The Clue of the Twisted Candle

by Edgar Wallace

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Chapter VIII

Two years after the events just described, T. X. journeying up to London from Bath was attracted by a paragraph in the Morning Post. It told him briefly that Mr. Remington Kara, the influential leader of the Greek Colony, had been the guest of honor at a dinner of the Hellenic Society.

T. X. had only seen Kara for a brief space of time following that tragic morning, when he had discovered not only that his best friend had escaped from Dartmoor prison and disappeared, as it were, from the world at a moment when his pardon had been signed, but that that friend's wife had also vanished from the face of the earth.

At the same time - it might, as even T. X. admitted, have been the veriest coincidence that Kara had also cleared out of London to reappear at the end of six months. Any question addressed to him, concerning the whereabouts of the two unhappy people, was met with a bland expression of ignorance as to their whereabouts.

John Lexman was somewhere in the world, hiding as he believed from justice, and with him was his wife. T. X. had no doubt in his mind as to this solution of the puzzle. He had caused to be published the story of the pardon and the circumstances under which that pardon had been secured, and he had, moreover, arranged for an advertisement to be inserted in the principal papers of every European country.

It was a moot question amongst the departmental lawyers as to whether John Lexman was not guilty of a technical and punishable offence for prison breaking, but this possibility did not keep T. X. awake at nights. The circumstances of the escape had been carefully examined. The warder responsible had been discharged from the service, and had almost immediately purchased for himself a beer house in Falmouth, for a sum which left no doubt in the official mind that he had been the recipient of a heavy bribe.

Who had been the guiding spirit in that escape - Mrs. Lexman, or Karat?

It was impossible to connect Kara with the event. The motor car had been traced to Exeter, where it had been hired by a "foreign-looking gentleman," but the chauffeur, whoever he was, had made good his escape. An inspection of Kara's hangars at Wembley showed that his two monoplanes had not been removed, and T. X. failed entirely to trace the owner of the machine he had seen flying over Dartmoor on the fatal morning.

T. X. was somewhat baffled and a little amused by the disinclination of the authorities to believe that the escape had been effected by this method at all. All the events of the trial came back to him, as he watched the landscape spinning past.

He set down the newspaper with a little sigh, put his feet on the cushions of the opposite seat and gave himself up to reverie. Presently he returned to his journals and searched them idly for something to interest him in the final stretch of journey between Newbury and Paddington.

Presently he found it in a two column article with the uninspiring title, "The Mineral Wealth of Tierra del Fuego." It was written brightly with a style which was at once easy and informative. It told of adventures in the marshes behind St. Sebastian Bay and journeys up the Guarez Celman river, of nights spent in primeval forests and ended in a geological survey, wherein the commercial value of syenite, porphyry, trachite and dialite were severally canvassed.

The article was signed "G. G." It is said of T. X. that his greatest virtue was his curiosity. He had at the tip of his fingers the names of all the big explorers and author-travellers, and for some reason he could not place "G. G." to his satisfaction, in fact he had an absurd desire to interpret the initials into "George Grossmith." His inability to identify the writer irritated him, and his first act on reaching his office was to telephone to one of the literary editors of the Times whom he knew.

"Not my department," was the chilly reply, "and besides we never give away the names of our contributors. Speaking as a person outside the office I should say that "G. G." was 'George Gathercole' the explorer you know, the fellow who had an arm chewed off by a lion or something."

"George Gathercole!" repeated T. X. "What an ass I am."

"Yes," said the voice at the other end the wire, and he had rung off before T. X. could think of something suitable to say.

Having elucidated this little side-line of mystery, the matter passed from the young Commissioner's mind. It happened that morning that his work consisted of dealing with John Lexman's estate.

With the disappearance of the couple he had taken over control of their belongings. It had not embarrassed him to discover that he was an executor under Lexman's will, for he had already acted as trustee to the wife's small estate, and had been one of the parties to the ante-nuptial contract which John Lexman had made before his marriage.

The estate revenues had increased very considerably. All the vanished author's books were selling as they had never sold before, and the executor's work was made the heavier by the fact that Grace Lexman had possessed an aunt who had most in inconsiderately died, leaving a considerable fortune to her "unhappy niece."

"I will keep the trusteeship another year," he told the solicitor who came to consult him that morning. "At the end of that time I shall go to the court for relief."

"Do you think they will ever turn up?" asked the solicitor, an elderly and unimaginative man.

