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E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

RUNNING AWAY FROM MONEY

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RGL e-Book Cover 208

ILLUSTRATED BY FRANK WILES

First published in The Strand Magazine, London, December 1927
Reprinted in The Grand Magazine, London, April 1933

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-02-13
Produced by Francis Golding and Roy Glashan

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MR. MERRITHORN, the eminent Scotland Yard detective, commented upon his housekeeper's depression as she arranged his breakfast before him.

"What's the matter Mrs. Colson?"

"That oil, sir," she sighed.

"Oil?" Merrithorn repeated meditatively.

"Them shares, sir," the woman explained.

Merrithorn eyed her severely.

"Have you been foolish enough to buy oil shares, Mrs. Colson?" he asked.

"So to speak, I have, sir," the woman admitted, "though it was my son-in-law—Lena's husband, you know, Alf Morris—who persuaded me into it."

"How many?"

"Well, I gave a hundred pounds for them," Mrs. Colson confessed, "but the gentleman as let Alf have 'em begged him not to part with them under a thousand."

"Did he indeed?" her lodger murmured.

"But when I took 'em down to the bank," Mrs. Colson went on, "thinking that a loan of ten pounds until the week after next would be convenient, they laughed at me. 'What are they worth?' I asked Mr. Jackson. He's the head cashier there. 'Just about as much as the paper they're written on, Mrs. Colson,' he replied. And that was only yesterday afternoon."

"Bring me the shares," Merrithorn enjoined.

She brought him in a stiff and formal-looking document, beautifully lithographed. The detective looked it through with interest.

"I see you have taken shares in a trust formed for floating oil companies," he remarked, "not in any particular company."

"I took what I was advised, sir."

"Like to lend me these for the day?" he inquired. "I might see if there's anything to be done."


Illustration

"Like to lend me these for the day?" Merrithorn inquired.


"From all I can hear, I might as well give 'em to you," the woman acquiesced gloomily. "Wait till that Alf Morris comes home! I'll have a word or two with him!"


MERRITHORN folded the certificates up and placed them in the breast pocket of his coat. An hour or so later he sought an interview with Detective-Inspector Saunders, his immediate chief.

"Slack time, Merrithorn," the latter remarked.

"Nothing doing for the moment," the other admitted. "What about these oil-share men? They say that three of them got away with over seventy-thousand pounds last week."

"Quite true, I believe," the Inspector assented, irritably. "The worst of it is they're so devilish clever that they keep just inside the law, and so long as they do that we can't touch them."

Merrithorn unfolded his certificate.

"Just so," he agreed. "I looked in to see Mr. Sharp on my way down—our legal adviser on these matters. According to him, if they only sell shares in their trust for purchasing oil property, they are on the right side of the fence. Here's one, for instance. My poor landlady gave a hundred pounds for it. I shouldn't say that it was worth tuppence."

The Inspector held out his hand and glanced it through.

"Beautifully worded," he observed, as he folded it up and returned it. "Diabolically done! We can't stop people advancing money to a trust established for the purpose of looking for oil property. We could never prove that they didn't look for it, unless, of course, the thing got absurdly flagrant."

Merrithorn nodded.

"There's just one thing I got out of Mr. Sharp," he continued. "It seems that these blackguards can sit tight in their offices and sell as much scrip of this sort as they like. No one can touch 'em for a ha'penny, but—"

"Glad to know there is a 'but,'" the other muttered.

"But," Merrithorn went on thoughtfully, "if they were to sell shares in a property which had no existence, or a very poor existence—sell the shares on what might be termed false representation—then I think we might do something."

"I suppose so," the Inspector agreed. "On the other hand, so long as they can rope in all the money they want the way they are doing, why should they bother about running risks?"

"That must come to an end some time, though," Merrithorn pointed out. "The Montana Plains Trust—or whatever they call themselves—can't go on selling shares for ever and handing out no return. If you don't mind, I should like to look in and see these people—Marston and Moore, I think the name is. One never knows. Something might come of it."

