By Leslie Charteris
COMPANY • NEW YORK
1930 by Doubleday & Co., Inc. Printed in U. S. A.
1. How Simon
Templar went for a drive, and saw a strange sight
2. How Simon
Templar read newspapers, and understood what was not written
3. How Simon
Templar returned to Esher, and decided to go there again
4. How Simon
Templar lost an
automobile, and won an argument
5. How Simon
Templar went back to Brook Street, and what
6. How Roger
Conway drove the Hirondel, and the Saint took a knife in his hand
7. How Simon
Templar was Saintly, and received another visitor
8. How Simon
Templar entertained his guest and broke up the party
9. How Roger
Conway was careless, and Hermann also made a mistake
Simon Templar drove to Bures, and two policemen jumped in time
11. How Roger
Conway told the truth and Inspector Teal believed a lie
12. How Simon
Templar parted with Anna, and took Patricia in his arms
13. How Simon
Templar was besieged,
and Patricia Holm cried for help
14. How Roger
Conway drove the Hirondel, and Norman Kent looked back
Vargan gave his answer,
and Simon Templar
wrote a letter
16. How Simon Templar pronounced sentence, and Norman Kent went
to fetch his cigarette-case
17. How Simon
Templar exchanged backchat, and Gerald Harding shook hands
18. How Simon
Templar received Marius, and the Crown
19. How Simon Templar went to his lady, and Norman Kent answered the trumpet
This was the first "big" Saint novel—that is, the first story
in which he went up against king-size international dragons, as against
the ordinary leeches, rats, skunks, and other vermin of the
Underworld—and it still seems to be one of the prime favorites of those
loyal readers who have followed his adventures almost from the beginning.
For the benefit of those who may be taking up
the series so much
later, however, I feel it may be necessary to slip in this reminder that the book was written in 1929, when
the world was politically,
technologically, and temperamentally a totally different place from the one we
live in today.
In those days, there was a genuine widespread
suspicion, which I was inclined to share with a great many of my
generation, that modern wars were plotted and deliberately engineered by
vast mysterious financial cartels for their own enrichment. There was also a
vague idea that fighting, itself, was still a fairly glamorous activity, or
would be if the scientists would leave it alone. No doubt there were
romantics in other periods who thought it was more sporting to be shot at
with arrows than with bullets, and they were followed by others who
thought that rifles were more fun than machine-guns and howitzers,
and after them came those who thought that poison gas the last step to reducing glorious war
This book is based on the Saint's accidental discovery
that the usual slightly goofy scientist has dreamed up something called an
"electron cloud", a sort of extension of the gas horror with
radioactive overtones, and his decision that it should not only be kept out of
the hands of the stateless war-mongers, but for the good of humanity should be
suppressed altogether, on the theory that this would still leave
heroes happily free to enjoy the relatively good clean fun of air
raids and ordinary mustard gas. (The original title of the book was The
Last Hero, and in it the Saint first expounded his
philosophy of "battle, murder, and sudden death" as a joyous
form of self-expression.)
Well, this was an attitude of youth which of
course I shared with him, or he got from me. And in those days there were no mushroom
clouds on the horizon to make even Vargan's electron cloud look
like a comparatively harmless toy. But this should not for a
moment be taken to imply that either of us, today, would be
supporters of the "Ban the Bomb" kind foggy-minded
idealism. There are many things which seemed like eternal truths to
both of us in those days, which no longer look so immutable. In
fact, I myself am often tempted now to lean with the
optimists who think that the Bomb may actually achieve what the
moralists failed to do, and abolish major warfare by making it
impossible for anyone, financier or despot, to hope to profit
Be tolerant, then, of one or two outworn
ideas, and enjoy it simply as a rattling good adventure story of its time,
which I think it still is.
It is said that in these hectic days no item
of news is capable of holding the interest of the public for more than a
week; wherefore journalists and news editors age swiftly, and become prematurely
bald and bad-tempered, Tatcho and Kruschen availing them naught.
A new sensation must be provided from day to day, and each sensation must
eclipse its predecessor, till the dictionary is bled dry of
superlatives, and the imagination pales before the task of finding or
inventing for to-morrow a story fantastic and colossal enough to
succeed the masterpiece
That the notorious adventurer known as the
Saint should have contrived to keep in the public eye for more than
three months from the date of his first manifestation, thereby smithereening
all records of that kind, was due entirely to his own energy and
initiative. The harassed sensationalists of Fleet Street welcomed him
with open arms. For a time the fevered hunt for novelty could
take a rest. The Saint himself did everything in that line that the most
exacting editor could have asked for—except, of course, that he
failed to provide the culminating sensation of his own arrest and trial.
But each of his adventures was more audacious than the last, and
he never gave the interest aroused by his latest activity time to die down
before he burst again upon a startled public with a yet more daring coup.
And the same enterprising lawlessness
continued for over three months, in the course of which time he brought to a
triumphant conclusion some twenty raids upon the persons and property of evildoers.
Thus it came to pass that in those three
months the name of the Saint gathered about itself an aura of almost
supernatural awe and terror, so that men who had for years boasted that
the law could not touch them began to walk in fear; and the warning of
the Saint—a ridiculous picture of a little man with one-dimensional body
and limbs, such as children draw, but wearing above his blank round head an
absurd halo such as it rarely occurs to children to add to their
drawings—delivered to a man's door in a plain envelope, was found to be as
fatal as any sentence ever signed by a Judge of the High Court. Which was
exactly what the Saint himself had desired should happen. It amused him
For the most part, he worked secretly and
unseen, and his victims could give the police nothing tangible in the way
of clues by which he might have been traced. Yet sometimes it was inevitable
that he should be known to the man whose downfall he was engineering; and, when
that happened, the grim silence of the injured party was one of the most
surprising features of the mystery. Chief Inspector Teal, after a number of
fruitless attempts, had resigned himself to giving up as a bad job
the task of trying to make the victims of the Saint give evidence.
"You might as well try to get a squeak
out of a deaf-and-dumb oyster in a tank of chloroform," he told the
Commissioner. "Either the Saint never tackles a man on one count unless he's
got a second count against him by which he can blackmail him to
silence, or else he's found the secret of threatening a man so
convincingly that he still believes it the next day—and all the days
His theory was shrewd and sound enough, but
it would have been shrewder and sounder and more elaborate if he
had been a more imaginative man; but Mr. Teal had little confidence in
things he could not see and take hold of, and he had never had a chance
of watching the Saint in action.
There were, however, other occasions when the
Saint had no need to fall back upon blackmail or threats to insure
the silence of
those with whose careers he interfered.
There was, for instance, the case of a man
named Golter, an anarchist and incorrigible firebrand, whose boast it was
that he had known the inside of every prison in Europe. He belonged to
no political faction, and apparently had no gospel to forward except his own
mania for destruction; but he was anything but a harmless lunatic.
He was the leader of a society known as the Black Wolves, nearly every member of which had at some time or
another served a heavy sentence for
some kind of political offence— which, more often than not, consisted of an
attempted assassination, usually by bomb.
The reason for such societies, and the
mentality of their adherents, will always provide an interesting
field of speculation for the psychiatrist; but occasions will
arise when the interest ceases to be the abstract diversion of the
scientist, and becomes the practical problem of those whose business it is
to keep peace under the law.
The law awoke to this fact, and
simultaneously to a rather alarmed recognition of the existence of the
Black Wolves, after a week in which two factories in the North of
England were the scenes of explosions which resulted in no little loss of life, and
the bullet of an undiscovered sniper actually grazed across the back of
the Home Secretary as he stepped into his car outside the House
The law found Golter; but the man who had
been detailed to follow him and report on his movements somehow
contrived to lose him on the afternoon in which a Crown Prince drove
in state through the streets of London on his way to a luncheon given
by the Lord Mayor.
The procession was arranged to pass by way of
the Strand and Fleet Street to the City. From a tiny office which he
had rented for the purpose in Southampton Row, of which the police knew
nothing, Golter had found an easy way to the roofs of the houses
on the north side of Fleet Street. He sat there, in a more or
less comfortable position, among the chimney-stacks, from which he could look
down and see the street below, while armed men scoured London for a
trace of him, and a worried Commissioner ordered a doubling of the
plain-clothes detectives stationed along the route.
Golter was a careful and a thoughtful man,
and he had a fair grounding in the principles of dynamics. He knew to
an inch how high he was from the ground, and he had calculated exactly how
many seconds a bomb would take to fall to the street; the fuses of the Mills
bombs in his pockets were adjusted accordingly. Again, in Fleet Street, a
little farther down towards the Strand, he had measured the distance between two
lamp-posts. With the aid of a stop-watch he would discover how long the
leading car took to pass between them; then, by consulting
an elaborate chart which he had prepared, he would be able to
learn at once, without further calculation, exactly at what
instant he had to launch his bombs so that they would fall directly into the
back of the Crown Prince's car as it passed. Golter was proud of the
scientific precision with which he had worked out every detail.
He smoked a cigarette, drumming his heels
gently against the leads. It was fifteen minutes before the procession
was due to arrive at that point, according to the official time-table, and already the street below was
packed with a dense crowd which overflowed
the pavements and wound hampering tentacles into the stream of traffic. The mass of people below looked like ants, Golter thought. Bourgeois insects. He
amused himself by picturing the ant-like confusion that would follow
the detonation of his three bombs. . . .
"Yes, it should be an interesting spectacle."
Golter's head snapped round as though it had
been jerked . by an invisible wire.
He had heard nothing of the arrival of the man
who now stood over him, whose gentle, drawling voice had broken into his
meditations far more shatteringly than any explosion could have done. He saw a
tall, trim, lean figure in a grey fresco suit of incredible
perfection, with a soft grey felt hat whose wide brim shaded pleasant
blue eyes. This man might have posed for any illustration of the latest and
smartest effort of Savile Row in the way of gents' natty
outfitting—that is, if he could have been persuaded to discard the automatic
pistol, which is not generally considered to form an indispensable
adjunct to What the Well‑Dressed Man will Wear this Season.
repeated the unknown, with his blue eyes gazing down in a rather dreamy
way at the throng a hundred feet below. "From a purely artistic
point of view, it's a pity we shan't be able to watch it."
Golter's right hand was sidling towards a
bulging pocket. The stranger, with his automatic swinging in a lazy arc
that centred over Golter's stomach, encouraged the movement.
"But leave the pins in, Beautiful,"
he murmured, "and pass 'em to me one by one. . . . That's a good
He took the bombs in his left hand as Golter
passed them over, and handed them to someone whom Golter could not see—a
second man who stood behind a chimney-stack.
A minute passed, in which Golter stood with
his hands hanging loosely at his sides, waiting for a chance to
make a grab at the gun which the stranger held with such an affectation of negligence. But the
chance never came.
Instead, came a hand from behind the
chimney-stack—a hand holding a bomb. The stranger took the bomb and handed it
back to Golter.
"Put it in your pocket," he
The second and third followed, and Golter,
with his coat once again dragged out of shape by the weight, stood
staring at the stranger, who, he thought, must be a detective, and who yet behaved
in such an incomprehensible manner.
"What did you do that for?" he
"My own reasons," answered the other
calmly. "I am now leaving you. Do you mind?"
Suspicion—fear—perplexity—all these emotions chased and mingled with one another over Golter's unshaven
face. Then inspiration dawned in his
"So you aren't a busy!"
The stranger smiled.
"Unfortunately for you—no. You may have
heard of me. I am called the Saint. . . ."
His left hand flashed in and out of his coat
pocket in a swift movement, and Golter, in the grip of a sudden paralysis of
terror, stared as if hypnotised while the Saint chalked his grotesque trade-mark on the
The the Saint spoke again.
"You are not human. You are a
destroyer—an insane killer without any justification but your own lust
for blood. If you had had any motive, I might have handed you over to the
police, who are at this moment combing London for you. I am not here
to judge any man's creed. But for you there can be no excuse. ..."
He had vanished when Golter looked round for
him, wondering why the condemnation did not continue, and the
roof was deserted. The Saint had a knack of disappearing like that.
The procession was approaching. Golter could
hear the cheering growing rapidly louder, like the roar of many
released from burst flood-gates. He peered down. A hundred yards away he could see the leading car crawling through the lane of human ants.
His brain was still reeling to encompass the
understanding of what the Saint had come to do. The Saint had been
there, accusing—and then he had gone, giving Golter back his bombs.
Golter could have believed himself to have been the victim of a hallucination.
But the fantastic sketch on the chimney-stack remained to prove that he had
not been dreaming.
With an hysterical sweep of his arm, he
smeared his sleeve over the drawing, and took from his pocket his stop-watch
and the time-chart he had made. The leading car had just reached the
first of the two lamp-posts on which he had based his calculations. He
watched it in a kind of daze.
The Crown Prince drove in the third car.
Golter recognised the uniform. The Prince was saluting the crowd.
Golter found himself trembling as he took the
first bomb from his pocket and drew the pin; but he threw it on the very
instant that his stopwatch and chart indicated.
"The true details of the case,"
wrote the Daily Record, some days later, "are likely to remain a
mystery for ever, unless the Saint should one day elect to come
out into the open and elucidate them. Until then the curiosity of the public
must be satisfied with the findings of the committee of Scotland Yard
experts who have been investigating the affair—'that in some way
the Saint succeeded in so tampering with the fuses of the Mills Bombs
with which Golter intended to attempt the life of the Crown Prince, that
they exploded the moment he released the spring handle, thereby
blowing him to pieces. . . .'
"Whatever the opinions which may be
expressed concerning the arrogance of this gentleman who presumes to take
the law into his own lawless hands, it cannot be denied that in this case
his intervention undoubtedly saved the life of our royal guest; and few will be
found to deny that justice was done—though perhaps it was justice of too
poetic a character to be generally accepted as a precedent. . . ."
With this sensational climax, which put the
name of the Saint on the lips of every man and woman in the civilised world, came
the end of a clearly defined chapter in his history.
The sensation died down, as the most amazing
sensations will die down for lack of re‑stimulation. In an
open letter which was published in every newspaper throughout Europe, the Crown
Prince offered his thanks to the unknown, and promised that the debt should not
be forgotten if at any time the Saint should stand in need of help from
high places. The British Government followed almost immediately with the
offer of a free pardon for all past offences on condition that the Saint
revealed himself and took an oath to turn his energy and ingenuity into
more legitimate channels. The only answer was a considered letter of
acknowledgment and regretful refusal, posted simultaneously to all the leading
"Unfortunately," wrote the Saint,
"I am convinced, and my friends with me, that for us to disband at the
very moment when our campaign is beginning to justify itself in the
crime statistics of London—and (which is even more important) in those more subtle offences
against the moral code about which there can
be no statistics—would be an act of indefensible cowardice on my part. We cannot be tempted by the mere promise of safety for ourselves to betray the
motive which brought us together. The
game is more than the player of the game.
. . . Also, speaking for myself, I should find a respectable life intolerably dull. It isn't easy to get
out of the rut these days: you have to
be a rebel, and you're more likely to end
up in Wormwood Scrubs than Westminster Abbey. But I believe, as I have never believed anything before,
that I am on the right road. The
things of value are the common, primitive
things. Justice is good—when it's done fanatically. Fighting is good—when the thing you fight for is simple
and sane and you love it. And danger
is good—it wakes you up, and makes you live ten times more keenly. And
vulgar swashbuckling may easily be the best of all—because it stands for a magnificent belief in all those things, a superb
faith in the glamour that civilisation
is trying to sneer at as a delusion and
a snare. ... As long as the ludicrous laws of this country
refuse me these, I shall continue to set those laws at defiance. The pleasure of applying my own treatment to the
human sores whose persistent
festering offends me is one which I will not be denied. . . ."
And yet, strangely enough, an eagerly
expectant public waited in vain for the Saint to follow up this astonishing
manifesto. But day after day went by, and still he held his hand; so that
those who had walked softly, wondering when the uncanny omniscience of
the Unknown would find them out, began to lift up their heads again and boast
themselves with increasing assurance, saying that the Saint was afraid.
A fortnight grew into a month, and the Saint
was rapidly passing into something like a dim legend of bygone ages.
And then, one afternoon in June, yelling
newsboys spread a special edition of the Evening Record through the
streets of London, and men and women stood in impatient arid excited
groups on the pavements and read the most astounding story of the
Saint that had ever been given to the Press.
It was the story that is told again here, as
it has already been retold, by now, half a hundred times. But now it is taken
from a different and more intimate angle, and some details are shown
which have not been told before.
It is the story of how Simon Templar, known
to many as the Saint (plausibly from his initials, but more probably
from his saintly way of doing the most unsaintly things), came by chance upon
a thread which led him to the most amazing adventure of his
career. And it is also the story of Norman Kent, who was his friend,
and how at one moment in that adventure he held the fate of
two nations, if not of all Europe, in his hands; how he
accounted for that stewardship; and how, one quiet summer evening,
in a house by the Thames, with no melodrama and no heroics, he fought and died
for an idea.
1. How Simon Templar went for a drive,
and saw a strange sight
Simon Templar read newspapers rarely, and when
he did read them he skimmed through the pages as quickly as possible
and gleaned information with a hurried eye. Most of the matter offered in
return for his penny was wasted on him. He was not in the least interested
in politics; the announcement that the wife of a Walthamstow
printer had given birth to quadruplets found him unmoved;
articles such as "A Man's Place is in the Home" (by
Anastasia Gowk, the brilliant authoress of Passion in Pimlico) left him
completely cold. But a quarter-column, with photograph, in a paper he bought
one evening for the racing results chanced to catch his roving gaze,
and roused a very faint flicker of attention.
Two coincidences led him from that idly
assimilated item of news to a red-hot scent, the fascination of which for
him was anything but casual.
The first came the next day, when, finding
himself at Ludgate Circus towards one o'clock, it occurred to him to call
in at the Press Club in the hope of finding someone he knew. He found Barney Malone, of the Clarion,
and was promptly invited to lunch, which
was exactly what he had been looking for. The Saint had an ingrained prejudice against lunching alone.
Conversation remained general throughout the
meal, except for one bright interlude.
"I suppose there's nothing new about the
Saint?" asked Simon innocently, and Barney Malone shook his head.
"He seems to have gone out of business."
"I'm only taking a rest," Simon
assured him. "After the calm, the storm. You wait for the next scoop."
Simon Templar always insisted on speaking of
the Saint as "I"—as if he himself was that disreputable outlaw.
Barney Malone, for
all his familiarity with Simon's eccentric sense of humour, was inclined to regard this affectation as a particularly aimless pleasantry.
It was half an hour later, over coffee, that
the Saint recalled the quarter-column which had attracted his attention, and
asked a question about it.
"You may be quite frank with your Uncle
Simon," he said. "He knows all the tricks of the trade,
and you won't disappoint him a bit if you tell him that the chief sub-editor
made it up himself to fill the space at the last moment." Malone grinned.
"Funnily enough, you're wrong. These
scientific discoveries you read about under scare headlines are
usually stunt stuff; but if you weren't so uneducated you'd have
heard of K. B. Vargan. He's quite mad, but as a scientist his class is A
1 at the Royal Society."
"So there may be something in it?"
suggested the Saint. "There may, or there may not. These
inventions have a trick of springing a leak as soon as you take them
out of the laboratory and try using them on a large scale. For instance,
they had a death-ray years ago that would kill mice at twenty yards, but I never
heard of them testing it on an ox at five hundred."
Barney Malone was able to give some
supplementary details of Vargan's invention which the sub-editor's blue
pencil had cut out as unintelligible to the lay public. They were hardly
less unintelligible to Simon Templar, whose scientific knowledge stopped a
long way short of Einstein, but he listened attentively.
"It's curious that you should refer to
it," Malone said, a little later, "because I was only
interviewing the man this morning. He burst into the office about
eleven o'clock, storming and raving like a lunatic because he hadn't been
given the front page."
He gave a graphic description of the
"But what's the use?" asked the
Saint. "There won't be another war for hundreds of years."
"You think so?"
"I'm told so."
Malone's eyebrows lifted in that tolerantly
supercilious way in
which a journalist's eyebrows will sometimes lift when an ignorant outsider ventures an opinion on world
"If you live for another six
months," he said, "I shall expect to see you in
uniform. Or will you conscientiously object?"
Simon tapped a cigarette deliberately on his
"You mean that?"
"I'm desperately serious. We're nearer to
these things than the rest of the public, and we see them coming first. In
another few months the rest of England will see it coming. A lot of funny
things have been happening lately."
Simon waited, suddenly keyed up to interest;
and Barney Malone sucked thoughtfully at his pipe, and presently
"In the last month, three foreigners
have been arrested, tried, and imprisoned for offences against the Official
Secrets Act. In other words, espionage. During the same period, four
Englishmen have been similarly dealt with in different parts of Europe. The
foreign governments concerned have disowned the men we've
pinched; but since a government always disowns its spies as
soon as they get into trouble, on principle, no one ever believes
it. Similarly, we have disclaimed the four Englishmen, and,
naturally, nobody believes us, either—and yet I happen to know
that it's true. If you appreciate really subtle jokes, you might think that one
over, and laugh next time I see you."
The Saint went home in a thoughtful mood.
