Easy Street Experts—Eagle-hawked (1922)
by Bertram Atkey
Extracted from Blue Book magazine, April 1922, pp. 153–161. Title illustrations may be omitted.

“Eagle-hawked” describes an adventure of a too clever pair of experts in the sly art of theft, which ends with a surprise for them.

3838015Easy Street Experts—Eagle-hawked1922Bertram Atkey

Easy Street Experts

"Eagle-hawked” finds the Honorable John Brass and
Colonel Clumber undertaking another interesting
exploit in the subtle art of thieving from thieves.

By Bertram Atkey

IT was while those genial though somewhat wolf-witted residents on Easy Street, Messieurs the Honorable John Brass and his partner Colonel Clumber, were returning from a wild-fowling trip to the East Coast that they first heard of Mr. Oswald Weye, M. P.

They had stopped, halfway home, to lunch at the White Hind Hotel, at Armborough, and were in the mood to take a deep interest in the happy gossip of the attractive landlady of the small hostelry.

The lady was one of those large but lightsome blondes with a merry eye, a breezy style, and probably a subdued husband kept somewhere in the kitchen or permitted to air his authority behind the bar of the taproom only, while Madam ran the more impressive part of the establishment. She took to the Honorable John and Colonel Clumber at once, and waited on them more or less with her own hands.

The food was plain but good, and the lady produced a couple of bottles of really excellent Madeira to encourage them in the matter of dealing justly with the simple gravy soup, the chicken, and so forth, which formed the meal.

It appeared—at about the stage when the Honorable John produced cigars—that the Colonel was extraordinarily like Mr. Oswald Weye, the local Member of Parliament—though, stated the lady, she hoped that they were alike only in a certain appearance of distinction that characterized each. She hoped, she added with a gently frolicsome archness, she hoped that Clumber paid his bills more punctually than Mr. Weye. Here she sent for some liqueur brandy of which she claimed to be proud; and the Honorable John pricked up his ears.

“Weye, M.P.?” he said. “Why, that’s the man behind this wonderful new light car that is just coming on to the market—the—the Eaglehawk, aint it?”

He frowned a little puzzled frown, removed it from his brow and suddenly became insistent that the buxom lady should be their guest to the extent of a liqueur.

She was excessively surprised at the invitation, for, it appeared, she never touched liqueurs—it was years since she had even thought of it; besides, there was the waiter to consider—it looked so—well, perhaps, since they weren’t very busy, as it happened—and it was not often such—well, jolly—visitors came—just one—one little one. She sat down and they let her prattle for a pleasant half-hour.

IT was not until some time later after the jolly visitors had departed that, thinking of them, as women will of men who are obviously brighter than their own husbands, it occurred to her that the conversation had kept pretty steadily on Mr. Oswald Weye, M.P., and his bad habit of paying his bills so slowly—not a very interesting subject of conversation on the whole, even though the politician did owe her a very tolerable hotel-bill. It had not seemed to her at the time that she was being pinned down rather completely to that subject, but looking back at it— Here her husband dropped and smashed a tumbler in the tap, and—as is the way, at times, of these merry blondes—she went round to give the man some slight indication of what she really thought of him.

But however it may have been with the landlady of The White Hind, the Honorable John and his partner, lounging comfortably on the lavish upholstery of their limousine, in a haze of cigar-smoke that cost them at least sixpence a cubic foot, were still discussing Oswald.

“If you can tell me how the deuce this Parliamentary guy is hard up, I should be glad to listen while you do it,” said the Honorable John.

“What if he is? Let him be hard up. We’re all right; that’s the main thing. Hang him—what does he matter?” replied the Colonel, saying frankly what he thought, and punctuating it with a yawn.

But the Honorable John’s eye was bright and steely, and there was a look on his face that the drowsy Clumber knew of old. He sat up with an effort.

“Have you got some wildcat revery about getting away with what little this Oswald lawgiver may have—his four hundred a year pay?” demanded the Colonel.

