HIGH WORDS AT HIGH NOON

Early Tuesday morning, while Mr. Minot still slept and mercifully
forgot, two very wide awake gentlemen sat alone together in the office
of the _San Marco Mail_. One was Manuel Gonzale, proprietor of that
paper, as immaculate as the morn; the other was that broad and breezy
gentleman known in his present incarnation as Mr. Martin Wall.

“Very neat. Very neat indeed,” said Mr. Wall, gazing with evident
approval at an inky smelling sheet that lay before him. “It ought to
do the work. If it does, it will be the first stroke of luck I’ve had
in San Marco.”

Gonzale smiled, revealing two even rows of very white teeth.

“You do not like San Marco?” he ventured.

Mr. Wall snorted angrily.

“Like it? Does a beheaded man like the ax? In a long and golden
professional career, I’ve never struck anything like this town before
for hard luck. I’m not in it twenty-four hours when I’m left alone, my
hands tied, with stuff enough to make your eyes pop out of your head.
That’s pleasant! Then, after spending two months and a lot of money
trailing Lord Harrowby for the family jools, I finally cop them. I
give the crew of my borrowed boat orders to steam far, far away, and
run to my cabin to gloat. Do I gloat? Ask me. I do not gloat. I
find the famous Chain Lightning’s Collar is a very superior collection
of glass, worth about twenty-three cents. I send back the glass, and
stick around, hoping for better days. And the best I get is a call
from the owner of my yacht, with orders to vacate at once. When I
first came here I swore I’d visit that jewelry store again–alone.
But–there’s a jinx after me in this town. What’s the use? I’m going
to get out.”

“But before you go,” smiled Manuel, “one stroke of luck you shall have.”

“Maybe. I leave that to you. This kind of thing”–he motioned toward
the damp paper–“is not in my line.” He bent over a picture on the
front page. “That cut came out pretty well, didn’t it? Lucky we got
the photograph before big brother George arrived.”

“I have always found San Marco lucky,” replied Gonzale. “Always–with
one trifling exception.” He drummed reminiscently on his desk.

“I say–who’s this?” Mr. Wall pointed to a line just beneath the name
of the paper. “Robert O’Neill, Editor and Proprietor,” he read.

Manuel Gonzale gurgled softly somewhere within, which was his cunning,
non-committal way of indicating mirth.

“Ah–my very virtuous managing editor,” he said. “One of those dogs
who dealt so vilely with me–I have told you of that. Manuel Gonzale
does not forget.” He leaned closer. “This morning at two, after
O’Neill and Howe had sent to-day’s paper to press as usual, Luypas, my
circulation manager, and I arrived. My virtuous editors had departed
to their rest. Luypas and I stopped the presses, we substituted a new
first-page form. O’Neill and Howe–they will not know. Always they
sleep until noon. In this balmy climate, it is easy to lie abed.”

Again Manuel Gonzale gurgled.

“May their sleep be dreamless,” he said. “And should our work of the
morning fail, may the name of O’Neill be the first to concern the
police.”

Wall laughed.

“A good idea,” he remarked. He looked at his watch. “Nine-fifteen.
The banks ought to be open now.”

Gonzale got to his feet. Carefully he folded the page that had been
lying on his desk.

“The moment for action has come,” he said. “Shall we go down to the
street?”

“I’m in strange waters,” responded Martin Wall uneasily. “The first
dip I’ve ever taken out of my line. Don’t believe in it either–a man
should have his specialty and stick to it. However, I need the money.
Am I letter perfect in my part, I wonder?”

The door of the _Mail_ office opened, and a sly little Cuban with an
evil face stepped in.

“Ah, Luypas,” Gonzale said, “you are here at last? Do you understand?
Your boys they are to be in the next room–yes? You are to sit near
that telephone. At a word from my friend, Mr. Martin Wall, to-day’s
edition of the _Mail_ is to flood the streets–the news-stands.
Instantly. Delay might be fatal. Is that clear?”

“I know,” said Luypas.

“Very good,” said Gonzale. He turned to Martin Wall. “Now is the
time,” he added.

The two descended to the street. Opposite the Hotel de la Pax they
parted. The sleek little Spaniard went on alone and mounted boldly
those pretentious steps. At the desk he informed the clerk on duty
that he must see Mr. Spencer Meyrick at once.

“But Mr. Meyrick is very busy to-day,” the clerk objected.

“Say this is–life and death,” replied Gonzale, and the clerk, wilting,
telephoned the millionaire’s apartments.

For nearly an hour Gonzale was kept waiting. Nervously he paced the
lobby, consuming one cigarette after another, glancing often at his
watch. Finally Spencer Meyrick appeared, pompous, red-faced, a hard
man to handle, as he always had been. The Spaniard noted this, and his
slits of eyes grew even narrower.

“Will you come with me?” he asked suavely. “It is most important.”

He led the way to a summer-house in a far forgotten corner of the hotel
grounds. Protesting, Spencer Meyrick followed. The two sat down.

“I have something to show you,” said Gonzale politely, and removed from
his pocket a copy of the _San Marco Mail_, still damp from the presses.

Spencer Meyrick took the paper in his own large capable hands. He
glanced casually at the first page, and his face grew somewhat redder
than its wont. A huge head-line was responsible:

HARROWBY WASN’T TAKING ANY CHANCES.

Underneath, in slightly smaller type, Spencer Meyrick read:

Remarkable Foresight of English Fortune
Hunter Who Weds Miss Meyrick To-Day
Took Out a Policy For Seventy-Five
Thousand Pounds With Lloyds.
Same to be Payable in Case the
Beautiful Heiress Suffered a
Change of Heart

Prominent on the page was a large photograph, which purported to be “An
Exact Facsimile of the Policy.” Mr. Meyrick examined it. He glanced
through the story, which happened to be commendably brief. He told
himself he must remain calm, avoid fireworks, think quickly. Laying
the paper on his knee, he turned to the little white-garbed man beside
him.

“What trick is this?” he asked sharply.

“It is no trick, sir,” said Gonzale pleasantly. “It is the truth.
That is a photograph of the policy.”

Old Meyrick studied the cut again.

“I’ll be damned,” he remarked.

“I have no desire to annoy,” Gonzale went on. “But–there are five
thousand copies of to-day’s _Mail_ at the office ready to be
distributed at a signal from me. Think, sir! Newsboys on the street
with that story at the very moment when your daughter becomes Lady
Harrowby.”

“I see,” said Meyrick slowly. “Blackmail.”

Manuel Gonzale shuddered in horror.

“Oh, I beg of you,” he protested. “That is hardly it. A business
proposition, I should call it. It happens that the men back of the
Star Publishing Company, which issues the _Mail_, have grown tired of
the newspaper game in San Marco. They are desirous of closing out the
plant at once–say this morning. It occurs to them that you might be
very glad to purchase the _Mail_–before the next edition goes on the
street.”

“You’re a clever little dog,” said Meyrick, through his teeth.

“You are not exactly complimentary. However–let us say for the
argument–you buy the _Mail_ at once. I am, by the way, empowered to
make the sale. You take charge. You hurry to the office. You destroy
all copies of to-day’s issue so far printed. You give orders to the
composing-room to kill this first-page story–good as it is. ‘Please
kill,’ you say. A term with newspaper men.”

“You call yourself a newspaper man?”

“Why not? The story is killed. Another is put in its place–say, for
example, an elaborate account of your daughter’s wedding. And in its
changed form the _Mail_–your newspaper–goes on the street.”

“Um–and your price?”

“It is a valuable property.”

“Especially valuable this morning, I take it,” sneered Meyrick.

“Valuable at any time. Our presses cost a thousand. Our linotypes two
thousand. And there is that other thing–so hard to estimate
definitely–the wide appeal of our paper. The price–well–fifteen
thousand dollars. Extremely reasonable. And I will include–the good
will of the retiring management.”

“You contemptible little–” began Spencer Meyrick.

“My dear sir–control yourself,” pleaded Gonzale. “Or I may be unable
to include the good will I spoke of. Would you care to see that story
on the streets? You may at any moment. There is but one way out. Buy
the newspaper. Buy it now. Here is the plan–you go with me to your
bank. You procure fifteen thousand in cash. We go together to the
_Mail_ office. You pay me the money and I leave you in charge.”

Old Meyrick leaped to his feet.

“Very good,” he cried. “Come on.”

“One thing more,” continued the crafty Gonzale. “It may pay you to
note–we are watched. Even now. All the way to the bank and thence to
the office of the _Mail_–we will be watched. Should any accident, now
unforeseen, happen to me, that issue of the _Mail_ will go on sale in
five minutes all over San Marco.”

Spencer Meyrick stood glaring down at the little man in white. His
enthusiasm of a moment ago for the journey vanished. However, the
head-lines of the _Mail_ were staring up at him from the bench. He
stooped, pocketed the paper, and growled:

“I understand. Come on!”

There must be some escape. The trap seemed absurdly simple. Across
the hotel lawn, down the hot avenue, in the less hot plaza, Meyrick
sought a way. A naturally impulsive man, he had difficulty restraining
himself. But he thought of his daughter, whose happiness was more than
money in his eyes.

No way offered. At the counter of the tiny bank Meyrick stood writing
his check, Gonzale at his elbow. Suddenly behind them the screen door
slammed, and a wild-eyed man with flaming red hair rushed in.

“What is it you want?” Gonzale screamed.

“Out of my way, Don Quixote,” cried the red-topped one. “I’m a
windmill and my arms breathe death. Are you Mr. Meyrick? Well, tear
up that check!”

“Gladly,” said Meyrick. “Only–”

“Notice the catbirds down here?” went on the wild one. “Noisy little
beasts, aren’t they? Well, after this take off your hat to ’em. A
catbird saved you a lot of money this morning.”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow–” said the dazed Spencer Meyrick.

“No? I’ll explain. I have been working on this man’s paper for the
last week. So has a very good friend of mine. We knew he was crooked,
but we needed the money and he promised us not to pull off any more
blackmail while we stayed. Last night, after we left the office, he
arranged this latest. Planned to incriminate me. You little devil–”

Manuel, frightened, leaped away.

“We usually sleep until noon,” went on O’Neill. “He counted on that.
Enter the catbird. Sat on our window-sill at ten A.M. and screeched.
Woke us up. We felt uneasy. Went to the office, broke down a bolted
door, and found what was up.”

“Dog!” foamed Manuel. “Outcast of the gutter–”

“Save your compliments! Mr. Meyrick, my partner is now at the _Mail_
office destroying to-day’s issue of the _Mail_. We’ve already ruined
the first-page form, the cut of the policy, and the negative. And
we’re going north as fast as the Lord’ll let us. You can do what you
please. Arrest our little lemon-tinted employer, if you want to.”

Spencer Meyrick stood, considering.

“However–I’ve done you a favor.” O’Neill went on. “You can do me
one. Let Manuel off–on one condition.”

“Name it.”

“That he hands me at once two hundred dollars–one hundred for myself,
the other for my partner. It’s legitimate salary money due us–we need
it. A long walk to New York.”

“I myself–” began Meyrick.

“Don’t want your money,” said O’Neill. “Want Gonzale’s.”

“Gonzale’s you shall have,” agreed Meyrick. “You–pay him!”

“Never!” cried the Spaniard.

“Then it’s the police–” hinted O’Neill.

Gonzale took two yellow bills from a wallet He tossed them at O’Neill.

“There, you cur–”

“Careful,” cried O’Neill. “Or I’ll punch you yet–”

He started forward, but Gonzale hastily withdrew. O’Neill and the
millionaire followed to the street.

“Just as well,” commented Meyrick. “I should not have cared to cause
his arrest–it would have meant country-wide publicity.” He laid a
hand on the arm of the newspaper man. “I take it,” he said, “that your
fortunes are not at the highest ebb. You have done me a very great
service. I propose to write two checks–one for you, one for your
partner–and you may name the amounts.”

But the red-haired one shook his head.

“No,” he replied. “Nix on the anticlimax to virtue on a rampage. We
can’t be paid for it. It would sort of dim the glory. We’ve got the
railroad fare at last–and we’re going away from here. Yes–away from
here. On the choo-choo–riding far–riding north.”

“Well, my boy,” answered Spencer Meyrick, “if I can ever do anything
for you in New York, come and see me.”

“You may have to make good on that,” laughed O’Neill, and they parted.

O’Neill hastened to the _Mail_ office. He waved yellow bills before
the lanky Howe.

“In the nick of time,” he cried. “Me, the fair-haired hero. And
here’s the fare, Harry–the good old railroad fare.”

“Heaven be praised,” said Howe. “I’ve finished the job, Bob. Not a
trace of this morning’s issue left. The fare! North in parlor cars!
My tobacco heart sings. Can’t you hear the elevated–”

“Music, Harry, music.”

“And the newsboys on Park Row–”

“Caruso can’t touch them. Where can we find a time-table, I wonder?”

Meanwhile, in a corner of the plaza, Manuel Gonzale spoke sad words in
the ear of Martin Wall.

“It’s the jinx,” moaned Wall with conviction. “The star player in
everything I do down here. I’m going to burn the sand hot-footing it
away. But whither, Manuel, whither?”

“In Porto Rico,” replied Gonzale, “I have not yet plied my trade. I go
there.”

“Palm Beach,” sighed Wall, “has diamonds that can be observed to
sparkle as far away as the New York society columns. But alas, I lack
the wherewithal to support me in the style to which my victims are
accustomed.”

“Try Porto Rico,” suggested Gonzale. “The air is mild–so are the
police. I will stake you.”

“Thanks. Porto Rico it is. How the devil do we get there?”

Up the main avenue of San Marco Spencer Meyrick walked as a man going
to avenge. With every determined step his face grew redder, his eye
more dangerous. He looked at his watch. Eleven.

The eleventh hour! But much might happen between the eleventh hour and
high noon!

In the Harrowby suite the holder of the title, a handsome and
distinguished figure, adorned for his wedding, walked nervously the
rather worn carpet. His brother, hastily pressed into service as best
man, sat puffing at a cigar with a persistency which indicated a
somewhat perturbed state of mind on his own part.

“Brace up, Allan,” he urged. “It’ll be over before you realize it.
Remember my own wedding–gad, wasn’t I frightened? Always that way
with a man–no sense to it, but he just can’t help it. Never forget
that little parlor, with the flower of Marion society all about, and me
with my teeth chattering and my knees knocking together.”

“It is a bit of an ordeal,” said Allan weakly. “Chap feels all sort
of–gone–inside–”

The telephone, ringing sharply, interrupted. George Harrowby rose and
stepped to it.

“Allan? You wish Allan? Very well. I’ll tell him.”

He turned away from the telephone and faced his brother.

“It was old Meyrick, kid. Seemed somewhat hot under the collar. Wants
to see you in their suite at once.”

“Wha–what do you imagine he wants?”

“Going to make you a present of Riverside Drive, I fancy. Go ahead,
boy. I’ll wait for you here.”

Allan Harrowby went out, along the dusky corridor to the Meyrick door.
Not without misgivings, he knocked. A voice boomed “Come!” He pushed
open the door.

He saw Spencer Meyrick sitting purple at a table, and beside him
Cynthia Meyrick, in the loveliest gown of all the lovely gowns she had
ever worn. The beauty of the girl staggered Harrowby a bit; never
demonstrative, he had a sudden feeling that he should be at her feet.

“You–you sent for me?” he asked, coming into the room. As he moved
closer to the girl he was to marry he saw that her face was whiter than
her gown, and her brown eyes strained and miserable.

“We did,” said Meyrick, rising. He held out a paper. “Will you please
look at that.”

His lordship took the sheet in unsteady hands. He glanced down.
Slowly the meaning of the story that met his gaze filtered through his
dazed brain. “Martin Wall did this,” he thought to himself. He tried
to speak, but could not. Dumbly he stared at Spencer Meyrick.

“We want no scene, Harrowby,” said the old man wearily. “We merely
want to know if there is in existence a policy such as the one
mentioned here?”

The paper slipped from his lordship’s lifeless hands. He turned
miserably away. Not daring to face either father or daughter, he
answered very faintly:

“There is.”

Spencer Meyrick sighed.

“That’s all we want to know. There will be no wedding, Harrowby.”

“Wha–what!” His lordship faced about “Why, sir–the guests must
be–down-stairs–”

“It is–unfortunate. But there will be no wedding.” The old man
turned to his daughter. “Cynthia,” he asked, “have you nothing to say?”

“Yes.” White, trembling, the girl faced his lordship. “It seems,
Allan, that you have regarded our marriage as a business proposition.
You have gambled on the stability of the market. Well, you win. I
have changed my mind. This is final. I shall not change it again.”

“Cynthia!” And any who had considered Lord Harrowby unfeeling must
have been surprised at the anguish in his voice. “I have loved you–I
love you now. I adore you. What can I say in explanation–of this.
We gamble, all of us–it is a passion bred in the family. That is why
I took out this absurd policy. My dearest–it doesn’t mean that there
was no love on my side. There is–there always will be, whatever
happens. Can’t you understand–”

The girl laid her hand on his arm, and drew him away to the window.

“It’s no use, Allan,” she said, for his ears alone. “Perhaps I could
have forgiven–but somehow–I don’t care–as I thought I did. It is
better, embarrassing as it may be for us both, that there should be no
wedding, after all.”

“Cynthia–you can’t mean that. You don’t believe me. Let me send for
my brother–he will tell you of the passion for gambling in our
family–he will tell you that I love you, too–”

He moved toward the telephone.

“No use,” said Cynthia Meyrick, shaking her head. “It would only
prolong a painful scene. Please don’t, Allan.”

“I’ll send for Minot, too,” Harrowby cried.

“Mr. Minot?” The girl’s eyes narrowed. “And what has Mr. Minot to do
with this?”

“Everything. He came down here as the representative of Lloyds. He
came down to make sure that you didn’t change your mind. He will tell
you that I love you–”

A queer expression hovered about Miss Meyrick’s lips. Spencer Meyrick
interrupted.

“Nonsense,” he cried. “There is no need to–”

“One moment.” Cynthia Meyrick’s eyes shone strangely. “Send for your
brother, Allan. And–for–Mr. Minot.”

Harrowby stepped to the telephone. He summoned his forces. A strained
unhappy silence ensued. Then the two men entered the room together.

“Minot–George, old boy,” Lord Harrowby said helplessly. “Miss Meyrick
and her father have discovered the existence of a certain insurance
policy about which you both know. They have believed that my motive in
seeking a marriage was purely mercenary–that my affection for the girl
who is–was–to have become my wife can not be sincere. They are
wrong–quite wrong. Both of you know that. I’ve sent for you to help
me make them understand–I can not–”

George Harrowby stepped forward, and smiled his kindly smile.

“My dear young lady,” he said. “I regret that policy very deeply.
When I first heard of it I, too, suspected Allan’s motives. But after
I talked with him–after I saw you–I was convinced that his affection
for you was most sincere. I thought back to the gambling schemes for
which the family has been noted–I saw it was the old passion cropping
out anew in Allan–that he was really not to blame–that beyond any
question he was quite devoted to you. Otherwise I’d have done
everything in my power to prevent the wedding.”

“Yes?” Miss Meyrick’s eyes flashed dangerously. “And–your other
witness, Allan?”

The soul of the other witness squirmed in agony. This was too
much–too much!

“You, Minot–” pleaded Harrowby. “You have understood–”

“I have felt that you were sincerely fond of Miss Meyrick,” Minot
replied. “Otherwise I should not have done–what I have done.”

“Then, Mr. Minot,” the girl inquired, “you think I would be wrong to
give up all plans for the wedding?”

“I–I–yes, I do,” writhed Minot

“And you advise me to marry Lord Harrowby at once?”

Mr. Minot passed his handkerchief over his damp forehead. Had the girl
no mercy?

“I do,” he answered miserably.

Cynthia Meyrick laughed, harshly, mirthlessly.

“Because that’s your business–your mean little business,” she said
scornfully. “I know at last why you came to San Marco. I understand
everything. You had gambled with Lord Harrowby, and you came here to
see that you did not lose your money. Well, you’ve lost! Carry that
news back to the concern you work for! In spite of your heroic
efforts, you’ve lost! At the last moment Cynthia Meyrick changed her
mind!”

