nobody," said Bat
doggedly, "but Connor's straight--"

There was a rap on the door. "Who's there?"

"All right!" said the muffled voice. Bat unlocked the door, and Connor
came in. What he had seen or what he had heard had brought about a
marvellous change in his appearance--his cheeks were a dull red, and his
eyes blazed with triumph. "Boys," he said, and they caught the infectious
thrill in his voice, "I've got the biggest thing for you--a million
pounds, share and share alike."

He felt rather than heard the excitement his words caused. He stood with
his back to the half-opened door.

"I'm going to introduce a new pal," he rattled on breathlessly. "I'll
vouch for him."

"Who is he?" asked Bat. "Do we know him?"

"No," said Connor, "and you're not expected to know him. But he's putting
up the money, and that's good enough for you, Bat--a hundred pounds a
man, and it will be paid tonight." Bat Sands spat on his hand. "Bring him
in. He's good enough," and there was a murmur of approval. Connor
disappeared for a moment, and returned followed by a well-dressed
stranger, who met the questioning glances of his audience with a quiet
smile.

His eyes swept over every face. They rested for a moment on Vinnis, they
looked doubtfully at old George, who, seated on a chair with crossed legs
and his head bent, was talking with great rapidity in an undertone to
himself.

"Gentlemen," said the stranger, "I have come with the object of gaining
your help. Mr. Connor has told me that he has already informed you about
Reale's millions. Briefly, I have decided to forestall other people, and
secure the money for myself. I offer you a half share of the money, to be
equally divided amongst you, and as an earnest of my intention, I am
paying each man who is willing to help me a hundred pounds down."

He drew from one of his pockets a thick package of notes, and from two
other pockets similar bundles. He handed them to Connor, and the hungry
eyes of the "Borough Lot" focused upon the crinkling paper.

"What I shall ask you to do," the stranger proceeded, "I shall tell you
later--"

"Wait a bit," interrupted Bat. "Who else is in this?"

"We alone," replied the man.

"Is Jimmy in it?"

"No."

"Is Angel in it?"

"No" (impatiently).

"Go on," said Bat, satisfied.

"The money is in a safe that can only be opened by a word. That word
nobody knows--so far. The clue to the word was stolen a few nights ago
from the lawyer in charge of the case by--Jimmy." He paused to note the
effect of his words.

"Jimmy has passed the clue on to Scotland Yard, and we cannot hope to get
it."

"Well?" demanded Bat.

"What we can do," the other went on, "is to open the safe with something
more powerful than a word."

"But the guard!" said Bat. "There's an armed guard kept there by the
lawyer."

"We can arrange about the guard," said the other. "Why not get at the
lawyer?" It was Curt Goyle who made the suggestion. The stranger frowned.
"The lawyer cannot be got at," he said shortly. "Now, are you with me?"

There was no need to ask. Connor was sorting the notes into little
bundles on the table, and the men came up one by one, took their money,
and after a few words with Connor took their leave, with an awkward
salutation to the stranger.

Bat was the last to go. "Tomorrow night--here," muttered Connor.

He was left alone with the new-comer, save for the old man, who hadn't
changed his attitude, and was still in the midst of some imaginary
conversation.

"Who is this?" the stranger demanded.

Connor smiled. "An old chap as mad as a March hare. A gentleman, too, and
a scholar; talks all sorts of mad languages--Latin and Greek and the
Lord knows what. He's been a schoolmaster, I should say, and what brought
him down to this--drink or drugs or just ordinary madness--I don't
know."

The stranger looked with interest at the unconscious man, and old George,
as if suddenly realizing that he was under scrutiny, woke up with a start
and sat blinking at the other. Then he shuffled slowly to his feet and
peered closely into the stranger's face, all the time sustaining his
mumbled conversation.

"Ah," he said in a voice rising from its inaudibility, "a gentleman!
Pleased to meet you, sir, pleased to meet you. Omnia mutantur, nos et
mutamur in illis, but you have not changed." He relapsed again into
mutterings.

"I have never met him before," the stranger said, turning to Connor.

"Oh, old George always thinks he has met people," said Connor with a
grin.

"A gentleman," old George muttered, "every inch a gentleman, and a
munificent patron. He bought a copy of my book--you have read it? It is
called--dear me, I have forgotten what it is called--and sent to
consult me in his--ah !--anagram--"

"What?" The stranger's face was ashen, and he gripped Connor by the arm.

"Listen, listen!" he whispered fiercely. Old George threw up his head
again and stared blandly at the stranger.

"A perfect gentleman," he said with pathetic insolence, "invariably
addressing me as the 'professor'--a most delicate and gentlemanly thing
to do."

He pointed a triumphant linger to the stranger. "I know you!" he cried
shrilly, and his cracked laugh rang through the room. "Spedding, that's
your name! Lawyer, too. I saw you in the carriage of my patron."

"The book, the book!" gasped Spedding. "What was the name of your book?
" Old George's voice had dropped to its normal level when he replied with
extravagant courtesy--"That is the one thing, sir, I can never
remember."




CHAPTER IX


THE GREAT ATTEMPT

THERE are supercilious critics who sneer at Scotland Yard. They are quite
unofficial critics, of course, writers of stories wherein figure amateur
detectives of abnormal perspicuity, unravelling mysteries with consummate
ease which have baffled the police for years. As a matter of fact,
Scotland Yard stands for the finest police organization in the world.
People who speak glibly of "police blunders" might remember one curious
fact: in this last quarter of a century only one man has ever stood in
the dock at the Old Bailey under the capital charge who has escaped the
dread sentence of the law. Scotland Yard is patiently slow and terribly
sure.

Angel in his little room received a letter written in a sprawling,
uneducated hand; it was incoherent and stained with tears and underlined
from end to end. He read it through and examined the date stamp, then
rang his bell. The messenger who answered him found him examining a map
of London.

"Go to the Record Office, and get EB. 93", he said, and in five minutes
the messenger came back with a thick folder bulging with papers. There
were newspaper cuttings and plans and dreadful photographs, the like of
which the outside world do not see, and there was a little key ticketed
with an inscription.

Angel looked through the dossier carefully, then read the woman's letter
again...

Vinnis, the man with the dead-white face, finishing his late breakfast,
and with the pleasurable rustle of new banknotes in his trouser pocket,
strolled forth into Commercial Road, E. An acquaintance leaning against a
public-house gave him a curt nod of recognition; a bedraggled girl
hurrying homeward with her man's breakfast in her apron shrank on one
side, knowing Vinnis to her sorrow; a stray cur cringed up to him, as he
stood for a moment at the edge of the road, and was kicked for its pains.
Vinnis was entirely without sentiment, and besides, even though the money
in his pocket compensated for most things, the memory of old George and
his babbling talk worried him.

Somebody on the other side of the road attracted his attention. It was a
woman, and he knew her very well, therefore he ignored her beckoning
hand. Two days ago he had occasion to reprove her, and he had seized the
opportunity to summarily dissolve the informal union that had kept them
together for five years. So he made no sign when the woman with the
bruised face called him, but turned abruptly and walked towards Aldgate.
He did not look round, but by and by he heard the patter of her feet
behind, and once his name called hoarsely. He struck off into a side
street with a raging devil inside him, then when they reached an
unfrequented part of the road he turned on her.

She saw the demon in his eyes, and tried to speak. She was a penitent
woman at that moment, and hysterically ripe for confession, but the
savage menace of the man froze her lips.

"So," he said, his thin mouth askew, "so after what I've said an' what
I've done you follow me, do you. Showing me up in the street, eh!" He
edged closer to her, his fist doubled, and she, poor drab, fascinated by
the snakelike glare of his dull eyes, stood rooted to the spot. Then with
a snarl he struck her--once, twice--and she fell a huddled, moaning
heap on the pavement.

You may do things in Commercial Road, E., after "lighting-up time" that
are not permissible in the broad light of the day, unless it be Saturday,
and the few people who had been attracted by the promise of a row were
indignant but passive, after the manner of all London crowds. Not so one
quiet, middle-aged man, who confronted Vinnis as he began to walk away.

"That was a particularly brutal thing to do," said the quiet man. Vinnis
measured him with his eye, and decided that this was not a man to be
trifled with.

"I've got nothing to say to you," he said roughly, and tried to push
past, but an iron grip was on his arm.

"Wait a moment, my friend," said the other steadily, "not so fast; you
cannot commit a brutal assault in the open street like that without
punishment. I must ask you to walk with me to the station."

"Suppose I won't go?" demanded Vinnis.

"I shall take you," said the other. "I am Detective-Sergeant Jarvis
from Scotland Yard."

Vinnis thought rapidly. There wasn't much chance of escape; the street
they were in was a cul-de-sac, and at the open end two policemen had made
their appearance. After all, a "wife" assault was not a serious business,
and the woman--well, she would swear it was an accident. He resolved to
go quietly; at the worst it would be a month, so with a shrug of his
shoulders he accompanied the detective. A small crowd followed them to
the station. In the little steel dock he stood in his stockinged feet
whilst a deft jailer ran his hands over him. With a stifled oath, he
remembered the money in his possession; it was only ten pounds, for he
had secreted the other, but ten pounds is a lot of money to be found on a
person of his class, and generally leads to embarrassing inquiries. To
his astonishment, the jailer who relieved him of the notes seemed in no
whit surprised, and the inspector at the desk took the discovery as a
matter of course. Vinnis remarked on the surprising number of constables
there were on duty in the charge room. Then--"What is the charge?"
asked the inspector, dipping his pen. "Wilful murder!" said a voice, and
Angel Esquire crossed the room from the inspector's office. "I charge
this man with having on the night of the 17th of February..." Vinnis,
dumb with terror and rage, listened to the crisp tones of the detective
as he detailed the particulars of an almost forgotten crime. It was the
story of a country house burglary, a man-servant who surprised the
thief, a light in the dark, a shot and a dead man lying in the big
drawing-room. It was an ordinary little tragedy, forgotten by everybody
save Scotland Yard; but year by year unknown men had pieced together the
scraps of evidence that had come to them; strand by strand had the rope
been woven that was to hang a cold-blooded murderer; last of all came the
incoherent letter from a jealous woman--Scotland Yard waits always for
a jealous woman--and the evidence was complete.

"Put him in No. 14", said the inspector. Then Vinnis woke up, and the
six men on duty in the charge room found their time fully occupied.
Vinnis was arrested, as Angel Esquire put it, "in the ordinary way of
business."

Hundreds of little things happen daily at Scotland Yard in the ordinary
way of business which, apparently unconnected one with the other, have an
extraordinary knack of being in some remote fashion related. A burglary
at Clapham was remarkable for the fact that a cumbersome mechanical toy
was carried away in addition to other booty. A street accident in the
Kingsland Road led to the arrest of a drunken carman. In the excitement
of the moment a sneak-thief purloined a parcel from the van, was chased
and captured. A weeping wife at the police station gave him a good
character as husband and father. "Only last week he brought my boy a fine
performin' donkey," An alert detective went home with her, recognized the
mechanical toy from the description, and laid by the heels the notorious
"Kingsland Road Lot."

The arrest of Vinnis was totally unconnected with Angel's investigations
into the mystery of Reale's millions. He knew him as a "Borough man," but
did not associate him with the search for the word. None the less, there
are certain formalities attached to the arrest of all bad criminals.
Angel Esquire placed one or two minor matters in the hands of
subordinates, and in two days one of these waited upon him in his office.
"The notes, sir," said the man, "were issued to Mr. Spedding on his
private account last Monday morning. Mr. Spedding is a lawyer, of the
firm of Spedding, Mortimer and Larach."

"Have you seen Mr. Spedding?" he asked. "Yes, sir. Mr. Spedding remembers
drawing the money and paying it away to a gentleman who was sailing to
America."

"A client?"

"So far as I can gather," said the subordinate, "the money was paid on
behalf of a client for services. Mr. Spedding would not particularize."

Angel Esquire made a little grimace. "Lawyers certainly do queer
things," he said dryly. "Does Mr. Spedding offer any suggestion as to
how the money came into this man's possession?"

"No, sir. He thinks he might have obtained it quite honestly. I
understand that the man who received the money was a shady sort of
customer."

"So I should imagine," said Angel Esquire. Left alone, he sat in deep
thought drawing faces on his blotting--pad. Then he touched a bell.

"Send Mr. Carter to me," he directed, and in a few minutes a bright-faced
youth, lingering an elementary moustache, was awaiting his orders.

"Carter," said Angel cautiously, "it must be very dull work in the
finger-print department?"

"I don't know, sir," said the other, a fairly enthusiastic ethnologist,
"we've got-"

"Carter," said Angel more cautiously still, "are you on for a lark?"

"Like a bird, sir," said Carter, unconsciously humorous.

"I want a dozen men, the sort of men who won't talk to reporters, and
will remain 'unofficial' so long as I want them to be," said Angel, and
he unfolded his plan. When the younger man had gone Angel drew a triangle
on the blotting-pad. "Spedding is in with the 'Borough Lot'", he put a
cross against one angle.

"Spedding knows I know," he put a cross at the apex. "I know that
Spedding knows I know," he marked the remaining angle. "It's Spedding's
move, and he'll move damn quick."

The Assistant Commissioner came into the room at that moment.

"Hullo, Angel!" he said, glancing at the figures on the pad. "What's
this, a new game?"

"It's an old game," said Angel truthfully, "but played in an entirely new
way."

Angel was not far wrong when he surmised that Spedding's move would be
immediate, and although the detective had reckoned without an unknown
factor, in the person of old George, yet a variety of circumstances
combined to precipitate the act that Angel anticipated. Not least of
these was the arrest of Vinnis. After his interview with old George,
Spedding had decided on a waiting policy. The old man had been taken to
the house at Clapham. Spedding had been prepared to wait patiently until
some freak of mind brought back the memory to the form of cryptogram he
had advised. A dozen times a day he asked the old man--"What is your
name?"

"Old George, only old George," was the invariable reply, with many
grins and noddings."

"But your real name, the name you had when you were a professor." But
this would only start the old man off on a rambling reminiscence of his
"munificent patron."

Connor came secretly to Clapham for orders. It was the night after Vinnis
had been arrested. "We've got to move at once, Mr. Connor," said the
lawyer. Connor sat in the chair that had held Jimmy a few nights
previous.

"It is no use waiting for the old man to talk, the earlier plan was
best."

