Thus, in Jeekes's round and flowing commercial hand, the document began:
Last Statement of Albert Edward Jeekes, made at
Rotterdam, this twenty-first Day of January, in the
Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred
Mr. Bardy, the solicitor, to whom, by common consent, the reading of the
confession had been entrusted, raised his eyebrows, thereby letting his
eyeglass fall, and looked round at the company.
"Pon my soul," he remarked, "for a man about to take his own life, our
friend seems to have been the coolest customer imaginable. Look at it!
Written in a firm hand and almost without an erasure. Very remarkable!
Very remarkable, indeed!..."
"Hm!" grunted Mr. Manderton, "not so uncommon as you suppose, Mr. Bardy,
sir. Hendriks, the Palmers Green poisoner, typed out his confession on
cream inlaid paper before dosing himself. But let's hear what the
gentleman has to tell us...."
This was the last digression. Thenceforth Mr. Bardy read out the
confession to the end without interruption.
For Miss Trevert:
I slew, but I am not a murderer: I Killed, but
Victor Marbran has gone and left me to meet a
shameful death. But I cannot face the scaffold. As
men go, I do not believe I am a coward and I am not
afraid to die. But the inexorable deliberation of
justice appals me. When I have written what I have
to write, I shall be hangman to myself. My pistol
they have taken away.
Victor Marbran has abandoned me. He had prepared
everything for his flight. Even if the law can
indict him as the virtual murderer of Hartley Parrish,
the law will never lay hands on him. Victor Marbran
neglects no detail. He will never be caught. But from
the Great Unknown for which I shall presently set
out, I shall stretch forth my hand and see that, here
or there, he does not escape the punishment he merits
for bringing down shame and disgrace upon me.
Just now he bade me stay in the office and finish
burning the papers in his desk. He promised he would
take me with him to a secure hiding-place which he
had made ready for some such emergency as this. I believed
him and, unsuspecting, stayed. And now he
has slipped away. He is gone and the house is empty.
I cannot follow him even did I know where he has
gone. I have only a very little money left and I am
tired. Very tired. I feel I cannot support the hue-and-cry
they will raise. Everything is still about me.
The quiet of the country is very soothing. To die like
this, with darkness falling and no sound but the
rustling rain, is the better way ...
Hartley Parrish was the man behind the great
syndicate which systematically ran the British blockade
of Germany in the war. He financed Marbran and
the international riff-raff of profiteers with whom Marbran
worked. Parrish supplied the funds, often the
goods as well,--at any rate, until they tightened up
the blockade,--while Marbran and the rest of the
bunch in neutral countries did the trading with the
Parrish was a deep one. I say nothing against him.
He was a kind employer to me and I played him false,
for which I have been bitterly punished. To have
swindled Victor Marbran--I count it as nothing
against him, for that heartless, cruel man is deserving
of no pity ...
Parrish was the heart and soul, brains and muscle
of the syndicate. He lurked far in the background.
Any and every trail which might possibly lead back
to him was carefully effaced. He was secure as long
as Marbran and one or two other big men in the business
kept faith with him. Now and then, when the
British Intelligence were too hot on the trail, Parrish
and Marbran would give away one of the small fry
belonging to the organization and thus stave off suspicion.
They could do this in complete safety, for so
perfect was their organization that the small fry only
knew the small fry in the shallows and never the big
fish in the deep ...
But Hartley Parrish was in Marbran's hands. They
stood or fell together. Parrish knew this. But he was
a born gambler and insanely self-confident. He took a
chance with Marbran. It cost him his life.
All payments were made to Parrish. He was treasurer
and banker of the syndicate. Money came in by
all sorts of devious routes, sometimes from as far
afield as South or Central America. Parrish distributed
the profits. Everything was in his hands.
By the time the armistice came, the game had got
too hot. All the big fish except Marbran had cleared
out with their pile. But Marbran, like Parrish, was
a gambler. He stuck it out and stayed on.
Parrish played fair until the war was over. The
armistice, of course, put an end to the business. But
some months after the armistice a sum of £150,000
was paid to Parrish through a Spanish bank in settlement,
Marbran told me, for petrol indirectly delivered
to the German Admiralty. Parrish pouched the
lot. Not a penny did Marbran get.
