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A 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

JOHN B U C H A N 



BOOKS BY JOHN BUCHAN 



Novels 



The House of the Four Winds 
The Free Fishers 
Greenmantle 

HuNTINGTOWER 

John Burnet of Barns 

The Three Hostages 

John Macnab 

Midwinter 

The Dancing Floor 

Witch Wood 

Mr. Standfast 

The Thirty-Nine Steps 

The Half-Hearted 



The Runagates Club 

The Courts of the Morning 

Salute to Adventurers 

Castle Gay 

The Path of the King 

The Blanket of the Dark 

The Gap in the Curtain 

A Prince of the Captivity 

The Man From the Norlands 

Adventures of Richard Hannay 

(Omnibus) 
Mountain Meadow 
The Power-House 



Biography, History, and Essays 



The People's King 

A History of the Great War 

A Book of Escapes and Hurried 

Journeys 
The Last Secrets 
History of the Royal Scots 

Fusiliers 
Lord Minto 
The Nations of Today (Editor) 



Two Ordeals of Democracy 

Homilies and Recreations 

The Northern Muse (Editor) 

Montrose 

Oliver Cromwell 

Augustus 

Pilgrim's Way 



Books Especially for Young People 

Prester John 



The Magic Walkiwg Stick 
Lake of Gold 



By JOHN BUCHAN 



The 



POWER-HOUSE 




HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY • BOSTON 
tTfje XUbenftoe $ress Cambridge 



COPYRIGHT, 191 6, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE 
THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM 



PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. 






TO 
MAJOR-GENERAL 

Sir FRANCIS LLOYD, K.C.B. 



MY DEAR GENERAL: 

A recent tale of mine has, I am told, found favour in 
the dug-outs and billets of the British front, as being 
sufficiently short and sufficiently exciting for men who 
have little leisure to read. My friends in that uneasy 
region have asked for more. So I have printed this story, 
written in the smooth days before the war, in the hope 
that it may enable an honest man here and there to forget 
for an hour the too urgent realities. I have put your 
name on it, because among the many tastes which we 
share one is a liking for precipitous yarns. 

J.B. 



M735588 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Preface by the Editor ix 

CHAPTER 

I. Beginning of the Wild-Goose Chase 13 

II. I First Hear of Mr. Andrew Lumley 31 

III. Tells of a Midsummer Night ... 53 

IV. I Follow the Trail of the Super- 

Butler 87 

V. I Take a Partner 113 

VI. The Restaurant in Antioch Street . 135 

VII. I Find Sanctuary 163 

VIII. The Power-House 189 

IX. Return of the Wild Geese .... 209 



PREFACE BY THE EDITOR 

We were at Glenaicill — six of us — for the duck- 
shooting, when Leithen told us this story. Since 
five in the morning we had been out on the sker- 
ries, and had been blown home by a wind which 
threatened to root the house and its wind-blown 
woods from their precarious lodgment on the hill. 
A vast nondescript meal, luncheon and dinner in 
one, had occupied us till the last daylight departed, 
and we settled ourselves in the smoking-room for 
a sleepy evening of talk and tobacco. 

Conversation, I remember, turned on some of 
Jim's trophies which grinned at us from the firelit 
walls, and we began to spin hunting yarns. Then 
Hoppy Bynge, who was killed next year on the 
Bramaputra, told us some queer things about his 
doings in New Guinea, where he tried to climb 
Carstensz, and lived for six months in mud. Jim 
said he couldn't abide mud — anything was better 
than a country where your boots rotted. (He was 
to get enough of it last winter in the Ypres Sa- 
lient.) You know how one tale begets another, 
and soon the whole place hummed with odd recol- 

ix 



PREFACE BY THE EDITOR 

lections, for five of us had been a good deal about 
the world. 

All except Leithen, the man who was afterwards 
Solicitor-General, and, they say, will get to the 
Woolsack in time. I don't suppose he had ever 
been farther from home than Monte Carlo, but 
he liked hearing about the ends of the earth. 

Jim had just finished a fairly steep yarn about 
his experiences on a Boundary Commission near 
Lake Chad, and Leithen got up to find a drink. 

"Lucky devils, ,, he said. "You've had all the 
fun out of life. I've had my nose to the grind- 
stone ever since I left school." 

I said something about his having all the honour 
and glory. 

"All the same," he went on, "I once played the 
chief part in a rather exciting business without 
ever once budging from London. And the joke 
of it was that the man who went out to look for 
adventure only saw a bit of the game, and I who 
sat in my chambers saw it all and pulled the 
strings. 'They also serve who only stand and 
wait,' you know." 

Then he told us this story. The version I give 
is one he afterwards wrote down when he had 
looked up his diary for some of the details. 



CHAPTER I 

BEGINNING OF THE WILD-GOOSE 
CHASE 



CHAPTER I 

BEGINNING OF THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

T T all started one afternoon, early in May, 
* when I came out of the House of Com- 
mons with Tommy Deloraine. I had got in 
by an accident at a by-election, when I was 
supposed to be fighting a forlorn hope, and as 
I was just beginning to be busy at the Bar I 
found my hands pretty full. It was before 
Tommy succeeded, in the days when he sat 
for the family seat in Yorkshire, and that aft- 
ernoon he was in a powerful bad temper. Out 
of doors it was jolly spring weather, there was 
greenery in Parliament Square and bits of 
gay colour, and a light wind was blowing up 
from the river. Inside a dull debate was 
winding on, and an advertising member had 
been trying to get up a row with the Speaker. 
The contrast between the frowsy place and 
the cheerful world outside would have im- 

13 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

pressed even the soul of a Government Whip. 

Tommy sniffed the spring breeze like a su- 
percilious stag. 

"This about finishes me," he groaned. 
"What a juggins I am to be mouldering here! 
Joggleberry is the celestial limit, what they 
call in happier lands the pink penultimate. 
And the frowst on those back benches! Was 
there ever such a moth-eaten old museum?" 

"It is the Mother of Parliaments," I ob- 
served. 

"Damned monkey-house," said Tommy. "I 
must get off for a bit, or I'll bonnet Joggle- 
berry or get up and propose a national monu- 
ment to Guy Fawkes, or something silly." 

I did not see him for a day or two, and 
then one morning he rang me up and peremp- 
torily summoned me to dine with him. I 
went, knowing very well what I should find. 
Tommy was off next day to shoot lions on the 
Equator, or something equally unconscien- 
tious. He was a bad acquaintance for a placid 
sedentary soul like me, for though he could 
work like a Trojan when the fit took him, he 

14 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

was never at the same job very long. In the 
same week he would harass an Under Secre- 
tary about horses for the Army, write volumi- 
nously to the press about a gun he had in- 
vented for potting aeroplanes, give a fancy- 
dress ball which he forgot to attend, and get 
into the semi-final of the racquets champion- 
ship. I waited daily to see him start a new 
religion. 

That night, I recollect, he had an odd as- 
sortment of guests. A Cabinet Minister was 
there, a gentle being for whom Tommy pro- 
fessed public scorn and private affection; a 
sailor; an Indian cavalry fellow; Chapman, 
the Labour member, whom Tommy called 
Chipmunk; myself, and old Milson of the 
Treasury. Our host was in tremendous form, 
chaffing everybody, and sending Chipmunk 
into great rolling gusts of merriment. The 
two lived adjacent in Yorkshire, and on plat- 
forms abused each other like pickpockets. 

Tommy enlarged on the misfits of civilised 
life. He maintained that none of us, except 
perhaps the sailor and the cavalryman, were 

IS 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

at our proper job. He would have had Wy- 
tham — that was the Minister — a cardinal of 
the Roman Church, and he said that Milson 
should have been the Warden of a college full 
of port and prejudice. Me he was kind enough 
to allocate to some reconstructed Imperial 
General Staff, merely because I had a craze 
for military history. Tommy's perception did 
not go very deep. He told Chapman he should 
have been a lumberman in California. "You'd 
have made an uncommon good logger, Chip- 
munk, and you know you're a dashed bad poli- 
tician." 

When questioned about himself he became 
reticent, as the newspapers say. "I doubt if 
I'm much good at any job," he confessed, "ex- 
cept to ginger up my friends. Anyhow, I'm 
getting out of this hole. Paired for the rest 
of the session with a chap who has lockjaw. 
I'm off to stretch my legs and get back my 
sense of proportion." 

Some one asked him where he was going, 
and was told "Venezuela, to buy Government 
bonds and look for birds' nests." 

16 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

Nobody took Tommy seriously, so his guests 
did not trouble to bid him the kind of fare- 
well a prolonged journey would demand. But 
when the others had gone, and we were sitting 
in the little back smoking-room on the first 
floor, he became solemn. Portentously sol- 
emn, for he wrinkled up his brows and 
dropped his jaw in the way he had when he 
fancied he was in earnest. 

"I've taken on a queer job, Leithen," he 
said, "and I want you to hear about it. None 
of my family know, and I would like to leave 
some one behind me who could get on to my 
tracks if things got troublesome." 

I braced myself for some preposterous con- 
fidence, for I was experienced in Tommy's va- 
garies. But I own to being surprised when he 
asked me if I remembered Pitt-Heron. 

I remembered Pitt-Heron very well. He 
had been at Oxford with me, but he was no 
great friend of mine, though for about two 
years Tommy and he had been inseparable. 
He had had a prodigious reputation for clev- 
erness with everybody but the college authori- 

17 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ties, and used to spend his vacations doing mad 
things in the Alps and the Balkans and writ- 
ing about them in the half-penny press. He 
was enormously rich — cotton mills and Liver- 
pool ground rents — and, being without a fa- 
ther, did pretty much what his fantastic taste 
dictated. He was rather a hero for a bit after 
he came down, for he had made some wild 
journey in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan 
and written an exciting book about it. 

Then he married a pretty cousin of Tom- 
my's, who happened to be the only person that 
ever captured my stony heart, and settled 
down in London. I did not go to their house, 
and soon I found that very few of his friends 
saw much of him, either. His travels and 
magazine articles suddenly stopped, and I put 
it down to the common course of successful 
domesticity. Apparently I was wrong. 

"Charles Pitt-Heron," said Tommy, "is 
blowing up for a most thundering mess." 

I asked what kind of mess, and Tommy said 
he didn't know. "That's the mischief of it. 
You remember the wild beggar he used to be, 

18 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

always off on the spree to the Mountains of 
the Moon, or somewhere. Well, he has been 
damping down his fires lately and trying to 
behave like a respectable citizen, but God 
knows what he has been thinking! I go a good 
deal to Portman Square, and all last year he 
has been getting queerer." 

Questions as to the nature of the queerness 
only elicited the fact that Pitt-Heron had 
taken to science with some enthusiasm. 

"He has got a laboratory at the back of the 
house — used to be the billiard-room — where 
he works away half the night. And Lord! 
The crew you meet there! Every kind of 
heathen — Chinese and Turks, and long-haired 
chaps from Russia, and fat Germans. I've 
several times blundered into the push. 
They've all got an odd secretive air about 
them, and Charlie is becoming like them. He 
won't answer a plain question or look you 
straight in the face. Ethel sees it, too, and 
she has often talked to me about it." 

I said I saw no harm in such a hobby. 
19 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

"I do," said Tommy grimly. "Anyhow, the 
fellow has bolted." 

"What on earth " I began, but was cut 

short. 

"Bolted without a word to a mortal soul. 
He told Ethel he would be home for luncheon 
yesterday, and never came. His man knew 
nothing about him, hadn't packed for him, or 
anything; but he found he had stuffed some 
things into a kit-bag and gone out by the back 
through the mews. Ethel was in terrible 
straits, and sent for me, and I ranged all yes- 
terday afternoon like a wolf on the scent. I 
found he had drawn a biggish sum in gold 
from the bank, but I couldn't find any trace of 
where he had gone. 

"I was just setting out for Scotland Yard 
this morning, when Tomlin, the valet, rang 
me up and said he had found a card in the 
waistcoat of the dress clothes that Charles had 
worn the night before he left. It had a name 
on it like Konalevsky, and it struck me that 
they might know something about the business 
at the Russian Embassy. Well, I went round 

20 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

there, and the long and short of it was that I 
found there was a fellow of that name among 
the clerks. I saw him, and he said he had 
gone to see Mr. Pitt-Heron two days before 
with a letter from some Embassy chap. Un- 
fortunately, the man in question had gone off 
to New York next day, but Konalevsky told 
me one thing which helped to clear up mat- 
ters. It seemed that the letter had been one 
of those passports that Embassies give to their 
friends — a higher-powered sort than the ordi- 
nary make — and Konalevsky gathered from 
something he had heard that Charles was aim- 
ing for Moscow." 

Tommy paused to let his news sink in. 

"Well, that was good enough for me. I'm 
off to-morrow to run him to ground." 

"But why shouldn't a man go to Moscow 
if he wants?" I said feebly. 

"You don't understand," said the sage Tom- 
my. "You don't know old Charles as I know 
him. He's got into a queer set, and there's 
no knowing what mischief he's up to. He's 
perfectly capable of starting a revolution in 

21 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Armenia or somewhere merely to see how it 
feels like to be a revolutionary. That's the 
damned thing about the artistic temperament. 
Anyhow, he's got to chuck it. I won't have 
Ethel scared to death by his whims. I am 
going to hale him back from Moscow, even 
if I have to pretend he's an escaped lunatic. 
He's probably like enough one by this time if 
he has taken no clothes." 

I have forgotten what I said, but it was 
some plea for caution. I could not see the 
reason for these heroics. Pitt-Heron did not 
interest me greatly, and the notion of Tommy 
as a defender of the hearth amused me. I 
thought that he was working on very slight 
evidence and would probably make a fool of 
himself. 

"It's only another of the man's fads," I 
said. "He never could do things like an or- 
dinary mortal. What possible trouble could 
there be? Money?" 

"Rich as Croesus," said Tommy. 

"A woman?" 

"Blind as a bat to female beauty." 
22 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

"The wrong side of the law?" 

"Don't think so. He could settle any ordi- 
nary scrape with a cheque." 

"Then I give it up. Whatever it is it looks 
as if Pitt-Heron would have a companion 
in misfortune before you are done with the 
business. I'm all for your taking a holiday, 
for at present you are a nuisance to your 
friends and a disgrace to your country's legis- 
lature. But for goodness' sake curb your pas- 
sion for romance. They don't like it in 
Russia." 

Next morning Tommy turned up to see me 
in Chambers. The prospect of travel always 
went to his head like wine. He was in wild 
spirits, and had forgotten his anger at the 
defaulting Pitt-Heron in gratitude for his pro- 
vision of an occupation. He talked of carry- 
ing him off to the Caucasus when he had 
found him, to investigate the habits of the 
Caucasian stag. 

I remember the scene as if it were yester- 
day. It was a hot May morning, and the sun 
which came through the dusty window in 

23 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Fountain Court lit up the dust and squalor of 
my working chambers. I was pretty busy at 
the time, and my table was well-nourished 
with briefs. Tommy picked up one and be- 
gan to read it. It was about a new drainage 
scheme in West Ham. He tossed it down and 
looked at me pityingly. 

"Poor old beggar!" he said. "To spend 
your days on such work when the world is 
chockful of amusing things. Life goes roar- 
ing by and you only hear the echo in your 
stuffy rooms. You can hardly see the sun for 
the cobwebs on these windows of yours. 
Charles is a fool, but I'm blessed if he isn't 
wiser than you. Don't you wish you were 
coming with me?" 

The queer thing was that I did. I remem- 
ber the occasion, as I have said, for it was 
one of the few on which I have had a pang 
of dissatisfaction with the calling I had 
chosen. As Tommy's footsteps grew faint on 
the stairs I suddenly felt as if I were missing 
something, as if somehow I were out of it It 

24 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

is an unpleasant feeling, even when you know 
that the thing you are out of is foolishness. 

Tommy went off at n from Victoria, and 
my work was pretty well ruined for the day. 
I felt oddly restless, and the cause was not 
merely Tommy's departure. My thoughts 
kept turning to the Pitt-Herons — chiefly to 
Ethel, that adorable child unequally yoked 
to a perverse egoist, but a good deal to the 
egoist himself. I have never suffered much 
from whimsies, but I suddenly began to feel 
a curious interest in the business, an unwill- 
ing interest, for I found it in my heart to re- 
gret my robust scepticism of the night before. 
And it was more than interest. I had a sort 
of presentiment that I was going to be mixed 
up in the affair more than I wanted. I told 
myself angrily that the life of an industrious 
common-law barrister could have little to do 
with the wanderings of two maniacs in Mus- 
covy. But, try as I might, I could not get rid 
of the obsession. That night it followed me 
into my dreams, and I saw myself with a 
knout coercing Tommy and Pitt-Heron in a 

25 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Russian fortress which faded away into the 
Carlton Hotel. 

Next afternoon I found my steps wending 
in the direction of Portman Square. I lived 
at the time in Down Street, and I told myself 
I would be none the worse of a walk in the 
Park before dinner. I had a fancy to see Mrs. 
Pitt-Heron, for, though I had only met her 
twice since her marriage, there had been a 
day when we were the closest of friends. 

I found her alone, a perplexed and sad- 
dened lady with imploring eyes. Those eyes 
questioned me as to how much I knew. I 
told her presently that I had seen Tommy 
and was aware of his errand. I was moved 
to add that she might count on me if there 
were anything she wished done on this side of 
the Channel. 

She was very little changed. There was 
still the old exquisite slimness, the old shy 
courtesy. But she told me nothing. Charles 
was full of business and becoming very for- 
getful. She was sure the Russian journey was 
all a stupid mistake. He probably thought he 

26 



THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE 

had told her of his departure. He would 
write; she expected a letter by every post. 

But her haggard eyes belied her optimism. 
I could see that there had been odd happen- 
ings of late in the Pitt-Heron household. She 
either knew or feared something — the latter, 
I thought, for her air was more of apprehen- 
sion than of painful enlightenment. 

I did not stay long, and, as I walked home, 
I had an awkward feeling that I had intruded. 
Also I was increasingly certain that there was 
trouble brewing, and that Tommy had more 
warrant for his journey than I had given him 
credit for. I cast my mind back to gather 
recollections of Pitt-Heron, but all I could 
find was an impression of a brilliant uncom- 
fortable being, who had been too fond of the 
byways of life for my sober tastes. There was 
nothing crooked in him in the wrong sense, 
but there might be a good deal that was per- 
verse. I remember consoling myself with the 
thought that, though he might shatter his 
wife's nerves by his vagaries, he would scarce- 
ly break her heart. 

27 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

To be watchful, I decided, was my busi- 
ness. And I could not get rid of the feeling 
that I might soon have cause for all my 
vigilance. 



28 



CHAPTER II 

I FIRST HEAR OF MR. ANDREW 
LUMLEY 



CHAPTER II 

I FIRST HEAR OF MR. ANDREW LUMLEY 

A FORTNIGHT later— to be accurate, 
on the 2 1 st of May — I did a thing I 
rarely do, and went down to South London 
on a County Court case. It was an ordinary 
taxi-cab accident, and, as the solicitors for 
the company were good clients of mine, and 
the regular county-court junior was ill in bed, 
I took the case to oblige them. There was 
the usual dull conflict of evidence. An empty 
taxi-cab, proceeding slowly on the right side 
of the road and hooting decorously at the cor- 
ners, had been run into by a private motor- 
car, which had darted down a side street. The 
taxi had been swung round and its bonnet con- 
siderably damaged, while its driver had suf- 
fered a dislocated shoulder. The bad feature 
in the case was that the motor-car had not 
halted to investigate the damage, but had pro- 

31 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ceeded unconscientiously on its way, and the 
assistance of the London police had been 
called in to trace it. It turned out to be the 
property of a Mr. Julius Pavia, a retired East 
India merchant, who lived in a large villa in 
the neighbourhood of Blackheath, and at the 
time of the accident it had been occupied by 
his butler. The company brought an action 
for damages against its owner. 

The butler, Tuke, by name, was the only 
witness for the defence. He was a tall man, 
with a very long, thin face, and a jaw the two 
parts of which seemed scarcely to fit. He was 
profuse in his apologies on behalf of his mas- 
ter, who was abroad. It seemed that on the 
morning in question — it was the 8th of May — 
he had received instructions from Mr. Pavia 
to convey a message to a passenger by the Con- 
tinental express from Victoria, and had been 
hot on this errand when he met the taxi. He 
was not aware that there had been any dam- 
age, thought it only a slight grazing of the 
two cars, and on his master's behalf consented 
to the judgment of the court. 

32 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

It was a commonplace business, but Tuke 
was by no means a commonplace witness. He 
was very unlike the conventional butler, much 
liker one of those successful financiers whose 
portraits you see in the picture papers. His 
little eyes were quick with intelligence, and 
there were lines of ruthlessness around his 
mouth, like those of a man often called to de- 
cisive action. His story was simplicity itself, 
and he answered my questions with an air of 
serious candour. The train he had to meet 
was the n a. m. from Victoria, the train by 
which Tommy had travelled. The passenger 
he had to see was an American gentleman, 
Mr. Wright Davies. His master, Mr. Pavia, 
was in Italy, but would shortly be home again. 

