Thursday, December 26, 2013

BONES IN LONDON by Edgar Wallace - Part I








Edgar Wallace


                                     Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace ( 1875 – 1932)



Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was an English novelist and playwright whose specialty was detective and adventure stories. Famous as co-creator of King Kong, over 160 films have been made from his novels. Wallace used his early experience as a crime reporter to detail police methods and criminal psychology in stories like The Terror and the J.G. Reeder detective series.


Born in 1875 the illegitimate son of an actress, Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace was adopted by a Billingsgate fish-porter and grew up in the poorer streets of London. He wrote more than 170 books, mostly thrillers, and also plays and countless newspaper articles. In the late 1890s he served in the Royal West Kent Regiment and the Medical Staff Corps. As a war correspondent for The Daily Mail in South Africa he sent back reports that led Kitchener to ban him as a correspondent until the First World War.

In his day Wallace was King of the modern thriller, with classic Wallace novels featuring sinister criminal acts, numerous plot twists and plenty of shadowy killers and secret passageways. Although his works could be described as unsophisticated page-turners, the often gripping narratives have been hugely influential and more of his books have been made in to films than any other twentieth century writer.

As one of Britain's most prolific writers, Wallace was selling five million books a year, one out of every four books sold in the whole market. This brought him a fortune but this was lost due to his extravagant lifestyle and obsessive gambling. He died in Hollywood in 1932 on his way to work on the screenplay of King Kong.











CHAPTER  I

BONES  AND  BIG  BUSINESS


There was a slump in the shipping market, and men who were otherwise decent citizens wailed for one hour of glorious war, when Kenyon Line Deferred had stood at 88 1/2, and even so poor an organization as
Siddons Steam Packets Line had been marketable at 3 3/8.

Two bareheaded men came down the busy street, their hands thrust into their trousers pockets, their sleek, well-oiled heads bent in dejection.

No word they spoke, keeping step with the stern precision of soldiers. Together they wheeled through the open doors of the Commercial Trust Building, together they left-turned into the elevator, and simultaneously raised their heads to examine its roof, as though in its panelled ceiling was concealed some Delphic oracle who would answer the riddle which circumstances had set them.

They dropped their heads together and stood with sad eyes, regarding the attendant's leisurely unlatching of the gate. They slipped forth and walked in single file to a suite of offices inscribed "Pole Brothers, Brokers," and, beneath, "The United Merchant Shippers' Corporation," and passed through a door which, in addition to this declaration, bore the footnote "Private."

Here the file divided, one going to one side of a vast pedestal desk and one to the other. Still with their hands pushed deep into their pockets, they sank, almost as at a word of command, each into his cushioned chair, and stared at one another across the table.

They were stout young men of the middle thirties, clean-shaven and ruddy. They had served their country in the late War, and had made many sacrifices to the common cause. One had worn uniform and one had not. Joe had occupied some mysterious office which permitted and, indeed, enjoined upon him the wearing of the insignia of captain, but had forbidden him to leave his native land. The other had earned a little decoration with a very big title as a buyer of boots for Allied nations. Both had subscribed largely to War Stock, and a reminder of their devotion to the cause of liberty was placed to their credit every half-year.
But for these, war, with its horrific incidents, its late hours, its midnight railway journeys by trains on which sleeping berths could not be had for love or money, its food cards and statements of excess profits, was past. The present held its tragedy so poignant as to overshadow that breathless terrifying moment when peace had come and found the firm with the sale of the Fairy Line of cargo steamers uncompleted, contracts unsigned, and shipping stock which had lived light-headedly in the airy spaces, falling deflated on the floor of the house.

The Fairy Line was not a large line. It was, in truth, a small line. It might have been purchased for two hundred thousand pounds, and nearly was. Today it might be acquired for one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, and yet it wasn't.

"Joe," said the senior Mr. Pole, in a voice that came from his varnished boots, "we've got to do something with Fairies."

"Curse this War !" said Joe in cold-blooded even tones. "Curse the Kaiser ! A weak-kneed devil who might at least have stuck to it for another month ! Curse him for making America build ships, curse him for..."

"Joe," said the stout young man on the other side of the table, shaking his head sadly, "it is no use cursing, Joe. We knew that they were building ships, but the business looked good to me. If Turkey hadn't turned up her toes and released all that shipping "

"Curse Turkey!" said the other, with great calmness. "Curse the Sultan and Enver and Taalat, curse Bulgaria and Ferdinand "

"Put in one for the Bolsheviks, Joe," said his brother urgently, "and I reckon that gets the lot in trouble. Don't start on Austria, or we'll find ourselves cursing the Jugoslavs."

He sighed deeply, pursed his lips, and looked at his writing-pad intently.

Joe and Fred Pole had many faults, which they freely admitted, such as their generosity, their reckless kindness of heart, their willingness to do their worst enemies a good turn, and the like. They had others which they never admitted, but which were none the less patent to their prejudiced contemporaries.
But they had virtues which were admirable. They were, for example, absolutely loyal to one another, and were constant in their mutual admiration and help. If Joe made a bad deal, Fred never rested until he had balanced things against the beneficiary. If Fred in a weak moment paid a higher price to the vendor of a property than he, as promoter, could afford, it was Joe who took the smug vendor out to dinner and, by persuasion, argument, and the frank expression of his liking for the unfortunate man, tore away a portion of his ill-gotten gains.

"I suppose," said Joe, concluding his minatory exercises, and reaching for a cigar from the silver box which stood on the table midway between the two, "I suppose we couldn't hold Billing to his contract. Have you seen Cole about it, Fred ?"

The other nodded slowly.

"Cole says that there is no contract. Billing offered to buy the ships, and meant to buy them, undoubtedly; but Cole says that if you took Billing into court, the judge would chuck his pen in your eye."

"Would he now ?" said Joe, one of whose faults was that he took things literally. "But perhaps if you took Billing out to dinner, Fred "

"He's a vegetarian, Joe" he reached in his turn for a cigar, snipped the end and lit it "and he's deaf. No, we've got to find a sucker, Joe. I can sell the Fairy May and the Fairy Belle: they're little boats, and are worth money in the open market. I can sell the wharfage and offices and the goodwill "

"What's the goodwill worth, Fred ?"

"About five pence net," said the gloomy Fred. "I can sell all these, but it is the Fairy Mary and the Fairy Tilda that's breaking my heart. And yet, Joe, there ain't two ships of their tonnage to be bought on the market. If you wanted two ships of the same size and weight, you couldn't buy 'em for a million, no, you couldn't. I guess they must be bad ships, Joe."

Joe had already guessed that.

"I offered 'em to Saddler, of the White Anchor," Fred went on, "and he said that if he ever started collecting curios he'd remember me. Then I tried to sell 'em to the Coastal Cargo Line the very ships for the Newcastle and Thames river trade and he said he couldn't think of it now that the submarine season was over. Then I offered 'em to young Topping, who thinks of running a line to the West Coast, but he said that he didn't believe in Fairies or Santa Claus or any of that stuff."

There was silence.

"Who named 'em Fairy Mary and Fairy Tilda ?" asked Joe curiously.

"Don't let's speak ill of the dead," begged Fred; "the man who had 'em built is no longer with us, Joe. They say that joy doesn't kill, but that's a lie, Joe. He died two days after we took 'em over, and left all his money, all our money, to a nephew."

"I didn't know that," said Joe, sitting up.

"I didn't know it myself till the other day, when I took the deed of sale down to Cole to see if there wasn't a flaw in it somewhere. I've wired him."

"Who Cole ?"

"No, the young nephew. If we could only..."

He did not complete his sentence, but there was a common emotion and understanding in the two pairs of eyes that met.

"Who is he anybody ?" asked Joe vaguely.

Fred broke off the ash of his cigar and nodded.

"Anybody worth half a million is somebody, Joe," he said seriously. "This young fellow was in the Army. He's out of it now, running a business in the City 'Schemes, Ltd.,' he calls it. Lots of people know him, shipping people on the Coast. He's got a horrible nickname."

"What's that, Fred ?"

"Bones," said Fred, in tones sufficiently sepulchral to be appropriate, "and, Joe, he's one of those bones I want to pick."

There was another office in that great and sorrowful City. It was perhaps less of an office than a boudoir, for it had been furnished on the higher plan by a celebrated firm of furnishers and decorators, whose advertisements in the more exclusive publications consisted of a set of royal arms, a photograph of a Queen Anne chair, and the bold surname of the firm. It was furnished with such exquisite taste that you could neither blame nor praise the disposition of a couch or the set of a purple curtain.

The oxydized silver grate, the Persian carpets, the rosewood desk, with its Venetian glass flower vase, were all in harmony with the panelled walls, the gentlemanly clock which ticked sedately on the Adam mantelpiece, the Sheraton chairs, the silver or apparently so, wall sconces, the delicate electrolier with its ballet skirts of purple silk.

All these things were evidence of the careful upbringing and artistic yearnings of the young man who "blended" for the eminent firm of Messrs. Worrows, By Appointment to the King of Smyrna, His Majesty the Emperor  (the blank stands for an exalted name which had been painted out by the patriotic management of Worrows), and divers other royalties.

The young man who sat in the exquisite chair, with his boots elevated to and resting upon the olive-green leather of the rosewood writing-table, had long since grown familiar with the magnificence in which he moved and had his being. He sat chewing an expensive paper-knife of ivory, not because he was hungry, but because he was bored. He had entered into his kingdom brimful of confidence and with unimagined thousands of pounds to his credit in the coffers of the Midland and Somerset Bank.

He had brought with him a bright blue book, stoutly covered and brassily locked, on which was inscribed the word "Schemes."

That book was filled with writing of a most private kind and of a frenzied calculation which sprawled diagonally over pages, as for example:

  Buy up old houses . . . . . . . . . say 2,000 pounds.
  Pull them down . . . . . . . . . . . say 500 pounds.
  Erect erect 50 Grand Flats . . . . . say 10,000 pounds.
  Paper, pante, windows, etc. . . . . say 1,000 pounds.
                                           ———
        Total . . . . . . . . . . . . 12,000 pounds.
  50 Flats let at 80 pounds per annum. 40,000 lbs.
  Net profit . . . . . . . . . . . . . say 50 per cent.

NOTE.—For good middle class family steady steady people. By this means means doing good turn to working classes solving housing problem and making money which can be distributed, distributed to the poor.
Mr. Augustus Tibbetts, late of H.M. Houssa Rifles, was, as his doorplate testified, the Managing Director of "Schemes, Ltd." He was a severe looking young man, who wore a gold-rimmed monocle on his grey check waistcoat and occasionally in his left eye. His face was of that brick-red which spoke of a life spent under tropical suns, and when erect he conveyed a momentary impression of a departed militarism.

He uncurled his feet from the table, and, picking up a letter, read it through aloud that is to say, he read certain words, skipped others, and substituted private idioms for all he could not or would not trouble to pronounce.

"Dear Sir," (he mumbled), "as old friends of your dear uncle, and so on and so forth, we are taking the first opportunity of making widely widdly wee…. Our Mr. Fred Pole will call upon you and place himself widely widely we, tum tiddly um tum. Yours truly."

Mr. Tibbetts frowned at the letter and struck a bell with unnecessary violence. There appeared in the doorway a wonderful man in scarlet breeches and green zouave jacket. On his head was a dull red tarbosh, on his feet scarlet slippers, and about his waist a sash of Oriental audacity. His face, large and placid, was black, and, for all his suggestiveness of the brilliant East, he was undoubtedly negroid.

The costume was one of Mr. Tibbetts's schemes. It was faithfully copied from one worn by a gentleman of colour who serves the Turkish coffee at the Wistaria Restaurant. It may be said that there was no special reason why an ordinary business man should possess a bodyguard at all, and less reason why he should affect one who had the appearance of a burlesque Othello, but Mr. Augustus Tibbetts, though a business man, was not ordinary.

"Bones" for such a name he bore without protest in the limited circles of his friendship, looked up severely.

"Ali," he demanded, "have you posted the ledger ?"

"Sir," said Ali, with a profound obeisance, "the article was too copious for insertion in aperture of collection box, so it was transferred to the female lady behind postal department counter."

Bones leapt up, staring.

"Goodness gracious, Heavens alive, you silly old ass you, you haven't posted it in the post ?"

"Sir," said Ali reproachfully, "you instructed posting volume in exact formula. Therefore I engulfed it in wrappings and ligatures of string, and safely delivered it to posting authority."

Bones sank back in his chair.

"It's no use, no use, Ali," he said sadly, "my poor uncivilized savage, it's not your fault. I shall never bring you up to date, my poor silly old josser. When I say 'post' the ledger, I mean write down all the money you've spent on cabs in the stamp book. Goodness gracious alive! You can't run a business without system, Ali ! Don't you know that, my dear old image ? How the dooce do you think the auditors are to know how I spend my jolly old uncle's money if you don't write it down, hey ? Posting means writing. Good Heavens", a horrid thought dawned on him "who did you post it to ?"

"Lord," said Ali calmly, "destination of posted volume is your lordship's private residency."

All's English education had been secured in the laboratory of an English scientist in Sierra Leone, and long association with that learned man had endowed him with a vocabulary at once impressive and recondite.
Bones gave a resigned sigh.

"I'm expecting " he began, when a silvery bell tinkled.

It was silvery because the bell was of silver. Bones looked up, pulled down his waistcoat, smoothed back his hair, fixed his eye-glass, and took up a long quill pen with a vivid purple feather.

"Show them in," he said gruffly.

"Them" was one well-dressed young man in a shiny silk hat, who, when admitted to the inner sanctum, came soberly across the room, balancing his hat.

"Ah, Mr. Pole, Mr. Fred Pole." Bones read the visitor's card with the scowl which he adopted for business hours. "Yes, yes. Be seated, Mr. Pole. I shall not keep you a minute."

He had been waiting all the morning for Mr. Pole. He had been weaving dreams from the letter-heading above Mr. Pole's letter.

Ships … ships … house-flags … brass-buttoned owners….

He waved Mr. Fred to a chair and wrote furiously. This frantic pressure of work was a phenomenon which invariably coincided with the arrival of a visitor. It was, I think, partly due to nervousness and partly to his dislike of strangers. Presently he finished, blotted the paper, stuck it in an envelope, addressed it, and placed it in his drawer. Then he took up the card.

"Mr. Pole ?" he said.

"Mr. Pole," repeated that gentleman.

"Mr. Fred Pole ?" asked Bones, with an air of surprise.

"Mr. Fred Pole," admitted the other soberly.

Bones looked from the card to the visitor as though he could not believe his eyes.

"We have a letter from you somewhere," he said, searching the desk.

"Ah, here it is !" (It was, in fact, the only document on the table.)

"Yes, yes, to be sure. I'm very glad to meet you."

He rose, solemnly shook hands, sat down again and coughed. Then he took up the ivory paper-knife to chew, coughed again as he detected the lapse, and put it down with a bang.

"I thought I'd like to come along and see you, Mr. Tibbetts," said Fred in his gentle voice; "we are so to speak, associated in business."

"Indeed ?" said Bones. "Indeed ?"

"You see, Mr. Tibbetts," Fred went on, with a sad smile, "your lamented uncle, before he went out of business, sold us his ships. He died a month later."

He sighed and Bones sighed.

"Your uncle was a great man, Mr. Tibbetts," he said, "one of the greatest business men in this little city. What a man!"

"Ah !" said Bones, shaking his head mournfully.

He had never met his uncle and had seldom heard of him. Saul Tibbetts was reputedly a miser, and his language was of such violence that the infant Augustus was invariably hurried to the nursery on such rare occasions as old Saul paid a family visit. His inheritance had come to Bones as in a dream, from the unreality of which he had not yet awakened.

"I must confess, Mr. Tibbetts," said Fred, "that I have often had qualms of conscience about your uncle, and I have been on the point of coming round to see you several times. This morning I said to my brother, 'Joe,' I said, 'I'm going round to see Tibbetts.' Forgive the familiarity, but we talk of firms like the Rothschilds and the Morgans without any formality."

"Naturally, naturally, naturally," murmured Bones gruffly.

"I said: 'I'll go and see Tibbetts and get it off my chest. If he wants those ships back at the price we paid for them, or even less, he shall have them.' 'Fred,' he said, 'you're too sensitive for business.' 'Joe,' I said, 'my conscience works even in business hours.'"

A light dawned on Bones and he brightened visibly.

"Ah, yes, my dear old Pole," he said almost cheerily, "I understand. You diddled my dear old uncle, bless his heart, out of money, and you want to pay it back. Fred" Bones rose and extended his knuckle hand "you're a jolly old sportsman, and you can put it there !"

"What I was going to say..." began Fred seriously agitated.

"Not a word. We'll have a bottle on this. What will you have ginger-beer or cider ?"

Mr. Fred suppressed a shudder with difficulty.

"Wait, wait, Mr. Tibbetts," he begged; "I think I ought to explain. We did not, of course, knowingly rob your uncle..."

"No, no, naturally," said Bones, with a facial contortion which passed for a wink. "Certainly not. We business men never rob anybody. Ali, bring the drinks !"

"We did not consciously rob him," continued Mr. Fred desperately, "but what we did do ah, this is my confession !"

"You borrowed a bit and didn't pay it back. Ah, naughty !" said Bones. "Out with the corkscrew, Ali. What shall it be, a cream soda or non-alcoholic ale ?"

Mr. Fred looked long and earnestly at the young man.

"Mr. Tibbetts," he said, and suddenly grasped the hand of Bones, "I hope we are going to be friends. I like you. That's my peculiarity I like people or I dislike them. Now that I've told you that we bought two ships from your uncle for one hundred and forty thousand pounds when we knew, yes, positively knew, they were worth at least twenty thousand pounds more now I've told you this, I feel happier."

"Worth twenty thousand pounds more ?" said Bones thoughtfully.

Providence was working overtime for him, he thought.

"Of anybody's money," said Fred stoutly. "I don't care where you go, my dear chap. Ask Cole, he's the biggest shipping lawyer in this city, ask my brother, who, I suppose, is the greatest shipping authority in the world, or, what's the use of asking 'em ? ask yourself. If you're not Saul Tibbetts all over again, if you haven't the instinct and the eye and the brain of a shipowner why, I'm a Dutchman ! That's what I am a Dutchman !"

He picked up his hat and his lips were pressed tight, a gesture and a grimace which stood for grim conviction.

"What are they worth today ?" asked Bones, after a pause.

"What are they worth today ?" Mr. Fred frowned heavily at the ceiling. "Now, what are they worth today ? I forget how much I've spent on 'em they're in dock now."

Bones tightened his lips, too.

