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The Profiteers by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 4 out of 4

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Dredlinton stared at his visitor. Symptoms of panic were beginning to
reassert themselves.

"You admit, then, that you were concerned in that?"

"Concerned in it?" Wingate repeated. "I think I can venture a little
further than that."

"What do you mean?" was the startled query.

"I mean that I was and am entirely responsible for it."

Dredlinton's cigar fell from his fingers. For the moment he forgot to
pick it up. Then he stooped and with shaking fingers threw it into the
grate. When he confronted Wingate again, his face was deadly pale. He
seemed, indeed, on the point of collapse.

"Why have you done this?" he faltered. "Tell me what you mean, man, when
you say that you were responsible for his disappearance?"

"You are curious? Perhaps a little superstitious, a little nervous about
yourself, eh?"

"What the devil have you done with Stanley Rees?" Dredlinton demanded.

Wingate smiled.

"Rees," he said, "as I reminded you, is the youngest of the British and
Imperial directors. Let me see, next to him would come Phipps, I suppose.
Martin, as you may have heard, left for Paris this morning--ostensibly. I
have an idea myself that his destination is South America."

"Martin gone?" the other gasped.

"Without a doubt. I think he saw trouble ahead. By the by, have you heard
anything of Phipps lately? Why not ring up and enquire about his health?"

Dredlinton stared a little wildly at the speaker. Then he hurried to the
telephone, snatched up the receiver and talked into it, his eyes all the
time fixed upon Wingate in a sort of frightened stare.

"Mayfair 365," he demanded. "Quick, please! An urgent call! Yes? Who's
that? Yes, yes! Browning--Mr. Phipps' secretary. I understand. Where's
Mr. Phipps?--_What_?"

Dredlinton drew away from the telephone for a moment. He dabbed his
forehead with his handkerchief. He looked like a man on the verge
of collapse.

"Something unusual seems to have happened," Wingate remarked softly.

Dredlinton was listening once more to the voice at the other end of the

"You've tried his club? Eh? And the restaurant where he was to have
dined? What do you say? Kept them waiting and never turned up? You've
rung up the police?--What do they say?--Doing their best?--My God!"

The receiver slipped from his nerveless fingers. He turned around to face
Wingate, crouching over the table, his arms resting upon it, his eyes
blood-shot, a slave to abject fear.

"Peter Phipps has disappeared!" he gasped weakly.

The atmosphere of the room seemed to have completely changed during the
last few minutes. Wingate was no longer the conventional and casual
caller. His face had hardened, his eyes were brighter, his manner
ominous. He was the modern figure of Fate, playing for a desperate stake
with cold and deadly earnestness. Dredlinton was simply panic-stricken.
He was white to the lips; his eyes were filled with the frightened gleam
of the trapped animal; he shook and twitched in a paroxysm of nervous
collapse. He seemed terrified yet fascinated by the strange metamorphosis
in his visitor.

"This is your doing?" he cried.

"It is my doing," Wingate admitted, with his eyes still fixed upon the
other's face.

Dredlinton stumbled to the fireplace, found the bell and pressed it
violently. A gleam of reassurance came to him.

"My servants shall hear you repeat that!" he exclaimed. "I will have them
all in to witness your confession. You are pleading guilty to a crime! I
shall send out for the police! I shall hand you over from here!"

"Not a bad idea," Wingate acknowledged. "By the by, though," he added, a
moment or two later, "your servants don't seem in a great hurry to answer
that bell."

Dredlinton pressed it more violently than ever. By listening intently
both men could hear its faraway summons. But nothing happened. The house
itself seemed empty. There was not even the sound of a footfall.

"You will really have to change your servants," Wingate continued. "Fancy
not answering a bell! They must hear it pealing away. Still, you have the
telephone. Why not ring up Scotland Yard direct?"

Dredlinton, dazed now with terror, took his fingers from the bell and
snatched up the telephone receiver. All the time his eyes were riveted
upon his companion's, their weak depths filled with a nameless horror.

"Quick!" he shouted down the receiver. "Scotland Yard! Put me straight
through to Scotland Yard!--Can you hear me, Exchange? I am Lord
Dredlinton, 1887 Mayfair. If I am cut off, ring through to Scotland
Yard yourself. Tell them I am in danger of my life! Tell them to rush
here at once!"

"Yes, they had better hurry," Wingate said tersely.

Dredlinton pulled down the hook of the receiver desperately.

"Can't you hear me, Exchange?" he shouted. "Quick! This is urgent!"

"Really," Wingate remarked, "the telephone people seem almost as
negligent as your servants."

The receiver slipped from the hysterical man's fingers. He collapsed into
a chair and leaned across the table.

"What does it mean?" he demanded hoarsely. "No one will answer the bell.
I seem to be speaking through the telephone to a dead world."

"If you really want some one, I dare say I can help you," Wingate
replied. "The telephone was disconnected by my orders, as soon as you had
spoken to Phipps' rooms. But--now you are only wasting your time."

Dredlinton had rushed to the door, shaken the handle violently, only to
find it locked. He pommelled with his fists upon the panels.

"Come, come," his companion expostulated, "there is really no need for
such extremes. You want something, perhaps? Allow me."

Wingate crossed the room, rang the bell three times quickly, and stood in
an easy attitude upon the hearth rug, with his hands behind his back.

"Let us see," he said, "whether that has any effect or not."

"Is this your house or mine?" Dredlinton demanded.

"Your house," was the laconic reply, "but my servants."

From outside was heard the sound of a turning key. The door was opened.
Grant, the new butler, made his appearance,--a thin, determined-looking
man, with white hair and keen dark eyes, who bore a striking resemblance
to Mr. Andrew Slate.

"His lordship wants the whisky and soda brought in here, Grant," Wingate
told him, "and--wait just a moment.--You seem very much distressed about
the disappearance of your friends, Lord Dredlinton. Would you like to
see them?"

"What? See Stanley Rees and Peter Phipps now?"


"You are talking nonsense!" Dredlinton shouted. "You may know where they
are--I should think it is very likely that you do--but you aren't going
to persuade me that you've got them here in my house--that you can turn
them loose when you choose to say the word!"

Wingate glanced across at the butler, who nodded understandingly and
withdrew. Dredlinton intercepted the look and shook his fist.

"You've been tampering with my servants, damn you!" he exclaimed.

"Well, they haven't been yours very long, have they?" Wingate
reminded him.

"So this is all part of a plot!" Dredlinton continued, with increasing
apprehension. "They are in your pay, are they? It was only this morning I
noticed all these new faces around me.--God help us!"

