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          (June 1896, _The Strand Magazine_)
          (Chapter one of _An African Millionaire: Episodes in
the Life of the Illustrious Colonel Clay_, published in book form
in 1897)

             by Grant Allen  (1848 - 1899)

My name is Seymour Wilbraham Wentworth.  I am brother-in-
law and secretary to Sir Charles Vandrift, the South African
millionaire and famous financier.  Many years ago, when Charlie
Vandrift was a small lawyer in Cape Town, I had the (qualified)
good fortune to marry his sister.  Much later, when the Vandrift
estate and farm near Kimberley developed by degrees into the
Cloetedorp Golcondas, Limited, my brother-in-law offered me the
not unremunerative post of secretary;  in which capacity I have
ever since been his constant and attached companion.

     He is not a man whom any common sharper can take in, is
Charles Vandrift.  Middle height square build, firm mouth, keen
eyes--the very picture of a sharp and successful business genius. 
I have only known one rogue impose upon Sir Charles, and that one
rogue, as the Commissary of Police at Nice remarked, would
doubtless have imposed upon a syndicate of Vidocq, Robert Houdin,
and Cagliostro.

     We had run across to the Riviera for a few weeks in the
season.   Our object being strictly rest and recreation from the
arduous duties of financial combination, we did not think it
necessary to take our wives out with us.  Indeed, Lady Vandrift
is absolutely wedded to the joys of London, and does not
appreciate the rural delights of the Mediterranean littoral.  But
Sir Charles and I, though immersed in affairs when at home, both
thoroughly enjoy the complete change from the City to the
charming vegetation and pellucid air on the terrace at Monte
Carlo.  We ARE so fond of scenery.  That delicious view over the
rocks of Monaco, with the Maritime Alps in the rear, and the blue
sea in front, not to mention the imposing Casino in the
foreground, appeals to me as one of the most beautiful prospects
in and freshens him, after the turmoil of London, to win a few
hundreds at roulette in the course of an afternoon, among the
palms and cactuses and pure breezes of Monte Carlo.  The country,
say I, for a jaded intellect!  However, we never on any account
actually stop in the Principality itself.  Sir Charles thinks
Monte Carlo is not a sound address for a financier's letters.  He
prefers a comfortable hotel on the Promenade des Anglais at Nice,
where he recovers health and renovates his nervous system by
taking daily excursions along the coast to the Casino.

     This particular season we were snugly ensconced at the Hotel
des Anglais.  We had capital quarters on the first floor--salon,
study, and bedrooms--and found on the spot a most agreeable
cosmopolitan society.  All Nice, just then, was ringing with talk
about a curious impostor, known to his followers as the Great
Mexican Seer, and supposed to be gifted with second sight, as
well as with endless other supernatural powers.  Now, it is a
peculiarity of my able brother-in-law's that, when he meets with
a quack, he burns to expose him;  he is so keen a man of business
himself that it gives him, so to speak, a disinterested pleasure
to unmask and detect imposture in others.  Many ladies at the
hotel, some of whom had met and conversed with the Mexican Seer,
were constantly telling us strange stories of his doings--he had
disclosed to one the present whereabouts of a runaway husband;  
he had pointed out to another the numbers that would win at
roulette next evening;  he had shown a third the image on a
screen of the man she had for years adored without his knowledge. 
Of course, Sir Charles didn't believe a word of it;  but his
curiosity was roused;  he wished to see and judge for himself of
the wonderful thought-reader.

     "What would be his terms, do you think, for a private
seance" he asked of Madame Picardet, the lady to whom the Seer
had successfully predicted the winning numbers.

     "He does not work for money," Madame Picardet answered, "but
for the good of humanity.  I'm sure he would gladly come and
exhibit for nothing his miraculous faculties."

     "Nonsense!" Sir Charles answered.  "The man must live.  I'd
pay him five guineas, though, to see him alone.  What hotel is he
stopping at?"

     "The Cosmopolitan, I think," the lady answered.  "Oh no;  I
remember now, the Westminster."

