Bull-dog Drummond/Chapter 12
IN WHICH THE LAST ROUND TAKES PLACE
It was during the next hour or two that the full value of Mr. Jerome K. Green as an acquisition to the party became apparent. Certain other preparations in honour of Peterson's arrival were duly carried out, and then arose the question of the safe in which the all-important ledger was kept.
"There it is," said Drummond, pointing to a heavy steel door flush with the wall, on the opposite side of the room to the big one containing Lakington's ill-gotten treasure. "And it doesn't seem to me that you're going to open that one by pressing any buttons in the wall."
"Then, Captain," drawled the American, "I guess we'll open it otherwise. It's sure plumb easy. I've been getting gay with some of the household effects, and this bar of soap sort of caught my eye."
From his pocket he produced some ordinary yellow soap, and the others glanced at him curiously.
"I'll just give you a little demonstration," he continued, "of how our swell cracksmen over the water open safes when the owners have been so tactless as to remove the keys."
Dexterously he proceeded to seal up every crack in the safe door with the soap, leaving a small gap at the top unsealed. Then round that gap he built what was to all intents and purposes a soap dam.
"If any of you boys," he remarked to the intent group around him, "think of taking this up as a means of livelihood, be careful of this stuff." From another pocket he produced an india-rubber bottle. "Don't drop it on the floor if you want to be measured for your coffin. There'll just be a boot and some bits to bury."
The group faded away, and the American laughed.
"Might I ask what it is?" murmured Hugh politely from the neighbourhood of the door.
"Sure thing, Captain," returned the detective, carefully pouring some of the liquid into the soap dam. "This is what I told you I'd got—gelignite; or, as the boys call it, the oil. It runs right round the cracks of the door inside the soap." He added a little more, and carefully replaced the stopper in the bottle. "Now a detonator and a bit of fuse, and I guess we'll leave, the room."
"It reminds one of those dreadful barbarians the Sappers, trying to blow up things," remarked Toby, stepping with, some agility into the garden; and a moment or two later the American joined them.
"It may be necessary to do it again," he announced, and as he spoke the sound of a dull explosion came from inside the house. "On the other hand," he continued, going back into the room and quietly pulling the safe door open, "it may not. There's your book, Captain."
He calmly relit his cigar as if safe opening was the most normal undertaking, and Drummond lifted out the heavy ledger and placed it on the table.
"Go out in relays, boys," he said to the group of men by the door, "and get your breakfasts. I'm going to be busy for a bit."
He sat down at the table and began to turn the pages. The American was amusing himself with the faked Chinese cabinet; Toby and Peter sprawled in two chairs, unashamedly snoring. And after a while the detective put down the cabinet, and coming over, sat at Drummond's side.
Every page contained an entry—sometimes half a dozen—of the same type, and as the immensity of the project dawned on the two men their faces grew serious.
"I told you he was a big man, Captain," remarked the American, leaning back in his chair and looking at the open book through half-closed eyes.
"One can only hope to Heaven that we're in time," returned Hugh. "Damn it, man," he exploded, "surely the police must know of this!"
The American closed his eyes still more.
"Your English police know most things," he drawled, "but you've sort of got some peculiar laws in your country. With us, if we don't like a man—something happens. He kind o' ceases to sit up and take nourishment. But over here, the more scurrilous he is, the more he talks bloodshed and riot, the more constables does he get to guard him from catching cold."
The soldier frowned.
"Look at this entry here," he grunted. "That blighter is a Member of Parliament. What's he getting four payments of a thousand pounds for?"
"Why, surely, to buy some nice warm under-clothes with," grinned the detective. Then he leaned forward and glanced at the name. "But isn't he some pot in one of your big trade unions?"
"Heaven knows," grunted Hugh. "I only saw the blighter once, and then his shirt was dirty." He turned over a few more pages thoughtfully. "Why, if these are the sums of money Peterson has blown, the man must have spent a fortune. Two thousand pounds to Ivolsky. Incidentally, that's the bloke who had words with the whatnot on the stairs."
In silence they continued their study of the book. The whole of England and Scotland had been split up into districts, regulated by population rather than area, and each district appeared to be in charge of one director. A varying number of sub-districts in every main division had each their sub-director and staff, and at some of the names Drummond rubbed his eyes in amazement. Briefly, the duties of every man were outlined: the locality in which his work lay, his exact responsibilities, so that overlapping was reduced to a minimum. In each case the staff was small, the work largely that of organisation. But in each district there appeared ten or a dozen names of men who were euphemistically described as lecturers; while at the end of the book there appeared nearly fifty names—both of men and women—who were proudly denoted as first-class general lecturers. And if Drummond had rubbed his eyes at some of the names on the organising staffs, the first-class general lecturers deprived him of speech.
