The house was very quiet.
Julius Rohscheimer stood quite motionless
in his dressing-room listening for a sound which he
expected to hear, but which he also feared to hear.
The household in Park Lane slept now. Park Lane
is never quite still at any hour of the night, and
now as Rohscheimer listened, all but holding his breath,
a hundred sounds conflicted in the highway below.
But none of these interested him.
He had been in his room for more than
half an hour; had long since dismissed his man; and
had sat down, arrayed in brilliant pyjamas (quite
a new line from Paris, recommended by Haredale, a sartorial
expert with a keen sense of humour), for a cigarette
and a mental review of the situation.
Having shown himself active in other
directions, Severac Bablon had evidently turned his
eyes once more toward Park Lane. Julius Rohscheimer
mentally likened himself and his set to those early
martyrs who, defenceless, were subjected to the attacks
of armed gladiators. No precautions, it seemed,
prevailed against this enemy of Capital. Police
protection was utterly useless. Thus far, not
a solitary arrest had been made. So, now, in
his own palatial house, but with a strip of cardboard
lying before him bearing his name, underlined in red,
Rohscheimer anticipated mysterious outrage at any
moment-and knew, instinctively, that he
would be unable to defend himself against it.
Again came that vague stirring; and
it seemed to come not from beyond the walls but
from somewhere close at hand-from-
Rohscheimer turned, stealthily, in
his chair. The cigarette dropped from between
his nerveless fingers, and lay smouldering upon the
His bulging eyes grew more and more
prominent, and his adipose jaw dropped. And he
sat, quivering fatly, his gaze upon the doors of the
big wardrobe which occupied the space between the
windows. Distinctly he remembered that these
doors had been closed. But now they were open.
Palsied with fear of what might be
within, he sat, watched, and grew pale.
The doors were opening slowly!
No move he made toward defence. He was a man
inert from panic.
Something gleamed out of the dark
gap-a revolver barrel. Two fingers
pushed a card into view. Upon it, in red letters,
were the words:
"Do not move!"
The warning was, at once, needless
and disregarded. Rohscheimer shook the chair
with his tremblings.
A smaller card was tossed across on to the table.
The fat hand which the financier extended
toward the card shook grotesquely; the diamonds which
adorned it sparkled and twinkled starrily. Before
his eyes a red mist seemed to dance; but, through it,
Rohscheimer made out the following:
“There is a cheque-book in your
coat pocket, and your coat hangs beside me in the
wardrobe. I will throw the book across to you.
You will make out a cheque for L100,000, payable to
the editor of the Gleaner, and also write a
note explaining that this is your contribution towards
the fund for the founding, by patriotic Britons, of
a suitable air fleet.”
Rohscheimer, out of the corner of
his eye, was watching the gleaming barrel, which pointed
straightly at his head. From the dark gap between
the wardrobe doors sped a second projectile, and fell
before him on the table.
It was his cheque-book. Mechanically
he opened it. Within was stuck another card.
Upon it, in the same evidently disguised handwriting,
“A fountain pen lies on the
table before you. Do not hesitate to follow instructions-or
I shall shoot you. All arrangements are made for
my escape. Throw the cheque and the note behind
you and do not dare to look around again until you
have my permission. If you do so once, I may only
warn you; if you do so twice, I shall kill you.”
Perfect silence ruled. Even the
traffic in Park Lane outside seemed momentarily to
have ceased. From the wardrobe behind Julius Rohscheimer
came no sound. He took up the pen; made out and
signed the preposterous cheque.
To the ruling but silent intelligence
concealed behind those double doors he had no thought
of appeal. He dared not even address himself to
that invisible being. Such idea was as far from
his mind as it must have been of old from the mind
of him who listened to a Sybilline oracle delivered
from the mystic tripod.
Sufficiently he controlled his twitching
fingers to write a note, as follows-(what
“To the Editor
of the Gleaner,
“SIR,-I enclose a
cheque for L100,000” (as he wrote these dreadful
words, Rohscheimer almost contemplated rebellion;
but the silence-the fearful silence-and
the thought of the one who watched him proved
too potent for his elusive courage. He wrote
on). “I desire you to place it at the
disposal of the Government for purposes of ariel”
(Rohscheimer was no scholar) “defence. I
hope others will follow suit.” (He did.
