Read CHAPTER VI - A DEAL IN JUTE of Bones in London , free online book, by Edgar Wallace, on

It is a reasonable theory that every man of genius is two men, one visible, one unseen and often unsuspected by his counterpart.  For who has not felt the shadow’s influence in dealing with such as have the Spark?  Napoleon spoke of stars, being Corsican and a mystic.  Those who met him in his last days were uneasily conscious that the second Bonaparte had died on the eve of Waterloo, leaving derelict his brother, a stout and commonplace man who was in turn sycophantic, choleric, and pathetic, but never great.

Noticeable is the influence of the Shadow in the process of money-making.  It is humanly impossible for some men to be fortunate.  They may amass wealth by sheer hard work and hard reasoning, but if they seek a shorter cut to opulence, be sure that short cut ends in a cul-de-sac where sits a Bankruptcy Judge and a phalanx of stony-faced creditors.  “Luck” is not for them ­they were born single.

For others, the whole management of life is taken from their hands by their busy Second, who ranges the world to discover opportunities for his partner.

So it comes about that there are certain men, and Augustus Tibbetts ­or, as he was named, “Bones” ­was one of these, to whom the increments of life come miraculously.  They could come in no other way, be he ever so learned and experienced.

Rather would a greater worldliness have hampered his familiar and in time destroyed its power, just as education destroys the more subtle instincts.  Whilst the learned seismographer eats his dinner, cheerfully unconscious of the coming earthquake, his dog shivers beneath the table.

By this preamble I am not suggesting that Bones was a fool.  Far from it.  Bones was wise ­uncannily wise in some respects.  His success was due, as to nine-tenths, to his native sense.  His x supplied the other fraction.

No better illustration of the working of this concealed quantity can be given than the story of the great jute sale and Miss Bertha Stegg.

The truth about the Government speculation in jute is simply told.  It is the story of an official who, in the middle of the War, was seized with the bright idea of procuring enormous quantities of jute for the manufacture of sand-bags.  The fact that by this transaction he might have driven the jute lords of Dundee into frenzy did not enter into his calculations.  Nor did it occur to him that the advantageous position in which he hoped to place his Department depended for its attainment upon a total lack of foresight on the part of the Dundee merchants.

As a matter of fact, Dundee had bought well and wisely.  It had sufficient stocks to meet all the demands which the Government made upon it; and when, after the War, the Department offered its purchase at a price which would show a handsome profit to the Government, Dundee laughed long and loudly.

And so there was left on the official hands, at the close of the War, a quantity of jute which nobody wanted, at a price which nobody would pay.  And then somebody asked a question in the House of Commons, and the responsible Secretary went hot all over, and framed the reply which an Under-secretary subsequently made in such terms as would lead the country to believe that the jute purchased at a figure beyond the market value was a valuable asset, and would one day be sold at a profit.

Mr. Augustus Tibbetts knew nothing about jute.  But he did read, almost every morning in the daily newspapers, how one person or another had made enormous purchases of linen, or of cloth, or of motor chassis, paying fabulous sums on the nail and walking off almost immediately with colossal profits; and every time Bones read such an account he wriggled in his chair and made unhappy noises.

Then one afternoon there came to his office a suave gentleman in frock-coat, carrying with him a card which was inscribed “Ministry of Supplies.”  And the end of that conversation was that Bones, all a twitter of excitement, drove to a gloomy office in Whitehall, where he interviewed a most sacred public official, to whom members of the public were not admitted, perhaps, more than four times a year.

Hamilton had watched the proceedings with interest and suspicion.  When Bones was mysterious he was very mysterious; and he returned that night in such a condition of mystery that none but a thought-reading detective could have unravelled him.

“You seem infernally pleased with yourself, Bones,” said Hamilton.  “What lamentable error have you fallen into?”

“Dear old Ham,” said Bones, with the helpless little laugh which characterised the very condition of mind which Hamilton had described, “dear old pryer, wait till to-morrow.  Dear old thing, I wouldn’t spoil it.  Read your jolly old newspaper, dear old inquirer.”

“Have you been to the police court?” asked Hamilton.

“Police court?  Police court?” said Bones testily.  “Good Heavens, lad!  Why this jolly old vulgarity?  No, dear boy, live and learn, dear old thing!”

