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The Submarine Boat (1903)

from The further adventures of Romney Pringle

by Clifford Ashdown

("Clifford Ashdown" is Dr. R. Austin Freeman, (1862-1943)
and Dr. James Pitcairn (1860-1936))

Tric-trac! tric-trac! went the black and white discs as the
players moved them over the backgammon board in
expressive justification of the French term for the game.  
Tric-trac!  They are indeed a nation of poets, reflected Mr.
Pringle.  Was not Teuf-teuf! for the motor-car a veritable
inspiration?  And as he smoked, the not unmusical clatter
of the enormous wooden discs filled the atmosphere.

  In these days of cookery not entirely based upon air-
tights — to use the expressive Americanism for tinned
meats — it is no longer necessary for the man who wishes
to dine, as distinguished from the mere feeding animal, to
furtively seek some restaurant in remote Soho, jealously
guarding its secret from his fellows.  But Mr Pringle, in
his favourite study of human nature, was an occasional
visitor to the 'Poissoniere' in Gerrard Street, and, the
better to pursue his researches, had always denied
familiarity with the foreign tongues he heard around him. 
The restaurant was distinctly close — indeed, some might have
called it stuffy — and Pringle, though near a ventilator,
thoughtfully provided by the management, was fast being
lulled into drowsiness, when a man who had taken his seat
with a companion at the next table leaned across the
intervening gulf and addressed him.

  'Nous ne vous derangeons pas, monsieur?'

  Pringle, with a smile of fatuous uncomprehending,
bowed, but said never a word.

  'Cochon d'Anglais, n'entendez-vous pas?'

  'I'm afraid I do not understand,' returned Pringle,
shaking his head hopelessly, but still smiling.

  'Canaille!  Faut-il que je vous tire le nez?' persisted
the Frenchman, as, apparently still sceptical of Pringle's
assurance, he added threats to abuse.

  'I have known the English gentleman a long time, and
without a doubt he does not understand French,' testified
the waiter who had now come forward for orders.  Satisfied
by this corroboration of Pringle's innocence, the Frenchman
bowed and smiled sweetly to him, and, ordering a bottle
of Clos de Vougeot, commenced an earnest conversation with
his neighbour.

  By the time this little incident had closed, Pringle's
drowsiness had given place to an intense feeling of
curiosity.  For what purpose could the Frenchman have been
so insistent in disbelieving his expressed ignorance of the
language?  Why, too, had he striven to make Pringle betray
himself by resenting the insults showered upon him?  In a
Parisian restaurant, as he knew, far more trivial affronts
had ended in meetings in the Bois de Boulogne.  Besides,
cochon was an actionable term of opprobrium in France.
The Frenchman and his companion had seated themselves
at the only vacant table, also it was in a corner; Pringle,
at the next, was the single person within ear-shot, and the
Frenchman's extraordinary behaviour could only be due
to a consuming thirst for privacy.  Settling himself in an
easy position, Pringle closed his eyes, and while appearing
to resume his slumber, strained every nerve to discern the
lightest word that passed at the next table.  Dressed in the
choicest mode of Piccadilly, the Frenchman bore himself
with all the intolerable self-consciousness of the 
Boulevardier; but there was no trace of good-natured levity 
in the dark aquiline features, and the evil glint of the
eyes recalled visions of an operatic Mephistopheles.  His
guest was unmistakably an Englishman of the bank-clerk type,
who contributed his share of the conversation in halting
Anglo-French, punctuated by nervous laughter as, with
agonising pains, he dredged his memory for elusive

Freely translated, this was what Pringle heard:
  'So your people have really decided to take up the
submarine, after all?  '

  'Yes; I am working out the details of some drawings in

  'But are they from headquarters?'

  'Certainly!  Duly initialled and passed by the chief

  'And you are making ——"

  'Full working drawings.'

  'There will be no code or other secret about them?'

  'What I am doing can be understood by any naval

  'Ah, an English one!'

  'The measurements of course, are English, but they are
easily convertible.'

  'You could do that?'

