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PROLOGUE THE AFFAIR OF THE MAN WHO CALLED HIMSELF HAMILTON CLEEK
EPILOGUE THE AFFAIR OF THE MAN WHO HAD BEEN CALLED HAMILTON CLEEK
PROLOGUE THE AFFAIR OF THE MAN WHO CALLED HIMSELF HAMILTON CLEEK
The thing wouldn't have happened if any other constable than
Collins had been put on point duty at Blackfriars Bridge that
morning. For Collins was young, good-looking, and—knew it. Nature
had gifted him with a susceptible heart and a fond eye for the
beauties of femininity. So when he looked round and saw the woman
threading her way through the maze of vehicles at "Dead Man's
Corner," with her skirt held up just enough to show two
twinkling little feet in French shoes, and over them a graceful,
willowy figure, and over that an enchanting, if rather too highly
tinted face, with almond eyes and a fluff of shining hair under the
screen of a big Parisian hat—that did for him on the spot.
He saw at a glance that she was French—exceedingly French—and
he preferred English beauty, as a rule. But, French or English,
beauty is beauty, and here undeniably was a perfect type, so he
unhesitatingly sprang to her assistance and piloted her safely to the
kerb, revelling in her voluble thanks, and tingling as she clung
timidly but rather firmly to him.
"Sair, I have to give you much gratitude," she said in a
pretty, wistful sort of way, as they stepped on to the pavement. Then
she dropped her hand from his sleeve, looked up at him, and shyly
drooped her head, as if overcome with confusion and surprise at the
youth and good looks of him. "Ah, it is nowhere in the world but
Londres one finds these delicate attentions, these splendid sergeants
de ville," she added, with a sort of sigh. "You are
wonnerful—you are mos' wonnerful, you Anglais poliss. Sair, I am a
stranger; I know not ze ways of this city of amazement, and if
monsieur would so kindly direct me where to find the Abbey of the
Before P.C. Collins could tell her that if that were her
destination, she was a good deal out of her latitude; indeed, even
before she concluded what she was saying, over the rumble of the
traffic there rose a thin, shrill piping sound, which to ears trained
to the call of it possessed a startling significance.
It was the shrilling of a police whistle, far off down the
"Hullo! That's a call to the man on point!" exclaimed
Collins, all alert at once. "Excuse me, mum. See you presently.
Something's up. One of my mates is a-signalling me."
"Mates, monsieur? Mates? Signalling? I shall not understand
the vords. But yes, vat shall that mean—eh?"
"Good Lord, don't bother me now! I—I mean, wait a bit.
That's the call to 'head off' someone, and—By George! There he is
now, coming head on, the hound, and running like the wind!"
For of a sudden, through a break in the traffic, a scudding figure
had sprung into sight—the figure of a man in a grey frock-coat and
a shining "topper," a well-groomed, well-set-up man, with a
small, turned-up moustache and hair of that peculiar purplish-red one
sees only on the shell of a roasted chestnut. As he swung into sight,
the distant whistle shrilled again; far off in the distance voices
sent up cries of "Head him off!" "Stop that man!"
et cetera; then those on the pavement near to the fugitive took up
the cry, joined in pursuit, and in a twinkling, what with cabmen,
tram-men, draymen, and pedestrians shouting, there was hubbub enough
"A swell pickpocket, I'll lay my life," commented
Collins, as he squared himself for an encounter and made ready to
leap on the man when he came within gripping distance. "Here!
get out of the way, madmazelly. Business before pleasure. And,
besides, you're like to get bowled over in the rush. Here,
chauffeur!"—this to the driver of a big, black motor-car which
swept round the angle of the bridge at that moment, and made as
though to scud down the Embankment into the thick of the chase—"pull
that thing up sharp! Stop where you are! Dead still. At once, at
once, do you hear? We don't want you getting in the way. Now,
then"—nodding his head in the direction of the running
man—"come on you bounder; I'm ready for you!"
And, as if he really heard that invitation, and really was eager
to accept it, the red-headed man did "come on" with a
vengeance. And all the time, "madmazelly," unheeding
Collins's advice, stood calmly and silently waiting.
Onward came the runner, with the whole roaring pack in his wake,
dodging in and out among the vehicles, "flooring" people
who got in his way, scudding, dodging, leaping, like a fox hard
pressed by the hounds—until, all of a moment he spied a break in
the traffic, leapt through it, and—then there was mischief. For
Collins sprang at him like a cat, gripped two big, strong-as-iron
hands on his shoulders, and had him tight and fast.
"Got you, you ass!" snapped he, with a short, crisp,
self-satisfied laugh. "None of your blessed squirming now. Keep
still. You'll get out of your coffin, you bounder, as soon as out of
my grip. Got you—got you! Do you understand?"
The response to this fairly took the wind out of him.
"Of course I do," said the captive, gaily; "it's
part of the programme that you should get me. Only, for Heaven's
sake, don't spoil the film by remaining inactive, you goat! Struggle
with me—handle me roughly—throw me about. Make it look real; make
it look as though I actually did get away from you, not as though you
let me. You chaps behind there, don't get in the way of the
camera—it's in one of those cabs. Now, then, Bobby, don't be
wooden! Struggle—struggle, you goat, and save the film!"
"Save the what?" gasped Collins. "Here! Good Lord!
Do you mean to say—?"
"Struggle—struggle—struggle!" cut in the man
impatiently. "Can't you grasp the situation? It's a put-up
thing: the taking of a kinematograph film—a living picture—for
the Alhambra to-night! Heavens above, Marguerite, didn't you tell
"Non, non! There was not ze time. You come so quick, I could
not. And he—ah, le bon Dieu!—he gif me no chance. Officair, I
beg, I entreat of you, make it real! Struggle, fight, keep on ze
constant move. Zere!"—something tinkled on the pavement with
the unmistakable sound of gold—"zere, monsieur, zere is the
half-sovereign to pay you for ze trouble, only, for ze lof of
goodness, do not pick it up while the instrument—ze camera—he is
going. It is ze kinematograph, and you would spoil everything!"
The chop-fallen cry that Collins gave was lost in a roar of
laughter from the pursuing crowd.
"Struggle—struggle! Don't you hear, you idiot?" broke
in the red-headed man irritably. "You are being devilishly well
paid for it, so for goodness' sake make it look real. That's it!