Lost! The word cut Minot to the quick. Lost, indeed! Lost Jephson’s
stake–lost the girl he loved! He had failed Jephson–failed himself!
After all he had done–all he had sacrificed. A double defeat, and
therefore doubly bitter.

“Cynthia–surely you don’t mean–” Lord Harrowby was pleading.

“I do, Allan,” said the girl more gently. “It was true–what I told
you–there by the window. It is better–father! Will you go down
and–say–I’m not to be married, after all?”

Spencer Meyrick nodded, and turned toward the door.

“Cynthia,” cried Harrowby brokenly. There was no reply. Old Meyrick
went out.

“I’m sorry,” his lordship said. “Sorry I made such a mess of it–the
more so because I love you, Cynthia–and always shall. Good-by.”

He held out his hand. She put hers in it.

“It’s too bad, Allan,” she said. “But–it wasn’t to be. And, even
now, you have one consolation–the money that Lloyds must pay you.”

“The money means nothing, Cynthia–”

“Miss Meyrick is mistaken,” Minot interrupted. “Lord Harrowby has not
even that consolation. Lloyds owes him nothing.”

“Why not?” asked the girl defiantly.

“Up to an hour ago,” said Minot, “you were determined to marry his
lordship?”

“I should hardly put it that way. But–I intended to.”

“Yes. Then you changed your mind. Why?”

“I changed it because I found out about this ridiculous, this insulting
policy.”

“Then his lordship’s taking out of the policy caused the calling off of
the wedding?”

“Y–yes. Why?”

“It may interest you to know–and it may interest Lord Harrowby to
recall–that five minutes before he took out this policy he signed an
agreement to do everything in his power to bring about the wedding.
And he further promised that if the wedding should be called off
because of any subsequent act of his, he would forfeit the premium.”

“By gad,” said Lord Harrowby.

“The taking out of the policy was a subsequent act,” continued Minot.
“The premium, I fancy, is forfeited.”

“He’s got you, Allan,” said George Harrowby, coming forward, “and I for
one can’t say I’m sorry. You’re going to tear up that policy now–and
go to work for me.”

“I for one am sorry,” cried Miss Meyrick, her flashing eyes on Minot.
“I wanted you to win, Allan. I wanted you to win.”

“Why?” Minot asked innocently.

“You ought to know,” she answered, and turned away.

Lord Harrowby moved toward the door.

“We’re not hard losers,” he said blankly. “But–everything’s
gone–it’s a bit of a smash-up. Good-by, Cynthia.”

“Good-by, Allan–and good luck.”

“Thanks.” And Harrowby went out with his brother.

Minot stood for a time, not daring to move. Cynthia Meyrick was at the
window; her scornful back was not encouraging. Finally she turned, saw
Minot and gave a start of surprise.

“Oh–you’re still here?”

“Cynthia, now you understand,” he said. “You know why I acted as I
did. You realize my position. I was in a horrible fix–”

She looked at him coldly.

“Yes,” she said, “I do understand. You were gambling on me. You came
down here to defend your employer’s cash. Well, you have succeeded.
Is there anything more to be said?”

“Isn’t there? On the ramparts of the old fort the other night–”

“Please do not make yourself any more ridiculous than is necessary.
You have put your employer’s money above my happiness. Always.
Really, you looked rather cheap to-day, with your sanctimonious advice
that I marry Harrowby. Aren’t you beginning to realize your own
position–the silly childish figure you cut?”

“Then you–”

“Last night when you came staggering across the lawn to me with this
foolish gown in your arms–I told you I hated you. Do you imagine I
hate you any less now. Well, I don’t.” Her voice became tearful. “I
hate you! I hate you!”

“But some day–”

She turned away from him, for she was sobbing outright now.

“I never want to see you again as long as I live,” she cried. “Never!
Never! Never!”

Limp, pitiable, worn by the long fight he had waged, Minot stood
staring helplessly at her heaving shoulders.

“Then–I can only say I’m sorry,” he murmured. “And–good-by.”

He waited. She did not turn toward him. He stumbled out of the room.

Minot went below and sent two messages, one to Jephson, the other to
Thacker. The lobby of the De la Pax was thronged with brilliantly
attired wedding guests who, metaphorically, beat their breasts in
perplexity over the tidings that had come even as they craned their
necks to catch the first glimpse of that distinguished bridal party.
The lavishly decorated parlor that was to have been the scene of the
ceremony stood tragically deserted. Minot cast one look at it, and
hurried again to his own particular cell.

He took a couple of time-tables from his desk, and sat down in a chair
facing the window. All over now. Nothing to do but return to the
North, as fast as the trains would take him. He had won, but he had
also lost. He felt listless, weary. He let the time-tables fall to
the floor, and sat gazing out at that narrow
street–thinking–wondering–wishing–

It was late in the afternoon when the clamor of his telephone recalled
him to himself. He leaped up, and seized the receiver. Allan
Harrowby’s voice came over the wire.

“Can you run down to the room, Minot?” he inquired. “The last call,
old boy.”

Minot went. He found both the Harrowbys there, prepared to say good-by
to San Marco forever.

“Going to New York on the _Lady Evelyn_,” said George Harrowby, who was
aggressively cheerful. “From there I’m taking Allan to Chicago. Going
to have him reading George Ade and talking our language in a week.”

Lord Harrowby smiled wanly.

“Nothing left but Chicago,” he drawled. “I wanted to see you before I
went, Minot, old chap. Not that I can thank you for all you did–I
don’t know how. You stood by me like–like a gentleman. And I realize
that I have no claim on Lloyds–it was all my fault–if I’d never let
Martin Wall have that confounded policy– But what’s the use of
if-ing? All my fault. And–my thanks, old boy.” He sighed.

“Nonsense,” said Minot. “A business proposition, solely, from my point
of view. There’s no thanks coming to me.”

“It seems to me,” said George Harrowby, “that as the only victor in
this affair, you don’t exhibit a proper cheerfulness. By the way, we’d
be delighted to take you north on our boat. Why not–”

But Minot shook his head.

“Can’t spare the time–thank you just the same,” he replied. “I’d like
nothing better–”

Amid expressions of regret, the Harrowbys started for the elevator.
Minot walked along the dusky corridor with them.

“We’ve had a bit of excitement–what?” said Allan. “If you’re ever in
London, you’re to be my guest. Old George has some sort of a berth for
me over there–”

“Not a berth, Allan,” objected George, pressing the button for the
elevator. “You’re not going to sleep. A job. Might as well begin to
talk the Chicago language now. Mr. Minot, I, too, want to thank you–”

They stepped into the elevator, the door slammed, the car began to
descend. Minot stood gazing through the iron scroll work until the
blond head of the helpless Lord Harrowby moved finally out of sight.
Then he returned to his room and the time-tables, which seemed such
dull unhappy reading.

Mr. Jack Paddock appeared to invite Minot to take dinner with him. His
bags, he remarked, were all packed, and he was booked for the seven
o’clock train.

“I’ve slipped down the mountain of gold,” he said in the course of the
dinner. “But all good things must end, and I certainly had a good
thing. Somehow, I’m not so gloomy as I ought to be.”

“Where are you going, Jack?” Minot asked.

Mr. Paddock leaned over confidentially.

“Did I say her father was in the plumbing business?” he inquired. “My
error, Dick. He owns a newspaper–out in Grand Rapids. Offered me a
job any time I wanted it. Great joke then–pretty serious now. For
I’m going out to apply.”

“I’m glad of it.”

“So am I, Dick. I was a fool to let her go back like that. Been
thinking it all over–and over–one girl in–how many are there in the
world, should you say? The other day I had a chill. It occurred to me
maybe she’d gone and married the young man with the pale purple necktie
who passes the plate in the Methodist Church. So I beat it to the
telegraph counter. And–”

“She’s heart whole and fancy free?”

“O.K. in both respects. So it’s me for Grand Rapids. And say, Dick,
I–er–I want you to know I’d sent that telegram before the accident
last night. As a matter of fact, I sent it two days ago.”

“Good boy,” said Minot. “I knew this game down here didn’t satisfy
you. May I be the first to wish you joy?”

“You? With a face like a defeated candidate? I say, cheer up! She’ll
stretch out eager arms in your direction yet.”

“I don’t believe it, Jack.”

“Well, while there’s life there’s still considerable hope lying loose
about the landscape. That’s why I don’t urge you to take the train
with me.”

An hour later Mr. Paddock spoke further cheering words in his friend’s
ear, and departed for the North. And in that city of moonlight and
romance Minot was left (practically) alone.

He took a little farewell walk through that quaint old town, then
retired to his room to read another chapter in the time-table. At
four-twenty in the morning, he noted, a small local train would leave
for Jacksonville. He decided he would take it. With no parlor cars,
no sleepers, he would not be likely to encounter upon it any of the
startled wedding party bound north.

The call he left did not materialize, and it was four o’clock when he
awoke. Hastily in the chill dawn he bade farewell to town and hotel.
In fifteen minutes he had left both behind, and was speeding toward the
small yellow station set on the town’s edge. He glanced feverishly at
his watch. There was need of haste, for this train was made up in San
Marco, and had had as yet no chance to be late.

He rushed through the gate just as it was being closed, and caught a
dreary little train in the very act of pulling out. Gloomy oil lamps
sought vainly to lessen the dour aspect of its two coaches. Panting,
he entered the rear coach and threw himself and his bag into a seat.

Five seconds later he glanced across the aisle and discovered in the
opposite seat Miss Cynthia Meyrick, accompanied by a very sleepy-eyed
family!

“The devil!” said Minot to himself. He knew that she would see in this
utter accident nothing save a deliberate act of following. What use to
protest his innocence?

He considered moving to another seat. But such a theatric act could
only increase the embarrassment. Already his presence had been
noted–Aunt Mary had given him a glare, Spencer Meyrick a scowl, the
girl a cloudy vague “where have I seen this person before?” glance in
passing.

Might as well make the best of it. He settled himself in his seat.
Once again, as on another railroad car, he sought to keep his eyes on
the landscape without–the dim landscape with the royal palms waving
like grim ghosts in the half light. The train sped on.

A most uncomfortable situation! If only it would grow light! It
seemed so silly to be forced to find the view out the window entrancing
while it was still very dark.

Spencer Meyrick went forward to the smoker. Aunt Mary, weary of life,
slid gently down to slumber. Her unlovely snore filled the dim car.

How different this from the first ride together! The faint pink of the
sky grew brighter. Now Minot could see the gray moss hanging to the
evergreens, and here and there a squalid shack where human beings lived
and knew nothing of life. And beside him he heard a sound as of a
large body being shaken. Also the guttural protest of Aunt Mary at
this inconsiderate treatment.

Aunt Mary triumphed. Her snore rose to shatter the smoky roof. Three
times Minot dared to look, and each time wished he hadn’t. The whole
sky was rosy now. Somewhere off behind the horizon the good old sun
was rising to go to work for the passenger department of the coast
railroad.

Some sense in looking out now. Minot saw a shack that seemed
familiar–then another. Next a station, bearing on its sad shingle the
cheery name of “Sunbeam.” And close to the station, gloomy in the
dawn, a desiccated chauffeur beside an aged automobile.

Minot turned quickly, and caught Cynthia Meyrick in the act of peering
over his shoulder. She had seen the chauffeur too.

The train had stopped a moment, but was under way again. In those
brown eyes Minot saw something wistful, something hurt,–saw things
that moved him to put everything to a sudden test. He leaped to his
feet and pulled madly at the bell cord.

“What–what have you done?” Startled, she stared at him.

“I’ve stopped the train. I’m going to ride to Jacksonville as I rode
to San Marco–ages ago. I’m not going alone.”

“Indeed?”

“Quick. The conductor will be here in a minute. Here’s a card and
pencil–write a note for Aunt Mary. Say you’ll meet them in
Jacksonville! Hurry, please!”

“Mr. Minot!” With great dignity.

“One last ride together. One last chance for me to–to set things
right if I can.”

“If you can.”

“If–I admit it. Won’t you give me the chance? I thought you would be
game. I dare you!”

For a second they gazed into each other’s eyes. The train had come to
a stop, and Aunt Mary stirred fretfully in her sleep. With sudden
decision Cynthia Meyrick wrote on the card and dropped it on her
slumbering relative.

“I know I’ll be sorry–but–” she gasped.

“Hurry! This way! The conductor’s coming there!”

A moment later they stood together on the platform of the Sunbeam
station, while the brief little train disappeared indignantly in the
distance.

“You shouldn’t have made me do that!” cried the girl in dismay. “I’m
always doing things on the spur of the moment–things I regret
afterward–”

“I know. You explained that to me once. But you can also do things on
the spur of the moment that you’re glad about all your life. Oh–good
morning, Barney Oldfield.”

“Good morning,” replied the rustic chauffeur with gleeful recognition.
“Where’s it to this time, mister?”

“Jacksonville. And no hurry at all.” Minot held open the door and the
girl stepped into the car.

“The gentleman is quite mistaken,” she said to the chauffeur. “There
is a very great hurry.”

“Ages of time until luncheon,” replied Minot blithely, also getting in.
“If you were thinking of announcing–something–then.”

“I shall have nothing to announce, I’m sure. But I must be in
Jacksonville before that train. Father will be furious.”

“Trust me, lady,” said the chauffeur, grinding again at his hooded
music-box. “I’ve been doing stunts with this car since I saw you last.
Been over a hundred miles from Sunbeam. Begins to look as though
Florida wasn’t going to be big enough, after all.”

He leaped to the wheel, and again that ancient automobile carried
Cynthia Meyrick and the representative of Lloyds out of the town of
Sunbeam. But the exit was not a laughing one. The girl’s eyes were
serious, cold, and with real concern in his voice Minot spoke:

“Won’t you forgive me–can’t you? I was only trying to be faithful to
the man who sent me down here–faithful through everything–as I should
be faithful to you if you gave me the chance. Is it too
late–Cynthia–”

“There was a time,” said the girl, her eyes wide, “when it was not too
late. Have you forgotten? That night on the balcony, when I threw
myself at your feet, and you turned away. Do you think that was a
happy moment for me?”

“Was it happy for me, for that matter?”

“Oh, I was humiliated, ashamed. Then your silly rescue of my
gown–your advice to me to marry Harrowby–”

“Would you have had me throw over the men who trusted me–”

“I–I don’t know. I only know that I can’t forgive what has
happened–in a minute–”

“What was that last?”

“Nothing.”

“You said in a minute.”

“Your ears are deceiving you.”

“Cynthia–you’re not going to punish me because I was faithful– Don’t
you suppose I tried to get some one in my place?”

“Did you?”

“The day I first rode in this car with you. And then–I stopped
trying–”

“Why?”

“Because I realized that if some one came in my place I’d have to go
away and never see you again–and I couldn’t do that I had to be near
you, dear girl–don’t worry, he can’t hear, the motor’s too noisy–I
had to be where I could see that little curl making a question mark
round your ear–where I could hear your voice–I had to be near you
even if to do it I must break my heart by marrying you to another man.
I loved you. I love you now–”

A terrific crash interrupted. Dolefully the chauffeur descended from
the car to make an examination. Dolefully he announced the result.

“Busted right off,” he remarked. “Say, I’m sorry. I’ll have to walk
back to the garage at Sunbeam and–and I’m afraid you’ll have to jest
sit here until I come back.”

He went slowly down the road, and the two sat in that ancient car in
the midst of sandy desolation.

“Cynthia,” Minot cried. “I worship you. Won’t you–”

The girl gave a strange little cry.

“I wanted to be cross with you a little longer,” she said almost
tearfully. “But I can’t. I wonder why I can’t. I cried all night at
the thought of never seeing you again. I wonder why I cried. I
guess–it’s because–for the first time–I’m really–in love.”

“Cynthia!”

“Oh, Dick–don’t let me change my mind again–ever–ever!”

“Only over my dead body!”

With one accord they turned and looked at that quaint southern
chauffeur plodding along through the dust and the sunshine. It did not
seem to either of them that there was any danger of his looking back.

And, happily, he didn’t.

Continue Reading

A ROTTEN BAD FIT

The moon was shining in that city of the picturesque past. Its light
fell silvery on the narrow streets, the old adobe houses, the listless
palms. In every shadow seemed to lurk the memory of a love long
dead–a love of the old passionate Spanish days. A soft breeze came
whispering from the very sea Ponce de Leon had sailed. It was as if at
a signal–a bugle-call, a rose thrown from a window, the boom of a
cannon at the water’s edge–the forgotten past of hot hearts, of arms
equally ready for cutlass or slender waist, could live again.

And Minot was as one who had heard such a signal. He loved. The
obstacle that had confronted him, wrung his heart, left him helpless,
was swept away. He was like a man who, released from prison, sees the
sky, the green trees, the hills again. He loved! The moon was shining!

He stood amid the colorful blooms of the hotel courtyard and looked up
at her window, with its white curtain waving gently in the breeze. He
called, softly. And then he saw her face, peering out as some senorita
of the old days from her lattice–

“I’ve news–very important news,” he said. “May I see you a moment?”

Far better this than the telephone or the bellboy. Far more in keeping
with the magic of the night.

She came, dressed in the white that set off so well her hair of
gleaming copper. Minot met her on the veranda. She smiled into his
eyes inquiringly.

“Do you mind–a little walk?” he asked.

“Where to?”

“Say to the fort–the longest way.”

She glanced back toward the hotel.

“I’m not sure that I ought–”

“But that will only make it the more exciting. Please. And I’ve
news–real news.”

She nodded her head, and they crossed the courtyard to the avenue.
From this bright thoroughfare they turned in a moment into a dark and
unkempt street.

“See,” said Minot suddenly, “the old Spanish churchyard. They built
cities around churches in the old days. The world do move. It’s
railroad stations now.”

They stood peering through the gloom at a small chapel dim amid the
trees, and aged stones leaning tipsily among the weeds.

“At the altar of that chapel,” Minot said, “a priest fell–shot in the
back by an Indian’s arrow. Sounds unreal, doesn’t it? And when you
think that under these musty stones lies the dust of folks who walked
this very ground, and loved, and hated, like you and–”

“Yes–but isn’t it all rather gloomy?” Cynthia Meyrick shuddered.

They went on, to pass shortly through the crumbling remains of the city
gates. There at the water’s edge the great gray fort loomed in the
moonlight like a historical novelist’s dream. Its huge iron-bound
doors were locked for the night; its custodian home in the bosom of his
family. Only its lower ramparts were left for the feet of romantic
youth to tread.

Along these ramparts, close to the shimmering sea, Miss Meyrick and
Minot walked. Truth to tell, it was not so very difficult to keep
one’s footing–but once the girl was forced to hold out an appealing
hand.

“French heels are treacherous,” she explained.

Minot took her hand, and for the first time knew the thrill that,
encountered often on the printed page, he had mentally classed as
“rubbish!” Wisely she interrupted it:

“You said you had news?”

He had, but it was not so easy to impart as he had expected.

“Tell me,” he said, “if it should turn out that what poor old George
said this morning was a fact–that Allan Harrowby was an
impostor–would you feel so very badly?”

She withdrew her hand.

“You have no right to ask that,” she replied.

“Forgive me. Indeed I haven’t. But I was moved to ask it for the
reason that–what George said was evidently true. Allan Harrowby left
suddenly for the north an hour ago.”

The girl stood still, looking with wide eyes out over the sea.

“Left–for the north,” she repeated. There was a long silence. At
length she turned to Minot, a queer light in her eyes. “Of course,
you’ll go after him and bring him back?” she asked.

“No.” Minot bowed his head. “I know I must have looked rather silly
of late. But if you think I did the things I’ve done because I chose
to–you’re wrong. If you think I did them because I didn’t love
you–you’re wrong, too. Oh, I–”

“Mr. Minot!”

“I can’t help it. I know it’s indecently soon–I’ve got to tell you
just the same. There’s been so much in the way–I’m wild to say it
now. I love you.”

The water breaking on the ancient stones below seemed to be repeating
“Sh–sh,” but Minot paid no heed to the warning.

