Easy Street Experts/The Rajah's Commission

Easy Street Experts—The Rajah's Commission (1924)
by Bertram Atkey
[# Easy Street Experts] Extracted from Blue Book magazine, November 1924, pp. 56–64. Title illustration may be omitted.

“The Rajah’s Commission” is one of the most amusing of all these delightful adventures in rascality.

3890279Easy Street Experts—The Rajah's Commission1924Bertram Atkey

Easy Street Experts

A more amusing pair of scalawags have never appeared in contemporary fiction than Messrs. Brass & Clumber—but this story, “The Rajah’s Commission,” is, so to speak, “just Brass.”

By Bertram Atkey

DESPITE the regrettable necessity which drove the Honorable John Brass to remember with the utmost strictness the adage that “business is business,” his friendship with Lord Fortworth daily grew firmer—the last application of cement thereto being, so to speak, a certain lunch in which they both indulged a few weeks after their Mogador trip. The lunch finished, Mr. Brass gazed contentedly across the table at his friend Lord Fortworth, and Lord Fortworth gazed contentedly back at Mr. Brass.

“What a lunch!” sighed the Honorable John devoutly, and relapsed into thought.

Fortworth did not answer. He gravely nodded his head.

The lunch had been in the nature of a farewell meal. Lady Fortworth, who was paying a visit to America, had written to her husband instructing him to come over and spend a few weeks there with her before both returned to England, and Lord Fortworth was going quietly like a well-behaved husband. In three days he was sailing. He had been desperately anxious that Mr. Brass should go with him, but the Honorable John wanted to “take things easy” for a while. He had been doing well for a considerable time past, and wished to employ a few months in learning to shoot and in getting an idea of golf. Be it remembered, this was in the Honorable John’s early days. Hence he had decided to relieve the nobleman of his company for a while. He had already relieved him of more than enough money to pay the expenses of his “rest.”

Suddenly the telephone on the table at Lord Fortworth’s elbow gave a musical imitation of an agitated rattlesnake.

Fortworth took off the receiver, growled into the instrument, and listened a few seconds. Then he proffered the receiver to Mr. Brass.

“Your Chink wants to speak to you,” he said. “He is a good boy, that. Never understood why he left me to go to you, though. Queer birds, these Chinks,” he said, and relapsed into his chair.

Sing seemed almost excited.

He swiftly informed the Honorable John that the early afternoon editions of the evening papers contained a curious personal advertisement which he would like his “master” to see.

The Honorable John replaced the receiver on its hook, and with a short but ready lie to his host (for explanation) glanced through an evening paper that a well-trained and expensive-looking servant had just brought in. It was brief but to the point. One Lucien Santoin announced that he desired to get into communication with the person who had given shelter in his flat to a gentleman of high rank, who had lost his memory some few months previously—and the Honorable John knew that the person in question was himself. He felt a thrill of excitement as he turned to his host, for Lucien Santoin was confidential secretary to His Highness the Rajah of Jolapore—the “gentleman of high rank” in question. Mr. Brass had always had an idea that something good was coming to him from the potentate in question when he had recovered his memory—or, at any rate, the greater part of it. He had been keeping a fairly keen and comprehensive eye upon the Rajah and his suite at the Southern Grand Hotel during the past six months, either in person or by proxy; but the process of recovering one’s memory seemed to be lengthy, and he had not expected to get in touch with the Rajah again for a considerable time to come. But this advertisement looked as though His Highness had taken a turn for the better.

HE swiftly excused himself to Lord Fortworth on the plea of urgent family affairs, and took a taxicab to the hotel.

Monsieur Santoin, a middle-aged Frenchman with a singularly discreet air, was expecting him.

“The Honorable Brass, is it not?” queried the discreet one, who evidently had discovered that the original name “Coomber Huish” was merely a nom-de-guerre. “I have not yet forgotten the brave hospitality you extended to my master.” He drew a chair forward for the caller who, faultlessly dressed, prosperous-looking, and wearing a superb fur-lined coat, seemed a wealthier and more important individual than the keen and watchful man who had sheltered the Rajah. The eyes of Monsieur Santoin glistened swiftly over Mr. Brass and came suddenly to rest full upon the blandly smiling orbs of the adventurer.

