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An African Millionaire by Grant Allen

Part 4 out of 4

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"Oh, if you insist upon it," Coleyard drawled out, with languid
reluctance, "I'll play, of course. I won't spoil your evening.
But remember, I'm a poet; I have strange inspirations."

The cards were "squeezers"--that is to say, had the suit and the
number of pips in each printed small in the corner, as well as over
the face, for ease of reference. We played low at first. The poet
seldom staked; and when he did--a few pounds--he lost, with singular
persistence. He wanted to play for doubloons or sequins, and could
with difficulty be induced to condescend to dollars. Charles looked
across at him at last; the stakes by that time were fast rising
higher, and we played for ready money. Notes lay thick on the green
cloth. "Well," he murmured provokingly, "how about your inspiration?
Has Apollo deserted you?"

It was an unwonted flight of classical allusion for Charles, and I
confess it astonished me. (I discovered afterwards he had cribbed
it from a review in that evening's Critic.) But the poet smiled.

"No," he answered calmly, "I am waiting for one now. When it comes,
you may be sure you shall have the benefit of it."

Next round, Charles dealing and banking, the poet staked on his
card, unseen as usual. He staked like a gentleman. To our immense
astonishment he pulled out a roll of notes, and remarked, in a quiet
tone, "I have an inspiration now. _Half-hearted_ will do. I go five
thousand." That was dollars, of course; but it amounted to a
thousand pounds in English money--high play for an author.

Charles smiled and turned his card. The poet turned his--and won
a thousand.

"Good shot!" Charles murmured, pretending not to mind, though he
detests losing.

"Inspiration!" the poet mused, and looked once more abstracted.

Charles dealt again. The poet watched the deal with boiled-fishy
eyes. His thoughts were far away. His lips moved audibly. "Myrtle,
and kirtle, and hurtle," he muttered. "They'll do for three. Then
there's turtle, meaning dove; and that finishes the possible. Laurel
and coral make a very bad rhyme. Try myrtle; don't you think so?"

"Do you stake?" Charles asked, severely, interrupting his reverie.

The poet started. "No, pass," he replied, looking down at his card,
and subsided into muttering. We caught a tremor of his lips again,
and heard something like this: "Not less but more republican than
thou, Half-hearted watcher by the Western sea, After long years I
come to visit thee, And test thy fealty to that maiden vow, That
bound thee in thy budding prime For Freedom's bride--"

"Stake?" Charles interrupted, inquiringly, again.

"Yes, five thousand," the poet answered dreamily, pushing forward
his pile of notes, and never ceasing from his murmur: "For Freedom's
bride to all succeeding time. Succeeding; succeeding; weak word,
succeeding. Couldn't go five dollars on it."

Charles turned his card once more. The poet had won again. Charles
passed over his notes. The poet raked them in with a far-away air,
as one who looks at infinity, and asked if he could borrow a pencil
and paper. He had a few priceless lines to set down which might
otherwise escape him.

"This is play," Charles said pointedly. "_Will_ you kindly attend to
one thing or the other?"

The poet glanced at him with a compassionate smile. "I told you I
had inspirations," he said. "They always come together. I can't win
your money as fast as I would like, unless at the same time I am
making verses. Whenever I hit upon a good epithet, I back my luck,
don't you see? I won a thousand on _half-hearted_ and a thousand on
_budding_; if I were to back _succeeding_, I should lose, to a
certainty. You understand my system?"

"I call it pure rubbish," Charles answered. "However, continue.
Systems were made for fools--and to suit wise men. Sooner or later
you _must_ lose at such a stupid fancy."

The poet continued. "For Freedom's bride to all _ensuing_ time."

"Stake!" Charles cried sharply. We each of us staked.

"_Ensuing_," the poet murmured. "To all _ensuing_ time. First-rate
epithet that. I go ten thousand, Sir Charles, on _ensuing_."

We all turned up. Some of us lost, some won; but the poet had
secured his two thousand sterling.

"I haven't that amount about me," Charles said, in that austerely
nettled voice which he always assumes when he loses at cards;
"but--I'll settle it with you to-morrow."

"Another round?" the host asked, beaming.

"No, thank you," Charles answered; "Mr. Coleyard's inspirations
come too pat for my taste. His luck beats mine. I retire from the
game, Senator."

Just at that moment a servant entered, bearing a salver, with a
small note in an envelope. "For Mr. Coleyard," he observed; "and
the messenger said, _urgent_."

Coleyard tore it open hurriedly. I could see he was agitated. His
face grew white at once.

"I--I beg your pardon," he said. "I--I must go back instantly. My
wife is dangerously ill--quite a sudden attack. Forgive me, Senator.
Sir Charles, you shall have your revenge to-morrow."

It was clear that his voice faltered. We felt at least he was a man
of feeling. He was obviously frightened. His coolness forsook him.
He shook hands as in a dream, and rushed downstairs for his
dust-coat. Almost as he closed the front door, a new guest entered,
just missing him in the vestibule.

"Halloa, you men," he said, "we've been taken in, do you know? It's
all over the Lotus. The man we made an honorary member of the club
to-day is _not_ Algernon Coleyard. He's a blatant impostor. There's
a telegram come in on the tape to-night saying Algernon Coleyard is
dangerously ill at his home in England."

Charles gasped a violent gasp. "Colonel Clay!" he shouted, aloud.
"And once more he's done me. There's not a moment to lose. After
him, gentlemen! after him!"

Never before in our lives had we had such a close shave of catching
and fixing the redoubtable swindler. We burst down the stairs in a
body, and rushed out into Fifth Avenue. The pretended poet had only
a hundred yards' start of us, and he saw he was discovered. But he
was an excellent runner. So was I, weight for age; and I dashed
wildly after him. He turned round a corner; it proved to lead
nowhere, and lost him time. He darted back again, madly. Delighted
with the idea that I was capturing so famous a criminal, I redoubled
my efforts--and came up with him, panting. He was wearing a light
dust-coat. I seized it in my hands. "I've got you at last!" I cried;
"Colonel Clay, I've got you!"

He turned and looked at me. "Ha, old Ten Per Cent!" he called out,
struggling. "It's you, then, is it? Never, never to _you_, sir!" And
as he spoke, he somehow flung his arms straight out behind him, and
let the dust-coat slip off, which it easily did, the sleeves being
new and smoothly silk-lined. The suddenness of the movement threw
me completely off my guard, and off my legs as well. I was clinging
to the coat and holding him. As the support gave way I rolled over
backward, in the mud of the street, and hurt my back seriously. As
for Colonel Clay, with a nervous laugh, he bolted off at full speed
in his evening coat, and vanished round a corner.

It was some seconds before I had sufficiently recovered my breath to
pick myself up again, and examine my bruises. By this time Charles
and the other pursuers had come up, and I explained my condition to
them. Instead of commending me for my zeal in his cause--which had
cost me a barked arm and a good evening suit--my brother-in-law
remarked, with an unfeeling sneer, that when I had so nearly caught
my man I might as well have held him.

"I have his coat, at least," I said. "That may afford us a clue."
And I limped back with it in my hands, feeling horribly bruised and
a good deal shaken.

When we came to examine the coat, however, it bore no maker's name;
the strap at the back, where the tailor proclaims with pride his
handicraft, had been carefully ripped off, and its place was taken
by a tag of plain black tape without inscription of any sort. We
searched the breast-pocket. A handkerchief, similarly nameless,
but of finest cambric. The side-pockets--ha, what was this? I drew
a piece of paper out in triumph. It was a note--a real find--the
one which the servant had handed to our friend just before at the
Senator's.

We read it through breathlessly:--

"DARLING PAUL,--I _told_ you it was too dangerous. You should have
listened to me. You ought _never_ to have imitated any real person. I
happened to glance at the hotel tape just now, to see the quotations
for Cloetedorps to-day, and what do you think I read as part of the
latest telegram from England? 'Mr. Algernon Coleyard, the famous
poet, is lying on his death-bed at his home in Devonshire.' By this
time all New York knows. Don't stop one minute. Say I'm dangerously
ill, and come away at once. Don't return to the hotel. I am removing
our things. Meet me at Mary's. Your devoted, MARGOT."

