Mr. Justice Maxell - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Mr. Justice Maxell ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Mr. Justice Maxell” follows the story of two business partners, Maxell and Cartwright, one of whom becomes a judge and sentences the other to prison, the woman they both marry, and their respective cousins whom they take on as their own wards. Spanning roughly a decade, the plot hinges on multiple coincidences involving mutual acquaintances meeting one another at critical points on different continents, and maintains much of its suspense by instilling most of its main characters with shady backgrounds and dubious motivations. This book is one of the most popular novels of Edgar Wallace, and has been translated into several other languages around the world.

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Liczba stron: 261

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER I

It was two hours after the muezzin had called to evening prayer, and night had canopied Tangier with a million stars. In the little Sok, the bread-sellers sat cross-legged behind their wares, their candles burning steadily, for there was not so much as, the whisper of a wind blowing. The monotonous strumming of a guitar from a Moorish cafe, the agonised barlak! of a belated donkey-driver bringing his charge down the steep streets which lead to the big bazaar, the shuffle of bare feet on Tangier’s cobbles, and the distant hush-hush of the rollers breaking upon the amber shore–these were the only sounds which the night held.

John Maxell sat outside the Continental Cafe, in the condition of bodily content which a good dinner induces. Mental content should have accompanied such a condition, but even the memory of a perfect dinner could not wholly obliterate a certain uneasiness of mind. He had been uneasy when he came to Tangier, and his journey through France and Spain had been accompanied by certain apprehensions and doubts which Cartwright had by no means dispelled.

Rather, by his jovial evasions, his cheery optimism, and at times his irritable outbreaks of temper, he had given the eminent King’s Counsel further cause for disquiet.

Cartwright sat at the other side of the table, and was unusually quiet. This was a circumstance which was by no means displeasing to Maxell, for the night was not conducive to talk. There are in North Africa many nights like this, when one wishes to sit in dead silence and let thought take its own course, unchecked and untrammelled. In Morocco such nights are common and, anyway, Maxell had always found it difficult to discuss business matters after dinner.

Cartwright had no temperament and his quiet was due to other causes. It was he who broke the silence, knocking out his pipe on the iron-topped table with a bang which jarred his more sensitive companion to the very spine.

“I’d stake my life and my soul on there being a reef,” he said with a suddenness which was almost as jarring. “Why, you’ve seen the outcrop for yourself, and isn’t it exactly the same formation as you see on the Rand?”

Maxell nodded.

Though a common-law man, he had been associated in mining cases and had made a very careful study of the whole problem of gold extraction.

“It looks right enough to me,” he said, “but as against that we have the fact that some clever engineers have spent a great deal of time and money trying to locate the reef. That there is gold in Morocco everybody knows, and I should say, Cartwright, that you are right. But where is the reef? It would cost a fortune to bore, even though we had the other borings to guide us.”

The other made an impatient noise.

“Of course, if the reef were all mapped out it would be a simple matter, but then we shouldn’t get on to it, as we are to-day, at the cost of a few thousands. Hang it all, Maxell, we’ve got to take a certain amount of risk! I know it’s a gamble quite as well as you. There’s no sense in arguing that point with me. But other things are gambles too. Law was a gamble to you for many years, and a bigger gamble after you took silk.”

This was a sore point with Maxell, as the other knew. A prosperous junior, he had been called within the Bar, and taken upon himself the function and style of King’s Counsellor in the hope that his prosperity would still further be expanded. And, like so many other men, he had discovered that the successful junior is not necessarily the successful K.C.

Fortunately for him, he had not long before contested and won a seat in Parliament, and his service to the Government of the day had to some extent ensured his future. But, financially, he had suffered considerably.

“No,” he said, “silk isn’t any great catch to a man, I agree; and it was certainly a gamble, and a losing gamble.”

“Which reminds me,” said Cartwright, “there was talk, before I left London, that you would be given Cabinet rank.”

Maxell laughed.

“It is extremely unlikely,” he said. “Anyway, if they make me Solicitor-General, that doesn’t carry Cabinet rank.”

“It carries a lot of money,” said Cartwright after a pause for a moment, “and it’s money that counts just now, Maxell.”

Again the lawyer nodded.

He might have added that, but for the need for money, he would long since have dropped his association with Alfred Cartwright, though Cartwright’s name stood very high in certain circles of the City of London. They had been at school together, though in that period there had been no very great friendship between them. And Cartwright was marked out for success from the beginning. He inherited a considerable business when his father died, and he enlarged and improved upon it. He had taken up a hundred and one outside interests, and had made most of them pay. A few of them did not pay, and it was whispered that the losses upon his failures took a considerable slice of the balance that accrued from his successes.

They had met again when Maxell was a junior and Cartwright the defendant in a case which, had he lost, would have made him some thirty thousand pounds the poorer. When Maxell thought back upon that event, he had to confess that it was not a pleasant case, being one in which Cartwright had been charged with something which was tantamount to misrepresentation; and, although he had won, and won brilliantly, he had never felt any great pride in his achievement.