“Mr. Brass,” he said earnestly, “I am your true friend. You are a man of the world. I, too, am a man of the world. It is a good thing to be men of the world; but men of the world must live, and to live one needs money—”

“Certainly,” said the Honorable John. “Certainly a man must live. But he’s not likely to make a fortune rescuing Rajahs on the nod. On the nod, mind you, Santoin. What did I get for saving him from a gang of crooks that would have skinned him alive before they’d done with him—what did I get? An unsigned, unstamped promise to give me a roomful of gold, which was never kept. That’s what I got!” He simulated disgust; but Santoin smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“All in good time,” he said. “His Highness has recovered his memory but one day. You have rendered him a great service—and he will not forget that. Above all, remember this—that I, Lucien Santoin, am your true friend; all others serving His Highness are sneaks and vipers and canaille that I spit upon.”

For a second he was purely French. Evidently he had a private feud with some one whom Brass would shortly meet.

“Your true friend, dear monsieur. Presently you will meet a yellow-souled, crawling reptile called Mirza Khan. He will, perhaps, tell you many things. They will be lies—all lies. Perhaps he will say that he is a friend to you. But that is not true. He has not any friends. Everybody is his enemy. He is his own true friend only. Beware of him, Monsieur Brass. But I am another man—a true man, you will see that very easily. Guard against that yellow-hearted crocodile and listen to me!”

He dropped his voice to a whisper.

“His Highness was drugged by a lady who desired to hold him for sake of the rewards that would be offered. You saved him from her, but the drug caused him to lose his memory. Now his memory has come back, and he wishes that lady to be captured for punishment. But how to capture her? Who knows where she is? We know not; the police know not—and you, dear monsieur, it is not possible that you know?”

He paused, his eyes narrowing. But if it was a trap to catch Mr. Brass he had set it much too clumsily. He may have been a wily fowler, but he was dealing with a very much wilier fowl. The Honorable John’s face was blanker than brick walls; he did not answer.

“It is not possible that Monsieur Brass knows where this lady is that has drugged a Rajah and is not yet punished?” he asked in his silkiest tone.

THEN the Honorable John knew for certain what he was after.

“Know?” he said innocently. “Of course I know.”

The pupils of M. Santoin’s expressive eyes darkened, dilating.

“Ah, that is a good thing! His Highness will be very much pleased. Frankly speaking, where is the lady, dear monsieur?”

The Honorable John smiled.

“Frankly speaking, dear Mr. Santoin, I will not say unless you give me an awful lot of money—frankly speaking!” he said.

Santoin smiled, but there was a touch of discomfiture in his smile. He shrugged.

“Ah, monsieur, you are truly a man of the world! Come now, let us begin again. This time we will be just plain, simple, straightforward—two reasonable men of the world talking business together like friends. We trust each other perfectly—” He paused a second, listening. Then, lowering his voice he whispered rapidly, with deadly earnestness: “Monsieur Brass, I will pay you one hundred pounds for the address of the lady.” He took from his pocket a small bundle of bank notes. “Quick!”

The Honorable John took the notes.

“Certainly,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s this. Write it down: ‘Kate the Gun, Over the Road, New York, U. S. A.’ She told me so herself—and she knows!”

M. Santoin looked puzzled.

“Over the Road,” he whispered. “Where is ‘Over the Road’?”

“‘Over the Road’ is jail, my lad. Jail, Lucien. That’s where Kate is—and where she’ll be staying for a good many years to come,” said Mr. Brass cheerfully, and turned to the door which had opened just as he finished.

From the tail of his eye he saw Santoin’s furious face even as he turned.

A FAT Indian, the color of an arable field, in a dark-brown frock-coat and tightish white linen trousers was standing in the doorway. He bowed elaborately. “Good day, sar,” he said ponderously, in quite reasonable English. “You have come to see His Highness, responding to the announcement in the newspapers. His Highness is capable of seeing you now. Will you come this way, sar?” He noted the slight movement of Santoin as that seeker after addresses made as though to get to the Rajah. “M. Santoin, His Highness has not sent for you. He desires this interview to be private. When His Highness asks for you I will make great haste to inform you. This way, sar!” he added in a deep pompous voice to the Honorable John, and went out.

Mr. Brass followed him into a small anteroom. No sooner had the door closed than Mirza Khan turned to the adventurer.

“I wish to say to you, sar, that I am your true friend above all others. Bestow no attention upon the French rag-picker you have just had the good fortune to leave. He is natural liar, scoundrel and an insect!” The last evidently was intended as an insult of the deadliest. “I shall prove to you, sar, that I am true friend.”

HE took from a pocket a ring that contained a stone which resembled a diamond. The Honorable John felt that he wanted it the instant he saw it.

“If you will accept this poor ring, sar, I hope that you will permit me to flatter myself that you consider me your true friend,” he said without a change of countenance. “Be seated, sar; I will now proceed to His Highness and inform him where the lady lives, and that you are here.”

He had not given up the ring. But Mr. Brass held out his hand for it.

“You are indeed a true friend!” he said warmly. “I would trust you, Mirza, my lad”—he took the ring from the slightly reluctant fingers of the Indian and dropped it into his pocket—“I would trust you with any mortal thing of mine that I did not require for myself.”

He beamed kindly upon Mirza Khan, into whose eyes a doubtful look had suddenly crept. But he pulled himself together.

“It is great honor for me, sar,” he said, in his deep, serious voice. “I will now tell His Highness where the lady lives.”

He paused expectantly.

He was much cleverer than Santoin.

“All right,” said Mr. Brass densely. “I’ll wait.”

But Mirza Khan waited also.

“Give me the address, sar, and I will go hurriedly,” he said.

But the Honorable John wagged his head playfully.

“Sorry, Mirza,” he said; “but that happens to be one of the things I require for myself. Anything else, old man—anything else you like. But not Kate’s address. I’m sorry to disappoint such a true friend, but—I have my reasons!”

MIRZA KHAN glared. He looked as though he would have liked entirely to ruin the Honorable John’s health. But before he had time to speak, somebody coughed in the next room. The sound seemed suddenly to pull Mirza Khan together. He even managed to imitate a smile.

“This way, sar,” he said; and added rather feebly, “your true friend.”

Then he ushered the Honorable John into the inner room, where, lying on a big lounge, was a young man whom he instantly recognized as the Rajah of Jolapore.

Mirza Khan bowed profoundly, spoke quickly and subserviently, and departed.

The Rajah looked at Mr. Brass and his eyes seemed to twinkle. The Honorable John liked the look of him—now that his mind was clear.

“How do you do?” said the potentate affably, with a vague varsity air about him. “I am glad to see you. I owe you an enormous debt of gratitude. Indeed I have only just realized the extent of my debt to you. But for the truly friendly—”

The Honorable John raised his hand.

“No, Rajah,” he said bluntly. “Don’t you pull that friendly stuff, too—er—I beg pardon! Don’t think me rude, but to tell the truth, I have made so many funny friends that—that is, perhaps I’d better explain.”

The Rajah, with a slightly surprised look, indicated a seat.

“Certainly,” he said politely.

Mr. Brass related the curious welcome he had received from Santoin and Mirza Khan. At the end of it the Rajah was laughing as he had not laughed for some months.

“It is a good thing that you did not tell them the address,” he said. “You would never have seen me if you had told either of them. You see, they know that I am going to give a thousand pounds to the person who gives me the address of the lady.”

The Honorable John opened his mouth, but on second thought, closed it. Perhaps the Rajah had more rewards to mention.

“You know where she lives?” inquired the Rajah.

“I do,” said Mr. Brass; but he did not volunteer to give the address.

“I will talk with my servants presently,” said the Rajah irrelevantly, but with a glint in his eye that did not promise anything considerable in the reward line for the “true friends.”

There was a little pause. Then the Rajah sat up erectly like a man who has come to a decision.

“Tell me the address,” he said, “and I will tell you why I wish to know it.”

“She’s in jail in America,” said Mr. Brass.