"Why," he spluttered after a moment, "a lot of these people's names are absolute household words in the country. They may be swine—they probably are. Thank God! I've very rarely met any; but they ain't criminals."
"No more is Peterson," grinned the American; "at least not on that book. See here, Captain, it's pretty clear what's happening. In any country to-day you've got all sorts and conditions of people with more wind than brain. They just can't stop talking, and as yet it's not a criminal offence. Some of 'em believe what they say, like Spindle-shanks upstairs; some of 'em don't. And if they don't, it makes 'em worse: they start writing as well. You've got clever men, intellectual men—look at some of those guys in the first-class general lecturers—and they're the worst of the lot. Then you've got another class—the men with the business brain, who think they're getting the sticky end of it, and use the talkers to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them. And the chestnuts, who are the poor blamed decent working-men, are promptly dropped in the ash-pit to keep 'em quiet. They all want something for nothing, and I guess it can't be done. They all think they're fooling one another, and what's really going at the moment is that Peterson is fooling the whole bunch. He wants all the strings in his hands, and it looks to me as if he'd got 'em there. He's got the money—and we know where he got it from; he's got the organisation—all either red-hot revolutionaries, or intellectual windstorms, or calculating knaves. He's amalgamated 'em, Captain; and the whole blamed lot, whatever they may think, are really working for him."
Drummond, thoughtfully, lit a cigarette.
"Working towards a revolution in this country," he remarked quietly.
"Sure thing," answered the American. "And when he brings it off, I guess you won't catch Peterson for dust. He'll pocket the boodle, and the boobs will stew in their own juice. I guessed it in Paris; that book makes it a certainty. But it ain't criminal. In a Court of Law he could swear it was an organisation for selling bird-seed."
For a while Drummond smoked in silence, while the two sleepers shifted uneasily in their chairs. It all seemed so simple in spite of the immensity of the scheme. Like most normal Englishmen, politics and labour disputes had left him cold in the past; but no one who ever glanced at a newspaper could be ignorant of the volcano that had been simmering just beneath the surface for years past.
"Not one in a hundred"—the American's voice broke into his train of thought—"of the so-called revolutionary leaders in this country are disinterested, Captain. They're out for Number One, and when they've talked the boys into bloody murder, and your existing social system is down-and-out, they'll be the leaders in the new one. That's what they're playing for—power; and when they've got it, God help the men who gave it to 'em."
Drummond nodded, and lit another cigarette. Odd things he had read recurred to him: trade unions refusing to allow discharged soldiers to join them; the reiterated threats of direct action. And to what end?
A passage in a part of the ledger evidently devoted to extracts from the speeches of the first-class general lecturers caught his eye:
"To me, the big fact of modern life is the war between classes…. People declare that the method of direct action inside a country will produce a revolution. I agree … it involves the creation of an army…."
And beside the cutting was a note by Peterson in red ink: "An excellent man! Send for protracted tour."
The note of exclamation appealed to Hugh; he could see the writer's tongue in his cheek as he put it in.
"It involves the creation of an army…." The words of the intimidated rabbit came back to his mind. "The man of stupendous organising power, who has brought together and welded into one the hundreds of societies similar to mine, who before this have each, on their own, been feebly struggling towards the light. Now we are combined, and our strength is due to him."
In other words, the army was on the road to completion, an army where ninety per cent of the fighters—duped by the remaining ten—would struggle blindly towards a dim, half-understood goal, only to find out too late that the whip of Solomon had been exchanged for the scorpion of his son….
"Why can't they be made to understand, Mr. Green?" he cried bitterly. "The working-man—the decent fellow—"
The American thoughtfully picked his teeth.
"Has anyone tried to make 'em understand, Captain? I guess I'm no intellectual guy, but there was a French writer fellow—Victor Hugo—who wrote something that sure hit the nail in the head. I copied it out, for it seemed good to me." From his pocket-book he produced a slip of paper. "'The faults of women, children, servants, the weak, the indigent, and the ignorant are the faults of husbands, father, masters, the strong, the rich, and the learned.' Wal!" he leaned back in his chair, "there you are. Their proper leaders have sure failed them, so they're running after that bunch of cross-eyed skaters. And sitting here, watching 'em run, and laughing fit to beat the band, is your pal, Peterson!"
