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First published by John Castle, London, 1925

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"Mr. Pepper, Investigator," John Castle, London, 1925


"Mr. Pepper, Investigator," John Castle, London, 1925



I HAD always been brought up to believe that all truly great men are modest, and when my friend Archer gave me the address of Mr. Pepper, I was prepared to find a man who would wave his world reputation aside with a deprecating smile, as all really great men do.

Archer has a positive genius for discovering the unrecognized Great: it was he who discovered Barker, "the greatest poet of the twentieth century," who was languishing in a Bloomsbury boarding-house and reciting his masterpieces to the ladies after high tea because he was too sensitive to publish them.

I have always understood that Archer had something to do with the Cubists and Hezekiah Jones, the Welsh composer, who writes his music without keys, bars or beats (I hope that these are the correct musical terms); at any rate, without any of the trammels that fettered better known but less gifted composers in the past. Archer knew, of course, that I am not clever; he knew, also, that I was interested in the science of detection and read all the detective literature that is humanly possible for one man with intervals for sleep and meals, and he whispered to me as he passed me in the library, "You ought to know Pepper."

"Who is Pepper?"

"What? You haven't heard of Pepper? He's the world's greatest detective, just come over from America—or, at least, they say from America—to bring a fresh eye to bear on our crime mysteries. You know, between ourselves, he has a very poor opinion of Scotland Yard."

So, of course, have I. I had not read the adventures of Sherlock Holmes for nothing.

"Is he anything like Sherlock Holmes?" I asked.

"Not a bit; in fact, you wouldn't take him for a detective at all. Though, naturally, he does not like it referred to, he is the son of a German baron, or a nobleman of some kind. Before the war his father is said to have emigrated to America, and was known as Von Pfeffer, but that, of course, was changed to Pepper, and I don't think that the son has ever called himself anything else. The story goes that he began his career as a reporter on one of the Middle West papers, and, naturally, he specialized in crime. They say that there is no crime mystery that he has not solved."

"He must be a remarkable man. I should like to meet him very much."

"Then we'll arrange it. I'll try to get him to lunch at Jules' on Tuesday. He's a difficult man to catch, and he wouldn't care to be seen at a Club. I'll get a private room. If you don't hear to the contrary, one o'clock on Tuesday."

That luncheon party was one of the most interesting in my life.

Mr. Pepper was, as Archer had said, not in the least like a detective, and that made him all the more interesting as a psychological study.

He was a man of medium height, with fair hair, growing a little thin on the temples, a rather florid complexion, and a bristling blond moustache. His shoulders were broad and his hands were what I should call "useful," rather than ornamental; they were fat hands, and the fingers were rather short and thick. But it was his face that riveted the attention. In a crowd one might not have noticed him, except that the back of his head was unusually flat; but when one looked into the penetrating light blue eyes one saw at once that this was no ordinary man—that a brain was hard at work behind the mask.

He spoke very little at the luncheon. Like all men who work with their brains, he did not make the mistake of starving it, for I noticed that he ate and drank not at all sparingly. When the waiter had withdrawn, and Archer had poured out for us some really excellent port, he became more communicative. I began to learn something of the secret of his extraordinary success.

Let me attempt to set down some of the aphorisms which Archer succeeded in drawing from him by allusions to his most famous cases.

"If there is an obvious clue to a mystery do not attempt to follow it: it will lead you wrong."

"If one person only had a motive for the crime you may feel certain that he is innocent."

"Look for the unlikely, and, preferably, the sensational, explanation; and in nine cases out of ten you will be right."

"Make a practice of being interviewed by reporters. From time to time you will find them useful in publishing theories which prove later to be unfounded: these, of course, you have given them in order to lull the real culprit into security."

All these rather startling aphorisms were dropped quite casually and with becoming modesty. "I am afraid, Mr. Pepper," I said, "that Scotland Yard works upon exactly opposite methods. They seem always to go for the motive and the clue, and they pride themselves on the number of convictions they obtain."

"Convictions!" he exclaimed pityingly. "What are convictions? A mere waste of time. They've no publicity value. What is wanted is not to convince a jury of twelve stupid men, but to appeal to that vast silent jury of public opinion—the enormous public that reads newspapers. That is worth a detective's while. You must form a theory, build up your theory from the facts, and then face the world with it."

"Then you think," said Archer, "that most men who are condemned by the courts are wrongfully convicted? I have always suspected that."

"What else can you expect? It is my business to show that they are."

WHEN the party broke up I asked him on what case he was now working. He would not tell me. All he said was, "Come and see," and he gave me his card.

When he had taken his leave, Archer said, "You have made an impression. I never knew him say that to anyone else. And would you believe it," he added indignantly, "I happen to know one of the Inspectors from Scotland Yard—Inspector Peahen—and when I asked him whether he knew Pepper, and what he thought of him, he said, 'Oh, yes! We call him the Brass Band Detective.' Jealousy, I suppose."

I found Mr. Pepper in a lodging as modest as his demeanour. It was a furnished bedroom and sitting-room over an Italian restaurant in Charlotte Street, Soho, which, he said, he found convenient for his meals.

"I chose this neighbourhood," he said, "because I am here to study the people, and there are more criminals in proportion to the population in these streets than in any other part of your City."

He had put on an old tweed working-jacket and had an unlighted cigar in his mouth. He put me into the only arm-chair and said:

"I want you to feel quite at home here. Drop in every day if you like, and I'll tell you what I am working on. It is very often helpful even to the expert to see how his ideas strike the amateur." (He pronounced the word "amature.")

And then a quick suspicion seemed to cross his mind.

"You are not thinking of entering the profession yourself, Mr. Meddleston-Jones?"

I reassured him on that point, and explained that I was one of those unhappy persons cursed with an inherited competence which made it unnecessary for me to enter a profession while I was still young enough.

"Ah! The interested amature. I could not have anything better."

His pale blue eyes seemed to search my soul. "Have you formed any opinion on the Margesson case?"

All that I knew about this "case" was the information given in all the London evening papers under the headings of "Sudden death of a Titled Official"; "Tragic End of a Great Career"; "Sudden Death in Hyde Park."

It had not interested me greatly because Sir Henry had reached the ripe age of seventy-five, and, after all, a man of that age has to die somewhere: for the purpose of dying, Hyde Park seemed to me to be as useful as a bed. But, of course, I did not know all the extraordinary details that I was to hear from Pepper.

"I suppose that you read the account of the inquest," he began. "Sir Henry Margesson had dined early at the Oriental Club; it was a perfect evening with still an hour of daylight. He walked with a friend who had served with him in India through Upper Brook Street to Park Lane; the friend saw him safe across the roadway and they parted at Hyde Park Corner, the friend to take a 'bus to South Kensington where he lived; Sir Henry to walk through the Park to Cumberland Gate. From that moment until a young man named John People, a curious name you will admit—until this man People noticed an old gentleman in front of him stumble and fall a little north of the Achilles Statue, nothing is known. A crowd is round him in a moment. The man who collects the money for the chairs summons the police; an ambulance is sent for; the body is taken to the mortuary; the identity is established from a visiting card in the dead man's pocket; the relatives, a son and a daughter, are sent for; they do their best to prevent an inquest from being held; and then a coroner's jury finds a verdict of 'Death from natural causes.' Think of it! This foul murder a death from natural causes."


"Certainly. Why not?"

"But surely there was medical evidence?"

"There always is, and it is always safe to ignore it. The police surgeon examines the body and goes for 'heart failure'—the one refuge for all incompetents. The daughter says that her father suffered from his heart, the dead man's own physician says the same with some additional details. There was only one point in the evidence of that doctor that is worth noting: he said that Sir Henry was a 'bad patient,' and would never listen to his warnings. Now I am going to make a suggestion to you. Why not work on this case with me? If you will I'll take you to my office immediately after lunch."

His offer, accompanied as it was by some flattering observation on what he called my "intelligence," was quite overwhelming. It was more than I had ever dared to hope for. It was the first hint I had had that he had an office. I imagined it an exquisitely arranged laboratory equipped with all that modern detective science requires. We walked to it from Soho.

It consisted of two fairly large rooms on the first floor of a very old house in the Adelphi. On a doorplate I noticed the words, "Mr. Pepper: Investigator," and on a card suspended underneath it, "Walk right in," words that indicated the country to which Mr. Pepper owed his education.

The outer office was impressively furnished with a Turkey carpet and leather arm-chairs for the clients, so placed that they were in the full light while Mr. Pepper sat at his table in the shadow.

Behind him were rows upon rows of bottles all neatly labelled and against the other walls were the drawers of a card index and some bookshelves.

"Do tell me before I sit down, what is in those bottles," I said.

"Oh," said he carelessly, "only samples of dust. No modern investigator could work without those."

I looked at the labels.

"Dust, carpenter's pockets," "Dust, Sevenoaks," "Dust, Bodmin," and so on. He must have collected dust from every road in England, France and Belgium.

"Perhaps you would like to see my workshop," he said, leading me into the inner room.

Under the window was a large microscope. Here again, there were rows of bottles, and the ordinary apparatus of a chemical laboratory.

"Most of my visitors ask to be taken in here," he added.

"What are those?" I asked, pointing to some bottles with red labels.

"Poisons. I am trying some experiments. Those with black labels are snake poisons, and the rare and little known Curare, which is used in South America for poisoning spears and arrows. And that brings us back to Sir Henry. Come into the other room, and we will discuss the case."

When we were installed he offered me a cigar. I declined, but he chose one for himself, and chewed the end without lighting it. I offered him a match.

"Thank you, not yet. An unlighted cigar is a great aid to reflection. You see, of course, now, that Sir Henry Margesson was murdered?"

"I confess—" I began, but he interrupted me.

"Of course it was a murder. He had served for years in India, and as a Deputy Commissioner, or whatever he was, no doubt he was instrumental in putting down the Thugs."

"He took his pension twenty-five years ago."

"Those people have long memories. I hope to show you not only that it was a murder, but also that the poison used was snake poison, extracted from the poison fangs of the Hamadryad. You look astonished, but let me take you over the known facts. Sir Henry dined at the Oriental Club. Now at that Club there will be found an Indian cook who makes curries as curries should be made. Sir Henry has been watched for years by one of those relentless and secret gangs that are the curse of Oriental countries. Why did they not attack him before, you will ask me. Because they never had just such an opportunity as they had on that fatal Tuesday evening, Sir Henry dining at the club, mentioning in the hearing of a waiter, that he would stroll home through Hyde Park. They follow him to Hyde Park Corner, where he parted from his friend: you know how crowded that pavement is where the buses stop. A man jostles him; Sir Henry feels the slightest prick in the arm, a prick so slight that he is scarcely conscious of it; he begins his walk northward, feels giddy, falls. The evidence of the man who collects money for the chairs was that the murdered man had a peaceful expression on his face as if he was asleep. A guinea-pig on which I experimented with the same poison only yesterday, died with just such an expression. If it had been curare it would have been a different thing."

The man's pale blue eyes were blazing with enthusiasm. I suppose that all geniuses are enthusiastic.

"The doctor spoke of heart disease," I modestly ventured.

"Exactly. That goes to prove my point. Hamadryad poison acts directly on the heart. It practically stops it dead. Oh, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, don't neglect such a chance as this. Think of what it means! The breaking up of the most subtle and dangerous gang in Europe."

"I'll do anything you like," I said.

The man was throbbing with excitement.

"You will? Then we'll work the case together. You shall do the outdoor investigation: I the arrangement of your material."

To sit at the feet of such a teacher exceeded my wildest dreams. I thanked him very warmly.

"You have many points to work upon. Begin with the Indian cook."

I happened to know a member of the Oriental Club fairly intimately. The entire club became the guests of my club every August while, they were turned out for cleaning. I approached him cautiously by asking him what became of the club servants when the club was closed. He said that he was not on the Committee and didn't know. He supposed that they went on board wages. I became bolder.

"You must miss your Indian cook very much when you come to us—for curries, I mean."

He looked surprised.

"We haven't got an Indian cook, and I hate curries—eaten too many of 'em."

This was a facer at the outset, but when I reported this to Mr. Pepper he seemed to be delighted.

"It is worse than I thought," he said: "the gang has tampered with the English Club servants: probably there are Europeans in the gang itself: very likely that man, People, who gave evidence at the inquest. I want you now to study Sir Henry's career in India, with particular reference to his efforts to suppress the Thugs."

With the help of books of reference and of friends who had served in India, I studied Sir Henry's past, which seemed to have been extraordinarily uneventful. Evidently he had done his best to make his biography in Who's Who an impressive document, but he had failed because he had never done anything in particular except obey orders. He had passed into the Indian Civil rather low down on the list and had performed routine duties throughout his service. He had never had to put down anything, not even a famine.

"Born, married, died," would have been a quite adequate biography. His superiors must have appreciated his docility since they gave him a K.C.I.E., but no one seemed to have minded when he retired and left a vacancy for an abler man. After his retirement he lived on his pension and his wife's money; he had not even joined the board of any public company. It appeared that he did not drink or smoke, and he played a very poor hand at bridge; indeed, there was usually a muttered exclamation on the part of the member who cut him for partner, but this was quite safe because Sir Henry was growing a little deaf. When he played the wrong card he explained that his eyesight was failing and he did not see the cards very well.

As far as I was able to learn, he had never had an enemy. No one had an interest in his death as he had nothing to leave and his pension died with him.

I was mistaken in thinking that all this negative information would daunt my Chief, if I may be permitted so to call him. He bit his unlighted cigar very hard and said, "That man died from hamadryad poison, and we have got to find out who administered it."

"Could some one have been experimenting with the stuff—I mean a total stranger?"

I realized how fatuous the suggestion was as soon as I said the words.

Fortunately, my Chief was deep in thought and was not listening.

"There is nothing else for it," he said at last; "you must have a talk with his medical man."

He gave me a very interesting disquisition upon hamadryad poison and its effects, in order that I might display some knowledge of the subject.

The interview cost me three guineas, because I had to visit the doctor's consulting room as an ordinary patient. I found him courtesy itself.

Dr. Hammond had a consulting practice in Harley Street. His waiting-room was crowded with people who sat glaring at each other under the cover of periodicals some weeks old. I had to wait for half an hour. He received me with great cordiality.

"Now, what's the trouble?" he said. "If you will allow me to say so you look as sound as a bell."

"Worry and sleeplessness," I said. I should explain that in a difficult case such as this the approach has to be made by rather devious paths. He felt my pulse, looked at my tongue and shook his head.

"You smoke too many cigarettes. Cut them down." (This to me who rarely smoke more than thirty a day!) "What are you worrying about?"

I told him that it was about the death of Sir Henry Margesson; that I could not get out of my mind that there had been foul play.

He seemed to be genuinely astonished.

"I attended him and I gave evidence at the inquest. It was a case of old age, a copious meal and a weak heart—the most natural and painless death in the world."

I felt that I had to startle him. "But if a man ran at him and pricked him with a needle tipped with hamadryad poison—"

He looked very hard into my eyes, picked up my card and laid it down again. His next question was quite irrelevant.

"Has any doctor been attending you, Mr. Meddleston-Jones? I mean have your friends called in anyone?"

I could not imagine what he meant.

"That is scarcely an answer to my question. You must know the effects of hamadryad poison."

"I do," he said.

"And the grass round the Achilles statue is well known to be infested with snakes, particularly in the evening. But, seriously, it is extraordinary that you should have said that. The old gentleman himself was interested in snake poisons in an amateurish sort of way. The number of deaths from snake bite was an obsession with him and I remember that he showed me a number of bottles containing what he said was snake poison which he administered to guinea-pigs in his backyard. I found it difficult sometimes to get away from him."

I nearly leapt out of my chair.

"What was his object?" I asked. "Oh! He thought he was going to make Venin—a culture to cure snake-bite. It was quite useless to tell him that it was discovered long ago and has been in use for years."

"Could he have pricked himself by accident—always supposing that his symptoms were consistent with snake poison?"

"He was the sort of old gentleman who might have done anything. He was in such a state of health that anything—even a light blow with a hammer on his thumb—would have been sufficient to cause death."

The doctor continued to eye me whimsically as if he found me a more interesting case than Sir Henry Margesson. "A heavy meal, a little physical exercise, and—the end," he added finally.

I was bursting with the news when I returned to the office.

My Chief listened rather abstractedly as if he had lost interest in the case.

"I still incline to the belief that it was murder," he said. "But I have had a far more interesting case put into my hands to-day—the burglary in Middlesex Street. We must get to work at once."

It was this power of "switching off," so to speak, from one case to another, which showed the real genius of the man.


"I HAVE had a visit to-day from a new client—the representative of the Ruby Fire and Burglary Insurance Company," said Mr. Pepper. "A claim has been made against them for a burglary at a warehouse in Middlesex Street of a very daring kind. The warehouse was full of bales of cloth and furs valued at nineteen hundred and twenty-eight pounds, seventeen shillings and fourpence. The warehouse was safely locked up by the proprietor himself at six o'clock on Wednesday evening. When he opened it at nine o'clock on Thursday morning he found that a clean sweep had been made of the whole of the goods; there was absolutely nothing left except some waste paper, a bottle and a tumbler and an old broom. My client had just come from the place.

"A remarkable feature of this robbery is that according to the proprietor the door had not been tampered with and the windows were securely latched on the inside. The police at Leman Street were telephoned for and a detective sergeant called. After taking down particulars he went all over the premises, shook his head, said nothing and went away. Presently the Divisional Detective Inspector, his superior officer, came back with him and the two questioned the proprietor again. They asked for a ladder and climbed up to the fanlight over the door; then they conversed in low whispers and went off to question the neighbours. They never returned to the scene of the robbery.

"When the claim for the insurance money was made one of the Company's inspectors called at Leman Street to ask what the police were doing in the matter. He saw a cop in uniform who went to make enquiries, and then returned to say that they had no record of any burglary in Middlesex Street on Wednesday night. In reply to further questions, he admitted that a complaint had been made by a Mr. Israel Cohen that his warehouse had been entered and robbed, but that no case of warehouse-breaking or burglary was on the records."

"Carelessness, I suppose," I said, seeing that I was expected to say something.

"Not at all. The police will never commit themselves to burglary insurance people. It meant that they suspected Mr. Israel Cohen of making a fraudulent claim."

"You mean that they think he did it himself?"

My Chief nodded. "And what do you think?"

"Wait. My client has heard a story, which he has not yet verified, that this Israel Cohen has been a very unlucky man. He had two other warehouses in London, and there were fires in both of them. He was insured in both instances and the Companies, after some demur, paid the claims. Now he has this burglary."

"Then you agree with the police."

"The police, as I told you the other day, are nearly always wrong. It is not a question what I think, but what you think."

This from a great master to a pupil of a few days quite deprived me of speech. I am afraid that I gaped at him.

"I don't expect you to make up your mind on what I have told you. Take your time. Go and see Cohen and his premises for yourself, and then make up your mind. Remember that to remove all these goods the thieves must have had a horse and van. Remember, too, that if we"—(I am certain that he used the plural)—"if we succeed in clearing up the case we shall have all the Company's work for the future."

It was a terrific responsibility that was thrust upon me.

I saw Mr. Cohen the same afternoon. He was of the ancient faith—a man of about 5 feet 3, pasty in complexion and nourished to excess. So were his family, who were the only employees of the firm. His son, a youth of 21, who favoured his father though he had yet to grow three chins, was the warehouse porter; his daughter kept the books.

I represented myself as coming from the Insurance Company and he stiffened at once.

"I don't know what it is all about," he whined. "Business is business you insure my stock against burglars and I pay you a very high premium. Burglars come and you do not pay up. It will give your Company a very bad name when I tell the others."

"Yes, Mr. Cohen, when we are satisfied that there has been a burglary we shall pay up at once. Business is, as you say, business, and my business is to go over the ground with you and report."

By this time the son and daughter had joined him and were looking darkly at me out of their Oriental eyes.

"Very well," he said, "you shall see everything. Sophy, bring this shentleman the books."

I can never understand accounts, but as he did not know my weak spot I took it that the books did show that he had goods worth nineteen hundred pounds and that he had booked a number of orders from Jewish tailors for the cloth.

"How do you think that the burglars got in? You say that you locked the door yourself that evening. Do you suggest that they had had a special key made?"

"No, not at all. I tell the detective that it was up to the police to find out how they got in. That is not my business, but if you want to know what I think, I think that they got in through the fan-light."

I moved a table to the door, put a chair upon it and climbed up to examine the fanlight. The wood-work under the fanlight was a quarter of an inch deep in dust which had not been disturbed for half a generation.

I pointed this out to him and told him (and in this I anticipated the truth) that it would have needed a van to remove the cloth and that no one in the street had seen a van there that night. They would certainly have noticed it if there had been one.

"What will you report to the Company?" he asked.

"I will search the place before I reply to that question," I said. As he made no objection I went over the whole place from top to bottom, opening cupboards, examining windows and even the chimney in the room used as an office. When I had finished he pointed to an empty bottle and glass and said that the burglars had left them; they did not belong to the office.

I examined them in what I hoped was a professional manner, and then in a flash I saw that I had lighted on a most important piece of evidence. I asked him for a box large enough to contain the tumbler and in this I packed the glass with infinite precaution. For I had seen on the surface of the tumbler a thumb or finger-print. It was beautifully defined, and though I was not very clear how it would lead to the identification of the criminal, I knew that a number of clever people did know.

I was much too excited to waste any more of my time with the Cohen family. With my precious burden I walked till I found a taxi and was at the office within ten minutes; perhaps I was a little incoherent. At any rate, my Chief asked me to sit down and collect myself.

"Do I understand then that you have found a finger impression on a tumbler which Cohen says was left by the burglars? It is new in my experience for burglars to bring their own glasses. The impression may be more important than we think."

"It may be Cohen's."

"That would prove nothing. Cohen would say that he made it in picking up the glass. Bring it into the laboratory."

He examined it under a lens.

"It is a very clear impression and the thumb was not very clean. Usually these chance impressions are blurred. Now, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, will you please press both your thumbs on this sheet of paper—quite a usual formality which should never be neglected."

I did as I was told. They made no visible mark. He took up a wide-mouthed bottle full of powdered charcoal, spilled some of it on the paper and dusted it gently backwards and forwards with a camel-hair brush. Then he shook off the powder, and there stood my two thumb-prints as in a developed photographic print. He compared them with the print on the glass, talking softly to himself.

"Quite an ordinary formality, but a very necessary formality;" and then he fixed me with those penetrating light blue eyes of his. "Mr. Meddleston-Jones, the print on the glass is that of your right thumb. Come and see for yourself."

"It must be the thumb-print of my double," I said. "I was most careful."

"No two prints are identical unless they are made by the same person."

The man was right; the two prints were identical in every particular. I was a little indignant, not so much at his having found me out, but at his having suggested that my thumb was not very clean.

"Has Cohen any enemies?" he asked.

"He has me for one," I replied. "His office where the family had been having tea smelt like the Small Cat House at the Zoo."

Mr. Pepper's face became a little stern; I had noticed before that he did not approve of witticisms.

"You say that the books and invoices prove that he was in possession of the cloth?"

I had said nothing of the kind.

"He showed me a mass of papers, but of course, they may have been faked. It would help me enormously to hear your theory."

"My theory is this. Cohen had twice claimed insurance money for fires at his premises. He would not tempt Providence again by claiming on a bogus burglary. Therefore during the night the cloth was moved. I think that he had an enemy—probably a business rival who knew that he had a number of orders to fill. This enemy planned to get a false key made—not a very difficult problem in these days. He hired men—a number of men—and carried the whole of the cloth to a hiding-place near by. A spiteful thing to do, you will say, but people are spiteful and will pay large sums of money to gratify their spite. Cohen may be a Zionist for all we know, and the other man an Anti-Zionist. We don't know enough about Cohen."

I felt that I knew quite enough about Cohen, but I did not say so.

"You must go back and make friends with the man—win his confidence—play with his children, dandle them on your knee—(I thought of the two I had seen and trembled)—buy chocolates for the wife, take tea with her, encourage her to talk."

I took my hat and left him. There was no knowing what other liberties he might ask me to take with the Cohen family.

When I reached the warehouse the two young Cohens were in the street and their father was locking the door.

"Ah!" he said, "you've come back. Is it all right? Will the Company pay me my money?"

"No, they won't."

He leaned up against the door and sobs began to shake his fat shoulders. The daughter ran to comfort him, looking wickedly at me over her shoulder. The son sauntered on; there was no one else in the street. I drew nearer. "They won't until I am able to tell them more than I know yet. Are you a Zionist?"

"Me a Zionist?" he hissed through his sobs. "What has that to do with it? I am a ruined man, not a Zionist, and my family will have to beg their bread; and you ask me whether I am a Zionist."

"I am going to ask you a great deal more. Come back into your office where we can talk quietly."

He came, as I thought, rather unwillingly. "Come, Sophy; the shentleman will speak with us in the office."

But I had had enough of Sophy and her brother. I wanted to attack the fortress without its bastions. On the question of Sophy I was quite firm and with one withering glance the young lady went off to her tea and shrimps.

When we were seated I said, "Have you any enemies, Mr. Cohen?"

I have never seen a man drowning among floating straws, but I know from the convulsive tremor that ran through this man's triple tier of chins exactly how he would clutch.

"Enemies? Yes, every honest man who tries to do his duty has enemies. There are bad people in Middlesex Street, sir. In that house right opposite I have an enemy. He tries to steal my customers from me—sells them cloth that falls to pieces in your hand—and at prices that no honest man can compete with—damaged goods, salvage, rotten stuff full of holes. Yes, he is an enemy and I have others who would stick at nothing. Funny that you should say enemies. As I lay awake last night I said to myself, 'You have an enemy. An enemy has burgled you and stolen your good cloth.' That is the whole truth."

"Could they have taken an impression of your key?"

He laid a fat finger on my arm to press home his remarks.

"You never know what such people will do. One of them come around my place only last week. I don't know what he wanted; only talk and talk with his eyes going like this." He slid his eyes to the corners of their sockets and looked incredibly sly. "Perhaps he took an impression; perhaps he has skeleton key. Do anything—that one."

He was so eager to clinch my suggestion that a cold suspicion took hold of me.

"Do you know, Mr. Cohen, I have an idea. You just sit here while I run upstairs and have another look round. I believe I know a way in which they could have got the goods out of the house. No, don't trouble to come up; I would rather look about by myself."

I ran up the rickety stairs before he had time to get under weigh. I wanted to see whether the upper windows could have been used. The upper floor contained the office, a little cubby hole of a place, boarded off from the main room which was filled with wooden racks for the bales of cloth.

The only window was in the office; the other window had been converted into a wooden doorway with a pulley over it for hoisting bales from the street. The window was very dirty and dust was thick upon the sill. The dusky Sophy who passed her working hours in this den was not particular.

I opened the window with some difficulty to examine the outer sill. It was clear that it had not been opened for years. The dusky Sophy did not care for fresh air.

I was about to shut it when the figure of a small boy appeared at an open window exactly opposite. It belonged to the house of Mr. Cohen's enemy. Behind the small boy, in the obscurity of the room, was an older person who seemed to be directing the small boy's movements which I took at first to be some kind of gymnastic exercise.

It was some time before I realized that he was trying to attract my attention. He would first throw out his hand towards me, then throw up his head and point obliquely towards the sky.

I shook my head and made as if to close the window. At this his mentor urged him to more passionate gestures. He beckoned with one hand as if inviting me to take flight across the street like a swallow, and with the other he made violent gestures with a pointing forefinger, but always far above my head.

To humour him I leaned far out of my window and craned my head upward. This provoked furious approbation in dumb show. It was like the game of "Hot and Cold." Gradually it dawned upon my rather dull intelligence that he was pointing to my roof. I pointed upwards and tried to indicate a question with my eyebrows.

The ecstasy displayed by the small boy at these gleams of human intelligence showed me that I was getting warmer. There was, then, something on the roof. I waved my hand and withdrew into the room to see whether there was any access to the tiles from inside the building.

The outer room had a grimy ceiling, but one point was hidden from me by a pile of loose sacking—the sort of stuff in which bales of cloth are wrapped. It was curious, I thought, that they should be stored in so careless a fashion on the topmost rack.

I was climbing up to get a better view when I heard Cohen puffing up the stairs. He was the last person in the world who ought to see what I was doing. I clambered down in time to meet him at the top of the stairs.

"No, Mr. Cohen, I was wrong. They did not use the window. But there is something that I want you to do. Go out into the street and lock the door behind you; cross over to the opposite side, and go to the next turning just as if you were going home for the night. Stop at the turning for a few minutes as if you were looking for something in your pockets and then come back here as you would if you had forgotten something in the office. As you are passing the house where your enemy lives just raise your hat. I shall be at the window and I shall see."

"But I can point you out the house from the office window."

"Of course you could. But that would never do. They will be watching and if they are, guilty they will take alarm. Please do just as I say."

Whether my programme appealed to some latent histrionic instinct in him, or whether my determined manner conjured up a vision of an unfavourable report I do not know, but he bumped his way down the stairs and I heard the key turn in the lock as he went out into the street. His little comedy would give me about four minutes.

He could not have waddled ten paces when I had shifted the bundle of hessian and disclosed a wooden trap-door in the ceiling and, unlike every other part of the warehouse, it looked as if it had been newly dusted.

It gave to the lift of a shoulder, but I could not move it far on account of some rather soft obstruction. I had it up at last and by standing on the topmost rack I could lift my head into the loft above. It was a mere triangular space under the tiles, pitch dark and very hot and stuffy.

Fortunately I had matches and then I realized that Cohen indeed had an enemy and that his enemy was a very bright small boy who could make energetic signals.

For the entire loft was packed tight with bales of cloth stacked to the very apex of the tiles.

The Cohen family must have worked like beavers for days to have achieved such a task, Sophy and all. I was back at the window in time to see Cohen lift his hat before the small boy's house and I lifted my hat too, but from a different motive. I felt that the small boy deserved at least that act of homage.

When Cohen let himself in he said, "You saw me?"

"I did indeed, Mr. Cohen."

"And you think that you have enough now to make your report?"

"Quite enough."

He chuckled with pleasure.

I ANTICIPATED a warm welcome from my chief when I went to report my discovery, and perhaps I felt a little disappointment at the unemotional manner in which he received my story. I forgot that men at the top of their profession rarely display emotion. All he said was:

"Exactly what I thought you would find if you went more thoroughly into the case."

I could not remember that he had ever mentioned this anticipation to me. "I hope that the Company will now give you their future business."

"They will be fools if they don't, Mr. Meddlesome-Jones."

Why will people always get my name wrong?


A WHOLE week had passed since Mr. Pepper—and the small boy—had spoilt Mr. Cohen's scheme; and no one had come near the office. My chief spent the time in perfecting his scientific apparatus which had not been called into use since my short association with him. It was, therefore, with immense satisfaction that an opportunity for exercising Mr. Pepper's higher art was thrown into my way.

An acquaintance at my club, finding me in the smoking-room when other people were working, took the chair opposite to mine and said, "By the way, Jones, I hear that you dabble in detective work; that you have discovered a wonderful Yankee who wipes the eye of Scotland Yard. Why don't you make your name by solving this Hanover Court case?"

"I've never heard of it."

"No; it hasn't got into the papers yet, but it will."

He had himself heard of it only that morning. His landlord had a sister who let lodgings in Hanover Court. She had opened the luggage of a tenant who had gone abroad owing rent and had been horrified by finding in one of the trunks what appeared to be the remains of a dismembered human body. She had run at once to her brother, who consulted my friend as to what she ought to do.

He took the usual course of advising that she should report the matter to the police, but, as far as he knew, she had not yet done so because she had made the discovery only that morning at breakfast-time. He gave me her address.

I seized my hat and took a taxi to Hanover Court. I found the poor landlady wringing her hands. "You heard of the case through my brother, sir? Well, I am glad that you've come in time. I was just going off to the police, but it will ruin my business to have the police messing about the house, asking me a lot of questions and calling in the coroner. They would make me appear as a witness at the inquest and the papers would publish the address. Then what chance would there be of the best class people taking rooms where there's been a murder? It is not respectable. Now if you'll take away the trunk and take all responsibility I shall breathe freely. Of course, if there has been a murder I must stand by it, but you will ferret it all out and I hope that I shall hear no more about it."

I agreed to everything on the condition that she gave me all the information she possessed. She showed me the trunk which stood on the landing of the second floor. I opened it with trembling fingers.

It contained a number of packages wrapped in dirty newspaper and enveloped in part of what appeared to be an old Army blanket. I satisfied myself that they contained bones, probably human bones, and with her assistance carried the trunk downstairs for removal to our office. In the meantime she told me the story of her lodger.

"He was what they call an eccentric, sir—always going off without notice and writing letters asking me to reserve his room and take care of his luggage. He always sent me money for the rent while he was away. He would write from all sorts of places—Naples, Egypt, Athens, and one letter I had came from Peru. I never knew him pack anything for his journeys. All he said was that he was called away on business, and would I be sure and feed his cat?"

"You haven't told me his name, Mrs. Auger."

"To tell you the truth, I had almost forgotten it. We always called him 'The Doctor,' because when he came to me five years ago he said something about being in the medical profession. But his real name was Allen—Henry Allen."

"That sounds English enough."

"Oh, there was nothing foreign about him except his hair. He never seemed to get it cut—his hair and his eccentricity—for foreigners are eccentric, don't you think so, Mr. Meddleston-Jones? His age? Well, that would be hard to say—something between thirty-five and fifty, I should say."

"Had he no friends, no visitors?"

"That's the peculiar thing. He had none. No, I am wrong there. About three years ago a lady did call and ask for Dr. Allen. I asked her what name I should give. She said, 'Don't trouble; just tell me what floor he's on, and I'll find him myself.' And up she walked, but, of course, he must have heard her voice. She soon came down again and said he wasn't there. Then I went up myself, and of course there he was, hiding under the bed. He said nothing to me, but I can't help thinking that that lady was his wife. She never came again, not to my knowledge."

"Did he get no letters?"

"Yes, once a month; always on the second, unless it was a Sunday, there would be a fat registered letter addressed 'Henry Allen, Esq.'—no doctor on the envelope. I think it was from a bank, but I don't remember which. He always paid his bill that morning for the whole month. He never had a meal in the house, not even his breakfast, but he used to bring back a little meat for his cat. Where did he go all day? Well, sir, that's more than I can tell you.

"On weekdays I would hear him coming downstairs regular at nine—I could have set my clock by him. If he passed me he would say 'Good morning,' but nothing else. On Sundays he would lie in bed all the morning, and go out punctually at twelve. Oh, he was eccentric, but not the sort to commit a cold-blooded murder; for it is cold-blooded, Mr. Meddlesome-Jones, whatever you may say, to cut up a person into little bits like that, now, isn't it? He had no books in his room, and he didn't leave a scrap of writing behind him. What he did all day is a mystery to me."

"When did you see him last?"

"It would be back in April. Yes, it is just three months. He just walked out of the house as usual, and when I went up to do his room I found that he had packed everything away in his trunks. 'Off again, I suppose,' I said to myself, and I was right—only this time I had no letter and he hadn't paid me for the room. I didn't think very much of that—he had been behind with the rent before. I thought that the money would come.

"But then, as the weeks went by and I had no letter, I began to get anxious, and I thought I had better see what he had left behind him. There wasn't a scrap of writing in any of the trunks—only old clothes and—and what you saw."

"But the letters from the bank?"

"That's the peculiar thing. Whenever he went off those letters stopped coming. There hasn't been a letter since he left. Do you think he can have committed suicide after the murder?"

"We have got to find out first if there has been a murder, Mrs. Auger. I suppose there has been no one missing in the neighbourhood?"

She thought for some moments, and then shook her head. "But I'm sure that lady who came to see him was his wife," she said.


"Well, she had a masterful, disagreeable way with her, and he got under the bed to hide from her. A man would never do that with anybody except his wife." I forbore to evoke any confidences of Mrs. Auger's own experience of the married state.

"And if she was his wife, what then?"

"Why, it might be her that's in the trunk."

The taxi-driver knew nothing of what his burden contained. For an extra shilling he helped me upstairs with it into the office, where my Chief's face became a mark of interrogation until the man was gone. Then I told him the story and opened the trunk. I never saw him so much moved before. He laid the bones out on the table as if they were jewels. At the bottom of the trunk was the skull carefully wrapped in newspaper by itself. We carried them into the laboratory and cleared a table for them. While he was arranging them in order I committed to paper what Mrs. Auger had told me.

Now, if my chief had a fault, it was that he tried to do too much himself rather than call in the expert. My instinct would have been to call in a surgeon or an anatomist and let him express his opinion on the bones; but when I ventured to suggest this my chief flew up in the air.

"What does your surgeon know of plastic reconstruction?" he said; and, not knowing what plastic reconstruction was, I said that I didn't know. "Well," he said, "I am going to show you."

It was a great opportunity for me. When I was admitted to the laboratory the bones were disposed on the table like a complete skeleton. My chief's first words were disconcerting.

"Some of the bones are missing," he said, "but the curious thing is that the body was deformed. That ought to make our work easier, but it is a very remarkable case. This woman had the left leg three inches shorter than the right, and the right arm two inches shorter than the left. She must have had a very odd appearance.

"We'll soon see what she looked like," said my chief, confidently, as he manipulated wax in a pan of warm water. The skull was secured in a wooden vice clamped to the table. With extraordinary dexterity he pinched off little bones from the lump of wax in the pan, warmed them over a spirit lamp, and stuck them all over the skull. Very gradually he began to build up a face; and after an hour's work it became under his skilled manipulation a human face certainly, but a face that one could only see in a nightmare. With her bodily deformities in addition, she might have made a good living at a show.

"There," he said, "is the murdered woman as she was in life." I had it on the tip of my tongue to say, "Then she deserved to die," but I restrained myself in time, and I suggested that Mrs. Auger should be called to the office to identify her with Mrs. Allen.

But my chief thought was that the time had not come for that. "Let us find the murderer and confront him with his victim," he said. "In nine cases out of ten he is so startled that he makes a full confession."

"And if he does, what then? Surely we should have to hand him over to the police."

"Yes," he mused, "but in a case of felony it is the duty of any citizen to arrest the felon. You will make the arrest; I will call in the reporters, and then we will ring up your wonderful Scotland Yard."

There was the most subtle irony in his tone. He covered the model with a sheet, and we sat down to consider the best way of finding Henry Allen. I was for advertising in the agony columns of The Times, the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail. "Henry Allen. Come back and all will be forgiven."

"He would plead at his trial that he had been promised a free pardon."

"Then why not something like this? 'If Henry Allen, late of 17, Hanover Court, will communicate with Pepper and Jones, Adelphi, London, he will hear of something to his advantage." My chief snorted with contempt; I feared that it might be because for the first time I had dared to couple our two names.

"Do you really suppose that a man who goes in daily fear that his crime will be discovered would reply to an advertisement?"

"Well, you see them in the newspapers every day when lawyers want to get hold of a man. Someone must reply to them or they wouldn't put them in."

"No, Mr. Meddleston-Jones; if we use the newspapers we will proceed in quite a different way. I have there (he pointed to his card index cabinet) the names and addresses of the principal newspapers of every country in the world—daily and weekly. We would prepare a little news paragraph, a snappy little thing of how an Englishman named Henry Allen had been named as residuary legatee to an eccentric lady who died leaving a million and a half, and that when the sole executor, Mr. Pepper (there was no mention of Meddleston-Jones in the proposed paragraph), wrote to the happy legatee he found that he had gone abroad leaving no address and the letter was returned by the Post Office.

"Under the provisions of the will if Henry Allen fails to claim his legacy within six months, the whole of the money goes to found a home for starving cats in London. We would have this translated into every language and sent out through one of the Press agencies. Everyone likes to read about unclaimed money."

"Wouldn't you be inundated with false claimants?"

"All the better. We would confront them all with the 'corpse' first, then with Mrs. Auger, and they would be glad to get away alive."

It seemed to me to be a very dilatory method of procedure, but my Chief must have adopted it, because a week or so later reporters connected with the Press agency began to hang about the office and stop me in the street. This annoyed my chief very much.

It appeared that he had made a confidential arrangement with the head of the agency that the paragraph should not be released to any newspaper in the United Kingdom, because he would have to confess that there was no eccentric millionaire lady in the case at all. But the paragraph must have appeared in foreign newspapers, because later we received begging letters from abroad.

