Liberty, September 8, 1928
CHIMP stared at Mr. Molloy.
“Bolt, the chauffeur, gave the ticket to Carroll?” he said. “You mean the bird upstairs?”
“Is he upstairs?”
“Sure he’s upstairs. Locked in a room with bars on the window. You’re certain he has the ticket?”
“I know he has. So all we’ve got to do now is get it off him.”
“And how,” inquired Chimp, “do you propose to do it?”
Mr. Molloy made no immediate reply. The question was one which, in the intervals of dodging the pedals of his bicycle, he had been asking himself ever since he had left Rudge Hall. He had hoped that, in the enthusiasm of the moment, some spontaneous solution would leap from his old friend’s lips; but it was plain that this was not to be.
“I thought maybe you would think of a way, Chimpie,” he was compelled to confess.
“Oh? Me, eh?”
“You’re smart,” said Mr. Molloy deferentially. “You’ve got a head. Whatever anyone’s said about you, no one’s ever denied that. You’ll think of a way.”
“I will, will I? And while I’m doing it you’ll just sit back, I suppose, and have a nice rest? And all you’re suggesting that I’m to get out of it—”
“Now, Chimpie,” quavered Mr. Molloy. He had feared this development.
“—is a measly one-third. Say, let me tell you—”
“Now, Chimpie,” urged Mr. Molloy, with unshed tears in his voice, “let’s not start all that over again. We settled the terms. Gentleman’s agreement. It’s all fixed.”
“Is it? Come down out of the clouds—you’re scaring the birds. What I want now, if I’m going to do all the work and help you out of a tough spot, is seventy thirty.”
“Seventy thirty!” echoed Mr. Molloy, appalled.
“And if you don’t like it let’s hear you suggest a way of getting that ticket off of that guy upstairs. Maybe you’d like to go up and have a talk with him? If he’s feeling anything like the way I felt when I came to after those kayo drops of yours, he’ll be glad to see you. What does it matter to you if he pulls your head off and drops it out of the window? You can only live once, so what the hell!”
Mr. Molloy gazed dismally before him. Never a very inventive man, his bicycle ride had left him even less capable of inspiration than usual. He had to admit himself totally lacking in anything resembling a constructive plan of campaign. He yearned for his dear wife’s gentle presence. Dolly was the bright one of the family. In a crisis like this she would have been full of ideas, each one a crackajack.
“We can’t keep him locked up in that room forever,” he said unhappily.
“We don’t have to—not if you agree to my seventy thirty.”
“Have you thought of a way, then?”
“Sure I’ve thought of a way.”
Mr. Molloy’s depression became more marked than ever. He knew what this meant. The moment he gave up the riddle, that miserable little Chimp would come out with some scheme which had been staring him in the face all along, if only he had had the intelligence to see it.
“Well?” said Chimp. “Think quick. And remember thirty’s better than nothing. And don’t say, when I’ve told you, that it’s just the idea you’ve had yourself from the start.”
Mr. Molloy urged his weary brain to one last spurt of activity, but without result. He was a specialist. He could sell shares in phantom oil wells better than anybody on either side of the Atlantic, but there he stopped. Outside his specialty he was almost a total loss.
“All right, Chimpie,” he sighed, facing the inevitable.
“Seventy thirty. Though how I’m to break it to the madam I don’t know. She won’t like it, Chimpie. It’ll be a nasty blow for the madam.”
“I hope it chokes her,” said Chimp unchivalrously. “Her and her lilies! Well, then—here’s what we do. When Flannery takes the guy his coffee and eggs tomorrow, there’ll be something in the pot besides coffee. There’ll be some of those kayo drops of yours. And then all we have to do is just simply walk upstairs and dig the ticket out of his clothes, and there we are.”
Mr. Molloy uttered an agonized cry. His presentiment had been correct.
“I’d have thought of that myself—” he wailed.