"Go right ahead," the Inspector assented.


MERRITHORN'S reception at the offices of Messrs. Marston and Moore rather surprised him. These latter were situated on the top floor of an ancient block of buildings in one of the backwaters of Aldersgate. It was barely five o'clock when he arrived, but the place was almost deserted, and an office-boy opened the door for him with reluctance.

"Don't think anyone can see you," he announced. "Have you got an appointment?"

"Unfortunately not. My business is not likely to take long, however. Just hand my card in, there's a good boy."

A half-crown did the trick, and Merrithorn, transformed into Mr. John Burroughes of Wolverhampton, was ushered grudgingly into a very handsome inner office, which had a curious air, however, of being stripped of its furniture. At one desk sat an immaculately-attired young man, clean-shaven, with olive complexion, dark eyes set a little too close together, and a bunch of violets in his buttonhole. At the other end of the room a stout man of apparently trans-Atlantic origin was seated in his shirt-sleeves, smoking a long cigar. It was the younger gentleman who was holding the visitor's card.


Illustration

A stout man in his shirt-sleeves, smoking a long cigar.


"We have really finished business for the day, Mr. Burroughes," he said, warily. "What can we do for you?"

"I was thinking of a little speculation in oil," Burroughes confided. "Some friends of mine have made quite a great deal of money in it."

They looked at him critically, the young pallid-cheeked man with a face which somehow reminded one of a weasel, and the larger, good-tempered edition of a race-course bookmaker, who was scrutinizing him from a distance.

"Who recommended you?" the former asked.

"Well, I saw your advertisement first of all," Burroughes admitted, "then I talked to a man in a bus who had bought some shares from you and seemed very well satisfied."

The two partners exchanged glances. Probably a satisfied client was a person in whom they found it hard to believe. The large man with the cigar rose to his feet.

"My name's Moore," he announced. "I am from Canada. That's my partner, Marston, there. He's the Londoner. We're about through with our business for the present, Mr. Burroughes, until we can get hold of some more land. I'm off to the States in a day or two to see whether I can arrange something. You'd better come and see us when I return."

"Sold out, eh?" Mr. Burroughes remarked, with every evidence of disappointment.

The other nodded.

"Pretty nearly," he admitted. "You see, the company we really represent is the Montana Plains Trust Company. When we opened up here we had got a dozen very interesting oil propositions, but we've sold as many shares as we care to part with in these. People are beginning to realize," he went on, "that oil to-day spells fortune—fortune, sir with a big 'F.' There ain't any commodity in the world so badly needed. We've been lucky in our wells—free-gushers most of them. I wouldn't sell my own little share for a million dollars, and yet the whole lot together wouldn't supply the city of Chicago with the petrol she needs."

"You've nothing to offer me at all, then?" the visitor persisted.

"I don't know as we have," Mr. Moore regretted, eyeing him keenly.

"We've sold two hundred thousand shares the last four days," the young man interposed wearily. "We've even encroached upon our own holdings."

"If you have no shares to offer in the oil trust," Burroughes suggested, "I understand that you have interests in one or two other companies."

There was a moment's silence. Merrithorn was used to being scrutinised, but he felt that four eyes had never been turned upon him with so much critical and suspicious curiosity as during those few moments.

"There's the Little Crystal Springs," the young man reflected. "We're just putting them on the market. I really don't know that we're in a position though, to dispose of any of them at present. There's that block of a thousand of course," he added doubtfully, glancing across at his partner.

Mr. Moore shook his head, and went to the unusual length of removing his cigar from his mouth.

"Not a chance," he declared. "Andy's got to have those—passed my word."

"What price would they be?" the visitor asked. "Five shillings," Mr. Moore replied. "According to the terms of the covenant, we're not allowed to sell any at more than that until the flotation. Afterwards I imagine they'll be fifty-five or sixty-five shillings within a week."

"Why shouldn't I have, say, a thousand of them?" Merrithorn inquired.

The young man opened a handsome cigarette case, lit a cigarette, and reflected for a moment. Then he took up the telephone receiver.

"Give me Central 71302.—Right."

He waited, with the receiver in his hand.

"I don't think there's a chance, mind you," he went on, "but we might just ask one of our clients whether he objects to being a thousand short on his purchase. He's got ten thousand in with us already.—Hullo! Is that you, Anderson? Sam wants to speak to you."

He handed the receiver to his partner.

"I haven't got the nerve," he confessed. "You're a better bluffer than I am."

The large man took the receiver into his hand and bellowed.

"See here, Andy," he said, "you don't want the whole of that ten thousand Crystals.—You do, eh? Well, look here, be a pal. We put you in on the ground floor on everything; let's have a thousand of them. I told you at the time, if you remember, that I wanted to reserve two thousand for a special client.—No, it's no good talking like that. I could give you a profit on them, of course, but you know as well as I do we're not allowed to deal in them except at par before the floatation. I've got your scrip for these. Let me take out a thousand, and I'll put a cheque for two hundred and fifty in their place.—Oh, get out! I'm off to the States on Monday, and I'm bound to bring back something good. I'll let you in all right. We've got a new client here from the country I don't want to disappoint.—Yes, I don't mind standing you a bite of dinner. Trocadero, eight o'clock.—That's all right, then."

Mr. Moore set down the telephone receiver and beamed a smile of triumph across at his new client.

"Bit shirty, old Andy," he remarked. "A man worth the best part of a million, too. What's it matter to him whether he's a thousand or two of Crystal short? Make out your cheque, Mr. Burroughes. I'll hand over the scrip. They're bearer bonds, so you have nothing to worry about."

Merrithorn produced his pocket-book.

"I have brought notes," he confided.

The two men did their best to conceal their satisfaction. Marston counted the notes; his partner went carefully through a stiff, beautifully-lithographed packet of share certificates. The transaction was amicably concluded. The victim stuffed the certificates into his pocket.

"So you think these shares are likely to advance quickly?" he asked.

"They'll soar," was the confident reply.

"By the by, whereabouts is the property?" Merrithorn inquired.

"The Canadian took up a long cane and slapped a map of the United States a little lackadaisically.

"There you are, just under the bend," he pointed out. "Some two hundred miles south of the Utala River. We've got your address all right? Then good evening, Mr. Burroughes. Many congratulations!"

The latter departed with the scrip in his pocket. As he entered the lift a little sharp-faced man coming up eyed him keenly. The two partners were indulging in a hearty laugh when the door was burst open and the little man rushed in.

"Say, has that guy been here that's just come out?"

"Mr. Burroughes of Wolverhampton," Marston answered, with a grin. "Yes, he's just relieved us of two hundred and fifty pounds' worth of Little Crystals."

"You've sold him some shares?" the new-comer shrieked.

"Why, I guess so. What do you suppose we're here for?"

"You darned fools! Don't you know who he was?"

"Mr. Burroughes of Wolverhampton."

"You sucking birds! You jays! That was Merrithorn—Scotland Yard detective!"


MERRITHORN stepped into the wheezy automatic lift, found some difficulty in starting it, stopped once or twice on the way, but finally arrived on the ground floor. Just before he came to a standstill he had a vision of Moore, still in his shirt-sleeves, flying down the stairs, followed a short distance behind by Marston. Scenting trouble, Merrithorn buttoned up his coat, and was prepared to sprint for the door. The partners, however, were busy recovering their breath in front of him as he stepped out. He had a glimpse of a third person, a rather formidable-looking janitor, doing something to the front door.

"Mr. Burroughes, we want just a word with you," Marston said, ingratiatingly. "The fact of it is, in our anxiety to be of service to you we have committed a commercial blunder."