"They're in dock now ?" he said. He scratched his nose. "Dear old Fred Pole," he said, "you're a jolly old soul. By Jove that's not bad !

'Pole' an' 'soul' rhyme, did you notice it ?"

Fred had noticed it.

"It's rum," said Bones, shaking his head, "it is rum how things get about. How did you know, old fellow-citizen, that I was going in for shippin'?"

Mr. Fred Pole did not know that Bones was going in for shipping, but he smiled.

"There are few things that happen in the City that I don't know," he admitted modestly.

"The Tibbetts Line," said Bones firmly, "will fly a house-flag of purple and green diagonally, that is, from corner to corner. There will be a yellow anchor in a blue wreath in one corner and a capital T in a red wreath in the other."

"Original, distinctly original," said Fred in wondering admiration.

"Wherever did you get that idea ?"

"I get ideas," confessed Bones, blushing, "some times in the night, sometimes in the day. The fleet" Bones liked the sound of the word and repeated it "the fleet will consist of the Augustus, the Sanders, a dear old friend of mine living at Hindhead, the Patricia, another dear old friend of mine living at Hindhead, too in fact, in the same house. To tell you the truth, dear old Fred Pole, she's married to the other ship. And there'll be the Hamilton, another precious old soul, a very, very, very, very dear friend of mine who's comin' home shortly "

"Well, what shall we say, Mr. Tibbetts ?" said Fred, who had an early luncheon appointment.

"Would you care to buy the two boats at the same price we gave your uncle for them ?"

Bones rang his bell.

"I'm a business man, dear old Fred," said he soberly. "There's no time like the present, and I'll fix the matter now !"

He said "now" with a ferociousness which was intended to emphasize his hard and inflexible business character.

Fred came into the private office of Pole & Pole after lunch that day, and there was in his face a great light and a peace which was almost beautiful.

But never beamed the face of Fred so radiantly as the countenance of the waiting Joe. He lay back in his chair, his cigar pointing to the ceiling.

"Well, Fred ?" there was an anthem in his voice.

"Very well, Joe." Fred hung up his unnecessary umbrella.

"I've sold the Fairies !"

Joe said it and Fred said it. They said it together. There was the same lilt of triumph in each voice, and both smiles vanished at the identical instant.

"You've sold the Fairies !" they said.

They might have been rehearsing this scene for months, so perfect was the chorus.

"Wait a bit, Joe," said Fred; "let's get the hang of this. I understand that you left the matter to me."

"I did; but, Fred, I was so keen on the idea I had that I had to nip in before you. Of course, I didn't go to him as Pole & Pole "

"To him ? What him ?" asked Fred, breathing hard.

"To What's his name Bones."

Fred took his blue silk handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his face.

"Go on, Joe," he said sadly

"I got him just before he went out to lunch. I sent up the United Merchant Shippers' card it's our company, anyway. Not a word about Pole & Pole."

"Oh, no, of course not !" said Fred.

"And, my boy," this was evidently Joe's greatest achievement, for he described the fact with gusto "not a word about the names of the ships. I just sold him two steamers, so and so tonnage, so and so classification "

"For how much ?"

Fred was mildly curious. It was the curiosity which led a certain political prisoner to feel the edge of the axe before it beheaded him.

"A hundred and twenty thousand !" cried Joe joyously. "He's starting a fleet, he says. He's calling it the Tibbetts Line, and bought a couple of ships only this morning."

Fred examined the ceiling carefully before he spoke.

"Joe," he said, "was it a firm deal? Did you put pen to paper ?"

"You-bet-your-dear-sweet-life," said Joe, scornful at the suggestion that he had omitted such an indispensable part of the negotiation.

"So did I, Joe," said Fred. "Those two ships he bought were the two Fairies."

There was a dead silence.

"Well," said Joe uneasily, after a while, "we can get a couple of ships "

"Where, Joe ? You admitted yesterday there weren't two boats in the world on the market."

Another long silence.

"I did it for the best, Fred."

Fred nodded

"Something must be done. We can't sell a man what we haven't got. Joe, couldn't you go and play golf this afternoon whilst I wangle this matter out ?"

Joe nodded and rose solemnly. He took down his umbrella from the peg and his shiny silk hat from another peg, and tiptoed from the room.

From three o'clock to four Mr. Fred Pole sat immersed in thought, and at last, with a big, heavy sigh, he unlocked his safe, took out his cheque-book and pocketed it.

Bones was on the point of departure, after a most satisfactory day's work, when Fred Pole was announced.

Bones greeted him like unto a brother caught him by the hand at the very entrance and, still holding him thus, conducted him to one of his beautiful chairs.

"By Jove, dear old Fred," he babbled, "it's good of you, old fellow really good of you ! Business, my jolly old shipowner, waits for no man. Ali, my cheque-book !"

"A moment just a moment, dear Mr. Bones," begged Fred. "You don't mind my calling you by the name which is already famous in the City ?"

Bones looked dubious.

"Personally, I prefer Tibbetts," said Fred.

"Personally, dear old Fred, so do I," admitted Bones.

"I've come on a curious errand," said Fred in such hollow tones that Bones started. "The fact is, old man, I'm..."

He hung his head, and Bones laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.

"Anybody is liable to get that way, my jolly old roysterer," he said. "Speakin' for myself, drink has no effect upon me due to my jolly old nerves of iron an' all that sort of thing."

"I'm ashamed of myself," said Fred.

"Nothing to be ashamed of, my poor old toper," said Bones honestly in error. "Why, I remember once.."

"As a business man, Mr. Tibbetts," said Fred bravely, "can you forgive sentiment ?"

"Sentiment ! Why, you silly old josser, I'm all sentiment, dear old thing ! Why, I simply cry myself to sleep over dear old Charles What's-his-name's books !"

"It's sentiment," said Fred brokenly. "I just can't, I simply can't part with those two ships I sold you."

"Hey ?" said Bones.

"They were your uncle's, but they have an association for me and my brother which it would be er profane to mention. Mr. Tibbetts, let us cry off our bargain."

Bones sniffed and rubbed his nose.

"Business, dear old Fred," he said gently. "Bear up an' play the man, as dear old Francis Drake said when they stopped him playin' cricket. Business, old friend. I'd like to oblige you, but..."

He shook his head rapidly

Mr. Fred slowly produced his chequebook and laid it on the desk with the sigh of one who was about to indite his last wishes.

"You shall not be the loser," he said, with a catch in his voice, for he was genuinely grieved. "I must pay for my weakness. What is five hundred pounds ?"

"What is a thousand, if it comes to that, Freddy ?" said Bones. "Gracious goodness, I shall be awfully disappointed if you back out I shall be so vexed, really."

"Seven hundred and fifty ?" asked Fred, with pleading in his eye.

"Make it a thousand, dear old Fred," said Bones; "I can't add up fifties."

So "in consideration" (as Fred wrote rapidly and Bones signed more rapidly) "of the sum of one thousand pounds (say £1,000), the contract as between &c., &c.," was cancelled, and Fred became again the practical man of affairs.

"Dear old Fred," said Bones, folding the cheque and sticking it in his pocket, "I'm goin' to own up frankness is a vice with me that I don't understand much about the shippin' business. But tell me, my jolly old merchant, why do fellers sell you ships in the mornin' an' buy 'em back in the afternoon ?"

"Business, Mr. Tibbetts," said Fred, smiling, "just big business."

Bones sucked an inky finger.

"Dinky business for me, dear old thing," he said. "I've got a thousand from you an' a thousand from the other Johnny who sold me two ships. Bless my life an' soul "

"The other fellow," said Fred faintly "a fellow from the United Merchant Shippers ?"

"That was the dear lad," said Bones.

"And has he cried off his bargain, too ?"

"Positively !" said Bones. "A very, very nice, fellow. He told me I could call him Joe, jolly old Joe !"

"Jolly old Joe !" repeated Fred mechanically, as he left the office, and all the way home he was saying "Jolly old Joe !"


CHAPTER  II

HIDDEN  TREASURE


Mrs. Staleyborn's first husband was a dreamy Fellow of a Learned University.

Her second husband had begun life at the bottom of the ladder as a three-card trickster, and by strict attention to business and the exercise of his natural genius, had attained to the proprietorship of a bucket shop.

When Mrs. Staleyborn was Miss Clara Smith, she had been housekeeper to Professor Whitland, a biologist who discovered her indispensability, and was only vaguely aware of the social gulf which yawned between the youngest son of the late Lord Bortledyne and the only daughter of Albert Edward Smith, mechanic. To the Professor she was Miss H. Sapiens, an agreeable, featherless plantigrade biped of the genus Homo. She was also thoroughly domesticated and cooked like an angel, a nice woman who apparently never knew that her husband had a Christian name, for she called him "Mr. Whitland" to the day of his death.

The strain and embarrassment of the new relationship with her master were intensified by the arrival of a daughter, and doubled when that daughter came to a knowledgeable age. Marguerite Whitland had the inherent culture of her father and the grace and delicate beauty which had ever distinguished the women of the house of Bortledyne.

When the Professor died, Mrs. Whitland mourned him in all sincerity.

She was also relieved. One-half of the burden which lay upon her had been lifted; the second half was wrestling with the binomial theorem at Cheltenham College.

She had been a widow twelve months when she met Mr. Cresta Morris, and, if the truth be told, Mr. Cresta Morris more fulfilled her conception as to what a gentleman should look like than had the Professor. Mr. Cresta Morris wore white collars and beautiful ties, had a large gold watch-chain over what the French call poetically a gilet de fantasie, but which he, in his own homely fashion, described as a "fancy weskit." He smoked large cigars, was bluff and hearty, spoke to the widow he was staying at Harrogate at the time in a hydropathic establishment in a language which she could understand. Dimly she began to realize that the Professor had hardly spoken to her at all.

Mr. Cresta Morris was one of those individuals who employed a vocabulary of a thousand words, with all of which Mrs. Whitland was well acquainted; he was also a man of means and possessions, he explained to her. She, giving confidence for confidence, told of the house at Cambridge, the furniture, the library, the annuity of three hundred pounds, earmarked for his daughter's education, but mistakenly left to his wife for that purpose, also the four thousand three hundred pounds invested in War Stock, which was wholly her own.

Mr. Cresta Morris became more agreeable than ever. In three months they were married, in six months the old house at Cambridge had been disposed of, the library dispersed, as much of the furniture as Mr. Morris regarded as old-fashioned sold, and the relict of Professor Whitland was installed in a house in Brockley.

It was a nice house in many ways nicer than the rambling old building in Cambridge, from Mrs. Morris's point of view. And she was happy in a tolerable, comfortable kind of fashion, and though she was wholly ignorant as to the method by which her husband made his livelihood, she managed to get along very well without enlightenment.

Marguerite was brought back from Cheltenham to grace the new establishment and assist in its management. She shared none of her mother's illusions as to the character of Mr. Cresta Morris, as that gentleman explained to a very select audience one January night.

Mr. Morris and his two guests sat before a roaring fire in the dining-room, drinking hot brandies-and-waters. Mrs. Morris had gone to bed; Marguerite was washing up, for Mrs. Morris had the "servant's mind," which means that she could never keep a servant.

The sound of crashing plates had come to the dining-room and interrupted Mr. Morris at a most important point of his narrative. He jerked his head round.

"That's the girl," he said; "she's going to be a handful."

"Get her married," said Job Martin wisely.

He was a hatchet-faced man with a reputation for common-sense. He had another reputation which need not be particularized at the moment.

"Married ?" scoffed Mr. Morris. "Not likely !"

He puffed at his cigar thoughtfully for a moment, then:

"She wouldn't come in to dinner, did you notice that ? We are not good enough for her. She's fly ! Fly ain't the word for it. We always find her nosing and sneaking around."

"Send her back to school," said the third guest.

He was a man of fifty-five, broad-shouldered, clean-shaven, who had literally played many parts, for he had been acting in a touring company when Morris first met him Mr. Timothy Webber, a man not unknown to the Criminal Investigation Department.

"She might have been useful," Mr. Morris went on regretfully, "very useful indeed. She is as pretty as a picture, I'll give her that due. Now, suppose she..."

Webber shook his head.

"It's my way or no way," he said decidedly. "I've been a month studying this fellow, and I tell you I know him inside out."

"Have you been to see him ?" asked the second man.

"Am I a fool ?" replied the other roughly. "Of course I have not been to see him. But there are ways of finding out, aren't there ? He is not the kind of lad that you can work with a woman, not if she's as pretty as paint."

"What do they call him ?" asked Morris.

"Bones," said Webber, with a little grin. "At least, he has letters which start 'Dear Bones,' so I suppose that's his nickname. But he's got all the money in the world. He is full of silly ass schemes, and he's romantic."

"What's that to do with it ?" asked Job Martin, and Webber turned with a despairing shrug to Morris.

"For a man who is supposed to have brains " he said, but Morris stopped him with a gesture.

"I see the idea, that's enough."

He ruminated again, chewing at his cigar, then, with a shake of his head

"I wish the girl was in it."

"Why ?" asked Webber curiously.

"Because she's..." He hesitated. "I don't know what she knows about me. I can guess what she guesses. I'd like to get her into something like this, to...to..." He was at a loss for a word.

"Compromise ?" suggested the more erudite Webber.

"That's the word. I'd like to have her like that !" He put his thumb down on the table in an expressive gesture.

Marguerite, standing outside, holding the door-handle hesitating as to whether she should carry in the spirit kettle which Mr. Morris had ordered, stood still and listened.

The houses in Oakleigh Grove were built in a hurry, and at best were not particularly sound-proof. She stood fully a quarter of an hour whilst the three men talked in low tones, and any doubts she might have had as to the nature of her step-father's business were dispelled.

Again there began within her the old fight between her loyalty to her mother and loyalty to herself and her own ideals. She had lived through purgatory these past twelve months, and again and again she had resolved to end it all, only to be held by pity for the helpless woman she would be deserting. She told herself a hundred times that her mother was satisfied in her placid way with the life she was living, and that her departure would be rather a relief than a cause for uneasiness. Now she hesitated no longer, and went back to the kitchen, took off the apron she was wearing, passed along the side-passage, up the stairs to her room, and began to pack her little bag.

Her mother was facing stark ruin. This man had drawn into his hands every penny she possessed, and was utilizing it for the furtherance of his own nefarious business. She had an idea, vague as yet, but later taking definite shape, that if she might not save her mother from the wreck which was inevitable, she might at least save something of her little fortune.

She had "nosed around" to such purpose that she had discovered her step-father was a man who for years had evaded the grip of an exasperated constabulary. Some day he would fall, and in his fall bring down her mother.

Mr. Cresta Morris absorbed in the elaboration of the great plan, was reminded, by the exhaustion of visible refreshment, that certain of his instructions had not been carried out.

"Wait a minute," he said. "I told that girl to bring in the kettle at half-past nine. I'll go out and get it. Her royal highness wouldn't lower herself by bringing it in, I suppose !"

He found the kettle on the kitchen table, but there was no sign of Marguerite. This was the culmination of a succession of "slights" which she had put on him, and in a rage he walked along the passage, and yelled up the stairs:

"Marguerite !"

There was no reply, and he raced up to her room. It was empty, but what was more significant, her dresses and the paraphernalia which usually ornamented her dressing-table had disappeared.

He came down a very thoughtful man.

"She's hopped," he said laconically. "I was always afraid of that."

It was fully an hour before he recovered sufficiently to bring his mind to a scheme of such fascinating possibilities that even his step-daughter's flight was momentarily forgotten



On the following morning Mr. Tibbetts received a visitor.

That gentleman who was, according to the information supplied by Mr. Webber, addressed in intimate correspondence as "Dear Bones," was sitting in his most gorgeous private office, wrestling with a letter to the eminent firm of Timmins and Timmins, yacht agents, on a matter of a luckless purchase of his.
"DEAR SIRS GENENTLEMEN" (ran the letter. Bones wrote as he thought, thought faster than he wrote, and never opened a dictionary save to decide a bet) "I told you I have told you 100000 times that the yacht Luana I bought from your cleint (a nice cleint I must say !!!) is a frord fruad and a swindel. It is much two too big. 2000 pounds was a swindel outraygious !! Well I've got it got it now so there their no use crying over split milk. But do like a golly old yaght-seller get red of it rid of it. Sell it to anybody even for a 1000 pounds. I must have been mad to buy it but he was such a plausible chap…."
This and more he wrote and was writing, when the silvery bell announced a visitor. It rang many times before he realized that he had sent his factotum, Ali Mahomet, to the South Coast to recover from a sniffle the after-effects of a violent cold, which had been particularly distressing to both. Four times the bell rang, and four times Bones raised his head and scowled at the door, muttering violent criticisms of a man who at that moment was eighty-five miles away.

Then he remembered, leapt up, sprinted to the door, flung it open with an annoyed:

"Come in ! What the deuce are you standing out there for ?"

Then he stared at his visitor, choked, went very red, choked again, and fixed his monocle.

"Come in, young miss, come in," he said gruffly. "Jolly old bell's out of order. Awfully sorry and all that sort of thing. Sit down, won't you ?"

In the outer office there was no visible chair. The excellent Ali preferred sitting on the floor, and visitors were not encouraged.

"Come into my office," said Bones, "my private office."

The girl had taken him in with one comprehensive glance, and a little smile trembled on the corner of her lips as she followed the harassed financier into his "holy of holies."

"My little den," said Bones incoherently. "Sit down, jolly old, young miss. Take my chair it's the best. Mind how you step over that telephone wire. Ah !"

She did catch her feet in the flex, and he sprang to her assistance.

"Ups, daisy, dear old, young miss, I mean."

It was a breathless welcome. She herself was startled by the warmth of it; he, for his part, saw nothing but grey eyes and a perfect mouth, sensed nothing but a delicate fragrance of a godlike presence.

"I have come to see you" she began.

"Jolly good of you," said Bones enthusiastically. "You've no idea how fearsomely lonely I get sometimes. I often say to people: 'Look me up, dear old thing, any time between ten and twelve or two and four; don't stand on ceremony "

"I've come to see you " she began again.

"You're a kind young miss," murmured Bones, and she laughed.

"You're not used to having girls in this office, are you ?"

"You're the first," said Bones, with a dramatic flourish, "that ever burst tiddly-um-te-um !"

To be mistaken for a welcome visitor, she was that, did she but guess it added to her natural embarrassment.

"Well," she said desperately, "I've come for work."

He stared at her, refixing his monocle.

"You've come for work my dear old, my jolly old young miss ?"
"I've come for work," she nodded.

Bones's face was very grave.