It was at that moment that the telephone bell rang, and after a slight hesitation Hugh picked up the receiver.
"Very well," he grunted, after listening for a while "I will tell him."
He replaced the receiver and turned to the American.
"Mr. Ditchling will be here for the meeting at two, and Peterson will be late," he announced slowly.
"What's Ditchling when he's at home?" asked the other.
"One of the so-called leaders," answered Hugh briefly turning over the pages of the ledger. "Here's his dossier, according to Peterson. 'Ditchling, Charles. Good speaker; clever; unscrupulous. Requires big money; worth it. Drinks.'"
For a while they stared at the brief summary, and then the American burst into a guffaw of laughter.
"The mistake you've made, Captain, in this county is not giving Peterson a seat in your Cabinet. He'd have the whole caboose eating out of his hand; and if you paid him a few hundred thousands a year, he might run straight and grow pigs as a hobby…."
It was a couple of hours later that Hugh rang up his rooms in Half Moon Street. From Algy, who spoke to him, he gathered that Phyllis and her father were quite safe, though the latter was suffering in the manner common to the morning after. But he also found out another thing—that Ted Jerningham had just arrived with the hapless Potts in tow, who was apparently sufficiently recovered to talk sense. He was still weak and dazed, but no longer imbecile.
"Tell Ted to bring him down to The Elms at once," ordered Hugh. "There's a compatriot of his here, waiting to welcome him with open arms."
"Potts is coming, Mr. Green," he said, putting down the receiver. "Our Hiram C. And he's talking sense. It seems to me that we may get a little light thrown on the activities of Mr. Rocking and Herr Steinemann, and the other bloke."
The American nodded slowly.
"Von Gratz," he said. "I remember his name now. Steel man. Maybe you're right, Captain, and that he knows something; anyway, I guess Hiram C. Potts and I stick closer than brothers till I restore him to the bosom of his family."
But Mr. Potts, when he did arrive, exhibited no great inclination to stick close to the detective; in fact, he showed the greatest reluctance to enter the house at all. As Algy had said, he was still weak and dazed, and the sight of the place where he had suffered so much produced such an effect on him that for a while Hugh feared he was going to have a relapse. At length, however, he seemed to get back his confidence, and was persuaded to come into the central room.
"It's all right, Mr. Potts," Drummond assured him over and over again. "Their gang is dispersed, and Lakington is dead. We're all friends here now. You're quite safe. This is Mr. Green, who has come over from New York especially to find you and take you back to your family."
The millionaire stared in silence at the detective, who rolled his cigar round in his mouth.
"That's right, Mr. Potts. There's the little old sign." He threw back his coat, showing the police badge, and the millionaire nodded. "I guess you've had things humming on the other side, and if it hadn't been for the Captain here and his friends they'd be humming still."
"I am obliged to you, sir," said the American, speaking for the first time to Hugh. The words were slow and hesitating, as if he was not quite sure of his speech. "I seem to remember your face," he continued, "as part of the awful nightmare I've suffered the last few days—or is it weeks? I seem to remember having seen you, and you were always kind."
"That's all over now, Mr. Potts," said Hugh gently.
"You got into the clutches of the most infernal gang of swine, and we've been trying to get you out again." He looked at him quietly. "Do you think you can remember enough to tell us what happened at the beginning? Take your time," he urged. "There's no hurry."
The others drew nearer eagerly, and the millionaire passed his hand dazedly over his forehead.
"I was stopping at the Carlton," he began, "with Granger, my secretary. I sent him over to Belfast on a shipping deal and—" He paused and looked round the group. "Where is Granger?" he asked.
"Mr. Granger was murdered in Belfast, Mr. Potts," said Drummond quietly, "by a member of the gang that kidnapped you."
"Murdered! Jimmy Granger murdered!" He almost cried in his weakness. "What did the swine want to murder him for?"
"Because they wanted you alone," explained Hugh. "Private secretaries ask awkward questions."
After a while the millionaire recovered his composure, and with many breaks, and pauses the slow, disjointed story continued.