Parrish and Marbran were old friends. They were
young men together on the Rand gold-fields in the
early days. In fact, I believe they went out to South
Africa together as penniless London lads. But Marbran
hated Parrish, though Parrish had, I believe,
been his benefactor in many ways. Marbran was
fiercely envious of the other because he realized that,
starting with an equal chance, Parrish had left him
far behind. Everything that Parrish touched prospered,
while Marbran was in perpetual financial
straits. He was Parrish's equal in courage, but not in
Parrish calculated that Marbran would not dare to
denounce him. He had always taken the lead in their
schemes and he affected to disregard Marbran altogether.
So he left the latter's letters unanswered and
laughed at his threats. He was quite sure that Marbran
would never risk losing his pile by giving Parrish
away, for they were, of course, both British subjects
and both in it together ...
Marbran always distrusted Parrish, and long before
the breach came, he picked on me to act the spy on my
employer. I, too, was born a gambler, but, like Marbran,
I lacked the lucky touch which made Parrish a
millionaire. Speculation proved my ruin. I have often
thanked my God on my bended knees--as I shall do
again to-night before I pass over--that my insane
folly has ruined no one but myself ...
Already, when Hartley Parrish engaged me, I was
up to the neck in speculation. Up to that time, however,
I had managed to keep my head above water,
but the large salary on which Parrish started me
dazzled me. I tried a flutter in oil on a much larger
scale than anything I had hitherto attempted, with the
result that one day I found myself with a debt of
nine hundred pounds to meet and no assets to meet
it with. And I was two hundred pounds in debt to
Hartley Parrish's petty cash account, which I kept.
It was Victor Marbran who came to my rescue.
Parrish had sent me over to Rotterdam to fetch some
papers from Marbran. At this time I knew nothing of
Parrish's blockade-running business. Parrish never
took me into his confidence about it and the whole of
the correspondence went direct to him through a number
of secret channels with which I only gradually
became acquainted behind his back.
I had met Marbran several times in London and
also at Rotterdam. It had struck me that he had
formed a liking for me. On this particular visit to
Rotterdam Marbran took me out to dinner and encouraged
me to speak about myself. He was very
sympathetic, and this, coupled with the wine I had
taken, led me to open my heart to him. Without giving
myself away, I let him understand that I was in
considerable financial difficulties, which I set down to
the high cost of living as the result of the war.
Without a word of warning Marbran pulled out
"How much do you want," he asked, "to put you
Nine hundred pounds, I told him.
He wrote the cheque at once there at the table. He
would advance me the money, he said, and put me
down for shares in a business in which he was interested.
It was a safe thing and profits were very high.
I could repay him at my leisure.
In this way I became a shareholder in Parrish's
blockade-running syndicate. The return I was to
make was to spy on my employer and to report to
Marbran the letters which Parrish received and the
names of the people whom he interviewed.
Of course, Marbran did not propose this plan at
once. When I took leave of him that night, I remember,
I all but broke down at the thought of his
unsolicited generosity. I have had a hard life, Miss
Trevert, and his seeming kindness broke me all up.
But I might have known.
I cashed Marbran's cheque and put back the two
hundred pounds I had taken from the petty cash account.
But I went on speculating. You see, I did
not believe Marbran's story about the shares he said
he would put me down for. I thought it was a charitable
tale to spare my feelings. So I plunged once
more in the confident hope of recovering enough to
repay my debt to Marbran.
A month later Marbran sent me a cheque for one
hundred pounds. He said it was the balance of fifteen
hundred pounds due to me as profits on my shares
less the nine hundred pounds I owed him and five
hundred pounds for my shares. But my speculations
had by this time gone wrong again, and I was heartily
glad presently to receive a further cheque for two
hundred pounds from Marbran. From that time on I
got from Marbran sums varying between one hundred
and fifty pounds and five hundred pounds a month.
When Marbran made me his shameful offer, I rejected
it with indignation. But I was fast in the trap.
Marbran explained to me in great detail and with the
utmost candour the working of the Parrish syndicate.
He let me know very plainly that I was as deeply
implicated as Parrish and he. I was a shareholder;
I had received and was receiving my share of the
profits. In my distress and shame I threatened to
expose the pair of them. Had I known the source of
his money, I told him, I should never have accepted it.
At that Marbran laughed contemptuously.
"You tell that yarn to the police," he sneered,
"and hear what they say!"
