Easy Street Experts/The Holiday Haul

Easy Street Experts (1926)
by Bertram Atkey
The Holiday Haul
Extracted from The Blue Book Magazine, 1926 Jan, pp. 58–66. Illustrations by may be omitted. An “Easy Street Experts” story.

“The Holiday Haul” deals with one of the most interesting of all the hazardous ventures of two amiable past masters in genteel theft.”

4220441Easy Street Experts — The Holiday Haul1926Bertram Atkey

Easy Street Experts

“The Holiday Haul” deals with one of the most interesting of all the hazardous ventures of two amiable past masters in genteel theft.

By Bertram Atkey

I DON'T mind saying that if I'd only known the kind of garbage they cooked and called food at this hotel, I'd never have risked my digestion by coming here for a holiday,” complained the Honorable John Brass as he sat with his partner, Colonel Clumber, one morning, on the terrace of the very large and very new hotel which had just been opened at Harromouth, that said-to-be-rising seaside resort on the south coast. The Colonel did not answer—he seemed sullen.

“Those red mullet tasted more like bad bloaters painted pale pink,” continued Mr. Brass. Then, as though pleased and slightly surprised at the pat alliteration, he repeated it. “That's it—like bad bloaters painted pale pink,” he said.

Colonel Clumber stirred impatiently.

“The soles were carrion—cooked carrion,” he remarked antagonistically, obviously believing himself as much injured as his partner—who nodded thoughtfully.

“Yes, they looked carriony,” he agreed. “It seems to me that we can't do better than to take that little furnished place down by the cliff end for a month. We shall either starve, get poisoned or have to make a habit of ordering a liqueur of antiseptic fluid after every meal if we stop here.”

The Colonel nodded, and rose.

“You're right, Brass,” he said.

The Honorable John rang for a waiter, and ordered the motor round. But as the man went to ring up the garage at the back, a look of doubt suddenly crept into Mr. Brass' eyes.

“After all,” he said, “hadn't we better walk it? Donald sent us here for exercise—and it's only about a quarter of a mile.”

The Colonel nodded, and they left the terrace.

It was the old trouble—weight—that had brought them to Harromouth. Vaguely disturbed by the rather noticeable increase of adipose tissue which had obtruded itself upon them during the past winter, they had consulted Sir Donald MacRee, the expensive specialist, who, recognizing after a short conversation that the age of miracles was past and that therefore it was folly to suggest their maintaining a more frugal table, had recommended the burly partners to go to Harromouth for a month, there to play golf and otherwise take exercise. Carefully ascertaining that the golf-links were flat, without any of the miniature cliff-climbing which is a feature of so many courses, the partners had followed the advice—with sad results.

So they decided—rather reluctantly—to walk out and inspect a furnished house which the day before they had noticed was offered to be let.

“If I didn't feel pretty sure that Sir Donald knows his job, and when he said, 'Harromouth for you two,' he meant Harromouth for some good reason of his own, I'd sooner have put in my month's cure at Brighton,” said the Colonel frankly, as they strolled along. “This place is too much like a half-built beehive for me. Look at 'em. Like a lot of cockroaches in corduroys—swarms of 'em!” He pointed with his stick to the long strip of beach where hundreds of stalwart British workingmen were building a new esplanade and pier in that quiet, old-fashioned, leisurely style for which the British workman is so justly renowned.

Mr. Brass regarded the toiling multitude with an air of mild benevolence.

“Yes,” he said at last, “there's a lot of 'em there.” He paused thoughtfully. “They represent a pretty tidy sum in wages every week. What would they draw, do you reckon? A pound a head?”

THE COLONEL laughed—a hard laugh, for in his day he had employed the British workingman in large quantities.

“A pound!” he said. “You're thinking of Indian coolies! Those gents with the pickaxes over there would despise anything under the average of about three pounds a week, eight-hour day, double for overtime, if not more, and so on. This esplanade and pier and breakwater business is a 'rush' business too, I've heard. somewhere, and I expect they charge extra for that.”