     Sir Charles turned to me quietly.  "Look here, Seymour," he
whispered.  "Go round to this fellow's place immediately after
dinner, and offer him five pounds to give a private seance at
once in my rooms without mentioning who I am to him;  keep the
name quite quiet.  Bring him back with you, too, and come
straight upstairs with him, so that there may be no collusion.  
We'll see just how much the fellow can tell us."

     I went, as directed.  I found the Seer a very remarkable and
interesting person.  He stood about Sir Charles's own height, but
was slimmer and straighter, with an aquiline nose, strangely
piercing eyes, very large, black pupils, and a finely-chiselled,
close-shaven face like the bust of Antinous in our hall in
Mayfair.  What gave him his most characteristic touch, however,
was his odd head of hair, curly and wavy like Paderewski's,
standing out in a halo round his high white forehead and his
delicate profile.  I could see at a glance why he succeeded so
well in impressing women:  he had the look of a poet, a singer, a

     "I have come round," I said, "to ask whether you will
consent to give a seance at once in a friend's rooms; and my
principal wishes me to add that he is prepared to pay five pounds
as the price of the entertainment."

     Senor Antonio Herrera--that was what he called himself--
bowed to me with impressive Spanish politeness.  His dusky olive
cheeks were wrinkled with a smile of gentle contempt as he
answered, gravely:--
     "I do not sell my gifts;  I bestow them freely.  If your
friend--your anonymous friend--desires to behold the cosmic
wonders that are wrought through my hands, I am glad to show them
to him.  Fortunately, as often happens when it is necessary to
convince and confound a sceptic (for that our friend is a sceptic
I feel instinctively), I chance to have no engagements at all
this evening."  He ran his hand through his fine, long hair,
reflectively.  "Yes, I go," he continued, as if addressing some
unknown presence that hovered about the ceiling;  "I go;  come
with me!"  Then he put on his broad sombrero, with its crimson
ribbon, wrapped a cloak round his shoulders, lighted a cigarette,
and strode forth by my side towards the Hotel des Anglais.

     He talked little by the way, and that little in curt
sentences.  He seemed buried in deep thought;  indeed, when we
reached the door and I turned in, he walked a step or two further
on, as if not noticing to what place had brought him.  Then he
drew himself up short, and gazed around him for a moment.  " Ha,
the Anglais," he said--and I may mention in passing that his
English, in spite of a slight southern accent, was idiomatic and
excellent.  "It is here, then;  it is here!"  He was addressing
once more the unseen presence.

     I smiled to think that these childish devices were intended
to deceive Sir Charles Vandrift.  Not quite the sort of man (as
the City of London knows) to be taken in by hocus-pocus.  And all
this, I saw, was the cheapest and most commonplace conjurer's

     We went upstairs to our rooms.  Charles had gathered
together a few friends to watch the performance.  The Seer
entered, wrapt in thought.  He was in evening dress, but a red
sash round his waist gave a touch of picturesqueness and a dash
of colour.  He paused for a moment in the middle of the salon
without letting his eyes rest on anybody or anything.  Then he
walked straight up to Charles and held out his dark hand.

     "Good evening," he said.  "You are the host.  My soul's
sight tells me so."

     " Good shot," Sir Charles answered.  "These fellows have to
be quick-witted, you know, Mrs. Mackenzie, or they'd never get on
at it."

     The Seer gazed about him, and smiled blankly at a person or
two whose faces he seemed to recognise from a previous existence.
Then Charles began to ask him a few simple questions, not about
himself, but about me, just to test him.  He answered most of
them with surprising correctness.  "His name?  His name begins
with an S--I think--You call him Seymour."  He paused long
between each clause, as if the facts were revealed to him slowly. 
"Seymour--Wilbraham--Earl of Strafford.  No, not Earl of
Strafford!  Seymour Wilbraham Wentworth.  There seems to
be some connection in somebody's mind now present between
Wentworth and Strafford.  I am not English.  I do not know what
it means.  But they are somehow the same name, Wentworth and

