of the darkness with the suddenness of a bursting bomb, and a
voice from the same general direction said "Hands up!"
When Mr. Crocker had finished blinking and had adjusted his eyes
to the glare, he perceived Ogden sitting up in bed with a
revolver in his hand. The revolver was resting on his knee, and
its muzzle pointed directly at Mr. Crocker's ample stomach.
Exhaustive as had been the thought which Jimmy's father had given
to the possible developments of his enterprise, this was a
contingency of which he had not dreamed. He was entirely at a
"Don't do that!" he said huskily. "It might go off!"
"I should worry!" replied Ogden coldly. "I'm at the right end of
it. What are you doing here?" He looked fondly at the lethal
weapon. "I got this with cigarette-coupons, to shoot rabbits when
we went to the country. Here's where I get a chance at something
"Do you want to murder me?"
Mr. Crocker's make-up was trickling down his face in sticky
streams. The mask, however, prevented Ogden from seeing this
peculiar phenomenon. He was gazing interestedly at his visitor.
An idea struck him.
"Say, did you come to kidnap me?"
Mr. Crocker felt the sense of relief which he had sometimes
experienced on the stage when memory had failed him during a
scene and a fellow-actor had thrown him the line. It would be
exaggerating to say that he was himself again. He could never be
completely at his case with that pistol pointing at him; but he
felt considerably better. He lowered his voice an octave or so,
and spoke in a husky growl.
"Aw, cheese it, kid. Nix on the rough stuff!"
"Keep those hands up!" advised Ogden.
"Sure! Sure!" growled Mr. Crocker. "Can the gun-play, bo! Say,
you've soitanly grown since de last time we got youse!"
Ogden's manner became magically friendly.
"Are you one of Buck Maginnis' lot?" he enquired almost politely.
"Dat's right!" Mr. Crocker blessed the inspiration which had
prompted Jimmy's parting words. "I'm wit Buck."
"Why didn't Buck come himself?"
"He's woiking on anudder job!"
To Mr. Crocker's profound relief Ogden lowered the pistol.
"I'm strong for Buck," he said conversationally. "We're old pals.
Did you see the piece in the paper about him kidnapping me last
time? I've got it in my press-clipping album."
"Sure," said Mr. Crocker.
"Say, listen. If you take me now, Buck's got to come across. I
like Buck, but I'm not going to let myself be kidnapped for his
benefit. It's fifty-fifty, or nothing doing. See?"
"I get you, kid."
"Well, if that's understood, all right. Give me a minute to get
some clothes on, and I'll be with you."
"Don't make a noise," said Mr. Crocker.
"Who's making any noise? Say, how did you get in here?"
"T'roo de libery windows."
"I always knew some yegg would stroll in that way. It beats me
why they didn't have bars fixed on them."
"Dere's a buzz-wagon outside, waitin'."
"You do it in style, don't you?" observed Ogden, pulling on his
shirt. "Who's working this with you? Any one I know?"
"Naw. A new guy."
"Oh? Say, I don't remember you, if it comes to that."
"You don't?" said Mr. Crocker a little discomposed.
"Well, maybe I wouldn't, with that mask on you. Which of them
"Chicago Ed.'s my monaker."
"I don't remember any Chicago Ed."
"Well, you will after dis!" said Mr. Crocker, happily inspired.
Ogden was eyeing him with sudden suspicion.
"Take that mask off and let's have a look at you."
"How am I to know you're on the level?"
Mr. Crocker played a daring card.
"All right," he said, making a move towards the door. "It's up to
youse. If you t'ink I'm not on de level, I'll beat it."
"Here, stop a minute," said Ogden hastily, unwilling that a
promising business deal should be abandoned in this summary
manner. "I'm not saying anything against you. There's no need to
fly off the handle like that."
"I'll tell Buck I couldn't get you," said Mr. Crocker, moving
"Here, stop! What's the matter with you?"
"Are youse comin' wit me?"
"Sure, if you get the conditions. Buck's got to slip me half of
whatever he gets out of this."
"Dat's right. Buck'll slip youse half of anyt'ing he gets."
"All right, then. Wait till I've got this shoe on, and let's
start. Now I'm ready."
"Beat it quietly."
"What did you think I was going to do? Sing?"
"Step dis way!" said Mr. Crocker jocosely.
They left the room cautiously. Mr. Crocker for a moment had a
sense of something missing. He had reached the stairs before he
realised what it was. Then it dawned upon him that what was
lacking was the applause. The scene had deserved a round.