Bully boy! Now, once more to the right, then loosen your grip so that
I can push you away and make a feint of punching you off. All ready
there, Marguerite? Keep a clear space about her, gentlemen. Ready
with the motor, chauffeur? All right. Now, then, Bobby, fall back,
and mind your eye when I hit out, old chap. One, two, three—here
With that he pushed the chop-fallen Collins from him, made a feint
of punching his head as he reeled back, then sprang toward the spot
where the Frenchwoman stood, and gave a finish to the adventure that
was highly dramatic and decidedly theatrical. For "mademoiselle,"
seeing him approach her, struck a pose, threw out her arms, gathered
him into them—to the exceeding enjoyment of the laughing
throng—then both looked back and behaved as people do on the stage
when "pursued," gesticulated extravagantly, and, rushing to
the waiting motor, jumped into it.
"Many thanks, Bobby; many thanks, everybody!" sang out
the red-headed man. "Let her go, chauffeur. The camera men will
pick us up again at Whitehall, in a few minutes' time."
"Right you are, sir," responded the chauffeur gaily.
Then "toot-toot" went the motor-horn as the gentleman in
grey closed the door upon himself and his companion, and the vehicle,
darting forward, sped down the Embankment in the exact direction
whence the man himself had originally come, and, passing directly
through that belated portion of the hurrying crowd to whom the end of
the adventure was not yet known, flew on and—vanished.
And Collins, stooping to pick up the half-sovereign that had been
thrown him, felt that after all it was a poor price to receive for
all the jeers and gibes of the assembled onlookers.
"Smart capture, Bobby, wasn't it?" sang out a deriding
voice that set the crowd jeering anew. "You'll git promoted, you
will! See it in all the evenin' papers—oh, yus! ''Orrible
hand-to-hand struggle with a desperado. Brave constable has 'arf a
quid's worth out of an infuriated ruffin!' My hat! won't your missis
be proud when you take her to see that bloomin' film?"
"Move on, now, move on!" said Collins, recovering his
dignity, and asserting it with a vim. "Look here, cabby, I don't
take it kind of you to laugh like that; they had you just as bad as
they had me. Blow that Frenchy! She might have tipped me off before I
made such an ass of myself. I don't say that I'd have done it so
natural if I had known, but—Hullo! What's that? Blowed if it ain't
that blessed whistle again, and another crowd a-pelting this way;
and—no!—yes, by Jupiter!—a couple of Scotland Yard chaps with
'em. My hat! what do you suppose that means?"
He knew in the next moment. Panting and puffing, a crowd at their
heels, and people from all sides stringing out from the pavement and
trooping after them, the two "plain-clothes" men came
racing through the grinning gathering and bore down on P.C. Collins.
"Hullo, Smathers, you in this, too?" began he, his
feelings softened by the knowledge that other arms of the law would
figure on that film with him at the Alhambra to-night. "Now,
what are you after, you goat? That French lady, or the red-headed
party in the grey suit?"
"Yes, yes, of course I am. You heard me signal you to head
him off, didn't you?" replied Smathers, looking round and
growing suddenly excited when he realized that Collins was
empty-handed, and that the red-headed man was not there. "Heavens!
you never let him get away, did you? You grabbed him, didn't you—eh?"
"Of course I grabbed him. Come out of it. What are you giving
me, you josser?" said Collins with a wink and a grin. "Ain't
you found out even yet, you silly? Why, it was only a faked-up
thing—the taking of a kinematograph picture for the Alhambra. You
and Petrie ought to have been here sooner and got your wages, you
goats. I got half a quid for my share when I let him go."
Smathers and Petrie lifted up their voices in one despairing howl.
"When you what?" fairly yelled Smathers. "You fool!
You don't mean to tell me that you let them take you in like
that—those two? You don't mean to tell me that you had him—had
him in your hands—and then let him go? You did? Oh! you
seventy-seven kinds of a double-barrelled ass! Had him—think of
it!—had him, and let him go! Did yourself out of a share in a
reward of two hundred quid when you'd only to shut your hands and
hold on to it!"
"Two hundred quid? Two hun—W-what are you talking about?
Wasn't it true? Wasn't it a kinematograph picture, after all?"
"No, you fool, no!" howled Smathers, fairly dancing with
despair. "Oh, you blithering idiot! You ninety-seven varieties
of a fool! Do you know who you had in your hands? Do you know who you
let go? It was that devil 'Forty Faces'—'The Vanishing
Cracksman'—the man who calls himself 'Hamilton Cleek'; and the
woman was his pal, his confederate, his blessed stool-pigeon—'Margot,
the Queen of the Apache'; and she came over from Paris to help him in
that clean scoop of Lady Dresmer's jewels last week!"
"Heavens!" gulped Collins, too far gone to say anything
else, too deeply dejected to think of anything but that he had had
the man for whom Scotland Yard had been groping for a year—the man
over whom all England, all France, all Germany wondered—close shut
in the grip of his hands and then had let him go. The biggest and
boldest criminal the police had ever had to cope with, the almost
supernatural genius of crime, who defied all systems, laughed at all
laws, mocked at all the Vidocqs, and Dupins, and Sherlock Holmeses,
whether amateur or professional, French or English, German or
American, that ever had been or ever could be pitted against him, and
who, for sheer devilry, for diabolical ingenuity and for colossal
impudence, as well as for a nature-bestowed power that was simply
amazing, had not his match in all the universe.
Who or what he really was, whence he came, whether he was English,
Irish, French, German, Yankee, Canadian, Italian or Dutchman, no man
knew and no man might ever hope to know unless he himself chose to
reveal it. In his many encounters with the police he had assumed the
speech, the characteristics, and, indeed, the facial attributes of
each in turn, and assumed them with an ease and a perfection that
were simply marvellous, and had gained for him the sobriquet of
"Forty Faces" among the police, and of "The Vanishing
Cracksman" among the scribes and reporters of newspaperdom. That
he came, in time, to possess another name than these was due to his
own whim and caprice, his own bald, unblushing impudence; for, of a
sudden, whilst London was in a fever of excitement and all the
newspapers up in arms over one of the most daring and successful
coups, he chose to write boldly to both editors and police
complaining that the title given him by each was both vulgar and
"You would not think of calling Paganini a 'fiddler,'"
he wrote; "why, then, should you degrade me with the coarse term
of 'cracksman'? I claim to be as much an artist in my profession as
Paganini was in his, and I claim also a like courtesy from you. So,
then, if in the future it becomes necessary to allude to me—and I
fear it often will—I shall be obliged if you do so as 'The Man Who
Calls Himself Hamilton Cleek.' In return for that courtesy,
gentlemen, I promise to alter my mode of procedure, to turn over a
new leaf, as it were, to give you at all times hereafter distinct
information, in advance, of such places as I elect for the field of
my operations, and of the time when I shall pay my respects to them,
and, on the morning after each such visit, to bestow some small
portion of the loot upon Scotland Yard as a souvenir of the event."
