The Law of the Just Men - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Law of the Just Men ebook

Edgar Wallace



Written in 1905, this is the first of Edgar Wallace’s adventures to feature the Four Just Men, a collective of European men of position who see it as their duty to execute those criminals that, for whatever reason, the law cannot or will not touch. In this adventure, the Four Just Men set their hand against the British Foreign Secretary. Concerned that an extradition bill about to be passed into law will result in the deportation of certain leading dissidents back to their home countries where they face torture and death, they tell the minister that if the bill is not stopped then he will die. The Minister tries to ignore the threats and determines to pass the bill into law. Will he evade death? Will the police track down his persecutors? Will their devilishly cunning scheme work?

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Liczba stron: 271

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“THE jury cannot accept the unsupported suggestion–unsupported even by the prisoner’s testimony since he has not gone into the box–that Mr. Noah Stedland is a blackmailer and that he obtained a large sum of money from the prisoner by this practice. That is a defence which is rather suggested by the cross-examination than by the production of evidence. The defence does not even tell us the nature of the threat which Stedland employed...”

The remainder of the summing up was creditable to the best traditions of the Bar, and the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of “Guilty”.

There was a rustle of movement in the court and a thin babble of whispered talk as the Judge fixed his pince-nez and began to write.

The man in the big oaken pen looked down at the pale drawn face of a girl turned to him from the well of the court and smiled encouragingly. For his part, he did not blanch and his grave eyes went back to the figure on the Bench–the puce-gowned, white-headed figure that was writing so industriously. What did a Judge write on these occasions, he wondered? Surely not a precis of the crime. He was impatient now to have done with it all; this airy court, these blurred rows of pink faces in the gloom of the public gallery, the indifferent counsel and particularly with the two men who had sat near the lawyer’s pews watching him intently.

He wondered who they were, what interest they had in the proceedings. Perhaps they were foreign authors, securing first-hand impressions. They had the appearance of foreigners. One was very tall (he had seen him rise to his feet once), the other was slight and gave an impression of boyishness, though his hair was grey. They were both clean-shaven and both were dressed in black and balanced on their knees broad-brimmed hats of soft black felt.

A cough from the Judge brought his attention back to the Bench.

“Jeffrey Storr,” said his lordship, “I entirely agree with the verdict of the jury. Your defence that Stedland robbed you of your savings and that you broke into his house for the purpose of taking the law into your own hands and securing the money and a document, the character of which you do not specify but which you allege proved his guilt, could not be considered seriously by any Court of Justice. Your story sounds as though you had read of that famous, or infamous, association called the Four Just Men, which existed some years ago, but which is now happily dispersed. Those men set themselves to punish where the law failed. It is a monstrous assumption that the law ever fails! You have committed a very serious offence, and the fact that you were at the moment of your arrest and capture in possession of a loaded revolver, serves very gravely to aggravate your crime. You will be kept in penal servitude for seven years.”

Jeffrey Storr bowed and without so much as a glance at the girl in the court, turned and descended the steps leading to the cells.

The two foreign-looking men who had excited the prisoner’s interest and resentment were the first to leave the court.

Once in the street the taller of the two stopped. “I think we will wait for the girl,” he said.

“Is she the wife?” asked the slight man.

“Married the week he made his unfortunate investment,” replied the tall man, then, “It was a curious coincidence, that reference of the Judge’s to the Four Just Men.”

The other smiled.

“It was in that very court that you were sentenced to death, Manfred,” he said, and the man called Manfred nodded.

“I wondered whether the old usher would remember me,” he answered, “he has a reputation for never forgetting a face. Apparently the loss of my beard has worked a miracle, for I actually spoke to him. Here she is.”

Fortunately the girl was alone. A beautiful face, thought Gonsalez, the younger of the two men. She held her chin high and there was no sign of tears. As she walked quickly toward Newgate Street they followed her. She crossed the road into Hatton Garden and then it was that Manfred spoke.

“Pardon me, Mrs. Storr,” he said, and she turned and stared at the foreign-looking man suspiciously.

“If you are a reporter–” she began.

“I’m not,” smiled Manfred, “nor am I a friend of your husband’s, though I thought of lying to you in that respect in order to find an excuse for talking to you.”

His frankness procured her interest.

“I do not wish to talk about poor Jeffrey’s terrible trouble,” she said. “I just want to be alone.”

Manfred nodded.

“I understand that,” he said sympathetically, “but I wish to be a friend of your husband’s and perhaps I can help him. The story he told in the box was true–you thought that too, Leon?”

Gonsalez nodded.

“Obviously true,” he said, “I particularly noticed his eyelids. When a man lies he blinks at every repetition of the lie. Have you observed, my dear George, that men cannot tell lies when their hands are clenched and that when women lie they clasp their hands together?”

She looked at Gonsalez in bewilderment. She was in no mood for a lecture on the physiology of expression and even had she known that Leon Gonsalez was the author of three large books which ranked with the best that Lombroso or Mantegazza had given to the world, she would have been no more willing to listen.

“The truth is, Mrs. Storr,” said Manfred, interpreting her new distress, “we think that we can free your husband and prove his innocence. But we want as many facts about the case as we can get.”

She hesitated only a moment.

“I have some furnished lodgings in Gray’s Inn Road,” she said, “perhaps you will be good enough to come with me.”

“My lawyer does not think there is any use in appealing against the sentence,” she went on as they fell in one on either side of her. Manfred shook his head.

“The Appeal Court would uphold the sentence,” he said quietly, “with the evidence you have there is no possibility of your husband being released.”

She looked round at him in dismay and now he saw that she was very near to tears.

“I thought... you said... ?” she began a little shakily.

Manfred nodded.

“We know Stedland,” he said, “and–”

“The curious thing about blackmailers, is that the occiput is hardly observable,” interrupted Gonsalez thoughtfully. “I examined sixty-two heads in the Spanish prisons and in every case the occipital protuberance was little more than a bony ridge. Now in homicidal heads the occiput sticks out like a pigeon’s egg.”

“My friend is rather an authority upon the structure of the head,” smiled Manfred. “Yes, we know Stedland. His operations have been reported to us from time to time. You remember the Wellingford case, Leon?”

Gonsalez nodded.

“Then you are detectives?” asked the girl.

Manfred laughed softly.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

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