The Man Who Drove the Car
THE BASKET IN THE BOUNDARY ROAD
The doctors will tell you sometimes that motoring is good for the nerves; and since so many of them now buy cars, and there's no man like a doctor for looking after his own flesh and blood, I suppose they mean what they say. All the same, I wish I'd had a doctor with me the night I picked up Mabel Bellamy; for if his nerves had stood that and he hadn't given himself quinine and iron for the next two months, why, I'd have paid his fee myself.
You see, it was a rum job from the very beginning of it. I was working for Hook-Nosed Moss at the time, and, being Lent, and half the theatrical ladies of position doing penance down at Monte Carlo, we weren't exactly knocking a hole in the Bank of England—nor, for that matter, even earning our fares to Jerusalem. Moss came down to the garage in the West End gloomier and gloomier every day; and one morning when I saw that he'd pawned his diamond shirt-stud (the same that we called "The Bleriot"), why then, says I, Lal Britten, keep off the Stock Exchange and don't put your last thirty bob in Consols, wherever else you place it.
Now this was the state of things when one morning, early in the month of March last year, we were rung up from a public telephone call in Bayswater, and the covered Napier was ordered for a house in the Richmond Road, Bayswater—a locality with which I was unfamiliar, but which Moss declared must be all right, since the gentleman who lived there knew that we had a Napier car and therefore was in a manner introduced to us. Half an hour later he discovered that Richmond Road was nothing better than a mean street of lodging-houses, and, my word, didn't he reel off his instructions to me like texts out of a copy-book.
"Dot's a shame, Britten," he said, coming round by the bonnet of the car, which I was tuning up for the trip—"I was deceived by the dabe of the street. We must have our modey before they have the goods. Mind that now, you dote drive a mile unless they pay the shinies. Three guideas id your pocket and then you drive 'em. Are you listening, Britten?"
I managed to give him a squirt of oil out of my can—for we do love Moss, and then I told him that Nelson on the quarter-deck of the Victory wasn't more alive to his duties.
"Three guineas cash down and then I drive 'em. Is this a round trip to see the beauties of Surrey, Mr. Moss, or do I return to my little cot after the ball is over? I'd like to know on account of taking my Court suit, if you don't mind."
"Oh," says he, "you're ordered for ded o'clock, so I suppose id's the light fadastic toe, Britten. But mide you get your modey—or I'll stop your salary, sure. Three guideas and what you cad hook for yourself—I shan't touch that, Britten—I dow how to treat my servants well."
I laughed at this, but didn't say too much for fear he should find out that he'd got a patch of oil as big as a football on the back of his beautiful new spring suit, and when he had told me that the party's name was Faulkland Jones and had given me the number of the house, I got on with my work again and soon had the three-year-old Napier running as well as ever she did in all her life. Nor did anything else happen until ten o'clock that night, at which hour precisely I drove her up to the house in the Richmond Road, Bayswater, and sent a small boy to knock at the door.
It was a twopenny-ha'penny shop, and no doubt about it; a two-storied day-before-yesterday lodging-house, with a bow window like a Métallurgique bonnet and a door about as big as the top of your gear-box.
So far as I could see from the road there was only one lamp showing in the place, and that was on the off-side, so to speak, in a little window of a bedroom—but the boy said afterwards that there was a glim in the hall, and he was old enough to have known. Taken altogether, you wouldn't have offered them thirty pounds a year for the lot unless you had been a Rothschild with a cook to pension off—and what such people wanted with a Napier limousine at three guineas the job I really could not have said. This, however, was no business of mine; so I just gave the lad a penny and settled myself down in my seat until the Duchess in the apron should appear.
It wasn't a long time I had to wait, perhaps five minutes, perhaps ten. I told the police, when they questioned me afterwards, to split the difference, for none but a policeman could have told you what it had got to do with my story. When the door did open at last, a couple of men carrying a basket came down the bit of a garden, and the first of them wished me "Good evening" very civilly. Then they let the basket down softly on to the pavement and began to talk to me about it.
"How strong's your roof?" asked the first, speaking with a nasal twang I couldn't quite place. "Will it take this bit of a basket all right?"
"Why," says I, "it might depend on what you've got inside that same. Have I come for the washing, or do I drive your plate to the Bank of England?"
The second, the taller man of the two, laughed at this; but the first seemed very uneasy, and it was not lost upon me that he glanced to the right and the left of him as though afraid that someone would come up and hear what his friend had to say next.