"Got ourselves into a darned hole," his partner put in. "We're looking to you to help us, Mr. Burroughes."

"But what can I do?"

"It's like this," the Canadian explained. "Those shares we sold you were promised to another man. You heard us arguing with him over the telephone. He's just rung up again, and he won't listen to a darned word we have to say. He insists upon having the shares, and I am afraid he has a right to them. Here are your notes, Mr. Burroughes. I guess I'll have to ask you to let us have the shares back. I'll put you on to something equally good in a few days' time."

Mr. Burroughes looked at the notes, but made no attempt to take them. Moore, who was still blowing very hard, sat upon a wooden bench and left the discussion momentarily to his partner.

"I'm sorry," Merrithorn regretted, "but I am afraid I can't be responsible for your mistake, if you have made one. You sold me the shares all right, and I paid you the money."

"Here's your money," Mr. Marston persisted eagerly. "You aren't being robbed. Count it. There it is—two hundred and fifty pounds. You hand over the shares, and there's no harm done."

Merrithorn showed no signs of being prepared to hand over the shares, nor did he make any movement to take back the notes. Looking hard at them, it occurred to him that the marking, considering it had been done in one of the departments of Scotland Yard which existed for that purpose, was a little clumsy.

"I am sorry, Mr. Marston," he said—and somehow his voice sounded a great deal more incisive and decided than the voice of Mr. Burroughes. "No need to waste your time. I have the shares, and I've paid for them. I propose to keep them."

"To keep them?" Marston repeated, blankly.

"Precisely."

"Look here," the Canadian—who had now recovered his breath—interposed, "just you step upstairs with us for a minute, Mr. Burroughes. We'll open a bottle of wine and discuss this matter in a reasonable spirit."

Merrithorn smiled.

"I think not," he decided. "There's really nothing to discuss, and however good your wine may be, I am afraid I am not likely to change my mind. I won't detain you any longer."

He moved down the passage. Neither of the partners made any effort to stop him. When he reached the great front door, however, and tried the handle, he found it locked. He turned around.

"A hold-up, I imagine," he remarked, coolly.

"I reckon you fellows who get poking your noses into other people's business find a bit of trouble of that sort some time or other, don't you?" Moore observed, truculently.

"We do," Merrithorn confessed, "which is precisely why we go about prepared for it."

His hand had stolen into his hip pocket, and his small, flat automatic flashed out. Moore looked at it curiously.

"My," he observed, "it's quite a time since I saw one of those things. Didn't know they was fashionable across on this side."

"They talk just the same language," Merrithorn assured him.

"What have you got on us, anyway?" the Canadian demanded.

"Nothing except suspicions at present," Merrithorn acknowledged. "All the same, there are too many of you fellows over here selling oil shares and robbing the poor. The trouble of it is, most of you keep just within the law. A trust company is always a little difficult to deal with, isn't it, Mr. Marston? I expect you've gone into that pretty thoroughly. The sale of shares in an absolutely defunct or non-existent mine, however, is a swindle, and somehow or other I haven't a great deal of confidence in the Little Crystal Springs. That's why I bought these shares and paid for them. Mind how you try to cash the notes, by the way, for they're all marked. There's a slight legal formality to be gone through, I admit. When that is over, I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you two in the dock."

"If we ever get to the dock," Moore said, menacingly, "it will be for something a trifle more serious than selling worthless shares."

He looked up the lift shaft, and raised his hand to the side of his mouth.

"Jennings!" he bellowed. "Jennings! Come right down!"

There is no doubt that here Merrithorn was very much at fault. So far he had conducted his mission along the recognised lines, and was without a doubt top dog, but when he too leaned a little forward to watch the shaft and stairs, he committee a grave blunder. He heard nothing of the cautious opening of the door behind him. In fact, the next thing he remembered was a violent blow upon the elbow which sent his automatic clattering to the ground, and a pair of exceedingly strong arms holding him in a most unpleasant grip.