And to that remarkable programme he rigidly adhered from that time
forth—always giving the police twelve hours' notice, always evading
their traps and snares, always carrying out his plans in spite of
them, and always, on the morning after, sending some trinket or
trifle to Superintendent Narkom at Scotland Yard, in a little pink
cardboard box, tied up with rose-coloured ribbon, and marked "With
the compliments of The Man Who Calls Himself Hamilton Cleek."
The detectives of the United Kingdom, the detectives of the
Continent, the detectives of America—each and all had measured
swords with him, tried wits with him, spread snares and laid traps
for him, and each and all had retired from the field vanquished.
And this was the man that he—Police Constable Samuel James
Collins—had actually had in his hands; nay, in his very arms, and
then had given up for half a sovereign and let go!
"Oh, so help me! You make my head swim, Smathers, that you
do!" he managed to say at last. "I had him—I had the
Vanishing Cracksman—in my blessed paws—and then went and let that
French hussy—But look here; I say, now, how do you know it was him?
Nobody can go by his looks; so how do you know?"
"Know, you footler!" growled Smathers, disgustedly. "Why
shouldn't I know when I've been after him ever since he left Scotland
Yard half an hour ago?"
"Left what? My hat! You ain't a-going to tell me that he's
been there? When? Why? What for?"
"To leave one of his blessed notices, the dare-devil. What a
detective he'd a made, wouldn't he, if he'd only a-turned his
attention that way, and been on the side of the law instead of
against it? He walked in bold as brass, sat down, and talked with the
superintendent over some cock-and-bull yarn about a 'Black Hand'
letter that he said had been sent to him, and asked if he couldn't
have police protection whilst he was in town. It wasn't until after
he'd left that the super he sees a note on the chair where the
blighter had been sitting, and when he opened it, there it was in
black and white, something like this:
"'The list of presents that have been sent for the wedding
to-morrow of Sir Horace Wyvern's eldest daughter make interesting
reading, particularly that part which describes the jewels sent—no
doubt as a tribute to her father's position as the greatest brain
specialist in the world—from the Austrian Court and the Continental
principalities. The care of such gems is too great a responsibility
for the bride. I propose, therefore, to relieve her of it to-night,
and to send you the customary souvenir of the event to-morrow
morning. Yours faithfully,
"'The Man Who Calls Himself Hamilton Cleek.
"That's how I know, dash you! Superintendent sent me out
after him, hot foot; and after a bit I picked him up in the Strand,
toddling along with that French hussy as cool as you please. But,
blow him! he must have eyes all round his head, for he saw me just as
soon as I saw him, and he and Frenchy separated like a shot. She
hopped into a taxi and flew off in one direction; he dived into a
crowd and bolted in another, and before you could say Jack Robinson
he was doubling and twisting, jumping into cabs and jumping out
again—all to gain time, of course, for the woman to do what he'd
put her up to doing—and leading me the devil's own chase through
the devil's own tangle till he was ready to bunk for the Embankment.
And you let him go, you blooming footler! Had him and let him go, and
chucked away a third of £200 for the price of half a quid!"
And long after Smathers and Petrie had left him, and the wondering
crowd had dispersed, and point duty at "Dead Man's Corner"
was just point duty again and nothing more, P.C. Collins stood there,
chewing the cud of bitter reflection over those words, and trying to
reckon up just how many pounds and how much glory had been lost to
"But, damme, sir, the thing's an outrage! I don't mince my
words, Mr. Narkom—I say plump and plain the thing's an outrage, a
disgrace to the police, an indignity upon the community at large; and
for Scotland Yard to permit itself to be defied, bamboozled, mocked
at in this appalling fashion by a paltry burglar—"
"Uncle, dear, pray don't excite yourself in this manner. I am
quite sure that if Mr. Narkom could prevent the things—"
"Hold your tongue, Ailsa—I will not be interfered with!
It's time that somebody spoke out plainly and let this establishment
know what the public has a right to expect of it. What do I pay my
rates and taxes for—and devilish high ones they are, too, b'gad—if
it's not to maintain law and order and the proper protection of
property? And to have the whole blessed country terrorised, the
police defied, and people's houses invaded with impunity by a
gutter-bred brute of a cracksman is nothing short of a scandal and a
shame! Call this sort of tomfoolery being protected by the police?
God bless my soul! one might as well be in charge of a parcel of
doddering old women and be done with it!"
It was an hour and a half after that exciting affair at "Dead
Man's Corner." The scene was Superintendent Narkom's private
room at headquarters, the dramatis personae, Mr. Maverick Narkom
himself, Sir Horace Wyvern, and Miss Ailsa Lorne, his niece, a
slight, fair-haired, extremely attractive girl of twenty, the only
and orphaned daughter of a much-loved sister, who, up till a year
ago, had known nothing more exciting in the way of "life"
than that which is to be found in a small village in Suffolk, and
falls to the lot of an underpaid vicar's only child. A railway
accident had suddenly deprived her of both parents, throwing her
wholly upon her own resources, without a penny in the world. Sir
Horace had gracefully come to the rescue and given her a home and a
refuge, being doubly repaid for it by the affection and care she gave
him and the manner in which she assumed control of a household which
hitherto had been left wholly to the attention of servants, Lady
Wyvern having long been dead, and her two daughters of that type
which devotes itself entirely to the pleasures of society and the
demands of the world. A regular pepper-box of a man—testy,
short-tempered, exacting—Sir Horace had flown headlong to
Superintendent Narkom's office as soon as that gentleman's note,
telling him of the Vanishing Cracksman's latest threat, had been
delivered, and, on Miss Lorne's advice, had withheld all news of it
from the members of his household and brought her with him.
"I tell you that Scotland Yard must do something—must!
must! must!" stormed he as Narkom, resenting that stigma upon
the institution, puckered up his lips and looked savage. "That
fellow has always kept his word—always, in spite of your precious
band of muffs—and if you let him keep it this time, when there's
upwards of £40,000 worth of jewels in the house, it will be nothing
less than a national disgrace, and you and your wretched collection
of bunglers will be covered with deserved ridicule."
Narkom swung round, smarting under these continued taunts, these
"flings" at the efficiency of his prided department, his
nostrils dilated, his temper strained to the breaking-point.