An Englishwoman wrote from Leghorn to say that if Henry Allen failed to appear there were more starving cats in Leghorn than there could possibly be in London, that they kept her awake at night by their meowing, and that she would be glad to establish a home for them if she might have part of the money.

A man, signing himself "Henry Allen," wrote from Cooktown, in Queensland, asking for the expenses necessary for him to come to England to establish his claim. Another wrote from Salt Lake City to say that though he was known locally as Richard Doherty, he was satisfied that as his mother's name was Allen he was the person named in the will, and he would be thankful if a payment could be made on account; and a lady, writing from Buenos Aires in the name of Mary Allen, claimed the legacy on the ground that when she was a girl her schoolfellows always called her "Henry." But of the real Henry Allen not a word.

My chief was becoming impatient. He was engaged on several cases at the time and the model of the murdered woman, taking up nearly half the laboratory, were in his way. He had added chestnut hair to his reconstruction of the head, and colour to the cheeks; in her reconstructed state she must certainly have been very trying to live with, even when covered with a sheet.

One morning he said to me, "Mr. Meddleston-Jones, we are not getting on with this Allen case. Why don't you bring the landlady down to identify the victim? Then we might get on."

Mrs. Auger did not take at all kindly to my suggestion. She reminded me that our agreement was that she should not be troubled with the case any more, and I had some difficulty in getting her to the office. When I drew back the sheet she uttered a piercing scream and fell into a chair. "Oh, my heart!" she sobbed. "My poor heart!" and she tried to clutch that organ in her anatomy.

"You recognise her, Mrs. Auger? Is she like the wife?"

"She is like nothing on earth," she gasped, "and after seeing her I shall be ill for a week." It was a great disappointment.

I persuaded my Chief at last to take a photograph of the head and give it to an illustrated daily paper for circulation as a missing person about whom information was desired. He took the photograph, but ten minutes before I started with it for the newspaper office in Fleet Street an event occurred which entirely changed the course of our inquiry. Mrs. Auger reappeared.

She produced a picture postcard, bearing the Genoa postmark, from Henry Allen himself, saying that he would be in London within the week. "And now," she said, "what am I to say to him when he asks for his trunk? I can't say that the police have taken it, can I? You had better pack up all those bones in the newspapers just as he left them and bring back the trunk."

To this proposition, of course, my Chief would not agree. He pointed out that, according to the law, Mrs. Auger herself was bound to arrest him as soon as he set foot in her house.

"Arrest him?" she exclaimed, aghast.

"How can a woman arrest a man?"

"The law knows no difference between men and women, Mrs. Auger," I said. "Women serve on juries; there are women police. All you have to do is to lay your hand on his shoulder and say: 'Henry Allen, I arrest you for the wilful murder of a woman unknown, and I must caution you that anything you say will be taken down in writing, and will be used against you at your trial.' Then write down what he says, lock him up in his room, and telephone to Mr. Pepper, Central 1202."

"I could never do such a thing, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, were he a murderer three times over. You'll have to do this yourself."

I looked at Mr. Pepper and Mr. Pepper looked at me. It seemed to me that this was the moment for calling in the regular police who are paid for doing these things, but I did not dare to say so. I had an uncomfortable feeling that I had read somewhere about a man being charged as an accessory after the fact, and I had a horrible presentiment that Pepper and I would find ourselves standing in the dock at the Old Bailey.

We dismissed Mrs. Auger with some difficulty on the plea that we had to consider our position. There were still four days before us. Mr. Pepper was equally perturbed. The only solution which he could suggest was that I should wait at Mrs. Auger's door day after day and as soon as Allen appeared accost him, and induce him to come to the office, to be confronted with his victim. We would then be guided by events. If he displayed signs of guilt we might go so far as to telephone the police.

It was the first time I had ever known him to contemplate lowering his dignity as a scientific detective, and I honoured him for it though I cannot say that I liked the role he had assigned to me. An extraordinary coincidence saved me. I owed my rescue to the same club acquaintance who had first introduced me to the man whom I shall continue to regard as the greatest detective of the age.

My friend was lunching at a table for two. As I passed him he sprang up and introduced me to his guest, a middle-aged man with a beard turning grey, and asked me to join them. In the course of conversation it appeared that his guest was the head of a well-known medical school in London, and that he was at the moment of my appearance relating an unpleasant incident at the school. My friend asked him to begin the story again.

"Mr. Meddleston-Jones," he was good enough to say, "is the very man to advise you. He is associated with the best detective brains in London, besides being himself a man of very wide experience in crime." It was rather oddly expressed, but my friend meant well.

"But I don't want to call in the police—at any rate, until we know more."

"Bless you, Mr. Meddleston-Jones has no connection with Scotland Yard. He is an 'amateur'—if I may say so, a brilliant amateur."

Thus reassured, the doctor told his story. A young man, an assistant to the custodian of the anatomical school, had disappeared two days before. His character was exemplary; he handled no money; as far as the custodian knew, he had no private worries. He had put away the 'subjects' on the Monday evening, and had remarked to the custodian that he thought it looked like rain.

At eight next morning he should have returned to work, for he was always punctual. It was a busy day, and when the students arrived at ten everything was late; some of them complained to him, the doctor, that if their "subjects" were not arranged for them they could not expect to do well in the approaching examinations. He sent for the custodian, and it was thus for the first time that he learned that John was missing.

They sent to his home to inquire the cause; he had not been home. The whole day passed without news of him. The obvious course was to report his disappearance to the police; but, as we could easily understand, it would be very disturbing to the young minds of the students then in the throes of preparing for examination, and destructive to the morale of the establishment to have detectives practically in charge of the place, questioning everybody and poking their noses into every part of the building. He wished to avoid it if possible. But there was one solution that had occurred to him—he scarcely liked to breathe it—which would make the intervention of the police inevitable—if the poor lad had been the victim of foul play, in the building itself—then—

"But why should you suspect that?"

"Well, I don't quite know. Perhaps it was that when I was going my rounds a few evenings ago I heard loud words coming from the laboratory. All the students had left for the day. I went to the door and I heard the custodian speaking very sharply to the boy, and he was answering much in the same tone. It was one of those quarrels about the details of duty in which a principal had better not interfere, and I went away.

"But I confess that it left a disagreeable impression on my mind. The custodian always seemed to me an excellent servant—been with us for years but he is short-tempered, and I confess that his language on that occasion was rather a shock to me. Perhaps his duties tend to make a man callous."

"But there is a wide gap between bad language and murder."

"I know. I know. Only it occurred to me—I may be unduly imaginative—that for a man in his position—alone in the building with this boy till a late hour, there are so many facilities for disposing of a body—the furnace, and so forth—it is nothing more than a vague suspicion."

We were silent for some time, leaving our food untasted. Then my friend said, "Why don't you ask Jones to go back with you? He could look over the place and tackle the porter in a way you could not. Let him represent himself as employed to find the missing boy."

"Will you?" said the doctor, turning to me. "It would take a great load off my mind, but I scarcely liked to suggest it."

We wasted no further time over luncheon. The doctor had his car waiting and drove me to the school. "If you don't mind," I said, "I should like you to introduce me to the custodian and leave him to show me round. I can put the necessary questions to him as we go. It will seem less formal and official."

This being precisely what the doctor wanted, he took me straight to the laboratory where a middle-aged man was moving about in his shirt sleeves. "Stokes," he said, "this is Mr. Meddleston-Jones, who is inquiring into the disappearance of young Sopwith. He would like you to show him round the premises. I'll leave him with you." He shook hands with me and disappeared.

Stokes seemed quite glad to see me. "We had better not disturb the students in the operating-room, sir. They'll all be gone at five and in the meantime we can go over the basement. Queer business, this of young Sopwith. A better lad never stepped, but I had noticed lately that things had been going wrong with him. He had lost interest in his work."

"Had he anything on his mind?"

"That's just what I think. From things he let drop I think he was gone on some young woman who wouldn't have him. One day he said, 'What's the least that a young couple could live on in London, Mr. Stokes?' And when I named two pounds a week, he just fell to pieces as if I'd crushed him. He's never been the same lad since they refused him for the army. This is where they bring them in, sir."

"Bring what in?"

"The subjects," he said, in some surprise. We were in a vaulted tunnel in the basement. "And this is the boiler house." A furnace was glowing behind a red hot door.

"Whose duty is it to stoke the boiler?"

"That's just it, sir. It was young Sopwith's duty, but latterly he neglected it and it fell upon me. The same with the packing."

"The packing?"

"Yes, packing the subjects into the coffins. Here is the packing room." We were in a vaulted cellar. On one side was a pile of rough deal coffins, stained black, on the other trays of bones. "They come down here from the operating-room like that, sir, and it was young Sopwith's duty to sort them out into some sort of body for each box; that is to say, he was supposed to be careful that, as far as he could, there should be only one head, two arms, and two legs in each box before it was nailed up and taken to the cemetery, but he was very careless latterly, and I've had to see to it myself."

While we were holding this cheerful conversation I was leaning on an enormous wooden box in the outer cellar. I ventured on a question.

"When they bring in the—the subjects, what is done with them?"

"If you will stand over there, sir, I'll show you. You are leaning on them." I must have startled him by the speed of my movements.

"Oh, they won't bite, sir," he said, smiling, as he lifted the heavy lid. I peeped over his shoulder. There on racks lay ten human bodies, old and young, stiff, nude, and white, the debris of humanity, the homeless and friendless, who lead their lives in the London workhouses, and probably are sorry to leave them in spite of the misery they have known. In their death they do more for humanity than they have ever done in life, by furnishing material for each fresh generation of surgeons to work upon.

"The students will be gone now, sir," he said. "I'll take you to the dissecting-room." He led the way upstairs to a large room with high windows that ran the length of the building. A dozen tables, each covered with a sheet, held the subjects that were in the hands of students. One attracted my attention on account of its great bulk in comparison with the rest. The sheet scarcely sufficed to cover it. "Oh, that. That's a young elephant that died in the Zoo. One of the students who is sure of his final had a fancy for it."

At the end of the room were a number of iron doors labelled "Head," "Arm," "Leg," "Pelvis," and so on. I asked Stokes what was in them, for they were a possible hiding-place for the body of the missing youth. He threw open one of the iron doors, disclosing iron racks, on which human remains were disposed in various stages of dissection.

"It's these that make our job of 'assembling' so difficult downstairs. There's perhaps the arms of twenty people in there, and there'll be twenty heads in the next cupboard but one. But it has to be like this so that a student can take up his work just where he left off."

Something had caught my attention, and I was scarcely listening. These human arms. Where had I seen them? Then it came upon me with a flash—the remains of the murdered woman in our office. I turned to Stokes.

"Do you ever lose any of these bodies?"

"Oh, now and again a student will take away a hand or a foot in his bag to work on at home, but if he did such a thing without reporting it to me there'd be trouble, sir. You see, they can't get past my system of booking in and out. I make 'em all sign for what they have. You, for instance, sir, suppose you were a new student. You come to me and you say, 'Stokes, have you got a knee for me today?' 'Yes,' I says, 'but you'll have to sign for a whole leg.' And then you slip it into your bag and walk away with it. Then the next morning you says, 'Stokes, I think I'll work at the wrist and hand today. Have you got a nice forearm?' I look at my book, and say, 'Mr. Meddleston-Jones, not another bit do you get until I see that leg you had yesterday.'"

He became silent and thoughtful. "Mind you, I don't say that I've never had them get by me. There was that Allen, for instance—I'll have something to say to him when he comes back, if he ever does."

"Tell me about Allen," I said, trying hard to keep my voice even and steady.

"Oh, you should ask the Principal about him. He'd have plenty to tell you. He got away with a whole body from me last year—more than a body—and I didn't find it out till I was going over my books afterwards. Cunning? I never knew a man to beat him. I'll tell you how he did it. On a Monday he'd ask for a head, and just before five I'd see him go to that locker with the head in his hand. Of course, I thought he'd put it back. On Tuesday I'd get a note from him to say he'd been called away.

"It wasn't for weeks that I found out what he'd been doing, and then it was too late; he'd gone abroad. He was always doing that—playing fast and loose with the institution. I can't understand why the Principal lets him come back time after time. Well, if he comes back after this he'll have some questions to answer. I've got them all booked up, and I'd know them anywhere. Look here, sir, a page all to himself."

He turned over the leaves of his ledger, and there, under the name of Henry Allen, were the entries: "June 20th. Head No. 128, male. July 2nd, Forearm No. 43, female," and so on.

"Would you know your—your specimens again if you saw them?"

"Know them? Yes, and could swear to every one of them. When Allen had a subject I put my private mark on it so there should be no mistake. It's a theft, that's what it is, to say nothing of the trouble it meant for me if I couldn't make up the number of funerals."

I asked him whether the Principal was still in the building. If so, I must see him before he left. He looked at his watch.

"You'll just catch him if you are quick, sir. He leaves sharp at six. It's the second door on the left as you go down the passage."

I was just in time; the doctor was brushing his hat. "Well," he said, "any daylight?"

"I think I have cleared up one thing; young Sopwith has not been murdered on the premises."

"And you think?"

"I think that you should report him to Scotland Yard as missing, giving his home address. It may be a case of suicide." (I was justified next morning when Sopwith's body was found in the Thames, with a letter in the pocket addressed to the object of his affections.) "But I came to ask you about another matter altogether. You had a student named Henry Allen!"

He threw down his hat and lifted his hands to Heaven. "Henry Allen! Has that fellow turned up again? I never met such a man in my life before. The most charitable view that one can take of Allen is to say that he was mad. Why, that man has been on our books for six years. He passed all his intermediate tests brilliantly, and I used to think that he would carry all before him in his final. Then, on the very eve of the examination, I would get a note from him saying that he was called abroad on business and we might see nothing of him for six months. I don't know whether it was stage fright or simply a love of roving; perhaps a little of both.

"He was a good deal older than the ordinary run of pupils, and was an interesting person if one got him to talk. But he made no friends here. He paid his fees regularly and worked hard. You should get Stokes to tell you about him. He accuses him of stealing some of his subjects."

"And I think he is right about that. But I can get them back for you if you think it worth while. I know where they are."

"Is there anything in London that you don't know? Of course, we'd like them back."

"Can Stokes come and identify them?"

"Of course he can. Arrange it with him—any time you like. And now I must be off—one of these horrible early public dinners. I cannot thank you enough for coming."

I found Stokes in the laboratory, just sitting down to his tea.

"Let me get you a cup, sir. A drop of tea helps one through the evening." He pushed back a plate containing a human eye to make room for my cup, and I found my appetite had left me. I declined the tea, but we talked while he ate and drank. It was a creepy sort of place, this laboratory; bottles from ceiling to floor all alike, and all containing the intimate machinery of the human body—bleached and half-floating in yellowish liquid. They did not disturb Stokes's appetite in the least.

"You said just now that you could identify the—er—specimens that Allen took away."

"Try me, sir."

"That's exactly what I want to do if you'll come with me now."

"You know where they are!" he exclaimed in astonishment. "I'll go whenever you like."

It was past seven when we reached the office, but a light showing beneath the door proved that my chief was still there. I asked Stokes to wait on the landing till I called him.

"I've been thinking over that Henry Allen case, Mr. Meddleston-Jones," said my chief before I could speak. "I've been waiting for you all the afternoon. I am now satisfied that in Allen we have got Jack the Ripper. That woman in there is one of his victims." I was so much taken aback that I forgot all about Stokes.

"Yes," my chief continued, "everything points to it—the man's personal habits, his secretiveness, his sudden disappearances. When you arrest him bear in mind that he has a knife about him."

"Don't say any more, Mr. Pepper, till you've heard what I've got to tell you. I have a man here who says he can identify the bones. They are surgical specimens which Allen stole from him."

"Bring him in," he said faintly, and he lighted up the laboratory, into which I led Stokes. My chief threw back the sheet while I watched Stokes. His was not usually an expressive face. First his eyes grew very round; then his whole frame was shaken with some strong emotion. He seemed quite unable to speak. When at last he found his voice it came harsh and loud. He picked up a thigh bone and said: "You are right, sir; they're ours, right enough. Here's my private mark," and he showed me "128" scratched in minute figures on the bone.

He looked hard at the face, and again his sturdy frame was shaken by a convulsive movement that began quite low down in his body and seemed to deprive him of speech. If his face had not been so impassive I should have said that his emotion was suppressed laughter. When at last he had recovered command of his voice he said:

"You've made a fine woman of No. 48, but what about his beard? He had a long grey beard when he was with us." I did not dare to look at my chief.

"I think," I said, very gently, "that Mr. Stokes had better take the bones away with him. They belong to his medical school, where Henry Allen was a student. They were, in fact, stolen, and the authorities may wish to prosecute." My chief made no sign, and Stokes began to pack up the specimens in the trunk.

"When Mr. Henry Allen comes home," he said, "and asks for his trunk, you might refer him to the principal, if you don't mind."

As I was helping him down the stairs with the trunk, he said, "Your friend must have been puzzled by the different sizes of the bones. One arm and one leg belonged to women."

"He was a little puzzled. He thought that the murdered woman was deformed."

"I suppose he didn't happen to notice that she had three hands. I see that he had put one of them where a foot was missing."

When I reached Mrs. Auger's door a man was ringing the bell. He was a thin, hunted-looking creature of about thirty, with three days' growth of beard. The door opened as I came up, and Mrs. Auger said, "Oh, Mr. Allen, where have you been?"

"I've been in Lisbon," he said in a weak voice.

I laid my hand firmly on his shoulder and said, "Henry Allen, you are wanted at the Medical School to explain why you are unlawfully in possession of certain anatomical specimens which are their property, and I must caution you that anything you say will be taken down in writing and used against you at your trial." He turned very white, and Mrs. Auger collapsed on her own doorstep.

But the principal declined to prosecute.


IF there had been a momentary eclipse of my admiration for the genius of my Chief in consequence of the Hanover Court "murder" it was immediately to pass off leaving the luminary with a new splendour. In the Frewen case he was in his true element, for though the piece was set in this country the actors were Americans of the breed that he knew.

A few days after Stokes had collected his anatomical specimens we received a visit from a middle-aged lady, who, after fumbling for some time in her wrist-bag, produced a card bearing the name of Mrs. Frewen. Then she plunged into business in a strong New England accent.

"I have come to you to find my husband, Mr. Accepted Frewen. If he's alive I'd have you find him, and if he's dead I need the proof. Of the two I would rather have the proof of his death."

She was so sudden and peremptory that there was no time for my Chief to order me out of the room, and when I rose to go he motioned me to sit down again.

"Well," he said, "tell us all about it. My friend, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, may be able to help."

She barely glanced in my direction.

"He ceased to live with me five years ago."

I trust that my face wore an expression appropriate to her tone, but I was not surprised.

"He continued to occupy a bedroom in our home, and I saw him for a few minutes Sunday mornings. One Sunday two weeks ago he did not come to the parlour as usual. I sent the help to his bedroom, thinking he must be unwell, but he wasn't there. His bed had been slept in: his watch was under the pillow: it had been wound up overnight. No, there was no other woman in the case: Accepted hated all women. I believe he hated me," she added, after reflection. "He believed in luck and was very superstitious."

"In what way?"

"Well, you know, he was crazy about horse-racing, and he was very lucky in his betting. He always took his hat off to a goose if he passed one on the road, and he was scared of men with red beards. Once when he saw a red-bearded man on a green bicycle he went to bed for a week."

"And there were no money troubles?"

"The only trouble was that he had too much money."

"You mean the deal in picture houses?"

"How did you know about that? No, but before that all the mining stock he bought turned into gold: that and the horse-racing. The picture house deal brought him fifteen hundred thousand, they say."


"No, dollars. But here is the strange thing. The deal was only completed the day befor he disappeared, and not a cent has been paid into his bank, though his clerk says that a cheque was handed over to him."

I was making notes of all she said. She was a futile sort of woman: she did not know the name of his solicitors nor of the company which had bought the picture houses. She thought it was the Acme. She would not have known where he banked, but a private detective had found that much out for her.

My Chief pricked up his ears. "Oh, then you are employing a detective. Why do you come to us? Did he recommend you to come?"

"No, but he charged me a lot of money, and was not getting on with the case. Then a friend gave me your address, and said that if anyone could find Accepted alive or dead it would be Mr. Pepper. You are Mr. Pepper, aren't you?"

My Chief, who was always a little susceptible to flattery, admitted his identity with a smile.

"You see," she went on confidentially, "speaking in strict confidence, I'd rather have the proof of his death than anything else. They tell me he left no will, but I can't touch a penny of his money until his death can be presumed, and that takes years. I can't wait. I've nothing to live upon except what the furniture brings at auction."

"Did he ever talk of going away?"

"Yes, he did. On the last Sunday morning but one he said suddenly, 'P.Q.' (he called me that because my names are Priscilla Queenie) 'P.Q., this infernal climate's killing me. I'll have to get out of it.' Just like that. I said, 'You're looking very well.' He swore and left the room."

"Where did he think of going to?"

"Oh, back to New York, I'm sure. He didn't really like any place except New York."

"Well," I said, as soon as she had taken herself off, "he's gone to New York without her. That's about the long and short of that case."

"What are you going to do about it, Mr. Meddleston-Jones?" said my Chief, with a suspicion of a smile. "Personally I should go to all the steamboat offices with a description. Oh! We forgot to make her describe him."

"Quite unnecessary. I know the man. Some years ago he employed me before he came over—a very neat little case, in which I was entirely successful. His description wouldn't help you. He was like a dozen men that travel on every steamer."

He wrote rapidly and handed me the paper. I read, "Man, about 55 years old, 5 ft. 7, weighs 160 lbs., stocky build, hair turning grey and scanty, close clipped grey moustache, wears felt hat and grey cut-away coat. No special marks or personal habits."

"Not easy to identify from that description. I said nothing about the red beard because they would not be likely to have one on board. And even if they did, 'red-beard' wouldn't ride his green bicycle along the deck. The cook may have a live goose, but if we sent instructions by wireless to let a live goose into his stateroom in the morning to see whether he would take his hat off to it they would think me crazy. Besides, he would not be wearing a hat in bed."

"But the name?"

"Oh, he wouldn't travel under his own name. Men never do when they disappear. No, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, when men disappear there are three reasons for it. Either they go voluntarily in the hope of starting life afresh or they commit suicide, or they are made away with. I admit that Accepted Frewen was the kind of man to go voluntarily, but from my knowledge of the man I don't believe that he did. Nor do I think that he committed suicide. He may have been murdered, but not in his bedroom. I think he is alive, but go on with your enquiries and we'll meet this evening."

He proved to be right. Neither in the first or second class nor in the steerage of any of the five boats that had sailed since Frewen disappeared was there any passenger that fitted his description. One or two who might have fitted were known personally at the office.

I returned to my Chief discouraged. He was cheerful and confident. He had seen Frewen's clerk, and his lawyer, as well as the two banks that were concerned in the deal. According to these persons, his movements up to the time of his disappearance were as follows.

The deal was completed in his office in Wardour Street at a quarter to one. He signed the transfers of all the property and goodwill and undertook to start no rival concern for five years. The company's lawyer then handed him a cheque for £300,000. The transfer had made a great stir in cinema circles, for Frewen had been a very successful director, but he had made a good many enemies in the course of achieving success.

"In my country," observed my Chief, "a man would have been crazy to walk home alone with a cheque like that in his pocket. He would have been followed and robbed of it to a certainty, but in this slow-going old country it seems that a man can do these things."

"The banks close at one on Saturdays. He could no nothing else."

"He could have hidden it away in his office or sealed it and given it to his lawyer to take care of till the Monday. But he took it home with him; that is the important point for us. The cheque was drawn on the City and Midland, and has not been cleared. They have promised to ring me up when it is presented. His clerk says that he never carried much money about him, and sometimes he would borrow the price of his lunch. He banked with the London County and Westminster. They would not tell me his balance, of course, but they did go so far as to assure me that he drew out no money that Saturday. This all goes to refute your theory that he went off abroad. They promised to ring me up as soon as they heard from him. If he is alive and a free man that won't be long."

"A free man? Do you mean that he has been kidnapped?"

"I am coming to that. The last man who saw him was a newsboy in Wardour Street, from whom he always bought his evening paper. He hadn't a penny to pay for it. He fumbled in every pocket and then said, 'I am cleaned out, my lad. I can't pay you with a season ticket to Wimbledon, so I'll have to give you back the paper.' The man said, 'That's all right, Guv'nor: I'll trust you till next week.' He stayed in the street a few minutes reading the paper and then sauntered off in the direction of Charing Cross—the man thought to take the train on the subway."

"We know he got home."

"Yes, but I'm going to tell you something that we didn't know. I've been to Wimbledon this afternoon to look at the house. It is one of those brick houses that stand each in its own garden. On the Sunday morning a man with a red beard riding a green bicycle was at that house."

"Called at the house?"

"No, rode up and down the road at a quarter to six on Sunday morning, making a sort of pip-pip noise on one of those French contrivances like a Punch's squeak. It brought the maid to the window and she watched him. He rode up and down squeaking and sometimes looking up at the windows. Frewen's window was on that side of the house."

"That would make him go to bed for a week."

"Perhaps, if the man had gone away. But at last he got off his machine opposite the house and pretended to be adjusting the saddle. That kept him busy for ten minutes—time for Frewen to get dressed; and then with a final pip-pip he rode to the top of the road and dismounted again. Presently another man with a red beard on a green bicycle passed the house and then a third and a fourth. The place seemed alive with them, she said. As far as she could see, they all dismounted at the top of the road. Then she heard someone run downstairs and heard the front door slam and a minute or two later all the green bicycles came past the house together, and that was the last she saw of them. Now we have to find the man who hired out all those green bicycles, and who he hired them to."

"Green isn't a common colour. You could not hire six in one shop."

"Probably not. Now I want you to take your car and make a round of the cycle shops in the South-West, beginning at Wimbledon. I'll work South London."

"And who's to look after the telephone?"

"We must chance that for to-day."

I HAD good fortune at Wimbledon. The very first shop I entered on the plea of hiring a bicycle had one green machine among some fifty of the usual black. I chose it against the proprietor's advice.

"This is a better one," he said. I remarked that I liked the colour.

"Funny you should say that," he said; "the last man that hired it a week or so back wouldn't look at any colour but green."

"Perhaps he thought that green suited his complexion."

"Well, he'd the biggest, ugliest sort of red beard on his face, if that's what you mean. He'd have scared an undertaker."

"Did he hire it for long?"

"I didn't take the order myself. Frank," he called to a youth in the outer shop, "You remember that feller—you called him the red beaver—taking out that green Simplex that Saturday. How long did he keep it?"

"Said he wanted it for Sunday, but he brought it back about eight in the morning, and said it didn't suit," replied Frank.

"Did he give his name and address?"

"Oh, yes; if it interests you I'll look it up. Frank, what was that ginger gent's address? 'James Robinson, 27 Conifer Street, Barnes Common'? No trouble at all, sir."

Of course, when I reached Barnes Common, I found that there was no such street.

I thought that I might have saved myself the journey until I had visited three cycle shops and found in the third that a green bicycle had been let to a man with a "ginger" beard on the same Saturday night. He had given a different name and address—at Sydenham this time—and of course it proved to be non-existent.

I was back at the office at 3.30. The caretaker who passed me on the stairs said, "That telephone of yours has been ringing pretty well all day. Neither of you in. The last time I opened the door with my key and asked if I could take a message. They said that they'd have to speak personally to Mr. Pepper."

"Who was it?"

"Some bank, I fancy, but I did not catch the name."

I went straight to the telephone and rang up both the banks concerned. The City and Midland were unable to trace any message: the person who spoke for the London County and Westminster, having made minute enquiries about my identity, asked me to wait a moment. Then a deep and rather languid voice said, "Are you Mr. Pepper?"

"No, I'm his partner. Mr. Pepper has been out all day on the enquiry he told you about."

"Well," said the voice pleasantly, "will you tell him that if he likes to come round before five o'clock I have something to tell him. The door closes at four, but the messenger will look out for him."

I looked at my watch. There was just time for me to reach the bank before five if I started at once in a taxi; no chance if I waited for Pepper. The great door of the bank was shut, but the porter opened to my ring.

"I represent Mr. Pepper," I said.

He hesitated and asked me for my card. Fortunately it had my club address inscribed on it. I was admitted to the presence.

The General Manager proved to be a man whom I knew quite well by sight.

"One lives and learns," he said. "I had no idea that we had a private detective in the club."

I explained the position quite frankly.

"Oh, you do it for fun, do you! Well, then, I suppose I should be justified in telling you what I was keeping for Mr. Pepper. The cheque he was enquiring about reached us for collection to-day. There was a covering letter from Mr. Frewen, dated from his office in Wardour Street yesterday, the 23rd, asking us to clear the cheque and credit it to his current account, pending further instructions. The letter bore the W.1. postmark, and was posted last night between 9 and 11. Here is the envelope."

"May I see the letter?"

"I have it here for you." The letter seemed perfectly genuine, and so seemed the endorsement, "A. Frewen," on the back of the cheque.

I thought that I detected a shaky quality in the handwriting, such as one sees in that of very old men, but as I had never seen Frewen's handwriting before, I was in no position to judge.

The Manager had no doubt whatever that the letter had been written by Frewen himself. He let me take the letter away with me, after signing the usual receipt. I went back to the office and waited till half-past eight. My admiration for my Chief did not contemplate an untimely death from inanition, and I was on the point of deserting my post for a late dinner at the Club when I heard his step upon the stairs. I could see by his expression that he had had a good day.

"Well?" I began.

"Tell me quickly what you have done," he mumbled, without removing his unlighted cigar from his teeth.

"I've found two of the green bicycles, hired, of course, under false names."

"Never mind the bicycles. They won't lead us anywhere."

"The City and Midland Bank telephoned while we were out—"

He took a step forward with clenched hands. "I got on to the Manager, went round to see him. The cheque was presented and detained. I have a tracing of the signature."

He looked at it for a long time.

"That's genuine," he said at last; "or it's the best forgery I've seen. Didn't they describe the man?"

"Yes, here it is." He read it twice and then, in great excitement, he said, "But there's nothing about the missing finger. Surely the clerk must have noticed that. If he didn't he should be sacked with a month's wages. Everything turns on that missing finger. We can't wait till to-morrow to make sure. The man may be dead by then."

"Had the man a missing finger?"

"God! I forgot you didn't know. This is the sure thing. Such a gang as this never crossed the pond before. All my old friends in it—Tricky Loftus, The Mouse, Weaver Stoat, Lounger Louis, The Doctor and that woman, Belle Lefroy—they couldn't leave her out."

"What do they do?"

"Do? Why, man, there is nothing, from rigging the cards to murdering a man for a five dollar watch that those birds won't do. Every man among them except the Doctor has killed his man, and blackmail—why, Tricky Loftus runs a steam yacht on it—that and the cards."

When he became coherent he recounted his adventures of the day. As usual, he had started with a theory, in this case, that Accepted Frewen had been kidnapped by a gang from New York, and he had fixed their identity as immutably as the stars.

He had gone straight to the Cable Company to despatch a message to one of his friends in the New York Police who was under obligations to him, asking the whereabouts of the persons whom he had saddled with the crime. There were six names. The reply reached him at the Cable Office four hours later:

"All on your side since May."

Those four hours had been usefully spent, for at the Hotel Cecil he had found an old colleague who had come over professionally in connection with a divorce case, and who had met the man known as Tricky Loftus in Portland Place three days before. As the man approached him walking north he suddenly turned and disappeared into the Langham Hotel and Pepper's colleague did not pursue him, knowing that Loftus had once shot a man in Chicago for less and always went "heeled."

To Portland Place, that street of mansions of departed grandeur, my Chief repaired. The houses that had not been turned into flats and were not in the occupation of the representatives of Far Eastern countries were tenanted by well known people or were to let. Three had the usual notice boards up—two on the West side and one on the East. It was impossible to choose between the three.

He visited the house-agents concerned to ask for orders to view and found that the house on the East side had been let three weeks before to an American gentleman, Mr. Parminter, of New York, but his tenancy was only for three months, and with his consent the notice board had been left in its place.

The agent was not sure whether Mr. Parminter, whom my Chief claimed as an old friend, was actually in residence: he thought not because so little furniture had yet been moved in, but men servants were there—one whom the clerk had noticed in particular—a man with a red beard, who rode a green bicycle—a rare combination in that part of London. He knew he was a servant because he always went down the area steps.

What had kept my chief out so late was observation work. He had hired a taxi-driver in Regent Street to drive straight to one of the empty houses on the West side of the street, stop his engine, save his petrol and let his clock run, and my Chief had watched the house obliquely opposite through the back window. Nothing had happened for an hour and a quarter, and then Lounger Lewis had come up the area steps, for all the world like a footman taking an airing, and had strolled off towards the Langham "for a cocktail," said my Chief, who knew his habits.

That being all my Chief wanted to know at the moment, he tapped on the window and moved his taxi safely into Regent Street to pay him off.

"You may not know," he added, "that Portland Place is one of the only streets in London which have real cellars—caves that run right out under the street. Poor old Accepted is sitting at this moment in the cellar of No. 43, and he didn't get any dinner until he wrote that letter and signed his name on the back of that cheque by the light of an electric torch this morning."

If these lines ever chance to meet the eye of my late Chief while he is chewing his cigar in Denver, Col., I hope he will forgive me for saying that I was not convinced.

If these gangsmen of his had really taken 43 Portland Place it seemed to me far more probable that it was to run a gambling hell out of the ken of the police, and that Accepted Frewen had merely transferred his habitation to some spot where red beards and green bicycles were scarcer than in Wimbledon.

Accordingly, after a hasty dinner at the Club I took a taxi to the Chinese Legation, which I knew to be nearly opposite the house in question. To be effective, observation duty must be original. I rang the bell: I hoped that it would be answered by a smiling Chinaman, but I was disappointed. A dour and unexpansive English butler opened the door, and to my request for an interview with the Minister, said that His Excellency was not at home. I asked for the First Secretary—in fact, for every member of the staff in turn except the charwoman.

"But the business is urgent," I said. "I must see someone."

"No business is transacted at half-past ten, sir," said the butler severely, glancing at the hall clock.

I tried to slip a ten shilling note into his hand, but he recoiled.

"It's no good telling you an untruth, sir, they are all out at the Foreign Office dinner except the Second Secretary, and he's gone to bed."

"If you'll take him this card and beg him to see me in his dressing-gown I'm sure he will see me at once. I should not ask if the business were not so urgent. I don't mind waiting."

The butler examined the card critically and then showed me into one of the front rooms rather ungraciously, as I thought. That was exactly what I wanted: I was glad the Secretary was in bed. I should have some time to wait.

I drew the curtain aside and found that I had a beautiful view of No. 43. A taxi was just leaving the door to make room for another. A man paid the driver hurriedly: he did not have to ring the bell; the door opened instantly. There was a pause of several minutes; then a taxi appeared from the direction of Regent's Park. A man in dress clothes was leaning half out of the window shouting to the driver. The taxi slowed down and drew up near No. 51. The occupant paid him off and made straight for No. 43. Something was going on there to which attention must not be drawn.

For some minutes I had noticed a tall young man standing below my window. Every few minutes he would saunter down the street, stop and saunter back again. Was he waiting for his young woman? When the last arrival had vanished into No. 43 I saw him look furtively at his watch by the light of the street lamp and pull out a note-book and pencil. Then I knew what he was—a detective on observation duty, who was conscientious and weak in memorizing.

At that moment the Chinese diplomat of my dreams entered the room. He was irreproachably attired, but he had forgotten to brush his hair. Like most Chinamen under sixty he might have been of any age between fifteen and fifty-nine. Wreathed in smiles, he enquired my business. "I understand that you have something important for His Excellency?"

"Thank you," I said, "I am shortly leaving for China and I wanted to ask His Excellency whether the Chinese Government has any post for me—without pay, of course."

"I am afraid not. The Chinese Government does not employ foreigners."

"I think that if they knew me they would make an exception."

"You speak Chinese?"

"Not a word, but I could learn. I am rather quick at languages, my friends say, and—"

"It would be useless to trouble His Excellency," he interrupted. His face had stopped smiling. "There is no post."

"Then I have only to thank you very much for seeing me."

He looked as if he had earned my thanks, poor man.

Outside the front door I ran into the detective and begged his pardon.

"You'll have something to report to Vine Street," I said, jerking my thumb in the direction of No. 43.

"I don't know what you mean, sir."

"I mean that empty house over there—No. 43. I've been watching it from the Chinese Legation, and if you don't report it as a place ripe to be raided I thought of dropping in to Vine Street myself for a word with Superintendent Cheshire."

At the name of his superior his manner underwent a change.

"I don't think you need do that, sir. I fancy that the Superintendent knows all about it."

"I counted four men go in just now."

"More than that, sir."

"I thought of warning Mr. Cheshire that the tenants are Americans and that they all have revolvers and use them."

"I think you'd find that Mr. Cheshire knows that, too, sir."

That being all I wanted to know, I said "good-night" and went to bed.

I FOUND my chief chewing his matutinal cigar at nine o'clock. I taxed him with not having been to bed. He had not, but he had had a nap in his clothes.

"We've got to hurry things to-day, Mr. Meddleston-Jones," he said. "These birds are very wary, and though they don't suspect us, at any moment these police of yours may blunder in and flush them."

I hoped that I did not look as guilty as I felt.

"They might take the place for a gambling hell and raid it."

"Do you feel quite sure that it is not a gambling hell?" I added.

"Oh, of course, they run a table. Trust the 'doctor' for that. I've located Belle Lefroy at the Savoy. You can go any evening and see her enthroned in the lounge casting sheep's eyes at any young fool who will look at her. She gathers them in and sends them along to Portland Place. That's how they make up the table."

"I wonder who the men with the green bicycles are."

"Oh, all but one were hired for the occasion—told that they must gum on red beards as part of a practical joke, or some tale of that kind. One of them has a natural red beard. He's the man who does the door-keeping at No. 43 when the table is running. They call him 'the Grand Duke,' because he's a Russian. He just does what he's told."

I took my courage in both hands and told my Chief exactly what I thought about the case. I said that No. 43 Portland Place was known to the police as a gambling hell, and that I had good reason to believe that they intended to raid it; that in my belief the missing man was in voluntary hiding somewhere in the neighbourhood, and that there was no evidence to show that he had been kidnapped by this gang or any other.

He listened stolidly as a brick wall might have listened, and my arguments produced about the same effect upon him. And then the telephone bell rang.

My Chief went to it.

"Yes, I am Mr. Pepper—for how much—twenty thousand? A bearer cheque or was it endorsed—bearer? What was the man like?"—(he hissed at me, "Take this down")—"Yes, I am going to take it down—Age about forty—square build—short—clean-shaven—full, rather red face—American accent—wearing dark clothes and hard felt hat—could not see the colour of his hair as he kept his hat on. But stop—did you notice his hands—No? If he had had a finger missing would you have seen it?—left hand, ring finger—you didn't notice? Can't say, 'Yes' or 'No '? I understand. Are you satisfied about the signature? Quite? And you paid the money? No, I don't want to see the cheque just now. I might call later on."

He turned round on me triumphantly.

"Now, what do you say, Mr. Meddleston-Jones? An American walked into the bank five minutes ago and cashed Frewen's cheque for twenty thousand pounds."

"I say that he was sent by Frewen, who did not want to show himself, but wanted money to go aboard with."

"And if I told you that the description tallies with that of Lounger Louis, still you would not be convinced?"

I shook my head.

"Well, you soon will be. We have got to search No. 43 this very day. Just you and I."

I looked at him with concern: there was the light of fanaticism in his eye.

"Mr. Pepper, let us take a business view of this proposition. You say that all these men are armed and that they shoot straight."

"All except the doctor."

"Well, let us say six armed men. And you propose that we should force ourselves into the house and search it from garret to cellar. Why, if anything was left of us at the end it would be found in the cellar."

"Oh, I didn't propose to go in at the point of the pistol. I meant to use a stratagem."

And he went on to tell me his plan—a plan scarcely worthy of his high intelligence. We were to present ourselves as employees of the Electric Company to take the meter and test the current. He had secured the loan of official caps for the purpose.

I pointed out to him that some of these men knew him, and even if he were skilfully disguised, a man would be with us all the time watching all our movements.

"Besides," I added, "men on such a desperate business as you say, would refuse to let us in."

"You don't know the American crook, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. He has the highest respect for officials in some kind of uniform. They don't know what powers they have in this country. They would never dare turn us away."

Though the whole scheme savoured of lunacy, he persuaded me by sheer power of his personality.

In the laboratory we transformed ourselves into very colourable imitations of the men who check the meters. I had a note book, properly ruled: he carried a voltmeter in a wooden box. He had even provided himself with an official identity card in the name of "Frank Halstead." Probably we were breaking half-a-dozen statutes.

I confess without shame that there was a weakness in my knees as we approached No. 43 at eleven o'clock.

The house looked entirely deserted, although as we went up the front steps and rang the bell marked "Servants," I saw a face peering through the lace blind of a window in the basement. But one would have seen that in any empty house left in the hands of a caretaker.

The bell, one of the kind that pulls a wire, reverberated through the passages, and I remember wondering what the sensation is when a bullet strikes you full in the chest. We heard no footfall in the hall.

The front door was thrown boldly open and there we stood face to face with a man with a red beard. He was a short, ill-favoured ruffian with no collar or tie and he peered at us as if there was something wrong with his eyes.

My chief was brisk and businesslike. He produced his card and said that we had come to test the meter.

"One man come the other day," said the red-beard, making as if to shut the door in our faces. He did not speak English very well.

"I know that," said my chief, and he reported that the meter wanted seeing to."—We've come to see to it."

"Mr. Parminter not at home."

"I can't help that," said my chief. "If you're not satisfied, telephone to the Company and ask them whether Frank Halstead—here's my name on the card—is one of their men or not. If you don't let us in the lights will be cut off to-night, and that's all about it."

"That was a bold stroke of yours," I whispered, "but suppose they telephone?"

"They won't. You'll see."

He began to whistle and stamp the time with his feet. Then he gave me a playful punch in the chest. This being for the benefit of eyes that were upon us from the window. I returned the compliment.

After a long interval the area door opened and a stout, grey-haired man, wearing a green baize apron with a chamois leather plate cloth over his forearm, beckoned to us to come down the area steps. He was the English butler to the life.

As we went down, my chief contrived to whisper to me, "The doctor." He had only the slightest trace of an American accent.

"Come in, come in," he said jovially. "Sorry to have kept you waiting. That odd man of ours is a fool, besides being a foreigner. So you've come about the meter. I'll bet that Mr. Parminter was getting the advantage; not the Company, or you wouldn't be honouring us with a visit."

He led us into a bare kitchen in which there was no fire, through a scullery in which there was a pile of unwashed plates into a stone-flagged passage in which the meter was bracketed to the wall.

"You'll need a ladder," he said. "Wait here while I fetch one."

"That door," murmured my chief, pointing to a door at the end of the passage, "leads to the cellars."

The butler was back almost instantly with a step-ladder. He was full of conversation, and while my Chief fumbled with the terminals and rigged up his voltmeter on the top step, he addressed his remarks to me.

"The coming science," he said. "I read somewhere that we are on the eve of discoveries that may revolutionize social life. I suppose that you've been at it for years."

"Years," I said.

"Then you can tell me what a watt is. I thought that it was a multiple of the volt—five ohms make one volt; five volts one watt, but the electrician I said that to laughed."

I laughed. "What exactly is a watt?"

"Ask my colleague. Frank, this gentleman wants to know what a watt is."

"Wait till I've finished the job and I'll tell you what you like."

He shut the voltmeter box with a click. "Hear that," he said, looking down at me. "It's just as I said—fault in the branch cable. We must trace it back to the main."

Then to the butler—"You don't happen to know where the connection is? Where is your main switch? Don't know? Then we'll have to trace it up. There! It goes through the wall just above that door. What does that doorway lead to?"

"To the cellar, I believe."

"Then that's where it will be. Come along." I felt sure that the butler would say that the cellar was locked, and Mr. Parminter had the key with him in Paris until I saw the key in the lock. He did the next best thing. Throwing himself before the door, he locked it and slipped the key into his pocket.

"I'm sorry," he said, "but company or no company, I have strict orders from Mr. Parminter himself, not to allow anyone in there, without his leave."

My Chief raised his voice in the hope that it would be heard beyond the door.

"I tell you there's a fault in the main, and if I don't see to it, the light will be cut off to-night. Am I right or am I wrong?" he said, appealing to me.

"Nothing else for it, Frank."

"Then we'll have to use candles, or you must get at the main from the street."

"Where is Mr. Parminter?"

"Oh, he's in Paris." This in the tone of 'Where else should a good American be?' But as if he thought that some justification was called for he added confidentially, "The fact is, the old gentleman's an inventor, and he keeps his latest contraption in there—something to do with a wireless torpedo, and he's afraid someone will steal the idea and patent it. He's over in Paris now to offer it to the French Government."

We made no further protest, and began sulkily to pack up our tools. "Might have saved ourselves the trouble of coming," growled my Chief.

"As it turns out, you might," said the butler, edging towards the scullery. With his back to us he appeared to be working the muscles of his cheek in a peculiar way. I nudged my Chief to call his attention to this. Then the butler turned round and said, "I suppose you are electricians all right?"

As he said this I saw that the light from the scullery door was suddenly darkened. More than one man was lurking there.

"What shall we do with your ladder?" said my Chief.

"Leave it there, and come out this way."

My Chief appeared to obey, but before he reached the butler he put his hand on the latch of one of the other doors, threw it open, and saying, "This will do for us," was out into the area with me.

We had to pass the kitchen window, but the men inside were so much taken by surprise, that we were on the pavement in Portland Place before they moved.

I never knew till then what a safe place a London street is. We did not speak until we were in Regent Street. My Chief said:

"Well, we have found out what we wanted to know. He's in the cellar, behind some inner door. Everything turns on how far they suspected us. If they think we're crooked they will move him to-day, but I believe that they only wanted to satisfy themselves. They'd got an electrical expert waiting in the scullery to put us through our paces. We should have had to tell him what a watt was and you didn't know. We will have to keep observation on No. 43 all day and I'm going now to hire a piano cart."

"A piano cart?"

"Yes, these birds know all about the furniture van trick. They won't think about a piano cart."

"And if Frewen is really there, and they don't move him, what then?"

"That's what I've got to think out."

I knew his prejudice against the police, but the solution seemed so obvious that I was determined that this time he should take my advice.

Why, I asked him, should we two risk our lives against such odds as two against eight when we could get other people to take the risk for us. Here were the Vine Street Police—the 'C' Division, not the Detective Department at Scotland Yard: let that be well understood—about to raid the house as a gambling hell. Well, let them raid it. We could go in behind them, and go straight to the cellar while the police were dealing with the gang upstairs.

By the time we reached the yard where the carts were kept I had won his consent. While he made terms I was to fetch our hats from the office, and leave the caps and the other outfit of the perfect electrician. Then I was to go to Vine Street, and if I was back within the hour I was to go in the cart.

With the aid of taxis heavily subventioned I was in Superintendent Cheshire's room in less than half an hour. I found that he had quite made up his mind to raid the house, but he wanted to give his men a little longer rope first. I pointed out that they were becoming restless, and might move into another division at any moment, and further, that in the cellar they were holding a prisoner. That woke him up.

"It sounds like a fairy story, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, but if there is a fair attendance to-night we may do something. As you seem to know the names and the lay-out of the house you might go with my Inspector, and bring your friend, too."

"If your Inspector will kindly knock on the door of a piano cart standing outside No. 34, Mr. Cheshire, we shall be at his service."

"Oh, you're doing observation duty on your own account, are you? I don't like that: you'll flush the birds."

"You can trust us. We'll move a real piano. It is only in case they attempt to move their prisoner."

Oh, that piano cart! I don't know what my Chief had had to pay for it. There was a real piano inside, and it hadn't been built for a piano and a pianist as well. I lay doubled up under the driver's seat, and if I had died in it, as I felt sure would be the case, they couldn't have got out my body without taking out the instrument.

One man drove the horse: two men in baize aprons sat on the roof. I had an auger, provided by the owner, for boring an observation hole in the side of the vehicle, and my chief, wonderfully disguised, perched on the roof like a monkey on an organ.

My only stipulation was that the tail board should be taken down as soon as we arrived in Portland Place.

All went according to plan. No. 34 was in the occupation of a caretaker who was not interested in our proceedings. The men in baize aprons descended and opened the tail board; the usual errand boys assembled. It was then discovered that the trestles had been left behind and the baize aprons departed to fetch them, leaving the driver, who was not in the secret, to stand by the horse.

There was no sign of movement at No. 43 for about half an hour. I had to pinch myself to keep awake. Then I saw our red-bearded friend coming up the area steps, dragging something behind him. It was his green bicycle.

He rode off in the direction of the Langham and was lost to view. Suddenly he passed close to my spyhole riding very slowly. A few moments later he was on his way down the area steps again, doubtless to report that there was a real piano in the cart.

A few minutes later the butler came to take the air. He strolled away, but he must have crossed the street, because a few moments later I heard him talking to the driver.

"Won't that piano of yours catch cold?"

"I wish every bally piano in the world would catch cold and die of it," said the driver.

"Why don't you move it in, and get your tea."

"Because those bright fellers from the shop forgot their trestles, damn them." And then, rather inconsequently, "But what's that to you, anyway? Why not trot along to your tea?"

The butler must have taken this as intimating that the conversation was closed, because five minutes later I saw him descend to the area. Then a wine merchant's cart delivered whisky at No. 43: the street lamps were lighted.

Presently my chief and his companion returned, got the piano on to the pavement and undressed it from its mats, with which they built a barrier which quite concealed me. The cart was backed a few feet, and the poor horse was given a nosebag to console him. The two hirelings were sent off with orders to be back at 11 p.m.

No. 43 had ceased to concern itself with our affairs, having others of its own. We were free to sup from the viands which my Chief had brought with him. Remarkably few people seemed to pass.

At about nine o'clock a man sauntered along, and as he passed he tapped on the cart, and said, "All right, Mr. Meddleston-Jones?"

I responded, and he passed on, saying, "Eleven."

Then the taxis began to arrive at No. 43, just as on the previous night, except that there were more of them. As eleven drew near, I crawled to the rear of the cart and looked out. There was not a movement in No. 43 nor a sign of the police.

Suddenly, men seemed to spring from the pavement. Little groups from North, South, East and West, moving without fuss or flurry, seemed to take up their positions in Portland Place as if they had been drilled for a month. Some were uniformed policemen, but the majority were in plain clothes. They seemed to be the only persons in the street, but the passing taxi-drivers noticed nothing unusual.

Then a group of six ran up the steps of No. 43 and rang the bell. My chief joined a group which had assembled near our cart. We were greeted by a sergeant. The door was opened; there was a rush; a police whistle; and we all tore across the street and into the house. I was the first of four.

I expected to find myself in the middle of a struggling mass: for all the disturbance there was we might have been in church. Only three men were in the hall—our red-beard friend and two uniform constables who were fitting something to his wrists when I passed them. The Inspector and his men had run upstairs in the hope of finding the game in progress. I did not follow them, for my place was the cellar.

One of them told me afterwards that the big rooms were bare. There was scarcely a stick of furniture in any of them, though there had been an attempt to camp in the bedrooms, where luggage and clothing were scattered about.

The cellar door was unlocked. I tried to open it but found it bolted on the inside. I explained this to my chief, who was close behind. He sent me to fetch the Inspector and his men, and we all went down together.

"You've got a crowbar, Inspector?" I said. "They've bolted the door on the inside."

"We've got better than crowbars, Mr. Meddleston-Jones: Harris and Netherton, where are you? The heavyweights of 'C' Division," he added in an undertone. "With the prisoner in the front hall? Relieve them two of you, and send them down."

The two giants arrived and Harris tried the door, with a shoulder. "Now then, together!" and they ran at it.

"Once more!" and this time the door went inward with a crash. It had gone at the hinges as well as at the bolts. The place was pitch dark and as silent as the grave.

Electric torches made little wandering arcs of light upon the brick walls as the police searched their way, and then a constable said, "Here's a switch," and the whole place burst into light, like the Universe on the First Day.

This cavern of a cellar was crowded with people in evening dress. I never saw a company look more dejected or more foolish. They were sitting solemnly round a very large trestle table covered with green cloth marked in squares. The walls were draped in costly fabrics from Regent Street, roughly nailed to the bricks; the chairs were of every style, from Louis XV to the humble cane-bottom from the servant's bedroom. At the head of the table sat my old friend, the butler, faultlessly attired in evening dress.

One or two sprang to their feet as the light was switched on.

"Sit down," said the Inspector easily. "I'll tell you when you may get up and you will go out one by one."

There were two women in the company; the younger one began to cry into her handkerchief. A young sergeant pulled out his notebook and took his place by the Inspector.

One by one, they were made to stand up and give their names and addresses. The Inspector seemed to know quite a number of them.

"You've changed your address, Mr. Derby, since last time."

"This is the third time, Mr. Smith. You must be finding it expensive."

To three or four of the professionals he said, "Oh, we don't want your name: you can give it in Court."

When it came to the butler's turn, he said, "You again?"

"I hope, sir, you won't press for deportation this time."

"I may and I may not, Doctor. Pass along."

Suddenly, my chief, who had been staring hard at a man who sat on the doctor's right, walked over to him, and said, "Mr. Frewen, what are you doing here?"

The other cast a lack-lustre eye up at him, and said nothing.

"Is that your 'prisoner,' Mr. Jones?" said the Inspector. "Let us hear what he has to say for himself. Your name?"

"Accepted Frewen."

"I mean your real name."

"That is my real name."

It was a long interrogation, and when the Inspector was satisfied, we were allowed to continue it on our own account. Frewen was going back to America in any case, but on the morning of his disappearance, he saw something that had always meant ill-luck for him.

What was it?

Well, if we wanted to know, it was men with red beards on green bicycles—not one, mind you, but hundreds. He knew it presaged death for him or the failure of his bank, or something and he ran out of the house to get away. But they came after him—hundreds and hundreds of them. There was a car at the top of the road, just starting for London, and he tumbled into it. It belonged to the gentleman the Inspector was talking to (the doctor). "He rescued me and drove me here, and—"

"What is his name?" I asked.

"Parminter: I believe he is a doctor."

"And what do you do all day?"

A shade fell over his candid eye. "I am generally in here—arranging things—for the evening."

"You cashed a cheque for £20,000 the other day?"

He became embarrassed. "Yes, Dr. Parminter arranged that. Some of it has gone into the business: some he has to compensate him—those green bicycles have been seen about—and some I've lost at the table before he took me into partnership."

Meanwhile, the police had been collecting two armfuls of evidence from under the table—counters, rakes and dice—which would all be displayed at Bow Street next morning.

In the front hall they had marshalled their captives into two lines. The guests, including the two ladies, were sent home with a friendly admonition: there remained nine, including the Russian porter and Accepted Frewen. They were conveyed to Vine Street to be charged.

Pepper knew them all, or thought that he did. He pointed out that Tricky Loftus had the ring finger of the left hand missing. The "Mouse" was a diminutive person whose "tuxedo" had to be specially cut to fit him. He pointed out a tall attenuated villainous-looking person as "Lounger Louis"—the man who had stabbed his last victim in the back, and had been careless enough to leave his knife in the wound.

"He got off with ten years' penitentiary on the ground of fair fight, and self-protection."

But of the whole of that rogues' gallery, I would have trusted my life least, if left alone, with Weaver Stoat, who was built like a prize fighter, and underhung like a bulldog.

As my chief and I went out into the night, I said, "Well, we were both right." He broke away from me as if I had broached a painful subject.

"I've got to help the men up with that piano," he said. "Good-night."


AS I was pushing open the office door, on the morning following our adventure with the piano cart, I heard the high voice of an excited woman. "Don't you believe in the supernatural, Mr. Pepper?"

I had already met a few cranks in the office, and judging that another had obtained a footing there, I was about to close the door softly, when I heard my Chief reply, "If it was in my country, Ma'am, I should say it was bootleggers."

At that, I went in boldly. He was closeted with a lady who had reached the age of mystery—that borderland in which the British spinster wanders for two decades, uncertain whether youth or old age is the more becoming.

There was a great air of business about her. Before her on the table was a surveyor's plan, half unrolled, and a pile of newspaper cuttings neatly pasted on sheets of yellow paper. Hers was not the manner of the crank spiritualist, nor did my Chief show any of the relief at my appearance, which was a signal that he wished me to remove an unwelcome visitor. On the contrary, he was chewing his cigar hard—an invariable sign that he was keenly interested.

"Now, Miss Lorimer," he said as I came in; "here is the man who may be able to help us."

I mention what he said, in his own words, not in any spirit of vainglory, but merely to account for the enthusiasm which beginners feel whenever they are privileged to work with a really great man who sees promise in them.

Thereupon, in the fewest possible words, Mr. Pepper put the case before me.

Miss Jane Lorimer was alone in the world. All her youth had been given to a miserly bachelor uncle who lived upon the rent of house property, which he had bought cheap, and let as dearly as he could, collecting the rents himself, and stinting his niece and himself of everything except the barest necessaries. They were always moving because, when one of Mr. Lorimer's houses was slow in letting, it was cheaper to move into it than to leave it empty and pay rent elsewhere. They kept no servant, and Mr. Lorimer, perhaps, in recognition of the fact that his niece had saved him that expense for twenty years, but more probably, because he knew that he could not take London house property with him into the next world, and he did not approve of charities, had made a will, leaving everything to her.

When the death duties had been paid and her lawyers had taken as much as they dared, she found herself with a considerable balance at her bank, and a number of slums and lower middle-class houses on her hands, and she had wisely set about selling as many of them as she could.

At the time of her visit to Mr. Pepper's office, she had disposed of all but three: two of these had been condemned by the Local Authority, and were being pulled down, with a prospect of selling the ground, and the third was unlettable and unsaleable, because people no sooner moved into it than they died.

It was this quality in the house that had converted Miss Lorimer from an unpaid general servant into a woman of property; for her uncle had insisted upon breaking the spell by moving into it himself, and his niece had found him dead there, when she let herself into the house on the second morning. Among the news-cuttings that were piled before her was a report of the inquest. After Mr. Lorimer's death the house had remained empty for many months.

The Coroner had made caustic remarks to the Jury; the evening papers had taken up the cry and paragraphs headed "No. 33 Westmorland Square again," "The House of Death," "The Death Trap," had kept the reporters busy until the public had tired of the subject and sought sensation elsewhere.

"What did the people die of?" I asked.

It appeared that there was medical evidence in every case. Several died of gas-poisoning and in these cases there was sometimes reason to suspect suicide and sometimes accident—"Death by Misadventure" the verdict was, for people are very careless with gas, especially with geysers, with which the bathroom and the sinks were fitted. But in some of the cases the medical evidence gave heart failure as the cause of death. This was the verdict in the case of the over-bold Mr. Lorimer.

The others did not die, as he did, within two days of entering the house. In one case a commercial traveller and his wife had lived there for more than a twelve-month and then they had both been found dead of gas-poisoning. The man had been unlucky in business and was behind-hand with the rent. It was one of the cases in which suicide was suspected.

"And now," concluded my Chief, "Miss Lorimer has come to us to know what to do. She has paid twice for having the gas fittings and every pipe inspected and in each case the report was the same—that though there was no escape of gas in any part of the house it would be wise to have the service pipes removed and relaid throughout, from which I conclude that the plumber in your country is much the same animal as he is in mine. Miss Lorimer has been to the police, but they say that it is none of their business; it was her lawyer who sent her to me."

There was a long pause during which the clock seemed to tick with twice its usual energy.

Then Miss Lorimer coughed and said timidly: "If you undertake the case, Mr. Pepper, can you give me any idea of what it will cost?"

I knew that this crude kind of enquiry nettled my Chief. He was too great an artist to be bothered with finance when he was put upon the scent. I never meddled with that side of his business, but from remarks uttered in an unnecessarily loud tone of voice by his clients after the conclusion of a case, I had gathered that his charges were not low, and after all, why should a client expect to enjoy the services of the greatest living expert without paying highly for them?

"You won't quarrel with my charges, Ma'am," was all he said, "especially if I am successful, and in this office, as you probably know, we always succeed. Now you just leave all your papers with me, go away and think it over, and if you want me to go ahead say so to-morrow, or call and take the papers away."

The poor woman looked to me for help and, finding none, rose irresolutely, murmured something about taking advice, and drifted out of the office and down the stairs.

"What do you think of the case, Mr. Meddleston-Jones?" asked my Chief as soon as the door had closed upon her.

"I don't know enough about it yet. The deaths may have been a chain of coincidences. Why not hire a man to sleep in the house, warning him not to use the gas, and see what happens to him?"

"And waste money? No, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. I was about to suggest that you might like to do it yourself. Then we should know where we stand. When you feel gas, or whatever it is, beginning to affect you, all you have to do is to run out into the Square and ask the nearest patrol to telephone for an ambulance."

It was these growing marks of confidence that encouraged me to persevere in serving this remarkable man without thought of reward. But I was a little surprised that, with his knowledge of chemistry, which he must have had since he possessed a laboratory, he did not himself undertake the initial experiment. He was aware that I should not know the difference between the smells of escaping coal-gas and any other evil-smelling chemical product.

This seemed to strike him after a moment, for he added, "I would do this myself, only I can't leave the office just now."

I was about to remark that the duty would be done out of office hours, but instinct kept me silent lest he should think that I was afraid to face personal danger.

"Mr. Pepper," I said, "before we do anything of this sort I should like to read up all the evidence from these newspaper cuttings and have a look at the outside of the house. Then I would like to call upon the gas-fitter who was employed to overhaul the gas-fittings, and the doctors who gave evidence at the inquests. After all this has been done we shall know better what to look for."

"Well, do it your own way, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, only we must hurry or that dame will be worrying us again." And he turned to his papers.

He was making out his weekly bills. But I knew that in his heart he had formed a theory and I had a right to know what it was.

"In other cases, Mr. Pepper, you have helped me greatly by telling me your own theory of the case. Sometimes you have modified it in the light of further discoveries, but your theories are always original and illuminating."

He laid down his pen, and leaned back in his chair, quite evidently pleased.

"If I was a Theosophist or a Spiritualist or a Holy Roller I should say that there was a curse laid upon the house in the time of the Pilgrim Fathers, or earlier, but I'm not any of those cranks. I'm what they would call a gross materialist and when it comes to deaths I look for natural causes. The house isn't haunted, is it? Well, if people keep dying in it some one is working to keep the house empty. That is how I start out. Personally I'd say it was the plumber—on the other side those fellows stick at nothing. I don't mean that they'd have the house empty so as to get a fresh job, but they may be wanting to buy the house cheap and let it in apartments. Those boys are fly, I tell you. They know how to fix up a gas service so as it will blow hot or cold just as they want it to. If you find anything funny in the gas service, come to me and I'll soon tell you what it's for."

I couldn't accept this slander upon the London gas-fitter, who knows how to make a job last out, but would join the authorities in hunting down a murderer of innocent people. The accusation was preposterous, but the suggestion that someone was fiendishly resorting to secret murder in order to acquire the house for a song seemed worth investigation.

I took the news-cuttings home with me and read them carefully through, making notes as I went along. According to the evidence, the house was a very old one—one witness called it Jacobean. Nothing about its early history was recorded, but it had been lying empty for years when Mr. Lorimer acquired it and it was he who had modernized the interior in the hope of letting it as a residence. He had wisely left the panelling alone, but he had installed a bathroom, put in modern sanitation, laid on gas and electricity and repainted the house throughout. He had himself been the third recorded victim.

When I came to tabulate the deaths I found that in a period of ten years fifteen persons had died, generally within ten days of the beginning of their tenancy. All but two of these were described as being of robust health; the two who were invalids were old people who might have died in any case. The usual course of events was that for the first three or four days they seemed to be delighted with their new quarters.

Then the servant began to hear sinister rumours from the tradesmen and left without notice. There followed the usual feverish hunt for a new "general" and about the tenth day came the death, sometimes of the head of the family, sometimes of his wife, but always either in the bathroom or the front bedroom.

In only one case did every living thing in the house die and that was in the case of the Hudson family, the casualties being Mr. and Mrs. Hudson, their five-year old boy and a cat. Their servant slept out.

This was the most mysterious of all, because there was no evidence of gas poisoning, nor was the suggestion of the police surgeon that it was a case of ptomaine poisoning from tinned salmon, on which, apparently, the family and the cat had stayed their hunger, supported by any evidence. But the case had occurred during the War and was soon forgotten.

Thereafter the house had remained empty and the house agents, of whom I afterwards learned there were many, had not killed themselves by overwork in Miss Lorimer's interest. The house remained on their books and that was all.

Having digested the documentary evidence overnight I breakfasted early and drove in a taxi to Westmorland Square. I walked along three sides of it before I came to No. 33, which was a corner house. The Square belonged to that part of North London which is in a state of decaying gentility. Houses originally built for rank and fashion could not be carried South-West when rank and fashion migrated in that direction; they were left to Solicitors, Surveyors and Commission Agents to occupy as offices; to budding dressmakers and agents for Midland and North Country manufacturers and what was left over passed to boarding-house keepers who sometimes dubbed their establishments "Private Hotels" to catch the wanderers from St. Pancras and King's Cross.

No. 33 bore the blight of its evil reputation on its face. It looked like a "house in which everybody died"; it was itself dead, with its grimy shuttered windows, its unpainted woodwork, the verdigris on its knocker and letter-box, the rust on its railings and the accumulations of blown dust on its unwhitened doorstep.

But the blight seemed to have spread to its neighbour, No. 32, which looked almost equally empty and uncared for except in one particular; there was a milk can on the door-step. I looked at my watch—it was a quarter to ten.

No one was in sight. I mounted the steps on tiptoe and lifted the lid; it was full of milk. So, though the shutters were closed and the door blistered and neglected, there was some one within who rose very late and drank milk. I made a note of the dairyman's name in my notebook and walked on round the Square, thinking that I would keep watch on that milk can until its owner came out to take it, but when I arrived again within sight of the doorstep the milk can was gone.

Having noted that the side of No. 33 gave upon Halifax Street, a short street consisting of small shops, and that there was no back entrance, I hailed a taxi and drove to Miss Lorimer's address in Highgate. She was at home—a fluttered, whining little woman, living simply with one middle-aged servant and existing for her annual holiday, so she told me, in a Hydro in the North. It was her one annual plunge into the gay and fashionable world.

Her furniture looked as if it was a collection of the things that her tenants refused to live with and most of it was of mahogany and horsehair. She had given a home to many oleographs in dilapidated gilt frames and there were sheets of glass that had been mirrors before the silver had peeled off the backs. A festive touch had been given to the chimney piece by mementoes of the annual holiday, executed in satinette and sea shells, attached with glue and varnished, in the taste of the Hohenzollerns in their Imperial halls at Potsdam.

I did not waste time in small talk. I had to find out from her what she knew about the history of No. 33 before her uncle had bought it and whether any enquiry had ever been made from a possible purchaser. She was vague and diffuse as all such women are.

"Well, you see, Mr. Meddlesome-Jones, my uncle never took me much into his confidence about business matters. I remember very well the night he moved into the house—that must have been ten or twelve years ago, or was it fifteen? I know I was past twenty then."

I said that I had the date from the newspaper account of the inquest.

"Then if you know the date already," she giggled, "I wonder that you asked me. I remember very well that there was a black cat on the doorstep and that is very lucky, they say, and my poor uncle pushed it off with his foot. Now I am very fond of cats—"

And so she maundered on, I not daring to stem the flow of reminiscence lest but one suggestive fact should be lost to me for ever. She had embarked upon a detailed description of her first meal in the house, which seemed to have been lacking in the amenities of a well-ordered household, when I caught these words:

"So my uncle became very cross and emptied the dish on to the carpet, grease and all, and when I began to cry he told me to hold my noise; the cat would lick it all up. It was the black cat, you see—the one that had belonged to the miser."

"The miser?"

"Yes, didn't I tell you, Mr. Meddlesome-Jones? The house had belonged to a miser and the tradespeople said that he had hidden his money somewhere in the house. I think that that was why my uncle bought it. He spent the whole evening poking about the house, tapping the walls and the floors. I heard him long after I had gone to bed."

I did not listen very closely to her minute account of her uncle's last hours and of the discovery of his body, for I was thinking that if some buried-treasure seeker wanted to try his luck, he would not have had recourse to murder. All he had to do was to take a lease of the house, pay a quarter's rent in advance, dig up all the floors, strip the plaster from the walls and ceilings and decamp with or without the miser's hoard.

I put my second question.

"Has anyone offered to buy the house, do you mean? It's funny that you should ask that. Yesterday I could have said no, but this very morning I paid a visit to my solicitor."

She embarked upon a minute description of her adventures in an over-crowded omnibus, what the other passengers said to her and what she said to them, the name of her legal adviser and his personal appearance—"with his shiny bald head, you know, and his side whiskers—such a funny colour, don't you think, Mr. Middleton-Jones? When whiskers are turning from red into grey and white eyelashes—you can't take your eyes off them—at least, I can't," and I let her run on.

"Now, what was it you were asking me? Oh, I know, about the house—well, Mr. Simpkinson said that a party had been enquiring the price. I think he said 'a party,' but from something else he said I believe it was another solicitor. I know it was confidential."

"And you told him what you would take?"

A look of triumphant cunning took possession of her empty face. "No, I didn't. I told him to find out what 'the party' was prepared to offer."

I made a note of Mr. Simpkinson's address and seized my hat.

"One more question, Miss Lorimer. Who lives in the next house—No. 32?"

"I wish I knew. Nobody knows. But it's a man, I think, though quite a lot of people say it's a woman. He only goes out after dark, but it's a nice Persian cat, isn't it?"

I had contrived to make a few quite useful notes during that flood of conversation. I had the addresses of the solicitor, the gas-fitter, who made a report on the gas-fittings, the plumber who fixed the bath, the builder who did the repairs and the dairy. Also I had the key of the doomed house.

To Mr. Simpkinson I went immediately. He conducted his office with the aid of a single clerk who acted also as office boy and I found that I too could not take my eyes off his white eyelashes. He received me with suspicion and reserve and I made a lightning resolve to play a part. I said that I had heard—no matter how—that he had instructions to sell No. 33 Westmorland Square and I would like to know the price.

He asked me whether I had not been making the enquiry through a firm of solicitors. I smiled and ignored his question. He pressed it and I remarked that I was glad he had done so because it showed that I had a rival in the field. He looked at my card and then said, "Well, I may tell you, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, that the owner of No. 33 is prepared to sell the property at a fair price, but does not care to deal with people who will not give their names. You can have the property for £2,000. It is a freehold."

That was all I could get out of him, and I left. He had let fall the name of the solicitors who loved the devious paths of secrecy and I wanted to get hold of a law list before I forgot it. The name was Charlton and Fox.

Of course, at this stage I should have sought the guidance of Mr. Pepper, whose vast experience would have guarded me from pitfalls, but I blundered on as an amateur embarked upon adventure. I ran Messrs. Charlton and Fox to ground in Gray's Inn and was ushered into the presence of Mr. Fox, who was a charming old gentleman as long as he believed me to be a new client, but very much the reverse by the time I had done with him. When we had dismissed the weather I said that I represented the owner of No. 33 Westmorland Square, and I would like to know the name and station of the person who wanted to purchase it.

He rolled up like a hedgehog at the first bark of a dog and stayed rolled. He was not at liberty to disclose—the matter was confidential—it should be dealt with between the solicitors of the parties. I rose with great dignity and fired my shot:

"Because," I said, "if it is the present tenant of No. 32"—and I paused. "You were about to say something."

"I see that it is not the person I thought it was, so I had better say no more."

"That is just as you please, Mr. —" and he looked at my card. Why will these people never remember my name?

"—Mr. Meddleston-Jones, but I am quite prepared to listen."

"I was going to say that that particular person would not be acceptable."

So it was the mystery man in No. 32 who wanted the house. Why had he not applied months ago? Any why all this secrecy?

I called upon all the other people in the course of the afternoon. The plumber was a stolid, secretive person with eyes half closed. Yes, he had fixed the bath in No. 33. What about it? I asked him whether it would be a costly job to move it to the other side of the bathroom. At that he gave me a swift side-long glance.

"Are you thinking of taking that house, sir?"

I nodded.

"Well, of course, it's no affair of mine. The bath's all right and so is the geyser, but if you have it moved it will have to be into another room."


"Well, in the first place there's the door to study and—well, there's other reasons."

"You are very mysterious. What's wrong with the bathroom?"

"Nothing that I know of, sir. But I've had trouble enough about that bath and if you are going to meddle with it I'd rather you got someone else to do the job."

I tried to coax him into being more communicative, but that was all he would say.

I found the gas-fitter and his mate unloading tools from a handcart. He must have been very lonely all day in some cellar—so I judged from the flood of conversation that burst from him.

"I am told," I said, "that you look after the gas-fittings at No. 33 Westmorland Square. Are they in good order?"

"Good order, sir? I don't suppose that in all London you'd find gas pipes and fittings that have had more done to them than in that house. You're not thinking of taking it?"

"I may be."

"D'you hear that, Jim? The gentleman's thinking of taking No. 33."

James trained his weary, lack-lustre eye on me and whistled.

"Why, what's wrong with the house?"

"Nothing, sir—leastways with the gas-fittings. They've been tested over and over again under gas and under air-pressure and they're sound throughout, and yet somehow people go on dying there and—"

"Keep on dying?" I threw a tremolo into my voice; it sounded like the complaint of a sick dog.

"Yes, keep—on—dying. Haven't you heard of the 'House Where Everybody Dies'? Didn't you read about the inquests? They reported my evidence in full. The people died of gas-poisoning, the doctors said, and yet all taps was turned off and the pipes as sound as a bell. I ought to know; it was me that tested them."

"Was the main all right?"

"Yes, sir; the Gas Company tested that. But the last few deaths wasn't from gas. The people just died and do did the cat."

"Who lives in the next house?"

"Ah, sir, now you're talking. Who does? That's what we'd all like to know."

His frankness appeared to wilt at this point; after all, I was a stranger and the law of slander has its terrors. I engaged him to overhaul the gas-fittings again if I made up my mind to take the house and went on to the dairy in Devereux Street.

I was received by a young lady who hastily concealed a copy of a magazine under the counter, and, as I am still comparatively young, paid me the compliment of patting her rather unruly hair. I told her that I had called to know whether she could deliver milk at a house in Westmorland Square. Certainly, she could. Their roundsman delivered milk at several houses in the Square every day.

"Yes," I said, "I noticed that he delivered milk at the next door—No. 32. That is why I called."

"Oh, then you are at the offices in No. 31, sir?"

"No, but I am thinking of taking the house on the other side—the corner house."

"Not No. 33, sir?"

I nodded.

"But don't you know the story of that house, sir?"

"No, but I'd very much like to hear it. Is it haunted?" She looked round for possible eavesdroppers and then in a low tense voice told me the story that I already knew, and I hope that my jaw dropped and my eyes bulged at the appropriate moments. I would have turned pale, too, if I had known how it is done.

"Would you like to know what I think, sir? I believe that a curse has been laid on the house by the miser. I've seen a black cat sitting on the doorstep myself. I wouldn't set my foot in that house—not for a thousand pounds."

"Do you think there is a ghost?" I murmured in a fainting voice. "No. 32 looks as if it were haunted."

She positively laughed. "Oh, there is nothing of the ghost about old Mr. Panton. He often writes to us. He's dotty, that's all. He never goes out except after dark and then he goes to Repp's Hotel at the corner to drink his nightcap with the landlord. That's what he calls it in his letters."

I told the young lady that she needn't send any milk unless I called again; I should like to think over what she had told me. I was still young enough to enjoy life and she had set me thinking.

"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to put you off taking the house, but at the same time it did seem a pity for you to go and end your life just in that way."

I agreed. We bound ourselves by a vow of secrecy and I departed to drink an early nightcap with the landlord of Repp's Hotel.

This was less easy than it appeared. The manager seemed to have other things to do than to drink afternoon nightcaps with an eccentric stranger, but when I mentioned casually to the barman that I was the new tenant of No. 33 Westmorland Square he stiffened in the act of drawing a cork and went to the manager again.

I was invited into the great man's private room, where I found him making up his books.

"I am sorry to trouble you," I said. "My name is Meddleston-Jones. I am thinking of taking No. 33 Westmorland Square, but there seems to be a sort of conspiracy to discourage me and I cannot understand the reason."

"Oh, if that's all, I think I know the reason. There have been a number of deaths in the house and the papers have been writing it up as a 'House Where Everybody Dies.'"

"H'm. That sets one thinking. I wonder whether No. 32 is to let."

"No, I can answer that question off-hand. The old lady who owns No. 32 has been there for more than twenty years. She won't let."

"I thought that a Mr. Panton owned it."

A ghost of a smile flitted across his unpleasing countenance. "Miss, not Mr—Panton."

"You know her, then?"

"Well, I see her occasionally." He changed the subject to the weather, hoped that I would buy my wines and spirits from him and bowed me out before I had had time to empty my glass.

I did not like the man. It was growing dark and I had done a hard day's work. I felt that at this stage I ought to take instructions from my Chief if he were still at the office, because it is so easy for an amateur to make a blunder. I found him brushing his hat and on the point of leaving, but he was kind enough to sit down and listen to my story patiently. When I had done, he said:

"What have you come to me for, Mr. Meddleston-Jones? Do you want me to take up the enquiry?"

"Not exactly, Mr. Pepper. I thought that you might give me a hint as to my next move."

"Why don't you sleep in the house? You've told everybody that you have taken it. If you want to know what I think I'll tell you. I still think it's the plumber, and if I took up the case I'd slip the baby browning into my pocket and put it to him straight. As to the man or woman next door, you are wasting your time."

Very well; I would pass the night in the house though as there was no furniture it was likely to be extremely uncomfortable. I had the key and I must arrive with the maximum of bustle. From my flat I took a couple of kitbags in a taxi and stopped on the way to buy a lantern and an electric torch. I directed the driver to pull up at No. 32 and when he did so, I leaned out of the window and bawled, so that the whole Square could hear me, "No, the next house—No. 33."

He carried my bags up the steps and I let myself in.

A house that has been left empty in London for months is the dirtiest place under heaven. The people who removed the furniture of the last ill-fated tenants had left the floor littered with straw and blackened newspapers. The bathroom was at the back of the ground floor—a most unpleasant place to die in. The bath was begrimed with dirt; the copper geyser coated with tarnish and verdigris.

I tried the gas tap. No gas came; it was cut off at the meter.

It was growing dusk and I made as much noise as possible consistent with sanity. I tramped heavily up and down the stairs; coughed, whistled and sang—and my method of singing is in itself arresting—and then I sat down on the stairs to watch. I felt that it was a futile proceeding, but as Mr. Pepper had prescribed it I did not complain.

From time to time I sniffed the air, which was musty and unpleasant, but had no smell of gas.

Half an hour passed and my nerves began to play tricks with me. I thought I heard a stealthy footfall in the basement; the air seemed to have become heavier; I imagined that I was growing dizzy. I got up and went down the stone steps to the kitchen. It was silent as the grave.

Then I returned to my perch on the stairs and found that there was a strong smell of gas. I ran to the bathroom; there the smell was even stronger. It was so strong now that I should not have dared to strike a match for fear of an explosion and the gas in the house was turned off at the main. I went on tiptoe to the front door and opened it. The fresh air outside showed me how heavily the house was charged with gas.

I closed the door behind me very softly and went over to the opposite side of the Square. I remembered the saying of a distinguished police officer that in difficult cases the successful detective must have luck and that luck comes to the man who works the hardest. I would keep unobtrusive observation upon No. 32 until luck did come.

It came very soon after I arrived on the ground, but it was not the kind of luck I was looking for. Wills and Hanson, both members of my club, came through the Square and ran into me as I leaned against the railings.

"Good Lord, it's Jones," said Wills. "Planning a little burglary or ogling a lady? Which is it?"

It was useless to assume an air of dignity.

"Both," I said, "and you're spoiling my game."

Both instantly put their fingers to their lips and departed on tiptoe with an exaggeration in their gait that attracted the attention of a postman and a boy. I saw Hanson take Wills by the arm, draw him over to a policeman on beat and speak to him, pointing in my direction. Hanson is one of those tiresome men who pride themselves on their sense of humour. Immediately the policeman bore down upon me without haste or hurry.

"Fine evening, sir," he said. "Those two gents are friends of yours, I suppose? Just having a lark at your expense."

"Why, what did they say?"

"Well, sir, they said you were a noted crook, that you were watching a house and that I had better keep an eye on you."

"It's like their cheek. They belong to my club. But they were right in one thing, Constable. I am watching a house."