“I am no wildcat reverist,” said the Honorable John tranquilly. “But I’ll own that I don’t see just how it is that the sole proprietor of the forthcoming Eagle-hawk or the Hawk-eagle, or whatever it is, which is going to sweep all other British light cars into the dustbin when it comes forth—can be too hard up to pay such a moderate bill as gay little Goldilocks back at the hotel told us he owed her. Why not try a little reverence yourself—hey, Squire? That’s it—you take a whirl at the refereeing too, and we’ll compare notes later.”

They proceeded to “revery”—waking almost simultaneously as the big car swung into the drive of their secluded country-house retreat at Purdston, on the Surrey Hants border.

“Well, any ideas about Oswald?” asked the Honorable John rather quickly.

“Oswald? Oswald be damned!” said his partner politely. “Can’t I have forty winks without getting a Member of Parliament flung in my face the minute I open my eyes?”

“Ah! Well, I have,” said the Honorable John, lying in that quiet, solid way which he frequently found so effective.

“Will they keep?” asked the Colonel. “Because if they will, I’ll trouble you to keep ’em till after dinner.”

“I will,” said the Honorable John with dignity—and did.

IN spite of the highly cavalier manner in which the Colonel saw fit to receive his partner’s first few hints that the affairs of Mr. Weye might repay their careful attention, nevertheless he proved highly amenable to reason when presently the two old rascals retired from the table, having heavily defeated the goodly dinner which had awaited them, and settled down before the fire.

“What is all this stuff you were trying to pull on me about the Oswald guy?” asked the Colonel, quite good-humoredly for him, as he carefully cut the end off a big cigar.

“I’ll tell you, Squire,” said the Honorable John, and turned to that crocus-colored export from China, his valet, chauffeur, cook and all-around gentleman-in-waiting, Sing. “Just get me this morning’s papers, Sing, my son. Look alive, my lad—put the brandy on the table—don’t stand staring—don’t stand staring!”

The Chink grinned, vanished, reappeared with newspapers and departed.

“Here we are,” said the Honorable John, after glancing through one of the papers. “The Eaglehawk! An eleven-and-nine-tenths horsepower two-seater for one hundred and ninety-nine pounds—warranted the best little car on earth—whatever that means.” He pored over a big advertisement. “H’m! Delivery of the first thousand guaranteed in two months! By the end of the summer they expect to be turning out twenty thousand cars a year. Plant now being built—works seven acres—and so on. It isn’t a company, mark you, Squire. It’s a one-man shot—Oswald Weye, M.P., who is transforming the whole of the famous (so-called) truck and barrow works established by his grandfather in 1840 into a ‘vast machine’ for the production of the what he calls the plain man’s car! And that’s the man,” he concluded, dropping the newspaper, “who can’t pay a hotel bill run up in his own constituency!”

FOR many years there had existed between the two partners a curious form of rivalry which, although always kept very firmly in hand and subsidiary to their main interest, nevertheless afforded the pair of them a certain mild excitement and occasionally some amusement. The Honorable John had a passion for detail. The Colonel scorned and despised it. Nothing pleased the senior partner more than to pounce on some trivial little point and worry at it until it developed into something worth the serious attention of the combine. Nothing pleased the junior partner more than to mock the mental and physical labor of the Honorable John upon these minute points, though few could have forgotten all that and charged in with a more wolfy enthusiasm than the Colonel when, as was very frequently the case, his partner was proved once again to have justified his belief.

So it was in the matter of Mr. Oswald Weye. Colonel Clumber would not permit himself to be seriously bothered about it at first, but when a week or so after their lunch at The White Hand the Honorable John, rather mysteriously, invited him to take a run on Saturday afternoon, and he obligingly did so, he was given food for thought.

It was snowing lightly when, after lunch, the Honorable John proposed the drive, and for a moment the Colonel stared at him in disgusted amazement.

“You’ve sprained your sense of humor, haven’t you?” he demanded. “Look at what’s coming!” He indicated a vast leaden cloud that covered the whole sky.

“That’ll be all right,” said the Honorable John. “If that wasn’t well on the way to coming down, I shouldn’t be asking you to come for a run for which we look like getting paid at the rate of a hundred pounds or so a mile—perhaps morel”

“Hey?” said the surprised Colonel, and he got up. “That’s different! I don’t know what you’re laboring out—but I suppose I’ll have to come.”

