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Bones in London
by Edgar Wallace
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"What is four shillings to you or me?" asked Bones again, shaking his head solemnly. "My dear old Ham, don't be mean."

There was a discreet tap on the door, and Bones rose with every evidence of agitation.

"Don't stir, dear old thing," he pleaded in a husky whisper. "Pretend not to notice, dear old Ham. Don't be nervous—wonderful young lady——"

Then, clearing his throat noisily, "Come in!" he roared in the tone that a hungry lion might have applied to one of the early Christian martyrs who was knocking by mistake on the door of his den.

In spite of all injunctions, Hamilton did look, and he did stare, and he did take a great deal of notice, for the girl who came in was well worth looking at. He judged her to be about the age of twenty-one. "Pretty" would be too feeble a word to employ in describing her. The russet-brown hair, dressed low over her forehead, emphasized the loveliness of eyes set wide apart and holding in their clear depths all the magic and mystery of womanhood.

She was dressed neatly. He observed, too, that she had an open book under her arm and a pencil in her hand, and it dawned upon him slowly that this radiant creature was—Bones's secretary!

Bones's secretary!

He stared at Bones, and that young man, very red in the face, avoided his eye.

Bones was standing by the desk, in the attitude of an after-dinner speaker who was stuck for the right word. In moments of extreme agitation Bones's voice became either a growl or a squeak—the bottom register was now in exercise.

"Did—did you want me, young miss?" he demanded gruffly.

The girl at the door hesitated.

"I'm sorry—I didn't know you were engaged. I wanted to see you about the Abyssinian——"

"Come in, come in, certainly," said Bones more gruffly than ever. "A new complication, young miss?"

She laid a paper on the desk, taking no more notice of Hamilton than if he were an ornament on the chimney-piece.

"The first instalment of the purchase price is due to-day," she said.

"Is it?" said Bones, with his extravagant surprise. "Are you certain, young miss? This day of all days—and it's a Thursday, too," he added unnecessarily.

The girl smiled and curled her lip, but only for a second.

"Well, well," said Bones, "it's a matter of serious importance. The cheque, jolly old young miss, we will sign it and you will send it off. Make it out for the full amount——"

"For the three thousand pounds?" said the girl.

"For the three thousand pounds," repeated Bones soberly. He put in his monocle and glared at her. "For the three thousand pounds," he repeated.

She stood waiting, and Bones stood waiting, he in some embarrassment as to the method by which the interview might be terminated and his secretary dismissed without any wound to her feelings.

"Don't you think to-morrow would do for the cheque?" she asked.

"Certainly, certainly," said Bones. "Why not? To-morrow's Friday, ain't it?"

She inclined her head and walked out of the room, and Bones cleared his throat once more.

"Bones——"

The young man turned to meet Hamilton's accusing eye.

"Bones," said Hamilton gently, "who is the lady?"

"Who is the lady?" repeated Bones, with a cough. "The lady is my secretary, dear old inquisitor."

"So I gather," said Hamilton.

"She is my secretary," repeated Bones. "An extremely sensible young woman, extremely sensible."

"Don't be silly," said Hamilton. "Plenty of people are sensible. When you talk about sensible young women, you mean plain young women."

"That's true," said Bones; "I never thought of that. What a naughty old mind you have, Ham."

He seemed inclined to change the subject.

"And now, dear old son," said Bones, with a brisk return to his what-can-I-do-for-you air, "to business! You've come, dear old thing, to consult me."

"You're surprisingly right," said Hamilton.

"Well," said Bones, trying three drawers of his desk before he could find one that opened, "have a cigar, and let us talk."

Hamilton took the proffered weed and eyed it suspiciously.

"Is this one that was given to you, or one that you bought?" he demanded.

"That, my jolly old officer," said Bones, "is part of a job lot that I bought pretty cheap. I've got a rare nose for a bargain——"

"Have you a rare nose for a cigar, that's the point?" asked Hamilton, as he cut off the end and lit it gingerly.

"Would I give you a bad cigar?" asked the indignant Bones. "A gallant old returned warrior, comrade of my youth, and all that sort of thing! My dear old Ham!"

"I'll tell you in a minute," said Hamilton, and took two draws.

Bones, who was no cigar smoker, watched the proceedings anxiously. Hamilton put the cigar down very gently on the corner of the desk.

"Do you mind if I finish this when nobody's looking?" he asked.

"Isn't it all right?" asked Bones. "Gracious heavens! I paid fifty shillings a hundred for those! Don't say I've been done."

"I don't see how you could be done at that price," said Hamilton, and brushed the cigar gently into the fireplace. "Yes, I have come to consult you, Bones," he went on. "Do you remember some eight months ago I wrote to you telling you that I had been offered shares in a motor-car company?"

Bones had a dim recollection that something of the sort had occurred, and nodded gravely.

"It seemed a pretty good offer to me," said Hamilton reflectively. "You remember I told you there was a managership attached to the holding of the shares?"

Bones shifted uneasily in his chair, sensing a reproach.

"My dear old fellow——" he began feebly.

"Wait a bit," said Hamilton. "I wrote to you and asked you your advice. You wrote back, telling me to have nothing whatever to do with the Plover Light Car Company."

"Did I?" said Bones. "Well, my impression was that I advised you to get into it as quickly as you possibly could. Have you my letter, dear old thing?"

"I haven't," said Hamilton.

"Ah," said Bones triumphantly, "there you are! You jolly old rascal, you are accusing me of putting you off——"

"Will you wait, you talkative devil?" said Hamilton. "I pointed out to you that the prospects were very alluring. The Company was floated with a small capital——"

Again Bones interrupted, and this time by rising and walking solemnly round the table to shake hands with him.

"Hamilton, dear old skipper," he pleaded. "I was a very busy man at that time. I admit I made a mistake, and possibly diddled you out of a fortune. But my intention was to write to you and tell you to get into it, and how I ever came to tell you not to get into it—well, my poor old speculator, I haven't the slightest idea!"

"The Company——" began Hamilton.

"I know, I know," said Bones, shaking his head sadly and fixing his monocle—a proceeding rendered all the more difficult by the fact that his hand never quite overtook his face. "It was an error on my part, dear old thing. I know the Company well. Makes a huge profit! You can see the car all over the town. I think the jolly old Partridge——"

"Plover," said Hamilton.

"Plover, I mean. They've got another kind of car called the Partridge," explained Bones. "Why, it's one of the best in the market. I thought of buying one myself. And to think that I put you off that Company! Tut, tut! Anyway, dear old man," he said, brightening up, "most of the good fish is in the sea, and it only goes bad when it comes out of the sea. Have you ever noticed that, my dear old naturalist?"

"Wait a moment. Will you be quiet?" said the weary Hamilton. "I'm trying to tell you my experiences. I put the money—four thousand pounds—into this infernal Company.

"Eh?"

"I put the money into the Company, I tell you, against your advice. The Company is more or less a swindle."

Bones sat down slowly in his chair and assumed his most solemn and business-like face.

"Of course, it keeps within the law, but it's a swindle, none the less. They've got a wretched broken-down factory somewhere in the North, and the only Plover car that's ever been built was made by a Scottish contractor at a cost of about twice the amount which the Company people said that they would charge for it."

"What did I say?" said Bones quietly. "Poor old soul, I do not give advice without considering matters, especially to my dearest friend. A company like this is obviously a swindle. You can tell by the appearance of the cars——"

"There was only one car ever made," interrupted Hamilton.

"I should have said car," said the unperturbed Bones. "The very appearance of it shows you that the thing is a swindle from beginning to end. Oh, why did you go against my advice, dear old Ham? Why did you?"

"You humbug!" said the wrathful Hamilton. "You were just this minute apologising for giving me advice."

"That," said Bones cheerfully, "was before I'd heard your story. Yes, Ham, you've been swindled." He thought a moment. "Four thousand pounds!"

And his jaw dropped.

Bones had been dealing in large sums of late, and had forgotten just the significance of four thousand pounds to a young officer. He was too much of a little gentleman to put his thoughts into words, but it came upon him like a flash that the money which Hamilton had invested in the Plover Light Car Company was every penny he possessed in the world, a little legacy he had received just before Bones had left the Coast, plus all his savings for years.

"Ham," he said hollowly, "I am a jolly old rotter! Here I've been bluffing and swanking to you when I ought to have been thinking out a way of getting things right."

Hamilton laughed.

"I'm afraid you're not going to get things right, Bones," he said. "The only thing I did think was that you might possibly know something about this firm."

At any other moment Bones would have claimed an extensive acquaintance with the firm and its working, but now he shook his head, and Hamilton sighed.

"Sanders told me to come up and see you," he said. "Sanders has great faith in you, Bones."

Bones went very red, coughed, picked up his long-plumed pen and put it down again.

"At any rate," said Hamilton, "you know enough about the City to tell me this—is there any chance of my getting this money back?"

Bones rose jerkily.

"Ham," he said, and Hamilton sensed a tremendous sincerity in his voice, "that money's going to come back to you, or the name of Augustus Tibbetts goes down in the jolly old records as a failure."

A minute later Captain Hamilton found himself hand-shook from the room. Here for Bones was a great occasion. With both elbows on the desk, and two hands searching his hair, he sat worrying out what he afterwards admitted was the most difficult problem that ever confronted him.

After half an hour's hair-pulling he went slowly across his beautiful room and knocked discreetly on the door of the outer office.

Miss Marguerite Whitland had long since grown weary of begging him to drop this practice. She found it a simple matter to say "Come in!" and Bones entered, closing the door behind him, and stood in a deferential attitude two paces from the closed door.

"Young miss," he said quietly, "may I consult you?"

"You may even consult me," she said as gravely.