The Rajah frowned.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to let her off,” continued the Honorable John, noting the frown. “For if they sentence her on each charge they’ll bring against her, and the sentences aint concurrent, why, the poor girl will have about two hundred and twenty-four years to serve. And that wont leave her much time to attend to the sentence she’d get for kidnaping you—if you follow me,” he concluded.

The Rajah’s frown deepened until he looked very Indian indeed.

“You don’t want to be vindictive, Rajah. When she gets what’s coming to her she’ll have all she can accommodate in this life,” urged Mr. Brass affably.

THE Rajah glared at him.

“I wish to marry her,” he said shortly, and the Honorable John nearly fell out of his chair.

“What?” he inquired.

“She is the first handsome woman I have met with courage enough to fear nothing,” explained the astonishing potentate, and waved his hand impatiently to indicate his distaste to discuss his feelings further.

Mr. Brass shook his head.

“It’s very awkward—very awkward indeed,” he said.

“Tell me,” said the Rajah evenly, “tell me precisely how much money would be required to effect the release of the lady.”

Mr. Brass pondered. He knew nothing at all about American prisons, and had no idea as to what money it would cost to arrange for Kate’s escape or whether it could be “arranged” at all. What he wanted was an idea as to how much the Rajah would stand.

“The man’s a king,” he mused, “and I suppose he’s pretty well off. And naturally he expects to be treated as a king.

“Rajah,” he said aloud, “speaking simply as man to man I couldn’t get Kate back here in England for less than twenty thousand at the very best. Twenty thousand pounds—and not a ha’penny under it!”

He stared firmly but kindly at the man on the couch. Rather to his astonishment the Rajah remained calm—quite calm.

“I see,” he said. “And how long will it take?”

The Honorable John pondered again.

“I don’t know, Rajah—I cannot say. I couldn’t promise less than three months. I might have to pension off half the prison guards, from the boss downward. It’ll come high. I warn you freely and fully. It might run to twice the money, and take a year to do. It’s a risk, and I tell you so.”

The Rajah rose.

“When can you start?” he inquired.

“Oh, in three days,” said Mr. Brass.

“That will do excellently. You shall have a credit of thirty thousand pounds arranged for you at a New York bank. As to the discharge of my personal debt of gratitude to you, we will talk when you bring the lady home—if that is satisfactory to you.”

“Oh, quite satisfactory!” said the Honorable John blandly.

The Rajah smiled.

“Mirza Khan will accompany you. He shall not bother you, I promise that. If you will call here before you go, my financial secretary will arrange money matters with you. Only—you must not fail.”

“Certainly not,” said the Honorable John.

He became aware that Mirza Khan had appeared at his side, silent as a fat brown ghost; and, with him, he left the Rajah.

In the anteroom he turned to Mirza Khan.

“Here’s your ring, Mirza,” he said. “I never meant to keep it. Must have my little joke, you know.”

“Thank you, sar,” said Mirza Khan, a look of relief on his face.

Santoin also received back his hundred pounds. Then the Honorable John left the hotel.

“The Rajah’ll ruin himself over Kate if he doesn’t look out,” he soliloquized as he stood on the steps waiting for a taxi.

The first thing he did on his return to his flat was carefully to look up in a work of reference the amount of the Rajah of Jolapore’s income.

It was estimated at slightly over a million pounds per annum. The Honorable John ordered in the old brandy and sulked for the remainder of the afternoon.

“If only I’d known!” he wistfully repeated over and over again. “If only I’d known! I’d never have allowed myself to be screwed down like that! But I’ll make up for it when it comes to the reward of merit due to me. I will that, yes, sir!”

ALL the financial arrangements were made to the Honorable John’s satisfaction, and carrying about fifteen hundred pounds cash for emergencies, he crossed the Atlantic with Lord Fortworth, much to that nobleman’s delight—and loss, for Mr. Brass magicked eight hundred pounds from him between Queenstown and New York at poker. Mirza Khan was there, but he was not obtrusive, although he was never far away from the Honorable John.

During the voyage it occurred to Mr. Brass to confide in his wealthy friend, who, he conceived, being well known in New York, might be able to help him.

