Yet often at restaurants he would order champagne, choice vintage clarets, and liqueurs—when occasion demanded. He would offer them to his friends, but just sip them himself, having previously arranged with the waiter to miss filling his glass.
Of the peril of drink “Mr. Peters” was constantly lecturing the great circle of his friends.
Each year—on the 26th of February to be exact—there was held a dinner at a well-known restaurant in the West End—the annual dinner of a club known as “The Wonder Wizards.” It was supposed to be a circle of professional conjurers.
This dinner was usually attended by fifty guests of both sexes, all well-dressed and prosperous, and of several nationalities. It was presided over by a Mr. Charles Williams.
Now, to tell the truth, the guests believed him to be The Sparrow; but in reality Mr. Williams was the tall White Cavalier whom Hugh had believed to be the great leader, until he had gone to Mayfair and met the impelling personality whom the police had for so long failed to arrest.
The situation was indeed humorous. It was The Sparrow’s fancy to hold the reunion at a public restaurant instead of at a private house. Under the very nose of Scotland Yard the deputy of the notorious Sparrow entertained the chiefs of the great criminal octopus. There were speeches, but from them the waiters learned nothing. It was simply a club of conjurers. None suspected that the guests were those who conjured fortunes out of the pockets of the unsuspecting. And while the chairman—believed by those who attended to be The Sparrow himself—sat there, the bristly-haired, rather insignificant-looking little man occupied a seat in a far-off corner, from where he scrutinized his guests very closely, and smiled at the excellent manner in which his deputy performed the duties of chairman.
Because it was a club of conjurers, and because the conjurers displayed their new tricks and illusions, after an excellent dinner the waiters were excluded and the doors locked after the coffee.
It was then that the bogus Sparrow addressed those present, and gave certain instructions which were later on carried into every corner of Europe. Each member had his speciality, and each group its district and its sanctuary, in case of a hue-and-cry. Every crime that could be committed was committed by them—everything save murder.
The tall, thin man whom everyone believed to be The Sparrow never failed to impress upon his hearers, after the doors were carefully locked, that however they might attack and rob the rich, human life was sacred.
It was the real Sparrow’s order. He abominated the thought of taking human life, hence when old Mr. Henfrey had been foully done to death in the West End he had at once set to work to discover the actual criminal. This he had failed to do. And afterwards there had followed the attempted assassination of Yvonne Ferad, known as Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo.