I sounded at that moment the superb loyalty of her nature, and my pride in her seemed to lift me into heaven. "In charge?" she asked, with a little tender, mirthful tremor in her voice. "No, I shall not give the gentleman in charge. Tell me what it means, John." I told her first, briefly and rapidly, the story of poor old Ruffiano's betrayal, and how I had let Brunow go.

This was the beginning of a strange day the day on which I had my first suspicion of Brunow, and the day of poor old Ruffiano's betrayal, in which I myself had an unconscious hand. It came about in this way: I had seen at a gun-maker's shop in the Strand some weeks before a brace of revolvers which had greatly taken my fancy.

It was like a scene beheld by lightning, divided and apart from everything else, and I found it ineffaceable. It seemed to me obvious that the first thing to be done was to communicate with Ruffiano's friends, for whether he had been spirited away by design or not, it was undeniable that he was in a strange predicament.

I was suspicious enough already, though in so vague a fashion that I hardly guessed what I suspected, and I recall the fact that I was not in the least surprised when I heard a cry from Ruffiano's lips, and saw the old man struggling in the arms of a big sailor who had clipped him by both elbows from behind and held him in a position of the most serious disadvantage.

Now it happened, as fate would have it, that I was free that evening and that Violet was engaged. If I had had any chance of meeting her I should have declined Ruffiano's invitation; but the night seemed likely to be vacant of employment, the old man seemed solicitous, and I saw no reason for refusing him.