"Not No. 33, sir?"

"No, No. 32. Perhaps you can tell me who lives there."

"No, sir, I can't. All I know is that the party keeps cats and takes in milk enough for six people. But I have never seen anyone go in or out."

And he had scarcely finished the sentence when a person did come out. I thanked him and started in pursuit, and when I looked round I saw that he was following Hanson's advice. He was watching me. At a distance of twenty yards it was impossible to say whether it was man or woman. The figure was tall and the stride was long; a man's overcoat came down almost to the heels; the hair was cut short and, as I saw by the light of the street lamp, white or very fair. It was carrying a covered basket and from the way in which the right shoulder was weighed down, I saw that the basket was heavy.

As we neared Repp's Hotel, I crossed the street and quickened my pace, and I was nearly level with the figure when it dived into the private bar. The crossing of the road occupied four seconds, but when I looked into the bar the room was empty. The figure must have passed straight into the manager's room.

What, I thought, would Mr. Pepper have done under such circumstances? Would he not have walked boldly into the room in a pretended search for the barman? I would do the same and trust to native wit to get out of any trouble that might ensue.

I tiptoed to the door, turned the handle noiselessly and pushed. The door was locked. I found the switch of the electric light and extinguished it; a pencil of light showed under the door and I heard soft movements in the room. I switched on the light again and went quietly out into the street.

To my left was the window of the manager's room obscured by a red blind which covered the new lace valance that concealed the room from prying eyes during the day-time. But to my great delight I saw that high up there was a triangular tear in it. The stone sill, if I could balance myself on it in a stooping position, would be all that I needed.

The policeman had ceased to watch me; for the moment the street was empty. I clambered up and wedged myself against the brickwork, and there, through the rent in the red blind, I had a view of every part of the room, which was lighted by one bulb suspended over the table and covered with a green cardboard shade which left the surface of the table brilliantly lighted, but the faces of the two occupants in shadow.

The manager stood almost facing me; he was counting out silver from his cash-box; his visitor's back was towards me. If it was a man surely he would have removed his hat. There were six black bottles on the table and as I watched, the visitor took up one of them and pointed to it as if in support of some argument.

The manager shook his head and put a £1 note and some silver on the table. Then, apparently at the instance of his visitor, he fetched a liqueur glass, drew the cork from the nearest bottle and poured out a faintly yellow liquid. At that moment someone caught me by the ankle and I blundered against the window.

Instantly the light in the room was switched off. I had been so intent that I had not noticed the little crowd which my proceedings had collected behind me. The man who had hold of my ankle was a policeman—not my friend of Westmorland Square but a man from the Marylebone Road, who seemed to me to be unnecessarily rough.

"What are you doing up there?" he said.

"Come along down."

"That is what I want to do, Constable, but as long as you are grabbing my leg, I can't."

He let go and I descended into a curious crowd of forty or fifty people.

"Now," I said, "if you will kindly come with me out of earshot I'll tell you something."

Motioning to the crowd to move on he came a few paces down the road and I told him as much as I thought it good for him to know.

I said that I had followed a suspicious person from No. 32 Westmorland Square into the hotel; that he, or she (for I was not certain of the sex) was carrying a heavy basket; that at the moment when he pulled me down this person was selling six bottles of fluid to the manager of the hotel, and I suggested that the contents were drugs or illicit spirits.

"The person is in there now. Why don't you go in and question him?"

"Couldn't do that, unless you are prepared to make a charge against him, and then you'd have to stand the racket if the man was acquitted. If it was a burglary or a robbery now, I could do something, but drugs is a matter for the C.I. Department and liquor's a matter for the Excise. What you had better do is to go along to Marylebone Police Station and see what they say about it."

I thought of my Chief and decided that it would not be fair to him to make a charge against a person of whom I knew neither the name nor the sex. Was an Englishman's house his castle to the extent that one could not enter it without a constable armed with a warrant? There must be some stratagem.

Stop, there was a way—burglars knew it—why should I not be a burglar? I had always thought that it must be an exciting occupation, and after all, if I were caught, I had a defence—that I was breaking the law in the interests of the guardians of the law. I could call the Constable who pulled me off the ledge as a witness in my defence. But I must get his number first. I walked quickly back, past Repp's Hotel, and found him at the corner of the Marylebone Road.

"Constable," I said, "I am inclined to take your advice. Where is the Marylebone Police Station?"

He gave me full directions and I made a note of his number, D.67.

When I reached the Square it was entirely deserted; even my friend the Constable had left it. On the doorstep of No. 32 was the Persian cat, mewing to get in. Then the tenant had not yet returned and the house was empty. No doubt he had taken alarm at the disturbance at the window and was staying with his friend the manager until all was quiet again.

Now was my time. But I had no sort of burglar's outfit except a pocket knife, nor any means of defending myself except my fists. It was ten o'clock and not a soul was in sight. I slipped down into the area and tried the scullery window—secured, of course. Behind me was the coal hole. I opened the door and hearing footsteps on the pavement I slipped into it. The footsteps passed and died away; how loud they sounded in this chasm below the street! With my ears cocked for the lightest footfall I applied myself to crime.

The scullery window was protected by vertical bars, screwed top and bottom to the window frame, but the woodwork was rotten and with a sudden wrench I detached the bottom of the two middle bars. There was a wide crack between the upper and the lower sash and with my pocket knife I had little difficulty in slipping back the catch at the expense of two deep fractures in the cutting edge.

I crawled in and closed the window noiselessly behind me. I wasted no time in feeling for the switch. A light shining through the scullery window would have betrayed me, but feeling my way into the kitchen, I shut the scullery door and felt for the switch. There was none, and I had to strike a match.

The room was lighted by a gas pendant which suited me better because I could reduce the light to little more than a blue bead. It was not a kitchen at all, whatever it might have been in the past; it was a chemical laboratory fitted with great retorts and furnaces of which I could not determine the use.

My time was short: it was useless to waste any of it in exploring the rest of the house, which I guessed was a sort of cats' home. Besides, the kitchen door was locked from the outside.

I turned up the light and set myself to puzzle out the uses of the various machines. The largest even my untutored eye knew to be a still, for it contained coils of piping technically called a "worm," which were made to discharge into a tin quart pot with a lip, which smelt strongly of alcohol. Moreover the still was filled with mash of some kind and beneath the table was a whole regiment of empty whisky bottles waiting to be commissioned.

Behind the door was a baker's trough in which the remains of mash were lying. And so Mr. Pepper's first suggestion was correct. The owner of No. 32 was "bootlegging" and I could now go to the Excise Officers with a mind at ease. But I was out for higher game.

What were the other machines? They were not stills. One in particular caught my attention. It was a copper cylinder with a gas furnace in its lower storey and at the top a thick pipe from which about six feet of rubber tube was dangling.

Access to the upper portion could be had by unscrewing a little door fastened by six nuts, but I had no wrench. All the apparatus seemed to have been erected by an amateur, piecemeal, for where a joint was made it was very clumsily soldered and the still in particular seemed to have been built up from incongruous parts, brought to an effective whole by a liberal use of sacking and rubber.

Now, the machine that puzzled me stood beside the chimney breast against the party wall of No. 33. The wall and the ceiling were very dirty but the blackest part of all was just over the machine in the angle of the wall and ceiling. It was so black that I turned the gas full on to get a better view. It was not dirt: it was a hole. I clambered up and found that it was undoubtedly a deep hole.

I lighted a match: the flame streamed into the hole; it led upward clean through the wall into No. 33, where it must have debouched just under one of the floors. I reached for the rubber tube and found that it could be pushed through the hole a good three feet.

And then I made the most significant discovery. I pulled out the tube, clambered down, turned on the gas furnace without lighting it and put the rubber tube to my nose.

There was the usual hissing roar, a rush of foul air and then gas. I turned off the tap and at that moment I heard the front door bang and a footfall overhead.

I am not sure now whether I should have had time to escape. Mr. Pepper, no doubt, would have done so without leaving any visible trace of his visit, but my brain works but slowly and I left it until too late. I did have the presence of mind to turn out the gas and to squeeze close up against the still, where I was partly hidden from the door.

A woman's voice was calling, "Puss, puss," as she came down the stairs. She was a long time fumbling with the key, but at last she opened the door and began to shake a match box.

My heart was beating loud enough to alarm the policeman outside. Before she struck the match I heard her sniffing: apparently my experiment with the gas had set her thinking of a possible explosion. But she took the risk and lighted the gas.

Even then she did not see me. She called the cat and disappeared into the scullery to feed it. But I had had a good view of her. She was a tall sinewy woman of about fifty, narrow-hipped, flat-chested and dressed like a man except for a straight skirt that would have looked like trousers in the dark. She wore a man's hard felt hat and her grey hair was cropped. I noticed that there were deep lines and hollows in her face.

I believe that even then I could have slipped up the stairs and out of the front door without being seen, but again I lacked the necessary decision. After crooning to her cat for two minutes she came back and started a little on meeting me face to face.

"Good evening," she said. "How did you get here?"

"Good evening, Madam. I came in through the scullery window."


"Because I didn't know any other way of getting in."

"And who are you?" She spoke with an educated accent.

"My name is Meddleston-Jones."

"I should have asked why you thought it necessary to invade my house."

"Because I am investigating what has been happening in the next house and I thought that I might find the explanation here. And I have."

At this she sat down suddenly on the only chair and breathed hard. After a long pause she said, "Then you are a police officer?"

"I prefer not to answer that question, Ma'am. You will know that in due course."

She made no reply, and after a moment I passed her and went up the stairs. She did not move. In the hall I found her basket: it was filled with empty bottles. When I reached the street by the legitimate exit of the front door, my friend, the constable, was standing at the corner, eyeing me as I approached with blank surprise.

Though my first burglary had been uneventful I was so proud of it that when he said, "Well, Sir, you are the first person who has ever been invited into that house," I replied, "I wasn't invited: I don't mind telling you that I broke in, but I don't think the lady will prosecute me. I am going straight to Marylebone Police Station to give myself up."

"You gentlemen seem fond of a joke."

"No, I'm in sober earnest, and if you don't believe me, you had better come too."

And he did. To the Inspector I gave a detailed description of my evening. He said nothing until I came to the hole in the wall and the contrivance for pouring gas through it. Then he held up his hand and went out to call a Sergeant of the C.I.D., to whom he said, "This gentleman is telling me something that concerns your department. You had better take down his statement."

To him I dictated what I had discovered, adding that it would be necessary to take a chemist to the kitchen to learn what the apparatus was used for. The detective sergeant was for prompt action.

"If all this is true," he said to the Inspector, "and I am not throwing any doubt on it, we ought to enter the house at once, or the old girl will destroy all the evidence."

Half a dozen constables of the reserve were called up; the detective-sergeant went to equip himself, and we all trooped off to No. 32. I looked at my watch; it was 11.45; three-quarters of an hour had passed since I left the house. There was no response to our ring and, guided by me, the police ran down the area steps. The window was still unfastened: the detective-sergeant was the first to go through it.

"Put out your lanterns," he hissed back to us, "the place is alive with gas." We heard him throw open the kitchen door; he returned to the window coughing.

"Can't get through without a gas mask."

"I'll do it," said a young constable. "Where's the water?"

There was a tap in the yard. He soaked his handkerchief, fastened its lower edge into the collar of his tunic, threw the rest over his head and clambered in. We heard his boots tramping the kitchen floor and running up the stairs; then the front door opened and he called down to us:

"I can hear the gas hissing. If we had an electric torch I could turn it off."

But the detective-sergeant was already in the coal hole and had found the tap at the gas meter. "I've done that," he said. "We'll have to wait now till it clears a bit."

I produced my torch. The constable—who had learned the trick in the trenches—was sent in again with his gas mask and he reported that he had found the body of a woman and had dragged it out to the staircase.

The ambulance was sent for and I saw the body despatched to the hospital. The gas had now cleared off and it was safe to enter with lanterns. The apparatus had been overturned and was lying in battered fragments about the floor. Having promised the Inspector to be at the Station early I went home.

AT eight o'clock next morning they told me the sequel. The woman was dead and so was her Persian cat.

Dr. Craggs had inspected the place and pronounced the apparatus a retort for making carbon monoxide gas and so constructed that either this or coal gas from the furnace could be discharged through the rubber pipe into the floor cavity of No. 33.

It was doubtful whether a heavy gas like carbon monoxide could have killed the inmates of that house, but the coal gas could. The still was used for making spirits, and a raid upon Repp's Hotel disclosed a quantity of spirit that had never paid excise duty.

What was the motive, I asked.

The police had already cleared up that part of the mystery. The dead woman was a Miss Panton. She had been a fellow-pupil of Dr. Craggs in the Chemistry School and great things were expected of her in experimental chemistry.

But she had inherited a little money and after reading a few papers of no great moment, she disappeared from the world of science and was believed to have immured herself in a private laboratory.

This had been twenty years ago. Her money was spent, her solitary life had told upon her; she had taken to illicit distilling as a means of livelihood, and then a monomania that people were taking the next house in order to spy upon her had led to a series of tragedies.

All this was disclosed at the inquest except the murders at No. 33, which the Coroner kept out of the evidence. When I reported my proceedings to Mr. Pepper he showed what I believe was appreciation.

"You will remember," he said, "that I told that dame it was bootleggers."


ONE morning as I ran up the stairs I heard the strains of a violin, and stopped, for the sounds came from our office. I had noticed an old violin case at the bottom of one of the cupboards, but it had never occurred to me that so sternly practical a man could have a lighter side and a taste for music.

It struck me, though I am no musician, that he was not exactly hitting the right note: his pitch, especially in the high notes, did not seem to be high enough, but he was playing something classical, and he was, of course, sadly out of practice.

I waited until the end of the tune and then went to the door. His quick ear must have heard me for I found him hurriedly putting the instrument away.

"I did not know that you were a musician," I said.

"I am not—I am a mere amateur—but sometimes I find that it soothes my nerves to play a little on my old fiddle."

At that moment there was a step on the stairs. The visitor stopped at our door, perhaps to read the doorplate, for it is rather dark there. Then he knocked.

My Chief put the violin case under the table and motioned me into the laboratory. I heard the murmur of voices and then my Chief flung open the door saying, "Let me introduce you to our expert in handwriting, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. Mr. Meddleston-Jones, this is Lieutenant Collier, of the Grenadier Guards. We want you to look at a document and express an opinion upon the handwriting."

I saw that I was expected to play a part and I set myself loyally to do it. My Chief handed me a document and a magnifying glass. It was written on a rather dirty half sheet of paper and it ran as follows:

May 23rd.

Sir, Let their be no mistake you will bring £500 pounds in Bradberries not five pound noats and put it just within the gate of Stoak Pojes church-yard before midnight on tuesday 30st failing this I intend to tell all i no about your passed life and i'll tell it strait to the yung ladie and all the others, this is my last warning so be quick about it.

Moonlight Dick.

I did not quite know what handwriting experts are supposed to do with blackmailing letters besides knit their brows. I knit mine as hard as they could be knitted and held the paper up to the light in order to gain time. I noticed then that it had a watermark—the word "Empress" surmounted by a crown.

The handwriting, too, struck me as that of an educated man trying to play the illiterate.

As no one seemed inclined to help me I turned to our visitor and asked him whether he had received any other letters from the same source, because an expert always liked to have as large a number of letters as possible before expressing an opinion. It then appeared that he had had two others but had destroyed them. All three envelopes bore the S.W.1. postmark.

"H'm, that's unfortunate," I said: "tell me, in confidence of course, have you had a past?"

My question appeared to sting him like a whip, and my Chief said reprovingly: "Mr Meddleston-Jones, everybody has a past. We are waiting for your opinion on the document."

So I had to take the plunge. "In my opinion," I said oracularly, "this is the work of an educated man and the mistakes in spelling are intentional."

Our visitor gazed at me.

"You are sure of that?" he said, with evident relief. I had read somewhere that the one asset of the handwriting expert is to be cocksure; and I therefore replied.

"There is no doubt at all in my mind."

He looked significantly at my Chief and said, "Doesn't that bear out what I've just said?"

I had now time to look at him more closely. He was a youth of middle height with a face and manner prematurely old for his age, which I took to be twenty-two. He had a swarthy complexion and a Jewish nose and he spoke with a measured solemnity that made me long to kick him. I took him to be an only child and a mother's darling.

I was to learn afterwards, that he had always had a serious leaning towards the profession of arms, and that, through the influence of a rich uncle, he had obtained a commission in the Guards. It was his heart's desire and he ought to have been happy, for he was going steadily through all the textbooks, and he spent his leave in visiting battle-fields. But he confessed rather pathetically that nobody seemed to like him and he could not imagine why.

I could; if ever there was a youth made to be ragged in a regiment, Archibald Collier was the man.

Little by little it all came out. He never knew what new devilment was next to be played upon him, and his temper had begun to wear threadbare.

"If they think that they are going to make me send in my papers," he said, "they've chosen the wrong man."

Yet he did not think that the blackmailing letter had been written by any of his fellow-subalterns and, curiously enough, my Chief shared his view.

"Well then," I said, "if it's an ordinary blackmailer, what is there to be afraid of? Leave the letter with us and go ahead as if nothing had happened."

"But he may carry out his threat."

"Invent lies, you mean?"

He nodded.

"Then I'd let him: no one would believe him."

Apparently he was not so sure. The sentence in the letter which he felt most was the threat to tell the young lady, and I shrewdly suspected that he was in love, though his chances of winning the affections of any young lady, were his past as white as the lily, seemed very remote. But I could not get out of my head the suspicion that our young friend had something in his life that he wished to forget and that he thought that the blackmailer had found it out.

At last my Chief, who had been silent for a long time, said:

"Well, Mr. Collier, of course you'll have to deposit a parcel in the churchyard."

The young man stiffened with apprehension.

"Why need I go there at all? I hoped that you would arrange that part of the business for me."

"Do you mean that you would really put five hundred pounds there? Why, you would be blackmailed all your life. A blackmailer has never been known to stop after his first success."

"No, but you could put a parcel containing an old newspaper."

"But you want the man to be caught, don't you? He may be watching your movements, and if you don't go there at all neither will he."

The idea that he was being followed about by an unseen enemy seemed to fill him with dismay. He turned to me piteously.

"Do you really mean that there is someone following me about London; that he is waiting for me in the street below?"

"I don't say that. I mean that blackmail is such a risky business that the criminal takes no chances."

He became extraordinarily uneasy. At last, being unable to keep still in his chair for more than a minute, he got up and went to the window. The hot weather had come early and the window was open. I watched him put out his head inch by inch and survey the empty street below.

Suddenly he jerked it in so suddenly that he hit the back of his skull against the sash. He had turned deathly white.

"You were right," he stammered. I ran to the window. At the street corner, half a dozen doors away, stood one of the cheery loafers who haunt the Adelphi to do odd jobs and cadge an occasional glass of beer. He was looking up at the window with a grin on his face. I seized my hat and was in the street in under a minute.

He saw me making for him and received me with a grin. I knew nothing about him except his face, which was usually displayed outside a certain public-house in the next street, but he seemed to know all about me.

"I see you looking at me from ole Pepper's winder. Regular toff you've got in there this morning—I know 'im well—slipped 'arf a crown inter me 'and yesterday for lookin' hard at 'im, he did: that's all yer've got ter do—just stare hard at 'im and out comes 'is 'and with the money."

"You haven't been writing letters to him by any chance?"

"Lor' bless yer, no, sir. Don't even know his name—follered 'im once though, ter find out, an bless yer, sir, he walks into Wellington Barracks as if the place belonged to 'im. Orficer in the Guards, that's what 'e is. I was goin' to come the ole soldier on 'im after that, but it wasn't necessary. All yer've got to do is to stare hard at 'im."

I slipped another half-crown into his willing hand and said, "Now, don't go and spend that in beer. There are more where that comes from if you do what I say. When he walks out just turn the other way and then follow him about five yards behind. He'll look round and he'll try to shake you off, but just follow him wherever he goes. If he takes a taxi you take one, too, and tell the driver to follow. Then be back here at six o'clock and I'll see that you don't lose by it."

Then I went back to the office and found our young friend just taking his leave.

"Well?" he said.

"The man made off when he saw me coming," I replied mendaciously.

"Then he was following me." He hesitated a moment and then went on. "Are you quite sure that the letter was not in a woman's handwriting?"

So there we had it. This young man with a mind of sixty had gone the way of the flesh: there was a woman in the case. I was able to reassure him.

"Then it is quite understood, Mr. Collier," said my Chief. "At an hour before midnight next Tuesday you will be at the gate of Stoke Poges churchyard with this parcel and will put it just inside the gate. My friend, Mr. Meddleston-Jones and I will be there hiding behind two of the tombstones: never mind who is following you: just lay down the parcel and go straight back to town. Leave the rest to us."

The young man did not appear to enjoy the prospect, but he agreed.

When we were alone my Chief leaned back in his chair and rubbed his hands. "A most interesting case, my dear Meddleston-Jones—one that may have important consequences. I have long wished to come to grips with Po'ale Zion."

"Po'ale Zion? What is that?"

"Surely you have heard of the Protocols of the Wise Men? That world-wide secret conspiracy to give the Jews world domination. It is the most terrible organization of modern times: its ramifications have spread everywhere. You will find them in the highest social strata and in the lowest. They are responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the unrest in every other country. This is some of their work."

"Do you really think so? Why should they go for this little subaltern in the Guards?"

"For two reasons. First because though there are enormously wealthy Jewish bankers in the movement, the rank and file are always in need of money, and secondly because he has a secret."

"Yes, but a very ordinary kind of secret."

"Ordinary, you call it? Is it ordinary to have been a member of the Po'ale Zionand to have betrayed it? They are following him because they mean to have their revenge. There may be fighting next Tuesday in Stoke Poges churchyard."

"Good Lord!" I exclaimed, only half convinced.

"Yes, we must go armed, and if we kill a man or two the world will be well rid of the worst ruffians that have ever disgraced it."

"Well, but look here, Mr. Pepper. This isn't the United States. If we kill anybody they'll indict us for wilful murder. We shan't like that, either of us."

"They'll have to find us first," he said grimly.

I did not like the business at all. All this stuff about a world-wide conspiracy centring in a quite unimportant Guards subaltern seemed fantastic. But I had faith in my Chief, and certainly Collier had a Jewish nose.

I liked it even less as Tuesday drew near. My Chief was too much preoccupied to talk and when I suggested timidly that it seemed to me that if there was to be fighting it would not be a bad plan to take the Bucks police into our confidence, he flew up into the air.

I saw him take out of a drawer a venomous-looking American pistol and weigh it in his hand. Then he went out, as I supposed, to buy cartridges or to hire a pistol for me. The drawer was not locked, and I took out the pistol.

I know very little about these things. The only revolver I knew was a nice thing that looked like a pistol, with a sort of revolving drum full of holes into which you pushed the cartridges. This was quite different. The stock was at right angles to the barrel, and I found in it a sort of spring clip, which was full of cartridges. I took the liberty of emptying them all on to the table and pocketing them. I was just going to put the pistol back when there was a timid little knock, the door opened and a girl walked in.

"Are you Mr. Pepper?" she said. "Oh! you're not going to shoot me?"

"Certainly not. Sit down and tell me your business."

"No, I won't sit down, thank you. I've only looked in for a moment. Has Mr. Collier been here?"

I noticed that she was pretty in a rather common way; that she talked with a cockney accent, and that she was dressed like a housemaid on her Sunday out.

"Who is Mr. Collier?" I asked.

"Then he hasn't been! What a liar that man is! He told me he was coming here this morning."

"You haven't told me who you are yet," I reminded her.

"Oh, I am Lucy Holmes, the girl he promised to marry, and he thinks I've been blackmailing him, and I've lost my place, and he won't help me, and I've no character and I don't know what I am going to do next. I went once to the Officers' Mess at Wellington Barracks to ask for him, but he wasn't there. I saw a very nice young man, an officer I think he was, and he said he would give any message."

She went on to tell me her story. Her father was a small farmer in Norfolk: her mother was dead, and when her father married again she went into service to get away from her stepmother. It was no good her going home. She had had a good place until Mr. Collier made her stay out late, and then she was discharged without a character. And he had promised to marry her. Now he was angry with her and all her money was gone. What was she to do next?

The worst was that I didn't know, but I took her name and address, and got rid of her by promising to communicate with her. Somehow I meant to make that young rip provide for her.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Pepper," she said at parting, "but I haven't any money to pay you."

I thought that if money had to pass it ought to be the other way.

I said nothing to my Chief when he returned. In his existing mood it would have been quite useless.

"It is just as well," he said on Tuesday afternoon, "that business has been slack these days. The days are long now: with this Daylight-Saving Act it won't be really dark till after ten. Allowing an hour for the journey, we ought to start about nine and get nicely into position by 10.30. You mustn't smoke. I hope you haven't a cold?"

This unwonted solicitude for my health surprised me until he spoiled the effect by adding, "because of course it Would be fatal if you coughed or sneezed behind a tombstone."

We left in my little two-seater at eight and dined off cold beef and beer at nine, lost our way twice in the lanes that circle about Stoke Poges, and passed the church a little after ten. We drove the little car into a field and hid her behind a hedge.

My Chief slipped one of his horrid pistols into my hand and drew the other himself. As I had emptied the clip I felt easy in my mind, and as soon as he was looking the other way I treated my own weapon in the same manner. But I had provided myself with my thickest walking-stick—a veritable club.

The gate of the churchyard was locked: as no one was in sight we climbed over it and selected two tombstones close to the gate. I could have wished that the personage to whose good deeds mine had been erected had held a more important place during his lifetime, for then they might have put up a larger tombstone to his memory, and I should not have been so cramped. I thought of Gray and resolved that if ever I wrote verses about Stoke Poges they would not have taken the form of an elegy, but then the poet had never been condemned to sit for two hours on a damp grave lying in wait for a blackmailer. The subject did not lend itself to verse in any form.

I never knew before how many sounds there were at night in the English countryside. First it was the crickets, who are said to produce their irritating song by rubbing their legs together: having cramp in both, I wished I could do the same. Then a dog barked about ten miles off; at least I judged the distance from the faintness of the bark. This set off all the dogs in the radius of ten miles, and there must have been many hundred dogs in Stoke Poges and its environs.

When the barking died down a pair of barn owls began courting. I suppose that they were nesting in the church tower. The song of the barn owl is a depressing sound anywhere, but in a churchyard just over one's head it is like the lament of lost souls.

And immediately after the owls came the crunch of gravel under lawn tennis shoes. The person was approaching very cautiously: he took five or six steps and then appeared to stop and listen. I saw my Chief's face turned towards me. He held up his hand and appeared to be making faces at me: I made faces back to indicate that I understood.

Then the footsteps stopped at the very gate and there was a gentle thud of something dropped on the tarred path. Clearly this was our young friend Collier. The footsteps hurried away and the dogs began again.

After that there was a very long wait. It was too dark to see the time by my watch. All I know is that things had begun to bite my legs and I could not get at them.

But just as my discomfort began to pass the limit of human endurance I heard footsteps coming along the road. These were not in tennis shoes. They walked boldly and in military step. There seemed to be quite a number of them. I was just reflecting that yokels turned out of the local pub at closing time do not walk in military step when they stopped. They must have been quite near the gate, because I could hear whispering and tittering. Then someone tried the gate and whispered very audibly, "The damned thing's locked."

After some inaudible whispering a man began to climb the gate, and I saw my chief scrambling off his grave. It all happened so quickly that it is difficult to recall the details. I remember hearing a man drop to the path and hiss through his teeth, "I've got it."

The words seemed to choke in his throat as my Chief grappled with him. Then a voice shouted, "Come on in. Here's a blighter trying to throttle me and by God it's a Hun."

There was a rush: men were swarming over the gate, and I was plying my shillelagh right and left. It was lucky I had drawn the cartridges, for I heard the click of an empty pistol and another voice cried, "Sit on his chest some of you: he's got a pistol."

Then someone hit me hard behind the ear and I went down, seeing all the stars in the firmament. When I had recovered myself a little I found a man kneeling on my arms. He was very much out of breath, but he managed to gasp, "Strike a match, somebody."

A match flickered and another man said, "This one's a Hun all right." Then they held the match over my face and said, "This one isn't, but he's the one that used the stick. Now, sir, perhaps you'll explain who you are and what you are doing here."

"We were trying to catch a blackmailer."

There was a dead silence for a moment, and then all the ten of them sat down on the graves and roared with laughter, and one of them said, "Don't you see? Fanny has called in a couple of detectives."

This set them off again, and then one said, "It's all very well to laugh, but I suppose we are all under arrest."

Then turning to me he asked, "Are you from Scotland Yard or Buckinghamshire? I'll be able to put the matter right with your boss, but of course we'll give you our names and addresses."

"That's all very well," I said, "but you know blackmailing is a felony."

"Of course it is. We know that, but it was only a hoax. This man Collier who put you on to this is a friend of ours. We call him Fanny."

It had to come out that we were on the private side of the profession, and as I had been rather over-busy with my stick, I took the most sensible of them aside and explained that we thought that it was all a plot on the part of Po'ale Zion—a world-wide Jewish conspiracy to subvert the British Empire.

His lower jaw dropped with astonishment.

"By God," he said, "it was worth doing if you thought that."

In the end we settled the business quite amicably and apologized all round. They insisted on taking us round to the golf club to have a drink, for their cars were well stocked.

And so we parted. My Chief was quite silent until we were well past Slough.

"As you are a learner in this business I want you to profit by your mistakes. It is fatally easy to mistake the practical joke for crime, even for serious political crime. Never forget that."

And a little later he said, "We shall hear of Po'ale Zion again."

But I was revolving in my mind a scheme in which he was to have no part—a scheme for getting Collier to do the right thing by Lucy Holmes. I felt sure that he would come early to the office to settle up and learn what conspiracy he was up against.

As we were passing through Brentford I said casually, "I haven't ever asked you about the business side of your undertaking, but I should like to know what fee you will require young Collier to pay."

"Fifty pounds."

"I think that he ought to pay a hundred."

I felt him start.

"Do you mean that you want some of it? You are quite entitled."

"Not at all, but if I see him, as I probably shall, may I not get a hundred out of him? It will be good for him and, of course, I want nothing."

"Certainly not, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. I told him that my fee was fifty and I won't take a cent more."

"That's fifty more for Lucy Holmes," I thought to myself. I got to bed at 3 a.m., and at nine I left a note for Collier at Wellington Barracks, asking him to call at my club instead of at the office as I had something important to tell him. I knew that that would bring him, and at half-past ten he was announced.

I felt that I was not looking my best owing to a rather painful swelling of my right ear.

"Well, Mr. Collier," I said, "we've got to the bottom of this unfortunate business. First I have to trouble you for fifty pounds. Make out the cheque to Mr. Pepper, please."

He pulled out his cheque-book and handed over the money in exchange for my receipt.

"Now tell me who it was."

"I can tell you that there is one way and one way only to put an end to it. I suppose that you are still being followed?"

"I was followed by a drink-sodden ruffian all the way from your office on Friday, and though I took a taxi there he was at the barrack gates when I got out. Every day it has been the same thing."

My Adelphi loafer had been earning his pay.

"Certain persons—I will not give their names—have got hold of the Lucy Holmes story—"

"I knew that that girl was at the bottom of it," he said roughly.

"There you are quite wrong. The girl has never complained to anyone, but her late mistress has. I suppose it is no use to appeal to your sense of justice and decency, but when I tell you that this poor girl has lost her place and her character and has nothing to choose between starving or going to the bad, you can see that something has got to be done. I suppose that she could bring the case into court if she liked, but she wouldn't do that—except upon very strong advice. But there are people—very influential people—who are determined to see justice done, whatever it may cost; in fact, I don't know whether it is not too late already."

"What do you mean?" he asked, turning very white.

"I'll be quite frank with you. The annoyance to which you have been subjected is nothing to what is waiting for you unless I can stop it. I should have thought that your whole military career weighed against a thousand pounds—"

"A thousand pounds." He started to his feet. "Oh, if you take it that way I have nothing more to say. In any case it would probably have been too late for me to prevent the letter being sent. Good morning."

"Stop, don't be in such a hurry. Do you mean that I am to pay £1,000 to Lucy Holmes?"

"Not at all. I want you to pay it to trustees, say, Mr. Pepper and myself, to invest the money and pay her the interest. In that case I undertake to do my best to put an end to this annoyance, and when I make that promise you may rely upon it. The trust deed would be drawn up by a lawyer."

He was silent quite a long time. "I don't know how I am going to raise the money," he said sulkily.

"Of course I know nothing about your affairs, but if you had to leave the regiment—"

"I can't do that. I'll tell you exactly how I stand."

He plunged into a long story from which I gathered that his money was tied up until he was twenty-five, and in the meantime he subsisted on doles from his trustee, a strait-laced uncle who would never forgive a lapse of this kind.

After a long talk he went off with a letter of introduction to my lawyer and returned later with the pleasing intelligence that he had signed a lot of documents, and that everything had been arranged.

Then I sought out Lucy Holmes to tell her that she would receive a quarterly payment from us on two conditions—that her conduct was satisfactory and that she never attempted to communicate with Mr. Collier.

"As if I should," she said, tossing her head.

She married soon afterwards.

I was a little doubtful of how my Chief would take my behaviour when I reported it to him.

"As far as I can see," he said, "the only blackmailing in this case has been done by you."


I COME now to one of the crowning triumphs of a great career, for greatness depends not upon meticulous labour, but upon insight, intuition and what the French call "flair." This even my Chief's detractors will admit that he had in full measure.

I allude to the case of William Manning, which is not as well known as it ought to be because it was kept out of the newspapers. I have always suspected that there was a hidden hand in this suppression of a great achievement.

Among my friends was a young doctor, who, as a temporary member of the R.A.M.C., during the war, had looked after me in the military hospital at Amiens. We became great friends, and when he had embarked upon private practice in South London I used often to go and smoke a pipe with him in his rather dingy lodgings over the surgery.

One such evening he was called downstairs by the surgery bell, and he left me after putting the whisky and siphon within reach of my hand. In five minutes he returned full of apologies.

"Jones," he said, "I'm awfully sorry. A chap named Manning has called—says that his brother is dying somewhere in the Lambeth Road and wants me to go to him. I can't very well refuse, can I?"

"Why shouldn't I come with you and we can talk on the way?"

"Why not? Come along."

"Is the man waiting for you?"

"No, that's the funny thing; he wouldn't wait—said he had to go and tell his sister, but he gave me the address and asked me to walk right in." He pulled a grimy slip of paper from his pocket and read, "237 Lambeth Road. Ground Floor."

We took a tram. There was no difficulty in finding the house. The bell was broken: the front door stood ajar: and so did the door of the first room we came to. It was a sort of bed-sitting room, extremely comfortless and untidy, and on the bed lay a man with the bedclothes drawn up to his eyes, breathing very fast and apparently in great pain.

"What's the matter?" said Dr. Hoskyn. "Let's have a look at you." He tried to draw down the sheet, but the man only groaned and clutched it tighter round him.

"Are you the Doctor, sir?" he gasped hoarsely.

"Yes, your brother asked me to come round."

"I don't want no doctor. Doctors can't do nothing for me. It's my heart."

Hoskyn drew a stethoscope from his pocket. "Your heart? Let me sound you, then."

"No, let me be. Give me something to ease the pain and let me be."

Hoskyn poured out something from a bottle in his bag and put it to the lips of the sick man, who gulped it down. He made one more attempt to examine him and then gave it up.

"I don't know how long we ought to wait for the brother, but as the patient won't let me touch him I am inclined to go home." I agreed. We parted on the doorstep. It was then past 11 o'clock.

That was on a Friday. On the following Tuesday they told me at the Club that Dr. Hoskyn had been ringing me up and that he particularly asked that I would telephone as soon as I came in. It seemed a useless sort of message for it was the luncheon hour, and I knew that he always lunched out. I had scarcely finished my futile attempt to reach him on the telephone when a telegram was put into my hands.

"Please call this afternoon on urgent matter. Hoskyn."

He was not a man who would worry his friends about trifles. I swallowed a sketchy lunch and drove to South London. Hoskyn wasted no time over apologies, but plunged into business forthwith.

"You remember the chap who called on Friday night and sent me off to see his dying brother? Well, I am in a mess over that business, and I want you to help me out of it."

"Why, what happened? Did the brother die?"

"Yes, he died that night."

"Are they accusing you of negligence? I can give evidence as to that."

"No, that's not the point. I had better tell you the whole story.

"On Saturday the man came round again about I o'clock to say that when he got to the bedside he found his brother dying, and that he actually died within five minutes. Would I sign a certificate? I refused. The poor beggar seemed so upset about the death that he burst into tears and said that if he could not get a certificate he did not know what he was to do. He had drawn his savings out of the savings bank to pay the undertaker and he was down to his last shilling. He blamed himself for not calling me in sooner, and he supposed that I had not troubled to attend the case at all. I told him that I had seen the patient, but as he would not allow me to examine him how was I able to certify the cause of death? He then told me a long yarn covering the whole of his brother's life. The dead man had been a blacksmith's striker, and he had always suffered from a weak heart; that sometimes for weeks together he had been too ill to work, and that latterly he had got much worse: in fact, he gave me so accurate a description of the symptoms of aneurism that I felt sure that the man we saw had died of it and—to make a long story short—I gave him the certificate. As soon as he had gone I began to feel uncomfortable. I had never seen the body. What if the dead man was not his brother at all? What if it was a murder? Wasn't it clearly my duty to go to the authorities and warn them?"

He paused for breath.

"Why not see the undertaker first?"

"Exactly what I did do. You see, it was a Saturday afternoon and the next day was Sunday. Oh, I know there was no excuse for me. I ought to have gone round at once to the Lambeth Road to see the body, and find out who the undertaker was, but, like a fool, I left it till Monday morning—yesterday—and when I reached the house the coffin had been screwed down and the brother and a woman—the sister, I suppose—were sitting sobbing in the room. They were expecting the hearse every minute. I had not the heart to make them unscrew the coffin again, with the sister in that state. It was a sort of pauper funeral—you know the kind of thing—the coffin slid into the box under the driver's seat and the mourners sitting behind, but I got the undertaker's name and address and I went to see him later in the evening and introduced myself."

"What did he say?"

"Would you believe it, he had never seen the body at all. It seems that among the poor in this part of London it is quite common to save money by taking the measurements of the corpse round to the undertaker and selecting a coffin from stock. This is what this fellow Manning had done. He came with a hand-barrow and trundled the coffin to Lambeth Road, and the undertaker knew nothing more about it till he called to convey it to the cemetery. He asked me pointedly whether I had not given a certificate, and I had to admit that I had."

"Well, the man's buried. Why worry?"

"Yes, but you have not heard the worst. I cannot find that Manning ever had a brother."


"At least, no one ever heard of one. I tackled all the lodgers in that house. The man who came to me that evening—the man whom I saw sitting with the coffin—was the man who lived in that room. All the lodgers are positive as to that. There has been a lot of talk in the house about it. You know, these London folk make it a point of honour to pretend not to know the people in the next room, but every house is a hive of gossip, and it has got about among them that there was a murder in that room. It will be a nice start for me in my profession if I have to stand up in the witness-box and be cross-examined about that certificate, and then I shall be jawed by the Judge and, as likely as not, struck off the register."

"I see your point, old man, but I don't like to advise you off hand. If you go to the authorities now you will be in for all that in any case. Put on your hat and come straight off to the one man who can give you sound advice as soon as we explain our law to him. Probably you know him well by reputation—Mr. Pepper."

"What! That chap who is always writing himself up in the evening papers?"

"He does not 'write himself up,' as you call it. If you read about him in the newspapers it is because he had done something to deserve it, but if you would rather not see him—"

"No, come along. Any port in a storm."

My Chief listened without a single interruption: indeed, but for the gentle motion of his jaws upon his dead cigar I should have thought that his mind was not at work. At the end of the story he asked one question.

"I suppose that the death was recorded at Buckingham Palace or whatever Palace you do go to for these things."

There seemed to be a sort of sneer underlying the innuendo that all our public business is conducted in palaces.

"I never thought of that," said Hoskyn. "I suppose that Manning has done that or got the undertaker to do it. I wonder what he wrote."

"Never mind what he wrote. How was he living? What was he, anyway?"

"He said he was a clerk in the city, but his neighbours declare that he has never been out to work since they knew him, and he has been there a month. He spoke as if he were rather above the average education of a clerk."

