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reasonable sum and I'll pay thee."



In the train which had carried Pinto Silva to Huddersfield were one or
two remarkable passengers, and it was not a coincidence that they did
not meet. In a third-class carriage at the far end of the train was a
soldier who carried a kit-bag and who whiled away the journey by reading
a seemingly endless collection of magazines.

He got out at Huddersfield too, and Pinto might and probably did see him
as he passed through the barrier. The soldier left his kit-bag at the
cloak-room and eventually became one of the two dozen people who
patronised Lady Sybil's bazaar on that afternoon. He passed Pinto twice,
and once made a small purchase at the same stall where the Portuguese
was buying lavishly. If Pinto saw him, then he did not remember the
fact. One soldier looks very much like another, anyway.

Lady Sybil had reason to notice the representative of His Majesty's
forces, and herself informed him severely that smoking was not allowed,
and the man had put his cigarette under his heel with an apology and had
walked out of the building. When Lady Sybil and her guest had entered
her car and were driven away to Mill Hall, the soldier had been
loitering near the entrance, and a few minutes later he was following
the party in a taxi-cab which had been waiting at his order for the past
two hours.

The taxi did not turn in at the stone-pillared gates of the Hall, but
continued some distance beyond, when the soldier alighted and, turning
back, walked boldly through the main entrance and passed up the drive.
It was dusk by now, and nobody challenged him.

He made a reconnaissance of the house and found the dining-room without
any difficulty. The blinds were up and the servants were setting the
table. Then he passed round to the wing of the building and discovered
the library. He actually went into that room, because it was one of Lady
Sybil's standing orders that the library should be "aired" and that the
scent of Mr. Crotin's atrocious tobacco should be cleared.

He sniffed the stale fragrance and was satisfied that this was a room
which was lived in.

If there was any real, confidential talk between the two men, it would
be here, he thought, and looked round for a likely place of concealment.
The room was innocent of cupboards. Only a big settee drawn diagonally
across a corner of the room promised cover, and that looked too
dangerous. If anybody sat there and by chance dropped something - a pipe
or an ash-tray - -

He walked back to the terrace to take his bearings in case he had to
make a rapid exit. He looked round and then dropped suddenly to the
cover of the balustrade, for he had seen a dark figure moving across the
lawn, and it was coming straight for the terrace. He slipped back into
the room and as he did so he heard a step in the passage without. He
stepped lightly over to the settee and crouched down.

It was evidently a servant, for he heard the French windows closed and
the clang of the shutters. They were evidently very ordinary
folding-shutters, fastened with an old-fashioned steel bar - he made a
mental note of this. Then he heard the swish of the curtain-rings upon
the brass pole as the curtains were drawn. A dim light was switched on,
somebody poked the fire, and then the light was put out and the door
closed softly.

The intruder did some rapid thinking. He crossed to the nearest of the
windows, noiselessly opened the shutters and pushed them back to the
position in which they stood when not in use. Then he unlatched the
window and left it, hoping that it would not blow open and betray him.
This done, he again pulled the heavy curtains across and returned to
his place of concealment. That was to be the way out for him if the
necessity for a rapid retreat should arise.

There was no sound save the ticking of the clock and the noise of
falling cinders for ten minutes, and then he heard something which
brought him to the alert, all his senses awakened and concentrated. It
was the sound of a light and stealthy footstep on the terrace outside.
He wondered whether it was a servant and whether he would see that one
of the windows was unshuttered. He had half a mind to investigate, when
there came another sound - a lumbering foot in the passage. Suddenly the
door was opened, the lights were flashed on, and the man behind the
settee hugged the floor and held his breath.

* * * * *

"How much do I want?"

Pinto laughed and lit a cigarette.

"My dear Mr. Crotin, I really don't know what you mean."

"Let's have no more foolery," said the Yorkshireman roughly. "I know
that you've come up from Colonel Boundary and I know what you've come
for. You want to buy my mill, eh? Well, I'll make it worth your while
not to buy my mill. You can take the money instead."

"I really am honest when I tell you that I don't understand what you are
talking about. I have certainly come up to buy a mill - that is true. It
is also true that I want to buy your mill."

"And what might you be thinking of paying for it?" asked Crotin between
his teeth.

"Twenty thousand pounds," said Pinto nonchalantly.

"Twenty thousand, eh? It was thirty thousand the last time. You'll want
me to give it to you soon. Nay, nay, my friend, I'll pay, but not in

"Think of the poor," murmured Pinto.

"I'm thinking of them," said the other. "I'm thinking of the poor woman
in Wales, too, and the poor woman in there." He jerked his head. Then,
in a calmer tone: "I guessed at dinner where you came from. Colonel
Boundary sent you."

Pinto shrugged.

"Let us mention no names," he said politely. "And who is Colonel
Boundary, anyway?"

Crotin was at his desk now. He had taken out his cheque-book and slapped
it down upon the writing-pad.

"You've got me proper," he said, and his voice quavered. "I'll make an
offer to you. I'll give you fifty thousand pounds if you write an
agreement that you will not molest or bother me again."

There was a silence, and the soldier crouched behind the settee,
listening intently. He heard Pinto laugh softly as one who is greatly

"That, my good friend," said Pinto, "would be blackmail. You don't
imagine that I would be guilty of such an iniquity? I know nothing about
your past; I merely suggest that you should sell me one of your mills at
a reasonable price."

"Twenty thousand pounds is reasonable for you, I suppose," said Crotin

"It is a lot of money," replied Pinto.

The Yorkshireman pulled open the drawer of his desk and slammed in the
cheque-book, closing it with a bang.

"Well, I'll give you nothing," he said, "neither mill nor money. You can
clear out of here."

He crossed the room to the telephone.

"What are you going to do?" asked Pinto, secretly alarmed.

"I'm going to send for the police," said the other grimly. "I'm going to
give myself up and I'm going to pinch thee too!"

If Crotin had turned the handle of the old-fashioned telephone, if he
had continued in his resolution, if he had shown no sign of doubt, a
different story might have been told. But with his hand raised, he
hesitated, and Pinto clinched his argument.

"Why have all that trouble?" he said. "Your liberty and reputation are
much more to you than a mill. You're a rich man. Your wife is wealthy in
her own right. You have enough to live on for the rest of your life.
Why make trouble?"

The little man dropped his head with a groan and walked wearily back to
the desk.

"Suppose I sell this?" he said in a low voice. "How do I know you won't
come again - - "

"When a gentleman gives his word of honour," began Pinto with dignity,
but was interrupted by a shrill laugh that made his blood run cold.

He swung round with an oath. Framed in an opening of the curtains which
covered one of the windows was the Figure!

The black silk gown, the white masked face, the soft felt hat pulled
down over the eyes - his teeth chattered at the sight of it, and he fell
back against the wall.

"Who wouldn't trust Pinto?" squeaked the voice. "Who wouldn't take
Pinto's word of honour? Jack o' Judgment wouldn't, poor old Jack o'

Jack o' Judgment! The soldier behind the settee heard the words and
gasped. Without any thought of consequence he raised his head and
looked. The Jack o' Judgment was standing where he expected him to be.
He had come through the window which the soldier had left unbarred. This
time he carried no weapon in his hand, and Pinto was quick to see the
possibilities. The electric switch was within reach, and his hand shot
out. There was a click and the room went dark.

But the figure of Jack o' Judgment was silhouetted against the night,
and Pinto whipped out the long knife which never left him and sent it
hurtling at his enemy. He saw the figure duck, heard the crash of broken
glass, and then Jack o' Judgment vanished. In a rage which was three
parts terror, he sprang through the open French windows on to the
terrace in time to see a dark figure drop over the balustrade and fly
across the park.



Pinto leapt the parapet and was following swiftly in its wake. He
guessed rather than knew that for once Jack o' Judgment had come
unarmed, and a wild exultation filled him at the thought that it was
left to him to unveil the mystery which was weighing even upon the iron
nerve of the colonel.

The figure gained the shrubbery, and the pursuer heard the rustle of
leaves as it plunged into the depths. In a second he was blundering
after. He lost sight of his quarry and stopped to listen. There was no

"Hiding," grunted Pinto. And then aloud: "Come out of it. I see you and
I'll shoot you like a dog if you don't come to me!"

There was no reply. He dashed in the direction he thought Jack o'
Judgment must have taken and again missed. With a curse he turned off in
another direction and then suddenly glimpsed a shape before him and
leapt at it. He was flung back with little or no effort, and stood
bewildered, for the coat his hand had touched was rough and he had felt
metal buttons.