The Honorable John sent for their butler-retainer Ferdinand Bloom, whose guilty conscience, thirsty nature, ingrained dislike for steady continuous labor, and well-founded fear of the revengeful nature of the Colonel (whom he had foolishly once tried to rob) kept him—with his wife, who acted as the partners’ housekeeper—at Purdston, busily buttling when the partners were “in residence,” and idling when they were not.

“Bring our furs, Bloom, and do up some caviare, and smoked salmon sandwiches and bring the flasks. Tell Sing to have the car ready, and look alive, my man, look alive! Move yourself for once in a way! It’ll keep you warm, anyway!”

BLOOM left the room, and pausing only to shake both fists and to grate his teeth at the door, fell to forthwith. Half an hour later the partners were gliding smoothly across Surrey to Kent.

Save for the frequent furious yell of the electric horn, the low, soft, soporific hum of the transmission and the heavily muffled exhaust, they traveled silently. The snow was thickening, and it was impossible to see more than a few yards, though the condor-eyed Sing at the wheel seemed to have no difficulty in making a comfortable mileage.

They appeared to swing round the southeastern outskirts of London, and so presently were running down the south side of the Thames—a grisly region in that weather. The Colonel was becoming seriously restive when the car came softly to a standstill, and Sing slid out of his seat.

“Allee same place, master—we finish. You coming, please?”

“Sure, my son.”

Turning up his warm collar, the Honorable John stepped into the whirl of snowflakes, and his partner followed him.

“I suppose you know where you are—for I’m damned if I do,” he grumbled.

“That’ll be all right,” said the Honorable John Brass. “’Old my ’and!” he added just a bit humorously. The Colonel snarled.

“You hang on here, Sing," commanded Brass. “Keep her ticking over in case we want to leave kind of crisp. Come on, Squire—this way."

THE partners vanished into the snow, and the Chink with one hungry, wistful stare after them,—he was, as the Honorable John said, “a whale for a little sport,”—climbed into his seat and proceeded to maneuver the car into the requisite position for making a “crisp” start, if necessary.

The partners, looking in the dense snowfall extraordinarily like two big furry bears, made their way, Brass guiding, along a wall, for some distance. Then the Honorable John stopped, took a key from his overcoat pocket and opened silent negotiations with a small door in the wall. He understood locks better than many locksmiths, and almost immediately the door swung back.

“Follow me, Squire,” he said, and together they passed through the doorway. The Honorable John closed the door carefully and led the way across a big barnlike building. Their snow-clogged feet fell with a dull softness. In the dying light the Colonel saw that the place was empty save for a few rolls of tinned iron in one corner. They came to the doorway of the building and looked out into a big snow-whitened central yard, shut in on all sides by similar buildings.

“See, Squire?” said the Honorable John. “It’s Saturday afternoon—nobody about.”

“See what?” snapped the Colonel. “The snow—or this collection of sheds? Sure, I see it. What are you driving at—what is this place?”

“This,” said his partner impressively, “is the factory—the works—of Mr. Oswald Weye, M.P.—the gentleman who is going to- flood England with cheap cars—cheap but good. If you’ll look at his advertisement any day, you will see that he has guaranteed to turn out a thousand eleven-horse-power Eaglehawk cars in two months.”

“Well, what about it?”

“Why, all those sheds are as near empty as makes no matter. There’s a bit of rusty machinery here and there, and a mixed lot of old iron—enough to set up a marine-store dealer in a small way of business, but that’s all. There isn’t enough real plant or material here to turn out one car a month, much less hundreds.”

The Colonel stared.

“Well, perhaps he intends to import ’em and is keeping the place as a depot.”

“Depot be damned!” responded the Honorable John. “He guarantees ’em to be English cars. No, Squire, the man’s a plain deposit-snatcher; that’s what. He doesn’t intend to make or sell as much as a child’s go-cart. Probably he’s got to go bust—and means to get something on the strength of his M.P. before he busts. All he’s after is the deposits from people who do their thinking with their eyes and check-book. England’s crammed just now with people who know as much about motors as you do of Euclid—and that’s nothing. But they all want cars, and as Oswald and his parliamentary pals are running the country on about four times too much currency naturally everybody’s got the money to buy a car at such a figure as one hundred and ninety-nine pounds. Oswald has got wise to this, and he’s been selling paper cars for paper money for the last month. Hundreds of people have sent him a fifty-pound deposit for quick delivery of the pretty little eleven-horse-power fake which he had built for the show, for the agents to inspect and for the pictures of his advertisements. I’ve been looking into the matter while you’ve been resting from your meals the last week or so—and I’ve got wise to Oswald. As near as I can work it out, he’s due to bolt with his loot in about three weeks. The first car’s due for delivery within a month.”

The Honorable John ceased and studied his friend with a mild glare of triumph. The Colonel said nothing at all. It was only too evident that his partner had picked up a very promising trail indeed.

“You’ve got to hand it to me again, Squire,” said Brass, chuckling. “I don’t want to rub it in—I’m not that kind of a man—but at the same time it’s just as well that one of us keeps his lamps trimmed!”

But the Colonel was in no humor to be facetious.

“All right,” he said. “What you say goes. Some men have luck, some talent. What comes next? Are we going to stand here admiring the scenery till dark? Or are we going home to dinner? We shall be late, anyway.”

“Hey? What’s that? Late for dinner!” ejaculated the Honorable John, swiftly consulting his watch. “Come on, then—let’s get back. There’s plenty of time to get Oswald’s goat another day. We’ll get straight home. If you weren’t such a stubborn man to convince, it wouldn’t have been necessary to drag you all this way and be late for dinner—and there’s quails en casserole, too—favorite dish o’ mine. Come on, Squire—no use standing about any longer.”

They made their exit, and about fifteen seconds later were what the Honorable John described as “well away” for home.

(It may be mentioned here that he did not get his quails after all. Something had gone wrong in the quail department of the dinner. But he did some fine work with a dish of boned larks, stuffed with chicken force and braised; and what happened to some appalling expensive asparagus which Mr. Bloom had prepared à la Milanaise, or in other words, cooked in salt water, strewn with grated Parmesan cheese and butter and browned in a quick oven, only the kindly god of good digestion and the partners really know.)

NEXT day the campaign against Mr. Oswald Weye, M.P., was launched in grim earnest. Slow starter though the Colonel indisputably was, nothing could exceed the grim, indeed almost grisly, enthusiasm with which he clamped himself soul and body to the interesting little task of driving a wedge between Oswald and a portion of his “deposits” as big as they could possibly make it.

During the week in which, as the Honorable John unfeelingly had put it, the Colonel had done nothing except rest from his mealtime exertions, Mr. Brass had not been idle. He had acquired a good deal of information about Mr. Weye, and further had had what he described as a “lamp round the man’s house.” By the simple process of engineering a so-called accident outside Weye’s private house when the sole proprietor of the merry little Eaglehawk was away, he had made the acquaintance of the lady who acted as private secretary and house-controller to Oswald—a widower. She was, Brass said, a very charming woman of about thirty, named Violette—Mrs. Violette Lanson-Karr, to be exact.

“H’m! Sounds good-looking—kind of dashing.” said the Colonel.

The Honorable John nodded.

“She is. Violette is a woman with her eyes open, and her mind doesn’t leak. I like her. So will you. She’s wise—and beautiful. She’s no flapper, of course, naturally; but then, she’s no fool. We’ll drop in and see her this afternoon. Weye’s place is only a thirty-five-mile run.”

The Colonel agreed very readily.

“I suppose you’ve got to know her very well this last week?” he said rather enviously.

“Well, we’re friends—Violette and I,” admitted the Honorable John complacently.

“Humph!” went the Colonel, and turned to swear at Bloom for no apparent reason.

The car came round, and they departed.

“Married?” said the Colonel suddenly.

“Married? What d’ye mean, Colonel?” asked the Honorable John, who was scrutinizing a cigar.

“Violette, of course.”

“I think so—I fancy she married one of those gentlemen whose sole means of existence is pigeon-shooting. They quarreled at Monaco on the honeymoon some years ago—he wanted to put her engagement ring on black to get back a little ready money, or something of the kind—and they parted enthusiastically for good. She’s been secretary to Weye for five years. You’ll like her—dark, lissome sort of woman—fine figure—clinging kind of manner,” continued the Honorable John. “Got purple eyes—tender way with her. Invites confidence—you want to look out for that, she’s the sort of woman who can strain your soul through a net and get all your secrets in the trawl while you’re just wondering whether that curl over her ear is her own.”

He lighted his cigar and laughed.

“But that’ll be all right,” he said. “I wont let you come to any harm.”

The Colonel gave a hard smile.

“No—you wont. You’re one of those unimpressionable woman-haters. I’ve noticed that about you before. Man alive, if it hadn’t been for me keeping a look out for you, you’d have been matrimonially lost to the world years ago!” concluded the Colonel in a sudden burst of candor.

The Honorable John Brass looked a shade uneasy.

“Oh, well, maybe—maybe I’ve got a heart as big as an elephant’s, and I know it,” he admitted.

“So have you,” he added. “Mind Violette Lanson-Karr don’t get a lien on it. She’s some lily-handed octopus, believe me!”

He spoke the truth there.

I TOLD my friend Colonel Clumber that you were looking pale,” he was saying to the lissome lady a little later, “and he insisted on motoring over to take you for a run.”

“That is the kindest thought!” she exclaimed. “But then I knew you were kind—you look kind, both of you.”

“That’s right,” said the Honorable John. “We are kind—at least, we try to be—kind to our friends!”

Violette laughed.

“But you should be kind to your enemies too,” she said playfully.

“Well, if we had any, we’d give it our consideration.”

“But we haven’t got any,” said the Colonel.

They took her for a run in their touring car. It was frosty, and she enjoyed it enormously, but nevertheless the skillful questioning of the partners seemed to extract nothing of value from her conversation that could be considered a clue, as it were, to where Mr. Weye had salted down the Eaglehawk loot.

They talked it over on the way home.

“What we want to find out is whether Oswald is going to some foreign country when he hops it, or whether he’s going to ground in England,” said the Honorable John. “And is he taking Violette with him or not? If not, I fancy she’ll have a claw out for him, too. Did you notice anything in her pretty purple-eyed prattle that gave a hint?”

The Colonel shook his head.

“No,” he confessed. “I was too busy keeping my soul out of her net. She’s got the best-shaped mouth I remember seeing for some time.”

“Yes, and she knows how to keep it shut,” said Brass, frowning. “I got on to one point—a small point, but maybe useful. She said she hadn’t been to London for two months—it sort of slipped out, and it sounded true. Now, if that’s true, it means she hasn’t bought any foreign outfit—she lives too near London to do a thing like that by post. Well, if she hasn’t bought an outfit, it means that either she isn’t going away with Oswald, or if she is, that they’re going somewhere where a foreign outfit isn’t required. That might be Paris, where she’ll buy what she needs, or somewhere in England. Hey, Squire?”

The Colonel nodded.

“You may be right,” he said. “And you may be wrong. Probably you’re wrong. It seems rough to hound that poor little dame down, this way.”

“I’m not hounding her—she’s a peach; it’s Oswald’s tainted money I want to hound. I wouldn’t hound down a little dame like Violette under any consideration. But these Eaglehawk gazaloons are in another class,” explained the Honorable John patiently, and continued his ingenious deductions.

“Well, suppose we put it that Oswald’s going to earth at some quiet little place in England, and will be taking his secretary with him. I would, if she were my secretary. After all, I suppose the man will have some correspondence or some thing for her to do. Very well, that means disguises for both of ’em. Did you happen to spot anything in that line today?”

“Nothing to speak of,” said the Colonel with heavy sarcasm. “I had an idea that there might be a wig inside the piano and a pair of Pierrot’s trousers under the settee, but I never got a chance to prove it!”

“Ah, well—I fancy I did,” said the Honorable John with a very complacent smile. “It’s just as well that one of this firm keeps his presence of mind when calling on these purple-eyed, pretty-figured private secretaries!” He drew from his pocket an envelope which he flashed be fore his partner’s eyes, so that he could see the name of the theatrical costumer which was printed at the back.

“I lifted it out of the letter-box under her very eyes, God bless her,” he said, and ripped it open.

The Colonel stared, gave that peculiar half-heave, half-shrug which was with him a sign of surrender, and made his amende.

“If you had served your country as well as you have served yourself, you would have been Prime Minister by now,” he said, apparently with some hazy idea that he was quoting the late Cardinal Wolsey. “You are a master crook, and if anything comes of this, I’ll be damned if I don’t buy you a blackjack for your collection! I’m glad that I don’t owe you any money, and I’m proud to be your partner.”

The Honorable John grinned with pleasure, for it was but rarely that the Colonel was pleased to “praise” him. A hobby of his was collecting ancient winecups—the kind called “blackjacks.”

“Thank’ee, Squire—there’s a very fine little jack at an antique place in Bond Street. I’ll guide you to it when we go to town. This”—he passed the theatrical costumer’s bill—“is only an ‘account rendered’ with no details, but unless Oswald and Violette have been going to fancy-dress balls lately, it’ll serve as a kind of hint. They’re going disguised. Now, what we’ve got to do is to find out where Oswald has dug his dugout, and I’ll tell you how we’ll do it, Squire.”

And he did—with the result that an hour after their return to Purdston, that durable ever-ready Sing, the Chink, was called upon to appear before his owner.

“It’s time the motorcycle had a bit of exercise, Sing, my lad,” said Brass. “Hey?”

“Yes, master—allee same doing nothing velly long time,” grinned the expectant Chink happily.

“That’s right, my son—can’t have a thundering, great nine-horse skid-grid eating its head off like this. Take it out, Sing, ride to the place where we called this afternoon and hang about there, watching Mr. Oswald Weye and his secretary. Put up at the local pub’ or somewhere. I shouldn’t be surprised if one of these nights you’ll find ’em do a journey by car somewhere. If they do—follow ’em—over a cliff, if necessary. Find out where they go—mind they don’t disguise themselves and slip you—and then report back here quick. If they go by train, go with ’em—if you can. If not, telegraph me, and we’ll meet you at their house. D’ye understand? All right. Here’s twenty pounds. Don’t spend it for the sake of spending—it’s a bad habit, my lad, but don’t be foolishly careful about it..... Now, you’ve got all that, laddie, haven’t you?”

“Yes, master, me velly much have got.”

“Then slip it, my son.”

Sing grinned and slipped it forthwith.

AMONG the various little “gifts” which the Honorable John undoubtedly possessed was a gift for what he called “timing” a crook. One listening to him holding forth on the subject when in the mood, ind provided the Colonel was willing to be audience, might almost have believed that a “crook” was some kind of magneto. Be that as it may, certainly the Honorable John Brass had succeeded in timing Mr. Oswald Weye, M.P., to a fraction of a millimeter—as Sing swiftly proved when three days later he returned, having put both himself and the “nine-horse skid-grid” through a grueling that left both somewhat shaken up.

The Chink had clung to the politician and his lissome secretary as the trailing seaweed clings to the hull of a ship too long at sea—tenacious and unseen. The night after he had left Purdston, a car had arrived at Weye’s house just after dark, and the couple—their appearance greatly changed—had traveled to a retired little country place called Groundall, near Winchester, where they had stayed two days. Sing had extracted enough in formation from the local gossips to make quite clear to the Honorable John the Weye plan—which was, as he explained to his partner, so simple that, had it not been for him, the Honorable John Brass, it would probably have succeeded.

“Yes, we’ve got Oswald’s goat, Squire,” said he. “And if we aren’t richer before long by a big double-handful of Oswald’s Eaglehawk deposits, you can call me no hawk-eagle!” And so he proceeded to complete the laying out of his traps.