  'Too dangerous!  Suppose a copy in metric scale were
found in my possession!  Besides, any draughtsman could
reduce them in an hour or two.'

  'And when can you let me have it?'

  'In about two weeks.'

  'Impossible!  I shall not be here.'

  ' Unless something happens to let me get on with it
quickly, I don't see how I can do it even then.  I am never
sufficiently free from interruption to take tracings; there
are far too many eyes upon me.  The only chance I have is
to spoil the thing as soon as I have the salient points
worked out on it, and after I have pretended to destroy it,
smuggle it home; then I shall have to take elaborate notes
every day and work out the details from them in the evening. 
It is simply impossible for me to attempt to take a
finished drawing out of the yard, and, as it is, I don't
quite see my way to getting the spoilt one out — they look so
sharply after spoilt drawings.'

  'Two weeks you say, then?'

  'Yes; and I shall have to sit up most nights copying
the day's work from my notes to do it.'

  'Listen!  In a week I must attend at the Ministry of
Marine in Paris, but our military attaché is my friend.  I
can trust him; he shall come down to you.'

  'What, at Chatham?  Do you wish to ruin me?' A smile
from the Frenchman.  'No; it must be in London, where no
one knows me.'

  'Admirable!  My friend will be better able to meet you.'

  'Very well, as soon as I am ready I will telegraph to

  'Might not the address of the embassy be remarked by
the telegraph officials?  Your English post-office is 
charmingly unsuspicious, but we must not risk anything.'

  'Ah, perhaps so.  Well, I will come up to London and
telegraph to you from here.  But your representative
will he be prepared for it?'

  'I will warn him to expect it in fourteen days.' He
made an entry in his pocket-book.  'How will you sign the

  'Gustave Zede,' suggested the Englishman, sniggering
for the first and only time.

  'Too suggestive.  Sign yourself "Pauline", and simply
add the time.'

  '"Pauline", then.  Where shall the rendezvous be?'

  'The most public place we can find.'


  'Certainly.  Some place where everyone will be too much
occupied with his own affairs to notice you.  What say you
to your Nelson's column?  There you can wait in a way we
shall agree upon.'

  'It would be a difficult thing for me to wear a disguise.'

  'All disguises are clumsy unless one is an expert. 
Listen!  You shall be gazing at the statue with one hand in
your breast — so.'

  'Yes; and I might hold a "Baedeker" in my other hand.'

  'Admirable, my friend!  You have the true spirit of an
artist,' sneered the Frenchman.

  'Your representative will advance and say to me,
"Pauline", and the exchange can be made without another


  'I presume your Government is prepared to pay me
handsomely for the very heavy risks I am running in this
matter,' said the Englishman stiffly.

  'Pardon, my friend!  How imbecile of me!  I am authorised
to offer you ten thousand francs.'

  A pause, during which the Englishman made a calculation 
on the back of an envelope.

  'That is four hundred pounds,' he remarked, tearing the
envelope into carefully minute fragments.  'Far too little
for such a risk.'

  'Permit me to remind you, my friend, that you came in
search of me, or rather of those I represent.  You have
something to sell?  Good!  But it is customary for the
merchant to display his wares first.'

  'I pledge myself to give you copies of the working
drawings made for the use of the artificers themselves.  I
have already met you oftener than is prudent.  As I say,
you offer too little.'

  'Should the drawings prove useless to us, we should,
of course, return them to your Admiralty, explaining how
they came into our possession.' There was an unpleasant
smile beneath the Frenchman's waxed moustache as he
spoke.  'What sum do you ask?'

  'Five hundred pounds in small notes — say, five pounds

  'That is — what do you say?  Ah, twelve thousand five
hundred francs!  Impossible!  My limit is twelve thousand.'

  To this the Englishman at length gave an ungracious
consent, and after some adroit compliments beneath which
the other sought to bury his implied threat, the pair rose
from the table.  Either by accident or design, the Frenchman
stumbled over the feet of Pringle, who, with his long legs
stretching out from under the table, his head bowed and
his lips parted, appeared in a profound slumber.  Opening
his eyes slowly, he feigned a lifelike yawn, stretched his
arms, and gazed lazily around, to the entire satisfaction of
the Frenchman, who, in the act of parting with his
companion, was watching him from the door.