The case was over in twenty minutes, but 
it was something unique in my professional ex- 
perience. For I took a most intense and un- 
reasoning dislike to that bland butler. I 
cross-examined with some rudeness, was an- 
swered with steady courtesy, and hopelessly 
snubbed. The upshot was that I lost my tem- 
per, to the surprise of the County Court 

33 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

judge. All the way back I was both angry 
and ashamed of myself. Half way home I 
realised that the accident had happened on 
the very day that Tommy left London. The 
coincidence merely flickered across my mind, 
for there could be no earthly connection be- 
tween the two events. 

That afternoon I wasted some time in look- 
ing up Pavia in the directory. He was there 
sure enough, as the occupier of a suburban 
mansion called the White Lodge. He had no 
city address, so it was clear that he was out of 
business. My irritation with the man had 
made me inquisitive about the master. It was 
a curious name he bore, possibly Italian, pos- 
sibly Goanese. I wondered how he got on 
with his highly competent butler. If Tuke 
had been my servant I would have wrung his 
neck or bolted before a week was out. 

Have you ever noticed that, when you hear 
a name that strikes you, you seem to be con- 
stantly hearing it for a bit. Once I had a 
case in which one of the parties was called 
Jubber, a name I had never met before, but 

34 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

I ran across two other Jubbers before the case 
was over. Anyhow, the day after the Black- 
heath visit I was briefed in a big Stock Ex- 
change case, which turned on the true owner- 
ship of certain bearer bonds. It was a com- 
plicated business which I need not trouble you 
with, and it involved a number of consulta- 
tions with my lay clients, a famous firm of 
brokers. They produced their books and my 
chambers were filled with glossy gentlemen 
talking a strange jargon. 

I had to examine my clients closely on their 
practice in treating a certain class of bearer 
security, and they were very frank in ex- 
pounding their business. I was not surprised 
to hear that Pitt-Heron was one of the most 
valued names on their lists. With his wealth 
he was bound to be a good deal in the city. 
Now I had no desire to pry into Pitt-Heron's 
private affairs, especially his financial ar- 
rangements, but his name was in my thoughts 
at the time, and I could not help looking 
curiously at what was put before me. He 
seemed to have been buying these bonds on a 

35 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

big scale. I had the indiscretion to ask if Mr. 
Pitt-Heron had long followed this course, and 
was told that he had begun to purchase some 
six months before. 

"Mr. Pitt-Heron," volunteered the stock- 
broker, "is very closely connected in his finan- 
cial operations with another esteemed client 
of ours, Mr. Julius Pavia. They are both at- 
tracted by this class of security." 

At the moment I scarcely noted the name, 
but after dinner that night I began to specu- 
late about the connection. I had found out 
the name of one of Charles's mysterious new 
friends. 

It was not a very promising discovery. A 
retired East India merchant did not suggest 
anything wildly speculative, but I began to 
wonder if Charles's preoccupation, to which 
Tommy had been witness, might not be con- 
nected with financial worries. I could not 
believe that the huge Pitt-Heron fortune had 
been seriously affected, or that his flight was 
that of a defaulter, but he might have got en- 
tangled in some shady city business which 

36 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

preyed on his sensitive soul. Somehow or 
other I could not believe that Mr. Pavia was 
a wholly innocent old gentleman; his butler 
looked too formidable. It was possible that 
he was blackmailing Pitt-Heron, and that 
the latter had departed to get out of his 
clutches. 

But on what ground? I had no notion as 
to the blackmailable thing that might lurk in 
Charles's past, and the guesses which flitted 
through my brain were too fantastic to con- 
sider seriously. After all, I had only the flim- 
siest basis for conjecture. Pavia and Pitt- 
Heron were friends; Tommy had gone off in 
quest of Pitt-Heron; Pavia's butler had 
broken the law of the land in order, for some 
reason or other, to see the departure of the 
train by which Tommy had travelled. I re- 
member laughing at myself for my suspicions, 
and reflecting that, if Tommy could see into 
my head, he would turn a deaf ear in the 
future to my complaints of his lack of balance. 

But the thing stuck in my mind, and I 
called again that week on Mrs. Pitt-Heron. 

37 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

She had had no word from her husband, and 
only a bare line from Tommy, giving his 
Moscow address. Poor child, it was a 
wretched business for her. She had to keep 
a smiling face to the world, invent credible 
tales to account for her husband's absence, 
and all the while anxiety and dread were 
gnawing at her heart. I asked her if she had 
ever met a Mr. Pavia, but the name was un- 
known to her. She knew nothing of Charles's 
business dealings, but at my request she inter- 
viewed his bankers, and I heard from her next 
day that his affairs were in perfect order. It 
was no financial crisis which had precipitated 
him abroad. 

A few days later I stumbled by the merest 
accident upon what sailors call a "cross-bear- 
ing." At the time I used to "devil" a little 
for the Solicitor-General, and "note" cases 
sent to him from the different Government 
offices. It was thankless work, but it was sup- 
posed to be good for an ambitious lawyer. By 

38 



1 FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

this prosaic channel I received the first hint 
of another of Charles's friends. 

I had sent me one day the papers dealing 
with the arrest of a German spy at Plymouth, 
for at the time there was a sort of epidemic 
of roving Teutons who got themselves into 
compromising situations, and gravely trou- 
bled the souls of the Admiralty and the War- 
Office. This case was distinguished from the 
common ruck by the higher social standing 
of the accused. Generally the spy is a pho- 
tographer or bagman who attempts to win the 
bibulous confidence of minor officials. But 
this specimen was no less than a professor of a 
famous German University, a man of excel- 
lent manners, wide culture, and attractive 
presence, who had dined with Port officers 
and danced with Admirals' daughters. 

I have forgotten the evidence or what was 
the legal point submitted for the Law Offi- 
cers' opinion ; in any case it matters little, for 
he was acquitted. What interested me at the 
time was the testimonials as to character 
which he carried with him. He had many 

39 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

letters of introduction. One was from Pitt- 
Heron to his wife's sailor uncle; and when he 
was arrested one Englishman went so far as 
to wire that he took upon himself the whole 
costs of the defence. This gentleman was a 
Mr. Andrew Lumley, stated in the papers sent 
me to be a rich bachelor, a member of the 
Athenaeum and Carlton Clubs, and a dweller 
in the Albany. 

Remember, that till a few weeks before I 
had known nothing of Pitt-Heron's circle, 
and here were three bits of information drop- 
ping in on me unsolicited, just when my inter- 
est had been awakened. I began to get really 
keen, for every man at the bottom of his heart 
believes that he is a born detective. I was on 
the look-out for Charles's infrequent friends, 
and I argued that if he knew the spy and the 
spy knew Mr. Lumley, the odds were that 
Pitt-Heron and Lumley were acquaintances. 
I hunted up the latter in the Red Book. Sure 
enough, he lived in the Albany, belonged to 
half a dozen clubs, and had a country house 
in Hampshire. 

40 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

I tucked the name away in a pigeon-hole 
of my memory, and for some days asked 
every one I met if he knew the philanthropist 
of the Albany. I had no luck till the Satur- 
day, when, lunching at the club, I ran against 
Jenkinson, the art critic. 

I forget if you know that I have always 
been a bit of a connoisseur in a mild way. I 
used to dabble in prints and miniatures, but 
at that time my interest lay chiefly in Old 
Wedgwood, of which I had collected some 
good pieces. Old Wedgwood is a thing which 
few people collect seriously, but the few who 
do are apt to be monomaniacs. Whenever a 
big collection comes into the market it fetches 
high prices, but it generally finds its way into 
not more than half a dozen hands. Wedg- 
woodites all know each other, and they are 
less cut-throat in their methods than most col- 
lectors. Of all I have ever met Jenkinson 
was the keenest, and he would discourse for 
hours on the "feel" of good jasper and the 
respective merits of blue and sage-green 
grounds. 

4i 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

That day he was full of excitement. He 
babbled through luncheon about the Went- 
worth sale, which he had attended the week 
before. There had been a pair of magnifi- 
cent plaques, with a unique Flaxman design, 
which had roused his enthusiasm. Urns and 
medallions and what not had gone to this or 
that connoisseur, and Jenkinson could quote 
their prices, but the plaques dominated his 
fancy, and he was furious that the nation had 
not acquired them. It seemed that he had 
been to South Kensington and the British 
Museum and all sorts of dignitaries, and he 
thought he might yet persuade the authorities 
to offer for them if the purchaser would re- 
sell. They had been bought by Lutrin for a 
well-known private collector, by name An- 
drew Lumley. 

I pricked up my ears and asked about Mr. 
Lumley. 

Jenkinson said he was a rich old buffer who 
locked up his things in cupboards and never 
let the public get a look at them. He sus- 
pected that a lot of the best things at recent 

42 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

sales had found their way to him, and that 
meant that they were put in cold storage for 
good. 

I asked if he knew him. 

No, he told me, but he had once or twice 
been allowed to look at his things for books 
he had been writing. He had never seen the 
man, for he always bought through agents, 
but he had heard of people who knew him. 
"It is the old silly game," he said. "He will 
fill half a dozen houses with priceless treas- 
ures, and then die, and the whole show will 
be sold at auction and the best things carried 
off to America. It's enough to make a patriot 
swear." 

There was balm in Gilead, however. Mr. 
Lumley apparently might be willing to re- 
sell the Wedgwood plaques if he got a fair 
offer. So Jenkinson had been informed by 
Lutrin, and that very afternoon he was going 
to look at them. He asked me to come with 
him, and, having nothing to do, I accepted. 

Jenkinson's car was waiting for us at the 
club door. It was closed, for the afternoon 

43 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

was wet. I did not hear his directions to the 
chauffeur, and we had been on the road ten 
minutes or so before I discovered that we had 
crossed the river and were traversing South 
London. I had expected to find the things 
in Lutrin's shop, but to my delight I was told 
that Lumley had taken delivery of them at 
once. 

"He keeps very few of his things in the 
Albany except his books," I was told. "But 
he has a house at Blackheath which is stuffed 
from cellar to garret." 

"What is the name of it?" I asked with a 
sudden suspicion. 

"The White Lodge," said Jenkinson. 

"But that belongs to a man called Pavia," 
I said. 

"I can't help that. The things in it be- 
long to old Lumley, all right. I know, for 
I've been three times there with his per- 
mission." 

Jenkinson got little out of me for the rest 
of the ride. Here was excellent corrobora- 
tive evidence of what I had allowed myself 

44 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

to suspect. Pavia was a friend of Pitt-Heron, 
Lumley was a friend of Pitt-Heron ; Lumley 
was obviously a friend of Pavia, and he might 
be Pavia himself, for the retired East India 
merchant, as I figured him, would not be 
above an innocent impersonation. Anyhow, 
if I could find one or the other, I might learn 
something about Charles's recent doings. I 
sincerely hoped that the owner might be at 
home that afternoon when we inspected his 
treasures, for so far I had found no one who 
could procure me an introduction to that mys- 
terious old bachelor of artistic and philo- 
Teutonic tastes. 

We reached the White Lodge about half- 
past three. It was one of those small, square, 
late-Georgian mansions which you see all 
around London — once a country-house among 
fields, now only a villa in a pretentious gar- 
den. I looked to see my super-butler Tuke, 
but the door was opened by a female servant, 
who inspected Jenkinson's card of admission, 
and somewhat unwillingly allowed us to 
enter. 

45 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

My companion had not exaggerated when 
he described the place as full of treasures. It 
was far more like the shop of a Bond Street 
art-dealer than a civilised dwelling. The hall 
was crowded with Japanese armour and lac- 
quer cabinets. One room was lined from floor 
to ceiling with good pictures, mostly seven- 
teenth-century Dutch, and had enough Chip- 
pendale chairs to accommodate a public meet- 
ing. Jenkinson would fain have prowled 
around, but we were moved on by the inexor- 
able servant to the little back room where 
lay the objects of our visit. The plaques had 
been only half-unpacked, and in a moment 
Jenkinson was busy on them with a magnify- 
ing glass, purring to himself like a contented 
cat. 

The housekeeper stood on guard by the 
door, Jenkinson was absorbed, and after the 
first inspection of the treasures I had leisure 
to look about me. It was an untidy little 
room, full of fine Chinese porcelain in dusty 
glass cabinets, and in a corner stood piles of 
old Persian rugs. 

4 6 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

Pavia, I reflected, must be an easy-going 
soul, entirely oblivious of comfort, if he al- 
lowed his friend to turn his dwelling into such 
a pantechnicon. Less and less did I believe 
in the existence of the retired East Indian 
merchant. The house was Lumley's, who 
chose to pass under another name during his 
occasional visits. His motive might be inno- 
cent enough, but somehow I did not think so. 
His butler had looked too infernally intelli- 
gent. 

With my foot I turned over the lid of one 
of the packing-cases that had held the Wedg- 
woods. It was covered with a litter of cotton- 
wool and shavings, and below it lay a crum- 
pled piece of paper. I looked again, and 
saw that it was a telegraph form. Clearly 
somebody, with the telegram in his hand, had 
opened the cases, and had left it on the top 
of one, whence it had dropped to the floor 
and been covered by the lid when it was flung 
off. 

I hope and believe that I am as scrupulous 
as other people, but then and there came on 

47 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

me the conviction that I must read that tele- 
gram. I felt the gimlet eye of the housekeeper 
on me, so I had recourse to craft. I took out 
my cigarette case as if to smoke, and clumsily 
upset its contents amongst the shavings. Then 
on my knees I began to pick them up, turn- 
ing over the litter till the telegram was ex- 
posed. 

It was in French and I read it quite clearly. 
It had been sent from Vienna, but the address 
was in some code. "Suivez a Bokhare Saro- 
nov" — these were the words. I finished my 
collection of the cigarettes, and turned the lid 
over again on the telegram, so that its owner, 
if he chose to look for it diligently, migKi 
find it. 

When we sat in the car going home, Jen- 
kinson absorbed in meditation on the plaques, 
I was coming to something like a decision. A 
curious feeling of inevitability possessed me. 
I had collected by accident a few odd dis- 
jointed pieces of information, and here by the 
most amazing accident of all was the con- 
necting link. I knew I had no evidence to go 

4 8 



I FIRST HEAR OF ANDREW LUMLEY 

upon which would have convinced the most 
credulous common jury. Pavia knew Pitt- 
Heron; so probably did Lumley. Lumley 
knew Pavia, possibly was identical with him. 
Somebody in Pavia's house got a telegram in 
which a trip to Bokhara was indicated. It 
didn't sound much. Yet I was absolutely 
convinced, with the queer sub-conscious cer- 
titude of the human brain, that Pitt-Heron 
was or was about to be in Bokhara, and that 
Pavia-Lumley knew of his being there and 
was deeply concerned in his journey. 

That night after dinner I rang up Mrs. 
Pitt-Heron. 

She had had a letter from Tommy, a very 
dispirited letter, for he had had no luck. No- 
body in Moscow had seen or heard of any 
wandering Englishman remotely like Charles, 
and Tommy, after playing the private de- 
tective for three weeks, was nearly at the end 
of his tether and spoke of returning home. 

I told her to send him the following wire in 
her own name. "Go on to Bokhara. Have in- 
formation you will meet him there/' 

49 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

She promised to send the message next day 
and asked no further questions. She was a 
pearl among women. 



SO 



CHAPTER in 
TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 



CHAPTER III 

TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

HITHERTO I had been the looker-on; 
now I was to become a person of the 
drama. That telegram was the beginning of 
my active part in this curious affair. They 
say that everybody turns up in time at the 
corner of Piccadilly Circus if you wait long 
enough. I was to find myself like a citizen 
of Bagdad in the days of the great Caliph, 
and yet never stir from my routine of flat, 
chambers, club, and flat. 

I am wrong; there was one episode out of 
London, and that perhaps was the true be- 
ginning of my story. 

Whitsuntide that year came very late, and 
I was glad of the fortnight's rest, for Parlia- 
ment and the Law Courts had given me a 
busy time. I had recently acquired a car and 
a chauffeur called Stagg, and I looked for- 

53 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ward to trying it in a tour in the West coun- 
try. But before I left London I went again 
to Portman Square. 

I found Ethel Pitt-Heron in grave distress. 
You must remember that Tommy and I had 
always gone on the hypothesis that Charles's 
departure had been in pursuance of some mad 
scheme of his own which might get him into 
trouble. We thought that he had become 
mixed up with highly undesirable friends, 
and was probably embarking in some venture 
which might not be criminal but was certain 
to be foolish. I had long rejected the idea of 
blackmail, and convinced myself that Lum- 
ley and Pavia were his colleagues. The same 
general notion, I fancy, had been in his wife's 
mind. But now she had found something 
which altered the case. 

She had ransacked his papers in the hope 
of finding a clue to the affair which had taken 
him abroad, but there was nothing but busi- 
ness letters, notes of investments, and such 
like. He seemed to have burned most of his 
papers in the queer laboratory at the back of 

54 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

the house. But, stuffed into the pocket of a 
blotter on a bureau in the drawing-room 
where he scarcely ever wrote, she had found 
a document. It seemed to be the rough draft 
of a letter, and it was addressed to her. I 
give it as it was written ; the blank spaces were 
left blank in the manuscript. 

"You must have thought me mad, or worse, 
to treat you as I have done. But there was a 
terrible reason, which some day I hope to tell 
you all about. I want you as soon as you get 
this to make ready to come out to me at . . . 
You will travel by . . . and arrive at . . . 
/ enclose a letter which I want you to hand 
in deepest confidence to Knowles, the solicitor. 
He will make all arrangements about your 
journey and about sending me the supplies of 
money I want. Darling, you must leave as 
secretly as I did, and tell nobody anything, 
not even that I am alive — that least of all. I 
would not frighten you for worlds, but I am 
on the edge of a horrible danger, which I hope 
with God's help and yours to escape . . ." 

That was all — obviously the draft of a let- 
55 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ter which he intended to post to her from some 
foreign place. But can you conceive a mis- 
sive more calculated to shatter a woman's 
nerves? It filled me, I am bound to say, with 
heavy disquiet. Pitt-Heron was no coward, 
and he was not the man to make too much of 
a risk. Yet it was clear that he had fled that 
day in May under the pressure of some mortal 
fear. 

The affair in my eyes began to look very 
bad. Ethel wanted me to go to Scotland 
Yard, but I dissuaded her. I have the utmost 
esteem for Scotland Yard, but I shrank from 
publicity at this stage. There might be some- 
thing in the case too delicate for the police to 
handle, and I thought it better to wait. 

I reflected a great deal about the Pitt- 
Heron business the first day or two of my 
trip, but the air and the swift motion helped 
me to forget it. We had a fortnight of su- 
perb weather, and sailed all day through a 
glistening green country under the hazy blue 
heavens of June. Soon I fell into the blissful 

56 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

state of physical and mental ease which such 
a life induces. Hard toil, such as deer-stalk- 
ing, keeps the nerves on the alert and the mind 
active, but swimming all day in a smooth car 
through a heavenly landscape mesmerises 
brain and body. 

We ran up the Thames valley, explored the 
Cotswolds, and turned south through Somer- 
set till we reached the fringes of Exmoor. I 
stayed a day or two at a little inn high up in 
the moor, and spent the time tramping the 
endless ridges of hill or scrambling in the 
arbutus thickets where the moor falls in 
steeps to the sea. We returned by Dartmoor 
and the south coast, meeting with our first 
rain in Dorset, and sweeping into sunlight 
again on Salisbury Plain. The time came 
when only two days remained to me. The 
car had behaved beyond all my hopes, and 
Stagg, a sombre and silent man, was lyrical in 
his praises. 

I wanted to be in London by the Monday 
afternoon, and to insure this I made a long 
day of it on the Sunday. It was the long day 

57 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

which brought our pride to a fall. The car 
had run so well that I resolved to push on and 
sleep in a friend's house near Farnham. It 
was about half-past eight, and we were tra- 
versing the somewhat confused and narrow 
roads in the neighbourhood of Wolmer For- 
est, when, as we turned a sharp corner, we 
ran full into the tail of a heavy carrier's cart. 
Stagg clapped on the brakes, but the collision, 
though it did no harm to the cart, was suffi- 
cient to send the butt-end of something 
through our glass screen, damage the tyre of 
the near front-wheel, and derange the steer- 
ing-gear. Neither of us suffered much hurt, 
but Stagg got a long scratch on his cheek from 
broken glass, and I had a bruised shoulder. 

The carrier was friendly but useless, and 
there was nothing for it but to arrange for 
horses to take the car to Farnham. This* 
meant a job of some hours, and I found on 
inquiry at a neighbouring cottage that there 
was no inn where I could stay within eight 
miles. Stagg borrowed a bicycle somehow 
and went off to collect horses, while I mo- 

58 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

rosely reviewed the alternatives before me. 

I did not like the prospect of spending the 
June night beside my derelict car, and the 
thought of my friend's house near Farnham 
beckoned me seductively. I might have 
walked there, but I did not know the road, 
and I found that my shoulder was paining 
me, so I resolved to try to find some gentle- 
man's house in the neighbourhood where I 
could borrow a conveyance. The south of 
England is now so densely peopled by Lon- 
doners that even in a wild district where there 
are no inns and few farms there are certain 
to be several week-end cottages. 

I walked along the white ribbon of road in 
the scented June dusk. At first it was bound- 
ed by high gorse, then came patches of 
open heath, and then woods. Beyond the 
woods I found a park-railing, and presently 
an entrance-gate with a lodge. It seemed to 
be the place I was looking for, and I woke the 
lodge-keeper, who thus early had retired to 
bed. I asked the name of the owner, but was 
told the name of the place instead — it was 

59 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

High Ashes. I asked if the owner was at 
home, and got a sleepy nod for answer. 

The house, as seen in the half-light, was a 
long white-washed cottage, rising to two 
storeys in the centre. It was plentifully cov- 
ered with creepers and roses, and the odour of 
flowers was mingled with the faintest savour 
of wood-smoke, pleasant to a hungry traveller 
in the late hours. I pulled an old-fashioned 
bell, and the door was opened by a stolid 
young parlour-maid. 

I explained my errand, and offered my 
card. I was, I said, a Member of Parlia- 
ment and of the Bar, who had suffered a mo- 
tor accident. Would it be possible for the 
master of the house to assist me to get to my 
destination near Farnham? I was bidden en- 
ter, and wearily seated myself on a settle in 
the hall. 

In a few minutes an ancient housekeeper 
appeared, a grim dame whom at other times I 
should have shunned. She bore, however, a 
hospitable message. There was no convey- 
ance in the place, as the car had gone that day 

60 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

to London for repairs. But if I cared to 
avail myself of the accommodation of the 
house for the night it was at my service. 
Meantime my servant could be looking after 
the car, and a message would go to him to 
pick me up in the morning. 

I gratefully accepted, for my shoulder was 
growing troublesome, and was conducted up 
a shallow oak staircase to a very pleasant 
bedroom with a bathroom adjoining. I had 
a bath, and afterwards found a variety of 
comforts put at my service, from slippers to 
razors. There was also some Elliman for my 
wounded shoulder. Clean and refreshed, I 
made my way downstairs and entered a room 
from which I caught a glow of light. 

It was a library, the most attractive I think 
I have ever seen. The room was long, as 
libraries should be, and entirely lined with 
books, save over the fireplace, where hung a 
fine picture, which I took to be a Raeburn. 
The books were in glass cases, which showed 
the beautiful shallow mouldings of a more ar- 
tistic age. A table was laid for dinner in a 

61 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

corner, for the room was immense, and the 
shaded candlesticks on it, along with the late 
June dusk, gave such light as there was. At 
first I thought the place was empty, but as I 
crossed the floor a figure rose from a deep 
chair by the hearth. 

"Good evening, Mr. Leithen," a voice said. 
"It is a kindly mischance which gives a lonely 
old man the pleasure of your company." 

He switched on an electric lamp, and I saw 
before me — what I had not guessed from the 
voice — an old man. I was thirty-four at the 
time, and counted anything over fifty old, but 
I judged my host to be well on in the sixties. 
He was about my own size, but a good deal 
bent in the shoulders as if from study. His 
face was clean-shaven and extraordinarily.fine, 
with every feature delicately chiselled. He 
had a sort of Hapsburg mouth and chin, very 
long and pointed, but modelled with a grace 
which made the full lower lip seem entirely 
right. His hair was silver, brushed so low 
on the forehead as to give him a slightly for- 

62 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

eign air, and he wore tinted glasses, as if for 
reading. 

Altogether it was a very dignified and 
agreeable figure who greeted me in a voice so 
full and soft that it belied his obvious age. 

Dinner was a light meal, but perfect in its 
way. There were soles, I remember, an ex- 
ceedingly well-cooked chicken, fresh straw- 
berries and a savoury. We drank a '95 Per- 
rier-Jouet and some excellent Madeira. The 
stolid parlour-maid waited on us, and, as we 
talked of the weather and the Hampshire 
roads, I kept trying to guess my host's pro- 
fession. He was not a lawyer, for he had not 
the inevitable lines on the cheek. I thought 
that he might be a retired Oxford don, or one 
of the higher civil servants, or perhaps some 
official of the British Museum. His library 
proclaimed him a scholar, and his voice a 
gentleman. 

Afterwards we settled ourselves in arm- 
chairs and he gave me a good cigar. We 
talked about many things — books, the right 
furnishing of a library, a little politics in def- 

63 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

erence to my M.P.-ship. My host was apa- 
thetic about party questions, but curious about 
defence matters and in his way an amateur 
strategist. I could fancy him inditing letters 
to The Times on national service. 

Then we wandered into foreign affairs, 
where I found his interest acute, and his 
knowledge immense. Indeed he was so well 
informed that I began to suspect that my 
guesses had been wrong, and that he was a re- 
tired diplomat. At that time there was some 
difficulty between France and Italy over cus- 
toms duties, and he sketched for me with re- 
markable clearness the weak points in the 
French tariff administration. I had been re- 
cently engaged in a big South American rail- 
way case, and I asked him a question about 
the property of my clients. He gave me a 
much better account than I had ever got from 
the solicitors who briefed me. 

The fire had been lit before we finished 
dinner, and presently it began to burn up 
and light the figure of my host, who sat in a 
deep arm-chair. He had taken off his tinted 

6 4 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

glasses, and as I rose to get a match I saw 
his eyes looking abstractedly before him. 

Somehow they reminded me of Pitt-Heron. 
Charles had always a sort of dancing light in 
his, a restless intelligence which was at once 
attractive and disquieting. My host had this 
and more. His eyes were paler than I had 
ever seen in a human head — pale, bright, and 
curiously wild. But, whereas Pitt-Heron's 
had only given the impression of reckless 
youth, this man's spoke of wisdom and power 
as well as of endless vitality. 

All my theories vanished, for I could not 
believe that my host had ever followed any 
profession. If he had, he would have been at 
the head of it, and the world would have been 
familiar with his features. I began to won- 
der if my recollection was not playing me 
false, and I was in the presence of some great 
man whom I ought to recognise. 

As I dived into the recesses of my memory 
I heard his voice asking if I were not a lawyer. 

I told him, Yes. A barrister with a fair 

65 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

common-law practice and some work in Privy- 
Council appeals. 

He asked me why I chose the profession. 

"It came handiest," I said. "I am a dry 
creature, who loves facts and logic. I am not 
a flier, I have no new ideas, I don't want to 
lead men and I like work. I am the ordinary 
educated Englishman, and my sort gravitates 
to the Bar. We like feeling that, if we are 
not the builders, at any rate we are the cement 
of civilisation." 

He repeated the words "cement of civilisa- 
tion" in his soft voice. 

"In a sense you are right. But civilisation 
needs more than the law to hold it together. 
You see all mankind are not equally willing 
to accept as divine justice what is called hu- 
man law." 

"Of course there are further sanctions," I 
said. "Police and armies and the good-will 
of civilisation." 

He caught me up quickly. "The last is 
your true cement. Did you ever reflect, Mr. 

66 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

Leithen, how precarious is the tenure of the 
civilisation we boast about?" 

"I should have thought it fairly substan- 
tial," I said, "and the foundations grow daily 
firmer." 

He laughed. "That is the lawyer's view, 
but believe me you are wrong. Reflect, and 
you will find that the foundations are sand. 
You think that a wall as solid as the earth 
separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell 
you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. 
A touch here, a push there, and you bring 
back the reign of Saturn." 

It was the kind of paradoxical, undergrad- 
uate speculation which grown men indulge 
in sometimes after dinner. I looked at my 
host to discover his mood, and at the moment 
a log flared up again. 

His face was perfectly serious. His light 
wild eyes were intently watching me. 

"Take one little instance," he said. "We 
are a commercial world, and have built up a 
great system of credit. Without our cheques 
and bills of exchange and currency the whole 

67 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

of our life would stop. But credit only exists 
because behind it we have a standard of value. 
My Bank of England notes are worthless pa- 
per unless I can get sovereigns for them if I 
choose. Forgive this elementary disquisition, 
but the point is important. We have fixed a 
gold standard, because gold is sufficiently 
rare, and because it allows itself to be coined 
into a portable form. I am aware that there 
are economists who say that the world could 
be run on a pure credit basis, with no metal 
currency at the back of it; but, however 
sound their argument may be in the abstract, 
the thing is practically impossible. You 
would have to convert the whole of the 
world's stupidity to their economic faith be- 
fore it would work. 

"Now, suppose something happened to 
make our standard of value useless. Suppose 
the dream of the alchemists came true, and all 
metals were readily transmutable. We have 
got very near it in recent years, as you will 
know if you interest yourself in chemical sci- 
ence. Once gold and silver lost their intrinsic 

68 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

value, the whole edifice of our commerce 
would collapse. Credit would become mean- 
ingless, because it would be untranslatable. 
We should be back at a bound in the age of 
barter, for it is hard to see what other stand- 
ard of value could take the place of the 
precious metals. All our civilisation, with its 
industries and commerce, would come top- 
pling down. Once more, like primitive man, 
I would plant cabbages for a living and ex- 
change them for services in kind from the 
cobbler and the butcher. We should have 
the simple life with a vengeance — not the self- 
conscious simplicity of the civilised man, but 
the compulsory simplicity of the savage." 

I was not greatly impressed by the illus- 
tration. "Of course, there are many key- 
points in civilisation," I said, "and the loss of 
them would bring ruin. But these keys are 
strongly held." 

"Not so strongly as you think. Consider 
how delicate the machine is growing. As life 
grows more complex, the machinery grows 
more intricate and therefore more vulnerable. 

6 9 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Your so-called sanctions become so infinitely 
numerous that each in itself is frail. In the 
Dark Ages you had one great power — the ter- 
ror of God and His Church. Now you have 
a multiplicity of small things, all delicate and 
fragile, and strong only by our tacit agree- 
ment not to question them." 

"You forget one thing," I said — "the fact 
that men really are agreed to keep the ma- 
chine going. That is what I called the 'good- 
will of civilisation.' " 

He got up from his chair and walked up 
and down the floor, a curious dusky figure lit 
by the rare spurts of flame from the hearth. 

"You have put your finger on the one thing 
that matters. Civilisation is a conspiracy. 
What value would your police be if every 
criminal could find a sanctuary across the 
Channel, or your law courts if no other tri- 
bunal recognised their decisions? Modern 
life is the silent compact of comfortable folk 
to keep up pretences. And it will succeed 
till the day comes when there is another com- 
pact to strip them bare." 

70 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

I do not think that I have ever listened to a 
stranger conversation. It was not so much 
what he said — you will hear the same thing 
from any group of half-baked young men — as 
the air with which he said it. The room was 
almost dark, but the man's personality seemed 
to take shape and bulk in the gloom. Though 
I could scarcely see him, I knew that those 
pale strange eyes were looking at me. I 
wanted more light, but did not know where to 
look for a switch. It was all so eery and odd 
that I began to wonder if my host were not a 
little mad. In any case, I was tired of his 
speculations. 

"We won't dispute on the indisputable," I 
said. "But I should have thought that it was 
the interest of all the best brains of the world 
to keep up what you call the conspiracy." 

He dropped into his chair again. 

"I wonder," he said slowly. "Do we really 
get the best brains working on the side of the 
compact? Take the business of Government. 
When all is said, we are ruled by the amateurs 
and the second-rate. The methods of our de- 

7* 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

partments would bring any private firm to 
bankruptcy. The methods of Parliament — 
pardon me — would disgrace any board of di- 
rectors. Our rulers pretend to buy expert 
knowledge, but they never pay the price for it 
that a business man would pay, and if they get 
it they have not the courage to use it. Where 
is the inducement for a man of genius to sell 
his brains to our insipid governors? 

"And yet knowledge is the only power — 
now as ever. A little mechanical device will 
wreck your navies. A new chemical combina- 
tion will upset every rule of war. It is the 
same with our commerce. One or two minute 
changes might sink Britain to the level of 
Ecuador or give China the key of the world's 
wealth. And yet we never dream that these 
things are possible. We think our castles of 
sand are the ramparts of the universe." 

I have never had the gift of the gab, but I 
admire it in others. There is a morbid charm 
in such talk, a kind of exhilaration of which 
one is half ashamed. I found myself inter- 
ested and more than a little impressed. 

72 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

"But surely," I said, "the first thing a dis- 
coverer does is to make his discovery public. 
He wants the honour and glory, and he wants 
money for it. It becomes part of the world's 
knowledge, and everything is readjusted to 
meet it. That was what happened with elec- 
tricity. You call our civilisation a machine, 
but it is something far more flexible. It has 
the power of adaptation of a living organism." 

"That might be true if the new knowledge 
really became the world's property. But does 
it? I read now and then in the papers that 
some eminent scientist has made a great dis- 
covery. He reads a paper before some Acad- 
emy of Science, and there are leading articles 
on it, and his photograph adorns the maga- 
zines. That kind of man is not the danger. 
He is a bit of the machine, a party to the com- 
pact. It is the men who stand outside it that 
are to be reckoned with, the artists in discov- 
ery who will never use their knowledge till 
they can use it with full effect. Believe me, 
the biggest brains are without the ring which 
we call civilisation." 

73 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Then his voice seemed to hesitate. "You 
may hear people say that submarines have 
done away with the battleship, and that air- 
craft have annulled the mastery of the sea. 
That is what our pessimists say. But do you 
imagine that the clumsy submarine or the fra- 
gile aeroplane is really the last word of sci- 
ence ?" 

"No doubt they will develop," I said, 
"but by that time the power of the defence 
will have advanced also." 

He shook his head. "It is not so. Even 
now the knowledge which makes possible 
great engines of destruction is far beyond the 
capacity of any defence. You see only the 
productions of second-rate folk who are in a 
hurry to get wealth and fame. The true 
knowledge, the deadly knowledge, is still kept 
secret. But, believe me, my friend, it is 
there." 

He paused for a second, and I saw the faint 
outline of the smoke from his cigar against 
the background of the dark. Then he quoted 

74 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

me one or two cases, slowly, as if in some 
doubt about the wisdom of his words. 

It was these cases which startled me. They 
were of different kinds — a great calamity, a 
sudden breach between two nations, a blight 
on a vital crop, a war, a pestilence. I will not 
repeat them. I do not think I believed in 
them then, and now I believe less. But they 
were horribly impressive, as told in that quiet 
voice in that sombre room on that dark June 
night. If he was right, these things had not 
been the work of Nature or accident, but of a 
devilish art. The nameless brains that he 
spoke of, working silently in the background, 
now and then showed their power by some 
cataclysmic revelation. I did not believe him, 
but, as he put the case, showing with strange 
clearness the steps in the game, I had no 
words to protest. 

At last I found my voice. 

"What you describe is super-anarchy, and 
yet it makes no headway. What is the motive 
of those diabolical brains?" 

He laughed. "How should I be able to tell 

75 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

you? I am a humble inquirer, and in my re- 
searches I come on curious bits of fact. But 
I cannot pry into motives. I only know of the 
existence of great extra-social intelligences. 
Let us say that they distrust the machine. 
They may be idealists and desire to make a 
new world, or they may simply be artists, lov- 
ing for its own sake the pursuit of truth. If 
I were to hazard a guess, I should say that it 
took both types to bring about results, for the 
second find the knowledge and the first the 
will to use it." 

A recollection came back to me. It was of 
a hot upland meadow in Tyrol, where among 
acres of flowers and beside a leaping stream 
I was breakfasting after a morning spent in 
climbing the white crags. I had picked up a 
German on the way, a small man of the Pro- 
fessor class, who did me the honour to share 
my sandwiches. He conversed fluently, but 
quaintly in English, and he was, I remember, 
a Nietzschean, and a hot rebel against the 
established order. "The pity," he cried, "is 
that the reformers do not know, and those who 

7 6 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

know are too idle to reform. Some day there 
will come the marriage of knowledge and 
will, and then the world will march." 

"You draw an awful picture," I said. "But 
if those extra-social brains are so potent, why 
after all do they effect so little? A dull po- 
lice-officer, with the machine behind him, can 
afford to laugh at most experiments in anar- 
chy." 

"True," he said, "and civilisation will win 
until its enemies learn from it the importance 
of the machine. The compact must endure 
until there is a counter-compact. Consider 
the ways of that form of foolishness which to- 
day we call nihilism or anarchy. A few illit- 
erate bandits in a Paris slum defy the world, 
and in a week they are in jail. Half a dozen 
crazy Russian intellectuels in Geneva con- 
spire to upset the Romanoffs and are hunted 
down by the police of Europe. All the Gov- 
ernments and their not very intelligent police 
forces join hands, and hey, presto! there is an 
end of the conspirators. For civilisation 
knows how to use such powers as it has, while 

77 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

the immense potentiality of the unlicensed is 
dissipated in vapour. Civilisation wins be- 
cause it is a world-wide league; its enemies 
fail because they are parochial. But sup- 
posing " 

Again he stopped and rose from his chair. 
He found a switch and flooded the room with 
light. I glanced up blinking to see my host 
smiling down on me, a most benevolent and 
courteous old gentleman. He had resumed 
his tinted glasses. 

"Forgive me," he said, "for leaving you in 
darkness while I bored you with my gloomy 
prognostications. A recluse is apt to forget 
what is due to a guest." 

He handed the cigar-box to me, and pointed 
to a table where whisky and mineral waters 
had been set out. 

"I want to hear the end of your prophe- 
cies," I said. "You were saying ?" 

"I said — supposing anarchy learned from 
civilisation and became international. Oh, I 
don't mean the bands of advertising donkeys 
who call themselves International Unions of 

7 8 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

Workers and such-like rubbish. I mean if the 
real brain-stuff of the world were internation- 
alised. Suppose that the links in the cordon 
of civilisation were neutralised by other links 
in a far more potent chain. The earth is 
seething with incoherent power and unorgan- 
ised intelligence. Have you ever reflected on 
the case of China? There you have millions 
of quick brains stifled in trumpery crafts. 
They have no direction, no driving power, so 
the sum of their efforts is futile, and the world 
laughs at China. Europe throws her a mil- 
lion or two on loan now and then, and she 
cynically responds by begging the prayers of 
Christendom. And yet, I say, suppos- 
ing " 

"It's a horrible idea," I said, "and, thank 
God, I don't believe it possible. Mere de- 
struction is too barren a creed to inspire a new 
Napoleon, and you can do with nothing short 
of one." 

"It would scarcely be destruction," he re- 
plied gently. "Let us call it iconoclasm, the 
swallowing of formulas, which has always had 

79 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

its full retinue of idealists. And you do not 
want a Napoleon. All that is needed is direc- 
tion, which could be given by men of far 
lower gifts than a Bonaparte. In a word, you 
want a Power-House, and then the age of 
miracles will begin." 

I got up, for the hour was late, and I had 
had enough of this viewy talk. My host was 
smiling, and I think that smile was the thing 
I really disliked about him. It was too — 
what shall I say? — superior and Olympian. 

As he led me into the hall he apologised for 
indulging his whims. "But you, as a lawyer, 
should welcome the idea. If there is an atom 
of truth in my fancies, your task is far bigger 
than you thought. You are not defending 
an easy case, but fighting in a contest where 
the issues are still doubtful. That should en- 
courage your professional pride . . ." 

By all the rules I should have been sleepy, 
for it was past midnight, and I had had a long 
day in the open air. But that wretched talk 
had unsettled me, and I could not get my 

80 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

mind off it. I have reproduced very crudely 
the substance of my host's conversation, but 
no words of mine could do justice to his eery 
persuasiveness. There was a kind of mag- 
netism in the man, a sense of vast powers and 
banked-up fires, which would have given 
weight to the tritest platitudes. I had a hor- 
rible feeling that he was trying to convince 
me, to fascinate me, to prepare the ground for 
some proposal. Again and again I told my- 
self it was crazy nonsense, the heated dream of 
a visionary, but again and again I came back 
to some details which had a horrid air of real- 
ity. If the man was a romancer he had an 
uncommon gift of realism. 

I flung open my bedroom window and let 
in the soft air of the June night and the scents 
from leagues of clover and pines and sweet 
grasses. It momentarily refreshed me, for I 
could not believe that this homely and gra- 
cious world held such dire portents. 

But always that phrase of his, the "Power- 
House," kept recurring. You know how 
twisted your thoughts get during a wakeful 

81 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

night, and long before I fell asleep towards 
morning I had worked myself up into a very 
complete dislike of that bland and smiling 
gentleman, my host. Suddenly it occurred to 
me that I did not know his name, and that 
set me off on another train of reflection. 

I did not wait to be called, but rose about 
seven, dressed, and went downstairs. I heard 
the sound of a car on the gravel of the drive, 
and to my delight saw that Stagg had arrived. 
I wanted to get away from the house as soon 
as possible, and I had no desire to meet its 
master again in this world. 

The grim housekeeper, who answered my 
summons, received my explanation in silence. 
Breakfast would be ready in twenty minutes; 
eight was Mr. Lumley's hour for it. 

"Mr. Andrew Lumley?" I asked with a 
start. 

"Mr. Andrew Lumley," she said. 

So that was my host's name. I sat down at 
a bureau in the hall and did a wildly foolish 
thing. 

I wrote a letter, beginning "Dear Mr. Lum- 
82 



TELLS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT 

ley," thanking him for his kindness and ex- 
plaining the reason of my early departure. 
It was imperative, I said, that I should be 
in London by midday. Then I added: "I 
wish I had known who you were last night, 
for I think you know an old friend of mine, 
Charles Pitt-Heron." 

Breakfastless I joined Stagg in the car, and 
soon we were swinging down from the uplands 
to the shallow vale of the Wey. My thoughts 
were very little on my new toy or on the mid- 
summer beauties of Surrey. The friend of 
Pitt-Heron, who knew about his going to 
Bokhara, was the maniac who dreamed of the 
"Power-House." There were going to be 
dark scenes in the drama before it was played 
out. 



83 



CHAPTER IV 

I FOLLOW THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER- 
BUTLER 



CHAPTER IV 

I FOLLOW THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

MY first thought, as I journeyed towards 
London, was that I was horribly alone 
in this business. Whatever was to be done I 
must do it myself, for the truth was I had no 
evidence which any authority would recog- 
nise. Pitt-Heron was the friend of a strange 
being who collected objects of art, probably 
passed under an alias in South London, and 
had absurd visions of the end of civilisation. 
That, in cold black and white, was all my 
story came to. If I went to the police they 
would laugh at me, and they would be right. 
Now I am a sober and practical person, 
but, slender though my evidence was, it 
brought to my mind the most absolute con- 
viction. I seemed to know Pitt-Heron's story 
as if I had heard it from his own lips — his 
first meeting with Lumley and their growing 

87 ' 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

friendship; his initiation into secret and for- 
bidden things; the revolt of the decent man, 
appalled that his freakishness had led him so 
far; the realisation that he could not break so 
easily with his past, and that Lumley held 
him in his power; and last, the mad flight 
under the pressure of overwhelming terror. 

I could read, too, the purpose of that flight. 
He knew the Indian frontier as few men know 
it, and in the wild tangle of the Pamirs he 
hoped to baffle his enemy. Then from some 
far refuge he would send for his wife and 
spend the rest of his days in exile. It must 
have been an omnipotent terror to drive such 
a man, young, brilliant, rich, successful, to 
the fate of an absconding felon. 

But Lumley was on his trail. So I read the 
telegram I had picked up on the floor of the 
Blackheath house, and my business was to 
frustrate the pursuit. Some one must have 
gone to Bokhara, some creature of Lumley's, 
perhaps the super-butler I had met in the 
County Court. The telegram, for I had noted 
the date, had been received on the 27th day 

88 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

of May. It was now the 15th of June, so if 
some one had started immediately on its re- 
ceipt, in all probability he would by now be 
in Bokhara. 

I must find out who had gone and endeav- 
our to warn Tommy. I calculated that it 
would have taken him seven or eight days to 
get from Moscow by the Transcaspian; prob- 
ably he would find Pitt-Heron gone, but in- 
quiries would set him on the track. I might 
be able to get in touch with him through the 
Russian officials. In any case, if Lumley were 
stalking Pitt-Heron, I, unknown and unsus- 
pected, would be stalking Lumley. 

And then in a flash I realised my folly. 

The wretched letter I had written that 
morning had given the whole show away. 
Lumley knew that I was a friend of Pitt- 
Heron, and that I knew that he was a friend 
of Pitt-Heron. If my guess was right, friend- 
ship with Lumley was not a thing Charles was 
likely to confess to, and he would argue that 
my knowledge of it meant that I was in 
Charles's confidence. I would therefore know 

89 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

of his disappearance and its cause, and alone 
in London would connect it with the decorous 
bachelor of the Albany. My letter was a 
warning to him that he could not play the 
game unobserved, and I, too, would be sus- 
pect in his eyes. 

It was no good crying over spilt milk, and 
Lumley's suspicions must be accepted. But I 
confess that the thought gave me the shivers. 
The man had a curious terror for me, a terror 
I cannot hope to analyse and reproduce for 
you. My bald words can give no idea of the 
magnetic force of his talk, the sense of brood- 
ing and unholy craft. I was proposing to 
match my wits against a master's, one, too, 
who must have at his command an organisa- 
tion far beyond my puny efforts. I have said 
that my first feeling was that of loneliness and 
isolation; my second was one of hopeless in- 
significance. It was a boy's mechanical toy 
arrayed against a Power-House with its shin- 
ing wheels and monstrous dynamos. 

My first business was to get into touch with 
Tommy. 

90 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

At that time I had a friend in one of the 
Embassies, whose acquaintance I had made on 
a dry-fly stream in Hampshire. I will not tell 
you his name, for he has since become a great 
figure in the world's diplomacy, and I am by 
no means certain that the part he played in this 
tale was strictly in accordance with official 
etiquette. I had assisted him on the legal 
side in some of the international worries that 
beset all Embassies, and we had reached the 
point of intimacy which is marked by the use 
of Christian names and by dining frequently 
together. Let us call him Monsieur Felix. 
He was a grave young man, slightly my senior, 
learned, discreet, and ambitious, but with an 
engaging boyishness cropping up now and 
then under the official gold lace. It occurred 
to me that in him I might find an ally. 

I reached London about eleven in the morn- 
ing, and went straight to Belgrave Square. 
Felix I found in the little library off the big 
secretaries' room, a sunburnt sportsman fresh 
from a Norwegian salmon river. I asked him 

9i 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

if he had half an hour to spare, and was told 
that the day was at my service. 

"You know Tommy Deloraine?" I asked. 

He nodded. 

"And Charles Pitt-Heron?" 

"I have heard of him." 

"Well, here is my trouble. I have reason 
to believe that Tommy has joined Pitt-Heron 
in Bokhara. If he has, my mind will be 
greatly relieved, for, though I can't tell you 
the story, I can tell you that Pitt Heron is in 
very considerable danger. Can you help 
me?" 

Felix reflected. "That should be simple 
enough. I can wire in cypher to the Military 
Governor. The police there are pretty effi- 
cient, as you may imagine, and travellers don't 
come and go without being remarked. I 
should be able to give you an answer within 
twenty-four hours. But I must describe Tom- 
my. How does one do that in telegraphese?" 

"I want you to tell me another thing," I 
said. "You remember that Pitt-Heron has 
some reputation as a Central Asian traveller. 

92 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

Tommy, as you know, is as mad as a hatter. 
Suppose these two fellows at Bokhara, want- 
ing to make a long trek into wild country — 
how would they go? You've been there, and 
know the lie of the land." 

Felix got down a big German atlas, and for 
half an hour we pored over it. From Bok- 
hara, he said, the only routes for madmen ran 
to the south. East and north you got into 
Siberia; west lay the Transcaspian desert; but 
southward you might go through the Hissar 
range by Pamirski Post to Gilgit and Kash- 
mir, or you might follow up the Oxus and 
enter the north of Afghanistan, or you might 
go by Merv into north-eastern Persia. The 
first he thought the likeliest route, if a man 
wanted to travel fast. 

I asked him to put in his cable a sugges- 
tion about watching the Indian roads, and left 
him with a promise of early enlightenment. 

Then I went down to the Temple, fixed 
some consultations, and spent a quiet evening 
in my rooms. I had a heavy sense of impend- 
ing disaster, not unnatural in the circum- 

93 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

stances. I really cannot think what it was that 
held me to the job, for I don't mind admitting 
that I felt pretty queasy about it. Partly, no 
doubt, liking for Tommy and Ethel, partly 
regret for that unfortunate fellow Pitt-Heron,* 
most of all, I think, dislike of Lumley. That 
bland super-man had fairly stirred my prosaic 
antipathies. 

That night I went carefully over every item 
in the evidence to try and decide on my next 
step. I had got to find out more about my 
enemies* Lumley I was pretty certain would 
baffle me, but I thought I might have a better 
chance with the super-butler. As it turned 
out I hit his trail almost at once. 

Next day I was in a case at the Old Bailey. 
It was an important prosecution for fraud, 
and I appeared, with two leaders, for the Bank 
concerned. The amazing and almost incredi- 
ble thing about this story of mine is the way 
clues kept rolling in unsolicited, and I was to 
get another from this dull prosecution. I 
suppose that the explanation is that the world 

94 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

is full of clues to everything, and that, if a 
man's mind is sharp-set on any quest, he hap- 
pens *tb notice and take advantage of what 
otherwise he would miss. « 

My leaders were both absent the first day, 
and I had to examine our witnesses alone. 
Towards the close of the afternoon I put a 
fellow in the box, an oldish, drink-sodden 
clerk from a Cannon Street bucket-shop. His 
evidence was valuable for our case, but I was 
very doubtful how he would stand a cross-ex- 
amination as to credit. His name was Routh, 
and he spoke with a strong North-country ac- 
cent. But what caught my attention was his 
face. His jaw looked as if it had been made 
in two pieces which did not fit, and he had 
little, bright protuberant eyes. At my first 
glance I was conscious of a recollection. 

He was still in the box when the Court 
rose, and I informed the solicitors that before 
going further I wanted a conference with the 
witness. I mentioned also that I should like 
to see him alone. A few minutes later he was 
brought to my chambers, and I put one or two 

95 






THE POWER-HOUSE 

obvious questions on the case, till the man- 
aging clerk who accompanied him announced 
with many excuses that he must hurry away. 
Then I shut the door, gave Mr. Routh a cigar, 
and proceeded to conduct a private inquiry. 

He was a pathetic being, only too ready to 
talk. I learned the squalid details of his con- 
tinuous misfortunes. He had been the son of 
a dissenting minister in Northumberland, and 
had drifted through half a dozen occupations 
till he found his present unsavoury billet. 
Truth was written large on his statement, he 
had nothing to conceal, for his foible was 
folly, not crime, and he had not a rag of pride 
to give him reticence. He boasted that he was 
a gentleman and well-educated, too, but he 
had never had a chance. His brother had ad- 
vised him badly; his brother was too clever 
for a prosaic world; always through his remi- 
niscences came this echo of fraternal admira- 
tion and complaint. 

It was about the brother I wanted to know, 
and Mr. Routh was very willing to speak. In- 
deed, it was hard to disentangle facts from his 

9 6 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

copious outpourings. The brother had been 
an engineer and a highly successful one ; had 
dallied with politics, too, and had been a great 
inventor. He had put Mr. Routh on to a 
South American speculation, where he had 
made a little money but speedily lost it again. 
Oh, he had been a good brother in his way, 
and had often helped him, but he was a busy 
man, and his help never went quite far 
enough. Besides, he did not like to apply to 
him too often. I gathered that the brother 
was not a person to take liberties with. 

I asked him what he was doing now. 

"Ah," said Mr. Routh, "that is what I wish 
I could tell you. I will not conceal from you 
that for the moment I am in considerable 
financial straits, and this case, though my 
hands are clean enough, God knows, will not 
make life easier for me. My brother is a mys- 
terious man, whose business often takes him 
abroad. I have never known even his ad- 
dress, for I write always to a London office 
from which my communications are forward- 
ed. I only know that he is in some big elec- 

97 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

trical business, for I remember that he once 
let drop the remark that he was in charge of 
some power station. No, I do not think it is 
in London, probably somewhere abroad. I 
heard from him a fortnight ago, and he told 
me he was just leaving England for a couple 
of months. It is very annoying, for I want 
badly to get into touch with him." 

"Do you know, Mr. Routh," I said, "I be- 
lieve I have met your brother. Is he like you 
in any way?" 

"We have a strong family resemblance, but 
he is taller and slimmer. He has been more 
prosperous, and has lived a healthier life, you 
see." 

"Do you happen to know," I asked, "if he 
ever uses another name? I don't think that 
the man I knew was called Routh." 

The clerk flushed. "I think it highly un- 
likely that my brother would use an alias. 
He has done nothing to disgrace a name of 
which we are proud." 

I told him that my memory had played me 
false, and we parted on very good terms. He 

9 8 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

was an innocent soul, one of those people that 
clever rascals get to do their dirty work for 
them. But there was no mistaking the resem- 
blance. There, without the brains and force 
and virility, went my super-butler of Black- 
heath, who passed under the name of Tuke. 

The clerk had given me the name of the 
office to whose address he had written to his 
brother. I was not surprised to find that it 
was that of the firm of stockbrokers for whom 
I was still acting in the bearer-bonds case 
where I had heard Pavia's name. 

I rang up the partner whom I knew and 
told him a very plausible story of having a 
message for one of Mr. Pavia's servants, and 
asked him if he were in touch with them and 
could forward letters. He made me hold the 
line, and then came back and told me that he 
had forwarded letters for Tuke, the butler, 
and one Routh who was a groom or footman. 
Tuke had gone abroad to join his master and 
he did not know his address. But he advised 
me to write to the White Lodge. 

I thanked him and rang off. That was set- 

99 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

tied anyhow. Tuke's real name was Routh, 
and it was Tuke who had gone to Bokhara. 

My next step was to ring up Macgillivray 
at Scotland Yard and get an appointment in 
half an hour's time. Macgillivray had been 
at the Bar — I had read in his chambers — and 
was now one of the heads of the Criminal In- 
vestigation Department. I was about to ask 
him for information which he was in no way 
bound to give me, but I presumed on our old 
acquaintance. 

I asked him first whether he had ever heard 
of a secret organisation which went under the 
name of the Power-House. He laughed out 
loud at my question. 

"I should think we have several hundreds 
of such pet names on our records," he said. 
"Everything from the Lodge of the Baldfaced 
Ravens to Solomon's Seal No. X. Fancy no- 
menclature is the relaxation of the tired an- 
archist, and matters very little. The danger- 
ous fellows have no names, no numbers even, 
which we can get hold of. But I'll get a man 

ioo 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

to look up our records. There may be some- 
thing filed about your Power-House." 

My second question he answered differ- 
ently. "Routh! Routh! Why, yes, there was 
a Routh we had dealings with a dozen years 
ago, when I used to go the North-Eastern 
circuit. He was a trade-union official who 
bagged the funds, and they couldn't bring him 
to justice because of the ridiculous extra-legal 
status they possess. He knew it, and played 
their own privileges against them. Oh, yes, 
he was a very complete rogue. I once saw 
him at ■ meeting in Sunderland, and I re- 
member his face — sneering eyes, diabolically 
clever mouth, and with it all as smug as a 
family butler. He has disappeared from Eng- 
land — at least we haven't heard of him for 
some years, but I can show you his photo- 
graph." 

Macgillivray took from a lettered cabinet a 
bundle of cards, selected one and tossed it 
towards me. It was that of a man of thirty 
or so, with short side-whiskers and a drooping 
moustache. The eyes, the ill-fitting jaw, and 

IOI 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

the brow were those of my friend, Mr. Tuke, 
brother and patron of the sorrowful Mr. 
Routh, who had already that afternoon occu- 
pied my attention. 

Macgillivray promised to make certain in- 
quiries, and I walked home in a state of ela- 
tion. Now I knew for certain who had gone 
to Bokhara, and I knew something, too, of 
the traveller's past. A discredited genius was 
the very man for Lumley's schemes — one who 
asked for nothing better than to use his brains 
outside the ring-fence of convention. Some- 
where in the wastes of Turkestan the ex-trade- 
union official was in search of Pitt-Heron. I 
did not fancy that Mr. Tuke would be very 
squeamish. 

I dined at the club and left early. Going 
home, I had an impression that I was being 
shadowed. 

You know the feeling that some one is 
watching you, a sort of sensation which the 
mind receives without actual evidence. If the 
watcher is behind where you can't see him you 
have a cold feeling between your shoulders. 

102 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

I daresay it is a legacy from the days when the 
cave-man had to look pretty sharp to keep 
from getting his enemy's knife between the 
ribs. 

It was a bright summer evening, and Pic- 
cadilly had its usual crowd of motor-cars and 
busses and foot passengers. I halted twice, 
once in St. James's Street and once at the cor- 
ner of Stratton Street, and retraced my steps 
for a bit, and each time I had the impression 
that some one a hundred yards or so off had 
done the same. My instinct was to turn round 
and face him, whoever he was, but I saw that 
that was foolishness. Obviously in such a 
crowd I could get no certainty in the matter, 
so I put it out of my mind. 

I spent the rest of the evening in my rooms, 
reading cases and trying to keep my thoughts 
off Central Asia. About ten I was rung up 
on the telephone by Felix. He had had his 
answer from Bokhara. Pitt-Heron had left 
with a small caravan on June 2d by the main 
road through the Hissar range. Tommy had 
arrived on June 10th and on the 12th had set 

103 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

off with two servants on the same trail. Trav- 
elling the lighter of the two, he should have 
overtaken Pitt-Heron by the 15th at latest. 

That was yesterday, and my mind was im- 
mensely relieved. Tommy in such a situation 
was a tower of strength, for, whatever his fail- 
ings in politics, I knew no one I would rather 
have with me to go tiger-shooting. 

Next day the sense of espionage increased. 
I was in the habit of walking down to the 
Temple by way of Pall Mall and the Em- 
bankment, but, as I did not happen to be in 
Court that morning, I resolved to make a 
detour and test my suspicions. There seemed 
to be nobody in Down Street as I emerged 
from my flat, but I had not walked five yards 
before, turning back, I saw a man enter from 
the Piccadilly end, while another moved 
across the Hertford Street opening. It may 
have been only my imagination, but I was con- 
vinced that these were my watchers. 

I walked up Park Lane, for it seemed to me 
that by taking the Tube at the Marble Arch 
Station I could bring matters to the proof. I 

104 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

have a knack of observing small irrelevant 
details, and I happened to have noticed that 
a certain carriage in the train which left Mar- 
ble Arch about 9.30 stopped exactly opposite 
the exit at the Chancery Lane Station, and by 
hurrying up the passage one could just catch 
the lift which served an earlier train and so 
reach the street before any of the other trav- 
ellers. 

I performed this manoeuvre with success, 
caught the early lift, reached the street and 
took cover behind a pillar-box from which 
I could watch the exit of passengers from the 
stairs. I judged that my tracker, if he missed 
me below, would run up the stairs rather than 
wait for the lift. Sure enough, a breathless 
gentleman appeared, who scanned the street 
eagerly, and then turned to the lift to watch 
the emerging passengers. It was clear that 
the espionage was no figment of my brain. 

I walked slowly to my chambers and got 
through the day's work as best I could, for my 
mind was preoccupied with the unpleasant 
business in which I found myself entangled. 

105 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

I would have given a year's income to be hon- 
estly quit of it, but there seemed to be no way 
of escape. The maddening thing was that I 
could do so little. There was no chance of 
forgetting anxiety in strenuous work. I could 
only wait with the patience at my command, 
and hope for the one chance in a thousand 
which I might seize. I felt miserably that it 
was no game for me. I had never been 
brought up to harry wild beasts and risk my 
neck twice a day at polo like Tommy Delo- 
raine. I was a peaceful, sedentary man, a 
lover of a quiet life, with no appetite for 
perils and commotions. But I was beginning 
to realize that I was very obstinate. 

At four o'clock I left the Temple and 
walked to the Embassy. I had resolved to 
banish the espionage from my mind, for that 
was the least of my difficulties. 

Felix gave me an hour of his valuable time. 
It was something that Tommy had joined 
Pitt-Heron, but there were other matters to 
be arranged in that far country. The time 

1 06 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

had come, in my opinion, to tell him the 
whole story. 

The telling was a huge relief to my mind. 
He did not laugh at me as I had half feared, 
but took the whole thing as gravely as possi- 
ble. In his profession, I fancy, he had found 
too many certainties behind suspicions to treat 
anything as trivial. The next step, he said, 
was to warn the Russian police of the presence 
of the man called Saronov and the super-but- 
ler. Happily we had materials for the de- 
scription of Tuke or Routh, and I could not 
believe that such a figure would be hard to 
trace. Felix cabled again in cypher, asking 
that the two should be watched, more espe- 
cially if there was reason to believe that they 
had followed Tommy's route. Once more we 
got out the big map and discussed the possible 
ways. It seemed to me a land created by 
Providence for surprises, for the roads fol- 
lowed the valleys, and to the man who trav- 
elled light there must be many short cuts 
through the hills. 

I left the Embassy before six o'clock and, 
107 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

crossing the Square engrossed with my own 
thoughts, ran full into Lumley. 

I hope I played my part well, though I 
could not repress a start of surprise. He wore 
a grey morning-coat and a white top-hat and 
looked the image of benevolent respectability. 

"Ah, Mr. Leithen," he said, "we meet 
again." 

I murmured something about my regrets 
at my early departure three days ago, and 
added the feeble joke that I wished he would 
hurry on his Twilight of Civilisation, for the 
burden of it was becoming too much for me. 

He looked me in the eyes with all the 
friendliness in the world. "So you have not 
forgotten our evening's talk? You owe me 
something, my friend, for giving you a new 
interest in your profession." 

"I owe you much," I said, "for your hospi- 
tality, your advice, and your warnings." 

He was wearing his tinted glasses and 
peered quizzically into my face. 

"I am going to make a call in Grosvenor 
Place," he said, "and shall beg in return the 

108 



THE TRAIL OF THE SUPER-BUTLER 

pleasure of your company. So you know my 
young friend, Pitt-Heron?" 

With an ingenuous countenance I explained 
that he had been at Oxford with me and that 
we had common friends. 

"A brilliant young man," said Lumley. 
"Like you, he has occasionally cheered an old 
man's solitude. And he has spoken of me to 
you?" 

"Yes," I said, lying stoutly. "He used to 
tell me about your collections." (If Lumley 
knew Charles well he would find me out, for 
the latter would not have crossed the road 
for all the treasures of the Louvre.) 

"Ah, yes, I have picked up a few things. 
If ever you should care to see them I should 
be honoured. You are a connoisseur? Of a 
sort? You interest me for I should have 
thought your taste lay in other directions 
than the dead things of art. Pitt-Heron is no 
collector. He loves life better than art, as a 
young man should. A great traveller our 
friend — the Laurence Oliphant or Richard 
Burton of our day." 

109 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

We stopped at a house in Grosvenor Place, 
and he relinquished my arm. "Mr. Leithen," 
he said, "a word from one who wishes you no 
ill. You are a friend of Pitt-Heron, but 
where he goes you cannot follow. Take my 
advice and keep out of his affairs. You will 
do no good to him, and you may bring your- 
self into serious danger. You are a man of 
sense, a practical man, so I speak to you 
frankly. But, remember, I do not warn 
twice." 

He took off his glasses, and his light, wild 
eyes looked me straight in the face. All be- 
nevolence had gone, and something implaca- 
ble and deadly burned in them. Before I 
could say a word in reply he shuffled up the 
steps of the house and was gone. . . . 



no 



CHAPTER V 
I TAKE A PARTNER 



CHAPTER V 

I TAKE A PARTNER 

THAT meeting with Lumley scared me 
badly, but it also clinched my resolu- 
tion. The most pacific fellow on earth can 
be gingered into pugnacity. I had now more 
than my friendship for Tommy and my sym- 
pathy with Pitt-Heron to urge me on. A 
man had tried to bully me, and that roused 
all the worst stubbornness of my soul. I was 
determined to see the game through at any 
cost. 

But I must have an ally if my nerves were 
to hold out, and my mind turned at once to 
Tommy's friend Chapman. I thought with 
comfort of the bluff independence of the La- 
bour member. So that night at the House I 
hunted him out in the smoking-room. 

He had been having a row with the young 
ii3 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

bloods of my party that afternoon and re- 
ceived me ungraciously. 

"I'm about sick of you fellows," he 
growled. (I shall not attempt to reproduce 
Chapman's accent. He spoke rich Yorkshire 
with a touch of the drawl of the western 
dales.) "They went and spoiled the best 
speech, though I say it as shouldn't, which 
this old place has heard for a twelvemonth. 
I've been workin' for days at it in the Library. 
I was tellin' them how much more bread cost 
under Protection, and the Jew Hilderstein 
started a laugh because I said kilometres for 
kilogrammes. It was just a slip o' the tongue, 
for I had it right in my notes, and besides 
there furrin' words don't matter a curse. 
Then that young lord as sits for East Clay- 
gate gets up and goes out as I was gettin' into 
my peroration, and he drops his topper and 
knocks off old Higgins's spectacles, and all 
the idiots laughed. After that I gave it them 
hot and strong, and got called to order. And 
then Wattles, him as used to be as good a so- 
cialist as me, replied for the Government and 

114 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

his blamed Board and said that the Board 
thought this and the Board thought that, and 
was damned if the Board would stir its 
stumps. Well I mind the day when I was 
hanging on to the Board's coat-tails in Hyde 
Park to keep it from talking treason." 

It took me a long time to get Chapman set- 
tled down and anchored to a drink. 

"I want you," I said, "to tell me about 
Routh — you know the fellow I mean — the ex- 
Union-Leader." 

At that he fairly blazed up. 

"There you are, you Tories," he shouted, 
causing a pale Liberal member on the next 
sofa to make a hurried exit. "You can't fight 
fair. You hate the Unions, and you rake up 
any rotten old prejudice to discredit them. 
You can find out about Routh for yourself, for 
I'm damned if I help you." 

I saw I could do nothing with Chapman 
unless I made a clean breast of it, so for the 
second time that day I told the whole story. 

I couldn't have wished for a better audi- 
ence. He got wildly excited before I was half 

ii5 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

through with it. No doubt of the correctness 
of my evidence ever entered his head, for, 
like most of his party, he hated anarchism 
worse than capitalism, and the notion of a 
highly capitalised, highly scientific, highly 
undemocratic anarchism fairly revolted his 
soul. Besides, he adored Tommy Deloraine. 
Routh, he told me, had been a young en- 
gineer of a superior type, with a job in a big 
shop at Sheffield. He had professed advanced 
political views, and, although he had strictly 
no business to be there, had taken a large part 
in Trade Union work, and was treasurer of 
one big branch. Chapman had met him often 
at conferences and on platforms, and had been 
impressed by the fertility and ingenuity of 
his mind and the boldness of his purpose. He 
was the leader of the left wing of the move- 
ment, and had that gift of half-scientific, half- 
philosophic jargon which is dear at all times 
to the hearts of the half-baked. A seat in 
Parliament had been repeatedly offered him, 
but he had always declined ; wisely, Chapman 

116 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

thought, for he judged him the type which is 
more effective behind the scenes. 

But with all his ability he had not been 
popular. "He was a cold-blooded, sneering 
devil," as Chapman put it, "a sort of Parnell. 
He tyrannised over his followers, and he was 
the rudest brute I ever met." 

Then followed the catastrophe, in which it 
became apparent that he had speculated with 
the funds of his Union and had lost a large 
sum. Chapman, however, was suspicious of 
these losses, and was inclined to suspect that 
he had the money all the time in a safe place. 
A year or two earlier the Unions, greatly to 
the disgust of old-fashioned folk, had been 
given certain extra-legal privileges, and this 
man Routh had been one of the chief advo- 
cates of the Unions' claims. Now he had the 
cool effrontery to turn the tables on them and 
use those very privileges to justify his action 
and escape prosecution. 

There was nothing to be done. Some of the 
fellows, said Chapman, swore to wring his 
neck, but he did not give them the chance. 

117 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

He had disappeared from England, and was 
generally believed to be living in some for- 
eign capital. 

"What I would give to be even with the 
swine!" cried my friend, clenching and un- 
clenching his big fist. "But we're up against 
no small thing in Josiah Routh. There isn't 
a crime on earth he'd stick at, and he's as 
clever as the old Devil, his master." 

"If that's how you feel, I can trust you to 
back me up," I said. "And the first thing I 
want you to do is to come and stay at my flat. 
God knows what may happen next, and two 
men are better than one. I tell you frankly, 
I'm nervous, and I would like to have you 
with me." 

Chapman had no objection. I accompa- 
nied him to his Bloomsbury lodgings, where 
he packed a bag, and we returned to the Down 
Street flat. The sight of his burly figure and 
sagacious face was a relief to me in the mys- 
terious darkness where I now found myself 

walking. 

118 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

Thus begun my housekeeping with Chap- 
man — one of the queerest episodes in my life. 
He was the best fellow in the world, but I 
found that I had misjudged his character. To 
see him in the House, you would have thought 
him a piece of granite, with his Yorkshire 
bluntness and hard, downright, north-country 
sense. He had all that somewhere inside him, 
but he was also as romantic as a boy. The 
new situation delighted him. He was quite 
clear that it was another case of the strife be- 
tween Capital and Labour — Tommy and I 
standing for Labour, though he used to refer 
to Tommy in public as a "gilded popinjay," 
and only a month before had described me in 
the House as a "viperous lackey of Capital- 
ism." It was the best kind of strife, in which 
you had not to meet your adversary with long- 
winded speeches but might any moment get 
a chance to pummel him with your fists. 

He made me ache with laughter. The spy- 
ing business used to rouse him to fury. I don't 
think he was tracked as I was, but he chose 
to fancy he was, and was guilty of assault and 

119 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

battery on one butcher's boy, two cabbies, and 
a gentleman who turned out to be a bookmak- 
er's assistant. This side of him got to be an 
infernal nuisance, and I had many rows with 
him. Among other things, he chose to sus- 
pect my man Waters of treachery — Waters, 
who was the son of a gardener at home, and 
hadn't wits enough to put up an umbrella 
when it rained. 

"You're not taking this business rightly," 
he maintained one night. "What's the good 
of waiting for these devils to down you? Let's 
go out and down them." And he announced 
his intention, from which no words of mine 
could dissuade him, of keeping watch on Mr. 
Andrew Lumley at the Albany. 

His resolution led to a complete disregard 
of his Parliamentary duties. Deputations of 
constituents waited for him in vain. Of 
course he never got a sight of Lumley. All 
that happened was that he was very nearly 
given in charge more than once for molesting 
peaceable citizens in the neighbourhood of 
Piccadilly and Regent Street. 

1 20 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

One night, on my way home from the Tem- 
ple, I saw in the bills of the evening papers 
the announcement of the arrest of a Labour 
Member. It was Chapman, sure enough. At 
first, I feared that he had got himself into 
serious trouble, and was much relieved to find 
him in the flat in a state of blazing anger. It 
seemed that he had found somebody whom 
he thought was Lumley, for he only knew him 
from my descriptions. The man was in a 
shop in Jermyn Street, with a car waiting out- 
side, and Chapman had — politely, as he swore 
-—asked the chauffeur his master's name. The 
chauffeur had replied abusively, upon which 
Chapman had haled him from the driver's 
seat and shaken him till his teeth rattled. The 
owner came out, and Chapman was arrested 
and taken off to the nearest police-court. He 
had been compelled to apologise and had been 
fined five pounds and costs. 

By the mercy of Heaven, the chauffeur's 
master was a money-lender of evil repute, so 
the affair did Chapman no harm. But I was 
forced to talk to him seriously. I knew it was 

121 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

no use explaining that for him to spy on the 
Power-House was like an elephant stalking 
a gazelle. The only way was to appeal to his 
incurable romanticism. 

"Don't you see," I told him, "that you are 
playing Lumley's game? He will trap you 
sooner or later into some escapade which will 
land you in jail, and where will I be then? 
That is what he and his friends are out for. 
We have got to meet cunning with cunning, 
and lie low till we get our chance." 

He allowed himself to be convinced, and 
handed over to me the pistol he had bought, 
which had been the terror of my life. 

"All right," he said, "I'll keep quiet. But 
you promise to let me into the big scrap when 
it comes off." 

I promised. Chapman's notion of the grand 
finale was a Homeric combat in which he 
would get his fill of fisticuffs. 

He was an anxiety, but all the same he was 
an enormous comfort. His imperturbable 
cheerfulness and his racy talk were the tonics 
I wanted. He had plenty of wisdom, too. My 

122 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

nerves were getting bad those days, and, 
whereas I had rarely touched the things be- 
fore, I now found myself smoking cigarettes 
from morning till night. I am pretty abste- 
mious, as you know, but I discovered, to my 
horror, that I was drinking far too many whis- 
keys-and-sodas. Chapman knocked me off all 
that and got me back to a pipe and a modest 
nightcap. 

He did more, for he undertook to put me 
in training. His notion was that we should 
win in the end by superior muscles. He was 
a square, thick-set fellow, who had been a 
good middle-weight boxer. I could box a bit 
myself, but I improved mightily under his 
tuition. We got some gloves, and used to 
hammer each other for half an hour every 
morning. Then might have been seen the 
shameful spectacle of a rising barrister with 
a swollen lip and a black eye arguing in court, 
and proceeding of an evening to his country's 
legislature, where he was confronted from the 
opposite benches by the sight of a Leader of 
the People in the same vulgar condition. 

123 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

In those days I wanted all the relief I could 
get, for it was a beastly time. I knew I was 
in grave danger, so I made my will and went 
through the other doleful performances con- 
sequent on the expectation of a speedy decease. 
You see, I had nothing to grip on, no clear 
job to tackle, only to wait on the off-chance, 
with an atmosphere of suspicion thickening 
around me. The spying went on — there was 
no mistake about that — but I soon ceased to 
mind it, though I did my best to give my 
watchers little satisfaction. There was a hint 
of bullying about the spying. It is discon- 
certing at night to have a man bump against 
you and look you greedily in the face. 

I did not go again to Scotland Yard, but 
one night I ran across Macgillivray in the 
club. 

He had something of profound interest to 
tell me. I had asked about the phrase, the 
"Power-House." Well, he had come across 
it in the letter of a German friend, a private 
letter, in which the writer gave the results of 

124 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

his inquiries into a curious affair which a year 
before had excited Europe. 

I have forgotten the details, but it had some- 
thing to do with the Slav States of Austria 
and an Italian Students' Union, and it threat- 
ened at one time to be dangerous. Macgilli- 
vray's correspondent said that in some docu- 
ments which were seized he found constant 
allusion to a thing called the Krafthaus, evi- 
dently the headquarters-staff of the plot. And 
this same word, Krafthaus, had appeared else- 
where — in a sonnet of a poet-anarchist who 
shot himself in the slums of Antwerp, in the 
last ravings of more than one criminal, in the 

extraordinary testament of Professor M , 

of Jena, who, at the age of thirty-seven, took 
his life after writing a strange, mystical mes- 
sage to his fellow citizens. 

Macgillivray's correspondent concluded by 
saying that, in his opinion, if this Krafthaus 
could be found, the key would be discovered 
to the most dangerous secret organisation in 
the world. He added that he had some rea- 

125 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

son to believe that the motive power of the 
concern was English. 

"Macgillivray," I said, "you have known 
me for some time, and I fancy you think me 
a sober and discreet person. Well, I believe 
I am on the edge of discovering the secret of 
your Krafthaus. I want you to promise me 
that if in the next week I send you an urgent 
message you will act on it, however fantastic 
it seems. I can't tell you more. I ask you 
to take me on trust, and believe that for any- 
thing I do I have tremendous reasons." 

He knit his shaggy grey eyebrows and 
looked curiously at me. "Yes, I'll go bail for 
your sanity. It's a good deal to promise, but 
if you make an appeal to me I will see that 
it is met." 

Next day I had news from Felix. Tuke 
and the man called Saronov had been identi- 
fied. If you are making inquiries about any- 
body it is fairly easy to find those who are 
seeking for the same person, and the Russian 
police, in tracking Tommy and Pitt-Heron, 
had easily come on the two gentlemen who 

126 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

were following the same trail. The two had 
gone by Samarkand, evidently intending to 
strike into the hills by a shorter route than 
the main road from Bokhara. The frontier 
posts had been warned, and the stalkers had 
become the stalked. 

That was one solid achievement, at any rate. 
I had saved Pitt-Heron from the worst dan- 
ger, for first I had sent him Tommy, and now 
I had put the police on guard against his 
enemies. I had not the slightest doubt that 
enemies they were. Charles knew too much, 
and Tuke was the man appointed to reason 
with him, to bring him back, if possible; or, 
if not As Chapman had said, the ex- 
Union leader was not the man to stick at 
trifles. 

It was a broiling June, the London season 
was at its height, and I had never been so 
busy in the Courts before. But that crowded 
and garish world was little more than a dream 
to me. I went through my daily tasks, dined 
out, went to the play, had consultations, talked 
to my fellows, but all the while I had the 

127 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

feeling that I was watching somebody else 
perform the same functions. I believe I did 
my work well, and I know I was twice com- 
plimented by the Court of Appeal. 

But my real interests were far away. Al- 
ways I saw two men in the hot glens of the 
Oxus, with the fine dust of the loess rising 
in yellow clouds behind them. One of these 
men had a drawn and anxious face, and both 
rode hard. They passed by the closes of apri- 
cot and cherry and the green, watered gardens, 
and soon the Oxus ceased to flow wide among 
rushes and water-lilies and became a turbid 
hill-stream. By-and-by the roadside changed, 
and the horses of the travellers trod on moun- 
tain turf, crushing the irises and marigolds 
and thyme. I could feel the free air blowing 
from the roof of the world, and see far ahead 
the snowy saddle of the pass which led to 
India. 

Far behind the riders I saw two others, and 
they chose a different way, now over water- 
less plateaux, now in rugged nullahs. They 
rode the faster and their route was the shorter. 

128 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

Sooner or later they must catch up the first 
riders, and I knew, though how I could not 
tell, that death would attend the meeting. 

I, and only I, sitting in London, four thou- 
sand miles away, could prevent disaster. The 
dream haunted me at night, and often, walk- 
ing in the Strand or sitting at a dinner-table, 
I have found my eyes fixed clearly on the shin- 
ing upland with the thin white mountains at 
the back of it, and the four dots, which were 
men, hurrying fast on their business. 

One night I met Lumley. It was at a big 
political dinner given by the chief of my party 
in the House of Lords — fifty or sixty guests, 
and a blaze of stars and decorations. I sat 
near the bottom of the table, and he was near 
the top, sitting between a famous General and 
an ex- Viceroy of India. I asked my right- 
hand neighbour who he was, but he could not 
tell me. The same question to my left-hand 
neighbour brought an answer: 

"It is old Lumley. Have you never met 
him? He doesn't go out much, but he gives 
a man's dinner now and then which are the 
129 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

best in London. No. He's not a politician, 
though he favours our side, and I expect has 
given a lot to our funds. I can't think why 
they don't make him a Peer. He's enormously 
rich and very generous, and the most learned 
old fellow in Britain. My Chief" — my neigh- 
bour was an Under-Secretary — "knows him, 
and told me once that if you wanted any out- 
of-the-way bit of knowledge you could get it 
by asking Lumley. I expect he pulls the 
strings more than anybody living. But he 
scarcely ever goes out, and it's a feather in 
our host's cap to have got him to-night. You 
never see his name in the papers, either. He 
probably pays the Press to keep him out, like 
some of those millionaire fellows in Amer- 
ica." 

I watched him through dinner. He was the 
centre of the talk at his end of the table. I 
could see the blue ribbon bulging out on Lord 
Morecambe's breast as he leaned forward to 
question him. He was wearing some foreign 
orders, including the Legion of Honour, and 
I could hear in the pause of conversation ech- 

130 



I TAKE A PARTNER 

oes of his soft, rich voice. I could see him 
beaming through his glasses on his neighbours, 
and now and then he would take them off and 
look mildly at a speaker. I wondered why 
nobody realised, as I did, what was in his light 
wild eyes. 

The dinner, I believe, was excellent and the 
company was good, but down at my end I 
could eat little, and I did not want to talk. 
Here in this pleasant room, with servants mov- 
ing softly about and a mellow light on the 
silver from the shaded candles, I felt the man 
was buttressed and defended beyond my reach. 
A kind of despairing hatred gripped me when 
I looked his way. For I was always conscious 
of that other picture — the Asian desert, Pitt- 
Heron's hunted face, and the grim figure of 
Tuke on his trail. That, and the great secret 
wheels of what was too inhuman to be called 
crime moving throughout the globe under this 
man's hand. 

There was a party afterwards, but I did 
not stay. No more did Lumley, and for a 

131 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

second I brushed against him in the hall at 
the foot of the big staircase. 

He smiled on me affectionately. 

"Have you been dining here? I did not no- 
tice you." 

"You had better things to think of," I said. 
"By the way, you gave me good advice some 
weeks ago. It may interest you to hear that 
I have taken it." 

"I am so glad," he said softly. "You are 
a very discreet young man." 

But his eyes told me that he knew I lied. 



132 



CHAPTER VI 

THE RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH 
STREET 



CHAPTER VI 

THE RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

I WAS working late at the Temple next 
day, and it was nearly seven before I got 
up to go home. Macgillivray had telephoned 
to me in the afternoon saying he wanted to 
see me, and suggesting dinner at the Club, and 
I had told him I should come straight there 
from my Chambers. But just after six he had 
rung me up again and proposed another meet- 
ing place. 

"I've got some very important news for you, 
and want to be quiet. There's a little place 
where I sometimes dine — Rapaccini's, in An- 
tioch Street. I'll meet you there at half-past 
seven." 