“I’m really going to the States on behalf of an old friend of mine,” he told Lord Fortworth. “The black sport you see always hanging round near me is a sort of secretary of his. He’s in awful trouble. He’s a man you’d never think could have any trouble in the world, but he has. It only shows you. The girl he’s in love with is in jail in New York. I don’t deny she’s broken the law more than once, but, still, my poor pal’s in love with her, wants to marry her, and as he’s wealthy enough to put her out of reach of temptation”—Lord Fortworth nodded and looked sympathetic—“why, he’s asked me to represent him and do what I can to get her released. Now, can you give me a tip, Fortworth? You know America pretty well, and I don’t. I’m a kind of mug, as you know. But I’m an honest, well-meanin’ mug, and I’d like your help.”

Fortworth pondered.

“Money any object?” he asked.

“Well, not in reason,” the Honorable John said cautiously, and the millionaire’s face cleared.

“Then she’s as good as free. We must find out where she is first. After that it’s a matter of money. How much does your friend want to spend?” There was a touch of patronage in Fortworth’s tone.

“Oh, I don’t know. Matter of five thousand pounds, perhaps.”

Fortworth shook his head doubtfully.

“Might be done for that—but there wont be much margin if I know anything about grafters. What’s the limit he’d put up?”

The Honorable John decided to give his friend a shock.

“Well, he could afford to go up to a million—but I doubt if he would,” replied Mr. Brass gravely.

“Snakes in Hades, man, you could empty a jail almost anywhere for that! Who is your pal?”

“Oh, he’s a Rajah—Rajah of Jolapore. Place in India!”

“Is that so!” Lord Fortworth reflected. “I’d like to meet him some time,” he said, for he was a natural financier.

“Well, lend me a hand, and I’ll take care that you do when we get back,” said the Honorable John carelessly. Fortworth agreed absently. Already he had a high-class financial “lemon” ripening for the Rajah in his mind. He had no compunction about helping to release the girl, for the impression which a further brief chat with Mr. Brass left upon him was that the damsel in question was a pretty little lady who had fallen to sudden temptation and stolen a fistful of diamonds. Merely that. Lord Fortworth, in fact, felt quite sorry for her.

TWO days later they landed. Lady Fortworth met her husband and took instant charge of him. He and Mr. Brass had planned a seven-day “look round” New York before the nobleman joined his wife in earnest, but that little idea went gracefully up into the air before the lady had surrounded them two minutes. Lady Fortworth was a woman of character, and was not quite sure that she approved of the intimacy of her husband and the Honorable John.

“That’s all right,” said Mr. Brass, to the lively expressions of regret which Lord Fortworth cautiously began to utter when his wife was momentarily out of earshot. “I’ve got a few friends in this city I want to see, and I’ll call on you in about a week. I want to find out what jail poor Kitty is inhabitin’ just at present. When I find out I’ll come and see you. Now I’m off. You go and make love to your wife like a good little baron.”

They grinned and parted.

Mr. Brass—with Mirza carefully in tow—lost no time in looking up his brother Tony, and Fanchon his wife. These two were detectives, working with Westerton’s, the detective agency. Fortunately, he decided to call at the office first. He was only just in time—indeed, he met Fanchon leaving the building. She was starting for San Francisco in chase after a bogus princess who had just got out of the city with about a hundred thousand dollars be longing to sundry lion-hunting New York hostesses. Fanchon had exactly two minutes to spare. But in those two minutes Mr. Brass learned that Tony was in France hunting for a bank cashier who had no business to be there; that Fanchon was delighted to see him; that things were prospering; that she hoped he was no longer a “crook;” that she thought he ought to get married; and that—in answer to a point-blank question—Kate the Gun was in “Bed of Roses” for twenty-five years.

“What’s ‘Bed of Roses?’ Where is it? I must see Kate,” asked the Honorable John. “It means over a hundred thousand dollars to me, Fanchon!”

Fanchon stared, took a card from her case, scrawled a name and address on it, and signaled to a taxi.

“Go to the man on this card—say I sent you,” gasped Fanchon, and jumped into the motor. “Good-by,” she called over her shoulder, and a second later she was gone.