"Well, he won't keep it this time—I promise you that!"
he rapped out sharply. "Sooner or later every criminal, no
matter how clever, meets his Waterloo—and this shall be his! I'll
take this affair in hand myself, Sir Horace. I'll not only send the
pick of my men to guard the jewels, but I'll go with them; and if
that fellow crosses the threshold of Wyvern House to-night, by the
Lord, I'll have him. He will have to be the devil himself to get away
from me! Miss Lorne"—recollecting himself and bowing
apologetically—"I ask your pardon for this strong language—my
temper got the better of my manners."
"It does not matter, Mr. Narkom, so that you preserve my
cousin's wedding-gifts from that appalling man," she answered
with a gentle inclination of the head and with a smile that made the
superintendent think she must certainly be the most beautiful
creature in all the world, it so irradiated her face and added to the
magic of her glorious eyes. "It does not matter what you say,
what you do, so long as you accomplish that."
"And I will accomplish it—as I'm a living man, I will! You
may go home feeling assured of that. Look for my men some time before
dusk, Sir Horace—I will arrive later. They will come in one at a
time. See that they are admitted by the area door, and that, once in,
not one of them leaves the house again before I put in an appearance.
I'll look them over when I arrive to be sure that there's no wolf in
sheep's clothing amongst them. With a fellow like that—a diabolical
rascal with a diabolical gift for impersonation—one can't be too
careful. Meantime, it is just as well not to have confided this news
to your daughters, who, naturally, would be nervous and upset; but I
assume that you have taken some one of the servants into your
confidence in order that nobody may pass them and enter the house
under any pretext whatsoever?"
"No, I have not. Miss Lorne advised against it, and, as I am
always guided by her, I said nothing of the matter to anybody."
"Was that wrong, do you think, Mr. Narkom?" queried
Ailsa anxiously. "I feared that if they knew they might lose
their heads, and that my cousins, who are intensely nervous and
highly emotional, might hear of it, and add to our difficulties by
becoming hysterical and demanding our attention at a time when we
ought to be giving every moment to watching for the possible arrival
of that man. And as he has always lived up to the strict letter of
his dreadful promises heretofore, I knew that he was not to be
expected before nightfall. Besides, the jewels are locked up in the
safe in Sir Horace's consulting-room, and his assistant, Mr. Merfroy,
has promised not to leave it for one instant before we return."
"Oh, well, that's all right, then. I dare say there is very
little likelihood of our man getting in whilst you and Sir Horace are
here, and taking such a risk as stopping in the house until nightfall
to begin his operations. Still, it was hardly wise, and I should
advise hurrying back as fast as possible and taking at least one
servant—the one you feel least likely to lose his head—into your
confidence, Sir Horace, and putting him on the watch for my men.
Otherwise, keep the matter as quiet as you have done, and look for me
about nine o'clock. And rely upon this as a certainty: the Vanishing
Cracksman will never get away with even one of those jewels if he
enters that house to-night, and never get out of it unshackled!"
With that, he suavely bowed his visitors out and rang up the pick
of his men without an instant's delay.
Promptly at nine o'clock he arrived, as he had promised, at Wyvern
House, and was shown into Sir Horace's consulting-room, where Sir
Horace himself and Miss Lorne were awaiting him, and keeping close
watch before the locked door of a communicating apartment in which
sat the six men who had preceded him. He went in and put them all and
severally through a rigid examination—pulling their hair and
beards, rubbing their faces with a clean handkerchief in quest of any
trace of "make-up" or disguise of any sort, examining their
badges and the marks on the handcuffs they carried with them to make
sure that they bore the sign which he himself had scratched upon them
in the privacy of his own room a couple of hours ago.
"No mistake about this lot," he announced, with a smile.
"Has anybody else entered or attempted to enter the house?"
"Not a soul," replied Miss Lorne. "I didn't trust
anybody to do the watching, Mr. Narkom—I watched myself."
"Good. Where are the jewels? In that safe?"
"No," replied Sir Horace. "They are to be exhibited
in the picture-gallery for the benefit of the guests at the wedding
breakfast to-morrow, and as Miss Wyvern wished to superintend the
arrangement of them herself, and there would be no time for that in
the morning, she and her sister are in there laying them out at this
moment. As I could not prevent that without telling them what we have
to dread, I did not protest against it; but if you think it will be
safer to return them to the safe after my daughters have gone to bed,
"Not at all necessary. If our man gets in, their lying there
in full view like that will prove a tempting bait, and—well, he'll
find there's a hook behind it. I shall be there waiting for him. Now
go and join the ladies, you and Miss Lorne, and act as though nothing
out of the common was in the wind. My men and I will stop here, and
you had better put out the light and lock us in, so that there may be
no danger of anybody finding out that we are here. No doubt Miss
Wyvern and her sister will go to bed earlier than usual on this
particular occasion. Let them do so. Send the servants to bed, too.
You and Miss Lorne go to your beds at the same time as the others—or,
at least, let them think that you have done so; then come down and
let us out."
To this Sir Horace assented, and, taking Miss Lorne with him, went
at once to the picture-gallery and joined his daughters, with whom
they remained until eleven o'clock. Promptly at that hour, however,
the house was locked up, the bride-elect and her sister went to
bed—the servants having already gone to theirs—and stillness
settled down over the darkened house. At the end of a dozen minutes,
however, it was faintly disturbed by the sound of slippered feet
coming along the passage outside the consulting-room, then a key
slipped into the lock, the door was opened, the light switched on,
and Sir Horace and Miss Lorne appeared before the eager watchers.
"Now, then, lively, my men—look sharp!" whispered
Narkom. "A man to each window and each staircase, so that nobody
may go up or down or in or out without dropping into the arms of one
of you. Confine your attention to this particular floor, and if you
hear anybody coming, lay low until he's within reach, and you can
drop on him before he bolts. Is this the door of the picture-gallery,
"Yes," answered Sir Horace, as he fitted a key to the
lock. "But surely you will need more men than you have brought,
Mr. Narkom, if it is your intention to guard every window
individually, for there are four to this room—see!"
With that he swung open the door, switched on the electric light,
and Narkom fairly blinked at the dazzling sight that confronted him.
Three long tables, laden with crystal and silver, cut glass and
jewels, and running the full length of the room, flashed and
scintillated under the glare of the electric bulbs which encircled
the cornice of the gallery, and clustered in luminous splendour in
the crystal and frosted silver of a huge central chandelier, and
spread out on the middle one of these—a dazzle of splintered
rainbows, a very plain of living light—lay caskets and cases, boxes
and trays, containing those royal gifts of which the newspapers had
made so much and the Vanishing Cracksman had sworn to make so few.