I agreed, and sent a message to Chapman 
at the flat, telling him I would be out to din- 
ner. It was a Wednesday night, so the House 
rose early. He asked me where I was dining, 

135 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

and I told him, but I did not mention with 
whom. His voice sounded very cross, for he 
hated a lonely meal. 

It was a hot, still night, and I had had a 
heavy day in Court, so heavy that my private 
anxieties had almost slipped from my mind. 
I walked along the Embankment, and up Re- 
gent Street towards Oxford Circus. Antioch 
Street, as I had learned from the Directory, 
was in the area between Langham Place and 
Tottenham Court Road. I wondered vaguely 
why Macgillivray should have chosen such 
an out-of-the-way spot, but I knew him for a 
man of many whims. 

The street, when I found it, turned out to 
be a respectable little place, boarding-houses 
and architects' offices, with a few antiquity 
shops and a picture-cleaner's. The restaurant 
took some finding, for it was one of those dis- 
creet establishments, common enough in 
France, where no edibles are displayed in the 
British fashion, and muslin half-curtains deck 
the windows. Only the doormat, lettered with 

136 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

the proprietor's name, remained to guide the 
hungry. 

I gave a waiter my hat and stick, and was 
ushered into a garish dining-room, apparently 
full of people. A single violinist was discours- 
ing music from beside the grill. The occu- 
pants were not quite the kind one expects to 
find in an eating-house in a side street. The 
men were all in evening dress with white 
waistcoats, and the women looked either demi- 
mondaines or those who follow their taste in 
clothes. Various eyes looked curiously at me 
as I entered. I guessed that the restaurant had, 
by one of those odd freaks of Londoners, be- 
come for a moment the fashion. 

The proprietor met me half way up the 
room. He might call himself Rapaccini, but 
he was obviously a German. 

"Mr. Geelvrai," he nodded. "He has en- 
gaged a private room. Vill you follow, sir?" 

A narrow stairway broke into the wall on 
the left side of the dining-room. I followed 
the manager up it and along a short corridor 
to a door which filled its end. He ushered 

137 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

me into a brightly lit little room where a table 
was laid for two. 

"Mr. Geelvrai comes often here," said the 
manager. "He vill be late — sometimes. 
Everything is ready, sir. I hope you vill be 
pleased." 

It looked inviting enough, but the air smelt 
stuffy. Then I saw that, though the night 
was warm, the window was shut and the cur- 
tains drawn. I pulled back the curtains, and, 
to my surprise, saw that the shutters were 
closed. 

"You must open these," I said, "or we'll 
stifle." 

The manager glanced at the window. "I 
vill send a waiter," he said, and departed. The 
door seemed to shut with an odd click. 

I flung myself down in one of the arm- 
chairs, for I was feeling pretty tired. The 
little table beckoned alluringly, for I was also 
hungry. I remember there was a mass of 
pink roses on it. A bottle of champagne, with 
the cork loose, stood in a wine-cooler on the 
side-board, and there was an unopened bottle 

138 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

beside it. It seemed to me that Macgillivray, 
when he dined here, did himself rather well. 

The promised waiter did not arrive, and 
the stuffiness was making me very thirsty. I 
looked for a bell, but could not see one. My 
watch told me it was now a quarter to eight, 
but there was no sign of Macgillivray. I 
poured myself out a glass of champagne from 
the opened bottle, and was just about to drink 
it when my eye caught something in a corner 
of the room. 

It was one of those little mid- Victorian cor- 
ner tables — I believe they call them "what- 
nots" — which you will find in any boarding- 
house, littered up with photographs and coral 
and "Presents from Brighton." On this one 
stood a photograph in a shabby frame, and I 
thought I recognised it. 

I crossed the room and picked it up. It 
showed a man of thirty, with short side-whis- 
kers and ill-fitting jaw and a drooping mous- 
tache. The duplicate of it was in Macgilli- 
vray's cabinet. It was Mr. Routh, the ex- 
Union leader. 

139 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

There was nothing very remarkable about 
that, after all, but it gave me a nasty shock. 
The room now seemed a sinister place, as well 
as intolerably close. There was still no sign 
of the waiter to open the window, so I thought 
I would wait for Macgillivray downstairs. 

But the door would not open. The handle 
would not turn. It did not seem to be locked, 
but rather to have shut with some kind of 
patent spring. I noticed that the whole thing 
was a powerful piece of oak, with a heavy 
framework, very unlike the usual flimsy res- 
taurant doors. 

My first instinct was to make a deuce of a 
row and attract the attention of the diners be- 
low. I own I was beginning to feel badly 
frightened. Clearly, I had got into some sort 
of trap. Macgillivray's invitation might have 
been a hoax, for it is not difficult to counter- 
feit a man's voice on the telephone. With an 
effort I forced myself into calmness. It was 
preposterous to think that anything could hap- 
pen to me in a room not thirty feet from where 
a score or two of ordinary citizens were din- 

140 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

ing. I had only to raise my voice to bring 
inquirers. 

Yes, but above all things I did not want a 
row. It would never do for a rising lawyer 
and a Member of Parliament to be found 
shouting for help in an upper chamber of a 
Bloomsbury restaurant. The worst deduction 
would be drawn from the open bottle of cham- 
pagne. Besides, it might be all right after 
all. The door might have got stuck. Mac- 
gillivray at that very moment might be on 
his way up. 

So I sat down and waited. Then I remem- 
bered my thirst, and stretched out my hand 
to the glass of champagne. 

But at that instant I looked towards the win- 
dow, and set down the wine untasted. 

It was a very odd window. The lower end 
was about flush with the floor, and the hinges 
of the shutters seemed to be only on one side. 
As I stared, I began to wonder whether it 
was a window at all. 

Next moment my doubts were solved. The 
141 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

window swung open like a door, and in the 
dark cavity stood a man. 

Strangely enough, I knew him. His figure 
was not one that is readily forgotten. 

"Good evening, Mr. Docker," I said. "Will 
you have a glass of champagne?" 

A year before, on the South Eastern Circuit, 
I had appeared for the defence in a burglary 
case. Criminal law was not my province, but 
now and then I took a case to keep my hand in, 
for it is the best training in the world for the 
handling of witnesses. This case had been 
peculiar. A certain Bill Docker was the ac- 
cused, a gentleman who bore a bad reputa- 
tion in the eyes of the police. The evidence 
against him was strong, but it was more or 
less tainted, being chiefly that of two former 
accomplices — a proof that there is small truth 
in the proverbial honour among thieves. It 
was an ugly business, and my sympathies were 
with the accused, for though he may very 
well have been guilty, yet he had been the 
victim of a shabby trick. Anyhow, I put my 
back into the case, and after a hard struggle 

142 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

got a verdict of "Not guilty." Mr. Docker 
had been kind enough to express his apprecia- 
tion of my efforts, and to ask, in a hoarse whis- 
per, how I had "squared the old bird," mean- 
ing the Judge. He did not understand the 
subtleties of the English law of evidence. 

He shambled into the room, a huge, hulk- 
ing figure of a man, with the thickness of 
chest which, under happier circumstances, 
might have made him a terror in the prize- 
ring. His features wore a heavy scowl, which 
slowly cleared to a flicker of recognition. 

"By God, it's the lawyer-chap," he mut- 
tered. 

I pointed to the glass of champagne. 

"I don't mind if I do," he said. " 'Ere's 
health!" He swallowed the wine at a gulp, 
and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. " 'Ave a 
drop yourself, guvnor," he added. "A glass 
of bubbly will cheer you up." 

"Well, Mr. Docker," I said, "I hope I see 
you fit." I was getting wonderfully collected 
now that the suspense was over. 

H3 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

"Pretty fair, sir. Pretty fair. Able to do 
my day's work like an honest man." 

"And what brings you here?" 

"A little job I'm on. Some friends of mine 
wants you out of the road for a bit, and they've 
sent me to fetch you. It's a bit of luck for 
you that you've struck a pal. We needn't 
'ave no unpleasantness, seein' we're both what 
you might call men of the world." 

"I appreciate the compliment," I said. 
"But where do you propose to take me?" 

"Dunno. It's some lay near the Docks. I've 
got a motor-car waitin' at the back of the 
'ouse." 

"But supposing I don't want to go?" 

"My orders hadmit no hexcuse," he said 
solemnly. "You're a sensible chap, and can 
see that in a scrap I could down you easy." 

"Very likely," I said. "But, man, you must 
be mad to talk like that. Downstairs there 
is a dining-room fall of people. I have only 
to lift my voice to bring the police." 

"You're a kid," he said scornfully. "Them 
geesers downstairs are all in the job. That 

144 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

was a flat-catching rig to get you up here so 
as you wouldn't suspect nothing. If you was 
to go down now — which you ain't going to be 
allowed to do — you wouldn't find a blamed 
soul in the place. I must say you're a bit 
softer than I 'oped after the 'andsome way 
you talked over the old juggins with the wig 
at Maidstone." 

Mr. Docker took the bottle from the wine- 
cooler and filled himself another glass. 

It sounded horribly convincing. If I was 
to be kidnapped and smuggled away Lumley 
would have scored half a success. Not the 
whole, for, as I swiftly reflected, I had put 
Felix on the track of Tuke, and there was 
every chance that Tommy and Pitt-Heron 
would be saved. But for myself it looked 
pretty black. The more my scheme succeeded 
the more likely the Power-House would be to 
wreak its vengeance on me once I was spirited 
from the open-air world into its dark laby- 
rinths. 

I made a great effort to keep my voice even 
and calm. 

145 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

"Mr. Docker," I said. "I once did you a 
good turn. But for me you might be doing 
time now instead of drinking champagne like 
a gentleman. Your pals played you a pretty 
low trick, and that was why I stuck out for 
you. I didn't think you were the kind of man 
to forget a friend." 

"No more I am," said he. "The man who 
says Bill Docker would go back on a pal is a 
liar." 

"Well, here's your chance to pay your debts. 
The men who employ you are my deadly en- 
emies, and want to do me in. I'm not a match 
for you. You're a stronger fellow and can 
drag me off and hand me over to them. But 
if you do I'm done with. Make no mistake 
about that. I put it to you as a decent fellow. 
Are you going to go back on the man who 
has been a good friend to you?" 

He shifted from one foot to another with 
his eyes on the ceiling. He was obviously in 
difficulties. Then he tried another glass of 
champagne. 

"I dursn't, guv'nor. I dursn't let you go. 
146 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

Them I work for would cut my throat as soon 
as look at me. Besides, it ain't no good. If 
I was to go off and leave you there'd be plenty 
more in this 'ouse as would do the job. 
You're up against it, guv'nor. But take a 
sensible view and come with me. They don't 
mean you no real 'arm. I'll take my Bible 
oath on it. Only to keep you quiet for a bit, 
for you've run across one of their games. 
They won't do you no 'urt if you speak 'em 
fair. Be a sport and take it smiling-like " 

"You're afraid of them," I said. 

"Yuss. I'm afraid. Black afraid. So 
would you be if you knew the gents. I'd 
rather take on the whole Rat Lane crowd — 
you know them as I mean — on a Saturday 
night, when they're out for business, than go 
back to my gents and say as 'ow I had shirked 
the job." 

He shivered. "Good Lord, they'd freeze 
the 'eart out of a bull-pup." 

"You're afraid," I said slowly. "So you're 
going to give me up to the men you're afraid 
of to do as they like with me. I never ex- 

147 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

pected it of you, Bill. I thought you were the 
kind of lad who would send any gang to the 
devil before you'd go back on a pal." 

"Don't say that," he said almost plaintively. 
"You don't 'alf know the 'ole I'm in." His 
eye seemed to be wandering, and he yawned 
deeply. 

Just then a great noise began below. I 
heard a voice speaking, a loud peremptory 
voice. Then my name was shouted: "Leithen! 
Leithen! Are you there?" 

There could be no mistaking that broad 
Yorkshire tongue. By some miracle Chap- 
man had followed me and was raising Cain 
downstairs. 

My heart leaped with the sudden revulsion. 
"I'm here," I yelled. "Upstairs. Come up 
and let me out!" 

Then I turned with a smile of triumph to 
Bill. 

"My friends have come," I said. "You're 
too late for the job. Get back and tell your 
masters that." 

He was swaying on his feet, and he sud- 
148 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

denly lurched towards me. "You come along. 
By God, you think you've done me. I'll let 
you see." 

His voice was growing thick and he 
stopped short. "What the 'ell's wrong with 
me?" he gasped. "I'm goin' all queer. 
I . . ." 

He was like a man far gone in liquor, but 
three glasses of champagne would never have 
touched a head like Bill's. I saw what was 
up with him. He was not drunk, but 
drugged. 

"They've doped the wine," I cried. "They 
put it there for me to drink it and go to 
sleep." 

There is always something which is the 
last straw to any man. You may insult and 
outrage him and he will bear it patiently, but 
touch the quick in his temper and he will 
turn. Apparently for Bill drugging was the 
unforgivable sin. His eye lost for a moment 
its confusion. He squared his shoulders and 
roared like a bull. 

149 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

"Doped, by. God," he cried. "Who done 
it?" 

"The men who shut me in this room. 
Burst that door and you will find them." 

He turned a blazing face on the locked door 
and hurled his huge weight on it. It cracked 
and bent but the lock and hinges held. I 
could see that sleep was overwhelming him 
and that his limbs were stiffening, but his 
anger was still strong enough for another 
effort. Again he drew himself together like 
a big cat and flung himself on the woodwork. 
The hinges tore from the jambs and the whole 
outfit fell forward into the passage in a cloud 
of splinters and dust and broken plaster. 

It was Mr. Docker's final effort. He lay 
on the top of the wreckage he had made, like 
Samson among the ruins of Gaza, a senseless 
and slumbering hulk. 

I picked up the unopened bottle of cham- 
pagne — it was the only weapon available — 
and stepped over his body. I was beginning 
to enjoy myself amazingly. 

As I expected, there was a man in the cor- 
150 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

ridor, a little fellow in waiter's clothes, with a 
tweed jacket instead of a dress coat. If he 
had a pistol I knew I was done, but I gambled 
upon the disinclination of the management for 
the sound of shooting. 

He had a knife, but he never had a chance 
to use it. My champagne bottle descended on 
his head and he dropped like a log. 

There were men coming upstairs — not 
Chapman, for I still heard his hoarse shouts 
in the dining-room. If they once got up they 
could force me back through that hideous 
room by the door through which Docker had 
come, and in five minutes I should be in their 
motor-car. 

There was only one thing to do. I jumped 
from the stair-head right down among them. 
I think there were three, and my descent 
toppled them over. We rolled in a wild, 
whirling mass and cascaded into the dining- 
room, where my head bumped violently on 
the parquet. 

I expected a bit of a grapple, but none 
came. My wits were pretty woolly, but I 

I5i 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

managed to scramble to my feet. The heels 
of my enemies were disappearing up the 
staircase. Chapman was pawing my ribs to 
discover if there were any bones broken. 
There was not another soul in the room ex- 
cept two policemen who were pushing their 
way in from the street. 

Chapman was flushed and breathing heav- 
ily: his coat had a big split down the seams 
at the shoulder, but his face was happy as a 
child's. 

I caught his arm and spoke in his ear. 
"We've got to get out of this at once. How 
can we square these policemen? There must 
be no inquiry and nothing in the papers. Do 
you hear?" 

"That's all right," said Chapman. "These 
bobbies are friends of mine, two good lads 
from Wensleydale. On my road here I told 
them to give me a bit of law and follow me, 
for I thought they might be wanted. They 
didn't come too soon to spoil sport, for I've 
been knocking furriners about for ten min- 

152 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

utes. You seem to have been putting up a 
tidy scrap yourself." 

"Let's get home first," I said, for I was be- 
ginning to think of the bigger thing. 

I wrote a chit for Macgillivray which I 
asked one of the constables to take to Scot- 
land Yard. It was to beg that nothing should 
be done yet in the business of the restaurant, 
and above all that nothing should get into the 
papers. Then I asked the other to see us 
home. It was a queer request for two able- 
bodied men to make on a summer evening in 
the busiest part of London, but I was taking 
no chances. The Power-House had declared 
war on me, and I knew it would be war with- 
out quarter. 

I was in a fever to get out of that place. 
My momentary lust of battle had gone, and 
every stone of that building seemed to me a 
threat. Chapman would have liked to spend 
a happy hour rummaging through the house, 
but the gravity of my face persuaded him. 
The truth is I was bewildered. I could not 
understand the reason of this sudden attack. 

153 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Lumley's spies must long ago have told him 
enough to connect me with the Bokhara busi- 
ness. My visits to the Embassy alone were 
sufficient proof. But now he must have found 
out something new, something which startled 
him, or else there had been wild doings in 
Turkestan. 

I won't forget that walk home in a hurry. 
It was a fine July twilight. The streets were 
full of the usual crowd, shop-girls in thin 
frocks, promenading clerks, and all the flot- 
sam of a London summer. You would have 
said it was the safest place on earth. But I 
was glad we had the policeman with us, who 
at the end of one beat passed us on to his col- 
league, and I was glad of Chapman. For I 
am morally certain I would never have got 
home alone. 

The queer thing is that there was no sign 
of trouble till we got into Oxford Street 
Then I became aware that there were people 
on those pavements who knew all about me. 
I first observed it at the mouth of one of those 
little dark side-alleys which run up into mews 

154 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

and small dingy courts. I found myself be- 
ing skilfully edged away from Chapman into 
the shadow, but I noticed it in time and butted 
my way back to the pavement. I couldn't 
make out who the people were who hustled 
me. They seemed nondescripts of all sorts, 
but I fancied there were women among them. 

This happened twice, and I got wary, but 
I was nearly caught before we reached Ox- 
ford Circus. There was a front of a big shop 
rebuilding, and the usual wooden barricade 
with a gate. Just as we passed it there was a 
special throng on the pavement and I, being 
next the wall, got pushed against the gate. 
Suddenly it gave and I was pressed inward. 
I was right inside before I realised my dan- 
ger, and the gate was closing. There must 
have been people there, but I could see noth- 
ing in the gloom. 

It was no time for false pride. I yelled to 
Chapman and the next second his burly 
shoulder was in the gap. The hustlers van- 
ished and I seemed to hear a polite voice beg- 
ging my pardon. 

*55 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

After that Chapman and I linked arms and 
struck across Mayfair. But I did not feel 
safe till I was in the flat with the door bolted. 

We had a long drink and I stretched my- 
self in an armchair, for I was as tired as if I 
had come out of a big game of Rugby foot- 
ball. 

"I owe you a good deal, old man," I said. 
"I think I'll join the Labour Party. You can 
tell your fellows to send me their whips. 
What possessed you to come to look for me?" 

The explanation was simple. I had men- 
tioned the restaurant in my telephone mes- 
sage, and the name had awakened a recollec- 
tion in Chapman's mind. He could not fix 
it at first, but by and by he remembered that 
the place had cropped up in the Routh case. 
Routh's London headquarters had been at the 
restaurant in Antioch Street. As soon as 
he remembered this he got into a taxi and 
descended at the corner of the street, where 
by sheer luck he fell in with his Wensleydale 
friends. 

He said he had marched into the restaurant 

i 5 6 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

and found it empty, but for an ill-favoured 
manager, who denied all knowledge of me. 
Then fortunately he chose to make certain by 
shouting my name, and heard my answer. 
After that he knocked the manager down, 
and was presently assaulted by several men 
whom he described as "furrin' muck." They 
had knives, of which he made very little, for 
he seems to have swung a table as a battering 
ram and left sore limbs behind him. 

He was on the top of his form. "I haven't 
enjoyed anything so much since I was a lad at 
school," he informed me. "I was beginning 
to think your Power-House was a wash-out, 
but Lord! it's been busy enough to-night. 
This is what I call life!" 

My spirits could not keep pace with his. 
The truth is that I was miserably puzzled — 
not afraid so much as mystified. I couldn't 
make out this sudden dead-set at me. Either 
they knew more than I bargained for or I 
knew far too little. 

"It's all very well," I said, "but I don't see 
how this is going to end. We can't keep up 

157 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

the pace long. At this rate it will be only a 
matter of hours till they get me." 

We pretty well barricaded ourselves in the 
flat, and, at his earnest request, I restored to 
Chapman his revolver. Then I got the clue 
I had been longing for. 

It was about eleven o'clock, while we were 
sitting smoking, when the telephone bell rang. 
It was Felix who spoke. 

"I have news for you," he said. "The hunt- 
ers have met the hunted and one of the hunt- 
ers is dead. The other is a prisoner in our 
hands. He has confessed." 

It had been black murder in intent. The 
frontier police had shadowed the two men 
into the cup of a glen where they met Tommy 
and Pitt-Heron. The four had spoken to- 
gether for a little, and then Tuke had fired 
deliberately at Charles and had grazed his 
ear. Whereupon Tommy had charged him 
and knocked the pistol from his hand. The 
assailant had fled, but a long shot from the 
police on the hillside had toppled him over. 

158 



RESTAURANT IN ANTIOCH STREET 

Tommy had felled Saronov with his fists, and 
the man had abjectly surrendered. He had 
confessed, Felix said, but what the confession 
was he did not know. 



*S9 



CHAPTER VII 
I FIND SANCTUARY, 



' 



CHAPTER VII 

I FIND SANCTUARY 

TV yf"Y nervousness and indecision dropped 
■*■▼-■• from me at the news. I had won the 
first round, and I would win the last, for it 
suddenly became clear to me that I had now 
evidence which would blast Lumley. I be- 
lieved that it would not be hard to prove his 
identitv with Pavia and his receipt of the 
telegram from Saronov; Tuke was his crea- 
ture, and Tuke's murderous mission was his 
doing. No doubt I knew little and could 
prove nothing about the big thing, the Power- 
House, but conspiracy to murder is not the 
lightest of criminal charges. I was beginning 
to see my way to checkmating my friend, at 
least so far as Pitt-Heron was concerned. 
Provided — and it was a pretty big proviso — 
that he gave me the chance to use my knowl- 
edge. 

163 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

That I foresaw, was going to be the diffi- 
culty. What I knew now Lumley had known 
hours before. The reason of the affair at 
Antioch Street was now only too clear. If he 
believed that I had damning evidence against 
him — and there was no doubt he suspected it 
— then he would do his best to stop my mouth. 
I must get my statement lodged in the proper 
quarter at the earliest possible moment. 

The next twenty-four hours, I feared, were 
going to be too sensational for comfort. And 
yet I cannot say that I was afraid. I was 
too full of pride to be in a funk. I had lost 
my awe of Lumley through scoring a point 
against him. Had I known more I should 
have been less at my ease. It was this confi- 
dence which prevented me doing the obvious 
safe thing — ringing up Macgillivray, telling 
him the gist of my story, and getting him to 
put me under police protection. I thought 
I was clever enough to see the thing through 
myself. And it must have been the same over- 
confidence which prevented Lumley getting 
at me that night. An organisation like his 

164 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

could easily have got into the flat and done 
for us both. I suppose the explanation is that 
he did not yet know how much I knew and 
was not yet ready to take the last steps in 
silencing me. 

I sat up till the small hours, marshalling 
my evidence in a formal statement and mak- 
ing two copies of it. One was destined for 
Macgillivray and the other for Felix, for I 
was taking no risks. I went to bed and slept 
peacefully and was awakened as usual by 
Waters. My man slept out, and used to turn 
up in the morning about seven. It was all so 
normal and homely that I could have believed 
my adventures of the night before a dream. 
In the summer sunlight the ways of darkness 
seemed very distant. I dressed in excellent 
spirits and made a hearty breakfast. 

Then I gave the docile Chapman his in- 
structions. He must take the document to 
Scotland Yard, ask to see Macgillivray, and 
put it into his hands. Then he must ring me 
up at once at Down Street and tell me that he 
had done this. I had already telephoned to 

165 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

my clerk that I would not be at the Temple 
that day. 

It seems a simple thing to travel less than 
a mile in the most frequented part of London 
in broad daylight, and perform an easy act 
like carrying a letter; but I knew that Lum- 
ley's spies would be active, and would con- 
nect Chapman sufficiently with me to think 
him worth following. In that case there 
might be an attempt at violence. I thought 
it my duty to tell him this, but he laughed me 
to scorn. He proposed to walk, and he begged 
to be shown the man who would meddle with 
him. Chapman after last night was prepared 
to take on all comers. He put my letter to 
Macgillivray in his inner pocket, buttoned his 
coat, crushed down his felt hat on his head, 
and defiantly set forth. 

I expected a message from him in half an 
hour, for he was a rapid walker. But the half 
hour passed, then the three-quarters, and 
nothing happened. At eleven I rang up 
Scotland Yard, but they had no news of him. 

Then I became miserably anxious, for it 
1 66 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

was clear that some disaster had overtaken my 
messenger. My first impulse was to set out 
myself to look for him, but a moment's re- 
flection convinced me that that would be play- 
ing into the enemy's hands. For an hour I 
wrestled with my impatience, and then a few 
minutes after twelve I was rung up by St. 
Thomas's Hospital. 

A young doctor spoke, and said that Mr. 
Chapman had asked him to tell me what had 
happened. He had been run down by a 
motor-car at the corner of Whitehall — noth- 
ing serious — only a bad shake and some scalp 
wounds. In a day or so he would be able to 
leave. 

Then he added what drove the blood from 
my heart. "Mr. Chapman personally wished 
me to tell you," he said, "that the letter has 
gone." I stammered some reply asking his 
meaning. "He said he thinks," I was told, 
"that, while he was being assisted to his feet, 
his pocket was picked and a letter taken. He 
said you would know what he meant." 

I knew only too well what he meant. Lum- 
167 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ley had got my statement, and realised pre- 
cisely how much I knew and what was the 
weight of evidence against him. Before he 
had only suspected, now he knew. He must 
know, too, that there would be a copy some- 
where which I would try to deliver. It was 
going to be harder than I had fancied to get 
my news to the proper ears, and I had to an- 
ticipate the extreme of violence on the part 
of my opponents. 

The thought of the peril restored my cool- 
ness. I locked the outer door of my flat, and 
telephoned to the garage where I kept my 
car, bidding Stagg call for me at two o'clock 
precisely. Then I lit a pipe and strove to 
banish the whole business from my thoughts, 
for fussing would do me no good. 

Presently it occurred to me to ring up Felix 
and give him some notion of the position. But 
I found that my telephone was now broken 
and connection was impossible. The spoken 
as well as the written word was to be denied 
me. That had happened in the last half hour 
and I didn't believe it was by accident. Also 

168 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

my man Waters, whom I had sent out on an 
errand after breakfast, had never returned. 
The state of siege had begun. 

It was a blazing hot midsummer day. The 
water-carts were sprinkling Piccadilly, and 
looking from my window I could see lei- 
surely and elegant gentlemen taking their 
morning stroll. A florist's cart full of roses 
stood below me in the street. The summer 
smell of town — a mixture of tar, flowers, dust 
and patchouli — rose in gusts through the hot 
air. It was the homely London I knew so 
well, and I was somehow an exile from it. I 
was being shepherded into a dismal isolation, 
which, unless I won help, might mean death. 
I was cool enough now, but I will not deny 
that I was miserably anxious. I cursed my 
false confidence the night before. By now I 
might have had Macgillivray and his men 
by my side. As it was I wondered if I should 
ever see them. 

I changed into a flannel suit, lunched off 
sandwiches and a whisky and soda, and at two 
o'clock looked for Stagg and my car. He was 

169 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

five minutes late, a thing which had never 
happened before. But I never welcomed 
anything so gladly as the sight of that car. 
I had hardly dared to hope that it would 
reach me. 

My goal was the Embassy in Belgrave 
Square, but I was convinced that if I ap- 
proached it directly I should share the fate 
of Chapman. Worse, for from me they 
would not merely snatch the letter. What I 
had once written I could write again, and if 
they wished to ensure my silence it must be 
by more drastic methods. I proposed to baffle 
my pursuers by taking a wide circuit round 
the western suburbs of London, returning to 
the Embassy when I thought the coast clear. 

It was a tremendous relief to go down the 
stairs and emerge into the hot daylight. I 
gave Stagg his instructions, and lay back in 
the closed car with a curious fluttering sense of 
anticipation. I had begun the last round in 
the wild game. There was a man at the cor- 
ner of Down Street who seemed to peer curi- 

170 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

ously at the car. He was doubtless one of my 
watchers. 

We went up Park Lane into the Edgeware 
Road, my instructions to Stagg being to make 
a circuit by Harrow and Brentford. Now 
that I was ensconced in my car I felt a trifle 
safer, and my tense nerves relaxed. I grew 
drowsy and allowed myself to sink into a half 
doze. The stolid back of Stagg filled my 
gaze, as it had filled it a fortnight ago on 
the western road, and I admired lazily the 
brick-red of his neck. He had been in the 
Guards, and a Boer bullet at Modder River 
had left a long scar at the nape of his neck, 
which gave to his hair the appearance of be- 
ing badly cut. He had told me the story on 
Exmoor. 

Suddenly I rubbed my eyes. There was no 
scar there; the hair of the chauffeur grew 
regularly down to his coat-collar. The re- 
semblance had been perfect, the voice was 
Stagg's, but clearly it was not Stagg who now 
drove my car. 

I pulled the blind down over the front win- 
171 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

dow as if to shelter myself from the sun. 
Looking out I saw that we were some distance 
up the Edgeware Road, nearing the point 
where the Marylebone Road joins it. Now 
or never was my chance, for at the corner 
there is always a block in the traffic. 

The car slowed down in obedience to a 
policeman's uplifted hand, and very gently I 
opened the door on the left side. Since the 
car was new it opened softly, and in two sec- 
onds I had stepped out, shut it again, and 
made a dive between a butcher's cart and a 
motor-bus for the side-walk. I gave one 
glance back and saw the unconscious chauf- 
feur still rigid at the wheel. 

I dodged unobtrusively through the crowd 
on the pavement, with my hand on my breast- 
pocket to see that my paper was still there. 
There was a little picture-shop near by to 
which I used to go occasionally, owned by a 
man who was an adept at cleaning and restor- 
ing. I had sent him customers and he was 
likely to prove a friend. So I dived into his 
doorway, which made a cool pit of shade after 

172 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

the glaring street, and found him, spectacles 
on nose, busy examining some dusty prints. 

He greeted me cordially and followed me 
into the back shop. 

"Mr. Levison," I said, "have you a back 
door?" 

He looked at me in some surprise. "Why, 
yes; there is the door into the lane which runs 
from Edgeley Street into Connaught Mews." 

"Will you let me use it? There is a friend 
outside whom I wish to avoid. Such things 
happen, you know." 

He smiled comprehendingly. "Certainly, 
sir. Come this way," and he led me through 
a dark passage hung with dingy Old Masters 
to a little yard filled with the debris of pic- 
ture frames. There he unlocked a door in the 
wall and I found myself in a narrow alley. 
As I emerged I heard the bell of the shop- 
door ring. "If any one inquires, you have not 
seen me here, remember," I said, and Mr. 
Levison nodded. He was an artist in his 
small way and liked the scent of a mystery. 

I ran down the lane and by various cross 

173 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

streets made my way into Bayswater. I be- 
lieved that I had thrown my trackers for the 
moment of! the scent, but I had got to get to 
the Embassy, and that neighbourhood was 
sure to be closely watched. I came out on the 
Bayswater Road pretty far west, and resolved 
to strike south-east across the Park. My rea- 
son was that the neighbourhood of Hyde Park 
Corner was at that time of day certain to be 
pretty well crowded, and I felt more security 
in a throng than in the empty streets of Ken- 
sington. Now that I come to think of it, it 
was a rash thing to do, for since Lumley 
knew the full extent of my knowledge, he was 
likely to deal more violently with me than 
with Chapman, and the seclusion of the Park 
offered him too good a chance. 

I crossed the riding-track and struck over 
the open space where the Sunday demonstra- 
tions are held. There was nothing there but 
nurses and perambulators, children at play, 
and dogs being exercised. Presently I 
reached Grosvenor Gate, where on the little 
green chairs well-dressed people were taking 

174 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

the air. I recognised several acquaintances 
and stopped for a moment to talk to one of 
them. Then I emerged in Park Lane and 
walked down it to Hamilton Place. 

So far I thought I had not been followed, 
but now once more I had the indefinable but 
unerring sensation of being watched. I 
caught a man looking eagerly at me from the 
other side of the street, and it seemed to me 
that he made a sign to someone farther off. 
There was now less than a quarter of a mile 
between me and Belgrave Square, but I saw 
that it would be a hard course to cover. 

Once in Piccadilly there could be no doubt 
about my watchers. Lumley was doing the 
thing in style this time. Last night it had 
only been a trial trip, but now the whole en- 
ergies of the Power-House were on the job. 
The place was filled with the usual mid-sea- 
son crowd, and I had to take off my hat sev- 
eral times. Up in the bow-window of the 
Bachelors' Club a young friend of mine was 
writing a letter and sipping a long drink with 
an air of profound boredom. I would have 

*7S 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

given much for his ennui, for my life at the 
moment was painfully exciting. I was alone 
in that great crowd, isolated and proscribed, 
and there was no help save in my own wits. 
If I spoke to a policeman he would think me 
drunk or mad, and yet I was on the edge of 
being made the victim of a far subtler crime 
than fell within the purview of the Metro- 
politan force. 

Now I saw how thin is the protection of 
civilisation. An accident and a bogus ambu- 
lance — a false charge and a bogus arrest — 
there were a dozen ways of spiriting me out 
of this gay, bustling world. I foresaw that, if 
I delayed, my nerve would break, so I boldly 
set off across the road. 

I jolly nearly shared the fate of Chapman. 
A car which seemed about to draw up at a 
club door suddenly swerved across the street, 
and I had to dash to an island to escape it 
It was no occasion to hesitate, so, dodging a 
bus and missing a motor bicycle by a hair's 
breadth, I rushed across the remaining dis- 

176 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

tance and reached the railings of the Green 
Park. 

Here there were fewer people, and several 
queer things began to happen. A little group 
of workmen with their tools were standing by 
the kerb, and they suddenly moved towards 
me. A pavement artist, who looked like a 
cripple, scrambled to his feet and moved in 
the same direction. There was a policeman at 
the corner, and I saw a well-dressed man go 
up to him, say something and nod in my direc- 
tion, and the policeman too began to move 
towards me. 

I did not await them. I took to my heels 
and ran for my life down Grosvenor Place. 

Long ago at Eton I had won the school 
mile, and at Oxford I was a second string for 
the quarter. But never at Eton or at Oxford 
did I run as I ran then. It was blisteringly 
hot, but I did not feel it, for my hands were 
clammy and my heart felt like a cold stone. 
I do not know how the pursuit got on, for I 
did not think of it. I did not reflect what 
kind of spectacle I must afford running like 

177 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

a thief in a London thoroughfare on a June 
afternoon. I only knew that my enemies were 
around and behind me, and that in front, a 
few hundred yards away, lay safety. 

But even as I ran I had the sense to think 
out my movements, and to realise that the 
front door of the Embassy was impossible. 
For one thing it would be watched, and for 
another, before the solemn footmen opened 
it, my pursuers would be upon me. My only 
hope was the back door. 

I twisted into the mews behind the north 
side of the Square, and as I turned I saw two 
men run up from the Square as if to cut me 
off. A whistle was blown and more men ap- 
peared — one entering from the far end of the 
mews, one darting from a public-house door, 
and one sliding down a ladder from a stable- 
loft. This last was nearest me and tried to 
trip me, but I rejoice to say that a left-hander 
on the chin sent him sprawling on the cob- 
bles. I remembered that the Embassy was 
the fifth house from the end, and feverishly 
I tried to count the houses by their backs. It 

i 7 8 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

is not so easy as it sounds, for the modern 
London householder studs his back premises 
with excrescences which seem to melt into his 
neighbour's. In the end I had to make a 
guess at the door, which to my joy was un- 
locked. I rushed in and banged it behind 
me. I found myself in a stone passage, with 
on one side a door opening on a garage. There 
was a wooden staircase leading to an upper 
floor, and a glass door in front which opened 
into a large disused room full of boxes. Be- 
yond were two doors, one of which was 
locked. The other abutted on a steep iron 
stairway which obviously led to the lower re- 
gions of the house. 

I ran down the stair — it was no more than 
a ladder — crossed a small courtyard, traversed 
a passage, and burst into the kitchen, where 
I confronted an astonished white-capped chef 
in the act of lifting a pot from the fire. 

His face was red and wrathful, and I 
thought that he was going to fling the pot at 
my head. I had disturbed him in some deli- 

179 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

cate operation, and his artist's pride was out- 
raged. 

"Monsieur," I stammered in French, "I 
seek your pardon for my intrusion. There 
were circumstances which compelled me to 
enter this house by the back premises. I am 
an acquaintance of His Excellency, your pa- 
tron, and an old friend of Monsieur Felix. 
I beg you of your kindness to direct me to 
Monsieur Felix's room, or to bid some one 
take me there." 

My abject apologies mollified him. 

"It is a grave offence, monsieur," he said, 
"an unparalleled offence, to enter my kitchen 
at this hour. I fear you have irremediably 
spoiled the new casserole dish that I was en- 
deavouring to compose." 

I was ready to go on my knees to the of- 
fended artist. 

"It grieves me indeed to have interfered 
with so rare an art, which I have often ad- 
mired at His Excellency's table. But there 
is danger behind me and an urgent mission in 
front. Monsieur will forgive me? Neces- 

180 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

sity will, sometimes, overrule the finest sen- 
sibility." 

He bowed to me and I bowed to him, and 
my pardon was assured. 

Suddenly a door opened, another than that 
by which I had entered, and a man appeared 
whom I took to be a footman. He was strug- 
gling into his livery coat, but at the sight of 
me he dropped it. I thought I recognised 
the face as that of the man who had emerged 
from the public-house and tried to cut me off. 

" 'Ere, Mister Alphonse," he cried, " 'elp 
me to collar this man. The police are after 
'im." 

"You forget, my friend," I said, "that an 
Embassy is privileged ground which the po- 
lice can't enter. I desire to be taken before 
His Excellency." 

"So that's yer game," he shouted. "But 
two can play at that. 'Ere, give me an 'and, 
moosoo, and we'll 'ave him in the street in a 
jiffy. There's two 'undred of the best in our 
pockets if we 'ands 'im over to them as wants 



'im." 



181 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

The cook looked puzzled and a little 
frightened. 

"Will you allow them to outrage your 
kitchen — an Embassy kitchen too — without 
your consent?" I said. 

"What have you done?" he asked in French. 

"Only what your patron will approve," I 
replied in the same tongue. "Messieurs les 
assassins have a grudge against me." 

He still hesitated, while the young footman 
advanced on me. He was fingering some- 
thing in his trousers pocket which I did not 
like. 

Now was the time when, as they say in 
America, I should have got busy with my 
gun; but alas! I had no gun. I feared sup- 
ports for the enemy, for the footman at the 
first sight of me had run back the way he had 
come, and I had heard a low whistle. 

What might have happened I do not know, 
had not the god appeared from the machine 
in the person of Hewins, the butler. 

"Hewins," I said, "you know me. I have 
often dined here, and you know that I am a 

182 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

friend of Monsieur Felix. I am on my way 
to see him on an urgent matter, and for vari- 
ous reasons I had to enter by Monsieur Al- 
phonse's kitchen. Will you take me at once 
to Monsieur Felix?" 

Hewins bowed, and on his imperturbable 
face there appeared no sign of surprise. 
"This way, sir," was all he said. 

As I followed him I saw the footman 
plucking nervously at the something in his 
trousers-pocket. Lumley's agents apparently 
had not always the courage to follow his in- 
structions to the letter, for I made no doubt 
that the order had been to take me alive or 
dead. 

I found Felix alone, and flung myself into 
an arm-chair. "My dear chap," I said, "take 
my advice and advise His Excellency to sack 
the red-haired footman." 

From that moment I date that sense of 
mastery over a situation which drives out 
fear. I had been living for weeks under a 
dark pall and suddenly the skies had light- 
ened. I had found sanctuary. What- 

183 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ever happened to me now the worst was past, 
for I had done my job. 

Felix was looking at me curiously, for, 
jaded, scarlet, dishevelled, I was an odd figure 
for a London afternoon. "Things seem to 
have been marching fast with you," he said. 

"They have, but I think the march is over. 
I want to ask several favours. First, here is a 
document which sets out certain facts. I shall 
ring up Macgillivray at Scotland Yard and 
ask him to come here at 9.30 this evening. 
When he comes I want you to give him this 
and ask him to read it at once. He will know 
how to act on it." 

Felix nodded. "And the next?" 

"Give me a telegraph form. I want a wire 
sent at once by someone who can be trusted." 
He handed me a form and I wrote out a tele- 
gram to Lumley at the Albany, saying that I 
proposed to call upon him that evening at 8 
sharp, and asking him to receive me. 

"Next?" said Felix. 

"Next and last, I want a room with a door 
which will lock, a hot bath, and something to 

184 



I FIND SANCTUARY 

eat about seven. I might be permitted to taste 
Monsieur Alphonse's new casserole dish." 

I rang up Macgillivray, reminded him of 
his promise, and told him what awaited him 
at 9.30. Then I had a wash, and afterwards at 
my leisure gave Felix a sketch of the day's 
doings. I have never felt more completely at 
my ease, for whatever happened I was certain 
that I had spoiled Lumley's game. He would 
know by now that I had reached the Embassy, 
and that any further attempts on my life and 
liberty were futile. My telegram would 
show him that I was prepared to offer terms, 
and I would certainly be permitted to reach 
the Albany unmolested. To the meeting with 
my adversary I looked forward without 
qualms, but with the most lively interest. I 
had my own theories about that distinguished 
criminal, and I hoped to bring them to the 
proof. 

Just before seven I had a reply to my wire. 
Mr. Lumley said he would be delighted to see 
me. The telegram was directed to me at the 
Embassy, though I had put no address on 

185 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

the one I sent. Lumley of course knew all 
my movements. I could picture him sitting 
in his chair, like some Chief of Staff, receiv- 
ing every few minutes the reports of his 
agents. All the same Napoleon had fought 
his Waterloo. 



86 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE POWER-HOUSE 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE POWER-HOUSE 

I LEFT Belgrave Square about a quarter 
to eight and retraced my steps along the 
route which for me that afternoon had been 
so full of tremors. I was still being watched 
— a little observation told me that — but I 
would not be interfered with, provided my 
way lay in a certain direction. So completely 
without nervousness was I that at the top of 
Constitution Hill I struck into the Green 
Park and kept to the grass till I emerged into 
Piccadilly, opposite Devonshire House. A 
light wind had risen and the evening had 
grown pleasantly cool. I met several men I 
knew going out to dinner on foot and stopped 
to exchange greetings. From my clothes they 
thought I had just returned from a day in 
the country. 

I reached the Albany as the clock was strik- 
189 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

ing eight. Lumley's rooms were on the first 
floor, and I was evidently expected, for the 
porter himself conducted me to them and 
waited by me till the door was opened by a 
man-servant. 

You know those rococo, late Georgian Al- 
bany rooms, large, square, clumsily corniced. 
Lumley's was lined with books, which I saw 
at a glance were of a different type from those 
in his working library at his country house. 
This was the collection of a bibliophile, and 
in the light of the summer evening the rows 
of tall volumes in vellum and morocco lined 
the walls like some rich tapestry. 

The valet retired and shut the door, and 
presently from a little inner chamber came his 
master. He was dressed for dinner and wore 
more than ever the air of the eminent diplo- 
mat. Again I had the old feeling of incre- 
dulity. It was the Lumley I had met two 
nights before at dinner, the friend of Viceroys 
and Cabinet Ministers. It was hard to con- 
nect him with Antioch Street or the red- 
haired footman with a pistol. Or with Tuke? 

190 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

Yes, I decided, Tuke fitted into the frame. 
Both were brains cut loose from the decencies 
that make life possible. 

"Good evening, Mr. Leithen," he said 
pleasantly. "As you have fixed the hour of 
eight, may I offer you dinner?" 

"Thank you," I replied, "but I have already 
dined. I have chosen an awkward time, but 
my business need not take long." 

"So," he said. "I am always glad to see 
you at any hour." 

"And I prefer to see the master rather than 
the subordinates who have been infesting my 
life during the past week." 

We both laughed. "I am afraid you have 
had some annoyance, Mr. Leithen," he said. 
"But remember, I gave you fair warning." 

"True. And I have come to do the same 
kindness to you. That part of the game, at 
any rate, is over." 

"Over?" he queried, raising his eyebrows. 

"Yes, over," I said, and took out my watch. 
"Let us be quite frank with each other, Mr. 
Lumley. There is really very little time to 

191 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

waste. As you have doubtless read the paper 
which you stole from my friend this morning 
you know more or less the extent of my in- 
formation." 

"Let us have frankness by all means. Yes, 
I have read your paper. A very creditable 
piece of work, if I may say so. You will rise 
in your profession, Mr. Leithen. But surely 
you must realise that it carries you a very lit- 
tle way." 

"In a sense you are right. I am not in a 
position to reveal the full extent of your mis- 
deeds. Of the Power-House and its doings I 
can only guess. But Pitt-Heron is on his way 
home, and he will be carefully safeguarded 
on that journey. Your creature, Saronov, has 
confessed. We shall know more very soon, 
and meantime I have clear evidence which 
implicates you in a conspiracy to murder." 

He did not answer, but I wished I could 
see behind his tinted spectacles to the look in 
his eyes. I think he had not been quite pre- 
pared for the line I took. 

"I need not tell you as a lawyer, Mr. Lei- 
192 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

then," he said at last, "that what seems good 
evidence on paper is often feeble enough in 
Court. You cannot suppose that I will tame- 
ly plead guilty to your charges. On the con- 
trary, I will fight them with all the force that 
brains and money can give. You are an in- 
genious young man, but you are not the bright- 
est jewel of the English Bar." 

"That also is true. I do not deny that some 
of my evidence may be weakened at the trial. 
It is even conceivable that you may be ac- 
quitted on some technical doubt. But you 
have forgotten one thing. From the day you 
leave the Court you will be a suspected man. 
The police of all Europe will be on your 
trail. You have been highly successful in the 
past, and why? Because you have been above 
suspicion, an honourable and distinguished 
gentleman, belonging to the best clubs, count- 
ing as your acquaintances the flower of our 
society. Now you will be a suspect, a man 
with a past, a centre of strange stories. I put 
it to you — how far are you likely to succeed 
under these conditions?" 

193 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

He laughed. 

"You have a talent for character drawing, 
my friend. What makes you think that I can 
work only if I live in the limelight of popu- 
larity?" 

"The talent you mentioned," I said. "As I 
read your character — and I think I am right 
— you are an artist in crime. You are not the 
common cut-throat who acts out of passion or 
greed. No, I think you are something subtler 
than that. You love power, hidden power. 
You flatter your vanity by despising mankind 
and making them your tools. You scorn the 
smattering of inaccuracies which passes for 
human knowledge, and I will not venture to 
say you are wrong. Therefore you use your 
brains to frustrate it. Unhappily the life of 
millions is built on that smattering, so you are 
a foe to society. But there would be no fla- 
vour in controlling subterranean things if you 
were yourself a mole working in the dark. 
To get the full flavour, the irony of it all, 
you must live in the light. I can imagine you 
laughing in your soul as you move about our 

194 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

world, praising it with your lips, patting it 
with your hands, and kicking its props away 
with your feet. I can see the chami of it. 
But it is over now." 

"Over?" he asked. 

"Over," I repeated. "The end has come — 
the utter, final and absolute end." 

He made a sudden, odd, nervous move- 
ment, pushing his glasses close back upon his 
eyes. 

"What about yourself?" he said hoarsely. 
"Do you think you can play against me with- 
out suffering desperate penalties?" 

He was holding a cord in his hand with a 
knob on the end of it. He now touched a 
button in the knob and there came the faint 
sound of a bell. 

The door was behind me and he was look- 
ing beyond me towards it. I was entirely at 
his mercy, but I never budged an inch. I do 
not know how I managed to keep calm, but I 
did it, and without much effort. I went on 
speaking, conscious that the door had opened 
and that someone was at my back. 

195 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

"It is really quite useless trying to frighten 
me. I am safe, because I am dealing with an 
intelligent man and not with the ordinary 
half-witted criminal. You do not want my 
life in silly revenge. If you call in your men 
and strangle me between you what earthly 
good would it do you?" 

He was looking beyond me and the passion 
— a sudden white-hot passion like an epilepsy 
— was dying out of his face. 

"A mistake, James," he said. "You can 

go." 

The door closed softly at my back. 

"Yes. A mistake. I have a considerable 
admiration for you, Mr. Lumley, and should 
be sorry to be disappointed." 

He laughed quite like an ordinary mortal. 
"I am glad this affair is to be conducted on a 
basis of mutual respect. Now that the melo- 
dramatic overture is finished, let us get to 
the business." 

"By all means," I said. "I promised to 
deal with you frankly. Well, let me put my 
last cards on the table. At half-past nine pre- 

196 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

cisely the duplicate of that statement of mine 
which you annexed this morning will be 
handed to Scotland Yard. I may add that the 
authorities there know me, and are proceed- 
ing under my advice. When they read that 
statement they will act on it. You have there- 
fore about one and a half, or say one and 
three-quarter hours to make up your mind. 
You can still secure your freedom, but it must 
be elsewhere than in England." 

He had risen to his feet, and was pacing up 
and down the room. 

"Will you oblige me by telling me one 
thing," he said. "If you believe me to be, as 
you say, a dangerous criminal, how do you 
reconcile it with your conscience to give me a 
chance of escape? It is your duty to bring me 
to justice." 

"I will tell you why," I said. "I, too, have 
a weak joint in my armour. Yours is that you 
only succeed under the disguise of high re- 
spectability. That disguise, in any case, will 
be stripped from you. Mine is Pitt-Heron. 
I do not know how far he has entangled him- 

197 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

self with you, but I know something of his 
weakness, and I don't want his career ruined 
and his wife's heart broken. He has learned 
his lesson, and will never mention you and 
your schemes to a mortal soul. Indeed, if I 
can help it, he will never know that anyone 
shares his secret. The price of the chance of 
escape I offer you is that Pitt-Heron's past 
be buried for ever." 

He did not answer. He had his arms 
folded, walking up and down the room, and 
suddenly seemed to have aged enormously. 
I had the impression that I was dealing with 
a very old man. 

"Mr. Leithen," he said at last, "you are 
bold. You have a frankness which almost 
amounts to genius. You are wasted in your 
stupid profession, but your speculative powers 
are not equal to your other endowments, so 
you will probably remain in it, deterred by an 
illogical scruple from following your true 
bent. Your true metier, believe me, is what 
shallow people call crime. Speaking 'with- 
out prejudice,' as the idiot solicitors say, it 

198 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

would appear that we have both weak spots 
in our cases. Mine, you say, is that I can only 
work by using the conventions of what we 
agreed to call the Machine. There may be 
truth in that. Yours is that you have a friend 
who lacks your iron-clad discretion. You 
offer a plan which saves both our weaknesses. 
By the way, what is it?" 

I looked at my watch again. "You have 
ample time to catch the night express to 
Paris." 

"And if not?" 

"Then I am afraid there may be trouble 
with the police between ten and eleven 
o'clock." 

"Which for all our sakes would be a pity. 
Do you know you interest me uncommonly, 
for you confirm the accuracy of my judgment. 
I have always had a notion that some day I 
should run across to my sorrow just such a 
man as you. A man of very great intellectual 
power I can deal with, for that kind of brain 
is usually combined with the sort of high- 
strung imagination on which I can work. The 

199 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

same with your over-imaginative man. Yes 
Pitt-Heron was of that type. Ordinary brains 
do not trouble me, for I puzzle them. Now 
you are a man of good average intelligence. 
Pray forgive the lukewarmness of the phrase; 
it is really a high compliment, for I am 
an austere critic. If you were that and no 
more you would not have succeeded. But you 
possess also a quite irrelevant gift of imagina- 
tion. Not enough to upset your balance, but 
enough to do what your mere lawyer's talent 
could never have done. You have achieved a 
feat which is given to few — you have partially 
understood me. Believe me, I rate you high. 
You are the kind of four-square being bedded 
in the concrete of our civilisation, on whom I 
have always felt I might some day come to 
grief. . . . No, no, I am not trying to wheedle 
you. If I thought I could do that I should be 
sorry, for my discernment would have been at 
fault" 

"I warn you," I said, "that you are wasting 
precious time." 

He laughed quite cheerfully. 
200 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

"I believe you are really anxious about my 
interests," he said. "That is a triumph in- 
deed. Do you know, Mr. Leithen, it is a mere 
whimsy of fate that you are not my disciple. 
If we had met earlier and under other circum- 
stances I should have captured you. It is be- 
cause you have in you a capacity for disciple- 
ship that you have succeeded in your opposi- 
tion." 

"I abominate you and all your works," I 
said, "but I admire your courage." 

He shook his head gently. 

"It is the wrong word. I am not cour- 
ageous. To be brave means that you have 
conquered fear, but I have never had any fear 
to conquer. Believe me, Mr. Leithen, I am 
quite impervious to threats. You come to me 
to-night and hold a pistol to my head. You 
offer me two alternatives, both of which mean 
failure. But how do you know that I regard 
them as failure? I have had what they call a 
good run for my money. No man since Na- 
poleon has tasted such power. I may be will- 
ing to end it. Age creeps on and power may 

20 1 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

grow burdensome. I have always sat loose 
from common ambitions and common affec- 
tions. For all you know I may regard you as 
a benefactor." 

All this talk looks futile when it is written 
down, but it was skilful enough, for it was 
taking every atom of exhilaration out of my 
victory. It was not idle brag. Every syllable 
rang true, as I knew in my bones. I felt my- 
self in the presence of something enormously 
big, as if a small barbarian was desecrating 
the colossal Zeus of Pheidias with a coal ham- 
mer. But I also felt it inhuman, and I hated 
it and I clung to that hatred. 

"You fear nothing and you believe noth- 
ing, I said. "Man, you should never have 
been allowed to live." 

He raised a deprecating hand. "I am a 
sceptic about most things," he said, "but, be- 
lieve me, I have my own worship. I venerate 
the intellect of man. I believe in its un- 
dreamed-of possibilities, when it grows free 
like an oak in the forest and is not dwarfed 
in a flower-pot. From that allegiance I have 

202 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

never wavered. That is the God I have never 
forsworn." 

I took out my watch. 

"Permit me again to remind you that time 
presses." 

"True," he said smiling, "the continental 
express will not wait upon my confession. 
Your plan is certainly conceivable. There 
may be other and easier ways. I am not cer- 
tain. I must think. . . . Perhaps it would be 
wiser if you left me now, Mr. Leithen. If I 
take your advice there will be various things 
to do. . . . In any case there will be much 
to do. . . ." 

He led me to the door as if he were an 
ordinary host speeding an ordinary guest. I 
remember that on my way he pointed out a 
set of Aldines and called my attention to their 
beauty. He shook hands quite cordially and 
remarked on the fineness of the weather. 
That was the last I saw of this amazing man. 

It was with profound relief that I found 
myself in Piccadilly in the wholesome com- 
pany of my kind. I had carried myself boldly 

203 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

enough in the last hour, but I would not have 
gone through it again for a king's ransom. 
Do you know what it is to deal with a pure 
intelligence, a brain stripped of every shred 
of humanity? It is like being in the company 
of a snake. 

I drove to the club and telephoned to Mac- 
gillivray, asking him to take no notice of my 
statement till he heard from me in the morn- 
ing. Then I went to the hospital to see Chap- 
man. 

That leader of the people was in a furious 
temper and he was scarcely to be appeased by 
my narrative of the day's doings. Your La- 
bour Member is the greatest of all sticklers 
for legality, and the outrage he had suffered 
that morning had grievously weakened his 
trust in public security. The Antioch Street 
business had seemed to him eminently right; 
if you once got mixed up in melodrama you 
had to expect such things. But for a Member 
of Parliament to be robbed in broad daylight 
next door to the House of Commons upset the 
foundations of his faith. There was little the 

204 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

matter with his body and the doctor promised 
that he would be allowed up next day, but his 
soul was a mass of bruises. 

It took me a lot of persuasion to get him to 
keep quiet. He wanted a public exposure of 
Lumley, a big trial, a general ferreting out 
of secret agents, the whole winding up with a 
speech in Parliament by himself on this last 
outrage of Capitalism. Gloomily he listened 
to my injunctions to silence. But he saw the 
reason of it and promised to hold his tongue 
out of loyalty to Tommy. I knew that Pitt- 
Heron's secret was safe with him. 

As I crossed Westminster Bridge on my 
way home the night express to the Continent 
rumbled over the river. I wondered if Lum- 
ley was on board or if he had taken one of the 
other ways of which he had spoken. 



205 



CHAPTER IX 
RETURN OF THE WILD GEESE 



CHAPTER IX 

RETURN OF THE WILD GEESE 

I DO not think I was surprised at the news 
I read in The Times next morning. 
Mr. Andrew Lumley had died suddenly in 
the night of heart failure, and the newspapers 
woke up to the fact that we had been enter- 
taining a great man unawares. There was an 
obituary in "leader" type of nearly two col- 
umns. He had been older than I thought — 
close on seventy — and The Times spoke of 
him as a man who might have done anything 
he pleased in public life, but had chosen to 
give to a small coterie of friends what was 
due to the country. I read of his wit and 
learning, his amazing connoisseurship, his so- 
cial gifts, his personal charm. According to 
the writer, he was the finest type of cultivated 
amateur, a Beckford with more than a Beck- 
ford's wealth and none of his folly. Large 

209 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

private charities were hinted at, and a hope 
was expressed that some part at least of his 
collections might come to the nation. 

The halfpenny papers said the same thing 
in their own way. One declared he reminded 
it of Atticus, another of Maecenas, another of 
Lord Houghton. There must have been a 
great run on biographical dictionaries in the 
various offices. Chapman's own particular 
rag said that, although this kind of philan- 
thropist was a dilettante and a back-number, 
yet Mr. Lumley was a good specimen of the 
class and had been a true friend to the poor. 
I thought Chapman would have a fit when he 
read this. After that he took in the Morning 
Post. 

It was no business of mine to explode the 
myth. Indeed I couldn't even if I had wanted 
to, for no one would have believed me unless 
I produced proofs, and these proofs were not 
to be made public. Besides I had an honest 
compunction. He had had, as he expressed 
it, a good run for his money, and I wanted the 
run to be properly rounded off. 

210 



RETURN OF THE WILD GEESE 

Three days later I went to the funeral. It 
was a wonderful occasion. Two eminent 
statesmen were among the pallbearers, Roy- 
alty was represented, and there were wreaths 
from learned societies and scores of notable 
people. It was a queer business to listen to 
that stately service which was never read over 
stranger dust. I was thinking all the time of 
the vast subterranean machine which he had 
controlled, and which now was so much old 
iron. I could dimly imagine what his death 
meant to the hosts who had worked blindly 
at his direction. He was a Napoleon who left 
no Marshals behind him. From the Power- 
House came no wreaths or newspaper trib- 
utes, but I knew that it had lost its power. . . . 

De mortuis, etc. My task was done, and it 
only remained to get Pitt-Heron home. 

Of the three people in London besides my- 
self who knew the story — Macgiilivray, Chap- 
man and Felix — the two last might be trusted 
to be silent, and Scotland Yard is not in the 
habit of publishing its information. Tommy, 
of course, must some time or other be told; it 

211 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

was his right; but I knew that Tommy would 
never breathe a word of it. I wanted Charles 
to believe that his secret died with Lumley, 
for otherwise I don't think he would have 
ever come back to England. 

The thing took some arranging, for we 
could not tell him directly about Lumley's 
death without giving away the fact that we 
knew of the connection between the two. We 
had to approach it by a roundabout road. I 
got Felix to arrange to have the news tele- 
graphed to and inserted by special order in a 
Russian paper which Charles could not avoid 
seeing. 

The device was successful. Calling at 
Portman Square a few days later I learned 
from Ethel Pitt-Heron's glowing face that 
her troubles were over. That same evening a 
cable to me from Tommy announced the re- 
turn of the wanderers. 

It was the year of the Chilian Arbitration, 
in which I held a junior brief for the British 

212 



RETURN OF THE WILD GEESE 

Government, and that and the late sitting of 
Parliament kept me in London after the end 
of the term. I had had a bad reaction from 
the excitements of the summer, and in these 
days I was feeling pretty well hipped and 
overdone. On a hot August afternoon I met 
Tommy again. 

The sun was shining through my Temple 
chambers, much as it had done when he 
started. So far as I remember the West Ham 
brief which had aroused his contempt was 
still adorning my table. I was very hot and 
cross and fagged, for I had been engaged in 
the beastly job of comparing half a dozen 
maps of a despicable little bit of South Amer- 
ican frontier. 

Suddenly the door opened, and Tommy, 
lean and sunburnt, stalked in. 

"Still at the old grind," he cried, after we 
had shaken hands. "Fellows like you give me 
a notion of the meaning of Eternity." 

"The same uneventful sedentary life," I re- 
plied. "Nothing happens except that my 

213 



THE POWER-HOUSE 

scale of fees grows. I suppose nothing will 
happen till the conductor comes to take the 
tickets. I shall soon grow fat." 

"I notice it already, my lad. You want a 
bit of waking up or you'll get a liver. A little 
sensation would do you a lot of good." 

"And you?" I asked. "I congratulate you 
on your success. I hear you have retrieved 
Pitt-Heron for his mourning family." 

Tommy's laughing eyes grew solemn. 

"I have had the time of my life," he said. 
"It was like a chapter out of the Arabian 
Nights with a dash of Fenimore Cooper. I 
feel as if I had lived years since I left Eng- 
land in May. While you have been sitting 
among your musty papers we have been rid- 
ing like moss-troopers and seeing men die. 
Come and dine to-night and hear about our 
adventures. I can't tell you the full story, for 
I don't know it, but there is enough to curl 
your hair." 

Then I achieved my first and last score at 
the expense of Tommy Deloraine. 

214 



RETURN OF THE WILD GEESE 

"No," I said, "you will dine with me in- 
stead and / will tell you the full story. All 
the papers on the subject are over there in my 
safe." 



THE END 



215 




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