"You've come for work." He thought a moment; then: "What work ? Of course," he added in a flurry, "there's plenty of work to do ! Believe me, you don't know the amount I get through in this sanctum that's Latin for 'private office' and the wretched old place is never tidy never ! I am seriously thinking" he frowned "yes, I am very seriously thinking of sacking the lady who does the dusting. Why, do you know, this morning..."

Her eyes were smiling now, and she was to Bones's unsophisticated eyes, and, indeed, to eyes sophisticated, super humanly lovely.

"I haven't come for a dusting job," she laughed.

"Of course you haven't," said Bones in a panic. "My dear old lady, my
precious, my young person, I should have said of course you haven't ! You've come for a job, you've come to work ! Well, you shall have it ! Start right away !"

She stared.

"What shall I do ?" she asked.

"What would I like you to do ?" said Bones slowly. "What about scheming, getting out ideas, using brains, initiative, bright " He trailed off feebly as she shook her head.

"Do you want a secretary ?" she asked, and Bones's enthusiasm rose to the squeaking point.

"The very thing ! I advertised in this morning's Times. You saw the advertisement ?"

"You are not telling the truth," she said, looking at him with eyes that danced. "I read all the advertisement columns in The Times this morning, and I am quite sure that you did not advertise."

"I meant to advertise," said Bones gently. "I had the idea last night; that's the very piece of paper I was writing the advertisement on."

He pointed to a sheet upon the pad.

"A secretary ? The very thing ! Let me think."

He supported his chin upon one hand, his elbow upon another.

"You will want paper, pens, and ink, we have all those," he said. "There is a large supply in that cupboard. Also india-rubber. I am not sure if we have any india-rubber, but that can be procured. And a ruler," he said, "for drawing straight lines and all that sort of thing."

"And a typewriter ?" she suggested.

Bones smacked his forehead with unnecessary violence.

"A typewriter ! I knew this office wanted something. I said to Ali yesterday: 'You silly old ass '"

"Oh, you have a girl ?" she said disappointedly.

"Ali," said Bones, "is the name of a native man person who is devoted to me, body and soul. He has been, so to speak, in the family for years," he explained.

"Oh, it's a man," she said.

Bones nodded.

"Ali. Spelt A-l-y; it's Arabic."

"A native ?"

Bones nodded.

"Of course he will not be in your way," ha hastened to explain. "He is in Bournemouth just now. He had sniffles." he explained rapidly, "and then he used to go to sleep, and snore. I hate people who snore, don't you ?"

She laughed again. This was the most amazing of all possible employers.

"Of course," Bones went on, "I snore a bit myself. All thinkers do I mean all brainy people. Not being a jolly old snorer yourself "

"Thank you," said the girl.

Other tenants or the satellites of other tenants who occupied the palatial buildings wherein the office of Bones was situated saw, some few minutes later, a bare-headed young man dashing down the stairs three at a time; met him, half an hour later, staggering up those same stairs handicapped by a fifty-pound typewriter in one hand, and a chair in the style of the late Louis Quinze in the other, and wondered at the urgency of his movements.

"I want to tell you," said the girl, "that I know very little about shorthand."

"Shorthand is quite unnecessary, my dear, my jolly old stenographer," said Bones firmly. "I object to shorthand on principle, and I shall always object to it. If people," he went on, "were intended to write shorthand, they would have been born without the alphabet. Another thing..."

"One moment, Mr. Tibbetts," she said. "I don't know a great deal about typewriting, either."

Bones beamed.

"There I can help you," he said. "Of course it isn't necessary that you should know anything about typewriting. But I can give you a few hints," he said. "This thing, when you jiggle it up and down, makes the thingummy-bob run along. Every time you hit one of these letters  I'll show you…. Now, suppose I am writing 'Dear Sir,' I start with a 'D.' Now, where's that jolly old 'D' ?" He scowled at the keyboard, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders. "I thought so," he said; "there ain't a 'D.' I had an idea that that wicked old "

"Here's the 'D,'" she pointed out.

Bones spent a strenuous but wholly delightful morning and afternoon. He was half-way home to his chambers in Curzon Street before he realized that he had not fixed the rather important question of salary.

He looked forward to another pleasant morning making good that lapse.

It was his habit to remain late at his office at least three nights a week, for Bones was absorbed in his new career.

"Schemes Ltd." was no meaningless title. Bones had schemes which embraced every field of industrial, philanthropic, and social activity. He had schemes for building houses, and schemes for planting rose trees along all the railway tracks. He had schemes for building motor-cars, for founding labour colonies, for harnessing the rise and fall of the tides, he had a scheme for building a theater where the audience sat on a huge turn-table, and, at the close of one act, could be twisted round, with no inconvenience to themselves, to face a stage which has been set behind them. Piqued by a certain strike which had caused him a great deal of inconvenience, he was engaged one night working out a scheme for the provision of municipal taxicabs, and he was so absorbed in his wholly erroneous calculations that for some time he did not hear the angry voices raised outside the door of his private office.

Perhaps it was that that portion of his mind which had been left free to receive impressions was wholly occupied with a scheme, which appeared in no books or records, for raising the wages of his new secretary.

But presently the noise penetrated even to him, and he looked up with a touch of annoyance.

"At this hour of the night ! … Goodness gracious … respectable building !"

His disjointed comments were interrupted by the sound of a scuffle, an oath, a crash against his door and a groan, and Bones sprang to the door and threw it open.

As he did so a man who was leaning against it fell in.

"Shut the door, quick !" he gasped, and Bones obeyed.

The visitor who had so rudely irrupted himself was a man of middle age, wearing a coarse pea-jacket and blue jersey of a seaman, his peaked hat covered with dust, as Bones perceived later, when the sound of scurrying footsteps had died away.

The man was gripping his left arm as if in pain, and a thin trickle of red was running down the back of his big hand.

"Sit down, my jolly old mariner," said Bones anxiously. "What's the matter with you ? What's the trouble, dear old sea-dog ?"

The man looked up at him with a grimace.

"They nearly got it, the swine !" he growled.

He rolled up his sleeve and, deftly tying a handkerchief around a red patch, chuckled:

"It is only a scratch," he said. "They've been after me for two days, Harry Weatherall and Jim Curtis. But right's right all the world over. I've suffered enough to get what I've got starved on the high seas, and starved on Lomo Island. Is it likely that I'm going to let them share ?"

Bones shook his head.

"You sit down, my dear old fellow," he said sympathetically.

The man thrust his hands laboriously into his inside pocket and pulled out a flat oilskin case. From this he extracted a folded and faded chart.

"I was coming up to see a gentleman in these buildings," he said, "a gentleman named Tibbetts."
Bones opened his mouth to speak, but stopped himself.

"Me and Jim Curtis and young Harry, we were together in the Serpent Queen, my name's Dibbs. That's where we got hold of the yarn about Lomo Island, though we didn't believe there was anything in it. But
when this Dago died "

"Which Dago?" asked Bones.

"The Dago that knew all about it," said Mr. Dibbs impatiently, "and we come to split up his kit in his mess-bag, I found this." He shook the oilskin case in Bones's face. "Well, the first thing I did, when I got to Sydney, was to desert, and I got a chap from Wellington to put up the money to hire a boat to take me to Lomo. We were wrecked on Lomo."

"So you got there ?" said Bones sympathetically.

"Six weeks I was on Lomo. Ate nothing but crabs, drank nothing but rain-water. But the stuff was there all right, only", he was very emphatic, was this simple old sea-dog "it wasn't under the third tree, but the fourth tree. I got down to the first of the boxes, and it was as much as I could do to lift it out. I couldn't trust any of the Kanaka boys who were with me."

"Naturally," said Bones. "An' I'll bet they didn't trust you, the naughty old Kanakas."

"Look here," said Mr. Dibbs, and he pulled out of his pocket a handful of gold coins which bore busts of a foreign-looking lady and gentleman. "Spanish gold, that is," he said. "There was four thousand in the little box. I filled both my pockets, and took 'em back to Sydney when we were picked up. I didn't dare try in Australia. 'That gold will keep,' I says to myself. 'I'll get back to England and find a man who will put up the money for an expedition' a gentleman, you understand ?"

"I quite understand," said Bones, all a-quiver with excitement.

"And then I met Harry and Jim. They said they'd got somebody who would put the money up, an American fellow, Rockefeller. Have you ever heard of him ?"

"I've heard of him," said Bones; "he's got a paraffin mine."

"It may be he has, it may be he hasn't," said Mr. Dibbs and rose. "Well, sir, I'm very much obliged to you for your kindness. If you'll direct me to Mr. Tibbetts's office "

It was a dramatic moment.

"I am Mr. Tibbetts," said Bones simply.

Blank incredulity was on the face of Mr. Dibbs.

"You ?" he said. "But I thought Mr. Tibbetts was an older gentleman ?"

"Dear old treasure-finder," said Bones, "be assured I am Mr. Tibbetts.

This is my office, and this is my desk. People think I am older because " He smiled a little sadly, then: "Sit down!" he thundered.

"Let us go into this."

He went into the matter, and the City clocks were booming one when he led his mariner friend into the street.

He was late at the office the next morning, because he was young and healthy and required nine hours of the deepest slumber that Morpheus kept in stock.

The grey-eyed girl was typing at a very respectable speed the notes Bones had given her the evening before. There was a telegram awaiting him, which he read with satisfaction. Then:

"Leave your work, my young typewriter," said Bones imperiously. "I have a matter of the greatest importance to discuss with you! See that all the doors are closed," he whispered; "lock 'em if necessary."

"I hardly think that's necessary," said the girl. "You see, if anybody came and found all the doors locked"

"Idiot !" said Bones, very red.

"I beg your pardon," said the startled girl.

"I was speaking to me," said Bones rapidly. "This is a matter of the greatest confidence, my jolly old Marguerite " he paused, shaking at his temerity, for it was only on the previous day that he had discovered her name "a matter which requires tact and discretion, young Marguerite "

"You needn't say it twice," she said.

"Well once," said Bones, brightening up. "That's a bargain I'll call you Marguerite once a day. Now, dear old Marguerite, listen to this."

She listened with the greatest interest, jotting down the preliminary expenses. Purchase of steamer, five thousand pounds; provisioning of same, three thousand pounds, etc., etc. She even undertook to make a copy of the plan which Mr. Dibbs had given into his charge, and which Bones told her had not left him day nor night.

"I put it in my pyjama pocket when I went to bed," he explained unnecessarily, "and " He began to pat himself all over, consternation in his face.

"And you left it in your pyjama pocket," said the girl quietly. "I'll telephone to your house for it."

"Phew !" said Bones. "It seems incredible. I must have been robbed."

"I don't think so," said the girl; "it is probably under your pillow.

Do you keep your pyjamas under your pillow ?"

"That," said Bones, "is a matter which I never discuss in public. I hate to disappoint you, dear old Marguerite "

"I'm sorry," said the girl, with such a simulation of regret that Bones dissolved into a splutter of contrition.

A commissionaire and a taxicab brought the plan, which was discovered where the girl in her wisdom had suggested.

"I'm not so sure how much money I'm going to make out of this," said Bones off-handedly, after a thorough and searching examination of the project. "It is certain to be about three thousand pounds, it may be a million or two million. It'll be good for you, dear old stenographer."

She looked at him.

"I have decided," said Bones, playing with his paper-knife, "to allow you a commission of seven and a half per cent. on all profits. Seven and a half per cent. on two million is, roughly, fifty thousand pounds"

She laughed her refusal.

"I like to be fair," said Bones.

"You like to be generous," she corrected him, "and because I am a girl, and pretty "

"Oh, I say," protested Bones feebly—"oh, really you are not pretty at all. I am not influenced by your perfectly horrible young face, believe me, dear old Miss Marguerite. Now, I've a sense of fairness, a sense of justice"

"Now, listen to me, Mr. Tibbetts." She swung her chair round to face him squarely. "I've got to tell you a little story."

Bones listened to that story with compressed lips and folded arms. He was neither shocked nor amazed, and the girl was surprised.

"Hold hard, young miss," he said soberly. "If this is a jolly old swindle, and if the naughty mariner "
"His name is Webber, and he is an actor," she interrupted.

"And dooced well he acted," admitted Bones. "Well, if this is so, what about the other johnny who's putting up ten thousand to my fifteen thousand ?"

This was a facer for the girl, and Bones glared his triumph.

"That is what the wicked old ship-sailer said. Showed me the money, an' I sent him straight off on the job. He said he'd got a Stock Exchange person named Morris "

"Morris !" gasped the girl. "That is my step-father !"

Bones jumped up, a man inspired.

"The naughty old One, who married your sainted mother ?" he gurgled.

"My miss ! My young an' jolly old Marguerite !"

He sat down at his desk, yanked open the drawer, and slapped down his cheque-book.

"Three thousand pounds," he babbled, writing rapidly. "You'd better keep it for her, dear old friend of Faust."

"But I don't understand," she said, bewildered.

"Telegram," said Bones briefly. "Read it."

She picked up the buff form and read. It was postmarked from Cowes, and ran:
"In accordance your telegraphed instructions, have sold your schooner-yacht to Mr. Dibbs, who paid cash. Did not give name of owner. Dibbs did not ask to see boat. All he wanted was receipt for money."
"They are calling this afternoon for my fifteen thousand," said Bones, cackling light-headedly. "Ring up jolly old Scotland Yard, and ask 'em to send me all the police they've got in stock !"


CHAPTER III

BONES  AND  WHARFINGERS

I

The kite wheeling invisible in the blue heavens, the vulture appearing mysteriously from nowhere in the track of the staggering buck, possess qualities which are shared by certain favoured human beings. No newspaper announced the fact that there had arrived in the City of London a young man tremendously wealthy and as tremendously inexperienced.

There were no meetings of organized robber gangs, where masked men laid nefarious plans and plots, but the instinct which called the kite to his quarry and the carrion to the kill brought many strangers who were equally strange to Bones and to one another to the beautiful office which he had fitted for himself for the better furtherance of his business.

One day a respectable man brought to Mr. Tibbetts a plan of a warehouse. He came like a gale of wind, almost before Bones had digested the name on the card which announced his existence and identity.
His visitor was red-faced and big, and had need to use a handkerchief to mop his brow and neck at intervals of every few minutes. His geniality was overpowering.

Before the startled Bones could ask his business, he had put his hat upon one chair, hooked his umbrella on another, and was unrolling, with that professional tremblement of hand peculiar to all who unroll large stiff sheets of paper, a large coloured plan, a greater portion of which was taken up by the River Thames, as Bones saw at a glance.

He knew that blue stood for water, and, twisting his neck, he read "Thames." He therefore gathered that this was the plan of a property adjacent to the London river.

"You're a busy man; and I'm a busy man," said the stentorian man breathlessly. "I've just bought this property, and if it doesn't interest you I'll eat my hat! My motto is small profits and quick returns. Keep your money at work, and you won't have to. Do you see what I mean ?"

"Dear old hurricane," said Bones feebly, "this is awfully interesting, and all that sort of thing, but would you be so kind as to explain why and where why you came in in this perfectly informal manner ? Against all the rules of my office, dear old thing, if you don't mind me snubbing you a bit. You are sure you aren't hurt?" he asked.

"Not a bit, not a bit!" bellowed the intruder. "Honest John, I am John Staines. You have heard of me ?"

"I have," said Bones, and the visitor was so surprised that he showed it.

"You have ?" he said, not without a hint of incredulity.

"Yes," said Bones calmly. "Yes, I have just heard you say it, Honest John Staines. Any relation to John o' Gaunt?"

This made the visitor look up sharply.

"Ha, ha!" he said, his laugh lacking sincerity. "You're a bit of a joker, Mr. Tibbetts. Now, what do you say to this? This is Stivvins' Wharf and Warehouse. Came into the market on Saturday, and I bought it on Saturday. The only river frontage which is vacant between Greenwich and Gravesend. Stivvins, precious metal refiner, went broke in the War, as you may have heard. Now, I am a man of few words and admittedly a speculator. I bought this property for fifteen thousand pounds. Show me a profit of five thousand pounds and it's yours."

Before Bones could speak, he stopped him with a gesture.

"Let me tell you this: if you like to sit on that property for a month, you'll make a sheer profit of twenty thousand pounds. You can afford to do it I can't. I tell you there isn't a vacant wharfage between Greenwich and Gravesend, and here you have a warehouse with thirty thousand feet of floor-space, derricks derrick, named after the hangman of that name: I'll bet you didn't know that ? cranes, everything in Well, it's not in apple-pie order," he admitted, "but it won't take much to make it so. What do you say?"

Bones started violently.

"Excuse me, old speaker, I was thinking of something else. Do you mind saying that all over again?"

Honest John Staines swallowed something and repeated his proposition.

Bones shook his head violently.

"Nothing doing !" he said. "Wharves and ships no !"

But Honest John was not the kind that accepts refusal without protest.

"What I'll do," said he confidentially, "is this: I'll leave the matter for twenty-four hours in your hands."

"No, go, my reliable old wharf-seller," said Bones. "I never go up the river under any possible circumstances By Jove, I've got an idea !"

He brought his knuckly fist down upon the unoffending desk, and Honest John watched hopefully.

"Now, if yes, it's an idea !"

Bones seized paper, and his long-feathered quill squeaked violently.

"That's it a thousand members at ten pounds a year, four hundred bedrooms at, say, ten shillings a night  How many is four hundred times ten shillings multiplied by three hundred and sixty-five ? Well, let's say twenty thousand pounds. That's it ! A club !"

"A club ?" said Honest John blankly.

"A river club. You said Greenhithe that's somewhere near Henley, isn't it ?"

Honest John sighed.

"No, sir," he said gently, "it's in the other direction toward the sea."

Bones dropped his pen and pinched his lip in an effort of memory.

"Is it ? Now, where was I thinking about ? I know Maidenhead ! Is it near Maidenhead ?"

"It's in the opposite direction from London," said the perspiring Mr. Staines.

"Oh!"

Bones's interest evaporated.

"No good to me, my old speculator. Wharves ! Bah !"

He shook his head violently, and Mr. Staines aroused himself.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, Mr. Tibbetts," he said simply; "I'll leave the plans with you. I'm going down into the country for a night. Think it over. I'll call to-morrow afternoon."

Bones still shook his head.

"No go, nothin' doin'. Finish this palaver, dear old Honesty !"

"Anyway, no harm is done," urged Mr. Staines. "I ask you, is there any harm done? You have the option for twenty-four hours. I'll roll the plans up so that they won't be in the way. Good morning !"

He was out of the office door before Bones could as much as deliver the preamble to the stern refusal he was preparing.

At three o'clock that afternoon came two visitors. They sent in a card bearing the name of a very important Woking firm of land agents, and they themselves were not without dignity of bearing.

There was a stout gentleman and a thin gentleman, and they tiptoed into the presence of Bones with a hint of reverence which was not displeasing.

"We have come on a rather important matter," said the thin gentleman.

"We understand you have this day purchased Stivvins' Wharf "

"Staines had no right to sell it ?" burst in the stout man explosively. "A dirty mean trick, after all that he promised us! It is just his way of getting revenge, selling the property to a stranger !"

"Mr. Sole" the thin gentleman's voice and attitude were eloquent of reproof "please restrain yourself ! My partner is annoyed," he explained "and not without reason. We offered fifty thousand pounds for Stivvins', and Staines, in sheer malice, has sold the property which is virtually necessary to our client literally behind our backs. Now, Mr. Tibbetts, are you prepared to make a little profit and transfer the property to us ?"

"But ..." began Bones.

"We will give you sixty thousand," said the explosive man. "Take it or leave it sixty thousand.

"But, my dear old Boniface," protested Bones, "I haven't bought the property really and truly I haven't. Jolly old Staines wanted me to buy it, but I assure you I didn't."

The stout man looked at him with glazed eyes, pulled himself together, and suggested huskily:

"Perhaps you will buy it at his price and transfer it to us ?"

"But why? Nothing to do with me, my old estate agent and auctioneer.

Buy it yourself. Good afternoon. Good afternoon!"

He ushered them out in a cloud of genial commonplaces.

In the street they looked at one another, and then beckoned Mr. Staines, who was waiting on the other side of the road.

"This fellow is either as wide as Broad Street or he's a babe in arms," said the explosive man huskily.

"Didn't he fall?" asked the anxious Staines.

"Not noticeably," said the thin man. "This is your scheme, Jack, and if I've dropped four thousand over that wharf, there's going to be trouble."

Mr. Staines looked very serious.

"Give him the day," he begged. "I'll try him to-morrow I haven't lost faith in that lad."

As for Bones, he made an entry in his secret ledger.

"A person called Stains and two persons called Sole Bros. Brothers tried me with the old Fiddle Trick. You take a Fiddel in a Pawn Brokers leave it with him along comes another Fellow and pretends its a Stadivarious Stradivarious a valuable Fiddel. 2nd Felow offers to pay fabulous sum pawnbroker says I'll see. When 1st fellow comes for his fidlel pawnbroker buys it at fablous sum to sell it to the 2nd fellow. But 2nd felow doesn't turn up.

"Note. 1st Felow called himself Honest John !! I dout if I dought it."

Bones finished his entries, locked away his ledger, and crossed the floor to the door of the outer office.
He knocked respectfully, and a voice bade him come in. It is not usual for the principal of a business to knock respectfully or otherwise on the door of the outer office, but then it is not usual for an outer office to house a secretary of such transcendental qualities, virtue, and beauty as were contained in the person of Miss Marguerite Whitland.

The girl half turned to the door and flashed a smile which was of welcome and reproof.

"Please, Mr. Tibbetts," she pleaded, "do not knock at my door. Don't you realize that it isn't done ?"

"Dear old Marguerite," said Bones solemnly, "a new era has dawned in the City. As jolly old Confusicus says: 'The moving finger writes, and that's all about it.' Will you deign to honour me with your presence in my sanctorum, and may I again beg of you" he leant his bony knuckles on the ornate desk which he had provided for her, and looked down upon her soberly "may I again ask you, dear old miss, to let me change offices? It's a little thing, dear old miss. I'm never, never goin' to ask you to dinner again, but this is another matter. I am out of my element in such a place as " He waved his hand disparagingly towards his sanctum. "I'm a rough old adventurer, used to sleeping in the snow hardships I can sleep anywhere."

"Anyway, you're not supposed to sleep in the office," smiled the girl, rising.

Bones pushed open the door for her, bowed as she passed, and followed her. He drew a chair up to the desk, and she sat down without further protest, because she had come to know that his attentions, his extravagant politeness and violent courtesies, signified no more than was apparent namely, that he was a great cavalier at heart.

"I think you ought to know," he said gravely, "that an attempt was made this morning to rob me of umpteen pounds."

"To rob you ?" said the startled girl.

"To rob me," said Bones, with relish. "A dastardly plot, happily frustrated by the ingenuity of the intended victim. I don't want to boast, dear old miss. Nothing is farther from my thoughts or wishes, but what's more natural when a fellow is offered a..."

He stopped and frowned.

"Yes ?"

"A precious metal refiner's That's rum," said Bones.

"Rum ?" repeated the girl hazily. "What is rum ?"

"Of all the rummy old coincidences," said Bones, with restrained and hollow enthusiasm—"why, only this morning I was reading in Twiddly Bits, a ripping little paper, dear old miss .There's a column called 'Things You Ought to Know,' which is honestly worth the twopence."

"I know it," said the girl curiously. "But what did you read ?"

"It was an article called 'Fortunes Made in Old Iron,'" said Bones.

"Now, suppose this naughty old refiner  By Jove, it's an idea !"

He paced the room energetically, changing the aspect of his face with great rapidity, as wandering thoughts crowded in upon him and vast possibilities shook their alluring banners upon the pleasant scene he conjured. Suddenly he pulled himself together, shot out his cuffs, opened and closed all the drawers of his desk as though seeking something he found it where he had left it, hanging on a peg behind the door, and put it on, and said with great determination and briskness:

"Stivvins' Wharf, Greenhithe. You will accompany me. Bring your note-book. It is not necessary to bring a typewriter. I will arrange for a taxicab. We can do the journey in two hours."

"But where are you going ?" asked the startled girl.

"To Stivvins'. I am going to look at this place. There is a possibility that certain things have been overlooked. Never lose an opportunity, dear old miss. We magnates make our fortune by never ignoring the little things."

But still she demurred, being a very sane, intelligent girl, with an imagination which produced no more alluring mental picture than a cold and draughty drive, a colder and draughtier and even more depressing inspection of a ruined factory, and such small matters as a lost lunch.

But Bones was out of the room, in the street, had flung himself upon a hesitant taxi-driver, had bullied and cajoled him to take a monstrous and undreamt-of journey for a man who, by his own admission, had only sufficient petrol to get his taxi home, and when the girl came down she found Bones, with his arm entwined through the open window of the door, giving explicit instructions as to the point on the river where Stivvins' Wharf was to be found.

II

Bones returned to his office alone. The hour was six-thirty, and he was a very quiet and thoughtful young man. He almost tiptoed into his office, closed and locked the door behind him, and sat at his desk with his head in his hands for the greater part of half an hour.

Then he unrolled the plan of the wharf, hoping that his memory had not played him false. Happily it had not. On the bottom right-hand corner Mr. Staines had written his address ! "Stamford Hotel, Blackfriars."

Bones pulled a telegraph form from his stationery rack and indited an urgent wire.

Mr. Staines, at the moment of receiving that telegram, was sitting at a small round table in the bar of The Stamford, listening in silence to certain opinions which were being expressed by his two companions in arms and partners in misfortune, the same opinions relating in a most disparaging manner to the genius, the foresight, and the constructive ability of one who in his exuberant moments described himself as Honest John.

The explosive gentleman had just concluded a fanciful picture of what would happen to Honest John if he came into competition with the average Bermondsey child of tender years.

Honest John took the telegram and opened it. He read it and gasped. He stood up and walked to the light, and read it again, then returned, his eyes shining, his face slightly flushed.

"You're clever, ain't you ?" he asked. "You're wise, I don't think ! Look at this !"

He handed the telegram to the nearest of his companions, who was the tall, thin, and non-explosive partner, and he in turn passed it without a word to his more choleric companion.
 
"You don't mean to say he's going to buy it ?"

"That's what it says, doesn't it ?" said the triumphant Mr. Staines.

"It's a catch," said the explosive man suspiciously.

"Not on your life," replied the scornful Staines. "Where does the catch come in ? We've done nothing he could catch us for ?"

"Let's have a look at that telegram again," said the thin man, and, having read it in a dazed way, remarked: "He'll wait for you at the office until nine. Well, Jack, nip up and fix that deal. Take the transfers with you. Close it and take his cheque. Take anything he'll give you, and get a special clearance in the morning, and, anyway, the business is straight."

Honest John breathed heavily through his nose and staggered from the bar, and the suspicious glances of the barman were, for once, unjustified, for Mr. Staines was labouring under acute emotions.

He found Bones sitting at his desk, a very silent, taciturn Bones, who greeted him with a nod.

"Sit down," said Bones. "I'll take that property. Here's my cheque."

With trembling fingers Mr. Staines prepared the transfers. It was he who scoured the office corridors to discover two agitated char-ladies who were prepared to witness his signature for a consideration.

He folded the cheque for twenty thousand pounds reverently and put it into his pocket, and was back again at the Stamford Hotel so quickly that his companions could not believe their eyes.

"Well, this is the rummiest go I have ever known," said the explosive man profoundly. "You don't think he expects us to call in the morning and buy it back, do you ?"

Staines shook his head.

"I know he doesn't," he said grimly. "In fact, he as good as told me that that business of buying a property back was a fake."

The thin man whistled.

"The devil he did ! Then what made him buy it ?"

"He's been there. He mentioned he had seen the property," said Staines. And then, as an idea occurred to them all simultaneously, they looked at one another.

The stout Mr. Sole pulled a big watch from his pocket.

"There's a caretaker at Stivvins', isn't there ?" he said. "Let's go down and see what has happened."
Stivvins' Wharf was difficult of approach by night. It lay off the main Woolwich Road, at the back of another block of factories, and to reach its dilapidated entrance gates involved an adventurous march through a number of miniature shell craters. Night, however, was merciful in that it hid the desolation which is called Stivvins' from the fastidious eye of man. Mr. Sole, who was not aesthetic and by no means poetical, admitted that Stivvins' gave him the hump.

It was ten o'clock by the time they had reached the wharf, and half-past ten before their hammering on the gate aroused the attention of the night-watchman, who was also the day-watchman, who occupied what had been in former days the weigh-house, which he had converted into a weatherproof lodging.

"Hullo !" he said huskily. "I was asleep."

He recognized Mr. Sole, and led the way to his little bunk-house.

"Look here, Tester," said Sole, who had appointed the man, "did a young swell come down here to-day ?"

"He did," said Mr. Tester, "and a young lady. They gave Mr. Staines's name, and asked to be showed round, and," he added, "I showed 'em round."

"Well, what happened ?" asked Staines.

"Well," said the man, "I took 'em in the factory, in the big building, and then this young fellow asked to see the place where the metal was kept."

"What metal ?" asked three voices at one and the same time.

"That's what I asked," said Mr. Tester, with satisfaction. "I told 'em Stivvins dealt with all kinds of metal, so the gent says: 'What about gold ?'"

"What about gold ?" repeated Mr. Staines thoughtfully. "And what did you say ?"

"Well, as a matter of fact," explained Tester, "I happen to know this place, living in the neighbourhood, and I used to work here about eight years ago, so I took 'em down to the vault."

"To the vault ?" said Mr. Staines. "I didn't know there was a vault."

"It's under the main office. You must have seen the place," said Tester. "There's a big steel door with a key in it, at least, there was a key in it, but this young fellow took it away with him."

Staines gripped his nearest companion in sin, and demanded huskily:

"Did they find anything in...in the vault ?"

"Blessed if I know !" said the cheerful Tester, never dreaming that he was falling very short of the faith which at that moment, and only at that moment, had been reposed in him. "They just went in. I've never been inside the place myself."

"And you stood outside, like a....a..."

"Blinking image !" said the explosive companion.

"You stood outside like a blinking image, and didn't attempt to go in, and see what they were looking at ?" said Mr. Staines heatedly. "How long were they there ?"

"About ten minutes." 

"And then they came out ?"

Tester nodded.

"Did they bring anything out with them ?"

"Nothing," said Mr. Tester emphatically.

"Did this fellow what's his name ? look surprised or upset ?" persisted the cross-examining Honest John.

"He was a bit upset, now you come to mention it, agitated like, yes," said Tester, reviewing the circumstances in a new light. "His 'and was, so to speak, shaking."

"Merciful Moses !" This pious ejaculation was from Mr. Staines. "He took away the key, you say. And what are you supposed to be here for ?" asked Mr. Staines violently. "You allow this fellow to come and take our property away. Where is the place ?"

Tester led the way across the littered yard, explaining en route that he was fed up, and why he was fed up, and what they could do to fill the vacancy which would undoubtedly occur the next day, and where they could go to, so far as he was concerned, and so, unlocking one rusty lock after another, passed through dark and desolate offices, full of squeaks and scampers, down a short flight of stone steps to a most uncompromising steel door at which they could only gaze.

III

Bones was at his office early the following rooming, but he was not earlier than Mr. Staines, who literally followed him into his office and slammed down a slip of paper under his astonished and gloomy eye.

"Hey, hey, what's this ?" said Bones irritably. "What the dooce is this, my wicked old fiddle fellow ?"

"Your cheque," said Mr. Staines firmly. "And I'll trouble you for the key of our strong-room."

"The key of your strong-room ?" repeated Bones. "Didn't I buy this property ?"

"You did and you didn't. To cut a long story short, Mr. Tibbetts, I have decided not to sell, in fact, I find that I have done an illegal thing in selling at all."

Bones shrugged his shoulders. Remember that he had slept, or half-slept, for some nine hours, and possibly his views had undergone a change. What he would have done is problematical, because at that moment the radiant Miss Whitland passed into her office, and Bones's acute ear heard the snap of her door.

"One moment," he said gruffly, "one moment, old Honesty."

He strode through the door which separated the private from the public portion of his suite, and Mr. Staines listened. He listened at varying distances from the door, and in his last position it would have required the most delicate of scientific instruments to measure the distance between his ear and the keyhole. He heard nothing save the wail of a Bones distraught, and the firm "No's" of a self-possessed female.

Then, after a heart-breaking silence Bones strode out, and Mr. Staines did a rapid sprint, so that he might be found standing in an attitude of indifference and thought near the desk. The lips of Bones were tight and compressed. He opened the drawer, pulled out the transfers, tossed them across to Mr. Staines.

"Key," said Bones, chucking it down after the document.

He picked up his cheque and tore it into twenty pieces.

"That's all," said Bones, and Mr. Staines beat a tremulous retreat.

When the man had gone, Bones returned to the girl who was sitting at her table before her typewriter. It was observable that her lips were compressed too.

"Young Miss Whitland," said Bones, and his voice was hoarser than ever, "never, never in my life will I ever forgive myself !"

"Oh, please, Mr. Tibbetts," said the girl a little wearily, "haven't I told you that I have forgiven you ? And I am sure you had no horrid thought in your mind, and that you just acted impulsively."

Bones bowed his head, at once a sign of agreement and a crushed spirit.

"The fact remains, dear old miss," he said brokenly, "that I did kiss you in that beastly old private vault. I don't know what made me do it," he gulped, "but I did it. Believe me, young miss, that spot was sacred. I wanted to buy the building to preserve it for all time, so that no naughty old foot should tread upon that hallowed ground. You think that's nonsense !"

"Mr. Tibbetts."

"Nonsense, I say, romantic and all that sort of rot." Bones threw out his arms. "I must agree with you. But, believe me, Stivvins' Wharf is hallowed ground, and I deeply regret that you would not let me buy it and turn it over to the jolly old Public Trustee or one of those johnnies…. You do forgive me ?"

She laughed up in his face, and then Bones laughed, and they laughed together.


CHAPTER  IV

THE   PLOVER  LIGHT CAR




The door of the private office opened and after a moment closed. It was, in fact, the private door of the private office, reserved exclusively for the use of the Managing Director of Schemes Limited. Nevertheless, a certain person had been granted the privilege of ingress and egress through that sacred portal, and Mr. Tibbetts, yclept Bones, crouching over his desk, the ferocity of his countenance intensified by the monocle which was screwed into his eye, and the terrific importance of his correspondence revealed by his disordered hair and the red tongue that followed the movements of his pen, did not look up.

"Put it down, put it down, young miss," he murmured, "on the table, on the floor, anywhere."

There was no answer, and suddenly Bones paused and scowled at the half-written sheet before him.

"That doesn't look right." He shook his head. "I don't know what's coming over me. Do you spell 'cynical' with one 'k' or two ?"

Bones looked up.

He saw a brown-faced man, with laughing grey eyes, a tall man in a long overcoat, carrying a grey silk hat in his hand.

"Pardon me, my jolly old intruder," said Bones with dignity, "this is a private..." Then his jaw dropped and he leant on the desk for support. "Not my, Good heavens !" he squeaked, and then leapt across the room, carrying with him the flex of his table lamp, which fell crashing to the floor.

"Ham, you poisonous old reptile !" He seized the other's hand in his bony paw, prancing up and down, muttering incoherently.

"Sit down, my jolly old Captain. Let me take your overcoat. Well ! Well ! Well ! Give me your hat, dear old thing, dear old Captain, I mean. This is simply wonderful ! This is one of the most amazin' experiences I've ever had, my dear old sportsman and officer. How long have you been home ? How did you leave the Territory ? Good heavens ! We must have a bottle on this !"

"Sit down, you noisy devil," said Hamilton, pushing his erstwhile subordinate into a chair, and pulling up another to face him.

"So this is your boudoir !" He glanced round admiringly. "It looks rather like the waiting-room of a couturière."

"My dear old thing," said the shocked Bones, "I beg you, if you please, remember, remember " He lowered his voice, and the last word was in a hoarse whisper, accompanied by many winks, nods, and pointings at and to a door which led from the inner office apparently to the outer. "There's a person, dear old man of the world, a young person, well brought up "

"What the ..." began Hamilton.

"Don't be peeved !" Bones's knowledge of French was of the haziest. "Remember, dear old thing," he said solemnly, wagging his inky forefinger, "as an employer of labour, I must protect the young an' innocent, my jolly old skipper."

Hamilton looked round for a missile, and could find nothing better than a crystal paper-weight, which looked too valuable to risk.

"'Couturière,'" he said acidly, "is French for 'dressmaker.'"

"French," said Bones, "is a language which I have always carefully avoided. I will say no more, you mean well, Ham."

Thereafter followed a volley of inquiries, punctuated at intervals by genial ceremony, for Bones would rise from his chair, walk solemnly round the desk, and as solemnly shake hands with his former superior.

"Now, Bones," said Hamilton at last, "will you tell me what you are doing ?"

Bones shrugged his shoulders.

"Business," he said briefly. "A deal now and again, dear old officer.

Make a thousand or so one week, lose a hundred or so the next."

"But what are you doing ?" persisted Hamilton.