"Of course, they'll turn up!" said T. X. impatiently; "all the heroes of Lexman's books turn up sooner or later. He will discover himself to us at a suitable moment, and we shall be properly thrilled."

That Lexman would return he was sure. It was a faith from which he did not swerve.

He had as implicit a confidence that one day or other Kara, the magnificent, would play into his hands.

There were some queer stories in circulation concerning the Greek, but on the whole they were stories and rumours which were difficult to separate from the malicious gossip which invariably attaches itself to the rich and to the successful.

One of these was that Kara desired something more than an Albanian chieftainship, which he undoubtedly enjoyed. There were whispers of wider and higher ambitions. Though his father had been born a Greek, he had indubitably descended in a direct line from one of those old Mprets of Albania, who had exercised their brief authority over that turbulent land.

The man's passion was for power. To this end he did not spare himself. It was said that he utilized his vast wealth for this reason, and none other, and that whatever might have been the irregularities of his youth - and there were adduced concrete instances - he was working toward an end with a singleness of purpose, from which it was difficult to withhold admiration.

T. X. kept in his locked desk a little red book, steel bound and triple locked, which he called his "Scandalaria." In this he inscribed in his own irregular writing the titbits which might not be published, and which often helped an investigator to light upon the missing threads of a problem. In truth he scorned no source of information, and was conscienceless in the compilation of this somewhat chaotic record.

The affairs of John Lexman recalled Kara, and Kara's great reception. Mansus would have made arrangements to secure a verbatim report of the speeches which were made, and these would be in his hands by the night. Mansus did not tell him that Kara was financing some very influential people indeed, that a certain Under-secretary of State with a great number of very influential relations had been saved from bankruptcy by the timely advances which Kara had made. This T. X. had obtained through sources which might be hastily described as discreditable. Mansus knew of the baccarat establishment in Albemarle Street, but he did not know that the neurotic wife of a very great man indeed, no less than the Minister of Justice, was a frequent visitor to that establishment, and that she had lost in one night some 6,000 pounds. In these circumstances it was remarkable, thought T. X., that she should report to the police so small a matter as the petty pilfering of servants. This, however, she had done and whilst the lesser officers of Scotland Yard were interrogating pawnbrokers, the men higher up were genuinely worried by the lady's own lapses from grace.

It was all sordid but, unfortunately, conventional, because highly placed people will always do underbred things, where money or women are concerned, but it was necessary, for the proper conduct of the department which T. X. directed, that, however sordid and however conventional might' be the errors which the great ones of the earth committed, they should be filed for reference.

The motto which T. X. went upon in life was, "You never know."

The Minister of Justice was a very important person, for he was a personal friend of half the monarchs of Europe. A poor man, with two or three thousand a year of his own, with no very definite political views and uncommitted to the more violent policies of either party, he succeeded in serving both, with profit to himself, and without earning the obloquy of either. Though he did not pursue the blatant policy of the Vicar of Bray, yet it is fact which may be confirmed from the reader's own knowledge, that he served in four different administrations, drawing the pay and emoluments of his office from each, though the fundamental policies of those four governments were distinct.

Lady Bartholomew, the wife of this adaptable Minister, had recently departed for San Remo. The newspapers announced the fact and spoke vaguely of a breakdown which prevented the lady from fulfilling her social engagements.

T. X., ever a Doubting Thomas, could trace no visit of nerve specialist, nor yet of the family practitioner, to the official residence in Downing Street, and therefore he drew conclusions. In his own "Who's Who" T. X. noted the hobbies of his victims which, by the way, did not always coincide with the innocent occupations set against their names in the more pretentious volume. Their follies and their weaknesses found a place and were recorded at a length (as it might seem to the uninformed observer) beyond the limit which charity allowed.

Lady Mary Bartholomew's name appeared not once, but many times, in the erratic records which T. X. kept. There was a plain matter-of-fact and wholly unobjectionable statement that she was born in 1874, that she was the seventh daughter of the Earl of Balmorey, that she had one daughter who rejoiced in the somewhat unpromising name of Belinda Mary, and such further information as a man might get without going to a great deal of trouble.

T. X.,refreshing his memory from the little red book, wondered what unexpected tragedy had sent Lady Bartholomew out of London in the middle of the season. The information was that the lady was fairly well off at this moment, and this fact made matters all the more puzzling and almost induced him to believe that, after all, the story was true, and a nervous breakdown really was the cause of her sudden departure. He sent for Mansus.