“I’ve cared for you,” he went on, “ever since that morning on the train
when we raced the razor-backs–ever since that wonderful ride over a
God-forsaken road that looked like Heaven to me. And every time since
that I’ve seen you I’ve known that I’d come to care more–”

The girl stood and stared thoughtfully out at the soft blue sea. Minot
moved closer, over those perilous slippery rocks.

“I know it’s an old story to you,” he went on, “and that I’d be a fool
to hope that I could possibly be anything but just another man who
adores you. But–because I love you so much–”

She turned and looked at him.

“And in spite of all this,” she said slowly, “from the first you have
done everything in your power to prevent the breaking off of my
engagement to Harrowby.”

“Yes, but–”

“Weren’t you overly chivalrous to a rival? Wouldn’t what–what you are
saying be more convincing if you had remained neutral?”

“I know. I can’t explain it to you now. It’s all over, anyway. It
was horrible while it lasted–but it’s over now. I’m never going to
work again for your marriage to anybody–except one man. The man who
is standing before you–who loves you–loves you–”

He stopped, for the girl was smiling. And it was not the sort of smile
that his words were entitled to.

“I’m sorry, really,” she said. “But I can’t help it. All I can see
now is your triumphant entrance last night–your masterly exposure of
that silly necklace–your clever destruction of every obstacle in order
that Harrowby and I might be married on Tuesday. In the light of all
that has happened–how can you expect to appear other than–”

“Foolish? You’re right. And you couldn’t possibly care–just a
little–”

He stopped, embarrassed. Poorly chosen words, those last. He saw the
light of recollection in her eye.

“I should say,” he went on hastily, “isn’t there just a faint gleam of
hope–for me–”

“If we were back on the train,” she said, “and all that followed could
be different–and Harrowby had never been–I might–”

“You might–yes?”

“I might not say what I’m going to say now. Which is–hadn’t we better
return to the hotel?”

“I’m sorry,” remarked Minot. “Sorry I had the bad taste to say what I
have at this time–but if you knew and could understand–which you
can’t of course– Yes, let’s go back to the hotel–the shortest way.”

He turned, and looked toward the towers of the De la Pax rising to meet
the sky–seemingly a million miles away. So Peary might have gazed to
the north, setting out for the Pole.

They went back along the ramparts, over the dry moat, through the
crumbling gates. Conversation languished. Then the ancient graveyard,
ghastly in the gloom. After that the long lighted street of humble
shops. And the shortest way home seemed a million times longer than
the longest way there.

“Considering what you have told me of–Harrowby,” she said, “I shall be
leaving for the north soon. Will you look me up in New York?”

“Thank you,” Minot said. “It will be a very great privilege.”

Cynthia Meyrick entered the elevator, and out of sight in that gilded
cage she smiled a twisted little smile.

Mr. Minot beheld Mr. Trimmer and his “proposition” basking in the
lime-light of the De la Pax, and feeling in no mood to listen to the
publicity man’s triumphant cackle, he hurried to the veranda. There he
found a bell-boy calling his name.

“Gen’lemun to see you,” the boy explained. He led the way back into
the lobby and up to a tall athletic-looking man with a ruddy, frank,
attractive face.

The stranger held out his hand.

“Mr. Minot, of Lloyds?” he asked. “How do you do, sir? I’m very glad
to know you. Promised Thacker I’d look you up at once. Let’s adjourn
to the grill-room.”

Minot followed in the wake of the tall breezy one. Already he liked
the man immensely.

“Well,” said the stranger, over a table in the grill, “what’ll you
have? Waiter? Perhaps you heard I was coming. I happen to be the
owner of the yacht in the harbor, which somebody has rechristened the
_Lileth_.”

“Yes–I thought so,” Minot replied. “I’m mighty glad you’ve come. A
Mr. Martin Wall is posing as the owner just at present.”

“So I learned from Thacker. Nervy lad, this Wall. I live in Chicago
myself–left my boat–_Lady Evelyn_, I called her–in the North River
for the winter in charge of a caretaker. This Wall, it seems, needed a
boat for a month and took a fancy to mine. And since my caretaker was
evidently a crook, it was a simple matter to rent it. Never would have
found it out except for you people. Too busy. Really ought not to
have taken this trip–business needs me every minute–but I’ve got sort
of a hankering to meet Mr. Martin Wall.”

“Shall we go out to the boat right away?”

“No need of that. We’ll run out in the morning with the proper
authorities.” The stranger leaned across the table, and something in
his blue eyes startled Minot. “In the meantime,” he said, “I happen to
be interested in another matter. What’s all this talk about George
Harrowby coming back to life?”

“Well, there’s a chap here,” Minot explained, “who claims to be the
elder brother of Allan Harrowby. His cause is in the hands of an
advertising expert named Trimmer.”

“Yes. I saw a story in a Washington paper.”

“This morning George Harrowby, so-called, confronted Allan Harrowby and
denounced Allan himself as a fraud.”

The man from Chicago threw back his head, and a roar of unexpected
laughter smote on Minot’s hearing.

“Good joke,” said the stranger.

“No joke at all. George was right–at least, so it seems. Allan
Harrowby cleared out this evening.”

“Yes. So I was told by the clerk in there. Do you happen to
know–er–Allan?”

“Yes. Very well indeed.”

“But you don’t know the reason he left?”

“Why,” answered Minot, “I suppose because George Harrowby gave him
twenty-four hours to get out of town.”

Again the Chicago man laughed.

“That can’t have been the reason,” he said. “I happen to know.”

“Just how,” inquired Minot, “do you happen to know?”

Leaning far back in his chair, the westerner smiled at Minot with a
broad engaging smile.

“I fancy I neglected to introduce myself,” he said. “I make
automobiles in Chicago–and my name’s George Harrowby.”

“You–you–” Minot’s head went round dizzily. “Oh, no,” he said
firmly. “I don’t believe it.”

The other’s smile grew even broader.

“Don’t blame you a bit, my boy,” he said. “Must have been a bit of a
mix-up down here. Then, too, I don’t look like an Englishman. Don’t
want to. I’m an American now, and I like it.”

“You mean you’re the real Lord Harrowby?”

“That’s what I mean–take it slowly, Mr. Minot. I’m George, and if
Allan ever gets his eyes on me, I won’t have to prove who I am. He’ll
know, the kid will. But by the way–what I want now is to meet this
chap who claims to be me–also his friend, Mr. Trimmer.”

“Of course you do. I saw them out in the lobby a minute ago.” Minot
rose. “I’ll bring them in. But–but–”

“What is it?”

“Oh, never mind. I believe you.”

Trimmer and his proposition still adorned the lobby, puffed with pride
and pompousness. Briefly Minot explained that a gentleman in the
grill-room desired to be introduced, and graciously the two followed
after. The Chicago George Harrowby rose as he saw the group approach
his table. Suddenly behind him Minot heard a voice:

“My God!” And the limp Englishman of the sandwich boards made a long
lean streak toward the door. Minot leaped after him, and dragged him
back.

“Here, Trimmer,” he said, “your proposition has chilblains.”

“What’s the trouble?” Mr. Trimmer glared about him.

“Allow me,” said Minot. “Sir–our leading vaudeville actor and his
manager. Gentlemen–Mr. George Harrowby, of Chicago!”

“Sit down, boys,” said Mr. Harrowby genially. He indicated a chair to
Mr. Trimmer, but that gentleman stood, his eyes frozen to the face of
his proposition. The Chicago man turned to that same proposition.
“Brace up, Jenkins,” he said. “Nobody will hurt you.”

But Jenkins could not brace. He allowed Minot to deposit his limp body
in a chair.

“I thought you was dead, sir,” he mumbled.

“A common mistake,” smiled George Harrowby. “My family has thought the
same, and I’ve been too busy making automobiles to tell them
differently. Mr. Trimmer, will you have a–what’s the matter, man?”

For Mr. Trimmer was standing, purple, over his proposition.

“I want to get this straight,” he said with assumed calm. “See here,
you cringing cur–what does this mean?”

“I thought he was dead,” murmured poor Jenkins in terror.

“You’ll think the same about yourself in a minute–and you’ll be
_right_,” Trimmer predicted.

“Come, come,” said George Harrowby pacifically. “Sit down, Mr.
Trimmer. Sit down and have a drink. Do you mean to say you didn’t
know Jenkins here was faking?”

“Of course I didn’t,” said Trimmer. He sat down on the extreme edge of
a chair, as one who proposed to rise soon. “All this has got me going.
I never went round in royal circles before, and I’m dizzy. I suppose
you’re the real Lord Harrowby?”

“To be quite correct, I am. Don’t you believe it?”

“I can believe anything–when I look at him,” said Trimmer, indicating
the pitiable ex-claimant to the title. “Say, who is this Jenkins we
hear so much about?”

“Jenkins was the son of my father’s valet,” George Harrowby explained.
“He came to America with me. We parted suddenly on a ranch in southern
Arizona.”

“Everybody said you was dead,” persisted Jenkins, as one who could not
lose sight of that fact.

“Yes? And they gave you my letters and belongings, eh? So you thought
you’d pose as me?”

“Yes, sir,” confessed Jenkins humbly.

Mr. Trimmer slid farther back into his chair.

“Well,” he said, “it’s unbelievable, but Henry Trimmer has been
buncoed. I met this able liar in a boarding-house in New York, and he
convinced me he was Lord Harrowby. It was between jobs for me, and I
had a bright idea. If I brought this guy down to the wedding,
established him as the real lord, and raised Cain generally, I figured
my stock as a publicity man would rise a hundred per cent. I’d be
turning down fifty-thousand-dollar jobs right and left. I suppose I
was easy, but I’d never mixed up with such things before, and all the
dope he had impressed me–the family coat of arms, and the motto–”

The Chicago man laughed softly.

“_Credo Harrowby_,” he said.

“That was it–trust Harrowby,” said Trimmer bitterly. “Lord, what a
fool I’ve been. And it’s ruined my career. I’ll be the
laughing-stock–”

“Oh, cheer up, Mr. Trimmer,” smiled George Harrowby. “I’m sure you’re
unduly pessimistic about your career. I’ll have something to say to
you on that score later. For the present–”

“For the present,” broke in Trimmer with fervor, “iron bars for Jenkins
here. I’ll swear out the warrant myself–”

“Nonsense,” said Harrowby, “Jenkins is the most harmless creature in
the world. Led astray by ambition, that’s all. With any one but Allan
his claims wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Poor Allan always was a
helpless youngster.”

“Oh–Jenkins,” broke in Minot suddenly. “What was the idea this
morning? I mean your calling Allan Harrowby an impostor?”

Jenkins hung his head.

“I was rattled,” he admitted. “I couldn’t keep it up before all those
people. So it came to me in a flash–if I said Allan was a fraud maybe
I wouldn’t have to be cross-examined myself.”

“And that was really Allan Harrowby?”

“Yes–that was Allan, right enough.”

Mr. Minot sat studying the wall in front of him. He was recalling a
walk through the moonlight to the fort. Jephson and Thacker pointed
accusing fingers at him over the oceans and lands between.

“I say–let Jenkins go,” continued the genial western Harrowby,
“provided he returns my property and clears out for good. After all,
his father was a faithful servant, if he is not.”

“But,” objected Trimmer, “he’s wasted my time. He’s put a crimp in the
career of the best publicity man in America it’ll take years to
straighten out–”

“Not necessarily,” said Harrowby. “I was coming to that. I’ve been
watching your work for the last week, and I like it. It’s
alive–progressive. We’re putting out a new car this spring–an
inexpensive little car bound to make a hit. I need a man like you to
convince the public–”

Mr. Trimmer’s eyes opened wide. They shone. He turned and regarded
the unhappy Jenkins.

“Clear out,” he commanded. “If I ever see you again I’ll wring your
neck. Now, Mr. Harrowby, you were saying–”

“Just a minute,” said Harrowby. “This man has certain letters and
papers of mine–”

“No, he hasn’t,” Trimmer replied. “I got ’em. Right here in my
pocket.” He slid a packet of papers across the table. “They’re yours.
Now, about–”

Jenkins was slipping silently away. Like a frightened wraith he
flitted gratefully through the swinging doors.

“A middle-class car,” explained Harrowby, “and I want a live man to
boost it–”

“Beg pardon,” interrupted Minot, rising, “I’ll say good night. We’ll
get together about that other matter in the morning. By the way, Mr.
Harrowby, have you any idea what has become of Allan?”

“No, I haven’t. I sent him a telegram this afternoon saying that I was
on my way here. Must have run off on business. Of course, he’ll be
back for his wedding.”

“Oh, yes–of course,” Minot agreed sadly, “he’ll be back for his
wedding. Good night, gentlemen.”

A few minutes later he stood at the window of 389, gazing out at the
narrow street, at the stately Manhattan Club, and the old Spanish
houses on either side.

“And she refused me!” he muttered. “To think that should be the
biggest piece of luck that’s come to me since I hit this accursed town!”

He continued to gaze gloomily out. The–er–moon was still shining.

Minot rose early on Monday morning and went for a walk along the beach.
He had awakened to black despair, but the sun and the matutinal breeze
elevated his spirits considerably. Where was Allan Harrowby? Gone,
with his wedding little more than twenty-four hours away. If he should
not return–golden thought. By his own act he would forfeit his claim
on Jephson, and Minot would be free to–

To what? Before him in the morning glow the great gray fort rose to
crush his hopes. There on those slanting ramparts she had smiled at
his declaration. Smiled, and labeled him foolish. Well, foolish he
must have seemed. But there was still hope. If only Allan Harrowby
did not return.

Mr. Trimmer, his head down, breathing hard, marched along the beach
like a man with a destination. Seeing Minot, he stopped suddenly.

“Good morning,” he said, holding out his hand, with a smile. “No
reason why we shouldn’t be friends, eh? None whatever. You’re out
early. So am I. Thinking up ideas for the automobile campaign.”

Minot laughed.

“You leap from one proposition to another with wonderful aplomb,” he
said.

“The agile mountain goat hopping from peak to peak,” Trimmer replied.
“That’s me. Oh, I’m the goat all right. Sad old Jenkins put it all
over me, didn’t he?”

“I’m afraid he did. Where is he?”

“Ask of the railway folder. He lit out in the night. Say–he did have
a convincing way with him–you know it.”

“He surely did.”

“Well, the best of us make mistakes,” admitted Mr. Trimmer. “The
trouble with me is I’m too enthusiastic. Once I get an idea, I see
rosy for miles ahead. As I look back I realize that I actually helped
Jenkins prove to me that he was Lord Harrowby. I was so anxious for
him to do it–the chance seemed so gorgeous. And if I’d put it
over–but there. The automobile business looks mighty good to me now.
Watch the papers for details. And when you get back to Broadway, keep
a lookout for the hand of Trimmer writing in fire on the sky.”

“I will,” promised Minot, laughing. He turned back to the hotel
shortly after. His meeting with Trimmer had cheered him mightily.
With a hopeful eye worthy of Trimmer himself, he looked toward the
future. Twenty-four hours would decide it. If only Allan failed to
return!

The first man Minot saw when he entered the lobby of the De la Pax was
Allan Harrowby, his eyes tired with travel, handing over a suit-case to
an eager black boy.

What was the use? Listlessly Minot relinquished his last hope. He
followed Harrowby, and touched his arm.

“Good morning,” he said drearily. “You gave us all quite a turn last
night. We thought you’d taken the advice you got in the morning, and
cleared out for good.”

“Well, hardly,” Harrowby replied. “Come up to the room, old man. I’ll
explain there.”

“Before we go up,” replied Minot, “I want you to get Miss Meyrick on
the phone and tell her you’ve returned. Yes–right away. You
see–last night I rather misunderstood–I thought you weren’t Allan
Harrowby after all–and I’m afraid I gave Miss Meyrick a wrong
impression.”

“By gad–I should have told her I was going,” Harrowby replied. “But I
was so rattled, you know–”

He went into a booth. His brief talk ended, he and Minot entered the
elevator. Once in his suite, Harrowby dropped wearily into a chair.

“Confound your stupid trains. I’ve been traveling for ages. Now,
Minot, I’ll tell you what carried me off. Yesterday afternoon I got a
message from my brother George saying he was on his way here.”

“Yes?”

“Seems he’s alive and in business in Chicago. The news excited me a
bit, old boy. I pictured George rushing in here, and the word
spreading that I was not to be the Earl of Raybrook, after all. I’m
frightfully fond of Miss Meyrick, and I want that wedding to take place
to-morrow. Then, too, there’s Jephson. Understand me–Cynthia is not
marrying me for my title. I’d stake my life on that. But there’s the
father and Aunt Mary–and considering the number of times the old
gentleman has forbidden the wedding already–”

“You saw it was up to you, for once.”

“Exactly. So for my own sake–and Jephson’s–I boarded a train for
Jacksonville with the idea of meeting George’s train there and coming
on here with him. I was going to ask George not to make himself known
for a couple of days. Then I proposed to tell Cynthia, and Cynthia
only, of his existence. If she objected, all very well–but I’m sure
she wouldn’t. And I’m sure, too, that George would have done what I
asked–he always was a bully chap. But–I missed him. These
confounded trains–always late. Except when you want them to be. I
dare say George is here by this time?”

“He is,” Minot replied. “Came a few hours after you left. And by the
way, I arranged a meeting for him with Trimmer and his proposition.
The proposition fled into the night. It seems he was the son of an old
servant of your father’s–Jenkins by name.”

“Surely! Surely that was Jenkins! I thought I’d seen the chap
somewhere–couldn’t quite recall– Well, at any rate, he’s out of the
way. Now the thing to do is to see good old George at once–”

He went to the telephone, and got his brother’s room.

“George!” A surprising note of affection crept into his lordship’s
voice. “George, old boy–this is Allan. I’m waiting for you in my
rooms.”

“Dear old chap,” said his lordship, turning away from the telephone.
“Twenty-three years since he has seen one of his own flesh and blood!
Twenty-three years of wandering in this God-forsaken country–I beg
your pardon, Minot. I wonder what he’ll say to me. I wonder what
George will say after all those years.”

Nervously Allan Harrowby walked the floor. In a moment the door
opened, and the tall, blond Chicago man stood in the doorway. His blue
eyes glowed. Without a word he came into the room, and gripped the
hand of his brother, then stood gazing as if he would never get enough.

And then George Harrowby spoke.

“Is that a ready-made suit you have on, Allan?” he asked huskily.

“Why–why–yes, George.”

“I thought so. It’s a rotten bad fit, Allan. A rotten bad fit.”

Thus did George Harrowby greet the first of his kin he had seen in a
quarter of a century. Thus did he give the lie to fiction, and to
Trimmer, writer of “fancy seeing you after all these years” speeches.

He dropped his younger brother’s hand and strode to the window. He
looked out. The courtyard of the De la Pax was strangely misty even in
the morning sunlight. Then he turned, smiling.

“How’s the old boy?” he asked.

“He’s well, George. Speaks of you–now and then. Think he’d like to
see you. Why not run over and look him up?”

“I will.” George Harrowby turned again to the window. “Ought to have
buried the hatchet long ago. Been so busy–but I’ll change all that.
I’ll run over and see him first chance I get–and I’ll write to him
to-day.”

“Good. Great to see you again, George. Heard you’d shuffled off.”

“Not much. Alive and well in Chicago. Great to see you.”

“Suppose you know about the wedding?”

“Yes. Fine girl, too. Had a waiter point her out to me at
breakfast–rather rude, but I was in a hurry to see her. Er–pretty
far gone and all that, Allan?”

“Pretty far gone.”

“That’s the eye. I was afraid it might be a financial proposition
until I saw the girl.”

Allan shifted nervously.

“Ah–er–of course, you’re Lord Harrowby,” he said.

George Harrowby threw back his head and laughed his hearty pleasant
laugh.

“Sit down, kid,” he said. And the scion of nobility, thus informally
addressed, sat.

