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in this 'ere 'ouse. It ain't 'ealthy: only don't say as I said so."

Hugh smiled.

"Thank you, Jem. By the way, has anyone got a stiff neck in the house this morning?"

"Stiff neck!" echoed the man. "Strike me pink if that ain't funny—you're asking, I mean. The bloke's sitting up in 'is bed swearing awful. Can't move 'is 'ead at all."

"And who, might I ask, is the bloke?" said Drummond, stirring his tea.

"Why, Peterson, o' course. 'Oo else? Breakfast at nine."

The door closed behind him, and Hugh lit a cigarette thoughtfully. Most assuredly he was starting in style: Lakington's jaw one night, Peterson's neck the second, seemed a sufficiently energetic opening to the game for the veriest glutton. Then that cheerful optimism which was the envy of his friends asserted itself.

"Supposin' I'd killed 'em," he murmured, aghast. "Just supposin'. Why, the bally show would have been over, and I'd have had to advertise again."

Only Peterson was in the dining-room when Hugh came down. He had examined the stairs on his way, but he could see nothing unusual which would account for the thing which had whizzed past his head and clanged sullenly against the wall. Nor was there any sign of the cobra by the curtained door; merely Peterson standing in a sunny room behind a bubbling coffee-machine.

"Good morning," remarked Hugh affably. "How are we all to-day? By Jove! that coffee smells good."