"And he never paid for anything, did he?"

"No, he seemed to be in debt all over the place."

"What are you afraid of?"

"Well—that the gossip among the neighbours will get to the ears of the coroner's officer, and that the Home Office will be asked to make out an order to exhume the body. Then there will be an inquest and—"

"There will be no inquest."

"I tell you there will, Mr. Pepper. You don't know the laws of this country."

"That is so, but I tell you there will be no inquest. What you have got to do is to fetch the man here and let me talk to him. If you like to go on to the palace and get a copy of the certificate you will be doing no harm."

With that we went down the stairs. Hoskyn was so silent that I became uneasy, and asked him what he was going to do about it. His generally equable temper gave way.

"Good God, man, if you had seen that cage full of parrots in the Lambeth Road you would not ask me what I am going to do about it. They are convinced that there has been a murder, and they will never rest until that damned coffin is dug up."

"Come along, we'll go to the registry office first and then we will set about finding Mr. William Manning."

"I'd give a hundred pounds to get out of this."

I felt that this might stimulate my Chief's zeal a little, and I said so. We found that the death had been registered that very morning. The deceased's name was given as William Manning, and the death had been registered by Charles Manning; so it was Charles Manning that we had to look for.

We parted at the door of the registry office and I returned to my Chief, whom I found engrossed on a case where handwriting was involved. He had a frame before him with a glass sheet for the documents and an electric light beneath it.

"Well," he said, "who was your dead man?"

"William Manning."

"Oh, was he? Well, I can tell you something that he has been doing. He has been courting half a dozen young women at once and wheedled them out of their savings."

There was a faltering step on the stairs and a timid knock. A woman entered and stopped irresolute.

"Yes, madam?" I said.

"I have come about my husband, William Manning."

I suppose that I started, and she went on quickly.

"He has treated me shameful, sir. I traced him to an address in the Lambeth Road and there they told me that he was murdered last Saturday, though some of them said he had murdered somebody else. If he is dead I'd like to know it, but if anybody was murdered he was just the man to have done it. They referred me to the doctor and he sent me on to you."

I got her to sit down and tell us all she knew about her husband. It was an instructive narrative. William Manning had been most things in his time—journalist, conjurer in provincial music-halls, race-course tout and common swindler. His family—respectable business people in the Midlands—had washed their hands of him long ago. Finally he had forged a cheque, and the police had been round to ask where he was.

I made hurried notes of all she told me, and when she had gone I asked my Chief what he proposed to do about it, because I understood that there would be a hundred pounds if the case was cleared up. He became quite animated and a little impatient that we had not already found Charles Manning, but Manning had left his room in the Lambeth Road and melted into the great world.

For the next few days I stood with Mrs. Manning at street corners in South London watching for him, but, when we had both contracted severe colds, I fell back upon the Personal Column of a morning paper that specialized in startling notices. One of the letters which had been put into the hands of my Chief was signed "Harold," and it made an appointment for the corner of Ryder Street. It was addressed to a lady named Ada.

And so for three mornings in succession appeared the following advertisement:

If you love me at all meet me at the corner of Ryder Street at 3 to-morrow. Something very important to tell you. Ada.

I paid for three insertions, and at the third the fish took the bait. My friend, the doctor, was waiting for the signal in the window of a restaurant on the opposite side of the street.

At 3 o'clock I saw a man saunter past the end of Ryder Street and glance furtively to his right. A few minutes later he returned, and as I was out of sight in a doorway, lighting a cigarette, he stopped and pretended to look into a shop window. I felt pretty sure that he was my man, but I reflected that other people might make appointments to meet at the corner of Ryder Street, or that some curious and leisured person might have seen my advertisement and attended to see what the pertinacious Ada looked like, but at that moment Hoskyn emerged from his hiding place and crossed the street towards us. He, at any rate, seemed to be in no doubt.

I reached Manning first. He was on the point of moving on when I laid my hands on his shoulder and said, "Manning."

He seemed to shrivel under my hand, and could not find his voice. Having gulped once or twice, he waxed bold.

"You have made a mistake," he said. "We will settle that at the office, but I have made no mistake. Your name is Manning, and you will have to come with me. If you do not come quietly I shall call that policeman and give you in charge."

He blustered. "I'll come, but remember this. I have told you that my name is not Mannings and you will have to pay stiff damages for this charge."

Then he caught sight of the doctor and fell into silence.

As we neared the Adelphi he asked me where we were taking him.

"You'll know when we get there," I said, brutally.

The doctor was close behind to take up the chase if he bolted, but he did not attempt that. My Chief regarded him with a fixed and penetrating stare for quite three-quarters of a minute, and then he said, "Glad to see you, William Manning."

"My name is not William Manning. I am his brother Charles."

"Glad to see you, William Manning."

The man then began to bluster, and my Chief interrupted him with a smooth and even recital of William Manning's past. Every now and then our prisoner interjected, "It is all lies. Where did you get that from?"

I began to see in this brazen demeanour of his the makings of a murderer, and I became very uneasy because I was quite sure that at this stage we ought to have communicated with the proper police authorities. At last I could bear it no longer, and I walked over to my Chief and asked him to come with me into the next room, leaving the doctor near the door in case of any trouble.

"Look here, Mr. Pepper," I said. "I know your strong objection to calling in Scotland Yard, but here, so far as we can judge, there has been a murder, and if you take the responsibility of dealing with it I cannot. Do be persuaded this time and communicate with the police or let me do it."

"Your persuasion is quite unnecessary, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. I was about to communicate with them on the telephone when you interrupted me."

His manner was cold, hard and incisive, and I could say no more. We went back into the room, but before Mr. Pepper sat down at his table he knelt down in a corner of the room behind a chair and fiddled with something near the floor, then he took his seat. "I give you one more chance," he said, "of making a clean breast of it, William Manning."

The man half rose from his chair as if to go. He thought better of it and my Chief lifted the telephone and called a number of the Victoria Exchange.

"Is that Scotland Yard?" he said. "Thank you. I want the C.I. Department.... Good morning, Inspector. My name is Pepper. Probably you have heard it. Now I want to ask you a question. I have a man here who has buried himself. No, don't run away, I am not joking. By a series of false representations he has got a doctor to certify that he is dead and an undertaker to bury a coffin filled with road metal or coal or something. You see, the poor man had a very good reason for disappearing. He was wanted all over the place, and I should not be surprised if you were looking for him. Yes, here in this room at this very moment, sitting in my chair as bold as brass and telling me that he is the dead man's brother, though William Manning never had a brother."

"That's a lie," shouted the prisoner, but my Chief proceeded quite unmoved.

"Oh, yes, he'll sit here till you come for him. I'll see to that," and with his right hand he took a pistol from the drawer. "Get a statement from him! Well, I'll try."

He laid down the mouth-piece. "Now, William Manning."

"I'll own up if you let me go."

"The whole story and keep nothing back? You have only a minute, you know."

"Yes, the whole story."

And it was a story! Even the doctor, who could scarcely keep his hands off him, was lost in admiration over the concentrated villainy of our friend. At the end of it he paused, thinking that he heard a step upon the stairs, but the step passed to an office above, and then we had a hasty consultation, for the most part in whispers. The doctor held that it would damage him less if Manning was allowed to go than if the police got their hands upon him.

"But you must be quick," he said, "the Inspector's on the way."

Mr. Pepper appeared to be less hurried than usual, but in the end he turned upon Manning and said, "Well, you can get out of it quick."

And Manning was quick.

As soon as he was gone my Chief turned to the doctor and said, "If I were you, Doctor, I'd go down to that house in the Lambeth Road and tell them that the whole matter Is cleared up and they need not worry any more."

"Won't Manning meet the Inspector on the stairs?" I said.

"No," said Pepper. "There never was an Inspector. I disconnected the wire," and he went to put it right.


ALL this time the recovery of the missing speculator, Accepted Frewen, had not failed to enhance the reputation of Mr. Pepper, for though it never got into the newspapers it had been whispered from mouth to mouth in Bow Street, in the clubs, at the tea-tables in Wimbledon, and particularly among American visitors.

My own estimation of that remarkable achievement was perhaps a little diluted, for I could not help remembering that he had held obstinately to the view that Frewen was a prisoner, whereas events had justified my conviction that he was at liberty and a free agent. On the other hand, his marvellous knowledge of the American international crook had been the means by which the missing man had been found.

We had not long to wait for the results of this reputation among our American friends. One morning on my arrival at the office I found my Chief closeted with a lady of ripe years and riper configuration; indeed the exceeding maturity of her charms must long have precluded her from putting on her shoes without assistance, or of seeing them when they were on. She was trembling like a jelly with emotion.

Pepper motioned me to a chair without disturbing the flow of her discourse.

"Yes, sir," she was saying, "I set great store by those ear-rings because they were a gift from my third—no, it was my present, husband, and he always told me that he had paid ten thousand dollars for them. I did not wear them often—rather too showy for ordinary social occasions—but for a box on the grand tier at Covent Garden on a gala night! of course I put them on, and when the Duchess noticed them, of course I had no choice."

"Tell us exactly what happened, Mrs. Stoot."

"Well, perhaps you know the Duchess by sight—a fine looking woman, with lovely jewels of her own—diamond tiara, diamond necklace, diamond all over her front, but of course no ear-rings equal to mine."

"Duchess of what?"

"That's just what I want you to find out. It was something Italian or Russian or French—a double name—it sounded like Ferara-Tolty, but you know how difficult those foreign names are to remember. Anyway, there was I, sitting all alone in my box with the Duchess right opposite me. I saw her pick up her glasses and look hard at me, and I began to feel whether anything in my gown had come undone. Then she turned to one of the three gentlemen standing behind her—tall, elegant foreigners all of them except one, and he was bald, but he had a black beard—most distinguished-looking he was—and she pointed to me with her fan and they all stared at me. And then the piece began. While the lights were turned down I felt myself all over down to the waist and especially my hair in case it had come down, but there was nothing out of place. That took the best part of the first act, and you may believe it or not—if it was to save my life I couldn't tell you the name of that opera or anything about it. I know that I paid about fifty dollars for my box."

"Lots of people at Covent Garden find the same difficulty," I murmured soothingly.

She looked at me sharply. "They don't lose a pair of priceless ear-rings, young man."

"We must not interrupt Mrs. Stoot, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. We have got to the end of the first act of the opera whose name she does not remember."

"Well, when the lights went up there was the Princess smiling and bowing across the house at me and turning to speak to one of the gentlemen behind her, who left the box."

"She was a Princess?"

"Well, Princess or Duchess, it's all one. I've told you her name as well as I can remember. We haven't either in Cleveland, O., so it's easy to confuse them. Then, while I was wondering whether it was me or someone in a box next to mine, and whether I ought to return the bow, there came a gentle tap at my door, and in walked the elegant gentleman I had seen standing behind her. His manners, I must say, were polished. He bowed very low several times and in a very foreign accent he told me how the Countess had been admiring my ear-rings, and how much she would like to see them close, and would I very much mind if she had some made like them by her Paris jeweller—that is, if I would entrust her with one of them for a few moments. What could I do? There was the Princess bowing and smiling graciously at me; there was the gentleman all politeness and deference, as if I was the Queen herself—what could I do but take one of them off and give it to him? He made me blush all over with his gratitude. I saw him enter the other box again; I saw the Countess take the ear-ring in her hand and call all the three gentlemen to admire it; I saw her bow and smile again, and this time I bowed and smiled back. At that moment I felt I would have given her both ear-rings for keeps if my second husband, poor man—no, it was my third, because it was when we were living in Chicago—anyway, then the lights went down for the second act, but I couldn't tell you what the opera was called—not if my life depended on it.

"Of course I did not expect the gentleman to come back until the next interval. Then I thought he would bring an invitation from the Duchess to take tea with Her Royal Highness. You know how dark they keep the house at Covent Garden when the curtain is up. Well, down went the curtain and up went the lights and the box opposite was empty. Wouldn't you have thought that when four people leave a box in the middle of an Act you'd notice it? How they got out is a mystery to me.

"I waited and waited, but no one came and I went home thinking that the Duchess had forgotten she had my ear-ring. I told the Manager downstairs and he said that he would have a search made in the box, but they never found it."

"I thought you spoke of losing a pair, Mrs. Stoot."

"Yes, I am coming to that. The Manager said that I oughn't to have lent the ear-ring to people I didn't know; that if he didn't find it he would speak to the policeman. Next morning, when I was having my breakfast in négligée in my room at the hotel, they came up to say that a gentleman from Scotland Yard was waiting to see me. I thought, of course, that the Manager had sent him, so I told them to bring him up. A most gentlemanly kind of detective he was. He said that they had heard at the Yard—that was what he called it—I remembered it sounded funny at the time. 'The Yard?' I said. 'Scotland Yard,' he answered—that it has been reported at the 'Yard' that I had lost an ear-ring at Covent Garden last night; that they thought they had got it, but they couldn't hand it over to me unless they had the other ear-ring to compare it with. The Commissioner's compliments and would I lend him the other ear-ring and if they proved to be identical he would bring them both back."

"And you lent it?"

"What else could I do? I told him that I thought that it must be all right—the Duchess must have just forgotten to return the ear-ring and found it afterwards in her bag, and he said, 'Yes, Madam, if she'd been a Duchess that's exactly what would have happened.' That was the first hint I got that things were not straight. 'You surely don't mean,' I said, 'that she's a fraud? What about her diamonds?' 'Oh,' he said, 'that sort of Duchess can always make up in fancy dress, jewels and all complete, but we can't arrest her until we are quite sure that the ear-ring she has is really yours and that's why the Commissioner wants you to lend him the other ear-ring to compare.' Well, I waited and waited for that man to come back."

"Can you describe him," asked Pepper.

"It seemed to me that I had seen him before somewhere."

"In the box with the 'Duchess'," I suggested.

"It's curious you should say that, young man, for that is exactly what crossed my mind after he had gone. 'I've seen that face somewhere,' I said to myself. 'If detectives went to boxes at the Opera I should have said that he was there last night with the Duchess.' At four o'clock I took a taxi to Scotland Yard to ask the Commissioner whether he had finished with my ear-ring. The man I saw was most gentlemanly. He listened to my whole story without saying anything and then telephoned to several people. I couldn't understand half he said on the telephone, but he seemed to take a great deal more interest in the man who had called for the second ear-ring than he did in the Duchess. Then he asked me whether I thought I could recognize the people and I said, 'Of course I can,' so he led the way up stone staircases and passages to a little room where a bald-headed man had the biggest photograph albums I had ever seen spread out upon a table. 'Sit down, Ma'am,' he said, 'and take your time. On this page and the next two you'll find all the Duchesses we know. See whether you can find yours,' and there on the very next page, sure enough, was my Duchess, not in evening dress, but you couldn't mistake the style. The man wanted badly to get her name right and he made me write it down as well as I could remember it.

"'Now,' he said,' we'll have a look for the Counts and the Barons who were with her in the box.' That took longer, but in the end I picked out the Baron with the beard and the bald head and the young nobleman who had come to my box. They seemed very much disappointed that I could not find the man who said he was a detective. They seemed for some reason to be more interested in him than in any of the others. But just before I went they got down a packet of photographs labelled, 'Posing as police officer,' and there he was. I don't believe that he had been sent by the Commissioner at all and that is why I have come to you, Mr. Pepper. I want my ear-rings back."

"Is that all that the police said?"

"Oh, they took down my name and told me not to change my hotel without telling them. But they did not seem to want to do anything."

"What a woman!" I exclaimed when the click of her high heels on the stairs had died away.

"Oh, there's no harm in Mrs. Stoot. She's known to American newspaper reporters as the 'most married woman in the United States.' This morning she confessed to four husbands. I thought there were six, and she gets wealthier every time she marries."

"Who divorces who?"

"She divorces them, but only when they deserve it. When a man marries Mrs. Stoot he takes to drink. She has changed husbands oftener since Prohibition. Now, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, we've got to be smart over this case. My reputation depends upon it. It's up to you and me to find these ear-rings and return them before to-morrow night: otherwise these blockheads at the Yard may blunder upon the right people. Luckily, from what she says, they seem to have made a bad start by taking it as an ordinary case of stealing. It's far more than that; there's politics behind it. You've heard of all this fuss about the Russian Crown Jewels? Well, this case is connected with them."

"You don't say so."

"Yes, the Bolsheviks have their agents everywhere. They know that some of the Crown Jewels have been stolen and sold in Western Europe. You will find that they have mistaken Mrs. Stoot's ear-rings for those belonging to the Czarina, and that this Duchess is a Bolshevik agent. I want you to go round all the principal hotels, beginning with Claridge's and find that woman and the bald-headed man with the beard. When you have found them invent some pretext for getting them to the office at the same time and we will rig up the listener."

He became extraordinarily active and at the price of a few moments I loitered to see what he did. He removed the bulb from an electric pendant and fixed in its place a little device no larger than a watch. I followed him into the laboratory and saw him disconnect the wire and attach it to a headpiece such as the telephone girls use.

"You ought to be starting," he said, "but put this to your ear and I'll read the leading article in the Daily Lore aloud in the next room." Though the door was shut I heard every word of this trenchant literary gem as clearly as if he were sitting opposite to me. It was wonderful.

I was lucky enough to find a lady who answered the description of the Duchess at the second hotel I went to. I happened to know the Assistant Manager, who was very helpful. She was a middle-aged lady, not a Duchess but an Italian Countess and, as it happened, she was coming down the stairs at the moment of my call.

The Assistant Manager introduced me.

"I am afraid that I have come at a bad moment. You were just going out. The fact is that I have been sent to examine your passport."

She had it in her bag and produced it. It had all the necessary Alien Officer's stamps and was a wholly blameless document. But I knit my brows and said, "I am sorry to put you to inconvenience, but I must detain this passport for examination. No doubt it will be all right, but I must ask you to call at three o'clock at this address to receive it back."

"That is not at all convenient," she said in faultless English. "I have a luncheon engagement at the Ritz at two."

"Then let us say half-past three."

And I went off with the passport. I drew blank at the next three hotels. There were a few foreign noblemen, but either they had hair as well as beards or they had neither.

At the fourth hotel I found what I was looking for. He was a Serb and one of the waiters thought that he was a Baron, though he made no such claim in the visitors' book. I adopted the same stratagem with him but he was not as amiable as the Countess and showed fight. He said that he knew all about passports and would complain to the Serbian Legation about it. I soothed him and pointed out that if his passport passed our scrutiny it would carry him anywhere.

"Will it get me a visa for the United States?" he asked. "They say that they have all the Serbs they have room for this year arid they won't give me one."

"Of course it will."

On that he promised to call at our office at half-past three. My Chief was delighted with my success. We spent quite an hour in tidying up the room for our visitors. The Baron was the first to arrive and as ill luck would have it, he was in a hurry. I received him in the chair of my Chief, who was sitting in the laboratory with the ear pieces clamped to his skull.

"I am expecting your passport every moment, Baron. Please sit down. What a lovely day it is!"

"I did not come here to talk about the weather," he said ungraciously. "I am told that you have no right to detain my passport."

"Baron," I exclaimed sternly, "you would not like to be sent out of the country. As it happens, I believe that they have found rather grave irregularities in your passport, and I am using all my influence to have these overlooked."

I had not time to mark the effect of my words because at this moment the Countess tapped at the door and I admitted her. By my Chiefs instructions, I was to leave them alone together.

I got her seated under the electric pendant and went into the laboratory on the excuse of going to telephone for their passports. I took up my notebook and watched my Chief's face. It is too clever and thoughtful a face to be expressive, but those pale blue eyes did appear to indicate something like blank surprise.

"It's all about passports," he hissed between his teeth. We sat there interminable minutes. The hum of conversation in the outer room died down. A chair was pushed back.

"We must go and talk to them straight," he said, and he led the way into the outer office. I followed with the passports.

"Sit down!" he said sternly to the Baron, who had taken up his hat. Then turning to the Countess, he said, "you were at Covent Garden Opera House last Monday at the gala performance."

"You are mistaken, Sir; I was in Paris on Monday. Tenez! You will find it recorded on my passport which that gentleman has in his hand."

"You were at the Opera, Baron," he said.

"I am not a Baron. There are no Barons in Serbia. I hate music and I've never been to an opera in my life except once and then I left in the middle of the first act."

"When were you last in Russia?"

At this question the Serbian leapt to his feet and protested with great volubility. He spoke English with extraordinary fluency and I began to feel cold shivers down my spine when he advised the Countess to come with him to the Foreign Office to complain.

I adopted a tone of lofty and dignified courtesy and returned their passports to them.

"Show me," he said with a trembling fore-finger; "Show me the informality in this document. Where is it?"

"We never answer such questions," I said, "when they are put in so intemperate a manner. I wish you good day."

And I shut the door on them both.

"Mr. Meddleston-Jones," said my Chief severely, "I am afraid you have made a mistake. We cannot afford to make mistakes in this office."

It was one of the characteristics of this extraordinary man that he bore no malice. If his subordinate made any mistake he merely took up the case himself and worked double time. It was marvellous how that man worked.

Leaving me to take care of the office, he was out upon enquiries day and night. Once on the second day I ventured timidly to ask how he was progressing.

"I hope to have those ear-rings in my hand to-night, but I find that Mrs. Stoot left London for Paris yesterday. I cannot understand it."

Quite by accident that evening I ran into my friend, the Inspector at Scotland Yard, that evening in Whitehall. I asked him if he knew Mrs. Stoot.

"You mean the stout American lady with the ear-rings."

"Yes. What about the ear-rings?"

"Oh, we got those back for her two days ago and arrested Lucky Lucy and her gang with the goods on them. And then that silly old woman refused to prosecute and we had to let them go. People who decline to prosecute are more dangerous to Society than the thieves."

One of the most painful duties of my life was breaking the news to my Chief, who could not easily forgive his rivals a success which they had stolen from him. I was glad to learn from the broken sentences in which he expressed his disapproval of Mrs. Stoot's conduct that he had had the foresight to obtain payment from her in advance.

9. — DUST

CRIME had fallen on a dead season in August. It was not that there was not the usual number of murders and house-breakings, but that with an utter disregard for the needs of, the newspapers, the murderers and the burglars all allowed themselves to be caught red-handed and did not attempt to deny their guilt. Everyone knows that there is no publicity value in crimes which involve no mystery: it is not playing fair with the public, who have a right to at least one big crime mystery for holiday reading.

In the nick of time, during this August, an obliging gentleman hired a boat on Windermere and rowed himself over to the other side for lunch. He drank sparingly of ginger beer and against the advice of the landlady, who mistrusted his skill in navigation, set out on his homeward voyage.

But he did not arrive. The boat was found stranded about a mile from its destination with the oars lying on the thwarts. According to the boatmen, it had been drifted to its position by the wind. There was not a drop of water in her.

Here was material for the Crime Editor and he was not slow to take advantage of it, for the missing man was a clergyman, the Revd. John Frisky, at least, so it was recorded in the hotel register.

What had befallen him? Had he fallen overboard? Had he been the victim of a crime? Or had he private reasons for disappearing from the pages of Crockford without the uncomfortable preliminary of a violent death.

Reporters flocked to the little village to interview everyone who had not taken to the hills to avoid them. There were photographs of the empty boat, of the owner of the boat, of the inn where the clergyman had been spending his holiday, and the Crime Editor managed to squeeze out a daily column of speculation.

It was quite a pretty case. No one seemed to know whether the clergyman could swim. He looked, they said, as if he could do anything and if he could swim it was extremely improbable that he would tamely allow himself to be drowned. One reporter came out with the surprising statement that bodies of persons drowned in Windermere do not come to the surface as they do in well-regulated waters: owing to some peculiar property in the water they sink like stones.

On the fourth day a reporter roaming in a plantation about a mile from the spot where the boat was found, perhaps because he could find no one else to interview, discovered a pair of boots. There had been no rain since the clergyman's disappearance, but it had rained heavily on the night before it. The boots were quite dry and rather dusty.

Though there was nothing to show that they had belonged to the missing clergyman, they were the sort of boots that some clergyman might wear on their holidays, and if they had belonged to him then whole new avenues of speculation were opened up. The most likely solution of the mystery was that there had been a murder; that the assassin had removed the boots from his victim because they were better than his own, but that finding them a size too small, he had left them in the plantation and decamped with the other valuables after tying a stone to the corpse and sinking it in the lake. It was even possible that he had stripped the corpse and was now eluding arrest by masquerading in clerical attire a size too small for him.

Letters poured in to the Editor reporting the movements of strange clergymen with clothes that did not fit them. I found Mr. Pepper frowning over a pile of news-cuttings and I felt sure that he must have formed a theory. I did not dare to interrupt him, for when he was thinking deeply I felt as if great wheels were revolving in that marvellous brain of his—an illusion which was supported by a rhythmical and rather noisy expulsion of the air through his nostrils while he chewed the end of his unlighted cigar.

At last he spoke.

"Have you been reading all this stuff about the minister who was drowned in Windermere, Mr. Meddleston-Jones?"

I admitted that I had.

"And have you formed any theory?"

"Not yet, Mr. Pepper."

"You have seen this stuff about the boots? Well, I must have those boots, or if I can't have the boots I must have a scraping from them."

"A scraping?"

"Yes, a sample of the dust." He took up an A.B.C. and consulted it. "I see that you have half an hour to catch the 12-20 train to Windermere. Go and bring back the boots, and if you can get any fresh line on the case by questioning the people it will help me a good deal."

It was useless to raise objections to a definite order of such a kind or even to ask what theory the boots were to support. I had only to obey.

Late that evening I found myself installed in a little inn already crowded with young reporters. The landlady had grown so accustomed to them that she did not even ask me what paper I represented.

She said, "You can have the room, but I can't be interviewed any more. I've got my work to do. You must get what I've said from the others."

It was clear from the conversation in the bar that my fellow-reporters were not getting on. They had been scouring the countryside for the other garments without success. One of them had found a footprint in the wood and had photographed it, but it did not fit the boot. They had interviewed everything on two legs on both sides of the lake without a glimmer of new light and unless Providence intervened they might have to go home leaving the mystery unsolved.

The private opinions of reporters do not always coincide with their published statements and I soon found that they had formed a rather low estimate of the character of the missing clergyman and were secretly sceptical about the theory of murder or suicide. But the public demanded a murder, they thought, or at least they would like to believe in a murder as long as they could.

The reporters thought that the Revd. John Frisky was alive and well, but that if you sifted the population of the British Isles with a strainer, you would not discover him under that name. They had ascertained some important facts concerning him. His name was not to be found in Crockford and there was therefore a presumption that he was not a clergyman at all. If he was he must have been ordained in the Colonies. He was neither an incumbent nor a curate.

Only that morning they had found that he had recently been earning his living as a "Guinea pig"—that is to say, he had induced certain clergymen who wanted a holiday to pay him a guinea a service on Sundays. But his private expenditure certainly exceeded £105 a year even supposing that he could play the guinea pig every Sunday in the year.

Everyone who had heard his sermon at Great G ... on the Sunday before his disappearance agreed that it was a remarkable effort. He was not only gifted with striking forensic eloquence, but there was evidence of wide reading and independent One of the congregation had been a little scandalized by the behaviour of a small body of young men, strangers to the village, who crowded into the same pew and made whispered derisive comments upon the sermon.

When the preacher, after a peroration which sent a shiver down the spine, said, "And now to God ..." as an intimation that the sermon was ended, their conduct had amounted almost to brawling.

Their behaviour must have attracted the attention of the preacher, because he looked rather sternly in their direction and seemed to nod his head in a peculiar way, as if he knew them and treated their behaviour with contempt.

It was not difficult to distinguish the reporter who had discovered the boots. His good fortune had made him unpopular for the moment, and I found him consuming something out of a pewter pot morosely by himself.

I opened the conversation by congratulating him and he invited me to join him in another tankard at his expense. He asked me what paper I represented and I had to tell him—and I said it with some pride—that I represented Mr. Pepper. "Never heard of him."

"Never heard of Pepper?" I said in astonishment: "the greatest living detective."

"No, I haven't," he said shortly: "and if private detectives are going to butt in here we may as well all go home. The regular police are bad enough."

I was determined not to take offence. "Oh, we are not going to butt in. But are the regular police taking up the case?"

"They say that the Chief Constable of Westmorland woke up unexpectedly yesterday and called for a report from his sergeant, and that he is seriously thinking of asking for help from the Yard. If he does I suppose they'll send up Chief Inspector Peahen, and he'll take the boots from me. He's played me a dirty trick before."

"Will you let me see the boots?"

"Yes," he said, "on one condition. If you find out anything new you must promise to give me first bite and say nothing to the others."

It seemed a perfectly safe promise to make, because I was not in the least likely to make any fresh discovery.

"I will promise that also upon a condition—that in anything you publish you give the credit to Mr. Pepper."

"Right," he said, "now come and see the boots."

He was apparently distrustful of his companions, for the boots were locked in a cupboard in his bedroom.

"Would you mind if I scraped a little of the dust between the uppers and the sole and took it away with me?"

"I see," he said, with an expression of superhuman cunning. "You are one of those Sherlocks who analyse things. Certainly, go ahead, always on the same condition."

I carried away quite a fair sample of dust in a clean sheet of folded notepaper. The boots, as I pointed out to my reporter friend, might have belonged to anybody.

When I came down to breakfast next morning the company of reporters had thinned out. Most of them had returned to London by the early train, and my friend with the boots and I were left practically alone.

After breakfast I suggested that he should show me where he had found them and that we should spend the morning in quartering the ground. Apparently he had not yet found me out and was still under the illusion that I was an expert.

The plantation in which he had made his discovery was only 200 yards from the place where the boat had stranded. If the reverend gentleman had sat down there to take off his boots from pure absence of mind and had forgotten to put them on again because he was so engrossed in thinking out his next sermon we were not likely to find much more, but if, on the other hand, he had done it with intention, there was some hope that his other garments had been shed in the course of his progress through the country until there was nothing left to indicate his spiritual calling.

I was inclined to think that in cases of intellectual absence of mind a man does not begin by forgetting his boots: a necktie or a clerical collar, yes, but there are so many things on a rough road to recall a mind to boots that I felt certain that they had been left in the plantation with intention.

My companion assured me that no rain had fallen since he had been on the spot, and that he knew to a hair the direction he himself had taken when searching the wood.

We went to the limit of his former exploration and there, under a bracken fern leaf, I discovered the print of a stockinged foot.

It was as exciting as a game of Hare and Hounds. We followed the direction of the toes and twenty yards further on we came upon another print. Here the fern was very high and there were deep hollows concealed by the fronds, in which an unwary person might break his leg. We quartered this part of the ground back and forth, and in one of the deepest we came upon a bundle which, on being unrolled, proved to be a clerical coat.

"You say that you questioned all the people for miles round. Did any of them mention a stranger walking about without his clothes? For that would be sure to attract attention, even in the Lake District."

My reporter friend acquiesced gloomily. I don't think he quite liked an amateur stepping in with fresh discoveries. Besides, professionally he was bound still to cling to the theory of murder. If the man was murdered, then the body was stripped and the murderer dropped the clothing piece by piece as he went along. It was quite a tenable theory because in a ditch about a quarter of a mile further on we found the trousers. They were what is called "out-size," indicating that the Rev. John Frisky was of almost herculean build, a fact that had not hitherto been disclosed.

I pointed out to my friend that it must have taken an out-size in murderers to finish him.

A little further on we found the hat. Whoever had left these garments had been making due east and concealing himself as far as possible in plantations and along hedge-rows. At some point he must have stepped into the outer world because right across his path lay a road much used by motors and pedestrians and beyond that the grass covered hills where a man in nothing but a shirt is bound to attract attention. How did this demented clergyman obtain a new outfit?

I was revolving these problems in my mind when I stepped upon something hard and, looking down, found that it was a pipe. It was lying by the hedge side on grass that had been a good deal trampled down as if several people had stopped there to talk.

I pulled back my friend and sat him down on the grass to watch my proceedings. Pulling a large reading glass from my pocket, I went over the ground inch by inch, very much as I can imagine the detectives do in the books, and I was rewarded.

Near the hedge the ground was softer and the grass sparser and there was again the print of a stockinged foot. I measured it with my pocket rule and found it fully 12 inches long. That belonged, of course, to the gigantic person. But there were other feet, booted, smaller, and some of them very deeply indented, as if there had been a struggle. Was it possible that a new murder drama was going to develop at this point? The man who had lost his pipe had not stopped to look for it.

And then, to my astonishment, I found in the long grass a cigarette case containing a visiting card inscribed as follows:


And now at last I was on sure ground.

Shall I be forgiven if I confess that I did not show this latest find to my reporter friend? I was ready to keep my word to him when the case was complete, but the time was not yet.

I have never been received so warmly by my Chief as I was an that morning when I laid the folded sheet of newspaper before him. I was telling him my other discoveries, but he would not listen. Dust was what he was after, and dust he had.

The great microscope was undressed and he spent quite half an hour testing the specimen with different lenses. He then began to take down the bottles and make comparisons. I did not dare to interrupt him when I heard that rhythmic sound which resembled the escaping steam from the cylinders of an engine.

Then I knew that the great brain was at work. At last he started to his feet with a flash in his light blue eye.

"Wigan!" he said. I must have looked rather blank because he went on in great excitement. "Perhaps you did not notice, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, this paragraph," and he showed me a bare announcement in the Times that the Bishop of Wigan had gone away on a holiday and desired that any communications might be addressed to his Chaplain—"and the dust on the boots came from Wigan. They have murdered one of your Bishops."

"Is the Bishop of Wigan," I faltered, "a man over six feet with an exceptionally large foot?"

"I don't know, but if he is he may have committed the murder. There is no getting over the dust; it came from Wigan and from nowhere else in the world. The dust in Wigan is peculiar. Now, I am going to get to the bottom of this business. I am going to find out all about this Bishop and I shall leave for Wigan to-night. He seized a Bradshaw.

"Very well, Mr. Pepper, and I will continue some enquiries of my own in another direction, at Cambridge."

He appeared not to be listening. So he went off to Wigan and I to Cambridge.

It was the long vacation. I called on the porter at Caius College and saw a man whom I prefer to think was his substitute, for he treated me with very scant civility. I asked him for the address of Mr. Spofforth. He looked at me slowly, from the boots upwards, with a cold, hard scrutiny, as much as to say, "Why do you want to know?"

I put on my most ingratiating manner and said, "Well, you see, he is a warm personal friend of mine."

"Oh," said the porter, shortly, "then you've come from Zanzibar."

I could not imagine what he meant and I was not quite sure where Zanzibar was.

"No, I don't think I was ever in Zanzibar."

"Oh," said the porter, with a sneer, "but you have been over a British battleship."

I thought the man had been drinking, but his hand and his eye were quite steady.

"Perhaps you can tell me what Mr. Spofforth looks like."

"Oh, yes," I said, "he is a very tall man with a rather large foot."

"I don't think."

"But I do. Indeed, I am quite sure."

With that, he slammed the gate and I was left standing outside.

But I was on my mettle. At the hotel I called for a sheet of paper and wrote the following letter:

Spofforth, Esq.,
Caius College, Cambridge.

Dear Sir,

As one of those who listened with rapt attention to a certain sermon and who has followed the movements of the preacher, I write to you to suggest that it may be to the interest of yourself and your friends if we have an immediate meeting. You may not know that things are in train to bring certain matters before the University Authorities and an interview with me may have the effect of preventing very unpleasant consequences.

I stamped and posted this letter, marking the envelope "Urgent—Please forward."

I had given our address in the Adelphi. The third day's post brought an answer:

Dear Sir (it ran)

I have not an idea what you are talking about, but I will call upon you at three o'clock to-morrow, Tuesday afternoon.

Yours faithfully,

E. Spofforth.

I was glad that Mr. Pepper was hunting the Bishop of Wigan. I could stage-manage the interview for myself.

I was rather sorry that I had not asked Mr. Spofforth to luncheon. One can do so much more with a man after a glass or two of that vintage port at the Club, but there it was. I had to receive him at three.

As the hour approached I found myself listening for a heavy step on the stairs and wondering whether the rather low doorways in these old Adelphi houses would spoil our interview by giving him a preliminary crack on the head. But on the stroke of three I heard a light footfall tripping up the stairs and there came a rather timid knock at the door.

"Come in," I cried sternly, and there entered no giant, but a dapper little undergraduate with a blue eye and a budding blonde moustache. He had a deep voice quite out of keeping with his physique and he swallowed at frequent intervals from extreme nervousness. That gave me my cue.

"Sit down," I said sternly, "and answer my questions."

"Thank you very much," he said, as he subsided into the chair.

"It is my duty to ask you what you were doing in the Lake District on the 12th of this month."

"It may be your duty to ask me but I scarcely think that it is my duty to reply. It's a free country, isn't it?"

"Quite," I said, changing my method of approach, "and the fact is, I have been immensely amused by the whole business."

"Were you?" he said. "I thought you had been put on to it by the College Authorities."

"Oh, dear me, no. I was up at Windermere almost by chance. And, by the way, that was a rattling good sermon, wasn't it?"

He burst out laughing. "Were you in the church?"

"Don't ask me," and I pretended to be consumed with merriment. "But I tell you where I think that you all made a mistake. He need not have disappeared like that. He might just have walked off and changed his clothes anywhere."

"What would have been the fun of that? The reporters would never have got hold of it. It would have been a pure waste of time. Now we have got a first-class murder mystery."

I decided to draw a bow at a venture. The remark of the porter at Caius College had called up some dim recollection of a famous rag, where the Sultan of Zanzibar paid an official visit to Cambridge and talked gibberish to the Mayor, and also something about a visit to a battleship at Portland. Could there be any connection?

"Let me see, I think you were interpreter to the Sultan of Zanzibar."

He burst out laughing. "No, I wasn't, but I could have done it a great deal better than the man who was."

And then I said confidentially, "Do tell me a thing I have always wanted to know. How did the Captain of that battleship take it when he found out?"

"We weren't there to see. I believe he took it rather badly."

I looked at the size of his boots and decided that he could not have been the preacher. He must have been one of the jeering party.

"Your friend preached quite a good sermon," I said.

"Oh, do you think so? We all thought that we had not got our money's worth out of the bet."

"By the way," I said, "what huge feet he had!"

"Were they? I think it was the boots, and the clothes were wrapped round him in folds, but they were all that we could get."

"Well," I said, in concluding the interview, "if you all keep quite quiet I think I can undertake that nothing shall reach the ears of the University Authorities."

He thanked me warmly and went downstairs.

MR. PEPPER hunted the Bishop of Wigan for a whole week and then he returned to London with the task only half done. It appears that he had found the Bishop in Carlisle—had had His Lordship pointed out to him in the street, and he had not yet made up his mind whether he had committed the murder or had lent his boots to the murdered man.

I was afraid to break the news of my discovery. I feared the shock would be too great for him. Fortunately, the newspapers dropped the subject for a much more sensational case; and Mr. Pepper was almost immediately involved in the famous case of Count Bundrassy and the diamonds.


EVER mindful of the importance of widening Mr. Pepper's clientele, I had been cultivating the acquaintance of the Assistant Managers of the large hotels, and with one or two of them I could almost claim to be on terms of intimacy. I could drop in at any time when they were not too busy and say, "Anything doing?" and then I would tell them some little bit of gossip about things that had happened at one of the rival establishments. They appeared always to be glad to see me.

After the unfortunate affair of the Bishop of Wigan I was specially active, because I had noticed a certain coldness in my Chief's manner towards me, and I was anxious to restore myself to his good graces.

At half-past ten one morning I was in the lobby of a certain famous hotel near the Thames—to give its name might cause unnecessary annoyance to the management—waiting until my friend, the Assistant Manager, should be free to see me. He was just disengaging himself from an importunate American lady who did not like her room, when a very distinguished-looking gentleman of mature years, followed by a young girl, entered the hotel and went straight to the lift.

The Assistant Manager made him a courtly bow, and I noticed that the lift man and the other hotel servants made way for them with marked deference—indeed, the liftman closed his gate right in the face of an indignant American and took the pair up by themselves.

"Who was that?" I asked my friend.

He replied in a hushed voice, as if he was in church, "That is Count Bundrassy from Buda Pesth."

I did not like to say that I had never heard the name, but my friend divined my thoughts. "He is probably the richest and most influential of the Hungarian nobility. Bela Kun wanted to hang him, but he was afraid to. But for an accident he would have succeeded in establishing Karl as King of Hungary."