"You saw Lady Bartholomew off at Charing Cross, I suppose?"

Mansus nodded.

"She went alone?"

"She took her maid, but otherwise she was alone. I thought she looked ill."

"She has been looking ill for months past," said T. X., without any visible expression of sympathy.

"Did she take Belinda Mary?"

Mansus was puzzled. "Belinda Mary?" he repeated slowly. "Oh, you mean the daughter. No, she's at a school somewhere in France."

T. X. whistled a snatch of a popular song, closed the little red book with a snap and replaced it in his desk.

"I wonder where on earth people dig up names like Belinda Mary?" he mused. "Belinda Mary must be rather a weird little animal - the Lord forgive me for speaking so about my betters! If heredity counts for anything she ought to be something between a head waiter and a pack of cards. Have you lost anything'?"

Mansus was searching his pockets.

"I made a few notes, some questions I wanted to ask you about and Lady Bartholomew was the subject of one of them. I have had her under observation for six months; do you want it kept up?"

T. X. thought awhile, then shook his head.

"I am only interested in Lady Bartholomew in so far as Kara is interested in her. There is a criminal for you, my friend!" he added, admiringly.

Mansus busily engaged in going through the bundles of letters, slips of paper and little notebooks he had taken from his pocket, sniffed audibly.

"Have you a cold?" asked T. X. politely.

"No, sir," was the reply, "only I haven't much opinion of Kara as a criminal. Besides, what has he got to be a criminal about? He has all that he requires in the money department, he's one of the most popular people in London, and certainly one of the best-looking men I've ever seen in my life. He needs nothing."

T. X. regarded him scornfully.

"You're a poor blind brute," he said, shaking his head; don't you know that great criminals are never influenced by material desires, or by the prospect of concrete gains? The man, who robs his employer's till in order to give the girl of his heart the 25-pearl and ruby brooch her soul desires, gains nothing but the glow of satisfaction which comes to the man who is thought well of. The majority of crimes in the world are committed by people for the same reason - they want to be thought well of. Here is Doctor X. who murdered his wife because she was a drunkard and a slut, and he dared not leave her for fear the neighbours would have doubts as to his respectability. Here is another gentleman who murders his wives in their baths in order that he should keep up some sort of position and earn the respect of his friends and his associates. Nothing roused him more quickly to a frenzy of passion than the suggestion that he was not respectable. Here is the great financier, who has embezzled a million and a quarter, not because he needed money, but because people looked up to him. Therefore, he must build great mansions, submarine pleasure courts and must lay out huge estates - because he wished that he should be thought well of.

Mansus sniffed again.

"What about the man who half murders his wife, does he do that to be well thought of?" he asked, with a tinge of sarcasm.

T. X. looked at him pityingly.

"The low-brow who beats his wife, my poor Mansus," he said, "does so because she doesn't think well of him. That is our ruling passion, our national characteristic, the primary cause of most crimes, big or little. That is why Kara is a bad criminal and will, as I say, end his life very violently."

He took down his glossy silk hat from the peg and slipped into his overcoat.

"I am going down to see my friend Kara," he said. "I have a feeling that I should like to talk with him. He might tell me something."

His acquaintance with Kara's menage had been mere hearsay. He had interviewed the Greek once after his return, but since all his efforts to secure information concerning the whereabouts of John Lexman and his wife - the main reason for his visit been in vain, he had not repeated his visit.

The house in Cadogan Square was a large one, occupying a corner site. It was peculiarly English in appearance with its window boxes, its discreet curtains, its polished brass and enamelled doorway. It had been the town house of Lord Henry Gratham, that eccentric connoisseur of wine and follower of witless pleasure. It had been built by him "round a bottle of port," as his friends said, meaning thereby that his first consideration had been the cellarage of the house, and that when those cellars had been built and provision made for the safe storage of his priceless wines, the house had been built without the architect's being greatly troubled by his lordship. The double cellars of Gratham House had, in their time, been one of the sights of London. When Henry Gratham lay under eight feet of Congo earth (he was killed by an elephant whilst on a hunting trip) his executors had been singularly fortunate in finding an immediate purchaser. Rumour had it that Kara, who was no lover of wine, had bricked up the cellars, and their very existence passed into domestic legendary.

The door was opened by a well-dressed and deferential man-servant and T. X. was ushered into the hall. A fire burnt cheerily in a bronze grate and T. X. had a glimpse of a big oil painting of Kara above the marble mantle-piece.

