E. Phillips Oppenheim.

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understand - "

"Understand?" Dredlinton broke in. "Give me that message, madam."

He snatched at it. Wingate leaned over and swung him on one side. For a
single moment Phipps, too, seemed about to attempt force. Then, with an
ugly little laugh, he recovered himself.

"My dear Lady Dredlinton, let me reason with you," he begged. "On this
occasion Mr. Wingate is in opposition to our interests, your husband's
and mine. You cannot - "

"Let Lady Dredlinton read the cable," Wingate interposed.

It was done before any further interference was possible. Wingate stood
at her side, grim and threatening. The words had left her lips before
either of the other men could shout her down.

"It is a night message from New York," she said. "Listen: 'Confirm eleven
steamers Universal Line withdrawn Japan trade loading secretly huge wheat
cargo for Liverpool. Confirm John Wingate, Milan Court, holds controlling
influence. Advise buy his shares any price.'"

There was a moment's intense silence. Dredlinton opened his lips and
closed them again. Phipps was exhibiting remarkable self-control. His
tone, as he addressed Wingate, was grave but almost natural.

"Under these circumstances, do you wish to repudiate your bargain?" he
asked. "We must at least know where we are."

Wingate turned to Josephine.

"The matter," he decided, "is not in my hands. Lady Dredlinton," he went
on, "the person who opened the door of my sitting room last night was
Miss Flossie Lane, a musical comedy actress sent there by your husband,
who had followed you to the Milan. Your husband imagines that because you
were in my apartments at such an unusual hour, he has cause for a
divorce. That I do not believe, but, to save proceedings which might be
distasteful to you, I was prepared to sell Mr. Phipps my shares in the
Universal Line, imagining it to be an ordinary business transaction. The
cable which you have just read has revealed the true reason why Phipps
desires to acquire those shares. The arrival of that wheat will force
down prices, for a time, at any rate. It may even drive this accursed
company into seeking some other field of speculation. What shall I do?"

She smiled at him over her husband's head. She did not hesitate even for
a second. Her tone was proud and insistent.

"You must of course keep your shares," she declared. "As regards the
other matter, my husband can do as he thinks well."

Wingate's eyes flashed his thanks. He drew a little sigh of relief
and deliberately tore in halves the agreement which he had been
holding. Dredlinton leaned over the desk, snatched at the telephone
receiver, threw himself into his chair, and, glared first at Wingate
and then at his wife.

"My God, then," he exclaimed furiously, "I'll keep my word! - Mayfair
67. - I'll drag you through the dust, my lady," he went on. "You shall be
the heroine of one of those squalid divorce cases you've spoken of so
scornfully. You shall crawl through life a divorcee, made an honest woman
through the generosity of an American adventurer! - 67, Mayfair, I said."

Phipps shook his head sorrowfully.

"My friend," he said, "this is useless bluster. Put down the telephone.
Let us talk the matter out squarely. Your methods are a little too
melodramatic."

"Go to hell!" Dredlinton shouted. "You are too much out for compromises,
Phipps. There are times when one must strike. - Exchange! I say, Exchange!
Why the devil can't you give me Mayfair 67? - What's that? - An urgent
call? - Well, go on, then. Out with it. - Who's speaking? Mr. Stanley Rees'
servant? - Yes, yes! I'm Lord Dredlinton. Get on with it."

There was a moment of intense silence. Dredlinton was listening,
indifferently at first, then as though spellbound, his lips a little
parted, his cheeks colourless, his eyes filled with a strange terror.
Presently he laid down the receiver, although he failed to replace it. He
turned very slowly around, and his eyes, still filled with a haunting
fear, sought Wingate's.

"Stanley has disappeared!" he gasped. "He had one of those letters last
night. It lies on his table now, his servant says. There was a noise in
his room at four o'clock this morning. When they called him - -he had
gone! No one has seen or heard of him since!"

"Stanley disappeared?" Phipps repeated in a dazed tone.

"There's been foul play!" Dredlinton cried hoarsely. "His servant is
sure of it!"

Wingate picked up his hat and stick and moved towards the door. From the
threshold he looked back, waiting whilst Josephine joined him.

"Youth," he said calmly, "must be served. Stanley Rees was, I believe,
the youngest director on the Board of the British and Imperial Granaries.
Now, if you like, Mr. Phipps, I'll come on to your market. I'm a seller
of a hundred thousand bushels of wheat at to-day's price."

"Go to hell!" Phipps shouted, his face black with rage.