The words seemed to melt away from his lips. The door had been flung
open, and a queer little procession entered. First of all came Grant,
followed by a footman leading Peter Phipps by the arm. Phipps' hands were
tied together. A gag in the form of a respirator covered his mouth. Cords
which had apparently only just been unknotted were around each leg. He
had the expression, of a man completely dazed. After him came another of
the footmen leading Stanley Rees, who was in similar straits. The latter,
however, perhaps by reason of his longer detention, showed none of the
passivity of his companion. He struggled violently, even in the few yards
between the door and the centre of the room, Wingate motioned to a third
footman, who had followed behind.

"Pull out that round table," he directed. "Place three chairs around
it.--So!--Sit down, Phipps. Sit down, Rees."

They obeyed, Rees only after a further useless struggle. Dredlinton, who
had been speechless for the last few seconds, gazed with horror-stricken
eyes at the third chair. Wingate smiled at him grimly.

"That third chair, Dredlinton," he announced, "is for you."

The terrified man made an ineffectual dash for the door.

"You mean to make a prisoner of me in my own house?" he shouted, as he
found himself in the clutches of one of the footmen. "What fool's game
is this? You know you can't keep it up, Wingate. You'll be transported,
man. Come, confess it's a joke. Tell that man to take these damned
cords away."

"It is a joke," Wingate assured him gravely, "but it may need a very
peculiar sense of humour to appreciate it. However, you need not fear.
Your life is not threatened.--Now, Dickenson, the loaf."

The third man stepped back to the door and, from the hands of another
servant who was waiting there, took an ordinary cottage loaf of bread.
The three men now were seated around the table, bound to their chairs and
gagged. In the middle of the table, just beyond their reach, Wingate,
leaning over them, placed the loaf of bread.

"I am now," he announced, standing a little back, "going to tell Grant to
release your gags. You will probably all try shouting. I can assure you
that it is quite hopeless. This room looks out, as you know, upon a
courtyard. The street is on the other side of the house. Every person
under this roof is in my employ. There is no earthly chance of your being
heard by any one. Still, if it pleases you to shout, shout!--Now, Grant!"

The man unfastened the gags,--first Phipps', then Rees', and finally
Dredlinton's. Curiously enough, not one of the three men raised their
voices. Wingate's words seemed to have impressed them. Phipps drew one
or two deep breaths, Stanley Rees rubbed his mouth on his sleeve.
Dredlinton was the only one who broke into anything approaching
violent speech.

"My God, Wingate," he exclaimed, "if you think I'll ever forget this,
you're mistaken! I'll see you in prison for it, whatever it costs me!"

"The after-consequences of this little melodrama," Phipps interposed,
with grim fury, "certainly present something of a problem, I have
wondered, during the last hour or so, whether you can be perfectly sane,
Wingate. What good can you expect to do by this brigandage?"

"The very word 'brigandage'," Wingate observed, with a smile, "suggests
my answer--ransom."

"But you can't want money?" Phipps protested.

"You know what I want," was the stern rejoinder. "You and I have already
discussed it when you came to see me about that young man."

Phipps laughed uneasily.

"I remember some preposterous suggestion about selling wheat," he
admitted. "If you think, however, that you can alter our entire business
principles by a piece of foolery like this, you are making the mistake of
your life."

"We are wasting time," Wingate declared a little shortly. "It is better
that we have a complete understanding. Get this into your head," he went
on, drawing a long, ugly-looking pistol from his trousers pocket, and
displaying it. "This is the finest automatic pistol in the world, and I
am one of the best marksmen in the American Army. I shall leave you, for
the present, ungagged, but if rescue comes to you by any efforts of your
own, I give you my word of honour as an American gentleman that I shall
shoot the three of you and be proud of my night's work."

"And swing for it afterwards," Dredlinton threatened. "The man's mad!"

"The man is in earnest," Phipps growled. "That much, at least, I think we
can grant him. What is the meaning of that piece of mummery, Wingate?" he
added, pointing to the loaf of bread. "What are your terms? You must
state them, sooner or later. Let us have them now."

"Agreed," Wingate replied. "The costs of that loaf is, I believe, to be
exact, one and tenpence ha'penny--one and tenpence ha'penny to poor
people whose staple food it is. When you sign an authority to sell wheat
in sufficient bulk to bring the cost down to sixpence, you can have the
loaf and go as soon as the sale is finished. You will find here," he went
on, laying a document upon the table, "a calculation which may help you.
Your approximate holdings of wheat may be exaggerated a trifle, although
these lists came from some one in your own office, but I think you will
find that the figures there will be of assistance to you when you decide
to give the word."

"Let me get this clearly into my head," Phipps begged, after a moment's
amazed silence, "without the possibility of any mistake. You mean that we
are to sell wheat at about sixty per cent, less than the present market
value--in many cases sixty per cent. less than we gave for it?"

"That, I imagine, will be about the position," Wingate admitted.

"The man is a fool!" Rees snarled. "It would mean ruin."

Wingate remained impassive.

"The British and Imperial Granaries, Limited," he said, "has been
responsible for the ruin of a good many people. It is time now that the
pendulum swung the other way.--Come, make up your minds."

"What if we refuse?" Dredlinton asked.

"You will be made a little more secure," Wingate explained, "your gags
fastened, and your arms corded to the backs of the chairs."

"But for how long?"

"Until you give the word."

"And supposing we never give the word?" Stanley Rees demanded.

"Then you sit there," Wingate replied, "until you die."

Dredlinton glanced covertly across at Phipps, and, finding no
inspiration there, turned to Wingate. The light of an evil imagining
shone in his eyes.

"This is a matter which we ought to discuss in private conference," he
said slowly. "What do you think, Phipps?"

"I agree--"

"I am afraid," Wingate interrupted suavely, "that Mr. Phipps' views
will not affect the situation. You three gentlemen are my treasured
and honoured guests. I shall not desert you--as a matter of fact, I
shall scarcely leave you, except upon your own business--until your
decision is made."

"Guests be damned!" Dredlinton exclaimed. "It's my house--not yours!"

"Mine for a short time by appropriation," Wingate answered, with a
faint smile.

"Supposing," Rees suggested, "we were induced to knuckle under, to become
the victims of your damned blackmailing scheme, surely then one of us
would be allowed to go down to the City on parole, eh?"

Wingate shook his head.

"I regret to say that I should not feel justified in letting one of you
out of my sight. In the event of your seeing reason, the telephone will
be at your disposal, and a verbal message by its means could be confirmed
by all three of you. I imagine that your office would sell on such

Phipps, who had been sitting during the last few minutes in a state
almost of torpor, began to show signs of his old vigorous self. He shook
his head firmly.

"This is a matter which need not be discussed," he declared. "You have
taken our breath away, Wingate. Your amazing assurance has made it
difficult for us to answer you coherently. I am only now beginning to
realise that you are in earnest in this idiotic piece of melodrama, but
if you are--so are we.--You can starve us or shoot us or suffocate us,
but we shall not sell wheat.--By God, we shan't!"

The man seemed for a moment to swell,--his eyes to flash fire. Wingate
shrugged his shoulders.

"I accept your defiance," he announced. "Let us commence our tryst."

Dredlinton struck the table with his fist, Phipps' brave words seemed to
have struck an alien note of fear in his fellow prisoner.

"I will not submit!" he exclaimed. "My health will not stand

There was meaning in his eyes as well as in his tone, a meaning which
Phipps put brutally into words.

"It's no good, Dredlinton," he warned him. "We are going to stick it out,
and you've got to stick it out with us. But," he added, glaring at
Wingate, "remember this. Only half an hour before I was taken, Scotland
Yard rang up to tell me that they thought they had a clue as to Stanley's
disappearance. You risk five years' penal servitude by this freak."

"I am content," was the cool reply.

"But I am not!" Dredlinton shouted, straining at his cords. "I resign!
I resign from the Board! Do you hear that, Wingate? I chuck it! Set me

"The proper moment for your resignation from the Board of the British and
Imperial Granaries," Wingate told him sternly, "was a matter of six
months ago. You are a little too late, Dredlinton. Better make up your
mind to stick it out with your friends."

Dredlinton groaned. There was all the malice of hatred in his eyes, a
note of despair in his exclamation.

"They are strong men, those two," he muttered. "They can stand more than
I can. I demand my freedom."

Wingate threw himself into an easy-chair.

"Endurance," he observed, "is largely a matter of nerves. You must make
this a test. If you fail, well, your release always rests with your two
friends. I am sure they will not see you suffer unduly."

Phipps leaned a little across the table.

"We shall suffer," he said hoarsely, "but it will be for hours. With you,
Wingate, it will be a matter of years! Our turn will come when we visit
you in prison. Damn you!"


In the Board room of the British and Imperial Granaries, Limited, were
four vacant chairs and four unoccupied desks, each of the latter piled
with a mass of letters. Outside was disquietude, in the street almost a
riot. Callers were compelled to form themselves into a queue,--and left
with scanty comfort. Wingate, by what seemed to be special favour, was
passed through the little throng and ushered by Harrison himself into the
deserted Board room.

"So you have no news of any of your directors, Harrison?" the
former observed.

"None whatever, sir."

The two men exchanged long and in a way searching glances. Harrison was,
as always, the lank and cadaverous nonentity, the man of negative
suspicions and infinite reserves. His eyes were fixed upon the carpet. He
was a study in passivity.

"What happens to the business, eh--to your big operations?"
Wingate enquired.

"The business suffers to some extent, of course," Harrison admitted.

"Your banking arrangements?"

"I have limited powers of signature. So far the bank has been lenient."

"I see," Wingate ruminated,--and waited.

"The general policy of the firm is, as you are aware, to buy," Harrison
continued thoughtfully. "That policy has naturally been suspended during
the last forty-eight hours. There are rumours, too, of a large shipment
of wheat from an unexpected source, by some steamers which we had failed
to take account of. Prices are dropping every hour."


The confidential clerk shook his head.

"Only by points and fractions. The market is never sure of our
principals. Sometimes when they have bought, most largely they have
remained inactive for a few days beforehand, on purpose to depress

"Do people believe in--their disappearance?"

"Not down here--in the City, I mean," Harrison replied grimly. "To be
frank with you, the market suspects a plant."

"Let me," Wingate suggested, "give you my impression as to the
disappearance of three of your directors."

"It would be very interesting," Harrison murmured, his eyes following the
hopeless efforts of a huge fly to escape through the closed window.

"I picture them to myself," his visitor went on, "as indulging in a
secret tour through the north of England---a tour undertaken in order
that they may realise personally whether their tactics have really
produced the suffering and distress reported."


"I picture them convinced. I ask myself what would be their natural
course of action. Without a doubt, they would sell wheat."

"Sell wheat" Harrison repeated. "Yes!"

"They would be in a hurry," Wingate continued. "They would not wish to
waste a moment. They would probably telephone their instructions."

From the great office outside came the hum of many voices, the shrill
summons of many telephones, a continued knocking and shouting at the
locked door. To all these sounds Harrison remained stoically indifferent.
He was studying once more the pattern of the carpet.

"Telephone," he repeated thoughtfully.

"It would be sufficient, if you recognized the voice?"

"Confirmation--from a fellow director, I might have to ask for,"
Harrison decided.

"Nothing else?"


"And how long would it take you to sell, say--"

"I should prefer not to have quantities mentioned," Harrison
interrupted. "When we start to sell in a dozen places, the thing is
beyond exact calculation. The brake can be put on if necessary."

"I understand," Wingate replied---"but I should think it probable, if the
truth dawns upon our friends--that no brake will be necessary.--As
regards your own affairs, Harrison?"

"I received your letter last night, sir."

"You found its contents satisfactory?"

"I found them generous, sir."

Wingate took up his hat and stick a moment or so later.

"My visit here," he remarked, "might easily be misconstrued. Would it be
possible for me to leave without fighting my way through that mob?"

Harrison led the way through an inner room to a door opening out upon a
passage. Dark buildings frowned down upon them from either side. The
place was a curious little oasis from the noonday heat. In the distance
was a narrow vista of passing men and vehicles. Harrison stood there with
the handle of the door in his hand. There was no farewell between him and
his departing visitor, no sign of intelligence in his inscrutable face.

"Presuming that the disappearance of Mr. Phipps, Mr. Rees and Lord
Dredlinton is accounted for by this supposed journey to the North,"
he ventured, "when should you imagine that they might be communicating
with me?"

"About dawn to-morrow," Wingate replied. "You will be here."

"I never leave," was the quiet answer. "About dawn to-morrow?"

"Or before."

Josephine asked the same question in a different manner when Wingate
entered her little sitting room a few hours later.

"They are obstinate?" she enquired curiously.

He sipped the tea which she had handed to him.

"Very," he admitted, "yet, after all, why not? If we succeed, it is, at
any rate, the end of their private fortunes, of Phipps' ambitions and
your husband's dreams of wealth."

"So much the better," she declared sadly. "More money with Henry has only
meant a greater eagerness to get rid of it."