  Calling for some coffee, Pringle lighted a cigarette, and
reflected with a glow of indignant patriotism upon the
sordid transaction he had become privy to.  It is seldom
that public servants are in this country found ready to
betray their trust — with all honour be it recorded of them!
But there ever exists the possibility of some under-paid
official succumbing to the temptation at the command of
the less scrupulous representatives of foreign powers, whose
actions in this respect are always ignored officially by
their superiors.  To Pringle's somewhat cynical imagination,
the sordid huckstering of a dockyard draughtsman with a
French naval attaché appealed as corroboration of Walpole's
famous principle, and as he walked homewards to Furnival's
Inn, he determined, if possible, to turn his discovery to
the mutual advantage of his country and himself — especially
the latter.

  During the next few days Pringle elaborated a plan of
taking up a residence at Chatham, only to reject it as he
had done many previous ones.  Indeed, so many difficulties
presented themselves to every single course of action, that
the tenth day after found him strolling down Bond Street
in the morning without having taken any further step in
the matter.  With his characteristic fastidious neatness in
personal matters, he was bound for the Piccadilly 
establishment of the chief and, for West-Enders, the only 
firm of hatters in London.

  'Breton Stret, do you noh?' said a voice suddenly.  And
Pringle, turning found himself accosted by a swarthy

  'Bruton Street, n'est-ce pas?' Pringle suggested.

  'Mais oui, Brrruten Stret, monsieur!' was the reply in
faint echo of the English syllables.

  'Le voila! à droite,' was Pringle's glib direction. 
Politely raising his hat in response to the other's salute,
he was about to resume his walk when he noticed that the
Frenchman had been joined by a companion, who appeared to
have been making similar inquiries.  The latter started and
uttered a slight exclamation on meeting Pringle's eye.  The
recognition was mutual — it was the French attaché!  As he
hurried down Bond Street, Pringle realised with acutest
annoyance that his deception at the restaurant had been
unavailing, while he must now abandon all hope of a
counter-plot for the honour of his country, to say nothing
of his own profit.  The port-wine mark on his right cheek
was far too conspicuous for the attaché not to recognise him
by it, and he regretted his neglect to remove it as soon as
he had decided to follow up the affair.  Forgetful of all
beside, he walked on into Piccadilly, and it was not until
he found himself more than half-way back to his chambers
that he remembered the purpose for which he had set out;
but matters of greater moment now claimed his attention,
and he endeavoured by the brisk exercise to work off some
of the chagrin with which he was consumed.  Only as he
reached the Inn and turned into the gateway did it occur
to him that he had been culpably careless in thus going
straight homeward.  What if he had been followed?  Never
in his life had he shown such disregard of ordinary 
precautions.  Glancing back, he just caught a glimpse of a
figure which seemed to whip behind the corner of the
gateway.  He retraced his steps and looked out into Holborn. 
There, in the very act of retreat, and still but a few feet
from the gate, was the attaché himself.  Cursing the
persistence of his own folly, Pringle dived through the arch
again, and determined that the Frenchman should discover no
more that day he turned nimbly to the left and ran up his
own stairway before the pursuer could have time to re-enter
the Inn.

  The most galling reflection was his absolute impotence
in the matter.  Through lack of the most elementary
foresight he had been fairly run to earth, and could see no
way of ridding himself of this unwelcome attention.  To
transfer his domicile, to tear himself up by the roots as it
were, was out of the question; and as he glanced around him,
from the soft carpets and luxurious chairs to the warm,
distempered walls with their old prints above the dado of
dwarf bookcases, he felt that the pang of severance from the
refined associations of his chambers would be too acute. 
Besides, he would inevitably be tracked elsewhere.  He would
gain nothing by the transfer.  One thing at least was
absolutely certain — the trouble which the Frenchman was
taking to watch him showed the importance he attached to
Pringle's discovery.  But this again only increased his
disgust with the ill-luck which had met him at the very
outset.  After all, he had done nothing illegal, however
contrary it might be to the code of ethics, so that if it
pleased them the entire French legation might continue to
watch him till the Day of Judgment, and, consoling himself
with this reflection, he philosophically dismissed the
matter from his mind.