I was not much interested in the Count, and not quite certain that I should have been able to lay my finger unerringly upon Buda Pesth in the map of Europe. It was the girl who had caught my attention. I think that I have never seen such a beautiful creature. She was not more than twenty-two, beautiful in form and feature, but above all these she had that appealing, tender kind of beauty that goes straight to the heart.

I am not fond of women: I do not know what to say to them; I imagine always that they are laughing at me, and when I am with them I never know what to do with my hands; but something told me that I should be quite at my ease with this girl, always supposing that she spoke some language that I could understand.

I asked whether they were staying long.

"I believe not," said my friend. "From what the Count let fall I think that the daughter is engaged to be married, and they have been in Paris to buy the trousseau. Now he is treating her to a few days' sight-seeing in London. Now tell me about that little affair at the Hotel Magnificent—the other night when the lights went out. Is it true that it was an accident done on purpose?"

Before I could tell him the whole story he was called away to greet a new arrival. I decided to return to the hotel a little later in the morning when he would be less busy.

I won't say how much the recollection of young Countess Bundrassy had to do with my return to the hotel before luncheon. Certainly she had made a great impression upon me.

"If she is as good and as clever as she looks," I thought, "her fiancé must be a very happy man."

On my return to the hotel the Assistant Manager was not in his office. I sat down on a leather bench at the bottom of the stairs to wait for him. The lobby was full of people waiting for their guests or for taxis to take them out to luncheon.

I had scarcely sat down when Count Bundrassy came down the stairs stuffing two parcels into the side pockets of his overcoat. He slipped through the crowd and into the street.

I wondered what his daughter was to do for lunch. Was she to be left, poor girl, in a strange hotel, to lunch alone? I wished that I could bear her company. The Assistant Manager seemed to have deserted his office for an interminable time. I had almost resolved to lunch at the hotel when I heard the rustle of skirts upon the stairs. It was the maiden of my dreams—the young Countess Bundrassy, dressed in a travelling costume and half-hidden in furs. She was hurrying as people hurry when they are late for an engagement, and it was only half-past twelve.

I do not think that she saw me: at the bottom of the stairs she stopped, looked back and appeared to be listening, as if she expected someone to follow her, but instead of waiting she slipped through the crowd in the lobby and was gone. Her movements were so quick that I doubt whether anyone saw her except I. I suppose that other people act upon impulse and feel ashamed of it afterwards. I do not know what mine was—a mixture, I suppose of admiration and curiosity.

I followed her into the Strand, and when she took a taxi on the stand near Charing Cross Station I heard her direct the driver to Victoria. I was not eaves dropping: I wanted to hear the voice that would issue from those lovely lips.

I took another taxi and was close to her when she alighted and close behind her at the booking office. She took a ticket for Bexhill.

My adventure would have ended there but for an accident. It happened that as she came from the booking office window the Count himself was coming from the cloak-room in the wake of a porter with three or four pieces of luggage. They passed one another as strangers: neither by word or look did they show any kind of recognition.

For a moment I thought that this might be the custom in Hungary when a father meets a daughter in a public place—and then I walked to the booking office and took a ticket for Hastings. She was passing the barrier as I came up: the Count was perhaps twenty yards ahead.

She entered an empty first-class carriage, and I followed the Count to see what he would do. He went to the very front of the train with his overcoat bulging out like wings, and he climbed into a third-class compartment full of people.

I went back and quite shamelessly got into the Countess' compartment just as the train was moving off. She did not appear to be in the least disconcerted, but busied herself in making herself thoroughly comfortable at the other end of the compartment.

In the first ten minutes she looked out of the window and I was free to look at her. She was even prettier than I thought, but there was a suspicion of maturity in her expression that I had not noticed before. It was as if she had suddenly grown less appealing and more sure of herself. It may have been this that emboldened me to enter into conversation.

Being a shy man I did not know how people open this sort of conversation—probably about opening a window or asking leave to smoke. I did not do it in that way at all. I put on my most ingratiating smile and said, "Do you happen to know whether this train stops at Bexhill?"

"Yes, I hope so, because that is where I am going." She spoke with scarcely a trace of a foreign accent. She might have passed for an Englishwoman anywhere.

Once started, our conversation flowed on without the slightest difficulty. She had travelled widely and we talked of Paris and Rome and Florence and of the excellence of certain hotels and the extreme discomfort of others. I did not like to ask her where she lived, but I did turn the conversation to Vienna. To my great surprise she said she had never been there.

"The city I have always wanted to see," I said, "is Buda Pesth. It must be wonderful."

"So I have heard, but I have never been there either."

I was even more puzzled a little later in the journey for when we stopped at Sevenoaks she asked whether I would mind her looking out of the window at my end of the compartment. She looked up the arrival platform and did not leave her post of observation until the train began to move. When this happened a second time she must have thought that some explanation was due.

"The fact is," she said, "that I have made myself responsible for a rather stupid old woman, and I am always afraid that she will get out at the wrong station."

I confess that it was a shock to me to discover that veracity was not among the virtues that ought to have been behind those candid eyes. But why all this mystery? Why did she not travel with her father? Had they had a quarrel and put one another in Coventry? And even so, why should the Count choose to travel third-class? The mystery was so absorbing that I decided to see it through.

When we had left Tonbridge she seemed anxious to learn how long I was to be in Bexhill. She skated round the question. Did I know this part of the country well? Were there good hotels in Bexhill? I said nothing that would incriminate me. I told her the truth—that I didn't know.

When she alighted at Bexhill I wished her a pleasant stay and absorbed myself in my newspaper, but out of the corner of my eye I watched her go into the waiting-room without enquiring for her luggage.

As the train moved out I scanned the platform for the Count: evidently he had remained in the train. I left the train at Hastings, and behold there was the Count with his bulging pockets, very much concerned about his luggage, which he deposited in the cloak-room. Then he looked about the station for one of those printed time-tables that are posted on the walls.

I was engaged in the same quest, because I wanted to know the next train to London; but the Count was not interested in the London time-table. He was tracing with a fat forefinger the course of a train that ran early in the morning from Hastings to Folkestone and Dover. Having noted the time in a little notebook, he, too, vanished into the waiting-room, while I went to the Queen's Hotel for a belated meal.

When I got back to the station about four o'clock a train from Bexhill was just coming in at the other platform, and as the passengers crossed the bridge there was the little Countess among them. I sprang into my train before she could see me and watched her into the waiting-room, where I could make out the back of the Count's bald head against the window. It was nearly seven when I reached the London hotel and asked for the Assistant Manager.

"He is very busy at the moment, Mr. Meddleston-Jones," said the clerk confidentially, "but I know that he was asking for you soon after lunch. I'll tell him you are here."

He used the house telephone.

"He says will you go up at once."

He called a page, who conducted me to a suite on the first floor, where I found my friend with a cabinet-maker looking ruefully at a gap in the panel of the door of communication between the sitting-room and the bedroom. On the floor were two Louis XV cabinets lying on their faces. The backs of both were in splinters.

"You look as if you had had a bomb explosion," I said.

"A bombshell, yes. You remember that Count Bundrassy I pointed out to you this morning. Well, this was his room!"

"But what's he been doing with your furniture?"

"Oh, it isn't merely our furniture. It's worse than that. I'm afraid there'll be trouble with the Directors. But who'd have thought it? You saw him and his daughter yourself. I wonder whether you can help us?"

"I have no doubt that Mr. Pepper can, always provided that Scotland Yard has not been called in."

"That's the trouble, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. I can't say what the other party may do. After all, thirty thousand pounds is a lot to lose."

"I don't understand what it is all about. I've been out of town all the afternoon."

"Then you haven't heard anything," he said, in evident relief. "I thought it was all over the town by this time. Come into this room and I'll tell you the whole story. The man and the girl came here the day before yesterday from Paris. They brought a lot of luggage and there it is."

He pointed to a pile of trunks in the dress closet. "Nothing in them but lumps of coal wrapped in old copies of the Matin and the Journal. He registered as Count Bundrassy and daughter, of Buda Pesth. Heaven only knows who he really is. Both talked French fluently and seemed to know only a few words of English. From remarks he made to the valet and to me we understood that he was in London to complete his daughter's trousseau. Yesterday he stopped at the desk to ask the address of the best jeweller in London and I gave him two addresses in Bond Street. He must have called at one of them, because early this morning Mr. Spencer rung me up to ask if a Count Bundrassy was at the Hotel and if he was O.K., and I said 'Yes'; and then what happens? Spencer turns up here this morning with thirty thousand pounds worth of diamonds on him and goes up to the Count's room and at one o'clock this very day he rings for the valet to ask for the Count. Everyone is asked. The porter is positive that the Count left the hotel at half-past twelve on foot—shook his head when the porter offered to call a taxi. The girl was missing, too, but no one saw her leave. Then Spencer behaved like a madman: began shouting out in the lobby that he was a ruined man and all that sort of stuff. It was half an hour before I could get any sense out of him in the Manager's office with the door shut. It seems that this Count man called upon him at half-past ten—told him that he wanted to give his little daughter a surprise—could not make up his mind between two diamond necklaces which Spencer showed him—asked his advice as an expert. 'I haven't seen the young lady,' said Spencer. 'Then come and see her: she is at the hotel. I will introduce you as a friend of mine. Bring the necklaces with you and I'll be guided by your advice, and I'll give you a draft for the one I decide to keep. I will go on to prepare my daughter for a visitor.' It was then that Spencer rang me up. Well, he came as I said, with all the stuff in a black leather bag, and was shown into the Count's room. The old gentleman was alone, but he called in his daughter and introduced them. Then he said to her in French, 'Now, chérie, you must run away and leave us. We've got some important business to talk over.' As soon as they were alone the Count opened that bureau you saw and got Spencer to lay out the baubles on the flap. I should explain that the bureau stood in front of half the communicating door and the second bureau was in this room in the same position. Both hid this broken panel, which, as you see, has been neatly cut out with a panel saw. The other half of the door was used for going from one room to the other. While they were still discussing the merits of the two necklaces there came a knock on the door and the girl opened it a little. The father said, 'Oh, she mustn't see them!' and he shovelled them into the bureau and closed the flap. 'I am so sorry to interrupt you, father,' she said, 'but they have sent an Under Secretary from the Foreign Office to speak to you and I knew that you wouldn't like to keep him waiting.' 'Certainly not,' said the Count. 'Excuse me for a moment, Mr. Spencer, won't you. I know what he wants and I'll soon get rid of him. They will never leave me alone since that affair with the Archduke. My daughter will entertain you.'

"Spencer says that he felt perfectly safe so long as he remained in the same room with his diamonds, and he had seen them safe in the bureau. He said that the daughter was charming. There was nothing she could not talk about. She seemed to know all the notable people in Europe and to have been at half a dozen Courts when there were Courts to be at, but after three-quarters of an hour Spencer remembered another engagement, and looked at his watch. 'My father is a long time,' said the girl: 'these Foreign Office people always keep him. Would you like me to see whether I cannot get him away? I'll say that you must be going.' 'If you wouldn't mind,' said Spencer. 'The fact is that I have another engagement.' And off she went. Spencer waited by that bureau like a watch-dog for hours, he says, but it couldn't have been more than fifteen minutes. Then he got desperate and said to himself, 'Foreign Office or no Foreign Office, I won't go without my stuff.' But the old gentleman had locked the bureau and taken the key with him. Spencer rang for the valet and sent him downstairs to find them. He came back with the news that they had left the hotel. Then the fireworks. I was asked to go up to him. I sent a clerk, who pulled out the bureau and disclosed the hole. The baubles had slid down on to a sofa cushion in the next room and all the old gentleman had had to do was to gather in the harvest from the floor."

"No wonder his pockets bulged!"

"What, you saw him?"

"Yes, and if you want to know where he is at this moment I can tell you. He is at Hastings, and he and the daughter will take the 8 a.m. train to Folkestone to-morrow morning."

His mouth fell wide open and stayed so.

"I don't know how it's done, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, but that office of yours is worth all the Scotland Yards in the world."

"Thank you," I said. "Mr. Pepper is a wonderful man and you don't half recognize it. But this is essentially a case in which you must call in the police if you want to catch these people."

"Oh, you needn't be afraid. Spencer's done that already. I'll phone the Yard. Personally, if it wasn't for the Directors I'd rather they got away. A case at the Old Bailey won't do the hotel any good or me either."

If it had not been for Mr. Pepper, who was in need of a success, I felt that I was of the same way of thinking.

I did not like the idea of that very pretty girl sitting in the dock. Without consulting my Chief, I called at the Yard and asked for my Inspector friend. Fortunately he was on night duty.

"Come about that D. Division case? I thought so. You brass band gentlemen are always after missing jewels."

"Yes," I said, "when you professional gentlemen are in a hole we step in to help you out," and I told him how he might arrest the Hungarian peer.

"I won't ask you how you know, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. That would be telling, but I can guess. We have warned all the ports, and if they try crossing from Folkestone to-morrow morning, our man will have them. But your plan is better: they might 'plant' the stuff. We will take them in on the Hastings platform."

"Has Spencer offered a reward?" I asked.

"He hasn't had time, but if you slip along sharp you'll catch him in his shop. Stick him for what you like. I won't say you've been here."

So I stuck Spencer for what I liked, and told him that he would owe the recovery of his diamonds to Mr. Pepper.

The little cloud that had been gathering between my Chief and me was quite cleared away, and the sun shone upon me when I handed over the reward.

The police caught the Hungarian nobleman with the goods on him, but the girl escaped them. They were more sorry than I was, for whereas they had the Count on their files as a dangerous international criminal, the young lady was unknown to them.


IF I had ever had any doubts about the almost uncanny cleverness of Mr. Pepper they were dispelled by the way in which he managed the case of Mrs. Fraser. True, his first theory had to be abandoned; but it was he who brought the mystery under his searchlight and probed it to the bottom.

On arriving at the office one day, I found him frowning over a typewritten sheet which purported to be a translation from a paragraph from one of the Paris newspapers. The covering letter, I remember, ran as follows:

Dear Pep,—

This is something you need to take care of. I would mail you the original but I think you don't read the lingo.

Yours cordially,

Winston E. Slack.

It was the first intimation I had had that Mr. Pepper was called "Pep" by his intimates.

The cutting related to the alleged disappearance of a Scottish lady, Mrs. Fraser, in Paris, under circumstances which were highly suspicious, if they were true. Supplemented by information that came to me at a later stage, the story was as follows:

Mrs. Fraser and her daughter Mary had been passing the winter in Naples. They left in April and travelled through to Paris without stopping. At the Midi Station a porter trundled a vast trunk to the cab rank and called up a cabman with a pallid, broad face framed in a bushy red beard, who refused to accept the trunk. If it did not sow the seeds of disease in him, he said, it would certainly kill his horse. Mary Fraser, who was the linguist of the two, reasoned with him, and in the end persuaded him to accept the two, trunk and all, for ten francs. They drove to that little family hotel in the Rue Cambon, the Hotel des Étrangers, much frequented by English people with slender means. There followed a fresh dispute with Redbeard, who said that the trunk had strained the springs of his cab, and that sixteen francs was the least that he would take. Mary Fraser, being firm, came to a compromise for twelve; the cabman went off hurling his frank opinion of the English at the concierge, and Mary entered the hotel to find her mother collapsing on a seat in the hall. It fell to Mary to enter their names in the hotel register. She chanced to notice that the name just above theirs was "Dupont," executed with an elaborate flourish to indicate, I suppose, that the writer was a person of consideration.

The front room in the entre-sol was assigned to them. It was an old-fashioned room with a wooden bedstead, a peeling flowered wallpaper, and a threadbare carpet, but all was clean. Mary had to help her mother up the stairs and lay her on the bed. Her strength seemed to have given way. The porter staggered up the stairs with the trunk and dumped it on the floor: Mrs. Fraser groaned with pain at the noise. To her daughter's anxious questions, she answered faintly that she was feeling very ill: that she supposed it was fatigue; that she might sleep. But she was flushed and swollen, and Miss Fraser determined to send for a doctor, and went down to the Manageress.

A doctor? Yes, the Manageress knew a very good doctor—Duphot was his name. All her English visitors when they were ill sent for him and spoke well of him afterwards: she could get him to the hotel in five minutes. Presently Dr. Duphot made his appearance. He was the typical French doctor, as round as a ball, wearing a black beard cut like a spade. Mary explained the case as well as she could. The doctor listened without speaking, and then made a systematic examination of the sick woman. At last he stood up and addressed Mary Fraser:

"Mademoiselle, there is no cause for anxiety. I shall telephone for the necessary remedies. In the meantime, stay here with Madame. I shall return in a few moments."

Mrs. Fraser had sunk back exhausted. She was breathing quickly and seemed to be half-delirious. The doctor tarried, and at last Mary, unable any longer to bear the strain, went out to the head of the stairs to call him. She did not go down because from her position she could see his back and shoulders in the telephone box. He seemed to be speaking emphatically; and the Manageress was hovering about outside, listening. Why all this fuss about her mother unless she were very ill indeed? Mary could bear the suspense no longer: she was on her way down when the doctor left the box and met her on the stairs.

"You should not have left your mother. Mademoiselle!" he said gravely, leading the way back into the sickroom. "Now listen; there is no cause for anxiety, but it will save time if you go yourself to fetch the drug I require. My colleague, whose address is on this card, will give it to you. As soon as you receive it, come back. I have ordered a cab for you. You can quite safely leave your mother in my care. It is only for a few minutes: you will soon be back."

There seemed nothing to do but to obey. Mary ran down to the cab and drove off. The sun had set: it began to grow dark as the cab threaded its way through a maze of narrow streets. The distance seemed interminable. At last they crossed the Seine and plunged into another maze. Mary became uneasy and questioned the driver, who answered shortly that the house was now quite near. But it was dark when at last they pulled up at the door of a large block of flats. In spite of the distance they had come. Miss Fraser was surprised at the lowness of the fare. She climbed the interminable stairs to the fifth floor, and touched the bell. The door flew open and a florid woman in a decorated dressing-gown received her as the expected guest. She took her into a tiny sitting-room and bade her feel at home. The doctor was expected every moment: he had gone out on the very business of Mrs. Fraser's illness. And then she branched out into the wonders of Paris. Did Mademoiselle know Paris? Was she under the charm of this capital of the world, so different from London with its gloom and its fogs? She would buy dresses? No? Ah, there was the telephone. Such an infliction, these telephones. She bustled off into the next room and through the communicating door Mary Fraser heard half the conversation and understood about a sixth of it.

"Up till what hour?"



—and the conversation ceased.

She waited many minutes: her hostess did not return. A clock struck a half-hour. The clock in the room marked eight: her wrist-watch nine-thirty. Heavens, had she been all that time? She would wait no longer. She distrusted this glib, plausible woman. A terror lest she had fallen into a trap began to take hold of her. She crept softly out into the hall to let herself out by the front door. It was locked. She was trapped.

In her terror she shouted "Madame!" The door of the telephone room was next to that of the sitting-room. She knocked and, getting no answer, turned the handle. That, too, was locked.

She beat upon it with her hands.

The door flew open and there stood Madame, flaming with indignation. What was this? Why all this noise? Locked in? Impossible! No one but their two selves was in the flat. She had not locked the front door and therefore, if it was locked, it was Mademoiselle herself. If she chose to leave just when the doctor was due—he had telephoned that he was coming—well, she was free to go. Mary saw her fumbling in her pocket for the key, and she was first to the door to pull on it. Madame tried it herself and cried, "Tiens! It is indeed locked, but how?"

Could she herself have turned the key in absence of mind? What an extraordinary thing! And so saying, she released the catch and threw it open. Before she could close it again Mary was through the gap and racing down the stairs, hearing imploring cries of "Mademoiselle!" growing fainter behind her.

Safe in the street she was not free from her troubles. It had begun to rain and not a vehicle, not even a foot passenger, was to be seen. She hurried from street to street all silent and deserted. At the last she saw the lights of a vehicle which stopped and discharged passengers. She ran and reached it breathless just as the horse began to move. It was a cab and a cab ready for a fare. She gave the name of her hotel and settled down for the interminable drive. But it was not interminable. Two streets, a bridge, the Place de la Concorde, the Rue Cambon, and in five minutes she was at her hotel. It was closed. She rang and a night porter—one she did not know—appeared and asked her politely what she wanted. She replied that she wanted to return to her room. The man admitted her and asked for her name. Fraser? Was she registered?

"Yes," she said. "Produce the register and I will show you." But the name of Fraser was not in the register, nor the name of "Dupont," the gentleman who wrote his name with a flourish, nor any other name that she had seen on the page.

"This is the Hôtel des Étrangers, isn't it?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle, but you must have mistaken your hotel."

She looked round the hall. It was the same. She asserted that she had been given No. 4 on the first floor.

"No, Mademoiselle," said the man, consulting the room list. "There is no one in No. 4."

"Then send for the Manageress." But this, it seemed, was not to be thought of. When Madame had once retired for the night it would cost him his place if he disturbed her. Mademoiselle had better try to find her own hotel: it must be one of the others in that street. But Mademoiselle was firm. If he would not call the Manageress she would, if she had to force her way into every room in the house. He went off unwillingly to do the deed that might cost him his place and presently Madame, in a dressing-gown and curling pins, appeared. It was the same woman, stern, uncompromising and cold.

"You wish, Mademoiselle ...?"

"Madame, you know me. I want to go to my mother." The woman looked puzzled.

"Please explain yourself, Mademoiselle. I have never seen you before." Mary explained; the register was consulted; the woman persisted that she knew nothing of her story. No doctor had been summoned to the hotel that evening. None of the guests had complained of illness. But, as Mademoiselle appeared to be lost and the hour was late, she would let her sleep there. In the morning she could go to the British Consulate!

And so Mary was assigned a room on the second floor and when all was quiet she took her candle and crept softly down to No. 4 to find her mother. The number was on the door; she was in the room, but it was not the same room. There were no roses on an old wallpaper, but a blue art wallpaper, devoid of pattern: no wooden bedstead, but a brass bedstead of the modern kind: no worn carpet, but a staring new floor covering. The wash-stand was of mahogany with a white marble top. The crockery was different, and so were the chairs. It was not the same room. She was worn out. In her own room she sobbed herself to sleep.

They brought her coffee in the morning, and when she went downstairs to pay for it she found that there was no charge. The Manageress, repenting of her rudeness overnight, was polite and even sympathetic.

At ten o'clock she related her story to the British Vice-Consul, whose only comment was to ask her for the address of her relations in England. It was clear that he did not believe her, but she gave him the address of her uncle in Kensington. He introduced her to a colleague, a pleasant man of middle-age, who took her out to lunch with his wife. She gathered that he was the Consulate doctor, and that he was probing her hallucination to its source. His wife, to whom she told her story, was the first person who believed her, and perhaps it was this sensible lady who procured her another interview with the Vice-Consul and an offer to accompany her to the hotel. He explained his mission to the Manageress, who consented to a questioning of the hotel servants on one condition—that the Police Commissary of the district should be present.

This functionary arrived presently with his clerk and a semi-official enquiry was opened. Mary told her story and the Commissary remarked judicially that two witnesses ought to be called—the red-bearded cabman and Dr. Duphot. The clerk went to the telephone while the Manageress was answering the Vice-Consul's questions. She reasserted that she had never seen Mary Fraser before she arrived late in the evening, that no doctor had been summoned and no lady had complained of illness. The Vice-Consul scrutinised the hotel register and then the cabman was announced. He, too, had never seen Mary, had carried no large trunk, had driven no one to the hotel on the previous day. Yes, he had driven foreigners, of course, but never to this hotel for several weeks. And then the doctor—the same man with his square cut beard. He had never seen Mademoiselle in his life—nor had he been called to the hotel yesterday, or indeed for more than three weeks. His evidence was strictly professional and the more convincing on that account. The Vice-Consul asked to see the room, to question the concierge, and when all was done he took leave ceremoniously and escorted Mary to the Consulate.

She, poor girl, saw from his manner that he was now convinced beyond hope of redemption that she was mentally unstable, but at the Consulate she had no time for brooding: her uncle had arrived from London. Mr. Anderson, of Mincing Lane and Vicarage Gate, was not a sympathetic person. He had quarrelled with his sister, Mrs. Fraser, many years before and he had come over in response to the Consul's telegram unwillingly—from what he called a sense of duty which was really, though he did not know it, the insistence of his wife. After a brief interview with the Vice-Consul he announced that they were leaving by the train at four, and that they must leave for the Gare du Nord immediately.

It was a melancholy journey. Mr. Anderson made no reference to his sister, and if he spoke at all it was about the weather. Mary replied in monosyllables. Her aunt's warm-hearted welcome made up for much, but she, too, said nothing about her mother, nor about Paris or their travels. It was very late and all trooped off to bed. Mary did not sleep.

THE details of the story reached me at a later date. All that we had at first was the paragraph in the French newspaper which had published a garbled version of gossip from the Consulate clerks. Mr. Pepper was pondering noisily: I did not like to interrupt him, although to me the case seemed simple enough. Miss Fraser, I thought, must be one of those neurotic young women who imagine things. She must have lost first her memory, then her luggage and then herself. The hotel she pitched on as the site for her hallucination about the loss of her mother refused to admit her, and somewhere her mother must be searching for her and for all we knew might already have found her. Mr. Pepper fetched a book from the laboratory—an American book about Secret Societies—and while he was turning over the pages with his thick fingers I ventured to ask whether he had formed any theory. He made no answer until he had found the passage he was looking for, and then he said, "I want to hear what you think, Mr. Meddleston-Jones." I told him. He gave a short laugh.

"The young woman was telling the truth."

"Then you think it was a murder?—that she murdered her mother?"

"Not at all." There was a triumphant note in his voice that convinced me that he had solved the problem. I was puzzled and expectant.

"You noticed," he went on, "that the daughter described how she was spirited away to the other side of Paris and detained there for hours."

"To get her out of the way?"

"And that when she returned she found the room entirely changed—new wallpaper, new furniture, a new carpet."

"You mean that they re-furnished the room while she was away? But why, unless someone had murdered her."

"And that these two ladies had come from Naples?"

"Yes, but I don't see the connection—"

"Evidently you've never heard of the Mafia."

Light was beginning to dawn on me.

"You mean, Mr. Pepper, that she was kidnapped by the Mafia."

"I mean that this lady, Mrs. Fraser, had been dabbling in Naples with politics, as so many of your English women do; that the Mafia took her measure and hunted her out of the place; that she knew too much. First they tried to poison her on the train—a waiter in the restaurant-car dropped a pinch of powder into her food, but she was a Scotchwoman and it wasn't strong enough—and then they went to work in Paris in their usual way. They terrorised the hotel management, the cabman and the others; got the daughter out of the way, terrorised the furniture man and changed the room."

"But the doctor?"

"Oh, he wasn't a doctor at all. He was the head of the Mafia outfit in Paris. I think I could lay my finger on him in five minutes."

"And Mrs. Fraser is dead?"

"Probably not dead yet: she is being held to ransom while they are going through her papers. If she can't pay they will drop her into the Seine in a sack, probably to-morrow or on Thursday."

"Do you know that Mrs. Fraser is the sort of woman who would dabble in Neapolitan politics, Mr. Pepper?"

"They all do, or if they don't the Mafia think they do, which comes to the same tiling."

"But this is frightful. What are you going to do about it?"

"I am going to get the Mafia outfit before they get me. That's what I am going to do. I may want you to run over to Paris some day this week. You speak French, I know." He had risen and was putting on his coat. I took the hint and made for the Club with my head full of the impending fate of that poor lady held to ransom in the attic of a filthy Italian lodging-house, with death hanging over her head.

The only man in the smoking-room was Jimmy Boyd, whose practice at the Bar was growing so fast that one scarcely saw him in these days. He laid down his evening paper and seemed inclined to talk.

"Someone told me that you were mixed up with that Yankee detective fellow. Pepper," he said. "What's all this nonsense about a Mrs. Fraser and the Mafia?" He pointed to a paragraph and gave it me to read. These reporters are extraordinarily indiscreet. Nothing escapes them. The paragraph was an English version of the French newspaper account, but it went on to say that Mr. Pepper, "the world-famous American detective," was engaged upon the case and that sensational developments were expected; that there was now reason to believe that Mrs. Fraser had been the victim of a widespread secret conspiracy, from which, unless it was unmasked by Mr. Pepper, no English traveller would be safe.

"What I want to know," said Boyd, "is the identity of Mrs. Fraser. It is a common name. In my dancing days I used to know a mother and daughter of that name. They lived in Hampstead when they were not travelling abroad. They were charming people. I wouldn't have anything happen to them for worlds."

I had to confess that I did not know them, and could not say where they lived.

"This Pepper fellow who is always getting his name into the newspapersmdash;" At this moment a club waiter came up and, addressing Boyd, said, "You are wanted on the telephone, sir."

He left me for a few minutes and returned in some excitement.

"A most extraordinary thing, Meddleston-Jones. Do you know who called me on the telephone? Miss Fraser herself. She wants me to go to her in Kensington at once. Have you had lunch?"

I had not. "Because I want you to go with me. She asked me whether I knew anyone who could help her and begged that I would bring him with me."

I had no thought of lunch, nor had he. While we were bowling along to Vicarage Gate he told me about Miss Fraser's journey and her position in her uncle's house—disbelieved by everyone and treated as a person suffering from delusions. All this she had contrived to tell him on the telephone after two unsuccessful attempts to find him earlier in the day.

Miss Fraser was at luncheon when we arrived, but she came out of the dining-room at once. She was a handsome, slender girl of about twenty-five, a little nervous and overwrought, but perfectly collected. I hung back when she showed us into her uncle's den, something in her manner and Boyd's having warned me that they had better be left alone together. In earlier days, I fancy that there must have been a dawning romance between them.

Presently I was called in to hear the whole story from her lips. I don't know what Boyd had been saying about me, but she treated me as if I were a master of detective science—as if I were the Master himself. It was very flattering to my self-esteem. I was certain after hearing and seeing her that Mr. Pepper had been right: she was telling me the actual truth, but when Boyd said suddenly, "I believe that Mr. Meddleston-Jones is prepared to cross by the next boat if you ask him," I was taken aback. How could I do this without consulting Mr. Pepper?

"You see," said Boyd, "I don't speak French, and I've an important case on to-morrow or I'd come with you. According to the papers you, or this Pepper fellow, have got a theory and you can run it to ground while the scent is fresh. I see that you took notes of the names while Miss Fraser was telling her story. Will you go?"

I looked at my watch. There was just time to catch the four o'clock train. My chief himself had talked about sending me to Paris. Why should I not surprise him? Leaving Jimmy Boyd with Miss Fraser, who really seemed quite grateful to me, I went back to the Club to cash a cheque and to scribble a note to Mr. Pepper telling him that business had taken me to Paris for a day or two and that I would keep my eyes open while I was there. I gave him my Paris address in case he should wish to communicate with me. I pondered deeply over the case on my way over: somehow Mr. Pepper's theory, fantastic though it was, that the daughter was purposely got rid of while the mother was being spirited away and the aspect of the room was changed, did seem to fit the facts. For what other reason could the page in the register have been tampered with? Mrs. Fraser was poor; if the photograph shown to me by her daughter did not lie, she was unattractive, but the people who thought it worth while to take all this trouble to kidnap her and cover up their tracks were Southerners actuated by motives quite different from those of reasoning beings like ourselves—motives which Mr. Pepper seemed to understand and I did not.

I drove from the Nord Station to the Hotel des Étrangers in the Rue Cambon. I was received by the Manageress, who, to do her justice, did not at all look like a person who would be intimidated into doing what she did not want to do by an Italian with a pistol. I felt that if terrorising were resorted to in our relations it would be exercised by her without having recourse to any pistol. She did not seem to take to me.

She assigned me a room on the second floor at the back which lent itself to the comedy I intended to play on the morrow. At about nine in the morning I sought her out at the receipt of custom and complained about my room. I was, she was surprised to hear, a literary person, travelling for my health, and I had been medically recommended always to choose a front room on the first floor in every hotel I stayed at. Expense was no object. The lady was sorry but firm. She could not turn the people out of their rooms to meet my wishes: the front rooms of every floor were engaged. I was equally firm. I liked the hotel, but not its back bedrooms. I was writing my experiences for the English papers and if I had been comfortable, I should have liked to mention the Hôtel des Étrangers in my article. As it was....

"You write. Monsieur? Tiens! There is certainly a room, but it is newly-decorated, and smells of paint. Would Monsieur like to see it?"

I will not try to describe my emotions when I saw the room in which the drama or tragedy of Mrs. Fraser had been enacted. Miss Eraser's account of it was photographic in its accuracy. My luggage was moved down and I was at last able to lock the door against interruption. My first business was to search the room from top to bottom in order to discover who had supplied the new furniture in a desperate hurry. The furniture itself disclosed no maker's name, but when I turned back the carpet I was lucky enough to find half a torn bill-head:

My conjectures about the case had now taken a more concrete form. There might be other more cogent reasons for getting rid of Mrs. Fraser than the suspicions of a secret society, and a news paragraph from Naples had given me a new line to work upon. If I was successful it was Mr. Pepper's wonderful intuition that had furnished me with the first clue and no credit attaches to me, his humble fellow-worker.

With the scrap of paper in my pocket-book I set out on foot for the Rue St. Jacques and visited in turn No. 3, 13, 23, none of which was a shop bearing any name ending in SJEAN, but No. 33 bore the name "Grosjean" in gilt letters over the shop window, and M. Grosjean dealt in wallpapers, paints and bathroom furniture. I walked in boldly and asked the young man for patterns of wallpapers. He showed me hundreds, but found me hard to please. Not one was of the shade of dark blue that I was looking for. I demanded an interview with the manager, who was vapouring about the office at the back. He emerged a little unwillingly, I thought.

"I have not seen all your patterns, Monsieur."

"Yes, Monsieur; we have no others."

"Forgive me, but the pattern I have set my heart on is that which you used in papering the front first-floor bedroom of an hotel in the Rue Cambon last Thursday. You remember, you did it in two hours at the special desire of the authorities?"

The curious change in his features warmed my heart. He was quite a nice-looking French paperhanger when he first came in; he was an unpleasant paperhanger to look upon when I had done with him. Alarm, consternation, suppressed fury possessed his expressive features in turn, and when words failed him and he was reduced to inarticulate hissing, I said suavely, "Used it all up, did you? Well, I am sorry. Good morning."

I took a cab for my next visit, feeling sure that my paperhanger was busy with his telephone.

THE policeman on duty in the police station of the Arrondissement was polite but perfectly firm in insisting that I should divulge my business before I had a private interview with his Commissary. He found me equally firm, and when I paltered with the truth and said that I represented The Times newspaper in London he departed from his desk to take counsel. Presently he returned and beckoned to me. The Commissary was suspicious and short with me. I said, "Monsieur the Commissary, is it an offence to tamper with an hotel register?"

"If you have a complaint to make, Monsieur, I am listening."

"I assume. Monsieur, that it is an offence. I am come to denounce the Manageress of the Hôtel des Étrangers, in the Rue Cambon, of erasing the names of two English ladies named Fraser from her register."

His face was not pretty to look upon. He appeared to be biting his lips to keep the words in. I thought for a moment that he was going to shout for his myrmidons to drop me down an oubliette.

"No matter, Monsieur," I said lightly. "I am quite satisfied," and then as I was going out I dropped these words over my shoulder:

"For a newspaper like The Times I am more than satisfied. 'Bubonic Plague in Paris. The Eve of the Great Exhibition.' It will be a great sensation, Monsieur. Good day!"

I returned to my hotel, for now, I felt sure, I had nothing to do but to wait. I think that the telephone had been busy; the Manageress's eyes scorched my face once but did not linger on it. I knew what she was feeling, for I had myself allowed my eyes to rest upon the puff-adder at the Zoo. But I was easy and unconcerned as that unamiable reptile. Having left my card with the Police Commissary I told the porter that I expected a visitor and went into the salon to wait. Nor was I kept waiting long. The Manageress herself announced my visitor—M. Henri Bonchamps, of the Ministry of the Interior; a very diplomatic gentleman in silk hat and frock coat, brimming over with nervous amiability.

"Mr. Meddleston-Jones? Ah! Monsieur, I am enchanted to make your acquaintance." He looked at the retreating form of the Manageress and assured himself that the door was shut behind her, I put a chair for him and he sat down.

"I call upon you at the desire of the Minister himself. His Excellency would have come in person, but unfortunately he has been summoned to the Élysée and he felt that the business was not one that brooked delay. His Excellency has been shocked at learning only this morning that some of his subordinates have been guilty of proceedings that he condemns in the strongest manner. It appears that a poor lady, a compatriot of yours, Monsieur, arrived in Paris with her daughter a day or two ago. She complained of illness, a doctor was called in; he discovered her to be suffering from bubonic plague contracted, no doubt, in Naples, whence she had come.

"The doctor notified the police and thus far no exception can be taken. But at this point their zeal ran away with them. They ought, of course, to have informed the lady's daughter and the British Consul, but instead of this they began an elaborate course of concealment. The daughter was sent away on some pretext and during her absence the poor lady was removed to a hospital, where, unfortunately, she died the same night. They then appear to have deliberately deceived the daughter by pretending that the incident had not occurred. This was entirely indefensible and the Minister is taking very serious measures with all the officials and others concerned.

"You are, no doubt, a relation of the poor lady. Monsieur,—a relation closely connected with the Press in England. In tendering His Excellency's apologies, I am desired to say that the lady was reverently interred in the Père La Chaise cemetery. I have with me the certificate and the title to the grave which His Excellency begs you to accept on behalf of the lady's family. If there is anything else that you think should be done. Monsieur, you have only to suggest it. There is one request, one hope, I should say, that His Excellency desires to express. He does hope, he does most earnestly hope, that if possible no mention should be made in any newspaper of this most unfortunate occurrence. A mention of bubonic plague, for example, on the very eve of a Great Exhibition, would be deplored by us all—deplored even by your own compatriots in Paris. May I reassure His Excellency on this point?"

The gentleman had discharged his task with delicacy and skill, but I was not at all convinced that the Minister's indignation and regret had not made its appearance at the moment when he thought he had been found out. I had the documentary evidence, the case was cleared up; I had only to tell the Consul and return to London.

My first visit was to Vicarage Gate, where I broke the news to the Aunt and left her to tell Miss Fraser. She was very strongly against any publicity and on this occasion I resolved to tell Mr. Pepper something less than the truth. I felt that in all innocence he might happen to mention the case in the hearing of his Press agent and these journalists are so dreadfully indiscreet.

I presented myself at the office without saying a word.

"Well," said Mr. Pepper, "what was Paris like?"

"Cool and a little showery," I replied.

"Ah!"—a pause—"did you hear anything about the Fraser case?"

"Yes," I said, "you were right, Mr. Pepper, as you generally are, I believe that the furniture in the room was changed while Miss Fraser was out."

"Under threats from the Mafia?" He was beginning to crow.

"Under a threat of some sort emanating from Naples, Mr. Pepper—at least, that is what I think. But the poor lady is dead—so the police believe—and the British Consul desires that for the present everything should be left to him. Any publicity at this point would ruin everything."

"Ah, well. They will never get the guilty people. You'll see."

"I think you are right in that too, Mr. Pepper."


EVERYBODY will remember the Middleton divorce case. Shortly before the case came to trial I found my Chief closeted with a person so patently a solicitor's managing clerk that he might have carried his profession on a label suspended from the neck.

He hummed a tune when I came in, and my Chief turned the date indicator unobstrusively towards me, which was the signal agreed upon between us when my presence was undesired. So I passed through to the laboratory.

Later, when the visitor had taken himself off, my Chief gave me an outline of the case. The solicitors believed that a decree nisi would be pronounced; that Mrs. Middleton would be deprived of her child, but that she would make a great effort to remove it out of the jurisdiction of the Court. They had called in my Chief to prevent this, and, in my opinion, they could not have done better, for with his American training, he would act, whereas an English enquiry agent would hesitate before resorting to force, and the child might be spirited away while he was thinking what he had better do.

The case was likely to drag on over two days. Mr. Pepper attended the court on the first day, while I dry-nursed the office, but so many prospective clients called and declined to discuss their business with anyone but my Chief in person that on the second day it was decided that we should reverse the roles: he would conduct the office and I should attend the court.

"Remember," he said, "my reputation depends upon that woman not slipping away with the child. I have told the lawyers to leave everything to me, and be quite easy in their minds—to consider the job done, in fact. The case may end unexpectedly to-day, and in that case you must follow the child and stop it leaving England, by force if necessary. Mrs. Middleton is a slippery lady. There's mischief in her eye. Here's a note introducing you to Mr. Wallace, the lawyer employed by the husband, who will keep you posted in the latest developments."

