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For many, Haynes, known as “Gunner”, is not an outlaw but a gentleman of unorthodox methods. For Scotland Yard, he is one of the most skilled thieves in the world. The Gunner and Luke Maddison belong to completely different worlds; Luke is a respectable banker with a charming girlfriend, Margaret Leferre. But Luke has done a favor for the “Gunner” that he’ll never forget, so that when the banker gets in trouble, the Gunner intervenes to get him out of his nightmare…
66,452 words, with a reading time of ~ 4 hours (~ 265 pages), and first published in 1928. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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“But you are going to marry him, Margaret?” There was an agitation in the voice of Rex Leferre that almost startled his sister: it certainly diverted for the moment the resentment that was growing towards her unpunctual fiance.
“What makes you say that?” she asked. “Does it mean that I am breaking off my engagement because Luke is a bad host and has kept us waiting ten minutes?” They were in the Palm Court of the Ritz-Carlton, and the remainder of the guests were mercifully occupied with their cocktails and gossip and were apparently unaware of Luke’s bad manners.
She stood apart with the young man who was her only relation, and no stranger seeing them would imagine them to be brother and sister. Rex was red-haired, weak-chinned, a fretful young man with a nervous trick of adjusting his dress tie every few minutes.
Margaret Leferre had the carriage and poise of the great lady. She was fair skinned, faultless of feature, grey-eyed–a model of cold dignity. She had never succumbed to the fashion in short hair: her own was braided about her head so that she seemed to be wearing a coronet of dull gold.
“I don’t know…” Rex was nibbling at his nails–he could not be cured of this ugly habit. “Only Luke is a good fellow–in a way. Rather a tight-wad–”
“What is a tight-wad?” she asked, her steady eyes on his.
“Well–I mean–he’s not terribly generous with his own money. He gives tips and things, but somehow I’ve never been able to get into the market in time to benefit…my own fault, of course.”
He tried to avoid her gaze, but she was the stronger character. “Have you been borrowing money–again?” she asked, and he wiggled uncomfortably.
“No–what rot! Only Danty and I had a scheme…” She looked round at that moment. Somehow she knew that the dark-eyed Danton Morell was watching them. Danton was rather a dear, and she had come to rely upon him. He seemed to sense her trouble now, and, detaching himself from the group of which he was a silent member, made his way towards her.
“Oh, shut up, Margaret–don’t talk to Morell about it–if you’re going to make a scene…” With a shrug he turned and left her as Danty came up.
Danty, that splendid man of the world, was amused at her fears. He was on the border-line of forty, a handsome, entertaining bachelor, and she had come to know him through Rex.
“No, I don’t think he has been borrowing–Rex is an improvident devil who will be broke for the next ten years. Then he will settle down and be terribly successful. Your young man is rather late.”
She knew instinctively that he did not like Luke Maddison: she had always known this. Luke (she told herself) was rather a prig in his way. He was “county”–was related to or friendly with almost every great family in England. Only once had he spoken disparagingly of Danton.
“Where did he spring from? I’ve never heard of him before,” he asked.
She might have told him that Danton had spent the greater part of his life in the Argentine, but she had stiffened at the disparagement of her brother’s friend–and hers. And then Luke had made it worse.
“He’s a rum bird. I shouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t one of those light-fingered fellows who are known to the police–if one only made enquiries.”
“You had better make enquiries,” she said icily.
This was before she had taken the plunge and had sent an ecstatic Luke Maddison back to his house walking on air.
As she listened to Danton she was looking absently at the solitaire diamond ring which was the outward and visible sign of her engagement.
“…Rex is volatile and a bit unstable–sometimes there is nothing too bad he can say about Maddison. Sometimes nothing too good…hullo, here’s our blessed host!”
Luke Maddison came through the vestibule with long strides. He paused to strip his overcoat and take off his silk hat, which he almost threw at an attendant, and took one step towards the door. As he did so, his foot slipped sideways on the marble floor, and he would have fallen unpleasantly but for the hand that suddenly gripped his arm.
The man who held him must have been unusually strong, for he literally, and in the most effortless fashion, lifted Luke Maddison bodily and placed him on his feet.
Luke turned with a half-smile of dismay and found himself looking into a hard, lined face, the colour of teak–into two unsmiling eyes, expressionless.
“Thank you–awfully!” The stranger nodded. “It might have been a very nasty fall. I’m greatly obliged to you!”
“Not at all,” said the unknown.