  It was nearing six when he again left the Inn for
Pagani's, the Great Portland Street restaurant which he much
affected; instead of proceeding due west, he crossed Holborn
intending to bear round by way of the Strand and Regent
Street, and so get up an appetite.  In Staple Inn he paused
a moment in the further archway.  The little square, always
reposeful amid the stress and turmoil of its environment,
seemed doubly so this evening, its eighteenth-century
calm so welcome after the raucous thoroughfare.  An
approaching footfall echoed noisily, and as Pringle moved
from the shadow of the narrow wall the newcomer hesitated
and stopped, and then made the circuit of the square,
scanning the doorways as if in search of a name.  The action
was not unnatural, and twenty-four hours earlier Pringle
would have thought nothing of it, but after the events of
the morning he endowed it with a personal interest, and,
walking on, he ascended the steps into Southampton
Buildings and stopped by a hoarding.  As he looked back
he was rewarded by the sight of a man stealthily emerging
from the archway and making his way up the steps, only
to halt as he suddenly came abreast of Pringle.  Although
his face was unfamiliar, Pringle could only conclude that
the man was following him, and all doubt was removed
when, having walked along the street and turning about at
the entrance to Chancery Lane, he saw the spy had resumed
the chase and was now but a few yards back.  Pringle, as a
philosopher, felt more inclined to laughter than resentment
at this ludicrous espionage.  In a spirit of mischief, he
pursued his way to the Strand at a tortoise-like crawl,
halting as if doubtful of his way at every corner, and
staring into every shop whose lights still invited
customers.  Once or twice he even doubled back, and passing
quite close to the man, had several opportunities of
examining him.  He was quite unobtrusive, even
respectable-looking; there was nothing of the foreigner
about him, and Pringle shrewdly conjectured that the
attaché, wearied of sentry-go, had turned it over to some
English servant on whom he could rely.

  Thus shepherded, Pringle arrived at the restaurant,
from which he only emerged after a stay maliciously
prolonged over each item of the menu, followed by the
smoking of no fewer than three cigars of a brand specially
lauded by the proprietor.  With a measure of humanity
diluting his malice, he was about to offer the infallibly
exhausted sentinel some refreshment when he came out, but as
the man was invisible, Pringle started for home, taking much
the same route as before, and calmly debating whether or
no the cigars he had just sampled would be a wise
investment; nor until he had reached Southampton Buildings
and the sight of the hoarding recalled the spy's
discomfiture, did he think of looking back to see if he were
still followed.  All but the main thoroughfares were by this
time deserted, and although he shot a keen glance up and
down Chancery Lane, now clear of all but the most casual
traffic, not a soul was anywhere near him.  By a curious
psychological process Pringle felt inclined to resent the
man's absence.  He had begun to regard him almost in the
light of a body-guard, the private escort of some eminent
politician.  Besides, the whole incident was pregnant with
possibilities appealing to his keenly intellectual sense of
humour, and as he passed the hoarding, he peered into its
shadow with the half-admitted hope that his attendant
might be lurking in the depths.  Later on he recalled how,
as he glanced upwards, a man's figure passed like a shadow
from a ladder to an upper platform of the scaffold.  The
vision, fleeting and unsubstantial, had gone almost before
his retina had received it, but the momentary halt was to
prove his salvation.  Even as he turned to walk on, a
cataract of planks, amid scaffold-poles and a chaos of loose
bricks, crashed on the spot he was about to traverse; a
stray beam, more erratic in its descent, caught his hat,
and, telescoping it, glanced off his shoulder, bearing him
to the ground, where he lay dazed by the sudden uproar and
half-choked by the cloud of dust.  Rapid and disconcerting
as was the event, he remembered afterwards a dim and
spectral shape approaching through the gloom.  In a dreamy
kind of way he connected it with that other shadow-figure he
had seen high up on the scaffold, and as it bent over him he
recognized the now familiar features of the spy.  But other
figures replaced the first, and, when helped to his feet, he
made futile search for it amid the circle of faces gathered
round him.  He judged it an hallucination.  By the time he
had undergone a tentative dust-down, he was sufficiently
collected to acknowledge the sympathetic congratulations
of the crowd and to decline the homeward escort of a