And as I was leaving he called after me, "Remember not to let that child out of your sight."

I looked forward to the adventure for a change.

There was the usual crowd in the corridor as there always is in sensational divorce cases. One could tell it was divorce from the number of women trying to fight their way in. Their leisure I could understand, but how three or four hundred men could find time to loiter about day after day in the hope of standing room in a stuffy court is one of the mysteries of London. I wormed my way through the throng by sheer audacity. If you hold a letter in your hand and shout, "By your leave", any company of Englishmen will make way for you. Even the stony-hearted door-keeper was impressed: he let me through with the warning that I would be lucky if I got within thirty feet of Mr. Wallace.

But the same quiet insistence, conducted not in a chant, but in a whisper, carried me right down to the solicitors' bench in less than ten minutes, and I trod upon the toes of only two gentlemen and one lady in the process. A maidservant was under cross-examination at the moment, and I was free to study Mrs. Middleton unobserved.

She was under thirty, very good-looking, but painfully restless and artificial. The child I was to watch was worth watching—a jolly little black-eyed thing of three, with a doll in her lap (to impress the Court) and her chubby little legs stuck out straight before her. What she thought of it all is not recorded: her eyes were riveted on His Lordship's wig.

Beside her was another lady, a sort of poor relation, whose plain attire acted as a foil for Mrs. Middleton's unblushing costume. She was a hungry, restless creature like a panther, and, I thought, if anyone wanted watching it was she. But the little girl was fond of her, for the two were always exchanging smiles, and it was to her that the child conveyed her impressions of the wig, using a fat forefinger to indicate the object of her admiration.

The case dragged on throughout the day with all the unsavoury details that reporters for the Sunday papers love. My quarry left the court during the luncheon hour, but I contrived to keep them in view.

The defence had just begun when the Court rose, and my responsibilities were at an end. Next day it was the turn of my Chief.

I reached the office in time to see him off and to communicate my impressions. He departed in high feather, and I had a successful day with the clients. There were only two and both seemed glad to see me; one, a man, because he thought I was Mr. Pepper, and the other, a lady, because she did not care who I was provided that I would let her talk.

I had barely got rid of her when my Chief returned, a broken man. I had never seen him so much moved. It appeared that the Judge gave his decision about four o'clock, and while my Chief was listening to the judgment couched in what was to him unfamiliar language, Mrs. Middleton's companion who was sitting within a yard of him, crept out of the Court with the child.

He could have sworn that she was there when the Judge began, but at the words, "The petitioner to have the custody of the child," he turned, and she had vanished.

How many toes he trod upon in his mad rush for the door is not recorded, but he got out of the Law Courts in time to learn from the bystanders that the lady and a child had hailed a taxi and driven westward. One of them pointed to a taxi just vanishing behind St. Clement's and said, "That's them, guv'nor."

My Chief did the only possible thing. He hailed another taxi and drove westward, too, but he was held up for traffic at the bottom of Wellington Street. He had then had time to think. The plot was to take the child out of the jurisdiction of the court: they would take the night boat from Newhaven or Southampton. He told his taxi-man to drive to Charing Cross.

That was where he had blundered. The train for Dover leaves Victoria, and he thought it was Charing Cross. But as I came to know afterwards, the pair drove to Waterloo and crossed by the Southampton-Havre boat, the "panther" carrying the little girl and stuffing her with chocolates to keep her contented.

At Charing Cross my Chief discovered his mistake, but when he arrived at Victoria he was too late and no one remembered seeing a lady and child. He did not dare meet the solicitors with this confession of failure: he drove back to the court to see whether anyone knew Mrs. Middleton's address.

The Law Courts were closed for the night. And yet he was certain that France was the objective—France or Belgium—but there was no night boat to Ostend.

"You speak French, Mr. Meddleston-Jones."

"In a manner of speaking I do, but I wouldn't for the world let you hear me do it. At any rate, they understand me."

I saw what was coming. French was not one of Mr. Pepper's accomplishments. He wanted me to take up the hunt.

"It is a perfectly clear case, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. All you would have to do is to find the child, kidnap it and bring it home. Will you do this for me? It would be fatal for me to leave London at this moment."

The spirit of adventure was strong in me. I had a passport. All I had to do was to use the night in packing up and take the morning boat. As to the steps I would take when I reached the other side I suppose I thought that the ravens would feed me.

But once out of reach of my Chiefs masterful personality I began to think. The panther-lady might still be in London. The evidence was against her having left by the boat train.

I went to the only telegraph office that remained open in my part of London and despatched pre-paid reply telegrams to the railway company's agents and the Immigration Office at Folkestone and Dover, asking whether a lady and a little girl of three had crossed by the night boat and then I went off to Waterloo.

There I tackled the booking clerk and the man who registers the luggage. The latter remembered such a lady because she had insisted on having a trunk with her in the carriage instead of registering it. He called a porter, who said that he had taken the trunk out of the cloakroom and conveyed it to a first-class carriage: that the lady appeared nervous, was continually looking behind her and asked the porter to find a compartment near the engine and lock her in.

That certainly suggested the panther-lady, but when I returned to my rooms there was a telegram from Dover reporting that three ladies with a small child apiece had crossed by the night-boat. The panther-lady appeared to be multiplying by fission like the protozoon.

I crossed to Boulogne by the morning boat and reached Havre the same evening. There I picked up the scent of the panther-lady, who seemed to have been singularly indiscreet. She had asked the station-master what was the quickest way of getting to the Gare de Lyons, and he had recommended the Ceinture Railway. She had even told him that she was going to Marseilles, but that, of course, might have been a blind.

The little girl wore a floppy grey hat: so did my quarry. I was only twenty-four hours behind her when I reached the Ceinture. Here luck was with me: the panther-lady had no ticket and no French currency. She had had a dispute with the ticket-collector when he refused to take English money, and he had tried to make her leave the train. The panther-lady refused and the little girl had cried. In the end she had been allowed to proceed on condition that she changed her English money and paid her fare at the Gare de Lyons.

But there all trace of her seemed to have been lost. They were far too busy to notice individual passengers. At last I found the man who registers the luggage. He remembered "une bébé Anglaise" with a floppy grey hat, but there were two ladies, not one, with her, and they had far more than one trunk.

I asked him to describe the ladies, and, being an observant person, he gave me a good description of Mrs. Middleton and I gave him five francs. He had registered the baggage to Monte Carlo, which was just the sort of place that would appeal to a person of Mrs. Middleton's temperament.

So to Monte Carlo I went, and in less than half an hour I had located the party in the Hotel du Casino and had installed myself under the same roof. It had all been as easy as catching goldfish in a net.

At dinner that evening there they were, Mrs. Middleton resplendent, but a little bored with her company; the little girl, who ought to have been in bed, taking everything in with round eyes. It was through her that I determined to make my approach. I was not very clear about the next step, for kidnapping children must be a highly skilled profession.

In the books and on the Movies I have no doubt that they do it on the Mediterranean in feluccas, or fast motor-boats and land in Tunis, where, after romantic wanderings, they take ship for England, after smearing the child's face and hands with walnut juice and putting on a false beard.

That, of course, would be easy enough, but it was the first step—how to get the child to the felucca—which stumped me. One may steal a diamond necklace with comparative ease: it will make no outcry from one's pocket, but a healthy, robust child of three would be worse than the giant's harp which so nearly put an end to Jack who climbed the beanstalk.

The first steps were comparatively simple. After breakfast, as it seemed, the panther-lady was off duty, and the child was left with her mother, whose responsibilities were taken very lightly. The little girl went on an exploring expedition. The prominent feature of the new world which she surveyed wide-eyed from the drawing-room door, was myself.

I said, "Hullo," as if I had known her all my life and after a moment's hesitation she made the same remark. Relations being thus established, I produced from my pocket a man who bowed with undulating movements of his stomach and presented it to her as a peace-offering, and she showed a quite embarrassing readiness to sit upon my knee.

We became lifelong friends at once and she rode a cock-horse at breakneck speed until her cries of delight echoed through the palatial avenues and began to attract attention. She was a very nice little girl and I should have loved to steal her.

At last the mother heard us and emerged from the drawing-room to read the Riot Act. The child, who had informed me that her name was Cynthia, put out a chubby hand to exhibit her prize to her mother and Mrs. Middleton paused embarrassed. I sprang to my feet and apologized.

"I was afraid she was making herself a nuisance," said Mrs. Middleton.

"She couldn't be that if she tried."

"Oh, have you given her that? What an amusing toy."

"Ah, but you haven't seen the inwardness of it. Cynthia, let me show your mother. I feel sure that you are her mother from the extraordinary likeness. Now, look at that," and I made the absurd mannikin do the best of his parlour tricks.

Mrs. Middleton laughed like a child, and asked me how long I had been in Monte Carlo.

I told her that I had arrived only the previous evening, but added mendaciously that I was on my way back from Italy to London. She asked me about Italy. Monte Carlo did not seem very amusing. She thought of moving on.

"Oh, but have you been to the tables yet?"

"No, I scarcely like to go there alone."

"Let me take you this very day. Apart from the gambling, it is the most wonderful study of the cosmopolitan world."

She hesitated, and she who hesitates is lost. I introduced myself and assured her that I was a quite respectable person.

She laughed and said, "It isn't that, but I am not alone. A relation is with me, a lady—"

"But she will come, too, of course." After luncheon I was presented to the panther-lady, who was a Miss Black, but when I broached the subject of the tables it appeared that Mrs. Middleton was coming with me alone. Miss Black had duties towards Cynthia which could not be neglected.

Mrs. Middleton attired for the Monte Carlo world was a very ornamental person, and I felt quite proud to be seen with her, but she had the mind of a mischievous child of thirteen. And yet, strange to say, I found her a most amusing companion. She had never been abroad farther than Paris, and she was in the high spirits of a wench at her first fair.

I took her past the Cerberus at the door and felt, from the terror-stricken way she looked at him that I had soared many thousand feet in her scale of values. I whispered wholly imaginary biographies of the gang congregated about the first table—the Russian princess with yellow fingers and furs, the absconding bank-clerk, the gentleman who quietly annexes his neighbours' winnings.

"You seem to know them all," she said in an awed whisper. "I wish I did. It amuses me to know some of them. Now you are going to play."

She clasped her hands with infantine delight and positively skipped. "But you must tell me what to do. I am sure I shall do the wrong thing." She pulled out her note-case and pressed it into my hand.

"No, that would bring bad luck. Work your way in here and put five francs on the red."

She lost and then she won and became reckless. Nothing would satisfy her until she had staked on the thirteen, which she said was her lucky number. It did not seem to have brought her much luck in life till then. But the thirteen won, and so did her next choice, the seventeen.

People began to look at her with her pile of winnings before her. Then the difficulty was to get her away. She had the real gambling spirit and she was certainly very pretty as she sat with glistening eager eyes and parted lips. I was not the only person who thought so.

An overdressed young man opposite had stopped playing and was watching her with admiration. I took him to be an Italian or a foreigner of some sort. She lost on the twenty-four and won again on the thirteen and in her triumph she caught my hand and squeezed it. Luckily for her, it was past lunch-time and she was getting hungry: after a short struggle I got her to "save up her luck" and leave the table.

I had to carry her winnings: her vanity bag wouldn't hold them. There was no restraining her on the way back to the hotel. Everything had suddenly become beautiful in that tawdry resort—the flower beds, the blue Mediterranean, the unflecked sky. Nothing would satisfy her but my moving to her table and after some demur to see whether she really meant it, I fell.

The head waiter seemed perfectly to understand the situation and made the change with Napoleonic swiftness.

I made two discoveries during that luncheon party: first, that Mrs. Middleton did not care about her child and had taken it abroad only to spite her husband, and second, that the panther-lady didn't like me. This was unreasonable, because I trained the whole battery of my charms upon her and even invited her to come to the tables with me and surpass Mrs. Middleton's triumphs. But she didn't care for gambling and nothing would make her relax her feline gravity of demeanour.

"I'll tell you what we'll do this afternoon," exclaimed Mrs. Middleton: "we'll hire a car and go for a jaunt up that hill or along the Corniche road. I've always heard that Saint Rafael was a nice place. Let's go out there for tea."

To my great relief the panther-lady pleaded headache and said she would lie down. So we hired a car, put little Cynthia between us and set forth at 45 miles an hour along that short cut to death, the Corniche road.

I told the driver to drive slowly as we wanted to enjoy the view: but for that we should have been going our sixty-five like the other fools that passed us.

I am afraid that I was poor company for Mrs. Middleton since I was wondering how I could mislay her and drive on to England with little Cynthia. She noticed my silence at last and began to talk to Cynthia, who had nestled up to me away from her mamma.

I pulled myself together and set myself deliberately to chatter. Gradually Mrs. Middleton became confidential.

"Do you ever see the English papers?" she said suddenly.

"Never. I make a point of never reading the English papers except when I am obliged to."

"I wonder whether there's anything going on?"

"Politically, do you mean?"

"I meant socially. Any cause célèbre?"

"I never read them. The Press are always hunting for scandals and hounding down some unfortunate woman or other. That is why I gave up reading newspapers."

"What an interesting person you are, Mr. Jones: quite unlike any other man I ever met. You remind me rather of the old knights errant. Do you know, I think you and I are destined to become great friends. Even now I feel that I have known you all my life."

"No, I'm a fraud, but I was drawn to you the first moment I saw you. You made me feel somehow that you had had a very unhappy life."

She heaved the deepest of sighs and looked into Infinity over the Mediterranean.

"I have, but how did you guess it? You say you don't read the papers."

I tried to assume the air of the mystified.

"I want to tell you all about myself. I don't want you, of all people, to think better of me than I am. But how shall I begin? You don't read the papers."

"Do you mean that there has been something about you?" (with an accent on the pronoun).

"Oh, yes. The papers have been full of me. I'm the infamous Mrs. Middleton, and I've just been divorced."

"Don't say another word," I said, laying my hand for an instant on hers: "if anyone was in the wrong I'm quite sure that it wasn't you, or if it was you, it wasn't your fault."

She drew an inch nearer to me.

"But you must hear everything. The case went against me; the Judge pronounced a decree nisi, and ordered me to give up Cynthia. So I ran away with her."

"The Court shouldn't pronounce such ridiculous judgments—to deprive a mother of her child. It's against Nature."

I was beginning to wish I was safely out of this nefarious business. Mrs. Middleton became silent: something in my last remark had set her thinking and a few minutes later we turned a corner and St. Rafael lay displayed below us. It was merely a collection of hideous French villas washed by the tideless sea. But beyond lay pine woods of Valescure and beyond them Fréjus, with its Roman amphitheatre.

We drove on into the woods and there Mrs. Middleton said she would get out and walk. It was too early for tea. So while little Cynthia grubbed for ants we strolled into the wood.

"You are tired. I have brought you too far," I said.

"It isn't that. I was thinking of what you said just now—that it was against Nature to separate a child from her mother. I don't know what you will think of me when I tell you, but I think that I've made a great mistake."

"In what?"

"In bringing her here." She nodded towards little Cynthia. "What can I do for her, poor child? And then there's Alice Black—a good creature I know, but oh! such a bore with her proprieties and her moods and fancies. She makes me think of the Recording Angel and gives me the creeps."

"But if you feel like that—"

"Don't take me up so quickly. I was only thinking aloud. Of course, I can't send her back and do the very thing that horrible man wants."

There was so much acrimony in her tone that I felt sure she was referring to the man she had sworn to love, honour and obey.

"You know best, of course, but if I was in your place I should pack them both off to England. If you don't do it now you'll do it later."

"I am nothing but a little bit of seaweed, carried hither and thither by the tide," she murmured and relapsed into a thoughtful silence.

"Mummy, I want my tea," wailed Cynthia.

"Oh! That poor child! I'd forgotten all about her, and I did so much want to have a good long talk with you. Come along. There must be an hotel somewhere."

At the Hôtel de l'Angleterre at Valescure, Cynthia consumed a gorgeous tea for which I was granted leave to pay. Then we got into the car for the drive back to Monte Carlo.

This time Mrs. Middleton arranged the seating and little Cynthia was not between us. I became anxious lest the little bit of seaweed meant to attach itself to the rock: at any rate it seemed to be throwing out tentacles in that direction. Moreover, it was that dangerous and romantic hour when the vault of heaven begins to be studded with silver nails and the perfume of the flowering hills loads the air one breathes.

"I've been thinking of what you said," she murmured in my ear. "There is something in it. But I should have to make conditions—"

"Of course."

"They would have to agree to letting me see her at regular intervals. Cynthia, sit still and don't kick with your feet. And we should be rid of Alice Black. Oh, to be free to do what one likes—to follow one's heart! You are not thinking of going?"

I was, but I said I wasn't.

"I've had letters urging me to come back, but since then I have met you."

She sighed softly and impinged against me.

"Tell me all about yourself. Are you what the French call a rentier or have you a profession?"

I admitted that I was an idler and that I was ashamed of it.

"But why ashamed? Surely it is better to be free to wander about the world doing good to people as you do than to be tied to an office stool. Why not stay on here and we can explore the country together?"

A nice mess I had been landed in by my Chief!

"I am expecting a telegram that will decide my fate. If it is peremptory I shall have to go to London on some tiresome trustee business, but when that is finished I could come back," I added weakly, quite decided to further the designs of the overdressed Italian Count to the utmost of my power.

"Well, we can't do things in a hurry. I shall write to my solicitor to-night. I wonder whether you would help me over the letter."

"Of course, I will."

"But that means having Alice Black on our hands for days and days. You know, she's a sort of cousin, rather badly off and she's always been a sort of tame cat about the house. She's not happy here."

"Poor thing, I've noticed it. But why not let her go and get a nurse for Cynthia and then if you do decide—I mean if you really thought of sending the child back and I happen to be making the journey I could look after nurse and baby together."

It was a ray of light. She had made up what she was pleased to call her mind to rid herself of the panther-lady. For the moment nothing else mattered, but I could see that she was toying with the idea of letting Cynthia go, more, I think, to do her justice, because she knew that one child cannot efficiently look after another than from an unnatural lack of maternal instinct.

That night she must have had it out with the panther-lady while I was losing money at the tables, for when I met her at about eleven next morning she was radiant.

"Alice is leaving by the midday train," she murmured. "Be very cordial when we see her off: we shall have the afternoon to ourselves."

"But what about Cynthia?"

"I've got a nurse—one of the chambermaids who had fallen head over heels in love with the 'mignonne bébé Anglaise'—and the hotel people don't mind. Think of that!"

I minded very much though I did not show it, and while she flitted off to help Miss Black with her packing I departed to the tables to look for the overdressed youth with plastered hair. The position was getting desperate. Here was I, launched suddenly into the middle of a flirtation with a notorious divorcée, and it was her child that I was after. There he was, staking his five franc pieces with an air. I made cautious enquiries of the door-keeper.

"The personnel has changed," I said, "since I was here before the war. I scarcely know any of the company."

"What can you expect, sir? The Russians all gone. You remember how many Russians there were in those days. And that terrible war! It is a new world."

I asked the names and stations of four or five of the most conspicuous of the gamblers and then, quite casually, brought him to my young man.

"That gentleman, sir, is a Spaniard, Count Romañones. They say he is a connection of the late Prime Minister of Spain. But he loses—my God, how he loses, poor man."

I inserted myself into the circle standing just behind him and then reached over and asked him in English to put my stake on No. 13 just before the croupier chanted his eternal "Rien ne va plus," and by a miracle I won. He had to hand me my winnings, and to my surprise I found that he spoke English.

"You brought me luck," I said pleasantly, and I proceeded tactfully to lose all that I had won.

It was past the luncheon hour and he rose to go. What more natural than that we should walk together? Like most young foreigners, he was eager to air his English, and in all Monaco he could not have found a more appreciative listener.

We were going the same way, for he had to pass my hotel to reach the Grand, where he was staying. We exchanged cards and arranged to meet at the tables the same evening.

At parting I told him that I had made the acquaintance of a perfectly charming Englishwoman who had celebrated her first introduction to the tables by staking on No. 13 and winning.

"Was that yesterday morning?" he asked with sudden interest.


"Then I saw her. She is ravishing. If you knew me better I should ask you to introduce me."

"That can be arranged no doubt. Au revoir."

I was just in time to wish God-speed to the panther-lady, who was not as cordial as I had a right to expect, and then Mrs. Middleton and I sat down to luncheon. I was a bright and sparkling companion at that meal when I gave her the biographies of some of her fellow-gamblers.

"And by the way," I added, "you've made a conquest. Young Count Romañones fell head over ears at first sight, and now he pesters me to introduce him."

She shrugged her pretty shoulders in disdain, but I could see that her curiosity was tickled. That kind of woman mops up all the admirers she can get.

"Will you let me introduce him?"

"What an extraordinary man you are!" she said with a pout. "Most men would want to keep me for themselves and you positively fling another man at my head. No, certainly not. You and I are going to enjoy ourselves this lovely afternoon. What shall we do?"

I suggested a climb to La Turbie, but that was far too tame.

"No, let us take a car and make him drive us into the heart of those mountains. Let us take tea with us and picnic there. And we'll fill the car with wild flowers."

Hampstead Heath on a Bank Holiday was to be my fate and I bowed to it. After all, she was a very attractive-looking child. But at that moment I saw Count Romañones making enquiry of the hall porter. A man so quick in action would, I felt sure, some day step into the shoes of his distinguished relation, and be a Prime Minister, too.

Feeling sure that he was asking for me I hurried to meet him. He had come, so he said, to ask me to share his car to La Turbie. I told him that I was already engaged to escort Mrs. Middleton, but at least he must let me introduce him. We advanced to the lady and I allowed her no escape.

"Mrs. Middleton, will you allow me to present Count Romañones. He has come to propose a drive in his car."

She received him most graciously and with a mock-vindictive glance at me she coolly invited him to join our picnic party. I tried my best to look wounded. Of course he accepted. I sat with my back to where the horses used to be, and pretended to sulk while they prattled in the highest spirits. She was so shameless in her responsiveness that I think she must have been trying to arouse my jealousy.

At any rate, I played the part in a way that would have crowned me with applause in any private theatricals, and while they picked wild flowers at a distance I stayed by the car and boiled the kettle on a spirit lamp.

At tea I scarcely spoke at all and at dinner I conversed with cold politeness.

"You are angry with me about something, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. Out with it: I hate mysteries," but I assured her that she was mistaken.

What should I be angry about? I was almost sure that she had made an assignation with my rival for the following afternoon.

"Well," she said at last, "if you won't tell me what you disapprove of and you talk to me as if I was a stranger I am going to bed. Good-night."

And off she went. My heart was full of hope for the morrow and I invoked blessings on the Count's greasy head.

She appeared next morning looking more beautiful than ever, but care brooded on her brow. It appeared that the chambermaid had been recalled to duty and here was Cynthia with no one to look after her.

"I shall have to spend the morning at registry offices if there are such things."

"What a prospect! Can't I help?"

"No, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. Thanks all the same. It is a woman's job, unless—" And then to my great delight her eyes filled with tears. "I think I'm the unhappiest woman in the world. I was so much looking forward to this time at Monte Carlo and it's first one thing and then another."

I did not know how Count Romañones would like being called a "thing": I certainly did not.

"I have bad news, too. My telegram has come. They want me to start for London at once."

She ought to have been a better actress. A start, a clenching of the hands, a look of blank disappointment would have cost her nothing and it would have been so soothing to my feelings. Instead of that she brightened and said:

"Oh, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, if you really have to go—I've been thinking all night of the advice you gave me, and it was so sound. I scarcely dare to suggest it, but little Cynthia seems so devoted to you. I wouldn't trust her to anyone else. I wonder—would it bore you terribly to take Cynthia with you and hand her over to my lawyers?"

"My dear lady, of course I will. She will be a delightful travelling companion, if you're not afraid that I shall spoil her, because of course I shall."

And so it was arranged.

She flew off to see to Cynthia's packing, I to arrange about the tickets. The hotel omnibus was three minutes behind its time when the cortege appeared, ravishingly attired, both of them, the mother in tears like a child parting with a doll, Cynthia in the wildest excitement.

And so to the station. I murmured comforting words to her on the platform, and patted her shoulder in a manner quite paternal, and the last I saw of her was a Niobe in a Paris model, waving a damp pocket-handkerchief. I have since heard that she is travelling in Spain.

It was a wonderful journey home. I was a fairy godmother in trousers, who had a magic bag which would not open to baby fingers until it was touched by a wand shaped not unlike an umbrella and the bag contained inexhaustible treasure—the entire furnishing of a doll's house, piece by piece, even to the necessaries of life such as chocolate. And there were cows—great white moo-cows—in harness to be looked at and soldier-men in gorgeous uniforms to scrutinize our tickets.

From Dover I despatched a telegram to my Chief, "Be in your office at six," lest our dramatic entry should be marred, and I telegraphed also to Mrs. Middleton to announce our safe arrival.

"Now," I said to Cynthia, as we approached the Adelphi, "you are going to see the greatest detective in the world."

"What's a tectif?"

"Never mind. You're going to see a great man." Pepper wrung me by the hand, pinched Cynthia's cheek and we three took a taxi to Mr. Middleton's solicitors in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

My Chief went in alone, and while we were waiting Cynthia whispered to me in tones of deep disappointment, "You said he was a big man. He's not."


I RETURNED from France to find that Mr. Pepper had not been idle. It startled me a little to see that he had been trying to brighten our rather gloomy workshop. In a glass vase on the bookshelf stood a large bunch of tulips of very gaudy hue—parrot tulips I think they are called.

"Hello! Flowers?" I said, half suspecting the hand of a female admirer.

He looked at me meditatively, much as Mrs. Bond must have looked at her ducks. At last he said, "Would you mind smelling them, Mr. Meddleston-Jones?"

"I thought that tulips had no smell."

"These have; but perhaps I oughtn't to ask you to smell them until I have explained why. These tulips are poisoned."

I had my hand on the vase, and nearly dropped it on the floor.

"You see, one little sniff won't do you much harm, and if you feel sick it will help my investigations enormously. Just one little sniff, Mr. Meddleston-Jones—to oblige me."

"I should like to know a little more, please."

Then it all came out. While I had been away, a young woman named Jenkins had been suddenly taken ill in Bedford and the panel doctor had made nothing of her case. The neighbours then recalled the fact that the aunt and uncle with whom she lived had both died mysteriously a few weeks earlier, from heart failure, so the panel doctor certified, though why both their hearts should have failed within ten days he did not explain.

The sudden illness of Eliza Jenkins had caused a good deal of talk: people began to whisper about poison, and there were guarded references to the case in one or two of the London papers. They hinted that the Home Secretary was considering the question of exhuming the bodies of the uncle and aunt and in the meantime Eliza Jenkins was taken in an ambulance to the Bedford Hospital for medical observation. But so far, the reporters said, her case baffled the doctors, and there were speculations about a new and unknown disease. Meanwhile she was getting worse.

It was just the sort of case to interest my chief. He had gone down to Bedford and interviewed everybody—the house physician at the hospital, the nurses, the panel doctor and the neighbours.

The Jenkins family had lived in a little detached house standing in its own garden. Mr. Jenkins was a retired ironmonger with a taste for gardening, and he had won prizes at the local flower shows. He was under sixty and remarkably active for his age, for he was in the habit of mowing the lawn single-handed before breakfast. His physique, however, was not robust; he was undersized and flat-chested, and one neighbour went so far as to say that he looked so haggard and exhausted after this strenuous exercise that she was always afraid that he would collapse.

His wife was almost an invalid. She would be extended on a deck lounge in the garden the greater part of the day, leaving her niece to do the housekeeping. It was this lack of stamina in the pair that had made the death of both of them within a week seem perfectly natural.

The niece, Eliza, was an entirely "different proposition," according to my chief. She was described as a robust and powerfully built young woman of twenty-three, who had never had a day's illness in her life. Great sympathy was felt for her in her bereavement, and it was thought that, as her uncle had left very little money behind him, she would sell the house, discharge the maid and go into lodgings until she could find employment. She seemed grateful for all the advice given to her by well-meaning friends and quietly rejected it, for she had continued to live in a house far too big for her, and so far from cutting down expenses, she had engaged a jobbing gardener to fill the place of her uncle in the garden.

"It is not as if she cared for flowers herself," remarked one of her advisers; "she doesn't, and I myself have seen the gardener carrying off fruit and flowers in a basket after working hours, right under her nose. There's no sense in it."

When she had been taken ill the rumour of poison took shape and suspicion began to fasten upon the servant. Mr. Pepper had had an interview with the woman, who had impressed him not unfavourably. She was a sour-faced widow of middle-age; a hard worker, apparently devoted to Miss Eliza, who had treated her more as a friend than a dependant. She had been with the family for fifteen years, and she had used the privilege of an old servant to rule her master and mistress despotically.

She could not account for the recurring deaths. Miss Eliza, in particular, had been in good health and spirits: her illness came on quite suddenly. It had been washing day, and while she was at her mangle Miss Eliza had been replenishing the flower vases in the parlour.

She heard a cry, a sort of gasp it was when she was asked to reproduce it, and she found the girl half lying on the floor breathing heavily. She was not unconscious; with assistance she could even stand up, but when she got to bed she was very sick.

All her symptoms pointed to some form of poisoning, and the panel doctor had her removed to the hospital for observation. Pepper had seen all the doctors, and they appeared to be bound by a solemn oath not to commit themselves, which meant, of course, that they did not know what to make of the case.

"And now," said my Chief, "I want you to smell these tulips, because I believe that they contain the secret."

"Poisoned?" He nodded.

"I could take a sniff at them myself, but if they took any effect upon me, bye-bye to any further experiments."

Now, I do not think that I am a cowardly person, but I am not foolhardy either. My mind turned naturally to a viler body than my own.

"Have you tried it on a guinea pig?" I asked.

"It is very difficult to get a guinea pig to sniff when you want it to. It is the same with rabbits, and besides they can't describe their symptoms. All I want you to do is to take a very little sniff. You ought to feel the effect at once, and if you feel anything wrong you'll go straight to bed and wake up as fresh as a lark to-morrow morning."

Still I hesitated.

"You know, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, it is because we are on the eve of a very important discovery that I ask you to help me. I have always been certain that people could be poisoned by the scent of flowers, and in this case it will turn out to be part of a vast conspiracy to get rid of the British nation. But we must first be sure that these tulips which Miss Jenkins was arranging are poisoned."

The whole theory sounded fantastic, but my Chief was so deeply in earnest that I could scarcely refuse.

I picked up the vase and said, "A long sniff or a short one?"

"Expel all the air from your lungs first and then put the flowers to your nose and inhale quite slowly."

I did as I was told. At first the tulips seemed to have no smell at all: then I detected a faint odour like that of mildewed jam and then—a feeling of nausea, a cold sweat and a pain in the back of my head.

I described my symptoms and he said, with an almost indecent appearance of satisfaction, that they were exactly what he wanted. I wondered afterwards whether I should have felt all these things if he had not worked upon my imagination.

"Now," said my chief, "I've fixed them."


"Why, the whole gang: the Dutch bulb-growers and the Germans. This was their trial trip."

"I don't understand." I was feeling weak and ill.

"You may as well know the whole story, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. You are entitled to it. Ever since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles the Germans, as you know, have been trying to wriggle out of the conditions. Then it occurred to them that if they could reduce the population of Great Britain from 45 millions to 10 millions they could snap their fingers at reparations. Their expert chemists had lately discovered that flowers could be poisoned in such a way that anyone who smelled them would be poisoned. But they couldn't poison all the British flowers because they were not allowed to land at a British port. What could they do? A bright thought occurred to one of them. The English loved flowers and there was one class of flowering plant which they imported from abroad—the bulb, Every English gardener imported his bulbs from Holland. The Dutch were only another kind of German.

"They bought, or I suspect that they bought—that will have to be verified—a majority of the shares in the business of Artevelde van Tromp, the Dutch bulb-grower whose circulars go to every horticulturist in England. I have found out something about the methods of these people. First the circular, then a young Dutchman, all smiles, looks in at the door and takes note of everything. It's not healthy. I've heard—but this again would have to be verified—that your British War Office was much concerned about these Dutch bulb men after the war began. Depend upon it, there's Germans behind it all."

He reached for a circular with the gaudiest flowers printed on the cover. "Read that if you don't believe me."

The circular was printed in a kind of English, but my attention was at once arrested by the fact that the writer, Artevelde van Tromp, did not always describe himself as a bulb-grower: sometimes he was a "blub-grower."

"Ah, you've noticed that," said my Chief. "That's code."

"Have you deciphered it?"

"Not yet: that's to come and you may be able to help me. But read on."

I read on. "Please do not say the Dutchman is clever. He is honest. Life is honour; the heart is speaking."

"That, of course," my Chief remarked, "you can decipher. 'Notheart'—and yet these idiotic doctors bring it in 'Heart failure' every time."

The awful, cynical wickedness of the plot, if my Chief was right, deprived me of speech.

"Of course, I don't say that all the bulbs they send over have been treated. They are in the experimental stage of the plot. But you know what the German chemist is. A prick with a hollow needle in the heart of the bulb, and away it goes to England to wipe out an entire family, and the traveller comes grinning into the death house to see how the poison is working and writes an elaborate report. Diabolical? I should think it was."

He took the circular from me.

"Listen to this. 'Whosoever admits his sins and sins no more, he will be forgiven. What would life be without forgiving each other.' I tell you. All the forgiveness there'll be for van Tromp at the Day of Judgment I could put under my hat. And then the cunning of the man! Listen to this. 'Only plant and tend them ever so little, and they come up and flourish and show their lovely, bright and cheery faces every new God-given spring for many years. Per 10,000 ... 150s. Per 1,000 ... 18s. He knew that would fetch the Englishman. He would have done it to the French, but they are decreasing of their own accord. Besides, they don't care for bulbs and they wouldn't smell them if they did, but the Englishman, with his God-given spring, would clap the 'bright cheery faces' to his nose and take a sniff at them as soon as they came out. You took only half a sniff, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, and look how sick it made you. Try another so as I can send for the doctor and get your symptoms registered."

I excused myself. I said that I thought it had now become a laboratory case; that he ought to analyse the blossoms and find what kind of poison they contained, but this he would not do.

Looking back upon this eventful time, I have sometimes wondered whether Pepper was as profound in chemistry as he was in the other branches of his profession. After all, no man in these days can be a master of all the sciences. He could certainly distinguish between the stains of blood and red ink: I have seen him do it, and he said that he knew the difference between the blood of man and the other mammalia, but perhaps with his native modesty, he distrusted his power to discover a new and unknown poison in the scent of a flower. But his instinct told him that it was there, and that it was the discovery of a German chemist.

When I suggested that the chain of evidence was incomplete, he said:

"We have got to forge the missing links, you and I. These Dutchmen have always been under the glamour of German efficiency. Look at them during the war! It is a typical German conception. Strike at the brains of the enemy country. The educated British all buy bulbs: poison them all and Britain will be powerless in the next war. The British are too stupid a people to see the significance of keywords in a trade catalogue. The fact that a Dutchman calls himself a 'blub-grower' is quite lost upon them. Unless we get quickly to work there will not be a man or woman left in Britain above the third school standard."

The effects of the poisoned tulips, if poisoned they were, had quite worn off. I was feeling particularly well and I had begun to doubt whether my symptoms were not hallucination. One always is inclined to feel what one is expected to feel. I took the vase up again.

"What are you doing with those flowers?" asked Pepper.

"I'm going to smell them again."

"Only a little sniff then. Be careful."

I buried my nose in them and again drunk in the scent of mildewed jam, but this time I filled my lungs with it. My Chief watched me with dismay.

"You've overdone it, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. Lie down on the settee and rest. How do you feel?"

In sober fact I felt no ill effect at all, but I did as I was told. He offered to see me home, but I said that I would lie where I was and would go home alone in a taxi as soon as I felt well enough. Then he made a confession. Somewhere he had made the acquaintance of a Cambridge professor, who had studied toxicology, and on the morrow he was coming to hear the story and carry off the tulips for examination.

I lay there for half an hour; then I asked him if he would mind my going over the ground in Bedford if I was well enough. I said that I would like to see Miss Jenkins, or her doctor, and compare notes about my symptoms, but secretly I wanted to get the incredible story into its proper perspective and make up my mind whether I really believed it.

My Chief made no objection and I was at St. Pancras early the next morning. At this time I made a practice of travelling third-class and of choosing crowded carriages. For my adopted profession one cannot see too much of men and women.

There were five people in the compartment I chose, but just before the train started four of them who belonged to the same party discovered that they were in the wrong part of the train and tumbled out of the carriage in wild confusion.

When the train pulled out my only travelling companion was a man of about thirty, wearing clothes with a foreign look about them. His hair and moustache were rather long and he was reading a flimsy newspaper, which certainly was not English. I took him to be a waiter from Northern Italy.

Twenty minutes passed before we got into conversation. He had laid down his paper and was gazing at the gardens just breaking into greenery. One, gorgeous with tulips, interested him so much that he let down the window and leaned out to get a better view.

"Peautiful gartens!" he said, as he resumed his seat: the accent was distinctly German, and I replied rather coldly that the gardens would look better two months later. On this he launched forth into lyrical praise of the spring garden in passable English shockingly pronounced.

"What would life be without love? What would life be without flowers?" he sang at me with his eyes turned up. "What says your poet Wordsworth: 'God made the flowers to beautify. The Earth and cheer man's careful mood.'"

He had the lines pat by heart and repeated them like a Sunday school lesson. Then he pulled out of his pocket a gaudy seed catalogue, and I read these very lines inset in the top right hand corner, printed as if they were prose. It was the catalogue of van Tromp himself, and this was one of his bulb-agents. It was a wonderful opportunity.

I spoke him fair; I talked like an exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show, and he had his mouth open, ready to book an order. Then I remarked that it was an odd time for him to be selling bulbs in England—that I had always supposed that October was the month.

"Always I come now to see our bulbs in bloom; to see that the gustomers are bleased with the bulbs."

"Aren't they all pleased?"

"Of gourse they are bleased and all gome to us again, unless they are dead," and actually he laughed, the beast.

I am sorry to say that I lost my temper. He had left the window down and a cold wind was blowing in on me while he was sitting in shelter. I ordered him rather sharply to pull it up and tossed his catalogue to the empty seat in front of him. He appeared startled and made no attempt to obey my order.

"Pull up that window, sir," I repeated.

He drew himself up with offended dignity and said that he preferred it down. That a Hun should dare to rear his head in this way was more than I could bear.

I crossed to the window, pulled it up and returned to my seat. He let it down again. Then I regret to say I lost my temper and said a great many things about Germans that I have since regretted.

He retorted that he was not a German, but a Dutchman, and he was sorry to find that the Germans had better manners than the English.

That I had put myself in the wrong did not improve my temper and then he said, "But perhaps you are not an Englishman."

I boiled over and gave him my card. The train was slowing down for Bedford. He had his hand on the door and jumped to the platform before it stopped. Here was a German, or a man under German orders, actually engaged in a murder plot against us. Was he to be allowed to get off scot free? An inspector was on the platform.

"Stop that man, inspector. He's a German: take his name and address. I've got a charge to make against him." The man was about to pass the barrier when the inspector stopped him. I saw him give a card to the inspector, who read it and hurried back to me.

"I think you've made a mistake, sir. The gentleman is Mr. Meddleston-Jones, of the Wanderers' Club." And he showed me my own card.

It is bad enough to be insulted by a Hun in your own country, but worse still when he scores off you.

I went first to the hospital to enquire after Miss Eliza Jenkins, half fearing to learn the worst.

"You'll find her on the verandah," said the sister. "She's going out to-morrow. No, she was never what one would call very ill. Acute gastritis, but can you wonder at it after the things she had been eating? This passion for canned foods—salmon, oysters and clams—will kill off half our young people if they don't mend their ways."

There she was, Eliza Jenkins, a buxom, rosy young woman, sitting in a deck chair smiling at the catalogue of her misdeeds.

I explained my mission in the fewest words and asked her to what she attributed her illness.

"Well," she said, "I expect the nurse is right. You see, that tin of oysters had been a very long time in the cupboard, and Mrs. Smith warned me not to touch it, but I never can resist tinned oysters."

I tried tactfully to bring the conversation round to the bulbs. She looked puzzled.