“I thought you’d come at me with the title,” said George Harrowby, also
dropping into a chair. “Don’t go, Mr. Minot–no secrets here. Allan,
you and your wife must come out and see us. Got a wife myself–fine
girl–she’s from Marion, Indiana. And I’ve got two of the liveliest
little Americans you ever saw. Live in a little Chicago suburb–homey
house, shady street, neighbors all from down country way. Gibson’s
drawings on the walls, George Ade’s books on the tables, phonograph in
the corner with all of George M. Cohan’s songs. Whole family wakes in
the morning ready for a McCutcheon cartoon. My boys talk about nothing
but Cubs and White Sox all summer. They’re going to a western
university in a few years. We raised ’em on James Whitcomb Riley’s
poems. Well, Allan—-”

“Well, George—-”

“Say, what do you imagine would happen if I went back to a home like
that with the news that I was Lord Harrowby, in line to become the Earl
of Raybrook. There’d be a riot. Wife would be startled out of her
wits. Children would hate me. Be an outcast in my own family.
Neighbors would turn up their noses when they went by our house.
Fellows at the club would guy me. Lord Harrowby, eh! Take off your
hats to his ludship, boys. Business would fall off.”

Smilingly George Harrowby took a cigar and lighted it.

“No, Allan,” he finished, “a lord wouldn’t make a hell of a hit
anywhere in America, but in Chicago, in the automobile business–say,
I’d be as lonesome and deserted as the reading-room of an Elks’ Club.”

“I don’t quite understand—-” Allan began.

“No,” said George, turning to meet Minot’s smile, “but this gentleman
does. It all means, Allan, that there’s nothing doing. You are Lord
Harrowby, the next Earl of Raybrook. Take the title, and God bless
you.”

“But, George,” Allan objected, “legally you can’t—-”

“Don’t worry, Allan,” said the man from Chicago, “there’s nothing we
can’t do in America, and do legally. How’s this? I’ve always been
intending to take out naturalization papers. I’ll do it the minute I
get back to Chicago–and then the title is yours. In the meantime,
when you introduce me to your friends here, we’ll just pretend I’ve
taken them out already.”

Allan Harrowby got up and laid his hand affectionately on his brother’s
shoulder.

“You’re a brick, old boy,” he said. “You always were. I’m glad you’re
to be here for the wedding. How did you happen to come?”

“That’s right–you don’t know, do you? I came in response to a
telegram from Lloyds, of New York.”

“From–er–Lloyds?” asked Allan blankly.

“Yes, Allan. That yacht you came down here on didn’t belong to Martin
Wall. It belonged to me. He made away with it from North River
because he happened to need it. Wall’s a crook, my boy.”

“The _Lileth_ your ship! My word!”

“It is. I called it the _Lady Evelyn_, Allan. Lloyds found out that
it had been stolen and sent me a wire. So here I am.”

“Lloyds found out through me,” Minot explained to the dazed Allan.

“Oh–I’m beginning to see,” said Allan slowly. “By the way, George,
we’ve another score to settle with Wall.”

He explained briefly how Wall had acquired Chain Lightning’s Collar,
and returned a duplicate of paste in its place. The elder Harrowby
listened with serious face.

“It’s no doubt the Collar he was trailing you for, Allan,” he said.
“And that’s how he came to need the yacht. But when finally he got his
eager fingers on those diamonds, poor old Wall must have had the shock
of his life.”

“How’s that?”

“It wasn’t Wall who had the duplicate made. It was–father–years ago,
when I was still at home. He wanted money to bet, as usual–had the
duplicate made–risked and lost.”

“But,” Allan objected, “he gave it to me to give to Miss Meyrick.
Surely he wouldn’t have done that—-”

“How old is he now? Eighty-two? Allan, the old boy must be a little
childish by now–he forgot. I’m sure he forgot. That’s the only view
to take of it.”

A silence fell. In a moment the elder brother said:

“Allan, I want you to assure me again that you’re marrying because you
love the girl–and for no other reason.”

“Straight, George,” Allan answered, and looked his brother in the eye.

“Good kid. There’s nothing in the other kind of marriage–all
unhappiness–all wrong. I was sure you must be on the level–but, you
see, after Mr. Thacker–the insurance chap in New York–knew who I was
and that I wouldn’t take the title, he told me about that fool policy
you took out.”

“No? Did he?”

“All about it. Sort of knocked me silly for a minute. But I
remembered the Harrowby gambling streak–and if you love the girl, and
really want to marry her, I can’t see any harm in the idea. However, I
hope you lose out on the policy. Everything O.K. now? Nothing in the
way?”

“Not a thing,” Lord Harrowby replied. “Minot here has been a bully
help–worked like mad to put the wedding through. I owe everything to
him.”

“Insuring a woman’s mind,” reflected George Harrowby. “Not a bad idea,
Allan. Almost worthy of an American. Still–I could have insured you
myself after a fashion–promised you a good job as manager of our new
London branch in case the marriage fell through. However, your method
is more original.”

Allan Harrowby was slowly pacing the room. Suddenly he turned, and
despite the fact that all obstacles were removed, he seemed a very much
worried young man.

“George–Mr. Minot,” he began, “I’ve a confession to make. It’s about
that policy.” He stopped. “The old family trouble, George. We’re
gamblers to the bone–all of us. Last Friday night–at the Manhattan
Club–I turned over that policy to Martin Wall to hold as security for
a five thousand dollar loan.”

“Why the devil did you do that?” Minot cried.

“Well—-” And Allan Harrowby was in his old state of helplessness
again. “I wanted to save the day. Gonzale was hounding us for
money–I thought I saw a chance to win—-”

“But Wall! Wall of all people!”

“I know. I oughtn’t to have done it. Knew Wall wasn’t altogether
straight. But nobody else was about–I got excited–borrowed–lost the
whole of it, too. Wha–what are we going to do?”

He looked appealingly at Minot. But for once it was not on Minot’s
shoulders that the responsibility for action fell. George Harrowby
cheerfully took charge.

“I was just on the point of going out to the yacht, with an officer,”
he said. “Suppose we three run out alone and talk business with Martin
Wall.”

Fifteen minutes later the two Harrowbys and Minot boarded the yacht
which Martin Wall had christened the _Lileth_. George Harrowby looked
about him with interest.

“He’s taken very good care of it–I’ll say that for him,” he remarked.

Martin Wall came suavely forward.

“Mr. Wall,” said Minot pleasantly, “allow me to present Mr. George
Harrowby, the owner of the boat on which we now stand.”

“I beg our pardon,” said Wall, without the quiver of an eyelash. “So
careless of me. Don’t stand, gentlemen. Have chairs–all of you.”

And he stared George Harrowby calmly in the eye.

“You’re flippant this morning,” said the elder Harrowby. “We’ll be
glad to sit, thank you. And may I repeat what Mr. Minot has told
you–I own this yacht.”

“Indeed?” Mr. Wall’s face beamed. “You bought it from Wilson, I
presume.”

“Just who is Wilson?”

“Why–he’s the man I rented it from in New York.”

“So that’s your tale, is it?” Allan Harrowby put in.

“You wound me,” protested Mr. Wall. “That is my tale, as you call it.
I rented this boat in New York from a man named Albert Wilson. I have
the lease to show you, also my receipt for one month’s rent.”

“I’ll bet you have,” commented Minot.

“Bet anything you like. You come from a betting institution, I
believe.”

“No, Mr. Wall, I did not buy the yacht from Wilson,” said George
Harrowby. “I’ve owned it for several years.”

“How do I know that?” asked Martin Wall.

“Glance over that,” said the elder Harrowby, taking a paper from his
pocket. “A precaution you failed to take with Albert Wilson.”

“Dear, dear.” Mr. Wall looked over the paper and handed it back. “Can
it be that Wilson was a fraud? I suggest the police, Mr. Harrowby. I
shall be very glad to testify.”

“I suggest the police, too,” said Minot hotly, “for Mr. Martin Wall.
If you thought you had a right on this boat, Wall, why did you throw me
overboard into the North River when I mentioned the name of Lloyds?”

Mr. Wall regarded him with pained surprise.

“I threw you overboard because I didn’t want you on my boat,” he said.
“I thought you understood that fully.”

“Nonsense,” Minot cried. “You stole this boat by bribing the
caretaker, and when I mentioned Lloyds, famous the world over as a
marine insurance firm, you thought I was after you, and threw me over
the rail. I see it all very clearly now.”

“You’re a wise young man—-”

“Mr. Wall,” George Harrowby broke in, “it may interest you to know that
we don’t believe a word of the Wilson story. But it may also interest
you to know that I am willing to let the whole matter drop–on one
condition.”

“What’s that?”

“My brother Allan here borrowed five thousand dollars from you the
other night, and gave you as security a bit of paper quite worthless to
any one save himself. Accept my check for five thousand and hand him
back the paper.”

Mr. Wall smiled. He reached into his inner coat pocket.

“With the greatest pleasure,” he said. “Here is the–er–the
document.” He laughed. Then, noting the check book on the elder
Harrowby’s knee, he added: “There was a little matter of interest—-”

“Not at all!” George Harrowby looked up. “The interest is forfeited
to pay wear and tear on this yacht.”

For a moment Wall showed fight, but he did not much care for the light
he saw in the elder Harrowby’s eyes. He recognized a vast difference
in brothers.

“Oh–very well,” he said. The check was written, and the exchange made.

“Since you are convinced I am the owner of the yacht,” said George
Harrowby, rising, “I take it you will leave it at once?”

“As soon as I can remove my belongings,” Wall said. “A most
unfortunate affair all round.”

“A fortunate one for you,” commented Mr. Minot.

Wall glared.

“My boy,” he said angrily, “did any one ever tell you you were a
bad-luck jinx?”

“Never,” smiled Minot.

“You look like one to me,” growled Martin Wall.

George Harrowby arranged to keep the crew Wall had engaged, in order to
get the _Lady Evelyn_ back to New York. It was thought best for the
owner to stay aboard until Wall had gathered his property and departed,
so Allan Harrowby and Minot alone returned to San Marco. As they
crossed the plaza Allan said:

“By gad–everything looks lovely now. Jenkins out of the way, good old
George side-stepping the title, the policy safe in my pocket. Not a
thing in the way!”

“It’s almost too good to be true,” replied Minot, with a very mirthless
smile.

“It must be a great relief to you, old boy. You have worked hard.
Must feel perfectly jolly over all this?”

“Me?” said Minot. “Oh, I can hardly contain myself for joy. I feel
like twining orange blossoms in my hair—-”

He walked on, kicking the gravel savagely at each step. Not a thing in
the way now. Not a single, solitary, hopeful, little thing.

The Duchess of Lismore elected to give her dinner and dance in Miss
Meyrick’s honor as near to the bright Florida stars as she could. On
the top floor of the De la Pax was a private dining-room, only
partially enclosed, with a picturesque view of the palm-dotted
courtyard below. Adjacent to this was a sun-room with a removable
glass roof, and this the duchess had ordered transformed into a
ballroom. There in the open the newest society dances should rise to
offend the soft southern sky.

Being a good general, the hostess was early on the scene, marshaling
her forces. TO her there came Cynthia Meyrick, radiant and lovely and
wide-eyed on the eve of her wedding.

“How sweet you look, Cynthia,” said the duchess graciously. “But then,
you long ago solved the problem of what becomes you.”

“I have to look as sweet as I can,” replied the girl wearily. “All the
rest of my life I shall have to try and live up to the nobility.”

She sighed.

“To think,” remarked the duchess, busy over a great bowl of flowers,
“that to-morrow night this time little Cynthia will be Lady Harrowby.
I suppose you’ll go to Rakedale Hall for part of the year at least?”

“I suppose so.”

“I, too, have had my Rakedale Hall. Formal, Cynthia dear, formal.
Nothing but silly little hunts, silly little shoots–American men would
die there. As for American women–nothing ever happens–the hedges
bloom in neat little rows–the trees blossom–they’re bare
again–Cynthia, sometimes I’ve been in a state where I’d give ten years
of my life just to hear the rattle of an elevated train!”

She stood looking down at the girl, an all too evident pity in her eyes.

“It isn’t all it might be, I fancy–marrying into the peerage,” Cynthia
said.

“My dear,” replied the duchess, “I’ve nearly died at times. I never
was exactly what you’d call a patriot, but–often I’ve waked in the
night and thought of Detroit. My little car rattling over the
cobblestones–a new gown tried on at Madame Harbier’s–a matinée–and
chocolate afterward at that little place–you remember it. And our
house on Woodward Avenue–the good times there. On the veranda in the
evening, and Jack Little just back from college in the east running
across the lawns to see me—-. What became of Jack, dear?”

“He married Elise Perkins.”

“Ah–I know–and they live near our old house–have a box when the
opera comes–entertain the Yale glee club every Christmas–oh, Cynthia,
maybe it’s crude, maybe it’s middle-class in English eyes–but it’s
home! When you introduced that brother of Lord Harrowby’s this
afternoon–that big splendid chap who said America looked better than a
title to him–I could have thrown my arms about his neck and kissed
him!” She came closer to the girl, and stood looking down at her with
infinite tenderness in her washed-out eyes. “Wasn’t there–any
American boy, my dear?” she asked.

“I–I–hundreds of them,” answered Cynthia Meyrick, trying to laugh.

The duchess turned away.

“It’s wrong of me to discourage you like that,” she said. “Marrying
into the peerage is something, after all. You must come home every
year–insist on it. Johnson–are these the best caviar bowls the hotel
can furnish?”

And the Duchess of Lismore, late of Detroit, drifted off into a bitter
argument with the humble Johnson.

Miss Meyrick strolled away, out upon a little balcony opening off the
dining-room. She stood gazing down at the waving fronds in the
courtyard six stories below. If only that fountain down there were
Ponce de Leon’s! But it wasn’t. To-morrow she must put youth behind.
She must go far from the country she loved–did she care enough for
that? Strangely enough, burning tears filled her eyes. Hot revolt
surged into her heart. She stood looking down—-

Meanwhile the other members of the dinner-party were gathering with
tender solicitude about their hostess in the ballroom beyond. Dick
Minot, hopeless, glum, stalked moodily among them. Into the crowd
drifted Jack Paddock, his sprightly air noticeably lacking, his eyes
worried, dreadful.

“For the love of heaven,” Minot asked, as they stepped together into a
secluded corner, “what ails you?”

“Be gentle with me, boy,” said Paddock unhappily. “I’m in a horrible
mess. The graft, Dick–the good old graft. It’s over and done with
now.”

“What do you mean?”

“It happened last night after our wild chase of Harrowby–I was
fussed–excited—- I prepared two sets of repartee for my two
customers to use to-night—-”

“Yes?”

“I always make carbon copies to refer to myself just before the stuff
is to be used. A few minutes ago I took out my copies. Dick! I sent
the same repartee to both of them!”

“Good lord!”

“Good lord is meek and futile. So is damn. Put on your little rubber
coat, my boy. I predict a hurricane.”

In spite of his own troubles, Minot laughed.

“Mirth, eh?” said Paddock grimly. “I can’t see it that way. I’ll be
as popular as a Republican in Texas before this evening is over. Got a
couple of hasty rapid-fire resignations all ready. Thought at first I
wouldn’t come–but that seemed cowardly. Anyway, this is my last
appearance on any stage as a librettist. Kindly omit flowers.”

And Mr. Paddock drifted gloomily away.

While the servants were passing cocktails on gleaming trays, Minot
found the door to the balcony and stepped outside. A white wraith
flitted from the shadows to his side.

“Mr. Minot,” said a soft, scared little voice.

“Ah–Miss Meyrick,” he cried.

Merciful fate this, that they met for the first time since that
incident on the ramparts in kindly darkness.

“Miss Meyrick,” began Minot hurriedly, “I’m very glad to have a moment
alone with you. I want to apologize–for last night–I was mad–I did
Harrowby a very palpable wrong. I’m very ashamed of myself as I look
back. Can I hope that you will–forget–all I said?”

She did not reply, but stood looking down at the palms far below.

“Can I hope that you will forget–and forgive?”

She glanced up at him, and her eyes shone in the dusk.

“I can forgive,” she said softly. “But I can’t forget. Mr.–Mr.
Minot—-”

“Yes?”

“What–what–is–woman’s greatest privilege?”

Something in the tone of her voice sent a cold chill sweeping through
Minot’s very soul. He clutched the rail for support.

“If–if you’d answer,” said the girl, “it would make it easier for—-”

Aunt Mary’s generous form appeared in the doorway.

“Oh, there you are, Cynthia! You are keeping the duchess’ dinner
waiting.”

Cynthia Meyrick joined her aunt. Minot stayed behind a moment. Below
him Florida swam in the azure night. What had the girl been about to
say?

Pulling himself together, he went inside and learned that he was to
take in to dinner a glorious blond bridesmaid. When they were seated,
he found that Miss Meyrick’s face was hidden from him by a profusion of
Florida blossoms. He was glad of that. He wanted to think–think.

A few others were thinking at that table, Mrs. Bruce and the duchess
among them. Mrs. Bruce was mentally rehearsing. The duchess glanced
at her.

“The wittiest woman in San Marco,” thought the hostess. “Bah!”

Mr. Paddock, meanwhile, was toying unhappily with his food. He had
little to say. The attractive young lady he had taken in had already
classified him as a bore. Most unjust of the attractive young lady.

“It’s lamentable, really.” Mrs. Bruce was speaking. “Even in our best
society conversation has given way to the turkey trot. Our wits are in
our feet. Where once people talked art, music, literature–now they
tango madly. It really seems–”

“Everything you say is true,” interrupted the duchess blandly. “I
sometimes think the race of the future will be–a trotting race.”

Mrs. Bruce started perceptibly. Her eyes lighted with fire. She had
been working up to this line herself, and the coincidence was passing
strange. She glared at the hostess. Mr. Paddock studied his plate
intently.

“I for one,” went on the Duchess of Lismore, “do not dance the tango or
the turkey trot. Nor am I willing to take the necessary steps to learn
them.”

A little ripple ran round the table–the ripple that up to now had been
the exclusive privilege of Mrs. Bruce. That lady paled visibly. She
realized that there was no coincidence here.

“It seems too bad, too,” she said, fixing the hostess firmly with an
angry eye. “Because women could have the world at their feet–if
they’d only keep their feet still long enough.”

It was the turn of the duchess to start, and start she did. As one who
could not believe her ears, she stared at Mrs. Bruce. The “wittiest
hostess in San Marco” was militantly under way.

“Women are not what they used to be,” she continued. “Either they are
mad about clothes, or they go to the other extreme and harbor strange
ideas about the vote, eugenics, what not. In fact, the sex reminds me
of the type of shop that abounds in a small town–its specialty is
drygoods and notions.”

The duchess pushed away a plate which had only that moment been set
before her. She regarded Mrs. Bruce with the eye of Mrs. Pankhurst
face to face with a prime minister.

“We are hardly kind to our sex,” she said, “but I must say I agree with
you. And the extravagance of women! Half the women of my acquaintance
wear gorgeous rings on their fingers–while their husbands wear blue
rings about their eyes.”

Mrs. Bruce’s face was livid.

“Madam!” she said through her teeth.

“What is it?” asked the duchess sweetly.

They sat glaring at each other. Then with one accord they turned–to
glare at Mr. Jack Paddock.

Mr. Paddock, prince of assurance, was blushing furiously. He stood the
combined glare as long as he could–then he looked up into the night.

“How–how close the stars seem,” he murmured faintly.

It was noted afterward that Mrs. Bruce maintained a vivid silence
during the remainder of that dinner. The duchess, on the contrary,
wrung from her purchased lines every possibility they held.

And in that embattled setting Mr. Minot sat, deaf to the delicious lisp
of the debutante at his side. What was woman’s greatest privilege?
Wasn’t it—-

His forehead grew damp. His knees trembled beneath the table.
“Jephson–Thacker, Jephson–Thacker,” he said over and over to himself.

After dinner, when the added guests invited by the duchess for the
dance crowded the ballroom, Minot encountered Jack Paddock. Mr.
Paddock was limp and pitiable.

“Ever apologize to an angry woman?” he asked. “Ever try to expostulate
with a storm at sea? I’ve had it out with Mrs. Bruce–offered to do
anything to atone–she said the best thing I could do would be to
disappear from San Marco. She’s right. I’m going. This is my exit
from the butterfly life. And I don’t intend to say good-by to the
duchess, either.”

“I wish I could go with you,” said Minot sadly.