"Has anything happened?" asked Connor. His one-time awe of the lawyer had
merged in the familiarity of conspiratorship.

"There was a detective at my office today inquiring about some notes that
were found on Vinnis. Angel Esquire will draw his own conclusions, and we
have no time to lose."

"We are ready," said Connor. "Then let it be tomorrow night. I will
withdraw the guard of commissionaires at the safe. I can easily justify
myself afterwards."

An idea struck Connor. "Why not send another lot of men to relieve them?
I can fix up some of the boys so that they'll look like commissionaires."

Spedding's eyes narrowed. "Yes," he said slowly, "it could be arranged--an
excellent idea." He paced the room with long, swinging strides, his
forehead puckered. "There are two reliefs," he said, "one in the morning
and one in the evening. I could send a note to the sergeant of the
morning relief telling him that I had arranged for a new set of night
men--I have changed them twice already, one cannot be too careful--and I
could give you the necessary authority to take over charge."

"Better still," said Connor, "instruct him to withdraw, leaving the place
empty, then our arrival will attract no notice. Lombard Street must be
used to the commissionaires going on guard."

"That is an idea," said Spedding, and sat down to write the letter.



The night of the great project turned out miserably wet. "So much the
better," muttered Connor, viewing the world from his Kensington fastness.
The room dedicated to the use of the master of the house was plainly
furnished, and on the bare deal table Connor had set his whisky down
whilst he peered through the rain-blurred windows at the streaming
streets.

"England for work and Egypt for pleasure," he muttered; "and if I get my
share of the money, and it will be a bigger share than my friend Spedding
imagines, it's little this cursed country will see of Mr. Patrick
Connor."

He drained oft his whisky at a gulp, rubbed the steam from the windows,
and looked down into the deserted street. Two men were walking toward the
house. One, well covered by a heavy mackintosh cloak, moved with a long
stride; the other, wrapped in a new overcoat, shuffled by his side,
quickening his steps to keep up with his more energetic companion.

"Spedding," said Connor, "and old George. What is he bringing him here
for?" He hurried downstairs to let them in. "Well?" asked Spedding,
throwing his reeking coat off.

"All's ready," answered Connor. "Why have you brought the old man?"

"Oh, for company," the lawyer answered carelessly. If the truth be told,
Spedding still hoped that the old man would remember. That day old George
had been exceedingly garrulous, almost lucidly so at times. Mr. Spedding
still held on to the faint hope that the old man's revelations would
obviate the necessity for employing the "Borough Lot," and what was more
important, for sharing the contents of the safe with them. As to this
latter part of the program, Mr. Spedding had plans which would have
astonished Connor had he but known. But old George's loquacity stopped
short at the all-important point of instructing the lawyer on the
question of the cryptogram. He had brought him along in the hope that at
the eleventh hour the old man would reveal his identity. Unconscious of
the responsibility that lay upon his foolish head, the old man sat in
the upstairs room communing with himself.

"We will leave him here," said the lawyer, "he will be safe."

"Safe enough. I know him of old. He'll sit here for hours amusing
himself."

"And now, what about the men?" asked the lawyer. "Where do we meet them?"

"We shall pick them up at the corner of Lombard Street, and they'll
follow me to the Safe Deposit."

"Ah!" They turned swiftly on old George, who with his chin raised and
with face alert was staring at them. "Safe Deposit, Lombard Street," he
mumbled. "And a most excellent plan too--a most excellent plan."

The two men held their breath. "And quite an ingenious idea, sir. Did you
say Lombard Street--a safe?" he muttered. "A safe with a word? And how
to conceal the word, that's the question. I am a man of honour, you may
trust me." He made a sweeping bow to some invisible presence. "Why not
conceal your word thus?" Old George stabbed the palm of his hand with a
grimy forefinger.

"Why not? Have you read my book? It is only a little book, but useful,
sir, remarkably useful. The drawings and the signs are most accurate. An
eminent gentleman at the British Museum assisted me in its preparation.
It is called--it is called--" He passed his hand wearily over his
head, and slid down into his chair again, a miserable old man muttering
foolishly.

Spedding wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "Nearly, nearly!" he
said huskily. "By Heavens! he nearly told us."

Connor looked at him with suspicion.

"What's all this about the book?" he demanded. "This is the second time
old George has spoken like this. It's to do with old Reale, isn't it?"

Spedding nodded.

"Come," said Connor, looking at his watch, "it's time we were moving.
We'll leave the old man to look after the house. Here, George."

Old George looked up. "You'll stay here, and not leave till we return.
D'ye hear?"

"I hear, Mr. Connor, sir," said old George, with his curious assumption
of dignity, "and hearing, obey."

As the two men turned into the night the rain pelted down and a gusty
northwesterly wind blew into their faces.

"George," said Connor, answering a question, "oh, we've had him for
years. One of the boys found him wandering about Limehouse with hardly
any clothes to his back, and brought him to us. That was before I knew
the 'Borough Lot,' but they used him as a blind. He was worth the money
it cost to keep him in food."

Spedding kept the other waiting whilst he dispatched a long telegram from
the Westbourne Grove Post Office. It was addressed to the master of the
Polecat lying at Cardiff, and was reasonably unintelligible to the clerk.
They found a hansom at the corner of Queen's Road, and drove to the Bank;
here they alighted and crossed to the Royal Exchange. Some men in uniform
overcoats who were standing about exchanged glances with Connor, and as
the two leaders doubled back to Lombard Street, followed them at a
distance.

"The guard left at four o'clock," said Spedding, fitting the key of the
heavy outer door. He waited a few minutes in the inky black darkness of
the vestibule whilst Connor admitted the six uniformed men who had
followed them.

"Are we all here?" said Connor in a low voice. "Bat? Here! Goyle? Here!
Lamby? Here!" One by one he called them by their names and they
answered.

"We may as well have a light," said Spedding, and felt for the switch.
The gleam of the electric lamps showed Spedding as pure a collection of
scoundrels as ever disgraced the uniform of a gallant corps.

"Now," said Spedding in level tones, "are all the necessary tools here?"

Bat's grin was the answer. "If we can get an electric connection," he
said, "we'll burn out the lock of the safe in half--"

Spedding had walked to the inner door that led to the great hall, and was
fumbling with the keys. Suddenly he started back. "Hark!" he whispered.
"I heard a step in the hall."

Connor listened. "I hear nothing," he began, when the inner door was
thrown open, and a commissionaire, revolver in hand, stepped out.

"Stand!" he cried. Then, recognizing Spedding, dropped the muzzle of his
pistol.

White with rage, Spedding stood amidst his ill-assorted bodyguard. In
the searching white light of the electric lamps there was no mistaking
their character. He saw the commissionaire eying them curiously.

"I understood," he said slowly, "that the guard had been relieved."

"No, sir," said the man, and the cluster of uniformed men at the door of
the inner hall confirmed this.

"I sent orders this afternoon," said Spedding between his teeth.

"No orders have been received, sir," and the lawyer saw the scrutinizing
eye of the soldierly sentry pass over his confederates. "Is this the
relief?" asked the guard, not attempting to conceal the contempt in his
tone.

"Yes," said the lawyer.

As the sentry saluted and disappeared into the hall Spedding drew Connor
aside.

"This is ruin," he said quickly. "The safe must be cleared tonight.
Tomorrow London will not hold me."

The sentry reappeared at the doorway and beckoned them in. They shuffled
into the great hall, where in the half darkness the safe loomed up from
its rocky pedestal, an eerie, mysterious thing. He saw Bat Sands glancing
uncomfortably around the dim spaces of the building, and felt the
impression of the loneliness.

A man who wore the stripes of a sergeant came up.

"Are we to withdraw, sir?" he asked.

"Yes," said Spedding shortly.

"Will you give us a written order?" asked the man.

Spedding hesitated, then drew out a pocket-book and wrote a few hasty
words on a sheet, tore it out, and handed it to the man. The sergeant
looked at it carefully.

"You haven't signed it or dated it either," he said respectfully, and
handed it back. Spedding cursed him under his breath and rectified the
omissions.

"Now you may go." In the half-light, for only one solitary electrolier
illuminated the vast hall, he thought the man was smiling. It might have
been a trick of the shadows, for he could not see his face.

"And am I to leave you alone?" said the sergeant.

"Yes."

"Is it safe?" the non-commissioned officer asked quietly.

"Curse you, what do you mean?" cried the lawyer.

"Well," said the other easily, "I see you have Connor with you, a
notorious thief and blackmailer." The lawyer was dumb. "And Bat Sands.
How d'ye do, Bat? How did they treat you in Borstal, or was it
Parkhurst?" drawled the sergeant.

"And there's the gentle Lamby trying hard to look military in an overcoat
too large for him. That's not the uniform you're used to wearing, Lamby,
eh?" From the group of men at the door came a genuinely amused laugh.

"Guard the outer door, one of you chaps," said the sergeant, and turning
again to Spedding's men, "Here we have our respected friend Curt Goyle."
He stooped and picked up a bag that Bat had placed gingerly on the floor.
"What a bag of tricks," the sergeant cooed, "diamond bits and dynamite
cartridges and--what's this little thing, Bat--an ark? It is. By Jove, I
congratulate you on the swag."

Spedding had recovered his nerve and strode forward. He was playing for
the greatest stake in the world.

"You shall be punished for this insolence," he stormed.

"Not at all," said the imperturbable sergeant.

Somebody at the door spoke.

"Here's another one, sergeant," and pushed a queer old figure into the
hall, a figure that blinked and peered from face to face.

He espied Spedding, and ran up to him almost fawning.

"The Safe Deposit--in Lombard Street," he cackled joyously. "You see, I
remembered, dear friend; and I've come to tell you about the book--my
book, you know. My munificent patron who desired a puzzle word--"

The sergeant started forward. "My God!" he cried, "the professor."

"Yes, yes," chuckled the old man, "that's what he called me. He bought a
copy of my book--two sovereigns, four sovereigns he gave me. The book--what
was it called?" The old man paused and clasped both hands to his
head.

"A Study--a Study," he said painfully, "on the Origin of--the Alphabet.
Ah!"

Another of the commissionaires had come forward as the old man began
speaking, and to him the sergeant turned.

"Make a note of that, Jimmy," the sergeant said.

Spedding reeled back as though he had been struck.

"Angel!" he gasped.

"That's me," was the ungrammatical reply.

Crushed, cowed, beaten and powerless, Spedding awaited judgment.

What form it would take he could not guess, that it would effectively
ruin him he did not doubt. The trusted lawyer stood self-condemned;
there was no explaining away his companions, there could be no mistaking
the meaning of their presence.

"Send your men away," said Angel. A wild hope seized the lawyer. The men
were not to be arrested, there was a chance for him. The "Borough Lot"
needed no second ordering; they trooped through the doorway, anxious to
reach the open air before Angel changed his mind.

"You may go," said Angel to Connor, who still lingered.

"If the safe is to be opened, I'm in it," was the sullen reply.

"You may go," said Angel; "the safe will not be opened tonight."

"I--"

"Go!" thundered the detective, and Connor slunk away.

Angel beckoned the commissionaire who had first interrogated Spedding.

"Take charge of that bag, Carter. There are all sorts of things in it
that go off." Then he turned to the lawyer. "Mr. Spedding, there is a
great deal that I have to say to you, but it would be better to defer our
conversation; the genuine guard will return in a few minutes. I told them
to return at 10 o'clock."

"By what authority?" blustered Spedding.

"Tush!" said Angel wearily. "Surely we have got altogether beyond that
stage. Your order for withdrawal was expected by me. I waited upon the
sergeant of the guard with another order."

"A forged order, I gather?" said Spedding, recovering his balance. "Now
I see why you have allowed my men to go. I overrated your generosity."

"The order," said Angel soberly, "was signed by His Majesty's Secretary
of State for Home Affairs"--he tapped the astonished lawyer on the
shoulder--"and if it would interest you to know, I have a warrant in my
pocket for the arrest of every man jack of you. That I do not put it into
execution is a matter of policy."

The lawyer scanned the calm face of the detective in bewilderment.

"What do you want of me?" he asked at length.

"Your presence at Jimmy's flat at ten o'clock tomorrow morning," replied
Angel.

"I will be there," said the other, and turned to go.

"And, Mr. Spedding," called Jimmy, as the lawyer reached the door, "in
regard to a boat you have chartered from Cardiff, I think you need not go
any further in the matter. One of my men is at present interviewing the
captain, and pointing out to him the enormity of the offence of carrying
fugitives from justice to Spanish-American ports."

"Damn you!" said Spedding, and slammed the door.

Jimmy removed the commissionaire's cap from his head and grinned. "One of
these fine days, Angel, you'll lose your job, introducing the Home
Secretary's name. Phew!"

"It had to be done," said Angel sadly. "It hurts me to lie, but I
couldn't very well tell Spedding that the sergeant of the commissionaires
had been one of my own men all along, could I?"




CHAPTER X


SOME BAD CHARACTERS



IT happened that on the night of the great attempt the inquisitive
Mr. Lane, of 76 Cawdor Street, was considerably exercised in his mind as
to the depleted condition of his humble treasury. With Mr. Lane the
difference between affluence and poverty was a matter of shillings. His
line of business was a humble one. Lead piping and lengths of telephone
wire, an occasional door-mat improvidently left outside whilst the
servant cleaned the hall, these represented the scope and extent of his
prey. Perhaps he reached his zenith when he lifted an overcoat from a
hatstand, what time a benevolent old lady was cutting him thick slices of
bread and butter in a basement kitchen. Mr. Lane had only recently
returned from a short stay in Wormwood Scrubbs Prison. It was over a
trifling affair of horsehair abstracted from railway carriage cushions
that compelled Mr. Lane's retirement for two months. It was that same
affair that brought about his undoing on the night of the attempt. For
the kudos of the railway theft had nerved him to more ambitious attempts,
and with a depleted exchequer to urge him forward, and the prestige of
his recent achievements to support him, he decided upon burglary. It was
a wild and reckless departure from his regular line, and he did not stop
to consider the disabilities attaching to a change of profession, nor
debate the unpropitious conditions of an already overstocked labour
market. It is reasonable to suppose that Mr. Lane lacked the necessary
qualities of logic and balance to argue any point to its obvious
conclusion, for he was, intellectually, the reverse of brilliant, and was
therefore ill-equipped for introspective or psychological examination of
the circumstances leading to his decision. Communing with himself, the
inquisitive Mr. Lane put the matter tersely and brutally.