"We don't want any rough-house business," Marston remarked, stepping forward and picking up the automatic. "We don't wish you any harm—Mr.—Merrithorn, isn't it? You came here all in the way of business, I suppose—your business—and we don't bear you any grudge, but you see we've got to look after ourselves. We know your game all right, and we don't like it. In fact, to tell you the truth, if you'd called to-morrow or even an hour later this evening you'd have been a trifle late for us. As it is, there's ten minutes' clearing up in the office for us, and then—skedaddle, eh?"

"What am I to do with the tec?" Jennings demanded, as the head of the firm, having touched the bell push, stood waiting for the descent of the lift.

"You'll keep him here for precisely three hours," Marston directed, glancing at his watch. "Treat him kindly. There are still a few bottles of wine upstairs, if he needs a drink. You know where the key is. We shall go out the back way."

"Good luck to you, guv'nors!" Jennings observed, with a parting salute as he watched them step into the lift.

"Thank you," the Canadian responded. "And good evening to you, Mr. Merrithorn. No ill feeling, I hope. All in the game, you know. Jennings will give you back your gun when you leave. A pretty little weapon, but across the pond our men have learned to have eyes in the back of their heads. Makes you feel a tiny bit silly, don't it, to be put out of court like that? Never mind. Better luck next time!"

"You're an amiable pair of scoundrels," Merrithorn remarked, coolly. "Next time we meet I may have a few more things to say."

Moore grinned at him pleasantly.

"I ain't so sure, Merrithorn," he confided, "that we're likely to meet again just yet. You see, there's no extradition for milking boobs and suckers."

"Law of nature, you know, and all that," Marston put in, as he closed the gate. "Brains will tell in this world."

The lift shot up with a further little chorus of ironic farewells. Jennings, whose grip was still most unpleasant, chuckled audibly.

"I say, guv'nor," he observed, as the lift disappeared, "I've got your little gun handy, and if ever you goes to the second-class nights at the Albert Hall, or down to Penton Hall in Bermondsey, you may recognize me. I fought Billy Regan for the middle-weight championship three years ago."

"I knew I'd seen you somewhere before," the detective reflected.

"Well, what about giving yer parole, guv'nor? Ain't that the right word? You look an honest little chap. Tell me straight that you'll wait for the three hours without trying any monkey tricks, and we'll sit down together comfortable and have a yarn."

Merrithorn considered the situation. Even if the key of the front door were in his companion's possession, he saw very slight chance of getting it, and the geography of the rest of the premises was unknown to him. He accepted the inevitable.

"All right," he agreed. "I promise I'll be quiet for the three hours."

Merrithorn, who was still a little out of breath, sat down upon the form, the janitor took a place beside him and filled his pipe. Merrithorn produced his cigarette case.

"That's a downy pair, them, sir," Jennings remarked, with a note of unconcealed admiration in his tone. "My, they've took some money, too! Up till a few days ago you should have seen the streams of silly people, all so polite to me, too, and often sixpence or a shilling for taking them up to be plucked. A few days ago, though, after them articles in the papers, things did begin to change. We began to get some of them back again, asking nasty, inquisitive questions, and wanting the firm to return their money. They were quite right, them two. It was time they did their bunk. There was a lawyer here to-day, and pretty hard work they had to get rid of him."

"Aren't you rather afraid you may get into trouble yourself, being connected with an establishment like this?" Merrithorn asked him.

"I ain't done nothing wrong, guv'nor," the janitor pointed out. "I don't understand no more about buying and selling shares than the man in the moon. All I've had to do is to take names in and show 'em how to work the lift. I won't deny," he went on, "that I was chose for the job in case anyone came along that turned out quarrelsome, but so far there ain't been no disturbance, and this is the first bit of a scrap I've had, and this don't count. No, I ain't expecting to find any trouble, sir, and however hard them two may have been on the suckers, they've done me well. They've left me a bit better off than ever I was before. There they go," he added, after a moment's pause, as a door in the distance slammed. "Now we're alone in the building three mortal hours."

