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“It is only half-past five,” said Cuffing; “though I am quite ready, for that matter."

“Come, then, it will be a change; and if we have time on our hands we can turn into the Haymarket and have a game at billiards.”

The two men went out together, Cuffing carefully locking the rooms and leaving the key in the door.

“I have sold all my furniture and things to a broker, a fellow I once saved from transportation,” said Cuffing; "and he paid me this morning. He is coming to clear out the place at seven o'clock. He did not like parting with his money beforehand, but he had to do it.”

“You generally make people do just as you please,” said Ransford.

“That is my way,” said Cuffing; “it is simply a triumph of mind over matter.”

Yet there was something in Ransford's manner which puzzled Cuffing. He took snuff twice with special reference to what seemed to be a new phase of Ransford's character.

“ I'm studying you,” said Cuffing, stopping on the stairs to look once more into the face of his client, “ for the last time before we start out on this great expedition : you have changed since yes terday."

“For the better, I hope,” said Ransford with a smile.

“I don't know,” said Cuffing. “You are more self-possessed ; yet you seem with it to be excited and nervous. Have you anything on

your mind?"

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"Not I--my mind has got rid of its incubus."
“Ah ! you mean to go straight ?"
“So help me began Ransford suddenly.

“No, don't swear. I will not put you on your oath; but, my dear friend, always remember that so long as you are true you are safe and may be happy ; but ”

"If I am not,” said Ransford, interrupting him in his turn, "you will shoot me : you have said so before. All right, we understand each other. Come along; I'll carry your bag into Holborn, and then we will have a cab.”

Phil Ransford's chambers were the attics in one of the tallest houses in Piccadilly. The house had only recently been converted into chambers, and some of the rooms were not yet let. Indeed, with the exception of the attics, the two top stories were empty. If the two rooms had been well furnished, the attics would have been pleasant enough in their way as bachelor's quarters. They were shut off from the rest of the house, and consisted of rooms front and back; the only objection to the bedroom was that it was lighted from overhead with what is called a skylight.

“It would be deuced awkward if there was a fire,” said Cuffing.

"Not if it rained as fast as it does now,” said Ransford, looking up at the window in the roof, upon which the rain was falling with a steady monotonous clatter. “That would put out any fire."

“It is a curious room," continued Cuffing.

“ If there was a fire,” said Ransford, “I could get upon the roof in two minutes—it's flat just at the ledge of the slope of the window, and you can walk along the coping comfortably into the adjoining houses. If I had continued very hard up I think I should have made an outside journey and helped myself.”

Cuffing took snuff and smiled, as Ransford smoked and chatted about his rooms and packed a small hand-bag.

“I am only going to take a change of linen,” said Ransford. “Can employ a score of tailors out yonder over the water when we are in possession of our fortune."

Cuffing did not know what to make of his client. There was a freedom in his manner, an air of defiance, which was new to him—50 far, at all events, as Cuffing's experience went. The lawyer at first interpreted this to Phil's disadvantage—in short, he put it down to treachery ; but when he reflected that Ransford's safety could be imperilled by hostile action at any time on his part, and when he remembered that, if Ransford held the key to Lord St. Barnard's money, he carried the written promise of his lordship not to prosecute, the case looked so evenly balanced that he could only regard the change in Ransford's manner as due to the happier change which had come to pass in his position.

“Now, my boy,” said Ransford, suddenly, flinging his bag outside the door, “let us go into the other room, where we need fear neither fire nor thieves, and say good-bye to Piccadilly.”

Cuffing got up. Phil opened the door. As Cuffing passed him to go out, it was the work of an instant to strike him a violent blow under the right ear. Ransford was a big, powerful fellow. As Cuffing staggered, Ransford fell upon him, and pinned him to the ground. Cuffing gasped and struggled faintly. Ransford felt in the lawyer's pocket, and with a sigh of relief pulled out a revolver.

“Damn you !” he said ; "that's safe," flinging the weapon into the sitting-room opposite.

Cuffing looked at his client with a vague, half-stunned gaze. Ransford twisted his right hand into his neck-cloth, lifted him up,

and carried him into the bedroom, shutting the door carefully behind him.

“Don't kill me,” gasped Cuffing, as Ransford bent over him.

“Oh, you can speak, you infernal thief,” said Ransford, releasing his hold upon him. “No, I am not going to kill you ; but I'll do that for you if you are not quiet."

“You might as well,” said Cuffing, his face livid, his lips wet with blood. "Fetch’my pistol, and blow my brains out, and I will thank you."

“What are you mumbling?"
“ I think I am dying,” said Cuffing.
“No, you are not. Open your mouth.”
Cuffing raised his hand as if to defend himself.
“It's no good; I'm going to gag you, that's all."

“For heaven's sake, don't,” gasped the lawyer. “I'll give up the affair—let you have your own way.”

“Indeed,” said Ransford. And the next minute Cuffing, securely gagged, was laid upon the bed, and carefully bound to the bedstead. The lawyer watched his gaoler all the time with a strange fascinated gaze.

“ You have called me brute, thief, liar ; you have threatened to shoot me like a dog. Curse you, now do your worst !”