Mr. Narkom went over and stood beside the glittering mass, resting
his hand against the table and feasting his eyes upon all that
"God bless my soul! it's superb, it's amazing," he
commented. "No wonder the fellow is willing to take risks for a
prize like this. You are a splendid temptation; a gorgeous bait, you
beauties; but the fish that snaps at you will find that there's a
nasty hook underneath in the shape of Maverick Narkom. Never mind the
many windows, Sir Horace. Let him come in by them, if that's his
plan. I'll never leave these things for one instant between now and
the morning. Good night, Miss Lorne. Go to bed and to sleep—you do
the same, Sir Horace. My lay is here!"
With that he stooped and, lifting the long drapery which covered
the table and swept down in heavy folds to the floor, crept out of
sight under it, and let it drop back into place again.
"Switch off the light and go," he called to them in a
low-sunk voice. "Don't worry yourselves, either of you. Go to
bed, and to sleep if you can."
"As if we could," answered Miss Lorne agitatedly. "I
shan't be able to close an eyelid. I'll try, of course, but I know I
shall not succeed. Come, uncle, come! Oh, do be careful, Mr. Narkom;
and if that horrible man does come—"
"I'll have him, so help me God!" he vowed. "Switch
off the light, and shut the door as you go out. This is 'Forty
Faces'' Waterloo at last."
And in another moment the light snicked out, the door closed, and
he was alone in the silent room.
For ten or a dozen minutes not even the bare suggestion of a noise
disturbed the absolute stillness; then of a sudden, his trained ear
caught a faint sound that made him suck in his breath and rise on his
elbow, the better to listen—a sound which came, not without the
house, but from within, from the dark hall where he had stationed his
men, to be exact. As he listened he was conscious that some living
creature had approached the door, touched the handle, and by the
swift, low rustle and the sound of hard breathing, that it had been
pounced upon and seized. He scrambled out from beneath the table,
snicked on the light, whirled open the door, and was in time to hear
the irritable voice of Sir Horace say, testily: "Don't make an
ass of yourself by your over-zealousness. I've only come down to have
a word with Mr. Narkom," and to see him standing on the
threshold, grotesque in a baggy suit of striped pyjamas, with one
wrist enclosed as in a steel band by the gripped fingers of Petrie.
"Why didn't you say it was you, sir?" exclaimed that
crestfallen individual, as the flashing light made manifest his
mistake. "When I heard you first, and see you come up out of
that back passage, I made sure it was him; and if you'd a struggled,
I'd have bashed your head as sure as eggs."
"Thank you for nothing," he responded testily. "You
might have remembered, however, that the man's first got to get into
the place before he can come downstairs. Mr. Narkom," turning to
the superintendent, "I was just getting into bed when I thought
of something I'd neglected to tell you; and as my niece is sitting in
her room with the door open, and I wasn't anxious to parade myself
before her in my night clothes, I came down by the back staircase. I
don't know how in the world I came to overlook it, but I think you
ought to know that there's a way of getting into the picture gallery
without using either the windows or the stairs, and that way ought to
be both searched and guarded."
"Where is it? What is it? Why in the world didn't you tell me
in the first place?" exclaimed Narkom irritably, as he glanced
round the place searchingly. "Is it a panel? a secret door? or
what? This is an old house, and old houses are sometimes a very nest
of such things."
"Happily, this one isn't. It's a modern innovation, not an
ancient relic, that offers the means of entrance in this case. A
Yankee occupied this house before I bought it from him—one of those
blessed shivery individuals his country breeds, who can't stand a
breath of cold air indoors after the passing of the autumn. The
wretched man put one of those wretched American inflictions, a
hot-air furnace, in the cellar, with huge pipes running to every room
in the house—great tin monstrosities bigger round than a man's
body, ending in openings in the wall, with what they call
'registers,' to let the heat in, or shut it out as they please. I
didn't have the wretched contrivance removed or those blessed
'registers' plastered up. I simply had them papered over when the
rooms were done up (there's one over there near that settee), and if
a man got into this house, he could get into that furnace thing and
hide in one of those flues until he got ready to crawl up it as
easily as not. It struck me that perhaps it would be as well for you
to examine that furnace and those flues before matters go any
"Of course it would. Great Scott! Sir Horace, why didn't you
think to tell me of this thing before?" said Narkom, excitedly.
"The fellow may be in it at this minute. Come, show me the
"It's below—in the cellar. We shall have to go down the
kitchen stairs, and I haven't a light."
"Here's one," said Petrie, unhitching a bull's-eye from
his belt and putting it into Narkom's hand. "Better go with Sir
Horace at once, sir. Leave the door of the gallery open and the light
on. Fish and me will stand guard over the stuff till you come back,
so in case the man is in one of them flues and tries to bolt out at
this end, we can nab him before he can get to the windows."
"A good idea," commented Narkom. "Come on, Sir
Horace. Is this the way?"
"Yes, but you'll have to tread carefully, and mind you don't
fall over anything. A good deal of my paraphernalia—bottles,
retorts and the like—is stored in the little recess at the foot of
the staircase, and my assistant is careless and leaves things lying
Evidently the caution was necessary, for a minute or so after they
had passed on and disappeared behind the door leading to the kitchen
stairway, Petrie and his colleagues heard a sound as of something
being overturned and smashed, and laughed softly to themselves.
Evidently, too, the danger of the furnace had been grossly
exaggerated by Sir Horace, for when, a few minutes later, the door
opened and closed, and Narkom's men, glancing toward it, saw the
figure of their chief reappear, it was plain that he was in no good
temper, since his features were knotted up into a scowl, and he swore
audibly as he snapped the shutter over the bull's-eye and handed it
back to Petrie.
"Nothing worth looking into, superintendent?"
"No—not a thing!" he replied. "The silly old
josser! pulling me down there amongst the coals and rubbish for an
insane idea like that! Why, the flues wouldn't admit the passage of a
child; and even then, there's a bend—an abrupt 'elbow'—that
nothing but a cat could crawl up. And that's a man who's an authority
on the human brain! I sent the old silly back to bed by the way he
came, and if—"
There he stopped, stopped short, and sucked in his breath with a
sharp, wheezing sound. For, of a sudden, a swift pattering footfall
and a glimmer of moving light had sprung into being and drawn his
eyes upward; and there, overhead, was Miss Lorne coming down the
stairs from the upper floor in a state of nervous excitement, and
with a bedroom candle in her shaking hand, a loose gown flung on over
her nightdress, and her hair streaming over her shoulders in glorious
He stood and looked at her, with ever-quickening breath, with
ever-widening eyes, as though the beauty of her had wakened some
dormant sense whose existence he had never suspected; as though,
until now, he had never known how fair it was possible for a woman to
be, how fair, how lovable, how much to be desired; and whilst he was
so looking she reached the foot of the staircase and came pantingly
"Oh, Mr. Narkom, what was it—that noise I heard?" she
said in a tone of deepest agitation. "It sounded like a
struggle—like the noise of something breaking—and I dressed as
hastily as I could and came down. Did he come? Has he been here? Have
you caught him? Oh! why don't you answer me, instead of staring at me
like this? Can't you see how nervous, how frightened, I am? Dear
Heaven! will no one tell me what has happened?"