Hamilton undoubtedly lived until the next morning, and learnt.  He saw the headlines the second he opened his newspaper.


Hamilton was on his way to the office, and fell back in the corner of the railway carriage with a suppressed moan.  He almost ran to the office, to find Bones stalking up and down the room, dictating an interview to a reporter.

“One minute, one minute, dear old Ham,” said.  Bones warningly.  And then, turning to the industrious journalist, he went on where Hamilton had evidently interrupted him.  “You can say that I’ve spent a great deal of my life in fearfully dangerous conditions,” he said.  “You needn’t say where, dear old reporter, just say ’fearfully dangerous conditions.’”

“What about jute?” asked the young man.

“Jute,” said Bones with relish, “or, as we call it, Corcharis capsilaris, is the famous jute tree.  I have always been interested in jute and all that sort of thing ­ But you know what to say better than I can tell you.  You can also say that I’m young ­no, don’t say that.  Put it like this:  ’Mr. Tibbetts, though apparently young-looking, bears on his hardened old face the marks of years spent in the service of his country.  There is a sort of sadness about his funny old eyes ­’ You know what to say, old thing.”

“I know,” said the journalist, rising.  “You’ll see this in the next edition, Mr. Tibbetts.”

When the young man had gone, Hamilton staggered across to him.

“Bones,” he said, in a hollow voice, “you’ve never bought this stuff for a million?”

“A million’s a bit of an exaggeration, dear old sportsman,” said Bones.  “As a matter of fact, it’s about half that sum, and it needn’t be paid for a month.  Here is the contract.”  He smacked his lips and smacked the contract, which was on the table, at the same time.  “Don’t get alarmed, don’t get peevish, don’t get panicky, don’t be a wicked old flutterer, Ham, my boy!” he said.  “I’ve reckoned it all out, and I shall make a cool fifty thousand by this time next week.”

“What will you pay for it?” asked Hamilton, in a shaky voice.  “I mean, how much a ton?”

Bones mentioned a figure, and Hamilton jotted down a note.

He had a friend, as it happened, in the jute trade ­the owner of a big mill in Dundee ­and to him he dispatched an urgent telegram.  After that he examined the contract at leisure.  On the fourth page of that interesting document was a paragraph, the seventh, to this effect: 

“Either parties to this contract may, for any reason whatsoever, by giving notice either to the Ministry of Supplies, Department 9, or to the purchaser at his registered office, within twenty-four hours of the signing of this contract, cancel the same.”

He read this over to Bones.

“That’s rum,” he said.  “What is the idea?”

“My jolly old captain,” said Bones in his lordly way, “how should I know?  I suppose it’s in case the old Government get a better offer.  Anyway, dear old timidity, it’s a contract that I’m not going to terminate, believe me!”

The next afternoon Bones and Hamilton returned from a frugal lunch at a near-by tavern, and reached the imposing entrance of the building in which New Schemes Limited was housed simultaneously ­or perhaps it would be more truthful to say a little later ­than a magnificent limousine.  It was so far ahead of them that the chauffeur had time to descend from his seat, open the highly-polished door, and assist to the honoured sidewalk a beautiful lady in a large beaver coat, who carried under her arm a small portfolio.

There was a certain swing to her shoulder as she walked, a certain undulatory movement of hip, which spoke of a large satisfaction with the world as she found it.

Bones, something of a connoisseur and painfully worldly, pursed his lips and broke off the conversation in which he was engaged, and which had to do with the prospective profits on his jute deal, and remarked tersely: 

“Ham, dear old thing, that is a chinchilla coat worth twelve hundred pounds.”

Hamilton, to whom the mysteries of feminine attire were honest mysteries, accepted the sensational report without demur.

“The way you pick up these particular bits of information, Bones, is really marvellous to me.  It isn’t as though you go out a lot into society.  It isn’t as though women are fond of you or make a fuss of you.”

Bones coughed.

“Dicky Orum.  Remember, dear old Richard,” he murmured.  “My private life, dear old fellow, if you will forgive me snubbing you, is a matter on which nobody is an authority except A. Tibbetts, Esq.  There’s a lot you don’t know, dear old Ham.  I was thinking of writing a book about it, but it would take too long.”