“Well–come along—-”

“No. I–I’ll stick it out. See you later.”

Mr. Paddock slipped unostentatiously away in the direction of the
elevator. On a dais hidden by palms the orchestra began to play softly.

“You haven’t asked to see my card,” said Cynthia Meyrick at Minot’s
side.

He smiled a wan smile, and wrote his name opposite number five. She
drifted away. The music became louder, rising to the bright stars
themselves. The dances that had furnished so much bitter conversation
at table began to break out. Minot hunted up the balcony and stood
gazing miserably down at fairy-land below.

There Miss Meyrick found him when the fifth dance was imminent.

“Is it customary for girls to pursue their partners?” she inquired.

“I’m sorry,” he said weakly. “Shall we go in?”

“It’s so–so glorious out here.”

He sighed–a sigh of resignation. He turned to her.

“You asked me–what is woman’s greatest privilege,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Is it–to change her mind?”

She looked timidly into his eyes.

“It–is,” she whispered faintly.

The most miserably happy man in history, he gasped.

“Cynthia! It’s too late–you’re to be married to-morrow. Do you
mean–you’d call it all off now–at the last minute?”

She nodded her head, her eyes on the ground.

“My God!” he moaned, and turned away.

“It would be all wrong–to marry Harrowby,” she said faintly. “Because
I’ve come to–I–oh, Dick, can’t you see?”

“See! Of course I see!” He clenched his fists. “Cynthia, my
dearest—-”

Below him stretched six stories of open space. In his agony he thought
of leaping over the rail–of letting that be his answer. But no–it
would disarrange things so–it might even postpone the wedding!

“Cynthia,” he groaned, “you can’t understand. It mustn’t be–I’ve
given my word. I can’t explain. I can never explain.
But–Cynthia–Cynthia—-”

Back in the shadow the girl pressed her hands to her burning cheeks.

“A strange love–yours,” she said. “A love that blows hot and cold.”

“Cynthia–that isn’t true–I do love you—-”

“Please! Please let us–forget.” She stepped into the moonlight,
fine, brave, smiling. “Do we–dance?”

“Cynthia!” he cried unhappily. “If you only understood—-”

“I think I do. The music has stopped. Harrowby has the next
dance–he’d hardly think of looking for me here.”

She was gone! Minot stood alone on the balcony. He was dazed, blind,
trembling. He had refused the girl without whom life could never be
worth while! Refused her, to keep the faith!

He entered upon the bright scene inside, slipped unnoticed to the
elevator and, still dazed, descended to the lobby. He would walk in
the moonlight until his senses were regained. Near the main door of
the De la Pax he ran into Henry Trimmer. Mr. Trimmer had a newspaper
in his hand.

“What’s the matter with the women nowadays?” he demanded indignantly.
Minot tried in vain to push by him. “Seen what those London
suffragettes have done now?” And Trimmer pointed to a head-line.

“What have they done?” asked Minot.

“Done? They put dynamite under the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar
Square and blew it sky-high. It fell over into the Strand—-”

“Good!” cried Minot wildly. “Good! I hope to hell it smashed the
whole of London!” And, brushing aside the startled Trimmer, he went
out into the night.

It was nearly twelve o’clock when Mr. Minot, somewhat calmer of mind,
returned to the De la Pax. As he stepped into the courtyard he was
surprised to see a crowd gathered before the hotel. Then he noticed
that from a second-floor window poured smoke and flame, and that the
town fire department was wildly getting into action.

He stopped–his heart almost ceased beating. That was her window! The
window to which he had called her on that night that seemed so far
away–last night! Breathlessly he ran forward.

And he ran straight into a group just descended from the ballroom. Of
that group Cynthia Meyrick was a member. For a moment they stood
gazing at each other. Then the girl turned to her aunt.

“My wedding dress!” she cried. “I left it lying on my bed. Oh, I
can’t possibly be married to-morrow if that is burned!”

There was a challenge in that last sentence, and the young man for whom
it was intended did not miss it. Mad with the injustice of life, he
swooped down on a fireman struggling with a wabbly ladder. Snatching
away the ladder, he placed it against the window from which the smoke
and flame poured. He ran up it.

“Here!” shouted the chief of the fire department, laying angry hands on
the ladder’s base. “Wot you doing? You can’t go in there.”

“Why the devil can’t I?” bellowed Minot. “Let go of that ladder!”

He plunged into the room. The smoke filled his nostrils and choked
him. His eyes burned. He staggered through the smoky dusk into
another room. His hands met the brass bars of a bed–then closed over
something soft and filmy that lay upon it. He seized the something
close, and hurried back into the other room.

A fireman at another window sought to turn a stream of water on him.
Water–on that gown!

“Cut that out, you fool!” Minot shouted. The fireman, who had
suspected himself of saving a human life, looked hurt. Minot regained
his window. Disheveled, smoky, but victorious, he half fell, half
climbed, to the ground. The fire chief faced him.

“Who was you trying to rescue?” the chief demanded. His eyes grew
wide. “You idiot,” he roared, “they ain’t nobody in that dress.”

“Damn it, I know that,” Minot cried.

He ran across the lawn and stood, a panting, limp, battered, ludicrous
figure before Cynthia Meyrick.

“I–I hope it’s the right one,” he said, and held out the gown.

She took his offering, and came very close to him.

“I hate you!” she said in a low tone. “I hate you!”

“I–I was afraid you would,” he muttered.

A shout from the firemen announced that the blaze was under control.
To his dismay, Minot saw that an admiring crowd was surrounding him.
He broke away and hurried to his room.

Cynthia Meyrick’s final words to him rang in his ears. Savagely he
tore at his ruined collar.

Was this ridiculous farce never to end?

As if in answer, a distant clock struck twelve. He shuddered.

To-morrow, at high noon!

Continue Reading

A BIT OF A BLOW

At ten o’clock that Saturday morning Lord Harrowby was engrossed in the
ceremony of breakfast in his rooms. For the occasion he wore an orange
and purple dressing-gown with a floral design no botanist could have
sanctioned–the sort of dressing-gown that Arnold Bennett, had he seen
it, would have made a leading character in a novel. He was cheerful,
was Harrowby, and as he glanced through an old copy of the _London
Times_ he made strange noises in his throat, under the impression that
he was humming a musical comedy chorus.

There was a knock, and Harrowby cried: “Come in.” Mr. Minot, fresh as
the morning and nowhere near so hot, entered.

“Feeling pretty satisfied with life, I’ll wager,” Minot suggested.

“My dear chap, gay as–as–a robin,” Harrowby replied.

“Snatch your last giggle,” said Minot. “Have one final laugh, and make
it a good one. Then wake up.”

“Wake up? Why, I am awake–”

“Oh, no–you’re dreaming on a bed of roses. Listen! Martin Wall
didn’t go north with the impostor after all. Changed his mind. Look!”

And Minot tossed something on the table, just abaft his lordship’s eggs.

“The devil! Chain Lightning’s Collar!” cried Harrowby.

“Back to its original storage vault,” said Minot. “What is this,
Harrowby? A Drury Lane melodrama?”

“My word. I can’t make it out.”

“Can’t you? Got the necklace back this morning with a note from Martin
Wall, saying I dropped it last night in the scrap on the deck of the
_Lileth_.”

“Confound the thing!” sighed Harrowby, staring morosely at the diamonds.

“My first impulse,” said Minot, “is to hand the necklace back to you
and gracefully withdraw. But of course I’m here to look after
Jephson’s interests–”

“Naturally,” put in Harrowby quickly. “And let me tell you that should
this necklace be found before the wedding, Jephson is practically
certain to pay that policy. I think you’d better keep it. They’re not
likely to search you again. If I took it–dear old chap–they search
me every little while.”

“You didn’t steal this, did you?” Minot asked.

“Of course not.” Harrowby flushed a delicate pink. “It belongs in our
family–has for years. Everybody knows that.”

“Well, what is the trouble?”

“I’ll explain it all later. There’s really nothing dishonorable–as
men of the world look at such things. I give you my word that you can
serve Mr. Jephson best by keeping the necklace for the present–and
seeing to it that it does not fall into the hands of the men who are
looking for it.”

Minot sat staring gloomily ahead of him. Then he reached out, took up
the necklace, and restored it to his pocket.

“Oh, very well,” he said. “If I’m sent to jail, tell Thacker I went
singing an epithalamium.” He rose.

“By the way,” Harrowby remarked, “I’m giving a little dinner
to-night–at the Manhattan Club. May I count on you?”

“Surely,” Minot smiled. “I’ll be there, wearing our necklace.”

“My dear fellow–ah, I see you mean it pleasantly. Wear it, by all
means.”

Minot passed from the eccentric blooms of that dressing-gown to the
more authentic flowers of the Florida outdoors. In the plaza he met
Cynthia Meyrick, rival candidate to the morning in its glory.

“Matrimony,” she said, “is more trouble than it seems on a moonlit
night under the palms. I’ve never been so busy in my life. By the
way, two of my bridesmaids arrived from New York last night. Lovely
girls–both of them. But I forget!”

“Forget what?”

“Your young heart is already ensnared, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” replied Minot fervently. “It is. But no matter. Tell me about
your preparations for the wedding. I should like to enjoy the thrill
of it–by proxy.”

“How like a man–wants all the thrill and none of the bother. It’s
dreadfully hard staging a wedding, way down here a thousand miles from
everything. But–my gown came last night from Paris. Can you imagine
the thrill of that!”

“Only faintly.”

“How stupid being a man must be.”

“And how glorious being a girl, with man only an afterthought–even at
wedding time.”

“Poor Harrowby! He keeps in the lime-light fairly well, however.”
They walked along a moment in silence. “I’ve wondered,” she said at
length. “Why _did_ you kidnap–Mr. Trimmer’s–friend?”

“Because–”

“Yes?”–eagerly.

Minot looked at her, and something rose in his throat to choke him.

“I can’t tell you,” he said. “It is the fault of–the Master of the
Show. I’m only the pawn–the baffled, raging, unhappy little pawn.
That’s all I can tell you. You–you were speaking of your wedding
gown?”

“A present from Aunt Mary,” she answered, a strange tenderness in her
tone. “For a good little girl who’s caught a lord.”

“A charming little girl,” said Minot softly. “May I say that?”

“Yes–” Her brown eyes glowed. “I’m–glad–to have you–say it. I go
in here. Good-by–Mr. Kidnaper.”

She disappeared into a shop, and Minot walked slowly down the street.
Girls from Peoria and Paris, from Boise City and London, passed by.
Girls chaperoned and girls alone–tourist girls in swarms. And not a
few of them wondered why such a good-looking young man should appear to
be so sorry for himself.

Returning to the hotel at noon, Minot met Martin Wall on the veranda.

“Lucky I put old George on Tarragona for the day,” Wall confided. “As
I expected, Trimmer was out to call early this morning. Searched the
ship from stem to stern. I rather think we have Mr. Trimmer up a tree.
He went away not quite so sure of himself.”

“Good,” Minot answered. “So you changed your mind about going north?”

“Yes. Think I’ll stay over for the wedding. By the way, wasn’t that
Chain Lightning’s Collar you left behind you last night?”

“Y–yes.”

“Thought so. You ought to be more careful. People might suspect you
of being the thief at Mrs. Bruce’s.”

“If you think that, I wish you’d speak to his lordship.”

“I have. Your innocence is established. And I’ve promised Harrowby to
keep his little mystery dark.”

“You’re very kind,” said Minot, and went on into the hotel.

The remainder of the day passed lazily. Dick Minot felt lost indeed,
for seemingly there were no more doughty deeds to be done in the name
of Jephson. The Gaiety lady was gone; her letters were in the hands of
the man who had written them. The claimant to the title languished
among the alligators of Tarragona, a prisoner. Trimmer appeared to be
baffled. Bridesmaids arrived. The wedding gown appeared. It looked
like smooth sailing now.

Jack Paddock, met for a moment late in the afternoon, announced airily:

“By the way, the Duke and Duchess of Lismore have come. You know–the
sausage lady and her captive. My word–you should see her! A wardrobe
to draw tears of envy from a theatrical star. Fifty costly
necklaces–and only one neck!”

“Tragic,” smiled Minot.

“Funny thing’s happened,” Paddock whispered. “I met the duchess once
abroad. She sent for me this noon and almost bowled me over. Seems
she’s heard of Mrs. Bruce as the wittiest woman in San Marco. And
she’s jealous. ‘You’re a clever boy,’ says her ladyship to me. ‘Coach
me up so I can outshine Mrs. Bruce.’ What do you know?”

“Ah–but you were the pioneer,” Minot reminded him.

“Well, I was, for that matter,” said Mr. Paddock. “But I know now it
wasn’t a clever idea, if this woman can think of it, too.”

“What did you tell her?”

“I was shocked. I showed it. It seemed deception to me. Still–she
made me an offer that–well, I told her I’d think it over.”

“Good heavens, Jack! You wouldn’t try to sell ’em both dialogue?”

“Why not? Play one against the other–make ’em keener for my goods.
I’ve got a notion to clean up here quick and then go back to the real
stuff. That little girl from the Middle West–I’ve forgot all about
her, of course. But speaking of cleaning up–I’m thinking of it, Dick,
my boy. Yes, I believe I’ll take them both on–secretly, of course.
It means hard work for me, but when one loves one’s art, no service
seems too tough.”

“You’re hopeless,” Minot groaned.

“Say not so,” laughed Paddock, and went away humming a frivolous tune.

At a quarter before seven, for the first time, Minot entered Mr. Tom
Stacy’s Manhattan Club and Grill. To any one who crossed Mr. Stacy’s
threshold with the expectation of immediately encountering lights and
gaiety, the first view of the interior came as a distinct shock. The
main dining-room of the Manhattan Club was dim with the holy dimness of
a cathedral. Its lamps, hung high, were buried in oriental trappings,
and shone half-heartedly. Faintly through the gloom could be discerned
white table-cloths, gleaming silver. The scene demanded hushed voices,
noiseless footsteps. It got both.

The main dining-room was hollowed out of the center of the great stone
building, and its roof was off in the dark three stories above. On
each side of the entrance, stairways led to second and third-floor
balconies which stretched around the room on three sides. From these
balconies doors opened into innumerable rooms–rooms where lights shone
brighter, and from which the chief of police, when he came to make
certain financial arrangements with Mr. Stacy, heard frequently a
gentle click-click.

It may have been that the furnishings of the main dining-room and the
balconies were there before Mr. Stacy’s coming, or again they may have
set forth his own idea of suitable decoration. Looking about him, Mr.
Minot was reminded of a play like _Sumurun_ after three hard seasons on
the road. Moth-eaten rugs and musty tapestries hung everywhere. Here
and there an atrocious cozy corner belied its name. Iron lanterns gave
parsimonious light. Aged sofa-pillows lay limply. “Oriental,” Mr.
Stacy would have called the effect. Here in this dim, but scarcely
religious light, the patrons of his “grill” ate their food, being not
without misgivings as they stared through the gloom at their plates.

The long tables for the Harrowby dinner were already set, and about
them hovered waiters of a color to match the room. Most of the guests
had arrived. Mr. Paddock made it a point to introduce Mr. Minot at
once to the Duchess of Lismore. This noble lady with the packing-house
past was making a commendable effort to lighten the Manhattan Club by a
wonderful display of jewels.

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies, when a new planet swims
into his ken,” whispered Minot, as the duchess moved away.

Paddock laughed.

“A dowdy little woman by day, but a pillar of fire by night,” he
agreed. “By the way, I’m foreman of her composing-room, beginning
to-morrow.”

“Be careful, Jack,” Minot warned.

“A double life from now on,” Paddock replied, “but I think I can get
away with it. Say, for ways that are dark this man Stacy seems to hold
a better hand than the heathen Chinee.”

In one corner the portly Spencer Meyrick was orating to a circle of
young people on the evils of gambling. Minot turned away, smiling
cynically. Meyrick, as everybody knew, had made a large part of his
fortune in Wall Street.

The dinner was much larger than Mrs. Bruce’s. Minot met a number of
new people–the anemic husband of the jewels, smug in his dukedom, and
several very attractive girls thrilled at being present in Mr. Stacy’s
sinful lair. He bestowed a smile upon Aunt Mary, serene among the best
people, and discussed with Mrs. Bruce–who wasted no boughten wit on
him–the Florida climate. Also, he asked the elder of the Omaha girls
if she had heard of Mr. Nat Goodwin’s latest wife.

For once the dinner itself was a minor event. It sped rapidly there in
the gloom, and few so much as listened to the flashes of Mrs. Bruce’s
wit–save perhaps the duchess, enviously. It was after the dinner,
when Harrowby led his guests to the entertainment above, that interest
grew tense.

No gloom in that bright room overhead. A cluster of electric lights
shed their brilliance on Mr. Stacy’s pet roulette tables, set amid
parlor furnishings of atrocious plush. From one corner a faro lay-out
that had once flourished on Fifty-eighth Street, New York, beckoned.
And on each side, through open doors, might be seen rooms furnished for
the game of poker.

Mr. Stacy’s assistant, a polished gentleman with a face like aged
ivory, presided over the roulette table. He swung the wheel a few
times, an inviting smile on his face. Harrowby, his eyes bright, laid
a sum of money beside a row of innocent figures. He won. He tried
again, and won. Some of the young women pushed close to the table,
visibly affected. Others pretended this sort of thing was an old story
to them.

A few of the more adventurous women borrowed coins from the men, and
joined in the play. Arguments and misunderstandings arose, which Mr.
Stacy’s assistant urbanely settled. More of the men–Paddock among
them–laid money on the table.

A buzz of excited conversation, punctuated now and then by a deathly
silence as the wheel spun and the little ball hovered heart-breakingly,
filled the room. Cheeks glowed red, eyes sparkled, the crush about the
table increased. Spencer Meyrick himself risked from his endless
store. Mr. Tom Stacy’s place was in full swing.

Dick Minot caught Cynthia Meyrick’s glance as she stood close beside
Lord Harrowby. She seemed another girl to-night, grave rather than
gay, her great brown eyes apparently looking into the future,
wondering, fearing. As for Harrowby, he was a man transformed. Not
for nothing was he the son of the sporting Earl of Raybrook–the peer
who never failed to take a risk. The excitement of the game was
reflected in his tall tense figure, his flaming cheeks. This was the
Harrowby who had made Jephson that gambling proposition on a
seventeenth floor in New York.

And Harrowby won consistently. Won, until a fatal choice of numbers
with an overwhelming stake left him poor again, and he saw all his
winnings swept to swell Tom Stacy’s store. Quickly he wormed his way
out of the crowd and sought Minot.

“May I see you a moment?” he asked. “Out here.” And he led the way to
the gloom of the balcony.

“If I only had the cash,” Harrowby whispered excitedly, “I could break
Stacy to-night. And I’m going to get it. Will you give me the
necklace, please.”

“You forget,” Minot objected, “that the necklace is supposed to have
been stolen.”

“No. No. That’s no matter. I’ll arrange that. Hurry–”

“You forget, too, that you told me this morning that should this
necklace be found now–”

“Mr. Minot–the necklace belongs to me. Will you kindly let me have
it.”

“Certainly,” said Minot coldly. And, much annoyed, he returned to the
room amid the buzz and the thrill of gambling.

Harrowby ran quickly down the stairs. In the office of the club he
found Tom Stacy in amiable converse with Martin Wall. He threw Chain
Lightning’s Collar on the manager’s desk.

“How much can you loan me on that?” he demanded.

With a grunt of surprise, Mr. Stacy took up the famous collar in his
thick fingers. He gazed at it for a moment. Then he looked up, and
caught Martin Wall’s crafty eye over Harrowby’s shoulder.

“Not a cent,” said Mr. Stacy firmly.

“What! I don’t understand.” Harrowby gazed at him blankly. “It’s
worth–”

“Not a cent,” Stacy repeated. “That’s final.”

Harrowby turned appealingly to Martin Wall.

“You–” he pleaded.

“I’m not investing,” Wall replied, with a queer smile.

Lord Harrowby restored the necklace to his pocket and, crestfallen,
gloomy, went back to the room above.

“Wouldn’t loan me anything on it,” he whispered to Minot. “I don’t
understand, really.”

