Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Laughter is inner jogging."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 27

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 27
    Previous Chapter

    Pinto leapt the parapet and was following swiftly in its wake. He guessed rather than knew that for once Jack o' Judgment had come unarmed, and a wild exultation filled him at the thought that it was left to him to unveil the mystery which was weighing even upon the iron nerve of the colonel.

    The figure gained the shrubbery, and the pursuer heard the rustle of leaves as it plunged into the depths. In a second he was blundering after. He lost sight of his quarry and stopped to listen. There was no sound.

    "Hiding," grunted Pinto. And then aloud: "Come out of it. I see you and I'll shoot you like a dog if you don't come to me!"

    There was no reply. He dashed in the direction he thought Jack o' Judgment must have taken and again missed. With a curse he turned off in another direction and then suddenly glimpsed a shape before him and leapt at it. He was flung back with little or no effort, and stood bewildered, for the coat his hand had touched was rough and he had felt metal buttons.

    "A soldier!" he gasped. "Who are you?"

    "Steady," said the other; "don't get rattled, Pinto."

    "Who are you?" asked Pinto again.

    "My name is Stafford King," said the soldier, "and I think I shall want you."

    Pinto half turned to go, but was gripped.

    "You can go back to Huddersfield and pack your boxes," said Stafford King. "You won't leave the town except by my permission."

    "What do you mean?" demanded Pinto, breathing heavily.

    "I mean," said Stafford King, "that the unfortunate man you tried to blackmail must prosecute whatever be the consequence to himself. Now, Pinto, you've a grand chance of turning King's evidence."

    Pinto made no reply. He was collecting his thoughts. Then, after a while, he said:

    "I'll talk about that later, King. I'm staying at the Huddersfield Arms. I'll meet you there in an hour."

    Stafford King did not move until the sound of Pinto's footsteps had died away. Then he began a systematic search, for he too was anxious to end the mystery of Jack o' Judgment. He had followed Pinto when he dashed from the room and had heard the Portuguese calling upon Jack o' Judgment to surrender. That mysterious individual, who was obviously lying low, could not be very far away.

    He was in a shrubbery which proved later to be a clump of rhododendrons, in the centre of which was a summer-house. To the heart of this shrubbery led three paths, one of which Stafford discovered quite close at hand. The sound of gravel under his feet gave him an idea, and he began walking backward till he came to the shadow of a tree, and then, simulating the sound of retreating footsteps, he waited.

    After a while he heard a rustle, but did not move.

    Somebody was coming cautiously through the bushes, and that somebody appeared as a shadowy, indistinct figure, not twenty yards away. Only the keenest eyesight could have detected it, and still Stafford waited. Presently he heard the soft crunch of gravel under its feet, and at that moment leapt towards it. The figure stood as though paralysed for a second, and then, turning quickly, fled back to the heart of the bushes. Before it had gone a dozen paces Stafford had reached it, and his arm was about its neck.

    "My friend," he breathed, "I don't know what I'm to do with you now I've got you, but I certainly am going to register your face for future reference."

    "No, no," said a muffled voice from behind the mask. "No, no, don't; I beg of you!"

    But the mask was plucked away, and, fumbling in his pocket, Stafford produced his electric lamp and flashed it on the face of his prisoner. Then, with a cry of amazement, he stepped back--for he had looked upon the face of Maisie White!

    For a moment there was silence, neither speaking. Then Stafford found his voice.

    "Maisie!" he said in bewilderment, "Maisie! You--Jack o' Judgment?"

    She did not answer.

    "Phew!" whistled Stafford.

    Then sitting on a trunk, he laughed.

    "It is Maisie, of all people in the world. And I suspected it, too!"

    The girl had covered her face with her hands and was crying softly, and he moved towards her and put his arm about her shoulder.

    "Darling, it is nothing very terrible. Please don't go on like that."

    "Oh, you don't understand, you don't understand!" she wailed. "I wanted to catch Silva. I guessed that he was coming north on one of his blackmailing trips, and I followed him."

    "Did you come up by the same train?"

    He felt her nod.

    "So did I," said Stafford with a little grin.

    "I followed him to the bazaar," she said, "and then I watched him from a little eating-house on the opposite side of the road. Do you know, I wondered whether you were here too, and I looked everywhere for you, but apparently there was nobody in sight when Pinto came out with Lady Sybil, only a soldier."

    "I was that soldier," said Stafford.

    "I discovered where Mr. Crotin lived and came up later," she went on. "Of course, I had no very clear idea of what I was going to do, and it was only by the greatest luck that I found the window of the library open. It was the only window that was open," she said with a little laugh.

    "It wasn't so much your luck as my forethought," smiled Stafford.

    "Now I want to tell you about Jack o' Judgment," she began, but he stopped her.

    "Let that explanation wait," he said; "the point is, that with your evidence and mine we have Pinto by the throat--what was that?"

    There was the sound of a shot.

    "Probably a poacher," said Stafford after a moment. "I can't imagine Pinto using a gun. Besides, I don't think he carries one. What did he throw at you?"

    "A knife," she said, and he felt her shiver; "it just missed me. But tell me, how have we got Pinto?"

    They had left the shrubbery and were walking towards the house. She stopped a little while to take off her long black cloak, and he saw that she was wearing a short-skirted dress beneath.

    "We must compel Crotin to prosecute," said Stafford. "With our evidence nothing can save Pinto, and probably he will drag in the colonel, too. Even your evidence isn't necessary," he said after a moment's thought, "and if it's possible I will keep you out of it."

    A woman's scream interrupted him.

    "There's trouble there," he said, and raced for the house. Somebody was standing on the terrace as he approached, and hailed him excitedly.

    "Is that you, Terence?"

    It was a servant's voice.

    "No," replied Stafford, "I am a police officer."

    "Thank God!" said the man on the terrace. "Will you come up, sir? I thought it was the gamekeeper I was speaking to."

    "What is the matter?" asked Stafford as he vaulted over the parapet.

    "Mr. Crotin has shot himself, sir," said the butler in quavering tones.

    * * * * * * *

    Twelve hours later Stafford King reported to his chief, giving the details of the overnight tragedy.

    "Poor fellow!" said Sir Stanley. "I was afraid of it ending that way."

    "Did you know he was being blackmailed?" asked Stafford.

    Sir Stanley nodded.

    "We had a report, which apparently emanated from Jack o' Judgment, who of late has started sending his communications to me direct," said Sir Stanley. "You can, of course, do nothing with Pinto. Your evidence isn't sufficient. What a pity you hadn't a second witness." He thought for a moment. "Even then it wouldn't have been sufficient unless we had Crotin to support you."

    Stafford cleared his throat.

    "I have a second witness, sir," he said.

    "The devil you have!" Sir Stanley raised his eyebrows. "Who was your second witness?"

    "Jack o' Judgment," said Stafford, and Sir Stanley jumped to his feet.

    "Jack o' Judgment!" he repeated. "What do you mean?"

    "Jack o' Judgment was there," said Stafford, and told the story of the remarkable appearance of that mysterious figure.

    He told everything, reserving the identification of Jack till the last.

    "And then you flashed the lamp on his face," said Sir Stanley. "Well, who was it?"

    "Maisie White," said Stafford.

    "Good Lord!"

    Sir Stanley walked to the window and stood looking out, his hands thrust into his pockets. Presently he turned.

    "There's a bigger mystery here than I suspected," he said. "Have you asked Miss White for an explanation?"

    Stafford shook his head.

    "I thought it best to report the matter to you, sir, before I asked her to----"

    "To incriminate herself, eh? Well, perhaps you did wisely, perhaps you did not. I should imagine that her explanation is a very simple one."

    "What do you mean, sir?"

    "I mean," said Sir Stanley, "that unless Jack o' Judgment has the gift of appearing in two places at once, she is not Jack."

    "But I don't understand, sir?"

    "I mean," said Sir Stanley, "that Jack o' Judgment was in the colonel's room last night, was in fact sitting by the colonel's bedside when that gentleman awoke, and according to the statement which Colonel Boundary has made to me about two hours ago in this room, warned him of his approaching end."

    It was Stafford's turn to be astonished.

    "Are you sure, sir?" he asked incredulously.

    "Absolutely!" said Sir Stanley. "You don't imagine that the colonel would invent that sort of thing. For some reason or other, possibly to keep close to the trouble that's coming, the colonel insists upon bringing all his little chit-chat to me. He asked for an interview about ten o'clock this morning and reported to me that he had had this visitation. Moreover, the experience has had the effect of upsetting the colonel, and for the first time he seems to be thoroughly rattled. Where is Miss White?"

    "She's here, sir."

    "Here, eh?" said the commissioner. "So much the better. Can you bring her in?"

    A few minutes later the girl sat facing the First Commissioner.

    "Now, Miss White, we're going to ask you for a few facts about your masquerade," said Sir Stanley kindly. "I understand that you appeared wearing the costume, and giving a fairly good imitation of the voice of Jack o' Judgment. Now, I'm telling you before we go any further that I do not believe for one moment that you are Jack o' Judgment. Am I right?"

    She nodded.

    "Perfectly true, Sir Stanley," she said. "I don't know why I did such a mad thing, except that I knew Pinto was scared of him. I got the cloak from my dress-basket and made the mask myself. You see, I didn't know whether I might want it, but I thought that in a tight pinch, if I wished to terrify this man, that was the rôle to assume."

    Sir Stanley nodded.

    "And the voice, of course, was easy."

    "But how could you imitate the voice if you have never seen Jack o' Judgment?"

    "I saw him once." She shivered a little. "You seem to forget, Sir Stanley, that he rescued me from that dreadful house."

    "Of course," said Sir Stanley, "and you imitated him, did you?" He turned to his subordinate. "I'm accepting Miss White's explanation, Stafford, and I advise you to do the same. She went up to watch Silva, as I understand, and took the costume with her as a sort of protection. Well, Miss White, are you satisfied with your detective work?"

    She smiled ruefully.

    "I'm afraid I'm a failure as a detective," she said.

    "I'm afraid you are," laughed Sir Stanley, as he rose and offered his hand. "There is only one real detective in the world--and that is Jack o' Judgment!"
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 27
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Edgar Wallace essay and need some advice, post your Edgar Wallace essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?