     He gazed around apparently for confirmation.  A lady came to
his rescue.  "Wentworth was the surname of the great Earl of
Strafford," she murmured, gently;  "and I was wondering, as you
spoke, whether Mr. Wentworth might possibly be descended from

     "He is," the Seer replied, instantly, with a flash of those
dark eyes.  And I thought this curious:  for though my father
always maintained the reality of the relationship, there was one
link wanting to complete the pedigree.  He could not make sure
that the Hon. Thomas Wilbraham Wentworth was the father of
Jonathan Wentworth, the Bristol horse-dealer, from whom we are

     "Where was I born?" Sir Charles interrupted, coming suddenly
to his own case.

     The Seer clapped his two hands to his forehead and held it
between them, as if to prevent it from bursting.  "Africa," he
said, slowly, as the facts narrowed down, so to speak.  "South
Africa;  Cape of Good Hope;  Jansenville;  De Witt Street. 

     "By Jove, he's correct," Sir Charles muttered.  "He seems
really to do it.  Still, he may have found me out.  He may have
known where he was coming."

     "I never gave a hint," I answered; "till he reached the
door, he didn't even know to what hotel I was piloting him."

     The Seer stroked his chin softly.  His eye appeared to me to
have a furtive gleam in it.  "Would you like me to tell you the
number of a bank-note inclosed in an envelope?" he asked,

     "Go out of the room," Sir Charles said, "while I pass it
round the company."

Senor Herrera disappeared.  Sir Charles passed it round
cautiously, holding it all the time in his own hand, but letting
his guests see the number.  Then he placed it in an envelope and
gummed it down firmly.

     The Seer returned.  His keen eyes swept the company with a
comprehensive glance.  He shook his shaggy mane.  Then he took
the envelope in his hands and gazed at it fixedly.  "AF, 73549,"
he answered, in a slow tone.  "A Bank of England note for
fifty pounds--exchanged at the Casino for gold won yesterday at
Monte Carlo."

     "I see how he did that," Sir Charles said, triumphantly. "He
must have changed it there himself;  and then I changed it back
again.  In point of fact, I remember seeing a fellow with long
hair loafing about.  Still, it's capital conjuring."

     "He can see through matter," one of the ladies interposed.
It was Madame Picardet.  "He can see through a box."  She drew a
little gold vinaigrette, such as our grandmothers used, from her
dress-pocket.  "What is in this?" she inquired, holding it up to

     Senor Herrera gazed through it.  "Three gold coins," he
replied, knitting his brows with the effort of seeing into the
box:  "one, an American five dollars; one, a French ten-franc
piece, one, twenty marks, German, of the old Emperor William."

     She opened the box and passed it round.  Sir Charles smiled
a quiet smile.

     "Confederacy!" he muttered, half to himself.  "Confederacy!"

     The Seer turned to him with a sullen air.  "You want a
better sign?" he said, in a very impressive voice.  "A sign that
will convince you!  Very well:  you have a letter in your left
waistcoat pocket--a crumpled-up letter.  Do you wish me to read
it out?  I will, if you desire it."

     It may seem to those who know Sir Charles incredible, but, I
am bound to admit, my brother-in-law coloured.  What that letter
contained, I cannot say;  he only answered, very testily and
evasively, "No, thank you; I won't trouble you.  The exhibition
you have already given us of your skill in this kind more than
amply suffices."  And his fingers strayed nervously to his
waistcoat pocket, as if he was half afraid, even then Senor
Herrera would read it.

     I fancied, too, he glanced somewhat anxiously towards Madame

     The Seer bowed courteously.  "Your will senor, is law," he
said.  "I make it a principle, though I can see through all
things, invariably to respect the secrecies and sanctities.  If
it were not so, I might dissolve society.  For which of us is
there who could bear the whole truth being told about him?"  He
gazed around the room.  An unpleasant thrill supervened.  Most of
us felt this uncanny Spanish American knew really too much.  And
some of us were engaged in financial operations.  