  In the privacy of his chambers, his ideas began to
clarify.  Events arranged themselves in logical sequence,
and the spectres assumed more tangible form.  A single
question dwarfed all others.  He asked himself, 'Was the
cataclysm such an accident as it appeared?'  And as he
surveyed the battered ruins of his hat, he began to realise
how nearly had he been the victim of a murderous vendetta!

  When he arose the next morning, he scarcely needed the
dilapidated hat to remind him of the events of yesterday.
Normally a sound and dreamless sleeper, his rest had been a
series of short snatches of slumber interposed between
longer spells of rumination.  While he marvelled at the
intensity of malice which he could no longer doubt pursued
him — a vindictiveness more natural to a mediaeval Italian
state than to this present-day metropolis — he bitterly
regretted the fatal curiosity which had brought him to
such an extremity.  By no means deficient in the grosser
forms of physical courage, his sense that in the game which
was being played his adversaries, as unscrupulous as they
were crafty, held all the cards, and above all, that their
espionage effectually prevented him filling the gaps in the
plot which he had as yet only half-discovered, was
especially galling to his active and somewhat neurotic
temperament.  Until yesterday he had almost decided to
drop the affair of the Restaurant 'Poissoniere' but now,
after what he firmly believed to be a deliberate attempt to
assassinate him, he realized the desperate situation of a
duellist with his back to a wall — having scarce room to
parry, he felt the prick of his antagonist's rapier
deliberately goading him to an incautious thrust.  Was he
regarded as the possessor of a dangerous secret?  Then it
behoved him to strike, and that without delay.

  Now that he was about to attack, a disguise was essential;
and reflecting how lamentably he had failed through the
absence of one hitherto, he removed the port-wine mark
from his right cheek with his customary spirit-lotion, and
blackened his fair hair with a few smart applications of a
preparation from his bureau.  It was with a determination
to shun any obscure streets or alleys, and especially all
buildings in course of erection, that he started out after
his usual light breakfast.  At first he was doubtful whether
he was being followed or not, but after a few experimental
turns and doublings he was unable to single out any
regular attendant of his walk; either his disguise had
proved effectual, or his enemies imagined that the attempt
of last night had been less innocent in its results.

  Somewhat soothed by this discovery, Pringle had gravitated
towards the Strand and was nearing Charing Cross, when he
observed a man cross from the station to the opposite corner
carrying a brown paper roll.  With his thoughts running in
the one direction, Pringle in a flash recognised the
dockyard draughtsman.  Could he be even now on his way to
keep the appointment at Nelson's Column?  Had he been warned
of Pringle's discovery, and so expedited his treacherous
task?  And thus reflecting, Pringle determined at all
hazards to follow him.  The draughtsman made straight for
the telegraph office.  It was now the busiest time of the
morning, most of the little desks were occupied by more or
less glib message-writers, and the draughtsman had found a
single vacancy at the far end when Pringle followed him in
and reached over his shoulder to withdraw a form from the
rack in front of him.  Grabbing three or four, Pringle
neatly spilled them upon the desk, and with an abject
apology hastily gathered them up together with the form the
draughtsman was employed upon.  More apologies, and Pringle,
seizing a suddenly vacant desk, affected to compose a
telegram of his own.  The draughtsman's message had been
short, and (to Pringle) exceptionally sweet, consisting as
it did of the three words — 'Four-thirty, Pauline'.  The
address Pringle had not attempted to read — he knew that
already.  The moment the other left Pringle took up a sheaf
of forms, and, as if they had been the sole reason of his
visit, hurried out of the office and took a hansom back to
Furnival's Inn.