"Lead pipin's no go unless you've got a pal to r work with; telephone
wires is so covered up with wood casin' that it's worse'n hard work to
pinch two-penn'oth. I'm goin' to have a cut at Joneses."

So in the pelting rain he watched "Joneses" from a convenient doorway. He
noted with satisfaction the "workmen" departing one by one; he observed
with joy the going of "Jones" himself; and when, some few minutes
afterwards, the queer-looking old man, whom he suspected as being a sort
of caretaker, came shuffling out, slamming the gate behind him, and
peering left and right, and mumbling to himself as he squelched through
the rain, the watcher regarded the removal of this final difficulty as
being an especial act of Providence. He waited for another half hour,
because, for some reason or other, the usually deserted street became
annoyingly crowded. First came a belated coal cart and a miserably
bedraggled car-man who cried his wares dolefully. Then a small boy,
escaping from the confines of his domestic circle, came to revel in the
downpour and wade ecstatically but thoroughly through the puddles that
had formed on the uneven surface of the road. Nemesis, in the shape of a
shrill-voiced mother, overtook the boy and sent him whining and
expectant to the heavy hand of maternal authority.

With the coast clear Mr. Lane lost no time. In effecting an entrance to
the head-quarters of the "Borough Lot," Mr. Lane's method lacked
subtlety. He climbed over the gate leading to the yard, trusting inwardly
that he was not observed, but taking his chance. Had he been an
accomplished burglar, with the experience of any exploits behind him, he
would have begun by making a very thorough inspection of likely windows.
Certainly he would never have tried the "office" door. Being the
veriest tyro, and being conscious, moreover, that his greatest feats had
connection with doors carelessly left ajar, he tried the door, and to his
delight it opened. Again the skilled craftsman would have suspected
some sort of treachery, and might have withdrawn; but Mr. Lane,
recognizing in the fact that the old man had forgotten to fasten the door
behind him only yet another proof of that benevolent Providence which
exerts itself for the express service of men "in luck," entered boldly.
He lit a candle stump and looked around. The evidence of that wealth
which is the particular possession of "master-men" was not evident.
Indeed, the floor of the passage was uncarpeted, and the walls bare of
picture or ornament. Nor was the "office," a little room leading from the
"passage," any more prolific of result. Such fixtures as there were had
apparently been left behind by the previous tenant, and these were thick
with dust. "Bah!" said the inquisitive Mr. Lane scornfully, and his
words echoed hollowly as in an empty house. With the barren possibilities
of his exploit before him, Mr. Lane's spirits fell. He was of the
class, to whom reference has already been made, that looked in awe and
reverence toward the "Borough Lot" in the same spirit as the youthful
curate might regard the consistory of bishops. In his cups--pewter cups
they were with frothing heads a-top--he was wont to boast that his
connection with the "Borough Lot" was both close and intimate. A rumour
that went around to the effect that the "mouthpiece" who defended him at
the closing of the unsatisfactory horsehair episode had been paid for by
the "Borough Lot" he did not trouble to contradict. If he had known any
of them, even by sight, he would not at that moment have been effecting p
a burglarious entry into their premises. Room after room he searched. He
found the ill-furnished bedroom of Connor, and the room where old George
slept on an uncleanly mattress. He found, too, the big room where the
"Lot" held their informal meetings, but nothing portable. Nothing that a
man might slip under his coat, and walk boldly out of the front door
with.

He heard another voice speaking in a lower tone.

"What are we worth? You're a fool! What d'ye think we're worth? Ain't we
the 'Borough Lot'? Don't he know enough to hang two or three of us...It's
Connor and his pal the lawyer..."

'The Borough Lot'! The paralyzing intelligence came to Mr. Lane, and he
held on to the bare mantelshelf for support. Spies! Suppose they
discovered him, and mistook him for a spy! His hair rose at the thought.
He knew them well enough by repute. Overmuch hero-worship had invested
them with qualities for evil which they may or may not have possessed.
There might be a chance of escape. The tumult below continued. Scraps of
angry talk came floating up. Mr. Lane looked out of the window; the drop
into the street was too long, and there was no sign of rope in the house.
 Cautiously he opened the door of the room. The men were in the room
beneath that in which he stood. The staircase that led to the street must
take him past their door. Mr. Lane was very anxious to leave the house.
He had unwittingly stepped into a hornets' nest, and wanted to make his
escape without disturbing the inmates. Now was the time--or never.
Whilst the angry argument continued a creaking stair board or so might
not attract attention. But he made no allowance for the gifts of these
men--gifts of sight and hearing. Bat Sands, in the midst of his tirade,
saw the uplifted finger and head-jerk of Goyle. He did not check his flow
of invective, but edged toward the door; then he stopped short, and
flinging the door open, he caught the scared Mr. Lane by the throat, and
dragging him into the rom, threw him upon the ground and knelt on him.

"What are ye doing here?" he whispered fiercely.

Mr. Lane, with protruding eyes, saw the pitiless faces about him, saw
Goyle lift a life-preserver from the table and turn half-round the better
to strike, and fainted.

"Stop that!" growled Bat, with outstretched hand. "The little swine has
fainted. Who is he? Do any of you fellers know him?"

It was the wizened-faced man whom Angel had addressed as Lamby who
furnished the identification. "He's a little crook--name of Lane."

"Where does he come from?"

"Oh, hereabouts. He was in the Scrubbs in my time," said Lamby. They
regarded the unconscious burglar in perplexity.

"Go through his pockets," suggested Goyle. It happened--and this was the
most providential happening of the day from Mr. Lane's point of view--that
when he had decided upon embarking on his career of high-class crime
he had thoughtfully provided himself with a few home-made instruments.
It was the little poker with flattened end to form a jemmy and the
centre-bit that was found in his pocket that in all probability saved
Mr. Lane's life. Lombroso and other great criminologists have given it
out that your true degenerate has no sense of humour, but on two faces at
least there was a broad grin when the object of the little man's visit
was revealed.

"He came to burgle Connor," said Bat admiringly. "Here, pass over the
whisky, one of ye!" He forced a little down the man's throat, and Mr.
Lane blinked and opened his eyes in a frightened stare.

"Stand up," commanded Bat, "an' give an account of yourself, young
feller. What d'ye mean by breaking into--"

"Never mind about that," Goyle interrupted savagely. "What has he heard
when he was sneaking outside--that's the question."

"Nothin', gentlemen!" gasped the unfortunate Mr. Lane, "on me word,
gentlemen! I've been in trouble like yourselves, an'--" He realized he
had blundered.

"Oh," said Goyle with ominous calm, "so you've been in trouble like us,
have you?"

"I mean--"

"I know what you mean," hissed the other; "you mean you've been listenin'
to what we've been saying, you little skunk, and you're ready to bleat to
the first copper." It might have gone hard with Mr. Lane but for the
opportune arrival of the messenger. Bat went downstairs at the knock, and
the rest stood quietly listening. They expected Connor, and when his
voice did not sound on the stairs they looked at one another
questioningly. Bat came into the room with a yellow envelope in his hand.
He passed it to Goyle. Reading was not an accomplishment of his. Goyle
read it with difficulty.

"Do the best you can," he read. "I'm lying' doggo.'"

"What does that mean?" snarled Goyle, holding the message in his hand and
looking at Bat.

"Hidin', is he--and we've got to do the best we can?"

Bat reached for his overcoat. He did not speak as he struggled into it,
nor until he had buttoned it deliberately.

"It means--git," he said shortly. "It means run, or else it means time,
an' worse than time."

He swung round to the door. "Connor's hidin'," he stopped to say. "When
Connor starts hiding the place is getting hot. There's nothing against me
so far as I know, except--"

His eyes fell on the form of Mr. Lane. He had raised himself to a sitting
position on the floor, and now, with dishevelled hair and outstretched
legs, he sat the picture of despair.

Goyle intercepted the glance. "What about him?" he asked.

"Leave him," said Bat; "we've got no time for fooling with him."

A motor-car came buzzing down Cawdor Street, which was unusual. They
heard the grind of its brakes outside the door, and that in itself was
sufficiently alarming. Bat extinguished the light, and cautiously opened
the shutters. He drew back with an oath.

"What's that?" Goyle whispered. Bat made no reply, and they heard him
open his matchbox.

"What are you doing?" whispered Goyle fiercely.

"Light the lamp," said the other. The tinkle of glass followed as he
removed the chimney, and in the yellow light Bat faced the "Borough
Lot."

"U--P spells 'up,' an' that's what the game is," he said calmly.

He was searching his pockets as he spoke. "I want a light because there's
one or two things in my pocket that I've got to burn--quick!"

After some fumbling he found a paper. He gave it a swift examination,
then he struck a match and carefully lit the corner.

"It's the fairest cop," he went on. "The street's full of police, and
Angel ain't playing 'gamblin' raids' this time."

There was a heavy knock on the door, but nobody moved.

Goyle's face had gone livid. He knew better than any man there how
impossible escape was. That had been one of the drawbacks to the house--the
ease with which it could be surrounded. He had pointed out the fact
to Connor before.

Again the knock. "Let 'em open it," said Bat grimly, and as though the
people outside had heard the invitation, the door crashed in, and there
came a patter as of men running on the stairs.

First to enter the room was Angel. He nodded to Bat coolly, then stepped
aside to allow the policemen to follow.

"I want you," he said briefly.

"What for?" asked Sands.

"Breaking and entering," said the detective. "Put out your hands!"

Bat obeyed. As the steel stirrup-shaped irons snapped on his wrists
he asked--

"Have you got Connor?"

Angel smiled.

"Connor lives to light another day," he said quietly. "The policemen
who attended him were busy with the other occupants of the room."

"Bit of a field-day for you, Mr. Angel," said the thin-faced Lamby
pleasantly. "Thought you was goin' to let us off?"

"Jumping at conclusions hastily is a habit to be deplored," said Angel
sententiously. Then he saw the panic-stricken Mr. Lane.

"Hullo, what's this?" he demanded. Mr. Lane had at that moment the
inspiration of his life. Since he was by fortuitous circumstances
involved in this matter, and since it could make very little difference
one way or the other what he said, he seized the fame that lay to his
hand. "I am one of the 'Borough Lot,'" he said, and was led out proud and
handcuffed with the knowledge that he had established beyond dispute his
title to consideration as a desperate criminal.

Mr. Spedding was a man who thought quickly. Ideas and plans came to him
as dross and diamonds come to the man at the sorting table, and he had
the faculty of selection. He saw the police system of England as only the
police themselves saw it, and he had an open mind upon Angel's action.
It was within the bounds of possibility that Angel had acted with full
authority; it was equally possible that Angel was bluffing. Mr. Spedding
had two courses before him, and they were both desperate; but he must be
sure in how, so far, his immediate liberty depended upon the whim of a
deputy-assistant-commissioner of police. Angel had mentioned a supreme
authority. It was characteristic of Spedding that he should walk into a
mine to see how far the fuse had burned. In other words, he hailed the
first cab, and drove to the House of Commons. The Right Honorable George
Chandler Middleborough, His Majesty's Secretary of State for Home
Affairs, is a notoriously inaccessible man; but he makes exceptions, and
such an exception he made in favour of Spedding. For eminent solicitors
do not come down to the House at ten o'clock in the evening to gratify an
idle curiosity, or to be shown over the House, or beg patronage and
interest; and when a business card is marked "most urgent," and that card
stands for a staple representative of an important profession, the
request for an interview is not easily refused.

Spedding was shown into the minister's room, and the Home Secretary rose
with a smile. He knew Mr. Spedding by sight, and had once dined in his
company, "Er--" he began, looking at the card in his hand, "what can I
do for you at this hour?" he smiled again.

"I have called to see you in the matter of the late--er--Mr. Reale."
He saw and watched the minister's face. Beyond looking a little puzzled,
the Home Secretary made no sign.

"Good!" thought Spedding, and breathed with more freedom.

"I'm afraid--" said the minister.

He got no further, for Spedding was at once humility, apology, and
embarrassment. What! had the Home Secretary not received his letter? A
letter dealing with the estate of Reale? You can imagine the distress and
vexation on Mr. Spedding's face as he spoke of the criminal carelessness
of his clerk, his attitude of helplessness, his recognition of the
absolute impossibility of discussing the matter until the Secretary had
received the letter, and his withdrawal, leaving behind him a sympathetic
minister of State who would have been pleased--would have been
delighted, my dear sir, to have helped Mr. Spedding if he'd received the
letter in time to consider its contents.

Mr. Spedding was an inventive genius, and it might have been in reference
to him that the motherhood of invention was first identified with dire
necessity.

Out again in the courtyard, Spedding found a cab that carried him to his
club.

"Angel bluffed!" he reflected with an inward smile. "My friend, you are
risking that nice appointment of yours." He smiled again, for it occurred
to him that his risk was the greater. "Two millions!" he murmured. "It is
worth it: I could do a great deal with two millions." He got down at his
club, and tendered the cab-man the legal fare to a penny.




CHAPTER XI


THE QUEST OF THE BOOK



WHEN Piccadilly Circus, a blaze of light, was thronged with the crowds
that the theatres were discharging, a motor-car came gingerly through the
traffic, passed down Regent Street, and swinging along Pall Mall, headed
southward across Westminster Bridge. The rain had ceased, but underfoot
the roads were sodden, and the car bespattered its occupants with black
mud. The chauffeur at the wheel turned as the car ran smoothly along the
tramway lines in the Old Kent Road and asked a question, and one of the
two men in the back of the car consulted the other.

"We will go to Cramer's first," said the man. Old Kent Road was a
fleeting vision of closed shops, of little knots of men emerging from
public-houses at the potman's strident command; Lewisham High Road, as
befits that very respectable thoroughfare, was decorously sleeping; Lea,
where the hedges begin, was silent; and Chislehurst was a place of the
dead. Near the common the car pulled up at a big house standing in black
quietude, and the two occupants of the car descended and passed through
the stiff gate, along the gravelled path, and came to a stop at the broad
porch.

"I don't know what old Mauder will say," said Angel as he fumbled for the
bell; "he's a methodical old chap." In the silence they could hear the
thrill of the electric bell. They waited a few minutes, and rang again.
Then they heard a window opened and a sleepy voice demand--

"Who is there?"