"A soldier!" he gasped. "Who are you?"

"Steady," said the other; "don't get rattled, Pinto."

"Who are you?" asked Pinto again.

"My name is Stafford King," said the soldier, "and I think I shall want

Pinto half turned to go, but was gripped.

"You can go back to Huddersfield and pack your boxes," said Stafford
King. "You won't leave the town except by my permission."

"What do you mean?" demanded Pinto, breathing heavily.

"I mean," said Stafford King, "that the unfortunate man you tried to
blackmail must prosecute whatever be the consequence to himself. Now,
Pinto, you've a grand chance of turning King's evidence."

Pinto made no reply. He was collecting his thoughts. Then, after a
while, he said:

"I'll talk about that later, King. I'm staying at the Huddersfield Arms.
I'll meet you there in an hour."

Stafford King did not move until the sound of Pinto's footsteps had died
away. Then he began a systematic search, for he too was anxious to end
the mystery of Jack o' Judgment. He had followed Pinto when he dashed
from the room and had heard the Portuguese calling upon Jack o' Judgment
to surrender. That mysterious individual, who was obviously lying low,
could not be very far away.

He was in a shrubbery which proved later to be a clump of rhododendrons,
in the centre of which was a summer-house. To the heart of this
shrubbery led three paths, one of which Stafford discovered quite close
at hand. The sound of gravel under his feet gave him an idea, and he
began walking backward till he came to the shadow of a tree, and then,
simulating the sound of retreating footsteps, he waited.

After a while he heard a rustle, but did not move.

Somebody was coming cautiously through the bushes, and that somebody
appeared as a shadowy, indistinct figure, not twenty yards away. Only
the keenest eyesight could have detected it, and still Stafford waited.
Presently he heard the soft crunch of gravel under its feet, and at that
moment leapt towards it. The figure stood as though paralysed for a
second, and then, turning quickly, fled back to the heart of the bushes.
Before it had gone a dozen paces Stafford had reached it, and his arm
was about its neck.

"My friend," he breathed, "I don't know what I'm to do with you now I've
got you, but I certainly am going to register your face for future

"No, no," said a muffled voice from behind the mask. "No, no, don't; I
beg of you!"

But the mask was plucked away, and, fumbling in his pocket, Stafford
produced his electric lamp and flashed it on the face of his prisoner.
Then, with a cry of amazement, he stepped back - for he had looked upon
the face of Maisie White!

For a moment there was silence, neither speaking. Then Stafford found
his voice.

"Maisie!" he said in bewilderment, "Maisie! You - Jack o' Judgment?"

She did not answer.

"Phew!" whistled Stafford.

Then sitting on a trunk, he laughed.

"It is Maisie, of all people in the world. And I suspected it, too!"

The girl had covered her face with her hands and was crying softly, and
he moved towards her and put his arm about her shoulder.

"Darling, it is nothing very terrible. Please don't go on like that."

"Oh, you don't understand, you don't understand!" she wailed. "I wanted
to catch Silva. I guessed that he was coming north on one of his
blackmailing trips, and I followed him."

"Did you come up by the same train?"

He felt her nod.

"So did I," said Stafford with a little grin.

"I followed him to the bazaar," she said, "and then I watched him from a
little eating-house on the opposite side of the road. Do you know, I
wondered whether you were here too, and I looked everywhere for you, but
apparently there was nobody in sight when Pinto came out with Lady
Sybil, only a soldier."

"I was that soldier," said Stafford.

"I discovered where Mr. Crotin lived and came up later," she went on.
"Of course, I had no very clear idea of what I was going to do, and it
was only by the greatest luck that I found the window of the library
open. It was the only window that was open," she said with a little

"It wasn't so much your luck as my forethought," smiled Stafford.

"Now I want to tell you about Jack o' Judgment," she began, but he
stopped her.

"Let that explanation wait," he said; "the point is, that with your
evidence and mine we have Pinto by the throat - what was that?"

There was the sound of a shot.

"Probably a poacher," said Stafford after a moment. "I can't imagine
Pinto using a gun. Besides, I don't think he carries one. What did he
throw at you?"

"A knife," she said, and he felt her shiver; "it just missed me. But
tell me, how have we got Pinto?"