By this time they reached the elevator, which descended in time to receive the beautiful lady in the brown coat.  Bones removed his hat, smoothed his glossy hair, and with a muttered “After you, dear old friend.  Age before honesty,” bundled Hamilton into the lift and followed him.

The elevator stopped at the third floor, and the lady got out.  Bones, his curiosity overcoming his respect for age or his appreciation of probity, followed her, and was thrilled to discover that she made straight for his office.  She hesitated for a moment before that which bore the word “Private,” and passed on to the outer and general office.

Bones slipped into his own room so quickly that by the time Hamilton entered he was sitting at his desk in a thoughtful and studious attitude.

It cannot be said that the inner office was any longer entitled to the description of sanctum sanctórum.  Rather was the holy of holies the larger and less ornate apartment wherein sat A Being whose capable little fingers danced over complicated banks of keys.

The communicating door opened and the Being appeared.  Hamilton, mindful of a certain agreement with his partner, pretended not to see her.

“There’s a lady who wishes a private interview with you, Mr. Tibbetts,” said the girl.

Bones turned with an exaggerated start.

“A lady?” he said in a tone of incredulity.  “Gracious Heavens!  This is news to me, dear old miss.  Show her in, please, show her in.  A private interview, eh?” He looked meaningly at Hamilton.  Hamilton did not raise his eyes ­in accordance with his contract.  “A private interview, eh?” said Bones louder.  “Does she want to see me by myself?”

“Perhaps you would like to see her in my room,” said the girl.  “I could stay here with Mr. Hamilton.”

Bones glared at the unconscious Hamilton.

“That is not necessary, dear old typewriter,” he said stiffly.  “Show the young woman in, please.”

The “young woman,” came in.  Rather, she tripped and undulated and swayed from the outer office to the chair facing Bones, and Bones rose solemnly to greet her.

Miss Marguerite Whitland, the beautiful Being, who had surveyed the tripping and swaying and undulating with the same frank curiosity that Cleopatra might have devoted to a performing seal, went into her office and closed the door gently behind her.

“Sit down, sit down,” said Bones.  “And what can I do for you, young miss?”

The girl smiled.  It was one of those flashing smiles which make susceptible men blink.  Bones was susceptible.  Never had he been gazed upon with such kindness by a pair of such large, soft, brown eyes.  Never had cheeks dimpled so prettily and so pleasurably, and seldom had Bones experienced such a sensation of warm embarrassment ­not unpleasant ­as he did now.

“I am sure I am being an awful nuisance to you, Mr. Tibbetts,” said the lady.  “You don’t know my name, do you?  Here is my card.”  She had it ready in her hand, and put it in front of him.  Bones waited a minute or two while he adjusted his monocle, and read: 


As a matter of fact, he read it long before he had adjusted his monocle, but the official acknowledgment was subsequent to that performance.

“Yes, yes,” said Bones, who on such occasions as these, or on such occasions as remotely resembled these, was accustomed to take on the air and style of the strong, silent man.  “What can we do for you, my jolly old ­Miss Stegg?”

“It’s a charity,” blurted the girl, and sat back to watch the effect of her words.  “Oh, I know what you business men are!  You simply hate people bothering you for subscriptions!  And really, Mr. Tibbetts, if I had to come to ask you for money, I would never have come at all.  I think it’s so unfair for girls to pester busy men in their offices, at the busiest time of the day, with requests for subscriptions.”

Bones coughed.  In truth, he had never been pestered, and was enjoying the experience.

“No, this is something much more pleasant, from my point of view,” said the girl.  “We are having a bazaar in West Kensington on behalf of the Little Tots’ Recreation Fund.”

“A most excellent plan,” said Bones firmly.

Hamilton, an interested audience, had occasion to marvel anew at the amazing self-possession of his partner.

“It is one of the best institutions that I know,” Bones went on thoughtfully.  “Of course, it’s many years since I was a little tot, but I can still sympathise with the jolly old totters, dear young miss.”

She had taken her portfolio from under her arm and laid it on his desk.  It was a pretty portfolio, bound in powder blue and silver, and was fastened by a powder blue tape with silver tassels.  Bones eyed it with pardonable curiosity.

“I’m not asking you for money, Mr. Tibbetts,” Miss Stegg went on in her soft, sweet voice.  “I think we can raise all the money we want at the bazaar.  But we must have things to sell.”