He had a genius that was all his own—an
imaginative genius that would take a number of ordinary facts, all of
which seemed to be totally unconnected, and none of which, to the eye of
anyone but himself, would have seemed very remarkable, and read them
into a sign-post pointing to a mystery. Adventure came to him
not so much because he sought it as because he brazenly expected it. He
believed that life was full of adventure, and he went forward in the full
blaze and surge of that belief. It has been said of a man very much like
Simon Templar that he was "a man born with the sound of trumpets in his
ears"; that saying might almost equally well have been said of the
Saint, for he also, like Michael Paladin, had heard the sound of the
trumpet, and had moved ever afterwards in the echoes of the
sound of the trumpet, in such a mighty clamour of romance that at least one of
his friends had been moved to call him the last hero, in
desperately earnest jest.
"From battle, murder, and sudden death,
Good Lord, deliver us!' " he quoted once. "How can any live man ask
for that? Why, they're meat and drink—they're the things that make life
worth living! Into battle, murder, and sudden death, Good Lord,
deliver me up to the neck! That's what I say. . . ."
Thus spoke the Saint, that man of superb
recklessness and strange heroisms and impossible ideals; and went on to
show, as few others of his age have shown, that a man inspired can swashbuckle
as well with cloak and stick as any cavalier of history with cloak and
sword, that there can be as much chivalry in the setting of a modern laugh
as there can ever have been in the setting of a medieval lance, that
a true valour and venture finds its way to fulfilment, not so much through
the kind of world into which it happens to be born, as through the heart
with which it lives.
But even he could never have guessed into what
a strange story this genius and this faith of his were to bring
On what he had chanced to read, and what
Barney Malone had told him, the Saint built in his mind a tower of
possibilities whose magnitude, when it was completed, awed even
himself. And then, because he had the priceless gift of taking the products of
his vivid imagination at their practical worth, he filed the fancy away
in his mind as an interesting curiosity, and thought no more
Too much sanity is sometimes dangerous.
Simon Templar was self-conscious about his
imagination. It was the one kind of self-consciousness he had, and certainly
he kept it a secret which no one would have suspected. Those who knew
him said that he was reckless to the point of vain bravado; but they
were never more mistaken. If he had chosen to argue the point, he would have
said that his style was, if anything, cramped by too much caution.
But in this case caution was swept away, and
imagination triumphantly vindicated, by the second coincidence.
This came three days later, when the Saint
awoke one morning to find that the showery weather which had hung over England
for a week had given place to cloudless blue skies and brilliant sunshine. He
hung out of his bedroom window and sniffed the air suspiciously, but he
could smell no rain. Forthwith he decided that the business of annoying
criminals could be pardonably neglected while he took out his car and relaxed in the
"Darling Pat," said the Saint,
"it'd be a crime to waste a day like this!"
"Darling Simon," wailed Patricia
Holm, "you know we'd promised to have dinner with the
"Very darling Pat," said the Saint,
"won't they be disappointed to hear that we've both been suddenly taken
ill after last
So they went, and the Saint enjoyed his
holiday with the comfortable conviction that he had earned it.
They eventually dined at Cobham, and
afterwards sat for a long time over cigarettes and coffee and
matters of intimate moment which have no place here. It was eleven o'clock when
the Saint set the long nose of his Furillac on the homeward road.
Patricia was happily tired; but the Saint
drove very well with one hand.
It was when they were still rather more than
a mile from Esher that the Saint saw the light, and thoughtfully
braked the car to a standstill.
Simon Templar was cursed, or blessed, with an
insatiable inquisitiveness. If ever he saw anything that trespassed
by half an inch over the boundaries of the purely normal and commonplace, he
was immediately fired with the desire to find out the reason for such
erratic behaviour. And it must be admitted that the light had
been no ordinary light.
The average man would undoubtedly have driven
on somewhat puzzledly, would have been haunted for a few days by a vague and
irritating perplexity, and would eventually have forgotten the incident
altogether. Simon Templar has since considered, in all sober earnestness,
what might have been the consequences of his being an average man
at that moment, and has stopped appalled at the vista of horrors opened up
by the thought.
But Simon Templar was not an average man, and
the gift of minding his own business had been left out of his
make-up. He slipped into reverse and sent the car gently back a
matter of thirty yards to the end of a lane which opened off the main road.
A little way down this lane, between the
trees, the silhouette of a gabled house loomed blackly against the
star-powdered sky, and it was in an upper window of this house that the
Saint had seen the
light as he passed. Now he skilfully lighted a cigarette with one hand, and stared down the lane. The light was still there. The Saint contemplated it in silence,
immobile as a watching Indian, till a
fair, sleepy head roused on his shoulder.
"What is it?" asked Patricia.
"That's what I'd like to know,"
answered the Saint, and pointed with the glowing end of his
The blinds were drawn over that upper window,
but the light could be clearly seen behind them—a light of astounding
brilliance, a blindingly white light that came and went in regular, rhythmic
flashes like intermittent flickers of lightning.
The night was as still as a dream, and at
that moment there was
no other traffic on that stretch of road. The Saint reached forward and switched off the engine of the
Furillac. Then he listened—and the
Saint had ears of abnormal sensitiveness— in a quiet so unbroken that he could hear the rustle of the girl's sleeve as she moved her arm.
But the quiet was not silence—it was simply
the absence of any isolated noise. There was sound—a sound so faint and
soothing that it was no more than a neutral background to a silence. It
might have been a soft humming, but it was so soft that it might have
been no more than a dim vibration carried on the air.
"A dynamo," said the Saint; and as
he spoke he opened the door of the car and stepped out into the
Patricia caught his hand.
"Where are you going, Saint?"
Simon's teeth showed white in the Saintly
"I'm going to investigate. A perfectly
ordinary citizen might be running a dynamo to manufacture his own
electric light— although this dynamo sounds a lot heavier than the breed you
usually find in home power plants. But I'm sure no perfectly ordinary
citizen uses his dynamo to make electric sparks that size to amuse the
children. Life has been rather tame lately, and one never knows. . . ."
"I'll come with you."
The Saint grimaced. •
Patricia Holm, he used to say, had given him
two white hairs for every day he had known her. Even since a
memorable day in Devonshire, when he had first met her, and the
hectic days which followed, when she had joined him in the hunting of the man
who was called the Tiger, the Saint had been forcing himself to realise
that to try and keep the girl out of trouble was a hopeless task. By this time he
was getting resigned to her. She was a law
unto herself. She was of a mettle so utterly different to that of any girl he had ever dreamed of, a mettle so much finer and fiercer, that if she had not been
so paradoxically feminine with it he
would have sworn that she ought to
have been a man. She was—well, she was Patricia Holm, and that was that. . . .
"O.K., kid," said the Saint helplessly.
But already she was standing beside him. With
a shrug, the Saint climbed back into his seat and moved the car on half a dozen yards
so that the lights could not be seen from the house. Then he
rejoined her at the corner of the lane.
They went down the lane together.
The house stood in a hedged garden thickly
grown with trees. The Saint, searching warily, found the alarm on
the gate, and disconnected it with an expert hand before he lifted
the latch and let Patricia through to the lawn. From there, looking upwards,
they could see that queer, bleak light still glimmering behind the blinds
of the upper window.
The front of the house was in darkness, and
the ground-floor windows closed and apparently secured. The Saint wasted no
time on those, for he was without the necessary instrument to force the catch
of a window, and he knew that front doors are invariably solid.
Back doors, on the other hand, he knew equally well, are
often vulnerable, for the intelligent foresight of the honest
householder frequently stops short of grasping the fact that the
best-class burglar may on occasion stoop to using the servants'
entrance. The Saint accordingly edged round the side of the house, Patricia
They walked over grass, still damp and spongy
from the rain that had deluged the country for the past six days. The
humming of the dynamo was now unmistakable, and with it could be heard
the thrum and whir of the motor that drove it. The noise seemed, at one
point, to come from beneath their feet.
Then they rounded the second corner, and the
Saint halted so abruptly that Patricia found herself two paces ahead
"This is fun!" whispered the Saint.
And yet by daylight it would have been a
perfectly ordinary sight. Many country houses possess greenhouses, and it is
even conceivable that an enthusiastic horticulturist might have attached to
his house a greenhouse some twenty-five yards long, and high enough to
give a tall man some four feet of headroom.
But such a greenhouse brightly lighted up at
half-past eleven at night is no ordinary spectacle. And the
phenomenon becomes even more extraordinary—to an inquisitive mind like the
Saint's—when the species of vegetable matter for which such an
excellent illumination is provided is screened from the eyes of the
outside world by dark curtains closely drawn under the
Simon Templar needed no encouragement to probe
further into the mystery, and the girl was beside him when he stepped stealthily
to a two-inch gap in the curtains.
A moment later he found Patricia Holm gripping
his arm with hands that trembled ever so slightly.
The interior of the greenhouse was bare of
pots and plants; for four-fifths of its length it was bare of anything at
all. There was a rough concrete floor, and the concrete extended up
the sides of the greenhouse for about three feet, thus forming a kind of
trough. And at one end of the trough there was tethered a goat.
At the other end of the building, on a kind of
staging set on short concrete pillars, stood four men.
The Saint took them in at a glance. Three of
them stood in a little group—a fat little man with a bald head and horn-rimmed
spectacles, a tall, thin man of about forty-five with a high,
narrow forehead and iron-grey hair, and a youngish man with pince-nez and a
notebook. The fourth man stood a little apart from them, in
front of a complicated switchboard, on which glowed here and there little bulbs
like the valves used in wireless telegraphy. He was of middle
height, and his age might have been anything from sixty to eighty. His hair
was snow-white, and his clothes were shapeless and stained and shabby.
But it was on nothing human or animal in the
place that the Saint's gaze concentrated after that first swift
There was something else there, on the
concrete floor, between the four men and the goat at the other end. It
curled and wreathed
sluggishly, lying low on the ground and not rising at all; and yet, though the outside of it was fleecily inert, it
seemed as if the interior of the thing whirled and throbbed as with the struggling of a tremendous force pent
up in ineffectual turmoil. This thing was like a cloud; but it was like no cloud that ever rode the sky. It was a cloud such
as no sane and shining sky had ever seen, a pale violet cloud, a cloud
out of hell. And here and there, in the
misty violet of its colour, it seemed
as if strange little sparks and streaks of fire shot through it like tiny comets, gleamed momentarily,
and were gone, so that the cloud
moved and burned as with an inner phosphorescence.
It had been still when the Saint first set
eyes on it, but now it moved. It did not spread aimlessly over the floor; it
was creeping along purposefully, as though imbued with life. The Saint,
afterwards, described it as like a great, ghostly, luminous worm
travelling sideways. Stretched out in a long line that reached from
side to side of the greenhouse, it humped itself forward in little whirling rushes,
and the living power within it seemed to
burn more and more fiercely, until the cloud
was framed in a faint halo of luminance from the whirl of eye-searing violet at its core.
It had seemed to be creeping at first, but
then the Saint saw that that impression had been deceptive. The creeping of the
cloud was now the speed of a man running, and it was plain that it
could have only one objective. The goat at the end of the trough was cringing
against the farthest wall, frozen with terror, staring
wild-eyed at the cloud that rolled towards it with the
relentlessness of an inrushing tide.
The Saint flashed a lightning glance back at
the staging, and divined, without comprehending, why the cloud moved so decisively. The white-haired
man was holding in one hand a thing of shining metal rather like a small
electric radiator, which he trained on the
cloud, moving it from side to side. From this thing seemed to come the
propulsive force which drove the cloud along
as a controlled wind might have done.
Then the Saint looked back at the cloud; and at that instant the foremost fringe of it touched the petrified
There was no sound that the Saint could hear
from outside. But at once the imprisoned power within the cloud seemed
to boil up into a terrible effervescence of fire; and where there had been
a goat was nothing but the shape of a goat starkly outlined in
shuddering orange-hued flame. For an instant, only the fraction of
a second, it lasted, that vision of a dazzling glare in the shape of
a goat; and then, as if the power that had produced it was spent,
the shape became black. It stood of itself for a second; then it toppled slowly
and fell upon the concrete. A little black dust hung in the air, and a
little wreath of bluish smoke drifted up towards the roof. The violet cloud
uncoiled slothfully, and smeared fluffily over the floor in a widening
pool of mist.
Its force was by no means spent—that was an illusion
belied by the flickering lights that still glinted through it like a host of tiny
fireflies. It was only that the controlling rays had been diverted.
Looking round again, Simon saw that the white-haired man had put
down the thing of shining metal with which he had directed the cloud, and
was turning to speak to the three men who had watched the
The Saint stood like a man in a dream.
Then he drew Patricia away, with a soft and
almost frantic laugh.
"We'll get out of here," he said.
"We've seen enough for one night."
And yet he was wrong, for something else was
to be added to the adventure with amazing rapidity.
As he turned, the Saint nearly cannoned into
the giant who stood over them; and, in the circumstances, Simon Templar did not feel
inclined to argue. He acted instantaneously, which the giant was
not expecting. When one man points a revolver at another, there is, by
convention, a certain amount of backchat about the situation before
anything is done; but the Saint held convention beneath contempt.
Moreover, when confronted by an armed man
twice his own size, the Saint felt that he needed no excuse for
employing any damaging foul known to the fighting game, or even a speciality
of his own invention. His left hand struck the giant's gun arm aside, and at
the same time the Saint kicked with one well-shod foot and a clear conscience.
A second later he was sprinting, with
Patricia's hand in his.
There was a car drawn up in front of the
house. Simon had not noticed it under the trees as he passed on his way
round to the back; but now he saw it, because he was looking for it; and it
accounted for the stocky figure in breeches and a peaked cap which
bulked out of the shadows round the gate and tried to bar the
"Sorry, son," said the" Saint
sincerely, and handed him off with some vim.
Then he was flying up the lane at the girl's
side, and the sounds of the injured chauffeur's pursuit were too far behind to be
The Saint vaulted into the Furillac, and came
down with one foot on the self-starter and the other on the clutch
As Patricia gained her place beside him he
unleashed the full ninety-eight horse-power that the speedster could put forth when
His foot stayed flat down on the accelerator
until they were running into Putney, and he was sure that any attempt to give chase
had been left far astern; but even during the more sedate drive through London
he was still unwontedly taciturn, and Patricia knew better than to try to
make him talk when he was in such a mood. But she studied, as if she had
never seen it before, the keen, vivid intentness of his profile as he steered the
hurtling car through the night, and realised that she had never felt him
so sheathed and at the same time shaken with such a dynamic savagery of
purpose. Yet even she, who knew him better than anyone in the world,
could not have explained what she sensed about him. She had seen, often
before, the inspired wild leaps of his genius; but she could not know that
this time that genius had rocketed into a more frantic flight
than it had ever taken in all his life. And she was silent.
It was not until they were turning into Brook
Street that she voiced a thought that had been racking her brain for
the past hour.
"I can't help feeling I've seen one of
those men before—or a picture of him——"
"Which one?" asked the Saint, a
trifle grimly, "The young secretary bird—or Professor K. B. Vargan—or
Sir Roland Hale—or Mr. Lester Hume Smith, His Majesty's Secretary of State for
He marked her puzzlement, turning to meet her
eyes. Now Patricia Holm was very lovely; and the Saint loved her.
At that moment, for some reason, her loveliness took him by the throat.
He slipped an arm around her shoulders, and
drew her close to him.
"Saint," she said, "you're on
the trail of more trouble. I know the signs."
"It's even more than that, dear,"
said the Saint softly. "Tonight I've seen a vision. And if it's a true
vision it means that I'm going to fight something more horrible
than I've ever fought before; and the name of it may very well be the
same as the name of the devil himself."
2. How Simon Templar read newspapers, and
understood what was
Here may conveniently be quoted an item from
one of the stop press columns of the following morning.
"The Clarion is officially
informed that at a late hour last night Mr. Lester Hume Smith, the
Secretary for War, and Sir Roland Hale, Director of Chemical Research to
the War Office, attended a demonstration of Professor K. B.
Vargan's 'electroncloud.' The demonstration was held secretly, and
no details will be disclosed. It is stated further that a special meeting of
the Cabinet will be held this morning to receive Mr. Hume Smith's
report, and, if necessary, to consider the Government's attitude
towards the invention."
Simon Templar took the paragraph in his
stride, for it was no more than a confirmation and amplification of what he
This was at ten o'clock—an extraordinary hour
for the Saint to be up and dressed. But on this occasion he had risen early to
break the habits of a lifetime and read every page of every newspaper that
his man could buy.
He had suddenly become inordinately
interested in politics; the news that an English tourist hailing from
Manchester and rejoicing in the name of Pinheedle had been arrested for
punching the nose of a policeman in Wiesbaden fascinated him; only
such articles as "Why Grandmothers Leave Home" (by Ethelred Sapling,
the brilliant author of Lovers in Leeds) continued to leave him
But he had to wait for an early edition of the
Evening Record for the account of
his own exploit.
". . . From footprints found this morning
in the soft soil, it appears that three persons were involved—one of them a
woman. One of the men, who must have been of exceptional stature,
appears to have tripped and fallen in his flight, and then to have made off
in a different direction from that taken by his companions,
who finally escaped by car.
"Mr. Hume Smith's chauffeur, who
attempted to arrest these two, and was knocked down by the man,
recovered too late to reach the road in time to take the number of
their car. From the sound of the exhaust, he judges it to have been some
kind of high-powered sports model. He had not heard its approach or the
entrance of the three intruders, and he admits that when he first saw the
man and the woman he had just woken from a doze.
"The second man, who has been tracked
across two fields at the back of Professor Vargan's house, is believed to
have been picked up by his confederates further along the road. The fact of
his presence was not discovered until the arrival of the detectives from
London this morning.
"Chief Inspector Teal, who is in charge
of the case, told an Evening Record representative that
the police have as yet formed no theory as to what was the alarm
which caused the hurried and clumsy departure of the spies. It is believed, however, that
they were in a position to observe the conclusion of the experiment.
There was much more, stunted across the two
middle columns of the front page.
This blew in with Roger Conway, of the
Saint's very dear acquaintance, who had been rung up in the small hours of that
morning to be summoned to a conference; and he put the sheet before Simon
Templar at once.
"Were you loose in England last
night?" he demanded accusingly.
"There are rumours," murmured the
Saint, "to that effect."
Mr. Conway sat down in his usual chair, and
produced cigarettes and matches.
"Who was your pal—the cross-country
expert?" he inquired calmly.
The Saint was looking out of the window.
"No one I know," he answered.
"He kind of horned in on the party. You'll have the whole yarn in a
moment. I phoned Norman directly after I phoned you; he came staggering under the castle walls a few
A peal on the bell announced that Norman Kent
had reached the door of the apartment, and the Saint went out to admit him.
Mr. Kent carried a copy of the Evening Record, and his very first
words showed how perfectly he understood the Saint's eccentricities.
"If I thought you'd been anywhere near
Esher last night——"
"You've been sent for to hear a speech
on the subject," said the Saint.
He waved Norman to a chair, and seated himself
on the edge of a littered table which Patricia Holm was trying to reduce to
some sort of order. She came up and stood beside him, and he slid an
arm round her waist.
"It was like this," he said.
And he plunged into the story without
preface, for the time when prefaces had been necessary now lay far
behind those four. Nor did he need to explain the motives for any of
his actions. In clipped, slangy, quiet, and yet vivid sentences he told what
he had seen in the greenhouse of the house near Esher; and the two men
listened without interruption.
Then he stopped, and there was a short
"It's certainly a marvellous
invention," said Roger Conway at length, smoothing his fair hair.
"But what is it?"
"It's what the Clarion called
it," said the Saint; "something we haven't got simple
words to describe. A scientist will pretend to understand
it, but whether he will or not is another matter. The best he
can tell us is that it's a trick of so modifying the structure of a gas that
it can be made to carry a tremendous charge of electricity, like a
thunder-cloud does— only it isn't a bit like a thunder-cloud. It's also
something to do with a ray—only it isn't a ray. If you like, it's
something entirely impossible—only it happens to exist. And the
point is that this
gas just provides the flimsiest sort of sponge in the atmosphere, and Vargan knows how to saturate the pores in the
sponge with millions of volts and amperes of compressed lightning."
"And when the goat got into the cloud——"
"It was exactly the same as if it had butted
into a web of live wires. For the fraction of a second that goat burnt
like a scrap of coal in a blast furnace. And then it was ashes. Sweet idea,
Norman Kent, the dark and saturnine, took his
eyes off the ceiling. He was a most unsmiling man, and he spoke little
and always to the point.
"Lester Hume Smith has seen it,"
said Norman Kent. "And Sir Roland Hale. Who else?"
"Angel Face," said the Saint;
"Angel Face saw it. The man our friend Mr. Teal assumes to have been one
of us—-not having seen him wagging a Colt at me. An adorable pet, built
on the lines of something between Primo Carena and an overgrown
gorilla, but not too agile with the trigger finger—otherwise I
mightn't be here. But which country he's working for is yet to be discovered."
Roger Conway frowned.
"Frequently," said the Saint.
"But that was one think I didn't need a cold towel round my head for.
Vargan may have thought he got a raw deal when they missed him off the
front page, but he got enough publicity to make any wideawake foreign
He tapped a cigarette gently on his thumb-nail
and lighted it with slow and exaggerated deliberation. In such
pregnant silences of irrelevant pantomime he always waited for the
seeds he had sown to germinate spontaneously in the brains of his audience.
Conway spoke first.
"If there should be another war——"
"Who is waiting for a chance to make
war?" asked Norman Kent.
The Saint picked up a selection of the papers
he had been reading before they came, and passed them over. Page
after page was scarred with blue pencillings. He had marked many strangely
separated things—a proclamation of Mussolini, the speech of a French delegate
before the League of Nations, the story of a break in the Oil Trust
involving the rearrangement of two hundred million pounds of capital, the
announcement of a colossal merger of chemical interests, the latest movements of
warships, the story of an outbreak of rioting in India, the story
of an inspired bull raid on the steel market, and much else that he had
found of amazing significance, even down to the arrest of an English tourist
hailing from Manchester and rejoicing in the name of Pinheedle, for
punching the nose of a policeman in Wiesbaden. Roger Conway and Norman Kent
read, and were incredulous.
"But people would never stand for another
war so soon," said Conway. "Every country is disarming——"
"Bluffing with everything they know, and
hoping that one day somebody'll be taken in," said the Saint. "And
every nation scared stiff of the rest, and ready to arm again at
any notice. The people never make or want a war—it's sprung on them by the statesmen with the
business interests behind them, and
somebody writes a 'We-Don't-Want-to-Lose-You-but-We-Think-you-Ought-to-Go' song for the brass bands to
play, and millions of poor fools go out and die like heroes without ever being quite sure what it's all about. It's
happened before. Why shouldn't it happen again?"
"People," said Norman Kent,
"may have learnt their lesson."
Simon swept an impatient gesture.
"Do people learn lessons like that so
easily? The men who could teach them are a past generation now. How many are
left who are young enough to convince our generation? And even if we
are on the crest of a wave of literature about the horrors of war, do
you think that cuts any ice? I tell you, I've listened till I'm
tired to people of our own age discussing those books and
plays—and I know they cut no ice at all. It'd be a miracle if they
did. The mind of a healthy young man is too optimistic. It
leaps to the faintest hint of glory, and finds it so easy to forget
whole seas of ghastliness. And I'll tell you more. ..."
And he told them of what he had heard from
"I've given you the facts," he
said. "Now, suppose you saw a man rushing down the street with a contorted
face, screaming his head off, foaming at the mouth, and brandishing a large
knife dripping with blood. If you like to be a fool, you can tell
yourself that it's conceivable that his face is contorted because
he's trying to swallow a bad egg, he's screaming because someone has
trodden on his pet corn, he's foaming at the mouth because
he's just eaten a cake of soap, and he's just killed a chicken for
dinner and is tearing off to tell his aunt all about it. On the other hand,
it's simpler and safer to assume that he's a homicidal maniac. In the same
way, if you like to be fools, and refuse to see a complete story in what spells a complete story to me,
you can go home."
Roger Conway swung one leg over the arm of
his chair and rubbed
his chin reflectively.
"I suppose," he said, "our job
is to find Tiny Tim and see that he doesn't pinch the invention while the
Cabinet are still deciding what they're going to do about it?"
The Saint shook his head.
For once, Roger Conway, who had always been
nearest to the Saint in all things, had failed to divine his
leader's train of thought; and it was Norman Kent, that aloof and silent
man, who voiced the inspiration of breath-taking genius—or madness—that
had been born in Simon Templar's brain eight hours before.
"The Cabinet,'' said Norman Kent, from
behind a screen of cigarette smoke, "might find the decision taken
out of their hands . . . without the intervention of Tiny Tim. ..."
Simon Templar looked from face to face.
For a moment he had an odd feeling that it
was like meeting the other three again for the first time, as
strangers. Patricia Holm was gazing through the window at the blue sky above the
roofs of Brook Street, and who is to say what vision she saw there? Roger
Conway, the cheerful and breezy, waited in silence, the smoke
of his neglected cigarette staining his fingers. Norman Kent waited also, serious
The Saint turned his eyes to the painting over
the mantelpiece, and did not see it.
"If we do nothing but suppress Tiny
Tim," he said, "England will possess a weapon of war
immeasurably more powerful than all the armaments of any other
nation. If we stole that away, you may argue that sooner or later some other
nation will probably discover something just as deadly, and then
England will be at a disadvantage."
He hesitated, and then continued in the same
"But there are hundreds of Tiny Tims,
and we can't suppress them all. No secret like that has ever been kept for
long; and when the war came we might very well find the enemy prepared to
use our own weapon against us."
Once again he paused.
"I'm thinking of all the men who'll fight
in that next war, and the women who love them. If you saw a man drowning, would you refuse to rescue him
because, for all you know, you might only be
saving him for a more terrible death years later?"
There was another silence; and in it the
Saint seemed to straighten and strengthen and grow, imperceptibly and yet tremendously,
as if something gathered about him which actually filled every
corner of the room and made him bulk like a preposterously
normal giant. And, when he resumed, his voice was as soft and
even as ever; but it seemed to ring like a blast of trumpets.
"There are gathered here," he said,
"three somewhat shop-soiled musketeers—and a blessed angel. Barring the
blessed angel, we have all of us, in the course of our young lives, broken half
the Commandments and most of the private laws of several countries.
And yet, somehow, we've contrived to keep intact certain
ridiculous ideals, which to our perverted minds are a justification for our
sins. And fighting is one of those ideals. Battle and sudden death. In
fact, we must be about the last three men in the wide world who ought to
be interfering with the makings of a perfectly good war. Personally, I suppose we
should welcome it—for our own private amusement. But there aren't many
like us. There are too many—far too many—who are utterly different. Men and
boys who don't want war. Who don't live for battle, murder, and sudden death. Who
wouldn't be happy warriors, going shouting and singing and swaggering into the
battle. Who'd just be herded into it like dumb cattle to the slaughter,
drunk with a miserable and futile heroism, to struggle blindly through a few
days of squalid agony and die in the dirt. Fine young lives that don't
belong to our own barbarous god of battles. . . . And we've tripped over the
plans for the next sacrifice, partly by luck and partly by
our own brilliance. And here we are. We don't give a damn for
any odds or any laws. Will you think me quite mad if I put it to you that
three shabby, hell-busting outlaws might, by the grace of God . . ."
He left the sentence unfinished; and for a few
seconds no one spoke.
Then Roger Conway stirred intently.
"What do you say?" he asked.
The Saint looked at him.
"I say," he answered, "that
this is our picnic. We've always known—haven't we?—at the back of our minds,
dimly, that one day we were bound to get our big show. I say that this
is the cue. It might have come in any one of a dozen different ways; but it
just happens to have chosen this one. I'll summarise. . . ."
He lighted a fresh cigarette and hitched
himself further on to the table, leaning forward with his forearms on his knees
and the fine, rake-hell, fighting face that they all, knew and loved made
almost supernaturally beautiful with such a light of debonair
daredevilry as they had never seen before.
"You've read the story," he said.
"I grant you it reads like a dime novelette; but there it is,
staring you in the face, just the same. All at once, in both England and
America, there's some funny business going on in the oil and steel and chemical
trades. The amount of money locked up in those three combines must be
nearly enough to swamp the capitals of any other bunch of
industries you could name. We don't know exactly what's happening, but we do
know that the big men, the secret moguls of Wall Street and the
London Stock Exchange, the birds with the fat cigars and the names in -heim
and -stein, who juggle the finances of this cockeyed world, are moving on
some definite plan. And then look at the goods they're on the road with. Iron
and oil and chemicals. If you know any other three interests that'd scoop a
bigger pool out of
a really first-class war, I'd like to hear of them. . . . Add on Barney Malone's spy story. Haven't you realised
how touchy nations are, and how easy
it really would be to stir up distrust?
And distrust, sooner or later, means war. The most benevolent and peaceful nation, if it's
continually finding someone else's
spies snooping round its preserves, is going to make a certain song and dance about it. Nobody before this has thought of doing that sort of thing on a
large scale— trying to set two
European Powers at each other's throats with a carefully wangled
quarrel—and yet the whole idea is so gloriously
simple. And now it's happened—or happening. . . . And behind it all is the one man in the world with
the necessary brain to conceive a
plot like that, and the influence and qualifications
to carry it through. You know who I mean. The man they call the Mystery Millionaire. The man who's supposed to have arranged half a dozen wars before, on
a minor scale, in the interests of
high finance. You've seen his name marked
in red in those newspapers every time it crops up. It fits into the scheme in a darn sight too many
ways—you can't laugh that off. Dr.
Rayt Marius. ..."
Norman Kent suddenly spun his cigarette into
"Then Golter might fit in——"
Conway said: "But the Crown Prince is
Marius's own Crown Prince !"
"Would that mean anything to a man like
Marius?" asked the Saint gently. "Wouldn't that just make things
easier for him? Suppose ..."
The Saint caught his breath; and then he took
up his words again in a queerly soft and dreamy voice.
"Suppose Marius tempted the Crown
Prince's vanity? The King is old; and there have been rumours that
a young nation is calling for a young leader. And the Prince is ambitious. Suppose
Marius were able to say: 'I can give you a weapon with which you can conquer
the world. The only price I make is that you should use it. . . .' "
They sat spellbound, bewildered, fascinated.
They wanted to laugh that vision away, to crush and pulverise and
annihilate it with great flailing sledge-hammers of rational
incredulity. And they could find nothing to say at all.
The clock ticked leaden seconds away into
Patricia said breathlessly: "But he
"But he could!"
Simon Templar had leapt to his feet, his right
arm flung out in a wild gesture.
"It's the key!" he cried. "It's
the answer to the riddle! It mayn't be difficult to nurse up an
international distrust by artificial means, but a tension like that
can't be as fierce as a genuine international hatred. It'd want a much
bigger final spark to make it blaze up. And the Crown Prince and his
ambitions—and Vargan's invention—they'd make the spark! They're
Marius's trump card. If he didn't bring them off his whole scheme might be
shipwrecked. I know that's right!"
"That man in the garden," whispered
Patricia. "If he was one of Marius's men——"
"It was Marius!"
The Saint snatched a paper from the table,
and wrung and smashed it out so that she could see the photograph.
Bad as had been the light when they had found
themselves face to face with the original, that face could never
have been mistaken anywhere—that hideous, rough-hewn, nightmare expressionlessness,
like the carved stone face of a heathen idol.
"It was Marius. . . ,"
Roger Conway came out of his chair.
"If you're right, Saint—I'll believe
that you didn't dream last night——"
"And we haven't all suddenly got
softening of the brain—to be listening to these howling, daft
deductions of yours——"
"God knows I was never so sure of
anything in my life."
The Saint nodded.
"We have claimed to execute some sort of justice," he
said. "What is the just thing for us to
Conway did not answer, and the Saint turned
to meet Norman Kent's thoughtful eyes; and then he knew that they were both
waiting for him to speak their own judgment.
They had never seen the Saint so stern.
"The invention must cease to be,"
said Simon Templar. "And the brain that conceived it, which could
recreate it— that also must cease to be. It is expedient that one man
should die for many people. . . ."
3. How Simon Templar returned to Esher,
and decided to go there again
This was on the 24th of June—about three
weeks after the Saint's reply to the offer of a free pardon.
On the 25th, not a single morning paper gave
more than an inconspicuous paragraph to the news which had filled
the afternoon editions of the day before; and thereafter nothing more at
all was said by the Press about the uninvited guests at Vargan's demonstration.
Nor was there more than a passing reference to the special Cabinet meeting
The Saint, who now had only one thought day
and night, saw in this unexpected reticence the hand of something dangerously
like an official censorship, and Barney Malone, appealed to, was so
uncommunicative as to confirm the Saint in his forebodings.
To the Saint it seemed as if a strange
tension had crept into the atmosphere of the season in London. This
feeling was purely subjective, he knew; and yet he was unable to laugh
it away. On one day he had walked through the streets in careless
enjoyment of an air fresh and mild with the promise of summer, among people
quickened and happy and alert; on the next day the clear skies had
become heavy with the fear of an awful thunder, and a doomed generation
went its way furtively and afraid.
"You ought to see Esher," he told
Roger Conway. "A day away from your favourite bar would do you
They drove down in a hired car; and there the
Saint found further omens.
They lunched at the Bear, and afterwards
walked over the Portsmouth Road. There were two men standing at the end of the
lane in which Professor Vargan lived, and two men broke off their
conversation abruptly as Conway and the Saint turned off the main
road and strolled past them under the trees. Further down, a third man hung
over the garden gate sucking a pipe.
Simon Templar led the way past the house
without glancing at it, and continued his discourse on the morrow's probable
runners; but a sixth sense told him that the eyes of the man at the gate
followed them down the lane, as the eyes of the two men at the corner had
"Observe," he murmured, "how
careful they are not to make any fuss. The last thing they want to do
is to attract attention. Just quietly on the premises, that's what they
are. But if we did anything suspicious we should find ourselves being very
quietly and carefully bounced towards the nearest clink. That's what
we call Efficiency."
A couple of hundred yards further on, on the
blind side of a convenient corner, the Saint stopped.
"Walk on for as long as it takes you to
compose a limerick suitable for the kind of drawing-room to which you would never be
admitted," he ordered. "And then walk back. I'll be here."
Conway obediently passed on, carrying in the
tail of his eye a glimpse of the Saint sidling through a gap in the hedge into the fields
on the right. Mr. Conway was no poet, but he accepted the Saint's
suggestion, and toyed lazily with the lyrical possibilities of a
young lady of Kent who whistled wherever she went. After wrestling for some
minutes with the problem of bringing this masterpiece to a satisfactory
conclusion, he gave it up and turned back; and the Saint returned
through the hedge, a startlingly immaculate sight to be seen coming through a
hedge, with a punctuality that suggested that his estimate of Mr. Conway's
poetical talent was dreadfully accurate.
"For the first five holes I couldn't put
down a single putt," said the Saint sadly, and he continued to
describe an entirely imaginary round of golf until they were back
on the main road and the watchers at the end of the lane were out of
Then he came back to the point.
"I wanted to do some scouting round at
the back of the house
to see how sound the defences were. There was a sixteen-stone seraph in his shirtsleeves pretending to garden, and another little bit of fluff sitting in a deck chair
under a tree reading a newspaper.
Dear old Teal himself is probably sitting in the bathroom disguised as a clue. They aren't taking any more chances!"
"Meaning," said Conway, "that
we shall either have to be very cunning or very violent."
"Something like that," said the
He was preoccupied and silent for the rest of
the walk back to the Bear, turning over the proposition he had set
himself to tackle.
He had cause to be—and yet the tackling of
tough propositions was nothing new to him. The fact of the ton or so of
which lay between him and his immediate objective
was not what bothered him; the Saint, had he chosen to turn his professional attention to the job,
might easily have been middleweight
champion of the world, and he had a poor opinion both of the speed and fighting
science of policemen. In any case,
as far as that obstacle went, he had a vast confidence in his own craft and ingenuity for circumventing mere massive force. Nor did the fact that he was
meddling with the destiny of nations give him pause: he had once, in his quixotic adventuring, run a highly successful
one-man revolution in South America,
and could have been a fully accredited
Excellency in a comic-opera uniform if he had chosen. But this problem, the immensity of it, the colossal forces
that were involved, the millions of tragedies that might follow one slip in his enterprise . . . Something in
the thought tightened tiny muscles
around the Saint's jaw.
Fate was busy with him in those days.
They were running into Kingston at the modest
pace which was all the hired car permitted, when a yellow sedan purred effortlessly
past them. Before it cut into the line of traffic ahead, Conway had had
indelibly imprinted upon his memory the bestial, ape-like face that stared
back at them through the rear window with the fixity of a carved
"Ain't he sweet?" murmured the
"A sheik," agreed Conway.
A smile twitched at Simon Templar's lips.
"Known to us," he said, "as
Angel Face or Tiny Tim—at the option of the orator. The world knows him
as Rayt Marius. He recognised me, and he's got the number of the car.
He'll trace us through the garage we hired it from, and in twenty-four hours
he'll have our names and addresses and Y.M.C.A. records. I can't help
thinking that life's going to be very crowded for us in the near
And the next day the Saint was walking back
to Brook Street towards midnight, in the company of Roger Conway, when he stopped
suddenly and gazed up into the sky with a reflective air, as if he had
thought of something that had eluded his concentration for some
"Argue with me, Beautiful," he
pleaded. "Argue violently, and wave your hands about, and look as fierce
as your angelic dial will let you. But don't raise your voice."
They walked the few remaining yards to the
door of the Saint's apartment with every appearance of angry
dissension. Mr. Conway, keeping his voice low as directed, expatiated on the
failings of the Ford car with impassioned eloquence. The Saint answered, with aggressive
"A small disease in a pot hat has been
following me half the day. He's a dozen yards behind us now. I want to get
hold of him, but if we chase him he'll run away. He's certain to be coming
up now to try and overhear the quarrel and find out what it's about.
If we start a fight we should draw him within range. Then
you'll grab him while I get the front door open."
"The back axle——" snarled Mr.Conway.
They were now opposite the Saint's house; and
the Saint halted and turned abruptly, placed his hand in the middle
of Conway's chest,
Conway recovered his balance and let fly. The
Saint took the blow on his shoulder, and reeled back convincingly.
Then he came whaling in and hit Mr. Conway on the jaw with great
gentleness. Mr. Conway retaliated by banging the air two inches from the
In the uncertain light it looked a most
furious battle; and the Saint was satisfied to see Pot Hat sneaking up along
the area railings only a few paces away, an interested spectator.
"Right behind you," said the Saint
softly. "Stagger back four steps when I slosh you."
He applied his fist caressingly to Conway's
solar plexus, and broke away without waiting to see the result; but he knew
that his lieutenant was well trained. Simon had just time to find his
key and open the front door. A second later he was closing the door again behind Conway and
"Neat work," drawled the Saint
approvingly. "Up the stairs with the little darling, Roger."
As the Saint led the way into the
sitting-room, Conway put Pot Hat down and removed his hand from the
little man's mouth.
"Hush!" said Conway in a shocked
voice, and covered his ears.
The Saint was peering down through the
"I don't think anyone saw us," he
said. "We're in luck. If we'd planned it we might have had to wait
years before we found Brook Street bare of souls."
He came back from the window and stood over
their prisoner, who was still shaking his fist under Conway's nose
and burbling blasphemously.
"That'll be all for you,
sweetheart," remarked the Saint frostily. "Run through his
"When I find a pleeceman," began Pot
"Or when a policeman finds what's left of
you," murmured Simon pleasantly. "Yes?"
But the search revealed nothing more
interesting than three new five-pound notes—a fortune which such a
man would never have been suspected of possessing.
"So it will have to be the third
degree," said the Saint mildly, and carefully closed both windows.
He came back with his hands in his pockets
and a very Saintly look in his eyes.
"Do you talk, Rat Face?" he asked.
"Wotcher mean—talk? Yer big bullies——"
"Talk," repeated the Saint
patiently. "Open your mouth, and emit sounds which you fondly believe to
be English. You've been tailing me all day, and I don't like it."
"Wotcher mean?" demanded the little
man again, indignantly. "Tailing yer?"
The Saint signed, and took the lapels of the
little man's coat in his two hands. For half a hectic minute he bounced
and shook the little man like a terrier shaking a rat.
"Talk," said the Saint monotonously.
But Pot Hat opened his mouth for something
that could only have been either a swear or a scream; and the Saint
disapproved of both. He tapped the little man briskly in the stomach, and he
never knew which of the two possibilities had been the little
man's intention, for whichever it was died in a choking gurgle. Then the
Saint took hold of him again.
It was certainly very like bullying, but
Simon Templar was not feeling sentimental. He had to do it, and he did it
with cold efficiency. It lasted five minutes.
"Talk," said the Saint again, at
the end of the five minutes; and the blubbering sleuth said he would talk.
Simon took him by the scruff of his neck and
dropped him into a chair like a sack of peanuts.
The story, however, was not very helpful.
"I dunno wot 'is name is. I met 'im six
months ago in a pub off Oxford Street, an' 'e gave me a job to do. I've worked
for 'im on an' off ever since—followin' people an' findin' out things
about 'em. 'E allus paid well, an' there wasn't no risk——"
"Not till you met me," said the
Saint. "How do you keep in touch with him if he hasn't told you his
"When 'e wants me, 'e writes to me, an' I
meet 'im in a pub somewhere, an' 'e tells me wot I've got to do. Then I let
'im know wot's 'appening by telephone. I got 'is number."
"Thanks," said the Saint.
"Good-looking man, isn't he?"
"Not 'arf! Fair gives me the creeps, 'e
does. Fust time I sore 'im——"
The Saint shouldered himself off the
mantelpiece and reached for the cigarette-box.
"Go home while the goin's good, Rat
Face," he said. "You don't interest us any more. Door, Roger."
" 'Ere," whined Pot Hat, "I got
a wife an' four children——"
"That," said the Saint gently,
"must be frightfully bad luck on them. Give them my love, won't you?"
"I bin assaulted. Supposin' I went to a
The Saint fixed him with a clear blue stare.
"You can either walk down the
stairs," he remarked dispassionately, "or you can be kicked
down by the gentleman who carried you up. Take your choice. But if
you want any compensation for the grilling you've had, you'd better
apply to your handsome friend for it. Tell him we tortured you with hot
irons and couldn't make you open your mouth. He might believe
you—though I shouldn't bet on it. And if you feel like calling a
policeman, you'll find one just up the road. I know him quite
well, and I'm sure he'd be interested to hear what you've got to say. Good-night."
"Callin' yerselves gentlemen!" sneered the sleuth
"Get out," said the Saint quietly.
He was lighting his cigarette, and he did not
even look up, but the next thing he heard was the closing of the door.
From the window he watched the man slouching
up the street. He was at the telephone when Conway returned from supervising the
departure, and he smiled lazily at his favourite lieutenant's question.
"Yes, I'm just going to give Tiny Tim my
love. . . . Hullo —are you Westminster double-nine double-nine? . . . Splendid. How's life, Angel
"Who is that?" demanded the other
end of the line.
"Simon Templar," said the
Saint. "You may have heard of me. I
believe we—er—ran into each other recently." He grinned at the
stifled exclamation that came faintly over the wire. "Yes, I
suppose it is a pleasant surprise. Quite overwhelming. . . . The
fact is, I've just had to give one of your amateur detectives a
rough five minutes. He's walking home. . The next friend of
yours I find walking on my shadow will be removed in an
ambulance. That's a tip from the stable. Pleasant dreams, old
He hung up the receiver without waiting for a
reply. Then he was speaking to Inquiry.
"Can you give me the name and address of
Westminster double-nine double-nine? . . . what's that? . . . Well,
is there no way of finding out? . . . Yes, I know that; but there are reasons why
I can't ring up and ask. Fact is, my wife eloped yesterday with the
plumber, and she said if I really wanted her back I could ring
her up at that number; but one of the bathtaps is dripping, and . . . Oh, all
right. Thanks very much. Love to the supervisors."
He put down the instrument and turned to shrug
at Conway's interrogatively raised eyebrows.
" 'I'm sorry—we are not permitted to give
subscribers' names and addresses,' " he mimicked. "I knew it,
but it was worth trying. Not that it matters much."
"You might," suggested Conway,
"have tried the directory."
"Of course. Knowing that Marius doesn't
live in England, and that therefore Westminster double-nine double-nine is unlikely to
be in his name——Oh,
"Right. Then we sit down and try to think
out what Tiny Tim'll do next."
"Nope," contradicted the Saint
cheerfully. "We know that one. It'll either be prussic acid in the milk
to-morrow morning, or a snap shot from a passing car next time I walk
out of the front door. We can put our shirts on that, and sit tight and wait
for the dividends. But suppose we didn't wait. . . ." The
emphatic briskness of his first words had trailed away while he was speaking
into the gentle dreamy intonation that Conway knew of old. It
was the sign that the Saint's thoughts had raced miles ahead
of his tongue, and he was only mechanically completing a speech that
had long since become unimportant.
Then for a little while he was silent, with his cigarette slanting up between his lips, and a kind of crouching
immobility about his lean body, and a
dancing blue light of recklessness kindling
in his eyes. For a moment he was as still and taut as a leopard gathering
itself for a spring. Then he relaxed, straightening,
and smiled; and his right arm went out in one of those magnificently romantic gestures that only the Saint could make with such a superb lack of affectation.
"But why should we wait?" he
"Why, indeed?" echoed Conway vaguely. "But——"
Simon Templar was not listening. He was
already back at the telephone, calling up Norman Kent.
"Get out your car, fill her up with gas,
and come right round to Brook Street. And pack a gun. This is going
to be a wild night!"
A few minutes later he was through to his
bungalow at Maidenhead—to which, by the grace of all the Saint's gods,
he had sent his man down only that very day to prepare the place for a
summer tenancy that was never to materialise as Simon Templar had planned
"That you, Orace? . . . Good. I just
phoned up to let you know that Mr. Kent will be arriving in the
small hours with a visitor, I want you to get the cellar ready for him—for
the visitor, I mean. Got me?"
"Yessir," said Orace unemotionally,
and the Saint rang off.
There was only one Orace—late sergeant of
Marines, and Simon Templar's most devoted servant. If Simon had said that the
visitor would be a kidnapped President of the United States, Orace
would still have answered no more than that gruff,
unemotional "Yessir!"—and carried on according to his orders.
Said Roger Conway, climbing out of his chair
and squashing his cigarette end into an ash-tray: "The idea being——"
"If we leave it any longer one of two
things will happen. Either (a) Vargan will give his secret away to the Government
experts, or (b) Marius will pinch it—or Vargan—or both. And
then we'd be dished for ever. We've only got a chance for so long as
Vargan is the one man in the wide world who carries that
invention of the devil under his hat. And every hour we wait
gives Tiny Tim a chance to get in before us!"
Conway frowned at a photograph of Patricia
Holm on the mantelpiece. Then he nodded at it.
"Where is she?"
"Spending a couple of days in Devonshire
with the Mannerings. The coast's dead clear. I'm glad to have her out of it.
She's due back to-morrow evening, which is just right for us. We take
Vargan to Maidenhead to-night, sleep off our honest weariness to-morrow,
and toddle back in time to meet her. Then we all go down to the bungalow—and
we're sitting pretty. How's that?"
Conway nodded again slowly. He was still
frowning, as if there was something troubling the back of his mind.
Presently it came out.
"I never was the bright boy of the
class," he said, "but I'd like one thing plain. We agree that
Vargan, on behalf of certain financial interests, is out to start a
war. If he brings it off we shall be in the thick of it. We always
are. The poor blessed Britisher gets roped into everybody else's
squabbles. . . . Well, we certainly don't want Vargan's bit of
frightfulness used against us, but mightn't it save a lot of trouble if
we could use it ourselves?"
The Saint shook his head.
"If Marius doesn't get Vargan," he
said, "I don't think the war will come off. At least, we'll have said
check to it—and a whole heap may happen before he can get the show started again. And
as for using it ourselves—— No, Roger, I don't think so. We've argued that already. It wouldn't
be kept to ourselves. And even if it could be—do you know, Roger?—I still think
the world would be a little better and cleaner without it. There are foul things enough in the
armoury without that. And I say that it shall not be. . . ."
Conway looked at him steadily for some
Then he said: "So Vargan will take a
trip to Maidenhead. You won't kill him to-night?"
"Not unless it's forced on me,"
said the Saint quietly. "I've thought it out. I don't know how much
hope there is of appealing to his humanity, but as long as that hope exists,
he's got a right to live. What the hope is, is what we've got to find out. But if
I find that he won't listen——"
The Saint gave the same explanation to the
third musketeer when Norman Kent arrived ten minutes later, and Norman's reply
was only a little less terse than Roger Conway's had been.
"We may have to do it," he said.
His dark face was even graver than usual, and
he spoke very quietly, for although Norman Kent had once sent a bad
man to his death, he was the only one of the three who had never seen
a man die.
4. How Simon Templar lost an automobile,
and won an argument
"The ancient art of generalship,"
said the Saint, "is to put yourself in the enemy's place. Now, how should
I guard Vargan if I were as fat as Chief Inspector Teal?"
They stood in a little group on the Portsmouth
Road about a mile from Esher, where they had stopped the cars in
which they had driven down from London. They had been separated for the
journey, because the Saint had insisted on taking his own Furillac as well
as Norman Kent's Hirondel, in case of accidents. And he had refused to admit
that there was time to make plans before they started. That, he had said, he
would attend to on the way, and thereby save half an hour.
"There were five men when we came down
yesterday," said Conway. "If Teal hasn't got many more
than that on the night shift I should say they'd be arranged much as we
saw them—outposts in the lane, the front garden, and the back garden,
and a garrison in the greenhouse and the house itself. Numbers uncertain, but
probably only couples."
The Saint's inevitable cigarette glowed like a
fallen star in the darkness.
"That's the way I figured it out myself.
I've roughed out a plan of attack on that basis."
He outlined it briefly. That was not
difficult, for it was hardly a plan at all—it was little more than
an idea for desperate and rapid action, a gamble on the element of surprise. The Saint
had a pleasant habit of tackling some things in that mood, and getting away
with it. And yet, on this occasion, as it happened, even
that much planning was destined to be unnecessary.
A few minutes later they were on their way
The Saint led, with Conway beside him, in the
Furillac. The Hirondel, with Norman Kent, followed about fifty yards behind.
Norman, much to his disgust, was not considered as an active performer in
the early stages of the enterprise. He was to stop his car a
little way from the end of the lane, turn round, and wait with
the engine ticking over until either Conway or the Saint arrived with
Vargan. The simplicity of this arrangement was its great charm, but they were
not able to make Norman see their point—which, they said, was the fault of his low and brawlsome
And yet, if this reduction of their mobile
forces had not been an incidental part of the Saint's sketchy plan of campaign, the
outcome of the adventure might have been very different.
As Simon pulled up at the very mouth of the
lane, he flung a lightning glance over his shoulder, and saw the Hirondel already
swerving across the road for the turn.
Then he heard the shot.
"For the love of Pete!"
The invocation dropped from the Saint's lips
in a breathless undertone. He was getting out of the car at that moment,
and he completed the operation of placing his second foot on the road with a
terrifically careful intentness. As he straightened up with the same
frozen deliberation, he found Conway at his elbow.
"You heard it?" Conway's curt,
"And how. . . ."
Simon Templar was standing like a rock. He
seemed, to Conway's impatience, to have been standing like that for
an eternity, as though his mind had suddenly left him. And yet it had only been
a matter of a few seconds, and in that time the Saint's brain had been whirling
and wheeling with a wild precision into the necessary readjustments.
So Angel Face had beaten them to the jump—it
could have been by no more than a fraction. And, as they had asked for trouble,
they were well and truly in the thick of it. They had come prepared for the
law; now they had to deal with both law and lawlessness, and both parties
united in at least one common cause—to keep K. B. Vargan to
themselves. Even if both parties were at war on every other issue. . . .
"So we win this hands down," said
the Saint softly, amazingly. "We're in luck!"
"If you call this luck!"
"But I do! Could we have arrived at a
better time? When both gangs have rattled each other—and probably damaged each
other—and Tiny Tim's boy friends have done the dirty work for us——"
He was cut short by another shot . . . then
another . . . then a muddled splutter of three or four. . . .
"Our cue!" snapped the Saint, and
Roger Conway was at his side as he leapt down the lane.
There was no sign of the sentries, but a man
came rushing towards them out of the gloom, heavy-footed and
panting. The Saint pushed Conway aside and flung out a well-timed
foot. As the man sprawled headlong, Simon pounced on him and banged
his head with stunning force against the road. Then he yanked the
dazed man to his feet and looked closely at him.
"If he's not a policeman, I'm a
Patagonian Indian," said the Saint. "A slight error, Roger."
The man answered with a wildly swinging fist,
and the Saint hit him regretfully on the point of the jaw and saw him go down in
a limp heap.
"What next?" asked Conway; and a
second fusillade clattered out of the night to answer him.
"This is a very rowdy party," said
the Saint mournfully. "Let's make it worse, shall we?"
He jerked an automatic from his pocket and
fired a couple of shots into the air. The response was far more prompt than he had
expected—two little tongues of flame that spat at them out of the further
blackness, and two bullets that sang past their heads.
"Somebody loves us," remarked Simon
calmly. "This way——"
He started to lead down the lane.
And then, out of the darkness, the headlights
of a car came to life dazzlingly, like two monstrous eyes. For a second
Con-way and the Saint stood struck to stillness in the glare that had carved
a great trough of luminance out of the obscurity as if by the scoop of
some gigantic dredge. So sudden and blinding was that unexpected light
that an instant of time was almost fatally lost before either of them
could see that it was not standing still but moving towards them and picking
up speed like an express train.
"Glory!" spoke the Saint, and his
voice overlapped the venomous rat-tat-tat! of another unseen automatic.
In the same instant he was whirling and
stooping with the pace of a striking snake. He collared Conway at the knees
and literally hurled him bodily over the low hedge at the side of the lane
with an accuracy and expedition that the toughest and most seasoned
footballer could hardly have bettered.
The startled Conway, getting shakily to his
feet, found the Saint landing from a leap beside him, and was in time to
see the dark shape of a closed car flash past in the wake of that eye-searing
blaze of headlights—so close that its wings and running-board tore a
flurry of crackling twigs from the hedge. And he realised that,
but for the Saint's speed of reaction, they would have stood
no chance at all in that narrow space.
He might have said something about it. By
ordinary procedure he should have given thanks to his saviour in a
breaking voice; they should have wrung each other's hands and wept gently
on each other's shoulders for a while; but something told Conway
that it was no time for such trimmings. Besides, the Saint
had taken the incident in his stride: by that time it had probably
slithered through his memory into the dim limbo of distant reminiscence, and he
would probably have been quite astonished to be reminded of it at that
juncture. By some peaceful and lazy fireside, in his doddering old age,
possibly . . . But in the immediate present he was concerned only with the
He was looking back towards the house. There
were lights showing
still in some of the windows—it might altogether have been a most serene and tranquil scene, but for the jarring background of intermittent firing, which might
have been nothing worse than a
childish celebration of Guy Fawkes' day
if it had been Guy Fawkes' day. But the Saint wasn't concerned with those reflections, either. He was
searching the shadows by the gate, and
presently he made out a deeper and more
solid-looking shadow among the other shadows, a bulky shadow. ...
A tiny jet of flame licked out of the bulky
shadow, and they heard the tinkle of shattered glass; but the escaping car
was now only a few yards from the main road.
Conway was shaking Simon by the shoulder,
babbling: "They're getting away! Saint, why don't you
Mechanically the Saint raised his automatic,
though he knew that the chance of putting in an effective shot, in
that light, was about a hundred to one against anybody—and the Saint, as
a pistol shot, had never been in the championship class.
Then he lowered the gun again, with something
like a gasp, and his left hand closed on Conway's arm in a vice-like
"They'll never do it!" he cried. "I
left the car slap opposite the lane, and they haven't got room to
And Roger Conway, watching, fascinated, saw
the lean blue
shape of the Furillac revealed in the blaze of the flying headlights, and heard, before the crash, the
scream of tortured tyres tearing ineffectually at the road.
Then the lights vanished in a splintering
smash, and there was
darkness and a moment's silence.
"We've got 'em!" rapped the Saint
The bulky shadow had left the gate and was
lumbering towards them up the lane. The Saint was over the hedge like
a cat, landing lightly on his toes directly in Teal's path, and the detective saw him too late.
"Sorry!" murmured the Saint, and
really meant it; but he crowded every ounce of his one hundred and sixty
pounds of , dynamic fighting weight into the blow he jerked at the pit of Teal's stomach.
Ordinarily, the Saint entertained a sincere
regard for the police force in general and Chief Inspector Teal in
particular, but he had no time that night for more than the most
laconic courtesies. Moreover, Inspector Teal had a gun, and, in the circumstances,
would be liable to shoot first and ask questions afterwards.
Finally, the Saint had his own ideas and plans on the subject
of the rescue of Vargan from the raiding party, and they did
not include either the co-operation or interference of the
law. These three cogent arguments he summed up in that one pile-driving jolt
to Teal's third waistcoat button: and the detective dropped with a
grunt of agony. Then the Saint turned and went flying up the lane after Roger
He heard a shout behind him, and again a gun
barked savagely in the night. The Saint felt the wind of the bullet actually
stroke his cheek. Clearly, then, there was at least one more police
survivor of Marius's raid; but Simon judged that further disputes
with the law could be momentarily postponed. He swerved
like a hare and raced on, knowing that only the luckiest—or
unluckiest—of blind shots could have come so near him in such a light, and having
no fear that a second would have the same fortune.
As it happened, the detective who had come
out of the garden behind Teal must have realised the same feeling,
for he held his fire. But as the Saint stopped by the yellow sedan, now locked
inextricably with the wreckage of the battered Furillac, he heard the
man pounding on through the darkness towards him.
Conway was opening the near-side door; and it
was a miracle that his career was not cut short then and there by the shot
from the interior of the car that went snarling past his ear. But there
was no report—just the throaty plop! of an efficient silencer—and
he understood that the only shooting they had heard had been done by the
police guards. The raiders had not been so rowdy as the Saint had accused them
The next moment Simon Templar had opened a
door on the other side of the sedan.
"Naughty boy!" said Simon Templar
His long arm shot over the gun artist's
shoulder, and his sinewy hand closed and twisted on the automatic in time to send the
next shot through the roof of the car instead of through Conway's
Then the Saint had the gun screwed round till
it rammed into the man's own ribs.
"Now shoot, honeybunch," encouraged
the Saint; but the man sat quite still.
He was in the back of the car, beside Vargan.
There was no one in the driver's seat, and the door on that side was
open. The Saint wondered who the chauffeur had been, and where he had got to,
and whether it had been Angel Face himself; but he had little
time to give to that speculation, and any possibility of danger
from the missing driver's quarter would have to be faced if
and when it materialised.
Conway yanked Vargan out into the road on one
side; and the Saint, taking a grip on the gun artist's neck with
his free hand, yanked him out into the road on the other side. One
wrench disarmed the man, and then the Saint spun him smartly round by
"Sleep, my pretty one," said the
Saint, and uppercut him with a masterly blend of science and brute
He turned, to look down the muzzle of an
automatic, and put up his hands at once. He had slipped his own gun into his pocket
in order to deal more comfortably with the man from the car, and he knew it
would be dangerous to try to reach it.
"Lovely weather we've been having,
haven't we?" drawled the Saint genially.
This, he decided, must be the guard who had
fired at him down the lane; the build, though hefty, was nothing like
Angel Face's gigantic proportions. Besides, Angel Face, or any of his men,
would have touched off the trigger ten seconds ago.
The automatic nosed into the Saint's chest,
and he felt his pocket deftly lightened of its gun. The man exhaled his
satisfaction in a long breath.
"That's one of you, anyway," he
"Pleased to meet you," said the
And there it was.
The Saint's voice was as unperturbed as if he
had been conducting some trivial conversation in a smokeroom,
instead of talking with his hands in the air and an unfriendly detective
focussing a Smith-Wesson on his diaphragm. And the corner was
undoubtedly tight. If the circumstances had been slightly different,
the Saint might have dealt with this obstacle in the same way as he had dealt with
Marius on their first encounter. Marius had
had the drop on him just as effectively as this. But Marius had been expecting a walk-over, and had therefore
been just the necessary fraction below concert pitch; whereas this man was obviously expecting trouble. In view of what he
must have been through already that night, he would have been a born fool if he
hadn't. And something told Simon that the man wasn't quite a born fool. Something
in the businesslike steadiness of
that automatic . . .
But the obstacle had to be surmounted, all the
"Get Vargan away, Roger," sang the
Saint cheerfully, coolly. "See you again some time. . . ."
He took two paces sideways, keeping his hands
"Stop that!" cracked the detective,
and the Saint promptly stopped it; but now he was in a position to
see round the back of the sedan.
The red tail-light of the Hirondel was
moving—Norman Kent was backing the car up closer to save time.
Conway bent and heaved the Professor up on to
his shoulder like a bag of potatoes; then he looked back hesitantly at
"Get him away while you've got the
chance, you fool!" called the Saint impatiently.
And even then he really believed that he was
destined to sacrifice himself to cover the retreat. Not that he was
going quietly. But . . .
He saw Conway turn and break into a trot, and
sighed his relief.
Then, in a flash, he saw how a chance might be
given, and tensed his muscles warily. And the chance was given him.
It wasn't the detective's fault. He merely
attempted the impossible. He was torn between the desire to retain his
prisoner and the impulse to find out what was happening to the man
it was his duty to guard. He knew that that man was being taken away,
and he knew that he ought to be trying to do something to prevent
it; and yet his respect for the desperation of his captive
stuck him up as effectively as if it had been the captive who held
the gun. And, of course, the detective ought to have shot
the captive and gone on with the rest of the job; but he
tried, in a kind of panic, to find a less bloodthirsty solution, and
the solution he found wasn't a solution at all. He tried to divide his mind and
apply it to two things at once; and that, he ought to have known, was a fatal
thing to do with a man like the Saint. But at that moment he didn't know the
Saint very well.
Simon Templar, in those two sideways steps
that the detective had allowed him to take, had shifted into such a
position that the detective's lines of vision, if he had been able to look two
ways at once, at Conway with one eye and at the Saint with the other,
would have formed an obtuse angle. Therefore, since the detective's optic
orbits were not capable of this feat, he could not see what Conway was doing
without taking his
eyes off Simon Templar.
And the detective was foolish.
For an instant his gaze left the Saint. How
he imagined he would get away with it will remain a mystery. Certainly
Simon did not inquire the answer then, nor discover it afterwards. For in that
instant's grace, ignoring the menace of the automatic, the Saint shot
out a long, raking left that gathered strength from every muscle in his body
from the toes to the wrist
And the Saint was on his way to the Hirondel
before the man reached the ground.
Conway had only just dumped his struggling
burden into the back seat when the Saint sprang to the running-board and
clapped Norman Kent on the shoulder.
"Right away, sonny boy!" cried the
Saint; and the Hirondel was sliding away as he and Conway climbed
into the back.
He collected Vargan's flailing legs in an
octopus embrace, and held the writhing scientist while Conway pinioned his
ankles with the rope they had brought for the purpose. The expert
hands of the first set of kidnappers had already dealt with the rest of
him—his wrists were lashed together with a length of stout cord, and a professional
gag stifled the screams which otherwise he
would undoubtedly have been loosing.
"What happened?" asked Norman Kent,
over his shoulder; and the Saint leaned over the front seat and
"In fact," he said, "we
couldn't have done better if we'd thought it out. Angel Face certainly
brought off that raid like no amateur. But can you beat it? No stealth or
subtlety, as far as we know. Just banging in like a Chicago bandit, and
hell to the consequences. That shows how much he means business."
"How many men on the job?"
"Don't know. We only met one, and that
wasn't Angel Face. Angel Face himself may have been in the car with Vargan, but he'd
certainly taken to the tall timber when Roger and I arrived. A man like
that wouldn't tackle the job with one solitary car and a couple
of pals. There must have been a spare bus, with load, somewhere—probably up
the lane. There should be another way in, though I don't know where it
is. . . . You'd better switch on the lights—we're out of sight now."
He settled back and lighted a cigarette.
In its way, it had been a most satisfactory
effort, even if its success had been largely accidental; but the Saint was
frowning rather thoughtfully. He wasn't worrying about the loss of his
car—that was a minor detail. But that night he had lost something far more
"This looks like my good-bye to England,"
he said; and Conway, whose brain moved a little less quickly, was surprised.
"Why—are you going abroad after
The Saint laughed rather sadly.
"Shall I have any choice?" he
answered. "We couldn't have got the Furillac away, and Teal will
trace me through that. He doesn't know I'm the Saint, but I guess they could
make the Official Secrets Act heavy enough on me without that. Not
to mention that any damage Angel Face's gang may have done to the
police will be blamed on us as well. There's nothing in the world
to show that we weren't part of the original raid, except the evidence of
the gang themselves— and I shouldn't bet on their telling. . . .
No, my Roger. We are indubitably swimming in a large pail of soup. By morning
every policeman in London will be looking for me, and by to-morrow
night my photograph will be hanging up in every police station
in England. Isn't it going to be fun?—as the bishop said to
But the Saint wasn't thinking it as funny as
it might have been.
"Is it safe to go to Maidenhead?" asked Conway.
"That's our consolation. The deeds of
the bungalow are in the name of Mrs. Patricia Windermere, who spends her spare
time being Miss Patricia Holm. I've had that joke up my sleeve for the past year in
case of accidents."
"And Brook Street?"
The Saint chuckled.
"Brook Street," he said, "is
held in your name, my sweet and respectable Roger. I thought that'd be
safer. I merely installed myself as your tenant. No—we're temporarily covered there,
though I don't expect that to last long. A few days, perhaps. . . .
And the address registered with my car is one I invented for
the purpose. . . . But there's a snag. . . . Finding it's a
dud address, they'll get on to the agents I bought it from. And I sent it back
to them for decarbonising only a month ago, and gave Brook Street as my
address. That was careless! . . . What's to-day?"
"It's now Sunday morning."
Simon sat up.
"Saved again! They won't be able to find
out much before Monday. That's all the time we want. I must get hold of
Pat. . . ."
He sank back again in the seat and fell
silent, and remained very quiet for the rest of the journey; but
there was little quietude in his mind. He was planning vaguely, scheming wildly,
daydreaming, letting his imagination play as it would with this new state of
affairs, hoping that something would emerge from the chaos; but all he
found was a certain rueful resignation.
"At least, one could do worse for a last
adventure," he said.
It was four o'clock when they drew up outside
the bungalow, and found a tireless Orace opening the front door
before the car had stopped. The Saint saw Vargan carried into the house, and
found beer and sandwiches set out in the dining-room against their arrival.
"So far, so good," said Roger
Conway, when the three of them reassembled over the refreshment.
"So far," agreed the Saint—so
significantly that the other two both looked sharply at him.
"Do you mean more than that?" asked
"I mean—what I mean. I've a feeling that
something's hanging over us. It's not the police—as far as they're concerned I
should say the odds are two to one on us. I don't know if it's Angel
Face. I just don't know at all. It's a premonition, my cherubs."
"Forget it," advised Roger Conway sanely.
But the Saint looked out of the window at the
bleak pallor that had bleached the eastern rim of the sky, and wondered.
5. How Simon Templar went back to Brook
and what happened
Breakfast was served in the bungalow at an
hour when all ordinary people, even on a Sunday, are finishing their
midday meal. Conway and Kent sat down to it in their shirtsleeves and a stubby
tousledness; but the Saint had been for a swim in the river, shaved with Orace's razor,
and dressed himself with as much care as if
he had been preparing to pose for a magazine cover, and the proverbial morning daisy would have looked
positively haggard beside him.
"No man," complained Roger, after
inspecting the apparition, "has a right to look like this at
this hour of the morning"
The Saint helped himself to three fried eggs
and bacon to match, and sat down in his place.
"If," he said, "you could open
your bleary eyes enough to see the face of that clock, you'd see that
it's after half-past two of the afternoon."
"It's the principle of the thing,"
protested Conway feebly. "We didn't get to bed till nearly six.
And three eggs . . ."
The Saint grinned.
"Appetite of the healthy open-air man. I
was splashing merrily down the Thames while you two were snoring."
Norman opened a newspaper.
"Roger was snoring," he corrected.
"His mouth stays open twenty-four hours a day. And now he's talking
with his mouth full,"
he added offensively.
"I wasn't eating," objected Conway.
"You were," said the Saint
crushingly. "I heard you."
He reached for the coffee-pot and filled a
cup for himself with
The premonition of danger that he had had
earlier that morning was forgotten—so completely that it was as if a
part of his memory had been blacked out. Indeed, he had rarely felt fitter
and better primed to take on any amount of odds.
Outside, over the garden and the lawn running
down to the river, the sun was shining; and through the open French windows of
the morning-room came a breath of sweet, cool air fragrant with the
scent of flowers.
The fevered violence of the night before had
vanished as utterly as its darkness, and with the vanishing of
darkness and violence vanished also all moods of dark foreboding. Those
things belonged to the night; in the clear daylight they seemed
unreal, fantastic, incredible. There had been a battle —that was all. There
would be more battles. And it was very good that it should be
so—that a man should have such a cause to fight for, and such a heart and a
body with which to fight it. ... As he walked back from his bathe an
hour ago, the Saint had seemed to hear again the sound of the trumpet. ...
At the end of the meal he pushed back his
chair and lighted a cigarette, and Conway looked at him expectantly.
"When do we go?"
"I'll come with you."
"O.K.," said the Saint. "We'll
leave when you're ready. We've got a lot to do. On Monday, Brook
Street and all it contains will probably be in the hands of the police, but
that can't be helped. I'd like to salvage my clothes, and one or two other
trifles. The rest will have to go. Then there'll be bags to pack for you two,
to last you out our stay here, and there'll be Pat's stuff as well.
Finally, I must get some money. I think that's everything—and
it'll keep us busy."
"What train is Pat travelling on?"
"That might be worth knowing,"
conceded the Saint. "I'll get through on the phone and find out while
He got his connection in ten minutes, and
then he was speaking to her.
"Hullo, Pat, old darling. How's
She did not have to ask who was the owner of
that lazy, laughing
"Hullo, Simon, boy!"
"I rang up," said the Saint,
"because it's two days since I told you that you're the loveliest and
most adorable thing that ever happened, and I love you. And further to ours
of even date, old girl, when are you coming home? . . . No, no particular
engagement. . . . Well, that doesn't matter. To tell you the truth, we
don't want you back too late, but also, to tell you the
truth, we don't want you back too early, either. . . . I'll tell you
when I see you. Telephones have been known to have ears. . . . Well, if you
insist, the fact is that Roger and I are entertaining a brace of
Birds, and if you came back too early you might find out. . . . Yes, they
are very Game. . . . That's easily settled—I'll look you out a train now
if you like. Hold on."
"Heave over the time-table, Norman—it's
in that corner, under the back numbers of La Vie Parisienne. . .
He caught the volume dexterously.
"What time can you get away from this fête effect? . . . Sevenish? . . . No,
that'll do fine. Terry can drive you over to Exeter, and if you
get there alive you'll have heaps of time to catch a very
jolly-looking train at—— Damn! I'm looking at the week-day trains. . . . And the Sunday
trains are as slow as a Scotchman
saying good-bye to a bawbee. . . . Look here, the only one you'll have time to catch now is the 4.58. Gets in at 9.20. The only one after that doesn't
get to London till nearly four o'clock
to-morrow morning. I suppose you were
thinking of staying over till to-morrow. . . . I'm afraid you mustn't, really. That is important. . .
. Good enough, darling. Expect you at
Brook Street about half-past nine. . . . So long, lass. God bless . . ."
He hung up the receiver with a smile as Roger
Conway returned after a commendably quick toilet.
"And now, Roger, me bhoy, we make our dash!"
"All set, skipper."
"Then let's go."
And the Saint laughed softly, hands on hips.
His dark hair was at its sleekest perfection, his blue eyes danced, his brown face was
alight with an absurdly boyish enthusiasm. He slipped an arm through Conway's,
and they went out together.
Roger approached the car with slower and
slower steps. An idea seemed to have struck him.
"Are you going to drive?" he asked suspiciously.
"I am," said the Saint.
Conway climbed in with an unhappy sigh. He
knew, from bitter past experience, that the Saint had original and
hair-raising notions of his own about the handling of high-powered
They reached Brook Street at half-past four.
"Are you going to drive back as well?" asked Roger.
"I am," said the Saint.
Mr. Conway covered his eyes.
"Put me on a nice slow train first, will
you?" he said. "Oh, and make a will leaving everything to me. Then
you can die with my blessing."
Simon laughed, and took him by the arm.
"Upstairs," he said, "there is
beer. And then—work. Come on, sonny boy!"
For three hours they worked. Part of that
time Conway gave to helping the Saint; then he went on to attend to
his own packing and Norman Kent's. He returned towards eight o'clock,
and dumped the luggage he brought with him directly out of his taxi into
the Hirondel. The Saint's completed contribution—two steamer trunks on the
carrier, and a heavy valise inside—was already there. The Hirondel
certainly had the
air of assisting in a wholesale removal.
Conway found the Saint sinking a tankard of
ale with phenomenal rapidity.
"Oil" said Conway, in alarm.
"Get yours down quickly," advised
the Saint, indicating a second mug, which stood, full and ready, on
the table. "We're off."
"Off?" repeated Roger puzzledly.
Simon jerked his empty can in the direction of
"Outside," he said, "are a
pair of prize beauties energetically doing nothing. I don't suppose you
noticed them as you came in. I didn't myself, until a moment ago. I'll
swear they've only just come on duty—I couldn't have missed them when I was loading up
the car. But they've seen too much. Much too much."
Conway went to the window and looked out.
"I don't see anyone suspicious."
"That's your innocent and guileless
mind, my pet," said the Saint, coming over to join him. "If
you were as old in sin as I am, you'd . . . Well, I'll be
Conway regarded him gravely.
"It's the beer," he said.
"Never mind. You'll feel better in a minute."
"Damned if I will!" crisped the
He slammed his tankard down on the
window-sill, and caught Roger by both shoulders.
"Don't be an old idiot, Roger!" he
cried. "You know me. I tell you this place was being watched. Police
or Angel Face. We can't say which, but almost certainly Angel Face. Teal couldn't
possibly have got as far as this in the time, I'll bet anything you like.
But Angel Face could. And the two sleuths have beetled off with
the news about us. So, to save trouble, we'll beetle off
ourselves. Because, if I know anything about Angel Face yet, Brook
Street is going to be rather less healthy than a hot spot in
hell—inside an hour!"
The Saint looked at his watch.
"We've got two hours to fill up somehow.
The Hirondel'll do it easy. Down to Maidenhead, park the luggage, and back
to Paddington Station in time to meet the train."
"And suppose we have a breakdown?"
"Breakdown hell! . . . But you're right.
. . . Correction, then: I'll drop you at the station, and make the return
trip to Maidenhead alone. You can amuse yourself in the bar, and I'll meet
you there. . . . It's a good idea to get rid of the luggage, too.
We don't know that the world won't have become rather sticky by half-past nine,
and it'd be on the safe side to make the heavy journey while the going's good. If I leave now they won't have had time to make any preparations
to follow me; and later we'd be able
to slip them much more easily, if they happened to get after us, without all
the impedimenta to pull our speed
Conway found himself being rushed down the
stairs as he listened to the Saint's last speech. The speech seemed to
begin in Brook Street and finish at Paddington. Much of this impression,
of course, was solely the product of Conway's overwrought imagination;
but there was a certain foundation of fact in it, and the impression built
thereon was truly symptomatic of Simon Templar's appalling velocity
of transforming decision into action.
Roger Conway recovered coherent consciousness
in the station buffet and a kind of daze; and by that time Simon Templar
was hustling the Hirondel westwards.
The Saint's brain was in a ferment of
questions. Would Marius arrange a raid on the flat in Brook Street? Or would
he, finding that the loaded car which his spies had reported had gone,
assume that the birds had flown? Either way, that didn't seem to
matter; but the point it raised was what Marius would do next, after
he had either discovered or decided that his birds had flown. .
. . And, anyway, since Marius must have known that the Saint had attended
the rough party at Esher, why hadn't Brook Street been raided before? . . .
Answer: Because (a) a show like that must take a bit of organising, and
(b) it would be easier, anyhow, to wait until dark. Which, at that time of
year, was fairly late at night. Thereby making it possible to
do the return journey to and from Maidenhead on good time. .
. . But Marius would certainly be doing something. Put yourself in the
enemy's place. . . .
So the Saint reached Maidenhead in under an
hour, and was on
the road again five minutes later.
It was not his fault that he was stopped
halfway back by a choked carburettor jet which it took him fifteen minutes
to locate and remedy.
Even so, the time he made on the rest of the
trip amazed even himself.
In the station entrance he actually cannoned
into Roger Conway.
"Hullo," said the Saint. "Where
are you off to? The train's just about due in."
Conway stared at him.
Then he pointed dumbly at the clock in the
Simon looked at it, and went white.
"But my watch," he began stupidly, "my
"You must have forgotten to wind it up
"You met the train?"
"It's just possible that I may have
missed her, but I'd swear she wasn't on it. Probably she didn't catch
"Then there's a telegram at Brook Street
to say so. We'll go there—if all the armies of Europe are in the way!"
They went. Conway, afterwards, preferred not
to remember that drive.
And yet peace seemed to reign in Brook
Street. The lamps were alight, and it was getting dark rapidly, for the sky had
clouded over in the evening. As was to be expected on a Sunday, there
were few people about, and hardly any traffic. There was nothing at
all like a crowd—no sign that there had been any disturbance at all. There was
a man leaning negligently against a lamp-post, smoking a pipe as though he
had nothing else to do in the world. It happened that, as the Hirondel
stopped, another man came up and spoke to him. The Saint saw the
incident, and ignored it.
He went through the front door and up the
stairs like a whirlwind.
Conway followed him.
Conway really believed that the Saint would
have gone through a police garrison or a whole battalion of Angel Faces; but
there were none there to go through. Nor had the flat been entered, as
far as they could see. It was exactly as they had left it.
But there was no telegram.
"I might have missed her," said
Conway helplessly. "She may be on her way now. The taxi may have
broken down—or had a slight accident——"
He stopped abruptly at the blaze in the
"Look at the clock," said the Saint,
with a kind of curbed savagery.
Roger looked at the clock. The clock said
that it was a quarter to ten.
And he saw the terrible look on the Saint's
face, and it hypnotised him. The whole thing had come more suddenly than
anything that had ever happened to Roger Conway before, and it had
swirled him to the loss of his bearings in the same way that a
man in a small boat in tropical seas may be lost in a squall.
The blow had fallen too fiercely for him. He could feel the
shock, and yet he was unable to determine what manner of blow
had been struck, or even if a blow had been struck at all,
in any comprehensible sense.
He could only look at the clock and say
helplessly: "It's a quarter to ten."
The Saint was saying: "She'd have let me
know if she'd missed the train——"
"Or waited for the next one."
"Oh, for the love of Mike!" snarled
the Saint. "Didn't you hear me ring her up from Maidenhead? I looked
out all the trains then, and the only next one gets in at three
fifty-one to-morrow morning. D'you think she'd have waited for that one
without sending me a wire?"
"But if I didn't see her at Paddington,
and anything had happened to her taxi——"
But the Saint had taken a cigarette, and was
lighting it with a hand that could never have been steadier; and the Saint's
face was a frozen mask.
"More beer," said the Saint.
Roger moved to obey.
"And talk to me," said the Saint,
"talk to me quietly and sanely, will you? Because fool suggestions
won't help me. I don't have to ring up Terry and ask if Pat caught that
train, because I know she did. I don't have to ask if you're quite sure you
couldn't have missed her at the station, because I know you didn't. ..."
The Saint was deliberately breaking a
match-stick into tiny fragments and dropping them one by one into the ash-tray.
"And don't tell me I'm getting excited
about nothing," said the Saint, "because I tell you I know. I
know that Pat was coming on a slow train, which stops at other places
before it gets to London. I know that Marius has got Pat, and I know that he's
going to try to use her to force me to give up Vargan, and I know that I'm
going to find Dr. Rayt Marius and kill him. So talk to me very
quietly and sanely, Roger, because if you don't I think I shall go quite
6. How Roger Conway
drove the Hirondel,
and the Saint took a
knife in his hand
Conway had a full tankard of beer in each
hand. He looked at the tankards as a man might look at a couple of dragons that have
strayed into his drawing-room. It seemed to Roger, for some reason, that it was
unaccountably ridiculous for him to be standing in the middle of the Saint's
room with a tankard of beer in each hand. He cleared his throat.
He said: "Are you sure you aren't—making
too much of it?"
And he knew, as he said it, that it was the
fatuously useless kind of remark for which he would cheerfully have ordered
anyone else's execution. He put down the tankards on the table and
lighted a cigarette as if he hated it.
"That's not quiet and sane," said
the Saint. "That's wasting time. Damn it, old boy, you know how it was
between Pat and me! I always knew that if anything happened to her I'd know it at
once—if she were a thousand miles away. I know."
The Saint's icy control broke for a moment.
Only for a moment. Roger's arm was taken in a crushing grip. The Saint
didn't know his strength. Roger could have cried out with pain; but
he said nothing at all. He was in the presence of something that he
could only understand dimly.
"I've seen the whole thing," said
the Saint, with a cold devil in his voice. "I saw it while you were
gaping at that clock. You'll see it, too, when you've got your brain
on to it. But I don't have to think."
"But how could Marius——"
"Easy! He'd already tracked us here.
He'd been watching the place. The man's thorough. He'd naturally have put
other agents on to the people he saw visiting me. And how could he have missed
Pat? . . . One of his men probably followed her down to
Devonshire. Then, after the Esher show, Marius got in touch with that
man. She could easily be got at on the train. They could take her off,
say, at Reading—doped. . . . She wasn't on her guard. She didn't know
there was any danger. That one man could have done it. ... With a car to meet
him at Reading. . . . And Marius is going to hold Pat in the scales
against me—against everything we've set out to do. Binding me hand
and foot. Putting my dear one in the forefront of the battle, and daring me
to fire. And laying the powder-train for his foul slaughter under the
shield of her blessed body. And laughing at us. . . ."
Then Roger began to understand less dimly, and
he stared at the Saint as he would have stared at a ghost.
He said, like a man waking from a dream:
"If you're right, our show's finished."
"I am right," said the Saint.
"Ask yourself the question."
He released Roger's arm as if he had only just
become aware that he was holding it.
Then, in three strides, the Saint was at the
window; and Conway had just started to realise his intention when the
Saint justified, and at the same time smithereened, that realisation with one single word.
"You mean the——"
"Both of 'em. Of course, Marius kept up
the watch on the house in case we were being tricky. The man who arrived at
the same time as we did was the relief. Or a messenger to say that Marius
had lifted the trump card, and the watch could pack up. Then they saw
"But they can't have been gone a
The Saint was back by the table.
"Just that," snapped the Saint.
"They've gone—but they can't have been gone a moment. The car's
outside. Could you recognise either of them again?"
"I could recognise one."
"I could recognise the other. Foreign-looking
birds, with ugly mugs. Easy again. Let's go!"
It was more than Roger could cope with. His
brain hadn't settled down yet. He couldn't get away from a sane, reasonable,
conventional conviction that the Saint was hurling up a solid
mountain from the ghost of a molehill. He couldn't quite get away
from it even while the clock on the mantelpiece was giving him the lie
with every tick. But he got between the Saint and the door,
somehow—he wasn't sure how. "
"Hadn't you better sit down and think it
out before you do anything rash?"
"Hadn't you better go and hang
yourself?" rapped the Saint impatiently.
Then his bitterness softened. His hands fell
on Roger's shoulders.
"Don't you remember another time when we
were in this room, you and I?" he said. "We were trying to
get hold of Marius then—for other reasons. We could only find out his telephone
number. And that's all we know to this day—unless we can make one of
those birds who were outside tell us more than the man who gave
us the telephone number. They're likely to know more than that—we're big
enough now to have the bigger men after us. They're the one chance of a clue
we've got, and I'm taking it. This way!"
He swept Conway aside, and burst out of the
flat. Conway followed. When the Saint stopped in Brook Street, and
turned to look,
Roger was beside him.
He was opening the door of the car as he
cracked the order. As Roger touched the self-starter, the Saint climbed in
Roger said hopelessly: "We've no idea which
way they've gone."
"Get going! There aren't so many streets
round here. Make this the centre of a circle. First into Regent Street, cut
back through Conduit Street to New Bond Street—Oxford Street— back
through Hanover Square. Burn it, son, haven't you any imagination?"
Now, in that district the inhabited streets
are slashed across the map in a crazy tangle, and the two men might have
taken almost any of them, according to the unknown destination for which they
were making. The task of combing through that tangle, with so
little qualification, struck Roger as being rather more hopeless than
looking for one particular grain of sand in the Arizona Desert;
but he couldn't tell the Saint that. The Saint wouldn't have
admitted it, anyway, and Roger wouldn't have had the heart to
try to convince him.
And yet Roger was wrong, for the Saint sat
beside him and drove with Roger's hands. And the Saint knew that people in cities tend
to move in the best-beaten tracks, particularly in a strange city, for
fear of losing their way—exactly as a man lost in the bush will
follow a tortuous trail rather than strike across open country in the
direction which he feels he should take. And the men looked
foreign and probably were foreign, and the foreigner is
afraid of losing himself in any but the long, straight, bright
roads, though they may take him to his objective by the most
Unless, of course, the foreigners had taken a
native guide in the shape of a taxi. But Conway could not suggest that to the Saint, either.
"Keep on down here," Simon Templar
was saying. "Never mind what I told you before. Now I should cut
away to the right—down
Roger spun the wheel, and the Hirondel
skidded and swooped across the very nose of an omnibus. For one
fleeting second, in the bottleneck of Vigo Street, a taxi-driver
appeared to meditate, disputing their right of way; fortunately for all concerned,
he abandoned that idea hurriedly.
Then Simon was speaking again.
"Right up Bond Street. That's the
Roger said: "You'll collect half a dozen
summonses before you've finished with this. ..."
"Damn that," said the Saint; and
they swept recklessly past a constable who had endeavoured to hold them
up, and drowned his outraged shout in the stutter of their departing exhaust.
By Roger Conway that day's driving was afterwards to be remembered in nightmares, and that last drive more
than any other journey.
He obeyed the Saint blindly. It wasn't Roger's
car, anyway. But he would never have believed that such feats of
murderous road-hogging could have been performed in a London street
—if he had not been made to perform them himself.
And yet it seemed to be to no purpose; for
although he was scanning,
in every second of that drive in which he was able to take his eyes off the road, the faces of the pedestrians they passed, he
did not see the face he sought. And suppose, after all, they did find the men they were after? What
could be done about it in an open
London street—except call for the police, whom they dared not appeal to?
But Roger Conway was alone in discouragement.
"We'll try some side streets now,"
said the Saint steadily. "Down there——"
And Roger, an automaton, lashed round the
corner on two wheels.
And then, towards the bottom of George Street,
Roger pointed, and
the Saint saw two men walking side by side.
"For Heaven's sake!" said the Saint softly,
meaninglessly, desperately; and the car
sprang forward like a spurred horse as
Roger opened the throttle wide.
The Saint was looking about him and rising
from his seat at the same moment. In Conduit Street there had been
traffic; but in George Street, at that moment, there was nothing
but a stray car parked empty by the kerb, and three pedestrians going the
other way, and—the two.
Said the Saint: "I think so. . . ."
"I'm sure," said Roger; and, indeed,
he was quite sure, because they had passed the two men by that
time, and the Hirondel was swinging in to the kerb with a scream of
brakes a dozen feet in front of them.
"Watch me!" said the Saint, and was
out of the car before it had rocked to a standstill.
He walked straight into the path of the two
men, and they glanced at him with curious but unsuspecting eyes.
He took the nearest man by the lapels of his
coat with one hand, and the man was surprised. A moment later the man was not
feeling surprise or any other emotion, for the Saint looked one way and
saw Roger Conway following him, and then he looked the other way and hit
the man under the jaw.
The man's head whipped back as if it had been
struck by a cannon-ball; and, in fact, there was very little difference between the
speed and force of the Saint's fist and the speed and force of a cannon-ball.
But the man never reached the ground. As his
knees gave limply under him, and his companion sprang forward with a shout
awakening on his lips, the Saint caught him about the waist and lifted him
from his feet, and heaved him bodily across the pavement, so that he
actually fell into Conway's anus.
"Home, James," said the Saint, and
turned again on his heel.
On the lips of the second man there was that
awakening of a shout, and in his eyes was the awakening of something
that might have been taken for fear, or suspicion, or a kind of vague and
startled perplexity; but these expressions were nebulous and half-formed, and
they never came to maturity, for the Saint spun the man round by one
shoulder and locked an arm about his neck in such a way that it was
impossible for him to shout or register any other expression than that of
a man about to
And in the same hold the Saint lifted him off
the ground, mostly by the neck, so that the man might well have thought that
his neck was about to be broken; but the only thing that was broken was the
spring of one of the cushions at the back of the car when the
Saint heaved him on to it.
The Saint followed him into the back seat;
and, when the man seemed ready to try another shout, Simon seized his
wrists in a grip that might have changed the shout to a scream if the Saint had
not uttered a warning.
"Don't scream, sweetheart," said the
Saint coldly. "It might break both your arms."
The man did not scream. Nor did he shout. And
on the floor of the car, at the Saint's feet, his companion lay like one dead.
In the cold light of sanity that came long
afterwards, Simon Templar was to wonder how on earth they got away with it.
Roger Conway, who was even then far too coldly sane for his own comfort,
was wondering all the time how on earth they were getting away with
it. But for the moment Simon Templar was mad—and the fact remained that they
had got away with it.
The Saint's resourceful speed, and the
entirely fortuitous desertedness of the street, had made it possible to carry
out the abduction without a sound being made that might have attracted
attention. And the few people there were whose attention might have been
attracted had passed on, undisturbed, unconscious of the swift seconds of hectic melodrama that
had whirled through George Street, Hanover
Square, behind their peaceful backs.
That the Saint would have acted in exactly
the same way if the street had been crowded with an equal mixture of
panicky population, plain-clothes men, and uniformed policemen, was nothing
whatever to do with anything at all. Once again the Saint had proved, to his own sufficient
satisfaction, as he had proved many times in
his life before, that desperate dilemmas are usually best solved by desperate measures, and that intelligent foolhardiness will often get by where
too much discretion betrays valour
into the mulligatawny. And the thought of
the notice that must have been taken of the Hirondel during the first part of that wild chase (it was not
an inconspicuous car at the best of
times, even when sedately driven, that long,
lean, silver-grey King of the Road) detracted nothing from the Saint's estimate of his success. One
could not have one's cake and eat it.
And certainly he had obtained the cake to
eat. Two cakes. Ugly ones. . . .
Even then there might have been trouble in
Brook Street when they returned with the cargo, but the Saint did not
allow any trouble.
There were two men to be taken across the
strip of pavement to the door of the flat. One man was long and lean, and
the other man was short and fat; and the lean man slept. The Saint kept his
grip on one wrist of the fat man, and half supported the lean man with his
other arm. Roger placed himself on the other side of the lean man.
"Sing," commanded the Saint; and
they crossed the pavement discordantly and drunkenly.
A man in evening dress passed them with a
supercilious nose. A man in rags passed them with an envious nose. A
patrolling policeman peered at them with an officious nose; but the Saint
had opened the door, and they were reeling cacophonously into the house. So the
officious nose went stolidly upon its way,
after taking the number of the car from which they had disembarked, for the law has as yet no power to
prevent men being as drunk and
disorderly as they choose in their own homes.
And, certainly, the performance, extempore as it was, had been most convincing.
The lean man had clearly failed to last the course; the two tall and
well-dressed young men who supported him
between them were giving most circumstantial evidence of the thoroughness with which they had lubricated their withins; and if the sounds emitted by the
fat man were too wild and shrill to be
easily classified as song, and if he seemed
somewhat unwilling to proceed with his companions into further dissipations, and if there was a
strange, strained look in his
eye—well, the state which he had apparently reached was regrettable, but nobody's business. . . .
And before the suspicious nose had reached the
next corner, the
men who had passed beneath it were in the first-floor apartment above it, and the lean one was being
carelessly dropped spread-eagle on the sitting-room carpet.
"Fasten the door, Roger," said the
Then he released his agonising hold on the
fat man's wrist, and the fat man stopped yelping and began to talk.
"Son of a pig," began the fat man,
rubbing his wrist tenderly; and then he stopped, appalled at what
There was a little knife in the Saint's
hand—a toy with a six-inch leaf-shaped blade and a delicately chased
ivory hilt. It appeared to have come from nowhere, but actually it had come from
the neat leather sheath strapped to the Saint's forearm under the sleeve,
where it always lived; and the name of the knife was Anna.
There was a story to Anna, a savage and flamboyant story of
the godless lands, which may be told one day: she had taken
many lives. To the Saint she was almost human, that beautifully fashioned,
beautifully balanced little creature of death; he could do tricks with
her that would have made most circus knife-throwers look like amateurs. But
at that moment he was not thinking of tricks.
As Roger switched on the light, the light
glinted on the blade; but the light in the Saint's eyes was no less cold
and inclement than the light on the steel.
7. How Simon Templar was Saintly,
and received another visitor
Simon Templar, in all his years of wandering
and adventure, had only fallen for one woman, and that was Patricia Holm.
Therefore, as might have been expected, he fell heavily. And yet—he was
realising it dimly, as one might realise an unthinkable heresy—in
the eighteen months that they had been together he had started to get used to
her. He had, he realised, been growing out of the first ecstatic
wonder; and the thing that had taken its place had been so quiet
and insidious that it had enchanted him while he was still unaware of it. It
had had to await
this shock to be revealed.
And the revelation, when it came, carried with
it a wonder that infinitely eclipsed the more blatant brilliance of
the wonder that had slipped away. This was the kind of wild and awful wonder
that might overtake a man who, having walked in the sunshine all
the days of his life, sees the sun itself for the first time, with a
dreadful and tremendous understanding, and sees at once a
vision of the darkness that would lie over the world if the sun ceased from shining.
The Saint said, very softly, to file fat man:
"Son of a pig to
you, sweetheart. And now listen. I'm going to ask you some questions. You can either answer them, or die
slowly and painfully, just as you
like—but you'll do one or the other before you leave this room."
The fat man was in a different class from
that of the wretched little weed in the pot hat from whom Simon
Templar had extracted information before. There was a certain brute resolution
in the fat man's beady eyes, a certain snarling defiance in the twist of
the thin lips, like the desperate determination of a beast at bay. Simon took
no count of that.
"Do you understand, you septic
excrescence?" said the Saint gently.
And there was hatred in the Saint's heart, a
hatred that was his very own, that no one else could have understood; but there was
another kind of devilry in the Saint's eyes and in the purring gentleness of
his voice, a kind of devilry that no one could have helped
understanding, that the man in front of him understood with
terror, an outward and visible and malignant hatred; and it was plainly
centred upon the fat man; and the fat man recoiled slowly, step by step,
as the Saint advanced, until he came up against the table and could not
move backwards any farther.
"I hope you don't think I'm bluffing,
dear little fat one," the Saint went on, in the same velvety voice.
"Because that would be foolish of you. You've done, or had a hand in
doing, something which I object to very much. I object to it in a general way,
and always have; but this time I object to it even more, in a personal
way, because this time it involves someone who means more to me
than your gross mind will ever understand. Do you follow the argument, you
The man was trying to edge away backwards
round the table, but he could not break away, for the Saint moved sideways
simultaneously. And he could not break away from the Saint's eyes—those clear
blue eyes that were ordinarily so full of laughter and bubbling mischief that
were then so bleak and pitiless.
And the Saint went on speaking.
"I'm not concerned with the fact that
you're merely the agent of Dr. Rayt Marius—ah, that makes you jump! I know
a little more than you thought I did, don't I? ... But we're
not concerned with that, either. ... If you insist on
mixing with people like that, you must be prepared to take the consequences.
And if you think the game's worth the candle, you must also be prepared
for an accident with the candle. That's fair, isn't it? ... So that
the point we're going to disagree about is that you've had a share in annoying
me—and I object very much to being annoyed. . . . No, you don't, sonny
boy!" There was a gun in the fat man's hand, and then there was
not a gun in the fat man's hand; for the Saint moved forwards and to one
side with a swift, stealthy, cat-like movement, and this time the fat man
could not help screaming as he dropped the gun.
"Ach! You would my wrist
"Cheerfully, beloved," said Simon.
"And your neck later on. But first ..."
Tightening instead of slackening that grip on
the fat man's wrist, the Saint bent him backwards over the table,
holding him easily with fingers of incredible strength; and the man saw the blade of the knife flash
before his eyes.
"Once upon a time, when I was in
Papua," said the Saint, in that dispassionately conversational way
which was indescribably more terrifying than any loud-voiced anger, "a
man came out of the jungle into the town where I was. He was a prospector,
and a pig-headed prospector, and he had insisted on prospecting a
piece of country that all the old hands had warned him against.
And the natives had caught him at the time of the full moon. They're always
very pleased to catch white men at that time, because they can be
used in the scheme of festivities and entertainment. They have primitive forms
of amusement—very. And one of their ways of amusing themselves with this
man had been to cut off his eyelids. Before I start doing the same
thing to you, will you consider for a moment the effect that
that operation will probably have on your beauty sleep?"
"God!" babbled the man shrilly.
The man tried to struggle, but he was held
with a hand of iron. For a little while he could move his head, but then the Saint swung
on to the table on top of him and clamped the head between his
"Don't talk so loud," said the
Saint, and his fingers left the wrist and sidled round the throat.
"There are other people in this building, and I should hate you to alarm
them. With regard to this other matter, now—did I hear you say I
couldn't do it? I beg to differ. I could do it very well. I shall
be very gentle, and you should not feel very much pain—just at the moment.
It's the after-effects that will be so unpleasant. So think. If you talk,
and generally behave like a good boy, I might be persuaded to
let you off. I won't promise you anything, but it's possible."
"I will not——"
"Really not? . . . Are you going to be
difficult, little one? Are you going to sacrifice your beautiful eyelids and go slowly blind? Are you going to force me to toast the soles
of your feet at the gas-fire, and
drive chips of wood under your fingernails, and do other crude things like that—before you come to your senses? Really, you'll be giving yourself a lot of
unnecessary pain. ..."
And the Saint held the knife quite close to
the man's eyes and brought it downwards very slowly. The point gleamed like a
lonely star, and the man stared at it, hypnotised, mute with horror.
And Roger Conway was also hypnotised, and stood like a man
carved in ice.
"Do you talk?" asked the Saint caressingly.
Again the man tried to scream, and again the
Saint's fingers choked the scream back into his windpipe. The Saint
brought the knife down farther, and the point of it actually pricked the skin.
Roger Conway felt cold beads of perspiration
breaking out on his forehead, but he could not find his voice. He knew
that the Saint would do exactly what he had threatened to do, if he were forced
to it. He knew the Saint. He had seen the Saint in a hundred strange
situations and a hundred moods, but he had never seen the Saint's
face chiselled into such an inexorable grimness as it wore
then. It was like granite.
And Roger Conway knew then, in the blazing
light of experience, what before then he had only understood mistily, in
the twilight of theory—that the wrath of saints can be a far more dreadful
thing than the wrath of sinners.
The man on the table must have understood it
also—the fantastic fact that a man of Simon Templar's calibre, in
such an icy rage, even in civilised England, would stop for nothing. And the
breath that the Saint let him take came in a kind of shuddering groan.
"Do you talk, beautiful?" asked the
Saint again, ever so gently.
It was not a voice—it was a whimper.
"I talk," whimpered the man.
"I will do anything. Only take away that knife——"
For a moment the Saint did not move.
Then, very slowly, like a man in a trance, he
took the knife away and looked at it as if he had never seen it before. And a
queer little laugh trickled through his lips.
"Very dramatic," he remarked.
"And almost horrible. I didn't know I had it in me."
And he gazed at the man curiously, as he might
have gazed at a fly on a window-pane in an idle moment and
remembered stories of schoolboys who were amused to pull off their
Then he climbed slowly down from the table
and took out his cigarette-case.
The man he had left did not so much raise
himself off the table as roll off it; and, when his feet touched the
floor, it was seen
that he could scarcely stand.
Roger pushed him roughly into a chair, from
which, fingering his throat, he could see the man who still lay
where he had fallen.
"Don't look so surprised," said
Roger. "The last man the Saint hit like that was out for half an hour,
and your pal's only been out twenty minutes."
Simon flicked a match into the fireplace and
returned to face the prisoner.
"Let's hear your little song,
honeybunch," he said briefly.
"What do you want to know?"
"First thing of all, I want to know
what's been done with the girl who was taken to-night."
"That I do not know."
The Saint's cigarette tilted up to a
dangerous angle between his lips, and his hands went deep into his
"You don't seem to have got the idea,
beautiful," he remarked sweetly. "This isn't a game—as
you'll find out if you don't wake yourself up in rather less time
than it takes me to get my hands on you again. I'm quite ready to resume the surgical
operation as soon as you like. So go on talking, because I
just love your voice, and it helps me to forget all the unpleasant
things I ought to be doing to your perfectly appalling face."
The man shuddered and cowered back into the
depths of the chair. His hands flew to his eyes; it may have been to
shut out a ghastly vision, or it may have been to try to escape from Saint's merciless blue stare.
"I do not know!" he almost
screamed. "I swear it——"
"Then tell me what you do know, you
rat," said Simon, "and then I'll make you remember some more."
Words came to the fat man in an incoherent,
pelting stream, lashed on by fear.
He was acting on the instructions of Dr.
Marius. That was true. The house in Brook Street had been closely watched for the last
twenty-four hours, he himself being one of the watchers. He had seen the
departure the previous night, but they had not had the means to follow a car.
Two other men had been sent to inspect the premises that afternoon, had
seen the loaded car outside, and had rushed away together to
"Both of them?" interrupted the
"Both of them. It was a criminal mistake.
But they will be punished."
"How will you be rewarded, I
wonder?" murmured Simon.
The fat man shivered, and went on.
"One was sent back immediately, but the
car had gone. The Doctor then said that he had made other plans, and one man
would be enough to keep the watch, in case you return. I was that man.
Hermann"—he pointed to the inert figure on the floor—"had just
come to relieve me when you came back. We were going to report
"Both of you?"
"Both of us."
"A criminal mistake," drawled the
Saint sardonically. "But I expect you will be punished. Yes?"
The man winced.
Another of his comrades, he said, had been
told off to follow the girl. It had been impressed upon the sleuths that no
movement should be missed, and no habit overlooked, however trifling.
Marius had not divulged the reason for this vigilance, but he had left them
in no doubt of its importance. In that spirit Patricia had
been followed to Devonshire.
"Your boss seems very unwilling to meet
me again personally,"
observed the Saint grimly. "How wise of him!"
"We could afford to take no risks——"
Simon swooped on the pronoun like a hawk.
"I know what you mean, sweetness,"
said the Saint silkily. "You mean that you didn't mean to let on that you
knew more about this than you said. You're not just a hired crook,
like the last specimen of your kind I had to tread on. You're a
secret agent. We understand that. We understand also that, however much
respect you may have for the continued wholeness of your own verminous
hide, a most commendable patriotism for your misbegotten country will make you
keep on fighting and lying as long as you can. Very good. I
applaud. But I'm afraid my appreciation of your one solitary virtue
will have to stop there—at just that one theoretical pat on the back. After
which, we go back to our own private, practical quarrel. And what
you've got to get jammed well into the misshapen lump of bone that keeps your
unwashed ears apart, is that I'm a bit of a fighter myself,
and I think—somehow, somehow, I think, dear one—I think I'm
a better fighter than you are."
"I did not mean——"
"Don't lie," said the Saint, in a
tone of mock reproach that held behind its superficial flippance a kind
of glacial menace. "Don't lie to me. I don't like it."
Roger moved off the wall which he had been
"Put him back on the table, old
boy," he suggested.
"I'm going to," said the Saint,
"unless he spills the beans in less than two flaps of a duck's
He came a little closer to the fat man.
"Now, you loathsome monstrosity—listen
to me. The game's up. You've put both feet in it with that little word 'we.'
And I'm curious. Very, very curious and inquisitive. I want to know everything
about you—the story of your life, and your favourite movie star, and your golf
handicap, and whether you sleep with your pyjama trousers inside or outside
the jacket. I want you to tell me all about yourself. For instance, when
Marius told you that you could let up on the watch here, as he'd made other
plans—didn't he say that there was a girl concerned in those plans?"
"That's two lies," said the Saint.
"Next time you lie, you will be badly hurt. Second question: I know
that Marius arranged for the girl to be drugged on the train, and
taken off it before it reached London—but where was she to be taken to?"
"I do not——A-a-a-a-ah!"
"I warned you," said the
"Are you a devil?" sobbed the man,
and the Saint showed his teeth.
"Not really. Just an ordinary man who
objects to being molested. I thought I'd made that quite plain. Of course,
I'm in a hurry this evening, so that may make me seem a little hasty.
Now, are you going to remember things—truthful things—or shall we have some more
The man shrank back from him, quivering.
"I do not know any more," he
blubbered. "I swear——"
"Where is Marius now?"
But the man did not answer immediately, for
the sudden ringing of a bell sounded clearly through the apartment.
For a second the Saint was immobile.
Then he stepped round behind the prisoner's
chair, and the little knife slid out of its sheath again. The prisoner
saw the flash of
it, and his eyes dilated with terror. A cry rose to his lips, and the Saint stifled it with a hand over his
mouth. Then the point stung the man
over the heart.
"Just one word," said the
Saint—"just one word, and you'll say the rest of the sentence to the
Recording Angel. Who d'you think it is, Roger?"
"Having traced that motor agent to his
Sunday lair, and got on our trail?"
"If we don't answer—"
"They'll break in. There's the car
outside to tell them we're here. No, they'll have to come in——"
"Just when we're finding out
Simon Templar's eyes glittered.
"Give me that gun!"
Conway picked up the automatic that the fat
man had dropped, which had lain neglected on the floor ever since, and handed it
"I'll tell you," said the Saint,
"that no man born of woman is going to interfere with me. I'm going to
finish getting everything I want out of this lump of refuse, and
then I'm going on to act on it—to find Pat—and I'll shoot my way through the whole of
Scotland Yard to do it, if I have to. Now go and open that door."
"I'm with you," he said, and went
The Saint waited calmly.
His left hand still held the slim blade of
Anna over the fat man's heart, ready to drive it home, and his ears were
alert for the faintest sound of a deeply drawn breath that might be the prelude
to a shout. His right hand held the automatic, concealed behind the
back of the chair.
But when Roger came back, and the Saint saw
the man who came with him, he remained exactly as he was; and no one
could have remarked the slightest change in the desolate impassivity
of his face. Only his heart leapt sickeningly, and slithered back anyhow
into its place, leaving a strange feeling of throbbing
emptiness spreading across the track of that thudding somersault. "Pleased
to meet you again, Marius," said the Saint.
8. How Simon Templar entertained his guest
and broke up the party
Then, slowly, the Saint straightened up.
No one would ever know what an effort his
calm and smiling imperturbability cost him; and yet, as a matter of
fact, it was easier than the calm he had previously maintained
before Roger Conway when there was really nothing to be calm about.
For this was something that the Saint
understood. He had not the temperament to remain patient in periods of
enforced inaction; he could never bring his best to bear against
an enemy whom he could not see; subtleties were either above or beneath
him, whichever way you like to look at it.
In Simon Templar there was much of his
celebrated namesake, the Simple One. He himself was always ready to
confess it, saying that, in spite of his instinctive understanding of the criminal
mind, he would never have made a successful detective. His brain was
capable of it, but his character wasn't. He preferred the more
gaudy colours, the broader and more clean-cut line, the simple
and straight-forward and startling things. He was a fighting
man. His genius and inspiration led him into battles and
showed him how to win them; but he rarely thought about them.
He had ideals, and he rarely thought about those: they were laid down for
him by an authority greater than himself, and remained apart and
unquestionable. He disliked any sort of thought that was not as concrete
as a weapon. To him, any other sort of thought was a heresy and a curse, an
insidious sickness, sapping honesty and action. He asked for different
things—the high heart of the happy warrior, the swagger and the
flourish, the sound of the trumpet. He had said it himself;
and it should go down as one of the few statements the Saint
ever made about himself with no suggestion of pose. "Battle, murder,
and sudden death," he had said.
And now, at last, he was on ground that he
knew, desperate and dangerous as it might be.
"Take over the pop-gun, Roger."
Cool, smooth, mocking, with a hint of
laughter—the voice of the old Saint. He turned again to Marius,
smiling and debonair.
"It's nice of you," he said genially,
"to give us a call. Have a drink, Tiny Tim?"
Marius advanced a little further into the
He was robed in conventional morning coat and
striped trousers. The stiff perfection of the garb contrasted grotesquely with his
neolithic stature and the hideously ugly expressionlessness of a face
that might have been fashioned after the model of some savage
He glanced round without emotion at Roger
Conway, who leaned against the door with his commandeered automatic comfortably
concentrating on an easy target; and then he turned again to the
Saint, who was swinging his little knife like a pendulum
between his finger and thumb.
Thoughtful was the Saint, calm with a vivid
and violent calm, like a leopard gathering for a spring; but Marius
was as calm as a gigantic Buddha.
"I see you have some servants of mine
here," said Marius.
His voice, for such a man, was extraordinary
soft and high-pitched; his English would have been perfect but for its exaggerated
"I have," said the Saint blandly.
"You may think it odd of me, but I've given up standing on my dignity,
and I'm now a practising Socialist. I go out into the highways and
byways every Sunday evening and collect bits and pieces. These are to-night's bag. How did you
"I did not know. One of them should have
reported to me a long time ago, and my servants know better than to be late. I came to
see what had happened to him. You will please let him go—and his friend."
The Saint raised one eyebrow.
"I'm not sure that they want to," he
remarked. "One of them, at least, is temporarily incapable of
expressing his views on the subject. As for the other—well, we were
just starting to get on so nicely together. I'm sure he'd hate to have
to leave me."
The man thus indirectly appealed to spat out
some words in a language which the Saint did not understand. Simon smothered him
with a cushion.
"Don't interrupt," he drawled.
"It's rude. First I have my say, then you have yours. That's fair. And I'm
sure Dr. Marius would like to share our little joke, particularly as it's
The giant's mouth formed into something like
a ghastly smile.
"Hadn't you better hear my joke
first?" he suggested.
"Second," said the Saint.
"Quite definitely second. Because your joke is sure to
be so much funnier than mine, and I'd hate mine to fall flat after it. This
joke is in the form of a little song, and it's about a man whom we call Tiny
Tim, whom I once had to kick with some vim. He recovered, I fear, but foxhunting
this year will have little attraction for him. You haven't given us time
to rehearse it, or I'd ask the boys to sing it to you. Never
mind. Sit right down and tell me the story of your life."
The giant was not impressed.
"You appear to know my name," he
"Very well," beamed the Saint.
"Any relation to the celebrated Dr. Marius?"
"I am not unknown."
"I mean," said the Saint, "the
celebrated Dr. Marius whose living was somewhat precarious, for his
bedside technique was decidedly weak, though his ideas were many and various.
Does that ring the bell and return the penny?"
Marius moved his huge right hand in an
"I am not here to listen to your humour,
"Templar," supplied the Saint.
"So pleased to be met."
"I do not wish to waste any time——"
Simon lowered his eyes, which had been fixed on the ceiling during the labour of poetical composition, and
allowed them to rest upon Marius. There was something very steely and savage about those eyes. The laughter had gone out
of them utterly. Roger had seen it
"Naturally, we don't want to waste any
time," said the Saint quietly. "Thank you for reminding me.
It's a thing I should hate very much to forget while you're here. I
may tell you that I'm going to murder you, Marius. But before we talk any more about that, let me save you the
trouble of saying what you were going to
"You appear to be an intelligent man,
"Thanks very much. But let's keep the
bouquets on ice till we want them, will you? Then they might come
in handy for the wreath. . . . The business of the moment interests me more. One:
you're going to tell me that a certain lady named Patricia Holm is now
The giant bowed.
"I'm sorry to have had to make such a
conventional move," he said. "On the other hand, it is often
said that the most conventional principles have the deepest
foundations. I have always found that saying to be true when applied
to the time-honoured expedient of taking a woman whom a man loves as a
hostage for his good behaviour—particularly with a man of what I judge to be
your type, Mr. Templar."
"Very interesting," said the Saint
shortly. "And I suppose Miss Holm's safety is to be the price of the
safety of your—er —servants? I believe that's also in the convention."
Marius spread out his enormous hands.
"Oh, no," he said, in that thin,
soft voice. "Oh, dear me, no! The convention is not by any means as
trivial as that. Is not the fair lady's safety always the price of
something more than mere pawns in the game?"
"Meaning?" inquired the Saint
"Meaning a certain gentleman in whom I am
interested, whom you were successful in removing from the protection of my
servants last night."
"I have reason to believe that you were.
Much as I respect your integrity, Mr. Templar, I fear that in this case your
contradiction will not be sufficient to convince me against the evidence
of my own eyes."
The Saint swayed gently on his heels.
"Let me suggest," he said,
"that you're very sure I got him."
"Let me suggest," said Marius
suavely, "that you're very sure I've got Miss Holm."
"I haven't got him."
"Then I have not got Miss Holm."
"Very ingenious," he murmured.
"Very ingenious. Not quite the way I expected it—but very ingenious, all
the same. And quite unanswerable. Therefore——"
"Therefore, Mr. Templar, why not put the
cards on the table? We have agreed not to waste time. I frankly admit
that Miss Holm is my prisoner. Why don't you admit that Professor Vargan is
"Not so fast," said the Saint.
"You've just admitted, before witnesses, that you are a party to an
abduction. Now, suppose that became know to the police? Wouldn't that
Marius shook his head.
"Not particularly," he said.
"I have a very good witness to deny any such admission——"
"Oh no. A most respectable countryman of
mine. I assure you,
it would be quite impossible to discredit him."
Simon lounged back against the table.
"I see," he drawled. "And that's your complete
song-and-dance act, is it?"
"I believe I have stated all the
"Then," said the Saint, "I
will now state mine."
Carefully he replaced the little knife in its
sheath and adjusted his sleeve. A glance at the man on the floor told
him that that unlucky servant of the Cause was recovering; but Simon was
not interested. He addressed himself to the man in the chair.
"Tell your master about the game we were
playing," he invited. "Confess everything, loveliness. He
has a nice kind face, and perhaps he won't be too hard on
The man spoke again in his own language.
Marius listened woodenly. The Saint could not understand a word of what was being said;
but he knew, when the giant interrupted the discourse with a
movement of his hand and a sharp, harsh syllable of impatience,
that the recital had passed through the stage of being a
useful statement of facts, and had degenerated into a string of excuses.
Then Marius was looking curiously at Simon
Templar. There seemed to be a kind of grim humour in that gaze.
"And yet you do not look a ferocious man,
"I shouldn't rely too much on
Again that jerky gesture of impatience.
"I am not relying on it. With a
perspicacity which I should have expected, and which I can only commend,
you have saved me many words, many tedious explanations. You have summed up the
situation with admirable briefness. May I ask you to be as brief
with your decision? I may say that the fortunate accident of finding you at
home, which I did not expect, has saved me the considerable
trouble of getting in touch with you through the agony columns of the daily
papers, and has enabled me to put my proposition before you with the
minimum of delay. Would it not be a pity, now, to mar such an excellent start with
"It would," said the Saint.
And he knew at once what he was going to do.
It had come to him in a flash—an inspiration, a summarising and deduction and
realisation that were instantaneous, and more clear and sure than
anything of their kind which could have been produced by any
That he was on toast, and that there was no
ordinary way off the toast. That the situation was locked and
double-locked into exactly the tangle of dithering subtleties and
cross-causes and cross-menaces that he hated more than anything else
in the world, as
has been explained-—the kind of chess-problem tangle
that was probably the one thing in the world capable of reeling him off his active mental balance and
sending him raving mad. . . . That to
think about it and try to scheme about
it would be the one certain way of losing the game. That, obviously, he could never hope to stand up in the
same class as Rayt Marius in a
complicated intrigue—to try to enter into an even contest with such a past professional master of the art would be the act of a suicidal fool. That,
therefore, his only chance to win out was to break the very rules of the
game that Marius would least expect an
opponent to break. That it was the
moment when all the prejudices and convictions that made the Saint what he was must be put to the test.
That all his fundamental faith in the
superiority of reckless action over laborious ratiocination must now justify itself, or topple down to destruction and take him with it into hell. . . .
That, in fact, when all the pieces on
the chessboard were so inweaved and dove-tailed
and counter-blockaded, his only chance was to smash up the whole stagnant
structure and sweep the board clean—with
the slash of a sword. . . .
"Certainly," said the Saint,
"I'll give you my decision at once. Roger, give me back that gun,
and go and fetch some rope. You'll find some in the kitchen."
As Conway went out, the Saint turned again to
"You have already observed, dear
one," he remarked gently, "that I have a genius for summarising
situations. But this one can be stated quite simply. The fact is, Angel
Face, I propose to apply to you exactly the same methods of persuasion
that I was about to employ on your servant. You observe that I have a gun. I
can't shoot the pips out of a playing-card at thirty paces, or do any
other Wild West stuff like that; but still, I don't think I'm such a
bad shot that I could miss anything your size at this range. Therefore, you
can either submit quietly to being tied up by my friend, or you
can be killed at once. Have it whichever way you like."
A flicker of something showed in the giant's
eyes, and was gone
as soon as it had come.
"You seem to have lost your grip on the
situation, Mr. Templar," he said urbanely. "To anyone as expert in
these matters as you appear to be, it should be unnecessary to explain that
I did not come here unprepared for such an obvious riposte. Must I
bore you with the details of what will happen to Miss Holm if I
fail to return to the place where she is being kept? Must I be
compelled to make my conventional move still more conventional with a
melodramatic exposition of her peril?"
"It's an odd thing," said the Saint,
in mild reminiscence, "that more than half the crooks I've
dealt with have been frantically anxious to avoid melodrama. Now, personally, I
just love it. And we're going to have lots of it now—lots and lots and
lots, Marius, my little ray of sunshine. . . ."
"I thought better of your intelligence,
The Saint smiled, a very Saintly smile.
His hands on his hips, teetering gently on his
toes, he answered
with the most reckless defiance of his life.
"You're wrong," he said. "You
didn't think well enough of my intelligence. You thought it'd be feeble enough
to let me be bluffed into meeting you on your own ground. And
that's just what it isn't quite feeble enough to do."
"I do not follow you," said Marius.
"Then I'm not the one with softening of
the brain," said Simon sweetly, "but you are. I invite
you to apply your own admirable system of logic to the situation. I
could tell the police things about you, but you could tell the police
things about me. Deadlock. You could harm Miss Holm, but I could deprive
you of Vargan. Deadlock again—with a shade of odds in your favour on
"We can rule out the police for the
present. If we did so, an exchange of prisoners——"
"But you don't get the point," said
Simon, with a terrible simplicity. "That would be a surrender
on my part. And I never surrender."
Marius moved his hands.
"I also surrender Miss Holm."
"And there's still a difference,
loveliness," said the Saint. "You see, you don't really want Miss
Holm, except as a hostage. And I do want Vargan very much indeed. I
want to wash him and comb him and buy him a little velvet suit and
adopt him. I want him to yadder childishly to me about the binomial theorem
after breakfast. I want to be able to bring him into the drawing-room
after dinner to amuse my guests with recitations from the
differential calculus. But most of all I want one of his little toys. . . . And so, you
see, if I let you go, Miss Holm would be in
exactly the same danger as if I kept you here, since I couldn't agree to your terms of ransom. But the difference
is that if I let you go I lose my one chance of finding her, and I should have to trust to luck to come on the scent again. While I keep you here, though, I hold a
very good card —and I'm not letting it go."
"You gain nothing——"
"On the contrary, I gain
everything," said the Saint, in that dreamy sing-song. "I gain
everything, or lose more than everything. But I'm tired of haggling. I'm
tired of playing your safety game. You're going to play my game
now, Marius, my cherub. Wait a second while I rearrange the scene. . .
As Conway came back with a length of cord,
the Saint took from his pocket a little shining cylinder and screwed it swiftly
on to the muzzle of the gun he held.
"This will now make no noise worth
mentioning," he said. "You know the gadget, don't you? So let
me have your decision quickly, Marius, before I remember what I
want to do more than anything else in the world."
"It will not help you to kill me."
"It will not help me to let you go. But
we've had all that before. Besides, I mightn't kill you. I might just shoot
you through the kidneys, and long before you died of the wound you'd be
ready to give me anything to put you out of your agony. I grant you it
wouldn't improve my chance of finding Miss Holm, but, on the other hand, it
wouldn't make it any worse—and you'd be so dead that it wouldn't
worry you, anyway. Think it over. I give you two minutes. Roger, time
him by that clock!"
Marius put his hands behind him at once.
"Suppose I save you the time. I will be
tied now—if you think that will help you."
"Carry on, Roger," said the Saint.
He knew that Marius still did not believe
him—that the fat man's description of his ordeal had not made the
impression it should have made. He knew that Marius's acquiescence
was nothing but a bland calling of what the giant estimated to be a
hopeless bluff. And he stood by, watching with a face of stone,
while Conway tied the man's hands behind his back and thrust him into a
"Take over the peashooter again,
Then an idea struck the Saint.
He said: "Before we begin, Roger, you
might search him."
A glimmer of fear, which nothing else in that
interview had aroused, contorted the giant's face like a spasm, and the
Saint could have shouted for joy. Marius struggled like a fiend, but he had been well bound, and his
effort was wasted. The weak spot in the
armour. . . .
Simon waited, almost trembling. Torture he
had been grimly prepared to apply; but he recognised, at the same
time, how futile it was likely to prove against a man like Marius. He might have
resumed the torture of the fat man; but that also would have been less
efficacious now that the moral support— or threat—of Marius
was there to counteract it. He would obtain some sort of
information, certainly—the limits of human endurance would inevitably see to
that—but he would have no means of proving its truth. Something in
writing, though . . .
And the colossal facility of the success made the Saint's heart pound like a triphammer, in a devastating terror
lest the success should turn out to be
no success at all. For, if success it was,
the rightness of his riposte could not have been more shatteringly demonstrated. If it were true—if
Marius had plunged so heavily on the
rules of the game as he knew them—if
Marius had been so blindly certain that, under the menace which he knew he could hold over them, neither of
the men in Brook Street would dare to
lay a hand on him—if . . .
"Naughty temper," said Roger
"Thank you," said the Saint, taking
the letter which Roger handed to him. "Careless of you, Marius,
to come here with that on you. Personally, I never commit anything to writing. It's
dangerous. But perhaps you meant to post it on your way, and forgot it."
He glanced at the address.
"Our old friend the Crown Prince,"
he murmured. "This should be interesting."
He slit open the envelope with one swift
flick of his thumb, and drew out the typewritten sheet.
It was in Marius's own language, but that was
a small difficulty. The Saint took it with him to the telephone; and
in a few minutes he was through to a friend who held down a soft job at the
Foreign Office by virtue of an almost incredible familiarity with every
language on the map of Europe.
"Glad to find you in," said the
Saint rapidly. "Listen—I've got a letter here which I want translated. I
don't know how to pronounce any of it, but I'll spell it out word by word.
It took time; but the Saint had found an
unwonted patience. He wrote between the lines as the receiver dictated; and
presently it was finished.
He came back smiling.
Roger prompted him: "Which, being
"I'm leaving now."
"The house on the hill, Bures,
"According to the letter."
The Saint passed it over, and Conway read the
scribbled notes between the lines: ". . . the girl, and she is being
taken to a quiet part of Suffolk . . . Bures... house on the
hill far enough from the village to be safe . . . cannot
fail this time. ..."
Conway handed it back.
"I'll come with you."
The Saint shook his head.
"Sorry, son, but you've got to stay here
and look after the menagerie. They're my hostages."
"But suppose anything goes wrong,
The Saint consulted his watch. It was still
stopped. He wound it up and set it by the mantelpiece clock.
"I'll be back," he said,
"before four o'clock tomorrow morning. That allows for
punctures, breakdowns, and everything eke. If I'm not here on the stroke,
shoot these birds and come after me."
Marius's voice rasped in on Conway's
"You insist on being foolish, Templar?
You realise that my men at Bures have orders to use Miss Holm as a hostage in
an attack or any other emergency?"
Simon Templar went over and looked down at
"I could have guessed it," he said.
"And it makes me weep for your bad generalship, Marius. I suppose you
realise that if they sacrifice her, your first and last hold over me
is gone? But that's only half the fundamental weakness in your bright scheme. The
other half is that you've got to pray against yourself. Pray that I win
to-night, Marius—pray as you've never prayed before in your filthy life!
Because, if I fail, I'm coming straight back here to kill you in the most
hideous way I can invent. I mean that."
He swung round, cool, cold, deliberate, and
went to the door as if he were merely going for a stroll round the
block before turning in. But at the door he turned to cast a slow, straight
glance over Marius, and then to smile at Roger.
"All the best, old boy," said
" 'Battle, murder, and sudden death,'
" quoted the Saint softly, with a gay, reckless gesture; and the
Saintly smile could never have shone more superbly. "Watch me," said
the Saint, and was
9. How Roger Conway
also made a mistake
Roger Conway shifted vaguely across the room as the hum of Norman Kent's Hirondel faded and was lost in the
noises of Regent Street. He came upon
the side table where the decanter
lived, helped himself to a drink, and remembered that last cavalier wave of the Saint's hand and the
pitiful torment in the Saint's eyes.
Then he put down the drink and took a cigarette
instead, suddenly aware that he might have to remain wide awake and alert all
He looked at Marius. The giant had sunk into
an inscrutable apathy; but he spoke.
"If you would allow it, I should like to
smoke a cigar."
"It might be arranged—if you don't need
your hands free."
"I can try. The case is in my breast
Conway found it, bit the end, and put it in
Marius's mouth and lighted it. Marius thanked him.
"Will you join me?"
"Try something newer," he advised.
"I never take smokes from strangers these days, on principle. Oh,
and by the way, if I catch you trying to burn through your ropes with the
end, I shall have much pleasure in grinding it into your face till it goes
Marius shrugged and made no reply; and Roger
resumed his cigarette.
Coming upon the telephone, he hesitated, and
then called a number. He was through in a few minutes.
"Can I speak to Mr. Kent, Orace? . . ,
Oh, hullo, Norman!"
"Who's that? Roger?"
"Yes. I rang up in case you were getting
worried about us. Heaven knows what time we shall get down. . . . No, the car's
all right—as far as I know. Simon's gone off in it. ... Brook Street. . .
. Well—Marius has got Pat. . . . Yes, I'm afraid so. Got her on the train.
But we've got Marius. . . . Yes, he's here. I'm standing guard. We've found
out where Pat's been taken, and Simon's gone after her. . . .
Somewhere in Suffolk."
"Shall I come up?"
"How? It's too late for a train, and you
won't be able to hire anything worth calling a car at this hour. I don't see
what you could do, anyway. . . . Look here, I can't talk any more
now. I've got to keep both eyes on Marius and Co. . . . I'll leave it to you. . .
. Right. So long, old boy."
He hooked up the receiver.
It occurred to him afterwards that there was
something that Norman could have done. He could have tied up the fat man and the
lean man, both of whom were now conscious and free to move as much as
they dared. That ought to have been done before Simon left.
They ought to have thought of it—or Simon ought to have thought of it. But
the Saint couldn't, reasonably, have been expected to think of it, or
anything else like it, at such a time. Roger knew both the Saint and Pat
too well to be able to blame Simon for the omission. Simon had been mad
when he left. The madness had been there all the time, since half-past nine,
boiling up in fiercer and fiercer waves behind all the masks of calmness and flippancy and patience that the Saint had assumed at intervals, and
it had been at its whitest heat behind that last gay smile and gesture from the door.
Half an hour passed.
Roger was beginning to feel hungry. He had had
a snack in the station buffet while he was waiting, but the
satisfaction of that was starting to wear off. If he had gone to the kitchen to
forage, that would have meant compelling his three prisoners to
precede him at the point of his gun. And the kitchen was small. . .
. Ruefully Roger resigned himself to a hungry vigil. He looked unhappily
at the clock. Four and a half hours before he could shoot
the prisoners and dash to the pantry, if he obeyed the Saint's
orders. But it would have to be endured. The Saint might have
managed the cure, and got away with it; but then, the Saint
was a fully qualified adventurer, and what he didn't know about
the game was not knowledge. Conway was infinitely less experienced, and
knew it. In the cramped space of the kitchen, while he was trying to locate
food with one eye and one hand, he might easily be taken off his guard and
overpowered. And, in the circumstances, the risk was too great to take.
If only Norman decided to come. ...
Roger Conway sat on the edge of the table,
swinging the gun idly in his hand. Marius remained silent. His cigar
had gone out, and he had not asked for it to be relighted. The fat man
slouched in another chair, watching Roger with venomous eyes. The lean
man stood awkwardly in one corner. He had not spoken since he
recovered consciousness; but he also watched. The clock ticked
monotonously. . . .
Roger started to whistle to himself. It was
extraordinary how quickly the strain began to tell. He wished he were
like the Saint. The Saint wouldn't have gone hungry, for one thing. The
Saint would have made the prisoners cook him a four-course dinner, lay the
table, and wait on him. The Saint would have kept them busy putting on the
gramophone and generally running his errands. The Saint would probably have written a
letter and composed a few limericks into the bargain. He certainly wouldn't
have been oppressed by the silence and the concentrated
malevolence of three pairs of eyes. He would have dismissed the
silence and whiled away the time by indulging in airy
persiflage at their expense.
But it was the silence and the watchfulness of
the eyes. Roger began to understand why he had never felt an
irresistible urge to become a lion-tamer. The feeling of being alone in a cage
of wild beasts, he decided, must be very much like what he was experiencing at
that moment. The same fragile dominance of the man, the same unresting
watchfulness of the beasts, the same tension, the same snarling submission of
the beasts, the same certainty that the beasts were only waiting, waiting,
waiting. These human beasts were sizing him up, searching his soul,
stripping him naked of all bluff, finding out all his
weaknesses in silence, planning, scheming, considering, alert to pounce.
It was getting on Roger's nerves. Presently, sooner or later, somehow, he
knew, there would be a bid for liberty. But how would it happen?
And that uncertainty must go on for hours and
hours, perhaps. Move and counter-move, threat and counter-threat,
the snarl and the lash, the silence and the watchfulness and the eyes. How
long? . . .
Then from the fat man's lips broke the first
rattle of words, in his own language.
"Stop that!" rapped Conway, with his
nerves all on edge. "If you've anything to say, say it in English. Any
more of that, and you'll get a clip over the ear with the soft end of this
And the man deliberately and defiantly spoke
again, still in his own language.
Roger came off the table as though it had
been redhot. He stood over the man with his hand raised, and the man
stared back with
Then it happened.
The plan was beautifully simple.
Roger had forgotten for the moment that only
Marius's hands were tied. The giant's feet were free. And, standing
over the fat man's chair, where he had been so easily lured by the bait that
was also an explanation of the trap to the others, Roger's back was half
turned to Marius.
Conway heard the movement behind him, but he
had no time to spin round to meet it. The giant's foot crashed into the small of
his back with a savage force that might well have broken the spine—if
it had struck the spine. But it struck to one side of the spine,
in a place almost as vulnerable, and Roger went to the floor with a gasp of agony.
Then both the fat man and the lean man leapt
on him together.
The gun was wrenched out of Roger's hand. He
could not have seen to shoot, anyway, for the pain had blinded him.
He could not cry out—his throat was constricted with a horrible numbing
nausea, and his lungs seemed to be paralysed. The lean man's fist
smacked again and again into his defenceless jaw.
"Untie me quickly, fool!" hissed
Marius, and the fat man obeyed, to the accompaniment of a babbling flood of
Marius cut him short.
"I will consider your punishment later,
Otto. Perhaps this will atone for a little of your imbecility. Tie him up now
with this rope——"
Roger lay still. Somehow—he did not know
how—he retained his consciousness. There was no strength in any of
his limbs; he could see nothing; his battered head sang and ached and
throbbed horribly; the whole of his body was in the grip of a
crushing, cramping agony that centered on the point in his back where he had
taken the kick, and from that point spread iron tentacles of helplessness
into every muscle; yet his mind hung aloof, high and clear above the
roaring blackness, and he heard and remembered every word that was said.
"Look for more rope, Hermann,"
Marius was ordering.
The lean man went out and returned. Roger's
feet were bound as
his wrists had been.
Then Marius was at the telephone.
"A trunk call. . . . Bures. . . ."
An impatient pause. Then Marius cursed
"The line is out of order? Tell me when
it will be working again. It is a matter of life and death. . . . To-morrow?
. . . God in heaven! A telegram—would a telegram be delivered in Bures
"I'll put you through to——"
"Yes. I wish to ask if a telegram would be delivered in Bures
to-night. . . . Bures, Suffolk. . . . You
think not? . . . You are almost sure
not? . . . Very well. Thank you. No, I will not send it now."
He replaced the receiver, and lifted it again
This time he spoke to Westminster 9999, and
gave staccato instructions which Roger could not understand. They appeared to
be detailed instructions, and they took some time. But at last Marius
He rang off, and turned and kicked Roger
"You stay here, pig. You are a security
for your friend's behaviour."
Then again he spoke to the lean man in the
language which was double-Dutch to Roger: "Hermann, you remain
to guard him. I will leave you the gun. Wait—I find out the telephone
number. . . ." He read it off the instrument. "If I have orders to
give, I will telephone. You will not leave here without my permission. .
. . Otto, you come with me. We go after Templar in my car. I
have agents on the road, and I have ordered them to be
instructed. If they are not all as incapable as you, he will never
reach Bures alive. But we follow to make sure. . . . Wait
again. That pig on the floor spoke to a friend at Maidenhead who may
be coming to join him. You will capture him and tie him up also. Let there
be no mistake, Hermann."
"There shall be no mistake."
"Good! Come, Otto."
Roger heard them go; and then the roaring
blackness that lay all about him welled up and engulfed that lonely
glitter of clarity in his mind.
He might have been unconscious for five
minutes or five days; he had lost all idea of time. But the first thing he saw
when he opened his eyes was the clock, and he knew that it must have
been about twenty minutes.
The man Hermann sat in a chair opposite him,
turning the pages of a magazine. Presently he looked up and saw that Roger
was awake; and he put down the magazine and came over and spat in
"Soon, English swine, you will be dead.
And your country——"
Roger controlled his tongue with a tremendous
He found that he could breathe. The iron bands
about his chest had slackened, and the bodily anguish had lessened. There was
still the throbbing pain in his back and the throbbing pain in his
head; but he was better. And he wasn't asking for any unnecessary
aggravation of his troubles—not just then, anyway.
The man went on: "The Doctor is a great
man. He is the greatest man in the world. You should have seen how he arranged
everything in two minutes. It was magnificent. He is Napoleon born
again. He is going to make our country the greatest country in
the world. And you fools try to fight him——"
The speech merged into an unintelligible
outburst in the man's native tongue; but Roger understood enough. He understood
that a man who could delude his servants into such a fanatical loyalty
was no small man. And he wondered what chance the Saint would
ever have had of convincing anyone that Marius was concerned with no patriotism
and no nationalities, but only with his own gods of money and power.
The first flush of futile anger ebbed from
Conway's face, and he lay in stolid silence as he was tied, revolving
plot and counter-plot in his mind. Hermann, failing to rouse him with
taunts, struck him twice across the face. Roger never moved. And the man
spat at him again.
"It is as I thought. You have no
courage, you dogs of Englishmen. It is only when you are many against
one little one— then you are brave."
"Oh, quite," said Roger wearily.
Hermann glowered at him.
"Now, if you had been the one who hit
The shrill scream of a bell wailed through
the apartment with a suddenness that made the conventional sound
electrifying. Hermann stopped, stiffening, in the middle of his
sentence. And a sour leer came into his face.
"Now I welcome your friend, pig."
Roger drew a deep breath.
He must have been careless, obvious about it,
for Roger Conway's was not a mind much given to cunning. Or
possibly Hermann had been expecting some such move, subconsciously, and had
his ears pricked for the sound. But he stopped on his way to the door and
"You would try to give warning,
Englishman?" he purred.
His gun was in his hand. He reached Roger in
Roger knew he was up against it. If he didn't
shout, his one chance of rescue, so far as he could see, was dished—and
Norman Kent with it. If he looked like shouting, he'd be laid out again.
And, if it came to that, since his intention of shouting had
already been divined, he'd probably be laid out anyway. Hermann wasn't
the sort of man to waste time gagging his prisoner. So——
"Go to blazes," said Roger
Then he yelled.
An instant later Hermann's gun-butt crashed
into the side of
Again he should have been stunned; but he
wasn't. He decided afterwards that he must have a skull a couple of inches thick, and
the constitution of an ox with it, to have stood up to as much as he had.
But the fact remained that he was laid out without being stunned; and he lay
still, trying to collect himself in time to loose a second yell as
Hermann opened the door.
Hermann straightened up, turning his gun round
again. He put it in his coat pocket, keeping his finger on the
trigger; and then, with something like a panicking terror that the warning might
have been heard and accepted by the person outside the front door, he
scrambled rather than ran out of the room, cursing under his
But the ring was repeated as he reached the
front door, and the sound reassured him. He could not believe that anyone who had
heard and understood that one yell would have rung again so promptly
after it. Whereby Hermann showed himself a less ingenious psychologist than
the man outside. . . .
He opened the door, keeping himself hidden
No one entered.
He waited, with a kind of superstitious fear
trickling down his back like a tiny cascade of ice-cold water. Nothing happened—and
yet the second ring had sounded only a moment before he opened the door, and no
one who had rung a second time would go away at once, without waiting to see if
summons would be answered.
Then Conway yelled again: "Look out,
Hermann swore in a whisper.
But now he had no choice. He had been given
his orders. The man who came was to be taken. And certainly the man who had come, who must have
heard Conway's second cry even if he had not
heard the first, could not be allowed to escape and raise an alarm.
Incautiously, Hermann stepped to the door.
His feet were scarcely clear of the threshold,
outside on the landing, when a hand like a ham caught his throat
from behind, over his shoulder, and another enormous hand gripped
his gun-wrist like a vice. He was as helpless as a child.
The hand at his throat twisted his face round
to the light. He saw a ponderous red face with sleepy eyes, connected
by a pillar of
neck with shoulders worthy of a buffalo.
"Come along," said Chief Inspector
Claud Eustace Teal drowsily. "Come along back to where you sprang from,
and open your heart to Uncle!"
10. How Simon Templar drove to Bures,
and two policemen jumped in time
The road out of London on the north-east is
one of the less pleasant ways of finding the open country. For one thing,
it is infested with miles of tramway, crawling, interminable, blocking
the traffic, maddening to the man at the wheel of a fast car—especially
maddening to the man in a hurry at the wheel of a fast car.
Late as it was, there was enough traffic on
the road to balk the Saint of clear runs of more than a few hundred yards
at a time. And every time he was forced to apply the brakes, pause, and reaccelerate, was
pulling his average down.
There was a quicker route than the one he was
taking, he knew. He had been taken over it once—a route that wound
intricately through deserted side streets, occasionally crossing the more
populous thoroughfares, and then hurriedly breaking away into the
empty roads again. It was longer, but it was quicker to traverse.
But the Saint had only been over it that once, and that by
daylight; now, in the dark, he could not have trusted himself
to find it again. The landmarks that a driver automatically
picks out by day are of little use to him in the changed aspect of
lamplight. And to get lost would be more maddening than the
obstruction of the traffic. To waste minutes, and perhaps
miles, travelling in the wrong direction, to be muddled by the
vague and contradictory directions of accosted pedestrians and
police, to be plagued and pestered with the continual uncertainty—that
would have driven him to the verge of delirium. The advantage that
might be gained wasn't worth all that might be lost. He had decided as
much when he swung into the car in Brook Street. And he kept to the main
He smashed through the traffic grimly, seizing every opportunity that offered, creating other opportunities
of his own in defiance of every law
and principle and point of etiquette governing the use of His Majesty's
highway, winning priceless seconds where
and how he could.
Other drivers cursed him; two policemen called
on him to stop, were ignored, and took his number; he scraped a wing in a
desperate rush through a gap that no one else would ever have
considered a gap at all; three times he missed death by a miracle
while overtaking on a blind corner; and the pugnacious driver of a
baby car who ventured to insist on his rightful share of the road
went white as the Hirondel forced him on to the kerb to escape annihilation.
It was an incomparable exhibition of pure
hogging, and it made everything of that kind that Roger Conway had been told to do
earlier in the evening look like a child's game with a push-cart; but the
Saint didn't care. He was on his way; and if the rest of the
population objected to the manner of his going, they could do
one of two things with their objections.
Some who saw the passage of the Saint that
night will remember it to the end of their lives; for the Hirondel, as though recognising
the hand of a master at its wheel, became almost a living thing. King
of the Road its makers called it, but that night the Hirondel was
more than a king: it was the incarnation and apotheosis of all cars. For the
Saint drove with the devil at his shoulder, and the Hirondel took
its mood from his. If this had been a superstitious age, those who saw it
would have crossed themselves and sworn that it was no car at all they saw
that night, but a snarling silver fiend that roared through London on the
wings of an unearthly wind.
For half an hour . . . with the Saint's thumb
restless on the button of the klaxon, and the strident voice of the
silver fiend howling for avenue in a tone that brooked no contention . . . and
then the houses thinned away and gave place to the first fields, and the Saint
settled down to the job—coaxing, with hands as sure and gentle as any
horseman's, the last possible ounce of effort out of the hundred
horses under his control. . . .
There was darkness on either side: the only
light in the world lay along the tunnel which the powerful headlights slashed out
of the stubborn blackness. From time to time, out of the dark, a great
beast with eyes of fire leapt at him, clamouring, was slipped as a charging
bull is slipped by a toreador, went by with a baffled grunt and a
skimming slither of wind. And again and again, in the dark, the
Hirondel swooped up behind ridiculous, creeping glow-worms, sniffed at
their red tails, snorted derisively, swept past with a deep-throated blare.
No car in England could have held the lead of the Hirondel that night
The drone of the great engine went on as a
background of gigantic song; it sang in tune with the soft swish of the tyres
and the rush of the cool night air; and the song it sang was: "Patricia
Holm. . . . Patricia. . .. Patricia. . . . Patricia Holm!"
And the Saint had no idea what he was going to
do. Nor was he thinking about it. He knew nothing of the geography of
the "house on the hill"—nothing of the lie of the surrounding
land—nothing of the obstacles that might bar his way, nor of the resistance
that would be offered to his attack. And so he was not jading himself
with thinking of these things. They were beyond the reach of idle
speculation. He had no clue: therefore it would have been a waste of time
to speculate. He could only live for the moment, and the task of the
moment— to hurl himself eastwards across England like a thunderbolt into the
battle that lay ahead.
"Patricia. . . . Patricia! . . ."
Softly the Saint took up the song; but his own
voice could not be heard from the voice of the Hirondel. The song of the car bayed
over wide spaces of country, was bruised and battered between the
walls of startled village streets, was flung back in rolling echoes from the walls of
That he was going to an almost blindfold
assault took nothing from his rapture. Rather, he savoured the adventure
the more; for this was the fashion of forlorn sally that his heart cried
for—the end of inaction, the end of perplexity and helplessness,
the end of a damnation of doubt and dithering. And in the Saint's heart
was a shout of rejoicing, because at last the God of all good
battles and desperate endeavour had remembered him again.
No, it wasn't selfish. It wasn't a mere lust
for adventure that cared nothing for the peril of those who made the adventure worth
while. It was the irresistible resurgence of the most fundamental of all the
inspirations of man. A wild stirring in its ancient sleep of the spirit
that sent the knights of Arthur out upon their quests, of Tristan crying for
Isolde, of the flame in a man's heart that brought fire and sword
upon Troy, of Roland's shout and the singing blade of Durendal amid the carnage of
Roncesvalles. "The sound of the trumpet. . . ."
Thus the miles were eaten up, until more than
half the journey must have been set behind him.
If only there was no engine failure. . . . He
had no fear for fuel and oil, for he had filled up on the way back
Simon touched a switch, and all the
instruments on the dashboard before him were illuminated from behind with a queer
ghostly luminance. His eye flickered from the road and found one of them.
Seventy-five . . . six. . . .
"Battle, murder, and sudden death. . .
"You know, Pat, we don't have a chance
these days. There's no chance for magnificent loving. A man ought to fight
for his lady. Preferably with dragons. . . ."
A corner loomed out of the dark, flung itself
at him, menacing, murderous. The tyres, curbed with a cruel hand,
tore at the road, shrieking. The car swung round the corner, on its haunches,
as it were . . . gathered itself, and found its stride again. . . .
Something like the crisp twang of the snapping
of an overstrained wire. The Saint, looking straight ahead,
blinking, saw that the windscreen in front of him had given birth to a
star— a star of long slender points radiating from a neat round hole drilled
through the glass. And a half-smile came to his lips.
The first sound repeated; then, in quick
succession, two other sounds, sharp and high, like the smack of two pieces
of metal. In front of him they were. In the gleaming aluminum, bonnet.
"Smoke!" breathed the Saint. "This is a wild
He hadn't time to adjust himself to
the interruption, to parse and analyse it and extract its
philosophy. How he came to be under fire at that stage of the
journey—that could wait. Something had gone wrong. Someone had
blundered. Roger must have been tricked, and Marius must have escaped—or something.
But, meanwhile . . .
Fortunately the first shot had made him slow
up. Otherwise he would have been killed.
The next sound he heard was neither the impact
of a bullet nor the thin, distant rattle of the rifle that fired it.
It was loud and close and explosive, under his feet it seemed; and
the steering wheel was wrenched out of his hand—nearly.
He never knew how he kept his grip on it. An
instinct swifter than thought must have made him tighten his hold
at the sound of that explosion, and he was driving with both hands on
the wheel. He tore the wheel round in the way it did not want to go,
bracing his feet on clutch and brake pedals, calling up the last
reserve of every sinew in his splendid body.
Death, sudden as anything he could have asked,
stared him in the face. The strain was terrific. The Hirondel had
ceased to be his creature. It was mad, runaway, the bit between its tremendous
teeth, caracoling towards a demoniac plunge to destruction. No normal
human power should have been able to hold it. The Saint, strong as he
was, could never have done it—normally. He must have found some
Somehow he kept the car out of the ditch for
as long as it took to bring it to a standstill.
Then, almost without thinking, he switched out
Dimly he wondered why, under that fearful
gruelling, the front axle hadn't snapped like a dry stick, or why the steering hadn't come
to pieces under his hands.
"If I come out of this alive,"
thought the Saint, "the Hirondel Motor Company will get an unsolicited
testimonial from me."
But that thought merely crossed his mind like
a swallow swimming a quiet pool—and was lost. Then, in the same dim
way, he was wondering why he hadn't brought a gun. Now he was likely to pay for
the reckless haste with which he had set out. His little knife
was all very well—he could use it as accurately as any man
could use a gun, and as swiftly—but it was only good for one shot. He'd never
been able to train it to function as a boomerang.
It was unlikely that he was being sniped by
one man alone. And that one solitary knife, however expertly he used it,
would be no use at all against a number of armed men besieging him in a lamed
"Obviously, therefore," thought
Simon, "get out of the car."
And he was out of it instantly, crouching in
the ditch beside it. In the open, and the darkness, he would have a better chance.
He wasn't thinking for a moment of a getaway.
That would have been fairly easy. But the Hirondel was the only car
he had on him, and it had to be saved—or else he had to throw in his hand.
Joke. The obvious object of the ambuscade was to make him do just
that—to stop him, anyhow—and he wasn't being stopped. . . .
Now, with the switching off of the lights,
the darkness had become less dark, and the road ran through it, beside the black
bulk- of the flanking trees, like a ribbon of dull steel. And,
looking back, the Saint could see shadows that moved. He counted
four of them.
He went to meet them, creeping like a snake in
the dry ditch. They were separated. Avoiding the dull gleam of that strip of
road, as if afraid that a shot from the car in front might greet their
approach, they slunk along in the gloom at