"Tulips? Yes, I had some tulips in the house. I think that they were in the dining-room when I was taken ill. Oh! such a pain I had inside."

"You had just been smelling them?"

"Smelling what? The tulips? I never smelt a tulip in my life. You see, they've no scent."

I told her what had happened to me and tried to awaken that strange sympathy that subsists between people who have a community of symptoms, but she was an unimaginative, matter-of-fact young woman who had the clearest possible recollection of the first onset of the only illness she had ever had. She was candour itself: perhaps she thought that I was a doctor.

I knew what my chief would say to all this. He would discover yet another proof of the diabolic cunning of the German chemist, who, knowing how quickly the origin of a new disease with the same symptoms would be discovered, had devised a poison which should affect different people in different ways. And there was that Hun in the railway carriage to be explained.

From the hospital I went to the Jenkins' house and found the housekeeper preparing for her mistress' return. She was a stout, good-natured looking person, who smiled upon me pleasantly while she shook dust at me from a hearthrug. She intimated quite firmly that she had nothing to add to what she had told the last reporter and he had got it wrong. I asked her whether he had talked about tulips and gave her a description of Mr. Pepper.

"Oh, that man. No, he wasn't a reporter: he was a detective, or something of that kind. We had a long talk, but I wasn't so busy then as I am to-day."

"You told him that Miss Jenkins was taken ill after smelling the tulips."

She laughed merrily.

"It was him that told me that, and the poor man was so anxious about it that I hadn't the heart to disappoint him. Oh, how pleased he was when I said 'Yes.'"

"You told him nothing about the tinned oysters."

"I tried to, but he wouldn't listen any more than Miss Eliza would when I tried to prevent her from eating those old oysters. People have to find out things for themselves. I've given up trying to influence them. If you told me now that Miss Eliza had been bitten by a guinea-pig I'd agree with you. I know I should. Oh! here's another of them!"

I turned at the click of the garden gate, and there before me was my Hun with a bulb-catalogue in his hand.

The ingratiating smile froze upon his ugly face as he saw me. He murmured an apology: I caught the words "wrong house" and he made off up the street as fast as he could walk.

It was evident that he was making for the station and that he did not know the way. I was close on his heels when he stopped to ask a grocer's boy the way, and before he could get under weigh again I was at his side. I addressed him in a firm but not unfriendly tone, such as a person set in authority might be expected to use.

"I have reason to believe that you are a German travelling with a Dutch passport, and I must warn you that anything you say will be taken down in writing and may be used in evidence against you at your trial."

I had my notebook and pencil in my hand.

"You are wrong, sir. I am a Dutchman born at Doorn in the Netherlands."

I appeared to record his reply. "Let me see your passport."

He had it all ready: these foreigners always do. It bore the name of Jacobus van Reuter, and the photograph was his.

"You will have to go to London—"

"I am going to London."

"To London with me and produce your passport for examination."

He shrugged his shoulders as wise men do when overtaken by inexorable fate, and went with me like a lamb to the station. We sat opposite to one another in an empty compartment and he never spoke once during the journey.

At St. Pancras I put him in a taxi and drove him straight to the office. My Chief was sitting alone in the office, and while my prisoner was disposing of his overcoat I contrived to whisper an outline of the case.

My Chief always rose to these occasions. There was an air of dignity and weight about him that would have become a judge of the High Court. He had even removed the unlighted cigar from his lips. The wretched man was convinced that my Chief held in his hands the keys of life and of death. He wasted little time over the passport.

"Your name?"

"Jacobus van Reuter."

"Produce your passport."

My Chief scrutinized it minutely, both with his naked eye and with a glass, occasionally fixing its owner with a gaze that pierced his soul. The wretched man was goaded into speech.

"You think that I am a German: you are wrong. I am Dutch for generations: the van Reuters are the oldest family in Doorn."

"Then how do you explain your frequent journeys into Germany, your constant communications with Germans?"

"Naturally, it is my business. We deal in bulbs. We have customers in Germany just as we have in England."

"Bulbs?" said my Chief, as if he had learned this for the first time. He drew from a table drawer two labelled bulbs that had finished flowering. "Are these grown and sold by you?"

The prisoner looked at the label and then at the bulbs and said, "Yes, these are ours, but why have they been cut open? They would have flowered another year."

"Cannot you guess?"

"No, I am sorry but I cannot."

My Chief took one of the bulbs from him and separated the two halves, which had been cut apart vertically almost down to the roots. "Look at that," he said, pointing to a little dark line about the middle of the root.

"I see it. If you cut any bulb into sections that line will appear."

Pepper's manner changed in a flash. He was no longer judge, but vehement prosecutor as well.

"It is no use, van Reuter. We know too much. We have read your catalogue and interpreted the code. You'd better own up."

"I don't know what you are talking about."

"We know the hollow needle that made that line. What we don't know is what you have got to tell us before you leave this room. Give us the names of the people who are behind this business and I promise you that you personally shall go scot free. Otherwise—"

"What people?" The man acted bewilderment in the most natural manner.

"The Germans. We know how they do the business, but who are they?"

"There are no Germans behind our business. It is run exclusively with Dutch capital," the man said doggedly.

"You cannot persuade me that any Dutchman would impregnate his bulbs with a deadly poison of his own motion. What would be the sense of it."

The man started as if a sudden light had broken. He looked round for the door, but I was too quick for him.

"Answer my question."

From old habit my Chief had half drawn his pistol from the drawer, and the man saw the gesture. He suddenly adopted the fawning manner of a man who is trying to placate a growling dog.

"I'll answer anything you like to ask me, sir. It was very clever of you to find out the secret. I don't know how you did it. The hollow needle, yes, it was a German. And now can I go?"

"Go?" thundered my Chief. "You'll go when you have told me his name and where he lives."

"You both promise that."


"His name is—yes, his name is Helferich—Gustav Helferich—and he lives in Hamburg."

"The street and number?"

"I am not quite sure. I know it is in the Hohe Strasse—No. 19 or 29, I think. You know Hamburg, sir?"

"Of course I do."

"And you know the Hohe Strasse?"

"Yes." The man seemed quite relieved.

"Then if I tell you that he lives over that large shoemaker's shop three doors from the police station you will have no difficulty in finding him. Now may I go?"

"Not yet. Tell us where the bulbs are treated."

"Herr Helferich comes to the private door in our gardens three times a week during the season carrying a black bag full of bottles and needles. I know this because on one occasion he left it open and I looked in. He has a little detached office which is always kept locked. We slide in the trays of bulbs one at a time, and he slides them out again. He is very quick, but we are fitting an endless chain to make it run quicker."

"Do all you men know of this?"

"Not one. They think that he is testing the bulbs with Röntgen rays to see that they will blossom. Only two people know besides myself. The bulbs look just the same."

"And the firm is paid by the German Government."

"Of course. But we never knew that he was poisoning them. We thought that he was trying to give them a perfume. That was all they told us. May I go now, please."

My Chief assented. He seized his hat and did not stop to put on his overcoat. He fell down the stairs and when I looked out of the window to see whether he had hurt himself he was running up the street.

"Now, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, you've got your sailing orders. I would go to Hamburg myself, only I must wait for the Cambridge expert's report."

I departed to buy my ticket for the Hook of Holland, and was fortunate enough to find a street plan of Hamburg in the office of the tourist agency. There was no Hohe Strasse marked in it.

Could the man have been lying to us?

I went back to consult my Chief, whose masterly handling of the man had filled me with admiration. He had another visitor, who turned and stared at me with marked attention.

"Is this the gentleman who was with you?" he asked Pepper, who seemed embarrassed and ill at ease.

"That is Mr. Meddleston-Jones."

"I'll put it shortly, Mr. Meddlesome-Jones. I am Detective Sergeant Coleman of D. Division. A Dutchman named van Reuter has made a complaint to the police that he was kidnapped by one of you gentlemen in Bedford this morning and brought here; that you put him through a sort of cross-examination in the course of which he discovered that you were both insane, that you drew a pistol on him, and that he only made his escape alive by humouring you and playing up to your delusions. He said he didn't want to bring any charge, but he thought that it was his duty to let the police know that there were two dangerous lunatics at large. Have you had an interview with van Reuter or is he the lunatic?"

"We have," said my Chief, "and we have discovered an important international plot, which I shall report to the authorities as soon as the case is complete—and after I have given it to the press."

"But what am I to report to the Superintendent?"

"Just that—an 'important international plot.'"

"I'm afraid that won't satisfy him, sir. He'll want to know a lot more—about that pistol and, 279 if you've got one, whether you've a licence for it, and what sort of a plot it is. He'll only send me back again."

"We believe that this Dutchman is working for the Germans in a plot to murder Englishmen—"

"To murder Englishmen? How?"

"By the scent of flowers."

The Sergeant looked fixedly first at Pepper and then at me without any expression in his face at all. Then he rose and looked into his hat for quite a minute.

"Very good, sir," was all he said. As he reached the door he said, "If you have a pistol, sir, I recommend you to apply for a licence without delay," and he walked thoughtfully down the stairs.

"Have you a licence for a pistol?" I asked.

"I have."

I was recounting my discovery that the Hohe Strasse was not to be found in the map of Hamburg when the postman called. It was one of my duties to open the letters. There was one marked "Private and Confidential," with the Cambridge postmark.

"Ah," said Pepper, "the expert's report."

I was opening the other letters when I heard an angry exclamation. My Chief's features were suffused with rage. He tossed me the letter.

"Your British experts are all alike. I've no use for such mutts. What do they think I pay them for?"

The letter ran:

Dear Mr. Pepper, I have made careful analyses of the bulbs you sent me, marked A.B.C. and D.

(Then followed a summary of the experiments and tests in technical language, which was beyond me.)

The results of all these tests being negative, it can be pronounced that none of the bulbs has been treated with any poison known to toxicologists, and Professor Winslow, the Botanist, who has examined them all, states that they bear no trace of having been tampered with.

"Next time," said my chief, "I shall do the chemical experiments myself."

"Do you want me to go to Hamburg?"

"No, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, I'll go myself—a little later when we are less busy."


FOR some weeks some weeks suspicion had been growing in my mind that my Chief had a press agent: the record of his achievements, not always accurate, appeared regularly every three days in one or other of the penny journals which specialize in crime stories. I had even seen the man coming out of the office more than once—a tall spare gentleman who wished me "Good morning" with a strong north-country accent. At first I had taken him for a lawyer's clerk, but I now labelled him "press agent," and governed myself accordingly. After all, it was no concern of mine how Mr. Pepper chose to conduct his business. I was a mere unpaid apprentice; he was a master.

The attentions of the press had vastly increased the volume of our correspondence. People who had tried the police and found them wanting wrote from all parts of the country asking us to restore a lost husband, a stray dog, a stolen necklace. I coped with the correspondence as long as I could, but at last we had to engage a typist.

My Chief would not hear of a woman in the office until he learned that a man was fifty per cent, dearer, and then he gave way and allowed me to choose the lady. I interviewed at least twenty and selected a mature damsel of forbidding countenance named Miss Jekyll.

I don't think that my Chief took kindly to Miss Jekyll. She had pale blue eyes and wore glasses, and I confess that her gravity and her silence and the occasional cold disapproving stares she bestowed on me gave me the creeps. I fancied that sometimes her thin lips curled with contempt. As a rule Mr. Pepper was not to be found in the outer office, which he had tacitly surrendered to Miss Jekyll until visitors called. Then she would summon him from the laboratory and carry her portable typewriter away to tap out her correspondence among the bottles.

One day I had to dictate to her myself. I never did it again, because whenever I was searching my memory for a word she looked at me like a terrier waiting for another scrap from the plate, and my nerves would not stand the strain. But a terrier's eyes are brown and friendly: hers were searching and contemptuous. Besides, she was so damnably efficient.

It greatly surprised me, therefore, to find Mr. Pepper one morning sitting with Miss Jekyll in the outer office. He seemed to be labouring under strong emotion. On the table near his hand was his revolver and he was holding a letter which he had been reading aloud.

"Anything fresh, Mr. Pepper?" I asked.

"Mr. Meddleston-Jones, I have been threatened. It is the sort of thing that must always happen when a man succeeds in his work, but we must take precautions."

"Is that the letter?"

"Yes, read it and tell me what you think."

It was a typewritten document, written on a crumpled piece of paper, unsigned and undated. The postmark on the envelope which was pinned to it showed that it had been posted in Ealing. The letter was abusive as well as threatening:


They may accept you at your own valuation as a detective in America, but in your inmost heart you must know that you are a fraud preying on the credulity of silly people.

And again:

Have you ever solved a single mystery in your life? Have you not always picked on the wrong people?

I think that these passages wounded my chief more than the threats alarmed him, because of their injustice. But the threats were quite definite.

Now I give you fair notice. Unless you pack up within two weeks and go back to where you come from something will happen to you. If you knew who I was you wouldn't wait. People whose bodies are fished up out of the Thames tell no tales.... I give you fourteen days from now and then if you are still in London you're for it. We shall get you as we got Dodson, and we shan't attend the inquest.

And so on for two closely-typed pages. "I should put it in the waste paper basket," I said.

"What, and sacrifice the only piece of evidence? No, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, perhaps you do not know that the typewriter affords a better clue than handwriting. I mean to trace the writer."

"May I see the letter, Mr. Pepper?" said Miss Jekyll. She examined it for some time and then she said, "The alignment of the 'u' is faulty and the capital 'W' is a little out of the perpendicular."

"Thank you, Miss Jekyll," said my Chief. "I had noticed that as well as other peculiarities."

This in the tone of one who says "I'll ask your opinion when I want it."

The lady shrugged her shoulders and her lips curled.

Taking the letter in his hand, Mr. Pepper went for his hat. I slit open the correspondence and tried to keep out of range of Miss Jekyll's eyes.

"I think it is a man," remarked Miss Jekyll. That she should express any view on any subject struck me with amaze, but to a typist, of course, there must be nothing like typewriting.

"Why do you think it is a man?" I asked. "From the inequality in the typing. The work has been done with heavy fingers, and besides, there must be men who are dissatisfied with Mr. Pepper's charges."

This set me thinking. There was, of course, the man Henderson, who had disputed his bill on the ground that my Chief had never done what he had undertaken to do, but he was not the sort that threatened. He would have run to his lawyer.

There were some others who had grumbled a bit before they paid, and of course there were a few women who expected him to work for nothing.

I took up the letters and began to dictate. Miss Jekyll scratched away in shorthand, and when I had finished I left her, because a tête-à-tête with Miss Jekyll always spoiled my appetite for lunch. I returned at a quarter to four, but Miss Jekyll was too busy typing to bother me with her conversation.

Soon after, my Chief returned and signed to me to follow him into the laboratory. He had had a busy morning with an American typewriter expert, the agent for a manufacturer of typewriters. This man had pronounced the letter to be the work of a Victor machine a good deal worn by use. He advised that a list should be made of all the persons who might have a grudge against my Chief, and he would ascertain whether they had purchased a Victor.

This for a start. He asked, further, that specimens of all the typed letters received by us should be submitted to him and he would undertake to say which of them, if any, had been written on the guilty machine.

"But the writer of the letter may have bought his machine secondhand."

"We are getting a list of purchasers of Victors from all the secondhand dealers."

"And if you find him what are you going to do, Mr. Pepper? You won't want the letter read out in court?"

"If it comes out that I found him I shan't mind."

It is really extraordinary how things get out. As I was going home that evening I came across a paragraph in my evening paper headed, "Threatening Letter Sent To Mr. Pepper," who was described as the Great American Detective. I thought how annoyed he would be when he saw it.

Miss Jekyll and I had been busy all the afternoon digging out of our files typed letters received by us. We were able to furnish my Chief with nearly fifty, and these he posted to his friend.

On the following morning there came another letter even more abusive, which ran:

"In your insane love of publicity you have published the fact that I have given you warning. I gave you fourteen days: I now give you a week. If you are still in England this day week you will get it in the neck. I suppose you have an undertaker. You had better see him and get him to measure you. It will be a painful death."

He studied this letter with a magnifying glass for half an hour, and then called me into the laboratory.

"It's a remarkable fact, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, that this letter was written on a different machine. This may simplify the case. Sit down and I'll show you."

My heart gave a bound. I was to have a lesson in detective methods of the handwriting expert from the Master himself. But he had scarcely begun when Miss Jekyll appeared at the door.

"Someone is knocking at the door, Mr. Pepper."

"What is he like?"

"I did not like to open it."

"See him, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. Say I am out. I'll go out by this door, and you can pass my hat out to me."

It was the first time that my Chief had declined an interview with a possible client, and I was proud of his confidence in me. I found a tall, powerful stranger at the door, and I beckoned him into the laboratory.

"So you're the World's Greatest Detective!" he said. "You are certainly good at disguises."

I sat down in my Chief's chair and motioned to him to take the low chair reserved for visitors. Something in my manner must have cowed him for he removed his hat and remained standing.

"You haven't given me your name."

"All in good time. I want to know first what you can do for me. I see by the papers that you have had a threatening letter. So have I."

"I am not Mr. Pepper, if that is what you mean."

"Then who the devil are you? His name is on the door."

"I am a member of his staff. Mr. Pepper is away to-day, and has asked me to carry on. Have you got the letter with you?"

"Perhaps I have. Now, look here, sir. I don't know your name and I don't know that I want to. I'm a business man and I've come on a business matter to see Pepper. I can't come twice. If you can tell me whether he can undertake the case and run this blighter to earth I'll deal with you."

I knew what my Chief would do with offensive persons of this kind. I pushed the box over to him and said, "Have a cigar."

"Good God!" he exclaimed, "we are in England, not in America. Besides," he added, looking at the box, "I don't smoke—at least I don't smoke that kind of cigar unless I want to be ill."

"Well, sir, if you won't tell me your name or let me see the letter we can do nothing for you."

And I took up some letters as an intimation that the interview was at an end. I believe that my manner was not devoid of dignity: at any rate his manner changed.

"If you think that I've been offhand I apologize. I've been a bit upset. Here's my card."

"Mr. William Broxton," and in the corner "Broxton Mills and Co., 12 Mark Lane, E.C."

"Broxton?" Where had I heard that name before? Why had I not my Chief's memory for names?

He handed me the letter. It was typewritten, and the envelope was post-marked "Hanwell." Reading it, I felt a warm wave of sympathy with the writer. Peace must have slid into his soul when he had so unburdened it. The letter was abusive rather than threatening:

You try to dress like a gentleman, Mr. Broxton, and I suppose you would call yourself one, but no one else would, not even people who pass you in the street. Your manners are as offensive as your appearance, and your personal habits would disgust a coal-heaver.... You are not even passably honest in your business as your customers know to their cost.... I don't wonder that you have never married; if you had your poor wife would have gone off with somebody else within a week.

The nearest it came to a threat was this:

Take yourself in hand. Try to behave like a gentleman if you can't feel like one, and nothing further will be done. If you don't, look out.

It was signed simply, "The British Fascisti," and that was all.

Miss Jekyll put her head in at the door just then to see whether I was alone, I suppose, but on seeing my visitor she went at once—for which I was grateful, as, with the aid of my Chief's lens, I made a surprising discovery. The capital "W" and the small "u" had the same defects as in the first letter received by Mr. Pepper. The only way with a man like this was to appear to know something.

I said, "This letter has been written by a man on a Victor typewriter."

"The devil it has! I suspected a man—a business rival, with whom I had a few words the other day."

"I would suggest that you give me a list of all the men you have had differences with, say, during the last twelve months."

"Phew! It will be a longish list."

"And the women?"

He sank into the chair and became thoughtful. "Of course there are some women. That would be a longish list, too, and I don't know that I'd care to give it to a third party. But," he added suddenly, "there's no hint of blackmail in the letter—threats but not blackmail."

"Have you had to dismiss an employee lately?"

"I am always dismissing employees unless they forestall me by giving notice. My head typist did that the other week."

"A woman?"

"Yes, a terror."

"What was her name?"

"Upon my word I don't remember; she wasn't long with me. It was a funny sort of name. I'll find it in the wages book and send it to you."

Then he came to business. He had not gone to the police because he did not want to prosecute—he only wanted to scare the life out of the person who wrote such a letter. If he prosecuted the letter would be read in open court, and that, of course, would suit the writer. No, he wasn't going to give him that satisfaction. If we found the writer he would pay Mr. Pepper £100: if we didn't he would pay nothing. Take it or leave it.

I told him that I was not authorized to make such a contract, but I would consult my Chief and write. On this he took himself off, leaving the letter with me.

He had scarcely gone when Mr. Pepper returned. I explained the situation and, to my great surprise, he said he would accept the terms.

"The fact is, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, I think we have found the writer. Victor machines are usually sold to private people, amateurs, authors and politicians, not to offices, where they wouldn't stand the hard wear. Well, there are two people concerned in this, each with a Victor, and I think we've found the two. They both live in West London; they both have Victors and they're as thick as thieves. One calls herself a novelist and the other takes in typing at home and calls herself a secretary. Their names are Harris and Anderson. All we have to do is to obtain specimens from their Victors and we've got them cold. My friend is 'phoning to Miss Harris to-night, offering her a new machine in exchange for her old one, which she brought in for repair the other day. I am just off to lunch with my friend to hear the result. If that fails we are to write her a letter about the gas meter or something."

He looked at his watch and rushed off to keep his appointment. He had scarcely reached the bottom of the stairs when Miss Jekyll looked in. She was communicative, almost chatty.

"You must be wanting to dictate, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. What a long time that man was over his business."

I assented.

"And Mr. Pepper sounded as if he had been lucky this morning. Has he found out anything?"

"He thinks that he has found the culprit."

"Oh, has he? I'm so glad. What is he going to do?"

"I don't know. Now, if you are ready, Miss Jekyll, we will begin."

I had been dictating for about twenty minutes when Miss Jekyll announced that she was not feeling well.

"If you don't mind, Mr. Meddleston-Jones," she said, "I think I'll take some office stationery home with me and type the letters there this evening. My headache always goes if I lie down for an hour or two."

It was irregular, but as a matter of fact I had let her do it once before—anything to get away from her eyes. She packed up her typewriter, collected her things and went.

Next morning my Chief went out early. Miss Harris had made an appointment with his friend for eleven, and was bringing her Victor with her. My Chief wanted to be present at the test, and he left me to deal with the correspondence. Besides the usual official correspondence there were two letters addressed to me personally.

I had nearly finished opening the firm's letters when a messenger-boy trampled up the stairs like a herd of ponies and struck the door two heavy blows with his fist. It was his form of protest against Nature for building him only four feet high. He handed me a letter and stood to Lilliputian attention.

Dear Mr. Meddleston-Jones (the letter ran):

We've fixed it. Though I said nothing to you at the time, I had always a strong belief that the writer of those letters was a man—and a man who was a trade rival. Now, we are practically certain that the writer was Waist (an Inspector retired from the Metropolitan Police who had set up in business as a Private Enquiry Agent). That man has been after me for months from pure jealousy. Now I am going after him. I may be late home, so please attend to the work.

Yours cordially,

W. Pepper.

Miss Jekyll had not shown up yet, and in her absence I found it very difficult to attend to the work. Of all crime mysteries the methods of bringing the writers of threatening letters to justice had always fascinated me, and here my Chief had unravelled a far more tangled skein—the authorship of typewritten letters, which, by all the laws of mechanics, ought to be proof against detection. And I had not been there to see how it was done.

What wonder that I could give only half my mind to the morning's work. I imagined my Chief and his friend poring with strong lenses over countless specimens and noting minute defects in the impression and the alignment of the letters and at last finding just one with all the defects in the first anonymous document. And then the triumph that must have irradiated his generally unspeaking features when they looked up the ownership of the machine and discovered that it belonged to his hated trade rival—a graduate of that famous institution which he despised—the Criminal Investigation Department!

So I sat and mused until the pangs of hunger drove me to look at my watch. It was past two and half my letters were not written. When I returned from lunch and was really getting down to work I heard my Chief's quick step on the stairs. He was radiant.

"Well?" I said, trying to conceal my excitement. "We have that man, ex-Inspector Waist cold. Personally, as I told you in my note, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, I had never any real doubt. What one has to go to in these cases is—who had a motive? Who had to scare me out of the country? Why, Waist, of course: I was cutting pretty deep into his business. All these cases that I've cleared up lately would have gone to him. But what Waist didn't know, and I did, was that the writing machine is more dangerous to use than a pen. You can disguise your handwriting, but you can't disguise the impression of dud type. That's how we got him."

"You found all the defects in the machine he had bought from the Victor Company?"

"Well, not all, but quite a number of them."

"Then the Broxton letter was from another person altogether?"

"Of course. There are hundreds of people at the same game. Why should Waist want to frighten Broxton?"

Somehow I did not feel satisfied. It was surely an extraordinary coincidence, if there were two distinct people at work, that both should be using machines with the same typographical defects. In real life such things do not happen. But I knew that it was useless to check Mr. Pepper when he was on the flowing tide of a discovery.

"What are you going to do?"

"Ah! Now you're talking, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. What am I going to do? You think that I am going to hand Waist over to the police, but I'm not going to do anything so wild as that. I am going to let him grill for a while. My friend at the Victor Company—a real representative American and a hustler like myself—has gone off to see this Mr. Waist, just to warn him that I have discovered everything and hear what he has to say about it, and in the meantime a man who controls the press in this country is just waiting for the word 'Go!' They will both be here within the hour."

While he was putting away his hat and coat I collected my papers to remove them to my own table, and there were the two letters addressed personally to me which I had left unopened in the excitement of the day. The first was a large envelope, containing the typescript of the letters I had dictated the previous day, and attached to them was a letter addressed to me in Miss Jekyll's handwriting, which I knew very well. There was no address.

Dear Mr. Meddleston-Jones (it ran),

I am sorry to tell you that I had to send for the doctor this evening and he thinks I am in for a long illness. He prescribes entire rest for at least three months, and therefore I have no choice but to resign my post with Mr. Pepper. I should not dream of asking for the four days' salary that is due to me as I have to leave without notice. I am sure it has been a pleasure to work with you.

Yours faithfully,

E. Jekyll.

The second letter was headed, "Broxton, Mills and Co., Importers and Exporters." It contained a long list of names and addresses and a short covering letter from "W. Broxton," as follows:

Dear Sir,

I enclose the list as per your request. The name of the typist I spoke of was E. Jekyll.

She never gave us her private address. Now, Mr. Pepper's first threatening letter had two peculiarities which Miss Jekyll herself had pointed out to me: the alignment of the "u" was bad and the capital "W" was crooked. I got out the carbon copies of some of our letters and found the same faults in all of them.

But the latest letters which Miss Jekyll had typed, including those enclosed in her letter of resignation, were quite free from those defects. The "u" was in perfect line, though the top of the letter seemed to have a piece broken off; the capital "W" was straight, though that character, too, seemed to have suffered from violent handling.

And then I remembered that Miss Jekyll had ample time to take her machine away with her to lunch on the day the first letter arrived; and so competent a typist might well have got to work upon the two offending characters with a pair of pliers, or whatever the typewriting people use when their old machines get out of alignment. Probably she did the deed in a teashop with the fork she had been using for her buttered bun and had chipped the type in her violence.

I had just made my discovery when there was a knock at the door and the Manager of the Victor shop announced himself.

Mr. Pepper hurried in from the laboratory.

"Well, Mr. Pepper. I guess we're on the right track. He denied it all right, but he turned the colour of a maple leaf in the fall and spluttered fit to bust himself."

"He would," said my Chief grimly. "He said you would hear from him—talked of his lawyer, but I could see plain enough that he was a beaten man."

"I can save you all further trouble, Mr. Pepper. The culprit was Miss Jekyll," and I showed him and his friend the proofs.

"Do you mean that she has two Victors?"

"No, only one. She took it out with her at lunch time and what that woman knows about monkeying with the type of a Victor would put the company's mechanic to the blush."

The two experts looked at one another without speaking. Then the Victor man slowly adjusted his hat and whistled.

"So long, Pep," he said before he closed the door behind him. My Chief was silent for quite two minutes. It was one of the characteristics of this remarkable man that his mind was open to every suggestion. He went to the telephone and asked for Mr. Waters, who conducted his business with the press.

"That you, Mr. Waters? You need not trouble to call round. We've fixed it. What? No, it was a damned woman, and we have decided against publicity. Yes, call it all off. Thank you. Bye-bye."

"You may be surprised to know, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, that I suspected Miss Jekyll from the very first, but it is one of the maxims in my profession never to take a rattlesnake by the tail. I intended to approach her gradually—by what is called the process of elimination. But it's damned awkward about Waist."

"And about Miss Harris. I suppose she has got a new machine for nothing."

"She has, but I can fix that out of the five hundred dollars this man Broxton has to pay. What he does to Miss Jekyll is no affair of ours. You may as well make out the account and tell him of my discovery while it's all fresh in your mind."


SOMETHING in his newspaper was engrossing my Chief when I came in the following day; and he did not hear me. I looked over his shoulder and guessed that it must be a paragraph headed "I.W.W."[*]

[* Industrial Workers of the World.]

It struck me that he was becoming dissatisfied with events in England, and that the mention of something more American had aroused old memories in him.

"Ah, good morning," he said perfunctorily. "I see that the I.W.W. means to take a hand in the affairs of this country. You will have your hands full if they do."

Now I knew something of the organization from a queer friend of mine, one Dunlop, who spent all his spare time in consorting with communists and foreign anarchists in Soho and the Docks. What he told them about himself I do not know, but they must have thought him a convert who might be useful, since they invited him to their meetings and gave him copies of all their literature. In 1919 he was about the only man in England who was not alarmed by the news that the United Kingdom had been divided into thirteen Soviets.

He said that he knew too much about his friends; that they were full of dislike for the bourgeoisie, which seemed to include everyone except themselves, but that they reserved the flower of their hatred for one another. He said that he could never see the leaders of the rival factions on the same platform without wondering which would knife the other first.

It was he who told me that two Americans had come over to form a branch of the I.W.W. in London long before the meaning of the initials dawned upon Fleet Street, and that they were bitterly disappointed to find how little money was to be made out of it. The British, they said, were all asleep, and they did not think it worth while to waste any more time upon them.

But according to this paragraph they were to hold a meeting in front of the American Embassy to demand the release of someone of whom no one in England had ever heard, and who must richly have deserved his fate, whatever it was.

"I've studied the I.W.W. closely for years," said my Chief. "They must have a meeting-place in this city. I would like to get into touch with them."

"If there is to be any secret meeting I can get advance information."

He became keenly interested.

"You can, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. Only let me know the time and the place, and you may safely leave the rest to me. I know their pass-words, and I will have them take me for one of the inner circle in Pittsburg."

I saw my eccentric friend, Dunlop, later in the day. He told me that there was to be a secret meeting at eight o'clock that very evening in an upper room in a certain Italian restaurant in Soho to settle the details of the projected demonstration, and that he himself intended to be present.

"If your American friend can get in," he said, "he must be a wonderful man. They are very suspicious of strangers."

"He is a wonderful man. If you are certain about the meeting he'll be there."

About four o'clock I told Mr. Pepper the news, and he became extraordinarily animated.

"Say, but you will have to take me to the restaurant right now," he said. "It won't do for me to go to the wrong place, and Soho is as full of restaurants as their beds are full of vermin."

We walked up the west side of Dean Street until we saw it and then returned to the office for fear of flushing the birds.

"Suppose they let you in, Mr. Pepper, what will you do?"

"There are several things I can do. I can sit close and listen and then do my duty as an American citizen by putting our Ambassador wise. He will report to Washington, and I'd be glad to have them know in Washington that I am not idling my time. Then one never knows but what it might get into the London newspapers—" I felt that I did know that it would—"or if John K. Reed is there I might go so far as to arrest him—"

"But you can't arrest a man here for something that he's done in another country."

"I know it, but John K. Reed won't make a song about it, and the newspapers will."

I grew more and more uneasy as I watched his preparations. He had changed his appearance considerably, and he now looked a revolutionary to the backbone, but I did not at all like the attention he paid to his pistol, testing the action and sliding the cartridge clip in and out.

"Surely you are not going to carry that thing in London?"

"This isn't London, Mr. Meddleston-Jones. If John K. Reed is going to be there it will be a little bit of the United States."

He would not let me accompany him, and I said nothing to him about Dunlop's invitation to me to see something of the fun, for it appeared that, after the secret meeting, sympathisers who were the friends of members were invited to a semi-public meeting to hear the objects of the I.W.W., so far as they themselves knew them. I was to dress in my oldest clothes and join Dunlop in Dean Street a little beyond the restaurant about nine. He would come out after the secret meeting to look for me. He was punctual to the minute.

"Such a time we've been having," he said as he took my arm, "but I thought you said your Yankee friend was to be there."

"Yes, wasn't he? Perhaps he was disguised as a waiter."

"We hadn't any waiters. That was the beginning of our troubles. There was another and more important dinner in a private room, so the whole strength of the establishment was turned on to that. A Cabinet Minister, they said. And the bottles that were carried into that room, and the noise they made was shameful—nearly as bad as the House of Commons. That set John K. Reed going. He wanted bottles, too, and there was no one to bring them, and the cooking was not worthy of the house. That a Cabinet Minister—a representative of the vicious idle rich—should grind the faces of the poor by depriving him of his drink kept him going for twenty minutes. Language? A grey parrot, educated in the forecastle is nothing beside my friend, John K. Reed, when roused. Now, here we are. Keep close behind me and don't say a word till we get into the room."

We went quietly up to the first floor, two steps at a time. There were rooms to the right and left of the narrow landing: Dunlop turned to the door on the right, and, as the other door opened for a hurrying waiter, I caught a glimpse of a well-known public man leaning forward in the act of telling a story. He reached the point as the door closed, for I heard a shout of laughter through the wooden door.

My friend gave a peculiar knock on the door opposite—two longs followed by three shorts, and the door opened a few inches. Satisfied by his scrutiny, the doorkeeper threw it open and admitted us. There was the debris of a dinner for six on the table, and the intervening space was filled with cane bottom chairs, which were not all occupied. There were eleven men in the room.

"Comrade Jones," said my friend, introducing me. "Pleased to meet you," said a florid gentleman, who looked as if he drank. "Call for what you like. There's no prohibition here."

The others looked as if they had called for what they liked more than once, but there was no one to call. A little hunchback volunteered to see what he could do, and he left the room with twelve orders stored in his memory.

While he was away the florid gentleman, whom I judged to be Mr. John K. Reed, began his speech.

The Industrial Workers of the World were out to make themselves felt; the day of the masters was past. They had sucked the blood of the workers, and they were now to be made to disgorge. This declaration of rights was repeated in half a dozen keys with pointed adjectives that are generally omitted in polite literature. There were comrades present who were for physical force. He, the speaker, submitted that the time was not yet ripe for that. At this stage in their development such tactics might recoil upon their own head. The mass of workers had to be educated....

He paused, for through the wall there penetrated the sound of a disturbance in the next room.

"The Police!" hissed a comrade with white lips.

I had heard the words, "John K. Reed, I arrest you in the name of the King of Britain!" I could not have been mistaken in the voice, though it was raised to a high pitch. There followed roar upon roar of laughter.

"He's drunk," roared one; "let's cool his head!"—and then—the sound of a struggle. Presently, "Look out! The little blighter's got a pistol. Drop it, you little fool; drop it, I say, or I'll have to hurt you "—and then a groan. "Lay him out on the table: let's have a look at him."

More struggling and the sound of breaking glass. "He's not pretty to look at, is he? Christmas! I believe he's a Hun. Look at the back of his head!"

I had to act and act quickly at the risk of compromising Dunlop with his Communist connection; but I was unduly anxious.

At the word "arrest," Mr. John K. Reed had stopped speaking and dived for his hat. He was the first of us to disappear unobtrusively into the street. The others listened for a moment and then moved for the door, as if to obtain a nearer view of the fun.

In three minutes there was nothing left of the I.W.W. but Dunlop, myself and the valiant hunchback, who seemed ready to take on the whole world. I ran out and threw open the door of the other dining-room.

Half a dozen men, rather flushed and dishevelled, were standing round the table, holding something down; and when my friend and I looked over their shoulders my fears were realized. It was my poor Chief, spluttering with fury, helpless, pinned down by exhilarated men who were laughing at him. And among them was a personage with whose features the illustrated press had made me familiar, but whom my poor Chief persisted in addressing as "John K. Reed."

"What shall we do with the little beggar?"

"Strip him to his shirt and turn him out in the street."

"Nonsense," said the statesman. "Let us find out who he is and why he calls me 'John K. Reed.' He seems to be an American."

"He's a Hun. Look at his head. And he was going to shoot one of us. Why not hand him over to the police."

I saw my Chief shudder and I intervened.

"I can explain who he is," I said. They turned and stared at me with the "Who are you?" air of Englishmen when someone takes a liberty with them.

"He is Mr. Pepper, the private detective. He intended to be at our dinner on the other side of the landing, but he appears to have got into the wrong room. John K. Reed was at the other dinner and it was John K. Reed that he was after."

"Who in Heaven's name is John K. Reed?"

"He is an American anarchist of the I.W.W."

"We seem to have got into pleasant company," remarked the statesman. "I ask you fellows to a dinner with the best cooking and the best wine in London, and this is what I let you in for."

"I thought you had arranged all this for our entertainment," said a grey-haired man—the only one of the statesman's guests who had taken no part in the rag. "Ah, here is Mein Host."

The Italian proprietor entered, washing his hands in invisible soap-suds, exuding apology from every pore. He had not authorized my Chief to be employed as a waiter.

"A damned bad waiter he was," murmured one of the guests: "he spilt the soup down the back of my neck."

"And when he was pouring wine with one hand the other poured, too—in sympathy—down my shirt front."

"Let him get up," said the legislator.

"Mr. Pepper, we owe you no apology. You had no right to come to my dining-room even by mistake. Detectives shouldn't make such mistakes. But before you go let me give you a word of advice. Don't carry pistols in London. We don't like them."

With his shirt front crumpled and his white tie under one ear, my Chief never lost his dignity. He slid off the table and retired—a man among them all. I helped him to adjust his clothes, found his overcoat and hat and took him home.

Probably I should not have referred to this painful incident again had not a garbled version of it leaked out. I heard that his intimates called the statesman "John K. Reed" for several weeks, and the busybodies told ridiculous stories to account for the nickname. I had to know the truth, and so from admissions by my Chief and the statements of the restaurant-keeper and the waiters I built up the story.

When my Chief arrived at the restaurant he sought a confidential interview with the proprietor, who took him for an officer from Scotland Yard—a bureau with which he wished to stand well. His knowledge of English was defective, and the one weak spot in my Chief's armour was his ignorance of foreign languages.

There was to be a dinner party that evening—John K. Reed, yes—distinguished man—yes—tall, dark, very distinguished—my Chief would wait at table—certainly—this is the head waiter. But he forgot to mention that there were two dinner-parties.

My Chief had caught mere flying gusts of conversation, principally about the food and the drink. That the party was in evening dress—"Tuxedo" he called it—was natural enough, for the foreign revolutionaries were naturally profuse in disguises.

He had heard his John K. Reed say, "If they dare to go to a division we shall beat them all along the line, but they won't dare. They'll throw stones and mud at us and then slink round the nearest corner." And one of the other men said, "We are ready for them. The Whips are ready: they can't take us by surprise "—and another, "It will be a revolution in tactics."

His heart beat high at hearing that revolution was planned for the next few days. And then, when John K. Reed said, "We are all agreed then. I will start the business and you will follow me," he felt that the hour had struck and he declared himself.

They were all amazed. Not a man reached for his hat or made for the door, as he expected: they only turned to him and stared. He had to repeat the words in a louder key. He knew that he had no power of arrest, but he counted on the proprietor to send for the police. And then—but I knew the rest.

"And now," he added in broken accents, "I look to you, Mr. Meddleston-Jones, to keep this out of the newspapers. If there were American reporters around there would be no hope, but you can bluff these English newspaper men. If my press agent comes round, kick him downstairs. I've done with this country: I'm going home."

Nothing would dissuade him. He cursed the country, its institutions and its cold attention to business; its irritating respect for the law; its foolish dislike of publicity.

"One does not live here," he said, "one mildews and rots. The United States is the only country for a live man. I'll sell you the business, goodwill and all, for a trifle."

It was thus that this man of genius was lost to this country. I was so sick at heart at the knowledge of what we were throwing away that I packed up my notes and resolved to touch no more crime mysteries, much as a man forswears drugs or drink.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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