"Nothing has happened, miss," answered Petrie, catching
her eye as she flashed round on him. "You'd better go back to
bed. Nobody's been here but Sir Horace. The noise you heard was me
a-grabbing of him, and he and Mr. Narkom a-tumbling over something as
they went down to look at the furnace."
"Furnace? What furnace? What are you talking about?" she
cried agitatedly. "What do you mean by saying that Sir Horace
"Only what the superintendent himself will tell you, miss, if
you ask him. Sir Horace came downstairs in his pyjamas a few minutes
ago to say as he'd recollected about the flues of the furnace in the
cellar being big enough to hold a man, and then him and Mr. Narkom
went below to have a look at it."
She gave a sharp and sudden cry, and her face went as pale as a
"Sir Horace came down?" she repeated, moving back a step
and leaning heavily against the bannister. "Sir Horace came down
to look at the furnace? We have no furnace!"
"We have no furnace, I tell you, and Sir Horace did not come
down. He is up there still. I know—I know, I tell you—because I
feared for his safety, and when he went to his room I locked him in!"
"Superintendent!" The word was voiced by every man
present, and six pairs of eyes turned toward Narkom with a look of
"Get to the cellar. Head the man off! It's he—the
Cracksman!" he shouted out. "Find him! Get him! Nab him, if
you have to turn the house upside down!"
They needed no second bidding, for each man grasped the situation
instantly, and in a twinkling there was a veritable pandemonium.
Shouting and scrambling like a band of madmen, they lurched to the
door, whirled it open, and went flying down the staircase to the
kitchen and so to a discovery which none might have foreseen. For,
almost as they entered they saw lying on the floor a suit of striped
pyjamas, and close to it, gagged, bound, helpless, trussed up like a
goose that was ready for the oven, gyves on his wrists, gyves on his
ankles, their chief, their superintendent, Mr. Maverick Narkom, in a
state of collapse, and with all his outer clothing gone!
"After him! After that devil, and a thousand pounds to the
man that gets him!" he managed to gasp as they rushed to him and
ripped loose the gag. "He was here when we came! He has been in
the house for hours. Get him! get him! get him!"
They surged from the room and up the stairs like a pack of
stampeded animals; they raced through the hall and bore down on the
picture-gallery in a body, and, whirling open the now closed door,
went tumbling headlong in.
The light was still burning. At the far end of the room a window
was wide open, and the curtains of it fluttered in the wind. A
collection of empty cases and caskets lay on the middle table, but
man and jewels were alike gone! Once again the Vanishing Cracksman
had lived up to his promise, up to his reputation, up to the very
letter of his name, and for all Mr. Maverick Narkom's care and
shrewdness, "Forty Faces" had "turned the trick"
and Scotland Yard was "done!"
Through all the night its best men sought him, its dragnets fished
for him, its tentacles groped into every hole and corner of London in
quest of him, but sought and fished and groped in vain. They might as
well have hoped to find last summer's partridges or last winter's
snow as any trace of him. He had vanished as mysteriously as he had
appeared, and no royal jewels graced the display of Miss Wyvern's
wedding gifts on the morrow.
But it was fruitful of other "gifts," fruitful of an
even greater surprise, that "morrow." For the first time
since the day he had given his promise, no "souvenir" from
"The Man Who Called Himself Hamilton Cleek," no part of
last night's loot came to Scotland Yard; and it was while the evening
papers were making screaming "copy" and glaring headlines
out of this that the surprise in question came to pass.
Miss Wyvern's wedding was over, the day and the bride had gone,
and it was half-past ten at night, when Sir Horace, answering a hurry
call from headquarters, drove post haste to Superintendent Narkom's
private room, and passing in under a red and green lamp which burned
over the doorway, entered and met that "surprise."
Maverick Narkom was there alone, standing beside his desk, with
the curtains of his window drawn and pinned together, and at his
elbow an unlighted lamp of violet-coloured glass, standing and
looking thoughtfully down at something which lay before him. He
turned as his visitor entered and made an open-handed gesture toward
"Look here," he said laconically, "what do you
think of this?"
Sir Horace moved forward and looked; then stopped and gave a sort
of wondering cry. The electric bulbs overhead struck a glare of light
down on the surface of the desk, and there, spread out on the shining
oak, lay a part of the royal jewels that had been stolen from Wyvern
House last night.
"Narkom! You got him, then—got him after all?"
"No, I did not get him. I doubt if any man could, if he chose
not to be found," said Narkom bitterly. "I did not recover
these jewels by any act of my own. He sent them to me; gave them up
"Gave them up? After he had risked so much to get them? God
bless my soul, what a man! Why, there must be quite half here of what
"There is half—an even half. He sent them to-night, and
with them this letter. Look at it, and you will understand why I sent
for you and asked you to come alone."
"There's some good in even the devil, I suppose, if one but
knows how to reach it and stir it up," Sir Horace read. "I
have lived a life of crime from my very boyhood because I couldn't
help it, because it appealed to me, because I glory in risks and
revel in dangers. I never knew where it would lead me—I never
thought, never cared—but I looked into the gateway of heaven last
night, and I can't go down the path to hell any longer. Here is an
even half of Miss Wyvern's jewels. If you and her father would have
me hand over the other half to you, and would have 'The Vanishing
Cracksman' disappear forever, and a useless life converted into a
useful one, you have only to say so to make it an accomplished thing.
All I ask in return is your word of honour (to be given to me by
signal) that you will send for Sir Horace Wyvern to be at your office
at eleven o'clock to-night, and that you and he will grant me a
private interview unknown to any other living being. A red and green
lantern hung over the doorway leading to your office will be the
signal that you agree, and a violet light in your window will be the
pledge of Sir Horace Wyvern. When these two signals, these two
pledges, are given, I shall come in and hand over the remainder of
the jewels, and you will have looked for the first time in your life
upon the real face of 'The Man Who Calls Himself Hamilton Cleek.'"