It was horrible to be immolated thus, a solitary
but giant sacrifice, upon the altar of this priest
of iconoclasm)-“I am, sir, yours,
Cheque and note he folded together,
and stretching his hand behind him, threw them in
the direction of the haunted wardrobe. His fear
that, even now, he might be assassinated, grew to
such dimensions that he came near to swooning.
But upon no rearward glance did he venture.
Several heavy vehicles passed along
the Lane. Rohscheimer listened intently, but
gathered no sound from amid those others that gave
clue to the enemy’s movements.
Clutching at the table-edge he sat,
and tasted of violent death, by anticipation.
The traffic sounds subsided again.
A new stillness was born. Within the great house
nothing moved. But still Julius Rohscheimer shook
and quivered. Only his mind was clearing; and
already he was at work upon a scheme to save his money.
One hundred thousand pounds.
Heavens above! It was ruination!
A faint creak.
“Do not dare to look around
again until you have my permission,” read the
card before his eyes. “If you do so once
I may only warn you; if you do so twice, I
shall kill you.”
One hundred thousand pounds!
He could have cried. But, after all, he was a
rich man-a very rich man; not so rich as
Oppner, nor even so rich as Hague; but a comfortably
wealthy man. Life was very good in his eyes.
There were those little convivial evenings-those
week-end motoring trips. He would take no chances.
Life was worth more than one hundred thousand pounds.
He did not glance around.
So, the minutes passed. They
passed, for the most part, in ghostly silence, sometimes
broken by the hum of the traffic below, by the horn
of a cab or car. Nothing from within the house
broke that nerve-racking stillness.
If only there had been a mirror, so
placed that by moving his eyes only he could have
obtained a glimpse of the wardrobe. But there
was no mirror so placed.
Faintly to his ears came the striking
of a clock. He listened intently, but could not
determine if it struck the quarter, half, three-quarters,
or hour. Certainly, from the decrease of traffic
in Park Lane, it must be getting very late, he knew.
His limbs began to ache. Cautiously
he changed the position of his slippered feet.
The clock in the hall began to strike. And Rohscheimer’s
heart seemed to stand still.
It struck the half-hour. So it
was half-past one! He had been sitting there
for an hour-an agonised hour!
What could the Unseen be waiting for?
Gradually his heart-beats grew normal
again, and his keen mind got to work once more upon
the scheme for frustrating the audacious plan of this
robber who robbed from incredible motives.
An air fleet! What rot!
What did he care about air fleets? One hundred
thousand pounds! But if he presented himself at
the Gleaner office as soon as it opened that
morning, and explained, before the editor (curse him!)
had had time to deal with his correspondence, that
by an oversight (late night; the editor, as a man
of the world, would understand) he had been thinking
of a hundred and had written a hundred thousand, and
also had written too many noughts after the amount
of his subscription to the Gleaner fund, what
then? The editor could not possibly object to
returning him his cheque and accepting one for a thousand.
A thousand was bad enough; but a hundred thousand!
He was growing stiff again.
Beneath his eyes lay the card which read:
“If you do so once I may only warn you
A sudden burst of courage came to
Julius Rohscheimer. Anything, he now determined,
was preferable to this suspense.
He began to turn his head.
It was a ruse, he saw it all; a ruse
to keep him there, silent, prisoned, whilst his cheque,
his precious cheque, was placed in the hands of the
Around he turned-and around.
The corner of the wardrobe came within his field of
vision. Still farther he moved. The doors,
now, were visible.
And the gleaming barrel pointed truly at his head!
“No; no!” he whispered
tremulously, huskily. “Ah, God! no!
Spare me! I swear-I swear-I
will not look again. I won’t move.
I’ll make no sound.”
He dropped his head into his hands-quaking;
the lamp, the table, were swimming about him; he had
never passed through ten such seconds of dread as
those which followed his spell of temerity.