The Honorable John gazed at the card for a moment. Then, placing it carefully in his pocket, he returned to his hotel.

“Daniel MacQuoid, attorney-at-law,” he said thoughtfully to himself as he went. “Tomorrow’ll do for you. We’ll have a look round before we start work, Mirza, my lad.”

“Yes, sir,” said Mirza.

DANIEL MacQUOID was the owner of the name Fanchon had written on the card. He does not enter this story to any extent. He was a lean, lantern-jawed individual with a mouth like a rat-trap, and on the following day the Honorable John, calling at his office, learned from him that “Bed of Roses” was the popular name for a new type of prison which some well-meaning and influential visionary then in power had introduced. The idea was to surround the prisoners with all the comforts of home life, and by judicious hypnotism gradually quench all that was ill in a woman’s nature and develop all that was good. The Honorable John smiled as he pictured the professors lining up to mesmerize Kate. He gathered from Mr. MacQuoid that the Chief Warden or Governor was named Hoit—Colonel Jackson Hoit—and, after a few words at the telephone, that Kate’s number was sixty-six. More information than this Mr. MacQuoid did not offer, and not much liking the severely legal look of the attorney, Mr. Brass did not prolong the interview. He left the office and called on Lord Fortworth. Luckily he found his friend alone, and was able to put to him a scheme which he had thought out, a scheme which met with the nobleman’s enthusiastic approval.

THREE nights later Mr. Brass sat in a private room at one of the best restaurants in New York dining with Lord Fortworth and Colonel Jackson Hoit—the Governor of “Bed of Roses.”

Exactly how Fortworth had been able to arrange to dine the Colonel so quickly Mr. Brass did not know, nor did he greatly care. The Colonel was there, and all he and Fortworth had to do was to name a price that the Governor would accept for arranging that Kate the Gun should “escape” some night, and get a fair start before the alarm was given.

“He’ll be easy,” Fortworth had told Mr. Brass over the telephone to notify him of the dinner.

But the Honorable John, looking at the rough-cut face of the Governor, felt that Fortworth might easily be wrong.

Colonel Hoit ate and drank very thorroughly indeed, and considerably before the end of the meal he was what he described as being pretty well “lit up.”

At any rate he was sufficiently lit up to confess that, free-born Irish-American though he was, he admired a lord above most other things. He admitted that, although he was proud of being Governor of the new women’s prison, he would have preferred, on the whole, being a lord. Why, he did not quite know; it was just an instinct, he said. He had worked his way up to what he was from a navvy, and he had enjoyed the struggle upward every inch of the way. But sometimes it had occurred to him that he would have enjoyed being a lord all the time even more. There was no saying, of course—perhaps he was wrong—but, well, that was his fancy. He laughed uproariously and abolished his eighth glass of champagne.

THEN the Honorable John and his host fell to work. Insidiously enough they brought the conversation round to the Colonel’s “patients” and the new treatment.

“There’s nothing in the hypnotic dope,” he declared. “Why, the professors haven’t got horse-power enough to mesmerize half the fairies we get sent along. There’s one there now—sixty-six her number is; I forget her name—you couldn’t hypnotize with a steam-hammer. No, hypnotizing is a dream. But it’ll pass off in time, and then, maybe, some of the girls’ll settle down to serving their time properly.”

He refilled his glass and pulled at a cigar. He had stuck steadily to champagne throughout the evening, and showed no signs yet of leaving it.

“But it’s a wearing life,” he went on. “If it was not for my pension I would not stick to it.”

“Supposing a king, or a representative of a king offered you four times the amount of your pension cash down,” said Fortworth jokingly, “in return for a small favor, would you take it?”

“I would that,” replied the Colonel.

“Well, you’re going to get a chance, Colonel,” threw in the Honorable John. “Go ahead, Fortworth!”

Lord Fortworth leaned forward, looking keenly into the slightly “boiled” eyes of the Governor.

“How much do you want to give Number Sixty-six a clear road to the outside of your jail and an hour’s grace to get away?” he asked, lowering his voice. He looked at Mr. Brass, who nodded. “Will you take fifty thousand dollars?”

The Irish-American stood up suddenly, swaying a little.