A companionship which had no need of words seemed to have sprung up
between them. They sat together for some minutes without speech, minutes
during which the deep silence which reigned throughout the house seemed
curiously accentuated. Josephine shivered.

"I shall never know what happiness is," she declared, "until I have left
this house--never to return!"

"That will not be long," he reminded her gravely.

She placed her hand on his.

"It is full of the ghosts of my sorrows," she went on. "I have known
misery here."

"And I one evening of happiness," he said, smiling.

Her eyes glowed for a moment, but she was disturbed, tremulous, agitated.

"I listen for footsteps in the streets," she confessed. "I am afraid!"

"Needlessly," he assured her. "I know for a fact that Shields is off
the scent."

"But he is not a fool," she answered hastily.

Wingate's smile was full of confidence.

"Dear," he said, "I do not believe that you have anything to fear. There
have been no loose ends left. Behind your front door is safety."

"The man Shields--I only saw him for a few minutes, but he impressed me,"
she sighed.

"Shields is, without doubt, a capable person," Wingate admitted, "but he
could only succeed in this case by blind guessing. Stanley Rees was
brought into this house through the mews, without observation from any
living person. Phipps, when he received that supposed message from you,
was only too anxious to come the same way. They left their respective
abodes for here in a secrecy which they themselves encouraged, for Rees
imagined that your husband had urgent need of him, and Phipps was ass
enough to believe that your summons meant what he wished it to mean.
There has been no leakage of information anywhere.--Honestly, Josephine,
I think that you may banish your fears."

"A woman's fears only, dear," she admitted, as she gave him her hands.
"Why did nature make my sex pessimists and yours optimists, I wonder? I
would so much rather look towards the sun."

"Soon," he promised her with a smile, "I shall dominate your subconscious
mind. You shall see the colours of life through my eyes. You will find
your long-delayed happiness."

The tears which stood in her eyes were of unalloyed content,--the drama
so close at hand was forgotten. Their hands remained clasped for a
moment. Then he left her.

Back into that room with its strange mystery of shadows, its odour of
mingled tragedy and absurdity. Grant rose from a high-backed chair
guarding the table, as Wingate approached. The latter glanced towards the
three men crouching around the table. Their white faces gleamed weirdly
against the background of shaded light. There were black lines under
Dredlinton's eyes. He made a gurgling effort at speech,--his muttered
words were only partly coherent.

"I resign! I resign!"

Wingate shook his head.

"I am afraid, Lord Dredlinton," he said, "that you are in the hands of
your fellow directors. One may not be released without the others.
Directly you can induce Mr. Phipps and Mr. Rees to see reason, you
will all three be restored to liberty. Until then I am afraid that you
must share the inevitable inconveniences connected with your enforced
stay here."

Phipps lurched towards him with a furious gesture. Wingate only smiled as
he threw himself into his easy-chair.

"Wheat is falling very slowly," he announced. "Every one is waiting for
the B. & I. to sell.--You can go now, Grant," he added, "I will take up
the watch myself."


Wingate, notwithstanding his iron nerve, awoke with a start, in the grey
of the following morning, to find his heart pounding against his ribs
and a chill sense of horror stealing into his brain. Nothing had
happened or was happening except that one cry,--the low, awful cry of a
man in agony. He sat up, switched on the electric light by his side and
gazed at the round table, his fingers clenched around the butt of his
pistol. Dredlinton, from whom had come the sound, had fallen with his
head and shoulders upon the table. His face was invisible, only there
crept from his hidden lips a faint repetition of the cry,--the hideous
sob, it might have been, as of a spirit descending into hell. Then there
was silence. Phipps was sitting bolt upright, his eyes wide open,
motionless but breathing heavily. He seemed to be in a state of coma,
neither wholly asleep nor wholly conscious. Rees was leaning as far back
in his chair as his cords permitted. His patch of high colour had gone;
there was an ugly twist to his mouth, a livid tinge in his complexion,
but nevertheless he slept. Wingate rose to his feet and watched. Phipps
seemed keyed up to suffering. Dredlinton showed no sign. Their gaoler
strolled up to the table.

"There is the bread there, Phipps," he said, "a breakfast tray outside
and some coffee. How goes it?"

Phipps turned his leaden face. His eyes glowed dully.

"Go to hell!" he muttered.

Wingate returned to his place, lit and smoked a pipe and dozed off again.
When he opened his eyes, the sunlight was streaming in through a chink in
the closed curtains. He looked towards the table. Dredlinton had not
moved; Rees was crying quietly, like a child. An unhealthy-looking
perspiration had broken out on Phipps' face.

"Really," Wingate remarked, "you are all giving yourselves an unnecessary
amount of suffering."

Phipps spoke the fateful words after two ineffectual efforts. His
syllables sounded hard and detached.

"We give in," he faltered. "We sell."

"Capital!" Wingate exclaimed, rising promptly to his feet. "Come! In ten
minutes you shall be drinking coffee or wine--whichever you fancy. We
will hurry this little affair through."

He crossed the room, opened a cupboard and brought a telephone
instrument to the table.

"City 1000," he began.--"Yes!--British and Imperial--Right! Mr. Harrison
there?--Ask him to come to the 'phone, please.--Harrison? Good! Wait a
moment. Mr. Phipps will speak to you."

Wingate held the telephone before the half-unconscious man. Phipps swayed
towards it.

"Yes? That Harrison?--Mr. Phipps.--No, it's quite all right. We've been
away, Mr. Rees and I. We've decided--"

He reeled a little in his chair. Wingate poured some brandy from his
flask into the little metal cup and held it out. Phipps drank it

"Go on now."

"We have decided," Phipps continued, "to sell wheat--to sell, you
understand? You are to telephone Liverpool, Manchester, Lincoln, Glasgow,
Bristol and Cardiff. Establish the price of sixty shillings.--Yes, that's
right--sixty shillings.--What is that you say?--You want
confirmation?--Mr. Rees will speak."

Wingate passed the telephone to the next man; also his flask, which he
held for a moment to his lips. Rees gurgled greedily. His voice sounded
strained, however, and cracked.

"Mr. Rees speaking, Harrison.--Yes, we are back. We'll be around at the
office later on. You got Mr. Phipps' message?--We've made up our minds to
sell wheat--sell it. What the devil does it matter to you why? We are
selling it to save--"

Wingate's pistol had stolen from his pocket. Rees glared at it for a
moment and then went on.

"To save an injunction from the Government. We have private information.
They have determined to find our dealings in wheat illegal.--Yes, Mr.
Phipps meant what he said--sixty shillings.--Use all our long-distance
wires. How long will it take you?--A quarter of an hour?--Eh?"

Wingate held the instrument away for a moment.

"You will have your breakfast," he promised, "immediately the
reply comes."

"A quarter of an hour?" Rees went on. "Nonsense! Try and do it in five
minutes.--Yes, our whole stock. When you've got the message through, ring
us up.--Where are we? Why, at Lord Dredlinton's house. Don't be longer
than you can help. Put a different person on each line.--What's that?"

Rees turned his head.

"He wants to know again," he said, "how much to sell. Let me say half our
stock. That will be sufficient to ruin us. It will bring the price of
that damned loaf of yours--"

"The whole stock," Wingate interrupted, "every bushel."

"Sell the whole stock," Rees repeated wearily.

Wingate replaced the telephone upon a distant table. Then he mixed a
little brandy and water in two glasses, broke off a piece of bread, set
it before the two men and rang the bell. It was answered in an incredibly
short space of time.

"Grant," he directed, "bring in the breakfast trays in ten minutes."

The man disappeared as silently as he had come. Wingate cut the knots and
released the hands of his two prisoners. Their fingers were numb and
helpless, however. Rees picked up the bread with his teeth from the
table. Phipps tried but failed. Wingate held the tumbler of brandy and
water once more to his lips.

"Here, take this," he invited. "You'll find the circulation come back all
right directly."

"Aren't you going to give him anything?" Phipps asked, moving his head
towards Dredlinton.

"He is asleep," Wingate answered. "Better leave him alone until breakfast
is ready."

The telephone bell tinkled. Wingate brought back the instrument and held
out a receiver each to Phipps and his nephew.

"Harrison speaking. Your messages have all gone through on the trunk
lines, sir. The sales have begun already, and the whole market is in a
state of collapse. If you are coming down, I should advise you, sir, to
come in by the back entrance. There'll be a riot here when the news
gets about."

Wingate removed the telephone once more.

"And now," he suggested, "you would like a wash, perhaps? Or first we'd
better wake Dredlinton."

He leaned over and touched the crouching form upon the shoulder. There
was no response.

"Dredlinton," he said firmly, "wake up. Your vigil is over."

Again there was no response. Wingate leaned over and lifted him up bodily
by both shoulders. Rees went off into a fit of idiotic laughter. Phipps
stretched out his hands before his eyes. It was a terrible sight upon
which they looked,--Dredlinton's face like a piece of marble, white to
the lips, the eyes open and staring, the unmistakable finger of Death
written across it.

"He's gone!" Rees choked. "He's gone!"

Phipps suddenly found vigour once more in his arm. He struck the table.
There was a note of triumph in his brazen tone.

"My God, Wingate," he cried, "you've killed him! You'll swing for this
job, after all!"

There followed a few moments of tense and awestruck silence. Then an
evil smile parted Rees' lips, and he looked at Wingate with triumphant

"This is murder!" he exclaimed.

"So your excellent uncle has already intimated," Wingate replied. "I am
sorry that it has happened, of course. As for the consequences, however,
I do not fear them."

He crossed the room and rang the bell. Once more a servant in plain
clothes made his appearance with phenomenal quickness.

"Send to her ladyship's room," Wingate directed, "and enquire the name
and address of Lord Dredlinton's doctor. Let him be fetched here at once.
Tell two of the others to come down. Lord Dredlinton must be carried into
his bedroom."

The man had scarcely left the room before the door was opened again and
Grant himself appeared. This time he closed the door behind him and came
a little way towards Wingate.

"Inspector Shields is here, sir," he announced in an agitated whisper.

Wingate stood for a moment as though turned to stone.

"Inspector Shields?" he repeated. "What does he want?"

"He wants to see Lord Dredlinton. I explained that it was an
inconvenient time, but he insisted upon waiting."

Wingate hesitated for a moment, deep in thought. The two exhausted men
chuckled hideously.

"Some playing cards," Wingate directed, suddenly breaking into speech.
"Open that sideboard, Grant. Bring out the sandwiches and biscuits and
fruit. That's right. And some glasses. Open the champagne quickly.
Cigars, too. Here--shut the door. We must have a moment or two at this.
You understand, Grant---a debauch!"

The two moved about like lightning. In an incredibly short time, the room
presented a strange appearance. The table before which the three men had
kept their weary vigil was littered all over with playing cards, cigar
ash, fragments of broken wine glasses. A half-empty bottle of champagne
stood on the floor. Two empty ones, their contents emptied into some
bowls of flowers, lay on their sides. Another pack of cards was scattered
upon the carpet. A chair was overturned. There was every indication of a
late-night sitting and a debauch. Last of all, Grant and Wingate between
them carried the body of Lord Dredlinton behind the screen and laid it
upon the sofa. Then the latter stood back and surveyed his work.

"That will do," he said. "Wait one moment, Grant, before you show the
inspector in. I have a word to say first to my two friends here."

Phipps scowled across the table, heavy-eyed and sullen. There were black
lines under his eyes, in which the gleam of hunger still lurked. His
hands were gripping a chunk of the bread which he had torn away from the
loaf, but which he had seemed to eat with difficulty.

"Your friends may have something to say to you," he muttered. "If you
think to stop our tongues, you're wrong--wrong, I tell you. The game's up
for you, Wingate. The wires that are ruining us this morning will be
telling of your arrest to-night, eh?"

"You may be right," Wingate answered coolly, "but I doubt it. Listen. Do
you believe that I am a man who keeps his word?"

"Go on," Phipps muttered.

"You are quite right in all that you have been saying, up to a certain
point. Tell the truth and I am done for, but you pay the price, both
of you. Under those circumstances, will it be worth your while to tell
the truth?"

"What do you mean?" Rees demanded.

Phipps made a movement to rise.

"I am faint," he cried. "Give me some wine."

Wingate filled two tumblers with champagne and gave one to each. The
effect upon Phipps was remarkable. The colour came back into his cheeks,
his tone gathered strength.

"What do you mean?" he echoed, "Worth our while?--Why the devil don't
they bring the man in? You'll see!"

"Inspector Shields will no doubt insist upon coming in," Wingate replied.
"I gather from his visit that he is on the right track at last. But
listen. If I am going to be arrested on a charge of abduction and
manslaughter, as seems exceedingly probable, I am not going to leave my
job half done. An English jury may call it murder if I shoot you two as
you sit. I'll risk that. If I am going to get into trouble for one of
you, I'll make sure of the lot."

His voice carried conviction. The two men stared at him. Rees, who had
been gnawing at a crust of bread, swallowed thickly, drained his glass
and staggered to his feet.