CHAPTER XVI


Roger Kendrick was in and disengaged when Wingate called upon him, a few
minutes later. He welcomed his visitor cordially.

"That was a pretty good list you gave me the other day, Wingate," he
remarked, "You've made money. You're making it still."

"Good!" Wingate commented, with a nod of satisfaction. "I dare say I
shall need it all. Close up everything, Kendrick."

"The devil! One or two of your things are going strong, you know."

"Take profits and close up," Wingate directed. "I've another
commission for you."

"One moment, then."

Kendrick hurried into the outer office and gave some brief instructions.
His client picked up the tape and studied it until his return.

"How are things in the House?" Wingate enquired, as he resumed his seat.

"Uneasy," Kendrick replied. "B. & I.'s are the chief feature. They
show signs of weakness, owing to the questions in the House of
Commons last night."

"I'm a bear on B. & I.'s," Wingate declared. "What are they to-day?"

"They opened at five and a quarter. Half-an-hour ago they were being
offered at five and an eighth."

"Very well," Wingate replied, "sell."

"How many?"

"No limit. Simply sell."

The broker was a little startled.

"Do you know anything?" he asked.

"Nothing definite. I've been studying their methods for some time. What
they've been trying to do practically is to corner wheat. No one has ever
succeeded in doing it yet. I don't think they will. My belief is that
they are coming to the end of their tether, and there is still a large
shipment of wheat which will be afloat next week."

Kendrick answered an enquiry through the telephone and leaned back in
his chair.

"Wingate," he said, "I'm not sure that I actually agree with you about
the B. & I. They have a wonderful system of subsidiary companies, and
their holdings of wheat throughout the country are enormous, - all bought,
mind you, at much below to-day's price. If they were to realise to-day,
they'd realise an enormous profit. Personally, it seems to me that
they've made their money and they can realise practically when they like.
The price of wheat can't slump sufficiently to put them in Queer Street."

"The price of wheat is coming down, though, and coming down within the
next ten days," Wingate pronounced.

Kendrick stretched out his hand towards the cigarettes and passed the box
across to his friend.

"Why do you think so?" he asked bluntly. "According to accounts, the
harvests all over the world are disastrous. There is less wheat being
shipped here than ever before in the world's history. I can conceive that
we may have reached the top, and that the price may decline a few points
from now onwards, but even that would make very little difference. I
can't see the slightest chance of any material fall in wheat."

"I can," Wingate replied. "Don't worry, Ken. No need to dash into the
business like a Chicago booster. Just go at it quietly but
unwaveringly. I suppose a good many of the B. & I. commissions are
still open, and there's bound to be a little buying elsewhere, but I'm
a seller of wheat, too, wherever there's any business doing. Wheat's
coming down; so are the B. & I. shares. I'm not giving you verbal
orders. Here's your warrant."

He drew a sheet of note paper towards him and wrote a few lines upon it.
Kendrick blotted and laid a paper weight upon it.

"That's one of the biggest things I've ever taken on for a client,
Wingate," he said. "You won't mind if I venture upon one last word?"

"Not I," was the cheerful reply. "Go right ahead."

"You're sure that Phipps hasn't drawn you into this? He's a perfect devil
for cunning, that man, and he's simply been waiting for your coming. I
think it was the disappointment of his life when you first came down to
the City and left him alone. You've shown wonderful restraint, old chap.
You're sure you haven't been goaded into this?"

Wingate smiled.

"Don't you worry about me, Ken," he begged. "Of course, in a manner of
speaking, this is a duel between Phipps and myself, and if you were to
ask my advice which to back, I don't know that I should care to take the
responsibility of giving it. At the same time, I'm out to break Phipps
and I rather think this time I'm going to do it. - Come along to the
Milan, later on, and lunch. Lady Amesbury and Sarah Baldwin and a few
others are coming."

"Lady Dredlinton, by any chance?" Kendrick asked.

"Lady Dredlinton, certainly."

"I'll turn up soon after one. And, Wingate."

"Well?"

"Don't think I'm a croaker, but I know Peter Phipps. There isn't a man on
this earth I'd fear more as an enemy. He's unscrupulous, untrustworthy,
and an unflinching hater. You and he are hard up against one another, I
know, and I suppose you realise that your growing friendship with
Josephine Dredlinton is simply hell for him."

"I imagine you know that his attentions to her have been entirely
unwelcome," Wingate said calmly.