Thereafter Harrowby suffered the pain of watching others play. And
while he watched, in the little office down-stairs, a scene of vital
bearing on his future was enacted.

A short stocky man with a bullet-shaped head had pushed open the door
on Messrs. Stacy and Wall. He stood, looking about him with a cynical
smile.

“Hello, Tom,” he said.

“Old Bill Huntley!” cried Stacy. “By gad, you gave me a turn. I
forgot for a minute that you can’t raid me down here.”

“Them happy days is past,” returned Mr. Huntley dryly. “I’m working
for Uncle Sam, now, Tom. Got new fish to fry. Used to have some gay
times in New York, didn’t we? Oh, hello, Craig!”

“My name is Martin Wall,” said that gentleman stiffly.

“Ain’t he got the lovely manners,” said Huntley, pretending admiration.
“Always did have, too. And the swell friends. Still going round in
the caviar crowd, I hear. What if I was to tell your friends here who
you are?”

“You won’t do that,” said Wall, outwardly unshaken, but his breath came
faster.

“Oh–you’re sure of that, are you?”

“Yes. Who I am isn’t one of your worries in your new line of business.
And you’re going to keep still because I can do you a favor–and I
will.”

“Thanks, Craig. Excuse me–Martin Wall. Sort of a strain keeping
track of your names, you know.”

“Forget that. I say I can do you a favor–if you’ll promise not to mix
in my affairs.”

“Well–what is it?”

“You’re down here looking for a diamond necklace known as Chain
Lightning’s Collar.”

“Great little guesser, you are. Well–what about it?”

“Promise?”

“You deliver the goods, and I’ll see.”

“All right. You’ll find that necklace in Lord Harrowby’s pocket right
now. And you’ll find Lord Harrowby in a room up-stairs.”

Mr. Huntley stood for a moment staring at the man he called Craig.
Then with a grunt he turned away.

Two minutes later, in the bright room above, that same rather vulgar
grunt sounded in Lord Harrowby’s patrician ear. He turned, and his
face paled. Hopelessly he looked toward Minot. Then without a word he
followed Huntley from the room.

Only two of that excited crowd about the wheel noticed. And these two
fled simultaneously to the balcony. There, half hidden behind an
ancient musty rug, Cynthia Meyrick and Minot watched together.

Harrowby and Huntley descended the soft stairs. At the bottom, Martin
Wall and Stacy were waiting. The sound of voices pitched low could be
heard on the balcony, but though they strained to hear, the pair above
could not. However, they could see the plebeian hand of Mr. Huntley
held out to Lord Harrowby. They could see Harrowby reach into his
pocket, and bring forth a white envelope. Next they beheld Chain
Lightning’s Collar gleam in the dusk as Huntley held it up. A few low
words, and Harrowby went out with the detective.

Martin Wall ascended the stair. On the dim balcony he was confronted
by a white-faced girl whose wonderful copper hair had once held Chain
Lightning’s Collar.

“What does it mean?” she asked, her voice low and tense.

“Mean?” Martin Wall laughed. “It means that Lord Harrowby must go
north and face a United States Commissioner in Jersey City. It seems
that when he brought that necklace over he quite forgot to tell the
customs officials about it.”

“Go north! When?”

“To-night. On the midnight train. North to Jersey City.”

Mr. Wall went into the bright room where the excitement buzzed on,
oblivious. Cynthia Meyrick turned to Minot.

“But he can’t possibly get back–” she cried.

“No. He can’t get back. I’m sorry.”

“And my wedding dress–came last night.”

She stood clutching a moth-eaten tapestry in her slim white hand. In
the gloom of that dull old balcony her eyes shone strangely.

“Some things aren’t to be,” she whispered. “And”–very
faintly–“others are.”

A thrill shot through Minot, sharp as a pain, but glorious. What did
she mean by that? What indeed but the one thing that must not
happen–the thing he wanted most of all things in the world to
happen–the thing he had come to San Marco to prevent. He came closer
to her–and closer–the blood was pounding in his brain. Dazed,
exulting, he held out his arms.

“Cynthia!” he cried.

And then suddenly behind her, on the stairs, he caught sight of a great
bald head ascending through the dusk. It was an ordinary bald head,
the property of Mr. Stacy in fact, but to Minot a certain Jephson
seemed to be moving beneath it He remembered. His arms fell to his
sides. He turned away.

“We must see what can be done,” he said mechanically.

“Yes,” Cynthia Meyrick agreed in an odd tone, “we must see what can be
done.”

And a tear, unnoticed, fell on Mr. Stacy’s aged oriental tapestry.

Miss Meyrick turned back toward the room of chance to find her father.
Minot, meanwhile, ran down the steps, obtained his hat and coat, and
hurried across the street to the hotel. He went at once to Harrowby’s
rooms.

There he encountered a scene of wild disorder. The round-faced valet
was packing trunks against time, and his time-keeper, Mr. Bill Huntley,
sat in a corner, grim and silent, watch in hand. Lord Harrowby paced
the floor madly. When he saw Minot he held out his long, lean,
helpless hands.

“You’ve heard, old boy?” he said.

“Yes, I’ve heard,” said Minot sharply. “A fine fix, Harrowby. Why the
deuce didn’t you pay the duty on that necklace?”

“Dear boy! Was saving every cent I had for–you know what. Besides, I
heard of such a clever scheme for slipping it in–”

“Never mind that! Mr. Huntley, this gentleman was to have been married
on Tuesday. Can’t you hold off until then?”

“Nothing doing,” said Mr. Huntley firmly. “I got to get back to New
York. He’ll have to postpone his wedding. Ought to have thought of
these things before he pulled off his little stunt.”

“It’s no use, Minot,” said Harrowby hopelessly. “I’ve gone all over it
with this chap. He won’t listen to reason. What the deuce am I to do?”

A knock sounded on the door and Spencer Meyrick, red-faced, flirting
with apoplexy, strode into the room.

“Lord Harrowby,” he announced, “I desire to see you alone.”

“Er–step into the bedroom,” Harrowby suggested.

Mr. Huntley rose promptly to his feet.

“Nix,” he said. “There’s a door out of that room leading into the
hall. If you go in there, I go, too.”

Mr. Meyrick glared. Harrowby stood embarrassed.

“Very well,” said Meyrick through his teeth. “We’ll stay here. It
doesn’t matter to me. I simply want to say, Lord Harrowby, that when
you get to Jersey City you needn’t trouble to come back, as far as my
family is concerned.”

A look of pain came into Harrowby’s thin face.

“Not come back,” he said. “My dear sir–”

“That’s what I said. I’m a plain man, Harrowby. A plain American. It
doesn’t seem to me that marrying into the British nobility is worth all
the trouble it’s costing us–”

“But really–”

“It may be, but it doesn’t look that way to me. I prefer a simple
wedding to a series of vaudeville acts. If you think I’m going to
stand for the publicity of this latest affair, you’re mistaken. I’ve
talked matters over with Cynthia–the marriage is off–for good!”

“But my dear sir, Cynthia and I are very fond of each other–”

“I don’t give a damn if you are!” Meyrick fumed. “This is the last
straw. I’m through with you. Good night, and good-by.”

He stamped out as he had come, and Lord Harrowby fell limply into a
chair.

“All over, and all done,” he moaned.

“And Jephson loses,” said Minot with mixed emotions.

“Yes–I’m sorry.” Harrowby shook his head tragically. “Sorrier than
you are, old chap. I love Cynthia Meyrick–really I do. This is a bit
of a blow.”

“Come, come!” cried Mr. Huntley. “I’m not going to miss that train
while you play-act. We’ve only got half an hour, now.”

Harrowby rose unhappily and went into the inner room, Huntley at his
heels. Minot sat, his unseeing eyes gazing down at the old copy of the
_London Times_ which Harrowby had been reading that morning at
breakfast.

Gradually, despite his preoccupation, a name in a head-line forced
itself to his attention. Courtney Giles. Where had he heard that name
before? He picked up the _Times_ from the table on which it was lying.
He read:

“_The Ardent Lover_, the new romantic comedy in which Courtney Giles
has appeared briefly at the West End Road Theater, will be removed from
the boards to-night. The public has not been appreciative. If truth
must be told–and bitter truth it is–the once beloved matinée idol has
become too fat to hold his old admirers, and they have drifted steadily
to other, slimmer gods. Mr. Giles’ early retirement from the stage is
rumored.”

Minot threw down the paper. Poor old Jephson! First the rain on the
dowager duchess, then an actor’s expanding waist–and to-morrow the
news that Harrowby’s wedding was not to be. Why, it would ruin the man!

Minot stepped to the door of the inner room.

“I’m going out to think,” he announced. “I’ll see you in the lobby
before you leave.”

Two minutes later, in the summer-house where he had bid good-by to the
sparkling Gaiety lady, he sat puffing furiously at a cigar. Back into
the past as it concerned Chain Lightning’s Collar he went. That night
when Cynthia Meyrick had worn it in her hair, and Harrowby, hearing of
the search for it–had snatched it in the dark. His own guardianship
of the valuable trinket–Martin Wall’s invasion of his rooms–the
“dropping” of the jewels on shipboard, and the return of them by Mr.
Wall next morning. And last, but not least, Mr. Stacy’s firm refusal
to loan money on the necklace that very night.

All these things Minot pondered.

Meanwhile Harrowby, having finished his packing, descended to the lobby
of the De la Pax. In a certain pink parlor he found Cynthia Meyrick,
and stood gazing helplessly into her eyes.

“Cynthia–your father said–is it true?”

“It’s true, Allan.”

“You too wish the wedding–indefinitely postponed?”

“Father thinks it best–”

“But you?” He came closer. “You, Cynthia?”

“I–I don’t know. There has been so much trouble, Allan–”

“I know. And I’m fearfully sorry about this latest. But, Cynthia–you
mustn’t send me away–I love you. Do you doubt that?”

“No, Allan.”

“You’re the most wonderful girl who has ever come into my life–I want
you in it always–beside me–”

“At any rate, Allan, a wedding next Tuesday is impossible now.”

“Yes, I’m afraid it is. And after that–”

“After that–I don’t know, Allan.”

Aunt Mary came into the room, distress written plainly in her plump
face. No misstep of the peerage was beyond Aunt Mary’s forgiveness.
She took Harrowby’s hand.

“I’m so sorry, your lordship,” she said. “Most unfortunate. But I’m
sure it will all be cleared away in time–”

Mr. Huntley made it a point to interrupt. He stood at the door, watch
in hand.

“Come on,” he said. “We’ve got to start.”

Harrowby followed the ladies from the room. In the lobby Spencer
Meyrick joined them. His lordship shook hands with Aunt Mary, with Mr.
Meyrick–then he turned to the girl.

“Good-by, Cynthia,” he said unhappily. He took her slim white hand in
his. Then he turned quickly and started with Huntley for the door.

It was at this point that Mr. Minot, his cigar and his cogitations
finished, entered upon the scene.

“Just a minute,” he said to Mr. Huntley.

“Not another minute,” remarked Huntley with decision. “Not for the
King of England himself. We got just fifteen of ’em left to catch that
train, and if I know San Marco hackmen–”

“You’ve got time to answer one or two questions.” Impressed by Minot’s
tone, the Meyrick family moved nearer. “There’s no doubt, is there,
Mr. Huntley, that the necklace you have in your pocket is the one Lord
Harrowby brought from England?”

“Of course not. Now, get out of the way–”

“Are you a good judge of jewels, Mr. Huntley?”

“Well, I’ve got a little reputation in that line. But say–”

“Then I suggest,” said Minot impressively, “that you examine Chain
Lightning’s Collar closely.”

“Thanks for the suggestion,” sneered Mr. Huntley. “I’ll follow
it–when I get time. Just now I’ve got to–”

“You’d better follow it now–before you catch a train. Otherwise you
may be so unfortunate as to make a fool of yourself.”

Mr. Huntley stood, hesitating. There was something in Minot’s tone
that rang true. The detective again looked at his watch. Then, with
one of his celebrated grunts, he pulled out the necklace, and stood
staring at it with a new expression.

He grunted again, and stepped to a near-by writing-desk, above which
hung a powerful electric light. The others followed. Mr. Huntley laid
the necklace on the desk, and took out a small microscope which was
attached to one end of his watch-chain. With rapt gaze he stared at
the largest of the diamonds. He went the length of the string,
examining each stone in turn. The expression on Mr. Huntley’s face
would have made him a star in the “movies.”

“Hell!” he cried, and threw Chain Lightning’s Collar down on the desk.

“What’s the matter?” Mr. Minot smiled.

“Glass,” snarled Huntley. “Fine old bottle glass. What do you know
about that?”

“But really–it can’t be–” put in Harrowby.

“Well it is,” Mr. Huntley glared at him. “The inspector might have
known you moth-eaten noblemen ain’t got any of the real stuff left.”

“I won’t believe it–” Harrowby began, but caught Minot’s eye.

“It’s true, just the same,” Minot said. “By the way, Mr. Huntley, how
much is that little ornament worth?”

“About nine dollars and twenty-five cents.” Mr. Huntley still glared
angrily.

“Well–you can’t take Lord Harrowby back for not declaring that, can
you?”

“No,” snorted Huntley. “But I can go back myself, and I’m going–on
that midnight train. Good-by.”

Minot followed him to the door.

“Aren’t you going to thank me?” he asked. “You know, I saved you–”

“Thank you! Hell!” said Huntley, and disappeared into the dark.

When Minot returned he found Harrowby standing facing the Meyricks, and
holding the necklace in his hand as though it were a bomb on the point
of exploding.

“I say, I feel rather low,” he was saying, “when I remember that I made
you a present of this thing, Cynthia. But on my honor, I didn’t know.
And I can scarcely believe it now. I know the governor has been
financially embarrassed–but I never suspected him of this–the
associations were so dear–really–”

“It may not have been your father who duplicated Chain Lightning’s
Collar with a fake,” Minot suggested.

“My word, old boy, who then?”

“You remember,” said Minot, addressing the Meyricks, “that the necklace
was stolen recently. Well–it was returned to Lord Harrowby under
unusual circumstances. At least, this collection of glass was
returned. My theory is that the thief had a duplicate made–an old
trick.”

“The very idea,” Harrowby cried. “I say, Minot, you are clever. I
should never have thought of that.”

“Thanks,” said Minot dryly. He sought to avoid Miss Cynthia Meyrick’s
eyes.

“Er–by the way,” said Harrowby, looking at Spencer Meyrick. “There is
nothing to prevent the wedding now.”

The old man shrugged his shoulders.

“I leave that to my daughter,” he said, and turned away.

“Cynthia?” Harrowby pleaded.

Miss Meyrick cast a strange look at Minot, standing forlorn before her.
And then she smiled–not very happily.

“There seems to be no reason for changing our plans,” she said slowly.
“It would be a great disappointment to–so many people. Good night.”

Minot followed her to the elevator.

“It’s as I told you this morning,” he said miserably. “I’m just one of
the pawns in the hands of the Master of the Show. I can’t explain–”

“What is there to explain?” the girl asked coldly. “I congratulate you
on a highly successful evening.”

The elevator door banged shut between them.

Turning, Minot encountered Aunt Mary.

“You clever boy,” she cried. “We are all so very grateful to you. You
have saved us from a very embarrassing situation.”

“Please don’t mention it,” Minot replied, and he meant it.

He sat down beside the dazed Harrowby on one of the lobby sofas.

“I’m all at sea, really, old chap,” Harrowby confessed. “But I must
say–I admire you tremendously. How the devil did you know the
necklace was a fraud?”

“I didn’t know–I guessed,” said Minot. “And the thing that led me to
make that happy guess was Tom Stacy’s refusal to loan you money on it
to-night. Mr. Stacy is no fool.”

“And you think that Martin Wall has the real Chain Lightning’s Collar?”

“It looks that way to me. There’s only one thing against my theory.
He didn’t clear out when he had the chance. But he may be staying on
to avert suspicion. We haven’t any evidence to arrest him on–and if
we did there’d be the customs people to deal with. If I were you I’d
hire a private detective to watch Wall, and try to get the real
necklace back without enlisting the arm of the law.”

“Really,” said Harrowby, “things are happening so swiftly I’m at a loss
to follow them. I am, old boy. First one obstacle and then another.
You’ve been splendid, Minot, splendid. I want to thank you for all you
have done. I thought to-night the wedding had gone glimmering. And
I’m fond of Miss Meyrick. Tremendously.”

“Don’t thank me,” Minot replied. “I’m not doing it for you–we both
know that. I’m protecting Jephson’s money. In a few days,
wedding-bells. And then me back to New York, shouting never again on
the Cupid act. If I’m ever roped into another job like this–”

“It has been a trying position for you,” Harrowby said sympathetically.
“And you’ve done nobly. I’m sure your troubles are all out of the way
now. With the necklace worry gone–”

He paused. For across the lobby toward them walked Henry Trimmer, and
his walk was that of a man who is going somewhere.

“Ah–Mister Harrowby,” he boomed, “and Mr. Minot I’ve been looking for
you both. It will interest you to know that I had a wireless message
from Lord Harrowby this noon.”

“A wireless?” cried Minot.

“Yes.” Trimmer laughed. “Not such a fool as you think him, Lord
Harrowby isn’t. Managed to send me a wireless from Tarragona despite
the attentions of your friends. So I went out there this afternoon and
brought George back with me.”

Silently Minot and Harrowby stared at each other.

“Yes,” Mr. Trimmer went on, “George is back again–back under the
direction of little me, a publicity man with no grass under the feet.
I’ve come to give you gentlemen your choice. You either see Lord
Harrowby to-morrow morning at ten o’clock and recognize his claims, or
I’ll have you both thrown into jail for kidnaping.”

“To-morrow morning at ten,” Harrowby repeated gloomily.

“That’s what I said,” replied Mr. Trimmer blithely. “How about it,
little brother?”

“Minot–what would you advise?”

“See him,” sighed Minot.

“Very well.” Harrowby’s tone was resigned. “I presume I’d better.”

“Ah–coming to your senses, aren’t you?” said Trimmer. “I hope we
aren’t spoiling the joyous wedding-day. But then, what I say is, if
the girl’s marrying you just for the title–”

Harrowby leaped to his feet

“You haven’t been asked for an opinion,” he said.

“No, of course not. Don’t get excited. I’ll see you both in the
morning at ten.” And Mr. Trimmer strolled elegantly away.

Harrowby turned hopefully Jo Minot.

“At ten in the morning,” he repeated. “Old chap, what are we going to
do at ten in the morning?”

“I don’t know,” smiled Minot. “But if past performances mean anything,
we’ll win.”

“What’s the matter with you?”

Seated in the lobby of the De la Pax on Sunday morning, Mr. Trimmer
turned a disapproving eye upon the lank Englishman at his side as he
made this query. And his question was not without good foundation.
For the aspirant to the title of Lord Harrowby was at the moment a
jelly quaking with fear.

“Fawncy meeting you after all these years,” said poor old George in an
uncertain treble.

“Come, come,” cried Mr. Trimmer, “put a little more authority into your
voice. You can’t walk up and claim your rights with your knees dancing
the tango. This is the moment we’ve been looking forward to. Act
determined. Walk into that room up-stairs as though you were walking
into Rakedale Hall to take charge of it.”

“Allan, don’t you know me–I’m your brother George,” went on the
Englishman, intent on rehearsing.

“More like it,” said Trimmer. “Put the fire into it. You’re not
expecting a thrashing, you know. You’re expecting the title and
recognition that belongs to you. I wish I was the real Lord Harrowby.
I guess I’d show ’em a thing or two.”

“I wish you was,” agreed poor old George sadly. “Somehow, I don’t seem
to have the spirit I used to have.”

“A good point,” commented Trimmer. “Years of wrong and suffering have
made you timid. I’ll call that to their attention. Five minutes of
ten, your lordship.”

His lordship groaned.

“All right, I’m ready,” he said. “What is it I say as I go in? Oh,
yes–” He stepped into the elevator–“Fawncy seeing you after all
these years.”

The negro elevator boy was somewhat startled at this greeting, but
regained his composure and started the car. Mr. Trimmer and his
“proposition” shot up toward their great opportunity.