"God bless my soul! What an amazing creature—what an
astounding request!" exclaimed Sir Horace, as he laid the letter
down. "Willing to give up £20,000 worth of jewels for the mere
sake of a private interview! What on earth can be his object? And why
should he include me?"
"I don't know," said Narkom in reply. "It's worth
something, at all events, to be rid of 'The Vanishing Cracksman' for
good and all; and he says that it rests with us to do that. It's
close to eleven now. Shall we give him the pledge he asks, Sir
Horace? My signal is already hung out; shall we agree to the
conditions and give him yours?"
"Yes, yes, by all means," Sir Horace made answer. And
lighting the violet lamp, Narkom flicked open the pinned curtains and
set it in the window.
For ten minutes nothing came of it, and the two men, talking in
whispers while they waited, began to grow nervous. Then somewhere in
the distance a clock started striking eleven, and without so much as
a warning sound, the door flashed open, flashed shut again, a voice
that was undeniably the voice of breeding and refinement said
quietly: "Gentlemen, my compliments. Here are the diamonds and
here am I!" and the figure of a man, faultlessly dressed,
faultlessly mannered, with the slim-loined form, the slim-walled
nose, and the clear-cut features of the born aristocrat, stood in the
His age might lie anywhere between twenty-five and thirty-five,
his eyes were straight-looking and clear, his fresh, clean-shaven
face was undeniably handsome, and, whatever his origin, whatever his
history, there was something about him, in look, in speech, in
bearing, that mutely stood sponsor for the thing called "birth."
"God bless my soul!" exclaimed Sir Horace, amazed and
appalled to find the reality so widely different from the image he
had drawn. "What monstrous juggle is this? Why, man alive,
you're a gentleman! Who are you? What's driven you to a dog's life
"A natural bent, perhaps; a supernatural gift, certainly, Sir
Horace," he made reply. "Look here! Could any man resist
the temptation to use it when he was endowed by Nature with the power
to do this?" His features seemed to writhe and knot and assume
in as many moments a dozen different aspects. "I've had the
knack of doing that since the hour I could breathe. Could any man 'go
straight' with a fateful gift like that if the laws of Nature said
that he should not?"
"And do they say that?"
"That's what I want you to tell me—that's why I have
requested this interview. I want you to examine me, Sir Horace, to
put me through those tests you use to determine the state of mind of
the mentally fit and mentally unfit; I want to know if it is my fault
that I am what I am, and if it is myself I have to fight in future,
or the devil that lives within me. I'm tired of wallowing in the
mire. A woman's eyes have lit the way to heaven for me. I want to
climb up to her, to win her, to be worthy of her, and to stand beside
her in the light."
"Her? What 'her'?"
"That's my business, Mr. Narkom, and I'll take no man into my
confidence regarding that."
"Yes, my friend, but 'Margot'—how about her?"
"I'm done with her! We broke last night, when I returned and
she learned—never mind what she learned! I'm done with her—done
with the lot of them. My life is changed forever."
"In the name of Heaven, man, who and what are you?"
"Cleek—just Cleek; let it go at that," he made reply.
"Whether it's my name or not is no man's business; who I am,
what I am, whence I came, is no man's business either. Cleek will
do—Cleek of the Forty Faces. Never mind the past; my fight is with
the future, and so—examine me, Sir Horace, and let me know if I or
Fate's to blame for what I am."
Sir Horace did.
"Absolutely Fate," he said, when, after a long
examination, the man put the question to him again. "It is the
criminal brain fully developed, horribly pronounced. God help you, my
poor fellow; but a man simply could not be other than a thief and a
criminal with an organ like that. There's no hope for you to escape
your natural bent except by death. You can't be honest. You can't
rise—you never will rise; it's useless to fight against it!"
"I will fight against it! I will rise! I will! I will! I
will!" he cried out vehemently. "There is a way to put such
craft and cunning to account; a way to fight the devil with his own
weapons and crush him under the weight of his own gifts, and that way
"Mr. Narkom"—he whirled and walked toward the
superintendent, his hand outstretched, his eager face aglow—"Mr.
Narkom, help me! Take me under your wing. Give me a start—give me a
chance—give me a lift on the way up!"
"Good heaven, man, you—you don't mean—?"
"I do—I do! So help me heaven, I do. All my life I've
fought against the law—now let me switch over and fight with it.
I'm tired of being Cleek, the thief; Cleek, the burglar. Make me
Cleek, the detective, and let us work together, hand in hand, for a
common cause and for the public good. Will you, Mr. Narkom? Will
"Will I? Won't I!" said Narkom, springing forward and
gripping his hand. "Jove! what a detective you will make. Bully
boy! Bully boy!"
"It's a compact, then?"
"It's a compact—Cleek."
"Thank you," he said in a choked voice. "You've
given me my chance; now watch me live up to it. The Vanishing
Cracksman has vanished forever, Mr. Narkom, and it's Cleek, the
detective—Cleek of the Forty Faces from this time on. Now, give me
your riddles—I'll solve them one by one."
The sound came again—so unmistakably, this time, the sound of a
footstep in the soft, squashy ooze on the Heath, there could be no
question regarding the nature of it. Miss Lorne came to an instant
standstill and clutched her belongings closer to her with a shake and
a quiver; and a swift prickle of goose-flesh ran round her shoulders
and up and down the backs of her hands. There was good, brave blood
in her, it is true; but good, brave blood isn't much to fall back
upon if you happen to be a girl without escort, carrying a hand-bag
containing twenty-odd pounds in money, several bits of valuable
jewellery—your whole earthly possessions, in fact—and have lost
your way on Hampstead Heath at half-past eight o'clock at night, with
a spring fog shutting you in like a wall and shutting out everything
else but a "mackerel" collection of clouds that looked like
grey smudges on the greasy-silver of a twilit sky.
She looked round, but she could see nothing and nobody. The Heath
was a white waste that might have been part of the scenery in Lapland
for all there was to tell that it lay within reach of the heart and
pulse of the sluggish leviathan London. Over it the vapours of night
crowded, an almost palpable wall of thick, wet mist, stirred now and
again by some atmospheric movement which could scarcely be called a
wind, although, at times, it drew long, lacey filaments above the
level of the denser mass of fog and melted away with them into the
calm, still upper air.
Miss Lorne hesitated between two very natural impulses—to gather
up her skirts and run, or to stand her ground and demand an
explanation from the person who was undoubtedly following her. She
chose the latter.