"I will answer for it that she has never encouraged him for a moment,"
Kendrick assented, "yet Phipps is one of those men who never take 'no'
for an answer, who simply don't know what it is to despair of a thing.
I've been watching that ménage for the last twelve months, and I've
watched Peter Phipps fighting his grim battle. I think I was one of the
party when he first met her. Since then, though the fellow has any amount
of tact, his pursuit of her must have been a persecution. He put
Dredlinton on the Board of the B. & I., solely to buy his way into the
household. He sent him home one day in a new car - a present to his wife.
She has never ridden in it and she made her husband return it."

"I know," Wingate muttered. "I've heard a little of this, and seen it,
too."

"Well, there you are," Kendrick concluded. "You know Phipps. You know
what it must seem like to him to have another man step in, just as he may
have been flattering himself that he was gaining ground. He hated you
before. He'd give his soul, if he had one to break you now."

"He'll do what he can, Ken," said Wingate, with a smile, as he left the
office, "but you may take it that the odds are a trifle on us. - Not later
than one-thirty, then."

"There is no doubt," he remarked a moment later, as he stepped into his
car, where Josephine was waiting for him, "that we are at war."

She laughed quietly. The excitement of those last few minutes in the
offices of the British and Imperial Granaries had acted like a stimulant.
She had lost entirely her tense and depressed air. The colour of her eyes
was newly discovered in the light that played there.

"You couldn't have fired the first shot in more dramatic fashion," she
declared. "Even Mr. Phipps lost his nerve for a moment, and I thought
that Henry was going to collapse altogether. I wonder what they are
doing now."

"Ringing up Scotland Yard, or on their way there, I should think,"
Wingate replied.

She shivered for a moment.

"You are not afraid of the police, are you?" she asked.

"I don't think we need be," he replied cheerfully, "unless we have bad
luck. Of course, I have had professional advice as to all the details.
The thing has been thought out step by step, almost scientifically. Slate
is a marvellous fellow, and I think he has gathered up every loose end.
Makes one realise how easy crime would be if one went into it unflurried
and with a clear conscience. - Tell me, by the by, was it by accident that
you opened that cable this morning?"

"Not entirely," she confessed. "I was in the library this morning talking
to Grant, my new butler."

"Satisfactory, I trust?" Wingate murmured.

"A paragon," she replied, with a little gleam in her eyes. "Well, on
Henry's desk was the rough draft of a cable, torn into pieces, and on one
of them, larger than the rest, I couldn't help seeing your name. It
looked as though Henry had been sending a cable in which you were somehow
concerned. While I was there, the reply came, so I decided to open and
decode it. Directly I realised what it was about, I brought it straight
to the office, hoping to catch you there."

"You are a most amazing woman," he declared.

She leaned a little towards him.

"And you are a most likable man," she murmured.

Wingate's luncheon party had been arranged for some days, and was being
given, in fact, at the suggestion of Lady Amesbury herself.

"I am a perfectly shameless person," she declared, as she took her seat
by Wingate's side at the round table in the middle of the restaurant. "I
invited myself to this party. I always do. The last three times our dear
host has been over to England, as soon as I have enquired after his
health and his business, and whether the right woman has turned up yet, I
ask him when he's going to take me to lunch at the Milan. I do love
lunching in a restaurant," she confided to Kendrick, who sat at her other
side, "and nearly all my friends prefer their stodgy dining rooms."

"Have you heard the news, aunt?" Sarah asked across the table.

"About that silly little Mrs. Liddiard Green, do you mean, and Jack
Fulton? I hear they were seen in Paris together last week."

"Pooh! Who cares about Mrs. Liddiard Green!" Sarah scoffed. "I mean the
news about Jimmy. The dear boy's gone into the City."

"God bless my soul!" Lady Amesbury exclaimed. "How much has he got to
lose?"

"He isn't going to lose anything," Sarah replied. "Mr. Maurice White has
taken him into his office, and he's going to have a commission on the
business he does. This is his first morning. He must be busy or he'd have
been here before now. Jimmy's never late for meals."

"Hm!" Lady Amesbury grunted. "I expect he has to stay and mind the office
while Mr. White gets his lunch."

"Considering," Sarah rejoined with dignity, "that there are seventeen
other clerks, besides office boys and typists, and Jimmy has a room to
himself, that doesn't seem likely. I expect he's doing a big deal for
somebody or other."

"Thank God it isn't me!" her aunt declared. "I love Jimmy - every one
does - but he wasn't born for business."