They had left the shrubbery and were walking towards the house. She
stopped a little while to take off her long black cloak, and he saw that
she was wearing a short-skirted dress beneath.

"We must compel Crotin to prosecute," said Stafford. "With our evidence
nothing can save Pinto, and probably he will drag in the colonel, too.
Even your evidence isn't necessary," he said after a moment's thought,
"and if it's possible I will keep you out of it."

A woman's scream interrupted him.

"There's trouble there," he said, and raced for the house. Somebody was
standing on the terrace as he approached, and hailed him excitedly.

"Is that you, Terence?"

It was a servant's voice.

"No," replied Stafford, "I am a police officer."

"Thank God!" said the man on the terrace. "Will you come up, sir? I
thought it was the gamekeeper I was speaking to."

"What is the matter?" asked Stafford as he vaulted over the parapet.

"Mr. Crotin has shot himself, sir," said the butler in quavering tones.

* * * * *

Twelve hours later Stafford King reported to his chief, giving the
details of the overnight tragedy.

"Poor fellow!" said Sir Stanley. "I was afraid of it ending that way."

"Did you know he was being blackmailed?" asked Stafford.

Sir Stanley nodded.

"We had a report, which apparently emanated from Jack o' Judgment, who
of late has started sending his communications to me direct," said Sir
Stanley. "You can, of course, do nothing with Pinto. Your evidence isn't
sufficient. What a pity you hadn't a second witness." He thought for a
moment. "Even then it wouldn't have been sufficient unless we had Crotin
to support you."

Stafford cleared his throat.

"I have a second witness, sir," he said.

"The devil you have!" Sir Stanley raised his eyebrows. "Who was your
second witness?"

"Jack o' Judgment," said Stafford, and Sir Stanley jumped to his feet.

"Jack o' Judgment!" he repeated. "What do you mean?"

"Jack o' Judgment was there," said Stafford, and told the story of the
remarkable appearance of that mysterious figure.

He told everything, reserving the identification of Jack till the last.

"And then you flashed the lamp on his face," said Sir Stanley. "Well,
who was it?"

"Maisie White," said Stafford.

"Good Lord!"

Sir Stanley walked to the window and stood looking out, his hands thrust
into his pockets. Presently he turned.

"There's a bigger mystery here than I suspected," he said. "Have you
asked Miss White for an explanation?"

Stafford shook his head.

"I thought it best to report the matter to you, sir, before I asked her
to - - "

"To incriminate herself, eh? Well, perhaps you did wisely, perhaps you
did not. I should imagine that her explanation is a very simple one."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean," said Sir Stanley, "that unless Jack o' Judgment has the gift
of appearing in two places at once, she is not Jack."

"But I don't understand, sir?"

"I mean," said Sir Stanley, "that Jack o' Judgment was in the colonel's
room last night, was in fact sitting by the colonel's bedside when that
gentleman awoke, and according to the statement which Colonel Boundary
has made to me about two hours ago in this room, warned him of his
approaching end."

It was Stafford's turn to be astonished.

"Are you sure, sir?" he asked incredulously.

"Absolutely!" said Sir Stanley. "You don't imagine that the colonel
would invent that sort of thing. For some reason or other, possibly to
keep close to the trouble that's coming, the colonel insists upon
bringing all his little chit-chat to me. He asked for an interview about
ten o'clock this morning and reported to me that he had had this
visitation. Moreover, the experience has had the effect of upsetting the
colonel, and for the first time he seems to be thoroughly rattled. Where
is Miss White?"

"She's here, sir."

"Here, eh?" said the commissioner. "So much the better. Can you bring
her in?"

A few minutes later the girl sat facing the First Commissioner.

"Now, Miss White, we're going to ask you for a few facts about your
masquerade," said Sir Stanley kindly. "I understand that you appeared
wearing the costume, and giving a fairly good imitation of the voice of
Jack o' Judgment. Now, I'm telling you before we go any further that I
do not believe for one moment that you are Jack o' Judgment. Am I

She nodded.

"Perfectly true, Sir Stanley," she said. "I don't know why I did such a
mad thing, except that I knew Pinto was scared of him. I got the cloak
from my dress-basket and made the mask myself. You see, I didn't know
whether I might want it, but I thought that in a tight pinch, if I
wished to terrify this man, that was the r√іle to assume."

Sir Stanley nodded.