"I guess it's neither one nor the other," the first speaker went on. "We're playing theatricals at the Hampstead Town Hall to-morrow night, and these are the dresses. We want you to take them up to the Boundary Road, St. John's Wood—I'll show you the house when we get there; but it's called Bredfield, and you'll know it by a square-toed lamp up against the side-track. Perhaps you can give us a hand with the baggage—and say, have you any objection to gold when you can't get silver?"
He passed up a sovereign and I put it inside my glove. Moss had told me to collect the shekels before I drove them a mile, and so I told the pair of them as I was getting down the luggage ladder, which fortunately I had brought, not knowing the job. A bit to my surprise they paid up immediately, but I made no remark about that; and when I had signed the receipt by the light of my near-side lamp, I helped them up with the basket and soon had it strapped to the rails in a way that satisfied even the nervous little man with the saucer eyes.
Many have asked me if I had no suspicions about that basket, was not curious as to its contents, and remarked nothing as we hoisted it up. To these I say that the men themselves were the chief actors in the business; that they lifted the baggage from the pavement, and that my task was chiefly to guide it to the rails and to make it fast when I had got it there. Otherwise, this basket was no different from any dress-basket you may see upon half a dozen four-wheelers the first time you look in at a railway station; and I should be telling an untruth if I said that I thought about it at all. Indeed, it was not until we got to the Boundary Road, and I stopped at the house called Bredfield, that so much as a notion of anything wrong entered my head. There, however, I did get a shock, and no mistake; for no sooner had I pulled up than I discovered that I had come on alone, and that neither the big man with the Yankee accent nor the little man with the saucer eyes had deigned to accompany me.
Well, I got down from the driver's seat, opened and shut the door as though to be sure that neither the one nor the other was hiding under the seat, and then I rang loudly at the front door bell and waited to see what fortune had got in her lucky-bag.
Had the men told me plainly that I was to go alone, I should never have given the matter a second thought; but I could have sworn that the pair of them were inside the limousine when I started away from the Richmond Road, and how or where they got down I knew no more than the Lord Chancellor. It remained to be seen if the people in the house were any wiser; and you may be sure that I was curious enough by this time, and, if the truth must be told, not a little frightened.
Boundary Road, as many will know, is a quiet thoroughfare in St. John's Wood, most of the houses being detached, and many of them having twenty feet of garden back and front. This particular house was larger than ordinary, and owned an odd iron lamp fixed above the garden gate and conspicuous a hundred yards away. Unlike the shanty in the Richmond Road, nearly every window showed a bright light; and I don't suppose I had waited twenty seconds, though they seemed like a quarter of an hour, when the front door flew open and one of the prettiest parlourmaids I have ever clapped eyes upon came running down the path, and asked, even before she had opened the gate, if the lady had arrived.
"Why," says I, quickly enough, "that she certainly has not, being took to dine with the Grand Duke Isaac at the Metropolitan Music Hall. But her dresses are here, miss, and if you like to try on any of 'em before she arrives, why, you're welcome so far as I am concerned."
She laughed at this and came out on to the pavement. I have said she was pretty, but that's hardly the word for it. If she went on the Gaiety stage to-morrow, she'd be the talk of the town in a fortnight—and as for her manners, well, it isn't my place to remark on those. Affability appeals to me wherever I find it, and if Betsy Chambers isn't affable, then I don't know the meaning of the term.
"Where have you come from?" she asked me as we stood there; "have you come from Scotland?"
"More like from Scotland Yard in these times," says I; "why should you ask me that?"
"Because the gentleman said that his wife would be arriving from Scotland to-night, but that he would not be here until to-morrow. I wouldn't have stopped in the house for anything if he had not said she was coming!"
"Then you're alone, my dear?"
She tossed her head.
"Yes, I am, and that's why all the lamps are lighted."
"Why, to be sure," cried I, "there might have been a man under the bed;" but she was too polite to notice this, and I could see she was very much afraid of sleeping alone in that strange house, and I don't wonder at it.
"I can walk up and down the front garden all night, if you like," said I, "or maybe I could sleep on the drawing-room sofa, if you prefer it. Is this the first time they have left you alone here?"
She looked at me in surprise.
"I was only engaged yesterday from the registry office in Marylebone. This is a furnished house, and they have taken it for three months certain. The gentleman comes from Edinburgh and the lady is an American. They haven't got a cook yet, but hope to have one by to-morrow. Whatever shall I do if they never come at all?"
"Oh," says I, "try on her dresses and see how they suit you. Suppose we get the basket in to begin with. Here's a chap coming who looks as though he could lay out sixpence if he hadn't got a shilling; we'll enlist him and then talk about supper afterwards. Is your name Susan, by the way? The last nice girl I met was called Susan, and so I thought——"
"Oh, don't be silly," says she; "my name's Betsy, and if you squeeze my hand like that, some one will see you."
I told her it must have been done in a moment of abstraction, and then I hailed the "cab runner" who was loafing down the road; and, what with him and a messenger boy in a hurry, we got the basket down and lifted it into a big square hall and laid it almost at the foot of the staircase, up which we should have to carry it presently.
Somehow or other it seemed to me over-heavy for a clothes' basket; but I said nothing about it at the time, and, telling Betsy I would return in a minute, I went back to my car to turn off the petrol and see that all was shipshape. When I entered the house again, and almost as soon as I had shut the door, the queerest thing I can remember happened to me. It was nothing less than this—that the girl, Betsy, came toward me with her face as white as a sheet; and, before I could utter a single word or ask her the ghost of a question, she just slipped headlong through my arms and lay like a dead thing.
Now, this was a nice position to be in and no mistake about it. The girl limp and helpless in my arms, not a soul in the house, me not knowing where to lay hands on a drop of brandy, to say nothing of a glass of water, and, above all, the peculiar feeling that something not over-pleasant must have frightened Betsy, and that it might frighten me before many minutes had passed. Listening intently, I could not at first hear a sound in all the house—but just when I was telling myself not to be a fool, I heard, as plainly as ever I heard anything in my life, a sigh as of some one groaning in pain; and at that I do believe I dropped the girl clean on to the floor and made a dash into the nearest room in a state of mind I should have been ashamed to confess even to my own brother.
What did it mean, who was playing tricks with us, and what was the mystery? I looked round the apartment and made it out to be the dining-room, plainly furnished, well lighted, but as empty of people as Westminster Abbey at twelve o'clock of a Sunday night. A smaller room to the right lay in darkness, but I found the switch and satisfied myself in a moment that no one was hidden there; nor did a search in every nook and cranny near by enlighten me further. What was even worse was the fact that I could now hear the groaning very plainly; and when I had stood a minute, with my heart beating like a steam pump and my eyes half blinded with the shadows and the light, I discovered, just in a flash, that whoever groaned was not in any room of the house, neither in the hall nor upon the staircase, but in the very basket I had just laid down and should have carried to the floor above before many minutes had passed.
I am not going to state here precisely what I thought or did when I made that astonishing discovery, or just what I felt at the moment when I tried to understand its significance. Perhaps I could not remember half that happened even if I tried to do so. My clearest memory is of a dark, silent street, and of me standing there, bare-headed, with a fainting girl in my arms, and a civil old chap with white whiskers asking again and again, "My good fellow, whatever is the matter and what on earth are you doing here?" When I answered him it was to beg him for God's sake to tell me the name of the nearest doctor—and at that I remember he simply pointed to the house opposite and to a brass plate upon its door.
"I am Mr. Harrison, the surgeon," he said quickly; "I am just buying a motor, and so I crossed the road to look at yours. Tell me what has happened and what is the matter with the woman."
I told him as quietly as I could.
"God knows what it is—perhaps murder. The girl heard it and fainted. She'll be all right in a minute if I can lay her down. I never thought any woman weighed half as much. Anyway, she's coming to and that's something—if you could call a policeman, sir."
He was a self-possessed gentleman, I must say, and, looking up and down the street, while I set the girl down on the footboard of the car, he espied the little messenger boy who had helped us to carry the basket into the house and sent him for a policeman. Betsy had opened her eyes by this time, but all she could say had no meaning for me, nor was it any clearer to him. When we had got her across to his surgery and left her there, we returned to the house together, and as we went I tried to tell him just what had happened and how I came to be mixed up in such a strange affair. The story was still half told when we mounted the steps of Bredfield and walked straight up to the basket which had scared the girl out of her wits and left me wondering whether I was awake or dreaming. Now, however, I had no doubt at all about the matter, for whoever was under that lid was struggling pretty wildly to get free, and would have broken the cords in another minute if the doctor had not cut them.
A couple of slashes with a lancet severed the stout rope with which my "bundle" had been tied, and a third cut the bit of string which bound the hasp to the wickerwork. I stepped back instinctively as the gentleman raised the lid, and so, to be honest, did he—the same thought, I am sure, being in both our heads and the belief that our own lives might be in danger. When the truth was revealed, my first impulse was to laugh aloud, my second to set off in my car without a moment's loss of time, and try to lay by the heels the pair of villains who had done this thing.
In a word, I may tell you that the basket contained a young girl, apparently not more than fifteen years of age; that she was dressed in rags, though apparently a lady of condition, and that when we lifted her out it appeared that her reason had gone and that her young life might shortly follow it.
I've been through some strange times in my life; had many a peep into the next world, so to speak; seen men die quick and die slow—but for real right-down astonishment and pity I shall never better that scene in the Boundary Road, St. John's Wood, if I live as long as the patriarchs.
Just picture the brightly lighted hall and the open basket, and this pretty little thing with yellow hair streaming over her shoulders and her bare arms extended as though in entreaty toward the doctor and me, and such cries upon her lips as though we, and not the men who had sent her here, had been her would-be murderers. I tell you that I would have sold my home to save her, and that's no idle word. Unhappily, I could do nothing, and what I would have done the police forbade me to do, for there were three of them in the room before five minutes had passed; and I might be forgiven for saying that half the local force was present inside half an hour.
Well, you know what a policeman is when anything big turns up; how there's a mighty fine note-book about two foot long to be produced, and perhaps a drop of whisky and soda to whet his pencil, and then the questions and the answers and what not—all the time the thief is running hard down the back street and the gold watch is sticking out of his boot.
I answered perhaps a hundred and fifty questions that night, and nobody any the wiser for them. Notes were taken of everything: the time I set out, where my father was born, what they paid me for the job, the address of the garage, Christian name and surname of Abraham Moss—whether I'd had my licence endorsed or kept it clean—until at last, able to stand it no longer, I told the inspector plainly that this wasn't Colney Hatch, and the sooner he understood as much the better.
"Here's my car and there's the street," said I; "will you drive to Richmond Road and see the house for yourself or will you not? I tell you there were two of them, and one may be there now. You can prove it for yourself or let it go, as you like. But don't say it wasn't talked about or I shall know how to contradict you."
He came down to ground at this and consented to go with me. We were back again in the Richmond Road inside a quarter of an hour and knocking at the door of the house where I had picked the basket up about two minutes later. A very old woman opened to us this time, and answered very civilly that the two strange gentlemen had left for the Continent by the evening train, and she had no idea if they would return or no. They had always paid her regularly, she said, though not often at home; while as for their room, we could examine that with pleasure. The more amazing confession came after, for when she was pressed to tell us something about the young lady, she declared stoutly that she had never seen one, and that the Messrs. Picton—for so she called her lodgers—kept no female company, and very rarely had asked even a gentleman to their rooms.
The inspector listened to all she had to say and then made a formal search of the house. It would be waste of time to insist that he found nothing—not so much as a scrap of paper or an empty collar-box to enlighten him; but he gave strict orders that no one was to enter the men's room upon any pretext whatsoever; and when he had locked it and pocketed the key, he made me drive him back to the Boundary Road and then up to the hospital at Hampstead, to which the little girl had been carried and where she was then lying. Naturally I had the entrêe as well as he—for there were three or four swagger men from Scotland Yard on the carpet by this time, and all of them mighty anxious to make my acquaintance. From these I learned that the child was still incoherent in her talk, and utterly unable to remember who she was or whence she had come. Fright had paralysed her faculties. She might have been born yesterday for all she knew about it.
For my part, I had a strong desire to talk to the girl myself and put a few questions which had come into my head while we were waiting; but the police would have none of this, and the most they would permit me to do was to look at her from the far end of the ward, which I did for a long time, watching her face very closely, and wondering how beautiful it was.
When they sent me away at last I returned to the garage down West, and so to my bed, but not to sleep. It must have been three o'clock of the morning by this time, and I lay until I heard some noisy church-clock striking seven, when I determined to stop there tossing about no longer, but to get up and read the morning papers. Few of them, however, had more than a brief paragraph announcing the fact, and we had to wait for the "evenings" to discover the real sensation. My word, how thick they laid it on—and what a hero they made of me. I must have been interviewed a dozen times that day, and when the following morning's papers came, I read for the first time that a reward of five hundred pounds had been offered for the capture of the perpetrators of this outrage, and that it would be paid by the Editor of the Daily Herald on the day that the mystery was solved.
Of course, there were many theories. Some believed it to be a case of abduction pure and simple, some of revenge; a few recommended the doctors to follow the poison clue and to ascertain if the child had been drugged before she was put into the basket.
Speaking for myself, I had an idea in my head, which I didn't mention even to Betsy Chambers, whom it was necessary for me to see pretty often about that time, and generally of evenings. This idea, I suppose, would have knocked the Scotland Yard braves silly with laughing; but I had no fancy to share five hundred with them—more especially since they took seven fifteen off me at Kingston last Petty Sessions—so I just kept a quiet tongue in my head and mentioned the matter to nobody. Perhaps it was unfortunate I did not; I can't tell you more than this, that the next ten days found me walking about Soho as though I had a fancy to buy up the neighbourhood, and that on the eleventh day precisely I found what I wanted—found it by what I might have called a turn of Providence if I didn't know now it was something very different.
I should remind you hereabouts that the case was still the rage of the town, though hope of bringing the would-be assassins to justice had almost been abandoned.
The little girl now began to remember her past in a dim sort of way, and had told the police that she lived in a foreign country by the sea—which was not the same as saying Southend-on-the-Mud by a long way, Her father she recollected distinctly, and cried out for him very often in her sleep. She did not seem to think she had a mother, and of what happened in the Richmond Road her mind recalled nothing. I had seen her twice; but she was so frightened when I went near her that the police forbade me to go at all—and I do believe, upon my solemn word, that if it hadn't been for the witnesses they would have said I had something to do with the job myself.
This, be sure, didn't trouble me at all. What was in my mind was the five hundred sterling offered by the Daily Herald for the solution of the mystery; and that sum I did not lose sight of night or day. To win it I must discover the Yankee with the voice like a saw-mill, and the little cove with the saucer eyes, and for these, upon an instinct which I can hardly account for even to myself (save to say it was connected with three days I spent in Paris eight months ago) I hunted Soho for eleven days as other men hunt big game in Africa. And, will you believe it, when I discovered one of them at last, it was not by my eyes, but by his, for he spotted me at the very top of Wardour Street, and, coming across the road, he slapped me on the shoulder, just as though I had been his only brother let loose on society for the especial purpose of shaking him by the hand.
"Why," says he, "I guess it's the coachman."
"Coachman be d——d," says I; "hasn't Pentonville taught you no better manners than that? You be careful," says I, "or they'll be cancelling your ticket-of-leave——"
He wasn't to be affronted, for he continued to treat me as though he loved me and life had been a misery since we lost each other.
"Say," cried he, "you got through with the basket all right. Well, see here, now; do you want to get that five hundred, Britten, or do you not? I'll play the White Man with you—do you want to get it?"
"Oh," cried I, "if it's a matter of five hundred being put in the cloak-room because there isn't a label on it——"
"Then come along," he rejoined, and, taking me by the arm, he led me along the street, turned sharp round to the right into a place that looked like a disused coach-house; and before I could wink my eye, he dragged me through a door into a room beyond, and then burst out laughing fit to split.
"Britten," says he, "you're fairly done down. I've got the cinch on you, Britten. Don't you perceive that same?"
Well, of all the fools! My head spun with the thought; not at first the thought of fear, mind you, though fear followed right enough, but just with the irony of it all, and the rightdown lunacy which sent me into this trap as a fly goes into a spider's web. And this man would suck me dry; I hadn't a doubt of it; a word might cost me my life.
"Well," I rejoined, knowing that my safety depended upon my wits, "and what if I am? Do you suppose I came here without letting Inspector Melton know where I was coming? You'd better think it out, old chap. There may be two at the corner and both on the wrong side. Don't you make no mistake."
He laughed very quietly, and as though to make his own words good he put up the shutters on the only window the miserable den of a place possessed. We were in a kind of twilight now, in a miserably furnished shanty, with the paper peeling off the walls and the fire-grate all rusted and the very boards broken beneath our feet. And I believed he had a pistol in his pocket, and that he would use it if I so much as lifted my hand.
"Oh," says he presently, and in a mocking tone which ran down my back like cold water from a spout. "Oh, you're a brave boy, Britten, and when you spread yourself about the tecs, I like you. Now, see here, did I try to murder that girl or did I not? Fair question and fair answer. Am I the man the police are looking for, or is it another?"
I answered him straight out.
"The pair of you are in it. You know that well enough—and the reward is five hundred, to say nothing of what the police are offering."
"You mean to have that reward, Britten."
"If I can get it fairly, yes."
"As good as to say you'll walk straight out of here and give me up?"
"Unless you can tell me you didn't do it."
He swung round on his heel and looked at me as savage as a devil out of hell.
"I did it, Britten—Barney, my mate, had nothing to do with it. Didn't you see him sweat the night you picked us up? Barney's a tender-foot at this game; he'll never cut a figure in the 'Calendar,' why, not if he lives to be a chimpanzee in the human menagerie. Barney ought to be holding forth in the tabernacle round the corner. Him do it—why, he couldn't kill a calf."
Well, I think I sat back and shuddered at this; anyway, an awful feeling of horror came upon me, both at the man's word and at the thought of my lonely situation, and of what must come afterwards. All the calculations seemed against me. I am a strong man, and would have stood up to this Yankee, fist to fist, for any sum you care to name; but the pistol in his pocket, and the certainty that he would use it upon any provocation, held me to my seat as though I were glued there. And thus for five whole minutes, an eternity of time to me, I watched him pace up and down the room, gloating upon his horrid work, and wondering when my turn would come.
"Britten," he said presently—and his voice had changed, I thought—"Britten, would you like a whisky and soda?"
"If it's only whisky and soda——"
"What! You think I'm going to doctor it—same as I did Mabel's?"
"I don't know to what you refer—but something of the kind was in my head."
It amused him finely—and I must say again that his attitude all through was that of a man who could hardly keep from laughing whatever he did, so that I came to think he must be little short of a raving maniac, and that perhaps the Court would find him such.
"Oh," says he, "don't you fear, Britten, I shan't treat you that way—you may drink my whisky all right, a barrelful if you can. When I want to deal with you, Britten, it will be another way altogether—cash, my boy; have you any objection to a little cash?"
I opened my eyes wide, telling myself, for the second time, that he was as certainly mad as any March hare in the picture-books; but I said nothing, for he had turned to a little wooden cupboard near the fireplace, and before he spoke again he set a bottle of whisky, a syphon, and two tumblers on the table, and poured out a stiffish dose for himself and its fellow for me. When I had watched him drink it, and not before, I followed suit, and never did a man want a whisky and soda as badly.
"Your health," says he—I believe I wished him the same. "And little Mabel Bellamy's——"
I put the glass down on the table with a bang.
"Good God!" said I, "not Mabel Bellamy that did the disappearing trick at the Folies Bergères in Paris two years ago?"
"The same," says he.
"And you are telling me——"
"That she was a very fine actress. Do you deny it, Mr. Britten?"
I rose and buttoned my coat—but the black look was in his eyes again.
"Britten," says he, "not in so much of a hurry, if you please. I am going round to the Daily Herald this afternoon to get that five hundred. You will sit here until I return, when I shall pay you fifty of the best. Is it a bargain, Britten—have we the right to the money or have you?"
I thought upon it for a moment and could not deny the justice of it.
"Do you mean to say you did it for an advertisement?" I cried.
"The very same," says he, "and this night, Mabel's fond papa, the gentleman with the big eyes, Britten, will go to Hampstead and take his long-lost daughter to his breast. She makes her first appearance at the Casino Theatre to-morrow night, Britten——"
I rose and shook him by the hand.
"Fifty of the best," said I, "and I'll wait for them here."
Well, I must say it was a tidy good notion, first for the pair of them to work a trick like that on the public just for the sake of letting all the world know that Mabel Bellamy was to disappear from a basket at the Casino Theatre; and secondly, dropping on the Daily Herald for five hundred of the best—and getting it, too, before the story got wind.
You see, the Herald lost no money, for they had a fine scoop all to their little selves, while the other papers gnashed their teeth and looked on. Nor was the whole truth told by a long way, but a garbled version about foreign coves who worked the business and bolted, and a doting father who never consented to it—and such a hash-up and hocus-pocus as would have made a pig laugh.
Whether, however, the public really took it all, or whether it resented the manner of the play, is not for me to say.
Sentiment is, after all, a very fine thing, as I told Betsy Chambers the night I gave her the anchor brooch and asked her to wear it for auld lang syne, to say nothing of the good time we had when I took her to Maidenhead in old Moss's car and pretended I was broken down at Reading with a dot-and-go-one accumulator. Of course, Moss weighed in with an interview. I wonder the sight of his ugly old mug didn't shrivel the paper it was printed on.
Anyway me and Betsy—but that's another story, and so, perhaps, I had better conclude.