  Here his first care was to fold some newspapers into a
brown-paper parcel resembling the one carried by the
draughtsman as nearly as he remembered it, and having
cut a number of squares of stiff tissue paper, he stuffed an
envelope with them and pondered over a cigarette the most
difficult stage of his campaign.  Twice had the draughtsman
seen him.  Once at the restaurant, in his official guise as
the sham literary agent, with smooth face, fair hair, and
the fugitive port-wine mark staining his right cheek; again
that morning, with blackened hair and unblemished face.
True, he might have forgotten the stranger at the
restaurant; on the other hand, he might not — and Pringle was
then (as always) steadfastly averse to leaving anything to
chance.  Besides, in view of this sudden journey to London,
it was very likely that he had received warning of Pringle's
discovery.  Lastly, it was more than probable that the spy
was still on duty, even though he had failed to recognise
Pringle that morning.  The matter was clinched by a single
glance at the Venetian mirror above the mantel, which
reflected a feature he had overlooked — his now blackened
hair.  Nothing remained for him but to assume a disguise
which should impose on both the spy and the draughtsman,
and after some thought he decided to make up as a Frenchman
of the South, and to pose as a servant of the French
embassy.  Reminiscent of the immortal Tartarin, his ready
bureau furnished him with a stiff black moustache and
some specially stout horsehair to typify the stubbly beard
of that hero.  When, at almost a quarter to four, he
descended into the Inn with the parcel in his hand, a
Baedeker and the envelope of tissues in his pocket, a cab
was just setting down, and impulsively he chartered it as
far as Exeter Hall.  Concealed in the cab, he imagined he
would the more readily escape observation, and by the time
he alighted, flattered himself that any pursuit had been
baffled.  As he discharged the cab, however, he noticed a
hansom draw up a few paces in the rear, whilst a man got
out and began to saunter westward behind him.  His
suspicions alert, although the man was certainly a stranger,
Pringle at once put him to the test by entering Romano's
and ordering a small whisky.  After a decent delay, he
emerged, and his pulse quickened when he saw a couple of
doors off the same man staring into a shop window!  Pringle
walked a few yards back, and then crossed to the opposite
side of the street, but although he dodged at infinite peril
through a string of omnibuses, he was unable to shake
off his satellite, who, with unswerving persistence,
occupied the most limited horizon whenever he looked back.

  For almost the first time in his life, Pringle began to
despair.  The complacent regard of his own precautions
had proved but a fool's paradise.  Despite his elaborate
disguise, he must have been plainly recognisable to his
enemies, and he began to ask himself whether it was not
useless to struggle further.  As he paced slowly on, an
indefinable depression stole over him.  He thought of the
heavy price so nearly exacted for his interposition. 
Resentment surged over him at the memory, and his hand
clenched on the parcel.  The contact furnished the very
stimulus he required.  The instrument of settling such a
score was in his hands, and rejecting his timorous doubts,
he strode on, determined to make one bold and final stroke
for vengeance.  The shadows had lengthened appreciably, and
the quarter chiming from near St Martin's warned him that
there was no time to lose; the spy must be got rid of at any
cost.  Already could he see the estuary of the Strand, with
the Square widening beyond; on his right loomed the tunnel
of the Lowther Arcade, with its vista of juvenile delights.
The sight was an inspiration.  Darting in, he turned off
sharp to the left into an artist's repository, with a double
entrance to the Strand and the Arcade, and, softly closing
the door, peeped through the palettes and frames which
hung upon the glass.  Hardly had they ceased swinging to
his movement when he had the satisfaction of seeing the
spy, the scent already cold, rush furiously up the Arcade,
his course marked by falling toys and the cries of the out-
raged stall-keepers.  Turning, Pringle made the purchase of
a sketching-block, the first thing handy, and then passed
through the door which gave on the Strand.  At the post-
office he stopped to survey the scene.  A single policeman
stood by the eastward base of the column, and the people
scattered round seemed but ordinary wayfarers, but just
across the maze of traffic was a spectacle of intense
interest to him.  At the quadrant of the Grand Hotel,
patrolling aimlessly in front of the shops, at which he
seemed too perturbed to stare for more than a few seconds at
a time, the draughtsman kept palpitating vigil until the
clock should strike the half-hour of his treason.  True to
the Frenchman's advice, he sought safety in a crowd,
avoiding the desert of the square until the last moment.