“Sure you would,” replied Chimp comfortably, “if you’d of had something that wasn’t a Hubbard squash or something where your head ought to be. Those just as good imitation heads never pay in the long run. What you ought to do is sell yours for what it’ll fetch and get a new one. And next time,” said Chimp, “make it a prettier one.”
THE dawn of what promised to be an eventful day broke grayly over Healthward Ho. By 7 o’clock, however, the sun had forced its way through the mists, and at 8 precisely one of its rays, stealing in at an upper window, fell upon Sergeant Major Flannery, lovely in sleep.
He grunted, opened his eyes, and, realizing that another morning had arrived with all its manifold tasks and responsibilities, heaved himself out of bed, and after a few soldierly setting up exercises began his simple toilet. This completed, he made his way to the kitchen, where a fragrant smell of bacon and coffee announced that breakfast awaited him.
His companions in the feast—Rosa the maid, and Mrs. Evans the cook—greeted him with the respectful warmth due to a man of his position and gifts. However unpopular Mr. Flannery might be with the resident patients of Healthward Ho—and Admiral Sir James Rigby-Rudd, for one, had on several occasions expressed a wistful desire to skin him—he was always sure of a hearty welcome below stairs. Rosa worshiped his mustache, and Mrs. Evans found his conversation entertaining.
TODAY, however, though the mustache was present in all its pristine glory, the conversation was lacking. Usually it was his custom, before so much as spearing an egg, to set things going brightly with some entertaining remark on the state of the weather or possibly the absorbing description of a dream which he had had in the night. But this morning he sat silent—or as nearly silent as he could ever be when eating.
“A penny for your thoughts, Mr. Flannery,” said Mrs. Evans, piqued.
The Sergeant Major started. It came to him that he had been remiss.
“I was thinking, ma’am,” he said, poising a forkful of bacon, “of what I may call the sadness of life.”
“Life is sad,” agreed Mrs. Evans.
“Ah!” said Rosa, the maid, who, being a mere slip of a girl and only permitted to join in these symposia as a favor, should not have spoken at all.
“That verlent case upstairs,” proceeded Mr. Flannery, swallowing the bacon and forking up another load. “Now, there’s something that makes your heart bleed, if I may use the expression at the breakfast table. That young fellow no doubt started out in life with everything pointing to a happy and prosperous career. Good home, good education, everything. And just because he’s allowed himself to fall into bad ’abits, there he is under lock and key, so to speak.”
“Can he get out?” asked Rosa.
It was a subject which she and the cook had discussed in alarmed whispers far into the night.
Mr. Flannery raised his eyebrows.
“No, he cannot get out. And, if he did, you wouldn’t have nothing to fear, not with me around.”
“I’m sure it’s a comfort feeling that you are around, Mr. Flannery,” said Mrs. Evans.
“Almost the very words the young fellow’s sister said to me when she left him here,” rumbled Mr. Flannery complacently. “She said to me, ‘Sergeant Major,’ she said, ‘it’s sure a relief to feel that there’s someone like you ’ere, Sergeant Major,’ she said. ‘I’m sure you’re wonderful in any kind of an emergency, Sergeant Major,’ she said.” He sighed. “It’s thinking of ’er that brings home the sadness of it all to a man, if you understand me. What I mean, here’s that beautiful young creature racked with anxiety, as the saying is, on account of this worthless brother of hers—”
“I didn’t think she was so beautiful,” said Rosa.
An awful silence followed these words, the sort of silence that would fall upon a housekeeper’s room if, supposing such a thing possible, some young underfootman were to contradict the butler. Sergeant Major Flannery’s eyes bulged and he drank coffee in a marked manner.
“Don’t you talk nonsense, my girl,” he said shortly.
“A girl can speak, can’t she? A girl can make a remark, can’t she?”
“Certainly she can speak,” replied Mr. Flannery. “Undoubtedly she can make a remark. But,” he added with quiet severity, “let it be sense. That young lady was the most beautiful young lady I’ve ever seen. She had eyes”—he paused for a telling simile—“eyes,” he resumed devoutly, “like twin stars.”
He turned to Mrs. Evans.
“When you’ve got that case’s breakfast ready, ma’am, perhaps you would instruct someone to bring it out to me in the garden and I’ll take it up to him. I shall be smoking my pipe in the shrubbery.”
“You’re not going already, Mr. Flannery?”
“But you haven’t finished your breakfast.”
“I have quite finished my breakfast, ma’am,” said Sergeant Major Flannery. “I would not wish to eat any more.”
HE withdrew. To the pleading in the eyes of Rosa he pointedly paid no attention. He was not unaware of the destructive effect which the mustache nestling between his thumb and forefinger had wrought on the girl’s heart, but he considered rightly that if you didn’t keep women in their place occasionally, where were you? Rosa was a nice little thing, but nice little things must not be allowed to speak lightly of goddesses.
In the kitchen which he had left, conversation had now resolved itself into a monologue by Mrs. Evans on the Modern Girl. It need not be reported in detail, for Mrs. Evans on the Modern Girl was very like all the other members of the older generation who from time to time have given their views on the subject in the pulpit and the press.
Briefly, Mrs. Evans did not know what girls were coming to nowadays. They spoke irreverently in the presence of their elders. They lacked respect. They thrust themselves forward. They annoyed good men to the extent of only half finishing their breakfasts. What Mrs. Evans’ mother would have said if Mrs. Evans in her girlhood had behaved as Rosa had just behaved was a problem which Mrs. Evans frankly admitted herself unable to solve.
And at the end of it all the only remark which Rosa vouchsafed was a repetition of the one which had caused Sergeant Major Flannery to leave the table short one egg and a slice of bacon of his normal allowance.
“I didn’t think she was so beautiful,” said Rosa, tossing a bobbed auburn head.
Whether this deplorable attitude would have reduced Mrs. Evans to a despairing silence, or caused her to repeat her observations with renewed energy, will never be known, for at this moment one of the bells above the dresser jangled noisily.
“That’s Him,” said Mrs. Evans. “Go and see what He wants.” She usually referred to the proprietor of Healthward Ho by means of a pronoun with a capital letter, disapproving, though she recognized its aptness, of her assistant’s preference for the sobriquet of Old Monkey Brand. “If it’s his breakfast, tell him it’ll be ready in a minute.”
“It’s not his breakfast,” she announced, returning. “It’s the case upstairs’ breakfast. Old Monkey Brand wants to have a look at it before it’s took him.”
“Don’t call him Old Monkey Brand.”
“Well it’s what he looks like, isn’t it?”
“Never mind,” replied Mrs. Evans, and resumed her speculations as to what her mother would have said.
“He’s to have some bacon and eggs and toast and a potter coffee,” said Rosa, showing rather a lack of interest in Mrs. Evans’ mother. “And old Lord Twist wants to have a look at it before it’s took him. It all depends what you call beautiful,” said Rosa. “If you’re going to call anyone beautiful that’s got touched up hair and eyes like one of those vamps in the pictures—well, all I can say is—”
“That’s enough,” said Mrs. Evans.
Silence reigned in the kitchen, broken only by the sizzling of bacon and the sniffs of a modern girl who did not see eye to eye with her elders on the subject of feminine beauty.
“Here you are,” said Mrs. Evans at length. “Get me one of them trays and the pepper and salt and mustard, and be careful you don’t drop it.”
“Drop it? Why should I drop it?”
“There was a woman in Hearts and Satins that had eyes just like hers,” said Rosa, balancing the tray and speaking with the cold scorn which good women feel for their erring sisters. “And what she didn’t do! Apart from stealing all them important papers relating to the invention—”
“You’re spilling that coffee.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Well, don’t,” said Mrs. Evans.