"This is _very_ important," Charles said. "This _does_ give us a clue.
We know two things now: his real name is Paul--whatever else it may
be, and Madame Picardet's is Margot."

I searched the pocket again, and pulled out a ring. Evidently he had
thrust these two things there when he saw me pursuing him, and had
forgotten or neglected them in the heat of the mêlée.

I looked at it close. It was the very ring I had noticed on his
finger while he was playing Swedish poker. It had a large compound
gem in the centre, set with many facets, and rising like a pyramid
to a point in the middle. There were eight faces in all, some of
them composed of emerald, amethyst, or turquoise. But _one_ face--the
one that turned at a direct angle towards the wearer's eye--was _not_
a gem at all, but an extremely tiny convex mirror. In a moment I
spotted the trick. He held this hand carelessly on the table while
my brother-in-law dealt; and when he saw that the suit and number of
his own card mirrored in it by means of the squeezers were better
than Charles's, he had "an inspiration," and backed his luck--or
rather his knowledge--with perfect confidence. I did not doubt,
either, that his odd-looking eyeglass was a powerful magnifier which
helped him in the trick. Still, we tried another deal, by way of
experiment--I wearing the ring; and even with the naked eye I was
able to distinguish in every case the suit and pips of the card that
was dealt me.

"Why, that was almost dishonest," the Senator said, drawing back.
He wished to show us that even far-Western speculators drew a line
somewhere.

"Yes," the magazine editor echoed. "To back your skill is legal;
to back your luck is foolish; to back your knowledge is--"

"Immoral," I suggested.

"Very good business," said the magazine editor.

"It's a simple trick," Charles interposed. "I should have spotted
it if it had been done by any other fellow. But his patter about
inspiration put me clean off the track. That's the rascal's dodge.
He plays the regular conjurer's game of distracting your attention
from the real point at issue--so well that you never find out what
he's really about till he's sold you irretrievably."

We set the New York police upon the trail of the Colonel; but of
course he had vanished at once, as usual, into the thin smoke of
Manhattan. Not a sign could we find of him. "Mary's," we found an
insufficient address.

We waited on in New York for a whole fortnight. Nothing came of it.
We never found "Mary's." The only token of Colonel Clay's presence
vouchsafed us in the city was one of his customary insulting notes.
It was conceived as follows:--

"O ETERNAL GULLIBLE!--Since I saw you on Lake George, I have run
back to London, and promptly come out again. I had business to
transact there, indeed, which I have now completed; the excessive
attentions of the English police sent me once more, like great
Orion, "sloping slowly to the west." I returned to America in order
to see whether or not you were still impenitent. On the day of my
arrival I happened to meet Senator Wrengold, and accepted his kind
invitation solely that I might see how far my last communication
had had a proper effect upon you. As I found you quite obdurate,
and as you furthermore persisted in misunderstanding my motives, I
determined to read you one more small lesson. It nearly failed; and
I confess the accident has affected my nerves a little. I am now
about to retire from business altogether, and settle down for life
at my place in Surrey. I mean to try just one more small coup; and,
when that is finished, Colonel Clay will hang up his sword, like
Cincinnatus, and take to farming. You need no longer fear me. I have
realised enough to secure me for life a modest competence; and as
I am not possessed like yourself with an immoderate greed of gain,
I recognise that good citizenship demands of me now an early
retirement in favour of some younger and more deserving rascal. I
shall always look back with pleasure upon our agreeable adventures
together; and as you hold my dust-coat, together with a ring and
letter to which I attach importance, I consider we are quits, and
I shall withdraw with dignity. Your sincere well-wisher, CUTHBERT
CLAY, Poet."

"Just like him!" Charles said, "to hold this one last coup over my
head in terrorem. Though even when he has played it, why should I
trust his word? A scamp like that may say it, of course, on purpose
to disarm me."

For my own part, I quite agreed with "Margot." When the Colonel was
reduced to dressing the part of a known personage I felt he had
reached almost his last card, and would be well advised to retire
into Surrey.

But the magazine editor summed up all in a word. "Don't believe
that nonsense about fortunes being made by industry and ability,"
he said. "In life, as at cards, two things go to produce
success--the first is chance; the second is cheating."

XI

THE EPISODE OF THE BERTILLON METHOD

We had a terrible passage home from New York. The Captain told us he
"knew every drop of water in the Atlantic personally"; and he had
never seen them so uniformly obstreperous. The ship rolled in the
trough; Charles rolled in his cabin, and would not be comforted. As
we approached the Irish coast, I scrambled up on deck in a violent
gale, and retired again somewhat precipitately to announce to my
brother-in-law that we had just come in sight of the Fastnet Rock
Lighthouse. Charles merely turned over in his berth and groaned.
"I don't believe it," he answered. "I expect it is probably Colonel
Clay in another of his manifold disguises!"

At Liverpool, however, the Adelphi consoled him. We dined
luxuriously in the Louis Quinze restaurant, as only millionaires
can dine, and proceeded next day by Pullman car to London.

We found Amelia dissolved in tears at a domestic cataclysm. It
seemed that Césarine had given notice.

Charles was scarcely home again when he began to bethink him of
the least among his investments. Like many other wealthy men, my
respected connection is troubled more or less, in the background of
his consciousness, by a pervading dread that he will die a beggar.
To guard against this misfortune--which I am bound to admit nobody
else fears for him--he invested, several years ago, a sum of two
hundred thousand pounds in Consols, to serve as a nest-egg in case
of the collapse of Golcondas and South Africa generally. It is
part of the same amiable mania, too, that he will not allow the
dividend-warrants on this sum to be sent to him by post, but
insists, after the fashion of old ladies and country parsons, upon
calling personally at the Bank of England four times a year to claim
his interest. He is well known by sight to not a few of the clerks;
and his appearance in Threadneedle Street is looked forward to with
great regularity within a few weeks of each lawful quarter-day.

So, on the morning after our arrival in town, Charles observed to
me, cheerfully, "Sey, I must run into the City to-day to claim my
dividends. There are two quarters owing."

I accompanied him in to the Bank. Even that mighty official, the
beadle at the door, unfastened the handle of the millionaire's
carriage. The clerk who received us smiled and nodded. "How much?"
he asked, after the stereotyped fashion.

"Two hundred thousand," Charles answered, looking affable.

The clerk turned up the books. "Paid!" he said, with
decision. "What's your game, sir, if I may ask you?"

"Paid!" Charles echoed, drawing back.

The clerk gazed across at him. "Yes, Sir Charles," he answered, in
a somewhat severe tone. "You must remember you drew a quarter's
dividend from myself--last week--at this very counter."

Charles stared at him fixedly. "Show me the signature," he said at
last, in a slow, dazed fashion. I suspected mischief.

The clerk pushed the book across to him. Charles examined the name
close.

"Colonel Clay again!" he cried, turning to me with a despondent air.
"He must have dressed the part. I shall die in the workhouse, Sey!
That man has stolen away even my nest-egg from me."

I saw it at a glance. "Mrs. Quackenboss!" I put in. "Those portraits
on the Etruria! It was to help him in his make-up! You recollect,
she sketched your face and figure at all possible angles."

"And last quarter's?" Charles inquired, staggering.

The clerk turned up the entry. "Drawn on the 10th of July,"
he answered, carelessly, as if it mattered nothing.

Then I knew why the Colonel had run across to England.

Charles positively reeled. "Take me home, Sey," he cried. "I am
ruined, ruined! He will leave me with not half a million in the
world. My poor, poor boys will beg their bread, unheeded, through
the streets of London!"

(As Amelia has landed estate settled upon her worth a hundred and
fifty thousand pounds, this last contingency affected me less to
tears than Charles seemed to think necessary.)

We made all needful inquiries, and put the police upon the quest at
once, as always. But no redress was forthcoming. The money, once
paid, could not be recovered. It is a playful little privilege of
Consols that the Government declines under any circumstances to pay
twice over. Charles drove back to Mayfair a crushed and broken man.
I think if Colonel Clay himself could have seen him just then, he
would have pitied that vast intellect in its grief and bewilderment.

