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The Duke Decides

Headon Hill

  Produced by Darleen Dove, Mary Meehan, and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at

  This file was produced from images generously made available by TheInternet Archive/American Libraries.


  Author of _By a Hair's-Breadth_, etc.

  _New York_ A. WESSELS COMPANY 1904

  Copyright, 1903, by _A. Wessels Company_

  Published, 1903


  _Leonie Sherman_]



  CHAPTER I--_The Man with the Mandate_ CHAPTER II--_On Board the_ St. Paul CHAPTER III--_A Task-master in Goggles_ CHAPTER IV--_The Lady in the Landau_ CHAPTER V--_Ziegler Begins to Move_ CHAPTER VI--_The General is Curious_ CHAPTER VII--_The Men on the Stairs_ CHAPTER VIII--_The Cut Panel_ CHAPTER IX--_The Strategy of the General_ CHAPTER X--_A Duty Call_ CHAPTER XI--_On the Terrace_ CHAPTER XII--_The Man Under the Seat_ CHAPTER XIII--_At the Keeper's Cottage_ CHAPTER XIV--_Too Many Women_ CHAPTER XV--_A New Cure for Headache_ CHAPTER XVI--_A Delicate Mission_ CHAPTER XVII--_Where is the Duke?_ CHAPTER XVIII--_The Senator and the Securities_ CHAPTER XIX--_In the Crypt_ CHAPTER XX--_In the Muniment Room_ CHAPTER XXI--_The Honor of the House_


  Leonie Sherman A countrywoman of yours. I wonder if you know her? The procession of three led by the stranger. I am very far from being indifferent to Mrs. Talmage Eglinton.


  CHAPTER I--_The Man with the Mandate_

  At six o'clock on a May evening, at an uptown corner of Broadway, in NewYork City, the bowels of the earth opened and disgorged a crowd ofweary-faced men and women who scattered in all directions. They were theemployees of a huge "dry-goods store," leaving work for the day. It wasa stringent rule of the firm that everyone drawing wages, from the smartmanagers of departments and well-dressed salesladies down to thecounting-house drudges and check-boys, should descend into the basement,and there file past the timekeeper and a private detective beforepassing up a narrow staircase, and so out by a sort of stage-door intothe side street.

  The great plate-glass portals on the main thoroughfare were not for theworking bees of this hive of industry--only for the gay butterflies offashion by whom they lived.

  The last to come out was a young man dressed in a threadbare suit oftweeds, that somehow hardly seemed American, either in cut or fabric.There might have been a far-away reminiscence of Perthshire moorsclinging to them, or earlier memories of a famous creator in BondStreet; but suggestion of the reach-me-down shops from which New Yorkclerks clothe themselves there was none. A flush of anger was fading ontheir owner's face as he came out into the sunlight, leaving a mildannoyance that presently gave place to a grin.

  The firm's detective, rendered suspicious by a bulging pocket, had justsearched him, and had failed to apologize on finding the protuberance tobe nothing but a bundle of un-eatable sandwiches that were being takenhome to confound the landlady of the young man's cheap boarding-house.

  The indignity did not rankle long. It was only a detail in thetopsy-turvydom that in one short year had changed a subaltern in a crackEnglish cavalry regiment into an ill-paid drudge in a dry-goods store.Twelve months before Charles Hanbury had been playing polo and ridinggymkhana races in Upper India, but extravagance beyond his means hadbrought swift ruin in its train. Tired of helping him out of scrapes,his connections had refused further assistance; and, leaving the Army,he had come out to "the States" with the idea of roughing it on theWestern plains. Still misfortune had dogged his steps. A fall down ahatchway on the voyage out had hopelessly lamed him, and he had beencompelled to ward off starvation by obtaining his present ingloriousberth.

  His work--adding up columns of figures entered from thesales-tickets--was quite irresponsible, and he was paid accordingly. Hedrew eight dollars a week, of which five went to his boarding-housekeeper.

  Limping up ---- Street, he turned into the Bowery, intending to take hisusual homeward route across the big bridge into Brooklyn. Unable toafford a street-car, he walked to and from the store daily, and it wasone of his few amusements to study the cosmopolitan life of the teemingand sordid thoroughfare through which his way led.

  He was still chuckling over the discomfiture of the tame detective, whenhis eye was caught by a label in a cheap boot-store. "Three dollars thepair," ran the legend, which drew a rueful sigh from one who hadpaid--and alas! still owed--as many guineas for a pair of dancing-pumps.

  "I don't suppose they'd sell me half a pair, for that's all it runs to,"he muttered, turning regretfully away from the vamped-up frauds, and inso doing jerking the elbow of a passer-by. The victim of his suddenmove--a stout, fair man in a light frock-coat and a Panama strawhat--stopped, and seemed inclined to resent the awkwardness.

  "I really beg your pardon," the culprit said with easy politeness. "Iwas so absorbed in my reflections that I forgot for the moment that theBowery requires cautious steering."

  "You are an Englishman?" returned the other, with a milder countenance."So am I. No need to apologize. As a fellow-countryman in foreign parts,permit me to offer you some liquid refreshment. In other words, comeinto that dive next door and have a drink."

  With an imperceptible shrug, Mr. Hanbury allowed himself to bepersuaded. He would lose his supper at his boarding-house by theirregularity, but dissipation seldom came his way nowadays, and theprospect of whisky at some one else's expense was tempting. Yes, he hadfallen low enough for that! The stout Englishman somehow conveyed theimpression that he would not expect to be treated in return by his newacquaintance, who was prepared to take advantage of his liberality. Todo him justice, Hanbury's complacence was not entirely due to spirituouslongings, but to a homesick instinct aroused by the Cockney accent ofthe vulgar stranger.

  The garish underground saloon into which they descended was almost emptyat that early hour of the evening. Drinks having been set before them atone of the circular tables, the host subjected his guest to a scrutinyso searching that its object broke into a laugh.

  "You are sizing me up pretty closely," he remarked, with a touch ofannoyance.

  "Exactly; but not so as to give offence, I hope," was the reply. "Ishould like to know your name, if you have no objection."

  "Hanbury--Charles Hanbury. Perhaps you will make the introductionmutual?" said the younger man, appeased by the other's conciliatorymanner.

  "Call me Jevons," the stout man answered. "Now look here, Mr. Hanbury;it's not my game to begin our acquaintance under false pretences. Thefact is, I contrived that you should jostle me just now, and so give mea chance to speak. I spotted you as an Englishman and a gentleman afortnight ago, and I've noticed you pass along the Bowery every daysince. I am in need of an Englishman, who is also a gentleman, to takeon a job with a fortune--a moderate fortune--at the back of it."

  "You can hardly have mistaken me for an investor," said Hanbury, with aquizzical glance at his threadbare seams and dilapidated boots. "Believeme, I am a very broken-down gentleman; but still, my gentility survives,I suppose, and I am willing to treat it as a commercial asset, if thatis what you mean."

  Mr. Jevons gulped down his liquor without comment and did not utteranother word till the glasses had been replenished. Then, hitching hischair closer, he produced a pocke
t-book from which he extracted fiveone-hundred-dollar notes.

  "Before we leave this place I shall hand these over to you forpreliminary expenses--if we come to terms," he said, watching the effectof the display on his companion's face. Satisfied with the eager glancein the tired eyes, he proceeded more confidentially: "There is a risk tobe run, but it doesn't amount to much; and if the scheme comes off itwill set you on your legs again. Part of this money you will have tospend in a first-class passage to England by the next steamer, andthere'll be plenty more for you on arrival."

  "My dear friend, you seem to be a sort of Aladdin. If you only knew theexistence I have been leading here, without the courage to terminate it,you would be assured of my answer," replied Hanbury, wondering but notcaring much what was expected of him. To escape from his dry-goodsdrudgery and return to England with money in his pocket and the prospectof more--why, the ex-cavalry officer felt that he would loot the CrownJewels for that! And he said so in so many words.

  "Then you're the man for us," was the verdict of Mr. Jevons. "It's a biton the cross--not burglary, but a little matter of planting somebeautifully imitated paper. Is that too steep for you?"

  Hanbury made a wry face, but answered without hesitation:

  "Aiding a forgery isn't quite the road to fortune I should have chosen,but beggars--you know the maxim. Society hasn't been too kind to me, andI don't see why I should range myself on its side. Yes, I'll do it; andif I'm caught, stone-breaking at Portland won't be any worse than addingup figures in a subterranean counting-house. Let me have theparticulars, Mr. Jevons, and I'll see it through to the best of anability that hasn't much to recommend it."

  "You shall have the particulars," said the other; then stopped, andlaughed rather nervously. "You must understand that I am but asubordinate in this matter, and we have reached the only unpleasant partof my task," he went on. "It is not congenial to have to use athreat--even a confidential one; yet I am instructed to do so, before Ienlighten you further."

  The rascal's concern was unmistakably genuine; and Hanbury, with thegood-humored tolerance of his class, hastened to reassure him.

  "Go on; I can guess what you have to disclose--the pains and penaltiesfor breach of faith, eh?"

  Jevons nodded, and bent his shiny, perspiring face nearer. "It is a bigthing, involving enormous outlay and the interests of an organizationcommanding great resources," he whispered. "Your life wouldn't be worthfive minutes' purchase if you deserted us after you had been entrustedwith the details. Now, will you have them on those conditions, or shallwe say 'Good-night' to each other?"

  Hanbury stretched out his hand impatiently for the notes. "Pray satisfymy curiosity, and let me have them on those conditions," he said. "Mylife is of no earthly value to me. Besides, with all my faults, I'm notone to turn back after putting my hand to the plough. If I do, by allmeans give me my quietus as mercifully as may be."

  "Then here goes," whispered Jevons, mouth to ear. "The game is theplanting of faked United States Treasury Bonds on the Bank of England tothe tune of three million sterling--pounds, not dollars, you know. Youwill proceed to England by the _St. Paul_, sailing for Southampton theday after to-morrow, and on arrival in London you will at once call onMr. Clinton Ziegler, at the Hotel Cecil. He is our chief, and will giveyou final instructions as to your part in the campaign. You'll find hima handsome paymaster."

  "I look forward to making Mr. Ziegler's acquaintance with interest,"replied Hanbury, pocketing the notes which the other passed to him. "AmI to have the pleasure of your company on the voyage?"

  "I'm afraid not; my work is here," said Jevons. "And--well, it's notaltogether healthy for me on the other side." The confession wasaccompanied by a wink which forcibly brought it home to the recruit thathe had joined the criminal classes. His new friend--"pal," he supposedhe ought to call him--evidently thought him worthy of personalconfidence.

  They had another drink together at the bar, and parted outside thesaloon, Hanbury making his belated way towards Brooklyn. Once or twicehe turned abruptly to see if he was being followed, but the aggressivewhite Panama hat was nowhere visible, the conclusion being obvious thatthe astute Mr. Jevons had ascertained his domicile, as well as his placeof employment, before broaching his delicate business.

  Tramping along the teeming Bowery and across the footway of the mightybridge, the ex-hussar enjoyed to the full the exultation of feelingmoney in his pocket once more. It was not much, and it was as good asspent already in the cost of a passage and an outfit; but it was theearnest of more to come, and, above all, it franked the exile home toEngland. At the price of his honor, perhaps? Well, yes; but what washonor to a dry-goods clerk at eight dollars a week? He might have takena different view two years ago, when honor stood for something in hiscreed; but not now, with the world against him.

  Entering the sordid boarding-house, he mounted to his top-floor bedroom,aware that he had forfeited his supper of beef-hash, and that it was toolate to go to the dining-room in quest thereof. His eyrie under theroof, flanked on one side by the apartment of a German car-driver and onthe other by that of an Irish porter, was furnished with little elsethan a bed and a toilet-table.

  On the toilet-table lay a telegram addressed to him--the first he hadreceived since he had been in America. The unwonted sight caused hishands to tremble a little as he tore it open, but they trembled a gooddeal more as he read the fateful words:

  "_Your uncle and cousin have been killed in a railway accident. Come toEngland at once. Have cabled a thousand pounds to Morgan's to yourcredit.--Pattisons._"

  "Pattisons" were the family solicitors, and he who a moment before hadcalled himself Charles Hanbury now knew that his true description wouldappear in the next issue of "Debrett" as "Charles Augustus TrevorFitzroy Hanbury, seventh Duke of Beaumanoir," with a rent-roll of twohundred thousand a year.

  And he stood committed, on pain of assassination, to aid and abet in thepalming off of bogus bonds on the Bank of England!