“I see, dear old miss,” said Bones eagerly.  “You want a few old clothes?  I’ve got a couple of suits at home, rather baggy at the knees, dear old thing, but you know what we boys are; we wear ’em until they fall off!”

The horrified Hamilton returned to the scrutiny of his notes.

“I don’t suppose under-garments, if you will permit the indelicacy, my dear old philanthropist ­” Bones was going on, when the girl stopped him with a gentle shake of her head.

“No, Mr. Tibbetts, it is awfully kind of you, but we do not want anything like that.  The way we expect to raise a lot of money is by selling the photographs of celebrities,” she said.

“The photographs of celebrities?” repeated Bones.  “But, my dear young miss, I haven’t had my photograph taken for years.”

Hamilton gasped.  He might have gasped again at what followed, but for the fact that he had got a little beyond the gasping stage.

The girl was untying her portfolio, and now she produced something and laid it on the desk before Bones.

“How clever of you to guess!” she murmured.  “Yes, it is a portrait of you we want to sell.”

Bones stared dumbfounded at a picture of himself ­evidently a snapshot taken with a press camera ­leaving the building.  And, moreover, it was a flattering picture, for there was a stern frown of resolution on Bones’s pictured face, which, for some esoteric reason, pleased him.  The picture was mounted rather in than on cardboard, for it was in a sunken mount, and beneath the portrait was a little oblong slip of pale blue paper.

Bones gazed and glowed.  Neatly printed above the picture were the words:  “Our Captains of Industry.  III. ­Augustus Tibbetts, Esq.  (Schemes Limited).”

Bones read this with immense satisfaction.  He wondered who were the two men who could be placed before him, but in his generous mood was prepared to admit that he might come third in the list of London’s merchant princes.

“Deuced flattering, dear old thing,” he murmured.  “Hamilton, old boy, come and look at this.”

Hamilton crossed to the desk, saw, and wondered.

“Not so bad,” said Bones, dropping his head to one side and regarding the picture critically.  “Not at all bad, dear old thing.  You’ve seen me in that mood, I think, old Ham.”

“What is the mood?” said Hamilton innocently.  “Indigestion?”

The girl laughed.

“Let’s have a little light on the subject,” said Bones.  “Switch on the expensive old electricity, Ham.”

“Oh, no,” said the girl quickly.  “I don’t think so.  If you saw the picture under the light, you’d probably think it wasn’t good enough, and then I should have made my journey in vain.  Spare me that, Mr. Tibbetts!”

Mr. Tibbetts giggled.  At that moment the Being re-appeared.  Marguerite Whitland, chief and only stenographer to the firm of Schemes Limited, and Bones beckoned her.

“Just cast your eye over this, young miss,” he said.  “What do you think of it?”

The girl came round the group, looked at the picture, and nodded.

“Very nice,” she said, and then she looked at the girl.

“Selling it for a charity,” said Bones carelessly.  “Some silly old josser will put it up in his drawing-room, I suppose.  You know, Ham, dear old thing, I never can understand this hero-worship business.  And now, my young and philanthropic collector, what do you want me to do?  Give you permission?  It is given.”

“I want you to give me your autograph.  Sign down there,” ­she pointed to a little space beneath the picture ­“and just let me sell it for what I can get.”

“With all the pleasure in life,” said Bones.

He picked up his long plumed pen and splashed his characteristic signature in the space indicated.

And then Miss Marguerite Whitland did a serious thing, an amazingly audacious thing, a thing which filled Bones’s heart with horror and dismay.

Before Bones could lift the blotting pad, her forefinger had dropped upon the signature and had been drawn across, leaving nothing more than an indecipherable smudge.

“My dear old typewriter!” gasped Bones.  “My dear old miss!  Confound it all!  Hang it all, I say!  Dear old thing!”

“You can leave this picture, madam ­”

“Miss,” murmured Bones from force of habit.  Even in his agitation he could not resist the temptation to interrupt.

“You can leave this picture, Miss Stegg,” said the girl coolly.  “Mr. Tibbetts wants to add it to his collection.”

Miss Stegg said nothing.

She had risen to her feet, her eyes fixed on the girl’s face, and, with no word of protest or explanation, she turned and walked swiftly from the office.  Hamilton opened the door, noting the temporary suspension of the undulatory motion.