"You wouldn't dare!" he scoffed.

"You underestimate my courage," Wingate assured them with a smile. "See,
I will speak to you words which I swear are as true as any to which you
have ever listened. I hear the footsteps of the inspector. If you fail
for a single second to corroborate the story which I shall tell him, I
shall shoot you both and possibly myself. Look at me, both of you. You
know I have the courage to do it. You know I _shall_ do it.--That's all."

There was a knock at the door. Grant opened it and stood on one side.

"Inspector Shields has called," he announced. "I thought you might like
to have a word with him, sir."


The inspector blinked for a moment. The appearance of the room, with its
closely drawn curtains and air of dissipation, was certainly strange.
Wingate advanced to meet him.

"You called to see Lord Dredlinton, I believe, Inspector," he began. "My
name is Wingate. I am friend of the family."

"I understood that Lord Dredlinton was here," the inspector announced,
looking around.

"I am sorry to say," Wingate informed him gravely, "that a very terrible
thing has happened. Lord Dredlinton died suddenly in this room, only a
few minutes ago. His body is upon the sofa there."

The imperturbability of the inspector was not proof against such an
amazing statement.

"Good God!" he exclaimed. "Was he ill?"

"Not that we know of," Wingate replied. "The doctor, who is on his way
here, will doubtless be able to inform us upon that point, I have always
understood that his heart was scarcely sound."

The inspector, as he stepped forward towards the couch, with Wingate a
yard or two in front of him, for the first time recognised the two men
who sat at the table, looking at him so strangely. Rees' hands were in
his pockets, his tie had come undone, his hair was ruffled. He had all
the appearance of a man recovering from a wild debauch. Phipps'
waistcoat was unbuttoned, and his eyes, in the gathering light, were
streaked with blood.

"Mr. Rees!" the inspector exclaimed. "And Mr. Phipps! Here? Why, I've a
dozen men all over the country looking for you two gentlemen!"

There was a dead silence. Wingate's hand had stolen into his pocket, in
which there was a little bulge, Rees seemed about to speak, then checked
himself. He glanced towards Phipps,--Phipps, whose hands were clasped
together as though he were in pain.

"The wanderers returned," Wingate explained, with a smile. "Lord
Dredlinton, as you know. Inspector, has been very much worried by the
supposed disappearance of his fellow directors. They turned up here last
night unexpectedly. It seems that they have been all the time up in the
North of England, making some investigations connected with the energies
of their company. Their sudden return was naturally a great relief to
Lord Dredlinton. We all celebrated---perhaps a little too well. Since
then I am afraid we must also plead guilty," Wingate went on, "to a
rather wild night, which has ended, as you see, in tragedy."

The inspector bent down and examined Lord Dredlinton's body.

"The doctor is on his way here," Wingate continued. "He will inform us,
no doubt, as to the cause of death. Lord Dredlinton looked very exhausted
many times during the night--or rather the morning--"

"I am to understand," Shields interrupted quietly, "that, overjoyed
by the return of his friends, Lord Dredlinton, Mr. Phipps, Mr. Rees
and yourself indulged forthwith in a debauch? A great deal of wine
was drunk?"

"A great deal," Wingate admitted.

"Supper, I see, has been served here," the inspector went on, "and you
have played cards."

"Poker," Wingate assented. "Lord Dredlinton preferred bridge but we
rather overruled him."

Shields turned towards the two men, who had been silent listeners. In his
face there seemed to be some desire for corroboration.

"You two gentlemen were present when Lord Dredlinton died?" he asked.

"We were," Phipps replied, after a moment's hesitation.

"We believed that it was a faint," Rees observed. "Even now it seems
impossible to believe that he is dead."

"Dead!--My God!" Phipps repeated, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

"Nothing else transpired during the evening," the inspector continued,
"likely to have proved a shock to his lordship?"

"Nothing," Phipps declared hoarsely. "We must have been playing for a
great many hours."

"I am a strong man," Rees added, "and the youngest of the party, but I
too--feel faint."

"It seems a little strange, Mr. Wingate," Shields remarked, turning
towards him, "that you yourself show not the slightest signs of fatigue."

Wingate smiled grimly.

"I neither drink nor smoke to excess," he explained, "and as a rule I
keep regular hours. Perhaps that is why, if I choose to sit up all night,
I am able to stand it."

There was a knock at the door and Grant presented himself. To all
appearance he was, as ever, the perfect butler. It was only Wingate who
saw that quick, questioning look, the hovering of his hand about his
pocket; who knew that, if necessary, there was no risk which this man
would not run.

"The doctor has arrived, sir," he announced.

"You had better show him in," Wingate replied. "And, Grant."

"Yes, sir?"

"It would be as well, I think, to let her ladyship be informed that Lord
Dredlinton is ill--very ill."

The man bowed and stood on one side as the doctor entered. The latter
paused for a moment in astonishment as he looked upon the scene. Then he
moved towards one of the windows and threw it up.

"If Lord Dredlinton has been sitting for long in an atmosphere like
this," he observed drily, "it's enough to have killed him."

He glanced around with an air of distaste at Phipps and Rees, at the
debris of the presumed debauch, and stooped over the body stretched
upon the sofa. His examination lasted barely a minute. Then he rose
to his feet.

"Lord Dredlinton is dead," he announced in a shocked tone.

"I feared so," Wingate murmured.

"Will you call in some servants?" the doctor went on. "I should like the
body carried into his lordship's bedroom at once."

Grant appeared, quickly followed by two of his subordinates. The
melancholy little procession left the room, and Shields turned to
follow it. As he reached the door, he hesitated and glanced around
towards Wingate.

"Mr. Wingate," he said, "I wish to hear what the doctor has to say
concerning Lord Dredlinton's death, but I also wish to have another
word with you before you leave the house. Can I rely upon your waiting
here for me?"

"I give you my word," Wingate promised.

"I shall also require some explanation," the inspector continued, turning
to Phipps--

"Explanation be damned!" the latter interrupted furiously. "If you want
to know the truth about the whole business--"

He broke off suddenly. His eyes seemed fascinated by the slow entry of
Wingate's hand to his pocket. He kicked a footstool sullenly on one side.
The inspector, after waiting for a moment, turned away.

"In due season," he concluded, "I shall require to hear the truth from
both of you gentlemen. You seem to have given Scotland Yard a great deal
of unnecessary trouble."

The telephone bell began to ring as the door closed. Wingate took up the
receiver, listened for a moment and passed the instrument over to
Phipps. The latter presently replaced the receiver upon its hook with a
little groan.

"You've broken us," he announced grimly.