"It is a very curious problem, dear old Marguerite," said Bones in a low, hushed tone. "It concerns the future of my very dearest friend—the very dearest friend in all the world," he said emphatically, "of the male sex," he added hastily. "Of course, friendships between jolly old officers are on a different plane, if you understand me, to friendships between—I mean to say, dear old thing, I'm not being personal or drawing comparisons, because the feeling I have for you——"

Here his eloquence ran dry. She knew him now well enough to be neither confused nor annoyed nor alarmed when Bones broke forth into an exposition of his private feelings. Very calmly she returned the conversation to the rails.

"It is a matter which concerns a very dear friend of yours," she said suggestively, and Bones nodded and beamed.

"Of course you guessed that," he said admiringly. "You're the jolliest old typewriter that ever lived! I don't suppose any other young woman in London would have——"

"Oh, yes, they would," she said. "You'd already told me. I suppose that you've forgotten it."

"Well, to cut a long story short, dear old Miss Marguerite," said Bones, leaning confidentially on the table and talking down into her upturned lace, "I must find the whereabouts of a certain rascal or rascals, trading or masquerading, knowingly or unknowingly, to the best of my knowledge and belief, as the——" He stopped and frowned. "Now, what the dickens was the name of that bird?" he said. "Pheasant, partridge, ostrich, bat, flying fish, sparrow—it's something to do with eggs. What are the eggs you eat?"

"I seldom eat eggs," said the girl quietly, "but when I do they are the eggs of the common domestic fowl."

"It ain't him," said Bones, shaking his head. "No, it's—I've got it—Plover—the Plover Light Car Company."

The girl made a note on her pad.

"I want you to get the best men in London to search out this Company. If necessary, get two private detectives, or even three. Set them to work at once, and spare no expense. I want to know who's running the company—I'd investigate the matter myself, but I'm so fearfully busy—and where their offices are. Tell the detectives," said Bones, warming to the subject, "to hang around the motor-car shops in the West End. They're bound to hear a word dropped here and there, and——"

"I quite understand," said the girl.

Bones put out his lean paw and solemnly shook the girl's hand.

"If," he said, with a tremble in his voice, "if there's a typewriter in London that knows more than you, my jolly old Marguerite, I'll eat my head."

On which lines he made his exit.

Five minutes later the girl came into the office with a slip of paper.

"The Plover Motor Car Company is registered at 604, Gracechurch Street," she said. "It has a capital of eighty thousand pounds, of which forty thousand pounds is paid up. It has works at Kenwood, in the north-west of London, and the managing director is Mr. Charles O. Soames."

Bones could only look at her open-mouthed.

"Where on earth did you discover all this surprising information, dear miss?" he asked, and the girl laughed quietly.

"I can even tell you their telephone number," she said, "because it happens to be in the Telephone Book. The rest I found in the Stock Exchange Year Book."

Bones shook his head in silent admiration.

"If there's a typewriter in London——" he began, but she had fled.

An hour later Bones had evolved his magnificent idea. It was an idea worthy of his big, generous heart and his amazing optimism.

Mr. Charles O. Soames, who sat at a littered table in his shirt-sleeves, was a man with a big shock of hair and large and heavily drooping moustache, and a black chin. He smoked a big, heavy pipe, and, at the moment Bones was announced, his busy pencil was calling into life a new company offering the most amazing prospects to the young and wealthy.

He took the card from the hands of his very plain typist, and suppressed the howl of joy which rose to his throat. For the name of Bones was known in the City of London, and it was the dream of such men as Charles O. Soames that one day they would walk from the office of Mr. Augustus Tibbetts with large parcels of his paper currency under each arm.

He jumped up from his chair and slipped on a coat, pushed the prospectus he was writing under a heap of documents—one at least of which bore a striking family likeness to a county court writ—and welcomed his visitor decorously and even profoundly.

"In re Plover Car," said Bones briskly. He prided himself upon coming to the point with the least possible delay.

The face of Mr. Soames fell.

"Oh, you want to buy a car?" he said. He might have truly said "the car," but under the circumstances he thought that this would be tactless.

"No, dear old company promoter," said Bones, "I do not want to buy your car. In fact, you have no cars to sell."

"We've had a lot of labour trouble," said Mr. Soames hurriedly. "You've no idea of the difficulties in production—what with the Government holding up supplies—but in a few months——"

"I know all about that," said Bones. "Now, I'm a man of affairs and a man of business."

He said this so definitely that it sounded like a threat.

"I'm putting it to you, as one City of London business person to another City of London business person, is it possible to make cars at your factory?"

Mr. Soames rose to the occasion.

"I assure you, Mr. Tibbetts," he said earnestly, "it is possible. It wants a little more capital than we've been able to raise."

This was the trouble with all Mr. Soames's companies, a long list of which appeared on a brass plate by the side of his door. None of them were sufficiently capitalised to do anything except to supply him with his fees as managing director.

Bones produced a dinky little pocket-book from his waistcoat and read his notes, or, rather, attempted to read his notes. Presently he gave it up and trusted to his memory.

"You've got forty thousand pounds subscribed to your Company," he said. "Now, I'll tell you what I'm willing to do—I will take over your shares at a price."

Mr. Soames swallowed hard. Here was one of the dreams of his life coming true.

"There are four million shares issued," Bones went on, consulting his notebook.

"Eh?" said Mr. Soames in a shocked voice.

Bones looked at his book closer.

"Is it four hundred thousand?"

"Forty thousand," said Mr. Soames gently.

"It is a matter of indifference," said Bones. "The point is, will you sell?"

The managing director of the Plover Light Car Company pursed his lips.

"Of course," he said, "the shares are at a premium—not," he added quickly, "that they are being dealt with on 'Change. We have not troubled to apply for quotations. But I assure you, my dear sir, the shares are at a premium."

Bones said nothing.

"At a small premium," said Mr. Soames hopefully.

Bones made no reply.

"At a half a crown premium," said Mr. Soames pleadingly.

"At par," said Bones, in his firmest and most business-like tones.

The matter was not settled there and then, because matters are not settled with such haste in the City of London. Bones went home to his office with a new set of notes, and wired to Hamilton, asking him to come on the following day.

It was a great scheme that Bones worked out that night, with the aid of the sceptical Miss Whitland. His desk was piled high with technical publications dealing with the motor-car industry. The fact that he was buying the Company in order to rescue a friend's investment passed entirely from his mind in the splendid dream he conjured from his dubious calculations.

The Plover car should cover the face of the earth. He read an article on mass production, showing how a celebrated American produced a thousand or a hundred thousand cars a day—he wasn't certain which—and how the car, in various parts, passed along an endless table, between lines of expectant workmen, each of whom fixed a nut or unfixed a nut, so that, when the machine finally reached its journey's end, it left the table under its own power.

Bones designed a circular table, so that, if any of the workmen forgot to fix a bar or a nut or a wheel, the error could be rectified when the car came round again. The Plover car should be a household word. Its factories should spread over North London, and every year there should be a dinner with Bones in the chair, and a beautiful secretary on his right, and Bones should make speeches announcing the amount of the profits which were to be distributed to his thousands of hands in the shape of bonuses.

Hamilton came promptly at ten o'clock, and he came violently. He flew into the office and banged a paper down on Bones's desk with the enthusiasm of one who had become the sudden possessor of money which he had not earned.

"Dear old thing, dear old thing," said Bones testily, "remember dear old Dicky Orum—preserve the decencies, dear old Ham. You're not in the Wild West now, my cheery boy."

"Bones," shouted Hamilton, "you're my mascot! Do you know what has happened?"

"Lower your voice, lower your voice, dear old friend," protested Bones. "My typewriter mustn't think I am quarrelling."

"He came last night," said Hamilton, "just as I was going to bed, and knocked me up." He was almost incoherent in his joy. "He offered me three thousand five hundred pounds for my shares, and I took it like a shot."

Bones gaped at him.

"Offered you three thousand five hundred?" he gasped. "Good heavens! You don't mean to say——"

Consider the tragedy of that moment. Here was Bones, full of great schemes for establishing a car upon the world's markets, who had in his head planned extensive works, who saw in his mind's eye vistas of long, white-covered festive boards, and heard the roar of cheering which greeted him when he rose to propose continued prosperity to the firm. Consider also that his cheque was on the table before him, already made out and signed. He was at that moment awaiting the arrival of Mr. Soames.

And then to this picture, tangible or fanciful, add Mr. Charles O. Soames himself, ushered through the door of the outer office and standing as though stricken to stone at the sight of Bones and Hamilton in consultation.

"Good morning," said Bones.

Mr. Soames uttered a strangled cry and strode to the centre of the room, his face working.

"So it was a ramp, was it?" he said. "A swindle, eh? You put this up to get your pal out of the cart?"

"My dear old——" began Bones in a shocked voice.

"I see how it was done. Well, you've had me for three thousand five hundred, and your pal's lucky. That's all I've got to say. It is the first time I've ever been caught; and to be caught by a mug like you——"

"Dear old thing, moderate your language," murmured Bones.

Mr. Soames breathed heavily through his nose, thrust his hat on the back of his head, and, without another word, strode from the office, and they heard the door slam behind him. Bones and Hamilton exchanged glances; then Bones picked up the cheque from the desk and slowly tore it up. He seemed to spend his life tearing up expensive cheques.

"What is it, Bones? What the dickens did you do?" asked the puzzled Hamilton.

"Dear old Ham," said Bones solemnly, "it was a little scheme—just a little scheme. Sit down, dear old officer," he said, after a solemn pause. "And let this be a warning to you. Don't put your money in industries, dear old Captain Hamilton. What with the state of the labour market, and the deuced ingratitude of the working classes, it's positively heartbreaking—it is, indeed, dear old Ham."

And then and there he changed the whole plan and went out of industrials for good.



CHAPTER V

A CINEMA PICTURE

Mr. Augustus Tibbetts, called "Bones," made money by sheer luck—he made more by sheer artistic judgment. That is a fact which an old friend sensed a very short time after he had renewed his acquaintance with his sometime subordinate.

Yet Bones had the curious habit of making money in quite a different way from that which he planned—as, for example, in the matter of the great oil amalgamation. In these days of aeroplane travel, when it is next to impossible to watch the comings and goings of important individuals, or even to get wind of directors' meetings, the City is apt to be a little jumpy, and to respond to wild rumours in a fashion extremely trying to the nerves of conservative brokers.

There were rumours of a fusion of interests between the Franco-Persian Oil Company and the Petroleum Consolidated—rumours which set the shares of both concerns jumping up and down like two badly trained jazzers. The directorate of both companies expressed their surprise that a credulous public could accept such stories, and both M. Jorris, the emperor of the Franco-Persian block, and George Y. Walters, the prince regent of the "Petco," denied indignantly that any amalgamation was even dreamt of.

Before these denials came along Bones had plunged into the oil market, making one of the few flutters which stand as interrogation marks against his wisdom and foresight.

He did not lose; rather, he was the winner by his adventure. The extent of his immediate gains he inscribed in his private ledger; his ultimate and bigger balance he entered under a head which had nothing to do with the oil gamble—which was just like Bones, as Hamilton subsequently remarked.

Hamilton was staying with Sanders—late Commissioner of a certain group of Territories—and Bones was the subject of conversation one morning at breakfast.

The third at the table was an exceedingly pretty girl, whom the maid called "Madame," and who opened several letters addressed to "Mrs. Sanders," but who in days not long past had been known as Patricia Hamilton.

"Bones is wonderful," said Sanders, "truly wonderful! A man I know in the City tells me that most of the things he touches turn up trumps. And it isn't luck or chance. Bones is developing a queer business sense."

Hamilton nodded.

"It is his romantic soul which gets him there," he said. "Bones will not look at a proposition which hasn't something fantastical behind it. He doesn't know much about business, but he's a regular whale on adventure. I've been studying him for the past month, and I'm beginning to sense his method. If he sees a logical and happy end to the romantic side of any new business, he takes it on. He simply carries the business through on the back of a dream."

The girl looked up from the coffee-pot she was handling.

"Have you made up your mind, dear?"

"About going in with Bones?" Hamilton smiled. "No, not yet. Bones is frantically insistent, has had a beautiful new Sheraton desk placed in his office, and says that I'm the influence he wants, but——"

He shook his head.

"I think I understand," said Sanders. "You feel that he is doing it all out of sheer generosity and kindness. That would be like Bones. But isn't there a chance that what he says is true—that he does want a corrective influence?"

"Maybe that is so," said Captain Hamilton doubtfully. "And then there's the money. I don't mind investing my little lot, but it would worry me to see Bones pretending that all the losses of the firm came out of his share, and a big slice of the profits going into mine."

"I shouldn't let that worry you," said his sister quietly. "Bones is too nice-minded to do anything so crude. Of course, your money is nothing compared with Bones's fortune, but why don't you join him on the understanding that the capital of the Company should be—— How much would you put in?

"Four thousand."

"Well, make the capital eight thousand. Bones could always lend the Company money. Debentures—isn't that the word?"

Sanders smiled in her face.

"You're a remarkable lady," he said. "From where on earth did you get your ideas on finance?"

She went red.

"I lunched with Bones yesterday," she said. "And here is the post."

"Silence, babbler," said Hamilton. "Before we go any farther, what about this matter of partnership you were discussing with Patricia?"

The maid distributed the letters. One was addressed:

"Captin Captian Hamilton, D.S.O."

"From Bones," said Hamilton unnecessarily, and Bones's letter claimed first attention. It was a frantic and an ecstatic epistle, heavily underlined and exclaimed.

"Dear old old Ham," it ran, "you simply must join me in magnifficant new sceme sheme plan! Wonderfull prophits profets! The most extraordiny chance for a fortune..."

"For Heaven's sake, what's this?" asked Hamilton, handing the letter across to his sister and indicating an illegible line. "It looks like 'a bad girl's leg' to me."

"My dear!" said the shocked Mrs. Sanders, and studied the vile caligraphy. "It certainly does look like that," she admitted, "and—— I see! 'Legacy' is the word."

"A bad girl's legacy is the titel of the play story picture" (Bones never crossed anything out). "There's a studyo at Tunbridge and two cameras and a fellow awfully nice fellow who understands it. A pot of money the story can be improve improved imensely. Come in it dear old man—magnifficant chance. See me at office eariliest earilest ealiest possible time.

"Thine in art for art sake, "BONES."

"From which I gather that Bones is taking a header into the cinema business," said Sanders. "What do you say, Hamilton?"

Hamilton thought a while.

"I'll see Bones," he said.

He arrived in Town soon after ten, but Bones had been at his office two hours earlier, for the fever of the new enterprise was upon him, and his desk was piled high with notes, memoranda, price lists and trade publications. (Bones, in his fine rage of construction, flew to the technical journals as young authors fly to the Thesaurus.)

As Hamilton entered the office, Bones glared up.

"A chair," said the young man peremptorily. "No time to be lost, dear old artist. Time is on the wing, the light is fadin', an' if we want to put this jolly old country—God bless it!—in the forefront——"

Bones put down his pen and leant back in his chair.

"Ham," he said, "I had a bit of a pow-pow with your sacred and sainted sister, bless her jolly old heart. That's where the idea arose. Are you on?"

"I'm on," said Hamilton, and there was a moving scene. Bones shook his hands and spoke broken English.

"There's your perfectly twee little desk, dear old officer," he said, pointing to a massive piece of furniture facing his own. "And there's only one matter to be settled."

He was obviously uncomfortable, and Hamilton would have reached for his cheque-book, only he knew his Bones much better than to suppose that such a sordid matter as finance could cause his agitation.

"Ham," said Bones, clearing his throat and speaking with an effort, "old comrade of a hundred gallant encounters, and dear old friend——"

"What's the game?" asked Hamilton suspiciously.

"There's no game," said the depressed Bones. "This is a very serious piece of business, my jolly old comrade. As my highly respected partner, you're entitled to use the office as you like—come in when you like, go home when you like. If you have a pain in the tum-tum, dear old friend, just go to bed and trust old Bones to carry on. Use any paper that's going, help yourself to nibs—you'll find there's some beautiful nibs in that cupboard—in fact, do as you jolly well like; but——"

"But?" repeated Hamilton.

"On one point alone, dear old thing," said Bones miserably, yet heroically, "we do not share."

"What's that?" asked Hamilton, not without curiosity.

"My typewriter is my typewriter," said Bones firmly, and Hamilton laughed.

"You silly ass!" he said. "I'm not going to play with your typewriter."

"That's just what I mean," said Bones. "You couldn't have put it better, dear old friend. Thank you."

He strode across the room, gripped Hamilton's hand and wrung it.

"Dear old thing, she's too young," he said brokenly. "Hard life ... terrible experience... Play with her young affections, dear old thing? No..."

"Who the dickens are you talking about? You said typewriter."

"I said typewriter," agreed Bones gravely. "I am speaking about my——"

A light dawned upon Hamilton.

"You mean your secretary?"

"I mean my secretary," said Bones.

"Good Heavens, Bones!" scoffed Hamilton. "Of course I shan't bother her. She's your private secretary, and naturally I wouldn't think of giving her work."

"Or orders," said Bones gently. "That's a point, dear old thing. I simply couldn't sit here and listen to you giving her orders. I should scream. I'm perfectly certain I can trust you, Ham. I know what you are with the girls, but there are times——"

"You know what I am with the girls?" said the wrathful Hamilton. "What the dickens do you know about me, you libellous young devil?"

Bones raised his hand.

"We will not refer to the past," he said meaningly and was so impressive that Hamilton began to search his mind for some forgotten peccadillo.

"All that being arranged to our mutual satisfaction, dear old partner," said Bones brightly, "permit me to introduce you."

He walked to the glass-panelled door leading to the outer office, and knocked discreetly, Hamilton watching him in wonder. He saw him disappear, closing the door after him. Presently he came out again, following the girl.

"Dear young miss," said Bones in his squeakiest voice, a sure sign of his perturbation, "permit me to introduce partner, ancient commander, gallant and painstaking, jolly old Captain Hamilton, D.S.O.—which stands, young typewriter, for Deuced Satisfactory Officer."

The girl, smiling, shook hands, and Hamilton for the first time looked her in the face. He had been amazed before by her classic beauty, but now he saw a greater intelligence than he had expected to find in so pretty a face, and, most pleasing of all, a sense of humour.

"Bones and I are very old friends," he explained.

"Hem!" said Bones severely.

"Bones?" said the girl, puzzled.

"Naturally!" murmured Bones. "Dear old Ham, be decent. You can't expect an innocent young typewriter to think of her employer as 'Bones.'"

"I'm awfully sorry," Hamilton hastened to apologise, "but you see, Bones and I——"

"Dicky Orum," murmured Bones. "Remember yourself, Ham, old indiscreet one—Mr. Tibbetts. And here's the naughty old picture-taker," he said in another tone, and rushed to offer an effusive welcome to a smart young man with long, black, wavy hair and a face reminiscent, to all students who have studied his many pictures, of Louis XV. Strangely enough, his name was Louis. He was even called Lew.