"And the voice, of course, was easy."

"But how could you imitate the voice if you have never seen Jack o'

"I saw him once." She shivered a little. "You seem to forget, Sir
Stanley, that he rescued me from that dreadful house."

"Of course," said Sir Stanley, "and you imitated him, did you?" He
turned to his subordinate. "I'm accepting Miss White's explanation,
Stafford, and I advise you to do the same. She went up to watch Silva,
as I understand, and took the costume with her as a sort of protection.
Well, Miss White, are you satisfied with your detective work?"

She smiled ruefully.

"I'm afraid I'm a failure as a detective," she said.

"I'm afraid you are," laughed Sir Stanley, as he rose and offered his
hand. "There is only one real detective in the world - and that is Jack
o' Judgment!"



If Pinto Silva had a hobby, it was the Orpheum Theatre. The Orpheum had
been in low water and had come into the market at a moment when
theatrical managers and proprietors were singularly unenterprising and
money was short. Pinto had bought the property for a song, and had
converted his purchase into a moderate success. The theatre served a
double purpose; it provided Pinto with a hobby, and offered an excuse
for his wealth. Since it was a one-man show, and he produced no
balance-sheet, his contemporaries could only make a guess as to the
amount of money he made. If the truth be told, it was not very large,
but small as it was, its dividends more or less justified his own

There had been one or two scandals about the Orpheum which had reached
the public Press - scandals of a not particularly edifying character. But
Pinto had managed to escape public opprobrium.

The Orpheum, at any rate, helped to baffle the police, who saw Silva
living at the rate of twenty thousand a year, and were unable to trace
the source of his income. That he had estates in Portugal was known; but
they had been acquired, apparently, on the profits of the music-hall. He
was not a speculator, though he was a shareholder in a number of
companies which were controlled by the colonel; and he was certainly not
a gambler, in the generally accepted sense of the term.

Whilst he was suspected of being intimately connected with several shady
transactions, he could boast truly that there was not a scrap of
evidence to associate him with any breach of the law. He was less
inclined to boast that evening, when he turned into the stage-box at the
Orpheum, and pulling his chair into the shadow of the draperies, sat
back and considered his position. He had returned from Yorkshire in a
panic, and had met the fury of the colonel's reproaches. It was the
worst quarter of an hour that Pinto had ever spent with his superior,
and the memory made him shiver.

The stage-box at the Orpheum was never sold to any member of the public.
It was Pinto's private possession, his sitting-room and his office. He
sat watching with gloomy interest the progress of the little revue which
was a feature of the Orpheum programme, and his mind was occupied by a
very pressing problem. He was shaken, too, by the interview he had had
with the Huddersfield police.

He had had to fake a story to explain why he left the library, and why,
in his absence, Mr. Crotin had committed suicide. Fortunately, he had
returned to the house by the front hall and was in the hall inventing a
story of burglars to the agitated Lady Sybil when they heard the shot
which ended the wretched life of the bigamist. That had saved him from
being suspected of actual complicity in the crime. Suppose they had - he
sweated at the thought.

There was a knock on the door of the box, and an attendant put in his

"There's a gentleman to see you, sir," he said; "he says he has an

"What is his name?"

"Mr. Cartwright."

Pinto nodded.

"Show him in, please," he said, and dismissed all unpleasant thoughts.

The new-comer proved to be a dapper little man, with a weather-beaten
face. He was in evening dress, and spoke like a gentleman.

"I had your letter, Mr. Silva," he said. "You received my telephone

"Yes," said Silva. "I wanted to see you particularly. You understand
that what I say is wholly confidential."

"That I understand," said the man called Cartwright.

He took Pinto's proferred cigarette and lit it.

"I have been reading about you in the papers," said Pinto. "You're the
man who did the non-stop flight for the Western Aeroplane Company?"

"That's right," smiled Cartwright. "I have done many long nights. I
suppose you are referring to my San Sebastian trip?"

Pinto nodded.

"Now I want to ask you a few questions, and if they seem to be prying or
personal, you must believe that I have no other wish than to secure
information which is vital to myself. What position do you occupy with
the Western Company?"

Cartwright shrugged his shoulders.

"I am a pilot," he said. "If you mean, am I a director of the firm or am

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Online LibraryEdgar WallaceJack o' Judgment → online text (page 11 of 17)