"Mr. Kara is very busy, sir," said the man.

"Just take in my card," said T. X. "I think he may care to see me."

The man bowed, produced from some mysterious corner a silver salver and glided upstairs in that manner which well-trained servants have, a manner which seems to call for no bodily effort. In a minute he returned.

"Will you come this way, sir," he said, and led the way up a broad flight of stairs.

At the head of the stairs was a corridor which ran to the left and to the right. From this there gave four rooms. One at the extreme end of the passage on the right, one on the left, and two at fairly regular intervals in the centre.

When the man's hand was on one of the doors, T. X. asked quietly, "I think I have seen you before somewhere, my friend."

The man smiled.

"It is very possible, sir. I was a waiter at the Constitutional for some time."

T. X. nodded.

"That is where it must have been," he said.

The man opened the door and announced the visitor.

T. X. found himself in a large room, very handsomely furnished, but just lacking that sense of cosiness and comfort which is the feature of the Englishman's home.

Kara rose from behind a big writing table, and came with a smile and a quick step to greet the visitor.

"This is a most unexpected pleasure," he said, and shook hands warmly.

T. X. had not seen him for a year and found very little change in this strange young man. He could not be more confident than he had been, nor bear himself with a more graceful carriage. Whatever social success he had achieved, it had not spoiled him, for his manner was as genial and easy as ever.

"I think that will do, Miss Holland," he said, turning to the girl who, with notebook in hand, stood by the desk.

"Evidently," thought T. X.,"our Hellenic friend has a pretty taste in secretaries."

In that one glance he took her all in - from the bronze-brown of her hair to her neat foot.

T. X. was not readily attracted by members of the opposite sex. He was self-confessed a predestined bachelor, finding life and its incidence too absorbing to give his whole mind to the serious problem of marriage, or to contract responsibilities and interests which might divert his attention from what he believed was the greater game. Yet he must be a man of stone to resist the freshness, the beauty and the youth of this straight, slender girl; the pink-and-whiteness of her, the aliveness and buoyancy and the thrilling sense of vitality she carried in her very presence.

"What is the weirdest name you have ever heard?" asked Kara laughingly. "I ask you, because Miss Holland and I have been discussing a begging letter addressed to us by a Maggie Goomer."

The girl smiled slightly and in that smile was paradise, thought T. X.

"The weirdest name?" he repeated, "why I think the worst I have heard for a long time is Belinda Mary."

"That has a familiar ring," said Kara.

T. X. was looking at the girl.

She was staring at him with a certain languid insolence which made him curl up inside. Then with a glance at her employer she swept from the room.

"I ought to have introduced you," said Kara. "That was my secretary, Miss Holland. Rather a pretty girl, isn't she?"

"Very," said T. X.,recovering his breath.

"I like pretty things around me," said Kara, and somehow the complacency of the remark annoyed the detective more than anything that Kara had ever said to him.

The Greek went to the mantlepiece, and taking down a silver cigarette box, opened and offered it to his visitor. Kara was wearing a grey lounge suit; and although grey is a very trying colour for a foreigner to wear, this suit fitted his splendid figure and gave him just that bulk which he needed.

"You are a most suspicious man, Mr. Meredith," he smiled.

"Suspicious! I?" asked the innocent T. X.

Kara nodded.

"I am sure you want to enquire into the character of all my present staff. I am perfectly satisfied that you will never be at rest until you learn the antecedents of my cook, my valet, my secretary - "

T. X. held up his hand with a laugh.

"Spare me," he said. "It is one of my failings, I admit, but I have never gone much farther into your domestic affairs than to pry into the antecedents of your very interesting chauffeur."

A little cloud passed over Kara's face, but it was only momentary.

"Oh, Brown," he said, airily, with just a perceptible pause between the two words.

"It used to be Smith," said T. X.,"but no matter. His name is really Poropulos."

"Oh, Poropulos," said Kara gravely, "I dismissed him a long time ago."

"Pensioned hire, too, I understand," said T. X.

The other looked at him awhile, then, "I am very good to my old servants," he said slowly and, changing the subject; "to what good fortune do I owe this visit?"

T. X. selected a cigarette before he replied.

"I thought you might be of some service to me," he said, apparently giving his whole attention to the cigarette.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," said Kara, a little eagerly. "I am afraid you have not been very keen on continuing what I hoped would have ripened into a valuable friendship, more valuable to me perhaps," he smiled, "than to you."