And then I realized that I was in the net.
I make no excuses for myself. I shall make none
to the Great Judge before whom in a little while I
shall appear. I had not the moral force to resist Marbran.
I did his bidding: I continued to take his
money and I held my peace.
And then came the breach between Parrish and
Marbran. I was the cause of it. But for me, his
trusty spy, Marbran would have known nothing of
this payment of £150,000 which Parrish received
from Spain, and this tragedy would not have happened.
God forgive me ...
Marbran appealed to Parrish in vain. What he
wrote I never knew, for, shortly after, Parrish quietly
and without any explanation took the confidential
work out of my hands. I believe he suspected then
who Marbran's spy was. But he said nothing to me
of his suspicions at that time ...
Finally, Marbran came to London. It was on Tuesday
of last week. I had been up in Sheffield on business,
and on my return I found Marbran waiting for
me at my rooms.
He was like a man possessed. Never before have I
witnessed such an outburst of ungovernable rage. Parrish,
it appears, had declined to see him. He swore
that Parrish should not get the better of him if he had
to kill him first. I can see Marbran now as he sat on
my bed, his livid face distorted with fury.
"I'll give him a last chance," he cried, "and then,
by God, let our smart Alec look out!"
This sort of talk frightened me. I knew Marbran
meant mischief. He was a bad man to cross. I was desperately
afraid he would waylay Parrish and bring
down disaster on the three of us. I did my utmost to
put the idea of violence out of his mind. I begged
him to content himself with trying to frighten Parrish
into paying up before trying other means.
My suggestion seemed to awaken some old memory
in Marbran's mind.
"By Gad, Jeekes," he said, after a moment's
thought, "you've given me an idea. Parrish has a
yellow streak. He's scared of a gun. I saw it once,
years ago, in a roughhouse we got into at Krugersdorp
on the Rand. Damn it, I know how to bring the yellow
dog to heel, and I'll tell you how we'll do it ..."
He then unfolded his plan. He would send Parrish
a last demand for a settlement, threatening him with
death if he did not pay up. The warning would reach
Parrish on the following Saturday. Marbran would
contrive that he should receive it by the first post.
As soon as possible thereafter I was to go to Parrish
boldly and demand his answer.
"And you'll take a gun," Marbran said, peering
at me with his cunning little eyes, "and you'll show it.
And if at the sight of it you don't get the brass, then
I don't know my old pal, Mister Hartley Parrish,
The proposal appalled me. I knew nothing of
Hartley Parrish's "yellow streak." I knew him only
as a hard and resolute man, swift in decision and ruthless
in action. Whatever happened, I argued, Parrish
would discharge me and there was every prospect of
his handing me over to the police as well.
Marbran was deaf to my reasoning. I had nothing
to fear, he protested. Parrish would collapse at the
first sign of force. And as for my losing my job, Marbran
would find me another and a better one in his
office at Rotterdam.
Still I held out. The chance of losing my position,
even of being sent to gaol, daunted me less, I think,
than the admission to Parrish of the blackly ungrateful
role I had played towards him. In the end I told
Marbran to do his dirty work himself.
But I spoke without conviction. I realized that Marbran
held me in a cleft stick and that he realized it,
too. He wasted no further time in argument. I knew
what I had to do, he said, and I would do it. Otherwise ...
He left me in an agony of mental stress. At that
time, I swear to Heaven, Miss Trevert, I was determined
to let Marbran do his worst rather than lend
myself to this odious blackmailing trick, my own
suggestion, as I bitterly remembered. But for the rest
of the week his parting threat rang in my ears. Unless
he heard by the following Sunday that I had
confronted Parrish and called his bluff, as he put it,
the British police should have word, not only of Parrish's
activities in trading with the enemy, but of
mine as well.
It was no idle threat. Parrish and Marbran had
put men away before. I could give you the names ...
It is quite dark now. It must be an hour since
Greve took you away. Soon he will be back with the
police to arrest me and I must have finished by then,
finished with the story, finished with life ...
Last week I worked at Parrish's city office. I told
you how he kept me off his confidential work. On
Saturday morning I went round to the house in St.
James's Square to see whether Marbran had really
sent his warning. Archer, my colleague, who was acting
as confidential secretary in my stead, was there.