Jimmy, vigilant in the gallery, heard the library door open
softly and, peering over the rail, perceived two dim forms in the
darkness. One was large, the other small. They crossed the room
Whispered words reached him.
"I thought you said you came in this way."
"Then why's the shutter closed?"
"I fixed it after I was in."
There was a faint scraping sound, followed by a click. The
darkness of the room was relieved by moonlight. The figures
passed through. Jimmy ran down from the gallery, and closed the
windows softly. He had just fastened the shutters, when from the
passage outside there came the unmistakeable sound of a footstep.
IN THE LIBRARY
Jimmy's first emotion on hearing the footstep was the crude
instinct of self-preservation. All that he was able to think of
at the moment was the fact that he was in a questionable position
and one which would require a good deal of explaining away if he
were found, and his only sensation was a strong desire to avoid
discovery. He made a silent, scrambling leap for the gallery
stairs, and reached their shelter just as the door opened. He
stood there, rigid, waiting to be challenged, but apparently he
had moved in time, for no voice spoke. The door closed so gently
as to be almost inaudible, and then there was silence again. The
room remained in darkness, and it was this perhaps that first
suggested to Jimmy the comforting thought that the intruder was
equally desirous of avoiding the scrutiny of his fellows. He had
taken it for granted in his first panic that he himself was the
only person in that room whose motive for being there would not
have borne inspection. But now, safely hidden in the gallery, out
of sight from the floor below, he had the leisure to consider the
newcomer's movements and to draw conclusions from them.
An honest man's first act would surely have been to switch on the
lights. And an honest man would hardly have crept so stealthily.
It became apparent to Jimmy, as he leaned over the rail and tried
to pierce the darkness, that there was sinister work afoot; and
he had hardly reached this conclusion when his mind took a
further leap and he guessed the identity of the soft-footed
person below. It could be none but his old friend Lord Wisbeach,
known to "the boys" as Gentleman Jack. It surprised him that he
had not thought of this before. Then it surprised him that, after
the talk they had only a few hours earlier in that very room,
Gentleman Jack should have dared to risk this raid.
At this moment the blackness was relieved as if by the striking
of a match. The man below had brought an electric torch into
play, and now Jimmy could see clearly. He had been right in his
surmise. It was Lord Wisbeach. He was kneeling in front of the
safe. What he was doing to the safe, Jimmy could not see, for the
man's body was in the way; but the electric torch shone on his
face, lighting up grim, serious features quite unlike the amiable
and slightly vacant mask which his lordship was wont to present
to the world. As Jimmy looked, something happened in the pool of
light beyond his vision. Gentleman Jack gave a muttered
exclamation of satisfaction, and then Jimmy saw that the door of
the safe had swung open. The air was full of a penetrating smell
of scorched metal. Jimmy was not an expert in these matters, but
he had read from time to time of modern burglars and their
methods, and he gathered that an oxy-acetylene blow-pipe, with
its flame that cuts steel as a knife cuts cheese, had been at
Lord Wisbeach flashed the torch into the open safe, plunged his
hand in, and drew it out again, holding something. Handling this
in a cautious and gingerly manner, he placed it carefully in his
breast pocket. Then he straightened himself. He switched off the
torch, and moved to the window, leaving the rest of his
implements by the open safe. He unfastened the shutter, then
raised the catch of the window. At this point it seemed to Jimmy
that the time had come to interfere.
"Tut, tut!" he said in a tone of mild reproof.
The effect of the rebuke on Lord Wisbeach was remarkable. He
jumped convulsively away from the window, then, revolving on his
own axis, flashed the torch into every corner of the room.
"Who's that?" he gasped.
"Conscience!" said Jimmy.
Lord Wisbeach had overlooked the gallery in his researches. He
now turned his torch upwards. The light flooded the gallery on
the opposite side of the room from where Jimmy stood. There was a
pistol in Gentleman Jack's hand now. It followed the torch
Jimmy, lying flat on the gallery floor, spoke again.
"Throw that gun away, and the torch, too," he said. "I've got you
The torch flashed above his head, but the raised edge of the
gallery rail protected him.
"I'll give you five seconds. If you haven't dropped that gun by
then, I shall shoot!"
As he began to count, Jimmy heartily regretted that he had
allowed his appreciation of the dramatic to lead him into this
situation. It would have been so simple to have roused the house
in a prosaic way and avoided this delicate position. Suppose his
bluff did not succeed. Suppose the other still clung to his
pistol at the end of the five seconds. He wished that he had made
it ten instead. Gentleman Jack was an enterprising person, as his
previous acts had showed. He might very well decide to take a
chance. He might even refuse to believe that Jimmy was armed. He
had only Jimmy's word for it. Perhaps he might be as deficient in
simple faith as he had proved to be in Norman blood! Jimmy
lingered lovingly over his count.
"Four!" he said reluctantly.
There was a breathless moment. Then, to Jimmy's unspeakable
relief, gun and torch dropped simultaneously to the floor. In an
instant Jimmy was himself again.
"Go and stand with your face to that wall," he said crisply.
"Hold your hands up!"
"I'm going to see how many more guns you've got."
"I haven't another."
"I'd like to make sure of that for myself. Get moving!"
Gentleman Jack reluctantly obeyed. When he had reached the wall,
Jimmy came down. He switched on the lights. He felt in the
other's pockets, and almost at once encountered something hard
He shook his head reproachfully.
"You are very loose and inaccurate in your statements," he said.
"Why all these weapons? I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier!
Now you can turn around and put your hands down."
Gentleman Jack's appeared to be a philosophical nature. The
chagrin consequent upon his failure seemed to have left him. He
sat on the arm of a chair and regarded Jimmy without apparent
hostility. He even smiled a faint smile.
"I thought I had fixed you, he said. You must have been smarter
than I took you for. I never supposed you would get on to that
drink and pass it up."
Understanding of an incident which had perplexed him came to
"Was it you who put that high-ball in my room? Was it doped?"
"Didn't you know?"
"Well," said Jimmy, "I never knew before that virtue got its
reward so darned quick in this world. I rejected that high-ball
not because I suspected it but out of pure goodness, because I
had made up my mind that I was through with all that sort of
His companion laughed. If Jimmy had had a more intimate
acquaintance with the resourceful individual whom the "boys"
called Gentleman Jack, he would have been disquieted by that
laugh. It was an axiom among those who knew him well, that when
Gentleman Jack chuckled in the reflective way, he generally had
something unpleasant up his sleeve.
"It's your lucky night," said Gentleman Jack.
"It looks like it."
"Well, it isn't over yet."
"Very nearly. You had better go and put that test-tube back in
what is left of the safe now. Did you think I had forgotten it?"
"Come, come, old friend! The one filled with Partridge's
explosive, which you have in your breast-pocket."
Gentleman Jack laughed again. Then he moved towards the safe.
"Place it gently on the top shelf," said Jimmy.
The next moment every nerve in his body was leaping and
quivering. A great shout split the air. Gentleman Jack,
apparently insane, was giving tongue at the top of his voice.
"Help! Help! Help!"
The conversation having been conducted up to this point in
undertones, the effect of this unexpected uproar was like an
explosion. The cries seemed to echo round the room and shake the
very walls. For a moment Jimmy stood paralysed, staring feebly;
then there was a sudden deafening increase in the din. Something
living seemed to writhe and jump in his hand. He dropped it
incontinently, and found himself gazing in a stupefied way at a
round, smoking hole in the carpet. Such had been the effect of
Gentleman Jack's unforeseen outburst that he had quite forgotten
that he held the revolver, and he had been unfortunate enough at
this juncture to pull the trigger.
There was a sudden rush and a swirl of action. Something hit
Jimmy under the chin. He staggered back, and when he had
recovered himself found himself looking into the muzzle of the
revolver which had nearly blown a hole in his foot a moment back.
The sardonic face of Gentleman Jack smiled grimly over the
"I told you the night wasn't over yet!" he said.
The blow under the chin had temporarily dulled Jimmy's mentality.
He stood, swallowing and endeavouring to pull himself together
and to get rid of a feeling that his head was about to come off.
He backed to the desk and steadied himself against it.
As he did so, a voice from behind him spoke.
He turned his head. A curious procession was filing in through
the open French window. First came Mr. Crocker, still wearing his
hideous mask; then a heavily bearded individual with round
spectacles, who looked like an automobile coming through a
haystack; then Ogden Ford, and finally a sturdy,
determined-looking woman with glittering but poorly co-ordinated
eyes, who held a large revolver in her unshaking right hand and
looked the very embodiment of the modern female who will stand no
nonsense. It was part of the nightmare-like atmosphere which
seemed to brood inexorably over this particular night that this
person looked to Jimmy exactly like the parlour-maid who had come
to him in this room in answer to the bell and who had sent his
father to him. Yet how could it be she? Jimmy knew little of the
habits of parlour-maids, but surely they did not wander about
with revolvers in the small hours?
While he endeavoured feverishly to find reason in this chaos, the
door opened and a motley crowd, roused from sleep by the cries,
poured in. Jimmy, turning his head back again to attend to this
invasion, perceived Mrs. Pett, Ann, two or three of the geniuses,
and Willie Partridge, in various stages of _negligee_ and babbling
The woman with the pistol, assuming instant and unquestioned
domination of the assembly, snapped out an order.
Somebody shut the door.
"Now, whassall this?" she said, turning to Gentleman Jack.
STIRRING TIMES FOR THE PETTS
Gentleman Jack had lowered his revolver, and was standing waiting
to explain all, with the insufferable look of the man who is just
going to say that he has only done his duty and requires no
"Who are you?" he said.
"Nev' min' who I am!" said Miss Trimble curtly. "Siz Pett knows
who I am."
"I hope you won't be offended, Lord Wisbeach," said Mrs. Pett
from the group by the door. "I engaged a detective to help you. I
really thought you could not manage everything by yourself. I
hope you do not mind."
"Not at all, Mrs. Pett. Very wise."
"I'm so glad to hear you say so."
"An excellent move."
Miss Trimble broke in on these amiable exchanges.
"Whassall this? Howjer mean - help me?"
"Lord Wisbeach most kindly offered to do all he could to protect
my nephew's explosive," said Mrs. Pett.
Gentleman Jack smiled modestly.
"I hope I have been of some slight assistance! I think I came
down in the nick of time. Look!" He pointed to the safe. "He had
just got it open! Luckily I had my pistol with me. I covered him,
and called for help. In another moment he would have got away."
Miss Trimble crossed to the safe and inspected it with a frown,
as if she disliked it. She gave a grunt and returned to her place
by the window.
"Made good job 'f it!" was her comment.
Ann came forward. Her face was glowing and her eyes shone.
"Do you mean to say that you found Jimmy breaking into the safe?
I never heard anything so absurd!"
Mrs. Pett intervened.
"This is not James Crocker, Ann! This man is an impostor, who
came into the house in order to steal Willie's invention." She
looked fondly at Gentleman Jack. "Lord Wisbeach told me so. He
only pretended to recognise him this afternoon."
A low gurgle proceeded from the open mouth of little Ogden. The
proceedings bewildered him. The scene he had overheard in the
library between the two men had made it clear to him that Jimmy
was genuine and Lord Wisbeach a fraud, and he could not
understand why Jimmy did not produce his proofs as before. He was
not aware that Jimmy's head was only just beginning to clear from
the effects of the blow on the chin. Ogden braced himself for
resolute lying in the event of Jimmy calling him as a witness.
But he did not intend to have his little business proposition
dragged into the open.
Ann was looking at Jimmy with horror-struck eyes. For the first
time it came to her how little she knew of him and how very
likely it was - in the face of the evidence it was almost
certain - that he should have come to the house with the intention
of stealing Willie's explosive. She fought against it, but a
voice seemed to remind her that it was he who had suggested the
idea of posing as Jimmy Crocker. She could not help remembering
how smoothly and willingly he had embarked on the mad scheme.
But had it been so mad? Had it not been a mere cloak for this
other venture? If Lord Wisbeach had found him in this room, with
the safe blown open, what other explanation could there be?
And then, simultaneously with her conviction that he was a
criminal, came the certainty that he was the man she loved. It
had only needed the spectacle of him in trouble to make her sure.
She came to his side with the vague idea of doing something to
help him, of giving him her support. Once there, she found that
there was nothing to do and nothing to say. She put her hand on
his, and stood waiting helplessly for she knew not what.
It was the touch of her fingers which woke Jimmy from his stupor.
He came to himself almost with a jerk. He had been mistily aware
of what had been said, but speech had been beyond him. Now, quite
suddenly, he was a whole man once more. He threw himself into the
debate with energy.
"Good Heavens!" he cried. "You're all wrong. I found _him_ blowing
open the safe!"
Gentleman Jack smiled superciliously.
"A likely story, what! I mean to say, it's a bit thin!"
"Ridiculous!" said Mrs. Pett. She turned to Miss Trimble with a
gesture. "Arrest that man!"
"Wait a mom'nt," replied that clear-headed maiden, picking her
teeth thoughtfully with the muzzle of her revolver. "Wait mom'nt.
Gotta look 'nto this. Hear both these guys' st'ries."
"Really," said Gentleman Jack suavely, "it seems somewhat
absurd - "
"Ney' mind how 'bsurd 't sounds," returned the fair Trimble
rebukingly. "You close y'r face 'n lissen t' me. Thass all you've
"I know you didn't do it!" cried Ann, tightening her hold on
"Less 'f it, please. Less 'f it!" Miss Trimble removed the pistol
from her mouth and pointed it at Jimmy. "What've you to say? Talk
"I happened to be down there - "
"Why?" asked Miss Trimble, as if she had touched off a bomb.
Jimmy stopped short. He perceived difficulties in the way of
"I happened to be down there," he resumed stoutly, "and that man
came into the room with an electric torch and a blowpipe and
began working on the safe - "
The polished tones of Gentleman Jack cut in on his story.
"Really now, is it worth while?" He turned to Miss Trimble. "I came
down here, having heard a noise. I did not _happen_ to be here for
some unexplained purpose. I was lying awake and something attracted
my attention. As Mrs. Pett knows, I was suspicious of this worthy
and expected him to make an attempt on the explosive at any moment:
so I took my pistol and crept downstairs. When I got here, the safe
was open and this man making for the window."
Miss Trimble scratched her chin caressingly with the revolver,
and remained for a moment in thought. Then she turned to Jimmy
like a striking rattlesnake.
"Y' gotta pull someth'g better th'n that," she said. "I got y'r
number. Y're caught with th' goods."
"No!" cried Ann.
"Yes!" said Mrs. Pett. "The thing is obvious."
"I think the best thing I can do," said Gentleman Jack smoothly,
"is to go and telephone for the police."
"You think of everything, Lord Wisbeach," said Mrs. Pett.
"Not at all," said his lordship.
Jimmy watched him moving to the door. At the back of his mind
there was a dull feeling that he could solve the whole trouble if
only he could remember one fact which had escaped him. The
effects of the blow he had received still handicapped him. He
struggled to remember, but without result. Gentleman Jack reached
the door and opened it: and as he did so a shrill yapping,
hitherto inaudible because of the intervening oak and the raised
voices within, made itself heard from the passage outside.
Gentleman Jack closed the door with a hasty bang.
"I say that dog's out there!" he said plaintively.
The scratching of Aida's busy feet on the wood bore out his
words. He looked about him, baffled.
"That dog's out there!" he repeated gloomily.
Something seemed to give way in Jimmy's brain. The simple fact
which had eluded him till now sprang into his mind.
"Don't let that man get out!" he cried. "Good Lord! I've only
just remembered. You say you found me breaking into the safe!
You say you heard a noise and came down to investigate! Well,
then, what's that test-tube of the explosive doing in your
breast-pocket?" He swung round to Miss Trimble. "You needn't take
my word or his word. There's a much simpler way of finding out
who's the real crook. Search us both." He began to turn out his
pockets rapidly. "Look here - and here - and here! Now ask him to
do the same!"
He was pleased to observe a spasm pass across Gentleman Jack's
hitherto composed countenance. Miss Trimble was eyeing the latter
with sudden suspicion.
"Thasso!" she said. "Say, Bill, I've f'gott'n y'r name - 'sup to
you to show us! Less've a look 't what y' got inside there."
Gentleman Jack drew himself up haughtily.
"I really could not agree to - "
Mrs. Pett interrupted indignantly.
"I never heard of such a thing! Lord Wisbeach is an old friend - "
"Less'f it!" ordered Miss Trimble, whose left eye was now like
the left eye of a basilisk. "Y' _gotta_ show us, Bill, so b'
quick 'bout 't!"
A tired smile played over Gentleman Jack's face. He was the bored
aristocrat, mutely protesting against something that "wasn't
done." He dipped his slender fingers into his pocket. Then,
drawing out the test-tube, and holding it up, he spoke with a
drawling calm for which even Jimmy could not help admiring him.
"All right! If I'm done, I'm done!"
The sensation caused by his action and his words was of the kind
usually described as profound. Mrs. Pett uttered a strangled
shriek. Willie Partridge yelped like a dog. Sharp exclamations
came simultaneously from each of the geniuses.
Gentleman Jack waited for the clamour to subside. Then he resumed
his gentle drawl.
"But I'm not done," he explained. "I'm going out now through that