The Honorable John surveyed them musingly.

“You surprise me, Squire,” he said. “Why, their wages-bill all told must add up to—what? Four thousand a week, paid out in ready money, I suppose.”

“Quite that,” replied the Colonel.

Mr. Brass sighed.

“Seems a lot of money,” he said. “It's a pity we couldn't get it one week.”

The Colonel nodded. “True,” he said. “So it is.”

Mr. Brass smiled pleasantly and continued to watch the corduroyed crowd.

“It wouldn't interfere with our holiday to any extent,” he remarked presently. “Let's talk it over.”

WITH this end in view they sat down on a bench close by—a bench that was placed a few yards back from the edge of the cliff which at this point was not higher than some ten feet. The Honorable John had opened his mouth to speak, when the voice of some unseen person on the narrow strip of beach below the cliff struck suddenly on their ears.

“If yeh think yeh can work it better than me, yeh'd better do it,” said the voice rather shrilly. “But yeh can't, and yeh know yeh can't. And yeh can shut up. I put it to him straight. 'Mr. Fairborn,' I says, 'take it from me that the men'll come out in a week if they aint squared one way or the other way. I can square 'em,' I says, 'cheaper than you can. I aint been “Honest Jim” Walcher, chief travelin' representative of the South of England's Navvy's Union for five years, without learning about navvies,' I says. 'It'll cost a good five 'undred pound to do it, though,' I says. 'Things have gone too far. They're beginning to reckon that another three ha'pence an hour's their rights,' I says. 'And yeh knows what these great big buck navvies are when they start talking about their rights. So, if you're wise, we'll call it five 'undred, and I'll square the men with it unofficially.' He said he'd think it over, and let me know this afternoon.”

“Well, you made a fool of yourself, Walcher,” snapped another voice in reply—obviously the voice of a better class man. “That's the worst of dealing with little stiffs like you—you can only think in hundreds. Why didn't you ask five thousand—a serious strike would cost Fairborn and Company twice that, and even the potty little half-hearted strike that you could engineer would lose 'em thousands. Haven't you got it through your armor-plated skull yet that Fairborn and Company have got to finish the work here by June first or pay a penalty of something like three hundred quid a day for every day they take after the first of June?”

“Well, Captain, I thought—” began the first voice, that of Honest Jim Walcher, in much milder tones, but broke off suddenly as a third person spoke, a woman this time.

“Think, dear Mr. Walcher? That is exactly where you went wrong,” she said cuttingly. “If you intend to begin thinking, we may as well drop the whole scheme while we're safe. What you have to do is what you're told—just that, no more. Please, please, don't begin to think. Your tongue is the asset in this affair—your brains, dear Mr. Walcher, are a liability. Keep them under control.”

The partners on the bench glanced at each other as the woman finished her bitter comments, and the Colonel leaned to Mr. Brass.

“Who is she? I've heard that voice before,” he whispered. The Honorable John nodded.

“It's Echo—Echo Paley, the woman who ran that gambling club off Bond Street,” he said softly. They had met the lady before—she was an adventuress of unusual ability.

They waited, listening. But evidently subdued by the razor-edged irony of Miss Paley, Mr. Walcher had lowered his voice and the partners could hear no more than a slight rumble.

“Let's have a look at them,” suggested the Honorable John. “It sounds as though there's money in this.”

They rose, and walking some two hundred yards 'along the cliff, descended a flight of steps to the beach and strolled quietly back along toward the point from which the voices had risen to them. In their tweeds they looked exactly like two prosperous, middle-aged bankers, taking a quiet stroll with cigars preparatory to adjourning to the golf-links.

AS they expected, there were three people at the spot toward which they were advancing so casually—a lady very smartly got up in the spring seaside style, sitting on a big block of sandstone with a military-looking man in chessboard checks, and facing these two was a short, fat person in a cinnamon-hued, soft felt sombrero, fawn-colored clothes, and a fierce tie—evidently Mr. Walcher.