"Lakington! That was the name of the man I met at the Carlton. And then there was another … Peter … Peterson. That's it. We all dined together, I remember, and it was after dinner, in my private sitting-room, that Peterson put up his proposition to me…. It was a suggestion that he thought would appeal to me as a business man. He said—what was it?—that he could produce a gigantic syndicalist strike in England—revolution, in fact; and that as one of the biggest ship-owners—the biggest, in fact—outside this country, I should be able to capture a lot of the British carrying trade. He wanted two hundred and fifty thousand pounds to do it, paid one month after the result was obtained. … Said there were others in it. …"
"On that valuation," interrupted the detective thoughtfully, "it makes one million pounds sterling," and Drummond nodded. "Yes, Mr. Potts; and then?"
"I told him," said the millionaire, "that he was an infernal scoundrel, and that I'd have nothing whatever to do with such a villainous scheme. And then—almost the last thing I can remember—I saw Peterson look at Lakington. Then they both sprang on me, and I felt something prick my arm. And after that I can't remember anything clearly. Your face, sir"—he turned to Drummond—"comes to me out of a kind of dream; and yours, too," he added to Darrell. "But it was like a long, dreadful nightmare, in which vague things, over which I had no power, kept happening, until I woke up late last night in this gentleman's house." He bowed to Ted Jerningham, who grinned cheerfully.
"And mighty glad I was to hear you talking sense again, sir," he remarked. "Do you mean to say you have no recollection of how you got there?"
"None, sir; none," answered the millionaire. "It was just part of a dream."
"It shows the strength of the drug those swine used on you," said Drummond grimly. "You went there in an aeroplane, Mr. Potts."
"An aeroplane!" cried the other in amazement. "I don't remember it. I've got no recollection of it whatever. There's only one other thing that I can lay hold of, and that's all dim and muzzy…. Pearls. … A great rope of pearls…. I was to sign a paper; and I wouldn't…. I did once, and then there was a shot, and the light went out, and the paper disappeared…."
"It's at my bank at this moment, Mr. Potts," said Hugh; "I took that paper, or part of it, that night."
"Did you?" The millionaire looked at him vaguely. "It was to promise them a million dollars when they had done what they said…. I remember that…. And the pearl necklace…. The Duchess of…" He paused and shook his head wearily.
"The Duchess of Lampshire's?" prompted Hugh.
"That's it," said the other. "The Duchess of Lampshire's. It was saying that I wanted her pearls, I think, and would ask no questions as to how they were got."
The detective grunted.
"Wanted to incriminate you properly, did they? Though it seems to me that it was a blamed risky game. There should have been enough money from the other three to run the show without worrying you, when they found you weren't for it."
"Wait," said the millionaire, "that reminds me. Before they assaulted me at the Carlton, they told me the others wouldn't come in unless I did."
For a while there was silence, broken at length by Hugh.
"Well, Mr. Potts, you've had a mouldy time, and I'm very glad it's over. But the person you've got to thank for putting us fellows on to your track is a girl. If it hadn't been for her, I'm afraid you'd still be having nightmares."
"I would like to see her and thank her," said the millionaire quickly.
"You shall," grinned Hugh. "Come to the wedding; it will be in a fortnight or thereabouts."
"Wedding!" Mr. Potts looked a little vague.
"Yes! Mine and hers. Ghastly proposition, isn't it?"
"The last straw," remarked Ted Jeningham. "more impossible man as a bridegroom would be hard to think of. But in the meantime I pinched half a dozen of the old man's Perrier Jonet 1911 and put 'em in the car. What say you?"
"Say!" snorted Hugh. "Idiot boy! Does one speak on such occasions?"
And it was so….
"What's troubling me," remarked Hugh later, "is what to do with Carl and that sweet girl Irma."
The hour for the meeting was drawing near, and though no one had any idea as to what sort of a meeting it was going to be, it was obvious that Peterson would be one of the happy throng.
"I should say the police might now be allowed a look in," murmured Darrell mildly. "You can't have the man lying about the place after you're married."
"I suppose not," answered Drummond regretfully. "And yet it's a dreadful thing to finish a little show like this with the police—if you'll forgive my saying so, Mr. Green."
"Sure thing," drawled the American. "But we have our uses, Captain, and I'm inclined to agree with your friend's suggestion. Hand him over along with his book, and they'll sweep up the mess."
"It would be an outrage to let the scoundrel go," said the millionaire fiercely. "The man Lakington you say is dead; there's enough evidence to hang this brute as well. What about my secretary in Belfast?"