"I am a very shy man," said the shameless T. X., "difficult to a fault, and rather apt to underrate my social attractions. I have come to you now because you know everybody - by the way, how long have you had your secretary!" he asked abruptly.

Kara looked up at the ceiling for inspiration.

"Four, no three months," he corrected, "a very efficient young lady who came to me from one of the training establishments. Somewhat uncommunicative, better educated than most girls in her position - for example, she speaks and writes modern Greek fairly well."

"A treasure!" suggested T. X.

"Unusually so," said Kara. "She lives in Marylebone Road, 86a is the address. She has no friends, spends most of her evenings in her room, is eminently respectable and a little chilling in her attitude to her employer."

T. X. shot a swift glance at the other.

"Why do you tell me all this?" he asked.

"To save you the trouble of finding out," replied the other coolly. "That insatiable curiosity which is one of the equipments of your profession, would, I feel sure, induce you to conduct investigations for your own satisfaction."

T. X. laughed.

"May I sit down?" he said.

The other wheeled an armchair across the room and T. X. sank into it. He leant back and crossed his legs, and was, in a second, the personification of ease.

"I think you are a very clever man, Monsieur Kara," he said.

The other looked down at him this time without amusement.

"Not so clever that I can discover the object of your visit," he said pleasantly enough.

"It is very simply explained," said T. X. "You know everybody in town. You know, amongst other people, Lady Bartholomew."

"I know the lady very well indeed," said Kara, readily, - too readily in fact, for the rapidity with which answer had followed question, suggested to T. X. that Kara had anticipated the reason for the call.

"Have you any idea," asked T. X., speaking with deliberation, "as to why Lady Bartholomew has gone out of town at this particular moment?"

Kara laughed.

"What an extraordinary question to ask me - as though Lady Bartholomew confided her plans to one who is little more than a chance acquaintance!"

"And yet," said T. X., contemplating the burning end of his cigarette, "you know her well enough to hold her promissory note."

"Promissory note?" asked the other.

His tone was one of involuntary surprise and T. X. swore softly to himself for now he saw the faintest shade of relief in Kara's face. The Commissioner realized that he had committed an error - he had been far too definite.

"When I say promissory note," he went on easily, as though he had noticed nothing, "I mean, of course, the securities which the debtor invariably gives to one from whom he or she has borrowed large sums of money."

Kara made no answer, but opening a drawer of his desk he took out a key and brought it across to where T. X. was sitting.

"Here is the key of my safe," he said quietly. "You are at liberty to go carefully through its contents and discover for yourself any promissory note which I hold from Lady Bartholomew. My dear fellow, you don't imagine I'm a moneylender, do you?" he said in an injured tone.

"Nothing was further from my thoughts," said T. X., untruthfully.

But the other pressed the key upon him.

"I should be awfully glad if you would look for yourself," he said earnestly. "I feel that in some way you associate Lady Bartholomew's illness with some horrible act of usury on my part - will you satisfy yourself and in doing so satisfy me?"

Now any ordinary man, and possibly any ordinary detective, would have made the conventional answer. He would have protested that he had no intention of doing anything of the sort; he would have uttered, if he were a man in the position which T. X. occupied, the conventional statement that he had no authority to search the private papers, and that he would certainly not avail himself of the other's kindness. But T. X. was not an ordinary person. He took the key and balanced it lightly in the palm of his hand.

"Is this the key of the famous bedroom safe?" he said banteringly.

Kara was looking down at him with a quizzical smile. "It isn't the safe you opened in my absence, on one memorable occasion, Mr. Meredith," he said. "As you probably know, I have changed that safe, but perhaps you don't feel equal to the task?"

"On the contrary," said T. X.,calmly, and rising from the chair, "I am going to put your good faith to the test."

For answer Kara walked to the door and opened it.

"Let me show you the way," he said politely.

He passed along the corridor and entered the apartment at the end. The room was a large one and lighted by one big square window which was protected by steel bars. In the grate which was broad and high a huge fire was burning and the temperature of the room was unpleasantly close despite the coldness of the day.

"That is one of the eccentricities which you, as an Englishman, will never excuse in me," said Kara.

Near the foot of the bed, let into, and flush with, the wall, was a big green door of the safe.

"Here you are, Mr. Meredith," said Kara. "All the precious secrets of Remington Kara are yours for the seeking."

"I am afraid I've had my trouble for nothing," said T. X., making no attempt to use the key.

"That is an opinion which I share," said Kara, with a smile.