The representative of the South of England's Navvy's Union seemed to have finished his business, for he jauntily pinched his hat at Echo, as the partners drew nearer, and hurried past, lighting a powerful cigar.

Chatting casually and apparently ignoring the couple on the sandstone, the Brass-Clumber combine strolled past, staring seaward. For their part, Miss Paley and the gentleman Walcher had addressed as “Captain” seemed too interested in the rather brisk conversation they were carrying on to pay much attention to the two passers-by.

WHEN the partners returned from their stroll, the couple were gone.

The Honorable John stood and stared with a puzzled expression at the block of sandstone.

“What I can't make out is how Echo's got time to waste over a third share. There must be more in it than that,” he said. “Echo is a girl that likes the lot.”

“More than that!” replied the Colonel. “But don't forget there's a whole lot of money in the scheme—if we can get hold of Walcher—and if Walcher has got the influence with those shovel-pushers back at the works that he says he's got. Let's get over and have a look at 'em.”

They moved away to the swarm that were working on the esplanade. There was a small crowd collecting at a spot where a little steam crane was hoisting big blocks of granite up to the level of the esplanade, and toward this crowd the two crooks proceeded. They saw that Mr. Walcher was the center of the group, and that he was talking loudly to a person who seemed to be a sort of foreman. It appeared that the foreman was straining the crane cable beyond its capacity—to the risk of the navvies working below.

“Yeh say it aint none of my business,” shouted Honest Jim Walcher. “And I say it's the business of any 'uman bein' to protest on behalf of these honest toilers around me when I sees their lives being risked every minute of the day so as yeh can squeeze a few extra shillin's out of it for yer bloated capitalist employers. These honest workers whose union I 'ave the privilege to represent aint beasts of burden—no, nor no slaves, neither. They're 'uman flesh and blood, as good as any duke or any other of yer idle rich, and I demand their rights.”

The foreman stood back, gladly making way for a smart, dapper man who had come up quickly—a keen-looking, hard-faced, capable sort of person, and evidently a manager or some one in authority. He went close up to the agitator.

“Now, get out of this,” he said crisply. “The cable's tested up to a ton and a half more than she's lifting. I know you, and I know what you're after. Now get out—or must I boot you out?”

“Men—comrades!” yelled Mr. Walcher. “This is threats and violence. Will yeh stand this, comrades?”

A low but rather ominous murmur broke out from the gang.

“Let 'im alone..... He aint done no harm.... Not so much 'boot'..... He's a man from the Union—only takin' care of our rights,” they grumbled. The manager moderated his tone a little. Every minute was precious if the work was going to be finished according to the contract, and the one thing the contractors could not afford was any discontent on the part of the workmen—still less a strike.

“All right, men. We'll have the inspector over this afternoon and re-test the cable. How's that?”

“That's all I arsk,” said Honest Jim, rather reluctantly, replying for the men, and slowly withdrew.

Messrs. Brass and Clumber followed him.

“We ought to make his acquaintance,” said the Colonel. The Honorable John nodded, and they overtook the agitator.

“I should like to congratulate you, sir, on the fine and plucky stand you made on behalf of those workingmen,” said the Colonel. “It was the act of a man—a brave man—and I admire it.”

“And,” chimed in Mr. Brass, “and we hope you'll join us in a bottle of wine up at the hotel to celebrate it.”

Mr. Walcher, agreeably surprised and flattered, agreed with a swiftness that hinted at an expensive thirst, and the three started off toward the hotel.

HONEST JIM got on wonderfully well with his new acquaintances and their champagne. He put them down in his own mind as a pair of rather simple-minded toffs, and proceeded to deal with them as such. It was clear to him that they admired him tremendously, and the skillfully gross flattery they administered with the champagne he wolfed as hungrily as he did the wine. By the time he had finished the first quart, Honest Jim, vaguely striving to live up to the almost hopeless standard of power which the partners seemed to believe he possessed, had admitted that he fancied he could bring the two thousand or more workmen employed by Fairborn and Company out on strike any day he liked.

By the time the second quart had passed down, what the Honorable John described afterward as his “crater,” he had become amazingly frank and confidential; and when, the third quart of wine being soaked up, Mr. Walcher quietly slid off his chair and pillowed his unbeautiful head upon the claw foot of the table, the partners knew as much about the scheme for squeezing good red money out of Fairborn and Company as Honest Jim himself.

It was quite simple—painfully so. It amused the partners tremendously. They laughed very heartily indeed at the ingenuity and simplicity of it all—laughter which, if heard in public, would cause most people with money on them to button up their pockets and take a cab home.

IT seemed briefly that Fairborn Senior, the grim old grindstone who had built up the big contracting business, was on a yachting cruise for his health, with strict medical orders to forget all business. His son Percival was temporarily in charge.

Now, Percival was a master of the theoretical technicalities of the building and contracting business, but beyond that was “easy.” The scheme, allowing for the champagne kinks in Walcher's tongue, was roughly as follows:

First Walcher would “urge” five hundred pounds or so out of Fairborn and Company, as represented by Percival, with which to jolly the workmen along and keep them from striking.

Then the engagement of Walcher to Miss Paley—or the Baroness de Bonbleuton, English relict of a French nobleman, as she was thought to be by people who believed what they were told and what they read in the visitors' list of the local paper—would be announced, and a feast provided for the workmen by the Baroness to celebrate the occasion. This was the initial stage to making the Baroness extremely popular with the men—a step which she proposed to follow up indefatigably for a week or so. Then Honest Jim and Captain Fitzair, the brother of the Baroness (otherwise, as Mr. Brass had instantly recognized, “City Joe,” one of the eeliest crooks that London had ever produced) intended to “pinch” a week's wages from the clerk that brought them to the works' pay office from the bank. This being successfully carried out, Honest Jim would secretly bring about the strike he had been paid to avert. At the end of the first week, he and Fitzair would grab the thousand-odd pounds strike-pay which would be brought to Harromouth by a representative of the Navvy's Union. On the same day the Baroness expected to get a check for anything from a hundred upward from Percival Fairborn upon guaranteeing that by using it in judicious bribery in the right place, she and her fiancé could get the men back to work at once: the word “hundred” on the check she proposed altering to “thousand,” and adding a modest '0' to the figure line, she would cash it and step from the curb outside the bank into the motor which, containing Walcher and Fitzair, and their accumulation of plunder, would be waiting to convey them out of Harromouth without delay.

That was the plan which the partners gradually pieced together from the “honest” blackguard's vinous incoherence, and there appeared to be nothing much wrong with it—from the crook's point of view.

THEY rang for Sing and indicated the fallen agitator to him.

“See that, Sing?” said the Honorable John, pointing to Walcher's body.

“Yes, master.” The Chinaman's usually impassive air disappeared as his vulturine wits seized on the fact that his masters were once more on the trail.

“Soused,” said Mr. Brass briefly. “Remove it.... Take care of him. Sober him up as soon as you can—by dinner-time at least.”

“Yes, master.” Sing bent down, lifted Mr. Walcher and carted him out to a bedroom which the partners, in view of such a contingency, had engaged for their guest.

Then they strolled across and took the furnished house which they had discussed—or rather, which an optimistic house-agent fancied he had let to them for the season, on the strength of a ten-pound note in advance and a few cubic feet of tall talk from the wealthy-looking pair.

This done, they returned to the hotel and sent for the manager and chef. Breakfast had been a failure; but that, as Mr. Brass remarked, had been the hotel's fault. If lunch was a failure, it would be their own fault.