Again Bones shrugged, but with more emphasis.

"I suppose," he confessed, with a show of self-deprecation which his smugness belied, "I suppose I am one of those jolly old spiders who sit in the centre of my web, or one of those perfectly dinky little tigers who sit in my jolly old lair, waiting for victims.

"Of course, it's cruel sport" he shrugged again, toying with his ivory paper-knife "but one must live. In the City one preys upon other ones."

"Do the other ones do any preying at all ?" asked Hamilton.

Up went Bones's eyebrows.

"They try," he said tersely, and with compressed lips. "Last week a fellow tried to sell me his gramophone, but I had a look at it. As I suspected, it had no needle. A gramophone without a needle," said Bones, "as you probably know, my dear old musical one, is wholly useless."

"But you can buy them at a bob a box," said Hamilton.

Bones's face fell.

"Can you really ?" he demanded. "You are not pulling my leg, or anything ? That's what the other fellow said. I do a little gambling," Bones went on, "not on the Stock Exchange or on the race-course, you understand, but in Exchanges."

"Money Exchanges ?"

Bones bowed his head.

"For example," he said, "to-day a pound is worth thirty-two francs, to-morrow it is worth thirty-four francs. Today a pound is worth four dollars seventy-seven"

"As a matter of fact, it is three dollars ninety-seven," interrupted Hamilton.

"Ninety-seven or seventy-seven," said Bones irritably, "what is four shillings to men like you or me, Hamilton ? We can well afford it."

"My dear chap," said Hamilton, pardonably annoyed, "there is a difference of four shillings between your estimate and the rate."

"What is four shillings to you or me ?" asked Bones again, shaking his head solemnly. "My dear old Ham, don't be mean."

There was a discreet tap on the door, and Bones rose with every evidence of agitation.

"Don't stir, dear old thing," he pleaded in a husky whisper. "Pretend not to notice, dear old Ham. Don't be nervous, wonderful young lady"

Then, clearing his throat noisily, "Come in !" he roared in the tone that a hungry lion might have applied to one of the early Christian martyrs who was knocking by mistake on the door of his den.

In spite of all injunctions, Hamilton did look, and he did stare, and he did take a great deal of notice, for the girl who came in was well worth looking at. He judged her to be about the age of twenty-one. "Pretty" would be too feeble a word to employ in describing her. The russet-brown hair, dressed low over her forehead, emphasized the loveliness of eyes set wide apart and holding in their clear depths all the magic and mystery of womanhood.

She was dressed neatly. He observed, too, that she had an open book under her arm and a pencil in her hand, and it dawned upon him slowly that this radiant creature was Bones's secretary !

Bones's secretary !

He stared at Bones, and that young man, very red in the face, avoided his eye.

Bones was standing by the desk, in the attitude of an after-dinner speaker who was stuck for the right word. In moments of extreme agitation Bones's voice became either a growl or a squeak the bottom register was now in exercise.

"Did...did you want me, young miss ?" he demanded gruffly.

The girl at the door hesitated.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know you were engaged. I wanted to see you about the Abyssinian "

"Come in, come in, certainly," said Bones more gruffly than ever. "A new complication, young miss ?"

She laid a paper on the desk, taking no more notice of Hamilton than if he were an ornament on the chimney-piece.

"The first instalment of the purchase price is due to-day," she said.

"Is it ?" said Bones, with his extravagant surprise. "Are you certain, young miss ? This day of all days and it's a Thursday, too," he added unnecessarily.

The girl smiled and curled her lip, but only for a second.

"Well, well," said Bones, "it's a matter of serious importance. The cheque, jolly old young miss, we will sign it and you will send it off. Make it out for the full amount"

"For the three thousand pounds?" said the girl.

"For the three thousand pounds," repeated Bones soberly. He put in his monocle and glared at her. "For the three thousand pounds," he repeated.

She stood waiting, and Bones stood waiting, he in some embarrassment as to the method by which the interview might be terminated and his secretary dismissed without any wound to her feelings.

"Don't you think to-morrow would do for the cheque ?" she asked.

"Certainly, certainly," said Bones. "Why not ? Tomorrow's Friday, ain't it ?"

She inclined her head and walked out of the room, and Bones cleared his throat once more.

"Bones "

The young man turned to meet Hamilton's accusing eye.

"Bones," said Hamilton gently, "who is the lady ?"

"Who is the lady ?" repeated Bones, with a cough. "The lady is my secretary, dear old inquisitor."

"So I gather," said Hamilton.

"She is my secretary," repeated Bones. "An extremely sensible young woman, extremely sensible."

"Don't be silly," said Hamilton. "Plenty of people are sensible. When you talk about sensible young women, you mean plain young women."

"That's true," said Bones; "I never thought of that. What a naughty old mind you have, Ham."

He seemed inclined to change the subject.

"And now, dear old son," said Bones, with a brisk return to his what-can-I-do-for-you air, "to business! You've come, dear old thing, to consult me."

"You're surprisingly right," said Hamilton.

"Well," said Bones, trying three drawers of his desk before he could find one that opened, "have a cigar, and let us talk."

Hamilton took the proffered weed and eyed it suspiciously.

"Is this one that was given to you, or one that you bought ?" he demanded.

"That, my jolly old officer," said Bones, "is part of a job lot that I bought pretty cheap. I've got a rare nose for a bargain"

"Have you a rare nose for a cigar, that's the point?" asked Hamilton, as he cut off the end and lit it gingerly.

"Would I give you a bad cigar ?" asked the indignant Bones. "A gallant old returned warrior, comrade of my youth, and all that sort of thing ! My dear old Ham !"

"I'll tell you in a minute," said Hamilton, and took two draws.

Bones, who was no cigar smoker, watched the proceedings anxiously.

Hamilton put the cigar down very gently on the corner of the desk.

"Do you mind if I finish this when nobody's looking ?" he asked.

"Isn't it all right ?" asked Bones. "Gracious heavens ! I paid fifty shillings a hundred for those! Don't say I've been done."

"I don't see how you could be done at that price," said Hamilton, and brushed the cigar gently into the fireplace. "Yes, I have come to consult you, Bones," he went on. "Do you remember some eight months ago I wrote to you telling you that I had been offered shares in a motor-car company ?"

Bones had a dim recollection that something of the sort had occurred, and nodded gravely.

"It seemed a pretty good offer to me," said Hamilton reflectively. "You remember I told you there was a managership attached to the holding of the shares ?"

Bones shifted uneasily in his chair, sensing a reproach.

"My dear old fellow " he began feebly.

"Wait a bit," said Hamilton. "I wrote to you and asked you your advice. You wrote back, telling me to have nothing whatever to do with the Plover Light Car Company."

"Did I ?" said Bones. "Well, my impression was that I advised you to get into it as quickly as you possibly could. Have you my letter, dear old thing ?"

"I haven't," said Hamilton.

"Ah," said Bones triumphantly, "there you are ! You jolly old rascal, you are accusing me of putting you off "

"Will you wait, you talkative devil ?" said Hamilton. "I pointed out to you that the prospects were very alluring. The Company was floated with a small capital "

Again Bones interrupted, and this time by rising and walking solemnly round the table to shake hands with him.

"Hamilton, dear old skipper," he pleaded. "I was a very busy man at that time. I admit I made a mistake, and possibly diddled you out of a fortune. But my intention was to write to you and tell you to get into it, and how I ever came to tell you not to get into it—well, my poor old speculator, I haven't the slightest idea !"

"The Company " began Hamilton.

"I know, I know," said Bones, shaking his head sadly and fixing his monocle a proceeding rendered all the more difficult by the fact that his hand never quite overtook his face. "It was an error on my part, dear old thing. I know the Company well. Makes a huge profit! You can see the car all over the town. I think the jolly old Partridge"

"Plover," said Hamilton.

"Plover, I mean. They've got another kind of car called the Partridge," explained Bones. "Why, it's one of the best in the market. I thought of buying one myself. And to think that I put you off that Company ! Tut, tut ! Anyway, dear old man," he said, brightening up, "most of the good fish is in the sea, and it only goes bad when it comes out of the sea. Have you ever noticed that, my dear old naturalist ?"

"Wait a moment. Will you be quiet ?" said the weary Hamilton. "I'm trying to tell you my experiences. I put the money, four thousand pounds, into this infernal Company.

"Eh ?"

"I put the money into the Company, I tell you, against your advice. The Company is more or less a swindle."

Bones sat down slowly in his chair and assumed his most solemn and business-like face.

"Of course, it keeps within the law, but it's a swindle, none the less. They've got a wretched broken-down factory somewhere in the North, and the only Plover car that's ever been built was made by a Scottish contractor at a cost of about twice the amount which the Company people said that they would charge for it."

"What did I say ?" said Bones quietly. "Poor old soul, I do not give advice without considering matters, especially to my dearest friend. A company like this is obviously a swindle. You can tell by the appearance of the cars"

"There was only one car ever made," interrupted Hamilton.

"I should have said car," said the unperturbed Bones. "The very appearance of it shows you that the thing is a swindle from beginning to end. Oh, why did you go against my advice, dear old Ham ? Why did you ?"

"You humbug !" said the wrathful Hamilton. "You were just this minute apologising for giving me advice."

"That," said Bones cheerfully, "was before I'd heard your story. Yes, Ham, you've been swindled." He thought a moment. "Four thousand pounds !"

And his jaw dropped.

Bones had been dealing in large sums of late, and had forgotten just the significance of four thousand pounds to a young officer. He was too much of a little gentleman to put his thoughts into words, but it came upon him like a flash that the money which Hamilton had invested in the Plover Light Car Company was every penny he possessed in the world, a little legacy he had received just before Bones had left the Coast, plus all his savings for years.

"Ham," he said hollowly, "I am a jolly old rotter ! Here I've been bluffing and swanking to you when I ought to have been thinking out a way of getting things right."

Hamilton laughed.

"I'm afraid you're not going to get things right, Bones," he said. "The only thing I did think was that you might possibly know something about this firm."

At any other moment Bones would have claimed an extensive acquaintance with the firm and its working, but now he shook his head, and Hamilton sighed.

"Sanders told me to come up and see you," he said. "Sanders has great faith in you, Bones."
Bones went very red, coughed, picked up his long-plumed pen and put it down again.

"At any rate," said Hamilton, "you know enough about the City to tell me this is there any chance of my getting this money back ?"

Bones rose jerkily.

"Ham," he said, and Hamilton sensed a tremendous sincerity in his voice, "that money's going to come back to you, or the name of Augustus Tibbetts goes down in the jolly old records as a failure."

A minute later Captain Hamilton found himself hand-shook from the room. Here for Bones was a great occasion. With both elbows on the desk, and two hands searching his hair, he sat worrying out what he afterwards admitted was the most difficult problem that ever confronted him.

After half an hour's hair-pulling he went slowly across his beautiful room and knocked discreetly on the door of the outer office.

Miss Marguerite Whitland had long since grown weary of begging him to drop this practice. She found it a simple matter to say "Come in!" and Bones entered, closing the door behind him, and stood in a deferential attitude two paces from the closed door.

"Young miss," he said quietly, "may I consult you ?"

"You may even consult me," she said as gravely.

"It is a very curious problem, dear old Marguerite," said Bones in a low, hushed tone. "It concerns the future of my very dearest friend the very dearest friend in all the world," he said emphatically, "of the male sex," he added hastily. "Of course, friendships between jolly old officers are on a different plane, if you understand me, to friendships between I mean to say, dear old thing, I'm not being personal or drawing comparisons, because the feeling I have for you "

Here his eloquence ran dry. She knew him now well enough to be neither confused nor annoyed nor alarmed when Bones broke forth into an exposition of his private feelings. Very calmly she returned the conversation to the rails.

"It is a matter which concerns a very dear friend of yours," she said suggestively, and Bones nodded and beamed.

"Of course you guessed that," he said admiringly. "You're the jolliest old typewriter that ever lived! I don't suppose any other young woman in London would have "

"Oh, yes, they would," she said. "You'd already told me. I suppose that you've forgotten it."

"Well, to cut a long story short, dear old Miss Marguerite," said Bones, leaning confidentially on the table and talking down into her upturned lace, "I must find the whereabouts of a certain rascal or rascals, trading or masquerading, knowingly or unknowingly, to the best of my knowledge and belief, as the..." He stopped and frowned. "Now, what the dickens was the name of that bird ?" he said. "Pheasant, partridge, ostrich, bat, flying fish, sparrow it's something to do with eggs. What are the eggs you eat ?"

"I seldom eat eggs," said the girl quietly, "but when I do they are the eggs of the common domestic fowl."

"It ain't him," said Bones, shaking his head. "No, it's...I've got it. Plover, the Plover Light Car Company."

The girl made a note on her pad.

"I want you to get the best men in London to search out this Company. If necessary, get two private detectives, or even three. Set them to work at once, and spare no expense. I want to know who's running the company I'd investigate the matter myself, but I'm so fearfully busy and where their offices are. Tell the detectives," said Bones, warming to the subject, "to hang around the motor-car shops in the West End. They're bound to hear a word dropped here and there, and..."

"I quite understand," said the girl.

Bones put out his lean paw and solemnly shook the girl's hand.

"If," he said, with a tremble in his voice, "if there's a typewriter in London that knows more than you, my jolly old Marguerite, I'll eat my head."

On which lines he made his exit.

Five minutes later the girl came into the office with a slip of paper.

"The Plover Motor Car Company is registered at 604, Gracechurch Street," she said. "It has a capital of eighty thousand pounds, of which forty thousand pounds is paid up. It has works at Kenwood, in the north-west of London, and the managing director is Mr. Charles O. Soames."

Bones could only look at her open-mouthed.

"Where on earth did you discover all this surprising information, dear miss ?" he asked, and the girl laughed quietly.

"I can even tell you their telephone number," she said, "because it happens to be in the Telephone Book. The rest I found in the Stock Exchange Year Book."

Bones shook his head in silent admiration.

"If there's a typewriter in London..." he began, but she had fled.

An hour later Bones had evolved his magnificent idea. It was an idea worthy of his big, generous heart and his amazing optimism.

Mr. Charles O. Soames, who sat at a littered table in his shirt-sleeves, was a man with a big shock of hair and large and heavily drooping moustache, and a black chin. He smoked a big, heavy pipe, and, at the moment Bones was announced, his busy pencil was calling into life a new company offering the most amazing prospects to the young and wealthy.

He took the card from the hands of his very plain typist, and suppressed the howl of joy which rose to his throat. For the name of Bones was known in the City of London, and it was the dream of such men as Charles O. Soames that one day they would walk from the office of Mr. Augustus Tibbetts with large parcels of his paper currency under each arm.

He jumped up from his chair and slipped on a coat, pushed the prospectus he was writing under a heap of documents one at least of which bore a striking family likeness to a county court writ, and welcomed his visitor decorously and even profoundly.

"In re Plover Car," said Bones briskly. He prided himself upon coming to the point with the least possible delay.

The face of Mr. Soames fell.

"Oh, you want to buy a car ?" he said. He might have truly said "the car," but under the circumstances he thought that this would be tactless.

"No, dear old company promoter," said Bones, "I do not want to buy your car. In fact, you have no cars to sell."

"We've had a lot of labour trouble," said Mr. Soames hurriedly.

"You've no idea of the difficulties in production what with the Government holding up supplies, but in a few months"

"I know all about that," said Bones. "Now, I'm a man of affairs and a man of business."

He said this so definitely that it sounded like a threat.

"I'm putting it to you, as one City of London business person to another City of London business person, is it possible to make cars at your factory ?"

Mr. Soames rose to the occasion.

"I assure you, Mr. Tibbetts," he said earnestly, "it is possible. It wants a little more capital than we've been able to raise."

This was the trouble with all Mr. Soames's companies, a long list of which appeared on a brass plate by the side of his door. None of them were sufficiently capitalised to do anything except to supply him with his fees as managing director.

Bones produced a dinky little pocket-book from his waistcoat and read his notes, or, rather, attempted to read his notes. Presently he gave it up and trusted to his memory.

"You've got forty thousand pounds subscribed to your Company," he said. "Now, I'll tell you what I'm willing to do I will take over your shares at a price."

Mr. Soames swallowed hard. Here was one of the dreams of his life coming true.

"There are four million shares issued," Bones went on, consulting his notebook.

"Eh ?" said Mr. Soames in a shocked voice.

Bones looked at his book closer.

"Is it four hundred thousand ?"

"Forty thousand," said Mr. Soames gently.

"It is a matter of indifference," said Bones. "The point is, will you sell ?"

The managing director of the Plover Light Car Company pursed his lips.

"Of course," he said, "the shares are at a premium not," he added quickly, "that they are being dealt with on 'Change. We have not troubled to apply for quotations. But I assure you, my dear sir, the shares are at a premium."

Bones said nothing.

"At a small premium," said Mr. Soames hopefully.

Bones made no reply.

"At a half a crown premium," said Mr. Soames pleadingly.

"At par," said Bones, in his firmest and most business-like tones.

The matter was not settled there and then, because matters are not settled with such haste in the City of London. Bones went home to his office with a new set of notes, and wired to Hamilton, asking him to come on the following day.

It was a great scheme that Bones worked out that night, with the aid of the sceptical Miss Whitland. His desk was piled high with technical publications dealing with the motor-car industry. The fact that he was buying the Company in order to rescue a friend's investment passed entirely from his mind in the splendid dream he conjured from his dubious calculations.

The Plover car should cover the face of the earth. He read an article on mass production, showing how a celebrated American produced a thousand or a hundred thousand cars a day, he wasn't certain which, and how the car, in various parts, passed along an endless table, between lines of expectant workmen, each of whom fixed a nut or unfixed a nut, so that, when the machine finally reached its journey's end, it left the table under its own power.

Bones designed a circular table, so that, if any of the workmen forgot to fix a bar or a nut or a wheel, the error could be rectified when the car came round again. The Plover car should be a household word. Its factories should spread over North London, and every year there should be a dinner with Bones in the chair, and a beautiful secretary on his right, and Bones should make speeches announcing the amount of the profits which were to be distributed to his thousands of hands in the shape of bonuses.

Hamilton came promptly at ten o'clock, and he came violently. He flew into the office and banged a paper down on Bones's desk with the enthusiasm of one who had become the sudden possessor of money which he had not earned.

"Dear old thing, dear old thing," said Bones testily, "remember dear old Dicky Orum, preserve the decencies, dear old Ham. You're not in the Wild West now, my cheery boy."

"Bones," shouted Hamilton, "you're my mascot ! Do you know what has happened ?"

"Lower your voice, lower your voice, dear old friend," protested Bones.

"My typewriter mustn't think I am quarrelling."

