Francis took the papers and glanced them through.
“Supposing I buy this document from you,” he said, “what is its actual value? You could write out another confession, get that signed, and sell it to another of Sir Timothy’s enemies, or you could still go to Scotland Yard yourself.”
“I shouldn’t do that, sir, I assure you,” the man declared nervously, “not on my solemn oath. I want simply to be quit of the whole matter and have a little money for the child.”
Francis considered for a moment.
“There is only one way I can see,” he said, “to make this document worth the money to me. If you will sign a confession that any statement you have made as to the death of Mr. Hilditch is entirely imaginary, that you did not see Sir Timothy in the house that night, that you went to bed at your usual time and slept until you were awakened, and that you only made this charge for the purpose of extorting money—if you will sign a confession to that effect and give it me with these papers, I will pay you the two hundred pounds and I will never use the confession unless you repeat the charge.”
“I’ll do it, sir,” the man assented.
Francis drew up a document, which his visitor read through and signed. Then he wrote out an open cheque.
“My servant shall take you to the bank in a taxi,” he said. “They would scarcely pay you this unless you were identified. We understand one another?”
Francis rang the bell, gave his servant the necessary orders, and dismissed the two men. Half-an-hour later, already changed into flannels, he was on his way into the country.
Sir Timothy walked that evening amongst the shadows. Two hours ago, the last of the workmen from the great furnishing and catering establishments who undertook the management of his famous entertainments, had ceased work for the day and driven off in the motor-brakes hired to take them to the nearest town. The long, low wing whose use no one was able absolutely to divine, was still full of animation, but the great reception-rooms and stately hall were silent and empty. In the gymnasium, an enormous apartment as large as an ordinary concert hall, two or three electricians were still at work, directed by the man who had accompanied Sir Timothy to the East End on the night before. The former crossed the room, his footsteps awaking strange echoes.