“In a place this size we don't expect to have to bring our food or lend our own cook to the management,” explained the Colonel, “but if you don't feel competent to turn out an eatable lunch for once in a way, then say so, and the Chink can come down and do it.”

But the management decided that a special effort should be made—and made it to the entire satisfaction of the partners.

On the other hand, Mr. Walcher's lunch was a barbarous broth composed and blended by Sing (an expert in pick-me-ups) containing among other things a large bottle of lukewarm soda water and a stiff three fingers of Worcester sauce. True, it knocked the agitator down before it picked him up—but desperate evils require desperate remedies, and whatever it tasted like, it tightened up the nerves of Mr. Walcher's body till he felt that at the least touch he would twang like a harp.

Then Sing escorted him in to Messrs. Brass and Clumber, who had just enjoyed their customary half-hour's nap after lunch, and who proceeded to parade the whole of his horrid past (of the previous four hours) before the dazed and pallid agitator's bloodshot vision.

“You gave the whole game away, Walcher; and as far as we can see,” concluded Mr. Brass, “you're guilty of conspiracy with this faked baroness and imitation captain to commit fraud, forgery, theft, blackmail, assault and battery, and, in fact, every kind of crime there is. And now what we want to know is—what are you going to do about it?”

The “navvy's pal” tried to think—he realized that he had given himself away pretty thoroughly; but he decided that a head like a hornless phonograph playing military band records at full pressure was not the sort of thing to think with.

So he threw himself on the mercy of the two bland bandits who were waiting for their answer—and then they had him where they wanted him.

WHEN, two hours later, Mr. Walcher retired to his lodging, he went without uneasiness. Indeed, he was inclined to glow with a certain righteous enthusiasm. As he told himself, it is not every day that an agitator of his meager influence is called upon to assist two highly placed Government officials—secret service men—to balk a couple of adventurers who had been guilty of attempting to corrupt a respectable Trade Union representative with a view to putting the power of the said representative to base uses. Especially unusual was it that such officials should be so broad-minded and generous as the parting speech of the smoother-spoken of the two hinted they would be.

“You've got to remember, Walcher,” Mr. Brass had said, in his blandest style, “that we have not been sent down here to interfere with you. We know that you are all right if you are only left alone. The pair we are after are this Baroness and Captain Fitzair. They have played this sort of game all over England—and this time we want to get them red-handed. You needn't look nervous—we aren't detectives. We shall arrest nobody. We work behind the scenes. But what we say, Scotland Yard does. Understand? Home Office. Don't be afraid—we'll look after you. But you've got to help us get that couple red-handed. See?”

MR. WALCHER, rather pale but reassured by the friendly tone of these two “agents” from the Home Office, nodded nervously.

“Your instructions—from us direct—are to go ahead with your plans, but to do nothing without first consulting us. D'ye understand? Don't back out of any arrangement with the Baroness, but just keep us advised. See?”

Honest Jim saw.

“But couldn't yeh gimme a pass or a permit or something to show the police in case they happen to drop on us when we're doing the trick?” he asked.

The partners stared at each other.

“What do you think?” asked the Honorable John..

The Colonel appeared to hesitate.

“I really doubt if Mr. Walcher is important enough to justify our issuing a protection pass to him,” he said, very seriously. Mr. Walcher turned paler.

“In the ordinary way, I'd agree with you,” said Mr. Brass. “But we've got to remember that—” He crossed over and began to speak in low tones to his partner. Walcher caught a few words—such as “labor unrest .... military .... Great Britain.... Unions.... Crisis”— And his spine went chilly as he realized (or thought he realized) that inadvertently he had collided with Great Forces. He watched the consultation anxiously. Eventually the Honorable John seemed to persuade the Colonel, who nodded reluctantly.

“Very well, I agree—I think perhaps we should be justified. I'll prepare it.”

He went to a writing-table, and on a sheet of note-paper wrote a few words, signed it with a completely unintelligible scrawl, and added at the foot the words “One month.” Then he gave the sheet to Mr. Brass, who added a number and initial, and handed it on to Walcher, who read it, as follows:

Industrial Secret Service.
Bearer Immune.
A. 1
(Signature unintelligible)

One month.

From May 1st.

(Countersigned) A. 2.

Walcher folded the “pass” almost reverently.

“Merely show that to any detective or police inspector at any time you are in danger of arrest—but only at the last moment, and in private,” said the Colonel, heavily. “Remember there are hundreds of men in this country who would murder you for that pass.”

The agitator nodded respectfully and put the paper carefully away. Then he received his instructions and left.

The partners smiled at each other, and took a little refreshment.

“These half-honest crooks are as simple in the head as bull calves,” said the Honorable John gayly, and looked at his watch. “It's about time you pulled out for Purdston.”

THE COLONEL rose reluctantly, and rang for the car. Ten minutes later he was on his way to Purdston, while Mr. Brass went down to see how they were getting on at the works. The men seemed glum and sullen, and the foreman looked uneasy. While the Honorable John watched, a big navvy hammering at a spikehead missed it and struck his foot. He shouted an oath, dropped his hammer, and nursing the injured foot, yelled: “That's what we gets fifty-five bob a week for.”

The Honorable John noted the unmasked approval with which the workmen who heard greeted the exclamation, and moved on.

“Ripe as red apples for a strike,” he told himself. “They'd come out for next to nothing. Not that we shall be here to see it!”

Then, lighting a cigar with the air of a man who had done a good day's work, he went on to the furnished house—a new white-and-red detached villa standing alone on the cliff not far from the valley—where Sing should be engaged in getting things ready for the partners' occupation that evening.

The Chink was there, working with his customary efficiency. He grinned at his owner-driver like an affectionate dog.

“Evelything velly nice, master,” he said.

“That's right, my lad,” said Mr. Brass encouragingly. “You stick to your work, and I'll stick to you. You'd better lay dinner for three—Mr. Walcher will be coming. Dinner at nine—the Colonel wont be back till then. And don't leave anything lying about—see? When we leave this place, we shall leave quick. We shall probably hop it at a sixty-mile-an-hour clip—and there wont be time to go over the place with a fine-tooth comb. So leave nothing about. Have you brought the old brandy round from the hotel? You have? Then kindly fetch it along here, there's a good lad.”

THE clock was chiming eleven that night, when the partners and Mr. Walcher finished their liqueurs and coffee and withdrew into the drawing-room.

“And now to business,” said the Honorable John, eying the agitator severely.

“Yes sir.” Since receiving his valuable immunity pass, Mr. Walcher had become astonishingly humble.

“Well, come on, then,” repeated Mr. Brass impatiently. “To business—the check, my man, the check.”

Mr. Walcher produced a check and deferentially handed it to the Honorable John, who scrutinized it and passed it to the Colonel. “Five hundred—dated today—payable to bearer—signed Fairborn and Company—No. K 290232,” muttered the Colonel. “It seems in order.” He touched a bell, and a burly person entered—a big, fleshy man with a heavy face and bloodshot eyes. He was dressed in the uniform of a police inspector. Few would have recognized in this overpoweringly official-looking person Mr, Ferdinand Bloom, butler and handy-man at Purdston. Mr. Walcher quailed as Ferdinand ran a light gray eye over him.

“Inspector!” snapped the Colonel. The “inspector” saluted smartly.


“Kindly witness that this check is handed to us by Mr. Walcher, who has received it this afternoon—in confidence—from Messrs. Fairborn and Company—to pay expenses Walcher is likely to incur in urging the workmen down at the new pier and esplanade not to strike.”

“Yes, sir.” The inspector examined the check and made an entry in his notebook.

“Good,” continued the Colonel. “We have issued an immunity pass to Mr. Walcher—you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“You may go.”

The “inspector” saluted and went—back to the kitchen to help Sing wash the dishes.