IT was exactly a week later when the partners received two telegrams—one from Sing, who was stationed at Rixley Heath, where Weye lived, warning them, in a cryptic message, that Mr. Oswald Weye and secretary were leaving that place for good that afternoon—and one from Bloom, stationed at Groundall, stating that from information received Mr. and Mrs. Everest were expected there that night.

“Good,” said Brass. “They’ll have the loot in cash with them, if I’m not making a mistake.”

He glanced at his watch.

“We’d better be moving,” he said with a reluctant sigh as he gazed round the comfortable room.

Their preparations were soon made, and within a quarter of an hour they were away—in the fast touring car, the Honorable John at the wheel.

It was dark when they stopped at Groundall and called at the Station Hotel for Bloom. Unfortunately they found Ferdinand very ill. The landlord—a lean and hungry-looking man, with a queer, contemptuous, irritable style of drinking whisky—said that Bloom had been as sober as an undertaker until he went up to the post office in the early afternoon to send a telegram to some friends. But immediately after, he had bought a bottle of “this under-proof brandy” and went to his bedroom, saying that he had just successfully concluded five days of very hard work, and that he felt a little off color. He had left instructions to be called at five p.m. sharp. The landlord had called him personally, sharp to the minute—but he had found him very unwell—very unwell indeed.”

The Honorable John interrupted.

“Forget the unwillness part of it, host,” he said, “and, as man to man, tell me: was he sober or was he blind?”

The landlord irritably emptied his glass and looked the Honorable John squarely in the eye.

“He was as blind as a petrified, paralytic newt, gentlemen 1” he said. “He didn’t care if it snowed pyramids—that’s how he was! And good luck to him, I say! He hasn’t slept more than three hours a day since he’s been here. Tramping the country all night—insomnia he called it. But he aint got insomnia now—the man’s sleeping like old Rip Van Winkle himself!”

THE partners understood. It was a weakness of Ferdinand Bloom’s. In his case (he claimed), any intense and prolonged application of his mind to any given subject invariably set up a most irritating and painful parching of the epiglottis, which could only be allayed by the passing over the parched part of a steady trickle of moisture—not more than thirty under proof, less if possible. In short, Bloom was out of action for the next twelve hours.

Oathfully the partners realized this, and fell to work to receive the expected fleeing couple without the aid of Mr. Bloom. They motored out to the house at which the proprietor of the visionary Eaglehawk and the purple-irised, lily-handed lady who was his wife or secretary or both—or neither—were liable to arrive at any moment, and following their favorite tactics, left their car just inside a grass-field adjoining the house, nose pointing to the road ready for a quick departure if necessary. Then they took up a position in an old, dank summer-house which faced the house across a small tree-inclosed lawn, and settled down to wait.

“They may be here any minute, Squire,” said the Honorable John. “We’ll let ’em get indoors and get their things off, then we’ll nip in on the old detective dodge and arrest ’em, take charge of the evidence—it’ll run to thousands, I hope—then let ’em escape by accident. It’s easy—robbing a little child of its bun would be a tough job compared with it. I’m sorry for Violette—but after all, money is money, whereas love is only love.”

“Yes—love is,” muttered the Colonel cryptically.

THE minutes stole by; finally their victims arrived.

The partners saw the lights of rather a noisy car swim to a standstill at the front door of the house. A woman got down and opened the door of a coach-house; the car was run in; and the woman returned to the house. A light appeared at one of the windows, and shortly afterward a man’s figure passed before that window on the way to the door, which a moment later was shut with a slam.

“They’re both in now—in the blank mousetrap,” hissed the Honorable John. “Did you spot the big kit-bag he was carrying? It was so heavy it sagged him over sideways. I’ll risk a big bet it was mostly notes in that bag. Notes, Squire! Notes! Get wise to that! We’ll give ’em five minutes to get comfortable, and then we’ll come down on ’em like Sir Ryan’s wolf on the fold!"

They held each other back for five minutes, then “went to it”—to quote the Honorable John as he executed a species of shadow-dance across the lawn.