After lunch, however, my brother-in-law's natural buoyancy
reasserted itself by degrees. He rallied a little. "Seymour," he
said to me, "you've heard, of course, of the Bertillon system of
measuring and registering criminals."

"I have," I answered. "And it's excellent as far as it goes. But,
like Mrs. Glasse's jugged hare, it all depends upon the initial
step. 'First catch your criminal.' Now, we have never caught
Colonel Clay--"

"Or, rather," Charles interposed unkindly, "when you _did_ catch him,
you didn't hold him."

I ignored the unkindly suggestion, and continued in the same voice,
"We have never secured Colonel Clay; and until we secure him, we
cannot register him by the Bertillon method. Besides, even if we
had once caught him and duly noted the shape of his nose, his chin,
his ears, his forehead, of what use would that be against a man who
turns up with a fresh face each time, and can mould his features
into what form he likes, to deceive and foil us?"

"Never mind, Sey," my brother-in-law said. "I was told in New York
that Dr. Frank Beddersley, of London, was the best exponent of the
Bertillon system now living in England; and to Beddersley I shall
go. Or, rather, I'll invite him here to lunch to-morrow."

"Who told you of him?" I inquired. "_Not_ Dr. Quackenboss, I hope;
nor yet Mr. Algernon Coleyard?"

Charles paused and reflected. "No, neither of them," he answered,
after a short internal deliberation. "It was that magazine editor
chap we met at Wrengold's."

"_He's_ all right," I said; "or, at least, I think so."

So we wrote a polite invitation to Dr. Beddersley, who pursued
the method professionally, asking him to come and lunch with us
at Mayfair at two next day.

Dr. Beddersley came--a dapper little man, with pent-house eyebrows,
and keen, small eyes, whom I suspected at sight of being Colonel
Clay himself in another of his clever polymorphic embodiments. He
was clear and concise. His manner was scientific. He told us at once
that though the Bertillon method was of little use till the expert
had seen the criminal once, yet if we had consulted him earlier
he might probably have saved us some serious disasters. "A man
so ingenious as this," he said, "would no doubt have studied
Bertillon's principles himself, and would take every possible
means to prevent recognition by them. Therefore, you might almost
disregard the nose, the chin, the moustache, the hair, all of which
are capable of such easy alteration. But there remain some features
which are more likely to persist--height, shape of head, neck,
build, and fingers; the timbre of the voice, the colour of the iris.
Even these, again, may be partially disguised or concealed; the way
the hair is dressed, the amount of padding, a high collar round the
throat, a dark line about the eyelashes, may do more to alter the
appearance of a face than you could readily credit."

"So we know," I answered.

"The voice, again," Dr. Beddersley continued. "The voice itself may
be most fallacious. The man is no doubt a clever mimic. He could,
perhaps, compress or enlarge his larynx. And I judge from what you
tell me that he took characters each time which compelled him
largely to alter and modify his tone and accent."

"Yes," I said. "As the Mexican Seer, he had of course a
Spanish intonation. As the little curate, he was a cultivated
North-countryman. As David Granton, he spoke gentlemanly Scotch.
As Von Lebenstein, naturally, he was a South-German, trying to
express himself in French. As Professor Schleiermacher, he was a
North-German speaking broken English. As Elihu Quackenboss, he
had a fine and pronounced Kentucky flavour. And as the poet, he
drawled after the fashion of the clubs, with lingering remnants
of a Devonshire ancestry."

"Quite so," Dr. Beddersley answered. "That is just what I should
expect. Now, the question is, do you know him to be one man, or
is he really a gang? Is he a name for a syndicate? Have you any
photographs of Colonel Clay himself in any of his disguises?"

"Not one," Charles answered. "He produced some himself, when he was
Medhurst the detective. But he pocketed them at once; and we never
recovered them."

"Could you get any?" the doctor asked. "Did you note the name and
address of the photographer?"

"Unfortunately, no," Charles replied. "But the police at Nice showed
us two. Perhaps we might borrow them."

"Until we get them," Dr. Beddersley said, "I don't know that we can
do anything. But if you can once give me two distinct photographs of
the real man, no matter how much disguised, I could tell you whether
they were taken from one person; and, if so, I think I could point
out certain details in common which might aid us to go upon."

All this was at lunch. Amelia's niece, Dolly Lingfield, was there,
as it happened; and I chanced to note a most guilty look stealing
over her face all the while we were talking. Suspicious as I had
learned to become by this time, however, I did not suspect Dolly of
being in league with Colonel Clay; but, I confess, I wondered what
her blush could indicate. After lunch, to my surprise, Dolly called
me away from the rest into the library. "Uncle Seymour," she said
to me--the dear child calls me Uncle Seymour, though of course I am
not in any way related to her--"_I_ have some photographs of Colonel
Clay, if you want them."

"_You_?" I cried, astonished. "Why, Dolly, how did you get them?"

For a minute or two she showed some little hesitation in telling me.
At last she whispered, "You won't be angry if I confess?" (Dolly is
just nineteen, and remarkably pretty.)

"My child," I said, "why _should_ I be angry? You may confide in me
implicitly." (With a blush like that, who on earth could be angry
with her?)

"And you won't tell Aunt Amelia or Aunt Isabel?" she inquired
somewhat anxiously.

"Not for worlds," I answered. (As a matter of fact, Amelia and
Isabel are the last people in the world to whom I should dream
of confiding anything that Dolly might tell me.)

"Well, I was stopping at Seldon, you know, when Mr. David Granton
was there," Dolly went on; "--or, rather, when that scamp pretended
he was David Granton; and--and--you won't be angry with me, will
you?--one day I took a snap-shot with my kodak at him and Aunt
Amelia!"

"Why, what harm was there in that?" I asked, bewildered. The wildest
stretch of fancy could hardly conceive that the Honourable David had
been _flirting_ with Amelia.

Dolly coloured still more deeply. "Oh, you know Bertie Winslow?" she
said. "Well, he's interested in photography--and--and also in _me_.
And he's invented a process, which isn't of the slightest practical
use, he says; but its peculiarity is, that it reveals textures. At
least, that's what Bertie calls it. It makes things come out so. And
he gave me some plates of his own for my kodak--half-a-dozen or more,
and--I took Aunt Amelia with them."

"I still fail to see," I murmured, looking at her comically.

"Oh, Uncle Seymour," Dolly cried. "How blind you men are!
If Aunt Amelia knew she would never forgive me. Why, you _must_
understand. The--the rouge, you know, and the pearl powder!"

"Oh, it comes out, then, in the photograph?" I inquired.

"Comes out! I should _think_ so! It's like little black spots all
over auntie's face. _such_ a guy as she looks in it!"

"And Colonel Clay is in them too?"

"Yes; I took them when he and auntie were talking together, without
either of them noticing. And Bertie developed them. I've three of
David Granton. Three beauties; _most_ successful."

"Any other character?" I asked, seeing business ahead.

Dolly hung back, still redder. "Well, the rest are with Aunt
Isabel," she answered, after a struggle.

"My dear child," I replied, hiding my feelings as a husband, "I will
be brave. I will bear up even against that last misfortune!"

Dolly looked up at me pleadingly. "It was here in London," she went
on; "--when I was last with auntie. Medhurst was stopping in the
house at the time; and I took him twice, tête-à-tête with Aunt
Isabel!"

"Isabel does not paint," I murmured, stoutly.

Dolly hung back again. "No, but--her hair!" she suggested, in a
faint voice.

"Its colour," I admitted, "is in places assisted by a--well, you
know, a restorer."

Dolly broke into a mischievous sly smile. "Yes, it is," she
continued. "And, oh, Uncle Sey, where the restorer has--er--restored
it, you know, it comes out in the photograph with a sort of
brilliant iridescent metallic sheen on it!"

"Bring them down, my dear," I said, gently patting her head with my
hand. In the interests of justice, I thought it best not to frighten
her.

Dolly brought them down. They seemed to me poor things, yet well
worth trying. We found it possible, on further confabulation, by
the simple aid of a pair of scissors, so to cut each in two that
all trace of Amelia and Isabel was obliterated. Even so, however,
I judged it best to call Charles and Dr. Beddersley to a private
consultation in the library with Dolly, and not to submit the
mutilated photographs to public inspection by their joint subjects.
Here, in fact, we had five patchy portraits of the redoubtable
Colonel, taken at various angles, and in characteristic unstudied
attitudes. A child had outwitted the cleverest sharper in Europe!