Angel stepped back from the porch and looked up. "Hullo, Mauder! I want
you. I'm Angel."

"The devil!" said a surprised voice. "Wait a bit. I'll be down in a
jiffy."

The pleasant-faced man who in dressing-gown and pajamas opened the door
to them and conducted them to a cosy library was Mr. Ernest Mauder
himself.

It is unnecessary to introduce that world-famous publisher to the reader,
the more particularly in view of the storm of controversy that burst
about his robust figure in regard to the recent publication of Count
Lehoff''s embarrassing "Memoirs." He made a sign to the two men to be
seated, nodding to Jimmy as to an old friend.

"I am awfully sorry to disturb you at this rotten hour," Angel commenced,
and the other arrested his apology with a gesture.

"You detective people are so fond of springing surprises on us
unintelligent outsiders," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "that I am
almost tempted to startle you."

"It takes a lot to startle me," said Angel complacently.

"You've brought it on your own head," warned the publisher, wagging a
forefinger at the smiling Angel. "Now let me tell you why you have
motored down from London on this miserable night on a fairly fruitless
errand."

"Eh?" The smile left Angel's face.

"Ah, I thought that would startle you! You've come about a book?"

"Yes," said Jimmy wonderingly.

"A book published by our people nine years ago?"

"Yes," the wonderment deepening on the faces of the two men.

"The title," said the publisher impressively, "is A Short Study on the
Origin of the Alphabet, and the author is a half-mad old don, who was
subsequently turned out of Oxford for drunkenness."

"Mauder," said Jimmy, gazing at his host in bewilderment, "you've hit
it--but--"

"Ah," said the publisher, triumphant, "I thought that was it. Well, your
search is fruitless. We only printed five hundred copies; the book was a
failure--the same ground was more effectively covered by better books. I
found a dusty old copy a few years ago, and gave it to my secretary. So
far as I know, that is the only copy in existence."

"But your secretary?" said Angel eagerly. "What is his name? Where does
he live?"

"It's not a 'he,'" said Mauder, "but a 'she.'"

"Her name?"

"If you had asked that question earlier in the evening I could not have
told you," said Mauder, obviously enjoying the mystery he had created,
"but since then my memory has been refreshed. The girl--and a most
charming lady too--was my secretary for two years. I do not know what
induced her to work, but I rather think she supported an invalid father."

"What is her name?" asked Angel impatiently.

"Kathleen Kent," replied the publisher, "and her address is--"

"Kathleen Kent!" repeated Jimmy in wide-eyed astonishment. "Angels and
Ministers of Grace defend us!"

"Kathleen Kent!" repeated Angel with a gasp. "Well, that takes the
everlasting biscuit! But," he added quickly, "how did you come to know of
our errand?"

"Well," drawled the elder man, wrapping his dressing-gown round him more
snugly, "it was a guess to an extent. You see, Angel, when a man has been
already awakened out of a sound sleep to answer mysterious inquiries
about an out-of-date book--"

"What," cried Jimmy, jumping up, "somebody has already been here?"

"It is only natural," the publisher went on, "to connect his errand with
that of the second midnight intruder."

"Who has been here? For Heaven's sake, don't be funny; this is a serious
business."

"Nobody has been here," said Mauder, "but an hour ago a man called me up
on the telephone--"

Jimmy looked at Angel, and Angel looked at Jimmy.

"Jimmy," said Angel penitently, "write me down as a fool. Telephone!
Heavens, I didn't know you were connected."

"Nor was I till last week," said the publisher, "nor will I be after
tomorrow. Sleep is too precious a gift to be dissipated--"

"Who was the man?" demanded Angel.

"I couldn't quite catch his name. He was very apologetic. I gathered that
he was a newspaper man, and wanted particulars in connection with the
death of the author."

Angel smiled. "The author's alive all right," he said grimly. "How did
the voice sound--a little pompous, with a clearing of the throat before
each sentence?"

The other nodded.

"Spedding!" said Angel, rising. "We haven't any time to lose, Jimmy."

Mander accompanied them into the hall.

"One question," said Jimmy, as he fastened the collar of his
motor-coat. "Can you give us if any idea of the contents of the book?"

"I can't," was the reply. "I have a dim recollection that much of it was
purely conventional, that there were some rough drawings, and the earlier
forms of the alphabet were illustrated--the sort of thing you find in
encyclopaedias or in the back pages of teachers' Bibles."

The two men took their seats in the car as it swung round and turned its
bright head-lamps toward London.

"'I found this puzzle in a book From which some mighty truths were took,'
" murmured Angel in his companion's ear, and Jimmy nodded. He was at that
moment utterly oblivious and careless of the fortune that awaited them in
the great safe at Lombard Street. His mind was filled with anxiety
concerning the girl who unconsciously held the book which might tomorrow
make her an heiress. Spedding had moved promptly, and he would be aided,
he did not doubt, by Connor and the ruffians of the "Borough Lot." If the
book was still in the girl's possession they would have it, and they
would make their attempt at once. His mind was full of dark forebodings,
and although the car bounded through the night at full speed, and the
rain which had commenced to fall again cut his face, and the momentum of
the powerful machine took his breath away, it went all too slowly for his
mood.

One incident relieved the monotony of the journey. As the car flew round
a corner in an exceptionally narrow lane it almost crashed into another
car, which, driven at breakneck speed, was coming in the opposite
direction. A fleeting exchange of curses between the chauffeurs, and the
cars passed. By common consent, they had headed for Kathleen's home.
Streatham was deserted.

As they turned the corner of the quiet road in which the girl lived,
Angel stopped the car and alighted. He lifted one of the huge lamps from
the socket and examined the road.

"There has been a car here less than half an hour ago," he said, pointing
to the unmistakable track of wheels. They led to the door of the house.
He rang the bell, and it was almost immediately answered by an elderly
lady, who, wrapped in a loose dressing-gown, bade him enter.

"Nobody seems to be surprised to see us tonight," thought Angel with
bitter humour.

"I am Detective Angel from Scotland Yard," he announced himself, and the
elderly lady seemed unimpressed.

"Kathleen has gone," she informed him cheerfully.

Jimmy heard her with a sinking at his heart.

"Yes," said the old lady, "Mr. Spedding, the eminent solicitor, called
for her an hour ago, and"--she grew confidential--"as I know you
gentlemen are very much interested in the case, I may say that there is
every hope that before tomorrow my niece will be in possession of her
fortune."

Jimmy groaned. "Please, go on," said Angel.

"It came about over a book which Kathleen had given her some years ago,
and which most assuredly would have been lost but for my carefulness."

Jimmy cursed her "carefulness" under his breath.

"When we moved here after the death of Kathleen's poor father I had a
great number of things stored. There were amongst these an immense
quantity of books, which Kathleen would have sold, but which I thought--"

"Where are these stored?" asked Angel quickly.

"At an old property of ours--the only property that my poor brother had
remaining," she replied sadly, "and that because it was in too
dilapidated a condition to attract buyers."

"Where, where?" Angel realized the rudeness of his impatience. "Forgive
me, madam," he said, "but it is absolutely necessary that I should follow
your niece at once."

"It is on the Tonbridge Road," she answered stiffly. "So far as I can
remember, it is somewhere between Crawley and Tonbridge, but I am not
sure. Kathleen knows the place well; that is why she has gone."

"Somewhere on the Tonbridge Road!" repeated Angel helplessly.

"We could follow the car's tracks," said Jimmy.

Angel shook his head. "If this rain is general, they will be
obliterated," he replied.

They stood a minute, Jimmy biting the sodden finger of his glove, and
Angel staring into vacancy.

Then Jimmy demanded unexpectedly--"Have you a Bible?"

The old lady allowed the astonishment she felt at the question to be
apparent. "I have several."

"A teacher's Bible, with notes?" he asked.

She thought. "Yes, there is such an one in the house. Will you wait?"

She left the room.

"We should have told the girl about Spedding--we should have told her,"
said Angel in despair.

"It's no use crying over spilt milk," said Jimmy quietly. "The thing to
do now is to frustrate Spedding and rescue the girl."

"Will he dare--?"

"He'll dare. Oh, yes, he'll dare," said Jimmy. "He's worse than you
think, Angel."

"But he is already a ruined man."

"The more reason why he should go a step further. He's been on the verge
of ruin for months, I've found that out. I made inquiries the other day,
and discovered he's in a hole that the dome of St. Paul's wouldn't fill.
He's a trustee or something of the sort for an association that has been
pressing him for money. Spedding will dare anything "--he paused then--"but
if he dares to harm that girl he's a dead man."

The old lady came in at that moment with the book, and Jimmy hastily
turned over the pages. Near the end he came upon something that brought a
gleam to his eye. He thrust his hand into his pocket and drew out a
notebook. He did not wait to pull up a chair, but sank on his knees by
the side of the table and wrote rapidly, comparing the text with the
drawings in the book.

Angel, leaning over, followed the work breathlessly. "There--and there--and
there!" cried Angel exultantly. "What fools we were, Jimmy, what
fools we were."

Jimmy turned to the lady. "May I borrow this book?" he asked. "It will be
returned. Thank you. Now, Angel," he looked at his watch and made a move
for the door, "we have two hours. We will take the Tonbridge Road by
daybreak."

Only one other person did they disturb on that eventful night, and that
was a peppery old Colonel of Marines, who lived at Blackheath. There,
before the hastily-attired old officer, as the dawn broke, Angel
explained his mission, and writing with feverish haste, subscribed to the
written statement by oath. Whereupon the Justice of the Peace issued a
warrant for the arrest of Joseph James Spedding, Solicitor, on a charge
of felony.




CHAPTER XII


WHAT HAPPENED AT FLAIRBY MILL

KATHLEEN very naturally regarded the lawyer in the light of a
disinterested friend. There was no reason why she should not do so; and
if there had been any act needed to kindle a kindly feeling for the
distant legal adviser it was this last act of his, for no sooner, as he
told her, had he discovered by the merest accident a clue to the hidden
word, than he had rushed off post-haste to put her in possession of his
information. He had naturally advised immediate action, and when she
demurred at the lateness of the hour at which to begin a hunt for the
book, he had hinted vaguely at difficulties which would beset her if she
delayed.

She wanted to let Angel know, and Jimmy, but this the lawyer would not
hear of, and she accounted for the insistence of his objection by the
cautiousness of the legal mind. Then the excitement of the midnight
adventure appealed to her--the swift run in the motor-car through the
wild night, and the wonderful possibilities of the search at the end of
the ride.

So she went, and her appetite for adventure was all but satisfied by a
narrowly-averted collision with another car speeding in the opposite
direction. She did not see the occupants of the other car, but she hoped
they had had as great a fright as she. As a matter of fact, neither of
the two men had given a second thought to their danger; one's mind was
entirely and completely filled with her image, and the other was brooding
on telephones.

She had no time to tire of the excitement of the night--the run across
soaking heaths and through dead villages, where little cottages showed up
for a moment in the glare of the head-lights, then faded into the
darkness. Too soon she came to a familiar stretch of the road, and the
car slowed down so that they might not pass the tiny grass lane that led
to Flairby Mill. They came to it at last, and the car bumped cautiously
over deep cart ruts, over loose stones, and through long drenched grasses
till there loomed out of the night the squat outlines of Flairby Mill.

Once upon a time, before the coming of cheap machinery, Flairby Mill had
been famous in the district, and the rumble of its big stones went on
incessantly, night and day; but the wheel had long since broken, its
wreck lay in the bed of the little stream that had so faithfully served
it; its machinery was rust and scrap iron, and only the tiny
dwelling-house that adjoined was of value. With little or no repair the
homestead had remained watertight and weatherproof, and herein had
Kathleen stored the odds and ends of her father's household. The saddles,
shields, spears, and oddments he had collected in his travels, and the
modest library that had consoled the embittered years of his passing,
were all stored here. Valueless as the world assesses value, but in the
eyes of the girl precious things associated with her dead father. The
tears rose to her eyes as Spedding, taking the key from her hand, fitted
it into the lock of a seventeenth-century door, but she wiped them away
furtively.

Spedding utilized the acetylene lamp of the car to show him the way into
the house.

"You must direct me, Miss Kent," he said, and Kathleen pointed the way.
Up the oaken stairs, covered with dust, their footsteps resounding
hollowly through the deserted homestead, the two passed. At the head of
the stairs was a heavy door, and acting under the girl's instructions,
the lawyer opened this. It was a big room, almost like a barn, with a
timbered ceiling sloping downward. There were three shuttered windows,
and another door at the farther end of the room that led to a smaller
room.

"This was the miller's living room," she said sadly. She could just
remember when a miller lived in the homestead, and when she had ridden up
to the door of the mill accompanied by her father, and the miller, white
and jovial, had lifted her down and taken her through a mysterious
chamber where great stones turned laboriously and noisily, and the air
was filled with a fine white dust.

Spedding placed the lamp on the table, and cast his eyes round the room
in search of the books. They were not difficult to discover; they had
been unpacked, and were ranged in three disorderly rows upon roughly
constructed bookshelves. The lawyer turned the lamp so that the full
volume of light should fall on the books. Then he went carefully over
them, row by row, checking each copy methodically, and half muttering the
name of each tome he handled. There were school books, works of travel,
and now and again a heavily bound scientific treatise, for her father had
made science a particular study.

The girl stood with one hand resting on the table, looking on, admiring
the patience of the smooth, heavy man at his task, and, it must be
confessed, inwardly wondering what necessity there was for this midnight
visitation. She had told the lawyer nothing about the red envelope, but
instinctively felt that he knew all about it.

"Anabasis, Xenophon," he muttered; "Iosephus, Works and Life; Essays of
Elia; Essays, Emerson; Essays, De Quincey. Wliat's this?"

He drew from between two bulky volumes a thin little book with a
discoloured cover. He dusted it carefully, glanced at the title, opened
it and read the title-page, then walked back to the table and seated
himself, and started to read the book.

The girl did not know why, but there was something in his attitude at
that moment that caused her a little uneasiness, and stirred within her a
sense of danger. Perhaps it was that up till then he had shown her marked
deference, had been almost obsequious. Now that the book had been found
he disregarded her. He did not bring it to her or invite her attention,
and she felt that she was "out of the picture," that the lawyer's
interest in her affairs had stopped dead just as soon as the discovery
was made. He turned the leaves over carefully, poring over the
introduction, and her eyes wandered from the book to his face. She had
never looked at him before with any critical interest. In the unfriendly
light of the lamp she saw his imperfections--the brutal strength of his
jaw, the unscrupulous thinness of the lip, the heavy eyelids, and the
curious hairlessness of his face. She shivered a little, for she read too
much in his face for her peace of mind. Unconscious of her scrutiny, for
the book before him was all-engrossing, the lawyer went from page to
page.