But Drummond shook his head.
"I have my doubts, Mr. Potts, if you'd be able to bring that home to him. Still, I can quite understand your feeling rattled with the bird." He rose and stretched himself; then he glanced at his watch. "It's time you all retired, boys; the party ought to be starting soon. Drift in again with the lads, the instant I ring the bell."
Left alone Hugh made certain once again that he knew the right combination of studs on the wall to open the big door which concealed the stolen store of treasure—and other things as well; then, lighting a cigarette, he sat down and waited.
The end of the chase was in sight, and he had determined it should be a fitting end, worthy of the chase itself—theatrical, perhaps, but at the same time impressive. Something for the Ditchlings of the party to ponder on in the silent watches of the night…. Then the police—it would have to be the police, he admitted sorrowfully—and after that, Phyllis.
And he was just on the point of ringing up his flat to tell her that he loved her, when the door opened and a man came in. Hugh recognised him at once as Vallance Nestor, an author of great brilliance—in his own eyes—who had lately devoted himself to the advancement of revolutionary labour.
"Good afternoon," murmured Drummond affably. "Mr. Peterson will be a little late. I am his private secretary."
The other nodded and sat down languidly.
"What did you think of my last little effort in the Midlands?" he asked, drawing off his gloves.
"Quite wonderful," said Hugh. "A marvellous help to the great Cause."
Valiance Nestor yawned slightly and closed his eyes, only to open them again as Hugh turned the pages of the ledger on the table.
"What's that?" he demanded.
"This is the book," replied Drummond carelessly, "where Mr. Peterson records his opinions of the immense value of all his fellow-workers. Most interesting reading."
"Am I in it?" Valiance Nestor rose with alacrity.
"Why, of course," answered Drummond. "Are you not one of the leaders? Here you are." He pointed with his finger, and then drew back in dismay. "Dear, dear! there must be some mistake." But Valiance Nestor, with a frozen and glassy eye, was staring fascinated at the following choice description of himself:
"Nestor, Valiance. Author—so-called. Hot-air factory, but useful up to a point. Inordinately conceited and a monumental ass. Not fit to be trusted far."
"What," he spluttered at length, "is the meaning of this abominable insult?"
But Hugh, his shoulders shaking slightly, was welcoming the next arrival—a rugged, beetle-browed man, whose face seemed vaguely familiar, but whose name he was unable to place.
"Crofter," shouted the infuriated author, "look at this as a description of me."
And Hugh watched the man, whom he now knew to be one of the extremist members of Parliament, walk over and glance at the book. He saw him conceal a smile, and then Valiance Nestor carried the good work on.
"We'll see what he says about you—impertinent blackguard." Rapidly he turned the pages, and Hugh glanced over Crofter's shoulder at the dossier.
He just had time to read: "Crofter, John. A consummate blackguard. Playing entirely for his own hand. Needs careful watching," when the subject of the remarks, his face convulsed with fury, spun round and faced him.
"Who wrote that?" he snarled.
"Must have been Mr. Peterson," answered Hugh placidly. "I see you had five thousand out of him, so perhaps he considers himself privileged. A wonderful judge of character, too," he murmured, turning away to greet Mr. Ditchling, who arrived somewhat opportunely, in company with a thin pale man—little more than a youth—whose identity completely defeated Drummond.
"My God!" Crofter was livid with rage. "Me and Peterson will have words this afternoon. Look at this, Ditchling." On second thoughts he turned over some pages. "We'll see what this insolent devil has to say about you."
"Drinks!" Ditchling thumped the table with a heavy fist. "What the hell does he mean? Say you, Mr. Secretary—what's the meaning of this?"
"They represent Mr. Peterson's considered opinions of you all," said Hugh genially. "Perhaps this other gentleman…."
He turned to the pale youth, who stepped forward with a surprised look. He seemed to be not quite clear what had upset the others, but already Nestor had turned up his name.
"Terrance, Victor. A wonderful speaker. Appears really to believe that what he says will benefit the working-man. Consequently very valuable; but indubitably mad."
"Does he mean to insult us deliberately?" demanded Crofter, his voice still shaking with passion.
"But I don't understand," said Victor Terrance dazedly. "Does Mr. Peterson not believe in our teachings, too?" He turned slowly and looked at Hugh, who shrugged his shoulders.