Parrish was at Harkings, he told me. Archer was
going down by car that morning with his mail. It
included two "blue letters" which Archer would, according
to orders, hand to Parrish unopened.
These "blue letters," as we secretaries used to call
them, written on a striking bluish paper, were the
means by which all communications passed between
Parrish and Marbran on the syndicate's business.
They were drafted in conventional code and came to
Parrish from all parts of Europe and in all kinds of
ways. No one saw them except himself. By his strict
injunctions, they were to be opened only by himself
When Archer told me that two "blue letters" had
come, I knew that Marbran had kept his word. Though
my mind was not made up, instinct told me I was
going to play my part ...
I could not face the shame of exposure. I was
brought up in a decent English home. To stand in
the dock charged with prolonging the sufferings of
our soldiers and sailors in order to make money was
a prospect I could not even contemplate.
I thought it all out that Saturday morning as I
stood at the dressing-table in my bedroom by the open
drawer in which my automatic pistol lay. It was one
given me by Parrish some years before at a time
when he thought we might be going on a trip to
I slipped the pistol into my pocket. I felt like a man
in a dream. I believe I went down to Harkings by
train, but I have no clear recollection of the journey.
I seemed to come to my senses only when I found
myself standing on the high bank of the rosery at
Harkings, looking down upon the library window.
Outside in the gardens it was nearly dark, but from
the window fell a stream of subdued light. The curtains
had not been drawn and the window was open
at the bottom. Parrish sat at the desk. Only the desk-lamp
was lit, so that his face was in shadow, but
his two hands, stretched out on the blotter in front
of him, lay in a pool of light, and I caught the gleam
of his gold signet ring.
He was not writing or working. He seemed to be
thinking. I watched him in a fascinated sort of way.
I had never seen him sit thus idly at his desk before ...
My brain worked quite lucidly now. As I looked
at him, I suddenly realised that I had a golden opportunity
for speaking to him unobserved. The gardens
were absolutely deserted: the library wing was very
still. If he were a man to be frightened into submission,
my sudden appearance, following upon the receipt
of the threatening letter, would be likely to help
in achieving this result.
I walked softly down the steps to the window. I
stood close up to the sill.
"Mr. Parrish," I said, "Victor Marbran has sent
me for his answer."
In a flash he was on his feet.
"Who's there?" he cried out in alarm.
His voice shook, and I could see his hand tremble
in the lamplight as he clutched at the desk. Then I
knew that he was badly frightened, and the discovery
gave me courage.
"Are you going to settle with Marbran or are you
not?" I said.
At that he peered forward. All of a sudden his
"What in hell does this mean, Jeekes?"
His voice quavered no longer. It was hard and
But I had burnt my boats behind me now.
"It means," I answered boldly, "that you've got
to pay up. And you've got to pay up now!"
In a couple of quick strides he was round the desk
and coming at me as I stood with my chest pressing
against the window-sill. His hands were thrust in his
jacket pockets. His face was red with anger.
"You dawggorn dirty little rathole spy,"--he spat
the words at me in a low, threatening voice,--"I
guessed that lowdown skunk Marbran had been getting
at some of my people!"
His voice rose in a sudden gust of passion.
"You rotten little worm! You'd try and bounce
me, would you? You've come to the wrong shop for
that, Mr. Spying Jeekes ..."
His manner was incredibly insulting. So was the
utter contempt with which he looked at me. This
man, who had trembled with fear at the unknown, recovered
his self-control on finding that the menace
came from the menial, the hireling, he despised. I felt
the blood rush in a hot flood to my head. I lost all
self-control. I screamed aloud at him.
"There's no bounce about it this time! If you
don't pay up, you know what to expect!"
I had been holding my pistol out of his sight below
the window-ledge, but on this I swung it up and
levelled it at him.
He sprang back a pace, the colour fading on the
instant from his face, his mouth twisted awry in a
horrid paroxysm of fear. Even in that subdued light
I could see that his cheeks were as white as paper.
But then in a flash his right hand went up. I saw
the pistol he held, but before I could make a movement
there was a loud, raucous hiss of air and a
bullet whistled past my ear into the darkness of the
gardens. How he missed me at that range I don't
know, but, seeing me standing there, he came at me
again with the pistol in his hand ...