Yet he lived-and knew himself
spared. Not for five hundred thousand
pounds would he have looked again.
The minutes wore on-became
hours. It seemed to Julius Rohscheimer that all
London slept now; all London save one unhappy man in
Three o’clock, four o’clock,
five o’clock struck. His head fell forward.
He aroused himself with a jerk. Again his head
fell forward. And this time he did not arouse
himself; he slept.
“Mr. Rohscheimer! Mr. Rohscheimer!”
There were voices about him.
He could distinguish that of his wife. Adeler
was shaking him. Was that Haredale at the door?
Shakily, he got upon his feet.
“Why, Mr. Rohscheimer!”
exclaimed Adeler, in blank wonderment, “have
you not been to bed?”
“What time?” muttered Rohscheimer “what
Sir Richard Haredale, who evidently
thought that the financier had had one of his “heavy
nights,” smiled discreetly.
“Pull yourself together, Rohscheimer!”
he said. “Just put your head under the
tap and jump into a dressing-gown. The green one
with golden dragons is the most unique. You’ll
have to hold an informal reception here in your dressing-room.
We can’t keep the Marquess waiting.”
“The Marquess?” groaned
Rohscheimer, clutching at his head. “The
It had been his social dream for years
to behold a real live Marquess beneath that roof.
He had gone so far as to offer Haredale five hundred
pounds down if he could bring one to dinner. But
Haredale’s best achievement to date had been
Rohscheimer’s mind was a furious
chaos. Had the horrors of the night been no more
than a dream, after all?
Sheard, of the Gleaner, pressed
forward and grasped both his hands. Rohscheimer
became ghastly pale.
Mr. Rohscheimer said the pressman England is proud of
you! On such occasions as this all formality-all
formality-is swept away. A great man
is great anywhere-at any time any place
in any garb! I have Mrs. Rohscheimer’s
permission and therefore am honoured to introduce
to this apartment the Premier the Most Honourable
the Marquess of Evershed!”
Trembling wildly, fighting down a
desire to laugh, to scream, Rohscheimer stood and
looked toward the door.
The Marquess entered.
He wore the familiar grey frock-coat,
with the red rose in his buttonhole, as made famous
by Punch. His massive head he carried very
high, looking downward through the pebbles of the gold-rimmed
“No apologies, Mr. Rohscheimer!”
he began, hand raised forensically. “Positively
I will listen to no apologies! This entire absence
of formality-showing that you had not anticipated
my visit-delights me, confirms me in my
estimation of your character. For it reveals you
as a man actuated by the purest motive which can stir
the human heart. I refer to love of country-patriotism.”
He paused, characteristically thrusting
two fingers into his watch-pocket. Sheard wrote
furiously. Julius Rohscheimer fought for air.
“The implied compliment, Mr.
Rohscheimer,” continued the Premier, “to
myself, is deeply appreciated. I am, of course,
aware that the idea of this fund was suggested to
its promoters by my speech at Portsmouth regarding
England’s danger. The promptitude of the
Gleaner newspaper in opening a subscription
list is only less admirable than your own in making
so munificent a donation.
“My policy during my present
term of office as you are aware Mr. Rohscheimer
has been different wholly different from that of
my immediate predecessor. I have placed the necessity
of Britain’s ruling not only the seas but
the air in the forefront of my programme
“Hear, hear!” murmured Sheard.
“And this substantial support
from such men as yourself is very gratifying to me.
I cannot recall any incident in recent years which
has afforded me such keen pleasure. It is such
confirmation of one’s hopes that he acts for
the welfare of his fellow-countrymen which purifies
and exalts political life. And in another particular
where my policy has differed from that of my friends
opposite-I refer to my encouragement
of foreign immigration-I have been nobly
“Baron Hague, in recognition
of the commercial support and protection which our
British hospitality has accorded to him, contributes
fifty thousand pounds to the further safeguarding
of our national, though most catholic, interests.
At an early hour this morning, Mr. Rohscheimer, I
was aroused by a special messenger from the Gleaner
newspaper, who brought me this glorious news of your
noble, your magnificent, response to my-to
our-appeal. Casting ceremony to the
winds, I hastened hither. Mr. Rohscheimer-your
At that, Rohscheimer was surrounded.