Cuffing saw his confederate leave the room ; heard him lock the door outside ; heard his footsteps on the stairs ; and then all was still as death, the silence being more apparent from the steady patter of the rain. Not even the drowsy hum of the great city seemed to reach on this wet summer afternoon the dreary attic in which Cuffing's hopes had come to such a cruel end. He was not so badly hurt as he wished Ransford to believe, though it would have been vain to struggle against so powerful an enemy. Breathing heavily, he looked up at the ceiling, and endeavoured to gather his scattered faculties. He tried to move; he groaned, he sighed; he feared he might go mad. The rain went on with its dull music. Cuffing moved his right leg ; the rope responded with something like elasticity; he struggled, and in a few minutes found more play in the cord. Then he made an effort to move his whole body. The torture was greatmore mental, however, than physical. He moved his right arm, then his left, and then began to struggle. The ropes gave way a little, but the struggle left him exhausted and weak. If he could only free his right hand, he would be able to remove the gag which, as a lawyer, he might have been forgiven for regarding as more galling than had he been a layman. His bitterest enemy would have pitied

him as he lay struggling there, utterly demoralised and almost powerless.

Half an hour of writhing and struggling freed Cuffing from his bondage ; and within an hour after the attack he stood upright beneath the skylight free from ropes and gag ; but he was greatly exhausted.

“ It serves me right,” he said, hoarsely—“serves me right; I had my misgivings all day.”

The rain still fell monotonously on the window, penetrating at last the various crevices, and sending a little shower of spray upon the upturned face. “ Thank God for that,” said Cuffing. “I almost wish he had

, killed me, though ; they would have hanged him then, the coward! If I could only get down there! There is a chance yet. Hi, hi! murder ! fire ! murder !”

Cuffing discovered to his horror that he was too hoarse to make himself heard; his voice seemed altogether to fail him. Further, he could not walk steadily ; his legs trembled under him ; his hand shook. He sat down upon the bed, hoping to regain strength by waiting. Then he stamped upon the floor ; but the only response was a dull echo. He beat the door with the same result. He lifted a chair upon the bed, and climbed upon it to open the skylight, but he found that it did not open. He got down, and sat upon the bed once more. There was a flask of brandy in his bag, but both were in the other room. He feared he was going to faint. That brandy, he would have given worlds for a teaspoonful of it. The sound of a footstep on the stair revived him. He rushed to the door. No, it was not a footstep? Some one would surely come if he continued to hammer at the door. He took up the chair and beat it against the door until he was exhausted. As he lay panting upon the floor an adjacent clock struck seven. Only seven ! The reflection that there was still plenty of time to reach the rendezvous if he were only outside the room seemed to give him new life. Once more he returned to the attack, flinging himself against the door with all his remaining strength.

A panel cracked and gave way. Cuffing uttered a hoarse cry of delight. Tears of joy started to his eyes.

“I shall still be there,” he said, hurling himself once more at the door and kicking at the broken panel with a last physical effort.

“I shall be in time ; Fate is not going to let that coward have it all his own way. A little brandy will put me right,” he said, as he continued to batter at the door.

At last there was a footstep on the stairs. Relief was surely

coming at last. It could not be Ransford returning. No; the coward was at Longreach by that time. The footsteps were surely coming nearer and nearer. Cuffing's heart beat wildly. There was not only a chance of escape, but of escape soon enough for him to reach the rendezvous in time to frustrate the villanous designs of his base confederate. The footsteps came hurriedly now up the last flight of stairs, quick and fast in response to Cuffing's cries.

The bells of an adjacent church chimed three quarters past seven as the porter of the chambers unlocked the broken door and let the prisoner out. Cuffing did not stay to explain. He rushed forth upon the ianding, down the stairs, and into the street, leaving the man who had come to his timely rescue not a little astonished and alarmed.

Cuffing caught the eight o'clock train for Erith.

CHAPTER IX.

NEMESIS ; AND AN EPITAPH.

At all times the solitary house at Longreach, standing in the centre of a patch of green on a great greasy mudbank, looked strangely dismal and uninviting. Even summer failed to lend a charm to the old broken-down place with its bleary windows, its bulging doorstep, and its crazy sign creaking in the smallest breath of air. The Cuttle Fish in the good old days—as the landlord called the days of prizefighting and cockpits—was a celebrated house. It had no neighbours on land within three miles. There was Erith comparatively close by, it is true, but only by water ; for if you were a stranger and thought you could walk to the spot along the shore you found yourself impeded by an inland river. There was Purfleet, it is true, not far off—but the Thames separated that picturesque little town from Longreach; and the Cuttle Fish had other advantages for the members and patrons of the prize-ring. If a battle taking place under the immediate shadow of the creaking sign were disturbed by the police the gallant and enterprising gentlemen had only to get into a boat, cross the creek, and forthwith resume their operations in another county.

“Ah, them was rattling good times," said the thin wiry landlord Bill Jeffs, on this wet dismal night of our veritable history, addressing Mr. Philip Ransford, who had just arrived.

“Yes, I suppose they were,” said Ransford; “what do you call the time?”

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