When she had gone, they looked at one another, or, rather, they looked at the girl, who, for her part, was examining the photograph.  She took a little knife from the desk before Bones and inserted it into the thick cardboard mount, and ripped off one of the layers of cardboard.  And so Bones’s photograph was exposed, shorn of all mounting.  But, what was more important, beneath his photograph was a cheque on the Third National Bank, which was a blank cheque and bearing Bones’s undeniable signature in the bottom right-hand corner ­the signature was decipherable through the smudge.

Bones stared.

“Most curious thing I’ve ever seen in my life, dear old typewriter,” he said.  “Why, that’s the very banking establishment I patronise.”

“I thought it might be,” said the girl.

And then it dawned upon Bones, and he gasped.

“Great Moses!” he howled ­there is no prettier word for it.  “That naughty, naughty, Miss Thing-a-me-jig was making me sign a blank cheque!  My autograph!  My sacred aunt!  Autograph on a cheque...”

Bones babbled on as the real villainy of the attempt upon his finances gradually unfolded before his excited vision.

Explanations were to follow.  The girl had seen a paragraph warning people against giving their autographs, and the police had even circulated a rough description of two “well-dressed women” who, on one pretext or another, were securing from the wealthy, but the unwise, specimens of their signatures.

“My young and artful typewriter,” said Bones, speaking with emotion, “you have probably saved me from utter ruin, dear old thing.  Goodness only knows what might have happened, or where I might have been sleeping to-night, my jolly old Salvationist, if your beady little eye hadn’t penetrated like a corkscrew through the back of that naughty old lady’s neck and read her evil intentions.”

“I don’t think it was a matter of my beady eye,” said the girl, without any great enthusiasm for the description, “as my memory.”

“I can’t understand it,” said Bones, puzzled.  “She came in a beautiful car ­”

“Hired for two hours for twenty-five shillings,” said the girl.

“But she was so beautifully dressed.  She had a chinchilla coat ­”

“Imitation beaver,” said Miss Marguerite Whitland, who had few illusions.  “You can get them for fifteen pounds at any of the West End shops.”

It was a very angry Miss Bertha Stegg who made her way in some haste to Pimlico.  She shared a first-floor suite with a sister, and she burst unceremoniously into her relative’s presence, and the elder Miss Stegg looked round with some evidence of alarm.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

She was a tall, bony woman, with a hard, tired face, and lacked most of her sister’s facial charm.

“Turned down,” said Bertha briefly.  “I had the thing signed, and then a ­” (one omits the description she gave of Miss Marguerite Whitland, which was uncharitable) “smudged the thing with her fingers.”

“She tumbled to it, eh?” said Clara.  “Has she put the splits on you?”

“I shouldn’t think so,” said Bertha, throwing off her coat and her hat, and patting her hair.  “I got away too quickly, and I came on by the car.”

“Will he report it to the police?”

“He’s not that kind.  Doesn’t it make you mad, Clara, to think that that fool has a million to spend?  Do you know what he’s done?  Made perhaps a hundred thousand pounds in a couple of days!  Wouldn’t that rile you?”

They discussed Bones in terms equally unflattering.  They likened Bones to all representatives of the animal world whose characteristics are extreme foolishness, but at last they came into a saner, calmer frame of mind.

Miss Clara Stegg seated herself on the frowsy sofa ­indispensable to a Pimlico furnished flat ­and, with her elbow on one palm and her chin on another, reviewed the situation.  She was the brains of a little combination which had done so much to distress and annoy susceptible financiers in the City of London. (The record of the Stegg sisters may be read by the curious, or, at any rate, by as many of the curious as have the entree to the Record Department of Scotland Yard.)

The Steggs specialised in finance, and operated exclusively in high financial circles.  There was not a fluctuation of the market which Miss Clara Stegg did not note; and when Rubber soared sky-high, or Steel Preferred sagged listlessly, she knew just who was going to be affected, and just how approachable they were.

During the War the Stegg sisters had opened a new department, so to speak, dealing with Government contracts, and the things which they knew about the incomes of Government contractors the average surveyor of taxes would have given money to learn.

“It was my mistake, Bertha,” she said at last, “though in a sense it wasn’t.  I tried him simply, because he’s simple.  If you work something complicated on a fellow like that, you’re pretty certain to get him guessing.”

She went out of the room, and presently returned with four ordinary exercise-books, one of which she opened at a place where a page was covered with fine writing, and that facing was concealed by a sheet of letter-paper which had been pasted on to it.  The letter-paper bore the embossed heading of Schemes Limited, the epistle had reference to a request for an autograph which Bones had most graciously granted.

The elder woman looked at the signature, biting her nether lip.

“It is almost too late now.  What is the time?” she asked.

“Half-past three,” replied her sister.

Miss Stegg shook her head.

“The banks are closed, and, anyway ­”

She carried the book to a table, took a sheet of paper and a pen, and, after a close study of Bones’s signature, she wrote it, at first awkwardly, then, after about a dozen attempts, she produced a copy which it was difficult to tell apart from the original.

“Really, Clara, you’re a wonder,” said her sister admiringly.

Clara made no reply.  She sat biting the end of the pen.

“I hate the idea of getting out of London and leaving him with all that money, Bertha,” she said.  “I wonder ­” She turned to her sister.  “Go out and get all the evening newspapers,” she said.  “There’s bound to be something about him, and I might get an idea.”

There was much about Bones in the papers the younger girl brought, and in one of these journals there was quite an important interview, which gave a sketch of Bones’s life, his character, and his general appearance.  Clara read this interview very carefully.

“It says he’s spent a million, but I know that’s a lie,” she said.  “I’ve been watching that jute deal for a long time, and it’s nearer half the sum.”  She frowned.  “I wonder ­” she said.

“Wonder what?” asked the younger girl impatiently.  “What’s the good of wondering?  The only thing we can do is to clear out.”

Again Clara went from the room and came back with an armful of documents.  These she laid on the table, and the girl, looking down, saw that they were for the main part blank contracts.  Clara turned them over and over until at last she came to one headed “Ministry of Supplies.”

“This’d be the form,” she said.  “It is the same that Stevenhowe had.”

She was mentioning the name of a middle-aged man, who, quite unwittingly and most unwillingly, had contributed to her very handsome bank balance.  She scanned the clauses through, and then flung down the contract in disgust.

“There’s nothing mentioned about a deposit,” she said, “and, anyway, I doubt very much whether I could get it back, even on his signature.”

A quarter of an hour later Miss Clara Stegg took up the contract again and read the closely-printed clauses very carefully.  When she had finished she said: 

“I just hate the idea of that fellow making money.”

“You’ve said that before,” said her sister tartly.

At six o’clock that evening Bones went home.  At nine o’clock he was sitting in his sitting-room in Clarges Street ­a wonderful place, though small, of Eastern hangings and subdued lights ­when Hamilton burst in upon him; and Bones hastily concealed the poem he was writing and thrust it under his blotting-pad.  It was a good poem and going well.

It began: 

  How very sweet
  Is Marguerite!

And Bones was, not unreasonably, annoyed at this interruption to his muse.

As to Hamilton, he was looking ill.

“Bones,” said Hamilton quietly, “I’ve had a telegram from my pal in Dundee.  Shall I read it?”

“Dear old thing,” said Bones, with an irritated “tut-tut,” “really, dear old creature, at this time of night ­your friends in Dundee ­really, my dear old boy ­”

“Shall I read it?” said Hamilton, with sinister calm.

“By all means, by all means,” said Bones, waving an airy hand and sitting back with resignation written on every line of his countenance.

“Here it is,” said Hamilton.  “It begins ‘Urgent.’”

“That means he’s in a devil of a hurry, old thing,” said Bones, nodding.

“And it goes on to say,” said Hamilton, ignoring the interruption.  “’Your purchase at the present price of jute is disastrous.  Jute will never again touch the figure at which your friend tendered, Ministry have been trying to find a mug for years to buy their jute, half of which is spoilt by bad warehousing, as I could have told you, and I reckon you have made a loss of exactly half the amount you have paid.’”

Bones had opened his eyes and was sitting up.

“Dear old Job’s comforter,” he said huskily.

“Wait a bit,” said Hamilton, “I haven’t finished yet,” and went on:  “’Strongly advise you cancel your sale in terms of Clause 7 Ministry contract.’  That’s all,” said Hamilton.

“Oh, yes,” said Bones feebly, as he ran his finger inside his collar, “that’s all!”