"Who is there? Why are you following me? What do you want?"
she flung out, keeping her voice as steady as the hard, sharp
hammering of her heart would permit.
The question was answered at once—rather startlingly, since the
footsteps which caused her alarm, had all the while proceeded from
behind, and slightly to the left of her. Now there came a hurried
rush and scramble on the right; there was the sound of a match being
scratched, a blob of light in the grey of the mist, and she saw
standing in front of her, a ragged, weedy, red-headed youth, with the
blazing match in his scooped hands.
He was thin to the point of ghastliness. Hunger was in his pinched
face, his high cheekbones, his gouged jaws; staring like a starved
wolf, through the unnatural brightness of his pale eyes, from every
gaunt feature of him.
"'Ullo!" he said with a strong Cockney accent, as he
came up out of the fog, and the flare of the match gave him a full
view of her, standing there with her lips shut hard, and, the
hand-bag clutched up close to her with both hands. "You wot
called, was it? Wot price me for arnswerin' of you, eh?"
"Yes, it was I that called," she replied, making a brave
front of it. "But I do not think it was you that I called to.
Keep away, please. Don't come any nearer. What do you want?"
"Well, I'll take that blessed 'and-bag to go on with; and if
there aren't no money in it—tumble it out—let's see—lively now!
I'll feed for the rest of this week—Gawd, yuss!"
She made no reply, no attempt to obey him, no movement of any
sort. Fear had absolutely stricken every atom of strength from her.
She could do nothing but look at him with big, frightened eyes, and
"Look 'ere, aren't you a-goin' to do it quiet, or are you
a-goin' to mike me tike the blessed thing from you?" he asked.
"I'll do it if you put me to it—my hat! yuss! It aren't my
gime—I'm wot you might call a hammer-chewer at it, but when there's
summink inside you, wot tears and tears and tears, any gime's worth
tryin' that pulls out the claws of it."
She did not move even yet. He flung the spent match from him, and
made a sharp step toward her, and he had just reached out his hand to
lay hold of her, when another hand—strong, sinewy, hard-shutting as
an iron clamp—reached out from the mist, and laid hold of him;
plucking him by the neckband and intruding a bunch of knuckles and
shut fingers between that and his up-slanted chin.
"Now, then, drop that little game at once, you young monkey!"
struck in the sharp staccato of a semi-excited voice. "Interfering
with young ladies, eh? Let's have a look at you. Don't be afraid,
Miss Lorne—nobody's going to hurt you."
Then a pocket torch spat out a sudden ray of light; and by it both
the half-throttled boy and the wholly frightened girl could see the
man who had thus intruded himself upon their notice.
"Oh, it is you—it is you again, Mr. Cleek?" said Ailsa
with something between a laugh and a sigh of relief as she recognized
"Yes, it is I. I have been behind you ever since you left the
house in Bardon Road. It was rash of you to cross the heath at this
time and in this weather. I rather fancied that something of this
kind would be likely to happen, and so took the liberty of following
"Then it was you I heard behind me?"
"It was I—yes. I shouldn't have intruded myself upon your
notice if you hadn't called out. A moment, please. Let's have a look
at this young highwayman, who so freely advertises himself as an
The light spat full into the gaunt, starved face of the young man
and made it stare forth doubly ghastly. He had made no effort to get
away from the very first. Perhaps he understood the uselessness of
it, with that strong hand gripped on his ragged neckband. Perhaps he
was, in his way, something of a fatalist—London breeds so many
among such as he: starved things that find every boat chained, every
effort thrust back upon them unrewarded. At any rate, from the moment
he had heard the girl give to this man a name which every soul in
England had heard at one time or another during the past two years,
he had gone into a sort of mild collapse, as though realising the
utter uselessness of battling against fate, and had given himself up
to what was to be.
"Hello," said Cleek, as he looked the youth over. "Yours
is a face I don't remember running foul of before, my young beauty.
Where did you come from?"
"Where I seem like to be goin' now you've got your
currant-pickers on me—Hell," answered the boy, with something
like a sigh of despair. "Leastways, I been in Hell ever since I
can remember anyfink, so I reckon I must have come from there."
"What's your name?"
"Dollops. S'pose I must a had another sometime, but I never
heard of it. Wot's that? Yuss—most nineteen. Wot? Oh, go
throw summink at yourself! I aren't too young to be 'ungry, am I? And
where's a cove goin' to find this 'ere 'honest work' you're
a-talkin' of? I'm fair sick of the gime of lookin' for it. Besides,
you don't see parties as goes in for the other thing walkin' round
with ribs on 'em like bed-slats, and not even the price of a cup of
corfy in their pockets, do you? No fear! I wouldn't've 'urt the young
lydie; but I tell you strite, I'd a took every blessed farthin' she
'ad on her if you 'adn't've dropped on me like this."
"Got down to the last ditch—down to the point of
"Yuss. So would you if you 'ad a fing inside you tearin' and
tearin' like I 'ave. Aren't et a bloomin' crumb since the day before
yusterday at four in the mawnin' when a gent in an 'ansom—drunk as
a lord, he was—treated me and a parcel of others to a bun and a cup
of corfy at a corfy stall over 'Ighgate way. Stood out agin bein' a
crook as long as ever I could—as long as ever I'm goin' to, I
reckon, now you've got your maulers on me. I'll be on the
list after this. The cops 'ull know me; and when you've got the
nime—well, wot's the odds? You might as well 'ave the gime as well,
and git over goin' empty. All right, run me in, sir. Any'ow, I'll
'ave a bit to eat and a bed to sleep in to-night, and that's one
Cleek had been watching the boy closely, narrowly, with an
ever-deepening interest; now he loosened the grip of his fingers and
let his hand drop to his side.
"Suppose I don't 'run you in,' as you put it? Suppose I take
a chance and lend you five shillings, will you do some work and pay
it back to me in time?" he asked.
The boy looked up at him and laughed in his face.
"Look 'ere, Gov'nor, it's playin' it low down to lark wiv a
chap jist before you're goin' to 'ang 'im," he said. "You
come off your blessed perch."
"Right," said Cleek. "And now you get up on yours
and let us see what you're made of." Then he put his hand into
his trousers pocket; there was a chink of coins and two half-crowns
lay on his outstretched palm. "There you are—off with you now,
and if you are any good, turn up some time to-night at No. 204,
Clarges Street, and ask for Captain Horatio Burbage. He'll see that
there's work for you. Toddle along now and get a meal and a bed. And
mind you keep a close mouth about this."