"No news has ever given me greater pleasure." Wingate replied.

Stanley Rees rose to his feet.

"We are not prisoners any more, I suppose?" he asked sullenly. "I am
going home."

"There is nothing to detain you," Wingate replied politely, "unless you
choose to take breakfast first."

"We want no more of your hospitality," Phipps muttered. "You will hear of
us again!"

Wingate stood between them and the door.

"Listen," he said. "You are going away, I can see, with one idea in your
mind. You have held your peace during the last quarter of an hour,
because you have known that your lives would be forfeit if you told the
truth, but you are saying to yourselves now that from the shelter of
other walls you can tell your story."

There was a furtive look in Rees' eyes, a guilty twitch on his
companion's mouth. Wingate smiled.

"You cannot," he continued, "by the wildest stretch of imagination,
believe that this has been a one-man job. The whole scheme of your
conveyance into Dredlinton House and into this room has necessitated the
employment of something like twenty men. The greater part of these, of
course, have been paid by me. One or two are volunteers."

"Volunteers?" Phipps exclaimed. "Do you mean that you could find men to
do your dirty work for nothing?"

"I found men," Wingate answered sternly, "and I could find many more--and
without payment, too--who were willing to enter into any scheme directed
against you and your company."

"Are we to stand here," Phipps demanded, "whilst you preach us a sermon
about our business methods?"

"I am afraid, for your own sakes, you must hear what I have to say before
you go," Wingate replied. "I will put it in as few words as possible. If
you give the show away, besides making yourselves the laughingstocks of
the world you may live for twenty-four hours if my people are unlucky,
but I give you my word of honour, Phipps--and I will do you the credit of
believing that you recognise truth when you come across it--that you will
both of you be dead before the dawn of the second day."

Phipps leaned against the back of a chair. He seemed to have aged ten
years in the last few days.

"You threaten us with the vengeance of some secret society?" he demanded.

"Not so very secret, either," Wingate rejoined, "but if you want to know
the truth, I will tell it you. The greatest problem which we had to
face, in arranging this little escapade, was how we should keep you
silent after your release. We could think of none but primitive means,
and those primitive means are established. There are five men, each of
them men who have been ruined by the operations of your company, who have
sworn to take your lives if you should divulge the truth as to your
detention here. They are men of their word and they will do it. That is
the position, gentlemen. I will not detain you any longer."

Phipps moistened his dry lips.

"If," he said, "we decide to hold our peace about the happenings of the
last few days, it will not be because of your threats."

"So long as you hold your peace," Wingate replied drily, "I have no
desire to question your motives. Believe me, though, silence, and silence
alone, will preserve your lives."

He opened the door and they passed out of the room, Phipps stumbling a
little, as though blinded by the unexpected sunshine which streamed
through the skylight in the hall. From the shadows beyond, Grant came
suddenly into evidence.

"Breakfast is served in the dining room," he announced respectfully.

A flickering anger seemed suddenly to blaze up in Stanley Rees. He
cast a furious glance at the man whose fingers had twisted their
imprisoning cords.

"Open the door," he snarled, "and let us get out of this damned house!"

Almost before the front door had closed upon Phipps and his nephew.
Inspector Shields descended the stairs, crossed the hall, made his way
down the passage, and silently entered the room which had been the scene
of the tragedy. Wingate was standing in the midst of the debris at the
far end of the apartment, directing the operations of a servant whom he
had summoned. Shields held up his hand.

"Stop, please," he ordered quietly.

The two men both looked around.

"I was just having the room cleared up," Wingate explained.

"Presently," was the curt reply. "Please send the man away. I want a
word with you alone."

The pseudo-servant lingered, his eyes fixed upon Wingate's face. He, too,
was an underling of Grant's,--a keen, intelligent-looking man, with broad
shoulders and a powerful face. Wingate nodded understandingly.

"I will ring if I need you, John," he said quietly.

The man left the room. Wingate sat upon the arm of an easy-chair. Shields
stood looking meditatively about him, his hands thrust deep into his
coat pockets.

"What is the physician's report?" the former asked.

The inspector seemed to come back from a brown study.

"Ah! Upon Lord Dredlinton? A very good report from your point of view,
Mr. Wingate. Lord Dredlinton's death was due to exhaustion, but the
doctor certifies that he was suffering, and has been for some time, from
advanced valvular disease of the heart."

"He had not the appearance," Wingate observed, "of being a healthy man."

"He certainly was not," Shields admitted. "On the other hand, with great
care he might have lived for some time. The immediate cause of his death
was the strain of--what shall we call it, Mr. Wingate--this orgy?"

"An excellent word," Wingate agreed, his eyes fixed upon his companion.

The inspector lifted one of the packs of cards which had been dashed upon
the table and looked at them thoughtfully.

"Poker," he murmured. "By the by, where are the chips?"

"The chips?" Wingate repeated.

"Poker is one of those games, I believe, which necessitates the use of
counters or the handling of a great deal of money."

Wingate shrugged his shoulders. He made no reply. Shields took up one of
the bottles of champagne, held it to the light, poured out the remainder
of its contents and gazed with an air of surprise at the froth which
crept up the glass.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "I do not know much about champagne, but it
seems to me that this has not been opened very long. By the by, you all
drank champagne?" he went on. "I see no trace of any spirits about."

"It was one of Lord Dredlinton's hobbles," Wingate declared. "Spirits are
very seldom served in this house."

The Inspector nodded. He had crossed to the sideboard and was looking
into the contents of a great bowl of flowers.

"I never heard," he reflected, "that roses did well in champagne. Let me
see," he proceeded, counting the empty bottles, "four bottles between
four of you, the contents of at least two bottles here, and--dear me, the
carnations, too!" he went on, peering into a further bowl. "Really, Mr.
Wingate, your orgy scarcely seems to have been one of drink."

"Perhaps it was not," was the resigned reply.

The inspector sighed.

"I have seldom," he pronounced, looking fixedly at his companion, "seen a
more amateurish piece of work than the arrangement of this so-called
debauch. It seems pitiable, Mr. Wingate, that a man with brains like
yours should have sought to deceive in so puerile a fashion."

"What is this leading up to?" Wingate demanded.

The inspector drew a little pamphlet from his pocket and passed it
across. Wingate took it into his hands, opened it and stared at it
in surprise.

"A list of Cunard sailings!" he exclaimed.

"One of the safest of lines," said Shields, with a nod. "The
_Agricola_ sails to-morrow morning. The boat train, I believe, leaves
Euston at four."