     "For example," the Seer continued, blandly, "I happened a
few weeks ago to travel down here from Paris by train with a very
intelligent man, a company promoter.  He had in his bag some
documents--some confidential documents": he glanced at Sir
Charles.  "You know the kind of thing, my dear sir:  reports from
experts--from mining engineers.  You may have seen some such; 

     "They form an element in high finance," Sir Charles
admitted, coldly.

     " Pre-cisely," the Seer murmured, his accent for a moment
less Spanish than before.  "And, as they were marked strictly
private, I respect, of course, the seal of confidence.  That's
all I wish to say.  I hold it a duty, being intrusted with
such powers, not to use them in a manner which may annoy or
incommode my fellow creatures."

     "Your feeling does you honour," Sir Charles answered, with
some acerbity.  Then he whispered in my ear:  "Confounded clever
scoundrel, Sey;  rather wish we hadn't brought him here."

     Senor Herrera seemed intuitively to divine this wish, for he
interposed, in a lighter and gayer tone:--
     "I will now show you a different and more interesting
embodiment of occult power, for which we shall need a somewhat
subdued arrangement of surrounding lights.  Would you mind, senor
host--for I have purposely abstained from reading your name on
the brain of anyone present--would you mind my turning down this
lamp just a little?...So!  That will do.  Now, this one;  and
this one.  Exactly! that's right."  He poured a few grains of
powder out of a packet into a saucer.  "Next, a match, if you
please.  Thank you!"  It burnt with a strange green light.  He
drew from his pocket a card, and produced a little ink-bottle. 
"Have you a pen?" he asked.

     I instantly brought one.  He handed it to Charles.  "Oblige
me," he said, "by writing your name there."  And he indicated a
place in the centre of the card, which had an embossed edge, with
a small middle square of a different colour.

     Sir Charles has a natural disinclination to signing his name
without knowing why.  What do you want with it?" he asked.  (A 
millionaires signature has so many uses.)

     "I want you to put the card in an envelope," the Seer
replied, "and then to burn it.  After that, I shall show you your
own name written in letters of blood on my arm, in your own

     Sir Charles took the pen.  If the signature was to be burned
as soon as finished, he didn't mind giving it.  He wrote his name
in his usual firm, clear style--the writing of a man who knows
his worth and is not afraid of drawing a cheque for five 

     "Look at it long," the Seer said, from the other side of the
room.  He had not watched him write it.

     Sir Charles stared at it fixedly.  The Seer was really
beginning to produce an impression.

     "Now, put it in that envelope," the Seer exclaimed.

     Sir Charles, like a lamb, placed it as directed.

     The Seer strode forward.  "Give me the envelope," he said.
He took it in his hand, walked over towards the fire-place, and
solemnly burnt it.  "See--it crumbles into ashes," he cried. 
Then he Came back to the middle of the room, close to the green
light, rolled up his sleeve, and held his arm before Sir Charles.
There, in blood-red letters, my brother-in-law read the name,
"Charles Vandrift," in his own handwriting!

     "I see how that's done," Sir Charles murmured, drawing back.
"It's a clever delusion;  but still, I see through it.  It's like
that ghost-book.  Your ink was deep green;  your light was green; 
you made me look at it long;  and then I saw the same thing
written on the skin of your arm in complementary colours."

     "You think so?" the Seer replied, with a curious curl of the

     "I'm sure of it," Sir Charles answered.

     Quick as lightning, the Seer again rolled up his sleeve.
"That's your name," he cried, in a very clear voice, "but not
your whole name.  What do you say, then, to my right?  Is this
one also a complementary colour?"  He held his other arm out.  
There, in sea-green letters, I read the name, "Charles O'Sullivan
Vandrift."  It is my brother-in-law's full baptismal designation; 
but he has dropped the O'Sullivan for many years past, and, to
say the truth, doesn't like it.  He is a little bit ashamed of
his mother's family.

     Charles glanced at it hurriedly.  "Quite right," he said,
"quite right!"  But his voice was hollow.  I could guess he
didn't care to continue the seance.  He could see through the
man, of course:  but it was clear the fellow knew too much about
us to be entirely pleasant.