There was no reply to their carefully modest knocking at the door, so the Honorable John quietly applied a wire key and a little skill to the lock, and entered the house. They went straight to the room of the lighted window, and the Honorable John, looking very hard and official indeed, with a carefully prepared warrant well to fore, strode in, remarking as he did so:

“You’re arrested, Oswa—”

He did not conclude the observation, for the room was empty—totally empty and unfurnished, except for an old portmanteau stood on end in the middle of the room. On the top of the portmanteau was an evil-smelling bicycle lamp placed so that it shone full on the drawn blind of the window.

That was all.

The partners stared, literally “damfounded” as the Honorable John subsequently described it.

“Search the house,” snapped the Honorable John. They did so—it took them three minutes, for it was a small house, and every room was absolutely bare.

“A false scent!” said John. “They are miles away by now!”

“Then they’ve left their car,” snapped the Colonel. “I’ll swear that’s still here.”

They hastened to the coach-house. It was unlocked. The Colonel was right. The car was still there—an ancient taxicab long overdue for the scrap heap.

“Well, are you satisfied?” inquired the Colonel sourly. “Or would you like to run round and round the house doing some more eagle-hawking for a little while?”

The Honorable John raised his hand, smiling a forced smile.

“We’ve been double-crossed this time,” he said. “I own it—I admit it. The best of men make mistakes sometimes—I do myself. This is one of ’em. Bloom has made a fool of himself some way—”

“No, not Bloom. Somebody’s made a fool of somebody—but it aint Bloom,” said the Colonel.

“Who is it, then?” demanded his partner.

“Why, the purple-eyed fondling—she’s made a fool of you.”

“And how about you?”

“Well, yes—you can write me down as an also-ran in the Tom Fool stakes, too! .... Oh, come on, let’s get home.”

THEY banged the door of the coach-house with singular fury and headed for their car.

“What about Bloom? He’s probably bust. Shall we give him a lift?” said the Honorable John as they turned into the field.

“No! Let the brandy-drinking blackguard walk home—do him a world of goo—hello! Where’s the car?”

Where indeed?

The Honorable John took out his electric torch and rather aimlessly waved it about.

“She’s gone! Oswald’s got her..... It was Violette’s favorite make—I remember her saying so. They knew all about us, somehow—been watching us, no doubt—probably she did it. They went into the house at the front, straight through, out at the back, circled round the trees to our car—and away they go—like that! See? See that?” He flashed the light on the ground, showing a small deep indentation in the ground, soft from the thaw.

“See what?” growled the Colonel. “A worm?”

“No—that mark. It’s the mark of a woman’s heel. A Cuban heel. She wore Cuban heels.”

“How d’you know?”

“I—happened to notice ’em one day.”

Reluctantly they left the field.

“Well, what are we going to do about it? Take the taxi?”

The Honorable John looked at his watch.

“Not me, Squire. I don’t want what teeth I have got left jarred out of my head. There’ll be a train.”

They started on the two-mile tramp to the station.

“What about the car?” asked the Colonel.

Brass reflected. Then, briefly, he spoke.

“You can search me, Squire! She’s gone—for good, if I know anything about politicians and purple-eyed squaws. We can get another just as good for—a couple of thousand pounds. Oh, blazes! It’ll hurt doing it—but I guess it’ll be cheaper than matching up against Violette again. She’s a flyer from Flyburg, is that girl. And my vote goes into the box against asking for more trouble with her. I don’t pretend to understand dames—but I guess I know enough to keep from attempting to pull a stinging lizard back that’s trying to get away from me!”

“What are you going to do, then?” snarled his partner.

The Honorable John stopped. “I’ll tell you, Squire. I’m going to pass it off with a laugh!” he bawled furiously.

“Go on, then,” yelled the Colonel. “Laugh!”

And the Honorable John laughed—laughed like a bearcat in a trap. For a moment his half-hysterical mirth echoed through the darkness, then ceased abruptly.

“And that’s that—and be damned to it!” he said briskly. Then he slipped his arm through that of his partner and, their hearts too full for further conversation together, they pressed steadily on to the station.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1952, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 71 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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