  It wanted two minutes to the half-hour when Pringle
opened his Baedeker, and thrusting one hand into his
breast, examined the statue and coil of rope erected to the
glory of our greatest hero.  'Pauline!' said a voice, with
the musical inflection unattainable by any but a Frenchman.
Beside him stood a slight, neatly dressed young man, with
close-cropped hair, and a moustache and imperial, who
cast a significant look at the parcel.  Pringle immediately
held it towards him, and the dark gentleman producing
an envelope from his breast-pocket, the exchange was
effected in silence.  With bows and a raising of hats they
parted, while Big Ben boomed on his eight bells.

  The attaché's representative had disappeared some
minutes beyond the westernmost lion before the draughtsman
appeared from the opposite direction, his uncertain
steps intermitted by frequent halts and nervous backward
glances.  With his back to the National Gallery he produced
a Baedeker and commenced to stare up at the monument,
withdrawing his eyes every now and then to cast a shame-
faced look to right and left.  In his agitation the
draughtsman had omitted the hand-in-the-breast attitude, and
even as Pringle advanced to his side and murmured
'Pauline', his legs (almost stronger than his will) seemed
to be urging him to a flight from the field of dishonour.
With tremulous eagerness he thrust a brown paper parcel
into Pringle's hands, and, snatching the envelope of tissue
slips, rushed across the road and disappeared in the bar
of the Grand Hotel.

  Pringle turned to go, but was confronted by a revolver,
and as his eye traversed the barrel and met that of its
owner, he recognised the Frenchman to whom he had just sold
the bundle of newspapers.  Dodging the weapon, he tried to
spring into the open, but a restraining grip on each elbow
held him in the angle of the plinth, and turning ever so
little Pringle found himself in custody of the man whom
he had last seen in full cry up the Lowther Arcade.  No
constable was anywhere near, and even casual passengers
walked unheeding by the nook, so quiet was the progress
of this little drama.  Lowering his revolver, the dark
gentleman picked up the parcel which had fallen from Pringle
in the struggle.  He opened it with delicacy, partially
withdrew some sheets of tracing paper, which he intently
examined, and then placed the whole in an inner pocket,
and giving a sign to the spy to loose his grasp, he spoke
for the first time.

  'May I suggest, sir,' he said in excellent English with
the slightest foreign accent, 'may I suggest that in future
you do not meddle with what cannot possibly concern you?
These documents have been bought and sold, and although
you have been good enough to act as intermediary in the
transaction, I can assure you we were under no necessity
of calling on you for your help.' Here his tone hardened,
and, speaking with less calmness, the accent became more
noticeable.  'I discovered your impertinence in selling me
a parcel of worthless papers very shortly after I left you.
Had you succeeded in the attempt you appear to have
planned so carefully, it is possible you might have lived
long enough to regret it — perhaps not!  I wish you good
day, sir.' He bowed, as did his companion, and Pringle,
walking on, turned up by the corner of the Union Club.

  Dent's clock marked twenty minutes to five, and Pringle
reflected how much had been compressed into the last
quarter of an hour.  True, he had not prevented the sale of
his country's secrets; on the other hand — he pressed the
packet which held the envelope of notes.  Hailing a cab,
he was about to step in, when, looking back, at the nook
between the lions he saw a confused movement about the
spot.  The two men he had just left were struggling with a
third, who, brandishing a handful of something white, was
endeavouring, with varying success, to plant his fist on
divers areas of their persons.  He was the draughtsman.  A
small crowd, which momentarily increased, surrounded
them, and as Pringle climbed into the hansom two policemen
were seen to penetrate the ring and impartially lay
hands upon the three combatants.