     "Turn up the lights," I said, and a servant turned them.
"Shall I say coffee and benedictine?"  I whispered to Vandrift.

     "By all means," he answered.  "Anything to keep this fellow
from further impertinences!  And, I say, don't you think you'd
better suggest at the same time that the men should smoke?  Even
these ladies are not above a cigarette--some of them."

     There was a sigh of relief.  The lights burned brightly. 
The Seer for the moment retired from business, so to speak.  He
accepted a partaga with a very good grace, sipped his coffee in a
corner, and chatted to the lady who had suggested Strafford with
marked politeness.  He was a polished gentleman.

     Next morning, in the hall of the hotel, I saw Madame
Picardet again, in a neat tailor-made travelling dress; 
evidently bound for the railway-station.

     "What, off, Madame Picardet?" I cried.

     She smiled, and held out her prettily-gloved hand.  "Yes,
I'm off," she answered, archly.  "Florence, or Rome, or
somewhere.  I've drained Nice dry--like a sucked orange.  Got all
the fun I can out of it.  Now I'm away again to my beloved

     But it struck me as odd that, if Italy was her game, she
went by the omnibus which takes down to the train de luxe for
Paris.  However, a man of the world accepts what a lady tells
him, no matter how improbable;  and I confess, for ten days or
so, I thought no more about her, or the Seer either.

     At the end of that time, our fortnight pass-book came in
from the bank in London.  It is part of my duty, as the
millionaire's secretary, to make up this book once a fortnight,
and to compare the cancelled cheques with Sir Charles's
counterfoils.  On this particular occasion, I happened to observe
what I can only describe as a very grave discrepancy.  In fact, a
discrepancy of 5,000 pounds.  On the wrong side, too.  Sir
Charles was debited with 5,000 pounds more than the total amount
that was shown on the counterfoils.

     I examined the book with care.  The source of the error was
obvious.  It lay in a cheque to Self or Bearer, for 5,000 pounds,
signed by Sir Charles, and evidently paid across the counter in
London, as it bore on its face no stamp or indication of any
other office.

     I called in my brother-in-law from the salon to the study. 
"Look here, Charles," I said, "there's a cheque in the book which
you haven't entered."  And I handed it to him without comment,
for I thought it might have been drawn to settle some little loss
on the turf or at cards, or to make up some other affair he
didn't desire to mention to me.  These things will happen.

     He looked at it and stared hard.  Then he pursed up his
mouth and gave a long low "Whew!"  At last he turned it over and
remarked, "I say, Sey, my boy, we've just been done jolly well
brown, haven't we?"

     I glanced at the cheque.  "How do you mean?" I inquired.

     "Why, the Seer," he replied, still staring at it ruefully. 
"I don't mind the five thou., but to think the fellow should have
gammoned the pair of us like that--ignominious, I call it!"

     "How do you know it's the Seer?" I asked.

     "Look at the green ink," he answered.  "Besides, I recollect
the very shape of the last flourish.  I flourished a bit like
that in the excitement of the moment, which I don't always do
with my regular signature."

     " He's done us," I answered, recognising it.  "But how the
dickens did he manage to transfer it to the cheque?  This looks
like your own handwriting, Charles, not a clever forgery."

     "It is," he said.  "I admit it--I can't deny it.  Only fancy
his bamboozling me when I was most on my guard!  I wasn't to be
taken in by any of his silly occult tricks and catch-words;  but
it never occurred to me he was going to victimize me financially
in this way.  I expected attempts at a loan or an extortion;  but
to collar my signature to a blank cheque--atrocious!"

     "How did he manage it?" I asked.

     "I haven't the faintest conception.  I only know those are
the words I wrote.  I could swear to them anywhere."

     "Then you can't protest the cheque?"

     " Unfortunately, no;  it's my own true signature."