The moment Beddersley's eye fell upon them, a curious look came over
his face. "Why, these," he said, "are taken on Herbert Winslow's
method, Miss Lingfield."

"Yes," Dolly admitted timidly. "They are. He's--a friend of mine,
don't you know; and--he gave me some plates that just fitted my
camera."

Beddersley gazed at them steadily. Then he turned to Charles.
"And this young lady," he said, "has quite unintentionally and
unconsciously succeeded in tracking Colonel Clay to earth at last.
They are genuine photographs of the man--as he is--_without_ the
disguises!"

"They look to me most blotchy," Charles murmured. "Great black lines
down the nose, and such spots on the cheek, too!"

"Exactly," Beddersley put in. "Those are _differences in texture_.
They show just how much of the man's face is human flesh--"

"And how much wax," I ventured.

"Not wax," the expert answered, gazing close. "This is some harder
mixture. I should guess, a composition of gutta-percha and
india-rubber, which takes colour well, and hardens when applied,
so as to lie quite evenly, and resist heat or melting. Look here;
that's an artificial scar, filling up a real hollow; and _this_ is
an added bit to the tip of the nose; and _those_ are shadows, due
to inserted cheek-pieces, within the mouth, to make the man look
fatter!"

"Why, of course," Charles cried. "India-rubber it must be. That's
why in France they call him le Colonel Caoutchouc!"

"Can you reconstruct the real face from them?" I inquired anxiously.

Dr. Beddersley gazed hard at them. "Give me an hour or two," he
said--"and a box of water-colours. I _think_ by that time--putting
two and two together--I can eliminate the false and build up for you
a tolerably correct idea of what the actual man himself looks like."

We turned him into the library for a couple of hours, with the
materials he needed; and by tea-time he had completed his first
rough sketch of the elements common to the two faces. He brought
it out to us in the drawing-room. I glanced at it first. It was
a curious countenance, slightly wanting in definiteness, and not
unlike those "composite photographs" which Mr. Galton produces by
exposing two negatives on the same sensitised paper for ten seconds
or so consecutively. Yet it struck me at once as containing
something of Colonel Clay in every one of his many representations.
The little curate, in real life, did not recall the Seer; nor
did Elihu Quackenboss suggest Count von Lebenstein or Professor
Schleiermacher. Yet in this compound face, produced only from
photographs of David Granton and Medhurst, I could distinctly trace
a certain underlying likeness to every one of the forms which the
impostor had assumed for us. In other words, though he could make
up so as to mask the likeness to his other characters, he could not
make up so as to mask the likeness to his own personality. He could
not wholly get rid of his native build and his genuine features.

Besides these striking suggestions of the Seer and the curate,
however, I felt vaguely conscious of having seen and observed
_the man himself_ whom the water-colour represented, at some time,
somewhere. It was not at Nice; it was not at Seldon; it was not at
Meran; it was not in America. I believed I had been in a room with
him somewhere in London.

Charles was looking over my shoulder. He gave a sudden little start.
"Why, I know that fellow!" he cried. "You recollect him, Sey; he's
Finglemore's brother--the chap that didn't go out to China!"

Then I remembered at once where it was that I had seen him--at the
broker's in the city, before we sailed for America.

"What Christian name?" I asked.

Charles reflected a moment. "The same as the one in the note we got
with the dust-coat," he answered, at last. "The man is Paul
Finglemore!"

"You will arrest him?" I asked.

"Can I, on this evidence?"

"We might bring it home to him."

Charles mused for a moment. "We shall have nothing against him,"
he said slowly, "except in so far as we can swear to his identity.
And that may be difficult."

Just at that moment the footman brought in tea. Charles wondered
apparently whether the man, who had been with us at Seldon when
Colonel Clay was David Granton, would recollect the face or
recognise having seen it. "Look here, Dudley," he said, holding
up the water-colour, "do you know that person?"

Dudley gazed at it a moment. "Certainly, sir," he answered briskly.

"Who is it?" Amelia asked. We expected him to answer, "Count von
Lebenstein," or "Mr. Granton," or "Medhurst."

Instead of that, he replied, to our utter surprise, "That's
Césarine's young man, my lady."

"Césarine's young man?" Amelia repeated, taken aback. "Oh, Dudley,
surely, you _must_ be mistaken!"

"No, my lady," Dudley replied, in a tone of conviction. "He comes
to see her quite reg'lar; he have come to see her, off and on,
from time to time, ever since I've been in Sir Charles's service."

"When will he be coming again?" Charles asked, breathless.

"He's downstairs now, sir," Dudley answered, unaware of the
bombshell he was flinging into the midst of a respectable family.

Charles rose excitedly, and put his back against the door. "Secure
that man," he said to me sharply, pointing with his finger.

"_What_ man?" I asked, amazed. "Colonel Clay? The young man who's
downstairs now with Césarine?"

"No," Charles answered, with decision; "Dudley!"

I laid my hand on the footman's shoulder, not understanding what
Charles meant. Dudley, terrified, drew back, and would have rushed
from the room; but Charles, with his back against the door,
prevented him.

"I--I've done nothing to be arrested, Sir Charles," Dudley cried,
in abject terror, looking appealingly at Amelia. "It--it wasn't me
as cheated you." And he certainly didn't look it.

"I daresay not," Charles answered. "But you don't leave this room
till Colonel Clay is in custody. No, Amelia, no; it's no use your
speaking to me. What he says is true. I see it all now. This villain
and Césarine have long been accomplices! The man's downstairs with
her now. If we let Dudley quit the room he'll go down and tell them;
and before we know where we are, that slippery eel will have
wriggled through our fingers, as he always wriggles. He _is_ Paul
Finglemore; he _is_ Césarine's young man; and unless we arrest him
now, without one minute's delay, he'll be off to Madrid or St.
Petersburg by this evening!"

"You are right," I answered. "It is now or never!"

"Dudley," Charles said, in his most authoritative voice, "stop here
till we tell you you may leave the room. Amelia and Dolly, don't let
that man stir from where he's standing. If he does, restrain him.
Seymour and Dr. Beddersley, come down with me to the servants' hall.
I suppose that's where I shall find this person, Dudley?"

"N--no, sir," Dudley stammered out, half beside himself with fright.
"He's in the housekeeper's room, sir!"

We went down to the lower regions in a solid phalanx of three. On
the way we met Simpson, Sir Charles's valet, and also the butler,
whom we pressed into the service. At the door of the housekeeper's
room we paused, strategically. Voices came to us from within; one
was Césarine's, the other had a ring that reminded me at once of
Medhurst and the Seer, of Elihu Quackenboss and Algernon Coleyard.
They were talking together in French; and now and then we caught
the sound of stifled laughter.

We opened the door. "Est-il drôle, donc, ce vieux?" the man's
voice was saying.

"C'est à mourir de rire," Césarine's voice responded.

We burst in upon them, red-handed.

Césarine's young man rose, with his hat in his hand, in a respectful
attitude. It reminded me at once of Medhurst, as he stood talking
his first day at Marvillier's to Charles; and also of the little
curate, in his humblest moments as the disinterested pastor.

With a sign to me to do likewise, Charles laid his hand firmly on
the young man's shoulder. I looked in the fellow's face: there could
be no denying it; Césarine's young man was Paul Finglemore, our
broker's brother.

"Paul Finglemore," Charles said severely, "otherwise Cuthbert Clay,
I arrest you on several charges of theft and conspiracy!"

The young man glanced around him. He was surprised and perturbed;
but, even so, his inexhaustible coolness never once deserted him.
"What, five to one?" he said, counting us over. "Has law and order
come down to this? Five respectable rascals to arrest one poor
beggar of a chevalier d'industrie! Why, it's worse than New York.
_There_, it was only you and me, you know, old Ten per Cent!"

"Hold his hands, Simpson!" Charles cried, trembling lest his enemy
should escape him.