"Don't you think we had better be going?" Kathleen asked timidly.

Spedding looked up, and his stare was in keeping with his words.

"When I have finished we will go," he said brusquely, and went on
reading.

Kathleen gave a little gasp of astonishment, for, with all her
suspicions, she had not been prepared for such a complete and instant
dropping of his mask of amiability. In a dim fashion she began to realize
her danger, yet there could be no harm; outside was the chauffeur, he
stood for something of established order. She made another attempt.

"I must insist, Mr. Spedding, upon your finishing your examination of
that book elsewhere. I do not know whether you are aware that you are
occupying the only chair in the room," she added indignantly.

"I am very well aware," said the lawyer calmly, without raising his eyes.

"Mr. Spedding!"

He looked up with an air of weariness. "May I ask you to remain quiet
until I have finished," he said, with an emphasis that she could not
mistake, "and lest you have any lingering doubt that my present research
is rather on my own account than on yours, I might add that if you annoy
me by whining or fuming, or by any such nonsensical tricks, I have that
with me which will quiet you," and he resumed his reading.

Cold and white, the girl stood in silence, her heart beating wildly, her
mind occupied with schemes of escape. After a while the lawyer looked up
and tapped the book with his forefinger.

"Your precious secret is a secret no longer," he said with a hard laugh.
Kathleen made no answer. "If I hadn't been a fool, I should have seen
through it before," he added, then he looked at the girl in meditation.
"I have two propositions before me," he said, "and I want your help."

"You will have no help from me, Mr. Spedding," she replied coldly.

"Tomorrow you will be asked to explain your extraordinary conduct."

He laughed. "Tomorrow, by whom? By Angel or the young swell-mobsman who's
half in love with you?" He laughed again as he saw the colour rising to
the girl's cheeks. "Ah! I've hit the mark, have I?"

She received his speech in contemptuous silence.

"Tomorrow I shall be away--well away, I trust, from the reach of either
of the gentlemen you mention. I am not concerned with tomorrow as much as
today." She remembered that they were within an hour of daybreak.

"Today is a most fateful day for me--and for you." He emphasized the
last words. She preserved an icy silence.

"If I may put my case in a nutshell," he went on, with all his old-time
suavity, "I may say that it is necessary for me to secure the money that
is stored in that ridiculous safe." She checked an exclamation. "Ah! you
understand? Let me be more explicit. When I say get the money, I mean get
it for myself, every penny of it, and convert it to my private use. You
can have no idea," he went on, "how comforting it is to be able to stand
up and say in so many words the unspoken thoughts of a year, to tell
some human being the most secret things that I have so far hidden here,"
he struck his chest. "I had thought when old Reale's commission was
entrusted to me that I should find the legatees ordinary plain, everyday
fools, who would have unfolded to me day by day the result of their
investigations to my profit. I did not reckon very greatly on you, for
women are naturally secretive and suspicious, but I did rely upon the two
criminals. My experience of the criminal classes, a fairly extensive one,
led me to believe that with these gentry I should have no difficulty." He
pursed his lips. "I had calculated without my Jimmy," he said shortly. He
saw the light in the girl's eye. "Yes," he went on, "Jimmy is no ordinary
man, and Angel is a glaring instance of bad nomenclature. I nearly had
Jimmy once. Did he tell you how he got the red envelope? I see he did
not. Well, I nearly had him. I went to look for his body next morning,
and found nothing. Later in the day I received a picture postcard from
him, of a particularly flippant and vulgar character?" He stopped as if
inviting comment.

"Your confessions have little interest for me," said the girl quietly. "I
am now only anxious to be rid of your presence."

"I am coming to that," said the lawyer. "I was very rude to you a little
while ago, but I was busily engaged, and besides I desired to give you an
artistic introduction to the new condition. Now, so far from being rude,
I wish to be very kind."

In spite of her outward calm, she trembled at the silky tone the lawyer
had now adopted.

"My position is this," he said, "there is an enormous sum of money, which
rightly is yours. The law and the inclination of your competitor--we will
exclude Connor, who is not a factor--give you the money. It is
unfortunate that I also, who have no earthly right, should desire this
money, and we have narrowed down the ultimate issue to this: Shall it be
Spedding or Kathleen Kent? I say Spedding, and circumstances support my
claim, for I have you here, and, if you will pardon the suspicion of
melodrama, very much in my power. If I am to take the two millions, your
two millions, without interruption, it will depend entirely upon you."

Again he stopped to notice the effect of his words.

The girl made no response, but he could see the terror in her eyes.

"If I could have dispensed with your services, or if I had had the sense
to guess the simple solution of this cursed puzzle, I could have done
everything without embarrassing you in the slightest; but now it has come
to this--I have got to silence you."

He put forward the proposition with the utmost coolness, and Kathleen
felt her senses reel at all the words implied.

"I can silence you by killing you," he said simply, "or by marrying you.
If I could think of some effective plan by which I might be sure of your
absolute obliteration for two days, I would gladly adopt it; but you are
a human woman, and that is too much to expect. Now, of the alternatives,
which do you prefer?"

She shrank back against the shuttered window, her eyes on the man.

"You are doubtless thinking of the chauffeur," he said smoothly, "but you
may leave him out of the reckoning. Had your ears been sharp, you would
have heard the car going back half an hour ago--he is awaiting our
return half a mile away. If I return alone he will doubtlessly be
surprised, but he will know nothing. Do you not see a picture of him
driving me away, and me, at his side, turning round and waving a smiling
farewell to an imaginary woman who is invisible to the chauffeur? Picture
his uneasiness vanishing with this touch. Two days afterwards he would be
on the sea with me, ignorant of the murder, and curious things happen at
sea. Come, Kathleen, is it to be marriage--?"

"Death!" she cried hoarsely, then, as his swift hand caught her by the
throat, she screamed. His face looked down into hers, no muscle of it
moved. Fixed, rigid, and full of his dreadful purpose, she saw the pupils
of his pitiless eyes contract Then of a sudden he released hold of her,
and she fell back against the wall. She heard his quick breathing, and
closing her eyes, waited. Then slowly she looked up. She saw a revolver
in his hand, and in a numb kind of way she realized that it was not
pointed at her.

"Hands up!" She heard Spedding's harsh shout. "Hands up, both of you!"

Then she heard an insolent laugh. There were only two men in the world
who would laugh like that in the very face of death, and they were both
there, standing in the doorway, Angel with his motor goggles about his
neck and Jimmy slowly peeling his gloves.

Then she looked at Spedding. The hand that held the revolver did not
tremble, he was as self-possessed as he had been a. few minutes before.

"If either of you move I'll shoot the girl, by God!" said Spedding
through his teeth.

They stood in the doorway, and Jimmy spoke. He did not raise his voice,
but she heard the slumbering passion vibrating through his quiet
sentences.

"Spedding, Spedding, my man, you're frightening that child; put your gun
down and let us talk. Do you hear me? I am keeping myself in hand,
Spedding, but if you harm that girl I'll be a devil to you. D'ye hear? If
you hurt her, I'll take you with my bare hands and treat you Indian
fashion, Spedding, my man, tie you down and stake you out, then burn you
slowly. Yes, and, by the Lord, if any man interferes, even if it's Angel
here, I'll swing for him. D'ye hear that?"

His breast heaved with the effort to hold himself, and Spedding,
shuddering at the ferocity in the man's whole bearing, lowered his
pistol.

"Let us talk," he said huskily.

"That's better," said Angel, "and let me talk first. I want you."

"Come and take me," he said.

"The risk is too great," said Angel frankly, "and besides, I can afford to
wait."

"Well?" asked the lawyer defiantly, after a long pause. He kept the
weapon in his hand pointed in the vicinity of the girl. Angel exchanged a
word in an undertone with his companion, then--"You may go," he said,
and stepped aside.

Spedding motioned him farther away. Then slowly edging his way to the
door, he reached it. He paused for a moment as if about to speak, then
quick as thought raised his revolver and fired twice. Angel felt the wind
of the bullets as they passed his face, and sprang forward just as
Jimmy's arm shot out. Crack, crack, crack! Three shots so rapid that
their reports were almost simultaneous from Jimmy's automatic pistol sped
after the lawyer, but too late, and the heavy door crashed to in Angel's
face, and the snap of the lock told them they were prisoners.

Angel made a dart for a window, but it was shuttered and nailed and
immovable. He looked at Jimmy, and burst into a ringing laugh. "Trapped,
by Jove!" he said.

Jimmy was on his knees by the side of the girl. She had not fainted, but
had suddenly realized her terrible danger, and the strain and weariness
of the night adventure had brought her trembling to her knees. Very
tenderly did Jimmy's arm support her. She felt the strength of the man,
and, thrilled at his touch, her head sank on his shoulder and she felt at
rest.

Angel was busily examining the windows, when a loud report outside the
house arrested his attention. "What is that?" asked the girl faintly.

"It is either Mr. Spedding's well-timed suicide, which I fear is too much
to expect," said Angel philosophically, "or else it is the same Mr.
Spedding destroying the working parts of our car. I am afraid it is the
latter."

He moved up and down the room, examined the smaller chamber at the other
end, then sniffed uneasily.

"Miss Kent," he said earnestly, "are you well enough to tell me
something?"

She started and flushed as she drew herself from Jimmy's arms, and stood
up a little shakily. "Yes," she said, with a faint smile, "I think I am
all right now."

"What is there under here?" asked Angel, pointing to the floor.

"An old workshop, a sort of storehouse," she replied in surprise.

"What is in it?" There was no mistaking the seriousness in Angel's voice.
"Broken furniture? Mattresses?"

"Yes, I think there are, and paints and things. Why do you ask?"

"Jimmy," said Angel quickly, "do you smell anything?"

Jimmy sniffed. "Yes," he said quickly. "Quick, the windows!"

They made a rapid search of the room. In a corner Jimmy unearthed a rusty
cavalry sabre.

"That's the thing," said Angel, and started to prise loose the solid
shutter; but the wood was unyielding, and just as they had secured a
purchase the blade snapped.

"There is an old axe in the cupboard," cried the girl, who apprehended
the hidden danger.

With a yell of joy Angel dragged forth an antiquated battle-axe, and
attacked the shutter afresh. With each blow the wood flew in big
splinters, but fast as he worked something else was moving faster. Angel
had not mistaken the smell of petrol, and now a thin vapour of smoke
flowed into the room from underneath the door, and in tiny spirals
through the interstices of the floorboards.

Angel stopped exhausted, and Jimmy picked up the axe and struck it true,
then after one vigorous stroke a streak of daylight showed in the
shutter. The room was now intolerably hot, and Angel took up the axe and
hacked away at the oaken barrier to life.

"Shall we escape?" asked the girl quietly.

"Yes, I think so," said Jimmy steadily.

"I shall not regret tonight," she faltered.

"Nor I," said Jimmy in a low voice, "whatever the issue is. It is very
good to love once in a lifetime, even if that once is on the brink of the
grave."

Her lips quivered, and she tried to speak. Angel was hard at work on the
window, and his back was toward them, and Jimmy bent and kissed the girl
on the lips.

The window was down! Angel turned in a welter of perspiring triumph.

"Outside as quick as dammit!" he cried. Angel had found a rope in the
smaller room in his earlier search, and this he slipped round the girl's
waist.

"When you get down run clear of the smoke," he instructed her, and in a
minute she found herself swinging in mid-air, in a cloud of rolling smoke
that blinded and choked her. She felt the ground, and staying only to
loose the rope, she ran outward and fell exhausted on a grassy bank. In a
few minutes the two men were by her side. They stood in silence
contemplating the conflagration, then Kathleen remembered.

"The book, the book!" she cried.

"It's inside my shirt," said the shameless Angel.




CHAPTER XIII


CONNOR TAKES A HAND



IT is an axiom at Scotland Yard, "Beware of an audience." Enemies of our
police system advance many and curious reasons for this bashfulness. In
particular they place a sinister interpretation upon the desire of the
police to carry out their work without fuss and without ostentation, for
the police have an embarrassing system of midnight arrests. Unless you
advertise the fact, or unless your case is of sufficient importance to
merit notice in the evening newspapers, there is no reason why your
disappearance from society should excite comment, or why the excuse, put
forward for your absence from your accustomed haunts, that you have gone
abroad should not be accepted without question.

Interviewing his wise chief, Angel received some excellent advice.

"If you've got to arrest him, do it quietly. If, as you suggest, he
barricades himself in his house, or takes refuge in his patent vault,
leave him alone. We want no fuss, and we want no newspaper sensations.
If you can square up the Reale business without arresting him, by all
means do so. We shall probably get him in--er--what do you call it,
Angel?--oh, yes, 'the ordinary way of business.'"

"Very good, sir," said Angel, nothing loth to carry out the plan.

"From what I know of this class of man," the Assistant-Commissioner went
on, fingering his grizzled moustache, "he will do nothing. He will go
about his daily life as though nothing had happened; you will find him in
his office this morning, and if you went to arrest him you'd be shot
dead. No, if you take my advice you'll leave him severely alone for the
present. He won't run away."

So Angel thanked his chief and departed. Throughout the morning he was
obsessed by a desire to see the lawyer. By midday this had become so
overmastering that he put on his hat and sauntered down to Lincoln's Inn
Fields.

"Yes, Mr. Spedding was in," said a sober clerk, and--after consulting
his employer--"Mr. Spedding would see him"

The lawyer was sitting behind a big desk covered with beribboned bundles
of papers. He greeted Angel with a smile, and pointed to a chair on the
other side of the desk.

"I've been in court most of the morning," he said blandly, "but I'm at
liberty for half an hour. What can I do for you?"

Angel looked at him in undisguised admiration. "You're a wonderful chap,"
he said with a shake of his head.

"You're admiring me," said the lawyer, fingering a paperknife, "in very
much the same way as an enthusiastic naturalist admires the markings of a
horned viper."

"That is very nicely put," said Angel truthfully.

The lawyer had dropped his eyes on to the desk before him; then he looked
up. "What is it to be?" he asked.

