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Title: The Man Who Shot the "Favourite" (The Gold Mine)
Author: Edgar Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1400751h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  Feb 2014
Most recent update: Feb 2014

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The Man Who Shot the "Favourite" (The Gold Mine)


Edgar Wallace



First published in Ideas, Feb 9, 1929

In 1909 Edgar Wallace wrote 24 short stories featuring Police Contable Lee of the London "D" Division for publication in the British weekly magazine Ideas. A number of these were reprinted in Ideas in 1928-1929 (some under new titles) and in other magazines. Nine of the P.C. Lee stories were later included in the 1961 collection The Undisclosed Client and Other Stories. So far as could be ascertained, the only story in the series that appeared in any collection published during Wallace's lifetime was "Change," which was re-written (without P.C. Lee) as "Mr. Sigee's Relations" for The Lady Called Nita, published by George Newnes, London, in 1930.

'THERE always will be a certain percentage of mysteries turnin' up, that simply won't untwist themselves, but the mystery that I'm thinkin' of particularly is the Wexford Brothers' Industrial Society, which unravelled itself in a curious fashion,' said P. C. Lee.

'If you don't happen to know the Wexford Brothers, I can tell you that you haven't missed much. It was a sort of religious sect, only more so, because these chaps didn't smoke, an' didn't drink or eat meat, or enjoy themselves like ordinary human bein's, an' they belonged to the anti-gamblin', anti-imperial, anti-life-worth-livin' folks.

'The chief chap was Brother Samsin, a white-faced gentleman with black whiskers. He was a sort of class leader, an' it was through him that the Duke started his Wexford Brothers' Industrial Society.

'The Duke wasn't a bad character, in spite of his name, which was given to him by the lads of Nottin' Dale. He was a bright, talkative, an' plausible young feller, who'd spent a lot of time in the Colonies, an' had come back to London broke to the world owin' to speculation.

'Why I know so much about him is that he used to lodge in my house. He was a gentleman with very nice manners, an' when Brother Samsin called on me one afternoon an' met the Duke, the brother was so impressed with the respect an' reverence with which the Duke treated him that he asked him home to tea.

'To cut a long story short, this bright young man came to know all the brothers and sisters of the society an' became quite a favourite.

'I thought at first he had thoughts of joinin' the Brotherhood, but he soon corrected that.

'"No, Lee," ses he, "that would spoil the whole thing. At present I'm attracted to them because I'm worldly and wicked. If I became a brother, I'd be like one of them. At present they've no standard to measure me by, an' so I'm unique."

'What interested the brothers most was the Duke's stories of his speculations in the Colonies, of how you can make a thousand pounds in the morning, lose two thousand in the evening, an wake up next mornin' to find that you've still got a chance of makin' all you've lost an' a thousand besides.

'Well, anyway, he got the brothers interested, an' after a lot of palaver an' all sorts of secret meetin's, it was decided to start the Industrial Society, an' make the Duke chief organiser an' secretary.

'The idea was to subscribe a big sum of money, an allow the Duke to use it to the best of his ability "on legitimate enterprises"—those were the words in the contract.

'The Duke took a little office over a barber's shop near the Nottin' Hill Gate Station, an' started work. Nothin' happened for a month. There were directors' meetin's an' money was voted, but in the second week of April, two months after the society was formed, the Duke said the society was now flourishin' an' declared a dividend of 20 per cent. What is more, the money was paid, an' you may be sure the brothers were delighted.

'A fortnight later, he declared another dividend of 30 percent, an' the next week a dividend of 50 percent, an' the brothers had a solemn meetin' an' raised his salary. Throughout that year hardly a week passed without a dividend bein' declared and paid.

'Accordin' to his agreement the Duke didn't have to state where the money came from. On the books of the society were two assets:

Gold mine... 1,000
Silver mine... 500

an' from one or the other the dividends came.

'All went well to the beginning of this year. You would think that the brothers, havin' got their capital back three times over, would be satisfied to sit down an' take their "divvies", but of all true sayin's in this world the truest is that "the more you get, the more you want."

'From what I hear, the Duke paid no more dividends at all from the end of November to the end of February, an' only a beggarly 10 per cent, in March. So the directors had a meetin' an' passed a vote of censure on the secretary.

'He wasn't the kind of man to get worried over a little affair like that, but he was annoyed.

"What these perishers don't understand,' he ses to me, 'is that the gold mine doesn't work in the winter.'

'"Where is it?" I asked.

'He thought a bit. "In the Klondike," he ses, thoughtful.

'"An' where's the silver mine?"

'"In never-never land," he ses, very glib.

'He got the brothers quiet again by the end of March, for he declared a dividend of 20 percent, but somehow or other all those weeks of non-payment got their backs up, an' they wasn't so friendly with him as they used to be.

'Mr. Samsin asked me to call round an' see him, an' I went.

'When I got to his house, I was shown into the parlour, an' to my surprise, I found about a dozen of the brothers all sittin' round a table very solemn an' stern.

'"We've asked you to come, Mr. Lee," ses Samsin, "because bein' a constable, an' acquainted with law, an' moreover," he ses with a cough, "acquainted with our dear young friend who's actin' as secretary to our society, you may be able to give us advice. You must know," he ses, mysteriously, "that for three months no dividends have been forthcomin' to our society."

'I nodded.

'"We have wondered why," he ses, "but have never suspected one whom we thought was above suspicion."

'"Meanin', the Duke?" I ses.

'"Meanin' Mr. Tiptree," ses Brother Samsin. Tiptree was the Duke's private name.

'"We have made a discovery," ses Samsin, impressively, "an' when I say 'we' I mean our dear Brother Lawley."

'A very pale gent in spectacles nodded his head.

'"Brother Lawley," ses Samsin, "was addressin' a meetin' on Lincoln racecourse—he bein' the vice-president of the Anti-Race-League—an' whilst runnin' away from a number of misguided sinners, who pursued him with contumely—"

'"An' bricks," ses Brother Lawley.

'"An' bricks," Samsin went on, "he saw Tiptree!"

He paused, and there was a hushed silence.

'"He was bettin!"' ses Brother Samsin.

'"Now," he adds, "I don't want to be uncharitable, but I've got an idea where our dividends have gone to."

'"Stolen," ses I.

'"Stolen an' betted," ses the brother, solemnly.

'"Well," ses I, "if you report the matter to me, an' you've got proof, an' you'll lay information, I'll take it to my superior, but if you ask me anythin' I'll tell you that you haven't much of a case. It's no offence to bet—"

'"It's an offence against our sacred principles," ses Brother Samsin.

'The upshot of this conversation was—they asked me to watch the Duke an' report any suspicious movement, an' this I flatly refused to do.

'An' with that I left 'em. I don't know what they would have done, only suddenly the society began to pay dividends. Especially the gold mine, which paid a bigger dividend every week.

'So the brothers decided to overlook the Duke's disgraceful conduct, especially in view of the fact that Brother Lawley was preparin' for one of the most terrible attacks on horse-racin' that had ever been known.

'I got to hear about it afterwards. Brother Lawley was all for bein' a martyr to the cause. He said he wanted to draw attention to the horrible gamblin' habits of the nation, but there were lots of people who said that the main idea was to call attention to Brother Lawley.

'Be that as it may, he thought out a great plan an' he put it into execution on the day before Derby Day.

'A number of our fellows were drafted down for the races and I went with them.

'On the Monday, as I went down on the Tuesday, I saw the Duke. He still lodged in my house, although he was fairly prosperous, an' happenin' to want to borrow the evenin' paper to see what young Harry Bigge got for a larceny I was interested in, I went to his room.

'He was sittin' in front of a table, an' was polishin' up the lenses of a pair of race-glasses, an' I stopped dead when I remembered my conversation with the brothers.

'"Hullo!" I ses, "you an' me are apparently goin' to the same place."

'"Epsom? Yes," ses he, coolly. "An' if you take my tip you'll back Belle of Maida Vale in the second race."

'"I never bet," I ses, "an' I take no interest in horse-racin' an', moreover," I ses, "she can't give Bountiful Boy seven pounds over a mile an' a quarter."

'When I got downstairs I went over her "form." She was a consistent winner. The year before she'd won eight races at nice prices, an' I decided to overcome my aversion to bettin' an back her, although I'd made up my mind to have my week's salary on Bountiful Boy.

'There was the usual Tuesday crowd at Epsom, an' I got a glimpse of Brother Lawley holdin' his little meetin'. He was on his own. It wasn't like the racecourse Mission, that does its work without offence, but Lawley's mission was all brimstone an' heat.

'We cleared the course for the first race, an' after it was over I casually mentioned to Big Joe France, the Bookmaker, that if Belle of Maida Vale was 20 to 1 I'd back her.

'"I'm very sorry, Mr. Lee," he ses, "but you'll have to take a shorter price—I'll lay you sixes."

'I took the odds to 30s. and laid half of it off with Issy Jacobs a few minutes later at threes.

'The course was cleared again for the second race, an' it was whilst the horses were at the post that I saw Brother Lawley leanin' over the rails near the winnin' post. He looked very white an' excited, but I didn't take much notice of him, because that was his natural condition.

'In the rings the bookies were shoutin' "Even money on Belle of Maida Vale", an' it looked as if somebody was havin' a rare gamble on her.

'The bell rang, an' there was a yell. "They're off!"

'I was on the course, near the judge's box, an' could see nothin' of the race till the field came round Tattenham Corner with one horse leadin'—and that one the Belle.

'Well out by herself she was, an' there she kept right along the straight to the distance. There was no chance of the others catchin' her an' they were easin' up when suddenly from the rails came a report like the snap of a whip, an' the Belle staggered, swerved, an' went down all of a heap.

'For a moment there was a dead silence, an' then such a yell as I've never heard before.

'They would have lynched Brother Lawley, with his smokin' pistol in his hand, but the police were round him in a minute.

"I've done it!" he yelled. "I've drawn attention to the curse—"

'"Shut up!" I said, "an' come along before the people get you."

'Next day there was a special meetin' of the Wexford Brothers' Industrial Society, an' the Duke attended by request.

'Brother Samsin was in the chair.

'"We are gathered," he ses, "to consider what can be done for the defence of our sainted Brother Lawley, who's in the hands of the myrmidons of the law. I propose that we vote a sum out of the society—"

'"Hold hard," ses the Duke, roughly, "you can't vote any money—because there ain't any."

'"Explain yourself," ses Brother Samsin. "What of the gold mine?"

'"The gold mine," ses the Duke sadly, "was a horse called Belle of Maida Vale, that I bought out of the society's funds—she's dead."

'"An' the silver mine?" faltered Samsin.

'"That was the Belle of Maida Vale, too," ses the Duke. "A good filly, she was. She won regularly every month at a nice price—but she won't win any more dividends."'


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