"He should be here at any moment," he answered, and as he spoke the door opened and Carl Peterson came in.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," he began, and then he saw Hugh. With a look of speechless amazement he stared at the soldier, and for the first time since Hugh had known him his face blanched. Then his eyes fell on the open ledger, and with a dreadful curse he sprang forward. A glance at the faces of the men who stood watching told him what he wanted to know, and with another oath his hand went to his pocket.
"Take your hand out, Carl Peterson." Drummond's voice rang through the room, and the arch-criminal, looking sullenly up, found himself staring into the muzzle of a revolver. "Now, sit down at the table—all of you. The meeting is about to commence."
"Look here," blustered Crofter, "I'll have the law on you…."
"By all manner of means, Mr. John Crofter, consummate blackguard," answered Hugh calmly. "But that comes afterwards. Just now—sit down."
"I'm damned if I will," roared the other, springing at the soldier. And Peterson, sitting sullenly at the table trying to readjust his thoughts to the sudden blinding certainty that through some extraordinary accident everything had miscarried, never stirred as a half-stunned Member of Parliament crashed to the floor beside him.
"Sit down, I said," remarked Drummond affably. "But if you prefer to lie down, it's all the same to me. Are there any more to come, Peterson?"
"No, damn you. Get it over!"
"Right! Throw your gun on the floor." Drummond picked the weapon up and put it in his pocket; then he rang the bell. "I had hoped," he murmured, "for a larger gathering, but one cannot have everything, can one, Mr. Monumental Ass?"
But Vallance Nestor was far too frightened to resent the insult; he could only stare foolishly at the soldier, while he plucked at his collar with a shaking hand. Save to Peterson, who understood, if only dimly, what had happened, the thing had come as such a complete surprise that even the sudden entrance of twenty masked men, who ranged themselves in single rank behind their chairs, failed to stir the meeting. It seemed merely in keeping with what had gone before.
"I shall not detain you long, gentlemen," began Hugh suavely. "Your general appearance and the warmth of the weather have combined to produce in me a desire for sleep. But before I hand you over to the care of the sportsmen who stand so patiently behind you, there are one or two remarks I wish to make. Let me say at once that on the subject of Capital and Labour I am supremely ignorant. You will therefore be spared any dissertation on the subject. But from an exhaustive study of the ledger which now lies upon the table, and a fairly intimate knowledge of its author's movements, I and my friends have been put to the inconvenience of treading on you.
"There are many things, we know, which are wrong in this jolly old country of ours; but given time and the right methods I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that they could be put right. That, however, would not suit your book. You dislike the right method, because it leaves all of you much where you were before. Every single one of you—with the sole possible exception of you, Mr. Terrance, and you're mad—is playing with revolution for his own ends: to make money out of it—to gain power….
"Let us start with Peterson—your leader. How much did you say he demanded, Mr. Potts, as the price of revolution?"
With a strangled cry Peterson sprang up as the American millionaire, removing his mask, stepped forward.
"Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, you swine, was what you asked me." The millionaire stood confronting his tormentor, who dropped back in his chair with a groan. "And when I refused, you tortured me. Look at my thumb."
With a cry of horror the others sitting at the table looked at the mangled flesh, and then at the man who had done it. This, even to their mind, was going too far.
"Then there was the same sum," continued Drummond, "to come from Hocking, the American cotton man—half German by birth; Stienemann, the German coal man; von Gratz, the German steel man. Is that not so, Peterson?" It was an arrow at a venture, but it hit the mark, and Peterson nodded.
"So one million pounds was the stake this benefactor of humanity was playing for," sneered Drummond. "One million pounds, as the mere price of a nation's life-blood…. But, at any rate, he had the merit of playing big, whereas the rest of you scum—and the other beauties so ably catalogued in that book—messed about at his beck and call for packets of bull's-eyes. Perhaps you laboured under the delusion that you were fooling him, but the whole lot of you are so damned crooked that you probably thought of nothing but your own filthy skins.
"Listen to me!" Hugh Drummond's voice took on a deep, commanding ring, and against their will the four men looked at the broad, powerful soldier, whose sincerity shone clear in his face. Not by revolutions and direct action will you make this island of ours right—though I am fully aware that this is the last thing you could wish to see happen. But with your brains, and for your own unscrupulous ends, you gull the working-man into believing it. And he, because you can talk with your tongues in your cheeks, is led away. He believes you will give him Utopia; whereas, in reality, you are leading him to hell. And you know it. Evolution is our only chance—not revolution; but you, and others like you, stand to gain more by the latter…."