"A truce," said Angel.

"I thought you would say that," replied Spedding comfortably, "because I
suppose you know--"

"Oh, yes," said Angel with nonchalant ease, "I know that the right hand
which is so carelessly reposing on your knee holds a weapon of remarkable
precision."

"You are well advised," said the lawyer, with a slight bow.

"Of course," said Angel, "there is a warrant in existence for your
arrest."

"Of course," agreed Spedding politely.

"I got it as a precautionary measure," Angel went on in his most affable
manner.

"Naturally," said the lawyer; "and now--"

"Oh, now," said Angel, "I wanted to give you formal notice that, on
behalf of Miss Kent, we intend opening the safe tomorrow."

"I will be there," said the lawyer, and rang a bell.

"And," added Angel in a lower voice, "keep out of Jimmy's way."

Spedding's lips twitched, the only sign of nervousness he had shown
during the interview, but he made no reply. As the clerk stood waiting at
the open door, Spedding, with his most gracious smile, said--"Er--and
did you get home safely this morning?"

"Quite, thank you," replied Angel, in no wise perturbed by the man's
audacity.

"Did you find your country quarters--er--comfortable?"

"Perfectly," said Angel, rising to the occasion, "but the function was a
failure."

"The function?" The lawyer bit at the bait Angel had thrown.

"Yes," said the detective, his hand on the door, "the house-warming, you
know."

Angel chuckled to himself all the way back to the Embankment. His grim
little jest pleased him so much that he must needs call in and tell his
chief, and the chief's smile was very flattering.

"You're a bright boy," he said, "but when the day comes for you to arrest
that lawyer gentleman, I trust you will, as a precautionary measure,
purge your soul of all frivolities, and prepare yourself for a better
world."

"If," said Angel, "I do not see the humorous side of being killed, I
shall regard my life as badly ended."

"Get out," ordered the Commissioner, and Angel got.

He realized as the afternoon wore on that he was very tired, and snatched
a couple of hours' sleep before keeping the appointment he had made with
Jimmy earlier in the day. Whilst he was dressing Jimmy came in--Jimmy
rather white, with a surgical bandage round his head, and carrying with
him the pungent scent of iodoform.

"Hullo," said Angel in astonishment, "what on earth have you been doing?"

Jimmy cast an eye round the room in search of the most luxurious chair
before replying.

"Ah," he said with a sigh of contentment as he seated himself, "that's
better."

Angel pointed to the bandage. "When did this happen?"

"An hour or so ago," said Jimmy. "Spedding is a most active man."

Angel whistled. "Conventionally?" he asked.

"Artistically," responded Jimmy, nodding his bandaged head. "A runaway
motor-car that  followed my cab--beautifully done. The cab-horse was
killed and the driver has a concussion,  but I saw the wheeze and
jumped."

"Got the chauffeur?" asked Angel anxiously.

"Yes; it was in the City. You know the City police? Well, they had him
in three seconds. He tried to bolt, but that's a fool's game in the
City."

"Was it Spedding's chauffeur?"

Jimmy smiled pityingly. "Of course not. That's where the art of the thing
comes in."

Angel looked grave for a minute. "I think we ought to 'pull' our friend,"
he said.

"Meaning Spedding?"

"Yes."

"I don't agree with you," said Jimmy. "It would be ever so much more
comfortable for you and me, but it will be ever so much better to finish
up the Reale business first."

"Great minds!" murmured Angel, remembering his chief's advice. "I suppose
Mr. Spedding will lay for me tonight."

"You can bet your life on that," said Jimmy cheerfully.

As he was speaking, a servant came into the room with a letter. When the
man had gone, Angel opened and read it. His grin grew broader as he
perused it.

"Listen!" he said. "It's from Miss Kent."

Jimmy was all attention.

"Dear Mr. Angel, Spedding has trapped me again. Whilst I was shopping
this afternoon, two men came up to me and asked me to accompany them.
They said they were police officers, and wanted me in connection with
last night's affair. I was so worried that I went with them. They took me
to a strange house in Kensington...For Heaven's sake, come to me!..."

Jimmy's face was so white that Angel thought he would faint.

"The hounds!" he cried. "Angel, we must--"

"You must sit down," said Angel, "or you'll be having a fit."

He examined the letter again. "It's beautifully done," he said. "Scrawled
on a torn draper's bill in pencil, it might very easily be her writing."

He put the missive carefully in a drawer of his desk, and locked it.

"Unfortunately for the success of that scheme, Mr. Spedding, I have four
men watching Miss Kent's house day and night, and being in telephonic
communication, I happen to know that that young lady has not left her
house all day." He looked at Jimmy, white and shaking. "Buck up, Jimmy,"
he said kindly. "Your bang on the head has upset you more than you
think."

"But the letter?" asked Jimmy.

"A little fake," said Angel airily, "Mr. Spedding's little ballon
d'essai, so foolishly simple that I think Spedding must be losing his
nerve and balance. I'd like to bet that this house is being watched to
see the effect of the note." (Angel would have won his bet.) "Now the
only question is, what little program have they arranged for me this
evening?"

Jimmy was thoughtful. "I don't know," he said slowly, "but I should think
it would be wiser for you to keep indoors. You might make me up a bed in
your sitting-room, and if there is any bother, we can share it."

"And whistle to keep my courage up?" sneered Angel. "I'll make you up a
bed with all the pleasure in life; but I'm going out, Jimmy, and I'll
take you with me, if you'll agree to come along and find a man who will
replace that conspicuous white bandage by something less bloodcurdling."

They found a man in Devonshire Place who was a mutual friend of both. He
was a specialist in unpronounceable diseases, a Knight Commander of St.
Michael and St. George, a Fellow of the two Colleges, and the author of
half a dozen works of medical science. Angel addressed him as "Bill"

The great surgeon deftly dressed the damaged head of Jimmy, and wisely
asked no questions. He knew them both, and had been at Oxford with one,
and he permitted himself to indulge in caustic comments on their mode of
life and the possibilities of their end.

"If you didn't jaw so much," said Angel, "I'd employ you regularly; as it
is, I am very doubtful if I shall ever bring you another case."

"For which," said Sir William Farran, as he clipped the loose ends of the
dressing, "I am greatly obliged to you, Angel Esquire. You are the sort
of patient I like to see about once a year--just about Christmas-time,
when I am surfeited with charity toward mankind, when I need a healthy
moral corrective to tone down the bright picture to its normal
grayness--that's the time you're welcome, Angel."

"Fine!" said Angel ecstatically. "I'd like to see that sentence in a
book, with illustrations."

The surgeon smiled good-humouredly. He put a final touch to the dressing.

"There you are," he said. "Thank you, Bill," said Jimmy. "You're getting
fat."

"Thank you for nothing," said the surgeon indignantly.

Angel struck a more serious tone when he asked the surgeon in an
undertone, just as they were taking their departure. "Where will you be
tonight?"

The surgeon consulted a little engagement book. "I am dining at the
'Ritz' with some people at eight. We are going on to the Gaiety
afterwards, and I shall be home by twelve. Why?"

"There's a gentleman," said Angel confidentially, "who will make a
valiant attempt to kill one of us, or both of us tonight, and he might
just fail; so it would be as well to know where you are, if you are
wanted. Mind you," added Angel with a grin, "you might be wanted for
him."

"You're a queer bird," said the surgeon, "and Jimmy's a queerer one.
Well, off you go, you two fellows; you'll be getting my house a bad
name."

Outside in the street the two ingrates continued their discussion on the
corpulence that attends success in life. They walked leisurely to
Piccadilly, and turned towards the circus. It is interesting to record
the fact that for no apparent reason they struck off into side streets,
made unexpected excursions into adjoining squares, took unnecessary short
cuts through mews, and finally, finding themselves at the Oxford Street
end of Charing Cross Road, they hailed a hansom, and drove eastward
rapidly.

Angel shouted up some directions through the trap in the roof.

"I am moved to give the two gentlemen who are following me what in
sporting parlance is called 'a run for their money,'" he said. He lifted
the flap at the back of the cab, glanced through the little window, and
groaned. Then he gave fresh directions to the cabman.

"Drive to the 'Troc,'" he called, and to Jimmy he added, "If we must die,
let us die full of good food."

In the thronged grill-room of the brightly-lighted restaurant the two men
found a table so placed that it commanded a view of the room. They took
their seats, and whilst Jimmy ordered the dinner Angel watched the stream
of people entering. He saw a dapper little man, with swarthy face and
coal-black eyes, eyebrows and moustache, come through the glass doors. He
stood for a breathing space at the door, his bright eyes flashing from
face to face. Then he caught Angel's steady gaze, and his eyes rested a
little longer on the pair. Then Angel beckoned him. He hesitated for a
second, then walked slowly toward them. Jimmy pulled a chair from the
table, and again he hesitated as if in doubt; then slowly he seated
himself, glancing from one to the other suspiciously.

"Monsieur Callvet, ne c'est pas?" asked Angel.

"That is my name," the other answered in French.

"Permit me to introduce myself,"

"I know you," said the little man shortly. "You are a detective."

"It is my fortune," said Angel, ignoring the bitterness in the man's
tone.

"You wish to speak to me?"

"Yes," replied Angel. "First, I would ask why you have been following us
for the last hour?"

The man shrugged his shoulders. "Monsieur is mistaken."

Jimmy had been very quiet during the evening. Now he addressed the
Frenchman. "Callvet," he said briefly, "do you know who I am?"

"Yes, you are also a detective."

Jimmy looked him straight in the eyes. "I am not a detective, Callvet, as
you well know. I am"--he felt an unusual repugnance at using the next
words--"I am Jimmy of Cairo. You know me?"

"I have heard of you," said the man doggedly.

"What you are--now--I do not know," said Jimmy contemptuously. "I have
known you as all things--as an ornament of the young Egypt party, as a
tout for Reale, as a trader in beastliness."

The conversation was in colloquial French, and Jimmy used a phrase which
is calculated to raise the hair of the most brazen scoundrel. But this
man shrugged his shoulders and rose to go. Jimmy caught his sleeve and
detained him.

"Callvet," he said, "go back to Mr. Spedding, your employer, and tell him
the job is too dangerous. Tell him that one of the men, at least, knows
enough about you to send you to New Caledonia, or else--"

"Or else?" demanded the man defiantly.

"Or else," said Jimmy in his hesitating way, "I'll be sending word to the
French Ambassador that 'Monsieur Plessey' is in London."

The face of the man turned a sickly green.

"Monsieur--je n'en vois pas la ncessit," he muttered.

"And who is Plessey?" asked Angel when the man had gone.

"A murderer greatly wanted by the French police," said Jimmy, "and
Spedding has well chosen his instrument. Angel, there will be trouble
before the evening is over."

They ate their dinner in silence, lingering over the coffee. The
Frenchman had taken a table at the other side of the room. Once when
Angel went out he made as though to leave, but seeing that Jimmy did not
move, he changed his mind. Angel dawdled through the sweet, and took an
unconscionable time over his coffee. Jimmy, fretting to be gone, groaned
as his volatile companion ordered yet another liqueur.

"That's horribly insidious muck to drink," grumbled Jimmy.

"Inelegant, but true," said Angel. He was amused at the obvious efforts
of the spy at the other table to kill time also. Then suddenly Angel
rose, leaving his drink untasted, and reached for his hat.

"Come along," he said briskly.

"This is very sudden," remarked the impatient Jimmy.

They walked to the desk and paid their bill, and out of the corner of his
eye Angel could see the dapper Frenchman following them out. They stepped
out along Shaftesbury Avenue; then Jimmy stopped and fumbled in his
pocket. In his search he turned round, facing the direction from which he
had come. The dapper Frenchman was sauntering toward him, whilst behind
him came two roughly-dressed men. Then Jimmy saw the two men quicken
their pace. Passing one on each side of Callvet, each took an arm
affectionately, and the three turned into Rupert Street, Angel and Jimmy
following. Jimmy saw the three bunched together, and heard the click of
the handcuffs. Then Angel whistled a passing cab. The captive's voice
rose. "Stick a handkerchief in his mouth," said Angel, and one of the men
obeyed. The two stood watching the cab till it turned the corner.

"There is no sense in taking unnecessary risks," said Angel cheerfully.
"It is one thing being a fool, and another being a silly fool. Now we'll
go along and see what else happens."

He explained as he proceeded: "I've wanted Callvet for quite a long
time--he's on the list, so to speak. I lost sight of him a year ago. How
Spedding got him is a mystery. If the truth be told, he's got a nodding
acquaintance with half the crooks in London...had a big criminal
practice before he went into the more lucrative side of the law."

A big crowd had gathered at the corner of the Haymarket, and with one
accord they avoided it.

"Curiosity," Angel prattled on, "has been the undoing of many a poor
soul. Keep away from crowds, Jimmy."

They walked on till they came to Angel's flat in Jermyn Street.

"Spedding will duplicate and triplicate his schemes for catching us
tonight," said Jimmy.

"He will," agreed Angel, and opened the door of the house in which his
rooms were. The narrow passageway, in which a light usually burned day
and night, was in darkness.

"Oh, no," said Angel, stepping back into the street, "oh, indeed no!"

During their walk Jimmy had had a suspicion that they had been followed.
This suspicion was confirmed when Angel whistled, and two men crossed the
road and joined them.

"Lend me your lamp, Johnson," said Angel, and taking the bright little
electric lamp in his hand, he entered the passage, followed by the
others. They reached the foot of the stairs, then Angel reached back his
hand without a word, and one of the two men placed therein a stick.
Cautiously the party advanced up the stairway that led to Angel's room.

"Somebody has been here," said Angel, and pointed to a patch of mud on
the carpet. The door was ajar, and Jimmy sent it open with a kick; then
Angel put his arm cautiously into the room and turned on the light, and
the party waited in the darkness for a movement. There was no sign, and
they entered. It did not require any great ingenuity to see that the
place had been visited. Half-opened drawers, their contents thrown on the
floor, and all the evidence of a hurried search met their eyes. They
passed from the little sitting-room to the bedroom, and here again the
visitors had left traces of their investigations.

"Hullo!" Jimmy stopped and picked up a soft felt hat. He looked inside;
the dull lining bore the name of an Egyptian hatter. "Connor's!" he said.

"Ah!" said Angel softly, "so Connor takes a hand, does he?"