"Curiously enough," said T. X. "I mean just what you mean."

He handed the key to Kara.

"Won't you open it?" asked the Greek.

T. X. shook his head.

"The safe as far as I can see is a Magnus, the key which you have been kind enough to give me is legibly inscribed upon the handle 'Chubb.' My experience as a police officer has taught me that Chubb keys very rarely open Magnus safes."

Kara uttered an exclamation of annoyance.

"How stupid of me!" he said, "yet now I remember, I sent the key to my bankers, before I went out of town - I only came back this morning, you know. I will send for it at once."

"Pray don't trouble," murmured T. X. politely. He took from his pocket a little flat leather case and opened it. It contained a number of steel implements of curious shape which were held in position by a leather loop along the centre of the case. From one of these loops he extracted a handle, and deftly fitted something that looked like a steel awl to the socket in the handle. Looking in wonder, and with no little apprehension, Kara saw that the awl was bent at the head.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, a little alarmed.

"I'll show you," said T. X. pleasantly.

Very gingerly he inserted the instrument in the small keyhole and turned it cautiously first one way and then the other. There was a sharp click followed by another. He turned the handle and the door of the safe swung open.

"Simple, isn't it!" he asked politely.

In that second of time Kara's face had undergone a transformation. The eyes which met T. X. Meredith's blazed with an almost insane fury. With a quick stride Kara placed himself before the open safe.

"I think this has gone far enough, Mr. Meredith," he said harshly. "If you wish to search my safe you must get a warrant."

T. X. shrugged his shoulders, and carefully unscrewing the instrument he had employed and replacing it in the case, he returned it to his inside pocket.

"It was at your invitation, my dear Monsieur Kara," he said suavely. "Of course I knew that you were putting a bluff up on me with the key and that you had no more intention of letting me see the inside of your safe than you had of telling me exactly what happened to John Lexman."

The shot went home.

The face which was thrust into the Commissioner's was ridged and veined with passion. The lips were turned back to show the big white even teeth, the eyes were narrowed to slits, the jaw thrust out, and almost every semblance of humanity had vanished from his face.

"You - you - " he hissed, and his clawing hands moved suspiciously backward.

"Put up your hands," said T. X. sharply, "and be damned quick about it!"

In a flash the hands went up, for the revolver which T. X. held was pressed uncomfortably against the third button of the Greek's waistcoat.

"That's not the first time you've been asked to put up your hands, I think," said T. X. pleasantly.

His own left hand slipped round to Kara's hip pocket. He found something in the shape of a cylinder and drew it out from the pocket. To his surprise it was not a revolver, not even a knife; it looked like a small electric torch, though instead of a bulb and a bull's-eye glass, there was a pepper-box perforation at one end.

He handled it carefully and was about to press the small nickel knob when a strangled cry of horror broke from Kara.

"For God's sake be careful!" he gasped. "You're pointing it at me! Do not press that lever, I beg!"

"Will it explode!" asked T. X. curiously.

"No, no!"

T. X. pointed the thing downward to the carpet and pressed the knob cautiously. As he did so there was a sharp hiss and the floor was stained with the liquid which the instrument contained. Just one gush of fluid and no more. T. X. looked down. The bright carpet had already changed colour, and was smoking. The room was filled with a pungent and disagreeable scent. T. X. looked from the floor to the white-faced man.

"Vitriol, I believe," he said, shaking his head admiringly. "What a dear little fellow you are!"

The man, big as he was, was on the point of collapse and mumbled something about self-defence, and listened without a word, whilst T. X.,labouring under an emotion which was perfectly pardonable, described Kara, his ancestors and the possibilities of his future estate.

Very slowly the Greek recovered his self-possession.

"I didn't intend using it on you, I swear I didn't," he pleaded. "I'm surrounded by enemies, Meredith. I had to carry some means of protection. It is because my enemies know I carry this that they fight shy of me. I'll swear I had no intention of using it on you. The idea is too preposterous. I am sorry I fooled you about the safe."

"Don't let that worry you," said T. X. "I am afraid I did all the fooling. No, I cannot let you have this back again," he said, as the Greek put out his hand to take the infernal little instrument. "I must take this back to Scotland Yard; it's quite a long time since we had anything new in this shape. Compressed air, I presume."

Kara nodded solemnly.

"Very ingenious indeed," said T. X. "If I had a brain like yours," he paused, "I should do something with it - with a gun," he added, as he passed out of the room.


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