"Have we got to sit here all the time?" Merrithorn asked, significantly.

"Every blooming second," was the brutal reply. "Put your feet up, guv'nor, and make up your mind to it."

Merrithorn counted his cigarettes, produced an evening paper from his pocket, and made himself as comfortable as he could. It was three hours to the tick before Jennings, with a grinning good-night, swung open the door and let him out.


MERRITHORN, with Superintendent Ingram and one plain clothes man, took possession of the premises the following morning without any opposition. Jennings, in fact, seemed disposed to offer them all the assistance possible.

"You haven't seen either of your employers this morning, I suppose?" Merrithorn asked.

There was a little twinkle in the man's deep inset eyes.

"No, sir; nor, if you ask me, it ain't likely," he replied. "There was two steamers as left for the States early this morning, and I should reckon they're safe enough on one of them."

"You had better wait whilst we look through things," Merrithorn directed.

"I don't reckon you'll find much, guv'nor," the man predicted, taking a chair.


"IT'S a clean-up all right," the superintendent grumbled, as drawer after drawer was opened in vain.

The search continued unsuccessfully. There was a vast pile of torn papers about, but nothing of any significance or interest. The safe, which responded without the slightest difficulty to a little technical treatment, was empty except for great bundles of dusty parchment tied up with tape—all share certificates of different denominations in the Little Crystal Springs.

"Where did all this rubbish come from?" Merrithorn asked, looking round.

"They brought it here in a truck, sir," Jennings confided. "The guv'nor bought the lot from a friend in the same way of business who was going back to the States in a hurry. He gave five bob a packet for them. He used to say it was good policy to have a few real share certificates to show as well as the trust papers. It was trust shares he sold most, though."

"Naturally," the superintendent muttered. "Everyone who runs a swindle does it that way. A trust may mean anything."

Merrithorn leaned back in his chair.

"Well," he said, "I am afraid it's a clean-up. There isn't a bank book, cheque book, or a single book of accounts—nothing left except this muck and the furniture."


THE telephone on the table tinkled. Merrithorn took off the receiver.

"Jobson speaking," a voice said cautiously. "Is that Marston and Moore?"

"It is."

"Either of the governors in?"

"Not just at present."

There was something at the other end of the telephone which sounded very much like an oath.

"Where are they?"

"We don't know," Merrithorn replied. "They haven't arrived at the office yet."

"Will you give them a message when they come in?"

"Certainly"

They bought a whole dollop of waste paper from me some months ago—waste-paper bonds and certificates," the voice went on. "Marston told me the other day that they'd done nothing with them. I'd as lief have them back again. He gave me a tenner for the lot. He can have his money back."

"Why do you want them?" Merrithorn inquired.

"A trifle inquisitive, aren't you?" was the irritated reply. I've found a use for them, that's all. They're worth an extra fiver—not a penny more. If George Marston wants to part, tell him to ring me up, if not, it don't matter."

"Fifteen pounds for this hundredweight or so of certificates," Merrithorn reflected, as he hung up the receiver. "Give me the telephone book, Ingram."

The superintendent passed it across. Merrithorn turned over the pages, found the name he wanted, and rang up a friend on the Stock Exchange.

"Cardrew," he asked, "you deal in oils, don't you?"

"Not more than I can help. It's a rotten uncertain market, anyway. Do you want to buy any? My advice to you is, don't."

"I don't want to buy any," Merrithorn replied, "but I wondered if you could give me any information. Was there ever a company called the Little Crystal Springs?"

There was a short laugh at the other end of the telephone.

"A sort of a one, I imagine."

"Have they any land?"

"Well, I'll tell you about them if you want to know. They're part of the great swindle of six years ago, when some of those fellows from the other side came and cleaned up about half a million. The Little Crystal Springs, as they call themselves, are situated where not a drop of oil has ever been found or ever will be. They stuck up an old second-hand shaft, they threw a bit of earth around as though they'd been boring, and they have just as much chance of finding oil there as diamonds. That was years ago."

"You wouldn't say the shares have any value, then?" Merrithorn persisted.

"I wouldn't give a farthing a share for them," was the contemptuous reply. "There's never been oil within a hundred miles of that district, and never will be."

"Much obliged," Merrithorn replied, and rang off.

"No use wasting our time here, I'm afraid," Superintendent Ingram remarked. "We'd better get back and make our report."

"There's a dozen or so people downstairs trying to get in," Jennings observed.

"I'll write out a notice to say the place is in the hands of the police," Merrithorn decided, taking out a fountain pen.


SUDDENLY there was a knock at the door. Jennings looked up in surprise. A stout, red-faced little man came hurrying in. He looked around him in amazement.

"Why, it's Mr. Jobson!" Jennings exclaimed, in friendly fashion. "How did you get here, sir?"

"By the back way," the little man answered. "What's all this?"

"The place is in the hands of the police," Merrithorn told him. "What do you want, sir?"

"Just a bit of my property, that's all," was the anxious reply. "I let George Marston have a hundredweight or so of waste paper to decorate the place with. I want it back again."

The detective took up a packet of the shares.

"This is what you mean, I suppose?"

Mr. Jobson nodded. He was doing his best to appear casual but it was difficult.

"That's it," he admitted. "They're worth a trifle for waste paper, and I am willing to pay it. You won't have any objection to my taking them away?"

Merrithorn shook his head.

"Not even a penholder can leave this office, Mr. Jobson," he pronounced. "As a matter of form, a receiver will be in possession of the premises to-morrow. If there is anything worth selling or parting with you can deal with him. It isn't our business."

Mr. Jobson pleaded, but in vain. He left the room reluctantly, but almost as he closed the door he reopened it and appeared again.

"Look here," he confided, "I'll admit I'm in a hole about that muck. It don't belong to me, and I oughtn't to have sold it. What about a hundred pounds apiece for you two, and mum's the word."

Merrithorn frowned at him sternly.

"Mr. Jobson," he said, "you have had your answer. Nothing will leave this office unless authorized by the receiver. Good-morning."

A crestfallen dealer in high-class stocks and shares took his leave. Merrithorn carefully locked all the dusty packets away in the safe.

"They can't be worth anything," he observed, "but one may as well make sure."


>NEW OIL AREA DISCOVERED IN TEXAS.
GREAT RUSH OF PROSPECTORS.
WASTE-LAND WORTH MILLIONS."


MERRITHORN and Ingram read the news on the placards as they made their way back to Scotland Yard. Marston and Moore read it on the wireless sheets of their Westward-bound steamer, and were crazy men for two days until the great elucidation came to them, whereupon they travelled out to Texas, verified their claim, returned to England, declared a dividend on the Montana Plains Trust Company, under whose auspices they announced that the Little Crystal Springs had been acquired, were exceedingly hurt when anyone hinted at anything in the shape of shady business in the past, talked loudly of a prosecution of the police for entering their premises, and became finally more or less respectable financiers of the City of London.


MERRITHORN'S housekeeper sold her holdings in the Montana Plains Trust Company for a sum larger than her savings of a lifetime, and the Police Orphanage benefited by an unexpected grant of four thousand pounds, the proceeds of the sale of one thousand Little Crystal Springs. Scotland Yard, however, looked upon the whole thing as a disaster.

"The sharks have got us now," Detective-Inspector Saunders grumbled. "We'll never be able to prove that anything's a swindle."

Merrithorn was more sanguine, though a little cynical.

"They may last a little longer, but they'll end with us," he prophesied.


THE END


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