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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    For a time the police officer did not recognise the significance of Jim's charge.

    "What do you mean?" he asked roughly. "Wilful murder!"

    "As to how much you know of the matter I have yet to learn, Marborne," said Jim Morlake quietly. "But on the day I catch Hamon it will go pretty hard with you!"

    "When you catch Hamon--are you pretending to be a policeman too?" asked the other sarcastically.

    "I'm not even pretending to be a policeman. I have never sunk so low," said Jim.

    The detective stooped down and pulled him to his feet.

    "You're coming out to see a few of the jiggers that were found on you when you were arrested," he said, and pushed him along the corridor to the charge room.

    On the station sergeant's desk was a variety of articles. There was a black silk mask, the eyeholes of which, as Jim saw with a professional glance, had been newly cut; an automatic pistol, a complete set of house-breaking tools, a small acetylene blow-lamp, a tiny rubber case containing six phials, and three small skeleton keys.

    "Are these supposed to be mine? Where did I carry them--in my waistcoat pocket?" he asked.

    "Some were in your coat pocket, some were concealed under the cushion of your car," said the detective. "You admit these are yours, I suppose?"

    "I admit nothing. The only thing I can't see, which really belongs to me, is a gold watch and chain, which I presume you have confiscated for personal use. There was also a little money--some sixty-five pounds--which isn't visible. Are those also your personal perquisites, Marborne?"

    "I've got the money and the watch in my desk," said the station sergeant. "You don't make your case any better by bringing charges against this officer, Morlake."

    "Perhaps I don't," admitted Jim after a moment's thought.

    He held up his manacled hands.

    "These are not exactly necessary, are they, sergeant?"

    "I don't think so."

    The sergeant took down a key from behind his desk, and unlocking the handcuffs, removed them. In charge of the gaoler, Jim was removed to the cell.

    Joan Carston was at breakfast at Lowndes Square, reading the morning newspaper, when Hamon was announced, and with a groan she put down the journal and glanced pathetically across to her father.

    "Bless the man! Why does he come at this hour of the morning?" he demanded irritably. "I thought we should be free of him for a month or so?"

    He was not in a pleasant frame of mind. The horse he had backed for the long distance handicap at Newmarket had been struck out overnight, and he was not unnaturally annoyed.

    "We shall have to see him: let us get it over," said Joan, resigned.

    Ralph Hamon's manner was both brisk and cheerful: in fact, the girl had never seen him quite so bright as he was, as he pranced into the dining-room--the description was hers.

    "I have some very interesting news for you people this morning," he said, almost jovially, as, without invitation, he pulled out a chair and sat down to the breakfast table. "We've got the devil!"

    "Good business," murmured his lordship. "I hope you will fasten the customary chains to his legs and cast him down into his jolly old pit."

    "Which particular devil are you talking about, Mr. Hamon?" asked the girl, with a sinking of her heart.

    "Morlake. He was caught red-handed last night, burglaring a house at Blackheath."

    She jumped to her feet.

    "You don't mean that!" she gasped. "Mr. Morlake ... oh, no, it isn't true!"

    "It is delightfully true," said Hamon. (She thought he smacked his lips.) "He was caught red-handed in the act of breaking into the house of a man who has a collection of antique jewellery. Fortunately, two police officers who have had him under observation for some time had shadowed him, and took him just as he was running out of the house, having been disturbed in his work by the owner, a Colonel Paterson."

    Lord Creith took off his glasses and stared at the other in amazement.

    "You mean James Morlake, our neighbour?" he asked incredulously.

    Hamon nodded.

    "I mean The Black, the cleverest burglar we've had in this country for years."

    Joan had sunk back to her seat: the room seemed to be swimming. Hamon was telling the truth; there was no mistaking the exhilaration in his voice.

    "Of course you caught him," she said at last, speaking slowly as though to herself. "You said you would, didn't you?"

    "I didn't exactly catch him myself," said Hamon, loth to relinquish the credit, "but I must confess that I was able to give the police a great deal of useful information. And by the way, Lady Joan, my sister is giving herself the pleasure of calling on you to-day."

    "Yes?" said Joan absently. "Oh, yes, you have a sister in Paris. I'm afraid I shan't be at home this afternoon."

    "I thought you wouldn't be, so I told her to call this morning. You'll like Lydia: she's a good girl, though I'm afraid I've spoilt her a little. But she's one of the best."

    "When will Mr. Morlake come for trial?" she asked, dismissing the existence of Lydia Hamon.

    "He'll come up this morning for the preliminary hearing, and then I suppose he'll be remanded, and next week he'll be committed for trial. You're interested in him, aren't you? Well, it is only natural that you should be. These rascals have a certain romantic interest, even for the more law-abiding."

    "Not every rascal," she answered instantly. "I know some who are the most uninteresting creatures it is possible to meet!"

    She had recovered her poise, and Lord Creith, who knew his daughter remarkably well, detected what Mr. Hamon had failed to notice--a certain gentle malignity in her voice, and writhed at the memory of past encounters with his daughter that had left him a little limp.

    "Has he any friends? I mean, is there anybody who would bail him?"

    "No bail would be allowed," answered Hamon promptly. "Having got the fellow, it is hardly likely that the police are going to risk his bolting, especially as he put up a tough fight before he was captured."

    "Was he hurt?" she asked quickly.

    "He got a blow or two," said Hamon, with a careless shrug, and her eyes did not leave his.

    "You know a great deal about this: I suppose they 'phoned you up and told you, as you were interested?"

    "I only know what I read in the newspapers," said Hamon quickly, and he saw her lip curl.

    "It is not in the newspapers," she said. "It happened too late last night to be in the morning Press."

    She got up from the table and walked out of the room without another word.

    "Joan takes a tremendous interest in this fellow," growled Hamon.

    "Why shouldn't she?" demanded Lord Creith, beaming at him. "I think he's immensely interesting. By Jove, I wish I'd known he was a burglar! I'd have gone to him and found an easier way of making money than selling my poor old Creith, lock, stock and barrel. Where will this interesting criminal come up for trial?"

    "At Greenwich Police Court," said the other.

    "Greenwich!" said Lord Creith, as though Greenwich Police Court were the last place in the world he would have imagined the man would be brought for judgment.

    It was near mid-day when a gaoler called his name, and Jim Morlake walked through an open door into the large court and was guided to the steel pen. The court was crowded, and the reporters' bench, designed to hold three uncomfortably, held half-a-dozen young men in agony, whilst an army of Pressmen overflowed into the public benches.

    Brief evidence of the arrest was given; a hint was offered that new and more startling charges would be produced at the next hearing, and the police, represented by their official lawyer, asked for a remand--a course which Jim's attorney mechanically opposed, though his opposition was overruled.

    "On the question of bail, your worship----" began the defending counsel, but the magistrate shook his head.

    "There can be no question of bail," he said.

    And here there occurred an unexpected interruption. A tall, lean man stepped, without invitation, to the witness-box and handed his card to the magistrate's clerk.

    "This gentleman"--he looked over his glasses at the wondering Jim--"is a neighbour of mine, and I am particularly anxious that he shall have every facility for preparing his defence."

    "I am extremely sorry, Lord Creith," said the magistrate, "but in these cases, where the police oppose bail, as I understand they do, we cannot deviate from the rule of the court."

    Jim went back to his cell wondering what on earth had induced this distinguished-looking old man, whom he knew by name, and whose home he had once burgled, to come forward and, in order to serve a man he did not know, court the publicity which many of his class so intensely disliked.
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