OUT in the garden, hidden from the gaze of any who might espy him and set him to work, Sergeant Major Flannery lolled in the shrubbery, savoring that best smoke of the day, the after breakfast pipe. He was still ruffled, for Dolly had made a deep impression on him, and any statement to the effect that she was not a thing of loveliness ranked, to his thinking, under the head of blasphemy.
Of course, he mused, there was this to be said for the girl Rosa, this rather important point to be put forward in extenuation of her loose speech—she worshiped the ground he walked on and had obviously spoken as she did under the sudden smart of an uncontrollable jealousy. Contemplated in this light, her remarks became almost excusable. And, growing benevolent under the influence of tobacco, Mr. Flannery began to feel his resentment changing gradually into something approaching tenderness.
Rosa, when you came to look at it squarely, was, he reflected, rather to be pitied than censured. Young girls, of course, needed suppressing at times, and had to be ticked off for their own good when they got above themselves; but there was no doubt that the situation must have been trying to one in her frame of mind. To hear the man she worshiped speaking with unrestrained praise of the looks of another of her sex was enough to upset any girl. Properly looked at, in short, Rosa’s outburst had been a compliment; and Sergeant Major Flannery, now definitely mollified, decided to forgive her.
At this moment he heard footsteps on the gravel path that skirted the shrubbery, and became alert and vigilant. He was not supposed to smoke in the grounds of Healthward Ho, because of the maddening effect the spectacle could not fail to have upon the patients if they saw him.
He knocked out his pipe and peered cautiously through the branches. Then he perceived that he need have had no alarm. It was only Rosa. She was standing with her back to him, holding a laden tray. He remembered now that he had left instructions that the case’s breakfast should be brought out to him, preliminary to being carried up the ladder.
“Mr. Flanner-ee!” called Rosa, and scanned the horizon.
It was not often that Sergeant Major Flannery permitted himself any action that might be called arch or roguish; but his meditations in the shrubbery, added to the mellowing influence of tobacco, had left him in an unusually light hearted mood. The sun was shining, the little birds were singing, and Mr. Flannery felt young and gay.
Putting his pipe in his pocket, accordingly, he crept through the shrubbery until he was immediately behind the girl, and then in a tender whisper uttered the single word, “Boo!”
All great men have their limitations. We recognize the inevitability of this and do not hold it against them. One states, therefore—not in any spirit of reproach, but simply as a fact of historical interest—that tender whispering was one of the things that Sergeant Major Flannery did not do well. Between intention and performance there was, when Mr. Flannery set out to whisper tenderly, a great gulf fixed.
THE actual sound he now uttered was not unlike that which might proceed from the foghorn of an Atlantic liner or a toastmaster having a fit in a boiler shop, and, bursting forth as it did within a few inches of her ear without any warning whatsoever, it had on Rosa an effect identical with that produced on Colonel Wyvern at an earlier point in this chronicle by John Carroll’s sudden bellow outside the shop of Chas. Bywater, Chemist.
From trivial causes great events may spring. Rosa sprang about three feet. A sharp squeal escaped her and she dropped the tray. After which, she stood with a hand on her heart, panting.
Sergeant Major Flannery recognized at once that he had done the wrong thing. His generous spirit had led him astray. If he had wished to inform Rosa that all was forgotten and forgiven, he should have stepped out of the shrubbery and said so in a few simple words, face to face. By acting, as it were, obliquely and allowing himself to be for the moment a disembodied voice, he had made a mess of things.
Among the things he had made a mess of were a pot of coffee, a pitcher of milk, a bowl of sugar, a dish of butter, vessels containing salt, mustard, and pepper, a rack of toast, and a plateful of eggs and bacon. All these objects now littered the turf before him, and emerging from the shrubbery, he surveyed them ruefully.
“Oo—er!” he said.
Oddly enough, relief rather than annoyance seemed to be the emotion dominating his companion. If ever there was an occasion when a girl might excusably have said some of the things girls are so good at saying nowadays, this was surely it. But Rosa merely panted at the Sergeant Major thankfully.
“I thought you was the case upstairs!” she gasped. “When I heard that gashly sound right in my ear, I thought it was him got out.”
“You’re all right, my girl,” said Mr. Flannery. “I’m ’ere.”
“Oh, Mr. Flannery!”
“There, there!” said the Sergeant Major.
In spite of the feeling that he was behaving a little prematurely, he slipped a massive arm round the girl’s waist. He also kissed her. He had not intended to commit himself quite so definitely as this, but it seemed now the only thing to do.
Rosa became calmer.
“I dropped the tray,” she said.
“Yes,” said Mr. Flannery, who was quick at noticing things.
“I’d better go and tell him.”
“Tell Mr. Twist?”
“Well, I’d better, hadn’t I?”
Mr. Flannery demurred. To tell Mr. Twist involved explanations, and explanations, if they were to be convincing, must necessarily reveal him, Mr. Flannery, in a light none too dignified. It might be that, having learned the facts, Mr. Twist would decide to dispense with the services of an assistant who, even from the best motives, hid in shrubberies and said “Boo!” to maidservants.
“You listen to me, my girl,” he advised. “Mr. Twist is a busy gentleman that has many responsibilities and much to occupy him. He don’t want to be bothered with no stories of dropped trays. All you just do is run back to the kitchen and tell Mrs. Evans to cook the case some more breakfast. The coffeepot’s broke, but the cup ain’t broke, and the plate ain’t broke, and the mustardan-pepperan-salt thing ain’t broke. I’ll pick ’em up, and you take ’em back on the tray and don’t say nothing to nobody. While you’re gone I’ll be burying what’s left of them eggs.”
“But Mr. Twist put something special in the coffee.”
“Eh? How do you mean?”
“When I took him in the tray just now, he said, ‘Is that the case upstairs’ breakfast?’ And I said yes, it was, and Old Monkey Brand put something looked like a aspirin tablet or something in the coffeepot. I thought it might be some medicine he had to have to make him quiet and keep him from breaking out and murdering all of us.”
Mr. Flannery smiled indulgently.
“THAT case upstairs don’t need nothing of that sort—not when I’m around,” he said. “Mr. Twist’s like all these civilians. He gets unduly nervous. He don’t understand that there’s no need or necessity or occasion whatsoever for these what I may call sedatives when I’m on the premises to lend a ’and in case of any verlence. Besides, it don’t do anybody no good always to be taking these drugs and what not. The case ’ad ’is sleeping draft yesterday, and you never know it might not undermine his ’ealth to go taking another this morning. So if Mr. Twist asks you has the case had his coffee, you just say, ‘Yes, sir,’ in a smart and respectful manner, and I’ll do the same. And then nobody needn’t be any the wiser.”
Mr. Flannery’s opportunity of doing the same occurred not more than a quarter of an hour later. Returning from the task of climbing the ladder and handing in the revised breakfast at John’s window, he encountered his employer in the hall.
“Oh, Flannery,” said Mr. Twist.
“The—er—the violent case. Has he had breakfast?”
“He was eatin’ it quite hearty when I left him not five minutes ago, sir.”
“Did he drink his coffee?” he asked carelessly.
“Yes, sir,” replied Sergeant Major Flannery in a smart and respectful manner.
“Oh! I see. Thank you.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Sergeant Major Flannery.
IN describing John as eating his breakfast quite ’earty, Sergeant Major Flannery, though not as a rule an artist in words, had for once undoubtedly achieved the mot juste. Hearty was the exact adjective to describe that ill used young man’s method of approach to the eggs and bacon and coffee which his jailer had handed him in between the bars of the window.
Neither his now rooted dislike of Mr. Flannery nor any sense of the indignity of accepting food like some rare specimen in a zoo could compete in John with an appetite which had been growing silently within him through the night-watches. His headache had gone, leaving in its place a hunger which wolves might have envied.
Placing himself outside an egg almost before the Sergeant Major had time to say “Oo—er,” he finished the other egg, the bacon, the toast, the butter, the milk, and the coffee—and, having lifted the plate to see if any crumbs had got concealed beneath it and finding none, was compelled reluctantly to regard the meal as concluded.
He now felt considerably better. Food and drink had stayed in him that animal ravenousness which makes food and drink the only possible object of a man’s thoughts, and he was able to turn his mind to other matters. Having found and swallowed a lump of sugar which had got itself overlooked under a fold of the napkin, he returned to the bed and lay down.
A man who wishes to think can generally do so better in a horizontal position. So John lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, pondering.
He certainly had sufficient material for thought to keep him occupied almost indefinitely. The more he meditated upon his present situation, the less was he able to understand it. That the villain Twist, wishing to get away with the spoils of Rudge Hall, should have imprisoned him in this room in order to gain time for flight would have been intelligible. John would never have been able to bring himself to approve of such an action, but he had to admit its merits as a piece of strategy.
But Twist had not flown. According to Sergeant Major Flannery, he was still on the premises. And so, apparently, was his accomplice, the black hearted Molloy.
But why? What did they think they were doing? How long did they suppose they would be able to keep a respectable citizen cooped up like this, even though his only medium of communication with the outer world were a more than usually fatheaded sergeant major?
The thing baffled John completely.
He next turned his mind to thoughts of Pat, and experienced a feverish concern. Here was something to get worried about. What, he asked himself, must Pat be thinking? He had promised to call for her in the Widgeon Seven at 1 o’clock yesterday. She would assume that he had forgotten. She would suppose—
HE would have gone on torturing himself with these reflections for a considerable time, but at this moment he suddenly heard a sharp clicking sound. It resembled the noise a key makes when turning in a lock, and was probably the only sound on earth which at that particular point in his meditations would have had the power to arrest his attention.
He lifted his head and looked round. Yes, the door was opening, and it was opening, what was more, in just the nasty, slow, furtive, sneaking way in which a door would open if somebody like the leper Twist had got hold of the handle.
In this matter of the hellhound Twist’s mental processes John was now thoroughly fogged. The man appeared to be something very closely resembling an imbecile. When flight was the one thing that could do him a bit of good, he did not fly; and now, having with drugs and imprisonment and the small talk of sergeant majors reduced a muscular young man to a condition of homicidal enthusiasm, he was apparently paying that young man a social call.
However, the mental condition of this monkey faced, waxed mustached bounder and criminal was beside the point. What was important was to turn his weakmindedness to profit. The moment was obviously one for cunning and craftiness, and John accordingly dropped his head on the pillow, cunningly closed his eyes, and craftily began to breathe like one deep in sleep.
The ruse proved effective. After a moment of complete silence, a board creaked. Then another board creaked. And then he heard the door close gently. Finally, from the neighborhood of the door there came to him a sound of whispering. And across the years there floated into John’s mind a dim memory. This whispering—it reminded him of something.
Then he got it. Ages ago—when he was a child—Christmas Eve—his father and mother lurking in the doorway to make sure that he was asleep before creeping to the bed and putting the presents in his stocking.
The recollection encouraged John. There is nothing like having done a thing before and knowing the technique.
He never had been asleep on those bygone Christmas Eves, but the gift bearers had never suspected it; and he resolved that, if any of the old skill and artistry still lingered with him, the Messrs. Twist and Molloy should not suspect it now. He deepened the note of his breathing, introducing into it a motif almost asthmatic.
“It’s all right,” said the voice of Mr. Twist.
“Okay?” said the voice of Mr. Molloy.
“Okay,” said the voice of Mr. Twist.
Whereupon, walking confidently and without any further effort at stealth, the two approached the bed.
“I guess he drank the whole potful,” said Mr. Twist.
Once more John found himself puzzling over the way this man’s mind worked. By pot he presumably meant the coffeepot standing on the tray, and why the contents of this should appear to him in the light of a soporific was more than John could understand.
“Say, listen,” said Mr. Twist. “You go and hang around outside the door, Soapy.”
“Why?” inquired Mr. Molloy, and it seemed to John that he spoke coldly.
“So’s to see nobody comes along, of course.”
“Yeah?” said Mr. Molloy, and his voice was now unmistakably dry. “And you’ll come out in a minute and tell me you’re all broke up about it, but he hadn’t got the ticket on him, after all.”
“You don’t think—”
“Yes, I do think.”
“If you can’t trust me that far—”
“Chimpie,” said Mr. Molloy, “I wouldn’t trust you as far as a snail could make in three jumps. I wouldn’t believe you, not even if I knew you were speaking the truth.”
“Oh, well, if that’s how you feel—” said Mr. Twist, injured.
John’s perplexity increased. He could make nothing of that “ticket.” The only ticket he had in his possession was the one Bolt the chauffeur had given him to give to his uncle for some bag or other which he had left in the cloakroom at Shrub Hill station. Why should these men—
He became aware of fingers groping toward the inner pocket of his coat. And as they touched him he decided that the moment had come to act.
Bracing the muscles of his back, he sprang from the bed and with an acrobatic leap hurled himself toward the door and stood leaning against it.
In the pause which followed this brisk move, it soon became evident to John, rubbing his shoulders against the oak panels and glowering upon the two treasure seekers, that if the scene was to be brightened by anything in the nature of dialogue the ball of conversation would have to be set rolling by himself.
Not for some little time, it was clear, would his companions be in a condition for speech. Chimp Twist was looking like a monkey that has bitten into a bad nut, and Soapy Molloy like an American Senator who has received an anonymous telegram saying, “All is discovered. Fly at once.”
So it was John who was the first to speak.
“Now, then!” said John. “How about it?”
The question was a purely rhetorical one, and received no reply. Mr. Molloy uttered an odd, strangled sound like a faraway cat with a fishbone in its throat, and Chimp’s waxed mustache seemed to droop at the ends.
IT occurred to both of them that they had never realized before what a remarkably muscular, well developed young man John was.
“I’ve a good mind to break both your necks,” said John.
At these unpleasant words Mr. Molloy came to life sufficiently to be able to draw back a step, thus leaving his partner nearer than himself to the danger zone.
It was a move strictly in accordance with business ethics. For if, Mr. Molloy was arguing, Chimp claimed 70 per cent of the profits of their little venture, it was only fair that he should assume an equivalent proportion of its liabilities. At the moment the thing looked like turning out all liabilities, and these Mr. Molloy was only too glad to split on a seventy thirty basis.
So he moved behind Chimp, and from behind the bulwark of his body, which he could have wished had been more substantial, peered anxiously at John.
John, having sketched out his ideal policy, was now forced to descend to the practical. Agreeable as it would have been to take these two men and bump their heads together, he realized that such a course would be a deviation from the main issue.
The important thing was to ascertain what they had done with the loot, and to this inquiry he now directed his remarks.
“Where’s that stuff?” he asked.
“Stuff?” said Chimp.
“You know what I mean. Those things you stole from the Hall.”
Chimp, who had just discovered that he was standing between Mr. Molloy and John, swiftly skipped back a pace.
This caused Mr. Molloy to skip back too. John regarded this liveliness with a smoldering disfavor.
“Stand still!” he said.
Chimp stood still. Mr. Molloy, who had succeeded in getting behind him again, stood stiller.
“Well?” said John. “Where are the things?”
The next move is up to Chimp and Mr. Molloy—those smooth but unlucky comrades in crookedness. Can they avert the worst thrashing of their lives? Read next week’s installment and see.