"He came last night," said Hamilton, "just as I was going to bed, and knocked me up." He was almost incoherent in his joy. "He offered me three thousand five hundred pounds for my shares, and I took it like a shot."

Bones gaped at him.

"Offered you three thousand five hundred?" he gasped. "Good heavens !

You don't mean to say "

Consider the tragedy of that moment. Here was Bones, full of great schemes for establishing a car upon the world's markets, who had in his head planned extensive works, who saw in his mind's eye vistas of long, white-covered festive boards, and heard the roar of cheering which greeted him when he rose to propose continued prosperity to the firm. Consider also that his cheque was on the table before him, already made out and signed. He was at that moment awaiting the arrival of Mr. Soames.

And then to this picture, tangible or fanciful, add Mr. Charles O. Soames himself, ushered through the door of the outer office and standing as though stricken to stone at the sight of Bones and Hamilton in consultation.

"Good morning," said Bones.

Mr. Soames uttered a strangled cry and strode to the centre of the room, his face working.

"So it was a ramp, was it ?" he said. "A swindle, eh ? You put this up to get your pal out of the cart ?"

"My dear old " began Bones in a shocked voice.

"I see how it was done. Well, you've had me for three thousand five hundred, and your pal's lucky. That's all I've got to say. It is the first time I've ever been caught; and to be caught by a mug like you "

"Dear old thing, moderate your language," murmured Bones.

Mr. Soames breathed heavily through his nose, thrust his hat on the back of his head, and, without another word, strode from the office, and they heard the door slam behind him. Bones and Hamilton exchanged glances; then Bones picked up the cheque from the desk and slowly tore it up. He seemed to spend his life tearing up expensive cheques.

"What is it, Bones ? What the dickens did you do ?" asked the puzzled Hamilton.

"Dear old Ham," said Bones solemnly, "it was a little scheme, just a little scheme. Sit down, dear old officer," he said, after a solemn pause. "And let this be a warning to you. Don't put your money in industries, dear old Captain Hamilton. What with the state of the labour market, and the deuced ingratitude of the working classes, it's positively heartbreaking, it is, indeed, dear old Ham."

And then and there he changed the whole plan and went out of industrials for good.



CHAPTER  V


A  CINEMA  PICTURE


Mr. Augustus Tibbetts, called "Bones," made money by sheer luck, he made more by sheer artistic judgment. That is a fact which an old friend sensed a very short time after he had renewed his acquaintance with his sometime subordinate.

Yet Bones had the curious habit of making money in quite a different way from that which he planned as, for example, in the matter of the great oil amalgamation. In these days of aeroplane travel, when it is next to impossible to watch the comings and goings of important individuals, or even to get wind of directors' meetings, the City is apt to be a little jumpy, and to respond to wild rumours in a fashion extremely trying to the nerves of conservative brokers.

There were rumours of a fusion of interests between the Franco-Persian Oil Company and the Petroleum Consolidated rumours which set the shares of both concerns jumping up and down like two badly trained jazzers. The directorate of both companies expressed their surprise that a credulous public could accept such stories, and both M. Jorris, the emperor of the Franco-Persian block, and George Y. Walters, the prince regent of the "Petco," denied indignantly that any amalgamation was even dreamt of.

Before these denials came along Bones had plunged into the oil market, making one of the few flutters which stand as interrogation marks against his wisdom and foresight.

He did not lose; rather, he was the winner by his adventure. The extent of his immediate gains he inscribed in his private ledger; his ultimate and bigger balance he entered under a head which had nothing to do with the oil gamble which was just like Bones, as Hamilton subsequently remarked.
Hamilton was staying with Sanders late Commissioner of a certain group of Territories, and Bones was the subject of conversation one morning at breakfast.

The third at the table was an exceedingly pretty girl, whom the maid called "Madame," and who opened several letters addressed to "Mrs. Sanders," but who in days not long past had been known as Patricia
Hamilton.

"Bones is wonderful," said Sanders, "truly wonderful ! A man I know in the City tells me that most of the things he touches turn up trumps. And it isn't luck or chance. Bones is developing a queer business sense."
Hamilton nodded.

"It is his romantic soul which gets him there," he said. "Bones will not look at a proposition which hasn't something fantastical behind it. He doesn't know much about business, but he's a regular whale on adventure. I've been studying him for the past month, and I'm beginning to sense his method. If he sees a logical and happy end to the romantic side of any new business, he takes it on. He simply carries the business through on the back of a dream."

The girl looked up from the coffee-pot she was handling.

"Have you made up your mind, dear ?"

"About going in with Bones ?" Hamilton smiled. "No, not yet. Bones is frantically insistent, has had a beautiful new Sheraton desk placed in his office, and says that I'm the influence he wants, but..."
He shook his head.

"I think I understand," said Sanders. "You feel that he is doing it all out of sheer generosity and kindness. That would be like Bones. But isn't there a chance that what he says is true that he does want a corrective influence ?"

"Maybe that is so," said Captain Hamilton doubtfully. "And then there's the money. I don't mind investing my little lot, but it would worry me to see Bones pretending that all the losses of the firm came out of his share, and a big slice of the profits going into mine."

"I shouldn't let that worry you," said his sister quietly. "Bones is too nice-minded to do anything so crude. Of course, your money is nothing compared with Bones's fortune, but why don't you join him on the understanding that the capital of the Company should be .How much would you put in ?

"Four thousand."

"Well, make the capital eight thousand. Bones could always lend the Company money. Debentures isn't that the word ?"

Sanders smiled in her face.

"You're a remarkable lady," he said. "From where on earth did you get your ideas on finance ?"

She went red.

"I lunched with Bones yesterday," she said. "And here is the post."

"Silence, babbler," said Hamilton. "Before we go any farther, what about this matter of partnership you were discussing with Patricia ?"

The maid distributed the letters. One was addressed:

"Captin Captian Hamilton, D.S.O."

"From Bones," said Hamilton unnecessarily, and Bones's letter claimed first attention. It was a frantic and an ecstatic epistle, heavily underlined and exclaimed.

"Dear old old Ham," it ran, "you simply must join me in magnifficant new sceme sheme plan! Wonderfull prophits profets! The most extraordiny chance for a fortune…"

"For Heaven's sake, what's this ?" asked Hamilton, handing the letter across to his sister and indicating an illegible line. "It looks like 'a bad girl's leg' to me."

"My dear !" said the shocked Mrs. Sanders, and studied the vile caligraphy. "It certainly does look like that," she admitted, "and I see ! 'Legacy' is the word."

"A bad girl's legacy is the titel of the play story picture" (Bones never crossed anything out). "There's a studyo at Tunbridge and two cameras and a fellow awfully nice fellow who understands it. A pot of money the story can be improve improved imensely. Come in it dear old man, magnifficant chance. See me at office eariliest earilest ealiest possible time.

"Thine in art for art sake,
    "BONES."

"From which I gather that Bones is taking a header into the cinema business," said Sanders. "What do you say, Hamilton ?"

Hamilton thought a while.

"I'll see Bones," he said.

He arrived in Town soon after ten, but Bones had been at his office two hours earlier, for the fever of the new enterprise was upon him, and his desk was piled high with notes, memoranda, price lists and trade publications. (Bones, in his fine rage of construction, flew to the technical journals as young authors fly to the Thesaurus.)

As Hamilton entered the office, Bones glared up.

"A chair," said the young man peremptorily. "No time to be lost, dear old artist. Time is on the wing, the light is fadin', an' if we want to put this jolly old country God bless it ! in the forefront "

Bones put down his pen and leant back in his chair.

"Ham," he said, "I had a bit of a pow-pow with your sacred and sainted sister, bless her jolly old heart. That's where the idea arose. Are you on ?"

"I'm on," said Hamilton, and there was a moving scene. Bones shook his hands and spoke broken English.

"There's your perfectly twee little desk, dear old officer," he said, pointing to a massive piece of furniture facing his own. "And there's only one matter to be settled."

He was obviously uncomfortable, and Hamilton would have reached for his cheque-book, only he knew his Bones much better than to suppose that such a sordid matter as finance could cause his agitation.

"Ham," said Bones, clearing his throat and speaking with an effort, "old comrade of a hundred gallant encounters, and dear old friend "

"What's the game ?" asked Hamilton suspiciously.

"There's no game," said the depressed Bones. "This is a very serious piece of business, my jolly old comrade. As my highly respected partner, you're entitled to use the office as you like, come in when you like, go home when you like. If you have a pain in the tum-tum, dear old friend, just go to bed and trust old Bones to carry on. Use any paper that's going, help yourself to nibs, you'll find there's some beautiful nibs in that cupboard, in fact, do as you jolly well like; but..."

"But ?" repeated Hamilton.

"On one point alone, dear old thing," said Bones miserably, yet heroically, "we do not share."

"What's that ?" asked Hamilton, not without curiosity.

"My typewriter is my typewriter," said Bones firmly, and Hamilton laughed.

"You silly ass !" he said. "I'm not going to play with your typewriter."

"That's just what I mean," said Bones. "You couldn't have put it better, dear old friend. Thank you."

He strode across the room, gripped Hamilton's hand and wrung it.

"Dear old thing, she's too young," he said brokenly. "Hard life … terrible experience… Play with her young affections, dear old thing ? No…"

"Who the dickens are you talking about? You said typewriter."

"I said typewriter," agreed Bones gravely. "I am speaking about my..."

A light dawned upon Hamilton.

"You mean your secretary ?"

"I mean my secretary," said Bones.

"Good Heavens, Bones !" scoffed Hamilton. "Of course I shan't bother her. She's your private secretary, and naturally I wouldn't think of giving her work."

"Or orders," said Bones gently. "That's a point, dear old thing. I simply couldn't sit here and listen to you giving her orders. I should scream. I'm perfectly certain I can trust you, Ham. I know what you are with the girls, but there are times ..."

"You know what I am with the girls ?" said the wrathful Hamilton. "What the dickens do you know about me, you libellous young devil ?"

Bones raised his hand.

"We will not refer to the past," he said meaningly and was so impressive that Hamilton began to search his mind for some forgotten peccadillo.

"All that being arranged to our mutual satisfaction, dear old partner," said Bones brightly, "permit me to introduce you."

He walked to the glass-panelled door leading to the outer office, and knocked discreetly, Hamilton watching him in wonder. He saw him disappear, closing the door after him. Presently he came out again, following the girl.

"Dear young miss," said Bones in his squeakiest voice, a sure sign of his perturbation, "permit me to introduce partner, ancient commander, gallant and painstaking, jolly old Captain Hamilton, D.S.O., which stands, young typewriter, for Deuced Satisfactory Officer."

The girl, smiling, shook hands, and Hamilton for the first time looked her in the face. He had been amazed before by her classic beauty, but now he saw a greater intelligence than he had expected to find in so pretty a face, and, most pleasing of all, a sense of humour.

"Bones and I are very old friends," he explained.

"Hem !" said Bones severely.

"Bones ?" said the girl, puzzled.

"Naturally !" murmured Bones. "Dear old Ham, be decent. You can't expect an innocent young typewriter to think of her employer as 'Bones.'"

"I'm awfully sorry," Hamilton hastened to apologise, "but you see, Bones and I..."

"Dicky Orum," murmured Bones. "Remember yourself, Ham, old indiscreet one Mr. Tibbetts. And here's the naughty old picture-taker," he said in another tone, and rushed to offer an effusive welcome to a smart young man with long, black, wavy hair and a face reminiscent, to all students who have studied his many pictures, of Louis XV. Strangely enough, his name was Louis. He was even called Lew.

"Sit down, my dear Mr. Becksteine," said Bones. "Let me introduce you to my partner. Captain Hamilton, D.S.O., a jolly old comrade-in-arms and all that sort of thing. My lady typewriter you know, and anyway, there's no necessity for your knowing her, I mean," he said hastily, "she doesn't want to know you, dear old thing. Now, don't be peevish. Ham, you sit there. Becksteine will sit there. You, young miss, will sit near me, ready to take down my notes as they fall from my ingenious old brain."

In the bustle and confusion the embarrassing moment of Hamilton's introduction was forgotten. Bones had a manuscript locked away in the bottom drawer of his desk, and when he had found the key for this, and had placed the document upon the table, and when he had found certain other papers, and when the girl was seated in a much more comfortable chair, Bones fussed about like an old hen, the proceedings began.

Bones explained.

He had seen the derelict cinema company advertised in a technical journal, had been impressed with the amount of the impedimenta which accompanied the proprietorship of the syndicate, had been seized with a brilliant idea, bought the property, lock, stock, and barrel, for two thousand pounds, for which sum, as an act of grace, the late proprietors allowed him to take over the contract of Mr. Lew Becksteine, that amiable and gifted producer.

It may be remarked, in passing, that this arrangement was immensely satisfactory to the syndicate, which was so tied and bound to Mr. Becksteine for the next twelve months that to have cancelled his contract would have cost them the greater part of the purchase price which Bones paid.

"This is the story," said Bones impressively. "And, partner Ham, believe me, I've read many, many stories in my life, but never, never has one touched me as this has. It's a jolly old tear-bringer, Ham. Even a hardened, wicked old dev..., old bird like you would positively dissolve. You would really, dear old Ham, so don't deny it. You know you've got one of the tenderest hearts in the world, you rascal !"

He got up and shook hands with Hamilton, though there was no necessity for him to move.

"Now, clever old Becksteine thinks that this is going to be a scorcher."

"A winner, a winner," murmured Mr. Becksteine, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He spoke on this occasion very softly, but he could raise his voice to thrilling heights. "A sure winner, my dear sir. I have been in the profession for twenty-seven years, and never in my life have I read a drama which contains so much heart appeal "

"You hear ?" said Bones in a hoarse whisper..."so much genuine comedy "Bones nodded. "so much that I might say goes straight to the passionate heart of the great public, as this remarkable, brilliantly planned, admirably planted, exquisitely balanced little cameo of real life."

"It's to be a two-roller," said Bones.

"Reeler," murmured Mr. Becksteine.

"Reeler or roller, dear old thing; don't let's quarrel over how a thing's spelt," said Bones.

"Who wrote it ?" asked Hamilton.

Mr. Becksteine coughed modestly.

"Jolly old Becksteine wrote it," said Bones. "That man, Ham, is one of the most brilliant geniuses in this or any other world. Aren't you ? Speak up, old playwright. Don't be shy, old thing."

Mr. Becksteine coughed again.

"I do not know anything about other worlds," he admitted.

"Now, this is my idea," said Bones, interrupting what promised to be a free and frank admission of Mr. Becksteine's genius. "I've worked the thing out, and I see just how we can save money. In producing two-roller cinematographs, that's the technical term," explained Bones, "the heavy expense is with the artistes. The salaries that these people are paid ! My dear old Ham, you'd never believe."

"I don't see how you can avoid paying salaries," said Hamilton patiently. "I suppose even actors have to live."

"Ah !" said Mr. Becksteine, shaking his head.

"Of course, dear old thing. But why pay outside actors ?" said Bones triumphantly.

He glared from one face to the other with a ferocity of expression which did no more than indicate the strength of his conviction.

"Why not keep the money in the family, dear old Ham ? That's what I ask you. Answer me that." He leaned back in his chair, thrust his hands in his trousers pockets, and blandly surveyed his discomfited audience.

"But you've got to have actors, my dear chap," said Hamilton.

"Naturally and necessarily," replied Bones, nodding with very large nods. "And we have them. Who is Jasper Brown, the villain who tries to rob the poor girl of her legacy and casts the vilest aspersions upon her jolly old name ?"

"Who is ?" asked the innocent Hamilton.

"You are," said Bones.

Hamilton gasped.

"Who is Frank Fearnot, the young and handsome soldier well, not necessarily handsome, but pretty good-looking, who rescues the girl from her sad predicament ?"

"Well, that can't be me, anyway," said Hamilton.

"It is not," said Bones. "It is me ! Who is the gorgeous but sad old innocent one who's chased by you, Ham, till the poor little soul doesn't know which way to turn, until this jolly young officer steps brightly on the scene, whistling a merry tune, and, throwing his arms about her, saves her, dear old thing, from her fate or, really, from a perfectly awful rotten time."

"Who is she?" asked Hamilton softly.

Bones blinked and turned to the girl slowly.

"My dear old miss," he said, "what do you think ?"

"What do I think ?" asked the startled girl. "What do I think about what?"

"There's a part," said Bones "there's one of the grandest parts that was ever written since Shakespeare shut his little copybook."

"You're not suggesting that I should play it ?" she asked, open-mouthed.

"Made for you, dear old typewriter, positively made for you, that part," murmured Bones.

"Of course I shall do nothing so silly," said the girl, with a laugh.

"Oh, Mr. Tibbetts, you really didn't think that I'd do such a ..."
She didn't finish the sentence, but Hamilton could have supplied the three missing words without any difficulty.

Thereafter followed a discussion, which in the main consisted of joint and several rejection of parts.

Marguerite Whitland most resolutely refused to play the part of the bad girl, even though Bones promised to change the title to "The Good Girl," even though he wheedled his best, even though he struck attitudes indicative of despair and utter ruin, even though the gentle persuasiveness of Mr. Lew Becksteine was added to his entreaties. And Hamilton as resolutely declined to have anything to do with the bad man. Mr. Becksteine solved the difficulty by undertaking to produce the necessary actors and actresses at the minimum of cost.

"Of course you won't play, Bones ?" said Hamilton.

"I don't know," said Bones. "I'm not so sure, dear old thing. I've got a lot of acting talent in me, and I feel the part that's a technical term you won't understand."

"But surely, Mr. Tibbetts," said the girl reproachfully, "you won't allow yourself to be photographed embracing a perfectly strange lady ?"

Bones shrugged his shoulders.

"Art, my dear old typewriter," he said. "She'll be no more to me than a bit of wood, dear old miss. I shall embrace her and forget all about it the second after. You need have no cause for apprehension, really and truly."

"I am not at all apprehensive," said the girl coldly, and Bones followed her to her office, showering explanations of his meaning over her shoulder.

On the third day Hamilton went back to Twickenham a very weary man.

"Bones is really indefatigable," he said irritably, but yet admiringly. "He has had those unfortunate actors rehearsing in the open fields, on the highways and byways. Really, old Bones has no sense of decency. He's got one big scene which he insists upon taking in a private park. I shudder to think what will happen if the owner comes along and catches Bones and his wretched company."

Sanders laughed quietly.

"What do you think he'll do with the film ?" he asked.

"Oh, he'll sell it," said Hamilton. "I tell you, Bones is amazing. He has found a City man who is interested in the film industry, a stockbroker or something, who has promised to see every bit of film as it is produced and give him advice on the subject; and, incredible as it may sound, the first half-dozen scenes that Bones has taken have passed muster."