“I will not!” he shouted, and glared and bristled at them like an angry dog.

They stared, astonished.

“I thought you had some scheme of the kind when I saw how free you were with the wealthy water!” He indicated the champagne bottles contemptuously. “And so I laid for you and now I’ve got you where I want you.” He sneered. “There’s sure plenty of grafters runnin’ round the city—but I aint wan of ’em. And—”

“Get out, Brass,” said Fortworth suddenly. “I can fix things better without you. I want a private chat with Colonel Hoit.”

The Honorable John got. He collected his hat and coat and Mirza Khan, and departed without delay. Fortworth, who knew America, said he could explain, and Mr. Brass believed him. In his opinion it was neither the time nor the place for tactless contradiction.

TWO days later he and Mirza Khan were leaning over the rail of a liner bound for England.

“N. G., Mirza—N. B. G. No Blooming Go,” said the Honorable John regretfully. “In fact, laddie, we can shake hands with ourselves we aren’t in jail as well as poor old Kate. How Lord Fortworth managed to square the Colonel I don’t know. Anyhow, he did it. I’ll get the facts when he returns to England. The trouble was we ran up against an honest man. Sounds silly, don’t it? But we did. There’s never much doing when you run up against an honest man. They don’t want anything they don’t honestly earn, and so there aint much in the way of bait you can use to catch ’em. Now, with men like you and me, Mirza, it’s different. We’re always open to make a trifle, aren’t we?”

Mirza shot a glance at him that invited confidences. Mr. Brass continued placidly:

“Take us, now, for instance. Here I am with about twenty-five thousand quid of your master’s money within reach of my hand. But here you are with instructions not to lose sight of me until I’ve reported to the Rajah. Now, suppose, I wanted to keep that money, Mirza—which would be only human—what should I do? Well, I should say, ‘Mirza, my son, I’m going to pass you five thousand pounds and charge it' to expenses, just because I’m your true friend. If I do this, however, I shall expect you to keep your mouth shut when I explain to your master how it was the trip was so expensive and unsuccessful. So shut your mouth now and forever henceforth.’ What would you say to that, Mirza Khan?”

Without the faintest shadow of hesitation Mirza Khan stretched out his hand.

“I am your true friend, Mr. Brass,” he said. “What do I know? Am I not stranger in America? Oh, yes! How can I keep track of such a man as you are in a strange place? I lose you the day we leave the ship. I go to bank where I have authority to ask about the money my master has sent there. They say, ‘Yes, the money is here.’ I say, ‘I will remain at this place and watch for Mister Brass.’ And I remain. But the time passes and I become empty. I say, ‘For a little while I will eat, and after I have eaten I will return to watch.’ And I go to eat. When I return I inquire again if the money is there.” The fat rascal’s sides shook with noiseless mirth as he continued: “‘Oh, no—the money is gone. Mister Brass came with his papers—it was all in order, and we have paid the money to him.’ Then I fall to hunting for the Honorable John Brass. The days pass, and on fifth day I meet him. He is dejected. And when I question him he tells me that he has failed. He has spent the whole money, but those that he bribed laughed at him after receiving payment, and refrained from helping him. And I say, ‘Let us return to my master. For it is better to return with empty hands than not to return at all.’ And so we return.”

Mr. Brass looked at the fat rogue with unwilling admiration.

“Mirza, my lad, you’re colored champion of the world’s heavyweight liars,” he said.

“I am your true friend, Mr. Brass,” replied Mirza ironically.

“Ah, well, come below, and I’ll count out the notes.” And they left the rail.

IMMEDIATELY he reached London the Honorable John, delaying only long enough to make at his bank a deposit of a magnitude which caused the manager to smile, went to the Southern Grand Hotel and very shortly was ushered into the presence of the Rajah.

“Well?” said the ruler of Jolapore rather casually.