The partners turned to Walcher again. the Colonel folding the check and putting it in his note-case.

“Now, Walcher,” said the Honorable John, “be very careful what you say—do you understand? Be very careful.” His manner was an admirable imitation of a prosecuting counsel. “Tell us exactly what the plans of this so-called baroness and imitation captain are for tomorrow.”

Walcher, nervous but sustained by the recollection of his immunity pass, explained at some length. The partners listened attentively to the end, nodding reflectively.

“Very clever,” said the Colonel finally in his harsh voice. “Ve-ry clever—clever enough to get the baroness and her captain ten years each. Now, clear out.”

[[w:{{{1}}}|{{{1}}}]]ALCHER cleared out, with a certain air of relief. The partners waited until the footsteps of the cowed free-lance agitator died out, and then they rang for Sing and Mr. Bloom, and spent the next half-hour in giving them their instructions.

They were good at most things, the Brass-Clumber partners; but what they most enjoyed and what they were best at was “giving instructions.” They were no fonder of risk and work than the next man. They preferred to do the superintending and the organizing. At the end of the instructions, the Honorable John gave the other two a word of encouragement:

“Now you know what you have to do, my lads, and let's see how well you can do it. You needn't look so miserable, Bloom of Roses—you wont get pinched tomorrow. It's ten to one against your getting pinched. You want to brighten up and enter into the spirit of the thing—the way that yellow-looking little banana of a Sing does. Look at him—he's happy. You be happy too, and do your duty tomorrow. If you do your duty, you'll be happy. See what I mean? You can clear out now and get on with your work. Be good lads and we'll take care of you—that's what.”.

He smiled affably and waved them away.

“What I like about us, Squire,” he said, “is our neatness. We don't steal—hardly ever, I mean. We just hike off with stuff that has been stolen by some real first-hand thieves. And that's what I call neatness. Look at that five hundred. Walcher bullied that out of Fairborn and Company—by threatening 'em with a strike, the low hound. Yet he's glad to give it to us—you and me. Dying to hand it over. Neat—that's what I call it. Nothing but neatness.”

BUT if the diverting to themselves of the Fairborn check was “neat,” the next day's work was considerably neater.

At precisely ten minutes past ten on the following morning a middle-aged clerk of highly respectable appearance might have been seen walking along the cliff path carrying a weighty bag. With the sole exception of a smartly dressed lady who had alighted from a long olive-green fast-looking motor at the end of a new, and as yet unbuilt-upon road, and was strolling toward the low cliffs—evidently an intending visitor taking a preliminary look at Harromouth,—the clerk was the only person to be seen on the cliff at that hour. It was too early in the season for promenaders, and in any case the fine drizzle that was falling did little to tempt stray strollers out.

Humming a cheerful tune to himself, the clerk with the heavy bag—which contained the wages of the men working on the esplanade—went down the steps by which the little water-worn valley was crossed, and stepping out buoyantly, was about to ascend the steps on the opposite side, when he heard a swift footfall behind him.

He half turned; and as he turned, his hat—a soft felt—was jammed down over his eyes, and before he was able to raise his hand, a thick sack was drawn down over his head, a rope ran round his chest outside the sack, effectually binding his arms, and he was neatly tripped. It was all done with a precision and dispatch that spoke of careful planning. And indeed, 'Captain' Fitzair had drilled Mr. Walcher very thoroughly in his part of the business, from the lying in wait behind a bend, to passing the rope round the clerk.

“That's got him,” said the Captain hoarsely, knotting another rope round the legs of the man. “Where's his bag? Hey! Look out! Jump for it! Cops!”