"Who turns the handle of the camera ?" asked the girl.

"Bones," said Hamilton, trying not to laugh. "He practised the revolutions on a knife-cleaning machine !"

The fourth day it rained, but the fifth day Bones took his company in a hired motor into the country, and, blissfully ignoring such admonitions as "Trespassers will be shot," he led the way over a wall to the sacred soil of an Englishman's stately home. Bones wanted the wood, because one of his scenes was laid on the edge of a wood. It was the scene where the bad girl, despairing of convincing anybody as to her inherent goodness, was taking a final farewell of the world before "leaving a life which had held nothing but sadness and misunderstanding," to quote the title which was to introduce this touching episode.

Bones found the right location, fitted up his camera, placed the yellow-faced girl, the cinema artiste has a somewhat bilious appearance when facing the lens, and began his instructions.

"Now, you walk on here, dear old Miss What's-Your-Name. You come from that tree with halting footsteps, like this, dear old thing. Watch and learn."

Bones staggered across the greensward, clasping his brow, sank on his knees, folded his arms across his chest, and looked sorrowfully at the heavens, shaking his head.

Hamilton screamed with laughter.

"Behave yourself, naughty old sceptic," said Bones severely.

After half an hour's preliminary rehearsal, the picture was taken, and Bones now prepared to depart; but Mr. Lew Becksteine, from whose hands Bones had taken, not only the direction of the play, but the very
excuse for existence, let fall a few uncomfortable words.

"Excuse me, Mr. Tibbetts," he said, in the sad, bored voice of an artiste who is forced to witness the inferior work of another, "it is in this scene that the two lawyers must be taken, walking through the wood, quite unconscious of the unhappy fate which has overtaken the heiress for whom they are searching."

"True," said Bones, and scratched his nose.

He looked round for likely lawyers. Hamilton stole gently away.

"Now, why the dickens didn't you remind me, you careless old producer, to bring two lawyers with me ?"
asked Bones. "Dash it all, there's nothing here that looks like a lawyer. Couldn't it be taken somewhere else ?"

Mr. Becksteine had reached the stage where he was not prepared to make things easy for his employer.

"Utterly impossible," he said; "you must have exactly the same scenery. The camera cannot lie."

Bones surveyed his little company, but without receiving any encouragement.

"Perhaps I might find a couple of fellows on the road," he suggested.

"It is hardly likely," said Mr. Lew Becksteine, "that you will discover in this remote country village two gentlemen arrayed in faultlessly fitting morning-coats and top-hats !"

"I don't know so much about that," said the optimistic Bones, and took a short cut through the wood, knowing that the grounds made an abrupt turn where they skirted the main road.

He was half-way through the copse when he stopped. Now, Bones was a great believer in miracles, but they had to be very spectacular miracles. The fact that standing in the middle of the woodland path were two middle-aged gentlemen in top-hats and morning-coats, seemed to Bones to be a mere slice of luck. It was, in fact, a miracle of the first class. He crept silently back, raced down the steps to where the little party stood.

"Camera !" he hissed. "Bring it along, dear old thing. Don't make a noise ! Ham, old boy, will you help ? You other persons, stay where you are."

Hamilton shouldered the camera, and on the way up the slope Bones revealed his fell intention.

"There is no need to tell these silly old jossers what we're doing," he said. "You see what I mean, Ham, old boy ? We'll just take a picture of them as they come along. Nobody will be any the wiser, and all we'll have to do will be to put a little note in." All the time he was fixing the camera on the tripod, focussing the lens on a tree by the path. (It was amazing how quickly Bones mastered the technique of any new hobby he took up.)

From where Hamilton crouched in the bushes he could see the two men plainly. His heart quaked, realising that one at least was possibly the owner of the property on which he was trespassing; and he had all an Englishman's horror of trespass. They were talking together, these respectable gentlemen, when Bones began to turn the handle. They had to pass through a patch of sunlight, and it was upon this that Bones concentrated. Once one of them looked around as the sound of clicking came to him, but at that moment Bones decided he had taken enough and stopped.

"This," said he, as they gained the by-road where they had made their unauthorised entry into the park, "is a good day's work."

Their car was on the main road, and to Hamilton's surprise he found the two staid gentlemen regarding it when the party came up. They were regarding it from a high bank behind the wall, a bank which commanded a view of the road. One of them observed the camera and said something in a low tone to the other; then the speaker walked down the bank, opened a little wicker door in the wall, and came out.

He was a most polite man, and tactful.

"Have you been taking pictures ?" he asked.

"Dear old fellow," said Bones. "I will not deceive you, we have."

There was a silence.

"In the park, by any chance ?" asked the gentleman carelessly.

Bones flinched. He felt rather guilty, if the truth be told.

"The fact is..." he began.

The elderly man listened to the story of "The Bad Girl's Legacy," its genesis, its remarkable literary qualities, and its photographic value. He seemed to know a great deal about cinematographs, and asked several questions.

"So you have an expert who sees the pieces as they are produced ?" he asked. "Who is that ?"

"Mr. Tim Lewis," said Bones. "He's one of the..."

"Lewis ?" said the other quickly. "Is that Lewis the stockbroker ? And does he see every piece you take ?"

Bones was getting weary of answering questions.

"Respected sir and park proprietor," he said, "if we have trespassed, I apologise. If we did any harm innocently, and without knowing that we transgressed the jolly old conventions, if we, as I say, took a picture of you and your fellow park proprietor without a thank-you-very-much, I am sorry."

"You took me and my friend ?" asked the elderly man quickly.

"I am telling you, respected sir and cross-examiner, that I took you being in a deuce of a hole for a lawyer."

"I see," said the elderly man. "Will you do me a favour ? Will you let me see your copy of that picture before you show it to Mr. Lewis? As the respected park proprietor" he smiled "you owe me that."

"Certainly, my dear old friend and fellow-sufferer," said Bones.

"Bless my life and heart and soul, certainly !"

He gave the address of the little Wardour Street studio where the film would be developed and printed, and fixed the morrow for an exhibition.

"I should very much like to see it to-night, if it is no trouble to you."

"We will certainly do our best, sir," Hamilton felt it was necessary to interfere at this point.

"Of course, any extra expense you are put to as the result of facilitating the printing, or whatever you do to these films," said the elderly man, "I shall be glad to pay."

He was waiting for Bones and Hamilton at nine o'clock that night in the dingy little private theatre which Bones, with great difficulty, had secured for his use. The printing of the picture had been accelerated, and though the print was slightly speckled, it was a good one.

The elderly man sat in a chair and watched it reeled off, and when the lights in the little theatre went up, he turned to Bones with a smile.

"I'm interested in cinema companies," he said, "and I rather fancy that I should like to include your property in an amalgamation I am making. I could assist you to fix a price," he said to the astonished Bones, "if you would tell me frankly, as I think you will, just what this business has cost you from first to last."

"My dear old amalgamator," said Bones reproachfully, "is that business ? I ask you."

"It may be good business," said the other.

Bones looked at Hamilton. They and the elderly man, who had driven up to the door of the Wardour Street studio in a magnificent car, were the only three people, besides the operator, who were present.
Hamilton nodded.

"Well," said Bones, "business, dear old thing, is my weakness. Buying and selling is my passion and Lobby. From first to last, after paying jolly old Brickdust, this thing is going to cost me more than three thousand pounds say, three thousand five hundred."

The elderly man nodded.

"Let's make a quick deal," he said. "I'll give you six thousand pounds for the whole concern, with the pictures as you have taken them negatives, positives, cameras, etc. Is it a bargain ?"

Bones held out his hand.

They dined together, a jubilant Bones and a more jubilant Hamilton, at a little restaurant in Soho.

"My dear old Ham," said Bones, "it only shows you how things happen. This would have been a grand week for me if those beastly oil shares of mine had gone up. I'm holding 'em for a rise." He opened a newspaper he had bought in the restaurant. "I see that Jorris and Walters they're the two oil men deny that they've ever met or that they're going to amalgamate. But can you believe these people ?" he asked. "My dear old thing, the mendacity of these wretched financiers "

"Have you ever seen them ?" asked Hamilton, to whom the names of Jorris and Walters were as well known as to any other man who read his daily newspaper.

"Seen them ?" said Bones. "My dear old fellow, I've met them time and time again. Two of the jolliest old birds in the world. Well, here's luck !"

At that particular moment Mr. Walters and Mr. Jorris were sitting together in the library of a house in Berkeley Square, the blinds being lowered and the curtains being drawn, and Mr. Walters was saying:

"We'll have to make this thing public on Wednesday. My dear fellow, I nearly fainted when I heard that that impossible young person had photographed us together. When do you go back to Paris ?"

"I think I had better stay here," said Mr. Jorris. "Did the young man bleed you ?"

"Only for six thousand," said the pleasant Mr. Walters. "I hope the young beggar's a bear in oil," he added viciously.

But Bones, as we know, was a bull.


CHAPTER  VI

A  DEAL  IN  JUTE



It is a reasonable theory that every man of genius is two men, one visible, one unseen and often unsuspected by his counterpart. For who has not felt the shadow's influence in dealing with such as have the Spark? Napoleon spoke of stars, being Corsican and a mystic. Those who met him in his last days were uneasily conscious that the second Bonaparte had died on the eve of Waterloo, leaving derelict his brother, a stout and commonplace man who was in turn sycophantic, choleric, and pathetic, but never great.

Noticeable is the influence of the Shadow in the process of money-making. It is humanly impossible for some men to be fortunate. They may amass wealth by sheer hard work and hard reasoning, but if they seek a shorter cut to opulence, be sure that short cut ends in a cul-de-sac where sits a Bankruptcy Judge and a phalanx of stony-faced creditors. "Luck" is not for them they were born single.

For others, the whole management of life is taken from their hands by their busy Second, who ranges the world to discover opportunities for his partner.

So it comes about that there are certain men, and Augustus Tibbetts or, as he was named, "Bones" was one of these, to whom the increments of life come miraculously. They could come in no other way, be he ever so learned and experienced.

Rather would a greater worldliness have hampered his familiar and in time destroyed its power, just as education destroys the more subtle instincts. Whilst the learned seismographer eats his dinner, cheerfully unconscious of the coming earthquake, his dog shivers beneath the table.

By this preamble I am not suggesting that Bones was a fool. Far from it. Bones was wise, uncannily wise in some respects. His success was due, as to nine-tenths, to his native sense. His x supplied the other fraction.

No better illustration of the working of this concealed quantity can be given than the story of the great jute sale and Miss Bertha Stegg.

The truth about the Government speculation in jute is simply told. It is the story of an official who, in the middle of the War, was seized with the bright idea of procuring enormous quantities of jute for the manufacture of sand-bags. The fact that by this transaction he might have driven the jute lords of Dundee into frenzy did not enter into his calculations. Nor did it occur to him that the advantageous position in which he hoped to place his Department depended for its attainment upon a total lack of foresight on the part of the Dundee merchants.

As a matter of fact, Dundee had bought well and wisely. It had sufficient stocks to meet all the demands which the Government made upon it; and when, after the War, the Department offered its purchase at a price which would show a handsome profit to the Government, Dundee laughed long and loudly.

And so there was left on the official hands, at the close of the War, a quantity of jute which nobody wanted, at a price which nobody would pay. And then somebody asked a question in the House of Commons, and the responsible Secretary went hot all over, and framed the reply which an Under-secretary subsequently made in such terms as would lead the country to believe that the jute purchased at a figure beyond the market value was a valuable asset, and would one day be sold at a profit.
Mr. Augustus Tibbetts knew nothing about jute. But he did read, almost every morning in the daily newspapers, how one person or another had made enormous purchases of linen, or of cloth, or of motor chassis, paying fabulous sums on the nail and walking off almost immediately with colossal profits; and every time Bones read such an account he wriggled in his chair and made unhappy noises.

Then one afternoon there came to his office a suave gentleman in frock-coat, carrying with him a card which was inscribed "Ministry of Supplies." And the end of that conversation was that Bones, all a twitter of excitement, drove to a gloomy office in Whitehall, where he interviewed a most sacred public official, to whom members of the public were not admitted, perhaps, more than four times a year.

Hamilton had watched the proceedings with interest and suspicion. When Bones was mysterious he was very mysterious; and he returned that night in such a condition of mystery that none but a thought-reading detective could have unravelled him.

"You seem infernally pleased with yourself, Bones," said Hamilton.

"What lamentable error have you fallen into ?"

"Dear old Ham," said Bones, with the helpless little laugh which characterised the very condition of mind which Hamilton had described, "dear old pryer, wait till to-morrow. Dear old thing, I wouldn't spoil it. Read your jolly old newspaper, dear old inquirer."

"Have you been to the police court ?" asked Hamilton.

"Police court ? Police court ?" said Bones testily. "Good Heavens, lad! Why this jolly old vulgarity ? No, dear boy, live and learn, dear old thing !"

Hamilton undoubtedly lived until the next morning, and learnt. He saw the headlines the second he opened his newspaper.

GREAT  DEAL  IN  JUTE.  PROMINENT  CITY  BUYS  GOVERNMENT  SUPPLY  OF  JUTE  FOR A MILLION.


Hamilton was on his way to the office, and fell back in the corner of the railway carriage with a suppressed moan. He almost ran to the office, to find Bones stalking up and down the room, dictating an interview to a reporter.

"One minute, one minute, dear old Ham," said. Bones warningly. And then, turning to the industrious journalist, he went on where Hamilton had evidently interrupted him. "You can say that I've spent a great deal of my life in fearfully dangerous conditions," he said. "You needn't say where, dear old reporter, just say 'fearfully dangerous conditions.'"

"What about jute ?" asked the young man.

"Jute," said Bones with relish, "or, as we call it, Corcharis capsilaris, is the famous jute tree. I have always been interested in jute and all that sort of thing But you know what to say better than I can tell you. You can also say that I'm young, no, don't say that. Put it like this: 'Mr. Tibbetts, though apparently young-looking, bears on his hardened old face the marks of years spent in the service of his country. There is a sort of sadness about his funny old eyes' You know what to say, old thing."

"I know," said the journalist, rising. "You'll see this in the next edition, Mr. Tibbetts."

When the young man had gone, Hamilton staggered across to him.

"Bones," he said, in a hollow voice, "you've never bought this stuff for a million ?"

"A million's a bit of an exaggeration, dear old sportsman," said Bones. "As a matter of fact, it's about half that sum, and it needn't be paid for a month. Here is the contract." He smacked his lips and smacked the contract, which was on the table, at the same time. "Don't get alarmed, don't get peevish, don't get panicky, don't be a wicked old flutterer, Ham, my boy!" he said. "I've reckoned it all out, and I shall make a cool fifty thousand by this time next week."

"What will you pay for it ?" asked Hamilton, in a shaky voice. "I mean, how much a ton ?"

Bones mentioned a figure, and Hamilton jotted down a note.

He had a friend, as it happened, in the jute trade the owner of a big mill in Dundee and to him he dispatched an urgent telegram. After that he examined the contract at leisure. On the fourth page of that interesting document was a paragraph, the seventh, to this effect:

"Either parties to this contract may, for any reason whatsoever, by giving notice either to the Ministry of Supplies, Department 9, or to the purchaser at his registered office, within twenty-four hours of the signing of this contract, cancel the same."

He read this over to Bones.

"That's rum," he said. "What is the idea ?"

"My jolly old captain," said Bones in his lordly way, "how should I know ? I suppose it's in case the old Government get a better offer. Anyway, dear old timidity, it's a contract that I'm not going to terminate, believe me !"

The next afternoon Bones and Hamilton returned from a frugal lunch at a near-by tavern, and reached the imposing entrance of the building in which New Schemes Limited was housed simultaneously or perhaps it would be more truthful to say a little later than a magnificent limousine. It was so far ahead of them that the chauffeur had time to descend from his seat, open the highly-polished door, and assist to the honoured sidewalk a beautiful lady in a large beaver coat, who carried under her arm a small portfolio.
There was a certain swing to her shoulder as she walked, a certain undulatory movement of hip, which spoke of a large satisfaction with the world as she found it.

Bones, something of a connoisseur and painfully worldly, pursed his lips and broke off the conversation in which he was engaged, and which had to do with the prospective profits on his jute deal, and remarked tersely:

"Ham, dear old thing, that is a chinchilla coat worth twelve hundred pounds."

Hamilton, to whom the mysteries of feminine attire were honest mysteries, accepted the sensational report without demur.

"The way you pick up these particular bits of information, Bones, is really marvellous to me. It isn't as though you go out a lot into society. It isn't as though women are fond of you or make a fuss of you."
Bones coughed.

"Dicky Orum. Remember, dear old Richard," he murmured. "My private life, dear old fellow, if you will forgive me snubbing you, is a matter on which nobody is an authority except A. Tibbetts, Esq. There's a lot you don't know, dear old Ham. I was thinking of writing a book about it, but it would take too long."
By this time they reached the elevator, which descended in time to receive the beautiful lady in the brown coat. Bones removed his hat, smoothed his glossy hair, and with a muttered "After you, dear old friend. Age before honesty," bundled Hamilton into the lift and followed him.

The elevator stopped at the third floor, and the lady got out. Bones, his curiosity overcoming his respect for age or his appreciation of probity, followed her, and was thrilled to discover that she made straight for his office. She hesitated for a moment before that which bore the word "Private," and passed on to the outer and general office.

Bones slipped into his own room so quickly that by the time Hamilton entered he was sitting at his desk in a thoughtful and studious attitude.

It cannot be said that the inner office was any longer entitled to the description of sanctum sanctorum. Rather was the holy of holies the larger and less ornate apartment wherein sat A Being whose capable little fingers danced over complicated banks of keys.

The communicating door opened and the Being appeared. Hamilton, mindful of a certain agreement with his partner, pretended not to see her.

"There's a lady who wishes a private interview with you, Mr. Tibbetts," said the girl.

Bones turned with an exaggerated start.

"A lady ?" he said in a tone of incredulity. "Gracious Heavens ! This is news to me, dear old miss. Show her in, please, show her in. A private interview, eh ?" He looked meaningly at Hamilton. Hamilton did not raise his eyes in accordance with his contract. "A private interview, eh ?" said Bones louder. "Does she want to see me by myself ?"

"Perhaps you would like to see her in my room," said the girl. "I could stay here with Mr. Hamilton."
Bones glared at the unconscious Hamilton.

"That is not necessary, dear old typewriter," he said stiffly. "Show the young woman in, please."