"Sit down, my dear Mr. Becksteine," said Bones. "Let me introduce you to my partner. Captain Hamilton, D.S.O.—a jolly old comrade-in-arms and all that sort of thing. My lady typewriter you know, and anyway, there's no necessity for your knowing her—— I mean," he said hastily, "she doesn't want to know you, dear old thing. Now, don't be peevish. Ham, you sit there. Becksteine will sit there. You, young miss, will sit near me, ready to take down my notes as they fall from my ingenious old brain."

In the bustle and confusion the embarrassing moment of Hamilton's introduction was forgotten. Bones had a manuscript locked away in the bottom drawer of his desk, and when he had found the key for this, and had placed the document upon the table, and when he had found certain other papers, and when the girl was seated in a much more comfortable chair—Bones fussed about like an old hen—the proceedings began.

Bones explained.

He had seen the derelict cinema company advertised in a technical journal, had been impressed with the amount of the impedimenta which accompanied the proprietorship of the syndicate, had been seized with a brilliant idea, bought the property, lock, stock, and barrel, for two thousand pounds, for which sum, as an act of grace, the late proprietors allowed him to take over the contract of Mr. Lew Becksteine, that amiable and gifted producer.

It may be remarked, in passing, that this arrangement was immensely satisfactory to the syndicate, which was so tied and bound to Mr. Becksteine for the next twelve months that to have cancelled his contract would have cost them the greater part of the purchase price which Bones paid.

"This is the story," said Bones impressively. "And, partner Ham, believe me, I've read many, many stories in my life, but never, never has one touched me as this has. It's a jolly old tear-bringer, Ham. Even a hardened, wicked old dev—old bird like you would positively dissolve. You would really, dear old Ham, so don't deny it. You know you've got one of the tenderest hearts in the world, you rascal!"

He got up and shook hands with Hamilton, though there was no necessity for him to move.

"Now, clever old Becksteine thinks that this is going to be a scorcher."

"A winner, a winner," murmured Mr. Becksteine, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He spoke on this occasion very softly, but he could raise his voice to thrilling heights. "A sure winner, my dear sir. I have been in the profession for twenty-seven years, and never in my life have I read a drama which contains so much heart appeal——"

"You hear?" said Bones in a hoarse whisper.

"—so much genuine comedy——"

Bones nodded.

"—so much that I might say goes straight to the passionate heart of the great public, as this remarkable, brilliantly planned, admirably planted, exquisitely balanced little cameo of real life."

"It's to be a two-roller," said Bones.

"Reeler," murmured Mr. Becksteine.

"Reeler or roller, dear old thing; don't let's quarrel over how a thing's spelt," said Bones.

"Who wrote it?" asked Hamilton.

Mr. Becksteine coughed modestly.

"Jolly old Becksteine wrote it," said Bones. "That man, Ham, is one of the most brilliant geniuses in this or any other world. Aren't you? Speak up, old playwright. Don't be shy, old thing."

Mr. Becksteine coughed again.

"I do not know anything about other worlds," he admitted.

"Now, this is my idea," said Bones, interrupting what promised to be a free and frank admission of Mr. Becksteine's genius. "I've worked the thing out, and I see just how we can save money. In producing two-roller cinematographs—that's the technical term," explained Bones, "the heavy expense is with the artistes. The salaries that these people are paid! My dear old Ham, you'd never believe."

"I don't see how you can avoid paying salaries," said Hamilton patiently. "I suppose even actors have to live."

"Ah!" said Mr. Becksteine, shaking his head.

"Of course, dear old thing. But why pay outside actors?" said Bones triumphantly.

He glared from one face to the other with a ferocity of expression which did no more than indicate the strength of his conviction.

"Why not keep the money in the family, dear old Ham? That's what I ask you. Answer me that." He leaned back in his chair, thrust his hands in his trousers pockets, and blandly surveyed his discomfited audience.

"But you've got to have actors, my dear chap," said Hamilton.

"Naturally and necessarily," replied Bones, nodding with very large nods. "And we have them. Who is Jasper Brown, the villain who tries to rob the poor girl of her legacy and casts the vilest aspersions upon her jolly old name?"

"Who is?" asked the innocent Hamilton.

"You are," said Bones.

Hamilton gasped.

"Who is Frank Fearnot, the young and handsome soldier—well, not necessarily handsome, but pretty good-looking—who rescues the girl from her sad predicament?"

"Well, that can't be me, anyway," said Hamilton.

"It is not," said Bones. "It is me! Who is the gorgeous but sad old innocent one who's chased by you, Ham, till the poor little soul doesn't know which way to turn, until this jolly young officer steps brightly on the scene, whistling a merry tune, and, throwing his arms about her, saves her, dear old thing, from her fate—or, really, from a perfectly awful rotten time."

"Who is she?" asked Hamilton softly.

Bones blinked and turned to the girl slowly.

"My dear old miss," he said, "what do you think?"

"What do I think?" asked the startled girl. "What do I think about what?"

"There's a part," said Bones—"there's one of the grandest parts that was ever written since Shakespeare shut his little copybook."

"You're not suggesting that I should play it?" she asked, open-mouthed.

"Made for you, dear old typewriter, positively made for you, that part," murmured Bones.

"Of course I shall do nothing so silly," said the girl, with a laugh. "Oh, Mr. Tibbetts, you really didn't think that I'd do such a——"

She didn't finish the sentence, but Hamilton could have supplied the three missing words without any difficulty.

Thereafter followed a discussion, which in the main consisted of joint and several rejection of parts. Marguerite Whitland most resolutely refused to play the part of the bad girl, even though Bones promised to change the title to "The Good Girl," even though he wheedled his best, even though he struck attitudes indicative of despair and utter ruin, even though the gentle persuasiveness of Mr. Lew Becksteine was added to his entreaties. And Hamilton as resolutely declined to have anything to do with the bad man. Mr. Becksteine solved the difficulty by undertaking to produce the necessary actors and actresses at the minimum of cost.

"Of course you won't play, Bones?" said Hamilton.

"I don't know," said Bones. "I'm not so sure, dear old thing. I've got a lot of acting talent in me, and I feel the part—that's a technical term you won't understand."

"But surely, Mr. Tibbetts," said the girl reproachfully, "you won't allow yourself to be photographed embracing a perfectly strange lady?"

Bones shrugged his shoulders.

"Art, my dear old typewriter," he said. "She'll be no more to me than a bit of wood, dear old miss. I shall embrace her and forget all about it the second after. You need have no cause for apprehension, really and truly."

"I am not at all apprehensive," said the girl coldly, and Bones followed her to her office, showering explanations of his meaning over her shoulder.

On the third day Hamilton went back to Twickenham a very weary man.

"Bones is really indefatigable," he said irritably, but yet admiringly. "He has had those unfortunate actors rehearsing in the open fields, on the highways and byways. Really, old Bones has no sense of decency. He's got one big scene which he insists upon taking in a private park. I shudder to think what will happen if the owner comes along and catches Bones and his wretched company."

Sanders laughed quietly.

"What do you think he'll do with the film?" he asked.

"Oh, he'll sell it," said Hamilton. "I tell you, Bones is amazing. He has found a City man who is interested in the film industry, a stockbroker or something, who has promised to see every bit of film as it is produced and give him advice on the subject; and, incredible as it may sound, the first half-dozen scenes that Bones has taken have passed muster."

"Who turns the handle of the camera?" asked the girl.

"Bones," said Hamilton, trying not to laugh. "He practised the revolutions on a knife-cleaning machine!"

The fourth day it rained, but the fifth day Bones took his company in a hired motor into the country, and, blissfully ignoring such admonitions as "Trespassers will be shot," he led the way over a wall to the sacred soil of an Englishman's stately home. Bones wanted the wood, because one of his scenes was laid on the edge of a wood. It was the scene where the bad girl, despairing of convincing anybody as to her inherent goodness, was taking a final farewell of the world before "leaving a life which had held nothing but sadness and misunderstanding," to quote the title which was to introduce this touching episode.

Bones found the right location, fitted up his camera, placed the yellow-faced girl—the cinema artiste has a somewhat bilious appearance when facing the lens—and began his instructions.

"Now, you walk on here, dear old Miss What's-Your-Name. You come from that tree with halting footsteps—like this, dear old thing. Watch and learn."

Bones staggered across the greensward, clasping his brow, sank on his knees, folded his arms across his chest, and looked sorrowfully at the heavens, shaking his head.

Hamilton screamed with laughter.

"Behave yourself, naughty old sceptic," said Bones severely.

After half an hour's preliminary rehearsal, the picture was taken, and Bones now prepared to depart; but Mr. Lew Becksteine, from whose hands Bones had taken, not only the direction of the play, but the very excuse for existence, let fall a few uncomfortable words.

"Excuse me, Mr. Tibbetts," he said, in the sad, bored voice of an artiste who is forced to witness the inferior work of another, "it is in this scene that the two lawyers must be taken, walking through the wood, quite unconscious of the unhappy fate which has overtaken the heiress for whom they are searching."

"True," said Bones, and scratched his nose.

He looked round for likely lawyers. Hamilton stole gently away.

"Now, why the dickens didn't you remind me, you careless old producer, to bring two lawyers with me?" asked Bones. "Dash it all, there's nothing here that looks like a lawyer. Couldn't it be taken somewhere else?"

Mr. Becksteine had reached the stage where he was not prepared to make things easy for his employer.

"Utterly impossible," he said; "you must have exactly the same scenery. The camera cannot lie."

Bones surveyed his little company, but without receiving any encouragement.

"Perhaps I might find a couple of fellows on the road," he suggested.

"It is hardly likely," said Mr. Lew Becksteine, "that you will discover in this remote country village two gentlemen arrayed in faultlessly fitting morning-coats and top-hats!"

"I don't know so much about that," said the optimistic Bones, and took a short cut through the wood, knowing that the grounds made an abrupt turn where they skirted the main road.

He was half-way through the copse when he stopped. Now, Bones was a great believer in miracles, but they had to be very spectacular miracles. The fact that standing in the middle of the woodland path were two middle-aged gentlemen in top-hats and morning-coats, seemed to Bones to be a mere slice of luck. It was, in fact, a miracle of the first class. He crept silently back, raced down the steps to where the little party stood.

"Camera!" he hissed. "Bring it along, dear old thing. Don't make a noise! Ham, old boy, will you help? You other persons, stay where you are."

Hamilton shouldered the camera, and on the way up the slope Bones revealed his fell intention.

"There is no need to tell these silly old jossers what we're doing," he said. "You see what I mean, Ham, old boy? We'll just take a picture of them as they come along. Nobody will be any the wiser, and all we'll have to do will be to put a little note in." All the time he was fixing the camera on the tripod, focussing the lens on a tree by the path. (It was amazing how quickly Bones mastered the technique of any new hobby he took up.)

From where Hamilton crouched in the bushes he could see the two men plainly. His heart quaked, realising that one at least was possibly the owner of the property on which he was trespassing; and he had all an Englishman's horror of trespass. They were talking together, these respectable gentlemen, when Bones began to turn the handle. They had to pass through a patch of sunlight, and it was upon this that Bones concentrated. Once one of them looked around as the sound of clicking came to him, but at that moment Bones decided he had taken enough and stopped.

"This," said he, as they gained the by-road where they had made their unauthorised entry into the park, "is a good day's work."

Their car was on the main road, and to Hamilton's surprise he found the two staid gentlemen regarding it when the party came up. They were regarding it from a high bank behind the wall—a bank which commanded a view of the road. One of them observed the camera and said something in a low tone to the other; then the speaker walked down the bank, opened a little wicker door in the wall, and came out.

He was a most polite man, and tactful.

"Have you been taking pictures?" he asked.

"Dear old fellow," said Bones. "I will not deceive you—we have."

There was a silence.

"In the—park, by any chance?" asked the gentleman carelessly.

Bones flinched. He felt rather guilty, if the truth be told.

"The fact is——" he began.

The elderly man listened to the story of "The Bad Girl's Legacy," its genesis, its remarkable literary qualities, and its photographic value. He seemed to know a great deal about cinematographs, and asked several questions.

"So you have an expert who sees the pieces as they are produced?" he asked. "Who is that?"

"Mr. Tim Lewis," said Bones. "He's one of the——"

"Lewis?" said the other quickly. "Is that Lewis the stockbroker? And does he see every piece you take?"

Bones was getting weary of answering questions.

"Respected sir and park proprietor," he said, "if we have trespassed, I apologise. If we did any harm innocently, and without knowing that we transgressed the jolly old conventions—if we, as I say, took a picture of you and your fellow park proprietor without a thank-you-very-much, I am sorry."

"You took me and my friend?" asked the elderly man quickly.

"I am telling you, respected sir and cross-examiner, that I took you being in a deuce of a hole for a lawyer."

"I see," said the elderly man. "Will you do me a favour? Will you let me see your copy of that picture before you show it to Mr. Lewis? As the respected park proprietor"—he smiled—"you owe me that."

"Certainly, my dear old friend and fellow-sufferer," said Bones. "Bless my life and heart and soul, certainly!"

He gave the address of the little Wardour Street studio where the film would be developed and printed, and fixed the morrow for an exhibition.

"I should very much like to see it to-night, if it is no trouble to you."

"We will certainly do our best, sir," Hamilton felt it was necessary to interfere at this point.

"Of course, any extra expense you are put to as the result of facilitating the printing, or whatever you do to these films," said the elderly man, "I shall be glad to pay."

He was waiting for Bones and Hamilton at nine o'clock that night in the dingy little private theatre which Bones, with great difficulty, had secured for his use. The printing of the picture had been accelerated, and though the print was slightly speckled, it was a good one.

The elderly man sat in a chair and watched it reeled off, and when the lights in the little theatre went up, he turned to Bones with a smile.

"I'm interested in cinema companies," he said, "and I rather fancy that I should like to include your property in an amalgamation I am making. I could assist you to fix a price," he said to the astonished Bones, "if you would tell me frankly, as I think you will, just what this business has cost you from first to last."

"My dear old amalgamator," said Bones reproachfully, "is that business? I ask you."

"It may be good business," said the other.

Bones looked at Hamilton. They and the elderly man, who had driven up to the door of the Wardour Street studio in a magnificent car, were the only three people, besides the operator, who were present.

Hamilton nodded.

"Well," said Bones, "business, dear old thing, is my weakness. Buying and selling is my passion and Lobby. From first to last, after paying jolly old Brickdust, this thing is going to cost me more than three thousand pounds—say, three thousand five hundred."

The elderly man nodded.

"Let's make a quick deal," he said. "I'll give you six thousand pounds for the whole concern, with the pictures as you have taken them—negatives, positives, cameras, etc. Is it a bargain?"

Bones held out his hand.

They dined together, a jubilant Bones and a more jubilant Hamilton, at a little restaurant in Soho.

"My dear old Ham," said Bones, "it only shows you how things happen. This would have been a grand week for me if those beastly oil shares of mine had gone up. I'm holding 'em for a rise." He opened a newspaper he had bought in the restaurant. "I see that Jorris and Walters—they're the two oil men—deny that they've ever met or that they're going to amalgamate. But can you believe these people?" he asked. "My dear old thing, the mendacity of these wretched financiers——"

"Have you ever seen them?" asked Hamilton, to whom the names of Jorris and Walters were as well known as to any other man who read his daily newspaper.

"Seen them?" said Bones. "My dear old fellow, I've met them time and time again. Two of the jolliest old birds in the world. Well, here's luck!"

At that particular moment Mr. Walters and Mr. Jorris were sitting together in the library of a house in Berkeley Square, the blinds being lowered and the curtains being drawn, and Mr. Walters was saying:

"We'll have to make this thing public on Wednesday. My dear fellow, I nearly fainted when I heard that that impossible young person had photographed us together. When do you go back to Paris?"

"I think I had better stay here," said Mr. Jorris. "Did the young man bleed you?"

"Only for six thousand," said the pleasant Mr. Walters. "I hope the young beggar's a bear in oil," he added viciously.

But Bones, as we know, was a bull.



CHAPTER VI

A DEAL IN JUTE

It is a reasonable theory that every man of genius is two men, one visible, one unseen and often unsuspected by his counterpart. For who has not felt the shadow's influence in dealing with such as have the Spark? Napoleon spoke of stars, being Corsican and a mystic. Those who met him in his last days were uneasily conscious that the second Bonaparte had died on the eve of Waterloo, leaving derelict his brother, a stout and commonplace man who was in turn sycophantic, choleric, and pathetic, but never great.

Noticeable is the influence of the Shadow in the process of money-making. It is humanly impossible for some men to be fortunate. They may amass wealth by sheer hard work and hard reasoning, but if they seek a shorter cut to opulence, be sure that short cut ends in a cul-de-sac where sits a Bankruptcy Judge and a phalanx of stony-faced creditors. "Luck" is not for them—they were born single.

For others, the whole management of life is taken from their hands by their busy Second, who ranges the world to discover opportunities for his partner.

So it comes about that there are certain men, and Augustus Tibbetts—or, as he was named, "Bones"—was one of these, to whom the increments of life come miraculously. They could come in no other way, be he ever so learned and experienced.

Rather would a greater worldliness have hampered his familiar and in time destroyed its power, just as education destroys the more subtle instincts. Whilst the learned seismographer eats his dinner, cheerfully unconscious of the coming earthquake, his dog shivers beneath the table.

By this preamble I am not suggesting that Bones was a fool. Far from it. Bones was wise—uncannily wise in some respects. His success was due, as to nine-tenths, to his native sense. His x supplied the other fraction.

No better illustration of the working of this concealed quantity can be given than the story of the great jute sale and Miss Bertha Stegg.

The truth about the Government speculation in jute is simply told. It is the story of an official who, in the middle of the War, was seized with the bright idea of procuring enormous quantities of jute for the manufacture of sand-bags. The fact that by this transaction he might have driven the jute lords of Dundee into frenzy did not enter into his calculations. Nor did it occur to him that the advantageous position in which he hoped to place his Department depended for its attainment upon a total lack of foresight on the part of the Dundee merchants.

As a matter of fact, Dundee had bought well and wisely. It had sufficient stocks to meet all the demands which the Government made upon it; and when, after the War, the Department offered its purchase at a price which would show a handsome profit to the Government, Dundee laughed long and loudly.

And so there was left on the official hands, at the close of the War, a quantity of jute which nobody wanted, at a price which nobody would pay. And then somebody asked a question in the House of Commons, and the responsible Secretary went hot all over, and framed the reply which an Under-secretary subsequently made in such terms as would lead the country to believe that the jute purchased at a figure beyond the market value was a valuable asset, and would one day be sold at a profit.

Mr. Augustus Tibbetts knew nothing about jute. But he did read, almost every morning in the daily newspapers, how one person or another had made enormous purchases of linen, or of cloth, or of motor chassis, paying fabulous sums on the nail and walking off almost immediately with colossal profits; and every time Bones read such an account he wriggled in his chair and made unhappy noises.

Then one afternoon there came to his office a suave gentleman in frock-coat, carrying with him a card which was inscribed "Ministry of Supplies." And the end of that conversation was that Bones, all a twitter of excitement, drove to a gloomy office in Whitehall, where he interviewed a most sacred public official, to whom members of the public were not admitted, perhaps, more than four times a year.

Hamilton had watched the proceedings with interest and suspicion. When Bones was mysterious he was very mysterious; and he returned that night in such a condition of mystery that none but a thought-reading detective could have unravelled him.

"You seem infernally pleased with yourself, Bones," said Hamilton. "What lamentable error have you fallen into?"

"Dear old Ham," said Bones, with the helpless little laugh which characterised the very condition of mind which Hamilton had described, "dear old pryer, wait till to-morrow. Dear old thing, I wouldn't spoil it. Read your jolly old newspaper, dear old inquirer."

"Have you been to the police court?" asked Hamilton.

"Police court? Police court?" said Bones testily. "Good Heavens, lad! Why this jolly old vulgarity? No, dear boy, live and learn, dear old thing!"

Hamilton undoubtedly lived until the next morning, and learnt. He saw the headlines the second he opened his newspaper.

GREAT DEAL IN JUTE. PROMINENT CITY MAN BUYS GOVERNMENT SUPPLY OF JUTE FOR A MILLION.

Hamilton was on his way to the office, and fell back in the corner of the railway carriage with a suppressed moan. He almost ran to the office, to find Bones stalking up and down the room, dictating an interview to a reporter.

"One minute, one minute, dear old Ham," said. Bones warningly. And then, turning to the industrious journalist, he went on where Hamilton had evidently interrupted him. "You can say that I've spent a great deal of my life in fearfully dangerous conditions," he said. "You needn't say where, dear old reporter, just say 'fearfully dangerous conditions.'"

"What about jute?" asked the young man.

"Jute," said Bones with relish, "or, as we call it, Corcharis capsilaris, is the famous jute tree. I have always been interested in jute and all that sort of thing—— But you know what to say better than I can tell you. You can also say that I'm young—no, don't say that. Put it like this: 'Mr. Tibbetts, though apparently young-looking, bears on his hardened old face the marks of years spent in the service of his country. There is a sort of sadness about his funny old eyes——' You know what to say, old thing."

"I know," said the journalist, rising. "You'll see this in the next edition, Mr. Tibbetts."

When the young man had gone, Hamilton staggered across to him.

"Bones," he said, in a hollow voice, "you've never bought this stuff for a million?"

"A million's a bit of an exaggeration, dear old sportsman," said Bones. "As a matter of fact, it's about half that sum, and it needn't be paid for a month. Here is the contract." He smacked his lips and smacked the contract, which was on the table, at the same time. "Don't get alarmed, don't get peevish, don't get panicky, don't be a wicked old flutterer, Ham, my boy!" he said. "I've reckoned it all out, and I shall make a cool fifty thousand by this time next week."

"What will you pay for it?" asked Hamilton, in a shaky voice. "I mean, how much a ton?"

Bones mentioned a figure, and Hamilton jotted down a note.

He had a friend, as it happened, in the jute trade—the owner of a big mill in Dundee—and to him he dispatched an urgent telegram. After that he examined the contract at leisure. On the fourth page of that interesting document was a paragraph, the seventh, to this effect:

"Either parties to this contract may, for any reason whatsoever, by giving notice either to the Ministry of Supplies, Department 9, or to the purchaser at his registered office, within twenty-four hours of the signing of this contract, cancel the same."

He read this over to Bones.

"That's rum," he said. "What is the idea?"

"My jolly old captain," said Bones in his lordly way, "how should I know? I suppose it's in case the old Government get a better offer. Anyway, dear old timidity, it's a contract that I'm not going to terminate, believe me!"

The next afternoon Bones and Hamilton returned from a frugal lunch at a near-by tavern, and reached the imposing entrance of the building in which New Schemes Limited was housed simultaneously—or perhaps it would be more truthful to say a little later—than a magnificent limousine. It was so far ahead of them that the chauffeur had time to descend from his seat, open the highly-polished door, and assist to the honoured sidewalk a beautiful lady in a large beaver coat, who carried under her arm a small portfolio.

There was a certain swing to her shoulder as she walked, a certain undulatory movement of hip, which spoke of a large satisfaction with the world as she found it.

Bones, something of a connoisseur and painfully worldly, pursed his lips and broke off the conversation in which he was engaged, and which had to do with the prospective profits on his jute deal, and remarked tersely:

"Ham, dear old thing, that is a chinchilla coat worth twelve hundred pounds."

Hamilton, to whom the mysteries of feminine attire were honest mysteries, accepted the sensational report without demur.

"The way you pick up these particular bits of information, Bones, is really marvellous to me. It isn't as though you go out a lot into society. It isn't as though women are fond of you or make a fuss of you."

Bones coughed.

"Dicky Orum. Remember, dear old Richard," he murmured. "My private life, dear old fellow, if you will forgive me snubbing you, is a matter on which nobody is an authority except A. Tibbetts, Esq. There's a lot you don't know, dear old Ham. I was thinking of writing a book about it, but it would take too long."

By this time they reached the elevator, which descended in time to receive the beautiful lady in the brown coat. Bones removed his hat, smoothed his glossy hair, and with a muttered "After you, dear old friend. Age before honesty," bundled Hamilton into the lift and followed him.

The elevator stopped at the third floor, and the lady got out. Bones, his curiosity overcoming his respect for age or his appreciation of probity, followed her, and was thrilled to discover that she made straight for his office. She hesitated for a moment before that which bore the word "Private," and passed on to the outer and general office.

Bones slipped into his own room so quickly that by the time Hamilton entered he was sitting at his desk in a thoughtful and studious attitude.

It cannot be said that the inner office was any longer entitled to the description of sanctum sanctorum. Rather was the holy of holies the larger and less ornate apartment wherein sat A Being whose capable little fingers danced over complicated banks of keys.

The communicating door opened and the Being appeared. Hamilton, mindful of a certain agreement with his partner, pretended not to see her.

"There's a lady who wishes a private interview with you, Mr. Tibbetts," said the girl.

Bones turned with an exaggerated start.

"A lady?" he said in a tone of incredulity. "Gracious Heavens! This is news to me, dear old miss. Show her in, please, show her in. A private interview, eh?" He looked meaningly at Hamilton. Hamilton did not raise his eyes—in accordance with his contract. "A private interview, eh?" said Bones louder. "Does she want to see me by myself?"

"Perhaps you would like to see her in my room," said the girl. "I could stay here with Mr. Hamilton."

Bones glared at the unconscious Hamilton.

"That is not necessary, dear old typewriter," he said stiffly. "Show the young woman in, please."

The "young woman," came in. Rather, she tripped and undulated and swayed from the outer office to the chair facing Bones, and Bones rose solemnly to greet her.

Miss Marguerite Whitland, the beautiful Being, who had surveyed the tripping and swaying and undulating with the same frank curiosity that Cleopatra might have devoted to a performing seal, went into her office and closed the door gently behind her.

"Sit down, sit down," said Bones. "And what can I do for you, young miss?"

The girl smiled. It was one of those flashing smiles which make susceptible men blink. Bones was susceptible. Never had he been gazed upon with such kindness by a pair of such large, soft, brown eyes. Never had cheeks dimpled so prettily and so pleasurably, and seldom had Bones experienced such a sensation of warm embarrassment—not unpleasant—as he did now.

"I am sure I am being an awful nuisance to you, Mr. Tibbetts," said the lady. "You don't know my name, do you? Here is my card." She had it ready in her hand, and put it in front of him. Bones waited a minute or two while he adjusted his monocle, and read:

"MISS BERTHA STEGG."

As a matter of fact, he read it long before he had adjusted his monocle, but the official acknowledgment was subsequent to that performance.

"Yes, yes," said Bones, who on such occasions as these, or on such occasions as remotely resembled these, was accustomed to take on the air and style of the strong, silent man. "What can we do for you, my jolly old—Miss Stegg?"

"It's a charity," blurted the girl, and sat back to watch the effect of her words. "Oh, I know what you business men are! You simply hate people bothering you for subscriptions! And really, Mr. Tibbetts, if I had to come to ask you for money, I would never have come at all. I think it's so unfair for girls to pester busy men in their offices, at the busiest time of the day, with requests for subscriptions."

Bones coughed. In truth, he had never been pestered, and was enjoying the experience.

"No, this is something much more pleasant, from my point of view," said the girl. "We are having a bazaar in West Kensington on behalf of the Little Tots' Recreation Fund."

"A most excellent plan," said Bones firmly.

Hamilton, an interested audience, had occasion to marvel anew at the amazing self-possession of his partner.

"It is one of the best institutions that I know," Bones went on thoughtfully. "Of course, it's many years since I was a little tot, but I can still sympathise with the jolly old totters, dear young miss."

She had taken her portfolio from under her arm and laid it on his desk. It was a pretty portfolio, bound in powder blue and silver, and was fastened by a powder blue tape with silver tassels. Bones eyed it with pardonable curiosity.

"I'm not asking you for money, Mr. Tibbetts," Miss Stegg went on in her soft, sweet voice. "I think we can raise all the money we want at the bazaar. But we must have things to sell."

"I see, dear old miss," said Bones eagerly. "You want a few old clothes? I've got a couple of suits at home, rather baggy at the knees, dear old thing, but you know what we boys are; we wear 'em until they fall off!"

The horrified Hamilton returned to the scrutiny of his notes.

"I don't suppose under-garments, if you will permit the indelicacy, my dear old philanthropist——" Bones was going on, when the girl stopped him with a gentle shake of her head.

"No, Mr. Tibbetts, it is awfully kind of you, but we do not want anything like that. The way we expect to raise a lot of money is by selling the photographs of celebrities," she said.

"The photographs of celebrities?" repeated Bones. "But, my dear young miss, I haven't had my photograph taken for years."

Hamilton gasped. He might have gasped again at what followed, but for the fact that he had got a little beyond the gasping stage.

The girl was untying her portfolio, and now she produced something and laid it on the desk before Bones.

"How clever of you to guess!" she murmured. "Yes, it is a portrait of you we want to sell."

Bones stared dumbfounded at a picture of himself—evidently a snapshot taken with a press camera—leaving the building. And, moreover, it was a flattering picture, for there was a stern frown of resolution on Bones's pictured face, which, for some esoteric reason, pleased him. The picture was mounted rather in than on cardboard, for it was in a sunken mount, and beneath the portrait was a little oblong slip of pale blue paper.

Bones gazed and glowed. Neatly printed above the picture were the words: "Our Captains of Industry. III.—Augustus Tibbetts, Esq. (Schemes Limited)."

Bones read this with immense satisfaction. He wondered who were the two men who could be placed before him, but in his generous mood was prepared to admit that he might come third in the list of London's merchant princes.

"Deuced flattering, dear old thing," he murmured. "Hamilton, old boy, come and look at this."

Hamilton crossed to the desk, saw, and wondered.

"Not so bad," said Bones, dropping his head to one side and regarding the picture critically. "Not at all bad, dear old thing. You've seen me in that mood, I think, old Ham."

"What is the mood?" said Hamilton innocently. "Indigestion?"

The girl laughed.

"Let's have a little light on the subject," said Bones. "Switch on the expensive old electricity, Ham."

"Oh, no," said the girl quickly. "I don't think so. If you saw the picture under the light, you'd probably think it wasn't good enough, and then I should have made my journey in vain. Spare me that, Mr. Tibbetts!"

Mr. Tibbetts giggled. At that moment the Being re-appeared. Marguerite Whitland, chief and only stenographer to the firm of Schemes Limited, and Bones beckoned her.

"Just cast your eye over this, young miss," he said. "What do you think of it?"

The girl came round the group, looked at the picture, and nodded.

"Very nice," she said, and then she looked at the girl.

"Selling it for a charity," said Bones carelessly. "Some silly old josser will put it up in his drawing-room, I suppose. You know, Ham, dear old thing, I never can understand this hero-worship business. And now, my young and philanthropic collector, what do you want me to do? Give you permission? It is given."

"I want you to give me your autograph. Sign down there,"—she pointed to a little space beneath the picture—"and just let me sell it for what I can get."

"With all the pleasure in life," said Bones.

He picked up his long plumed pen and splashed his characteristic signature in the space indicated.

And then Miss Marguerite Whitland did a serious thing, an amazingly audacious thing, a thing which filled Bones's heart with horror and dismay.

Before Bones could lift the blotting pad, her forefinger had dropped upon the signature and had been drawn across, leaving nothing more than an indecipherable smudge.

"My dear old typewriter!" gasped Bones. "My dear old miss! Confound it all! Hang it all, I say! Dear old thing!"

"You can leave this picture, madam——"

"Miss," murmured Bones from force of habit. Even in his agitation he could not resist the temptation to interrupt.

"You can leave this picture, Miss Stegg," said the girl coolly. "Mr. Tibbetts wants to add it to his collection."

Miss Stegg said nothing.

She had risen to her feet, her eyes fixed on the girl's face, and, with no word of protest or explanation, she turned and walked swiftly from the office. Hamilton opened the door, noting the temporary suspension of the undulatory motion.

When she had gone, they looked at one another, or, rather, they looked at the girl, who, for her part, was examining the photograph. She took a little knife from the desk before Bones and inserted it into the thick cardboard mount, and ripped off one of the layers of cardboard. And so Bones's photograph was exposed, shorn of all mounting. But, what was more important, beneath his photograph was a cheque on the Third National Bank, which was a blank cheque and bearing Bones's undeniable signature in the bottom right-hand corner—the signature was decipherable through the smudge.

Bones stared.

"Most curious thing I've ever seen in my life, dear old typewriter," he said. "Why, that's the very banking establishment I patronise."

"I thought it might be," said the girl.

And then it dawned upon Bones, and he gasped.

"Great Moses!" he howled—there is no prettier word for it. "That naughty, naughty, Miss Thing-a-me-jig was making me sign a blank cheque! My autograph! My sacred aunt! Autograph on a cheque..."

Bones babbled on as the real villainy of the attempt upon his finances gradually unfolded before his excited vision.

Explanations were to follow. The girl had seen a paragraph warning people against giving their autographs, and the police had even circulated a rough description of two "well-dressed women" who, on one pretext or another, were securing from the wealthy, but the unwise, specimens of their signatures.

"My young and artful typewriter," said Bones, speaking with emotion, "you have probably saved me from utter ruin, dear old thing. Goodness only knows what might have happened, or where I might have been sleeping to-night, my jolly old Salvationist, if your beady little eye hadn't penetrated like a corkscrew through the back of that naughty old lady's neck and read her evil intentions."

"I don't think it was a matter of my beady eye," said the girl, without any great enthusiasm for the description, "as my memory."

"I can't understand it," said Bones, puzzled. "She came in a beautiful car——"

"Hired for two hours for twenty-five shillings," said the girl.

"But she was so beautifully dressed. She had a chinchilla coat——"

"Imitation beaver," said Miss Marguerite Whitland, who had few illusions. "You can get them for fifteen pounds at any of the West End shops."

It was a very angry Miss Bertha Stegg who made her way in some haste to Pimlico. She shared a first-floor suite with a sister, and she burst unceremoniously into her relative's presence, and the elder Miss Stegg looked round with some evidence of alarm.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

She was a tall, bony woman, with a hard, tired face, and lacked most of her sister's facial charm.

"Turned down," said Bertha briefly. "I had the thing signed, and then a——" (one omits the description she gave of Miss Marguerite Whitland, which was uncharitable) "smudged the thing with her fingers."

"She tumbled to it, eh?" said Clara. "Has she put the splits on you?"

"I shouldn't think so," said Bertha, throwing off her coat and her hat, and patting her hair. "I got away too quickly, and I came on by the car."

"Will he report it to the police?"

"He's not that kind. Doesn't it make you mad, Clara, to think that that fool has a million to spend? Do you know what he's done? Made perhaps a hundred thousand pounds in a couple of days! Wouldn't that rile you?"

They discussed Bones in terms equally unflattering. They likened Bones to all representatives of the animal world whose characteristics are extreme foolishness, but at last they came into a saner, calmer frame of mind.

Miss Clara Stegg seated herself on the frowsy sofa—indispensable to a Pimlico furnished flat—and, with her elbow on one palm and her chin on another, reviewed the situation. She was the brains of a little combination which had done so much to distress and annoy susceptible financiers in the City of London. (The record of the Stegg sisters may be read by the curious, or, at any rate, by as many of the curious as have the entree to the Record Department of Scotland Yard.)

The Steggs specialised in finance, and operated exclusively in high financial circles. There was not a fluctuation of the market which Miss Clara Stegg did not note; and when Rubber soared sky-high, or Steel Preferred sagged listlessly, she knew just who was going to be affected, and just how approachable they were.

During the War the Stegg sisters had opened a new department, so to speak, dealing with Government contracts, and the things which they knew about the incomes of Government contractors the average surveyor of taxes would have given money to learn.

"It was my mistake, Bertha," she said at last, "though in a sense it wasn't. I tried him simply, because he's simple. If you work something complicated on a fellow like that, you're pretty certain to get him guessing."

She went out of the room, and presently returned with four ordinary exercise-books, one of which she opened at a place where a page was covered with fine writing, and that facing was concealed by a sheet of letter-paper which had been pasted on to it. The letter-paper bore the embossed heading of Schemes Limited, the epistle had reference to a request for an autograph which Bones had most graciously granted.

The elder woman looked at the signature, biting her nether lip.

"It is almost too late now. What is the time?" she asked.

"Half-past three," replied her sister.

Miss Stegg shook her head.

"The banks are closed, and, anyway——"

She carried the book to a table, took a sheet of paper and a pen, and, after a close study of Bones's signature, she wrote it, at first awkwardly, then, after about a dozen attempts, she produced a copy which it was difficult to tell apart from the original.

"Really, Clara, you're a wonder," said her sister admiringly.

Clara made no reply. She sat biting the end of the pen.

"I hate the idea of getting out of London and leaving him with all that money, Bertha," she said. "I wonder——" She turned to her sister. "Go out and get all the evening newspapers," she said. "There's bound to be something about him, and I might get an idea."

There was much about Bones in the papers the younger girl brought, and in one of these journals there was quite an important interview, which gave a sketch of Bones's life, his character, and his general appearance. Clara read this interview very carefully.

"It says he's spent a million, but I know that's a lie," she said. "I've been watching that jute deal for a long time, and it's nearer half the sum." She frowned. "I wonder——" she said.

"Wonder what?" asked the younger girl impatiently. "What's the good of wondering? The only thing we can do is to clear out."

Again Clara went from the room and came back with an armful of documents. These she laid on the table, and the girl, looking down, saw that they were for the main part blank contracts. Clara turned them over and over until at last she came to one headed "Ministry of Supplies."

"This'd be the form," she said. "It is the same that Stevenhowe had."

She was mentioning the name of a middle-aged man, who, quite unwittingly and most unwillingly, had contributed to her very handsome bank balance. She scanned the clauses through, and then flung down the contract in disgust.

"There's nothing mentioned about a deposit," she said, "and, anyway, I doubt very much whether I could get it back, even on his signature."

A quarter of an hour later Miss Clara Stegg took up the contract again and read the closely-printed clauses very carefully. When she had finished she said:

"I just hate the idea of that fellow making money."

"You've said that before," said her sister tartly.