Paul Finglemore drew back even while we held his shoulders. "No,
not _you_, sir," he said to the man, haughtily. "Don't dare to lay
your hands upon me! Send for a constable if you wish, Sir Charles
Vandrift; but I decline to be taken into custody by a valet!"

"Go for a policeman," Dr. Beddersley said to Simpson, standing
forward.

The prisoner eyed him up and down. "Oh, Dr. Beddersley!" he said,
relieved. It was evident he knew him. "If _you've_ tracked me
strictly in accordance with Bertillon's methods, I don't mind so
much. I will not yield to fools; I yield to science. I didn't think
this diamond king had sense enough to apply to you. He's the most
gullible old ass I ever met in my life. But if it's _you_ who have
tracked me down, I can only submit to it."

Charles held to him with a fierce grip. "Mind he doesn't break away,
Sey," he cried. "He's playing his old game! Distrust the man's
patter!"

"Take care," the prisoner put in. "Remember Dr. Polperro! On what
charge do you arrest me?"

Charles was bubbling with indignation. "You cheated me at Nice,"
he said; "at Meran; at New York; at Paris!"

Paul Finglemore shook his head. "Won't do," he answered, calmly. "Be
sure of your ground. Outside the jurisdiction! You can only do that
on an extradition warrant."

"Well, then, at Seldon, in London, in this house, and elsewhere,"
Charles cried out excitedly. "Hold hard to him, Sey; by law or
without it, blessed if he isn't going even now to wriggle away
from us!"

At that moment Simpson returned with a convenient policeman, whom he
had happened to find loitering about near the area steps, and whom I
half suspected from his furtive smile of being a particular
acquaintance of the household.

Charles gave the man in charge formally. Paul Finglemore insisted
that he should specify the nature of the particular accusation.
To my great chagrin, Charles selected from his rogueries, as best
within the jurisdiction of the English courts, the matter of the
payment for the Castle of Lebenstein--made in London, and through
a London banker. "I have a warrant on that ground," he said. I
trembled as he spoke. I felt at once that the episode of the
commission, the exposure of which I dreaded so much, must now
become public.

The policeman took the man in charge. Charles still held to him,
grimly. As they were leaving the room the prisoner turned to
Césarine, and muttered something rapidly under his breath, in
German. "Of which tongue," he said, turning to us blandly, "in spite
of my kind present of a dictionary and grammar, you still doubtless
remain in your pristine ignorance!"

Césarine flung herself upon him with wild devotion. "Oh, Paul,
darling," she cried, in English, "I will not, I will not! I
will never save myself at _your_ expense. If they send you to
prison--Paul, Paul, I will go with you!"

I remembered as she spoke what Mr. Algernon Coleyard had said to us
at the Senator's. "Even the worst of rogues have always some good
in them. I notice they often succeed to the end in retaining the
affection and fidelity of women."

But the man, his hands still free, unwound her clasping arms with
gentle fingers. "My child," he answered, in a soft tone, "I am sorry
to say the law of England will not permit you to go with me. If it
did" (his voice was as the voice of the poet we had met), "'stone
walls would not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.'" And bending
forward, he kissed her forehead tenderly.

We led him out to the door. The policeman, in obedience to Charles's
orders, held him tight with his hand, but steadily refused, as the
prisoner was not violent, to handcuff him. We hailed a passing
hansom. "To Bow Street!" Charles cried, unceremoniously pushing in
policeman and prisoner. The driver nodded. We called a four-wheeler
ourselves, in which my brother-in-law, Dr. Beddersley and myself
took our seats. "Follow the hansom!" Charles cried out. "Don't let
him out of your sight. After him, close, to Bow Street!"

I looked back, and saw Césarine, half fainting, on the front door
steps, while Dolly, bathed in tears, stood supporting the
lady's-maid, and trying to comfort her. It was clear she had not
anticipated this end to the adventure.

"Goodness gracious!" Charles screamed out, in a fresh fever of
alarm, as we turned the first corner; "where's that hansom gone to?
How do I know the fellow was a policeman at all? We should have
taken the man in here. We ought never to have let him get out of
our sight. For all we can tell to the contrary, the constable
himself--may only be one of Colonel Clay's confederates!"

And we drove in trepidation all the way to Bow Street.

XII

THE EPISODE OF THE OLD BAILEY

When we reached Bow Street, we were relieved to find that our
prisoner, after all, had _not_ evaded us. It was a false alarm.
He was there with the policeman, and he kindly allowed us to
make the first formal charge against him.

Of course, on Charles's sworn declaration and my own, the man was
at once remanded, bail being refused, owing both to the serious
nature of the charge and the slippery character of the prisoner's
antecedents. We went back to Mayfair--Charles, well satisfied that
the man he dreaded was under lock and key; myself, not too well
pleased to think that the man I dreaded was no longer at large, and
that the trifling little episode of the ten per cent commission
stood so near discovery.

Next day the police came round in force, and had a long consultation
with Charles and myself. They strongly urged that two other persons
at least should be included in the charge--Césarine and the little
woman whom we had variously known as Madame Picardet, White Heather,
Mrs. David Granton, and Mrs. Elihu Quackenboss. If these accomplices
were arrested, they said, we could include conspiracy as one count
in the indictment, which gave us an extra chance of conviction. Now
they had got Colonel Clay, in fact, they naturally desired to keep
him, and also to indict with him as many as possible of his pals
and confederates.

Here, however, a difficulty arose. Charles called me aside with a
grave face into the library. "Seymour," he said, fixing me, "this
is a serious business. I will not lightly swear away any woman's
character. Colonel Clay himself--or, rather, Paul Finglemore--is an
abandoned rogue, whom I do not desire to screen in any degree. But
poor little Madame Picardet--she may be his lawful wife, and she
may have acted implicitly under his orders. Besides, I don't know
whether I could swear to her identity. Here's the photograph the
police bring of the woman they believe to be Colonel Clay's chief
female accomplice. Now, I ask you, does it in the least degree
resemble that clever and amusing and charming little creature,
who has so often deceived us?"

In spite of Charles's gibes, I flatter myself I do really understand
the whole duty of a secretary. It was clear from his voice he did
not _wish_ me to recognise her; which, as it happened, I did not.
"Certainly, it doesn't resemble her, Charles," I answered, with
conviction in my voice. "I should never have known her." But I did
not add that I should no more have known Colonel Clay himself in
his character of Paul Finglemore, or of Césarine's young man, as
_that_ remark lay clearly outside my secretarial functions.

Still, it flitted across my mind at the time that the Seer had made
some casual remarks at Nice about a letter in Charles's pocket,
presumably from Madame Picardet; and I reflected further that Madame
Picardet in turn might possibly hold certain answers of Charles's,
couched in such terms as he might reasonably desire to conceal from
Amelia. Indeed, I must allow that under whatever disguise White
Heather appeared to us, Charles was always that disguise's devoted
slave from the first moment he met it. It occurred to me, therefore,
that the clever little woman--call her what you will--might be the
holder of more than one indiscreet communication.

"Under these circumstances," Charles went on, in his austerest
voice, "I cannot consent to be a party to the arrest of White
Heather. I--I decline to identify her. In point of fact"--he grew
more emphatic as he went on--"I don't think there is an atom of
evidence of any sort against her. Not," he continued, after a
pause, "that I wish in any degree to screen the guilty. Césarine,
now--Césarine we have liked and trusted. She has betrayed our trust.
She has sold us to this fellow. I have no doubt at all that she
gave him the diamonds from Amelia's rivière; that she took us by
arrangement to meet him at Schloss Lebenstein; that she opened and
sent to him my letter to Lord Craig-Ellachie. Therefore, I say, we
_ought_ to arrest Césarine. But not White Heather--not Jessie; not
that pretty Mrs. Quackenboss. Let the guilty suffer; why strike at
the innocent--or, at worst, the misguided?"

"Charles," I exclaimed, with warmth, "your sentiments do you honour.
You are a man of feeling. And White Heather, I allow, is pretty
enough and clever enough to be forgiven anything. You may rely upon
my discretion. I will swear through thick and thin that I do not
recognise this woman as Madame Picardet."

Charles clasped my hand in silence. "Seymour," he said, after
a pause, with marked emotion, "I felt sure I could rely upon
your--er--honour and integrity. I have been rough upon you
sometimes. But I ask your forgiveness. I see you understand the
whole duties of your position."

We went out again, better friends than we had been for months.
I hoped, indeed, this pleasant little incident might help to
neutralise the possible ill-effects of the ten per cent disclosure,
should Finglemore take it into his head to betray me to my employer.
As we emerged into the drawing-room, Amelia beckoned me aside
towards her boudoir for a moment.

"Seymour," she said to me, in a distinctly frightened tone, "I have
treated you harshly at times, I know, and I am very sorry for it.
But I want you to help me in a most painful difficulty. The police
are quite right as to the charge of conspiracy; that designing
little minx, White Heather, or Mrs. David Granton, or whatever else
we're to call her, ought certainly to be prosecuted--and sent to
prison, too--and have her absurd head of hair cut short and combed
straight for her. But--and you will help me here, I'm sure, dear
Seymour--I _cannot_ allow them to arrest my Césarine. I don't pretend
to say Césarine isn't guilty; the girl has behaved most ungratefully
to me. She has robbed me right and left, and deceived me without
compunction. Still--I put it to you as a married man--_can_ any woman
afford to go into the witness-box, to be cross-examined and teased
by her own maid, or by a brute of a barrister on her maid's
information? I assure you, Seymour, the thing's not to be dreamt of.
There are details of a lady's life--known only to her maid--which
_cannot_ be made public. Explain as much of this as you think well to
Charles, and _make_ him understand that _if_ he insists upon arresting
Césarine, I shall go into the box--and swear my head off to prevent
any one of the gang from being convicted. I have told Césarine as
much; I have promised to help her: I have explained that I am her
friend, and that if _she'll_ stand by _me_, _I'll_ stand by _her_,
and by this hateful young man of hers."

I saw in a moment how things went. Neither Charles nor Amelia could
face cross-examination on the subject of one of Colonel Clay's
accomplices. No doubt, in Amelia's case, it was merely a question
of rouge and hair-dye; but what woman would not sooner confess to
a forgery or a murder than to those toilet secrets?

I returned to Charles, therefore, and spent half an hour in
composing, as well as I might, these little domestic difficulties.
In the end, it was arranged that if Charles did his best to protect
Césarine from arrest, Amelia would consent to do her best in return
on behalf of Madame Picardet.

We had next the police to tackle--a more difficult business. Still,
even _they_ were reasonable. They had caught Colonel Clay, they
believed, but their chance of convicting him depended entirely upon
Charles's identification, with mine to back it. The more they urged
the necessity of arresting the female confederates, however, the
more stoutly did Charles declare that for his part he could by no
means make sure of Colonel Clay himself, while he utterly declined
to give evidence of any sort against either of the women. It was a
difficult case, he said, and he felt far from confident even about
the man. If _his_ decision faltered, and he failed to identify, the
case was closed; no jury could convict with nothing to convict upon.

At last the police gave way. No other course was open to them. They
had made an important capture; but they saw that everything depended
upon securing their witnesses, and the witnesses, if interfered
with, were likely to swear to absolutely nothing.

Indeed, as it turned out, before the preliminary investigation at
Bow Street was completed (with the usual remands), Charles had been
thrown into such a state of agitation that he wished he had never
caught the Colonel at all.

"I wonder, Sey," he said to me, "why I didn't offer the rascal two
thousand a year to go right off to Australia, and be rid of him for
ever! It would have been cheaper for my reputation than keeping him
about in courts of law in England. The worst of it is, when once the
best of men gets into a witness-box, there's no saying with what
shreds and tatters of a character he may at last come out of it!"

"In _your_ case, Charles," I answered, dutifully, "there can be
no such doubt; except, perhaps, as regards the Craig-Ellachie
Consolidated."

Then came the endless bother of "getting up the case" with the
police and the lawyers. Charles would have retired from it
altogether by that time, but, most unfortunately, he was bound
over to prosecute. "You couldn't take a lump sum to let me off?"
he said, jokingly, to the inspector. But I knew in my heart it was
one of the "true words spoken in jest" that the proverb tells of.

Of course we could see now the whole building-up of the great
intrigue. It had been worked out as carefully as the Tichborne
swindle. Young Finglemore, as the brother of Charles's broker,
knew from the outset all about his affairs; and, after a gentle
course of preliminary roguery, he laid his plans deep for a campaign
against my brother-in-law. Everything had been deliberately
designed beforehand. A place had been found for Césarine as Amelia's
maid--needless to say, by means of forged testimonials. Through her
aid the swindler had succeeded in learning still more of the family
ways and habits, and had acquired a knowledge of certain facts which
he proceeded forthwith to use against us. His first attack, as the
Seer, had been cleverly designed so as to give us the idea that we
were a mere casual prey; and it did not escape Charles's notice now
that the detail of getting Madame Picardet to inquire at the Crédit
Marseillais about his bank had been solemnly gone through on purpose
to blind us to the obvious truth that Colonel Clay was already in
full possession of all such facts about us. It was by Césarine's
aid, again, that he became possessed of Amelia's diamonds, that
he received the letter addressed to Lord Craig-Ellachie, and
that he managed to dupe us over the Schloss Lebenstein business.
Nevertheless, all these things Charles determined to conceal in
court; he did not give the police a single fact that would turn
against either Césarine or Madame Picardet.

As for Césarine, of course, she left the house immediately after the
arrest of the Colonel, and we heard of her no more till the day of
the trial.

When that great day came, I never saw a more striking sight than the
Old Bailey presented. It was crammed to overflowing. Charles arrived
early, accompanied by his solicitor. He was so white and troubled
that he looked much more like prisoner than prosecutor. Outside the
court a pretty little woman stood, pale and anxious. A respectful
crowd stared at her silently. "Who is that?" Charles asked. Though
we could both of us guess, rather than see, it was White Heather.

"That's the prisoner's wife," the inspector on duty replied. "She's
waiting to see him enter. I'm sorry for her, poor thing. She's a
perfect lady."

"So she seems," Charles answered, scarcely daring to face her.

At that moment she turned. Her eyes fell upon his. Charles paused
for a second and looked faltering. There was in those eyes just the
faintest gleam of pleading recognition, but not a trace of the old
saucy, defiant vivacity. Charles framed his lips to words, but
without uttering a sound. Unless I greatly mistake, the words he
framed on his lips were these: "I will do my best for him."

We pushed our way in, assisted by the police. Inside the court we
saw a lady seated, in a quiet black dress, with a becoming bonnet.
A moment passed before I knew--it was Césarine. "Who is--that
person?" Charles asked once more of the nearest inspector, desiring
to see in what way he would describe her.

And once more the answer came, "That's the prisoner's wife, sir."

Charles started back, surprised. "But--I was told--a lady outside
was Mrs. Paul Finglemore," he broke in, much puzzled.

"Very likely," the inspector replied, unmoved. "We have plenty that
way. _When_ a gentleman has as many aliases as Colonel Clay, you can
hardly expect him to be over particular about having only _one_ wife
between them, can you?"

"Ah, I see," Charles muttered, in a shocked voice. "Bigamy!"

The inspector looked stony. "Well, not exactly that," he replied,
"occasional marriage."

Mr. Justice Rhadamanth tried the case. "I'm sorry it's him, Sey,"
my brother-in-law whispered in my ear. (He said _him_, not _he_,
because, whatever else Charles is, he is _not_ a pedant; the English
language as it is spoken by most educated men is quite good enough
for his purpose.) "I only wish it had been Sir Edward Easy. Easy's a
man of the world, and a man of society; he would feel for a person
in _my_ position. He wouldn't allow these beasts of lawyers to
badger and pester me. He would back his order. But Rhadamanth is one
of your modern sort of judges, who make a merit of being what they
call 'conscientious,' and won't hush up anything. I admit I'm afraid
of him. I shall be glad when it's over."

"Oh, _you'll_ pull through all right," I said in my capacity of
secretary. But I didn't think it.

The judge took his seat. The prisoner was brought in. Every eye
seemed bent upon him. He was neatly and plainly dressed, and,
rogue though he was, I must honestly confess he looked at least a
gentleman. His manner was defiant, not abject like Charles's. He
knew he was at bay, and he turned like a man to face his accusers.