One of the detectives who had followed them in grasped Angel's arm.

"Look, sir!" he whispered.

Half-hidden by the heavy hangings of the window, a man crouched in the
shadow.

"Come out of that!" cried Angel.

Then something in the man's attitude arrested his speech. He slipped
forward and pulled back the curtain.

"Connor!" he cried. Connor it was indeed, stone dead, with a bullet hole
in the centre of his forehead.




CHAPTER XIV


OPENING THE SAFE



THE four men stood in silence before the body. Jimmy bent and touched the
hand. "Dead!" he said. Angel made no reply, but switched on every slight
in the room. Then he passed his hands rapidly through the dead man's
pockets; the things he found he passed to one of the other detectives,
who laid them on the table.

"A chisel, a jemmy, a centre-bit, lamp, pistol," enumerated Angel. "It is
not difficult to understand why Connor came here; but who killed him?"

He made a close inspection of the apartment. The windows were intact and
fastened, there were no signs of a struggle. In the sitting-room there
were muddy footmarks, which might have been made by Connor or his
murderer. In the centre of the room was a small table. During Angel's
frequent absences from his lodgings he was in the habit of locking his
two rooms against his servants, who did their cleaning under his eye. In
consequence, the polished surface of the little table was covered with a
fine layer of dust, save in one place where there was a curious circular
clearing about eight inches in diameter. Angel examined this with
scrupulous care, gingerly pulling the table to where the light would fall
on it with greater brilliance. The little circle from whence the dust
had disappeared interested him more than anything else in the room. "You
will see that this is not touched," he said to one of the men; and then
to the other, "You had better go round to Vine Street and report
this--stay, I will go myself."

As Jimmy and he stepped briskly in the direction of the historic police
station, Angel expressed himself tersely. "Connor came on his own to
burgle; he was surprised by a third party, who, thinking Connor was
myself, shot him."

"That is how I read it," said Jimmy. "But why did Connor come?"

"I have been expecting Connor," said Angel quietly. "He was not the sort
of man to be cowed by the fear of arrest. He had got it into his head
that I had got the secret of the safe, and I he came to find out."

Inside the station the inspector on duty saluted him.

"We have one of your men inside," he said pleasantly, referring to the
Frenchman; then, noticing the grave faces of the two, he added, "Is
anything wrong, sir?"

Briefly enough the detective gave an account of what had happened in
Jermyn Street. He added his instructions concerning the table, and left
as I the inspector was summoning the divisional surgeon.

"I wonder where we could find Spedding?" asked Angel.

"I wonder where Spedding will find us?" added Jimmy grimly.

Angel looked round in surprise. "Losing your nerve?" he asked rudely.

"No," said the cool young man by his side slowly; "but somehow life seems
more precious than it was a week ago."

"Fiddlesticks!" said. Angel. "You're in love."

"Perhaps I am," admitted Jimmy in a surprised tone, as if the idea had
never occurred to him before. Angel looked at his watch.

"Ten o'clock," he said; "time for all good people to be in bed. Being
myself of a vicious disposition, and, moreover, desirous of washing the
taste of tragedy out of my mouth, I suggest we walk steadily to a place
of refreshment."

"Angel," said Jimmy, "I cannot help thinking that you like to hear
yourself talk."

"I love it," said Angel frankly.

In a little underground bar in Leicester Square they sat at a table
listening to a little string band worry through the overture to
Lohengrin. The crowded room suited their moods. Jimmy, in his
preoccupation, found the noise, the babble of voices in many tongues, and
the wail of the struggling orchestra, soothing after the exciting events
of the past few hours. To Angel the human element in the crowd formed
relaxation. The loud-speaking men with their flashy jewellery, the
painted women with their automatic smiles, the sprinkling of keen-faced
sharps he recognized, they formed part of the pageant of life--the life
as Angel saw it. They sat sipping their wine until there came a man who,
glancing carelessly round the room, made an imperceptible sign to Angel,
and then, as if having satisfied himself that the man he was looking for
was not present, left the room again. Angel and his companion followed.

"Well?" asked Angel.

"Spedding goes to the safe to-night," said the stranger.

"Good," said Angel.

"The guard at the safe is permanently withdrawn by Spedding's order."

"That I know," said Angel. "It was withdrawn the very night the 'Borough
Lot' came. On whose behalf is Spedding acting?"

"On behalf of Connor, who I understand is one of the legatees."

Angel whistled. "Whew! Jimmy, this is to be the Grand Finale."

He appeared deep in thought for a moment.

"It will be necessary for Miss Kent to be present," he said after a
while.

From a neighbouring district messenger office he got on by the telephone
to a garage, and within half an hour they were ringing the bell at
Kathleen's modest little house.

The girl rose to greet them as they entered. All sign of the last night's
fatigue had vanished.

"Yes," she replied, "I have slept the greater part of the day."

Angel observed that she studiously kept her eyes from Jimmy, and that
that worthy was preternaturally interested in a large seascape that hung
over the fireplace.

"This is the last occasion we shall be troubling you at so late an hour,"
said Angel, "but I am afraid we shall want you with us tonight."

"I will do whatever you wish," she answered simply. "You have been, both
of you, most kind."

She flashed a glance at Jimmy, and saw for the first time the surgical
dressing on his head. "You--you are not hurt?" she cried in alarm, then
checked herself.

"Not at all," said Jimmy loudly, "nothing, I assure you."

He was in an unusual panic, and wished he had not come.

"He tripped over a hearthrug and fell against a marble mantelpiece," lied
Angel elaborately. "The marble has been in the possession of my family
for centuries, and is now badly, and I fear irretrievably, damaged."

Jimmy smiled, and his smile was infectious. "A gross libel, Miss Kent,"
he said, recovering his nerve. "As a matter of fact--"

"As a matter of fact," interrupted Angel impressively, "Jimmy was walking
in his sleep!"

"Be serious, Mr. Angel," implored the girl, who was now very concerned as
she saw the extent of Jimmy's injury, and noticed the dark shadows under
his eyes.

"Was it Spedding?"

"It was," said Angel promptly. "A little attempt which proved a failure."

Jimmy saw the concern in the girl's eyes, and, manlike, it cheered him.

"It is hardly worth talking about," he said hastily, "and I think we
ought not to delay our departure a second."

"I will not keep you a moment longer than I can help," she said, and left
the room to dress herself for the journey.

"Jimmy," said Angel, as soon as she had gone, "cross my hand with silver,
pretty gentleman, and I will tell your fortune."

"Don't talk rot," replied Jimmy.

"I can see a bright future, a dark lady with big gray eyes, who--"

"For Heaven's sake, shut up!" growled Jimmy, very red; "she's coming."

They reached the Safe Deposit when the bells of the city were chiming the
half-hour after eleven.

"Shall we go in?" asked Jimmy.

"Better not," advised Angel. "If Spedding knows we have a key it might
spoil the whole show."

So the car slowly patrolled the narrow length of Lombard Street, an
object of professional interest to the half-dozen plain-clothes policemen
who were on duty there. They had three quarters of an hour to wait, for
midnight had rung out from the belfries long before a big car came
gliding into the thorough-fare from its western end. It stopped with a
jerk before the Safe Deposit, and a top-hatted figure alighted. As he did
so, Angel's car drew up behind, and the three got down.

Spedding, professionally attired in a frock-coat and silk hat, stood with
one foot on the steps of the building and his hand upon the key he had
fitted. He evinced no surprise when he saw Angel, and bowed slightly to
the girl. Then he opened the door and stepped inside, and Angel and his
party followed. He lit the vestibule, opened the inner door, and walked
into the darkened hall. Again came the click of switches, and every light
in the great hall blazed. The girl shivered a little as she looked up at
the safe, dominating and sinister, a monument of ruin, a materialization
of the dead regrets of a thousand bygone gamblers. Solitary, alone, aloof
it rose, distinct from the magnificent building in which it stood--a
granite mass set in fine gold. Old Reale had possessed a good eye for
contrasts, and had truly foreseen how well would the surrounding beauty
of the noble hall emphasize the grim reality of the ugly pedestal.
Spedding closed the door behind them, and surveyed the party with a
triumphant smile.

"I am afraid," he said in his smoothest tones, "you have come too late."

"I am afraid we have," agreed Angel, and the lawyer looked at him
suspiciously.

"I wrote you a letter," he said. "Did you get it?"

"I have not been home since this afternoon," said Angel, and he heard the
lawyer's little sigh of relief.

"I am sorry," Spedding went on, "that I have to disappoint you all; but
as you know, by the terms of the will the fortunate person who discovers
the word which opens the safe must notify me, claiming the right to apply
the word on the combination lock."

"That is so," said Angel.

"I have received such a notification from one of the legatees--Mr.
Connor," the lawyer went on, and drew from his pocket a paper, "and I
have his written authority to open the safe on his behalf."

He handed the paper to Angel, who examined it and handed it back.

"It was signed today," was all that he said.

"At two o'clock this afternoon," said the lawyer. "I now--"

"Before you go any further, Mr. Spedding," said Angel, "I might remind
you that there is a lady present, and that you have your hat on."

"A thousand pardons," said the lawyer with a sarcastic smile, and removed
his hat. Angel reached out his hand for it, and mechanically the lawyer
relinquished it. Angel looked at the crown. The nap was rubbed the wrong
way, and was covered with fine dust.

"If you desire to valet me," said the lawyer, "I have no objection."

Angel made no reply, but placed the hat carefully on the mosaic floor of
the hall.

"If," said the lawyer, "before I open the safe, there is any question you
would like to ask, or any legitimate objection you would wish to raise, I
shall be happy to consider it."

"I have nothing to say," said Angel.

"Or you?" addressing Jimmy.

"Nothing," was the laconic answer.

"Or Miss Kent perhaps--?"

Kathleen looked him straight in the face as she answered coldly--"I am
prepared to abide by the action of my friends."

"There is nothing left for me to do," said the lawyer after the slightest
pause, "but to carry out Mr. Connor's instructions."

He walked to the foot of the steel stairway and mounted. He stopped for
breath halfway up. He was on a little landing, and facing him was the
polished block of granite that marked where the ashes of old Reale
reposed.

Pulvis
Cinis
et
Nihil

said the inscription. "'Dust, cinders and nothing,'" muttered the
lawyer, "an apt rebuke to one seeking the shadows of vanity."

They watched him climb till he reached the broad platform that fronted
the safe door. Then they saw him pull a paper from his pocket and examine
it. He looked at it carefully, then twisted the dials cautiously till one
by one the desired letters came opposite the pointer. Then he twisted the
huge handle of the safe. He twisted and pulled, but the steel door did
not move. They saw him stoop and examine the dial again, and again he
seized the handle with the same result. A dozen times he went through the
same process, and a dozen times the unyielding door resisted his
efforts. Then he came clattering down the steps, and almost reeled across
the floor of the hall to the little group. His eyes burnt with an
unearthly light, his face was pallid, and the perspiration lay thick upon
his forehead.

"The word!" he gasped. "It's the wrong word."

Angel did not answer him.

"I have tested it a dozen times," cried the lawyer, almost beside
himself, "and it has failed."

"Shall I try?" asked Angel.

"No, no!" the man hissed. "By Heaven, no! I will try again. One of the
letters is wrong; there are two meanings to some of the symbols." He
turned and remounted the stairs.

"The man is suffering," said Jimmy in an undertone.

"Let him suffer," said Angel, a hard look in his eyes. "He will suffer
more before he atones for his villainy. Look, he's up again. Let the men
in, Jimmy, he will find the word this time--and take Miss Kent away as
soon as the trouble starts."

The girl saw the sudden mask of hardness that had come over Angel's face,
saw him slip off his overcoat, and heard the creaking of boots in the
hall outside. The pleasant, flippant man of the world was gone, and the
remorseless police officer, inscrutable as doom, had taken his place. It
was a new Angel she saw, and she drew closer to Jimmy. An exultant shout
from the man at the safe made her raise her eyes. With a flutter at her
heart, she saw the ponderous steel door swing slowly open. Then from the
man came a cry that was like the snarl of some wild beast.

"Empty!" he roared. He stood stunned and dumb; then he flung himself into
the great steel room, and they heard his voice reverberating hollowly.
Again he came to the platform holding in his hand a white envelope.
Blindly he blundered down the stairs again, and they could hear his heavy
breathing.

"Empty!" His grating voice rose to a scream. "Nothing but this!" He held
the envelope out, then tore it open. It contained only a few words--

"Received on behalf of Miss Kathleen Kent the contents of this safe."

(Signed)
JAMES CAVENDISH STANNARD, Bart.
CHRISTOPHER ANGEL.

Dazed and bewildered, the lawyer read the paper, then looked from one to
the other.

"So it was you," he said. Angel nodded curtly.

"You!" said Spedding again. "Yes."

"You have robbed the safe--you--a police officer."

"Yes," said Angel, not removing his eyes from the man. He motioned to
Jimmy, and Jimmy, with a whispered word to the girl, led her to the
door. Behind him, as he returned to Angel's side, came six plain-clothes
officers.

"So you think you've got me, do you?" breathed Spedding.

"I don't think," said Angel, "I know."

"If you know so much, do you know how near to death you are?"

"That also I know," said Angel's even voice. "I'm all the more certain of
my danger since I have seen your hat."

The lawyer did not speak.

"I mean," Angel went on calmly, "since I saw the hat that you put down on
a dusty table in my chambers--when you murdered Connor."

"Oh, you found him, did you--I wondered," said Spedding without emotion.

Then he heard a faint metallic click, and leapt back with his hand in his
pocket. But Jimmy's pistol covered him. He paused irresolutely for one
moment; then six men flung themselves upon him, and he went to the ground
fighting.

Handcuffed, he rose, his nonchalant self, with the full measure of his
failure apparent. He was once again the suave, smooth man of old. Indeed,
he laughed as he faced Angel.

"A good end," he said. "You are a much smarter man than I thought you
were. What is the charge?"

"Murder," said Angel.

"You will find a difficulty in proving it," Spedding answered coolly,
"and as it is customary at this stage of the proceedings for the accused
to make a conventional statement, I formally declare that I have not seen
Connor for two days."

Closely guarded, he walked to the door. He passed Kathleen standing in
the vestibule, and t she shrank on one side, which amused him. He
clambered into the car that had brought him, followed by the policemen,
and hummed a little tune. He leaned over to say a final word to Angel.