In Lord Harrowby’s suite that gentleman sat in considerable
nervousness, awaiting the undesired encounter. With him sat Miss
Meyrick and her father, whom he had thought it necessary to invite to
witness the ordeal. Mr. Richard Minot uneasily paced the floor,
avoiding as much as possible the glances of Miss Meyrick’s brown eyes.
Ten o’clock was upon him, and Mr. Minot was no nearer a plan of action
than he had been the preceding night.

Every good press agent is not without a live theatrical sense, and Mr.
Trimmer was no exception. He left his trembling claimant in the
entrance hall and strode into the room.

“Good morning,” he said brightly. “Here we are, on time to the minute.
Ah–I beg your pardon.”

Lord Harrowby performed brief introductions, which Mr. Trimmer
effusively acknowledged. Then he turned dramatically toward his
lordship.

“Out here in the hallway stands a poor broken creature,” he began.
“Your own flesh and blood, Allan Harrowby.” Obviously Mr. Trimmer had
prepared speeches for himself as well as for poor old George. “For
twenty odd and impecunious years,” he went on, “this man has been
denied his just heritage. We are here this morning to perform a duty–”

“My dear fellow,” broke in Harrowby wearily, “why should you inflict
oratory upon us? Bring in this–er–gentleman.”

“That I will,” replied Trimmer heartily. “And when you have heard his
story, digested his evidence, I am sure–”

“Yes, yes. Bring him in.”

Mr. Trimmer stepped to the door. He beckoned. A very reluctant figure
shuffled in. George’s face was green with fright. His knees rattled
together. He made, altogether, a ludicrous picture, and Mr. Trimmer
himself noted this with sinking heart.

“Allow me,” said Trimmer theatrically. “George, Lord Harrowby.”

George cleared his throat, but did not succeed in dislodging his heart,
which was there at the moment.

“Fawncy seeing you after all these years,” he mumbled weakly, to no one
in particular.

“Speak up,” said Spencer Meyrick sharply.

“Who is it you’re talking to?”

“To him,” explained George, nodding toward Lord Harrowby. “To my
brother Allan. Don’t you know me, Allan? Don’t you know–”

He stopped. An expression of surprise and relief swept over his
worried face. He turned triumphantly to Trimmer.

“I don’t have to prove who I am to him,” he announced.

“Why don’t you?” demanded Trimmer in alarm.

“Because he can’t, I fancy,” put in Lord Harrowby.

“No,” said George slowly, “because I never saw him before in all my
life.”

“Ah–you admit it,” cried Allan Harrowby with relief.

“Of course I do,” replied George. “I never saw you before in my life.”

“And you’ve never been at Rakedale Hall, have you?” Lord Harrowby
demanded.

“Here–wait a minute–” shouted Trimmer, in a panic.

“Oh, yes–I’ve been at Rakedale Hall,” said the claimant firmly. “I
spent my boyhood there. But you’ve never been there.”

“I–what–”

“You’ve never been at Rakedale Hall. Why? Because you’re not Allan
Harrowby! That’s why.”

A deathly silence fell. Only a little traveling clock on the mantel
was articulate.

“Absurd–ridiculous–” cried Lord Harrowby.

“Talk about impostors,” cried George, his spirit and his courage
sweeping back. “You’re one yourself. I wish I’d got a good look at
you sooner, I’d have put a stop to all this. Allan Harrowby, eh? I
guess not. I guess I’d know my own brother if I saw him. I guess I
know the Harrowby features. I give you twenty-four hours to get out of
town–you blooming fraud.”

“The man’s crazy,” Allan Harrowby cried. “Raving mad. He’s an
impostor–this is a trick of his–” He looked helplessly around the
circle. In every face he saw doubt, questioning. “Good
heavens–you’re not going to listen to him? He’s come here to prove
that he’s George Harrowby. Why doesn’t he do it?”

“I’ll do it,” said George sweetly, “when I meet a real Harrowby. In
the meantime, I give you twenty-four hours to get out of town. You’d
better go.”

Victorious, George turned toward the door. Trimmer, lost between
admiration and doubt, turned also.

“Take my advice,” George proclaimed. “Make him prove who he is.
That’s the important point now. What does it matter to you who I am?
Nothing. But it matters a lot about him. Make him prove that he’s
Allan Harrowby.”

And, with the imperious manner that he should have adopted on entering
the room, George Harrowby left it. Mr. Trimmer, eclipsed for once,
trotted at his side.

“Say,” cried Trimmer in the hall, “is that on the level? Isn’t he
Allan Harrowby?”

“I should say not,” said George grandly. “Doesn’t look anything like
Allan.”

Trimmer chortled in glee.

“Great stuff,” he cried. “I guess we tossed a bomb, eh? Now, we’ll
run him out of town.”

“Oh, no,” said George. “We’ve done our work here. Let’s go over to
London now and see the pater.”

“That we will,” cried Trimmer. “That we will. By gad, I’m proud of
you to-day, Lord Harrowby.”

Inside Allan Harrowby’s suite three pairs of questioning eyes were
turned on that harassed nobleman. He fidgeted in his chair.

“I say,” he pleaded. “It’s all his bluff, you know.”

“Maybe,” said old Spencer Meyrick, rising. “But Harrowby–or whatever
your name is–there’s altogether too much three-ring circus about this
wedding to suit me. My patience is exhausted, sir–clean exhausted.
Things look queer to me–have right along. I’m more than inclined to
believe what that fellow said.”

“But my dear sir–that chap is a rank impostor. There wasn’t a word of
truth in what he said. Cynthia–you understand–”

“Why, yes–I suppose so,” the girl replied. “You are Allan Harrowby,
aren’t you?”

“My dear girl–of course I am.”

“Nevertheless,” said Spencer Meyrick with decision, “I’m going to call
the wedding off again. Some of your actions haven’t made much of a hit
with me. I’m going to call it off until you come to me and prove that
you’re Allan Harrowby–a lord in good and regular standing, with all
dues paid.”

“But–confound it, sir–a gentleman’s word–”

“Mr. Meyrick,” put in Minot, “may I be allowed to say that I consider
your action hasty–”

“And may I be allowed to ask what affair this is of yours?” demanded
Mr. Meyrick hotly.

“Father!” cried Miss Meyrick. “Please do not be harsh with Mr. Minot.
His heart is absolutely set on my marriage with Lord Harrowby.
Naturally he feels very badly over all this.”

Minot winced.

“Come, Cynthia,” said Meyrick, moving toward the door. “I’ve had
enough of this play-acting. Remember, sir–the wedding is
off–absolutely off–until you are able to establish your identity
beyond question.”

And he and his daughter went out. Minot sat for a long time staring at
Lord Harrowby. Finally he spoke.

“Say, Harrowby,” he inquired, “who the devil are you?”

His lordship sadly shook his head.

“You, too, Brutus,” he sighed. “Haven’t I one friend left? I’m Allan
Harrowby. Ask Jephson. If I weren’t, that policy that’s causing you
so much trouble wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.”

“That’s right, too. Well, admitting you’re Harrowby, how are you going
to prove it?”

“I’ve an idea,” Harrowby replied.

“Everything comes to him who waits. What is it?”

“A very good friend of mine–an old Oxford friend–is attached to our
embassy at Washington. He was planning to come down for the wedding.
I’ll telegraph him to board the next train.”

“Good boy,” said Minot. “That’s a regular idea. Better send the wire
at once.”

Harrowby promised, and they parted. In the lobby below Mr. Minot met
Jack Paddock. Paddock looked drawn and worried.

“Working up my stuff for the dinner the little Lismore lady is giving
to the bridal party to-morrow night,” he confided. “Say, it’s no cinch
to do two of them. Can’t you suggest a topic that’s liable to come up.”

“Yes,” replied Minot. “I can suggest one. Fake noblemen.” And he
related to Mr. Paddock the astounding events of the morning.

That Sunday that had begun so startlingly progressed as a Sunday
should, in peace. Early in the afternoon Harrowby hunted Minot up and
announced that his friend would arrive Monday noon, and that the
Meyricks had agreed to take no definite step pending his arrival.

Shortly after six o’clock a delayed telegram was delivered to Mr.
Minot. It was from Mr. Thacker, and it read:

“Have located the owner of the yacht _Lileth_ its real name the _Lady
Evelyn_ stolen from owner in North River he is on his way south will
look you up on arrival.”

Minot whistled. Here was a new twist for the drama to take.

At about the same time that Minot received his message, a similar slip
of yellow paper was put into the hands of Lord Harrowby. Three times
he read it, his eyes staring, his cheeks flushed.

Then he fled to his rooms. The elevator was not quick enough; he sped
up the stairs. Once in his suite he dragged out the nearest
traveling-bag and began to pack like a mad man.

Mr. Minot was finishing a leisurely and lonely dinner about an hour
later when Jack Paddock ran up to his table. Mr. Paddock’s usual calm
was sadly ruffled.

“Dick,” he cried, “here’s news for you. I met Lord Harrowby sliding
out a side door with a suit-case just now.”

Minot leaped to his feet.

“What does that mean?” he wondered aloud.

“Mean?” answered Mr. Paddock. “It means just one thing. Old George
had the right dope. Harrowby is a fake. He’s making his get-away.”

Minot threw down his napkin.

“Oh, he is, is he?” he cried. “Well, I guess not. Come on, Jack.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going down to the station and stop him. He’s caused me too much
trouble to let him slide out like this. A fake, eh? Well, I’ll have
him behind the bars to-night.”

A negro cab driver was, by superhuman efforts, roused to hasty action.
He rattled the two young men wildly down the silent street to the
railway station. They dashed into the drab little waiting room just as
a voice called:

“Train for the north! Jacksonville! Savannah! Washington! New York!”

“There he is!” Paddock cried, and pointed to the lean figure of Lord
Harrowby slipping out the door nearest the train-shed.

Paddock and Minot ran across the waiting room and out into the open.
In the distance they saw Harrowby passing through the gate and on to
the tracks. They ran up just in time to have the gate banged shut in
their faces.

“Here,” cried Minot. “I’ve got to get in there. Let me through!”

“Where’s your ticket?” demanded the great stone face on guard.

“I haven’t got one, but–”

“Too late anyhow,” said the face. “The train’s started.”

Through the wooden pickets Minot saw the long yellow string of coaches
slipping by. He turned to Paddock.

“Oh, very well,” he cried, exulting. “Let him go. Come on!”

He dashed back to the carriage that had brought them from the hotel,
the driver of which sat in a stupor trying to regain his wits and
nonchalance.

“What now?” Paddock wanted to know.

“Get in!” commanded Minot. He pushed his friend on to the musty seat,
and followed.

“To the De la Pax,” he cried, “as fast as you can go.”

“But what the devil’s the need of hurrying now?” demanded Paddock.

“All the need in the world,” replied Minot joyously. “I’m going to
have a talk with Cynthia Meyrick. A little talk–alone.”

“Ah,” said Mr. Paddock softly, “love’s young dream.”

Continue Reading

TEARS FROM THE GAIETY

Friday morning found Mr. Minot ready for whatever diplomacy the day
might demand of him. He had a feeling that the demand would be great.
The unheralded arrival of Miss Gabrielle Rose and her packet of letters
presented no slight complication. Whatever the outcome of any suit she
might start against Harrowby, Minot was sure that the mere announcement
of it would be sufficient to blast Jephson’s hopes for all time. Old
Spencer Meyrick, already inflamed by the episode of the elder brother,
was not likely to take coolly the publication of Harrowby’s
incriminating letters.

After an early breakfast, Minot sent a cable to Jephson telling of Miss
Rose’s arrival and asking for information about her. Next he sought an
interview with the Gaiety lady.

An hour later, in a pink and gold parlor of the Hotel de la Pax, he
stood gazing into the china-blue eyes of Miss Gabrielle Rose. It goes
without saying that Miss Rose was pretty; innocent she seemed, too,
with a baby stare that said as plainly as words: “Please don’t harm me,
will you?” But–ah, well, Lord Harrowby was not the first to learn
that a business woman may lurk back of a baby stare.

“You come from Lord Harrowby?” And the smile that had decorated ten
million postcards throughout the United Kingdom flashed on Mr. Minot.
“Won’t you sit down?”

“Thanks.” Minot fidgeted. He had no idea what to say. Time–it was
time he must fight for, as he was fighting with Trimmer. “Er–Miss
Rose,” he began, “when I started out on this errand I had misgivings.
But now that I have seen you, they are gone. Everything will be all
right, I know. I have come to ask that you show Lord Harrowby some
leniency.”

The china-blue eyes hardened.

“You have come on a hopeless errand, Mr–er–Minot. Why should I show
Harrowby any consideration? Did he show me any–when he broke his word
to me and made me the laughing-stock of the town?”

“But that all happened five years ago–”

“Yes, but it is as vivid as though it were yesterday. I have always
intended to demand some redress from his lordship. But my
art–Mr.–Mr. Minot–you have no idea how exacting art can be. Not
until now have I been in a position to do so.”

“And the fact that not until now has his lordship proposed to marry
some one else–that of course has nothing to do with it?”

“Mr. Minot!” A delightful pout. “If you knew me better you could not
possibly ask that.”

“Miss Rose, you’re a clever woman–”

“Oh, please don’t. I hate clever women, and I’m sure you do, too. I’m
not a bit clever, and I’m proud of it. On the contrary, I’m rather
weak–rather easily got round. But when I think of the position Allan
put me in–even a weak woman can be firm in the circumstances.”

“Have it your own way,” said Minot, bowing. “But you are at least
clever enough to understand the futility of demanding financial redress
from a man who is flat broke. I assure you Lord Harrowby hasn’t a
shilling.”

“I don’t believe it. He can get money somehow. He always could. The
courts can force him to. I shall tell my lawyer to go ahead with the
suit.”

“If you would only delay–a week–”

“Impossible.” Miss Rose spoke with haughty languor. “I begin
rehearsals in New York in a week. No, I shall start suit to-day. You
may tell Lord Harrowby so.”

Poor Jephson! Minot had a mental picture of the little bald man
writing at that very moment a terribly large check for the Dowager
Duchess of Tremayne–paying for the rain that had fallen in torrents.
He must at least hold this woman off until Jephson answered his cable.

“Miss Rose,” he pleaded, “grant us one favor. Do not make public your
suit against Harrowby until I have seen you again–say, at four o’clock
this afternoon.”

Coldly she shook her head.

“But you have already waited five years. Surely you can wait another
five hours–as a very great favor to me.”

“I should like to–since you put it that way–but it’s impossible. I’m
sorry.” The great beauty and business woman leaned closer. “Mr.
Minot, you can hardly realize what Allan’s unkindness cost me–in
bitter tears. I loved him–once. And–I believe he loved me.”

“There can not be any question about that.”

“Ah–flattery–”

“No–spoken from the heart.”

“Really!”

“My dear lady–I should like to be your press agent. I could write the
most gorgeous things about you–and no one could say I lied.”

“You men are so nice,” she gurgled, “when you want to be.” Ah, yes,
Gabrielle Rose had always found them so, and had yet to meet one not
worth her while to capture. She turned the baby stare full on Minot.
Even to a beauty of the theater he was an ingratiating picture. She
rose and strolled to a piano in one corner of the room. Minot followed.

“When Harrowby first met me,” she said, her fingers on the keys, “I was
singing _Just a Little_. My first dear song–ah, Mr. Minot, I was
happy then.”

In another minute she began to sing–softly–a plaintive little
love-song, and in spite of himself Minot felt his heart beat faster.

“How it brings back the old days,” she whispered. “The lights, and the
friendly faces–Harrowby in the stalls. And the little suppers after
the show–”

She leaned forward and sang at Minot as she had sung at Harrowby five
years before:

“You could love me just a little–if you tried–
You could feel your heart go pit-a-pat inside–”

Really, she had a way with her!

“Dear, it’s easy if you try;
Cross your heart and hope to die–
Don’t you love me just a little–now?”

That baby stare in all its pathos, all its appealing helplessness, was
focused full on Minot. He gripped the arms of his chair. Gabrielle
Rose saw. Had she made another captive? So it seemed. She felt very
kindly toward the world.

“Promise.” Minot leaned over. His voice was hoarse. “You’ll meet me
here at four. Quite aside from my errand–quite aside from
everything–I want to see you again.”

“Do you really?” She continued to hum beneath her breath. “Very
well–here at four.”

“And–” he hesitated, fearing to break the spell. “In the meantime–”

“In the meantime,” she said, “I’ll think only of–four o’clock.”

Minot left that pink and gold parlor at sea in several respects. The
theory was that he had played with this famous actress–wound her round
his finger–cajoled a delay. But somehow he didn’t feel exactly as one
who has mastered a delicate situation should. Instead he felt dazed by
the beauty of her.

Still more was he at sea as to what he was going to do at four o’clock.
Of what good was the delay if he could not make use of it? And at the
moment he hadn’t the slightest notion of what he could do to prepare
himself for the afternoon interview. He must wait for Jephson’s
cable–perhaps that would give him an idea.

Minot was walking blankly down the street in the direction of his
morning paper when a poster in a deserted store window caught his eye.
It was an atrocious poster–red letters on a yellow background. It
announced that five hundred dollars reward would be paid by Mr. Henry
Trimmer for information that would disclose the present whereabouts of
the real Lord Harrowby.

As Minot stood reading it, a heavy hand was laid upon his shoulder.
Turning, he looked into the lean and hostile face of Henry Trimmer
himself.

“Good morning,” said Mr. Trimmer.

“Good morning,” replied Minot.

“Glad to number you among my readers,” sneered Trimmer. “What do you
think–reward large enough?”

“Looks about the right size to me,” Minot answered.

“Me, too. Ought to bring results pretty quick. By the way, you were
complaining last night that you never heard of me until you came here.
I’ve been thinking that over, and I’ve decided to make up to you in the
next few days for all those lonely years–”

But the morning had been too much for Minot. Worried, distressed, he
lost for the moment his usual smiling urbanity.

“Oh, go to the devil!” he said, and walked away.

Lunch time came–two o’clock. At half past two, out of London, Jephson
spoke. Said his cable:

“Know nothing of G.R. except that she’s been married frequently. Do
best you can.”

And what help was this, pray? Disgustedly Minot read the cable again.
Four o’clock was coming on apace, and with every tick of the clock his
feeling of helplessness grew. He mentally berated Thacker and Jephson.
They left him alone to grapple with wild problems, offering no help and
asking miracles. Confound them both!

Three o’clock came. What–what was he to say? Lord Harrowby,
interrogated, was merely useless and frantic. He couldn’t raise a
shilling. He couldn’t offer a suggestion. “Dear old chap,” he moaned,
“I depend on you.”

Three-thirty! Well, Thacker and Jephson had asked the impossible, that
was all. Minot felt he had done his best. No man could do more. He
was very sorry for Jephson, but–golden before him opened the
possibility of Miss Cynthia Meyrick free to be wooed.

Yet he must be faithful to the last. At a quarter to four he read
Jephson’s cablegram again. As he read, a plan ridiculous in its
ineffectiveness occurred to him. And since no other came in the
interval before four, he walked into Miss Rose’s presence determined to
try out his weak little bluff.

The Gaiety lady was playing on the piano–a whispering, seductive
little tune. As Minot stepped to her side she glanced up at him with a
coy inviting smile. But she drew back a little at his determined glare.

“Miss Rose,” he said sharply, “I have discovered that you can not sue
Lord Harrowby for breach of contract to marry you.”

“Why–why not?” she stammered.

“Because,” said Minot, with a triumphant smile–though it was a shot in
the dark–“you already had a husband when those letters were written to
you.”

Well, he had done his best. A rather childish effort, but what else
was there to attempt? Poor old Jephson!

“Nonsense,” said the Gaiety lady, and continued to play.

“Nothing of the sort,” Minot replied. “Why, I can produce the man
himself.”

Might as well go the limit while he was about it. That should be his
consolation when Jephson lost. Might as well–but what was this?

Gabrielle Rose had turned livid with anger. Her lips twitched, her
china-blue eyes flashed fire. If only her lawyer had been by her side
then! But he wasn’t. And so she cried hotly:

“He’s told! The little brute’s told!”