THE Captain leaped away, not stopping to pick up the bag which had fallen some feet off, and bounded up the steps, using hideous language. For a burly police inspector was hurrying into the valley from the beach end of it; and racing down from the other end of the gorge was a constable. The Captain and Walcher were caught between two fires. Their only hope of escape was up the steps which the Captain, as he topped them, saw, with a wild hope in his heart, were not yet guarded. He heard the sound of a struggle behind him as the police seized Walcher, and he flew toward the olive-green motor, in which the lady who looked like an intending visitor was already seated. Evidently she was a confederate, for as the Captain ran toward her, she backed the motor to him. Within three seconds he was in the car, the woman had roared up her engine, dropped in the clutch with a brutal jar that sent the road dirt flying from under the steel-studded back wheels, changed into top speed and was shooting away down the lonely new road. Even so she was only just in time, for a white car, furiously driven, came racing out of another road, swung around the corner and tore after the olive-green car. The second motor was occupied by two men in peaked caps—like the caps of police inspectors.

The woman in the fugitive car glanced behind her.

“What is it?” she snapped.

“Sixty-horse Kite—looks like,” gasped the Captain. Echo Paley laughed—an acid, biting laugh.

“We can lose 'em,” she snapped, and steered out onto the main London Road.

BUT it was not until an hour later that she finally shook off the pursuit—some thirty-five miles northeast of Harromouth. And she never knew that if Mr. Brass and Colonel Clumber, the peak-capped occupants of the white car, had wished it, they could have overhauled her at almost any moment they liked. But they only wanted to frighten the couple away from the loot—the last thing in the world they desired to do was to come up with Miss Paley and her “captain.”

Meantime Mr. Ferdinand Bloom and the invaluable Sing, back in the valley, had taken possession of the bag, slipped on the long mackintoshes which hid their police uniforms, changed their hats, and left the valley by the upper end. Mr. Walcher had made himself scarce in the same direction in obedience to “Inspector” Bloom's curt order to that effect, given him the instant Captain Fitzair disappeared up the steps.

The two quickly made their way to the furnished house taken “for one night only” by the Honorable John, where the big high-powered limousine car of the partners was waiting, already packed; and ten minutes later, Sing at the wheel, they were sliding smoothly and tranquilly out of Harromouth “forever and for aye,” as the song-writer so feelingly observed.....

That evening Sing, duly arrived at Purdston, handed over the bag to Messrs. Brass and Clumber, who had reached home early in the afternoon.

It contained just over three thousand pounds—mainly in treasury notes—with some silver.

The Honorable John surveyed the big pile of money thoughtfully.

“Fair,” he said, “very fair. Not a fortune, but fair.”

He slid a note toward Sing and one toward Bloom.

“Here you are, my lads. Take your share. You've been very good lads, and although we don't intend to spoil you, at the same time we don't grudge a sweetener for you. Now, hook it and see about dinner.”

The pair pensively hooked it, and the Honorable John turned to his partner.

“Wonder what happened to Honest Jim?” he said:

The Colonel remarked that he did not know—nor, he added, did he care. Which was correct.

“About three thousand five hundred, counting the check I cashed this morning,” said Mr. Brass thoughtfully. “Not bad for holiday money—but I'm not sure it wouldn't have paid us to wait. If we'd waited, we might have got the lot when Echo had carried out her plans.”

The Colonel eyed his regretful partner sternly.

HOW should we have separated Echo from all that money?” he asked. “Even supposing she and Fitzair had pulled it off! It was too risky. After all, three thousand-odd in hand is worth five thousand-odd in Echo's hooks. Yes sir. But you were always a bit of a human wolf, old man,” he added amiably.

“Who—me? Me a wolf?” said the Honorable John quickly, looking a little shocked. “Not me—I'm no wolf. I only ask for my own.”

“Well, you've got it, haven't you?” replied the Colonel sarcastically.

Mr. Brass gave up the argument.

“Well, some of it, perhaps,” he confessed reluctantly.

Then as he reached for the whisky, he laughed.

“I suppose you're right, Squire,” he said. “It doesn't do to be greedy. It's a mistake. I shouldn't like to get greedy..... Say when.”

The siphon hissed. The Colonel said “when,” and they settled down to enjoy a quiet hour before dinner.

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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