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Chapter 16 A BOLD STROKE

  • Cleek stood a moment holding the burnt label between his thumb and forefinge_nd regarding it silently, his face a blank as far as any expression of hi_eelings was concerned. Then, of a sudden, his gaze transferred itself to on_f the two other labels which, like this one, had escaped entire destructio_y the fire; and carefully picking them up, he laid them inside his pocke_otebook, gave a casual, offhand sort of glance at the windows of Lord St.
  • Ulmer's room, and then quietly resumed his sauntering walk in the direction o_he house.
  • The twilight was now so rapidly fading that it might be said to be all bu_ark when he reached the main entrance to the building and found one of th_ootmen busily engaged in lighting up the huge electric chandelier whic_erved to illuminate the broad hallway of the Grange. But neither the Genera_or any of the ladies was visible, all, as he correctly surmised, bein_ngaged in the matter of dressing for dinner.
  • "Pardon me, sir," said the footman, turning at the sound of his step as h_ame in, "I was just about to step out into the grounds to ascertain if yo_ight not, by chance, have lost yourself or failed to hear the dressing gong, sir. It is quite half an hour since Miss Lorne requested me to be on th_ookout for you, and I was getting anxious."
  • "Extremely kind of you, I must say," said Cleek serenely. "But never giv_ourself any uneasiness upon my account so long as I remain here. I am give_o taking my time on all occasions, my man. I think out all the plots of m_ovels prowling about in silence and alone, and an interruption is apt t_estroy a train of thought forever." And having thus given the man an ide_hat he was an author—and accounted beforehand for any possible need fo_rowling about the place when the others were asleep—he went further, and gav_im half a crown to salve his injured feelings, and won in return for i_omething which he would have held cheaply bought at a sovereign.
  • "Now tell me," he went on, "why did Miss Lorne ask you to be 'on the lookout'
  • for me? Has anything extraordinary occurred?"
  • "Oh, no indeed, sir," replied the footman with a full half-crown's worth o_rbanity; the generosity of the gentleman had touched him on his weakest part.
  • "You see, sir, it being the butler's evening off, and Mr. Harry having bee_alled away before any arrangements were made with regard to your sleepin_uarters, sir, Miss Lorne requested me to say that she had spoken to mistress, and you were to have any vacant suite in the house which might best meet you_leasure, sir. I was to wait here and conduct you through all the unoccupie_nes in the house."
  • Cleek smiled. Oho! That was it, eh? Well, there was a thoughtful ally and n_istake! Knowing full well that it would be awkward for him to be put off int_ome inconvenient wing of the house, should he have cause to leave it secretl_nd to communicate with Dollops and Narkom at any time, she had taken thi_tep to serve and to assist him. What a woman! What a gem of a woman she was!
  • His thoughts worked rapidly, and his mind was made up in a twinkling.
  • "Quite so, quite so! Very kind and very thoughtful," he said composedly. "_lways prefer the second story of a building—it's a fad of mine, and Mis_orne recollects it. So if there are any rooms vacant upon the second floor——"
  • "Only one, sir, and it's the least comfortable one in the house, I'm afraid, being next to that occupied by Lord St. Ulmer."
  • "Lord St.—oh, ah—yes! That's the gentleman who is ill, isn't it?"
  • "Yes, sir. That's why I spoke of it as being uncomfortable. Butler says he's _ery crochety gentleman. But sick folk are always that, sir; so maybe you'd b_isturbed a deal in the night."
  • "Hum-m-m! Yes, that is a drawback, certainly. Might take it into his head t_et up and wander about during the night, and so keep one awake. Does he?"
  • "I couldn't say, sir; never set eyes on him since he arrived. Nobody in th_ouse has except master and butler. Don't think he would be likely to mov_bout much, though, sir, for I've heard his ankle's sprained and he can't pu_ foot to the ground. Butler always carries up his meals; at least, he ha_one it so far, his lordship having arrived only the night before last. Lik_s not I'll have to carry up his dinner to-night, this being, as I've said, sir, butler's evening off."
  • Cleek made a mental tally. Then if none of the servants at the Grange had see_is lordship, with the single exception of Johnston, the butler—— Quite so, quite so! His lordship wouldn't know what the other servants were like, so, o_ourse—— He glanced at the footman out of the tail of his eye. Livery, dar_ottle-green—almost black; would pass for black in anything but a brillian_ight. Waistcoat, narrow black and yellow stripes. No cords, no silve_uttons. Hum-m-m! With a black-and-yellow striped waistcoat and in a none to_rilliantly lighted room—and a sickroom was not likely to be anything els_nless the man was too much of an ass to keep up the illusion by attending t_etails—an ordinary suit of evening clothes would do the trick. And h_ouldn't have a doctor and wouldn't see any outsiders, this Lord St. Ulmer, eh? Oh, well—you never know your luck, my lord; you never do!
  • Mental processes are more rapid in the action than in the recording. Not te_econds had passed from the time the footman ceased speaking when Clee_nswered him.
  • "Oh, well, if it's a case like that, and his lordship isn't likely to distur_e by wandering round his room in the night, I dare say I can risk the rest, as I'm a very sound sleeper. The room's on the second floor; that's the mai_hing," he said offhandedly. "So you may show me to it at once."
  • "Very good, sir; this way if you please, sir," the footman replied, an_orthwith led him to the room in question.
  • It was one immediately adjoining that occupied by Lord St. Ulmer, bu_nfortunately, having no connection with it, the wall which divided the tw_as quite solid. Had there been a door—— But there was not. Cleek saw at _lance that matters were not to be simplified in that way; whoever might wis_o see into that room must first _get_ into it: there was no other way.
  • "All right, this will do; you may go," he said as soon as he was shown to th_lace he had chosen; and taking him at his word, the footman gently closed th_oor and disappeared. Cleek gave him but a minute or two to get below stairs, then slipped out on tiptoe and followed, getting out of the house unseen an_unning at all speed in the direction of the stables.
  • At the angle of the wall he stopped suddenly, and began to whistle "Kathlee_avourneen." He hadn't rounded off the third bar before the wall door clicke_nd swung open, and Dollops was beside him.
  • "Kit bag—quick!" whispered Cleek. "Need an evening suit, and the chap who wa_oing to lend me one went off and forgot all about it. Move sharp, I'm in _urry."
  • "Right ho!" said Dollops, and vanished like a blown-out light. In half _inute's time he was back again, and the kit bag with him.
  • "Here you are, gov'ner. Shall I get out the evenin' clothes, and put the ba_ack under the hedge, or will you take it with you?"
  • "I'll take it. There are other things I shall want. Where's Mr. Narkom?"
  • "Gone back to town, sir—to the Yard. Want him?"
  • "No, not yet; maybe not to-night at all. Nip off and get yourself something t_at and be back here by nine o'clock at the latest. I shall very likely nee_ou. Cut along!" Then he caught up the kit bag, whisked away with it into th_arkness, and five minutes later stood again in the room which he had s_ecently left.
  • Accustomed to rapid dressing, he got into his evening clothes in less tim_han it would have taken most men to unpack and lay them out ready for us_hen required; and then, taking the half-burnt labels from his pocketbook, carried them to the light and studied them closely. None was so big as the on_hich he had first inspected nor bore so much printed matter; but fortunatel_ne was a fragment of the exactly opposite side, so that by joining the tw_ogether he was able to make out the greater part of it.
  • Clearly, then, the original label, making allowance for what had been totall_estroyed by the flames, must have read:
  • **JETANOLA** **AN UNRIVALLED PREPARATION**
  • For Boots, Shoes, and All Leather
  • Goods
  • MANUFACTURED SOLELY BY
  • FERDINAND LOVETSKI
  • 63 ESSEX ROW
  • SOHO
  • After all, the imaginative reporter had not been so far out when he figure_hose mysterious markings upon the dead man's shirt bosom to read "63 Esse_ow," an address where one Ferdinand Lovetski once did manufacture a certai_ind of blacking for boots, shoes, etc. Not that they really did stand fo_hat, of course, or that this ingenious person had done anything more tha_ork out as a solution to the riddle of the marks a name and an address tha_ere eventually to come into the case—as they now had done—but in a totall_ifferent manner from what the author of the theory intended or supposed.
  • Of two things Cleek was certain beyond all question of error. First: that th_ead man was not Ferdinand Lovetski—not in any way connected with Ferdinan_ovetski to be precise; second: that the markings on the shirt were not mad_ith "Jetanola" or any other kind of blacking; and ingenious as the theor_as, he was willing to stake his life that those marks no more stood for 6_ssex Row than they did for 21 Park Lane. For one thing, what would be th_ense of smearing them on the dead man's shirt bosom if they merely stood fo_hat? It was all very well for that imaginative reporter to suggest that i_as a sign given by the assassin to the whole anarchistical brotherhood that _ebt of vengeance had been paid and a traitor punished; but the brotherhoo_id not need any such sign. If the man were Lovetski it would know of hi_eath without any such silly nonsense as that. It knew the men it "marked,"
  • and it knew when those men died, and by whose hand, too; and it did not g_bout placarding its victims with clues to their identity or signs of whos_ands had directed the exterminating blow.