“No,” he said (the pauses were frequent and long), “I should hardly imagine that the Prime Minister loves me to that extent. In Parliament you have to be an uncomfortable quantity to be really successful. You must be strong enough to have a national following, and sufficiently independent to keep the Whips guessing. I am known as a safe man, and I hold a safe seat, which I couldn’t lose if I tried. That doesn’t make for promotion. Of course, I could have had an Under-Secretaryship for the asking, and that means a couple of thousand a year, but it also means that you last out the life of the administration in a subordinate capacity, and that, by the time you have made good, your party is in the cold shade of opposition, and there are no jobs going.”

He shook his head, and returned immediately to the question of the missing reef, as though he wished to take the subject from his own personal affairs.

“You say that it would cost us a lot of money if the reef was proved,” he said. “Isn’t it costing us a lot now?”

Cartwright hesitated.

“Yes, it is. As a matter of fact,” he confessed, “the actual reef is costing nothing, or next to nothing, because El Mograb is helping me. In our own business–that is to say, in the Syndicate–our expenses are more or less small; but I am doing a little independent buying, and that has meant the spending of money. I am taking up all the ground to the south of the Angera–a pretty expensive business.”

Maxell shifted uneasily in his chair.

“That is rather worrying me, you know, Cartwright,” he said; “your scheme is ever so much too ambitious. I was figuring it out this afternoon as I was sitting in my room, and I came to the conclusion that, if the scheme as you outlined it to me yesterday went through, it would mean your finding two millions.”

“Three,” corrected the other cheerfully, “but think what it means, Maxell! Supposing it went through. Supposing we struck a reef, and the reef continued, as I believe it will, through the country I am taking up! Why, it may mean a hundred millions to me!”

The other sighed.

“I have reached the point where I think a hundred thousand is an enormous sum,” he said. “However, you know your own business best, Cartwright. But I want to be satisfied in the matter in which we are associated together, that my liability does not exceed my power to pay. And there is another matter.”

Cartwright guessed the “other matter.”

“Well?” he asked.

“I was looking over your titles this afternoon,” said Maxell, “and I see no reference to the old Spanish working. I remember that you told me a Spaniard had taken up a considerable stretch of country and had exhausted his capital trying to prove the reef–Senor Brigot, wasn’t that his name?”

The other nodded curtly.

“A drunkard–and a bad lot,” he said. “He’s broke.”

Maxell smiled.

“His moral character doesn’t count so far as the details go; what does matter is that if your theory is correct, the reef must run through his property. What are you going to do about that?”

“Buy him out,” said the other.

He rose abruptly.

“I’m walking up to the Sok,” he said. “Come along?”

They tramped up the long, steep hill-street together, and they did not speak till they had passed through the ancient gate into the unrelieved gloom which lies outside the city.

“I don’t understand you, Maxell–you take an old man’s view of things,” said Cartwright irritably. “You’re comparatively young, you’re a good-looker. Why the devil don’t you marry, and marry money?”

Maxell laughed.

“Have you ever tried to marry money?” he asked dryly.

“No,” said the other after a pause, “but I should think it is pretty simple.”

“Try it,” said the laconic Maxell. “It is simple in books, but in real life it is next to impossible. I go about a great deal in society of all kinds, and I can tell you that I have never yet met an eligible spinster wit money–that is to say, large money. I agree with you,” he went on after a while, “a man like myself should marry. And he should marry well. I could give a woman a good position, but she’s got to be the right kind of woman. There are some times when I’m just frantic about my position. I am getting older–I am forty-seven next birthday –and every day that slips past is a day lost. I ought to be married, but I can’t afford a wife. It is a blackguardly thing to talk about money in connection with marriage and yet somehow I can think of nothing else–whenever the thought arises in my mind I see an imaginary beauty sitting on a bag of gold!” He chuckled to himself. “Let’s go back,” he said, “the big Sok always gives me the creeps.”

Something lumbered past him in the darkness, some big, overpowering beast with an unpleasant smell, and a guttural voice cried in Arabic: “Beware!”

“Camels!” said Cartwright briefly. “They’re bringing in the stuff for the morning market. The night’s young yet, Maxell. Let us go up to the theatre.”

“The theatre?” said Maxell. “I didn’t even know the theatre was open.”

“It is called theatre by courtesy,” explained Cartwright; “the inhabitants refer to it as the circus. It’s a big wooden place on the sea edge–”

“I know it, I know it,” said Maxell. “What is being played? The only people I have ever seen there have been Spanish artistes–and pretty bad artistes, too.”

“Well, there’s a treat for you. It is an English company, or rather, a variety company with a number of English turns,” said Cartwright. “We might do worse–at least, I might,” he added ominously.

When they reached the theatre they found it sparsely filled. Cartwright took one of the open boxes, and his companion settled himself into a corner to smoke. The turns were of the kind which are usually to be met with on the Levant; a tawdrily attired lady sang a humorous song in Spanish, the humour being frankly indecent. There were a juggler and a man with performing dogs, and then “Miss O’Grady” was announced.

“English,” said Cartwright, turning to the programme.

“She may even be Irish,” said Maxell dryly.

The wheezy little orchestra played a few bars and the girl came on. She was pretty–there was no doubt about that–and of a prettiness which satisfied both men. She was also British or American, for the song she sang was in French with which both men were familiar.

“It is horrible to see an English girl in a place like this and in such company,” said Maxell.

Cartwright nodded.

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