“Socially,” Haredale murmured in his ear,
“you are made!”
“Financially,” groaned Rohscheimer, “I’m
Mrs. Rohscheimer, in elegant decolletee,
appeared among the excited throng. She was anxious
for a sight of her husband, whom she was convinced
had gone mad. Sheard thrust his way to the financier’s
“Is there anything you would
care to say for our next edition?” he enquired
a notebook in his hand. “We’re having
a full-page photograph and
Crash! Crackle! Crackle!
Crackle! A blinding light leapt up.
“My God! What’s that?”
“All right,” said Sheard.
“Only our photographer doing a flash. If
there’s anything you’d like to say, hurry
up, because I’m off to interview Baron Hague.”
“Say that I believe I’ve
gone mad!” groaned the financier, clutching his
hair, “and that I’m damn sure Hague has!”
Sheard laughed, treating the words
as a witticism, and hurried away. Mrs. Rohscheimer
approached and bent over her husband.
“Have you pains in your head,
dear?” she inquired anxiously.
“No!” snapped Rohscheimer.
“I’ve got a pain in my pocket! I’m
a ruined man! I’ll be the laughing-stock
of the whole money market!”
“Adeler,” said Rohscheimer,
“get the rest of the people out of the house!
And, Adeler”-he glanced about him-“what
did you do with those cards that were on the table,
“Cards, Mr. Rohscheimer? I saw none.”
“Who came in here first this morning? Who
woke me up?”
Rohscheimer studied the pale, intellectual
face of his secretary with uneasy curiosity.
“And there were no cards on the table-no
“Sure you were first in?”
“I am not sure, but I think so. I found
you fast asleep, at any rate.”
“Why do you ask, dear?” said Mrs. Rohscheimer
in growing anxiety.
“Just for a lark!” snapped
her husband sourly. “I want to make Adeler
Haredale, who, failing Rohscheimer
or Mrs. Rohscheimer, did the honours of the house
in Park Lane, returned from having conducted the Marquess
to his car. He carried a first edition copy of
“They’ve managed to get
it in, even in this one,” he said. “When
did you send the cheque-early last evening?”
“Don’t talk about it!” implored
“Why?” inquired Haredale
curiously. “You must have seen your way
to something big before you spent so much money.
It was a great idea! You’re certain of
a knighthood, if not something bigger. But I wonder
you kept it dark from me.”
“Ah!” said Rohscheimer. “Do
“Very much. It’s
a situation that calls for very delicate handling.
Hitherto, because of certain mortgages, the Marquess
has not prohibited his daughter visiting here, with
the Oppners or Vignoles; but you’ve forced him,
now, to recognise you in propria persona.
He cannot very well withhold a title; but you’ll
have to release the mortgage gracefully.”
“I’ll do it gracefully,”
was the reply. “I’m gettin’
plenty of practice at chuckin’ fortunes away,
His attitude puzzled Haredale, who
glanced interrogatively at Mrs. Rohscheimer.
She shook her head in worried perplexity.
“Go and get dressed, dear,”
said Rohscheimer, with much irritation. “I’m
not ill; I’ve only turned patriotic.”
Mrs. Rohscheimer departing, Haredale lingered.
“Leave me alone a bit, Haredale,”
begged the financier. “I want to get used
to bein’ a bloomin’ hero! Send Lawson
up in half an hour-and you come too, if
you wouldn’t mind.”
Haredale left the room.
As the door closed, Rohscheimer turned and looked
fully at the wardrobe.
From the gap pointed a gleaming tube!
He dropped back in his chair.
Nothing moved. The activity of the household
stirred reassuringly about him. He stood up, crossed
to the wardrobe, and threw wide its doors.
In the pocket of a hanging coat was
thrust a nickelled rod from a patent trousers-stretcher,
so that it pointed out into the room.
Rohscheimer stared-and stared-and
“My God!” he whispered.
“He slipped out directly he got the cheque and
I sat here all night