     We went that afternoon without delay to see the Chief
Commissary of Police at the office.  He was a gentlemanly
Frenchman much less formal and red-tapey than usual, and he spoke
excellent English, with an American accent, having acted, in
fact, as a detective in New York for about ten years in his early

     "I guess," he said slowly, after hearing our story, "you've
been victimized right here by Colonel Clay, gentlemen."

     " Who is Colonel Clay ? " Sir Charles asked.

     "That's just what I want to know," the Commissary answered,
in his curious American-French-English.  "He is a Colonel,
because he occasionally gives himself a commission;  he is called
Colonel Clay, because he appears to possess an indiarubber face, 
and he can mould it like clay in the hands of the potter.  Real
name, unknown.  Nationality, equally French and English. 
Address, usually Europe.  Profession, former maker of wax figures
to the Musee Grevin.  Age, what he chooses.  Employs his
knowledge to mould his own nose and cheeks, with wax additions to
the character he desires to personate.  Aquiline, this time, you
say.  Hein!  Anything like these photographs?"

     He rummaged in his desk and handed us two.

     "Not in the least," Sir Charles answered; "except perhaps,
as to the neck, everything here is quite unlike him."

     "Then that's the Colonel!" the Commissary answered with
decision, rubbing his hands in glee.  "Look here," and he took
out a pencil and rapidly sketched the outline of one of the two
faces--that of a bland looking young man, with no expression
worth mentioning.  "There's the Colonel in his simple disguise.
Very good. Now watch me:  figure to yourself that he adds here a
tiny patch of wax to his nose--an aquiline bridge--just so; 
well, you have him right there;  and the chin, ah, one touch: 
now, for hair, a wig:  for complexion, nothing easier:  that's
the profile of your rascal, isn't it?"

     "Exactly," we both murmured.  By two curves of the pencil,
and a shock of false hair, the face was transmuted. 

     "He had very large eyes, with very big pupils, though," I
objected, looking close "and the man in the photograph here has
them small and boiled-fishy."

     "That's so," the Commissary answered.  "A drop of belladonna
expands--and produces the Seer, five grains of opium contract--
and gives a dead-alive, stupidly-innocent appearance.  Well, you
leave this affair to me, gentlemen.  I'll see the fun out.  I
don't say I'll catch him for you;  nobody ever yet has caught
Colonel Clay;  but I'll explain how he did the trick;  and that
ought to be consolation enough to a man of your means for a
trifle of five thousand!"

     "You are not the conventional French office-holder, M. le
Commissaire," I ventured to interpose.

     "You bet!" the Commissary replied, and drew himself up like
a captain of infantry.  "Messieurs," he continued, in French,
with the utmost dignity, "I shall devote the resources of this
office to tracing out the crime, and, if possible, to
effectuating the arrest of the culpable."

     We telegraphed to London, of course, and we wrote to the
bank, with a full description of the suspected person.  But I
need hardly add that nothing came of it.

     Three days later, the Commissary called at our hotel.  Well,
gentlemen," he said, " I am glad to say I have discovered

     "What?  Arrested the Seer?" Sir Charles cried.

     The Commissary drew back, almost horrified at the

     "Arrested Colonel Clay?" he exclaimed.  "Mais, monsieur, we
are only human!  Arrested him?  No, not quite.  But tracked out
how he did it.  That is already much--to unravel Colonel Clay,

     "Well, what do you make of it?" Sir Charles asked,

     The Commissary sat down and gloated over his discovery.  It
was clear a well-planned crime amused him vastly.  "In the first
place, monsieur," he said, "disabuse your mind of the idea that
when monsieur your secretary went out to fetch Senor Herrera that
night, Senor Herrera didn't know to whose rooms he was coming. 
Quite otherwise, in point of fact.  I do not doubt myself that
Senor Herrera, or Colonel Clay (call him which you like), came to
Nice this winter for no other purpose than just to rob you."

     "But I sent for him," my brother-in-law interposed.