“Nothing doing, Your Highness,” responded the Honorable John. “I’m not clever enough for New York. I’m a simple old British stick-in-the-mud—steady, solid, honest, and dull as ditch-water. Kate’s quodded for ever and ever. Twenty-five years in fact. They’ve got her and they mean to keep her. I bribed the prison staff, from the Governor to the cook and back up again, but once they’d got the money they just laughed and told me to go chase myself. In fact, they just skinned me like an eel. I’ve got no excuse to make, Rajah. I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I apologize.” He fumbled in his pocket. “I’ve saved a little from the wreck—only a little, but the best I could manage.”

He drew out a check of his own for five hundred pounds.

“It’s all I could save for you out of the expense allowances. Those vultures in New York got the rest. Take the check, Rajah. I could have said it was gone with the rest, and have made a trifle for myself. But that’s not my way of doing business, Rajah. Solid, honest, genuine—but a bit of a mug. That’s me, Your Highness. Take it. I saved your life once, but if you’ll set off my failure against that and cry quits, I shall be glad—proud.”

As he finished a curtain at the far end of the big apartment slid back and a lady entered. Evidently she imagined the Rajah to be alone. The Honorable John allowed his glance to flash over her once only. But it was enough to inform him that here stood one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. She was tall, slender, queenly. Too dark to be European, with extraordinary bronze hair, curiously straight dark eyebrows, a cold, clean-cut face, rather thin but perfectly-shaped lips, a nose with a faint, hardly perceptible curve, and steady, black, heavy-lidded eyes. She looked at the Honorable John with a strange poise of her head that was beautiful in a queer, boding kind of way. It occurred to him that she looked like a woman with a tragic temper. A half-glance confirmed the impression—her beauty was of an ominous kind, ill-starred, mysterious, Egyptian. She spoke to the Rajah in a cold, clear voice, rather full, using a language which Mr. Brass did not recognize. The Rajah answered her in the same tongue—it seemed to the Honorable John with a touch of apology—and she disappeared again.

The Rajah turned to him.

“Mr. Brass,” he said quickly, as though anxious to get the business finished, “so far from your mission having proved a failure, it is a success—a bewildering success. When I sent you to America to rescue the criminal who doubtless has well earned any punishment she may be undergoing, I think I could not have been fully recovered from my illness.” He dropped his voice a little. “Mr. Brass, I can never be sufficiently grateful that the person you went to set free is not standing here with you at this moment.”

Quite involuntarily he glanced at the curtains at the end of the room.

The Honorable John smiled.

“Say no more, Your Highness,” he remarked, “I understand—and if you will forgive a man who has saved your life saying so, I congratulate you on your choice. That lady will make a queen to be proud of, whereas Kate would probably have pinched your crown and pawned it.”

The Rajah ignored the congratulations and handed the Honorable John’s check back to him.

“I cannot, of course, permit you to pay me that money, Mr. Brass,” he said. “My debt to you already is tremendous. It is my misfortune that I can think of no way to repay you—except financially. Will you permit me to repay you so?”

“Rajah,” said the Honorable John with manly simplicity, “I will.”

“Will you, then, give my financial secretary the name and address of your bankers?”

“Certainly,” he said, and half turned.

“Good-by, Your Highness,” he added.

The Rajah waved a friendly hand.

“Good-by, Mr. Brass,” he said, and the adventurer departed in search of the secretary.

HE found him and gave him the names and addresses of exactly five banks.

“Tell His Highness he can pay in at any or all of these on my behalf,” he said humorously. “I don’t suppose any of ’em will refuse the sum the Rajah will want to pay.”

Then he left for home and a dinner which Sing had spent the greater part of the day preparing.

“I estimate that the Rajah will pay in a thousand at each bank,” he said gayly, and lit a cigar.

Two days later he made a round of the banks. The Rajah had paid two thousand pounds into each of them!

The Honorable John stood on the curb outside the last bank and did a little mental arithmetic.

“That makes me worth quite a little old lot of money,” he said at last, and drew in his breath. He looked slowly round him at the houses, at the people, at the traffic, at the sky. Then, slowly letting his breath out again, he summed up.

“This lets you out of the crooked game for good. Honesty is the best policy, they say, after all. And so I’ll try it—for a change!”

But he didn’t, for he couldn’t. Dishonesty was not so much a habit of his as an affliction.

You will find another story of the Easy Street
Experts in our forthcoming December issue.

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.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse