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with us, otherwise you might wreck the scheme. Therefore I require your signature. I lost it once, unfortunately—but it wasn't a very good signature; so perhaps it was all for the best."

"And when you've got it," cried the American, "what good will it be to you? I shall repudiate it."

"Oh, no! Mr. Potts," said Peterson with a thoughtful smile; "I can assure you, you won't. The distressing malady from which you have recently been suffering will again have you in its grip. My friend Mr. Lakington is an expert on that particular illness. It renders you quite unfit for business."

For a while there was silence, and the millionaire stared round the room like a trapped animal.

"I refuse!" he cried at last. "It's an outrage against humanity. You can do what you like."

"Then we'll start with a little more thumbscrew," remarked Peterson, strolling over to the desk and opening a drawer. "An astonishingly effective implement, as you can see if you look at your thumb." He stood in front of the quivering man, balancing the instrument in his hands. "It was under its influence you gave us the first signature, which we so regrettably lost. I think we'll try it again…."

The American gave a strangled cry of terror, and then the unexpected happened. There was a crash as a pane of glass splintered and fell to the floor close beside Lakington; and with an oath he sprang aside and looked up.

"Peep-bo," came a well-known voice from the skylight. "Clip him one over the jaw, Potts, my boy, but don't you sign."