     "Yes;  he meant you to send for him.  He forced a card, so
to speak.  If he couldn't do that, I guess he would be a pretty
poor conjurer.  He had a lady of his own--his wife, let us say,
or his sister--stopping here at this hotel;  a certain Madame
Picardet.  Through her, he induced several ladies of your circle
to attend his seances.  She and they spoke to you about him, and
aroused your curiosity.  You may bet your bottom dollar that when
he came to this room, he came ready primed and prepared with
endless facts about both of you."

     "What fools we have been, Sey," my brother-in-law exclaimed.
" I see it all now.  That designing woman sent round before
dinner to say I wanted to meet him;  and by the time you got
there, he was ready for bamboozling me."

     "That's so," the Commissary answered.  "He had your name
ready painted on both his arms;  and he had made other
preparations of still greater importance."

     "You mean the cheque.  Well, how did he get it?"

     The Commissary opened the door.  "Come in," he said.  And a
young man entered whom we recognised at once as the chief clerk
in the Foreign Department of the Credit Marseillais, the
principal bank all along the Riviera.

     "State what you know of this cheque," the Commissary said,
showing it to him, for we had handed it over to the police as a
piece of evidence.

     "About four weeks since----" the clerk began. 

     "Say ten days before your seance," the Commissary

     "A gentleman with very long hair and an aquiline nose, dark,
strange, and handsome, called in at my department and asked if I
could tell him the name of Sir Charles Vandrift's London banker.
He said he had a sum to pay in to your credit, and asked if
we would forward it for him.  I told him it was irregular for us
to receive the money, as you had no account with us, but that
your London bankers were Darby, Drummond, and Rothenberg,

     "Quite right," Sir Charles murmured.

     "Two days later a lady, Madame Picardet, who was a customer
of ours, brought in a good cheque for three hundred pounds,
signed by a first-rate name, and asked us to pay it in on her
behalf to Darby, Drummond, and Rothenberg's, and to open a London
account with them for her.  We did so, and received in reply a

     "From which this cheque was taken, as I learn from the
number, by telegram from London," the Commissary put in.  "Also,
that on the same day on which your cheque was cashed, Madame
Picardet, in London withdrew her balance."

     "But how did the fellow get me to sign the cheque?" Sir
Charles cried.  "How did he manage the card trick?"

     The Commissary produced a similar card from his pocket. 
"Was that the sort of thing?" he asked.

     "Precisely!  A facsimile."

     "I thought so.  Well, our Colonel, I find, bought a packet
of such cards, intended for admission to a religious function, at
a shop in the Quai Massena.  He cut out the centre, and, see
here----"  The Commissary turned it over, and showed a piece of
paper pasted neatly over the back;  this he tore off, and
there, concealed behind it, lay a folded cheque, with only the
place where the signature should be written showing through on
the face which the Seer had presented to us.  "I call that
I neat trick," the Commissary remarked, with professional
enjoyment of a really good deception.

     "But he burnt the envelope before my eyes," Sir Charles

     "Pooh!" the Commissary answered.  "What would he be worth as
a conjurer, anyway if he couldn't substitute one envelope for
another between the table and the fireplace without your noticing
it?  And Colonel Clay, you must remember, is a prince among

     "Well, it's a comfort to know we've identified our man, and
the woman who was with him," Sir Charles said, with a slight sigh
of relief.  "The next thing will be, of course, you'll follow
them up on these clues in England and arrest them?"

     The Commissary shrugged his shoulders.  "Arrest them!" he
exclaimed, much amused.  "Ah, monsieur, but you are sanguine!  No
officer of justice has ever succeeded in arresting le Colonel
Caoutchouc, as we call him in French.  He is as slippery as an
eel, that man.  He wriggles through our fingers.  Suppose even we
caught him, what could we prove?  I ask you.  Nobody who has seen
him once can ever swear to him again in his next impersonation. 
He is 'impayable,' this good Colonel.  On the day when I arrest
him, I assure you, monsieur, I shall consider myself the smartest
police-officer in Europe."

     "Well, I shall catch him yet," Sir Charles answered, and
relapsed into silence.

[End of episode one]
(Scanned and edited by Stephen Davies:  SDavies@MtRoyal.AB.CA)
(Released 93-dec-30)