The "young woman," came in. Rather, she tripped and undulated and swayed from the outer office to the chair facing Bones, and Bones rose solemnly to greet her.

Miss Marguerite Whitland, the beautiful Being, who had surveyed the tripping and swaying and undulating with the same frank curiosity that Cleopatra might have devoted to a performing seal, went into her office and closed the door gently behind her.

"Sit down, sit down," said Bones. "And what can I do for you, young miss ?"

The girl smiled. It was one of those flashing smiles which make susceptible men blink. Bones was susceptible. Never had he been gazed upon with such kindness by a pair of such large, soft, brown eyes. Never had cheeks dimpled so prettily and so pleasurably, and seldom had Bones experienced such a sensation of warm embarrassment, not unpleasant, as he did now.

"I am sure I am being an awful nuisance to you, Mr. Tibbetts," said the lady. "You don't know my name, do you ? Here is my card." She had it ready in her hand, and put it in front of him. Bones waited a minute or two while he adjusted his monocle, and read:
"MISS BERTHA STEGG."
As a matter of fact, he read it long before he had adjusted his monocle, but the official acknowledgment was subsequent to that performance.

"Yes, yes," said Bones, who on such occasions as these, or on such occasions as remotely resembled these, was accustomed to take on the air and style of the strong, silent man. "What can we do for you, my jolly old Miss Stegg ?"

"It's a charity," blurted the girl, and sat back to watch the effect of her words. "Oh, I know what you business men are ! You simply hate people bothering you for subscriptions ! And really, Mr. Tibbetts, if I had to come to ask you for money, I would never have come at all. I think it's so unfair for girls to pester busy men in their offices, at the busiest time of the day, with requests for subscriptions."

Bones coughed. In truth, he had never been pestered, and was enjoying the experience.

"No, this is something much more pleasant, from my point of view," said the girl. "We are having a bazaar in West Kensington on behalf of the Little Tots' Recreation Fund."

"A most excellent plan," said Bones firmly.

Hamilton, an interested audience, had occasion to marvel anew at the amazing self-possession of his partner.

"It is one of the best institutions that I know," Bones went on thoughtfully. "Of course, it's many years since I was a little tot, but I can still sympathise with the jolly old totters, dear young miss."

She had taken her portfolio from under her arm and laid it on his desk. It was a pretty portfolio, bound in powder blue and silver, and was fastened by a powder blue tape with silver tassels. Bones eyed it with pardonable curiosity.

"I'm not asking you for money, Mr. Tibbetts," Miss Stegg went on in her soft, sweet voice. "I think we can raise all the money we want at the bazaar. But we must have things to sell."

"I see, dear old miss," said Bones eagerly. "You want a few old clothes ? I've got a couple of suits at home, rather baggy at the knees, dear old thing, but you know what we boys are; we wear 'em until they fall off !"

The horrified Hamilton returned to the scrutiny of his notes.

"I don't suppose under-garments, if you will permit the indelicacy, my dear old philanthropist " Bones was going on, when the girl stopped him with a gentle shake of her head.

"No, Mr. Tibbetts, it is awfully kind of you, but we do not want anything like that. The way we expect to raise a lot of money is by selling the photographs of celebrities," she said.

"The photographs of celebrities ?" repeated Bones. "But, my dear young miss, I haven't had my photograph taken for years."

Hamilton gasped. He might have gasped again at what followed, but for the fact that he had got a little beyond the gasping stage.

The girl was untying her portfolio, and now she produced something and laid it on the desk before Bones.

"How clever of you to guess !" she murmured. "Yes, it is a portrait of you we want to sell."

Bones stared dumbfounded at a picture of himself—evidently a snapshot taken with a press camera leaving the building. And, moreover, it was a flattering picture, for there was a stern frown of resolution on Bones's pictured face, which, for some esoteric reason, pleased him. The picture was mounted rather in than on cardboard, for it was in a sunken mount, and beneath the portrait was a little oblong slip of pale blue paper.

Bones gazed and glowed. Neatly printed above the picture were the words: "Our Captains of Industry. III.—Augustus Tibbetts, Esq. (Schemes Limited)."

Bones read this with immense satisfaction. He wondered who were the two men who could be placed before him, but in his generous mood was prepared to admit that he might come third in the list of London's merchant princes.

"Deuced flattering, dear old thing," he murmured. "Hamilton, old boy, come and look at this."

Hamilton crossed to the desk, saw, and wondered.

"Not so bad," said Bones, dropping his head to one side and regarding the picture critically. "Not at all bad, dear old thing. You've seen me in that mood, I think, old Ham."

"What is the mood ?" said Hamilton innocently. "Indigestion ?"

The girl laughed.

"Let's have a little light on the subject," said Bones. "Switch on the expensive old electricity, Ham."

"Oh, no," said the girl quickly. "I don't think so. If you saw the picture under the light, you'd probably think it wasn't good enough, and then I should have made my journey in vain. Spare me that, Mr. Tibbetts !"

Mr. Tibbetts giggled. At that moment the Being re-appeared.

Marguerite Whitland, chief and only stenographer to the firm of Schemes Limited, and Bones beckoned her.

"Just cast your eye over this, young miss," he said. "What do you think of it ?"

The girl came round the group, looked at the picture, and nodded.

"Very nice," she said, and then she looked at the girl.

"Selling it for a charity," said Bones carelessly. "Some silly old josser will put it up in his drawing-room, I suppose. You know, Ham, dear old thing, I never can understand this hero-worship business. And now, my young and philanthropic collector, what do you want me to do ? Give you permission ? It is given."

"I want you to give me your autograph. Sign down there," she pointed to a little space beneath the picture "and just let me sell it for what I can get."

"With all the pleasure in life," said Bones.

He picked up his long plumed pen and splashed his characteristic signature in the space indicated.

And then Miss Marguerite Whitland did a serious thing, an amazingly audacious thing, a thing which filled Bones's heart with horror and dismay.

Before Bones could lift the blotting pad, her forefinger had dropped upon the signature and had been drawn across, leaving nothing more than an indecipherable smudge.

"My dear old typewriter !" gasped Bones. "My dear old miss ! Confound it all ! Hang it all, I say ! Dear old thing !"

"You can leave this picture, madam "

"Miss," murmured Bones from force of habit. Even in his agitation he could not resist the temptation to interrupt.

"You can leave this picture, Miss Stegg," said the girl coolly. "Mr. Tibbetts wants to add it to his collection."

Miss Stegg said nothing.

She had risen to her feet, her eyes fixed on the girl's face, and, with no word of protest or explanation, she turned and walked swiftly from the office. Hamilton opened the door, noting the temporary suspension of the undulatory motion.

When she had gone, they looked at one another, or, rather, they looked at the girl, who, for her part, was examining the photograph. She took a little knife from the desk before Bones and inserted it into the thick cardboard mount, and ripped off one of the layers of cardboard. And so Bones's photograph was exposed, shorn of all mounting. But, what was more important, beneath his photograph was a cheque on the Third National Bank, which was a blank cheque and bearing Bones's undeniable signature in the bottom right-hand corner the signature was decipherable through the smudge.

Bones stared.

"Most curious thing I've ever seen in my life, dear old typewriter," he said. "Why, that's the very banking establishment I patronise."

"I thought it might be," said the girl.

And then it dawned upon Bones, and he gasped.

"Great Moses !" he howled there is no prettier word for it. "That naughty, naughty, Miss Thing-a-me-jig was making me sign a blank cheque ! My autograph ! My sacred aunt ! Autograph on a cheque…"

Bones babbled on as the real villainy of the attempt upon his finances gradually unfolded before his excited vision.

Explanations were to follow. The girl had seen a paragraph warning people against giving their autographs, and the police had even circulated a rough description of two "well-dressed women" who, on one pretext or another, were securing from the wealthy, but the unwise, specimens of their signatures.
"My young and artful typewriter," said Bones, speaking with emotion, "you have probably saved me from utter ruin, dear old thing. Goodness only knows what might have happened, or where I might have been sleeping to-night, my jolly old Salvationist, if your beady little eye hadn't penetrated like a corkscrew through the back of that naughty old lady's neck and read her evil intentions."

"I don't think it was a matter of my beady eye," said the girl, without any great enthusiasm for the description, "as my memory."

"I can't understand it," said Bones, puzzled. "She came in a beautiful car..."

"Hired for two hours for twenty-five shillings," said the girl.

"But she was so beautifully dressed. She had a chinchilla coat "

"Imitation beaver," said Miss Marguerite Whitland, who had few illusions. "You can get them for fifteen pounds at any of the West End shops."

It was a very angry Miss Bertha Stegg who made her way in some haste to Pimlico. She shared a first-floor suite with a sister, and she burst unceremoniously into her relative's presence, and the elder Miss Stegg looked round with some evidence of alarm.

"What's wrong ?" she asked.

She was a tall, bony woman, with a hard, tired face, and lacked most of her sister's facial charm.

"Turned down," said Bertha briefly. "I had the thing signed, and then a..." (one omits the description she gave of Miss Marguerite Whitland, which was uncharitable) "smudged the thing with her fingers."

"She tumbled to it, eh ?" said Clara. "Has she put the splits on you ?"

"I shouldn't think so," said Bertha, throwing off her coat and her hat, and patting her hair. "I got away too quickly, and I came on by the car."

"Will he report it to the police ?"

"He's not that kind. Doesn't it make you mad, Clara, to think that that fool has a million to spend ? Do you know what he's done ? Made perhaps a hundred thousand pounds in a couple of days ! Wouldn't that rile you ?"

They discussed Bones in terms equally unflattering. They likened Bones to all representatives of the animal world whose characteristics are extreme foolishness, but at last they came into a saner, calmer frame of mind.

Miss Clara Stegg seated herself on the frowsy sofa, indispensable to a Pimlico furnished flat, and, with her elbow on one palm and her chin on another, reviewed the situation. She was the brains of a little combination which had done so much to distress and annoy susceptible financiers in the City of London. (The record of the Stegg sisters may be read by the curious, or, at any rate, by as many of the curious as have the entrée to the Record Department of Scotland Yard.)

The Steggs specialised in finance, and operated exclusively in high financial circles. There was not a fluctuation of the market which Miss Clara Stegg did not note; and when Rubber soared sky-high, or Steel Preferred sagged listlessly, she knew just who was going to be affected, and just how approachable they were.

During the War the Stegg sisters had opened a new department, so to speak, dealing with Government contracts, and the things which they knew about the incomes of Government contractors the average surveyor of taxes would have given money to learn.

"It was my mistake, Bertha," she said at last, "though in a sense it wasn't. I tried him simply, because he's simple. If you work something complicated on a fellow like that, you're pretty certain to get him guessing."

She went out of the room, and presently returned with four ordinary exercise-books, one of which she opened at a place where a page was covered with fine writing, and that facing was concealed by a sheet of letter-paper which had been pasted on to it. The letter-paper bore the embossed heading of Schemes Limited, the epistle had reference to a request for an autograph which Bones had most graciously granted.

The elder woman looked at the signature, biting her nether lip.

"It is almost too late now. What is the time ?" she asked.

"Half-past three," replied her sister.

Miss Stegg shook her head.

"The banks are closed, and, anyway "

She carried the book to a table, took a sheet of paper and a pen, and, after a close study of Bones's signature, she wrote it, at first awkwardly, then, after about a dozen attempts, she produced a copy which it was difficult to tell apart from the original.

"Really, Clara, you're a wonder," said her sister admiringly.

Clara made no reply. She sat biting the end of the pen.

"I hate the idea of getting out of London and leaving him with all that money, Bertha," she said. "I wonder   " She turned to her sister. "Go out and get all the evening newspapers," she said. "There's bound to be something about him, and I might get an idea."

There was much about Bones in the papers the younger girl brought, and in one of these journals there was quite an important interview, which gave a sketch of Bones's life, his character, and his general appearance. Clara read this interview very carefully.

"It says he's spent a million, but I know that's a lie," she said. "I've been watching that jute deal for a long time, and it's nearer half the sum." She frowned. "I wonder..." she said.

"Wonder what ?" asked the younger girl impatiently. "What's the good of wondering ? The only thing we can do is to clear out."

Again Clara went from the room and came back with an armful of documents. These she laid on the table, and the girl, looking down, saw that they were for the main part blank contracts. Clara turned them over and over until at last she came to one headed "Ministry of Supplies."This'd be the form," she said. "It is the same that Steven howe had."

She was mentioning the name of a middle-aged man, who, quite unwittingly and most unwillingly, had contributed to her very handsome bank balance. She scanned the clauses through, and then flung down the contract in disgust.

"There's nothing mentioned about a deposit," she said, "and, anyway, I doubt very much whether I could get it back, even on his signature."

A quarter of an hour later Miss Clara Stegg took up the contract again and read the closely-printed clauses very carefully. When she had finished she said:

"I just hate the idea of that fellow making money."

"You've said that before," said her sister tartly.

At six o'clock that evening Bones went home. At nine o'clock he was sitting in his sitting-room in Clarges Street, a wonderful place, though small, of Eastern hangings and subdued lights,when Hamilton burst in upon him; and Bones hastily concealed the poem he was writing and thrust it under his blotting-pad. It was a good poem and going well.

It began:

  How very sweet
  Is Marguerite !
And Bones was, not unreasonably, annoyed at this interruption to his muse.

As to Hamilton, he was looking ill.

"Bones," said Hamilton quietly, "I've had a telegram from my pal in Dundee. Shall I read it ?"

"Dear old thing," said Bones, with an irritated "tut-tut," "really, dear old creature, at this time of night, your friends in Dundee,really, my dear old boy..."

"Shall I read it ?" said Hamilton, with sinister calm.

"By all means, by all means," said Bones, waving an airy hand and sitting back with resignation written on every line of his countenance.

"Here it is," said Hamilton. "It begins 'Urgent.'"

"That means he's in a devil of a hurry, old thing," said Bones, nodding.

"And it goes on to say," said Hamilton, ignoring the interruption. "'Your purchase at the present price of jute is disastrous. Jute will never again touch the figure at which your friend tendered, Ministry have been trying to find a mug for years to buy their jute, half of which is spoilt by bad warehousing, as I could have told you, and I reckon you have made a loss of exactly half the amount you have paid.'"
Bones had opened his eyes and was sitting up.

"Dear old Job's comforter," he said huskily.

"Wait a bit," said Hamilton, "I haven't finished yet," and went on: "'Strongly advise you cancel your sale in terms of Clause 7 Ministry contract.' That's all," said Hamilton.

"Oh, yes," said Bones feebly, as he ran his finger inside his collar, "that's all !"

"What do you think, Bones ?" said Hamilton gently.

"Well, dear old cloud on the horizon," said Bones, clasping his bony knee, "it looks remarkably like serious trouble for B. Ones, Esquire. It does indeed. Of course," he said, "you're not in this, old Ham.
This was a private speculation "

"Rot!" said Hamilton contemptuously. "You're never going to try a dirty trick like that on me ? Of course I'm in it. If you're in it, I'm in it."

Bones opened his mouth to protest, but subsided feebly. He looked at the clock, sighed, and lowered his eyes again.

"I suppose it's too late to cancel the contract now ?"

Bones nodded.

"Twenty-four hours, poor old victim," he said miserably, "expired at five p.m."

"So that's that," said Hamilton.

Walking across, he tapped his partner on the shoulder.

"Well, Bones, it can't be helped, and probably our pal in Dundee has taken an extravagant view."

"Not he," said Bones, "not he, dear old cheerer. Well, we shall have to cut down expenses, move into a little office, and start again, dear old Hamilton."

"It won't be so bad as that."

"Not quite so bad as that," admitted Bones. "But one thing," he said with sudden energy, "one thing, dear old thing, I'll never part with. Whatever happens, dear old boy, rain or shine, sun or moon, stars or any old thing like that"he was growing incoherent "I will never leave my typewriter, dear old thing. I will never desert her, never, never, never, never, never !

He turned up in the morning, looking and speaking chirpily. Hamilton, who had spent a restless night, thought he detected signs of similar restlessness in Bones.

Miss Marguerite Whitland brought him his letters, and he went over them listlessly until he came to one large envelope which bore on its flap the all-too-familiar seal of the Ministry. Bones looked at it and made a little face.

"It's from the Ministry," said the girl.

Bones nodded.

"Yes, my old notetaker," he said, "my poor young derelict, cast out" his voice shook "through the rapacious and naughty old speculations of one who should have protected your jolly old interests, it is from the Ministry."

"Aren't you going to open it ?" she asked.

"No, dear young typewriter, I am not," Bones said firmly. "It's all about the beastly jute, telling me to take it away. Now, where the dickens am I going to put it, eh ? Never talk to me about jute," he said violently. "If I saw a jute tree at this moment, I'd simply hate the sight of it !"

She looked at him in astonishment.

"Why, whatever's wrong ?" she asked anxiously.

"Nothing," said Bones. "Nothing," he added brokenly. "Oh, nothing, dear young typewriting person."

She paused irresolutely, then picked up the envelope and cut open the flap.

Remember that she knew nothing, except that Bones had made a big purchase, and that she was perfectly confident such was her sublime faith in Augustus Tibbetts that he would make a lot of money as a result of that purchase.

Therefore the consternation on her face as she read its contents.

"Why," she stammered, "you've never done Whatever made you do that ?"

"Do what ?" said Bones hollowly. "What made me do it ? Greed, dear old sister, just wicked, naughty greed."

"But I thought," she said, bewildered, "You were going to make so much out of this deal ?"

"Ha, ha," said Bones without mirth.

"But weren't you ?" she asked.

"I don't think so," said Bones gently.

"Oh ! So that was why you cancelled the contract ?"

Hamilton jumped to his feet.

"Cancelled the contract ?" he said incredulously.

"Cancelled the contract ?" squeaked Bones. "What a naughty old story-teller you are !"

"But you have," said the girl. "Here's a note from the Ministry, regretting that you should have changed your mind and taken advantage of Clause Seven. The contract was cancelled at four forty-nine."

Bones swallowed something.

"This is spiritualism," he said solemnly. "I'll never say a word against jolly old Brigham Young after this !"

In the meantime two ladies who had arrived in Paris, somewhat weary and bedraggled, were taking their morning coffee outside the Café de la Paix.

"Anyway, my dear," said Clara viciously, in answer to her sister's plaint, "we've given that young devil a bit of trouble. Perhaps they won't renew the contract, and anyway, it'll take a bit of proving that he did not sign that cancellation I handed in."

As a matter of fact, Bones never attempted to prove it.
                                (TO BE CONTINUED)


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http://www.crimetime.co.uk/profiles/edgarwallace.php

http://www.publicbookshelf.com/author/Edgar-Wallace



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