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    Chapter 55

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    Chapter 55
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    Captain Welling Adds a Postscript

    At the corner of the hilly street, Julius Welling waited for the girl to grow calmer.

    "Thank you, thank you!" she was sobbing hysterically. "Will you please see me to my hotel? I'm so grateful!"

    "Was that man molesting you?" he asked.

    "Yes--no--he was a friend. It was my brother."

    He stopped dead.

    "Your brother?"

    "And then, in the light of a standard, she saw his face.

    "Captain Welling!" she gasped.

    "That is my name. You must be Miss Lydia Hamon. I've been looking for you all over town. Was that your brother?"

    She swallowed something.

    "No," she said.

    "I see it was," said the imperturbable detective. "Curiously enough, I never thought of his wearing Moorish costume. Why I shouldn't have expected that little piece of theatricality I don't know. It is very becoming; I'm thinking of buying a jellab to take back to London," he mused, and even the incongruous picture of Captain Julius Welling in a white, loose-sleeved wrap did not give her any amusement.

    He walked all the way back to the hotel, and she was glad. It gave her an opportunity of making her plans. They were walking up the narrow lane in which the Continental is situated, when she said suddenly:

    "Captain Welling, I am afraid of my brother."

    "I don't wonder," he murmured. "I am a little afraid of him myself--in a way."

    "Would it be possible," she asked, "to put somebody to guard me? That sounds very stupid, but----"

    "I think I understand," said the detective. "That is simply arranged. What is the number of your room?"

    "I don't even know," she said despairingly, and then: "Are you staying at the Continental?"

    He nodded.

    "I think I can arrange to have my room moved next to yours," he said, but on examination of the register he found that was unnecessary. She occupied a room at the end of the second floor corridor; and, by a coincidence, Captain Welling was in the next room.

    At half-past eleven, when the hotel door was closing, there came a Moor with a letter addressed to Lydia, and Welling took it up to her. She opened the door to him, opened the envelope and read; then, without a word, she handed the letter to the old man.

    Everything was all right [it ran]. It was only the basha's bluff. Sadi Hafiz says that Morlake saw the basha this evening, and the raid was the result. Come up for a few minutes and be civil to Sadi. I will bring you back to the hotel myself.

    "May I answer this?" said Welling, a twinkle in his eye. When she nodded, he found his fountain pen, and, writing at the bottom:

    Come down and have a talk.--J. W.

    he enclosed it in an envelope and took it back to the waiting messenger.

    "I don't think he will come," he said, when he returned to the girl. "For your sake I hope he doesn't."

    Welling went to bed that night without any fear of being disturbed. Hamon would not run the risk of putting himself in the detective's way, for, although the evidence that the police had against him was scrappy and not sufficient to justify the hope even of a committal, let alone a conviction, Ralph Hamon would be ignorant of its incompleteness, and his conscience would occupy the gaps which Welling was trying to fill.

    He was a light sleeper, and the first pebble that struck his window pane woke him. He did not put on the light, but, getting noiselessly out of bed, he opened half of his window and looked out cautiously.

    Two men, one carrying a lantern, were standing in the lane below. He saw one raise his hand and throw a stone. This time it struck Lydia's window, and he heard her walk across the room.

    "Is that Miss Hamon?" asked a low voice.

    "Yes?" she replied. "Who is that?"

    "It is Sadi Hafiz. Your brother has shot himself!"

    Welling heard her cry of distress, but did not move.

    "Will you come down?" urgently, and then: "I am afraid he cannot live, and he has given me something for you, something he wants you to give to Mr. Morlake."

    "Wait--I will come immediately," she said hurriedly.

    Welling waited to hear no more, but pulled on his slippers and his overcoat. She must have been fully dressed, for she was out of sight by the time he was in the corridor, and he heard her fumbling with the locks and chains of the front door. She opened it at last, and, peering over the stairway, he saw the Moor enter.

    "When did this happen?"

    Her voice was trembling.

    "It happened last night. Apparently your brother had seen a police officer he knew, and he came back to my house in a state of great trouble. I left him for a little while to get coffee, and I had hardly turned my back before I heard a shot, and, running in, found him lying on the divan."

    "He is not dead?"

    Sadi Hafiz shook his head.

    "For a moment, no. You have nothing to fear because the house is in possession of the basha's soldiers," he said, "and Captain Morlake is there. Will you come?"

    "You said you had something for me."

    He put his hand into his breast and took out a little package, which he handed to her. In another instant she had followed him through the door into the dark street.

    Welling, old as he was, jumped the last six stairs, and, flying across the hallway, reached her just as she put her foot on the street step.

    "One minute," he said, and jerked her through the door.

    And then, with amazing agility, he leapt aside to avoid the bludgeon stroke that was aimed at him by a man concealed in the deep doorway. In another second he was in the house, the doors locked, and he had switched on the hall light.

    "Fooled 'em!" he said breathlessly.

    "But, Mr. Welling--my brother----"

    "Your brother has not shot himself. That kind of guy never does."

    He took the envelope from her hand.

    "They were killing two birds with one stone, young lady, but I was the real burnt-offering. This wonderful something is, of course, a blank sheet of paper."

    He took her back to her room, bewildered and dazed by the happening.

    "You don't think that it is true?"

    "I know it is not true," he said. "The stone that was thrown at my window was intended to wake me, and it was intended that I should overhear your conversation. And the general idea, as they say in military circles, was that, as soon as I put my foot outside the street door, I was to get it in the neck--and I nearly did! On the whole, I think I have taken too unflattering a view of the Oriental mind. They are clever!"
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