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    Chapter 32

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    Chapter 32
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    It seemed to "Swell" Crewe that the scene was curiously reminiscent of a trial in which he had once participated. The colonel, at the end of the long table, sat aloof and apparently noncommittal, a veritable judge and a merciless judge at that. Pinto sat at his right, Selby on his left, and Crewe himself sat half-way between the girl at the farther end of the table and Pinto.

    Lollie Marsh had no doubt as to why she had been summoned. Her pretty face was drawn, the hands which were clasped on the table before her were restless, but what Crewe noticed more particularly was a certain untidiness both in her costume and in her usually well-coiffured hair. As though wearying of the part she had been playing, she was already discarding her makeup.

    "I hate to bring you here, Lollie, and ask you these questions," the colonel was saying, "but we are all in some danger and we want to know just where we stand with you."

    She made no reply.

    "The charge against you is that you've been in communication with the police. Is that true?"

    "If you mean that I've been in communication with Mr. Stafford King, that's true," she said. "You told me to get into touch with him. Haven't I been for weeks----"

    "That's a pretty good excuse," interrupted the colonel, "but it won't work, Lollie. You don't touch with a man like Stafford King and meet him secretly in St. James's Street. And you don't touch by seeing him for half an hour at a time, and I haven't heard of you ever getting off with a fellow to the extent of his paying for your passage to America."

    She started.

    "You know the way it is done. You did it before, Lollie," the colonel went on. "Now, you've got to be a good girl and tell us how far you've gone."

    She hesitated.

    "I'll tell you the truth," she said. "I'm sick of this life, colonel. I want to go straight. I want to get away out of it all and--and--he's going to help me."

    "A social reformer, eh?" said the colonel. "I didn't know the police went in for that sort of stunt. And when did he take this sudden liking for you, Lollie?"

    "It wasn't a sudden liking at all," she said, "but I think it was because--well, because I stopped Pinto in the nursing home--and Miss White told him--I think that's all."

    The colonel looked down on his pad.

    "There's something in that," he said. "It sounds feasible. Didn't he question you?" he said, raising his eyes.

    "About you?" she said.

    "About us," corrected the colonel.

    "He asked me nothing about you, nothing about your habits or your methods or about any of our funny business. I'll swear it," she said.

    "You're not going to believe that, are you, colonel?" demanded Pinto. "You can see that she is lying and that she's double-crossing you?"

    "She's neither lying nor double-crossing us." It was Crewe who spoke. "I don't know what you think about it, colonel, but I am convinced that Lollie is speaking the truth."

    "You!" Pinto laughed loudly. "I think you're in a state of mind when you'd believe anything Lollie said. And anyway you're probably in with her."

    "You're a liar," said Crewe, so quietly that none suspected the surprising thing that would follow, for of a sudden his fist shot out and caught Pinto under the jaw, sending him sprawling to the floor.

    The colonel was instantly on his feet, his hand outspread.

    "That's enough, Crewe," he said harshly. "I'll have none of that!"

    Pinto picked himself up, his face livid.

    "You'll pay for that," he said breathlessly, but "Swell" Crewe had walked to the girl and had laid his hand on her shoulder.

    "Lollie," he said, "I'm believing you and I think the colonel is, too. If you're going out of the country, why I'll say good luck to you. You've made a very wise decision and one which we shall all make--some of us perhaps too late."

    "Wait a moment," said the colonel. He exchanged a glance with Selby and the man slipped quietly from the room. "Before we do any of that fare-thee-well stuff, I've got a few words to say to you, Lollie. I'm with Crewe. I think it is time you went out of the country, but you're going out my way."

    "What do you mean?" she asked.

    Her hand clutched "Swell" Crewe's sleeve.

    "You're going out my way," said the colonel, "and I swear no harm will come to you. You're leaving to-night."

    "But how?" she asked, affrighted.

    "Selby will tell you. You'll meet him downstairs. Now be a sensible girl and do as I tell you. Selby will go with you and see you safe. We made all preparations for your departure to-night."

    "What's this, colonel?" asked Crewe.

    "You're out of it," said the colonel savagely. "I'm running this show myself. If you want to join Lollie later, why you can. For the present, she's going just where I want her to go and in the way I have planned."

    He held out his hand to the girl and she took it.

    "Good-bye and good luck, Lollie!" he said.

    "But can't I go back to my rooms?" she asked.

    He shook his head.

    "Do as I tell you," he said shortly.

    She stood at the door and for a moment her eyes met Crewe's and he moved toward her.


    The colonel gripped his arm.

    "Good-bye, Lollie," and the door shut on the girl.

    "Let me go," said Crewe between his teeth. "If she trusts you, I don't. This is some trick of that dirty half-breed!"

    With a snarl of rage Pinto whipped his ever-ready knife from his hip pocket and flung it. It was the colonel who drew Crewe aside, or that moment was his last. The knife whizzed past and was buried almost to the hilt in the wall. The colonel broke the tense silence which followed.

    "Pinto," he said in his silkiest voice, "if you ever want to know what it feels like to be a dead man, just repeat that performance, will you?" Then his rage burst forth. "By God! I'll shoot either of you if you play the fool in front of me again. You dirty little pickpockets that I've taken from the gutter! You miserable little sneak-thieves!"

    He let loose a flood of abuse that made even Crewe wince.

    "Now sit down, both of you," he finished up, out of breath.

    He went to the window and looked out. The car which he had hired for the occasion was still standing at the door and he distinguished Selby talking to the chauffeur.

    "Listen you," he said, "and especially you, Crewe. You're too trusting with these females. Maybe Lollie's speaking the truth, but it is just as likely she's lying. I'm not going to take your corroboration, you know, Crewe," he said. "We've got to depend on her word. There's nobody else can speak for her, is there?"

    Before Crewe could speak the colonel was answered:

    "Jack o' Judgment! Poor old Jack o' Judgment! He'll speak for Lollie!"

    The colonel looked up with a curse. There was nobody in the room, but the voice had been louder than ever he had heard it before. It seemed as though it emanated from a disembodied spirit that was floating through the air. There was a knock at the outer door.
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