  • And Ferdinand Lovetski it never had "marked"—never had issued any deat_entence against, never had sought to punish, never, indeed, had taken an_nterest in—for the simple reason that, as Cleek knew, the man had been in hi_rave these seven years past! He knew that beyond all question; for in thos_ark other times that lay behind him forever—in his old "Vanishing Cracksman"
  • days, in those repented years when he and Margot had cast their lot togethe_nd he had been the chosen consort of the queen of the Apaches—in those wil_imes Lovetski, down on his luck, bankrupt through dissipation, a thief b_ature, and a lazy vagabond at heart, had joined the Apaches and become one o_hem. Not for long, however. Within six months word had come to him of th_eath of a relative in his native Russia, and of a little property that wa_ow his by right of inheritance; and he was for saying good-bye to his ne_olleagues and journeying on to Moscow to claim his little fortune. But th_aw of the Apaches is the law of the commonwealth, and Margot and her band ha_emanded the usual division. Lovetski had rebelled against it; he had swor_hat he would not share; that what was his should remain his only as long a_e lived and—it did. But five days later his knife-jagged body was fished ou_f the Seine and lay in the morgue awaiting identification; Margot went thric_o see it before it went into the trench with others that were set down in th_ecords as unknown.
  • That was seven years ago; and now here was Lord St. Ulmer, or some one in hi_oom, burning labels that had to do with the days when that dead man was i_onest business, and had lost it simply through dissipation after the polic_ad discovered that 63 Essex Row was used in part as a meeting place fo_everal "wanted" aliens, and had raided it and closed it up.
  • Lovetski had never belonged to the brotherhood; he had never even known tha_hey met under that roof until the time of the raid; but he had been arreste_ith every other inmate of the house, held as a suspect to await examinatio_t the hands of a magistrate, and in the meantime his business had gone to th_ogs. After that drink got him, and acquaintances made in the place o_etention became associates and pals. It was only a step from that to th_paches, and from the Apaches to the Seine and the trench; and the littl_ortune in Russia was never claimed.
  • And now this Lord St. Ulmer was burning labels that once had been the propert_f that man, was he? And burning them at this particular period, of al_thers, when somebody, who evidently had some undesirable knowledge regardin_im, had been mysteriously done to death and the Yard was out on the trail o_he crime!
  • What did that mean? How did Lord St. Ulmer come into possession of thos_abels? And having come into possession of them, why had he suddenly becom_nxious to get rid of them?
  • What few paltry effects Lovetski had possessed when he joined the Apaches wer_eft in the room he hired from old Marise—Madame Serpice's mother—at the in_f the "Twisted Arm." The Apaches had gone through them, and voted them no_orth ten sous the lot—and very probably they were not. Still there might hav_een letters, and there might have been some unused labels; fellows of tha_ort would be apt to keep things of that kind merely to back up maudlin boast_f former standing. And if there had been, if this Lord St. Ulmer had com_nto possession of things that were left in the secret haunts of the Apaches—— Decidedly it would be an advantage to get a look at his lordship, and that, too, as expeditiously as possible.
  • A footman's waistcoat—merely that. He had one, that he knew; but was it in th_it bag? He went over and reopened the bag, and examined its contents. Goo_ld Dollops! What strokes of inspiration the chap sometimes had! There it was, the regulation thing—the stripes, perhaps, a trifle broader than those th_eneral's servants wore, but quite near enough to pass muster with a stranger.
  • Now, then, upon what pretext? How? When? Hullo! What was that? The dinne_ong, by Jupiter!
  • Certainly! The very thing. "Master wishes to know if there is any especia_ish your lordship fancies, or shall I bring up just what cook has prepared?"
  • That would do the trick to a turn; and he need be only four or five minute_ate in going down to join his host and the ladies.
  • He whisked off his coat, waistcoat, and necktie, and made the change in _winkling. Another and more subtle "change"—yet made even quicker—altered hi_ountenance so completely that not one trace of likeness to Mr. Philip Barc_emained. A moment later he had passed swiftly out of the room and was tappin_pon Lord St. Ulmer's door.