TWO days later MacVightie received a letter that had been posted the day before from a city quite a number of miles nearer the East than Selkirk was. In the left-hand, lower corner of the envelope, heavily underscored, was the word: “Confidential.” What MacVightie read, when he opened the letter, was this:

“Dear Mr. MacVightie:—

“I feel that you are entitled to an explanation—I will not call it an apology, for I am sure you will recognise with me the unavoidable nature of the circumstances existing at the time—of my somewhat informal leave-taking of you two evenings ago; and I am afraid that my actions on that occasion have not enhanced your opinion of—the Hawk. I shall try and redeem myself. You have, I make no doubt, already searched that room where I first had the pleasure of making your acquaintance—and have found nothing. Let me begin, then, by saying that the diamond necklace belonging to His Excellency the Governor's wife, a certain well-known shipment of unset stones, and cash in varying amounts derived from sources with which you are acquainted, are in a black valise which you will find in the parcel room of the Selkirk station—and for which I enclose herewith the parcel-room check.

“I imagine that you are sceptical. I wonder, then, if it would also occasion you surprise to know that Birks of the Secret Service was, after all, 'on deck' the night that the Wire Devils fell into your hospitable hands? Yes, it is quite true—I am Birks. The newspaper biographies of the Hawk, the apparent authenticity of his prison record and release from Sing Sing was but 'inspired' fiction supplied from 'authoritative' sources. The East was being swamped with one of the cleverest counterfeit notes that the Federal authorities, popularly called the Secret Service, had ever had to deal with; and it was evident at once that the gang at work possessed an organisation against which ordinary methods would be of no avail. Facts in the possession of the Federal authorities indicated that the headquarters of the gang was in the West, and, indeed, as you later concluded yourself, that the so-called Wire Devils, who were just beginning to operate over the wires around Selkirk, were the men we wanted. That, because of my knowledge of telegraphy, I was detailed to the case, and how, almost at the outset, I was fortunate enough to secure the key to their cipher, need not be gone into here. Knowing their code, then, it would have been a simple enough matter to have run one or two of them to earth at almost any time, but that was not enough; it was necessary that the entire organisation, and especially its head, should be caught. The rôle of the Hawk furnished the solution to the problem. It enabled me to frustrate their plans, while at the same time I was working on the case, and it enabled me to do this without arousing their suspicions that the Secret Service was on the track of their counterfeiting plant. 'Birds of a feather,' you called us, Mr. Mac-Vightie; and 'birds of a feather' I am going to ask you to allow us, in the public's eyes, and particularly in the eyes of those you now have behind the bars, to remain.

“I am sure you will readily acquiesce in this. You will instantly see that my usefulness would be destroyed if the Hawk became known and recognised as Birks of the Secret Service by every crook in the country, as would result if he now figured in the case in his proper person. And this leads to a word of explanation in reference to the final act in our little drama of two nights ago. I had discovered the headquarters of the gang, and I had found that cleverest of unhung crooks, the Ladybird, to be in command. The plan outlined to you from Washington was at my suggestion, and was simply a trap to collect them all into one net; a trap, I might add, which they walked into, as they believed, with their eyes wide open, for they were well aware of every move you had made. The purpose of the money in banknotes accompanying the gold shipment was to supply the Hawk with a reason for his appearance on the scene. It was not altogether a question of coincidence that the train was stopped just outside Con-more; nor that the chase led you to the farmhouse and the Ladybird. The rest you know. It was necessary that I should be captured and arrested in their presence, be caught in fact with the 'goods,' and also that my escape should in their eyes appear equally genuine, if I was to preserve the Hawk's identity. As for this last point, things turned out a little differently than I had planned, for I had expected to be taken to jail with the common herd, and there had intended to arrange some sort of an escape to keep up appearances. As it turned out, however, I am sure you will agree with me that there are worse things at times than a trapdoor in a cellar floor!

“I think that is all—save for one little detail. I would suggest that you account for the recovery of the 'swag' and the black valise through the fact that, dissatisfied with your first search of that room over our friend Seidel-berger's saloon, you searched it again more minutely, found a parcel-room check ingeniously hidden, say, behind the wall bracket of the electric-light fixture—and by so doing permit me to remain,

“Ever and most sincerely yours,

“The Hawk.”



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