“What do you think, Bones?” said Hamilton gently.

“Well, dear old cloud on the horizon,” said Bones, clasping his bony knee, “it looks remarkably like serious trouble for B. Ones, Esquire.  It does indeed.  Of course,” he said, “you’re not in this, old Ham.  This was a private speculation ­”

“Rot!” said Hamilton contemptuously.  “You’re never going to try a dirty trick like that on me?  Of course I’m in it.  If you’re in it, I’m in it.”

Bones opened his mouth to protest, but subsided feebly.  He looked at the clock, sighed, and lowered his eyes again.

“I suppose it’s too late to cancel the contract now?”

Bones nodded.

“Twenty-four hours, poor old victim,” he said miserably, “expired at five p.m.”

“So that’s that,” said Hamilton.

Walking across, he tapped his partner on the shoulder.

“Well, Bones, it can’t be helped, and probably our pal in Dundee has taken an extravagant view.”

“Not he,” said Bones, “not he, dear old cheerer.  Well, we shall have to cut down expenses, move into a little office, and start again, dear old Hamilton.”

“It won’t be so bad as that.”

“Not quite so bad as that,” admitted Bones.  “But one thing,” he said with sudden energy, “one thing, dear old thing, I’ll never part with.  Whatever happens, dear old boy, rain or shine, sun or moon, stars or any old thing like that” ­he was growing incoherent ­“I will never leave my typewriter, dear old thing.  I will never desert her ­never, never, never, never, never!

He turned up in the morning, looking and speaking chirpily.  Hamilton, who had spent a restless night, thought he detected signs of similar restlessness in Bones.

Miss Marguerite Whitland brought him his letters, and he went over them listlessly until he came to one large envelope which bore on its flap the all-too-familiar seal of the Ministry.  Bones looked at it and made a little face.

“It’s from the Ministry,” said the girl.

Bones nodded.

“Yes, my old notetaker,” he said, “my poor young derelict, cast out” ­his voice shook ­“through the rapacious and naughty old speculations of one who should have protected your jolly old interests, it is from the Ministry.”

“Aren’t you going to open it?” she asked.

“No, dear young typewriter, I am not,” Bones said firmly.  “It’s all about the beastly jute, telling me to take it away.  Now, where the dickens am I going to put it, eh?  Never talk to me about jute,” he said violently.  “If I saw a jute tree at this moment, I’d simply hate the sight of it!”

She looked at him in astonishment.

“Why, whatever’s wrong?” she asked anxiously.

“Nothing,” said Bones.  “Nothing,” he added brokenly.  “Oh, nothing, dear young typewriting person.”

She paused irresolutely, then picked up the envelope and cut open the flap.

Remember that she knew nothing, except that Bones had made a big purchase, and that she was perfectly confident ­such was her sublime faith in Augustus Tibbetts ­that he would make a lot of money as a result of that purchase.

Therefore the consternation on her face as she read its contents.

“Why,” she stammered, “you’ve never done ­ Whatever made you do that?”

“Do what?” said Bones hollowly.  “What made me do it?  Greed, dear old sister, just wicked, naughty greed.”

“But I thought,” she said, bewildered, “You were going to make so much out of this deal?”

“Ha, ha,” said Bones without mirth.

“But weren’t you?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Bones gently.

“Oh!  So that was why you cancelled the contract?”

Hamilton jumped to his feet.

“Cancelled the contract?” he said incredulously.

“Cancelled the contract?” squeaked Bones.  “What a naughty old story-teller you are!”

“But you have,” said the girl.  “Here’s a note from the Ministry, regretting that you should have changed your mind and taken advantage of Clause Seven.  The contract was cancelled at four forty-nine.”

Bones swallowed something.

“This is spiritualism,” he said solemnly.  “I’ll never say a word against jolly old Brigham Young after this!”

In the meantime two ladies who had arrived in Paris, somewhat weary and bedraggled, were taking their morning coffee outside the Cafe de la Paix.

“Anyway, my dear,” said Clara viciously, in answer to her sister’s plaint, “we’ve given that young devil a bit of trouble.  Perhaps they won’t renew the contract, and anyway, it’ll take a bit of proving that he did not sign that cancellation I handed in.”

As a matter of fact, Bones never attempted to prove it.