And then you, Miss Trevert, cried out, "Hartley,"
and rattled the handle of the door. Your cry merged
in a deafening report. Parrish, who was quite close
to me, and advancing, stopped short with a little
startled exclamation, his eyes reproachful, full of
surprise. He stood there and swayed, looking at me
all the time, then crashed backwards on the floor. And
I found myself staring at the smoking pistol in my
It was your scream that brought me to my senses.
My mind cleared instantly. I knew I must act quickly.
The house would be alarmed directly, and before that
happened, I must be clear of the grounds. Yet I
knew that before I went I must do something to make
myself safe ...
I stood at the window staring down at the dead
man. His eyes were terrible. Like a suicide he looked,
I thought. And then it flashed across my mind that
only one shot had been heard and that our pistols
were identical and fired the same ammunition. The
silencer! The silencer could save me. With that
removed, the suicide theory might pass muster: at any
rate, it would delay other investigations and give me
a start ...
In a matter of a second or two I believe I thought
of everything. I did not overlook the danger of leaving
finger-prints or foot-marks about. I had not
taken off my gloves, and my boots were perfectly dry.
In climbing into the room I was most careful to see
that I did not mark the window-sill or scratch the
I stood beside the body and I caught the dead man's
hand. It was fat and soft and still warm. The touch
of it made me reel with horror. I turned my face
away from his so as not to see his eyes again....
I got the silencer. Parrish had shown it to me and I
knew how to detach it....
I went back through the window as carefully as I
had come in. And I pushed the window down. Parrish
would have done that, I thought, if he had meant
to commit suicide. And then my nerve went. The window
frightened me. The blank glass with the silent
room beyond;--it reminded me of Parrish's sightless
gaze. I turned and ran....
Mr. Bardy put the bundle of manuscript down on the desk and, dropping
his eyeglass from his eye, caught it deftly and began to polish it
vigorously with his pocket handkerchief. As no one spoke, he said:
"Er--- Mr. Greve," he said, clearing his throat rather nervously, "I
should like to--er,--offer you my congratulations on the remarkably
accurate view you took of this case. I should have been able to prove to
you, I believe, but for this curious interruption, that your view and
mine practically coincided. It has been a pleasure to work with you,
He cast a hasty glance over his shoulder at the other occupants of the
room, who were gathered round the desk.
"I'm not a society man, Mr. Greve," he added, "and I have a lot of work
on my hands regarding the case. So I think I'll run off now ..."
He broke off, gave Robin a large hand, and, looking neither to right nor
to left, made a hurried exit from the room, taking Inspector Humphries
"Now that we are just among ourselves"--the solicitor was speaking--"I
think I may seize the opportunity of saying a word about Mr. Parrish's
will. Miss Trevert, as you know, is made principal legatee, but I
understand from her that she does not propose to accept the inheritance.
I will not comment on this decision of hers, which does her moral sense,
at any rate, infinite credit, but I should observe that Mr. Parrish has
left directions for the payment of an allowance--I may say, a most
handsome allowance--to Lady Margaret Trevert during her ladyship's
lifetime. This is a provision over which Miss Trevert's decision, of
course, can have no influence. I would only remark that, according to
Mr. Parrish's instructions, this allowance will be paid from the
dividends on a percentage of his holdings in Hornaway's under the new
scheme. I have not yet had an opportunity of looking further into Mr.
Parrish's affairs in the light of the information which Mr. Greve
obtained in Rotterdam, but I have reason to believe that he kept his
interest in Hornaway's and his--ahem!--other activities entirely
separate. If this can be definitely established to my own satisfaction
and to yours, my dear Miss Trevert, I see no reason why you should not
modify your decision at least in respect of Mr. Parrish's interest in
Mary Trevert looked at Robin and then at the solicitor.
"No!" she said; "not a penny as far as I am concerned. With Mother the
case is different. I told her last night of my decision in the matter.
She disapproves of it. That is why she is not here to-day. But my mind
is made up."
Mr. Bardy adjusted his eyeglass in his eye and gazed at the girl. His
face wore an expression of pain mingled with compassion.
"I will see Lady Margaret after lunch," he said rather stiffly.
He stood there, a portly, dignified figure in sober black, solemn of
visage, sonorous of voice, a living example of the triumph of
established tradition over the most savage buffetings of Fate. His
enunciation was, if anything, more mellow, his demeanour more pontifical
than of yore.
Bude was once more in the service of a County Family.