We had two or three counts on the charge, and, after some formal
business, Sir Charles Vandrift was put into the box to bear witness
against Finglemore.

Prisoner was unrepresented. Counsel had been offered him, but he
refused their aid. The judge even advised him to accept their help;
but Colonel Clay, as we all called him mentally still, declined to
avail himself of the judge's suggestion.

"I am a barrister myself, my lord," he said--"called some nine years
ago. I can conduct my own defence, I venture to think, better than
any of these my learned brethren."

Charles went through his examination-in-chief quite swimmingly.
He answered with promptitude. He identified the prisoner without
the slightest hesitation as the man who had swindled him under
the various disguises of the Reverend Richard Peploe Brabazon,
the Honourable David Granton, Count von Lebenstein, Professor
Schleiermacher, Dr. Quackenboss, and others. He had not the
slightest doubt of the man's identity. He could swear to him
anywhere. I thought, for my own part, he was a trifle too cocksure.
A certain amount of hesitation would have been better policy. As
to the various swindles, he detailed them in full, his evidence to
be supplemented by that of bank officials and other subordinates.
In short, he left Finglemore not a leg to stand upon.

When it came to the cross-examination, however, matters began
to assume quite a different complexion. The prisoner set out by
questioning Sir Charles's identifications. Was he sure of his man?
He handed Charles a photograph. "Is that the person who represented
himself as the Reverend Richard Peploe Brabazon?" he asked
persuasively.

Charles admitted it without a moment's delay.

Just at that moment, a little parson, whom I had not noticed till
then, rose up, unobtrusively, near the middle of the court, where
he was seated beside Césarine.

"Look at that gentleman!" the prisoner said, waving one hand, and
pouncing upon the prosecutor.

Charles turned and looked at the person indicated. His face grew
still whiter. It was--to all outer appearance--the Reverend Richard
Brabazon in propriâ personâ.

Of course I saw the trick. This was the real parson upon whose outer
man Colonel Clay had modelled his little curate. But the jury was
shaken. And so was Charles for a moment.

"Let the jurors see the photograph," the judge said, authoritatively.
It was passed round the jury-box, and the judge also examined it.
We could see at once, by their faces and attitudes, they all
recognised it as the portrait of the clergyman before them--not
of the prisoner in the dock, who stood there smiling blandly at
Charles's discomfiture.

The clergyman sat down. At the same moment the prisoner produced a
second photograph.

"Now, can you tell me who _that_ is?" he asked Charles, in the regular
brow-beating Old Bailey voice.

With somewhat more hesitation, Charles answered, after a pause:
"That is yourself as you appeared in London when you came in the
disguise of the Graf von Lebenstein."

This was a crucial point, for the Lebenstein fraud was the one count
on which our lawyers relied to prove their case most fully, within
the jurisdiction.

Even while Charles spoke, a gentleman whom I had noticed before,
sitting beside White Heather, with a handkerchief to his face,
rose as abruptly as the parson. Colonel Clay indicated him with
a graceful movement of his hand. "And _this_ gentleman?" he asked
calmly.

Charles was fairly staggered. It was the obvious original of the
false Von Lebenstein.

The photograph went round the box once more. The jury smiled
incredulously. Charles had given himself away. His overweening
confidence and certainty had ruined him.

Then Colonel Clay, leaning forward, and looking quite engaging,
began a new line of cross-examination. "We have seen, Sir Charles,"
he said, "that we cannot implicitly trust your identifications. Now
let us see how far we can trust your other evidence. First, then,
about those diamonds. You tried to buy them, did you not, from a
person who represented himself as the Reverend Richard Brabazon,
because you believed he thought they were paste; and if you could,
you would have given him 10 pounds or so for them. _Do_ you think
that was honest?"

"I object to this line of cross-examination," our leading counsel
interposed. "It does not bear on the prosecutor's evidence. It is
purely recriminatory."

Colonel Clay was all bland deference. "I wish, my lord," he said,
turning round, "to show that the prosecutor is a person unworthy of
credence in any way. I desire to proceed upon the well-known legal
maxim of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. I believe I am permitted
to shake the witness's credit?"

"The prisoner is entirely within his rights," Rhadamanth answered,
looking severely at Charles. "And I was wrong in suggesting that
he needed the advice or assistance of counsel."

Charles wriggled visibly. Colonel Clay perked up. Bit by bit, with
dexterous questions, Charles was made to acknowledge that he wanted
to buy diamonds at the price of paste, knowing them to be real; and,
a millionaire himself, would gladly have diddled a poor curate out
of a couple of thousand.

"I was entitled to take advantage of my special knowledge," Charles
murmured feebly.

"Oh, certainly," the prisoner answered. "But, while professing
friendship and affection for a clergyman and his wife, in straitened
circumstances, you were prepared, it seems, to take three thousand
pounds' worth of goods off their hands for ten pounds, if you could
have got them at that price. Is not that so?"

Charles was compelled to admit it.

The prisoner went onto the David Granton incident. "When you offered
to amalgamate with Lord Craig-Ellachie," he asked, "had you or
had you not heard that a gold-bearing reef ran straight from your
concession into Lord Craig-Ellachie's, and that his portion of the
reef was by far the larger and more important?"

Charles wriggled again, and our counsel interposed; but Rhadamanth
was adamant. Charles had to allow it.

And so, too, with the incident of the Slump in Golcondas.
Unwillingly, shamefacedly, by torturing steps, Charles was compelled
to confess that he had sold out Golcondas--he, the Chairman of the
company, after repeated declarations to shareholders and others
that he would do no such thing--because he thought Professor
Schleiermacher had made diamonds worthless. He had endeavoured to
save himself by ruining his company. Charles tried to brazen it out
with remarks to the effect that business was business. "And fraud is
fraud," Rhadamanth added, in his pungent way.

"A man must protect himself," Charles burst out.

"At the expense of those who have put their trust in his honour and
integrity," the judge commented coldly.

After four mortal hours of it, all to the same effect, my respected
brother-in-law left the witness-box at last, wiping his brow and
biting his lip, with the very air of a culprit. His character had
received a most serious blow. While he stood in the witness-box all
the world had felt it was _he_ who was the accused and Colonel Clay
who was the prosecutor. He was convicted on his own evidence of
having tried to induce the supposed David Granton to sell his
father's interests into an enemy's hands, and of every other shady
trick into which his well-known business acuteness had unfortunately
hurried him during the course of his adventures. I had but one
consolation in my brother-in-law's misfortunes--and that was the
thought that a due sense of his own shortcomings might possibly make
him more lenient in the end to the trivial misdemeanours of a poor
beggar of a secretary!

_I_ was the next in the box. I do not desire to enlarge upon my own
achievements. I will draw a decent veil, indeed, over the painful
scene that ensued when I finished my evidence. I can only say I was
more cautious than Charles in my recognition of the photographs;
but I found myself particularly worried and harried over other
parts of my cross-examination. Especially was I shaken about that
misguided step I took in the matter of the cheque for the Lebenstein
commission--a cheque which Colonel Clay handed to me with the utmost
politeness, requesting to know whether or not it bore my signature.
I caught Charles's eye at the end of the episode, and I venture to
say the expression it wore was one of relief that I too had tripped
over a trifling question of ten per cent on the purchase money of
the castle.

Altogether, I must admit, if it had not been for the police
evidence, we would have failed to make a case against our man
at all. But the police, I confess, had got up their part of the
prosecution admirably. Now that they knew Colonel Clay to be
really Paul Finglemore, they showed with great cleverness how Paul
Finglemore's disappearances and reappearances in London exactly
tallied with Colonel Clay's appearances and disappearances
elsewhere, under the guise of the little curate, the Seer,
David Granton, and the rest of them. Furthermore, they showed
experimentally how the prisoner at the bar might have got himself
up in the various characters; and, by means of a wax bust, modelled
by Dr. Beddersley from observations at Bow Street, and aided by
additions in the gutta-percha composition after Dolly Lingfield's
photographs, they succeeded in proving that the face as it stood
could be readily transformed into the faces of Medhurst and David
Granton. Altogether, their cleverness and trained acumen made up
on the whole for Charles's over-certainty, and they succeeded in
putting before the jury a strong case of their own against Paul
Finglemore.