His hand dropped to his side, and he grinned.
"Quite a break for me," he remarked. "I'm getting hoarse. I'm now going to hand you four over to the boys. There's an admirable, but somewhat muddy pond outside, and I'm sure you'd like to look for newts. If any of you want to summon me for assault and battery, my name is Drummond—Captain Drummond, of Half Moon Street. But I warn you that that book will be handed into Scotland Yard to-night. Out with 'em, boys, and give 'em hell….
"And now, Carl Peterson," he remarked, as the door closed behind the last of the struggling prophets of a new world, "it's time that you and I settled our little account, isn't it?"
The master-criminal rose and stood facing him. Apparently he had completely recovered himself; the hand with which he lit his cigar was as steady as a rock.
"I congratulate you, Captain Drummond," he remarked suavely. "I confess I have no idea how you managed to escape from the cramped position I left you in last night, or how you have managed to install your own men in this house. But I have even less idea how you discovered about Hocking and the other two."
Hugh laughed shortly.
"Another time, when you disguise yourself as the Comte de Guy, remember one thing, Carl. For effective concealment it is necessary to change other things beside your face and figure. You must change your mannerisms and unconscious little tricks. No—I won't tell you what it is that gave you away. You can ponder over it in prison."
"So you mean to hand me over to the police, do you?" said Peterson slowly.
"I see no other course open to me," replied Drummond. "It will be quite a cause célèbre, and ought to do a lot to edify the public."
The sudden opening of the door made both men look round. Then Drummond bowed, to conceal a smile.
"Just in time, Miss Irma," he remarked, "for settling day." The girl swept past him and confronted Peterson.
"What has happened?" she panted. "The garden is full of people whom I've never seen. And there were two young men running down the drive covered with weeds and dripping with water."
Peterson smiled grimly.
"A slight set-back has occurred, my dear. I have made a big mistake—a mistake which has proved fatal. I have under-estimated the ability of Captain Drummond; and as long as I live I shall always regret that I did not kill him the night he went exploring in this house."
Fearfully the girl faced Drummond; then she turned again to Peterson.
"Where's Henry?" she demanded.
"That again is a point on which I am profoundly ignorant," answered Peterson. "Perhaps Captain Drummond can enlighten us on that also?"
"Yes," remarked Drummond, "I can. Henry has had an accident. After I drove him back from the Duchess's last night"—the girl gave a cry, and Peterson steadied her with his arm"'—we had words—dreadful words. And for a long time, Carl, I thought it would be better if you and I had similar words. In fact, I'm not sure even now that it wouldn't be safer in the long run…."
"But where is he?" said the girl, through dry lips.
"Where you ought to be, Carl," answered Hugh grimly. "Where, sooner or later, you will be."
He pressed the studs in the niche of the wall, and the door of the big safe swung open slowly. With a scream of terror the girl sank half-fainting on the floor, and even Peterson's cigar dropped on the floor from his nerveless lips. For, hung from the ceiling by two ropes attached to his arms, was the dead body of Henry Lakington. And even as they watched, it sagged lower, and one of the feet hit sullenly against a beautiful old gold vase…. "My God!" muttered Peterson. "Did you murder him?"
"Oh, no!" answered Drummond. "He inadvertently fell in the bath he got ready for me, and then when he ran up the stairs in considerable pain, that interesting mechanical device broke his neck."
"Shut the door," screamed the girl; "I can't stand it."
She covered her face with her hands, shuddering, while the door slowly swung to again.
"Yes," remarked Drummond thoughtfully, "it should be an interesting trial. I shall have such a lot to tell them about the little entertainments here, and all your endearing ways."
With the big ledger under his arm he crossed the room, and called to some men who were standing outside in the hall; and as the detectives, thoughtfully supplied by Mr. Green, entered the central room, he glanced for the last time at Carl Peterson and his daughter. Never had the cigar glowed more evenly between the master-criminal's lips; never had the girl Irma selected a cigarette from her gold and tortoiseshell case with more supreme indifference.
"Good-bye, my ugly one!" she cried, with a charming smile, as two of the men stepped up to her.
"Good-bye," Hugh bowed, and a tinge of regret showed for a moment in his eyes.
"Not good-bye, Irma." Carl Peterson removed his cigar, and stared at Drummond steadily. "Only au revoir, my friend; only au revoir."