Jack O' Judgment
"But isn't it a sacrifice? Didn't you love your work?"
"I thought I did at first," she said. "You see, I was always a very good mimic. When I was quite a little girl I could imitate the colonel. Listen!"
Suddenly to his amazement he heard the drawling growl of Dan Boundary. She laughed with glee at his amazement, but the smile vanished and she sighed.
"I want you to tell me one thing, Mr. King–"
"Stafford—you promised me," he began.
"I hardly like calling you by your christian name but it sounds so like a surname that perhaps it won't be so bad."
"What do you want to ask?" he demanded.
She was silent for a moment, then she said:
"How far was my father implicated in this terrible business?"
"In the gang?"
He was in a dilemma. Solomon White was implicated as deeply as any save the colonel. In his younger days he had been the genius who was responsible for the organisation and had been for years the colonel's right-hand man until the more subtle villainy of Pinto Silva, that Portuguese adventurer, had ousted him, and, if the truth be told, until the sight of his girl growing to womanhood had brought qualms to the heart of this man, who, whatever his faults, loved the girl dearly.
"You don't answer me," she said, "but I think I am answered by your silence. Was my father—a bad man?"
"I would not judge your father," he said. "I can tell you this, that for the past few years he has played a very small part in the affairs of the gang. But what are you going to do?"
"How persistent you are!" she laughed. "Why, there are so many things I am going to do that I haven't time to tell you. For one thing, I am going to work to undo some of the mischief which the gang have wrought. I am going to make such reparation as I can," she said, her lips trembling, "for the evil deeds my father has committed."
"You have a mission, eh?" he said with a little smile.
"Don't laugh at me," she pleaded. "I feel it here." She put her hand on her heart. "There's something which tells me that, even if my father built up this gang, as you told me once he did—ah! you had forgotten that."
Stafford King had indeed forgotten the statement.
"Yes?" he said. "You intend to pull it down?"
"I feel, too, that I am at bay. I am the daughter of Solomon White, and Solomon White is regarded by the colonel as a traitor. Do you think they will leave me alone? Don't you think they are going to watch me day and night and get me in their power just as soon as they can? Think of the lever that would be, the lever to force my father back to them!"
"Oh, you'll be watched all right," he said easily, and remembered the commissioner's warning. "In fact, you're being watched now. Do you mind?"
"Now?" she asked in surprise.
He nodded towards a lady who sat a dozen yards away and whose face was carefully shaded by a parasol.
"Who is she?" asked the girl curiously.
"A young person called Lollie Marsh," laughed Stafford. "At present she has a mission too, which is to entangle me into a compromising position."
The girl looked towards the spy with a new interest and a new resentment.
"She has been trailing me for weeks," he went on, "and it would be embarrassing to tell you the number of times we have been literally thrown into one another's arms. Poor girl!" he said, with mock concern, "she must be bored with sitting there so long. Let us take a stroll."
If he expected Lollie to follow, he was to be disappointed She stayed on watching the disappearing figures, without attempting to rise, and waiting until they were out of sight, she walked out on to the Embankment and hailed a passing taxi. She seemed quite satisfied in her mind that the plan she had evolved for the trapping of Stafford King could not fail to succeed.
THE COLONEL CONDUCTS HIS BUSINESS
A merry little dinner party was assembled that night in a luxurious flat in Albemarle House. It was a bachelor party, and consisted of three—the colonel, resplendent in evening dress, "Swell" Crewe and a middle-aged man whose antique dress coat and none too spotless linen certainly did not advertise their owner's prosperity. Yet this man with the stubbly moustache and the bald head could write his cheque for seven figures, being Mr. Thomas Crotin, of the firm of Crotin and Principle, whose swollen mills occupy a respectable acreage in Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
"You're Colonel Boundary, are you?" he said admiringly, and for about the seventh time since the meal started.
The colonel nodded with a good-humoured twinkle in his eye.
"Well, fancy that!" said Mr. Crotin. "I'll have something to talk about when I go back to Yorkshire. It is lucky I met your friend, Captain Crewe, at our club in Huddersfield."
There was something more than luck in that meeting, as the colonel well knew.
"I read about the trial and all," said the Yorkshireman; "I must say it looked very black against you, colonel."
The colonel smiled again and lifted a bottle towards the other.
"Nay, nay!" said the spinner. "I'll have nowt more. I've got as much as I can carry, and I know when I've had enough."
The colonel replaced the bottle by his side.
"So you read of the trial, did you?"
"I did and all," said the other, "and I said to my missus: 'Yon's a clever fellow, I'd like to meet him.'"
"You have an admiration for the criminal classes, eh?" said the colonel good-humouredly.
"Well, I'm not saying you're a criminal," said the other, taking his host literally, "but being a J.P. and on the bench of magistrates, I naturally take an interest in these cases. You never know what you can learn."
"And what did your lady wife say?" asked Boundary.
The Yorkshireman smiled broadly.
"Well, she doesn't take any interest in these things. She's a proper London lady, my wife. She was in a high position when I married."
"Five years ago," said Boundary, "you married the daughter of Lord Westsevern. It cost you a hundred thousand pounds to pay the old man's debts."