"We shall see," Sarah observed. "My own opinion of Jimmy is that his
mental gifts are generally underrated."

"You're not prejudiced, by any chance, are you?" Kendrick asked,
smiling.

"That is my dispassionate opinion," Sarah pronounced, "and I don't want
any peevish remarks from you, Roger Kendrick. You're jealous because you
let Mr. White get in ahead of you and secure Jimmy. It was only three
days ago that we agreed he should go into the City. He was perfectly
sweet about it, too. He was playing for the M.C.C. to-morrow, and polo at
Ranelagh on Saturday."

"Is he giving them both up?" Kendrick enquired.

"He's giving up the cricket, of course, unless he finds that it happens
to be a slack day in the City," Sarah replied. "As for the polo, well, no
one works on Saturday afternoon, do they?"

"How is my friend, Mr. Peter Phipps?" Lady Amesbury demanded. "The big
man who looked like a professional millionaire? Is he making a man of
that bad husband of yours, Josephine?"

"They spend a good deal of time together," Josephine replied. "I don't
think he'll ever succeed in making a business man out of Henry, though,
any more than Mr. White will out of Jimmy."

A familiar form approached the table. Sarah welcomed him with a wave of
her hand. The Honourable Jimmy greeted Lady Amesbury and his host,
nodded to every one else, and took the vacant place which had been left
for him. He seemed fatigued.

"Can I have a cocktail, Mr. Wingate?" he begged, summoning a waiter. "A
double Martini, please. Big things doing in the City," he confided.

"Have you had to work very hard, dear?" Sarah asked sympathetically.

"Absolutely feverish rush ever since I got there," he declared. "Don't
know how long my nerves will stand it. Telephones ringing, men rushing
out of the office without their hats, and bumping into you without saying
'by your leave' or 'beg your pardon,' or any little civility of that
sort, and good old Maurice, with his hair standing up on end, shouting
into two telephones at the same time, and dictating a letter to one of
the peachiest little bits of fluff I've seen outside the front rows for I
don't know how long."

"Jimmy," Sarah said sternly, "I'm not sure that the City is going to suit
you. You don't have to dictate letters to her, do you?"

"No such luck," Jimmy sighed. "She is the Chief's own particular
property. Does a thousand words a minute and knits a jumper at the
same time."

"Whom do you dictate your letters to?" Sarah demanded.

"To tell you the truth," Jimmy answered, falling on his cocktail, "I
haven't had any to write yet."

"What has your work been?" Lady Amesbury asked.

"Kind of superintending," the young man explained, "looking on at
everything - getting the hang of it, you know."

"Are the other men there nice?" Sarah enquired.

"Well, we don't seem to have had much time for conversation yet," Jimmy
replied, attacking his caviar like a man anxious to make up for lost
time. "I heard one chap tell another that I'd come to give tone to the
establishment, which seemed to me a pleasant and friendly way of
looking at it."

"You didn't have any commissions yourself?" Sarah went on.

"Well, not exactly," Jimmy confessed. "About half an hour before I
left, a lunatic with perspiration streaming down his face, and no hat,
threw himself into my room. 'I'll buy B. & I.'s,' he shouted. 'I'll buy
B. & I.'s!'"

"What did you do?" Wingate enquired with interest.

"I told him I hadn't got any," was the injured reply. "He went cut like a
streak of damp lightning. I heard him kicking up an awful hullaballoo in
the next office."

"Jimmy," Sarah said reproachfully, "that might have been your first
client. You ought to have made a business of finding him some B. & I.'s."

"There might have been some in a drawer or somewhere," Lady Amesbury
suggested.

"Distinct lack of enterprise," Kendrick put in. "You should have thrown
yourself on the telephone and asked me if I'd got a few."

"Never thought of it," Jimmy confessed. "Live and learn. First day and
all that sort of thing, you know. I tell you what," he went on, "all the
excitement and that gives you an appetite for your food."

The manager of the restaurant, on his way through the room, recognised
Wingate and came to pay his respects.

"Did you hear about the little trouble over in the Court, Mr. Wingate?"
he enquired.

"No, I haven't heard anything," Wingate replied.

They all leaned a little forward. The manager included them in his
confidence.

"The young gentleman you probably know, Mr. Wingate," he said, - "has the
suite just underneath yours - Mr. Stanley Rees, his name is - disappeared
last night."

"Disappeared?" Lady Amesbury repeated.

"Stanley Rees?" Kendrick exclaimed.

The manager nodded.

"A very pleasant young gentleman," he continued, "wealthy, too. He is a
nephew of Mr. Peter Phipps, Chairman of the Directors of the British and
Imperial Granaries. It seems he dressed for dinner, came down to the bar
to have a cocktail, leaving his coat and hat and scarf up in his room,
and telling his valet that he would return for them in ten minutes. He
hasn't been seen or heard of since."

"Sounds like the 'Arabian Nights,'" Jimmy declared. "Probably found he
was a bit late for his grub and went on without his coat and hat."

"What about not coming back all night, sir?" the manager asked.

"Lads will be lads," Jimmy answered sententiously.

The manager showed an entire lack of sympathy with his attitude.

"Mr. Stanley Rees," he said, "is a remarkably well-conducted, quiet
young gentleman, very popular here amongst the domestics, and noted for
keeping very early hours. He was engaged to dine out at Hampstead with
some friends, who telephoned for him several times during the evening.
He was also supping here with a gentleman who arrived and waited an
hour for him."

"Was he in good health?" Wingate enquired casually.

"Excellent, I should say, sir," the manager replied. "He was a young
gentleman who took remarkably good care of himself."

"I know the sort," Jimmy said complacently, watching his glass being
filled. "A whisky and soda when the doctor orders it, and ginger ale with
his luncheon."

The manager was called away. Kendrick had become thoughtful.

"Queer thing," he remarked, "that young Rees should have disappeared just
as the B. & I. have become a feature on 'Change. He was Phipps'
right-hand man in financial matters."

"Disappearances in London seem a little out of date," Wingate remarked,
as he scrutinised the dish which the _maître d'hôtel_ had brought for his
inspection. "The missing person generally turns up and curses the
scaremongers. - Lady Amesbury, this Maryland chicken is one of our
favourite New York dishes. Kendrick, have some more wine. Wilshaw, your
appetite has soon flagged."

"All the same," Kendrick mused, "it's a dashed queer thing about
Stanley Rees."

After his guests had departed, Wingate had a few minutes alone with
Josephine.

"I hate letting you go back to that house," he admitted.

She laughed softly.

"Why, my dear," she said, "think how necessary it is. For the first time,
in my life I am absolutely looking forward to it. I never thought that I
should live to associate romance with that ugly, brown-stone building."

"If there's the slightest hitch, you'll let me hear, won't you?" he
begged. "The telephone is on to my room, and anything that happens
unforeseen - remember this, Josephine - is a complete surprise to you.
Everything is arranged so that you are not implicated in any way."

"Pooh!" she scoffed. "Nothing will happen. You are invincible, John. You
will conquer with these men as you have with poor me."

"You have no regrets?" he asked, as they moved through the hall on
the way out.

"I regret nothing," she answered fervently. "I never shall."




CHAPTER XVII


Wingate, after several strenuous hours spent in Slate's office,
returned to his rooms late that night, to find Peter Phipps awaiting
him. There was something vaguely threatening about the bulky figure of
the man standing gloomily upon the hearth rug, all the spurious good
nature gone from his face, his brows knitted, his cheeks hanging a
little and unusually pale. Wingate paused on the threshold of the room
and his hand crept into his pocket. Phipps seemed to notice the gesture
and shook his head.

"Nothing quite so crude, Wingate," he said. "I know an enemy when I see
one, but I wasn't thinking of getting rid of you that way."

"I have found it necessary," Wingate remarked slowly, "to be prepared for
all sorts of tricks when I am up against anybody as conscienceless as
you. I don't want you here, Phipps. I didn't ask you to come and see me.
I've nothing to discuss with you."

"There are times," Phipps replied, "when the issue which cannot be
fought out to the end with arms can be joined in the council chamber. I
have come to know your terms."

Wingate shook his head.

"I don't understand. It is too soon for this sort of thing. You are not
beaten yet."

"I am tired," his visitor muttered. "May I sit down?"

"You are an unwelcome guest," Wingate replied coldly, "but sit if you
will. Then say what you have to say and go."

Phipps sank into an easy-chair. It was obvious that he was telling the
truth so far as regarded his fatigue. He seemed to have aged ten years.

"I have been down below in Stanley's rooms," he explained, "been through
his papers. It's true what the inspector fellow reports. There isn't a
scrap of evidence of any complication in his life. There isn't a shadow
of doubt in my mind as to the cause of his disappearance."

"Indeed!" Wingate murmured.

"It's a villainous plot, engineered by you!" Phipps continued, his


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