At six o'clock that evening Bones went home. At nine o'clock he was sitting in his sitting-room in Clarges Street—a wonderful place, though small, of Eastern hangings and subdued lights—when Hamilton burst in upon him; and Bones hastily concealed the poem he was writing and thrust it under his blotting-pad. It was a good poem and going well.

It began:

How very sweet Is Marguerite!

And Bones was, not unreasonably, annoyed at this interruption to his muse.

As to Hamilton, he was looking ill.

"Bones," said Hamilton quietly, "I've had a telegram from my pal in Dundee. Shall I read it?"

"Dear old thing," said Bones, with an irritated "tut-tut," "really, dear old creature, at this time of night—your friends in Dundee—really, my dear old boy——"

"Shall I read it?" said Hamilton, with sinister calm.

"By all means, by all means," said Bones, waving an airy hand and sitting back with resignation written on every line of his countenance.

"Here it is," said Hamilton. "It begins 'Urgent.'"

"That means he's in a devil of a hurry, old thing," said Bones, nodding.

"And it goes on to say," said Hamilton, ignoring the interruption. "'Your purchase at the present price of jute is disastrous. Jute will never again touch the figure at which your friend tendered, Ministry have been trying to find a mug for years to buy their jute, half of which is spoilt by bad warehousing, as I could have told you, and I reckon you have made a loss of exactly half the amount you have paid.'"

Bones had opened his eyes and was sitting up.

"Dear old Job's comforter," he said huskily.

"Wait a bit," said Hamilton, "I haven't finished yet," and went on: "'Strongly advise you cancel your sale in terms of Clause 7 Ministry contract.' That's all," said Hamilton.

"Oh, yes," said Bones feebly, as he ran his finger inside his collar, "that's all!"

"What do you think, Bones?" said Hamilton gently.

"Well, dear old cloud on the horizon," said Bones, clasping his bony knee, "it looks remarkably like serious trouble for B. Ones, Esquire. It does indeed. Of course," he said, "you're not in this, old Ham. This was a private speculation——"

"Rot!" said Hamilton contemptuously. "You're never going to try a dirty trick like that on me? Of course I'm in it. If you're in it, I'm in it."

Bones opened his mouth to protest, but subsided feebly. He looked at the clock, sighed, and lowered his eyes again.

"I suppose it's too late to cancel the contract now?"

Bones nodded.

"Twenty-four hours, poor old victim," he said miserably, "expired at five p.m."

"So that's that," said Hamilton.

Walking across, he tapped his partner on the shoulder.

"Well, Bones, it can't be helped, and probably our pal in Dundee has taken an extravagant view."

"Not he," said Bones, "not he, dear old cheerer. Well, we shall have to cut down expenses, move into a little office, and start again, dear old Hamilton."

"It won't be so bad as that."

"Not quite so bad as that," admitted Bones. "But one thing," he said with sudden energy, "one thing, dear old thing, I'll never part with. Whatever happens, dear old boy, rain or shine, sun or moon, stars or any old thing like that"—he was growing incoherent—"I will never leave my typewriter, dear old thing. I will never desert her—never, never, never, never, never!

He turned up in the morning, looking and speaking chirpily. Hamilton, who had spent a restless night, thought he detected signs of similar restlessness in Bones.

Miss Marguerite Whitland brought him his letters, and he went over them listlessly until he came to one large envelope which bore on its flap the all-too-familiar seal of the Ministry. Bones looked at it and made a little face.

"It's from the Ministry," said the girl.

Bones nodded.

"Yes, my old notetaker," he said, "my poor young derelict, cast out"—his voice shook—"through the rapacious and naughty old speculations of one who should have protected your jolly old interests, it is from the Ministry."

"Aren't you going to open it?" she asked.

"No, dear young typewriter, I am not," Bones said firmly. "It's all about the beastly jute, telling me to take it away. Now, where the dickens am I going to put it, eh? Never talk to me about jute," he said violently. "If I saw a jute tree at this moment, I'd simply hate the sight of it!"

She looked at him in astonishment.

"Why, whatever's wrong?" she asked anxiously.

"Nothing," said Bones. "Nothing," he added brokenly. "Oh, nothing, dear young typewriting person."

She paused irresolutely, then picked up the envelope and cut open the flap.

Remember that she knew nothing, except that Bones had made a big purchase, and that she was perfectly confident—such was her sublime faith in Augustus Tibbetts—that he would make a lot of money as a result of that purchase.

Therefore the consternation on her face as she read its contents.

"Why," she stammered, "you've never done—— Whatever made you do that?"

"Do what?" said Bones hollowly. "What made me do it? Greed, dear old sister, just wicked, naughty greed."

"But I thought," she said, bewildered, "You were going to make so much out of this deal?"

"Ha, ha," said Bones without mirth.

"But weren't you?" she asked.

"I don't think so," said Bones gently.

"Oh! So that was why you cancelled the contract?"

Hamilton jumped to his feet.

"Cancelled the contract?" he said incredulously.

"Cancelled the contract?" squeaked Bones. "What a naughty old story-teller you are!"

"But you have," said the girl. "Here's a note from the Ministry, regretting that you should have changed your mind and taken advantage of Clause Seven. The contract was cancelled at four forty-nine."

Bones swallowed something.

"This is spiritualism," he said solemnly. "I'll never say a word against jolly old Brigham Young after this!"

In the meantime two ladies who had arrived in Paris, somewhat weary and bedraggled, were taking their morning coffee outside the Cafe de la Paix.

"Anyway, my dear," said Clara viciously, in answer to her sister's plaint, "we've given that young devil a bit of trouble. Perhaps they won't renew the contract, and anyway, it'll take a bit of proving that he did not sign that cancellation I handed in."

As a matter of fact, Bones never attempted to prove it.



CHAPTER VII

DETECTIVE BONES

Mr. Harold de Vinne was a large man, who dwelt at the dead end of a massive cigar.

He was big and broad-shouldered, and automatically jovial. Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. he had earned the name of "good fellow," which reputation he did his best to destroy between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

He was one of four stout fellows who controlled companies of imposing stability—the kind of companies that have such items in their balance sheets as "Sundry Debtors, L107,402 12s. 7d." People feel, on reading such airy lines, that the company's assets are of such magnitude that the sundry debtors are only included as a careless afterthought.

Mr. de Vinne was so rich that he looked upon any money which wasn't his as an illegal possession; and when Mr. Augustus Tibbetts, on an occasion, stepped in and robbed him of L17,500, Mr. de Vinne's family doctor was hastily summoned (figuratively speaking; literally, he had no family, and swore by certain patent medicines), and straw was spread before the temple of his mind.

A certain Captain Hamilton, late of H.M. Houssas, but now a partner in the firm of Tibbetts & Hamilton, Ltd., after a short, sharp bout of malaria, went off to Brighton to recuperate, and to get the whizzy noises out of his head. To him arrived on a morning a special courier in the shape of one Ali, an indubitable Karo boy, but reputedly pure Arab, and a haj, moreover, entitled to the green scarf of the veritable pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ali was the body-servant of Augustus Tibbetts, called by his intimates "Bones," and he was arrayed in the costume which restaurateurs insist is the everyday kit of a true Easterner—especially such Easterners as serve after-dinner coffee.

Hamilton, not in the best of tempers—malaria leaves you that way—and dazzled by this apparition in scarlet and gold, blinked.

"O man," he said testily in the Arabic of the Coast, "why do you walk-in-the world dressed like a so-and-so?" (You can be very rude in Arabic especially in Coast Arabic garnished with certain Swahili phrases.)

"Sir," said Ali, "these garmentures are expressly designated by Tibbetti. Embellishments of oriferous metal give wealthiness of appearance to subject, but attract juvenile research and investigation."

Hamilton glared through the window on to the front, where a small but representative gathering of the juvenile research committee waited patiently for the reappearance of one whom in their romantic fashion they had termed "The Rajah of Bong."

Hamilton took the letter and opened it. It was, of course, from Bones, and was extremely urgent. Thus it went:

"DEAR OLD PART.,—Ham I've had an offer of Browns you know the big big Boot shop several boot shop all over London London. Old Browns going out going out of the bisiness Sindicate trying to buy so I niped in for 105,000 pounds got lock stock and barrill baril. Sindicate awfuly sore awfuley sore. All well here except poor young typewrighter cut her finger finger sliceing bread doctor says not dangerus."

Hamilton breathed quickly. He gathered that Bones had bought a boot-shop—even a collection of boot-shops—and he was conscious of the horrible fact that Bones knew nothing about boots.

He groaned. He was always groaning, he thought, and seldom with good reason.

Bones was in a buying mood. A week before he had bought The Weekly Sunspot, which was "A Satirical Weekly Review of Human Affairs." The possibilities of that purchase had made Hamilton go hot and moisty. He had gone home one evening, leaving Bones dictating a leading article which was a violent attack on the Government of the day, and had come in the following morning to discover that the paper had been resold at a thousand pounds profit to the owners of a rival journal which described itself as "A Weekly Symposium of Thought and Fancy."

But Boots ... and L105,000 ...!

This was serious. Yet there was no occasion for groaning or doubt or apprehension; for, even whilst Hamilton was reading the letter, Bones was shaking his head violently at Mr. de Vinne, of the Phit-Phine Shoe Syndicate, who had offered him L15,000 profit on the turn-over. And at the identical moment that Hamilton was buying his ticket for London, Bones was solemnly shaking hands with the Secretary of the Phit-Phine Shoe Syndicate (Mr. de Vinne having violently, even apoplectically, refused to meet Bones) with one hand, and holding in the other a cheque which represented a profit of L17,500. It was one of Bones's big deals, and reduced Hamilton to a condition of blind confidence in his partner.... Nevertheless....

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