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By Leslie Charteris







FICTION PUBLISHING COMPANY   •   NEW YORK


Copyright 1930 by Doubleday & Co., Inc. Printed in U. S. A.


CONTENTS

 

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 happened                    there

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

10. How 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

15.  How 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 Prince                                        remembered a debt

19.  How Simon Templar went to his lady, and Norman Kent answered the                        trumpet


Author's Foreword

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 to sordidness.

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 by it.

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.









Prelude

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 of yesterday.

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 very much.

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 after that."

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 of Commons.

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.

"Extraordinarily interesting," 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 boy!"

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 directed.

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 demanded suspiciously.

"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 pale eyes.

"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 chimney-stack.

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 waters suddenly 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 news-agencies.

"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 encounter.

"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 affairs.

"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 thumbnail.

"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 went on:

"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 him.

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 about it.

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 country.

"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 Hannassays."

"Very darling Pat," said the Saint, "won't they be disap­pointed to hear that we've both been suddenly taken ill after last night's binge?"

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 cigarette.

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 road.

Patricia caught his hand.

"Where are you going, Saint?"

Simon's teeth showed white in the Saintly smile.

"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 following him.

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 of him.

"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 glass.

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 survey.

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 goat.

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 demonstration.

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 way.

"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 alarming.

The Saint vaulted into the Furillac, and came down with one foot on the self-starter and the other on the clutch pedal.

As Patricia gained her place beside him he unleashed the full ninety-eight horse-power that the speedster could put forth when pressed.

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 War?"

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 not written

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 al­ready knew.

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 entirely icebound.

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 seconds ago."

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 silence.

"It's certainly a marvellous invention," said Roger Conway at length, smoothing his fair hair. "But what is it?"

"The devil."

Conway blinked.

"Explain yourself."

"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, isn't it?"

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.

"You think——"

"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 agent curious."

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 Barney Malone.

"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 and absorbed.

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 quiet tone.

"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 the fireplace.

"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 eternity.

Patricia said breathlessly: "But he couldn't——"

"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——"

"It's true!"

"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."

"Then——"

The Saint nodded.

"We have claimed to execute some sort of justice," he said. "What is the just thing for us to do here?"

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 which followed.

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 good,"

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 done.

"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 sight.

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 Saint.

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 official majesty 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 image.

"Ain't he sweet?" murmured the Saint.

"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 future."

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 time.

"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 gesticulations:

"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, and pushed.

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 Saint's nose.

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 his burden.

"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 curtains.

"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 pockets, Roger."

"When I find a pleeceman," began Pot Hat quiveringly.

"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 seedy-looking little 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 name?"

"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."

"Which is?"

"Westminster double-nine double-nine."

"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 pleeceman——"

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 viciously."You——"

"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 Face?"

"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 dear!"

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, of course."

Conway grimaced.

"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 challenged.

"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 it.

"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 seconds.

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——"

"Quite."

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 again.

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 mind.

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, half-incredulous query.

"And how. . . ."

"Angel Face——"

"Himself!"

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 immediate future.

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. ...

Crack!

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 shoot?"

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 grip.

"They'll never do it!" he cried. "I left the car slap op­posite the lane, and they haven't got room to turn!"

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 exultantly.

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 Conway.

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 of being.

The next moment Simon Templar had opened a door on the other side of the sedan.

"Naughty boy!" said Simon Templar reproachfully.

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 brain.

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 the neck.

"Sleep, my pretty one," said the Saint, and uppercut him with a masterly blend of science and brute strength.

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 remarked grimly.

"Pleased to meet you," said the Saint.

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 same.

"Get Vargan away, Roger," sang the Saint cheerfully, coolly. "See you again some time. . . ."

He took two paces sideways, keeping his hands well up.

"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 Simon.

"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 explained.

"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 important.

"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 this?"

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 the actress."

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 Norman Kent.

Simon smiled.

"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 Street,

and what happened there

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 a flourish.

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?"

"We?"

"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?" asked Norman.

"That might be worth knowing," conceded the Saint. "I'll get through on the phone and find out while Roger's dress­ing."

He got his connection in ten minutes, and then he was speaking to her.

"Hullo, Pat, old darling. How's life?"

She did not have to ask who was the owner of that lazy, laughing voice.

"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."

He turned.

"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 automobiles.

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 the window.

"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.

Presently:

"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 b-b-blowed!"

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 Saint.

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!"

"But Pat——"

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 down."

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 booking-hall.

Simon looked at it, and went white.

"But my watch," he began stupidly, "my watch——"

"You must have forgotten to wind it up last night."

"You met the train?"

Conway nodded.

"It's just possible that I may have missed her, but I'd swear she wasn't on it. Probably she didn't catch it——"

"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 Saint's eyes.

"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 mad."


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.

"Gone."

"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 us arrive."

"But they can't have been gone a moment——"

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.

"You drive."

He was opening the door of the car as he cracked the order. As Roger touched the self-starter, the Saint climbed in beside him.

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 roundabout route.

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 Vigo Street."

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 spirit."

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.

"Those two!"

"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 suffocate.

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 Saint shortly.

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 he saw.

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 miserable wart?"

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 break——"

"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. "You cannot——"

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 knees.

"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.

"I talk."

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 wings.

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 trousers pockets.

"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 report.

"Both of them?" interrupted the Saint.

"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 it."

"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——"

" 'We'?"

Simon swooped on the pronoun like a hawk.

"I mean——"

"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 propping up.

"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 rudder."

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?"

"No."

"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 Saint.

"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 unpleasantness?"

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?"

"Teal?"

"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 things?"

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 over obediently.

"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."

Conway nodded.

"I'm with you," he said, and went out.

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 room.

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 devil-god.

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 precision.

"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 know?"

"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 about himself."

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 said.

"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 impatient gesture.

"I am not here to listen to your humour, Mr.——"

"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 go.

"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 say."

Marius shrugged.

"You appear to be an intelligent man, Mr. Templar."

"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 your prisoner."

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 innocently.

"Meaning a certain gentleman in whom I am interested, whom you were successful in removing from the protection of my servants last night."

"Was I?"

"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."

Simon nodded.

"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 yours?"

"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 be awkward?"

Marius shook his head.

"Not particularly," he said. "I have a very good witness to deny any such admission——"

"A crook!"

"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 important points."

"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 you."

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, Mr. Templar."

"I shouldn't rely too much on that."

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 unnecessary paltering?"

"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 mental effort:

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 Marius.

"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. . . ."

Marius shrugged.

"I thought better of your intelligence, Mr. Templar."

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 each count."

"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 chair.

"Take over the peashooter again, Roger."

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 . . .

"English swine!"

"Naughty temper," said Roger equably.

"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. Ready?"

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 interpreted, means——"

"I'm leaving now."

"Where for?"

"The house on the hill, Bures, Suffolk."

"She's there?"

"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, Simon?"

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 hesitation.

"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 him.

"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 Roger.

" '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 gone.

9. How Roger Conway was careless,

and Hermann 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 night.

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."

Roger deliberated.

"It might be arranged—if you don't need your hands free."

"I can try. The case is in my breast pocket."

Conway found it, bit the end, and put it in Marius's mouth and lighted it. Marius thanked him.

"Will you join me?"

Roger smiled.

"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 out."

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 gun."

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 sullen insolence.

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 excuses.

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 gutturally.

"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 to-night?"

"I'll put you through to——"

Pause again.

"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 immediately.

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 was satisfied.

He rang off, and turned and kicked Roger contemptuously.

"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 his face.

"Soon, English swine, you will be dead. And your country——"

Roger controlled his tongue with a tremendous effort.

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 me——"

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 turned.

"You would try to give warning, Englishman?" he purred.

His gun was in his hand. He reached Roger in three strides.

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 recklessly.

Then he yelled.

An instant later Hermann's gun-butt crashed into the side of his head.

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 breath.

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 behind it.

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 the re­newed summons would be answered.

Then Conway yelled again: "Look out, Norman!"

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 roads.

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 hills.

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 from Maidenhead.

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-two.

Seventy-four.

Seventy-five . . . six. . . .

"Patricia! ..."

"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. . . ."

Seventy-eight.

Seventy-nine.

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. . . .

Ping!

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.

Ping!

Bang!

Bang!

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 party!"

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 supernatural strength.

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 the lights.

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 car.

"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


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