Wingate glanced from the sailing list to his companion. The inspector was
making movements as though about to depart. Wingate himself was

"The physician is able to certify," Shields went on, "that Lord
Dredlinton's death is due to natural causes. There will therefore be no
inquest. That being the case, it is not my business to make
enquiries--unless I choose."

A newsboy went shouting across the square. The two men heard distinctly
his hoarse cry:

"Great fall of wheat in every market! Cheap bread next week!"

The eyes of the two men met. There was almost a smile upon Shields' thin
lips as he turned towards the door.

"And I do not choose," he concluded.


Peter Phipps and his nephew dined together on the last night of the year
at a well-chosen table at Giro's restaurant in Monte Carlo. There were
long-necked and gold-foiled bottles upon the table and a menu which had
commanded the respect of the _maitre d'hotel_ whose province it was to
supply their wants. Nevertheless, neither of the two men had the
appearance of being entirely satisfied with life.

"Those figures from the Official Receiver," Phipps remarked, as he filled
his glass with wine and passed the bottle across the table, "are scarcely
what we had a right to expect, eh, Stanley?"

"They are simply scandalous," Rees declared gloomily. "One does not
speculate with one's own money. I should have thought that any one with
the least knowledge of finance would understand that. This man seems to
think he has a lien upon our private fortunes."

"Not only that," Peter Phipps groaned, "but he's attaching as much as he
can get hold of. And to think of that old devil, Skinflint Martin,
scenting the trouble and getting off to Buenos Ayres! The best part of
half a million he got off with. Pig!--Stanley, this may be our last
season at Monte Carlo. We shall have to draw in. Every year it gets more
difficult to make money."

"One month more of the British and Imperial," Stanley Rees sighed, "and
we should both have been millionaires."

"And as it is," his uncle groaned, "I am beginning to get a little
nervous about our hotel bill."

* * * * *

With a benedictory wave of his hand, an all-welcoming smile, and a
backward progress which suggested distinction bordering upon royalty, the
chief _maitre d'hotel_ ushered his distinguished patrons to the table
which had been reserved for them. Josephine looked across the little sea
of her favourite blue gentians and smiled at her husband.

"You remember always," she murmured.

Wingate, who was standing up until his guests were seated, flashed an
answering smile. At his right hand was a French princess, who was
Josephine's godmother; at his left Sarah, lately glorified to married
estate. An English Cabinet Minister and an American diplomatist, with
their wives, and Jimmy, completed the party. No one noticed the two men
at the little table near the wall.

"You are a magician," the Princess whispered to Wingate. "Never could I
have believed that my dear Josephine would become young again. They speak
of her already as the most beautiful woman on the Riviera, and with
reason. I am proud of my godchild. And they tell me that you," she went
on, "have done great things in the world of finance, as well as in the
underworld of politics. Those are worlds, alas!" she added with a little
sigh, "of which I know nothing."

"They are worlds," Wingate replied, "which exist more on paper than
anywhere else."

"Is it true, Wingate," the Cabinet Minister asked him curiously, "that it
was you who broke the British and Imperial Granaries?"

"If there is such a thing," Wingate answered with a smile, "as a world of
underground politics--the Princess herself coined the phrase--then I
think I may claim that what passed between me and the directors of that
company is secret history. As a matter of fact, though, I think I was to
some extent responsible for smashing that horrible syndicate."

"It ought never to have been allowed to flourish," the Minister
pronounced. "Its charter was cunningly devised to cheat our laws, and it
succeeded. After all, though, it is good to think that the days when
such an institution could live for a moment have passed. Labour and the
reconstructionists have joined hands in sane legislation. It is my belief
that for the next few decades, at any rate, the British Empire and
America--for the two move now hand in hand--are entering upon a period of
world supremacy."

The American diplomatist had something to say.

"For that," he declared, "we may be thankful to those responsible for the
destruction of militarism. Industrial triumphs were never possible under
its shadow. An era of prosperity will also be an era of peace."

"For how long, I wonder?" the Princess whispered "Human nature has shown
remarkably little change through all the ages. Don't you think that some
day soon one person will have what another covets, and the world will
rock again to the clash of arms?"

"We are all selfish," Josephine murmured. "Life closes in around us, and
we are mostly concerned with what may happen in our own time. I think
that for as long as we live, peace is assured."

"I am sure I hope so," Sarah declared. "I should hate Jimmy to have to go
and fight again."

"What sort of a husband does he make?" Wingate enquired.

"Wonderful!" Sarah acknowledged with emphasis. "He has developed gifts
of which I had not the slightest apprehension. Of course, Josephine would
scratch me if I ventured upon such a thing as comparison,-so I'll be
content with saying that I think we are both very happy women."

Josephine laughed gaily. The almost peachlike bloom of girlhood had come
back to her cheeks. She wore a rope of pearls, her husband's wedding
gift, which had belonged to an Empress, and her white gown was the _chef
d'oeuvre_ of a great French artiste's most wonderful season. She looked
across the table. How was it, she wondered, with a little glad thrill,
that the eyes for which she sought seemed always waiting for hers.

"We are very lucky women," she said simply.

Phipps bit the end off his cigar a little savagely. He had been casting
longing glances towards the table in the centre of the room, with its
brilliant company.

"So that is the end of my duel with Wingate," he muttered. "I wonder
whether it would be worth while."

"Whether what would be worth while?" his nephew asked.

Phipps made no direct reply. He rose instead to his feet.

"I am going back to my room at the hotel for a moment, Stanley, to fetch
something," he confided. "Order some more of the Napoleon brandy. I shall
perhaps need it when I come back."

The young man nodded, and Peter Phipps started on his way to the door. He
had to pass the table at which Wingate was presiding, and it chanced that
Josephine, looking up, met his eyes. There was a moment's hesitation in
her mind. Women are always merciful when happy. Josephine was very happy,
and Peter Phipps showed signs in his bearing and in the lines upon his
face that he was not the man of six months ago. She smiled very slightly
and bowed, a greeting which Phipps returned with a smile which was almost
of gratitude. The Cabinet Minister, who had met Phipps and remembered
little of his history, followed Josephine's lead; also the American,
who had known him in New York. Phipps was holding his head a little
higher as he went out.

In ten minutes he returned. He carried a small packet in his hand, which
he laid down before his nephew.

"Try one," he invited.

Stanley Rees withdrew one of the long cigars from its paper covering.

"Did you go all the way back to the hotel to fetch these?" he asked

Phipps shook his head.

"I went to fetch my revolver," he said. "I meant to shoot Wingate. But
did you see her, Stanley? She nodded to me--actually smiled!"

"What of it?" the young man asked.

"You're a fool," his uncle replied. "Pass the brandy."

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