The trial occupied three days. After the first of the three, my
respected brother-in-law preferred, as he said, not to prejudice the
case against the prisoner by appearing in court again. He did not
even allude to the little matter of the ten per cent commission
further than to say at dinner that evening that all men were bound
to protect their own interests--as secretaries or as principals.
This I took for forgiveness; and I continued diligently to attend
the trial, and watch the case in my employer's interest.

The defence was ingenious, even if somewhat halting. It consisted
simply of an attempt to prove throughout that Charles and I had made
our prisoner the victim of a mistaken identity. Finglemore put into
the box the ingenuous original of the little curate--the Reverend
Septimus Porkington, as it turned out, a friend of his family; and
he showed that it was the Reverend Septimus himself who had sat to
a photographer in Baker Street for the portrait which Charles too
hastily identified as that of Colonel Clay in his personification of
Mr. Richard Brabazon. He further elicited the fact that the portrait
of the Count von Lebenstein was really taken from Dr. Julius Keppel,
a Tyrolese music-master, residing at Balham, whom he put into the
box, and who was well known, as it chanced, to the foreman of the
jury. Gradually he made it clear to us that no portraits existed of
Colonel Clay at all, except Dolly Lingfield's--so it dawned upon
me by degrees that even Dr. Beddersley could only have been misled
if we had succeeded in finding for him the alleged photographs of
Colonel Clay as the count and the curate, which had been shown us
by Medhurst. Altogether, the prisoner based his defence upon the
fact that no more than two witnesses directly identified him; while
one of those two had positively sworn that he recognised as the
prisoner's two portraits which turned out, by independent evidence,
to be taken from other people!

The judge summed up in a caustic way which was pleasant to neither
party. He asked the jury to dismiss from their minds entirely the
impression created by what he frankly described as "Sir Charles
Vandrift's obvious dishonesty." They must not allow the fact that he
was a millionaire--and a particularly shady one--to prejudice their
feelings in favour of the prisoner. Even the richest--and vilest--of
men must be protected. Besides, this was a public question. If a
rogue cheated a rogue, he must still be punished. If a murderer
stabbed or shot a murderer, he must still be hung for it. Society
must see that the worst of thieves were not preyed upon by others.
Therefore, the proved facts that Sir Charles Vandrift, with all his
millions, had meanly tried to cheat the prisoner, or some other poor
person, out of valuable diamonds--had basely tried to juggle Lord
Craig-Ellachie's mines into his own hands--had vilely tried to bribe
a son to betray his father--had directly tried, by underhand means,
to save his own money, at the risk of destroying the wealth of
others who trusted to his probity--these proved facts must not
blind them to the truth that the prisoner at the bar (if he were
really Colonel Clay) was an abandoned swindler. To that point alone
they must confine their attention; and _if_ they were convinced that
the prisoner was shown to be the self-same man who appeared on
various occasions as David Granton, as Von Lebenstein, as Medhurst,
as Schleiermacher, they must find him guilty.

As to that point, also, the judge commented on the obvious strength
of the police case, and the fact that the prisoner had not attempted
in any one out of so many instances to prove an alibi. Surely, if
he were _not_ Colonel Clay, the jury should ask themselves, must it
not have been simple and easy for him to do so? Finally, the judge
summed up all the elements of doubt in the identification--and all
the elements of probability; and left it to the jury to draw their
own conclusions.

They retired at the end to consider their verdict. While they were
absent every eye in court was fixed on the prisoner. But Paul
Finglemore himself looked steadily towards the further end of the
hall, where two pale-faced women sat together, with handkerchiefs
in their hands, and eyes red with weeping.

Only then, as he stood there, awaiting the verdict, with a fixed
white face, prepared for everything, did I begin to realise with
what courage and pluck that one lone man had sustained so long an
unequal contest against wealth, authority, and all the Governments
of Europe, aided but by his own skill and two feeble women! Only
then did I feel he had played his reckless game through all those
years with _this_ ever before him! I found it hard to picture.

The jury filed slowly back. There was dead silence in court as the
clerk put the question, "Do you find the prisoner at the bar guilty
or not guilty?"

"We find him guilty."

"On all the counts?"

"On all the counts of the indictment."

The women at the back burst into tears, unanimously.

Mr. Justice Rhadamanth addressed the prisoner. "Have you anything
to urge," he asked in a very stern tone, "in mitigation of whatever
sentence the Court may see fit to pass upon you?"

"Nothing," the prisoner answered, just faltering slightly. "I have
brought it upon myself--but--I have protected the lives of those
nearest and dearest to me. I have fought hard for my own hand. I
admit my crime, and will face my punishment. I only regret that,
since we were both of us rogues--myself and the prosecutor--the
lesser rogue should have stood here in the dock, and the greater in
the witness-box. Our country takes care to decorate each according
to his deserts--to him, the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St.
George; to me, the Broad Arrow!"

The judge gazed at him severely. "Paul Finglemore," he said, passing
sentence in his sardonic way, "you have chosen to dedicate to the
service of fraud abilities and attainments which, if turned from the
outset into a legitimate channel, would no doubt have sufficed to
secure you without excessive effort a subsistence one degree above
starvation--possibly even, with good luck, a sordid and squalid
competence. You have preferred to embark them on a lawless life of
vice and crime--and I will not deny that you seem to have had a good
run for your money. Society, however, whose mouthpiece I am, cannot
allow you any longer to mock it with impunity. You have broken its
laws openly, and you have been found out." He assumed the tone of
bland condescension which always heralds his severest moments. "I
sentence you to Fourteen Years' Imprisonment, with Hard Labour."

The prisoner bowed, without losing his apparent composure. But his
eyes strayed away again to the far end of the hall, where the two
weeping women, with a sudden sharp cry, fell at once in a faint on
one another's shoulders, and were with difficulty removed from court
by the ushers.

As we left the room, I heard but one comment all round, thus voiced
by a school-boy: "I'd a jolly sight rather it had been old Vandrift.
This Clay chap's too clever by half to waste on a prison!"

But he went there, none the less--in that "cool sequestered vale
of life" to recover equilibrium; though I myself half regretted it.

I will add but one more little parting episode.

When all was over, Charles rushed off to Cannes, to get away from
the impertinent stare of London. Amelia and Isabel and I went with
him. We were driving one afternoon on the hills beyond the town,
among the myrtle and lentisk scrub, when we noticed in front of us
a nice victoria, containing two ladies in very deep mourning. We
followed it, unintentionally, as far as Le Grand Pin--that big pine
tree that looks across the bay towards Antibes. There, the ladies
descended and sat down on a knoll, gazing out disconsolately towards
the sea and the islands. It was evident they were suffering very
deep grief. Their faces were pale and their eyes bloodshot. "Poor
things!" Amelia said. Then her tone altered suddenly.

"Why, good gracious," she cried, "if it isn't Césarine!"

So it was--with White Heather!

Charles got down and drew near them. "I beg your pardon," he said,
raising his hat, and addressing Madame Picardet: "I believe I have
had the pleasure of meeting you. And since I have doubtless paid in
the end for your victoria, _may_ I venture to inquire for whom you
are in mourning?"

White Heather drew back, sobbing; but Césarine turned to him, fiery
red, with the mien of a lady. "For _him_!" she answered; "for Paul!
for our king, whom _you_ have imprisoned! As long as _he_ remains
there, we have both of us decided to wear mourning for ever!"

Charles raised his hat again, and drew back without one word.
He waved his hand to Amelia and walked home with me to Cannes.
He seemed deeply dejected.

"A penny for your thoughts!" I exclaimed, at last, in a jocular
tone, trying feebly to rouse him.

He turned to me, and sighed. "I was wondering," he answered, "if
_I_ had gone to prison, would Amelia and Isabel have done as much
for me?"

For myself, I did _not_ wonder. I knew pretty well. For Charles, you
will admit, though the bigger rogue of the two, is scarcely the kind
of rogue to inspire a woman with profound affection.

THE END

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