"You think I am indecently cheerful," he said, "but I feel as a man
wearied with folly, who has the knowledge that before him lies the sound
sleep that will bring forgetfulness." Then, as the car was moving off, he
spoke again--"Of course I killed Connor--it was inevitable."

And then the car carried him away. Angel locked the door of the deposit,
and handed the key to Kathleen. "I will ask Jimmy to take you home," he
said. "What do you think of him?" said Jimmy.

"Spedding? Oh, he's acted as I thought he would. He represents the very
worst type of criminal in the world; you cannot condemn, any more than
you can explain, such men as that. They are in a class by
themselves--Nature's perversities. There is a side to Spedding that
is particularly pleasant."

He saw the two off, then walked slowly to the City Police Station. The
inspector on duty nodded to him as he entered.

"We have put him in a special cell," he said. "Has he been well
searched?"

"Yes, sir. The usual kit, and a revolver loaded in five chambers."

"Let me see it," said Angel. He took the pistol under the gaslight. One
chamber contained an empty shell, and the barrel was foul. That will hang
him without his confession, he thought.

"He asked for a pencil and paper," said the inspector, "but he surely
does not expect bail."

Angel shook his head. "No, I should imagine he wants to write to me."

A door burst open, and a bareheaded jailer rushed in.

"There's something wrong in No. 4," he said, and Angel followed the
inspector as he ran down the narrow corridor, studded with iron doors on
either side.

The inspector took one glance through the spy-hole.

"Open the door!" he said quickly. With a jangle and rattle of bolts, the
door was opened. Spedding lay on his back, with a faint smile on his
lips; his eyes were closed, and Angel, thrusting his hand into the breast
of the stricken man, felt no beat of the heart. "Run for a doctor!" said
the inspector. "It's no use," said Angel quietly, "the man's dead." On
the rough bed lay a piece of paper. It was addressed in the lawyer's bold
hand to Angel Esquire. The detective picked it up and read it.

"Excellent Angel," the letter ran, "the time has come when I must prove
for myself the vexed question of immortality. I would say that I bear you
no ill will, nor your companion, nor the charming Miss Kent. I would have
killed you all, or either, of course, but happily my intentions have not
coincided with my opportunities. For some time past I have foreseen the
possibility of my present act, and have worn on every suit one button,
which, coloured to resemble its fellows, is in reality a skilfully
moulded pellet of cyanide. Farewell."

Angel looked down at the dead man at his feet. The top cloth-covered
button on the right breast had been torn away.




CHAPTER XV


THE SOLUTION



IF you can understand that all the extraordinary events of the previous
chapters occurred without the knowledge of Fleet Street, that eminent
journalists went about their business day by day without being any the
wiser, that eager news editors were diligently searching the files of the
provincial press for news items, with the mystery of the safe at their
very door, and that reporters all over London were wasting their time
over wretched little motor-bus accidents and gas explosions, you will
all the easier appreciate the journalistic explosion that followed the
double inquest on Spedding and his victim.

It is outside the province of this story to instruct the reader in what
is so much technical detail, but it may be said in passing that no less
than twelve reporters, three subeditors, two "crime experts," and
one publisher were summarily and incontinently discharged from their
various newspapers in connection with the "Safe Story." The Megaphone
alone lost five men, but then the Megaphone invariably discharges more
than any other paper, because it has got a reputation to sustain. Flaring
contents bills, heavy black headlines, and column upon column of solid
type, told the story of Reale's millions, and the villainous lawyer, and
the remarkable verse, and the "Borough Lot". There were portraits of
Angel and portraits of Jimmy and portraits of Kathleen (sketched in court
and accordingly repulsive), and plans of the lawyer's house at Clapham
and sketches of the Safe Deposit.

So for the three days that the coroner's inquiry lasted London, and Fleet
Street more especially, revelled in the story of the old croupier's
remarkable will and its tragic consequences. The Crown solicitors very
tactfully skimmed over Jimmy's adventurous past, were brief in their
examination of Kathleen; but Angel's interrogation lasted the greater
part of five hours, for upon him devolved the task of telling the story
in full.

It must be confessed that Angel's evidence was a remarkably successful
effort to justify all that Scotland Yard had done. There were certain
irregularities to be glossed over, topics to be avoided--why, for
instance, official action was not taken when it was seen that Spedding
contemplated a felony.

Most worthily did Angel hold the fort for officialdom that day, and when
he vacated the box he left behind him the impression that Scotland Yard
was all foreseeing, all wise, and had added yet another to its list of
successful cases.

The newspaper excitement lasted exactly four days. On the fourth day,
speaking at the Annual Congress of the British Association, Sir William
Farran, that great physician, in the course of an illuminating address on
"The first causes of disease," announced as his firm conviction that all
the ills that flesh is heir to arise primarily from the wearing of boots,
and the excitement that followed the appearance in Cheapside of a
converted Lord Mayor with bare feet will long be remembered in the
history of British journalism. It was enough, at any rate, to blot out
the memory of the Reale case, for immediately following the vision of a
stout and respected member of the Haberdasher Company in full robes and
chain of office entering the Mansion House insufficiently clad there
arose that memorable newspaper discussion "Boots and Crime," which
threatened at one time to shake established society to its very
foundations.

"Bill's a brick," wrote Angel to Jimmy. "I suggested to him that he might
make a sensational statement about microbes, but he said that the Lancet
had worked bugs to death, and offered the 'no boots' alternative."

It was a fortnight after the inquiry that Jimmy drove to Streatham to
carry out his promise to explain to Kathleen the solution of the
cryptogram. It was his last visit to her, that much he had decided. His
rejection of her offer to equally share old Reale's fortune left but one
course open to him, and that he elected to take.

She expected him, and he found her sitting before a cosy fire idly
turning the leaves of a book. Jimmy stood for a moment in an embarrassed
silence.

It was the first time he had been alone with her, save the night he drove
with her to Streatham, and he was a little at a loss for an opening.

He began conventionally enough speaking about the weather, and not to be
outdone in commonplace, she ordered tea.

"And now, Miss Kent," he said, "I have got to explain to you the solution
of old Reale's cryptogram."

He took a sheet of paper from his pocket covered with hieroglyphics.

"Where old Reale got his idea of the cryptogram from was, of course,
Egypt. He lived there long enough to be fairly well acquainted with the
picture letters that abound in that country, and we were fools not to
jump at the solution at first. I don't mean you," he added hastily. "I
mean Angel and I and Connor, and all the people who were associated with
him."

The girl was looking at the sheet, and smiled quietly at the faux pas.

"How he came into touch with the 'professor--!"

"What has happened to that poor old man?" she asked.

"Angel has got him into some kind of institute," replied Jimmy. "He's a
fairly common type of cranky old gentleman. 'A science potterer,' Angel
calls him, and that is about the description. He's the sort of man that
haunts the Admiralty with plans for unsinkable battleships, a 'minus
genius'--that's Angel's description too--who, with an academic
knowledge and a good memory, produced a reasonably clever little book,
that five hundred other schoolmasters might just as easily have written.
How the professor came into Reale's life we shall never know. Probably
he came across the book and discovered the author, and trusting to his
madness, made a confidant of him. Do you remember," Jimmy went on, "that
you said the figures reminded you of the Bible? Well, you are right.
Almost every teacher's Bible, I find, has a plate showing how the
alphabet came into existence." He indicated with his finger as he spoke.
"Here is the Egyptian hieroglyphic. Here is a 'hand' that means 'D,' and
here is the queer little Hieratic wiggle that means the same thing, and
you see how the Phoenician letter is very little different to the
hieroglyphic, and the Greek 'delta' has become a triangle, and locally it
has become the 'D' we know."

He sketched rapidly. "All this is horribly learned," he said, "and has
got nothing to do with the solution. But old Reale went through the
strange birds, beasts and things till he found six letters, S P R I N G,
which were to form the word that would open the safe."

"It is very interesting," she said, a little bewildered.

"The night you were taken away," said Jimmy, "we found the word and
cleared out the safe in case of accidents. It was a very risky proceeding
on our part, because we had no authority from you to act on your behalf."

"You did right," she said. She felt it was a feeble rejoinder, but she
could think of nothing better.

"And that is all," he ended abruptly, and looked at the clock.

"You must have some tea before you go," she said hurriedly. They heard
the weird shriek of a motor-horn outside, and Jimmy smiled.

"That is Angel's newest discovery," he said, not knowing whether to bless
or curse his energetic friend for spoiling the tte--tte.

"Oh!" said the girl, a little blankly he thought.

"Angel is always experimenting with new noises," said Jimmy, "and some
fellow has introduced him to a motor-siren which is claimed to possess an
almost human voice." The bell tinkled, and a few seconds after Angel was
ushered into the room.

"I have only come for a few minutes," he said cheerfully. "I wanted to
see Jimmy before he sailed, and as I have been called out of town
unexpectedly--"

"Before he sails?" she repeated slowly. "Are you going away?"

"Oh, yes, he's going away," said Angel, avoiding Jimmy's scowling eyes.
"I thought he would have told you."

"I--" began Jimmy.

"He's going into the French Congo to shoot elephants," Angel rattled on;
"though what the poor elephants have done to him I have yet to discover."

"But this is sudden?" She was busy with the tea things, and had her back
toward them, so Jimmy did not see her hand tremble.

"You're spilling the milk," said the interfering Angel. "Shall I help
you?"

"No, thank you," she replied tartly.

"This tea is delicious," said Angel, unabashed, as he took his cup. He
had come to perform a duty, and he was going through with it. "You won't
get afternoon tea on the Sangar River, Jimmy. I know because I have been
there, and I wouldn't go again, not even if they made me governor of the
province."

"Why?" she asked, with a futile attempt to appear indifferent.

"Please take no notice of Angel, Miss Kent," implored Jimmy, and added
malevolently, "Angel is a big game shot, you know, and he is anxious to
impress you with the extent and dangers of his travels."

"That is so," agreed Angel contentedly, "but all the same, Miss Kent, I
must stand by what I said in regard to the 'Frongo.' It's a deadly
country, full of fever. I've known chaps to complain of a headache at
four o'clock and be dead by ten, and Jimmy knows it too."

"You are very depressing today, Mr. Angel," said the girl. She felt
unaccountably shaky, and tried to tell herself that it was because she
had not recovered from the effects of her recent exciting experiences.

"I was with a party once on the Sangar River," Angel said, cocking a
reflective eye at the ceiling. "We were looking for elephants, too, a
terribly dangerous business. I've known a bull elephant charge a hunter
and--"

"Angel!" stormed Jimmy, "will you be kind enough to reserve your
reminiscences for another occasion?"

Angel rose and put down his teacup sadly. "Ah, well!" he sighed
lugubriously, "after all, life is a burden, and one might as well die in
the French Congo--a particularly lonely place to die in, I admit--as
anywhere else. Goodbye, Jimmy!" He held out his hand mournfully.

"Don't be a goat!" entreated Jimmy. "I will let you know from time to
time how I am; you can send your letters via Sierra Leone."

"The White Man's Grave!" murmured Angel audibly.

"And I'll let you know in plenty of time when I return."

"When!" said Angel significantly. He shook hands limply, and with the air
of a man taking an eternal farewell. Then he left the room, and they
could hear the eerie whine of his patent siren growing fainter and
fainter.

"Confound that chap!" said Jimmy. "With his glum face and extravagant
gloom he--"

"Why did you not tell me you were going?" she asked him quietly. She
stood with a neat foot on the fender and her head a little bent.

"I had come to tell you," said Jimmy.

"Why are you going?"

Jimmy cleared his throat. "Because I need the change," he said almost
brusquely.

"Are you tired--of your friends?" she asked, not lifting her eyes.

"I have so few friends," said Jimmy bitterly. "People here who are worth
knowing know me."

"What do they know?" she asked, and looked at him.

"They know my life," he said doggedly, "from the day I was sent down from
Oxford to the day I succeeded to my uncle's title and estates. They know
I have been all over the world picking up strange acquaintances. They
know I was one of the"--he hesitated for a word--"gang that robbed
Rahbat Pasha's bank; that I held a big share in Reale's ventures--a
share he robbed me of, but let that pass; that my life has been
consistently employed in evading the law."

"For whose benefit?" she asked.

"God knows," he said wearily, "not for mine. I have never felt the need
of money, my uncle saw to that. I should never have seen Reale again but
for a desire to get justice. If you think I have robbed for gain, you are
mistaken. I have robbed for the game's sake, for the excitement of it,
for the constant fight of wits against men as keen as myself. Men like
Angel made me a thief."

"And now--?" she asked.

"And now," he said, straightening himself up, "I am done with the old
life. I am sick and sorry--and finished."

"And is this African trip part of your scheme of penitence?" she asked.
"Or are you going away because you want to forget--" Her voice had sunk
almost to a whisper, and her eyes were looking into the fire.

"What?" he asked huskily.

"To forget--me," she breathed.

"Yes, yes," he said, "that is what I want to forget."

"Why?" she said, not looking at him.

"Because--oh, because I love you too much, dear, to want to drag you
down to my level. I love you more than I thought it possible to love a
woman--so much, that I am happy to sacrifice the dearest wish of my
heart, because I think I will serve you better by leaving you." He took
her hand and held it between his two strong hands.

"Don't you think," she whispered, so that he had to bend closer to hear
what she said, "don't you think I--I ought to be consulted?"

"You--you," he cried in wonderment, "would you--"

She looked at him with a smile, and her eyes were radiant with unspoken
happiness. "I want you, Jimmy," she said. It was the first time she had
called him by name. "I want you, dear."

His arms were about her, and her lips met his. They did not hear the
tinkle of the bell, but they heard the knock at the door, and the girl
slipped from his arms and was collecting the tea-things when Angel walked
in. He looked at Jimmy inanely, fiddling with his watch chain, and he
looked at the girl.

"Awfully sorry to intrude again," he said, "but I got a wire at the
little post-office up the road telling me I needn't take the case at
Newcastle, so I thought I'd come back and tell you, Jimmy, that I will
take what I might call a 'cemetery drink' with you tonight."

"I am not going," said Jimmy, recovering his calm.

"Not--not going?" said the astonished Angel.

"No," said the girl, speaking over his shoulder, "I have persuaded him to
stay."

"Ah, so I see!" said Angel, stooping to pick up two hairpins that lay on
the hearthrug.



THE END



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