Good lord! Minot felt his knees weaken. A shot in the dark–had it
hit the target after all?

“If you refer to your husband,” said Minot, “he has done just that.”

“He’s not my husband,” she snapped.

Oh, what was the use? Providence was with Jephson.

“No, of course not–not since the divorce,” Minot answered. “But he
was when those letters were written.”

The Gaiety lady’s chin began to tremble.

“And he promised me, on his word of honor, that he wouldn’t tell. But
I suppose you found him easy. What honor could one expect in a Persian
carpet dealer?”

A Persian carpet dealer? Into Minot’s mind floated a scrap of
conversation heard at Mrs. Bruce’s table.

“But you must remember,” he ventured, “that he is also a prince.”

“Yes,” said the woman, “that’s what I thought when I married him. He’s
the prince of liars–that’s as far as his royal blood goes.”

A silence, while Miss Gabrielle Rose felt in her sleeve for her
handkerchief.

“I suppose,” Minot suggested, “you will abandon the suit–”

She looked at him. Oh, the pathos of that baby stare!

“You are acting in this matter simply as Harrowby’s friend?” she asked.

“Simply as his friend.”

“And–so far–only you know of my–er–ex-husband?”

“Only I know of him,” smiled Minot. The smile died from his face. For
he saw bright tears on the long lashes of the Gaiety lady. She leaned
close.

“Mr. Minot,” she said, “it is I who need a friend. Not Harrowby. I am
here in a strange country–without funds–alone. Helpless. Mr. Minot.
You could not be so cruel.”

“I–I–I’m sorry,” said Minot uncomfortably.

The lady was an actress, and she acted now, beautifully.

“I–I feel so desolate,” she moaned, dabbing daintily at her eyes.
“You will help me. It can not be I am mistaken in you. I thought–did
I imagine it–this morning when I sang for you–you liked me–just a
little?”

Nervously Minot rose from his chair and stood looking down at her. He
tried to answer, but his voice seemed lost.

“Just a very little?” She, too, rose and placed her butterfly hands on
his shoulders. “You do like me–just a little, don’t you?”

Her pleading eyes gazed into his. It was a touching scene. To be
besought thus tenderly by a famous beauty in the secluded parlor of a
southern hotel! The touch of her hands on his shoulders thrilled him.
The odor of Jockey Club–

It was at this instant that Mr. Minot, looking past the Gaiety lady’s
beautiful golden coiffure, beheld Miss Cynthia Meyrick standing in the
doorway of that parlor, a smile on her face. She disappeared on the
instant, but Gabrielle Rose’s “big scene” was ruined beyond repair.

“My dear lady”–gently Minot slipped from beneath her lovely hands–“I
assure you I do like you–more than a little. But unfortunately my
loyalty to Harrowby–no, I won’t say that–circumstances are such that
I can not be your friend in this instance. Though, if I could serve
you in any other way–”

Gabrielle Rose snapped her fingers.

“Very well.” Her voice had a metallic ring now. “We shall see what we
shall see.”

“Undoubtedly. I bid you good day.”

As Minot, somewhat dazed, walked along the veranda of the De la Pax he
met Miss Meyrick. There was a mischievous gleam in her eye.

“Really, it was so tactless of me, Mr. Minot,” she said. “A thousand
apologies.”

He pretended not to understand.

“My untimely descent on the parlor.” She beamed on him. “I presume it
happened because romance draws me–like a magnet. Even other people’s.”

Minot smiled wanly, and for once sought to end their talk.

“Oh, do sit down just a moment,” she pleaded. “I want to thank you for
the great service you did Harrowby and me–last night.”

“Wha–what service?” asked Minot, sinking into a chair.

She leaned close, and spoke in a whisper.

“Your part in the kidnaping. Harrowby has told me. It was sweet of
you–so unselfish.”

“Damn!” thought Minot. And then he thought two more.

“To put yourself out that our wedding may be a success!” Was this
sarcasm, Minot wondered. “I’m so glad to know about it, Mr. Minot. It
shows me at last–just what you think is”–she looked away–“best for
me.”

“Best for you? What do you mean?”

“Can’t you understand? From some things you’ve said I have
thought–perhaps–you didn’t just approve of my–marriage. And now I
see I misconstrued you–utterly. You want me to marry Harrowby.
You’re working for it. I shouldn’t be surprised if you were on that
train last Monday just to make sure that–I’d–get here–safely.”

Really, it was inhuman. Did she realize how inhuman it was? One
glance at Minot might have told her. But she was still looking away.

“So I want to thank you, Mr. Minot,” she went on. “I shall always
remember your–kindness. I couldn’t understand at first, but now–I
wonder? You know, it’s an old theory that as soon as one has one’s own
affair of the heart arranged, one begins to plan for others?”

Minot made a little whistling sound through his clenched teeth. The
girl stood up.

“Your thoughtfulness has made me very happy,” she laughed. “It shows
that perhaps you care for me–just a little–too.”

She was gone! Minot sat swearing softly to himself, banging the arm of
his chair with his fist. He raged at Thacker, Jephson, the solar
system. Gradually his anger cooled. Underneath the raillery in
Cynthia Meyrick’s tone he had thought he detected something of a
serious note–as though she were a little wistful–a little hurt.

Did she care? Bitter-sweet thought! In the midst of all this farce
and melodrama, had she come to care?–just a little?–

Just a little! Bah!

Minot rose and went out on the avenue.

Prince Navin Bey Imno was accustomed to give lectures twice daily on
the textures of his precious rugs, at his shop in the Alameda
courtyard. His afternoon lecture was just finished as Mr. Minot
stepped into the shop. A dozen awed housewives from the Middle West
were hurrying away to write home on the hotel stationery that they had
met a prince. When the last one had gone out Minot stepped forward.

“Prince–I’ve dropped in to warn you. A very angry woman will be here
shortly to see you.”

The handsome young Persian shrugged his shoulders, and took off the
jacket of the native uniform with which he embellished his talks.

“Why is she angry? All my rugs–they are what I say they are. In this
town are many liars selling oriental rugs. Oriental! Ugh! In New
Jersey they were made. But not my rugs. See! Only in my native
country, where I was a prince of the–”

“Yes, yes. But this lady is not coming about rugs. I refer to your
ex-wife.”

“Ah. You are mistaken. I have never married.”

“Oh, yes, you have. I know all about it. There’s no need to lie. The
whole story is out, and the lady’s game in San Marco is queered. She
thinks you told. That’s why she’ll be here for a chat.”

“But I did not tell. Only this morning did I see her first. I could
not tell–so soon. Who could I tell–so soon?”

“I know you didn’t tell. But can you prove it to an agitated lady?
No. You’d better close up for the evening.”

“Ah, yes–you are right. I am innocent–but what does Gabrielle care
for innocence? We are no longer married–still I should not want to
meet her now. I will close. But first–my friend–my
benefactor–could I interest you in this rug? See! Only in my native
country, where–”

“Prince,” said Minot, “I couldn’t use a rug if you gave me one.”

“That is exactly what I would do. You are my friend. You serve me. I
give you this. Fifty dollars. That is giving it to you. Note the
weave. Only in my–”

“Good night,” interrupted Minot. “And take my advice. Hurry!”

Gloomy, discouraged, he turned back toward his own hotel. It was true,
Gabrielle Rose’s husband at the time of the letters was in San Marco.
The emissary of Jephson was serving a cause that could not lose. That
afternoon he had hoped. Was there anything dishonorable in that?
Jephson and Thacker could command his service, they could not command
his heart. He had hoped–and now–

At a corner a negro gave him a handbill. He read:

WHO HAS KIDNAPED
THE REAL
LORD HARROWBY?
AT THE OPERA-HOUSE TO-NIGHT!!
Mr. Henry Trimmer Will Appear in
Place of His Unfortunate Friend, Lord
Harrowby, and Will Make a Few
WARM AND SIZZLING
REMARKS.
NO ADVANCE IN PRICES.

Mr. Minot tossed the bill into the street. Into his eyes came the
ghostlike semblance of a smile. After all, the famous Harrowby wedding
had not yet taken place.

After dinner Minot lighted a cigar and descended into the hotel gardens
for a stroll. Farther and farther he strayed down the shadowy gravel
paths, until only the faint far suggestion of music at his back
recalled the hotel’s lights and gaiety. It was a deserted land he
penetrated; just one figure did he encounter in a fifteen minutes’
walk–a little man clad all in white scurrying like a wraith in the
black shade of the royal palms.

At a distant corner of the grounds near the tennis-courts was a
summer-house in which tea was served of an afternoon. Into this Minot
strolled, to finish his cigar and ponder the day’s developments in the
drama he was playing. As he drew a comfortable chair from moonlight
into shadow he heard a little gasp at his elbow, and turning, beheld a
beautiful vision.

Gabrielle Rose was made for the spotlight, and that being absent,
moonlight served as well. Under its soft merciful rays she stood
revealed–the beauty thousands of playgoers knew and worshiped. Dick
Minot gazed at her in awe. He was surprised that she held out her hand
to him, a smile of the utmost friendliness on her face.

“How fortunate,” she said, as though speaking the cue for a lovely
song. “I stand here, the wonder of this old Spanish night getting into
my very blood–and the only thing lacking in the picture is–a man.
And then, you come.”

“I’m glad to be of service,” said Minot, tossing away his cigar.

“What an unromantic way to put it! Really, this chance meeting–it was
a chance meeting, I suppose?–”

“A lucky chance,” he agreed.

She pouted.

“Then you did not follow? Unromantic to the last! But as I was
saying, this chance meeting is splendid. My train goes in an hour–and
I wanted so very much to see you–once again.”

“You flatter me.”

“Ah–you don’t understand.” She dropped into a chair. “I wanted to
see you–to put your conscience at rest. You were so sorry when you
had to be–cruel–to me to-day. You will be so glad to know that it
has all turned out happily, after all.”

“What do you mean?” asked Minot, new apprehensions rising in his mind.

“Alas, if I could only tell you.” She was laughing at him now–an
experience he did not relish. “But–my lips are sealed, as we say on
the stage. I can only give you the hint. You thought you left me a
broken vanquished woman. How the thought did pain you! Well, your
victory was not absolute. Let that thought console you.”

“You are too kind,” Minot answered.

“And–you are glad I am not leaving San Marco quite beaten?”

“Oh, yes–I’m wild with pleasure.”

“Really–that is sweet of you. I am so sorry we must part. The
moonlight, the palms, the distant music–all so romantic. But–we
shall meet again?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t know? How unkind–when it all depends on you. You will look me
up in New York, won’t you? New York is not so romantic–but I shall
try to make it up to you. I shall sing for you. _Just a Little_.”

She stood up, and held out a slim white hand.

“Good-by, Mr. Minot.” Still she laughed. “It has been so good to know
you.”

“Er–good-by,” said Minot. He took the hand. He heard her humming
beneath her breath–humming _Just a Little_. “I’ve enjoyed your
singing immensely.”

She laughed outright now–a silvery joyous laugh. And, refusing the
baffled Minot’s offer to take her back to the hotel, she fled away from
him down the dark path.

He fell back into his chair, and lighted another cigar. Exit the
Gaiety lady, laughing merrily. What was the meaning of that? What new
complication must he meet and solve?

For his answer, he had only to return to the hotel. On the steps he
was met by Lord Harrowby’s man, agitated, puffing.

“Been looking all about for you, sir,” he announced. “‘Is lordship
wishes to see you at once–most h’important.”

“More trouble, Minot,” was Lord Harrowby’s gloomy greeting. “Sit down,
old chap. Just had a very nasty visitor.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

“Little brown monkey of a man–Manuel Gonzale, proprietor of the _San
Marco Mail_. I say, old boy, there’s a syllable missing in the name of
that paper. Do you get me?”

“You mean it should be the _San Marco Blackmail_? Pretty good,
Harrowby, pretty good.” And Minot added to himself “for you.”

“That’s exactly what I do mean. Gabrielle has sold out her bunch of
letters to Mr. Gonzale. And it appears from the chap’s sly hints that
unless I pay him ten thousand dollars before midnight, the best of
those letters will be in to-morrow’s _Mail_.”

“He’s got his nerve–working a game like that,” said Minot.

“Nerve–not at all,” replied Harrowby. “He’s as safe as a child in its
own nursery. He knows as well as anybody that the last thing I’d do
would be to appeal to the police. Too much publicity down that road.
Well?”

“His price is a bit cheaper than Gabrielle’s.”

“Yes, but not cheap enough. I’m broke, old boy. The governor and I
are on very poor terms. Shouldn’t think of appealing to him.”

“We might pawn Chain Lightning’s Collar,” Minot suggested.

“Never! There must be some way–only three days before the wedding.
We mustn’t lose on the stretch, old boy.”

A pause. Minot sat glumly.

“Have you no suggestion?” Harrowby asked anxiously.

“I have not,” said Minot, rising. “But I perceive clearly that it now
devolves on little Dicky Minot to up and don his fighting armor once
more.”

“Really, old boy, I’m sorry,” said Harrowby. “I’m hoping things may
quiet down a bit after a time.”

“So am I,” replied Minot with feeling. “If they don’t I can see
nervous prostration and a hospital cot ahead for me. You stay here and
study the marriage service–I’m going out on the broad highway again.”

He went down into the lobby and tore Jack Paddock away from the side of
one of the Omaha beauties. Mr. Paddock was resplendent in evening
clothes, and thoughtful, for on the morrow Mrs. Bruce was to give an
important luncheon.

“Jack,” Minot said, “I’m going to confide in you. I’m going to tell
you why I am in San Marco.”

“Unbare your secrets,” Paddock answered.

Crossing the quiet plaza Minot explained to his friend the matter of
the insurance policy written by the romantic Jephson in New York. He
told of how he had come south with the promise to his employer that
Miss Cynthia Meyrick would change her mind only over his dead body.
Incredulous exclamations broke from the flippant Paddock as he listened.

“Knowing your love of humor,” Minot said, “I hasten to add the crowning
touch. The moment I saw Cynthia Meyrick I realized that if I couldn’t
marry her myself life would be an uninteresting blank forever after.
Every time I’ve seen her since I’ve been surer of it. What’s the
answer, Jack?”

Paddock whistled.

“Delicious,” he cried. “Pardon me–I’m speaking as a rank outsider.
She is a charming girl. And you adore her! Bless my soul, how the
plot does thicken! Why don’t you resign, you idiot?”

“My first idea. Tried it, and it wouldn’t work. Besides, if I did
resign, I couldn’t stick around and queer Jephson’s chances–even
supposing she’d listen to my pleading, which she wouldn’t.”

“Children, see the very Christian martyr! If it was me I’d chuck the
job and elope with–oh, no, you couldn’t do that, of course. It would
be a low trick. You are in a hole, aren’t you?”

“Five million fathoms deep. There’s nothing to do but see the wedding
through. And you’re going to help me. Just now, Mr. Manuel Gonzale
has a packet of love-letters written by Harrowby in his salad days,
which he proposes to print on the morrow unless he is paid not to
to-night. You and I are on our way to take ’em away from him.”

“Um–but if I help you in this I’ll be doing you a mean trick. Can’t
quite make out, old boy, whether to stand by you in a business or a
personal way.”

“You’re going to stand by me in a business way. I want you along
to-night to lend your moral support while I throttle that little
blackmailer.”.

“Ay, ay, sir. I’ve been hearing some things about Gonzale myself. Go
to it!”

They groped about in a dark hallway hunting the _Mail_ office.

“Shady are the ways of journalism,” commented Paddock. “By the way,
I’ve just thought of one for Mrs. Bruce to spring to-morrow. In case
we fail and the affinity letters are published, she might say that
Harrowby’s epistles got into the _Mail_ once too often. It’s only a
rough idea–ah–I see you don’t like it. Well, here’s success to our
expedition.”

They opened the door of the _Mail_ office. Mr. O’Neill sat behind a
desk, the encyclopedia before him, seeking lively material for the
morrow’s issue. Mr. Howe hammered at a typewriter. Both of the
newspaper men looked up at the intrusion.

“Ah, gentlemen,” said O’Neill, coming forward. “What can I do for you?”

“Who are you?” Minot asked.

“What? Can it be? Is my name not a household word in San Marco? I am
managing editor of the _Mail_.” His eyes lighted on Mr. Paddock’s
giddy attire. “We can’t possibly let you give a ball here to-night, if
that’s what you want.”

“Very humorous,” said Minot. “But our wants are far different. I
won’t beat around the bush. You have some letters here written by a
friend of mine to a lady he adored–at the moment. You are going to
print them in to-morrow’s _Mail_ unless my friend is easy enough to pay
you ten thousand dollars. He isn’t going to pay you anything. We’ve
come for those letters–and we’ll get them or run you and your boss out
of town in twenty-four hours–you raw little blackmailers!”

“Blackmailers!” Mr. O’Neill’s eyes seemed to catch fire from his hair.
His face paled. “I’ve been in the newspaper business seventeen years,
and nobody ever called me a blackmailer and got away with it. I’m in a
generous mood. I’ll give you one chance to take that back–”

“Nonsense. It happens to be true–” put in Paddock.

“I’m talking to your friend here.” O’Neill’s breath came fast. “I’ll
attend to you, you lily of the field, in a minute. You–you liar–are
you going to take that back?”

“No,” cried Minot.

He saw a wild Irishman coming for him, breathing fire. He squared
himself to meet the attack! But the man at the typewriter leaped up
and seized O’Neill from behind.

“Steady, Bob,” he shouted. “How do you know this fellow isn’t right?”

Unaccountably the warlike one collapsed into a chair.

“Damn it, I know he’s right,” he groaned. “That’s what makes me rave.
Why didn’t you let me punch him? It would have been some satisfaction.
Of course he’s right. I had a hunch this was a blackmailing sheet from
the moment my hot fingers closed on Gonzale’s money. But so long as
nobody told us, we were all right.”

He glared angrily at Minot.

“You–you killjoy,” he cried. “You skeleton at the feast. You’ve put
us in a lovely fix.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” said Minot, “but I don’t understand these heroics.”

“It’s all up now, Harry,” moaned O’Neill. “The free trial is over and
we’ve got to send the mattress back to the factory. Here in this
hollow lotus land, ever to live and lie reclined–I was putting welcome
on the mat for a fate like that. Back to the road for us. That human
fish over in the _Chronicle_ office was a prophet–‘You look
unlucky–maybe they’ll give you jobs on the _Mail_.’ Remember.”

“Cool off, Bob,” Howe said. He turned to Minot and Paddock. “Of
course you don’t understand. You see, we’re strangers here. Drifted
in last night broke and hungry, looking for jobs. We got them–under
rather unusual circumstances. Things looked suspicious–the proprietor
parted with money without screaming for help, and no regular newspaper
is run like that. But–when you’re down and out, you know–”

“I understand,” said Minot, smiling. “And I’m sorry I called you what
I did. I apologize. And I hate to be a–er–a killjoy. But as a
matter of fact, your employer is a blackmailer, and it’s best you
should know it.”

“Yes,” put in Paddock. “Do you gentlemen happen to have heard where
the editor of Mr. Gonzale’s late newspaper, published in Havana, is
now?”

“We do not,” said O’Neill, “but maybe you’ll tell us.”

“I will. He’s in prison, doing ten years for blackmail. I understand
that Mr. Gonzale prefers to involve his editors, rather than himself.”

O’Neill came over and held out his hand to Minot.

“Shake, son,” he said. “Thank God I didn’t waste my strength on you.
Gonzale will be in here in a minute–”

“About those letters?” Howe inquired.

“Yes,” said Minot. “They were written to a Gaiety actress by a man who
is in San Marco for his wedding next Tuesday–Lord Harrowby.”

“His ludship again,” O’Neill remarked. “Say, I always thought the
South was democratic.”

“Well,” said Howe, “we owe you fellows something for putting us wise.
We’ve stood for a good deal, but never for blackmailing. As a matter
of fact, Gonzale hasn’t brought the letters in yet, but he’s due at any
minute. When he comes–take the letters away from him. I shan’t
interfere. How about you, Bob?”

“I’ll interfere,” said O’Neill, “and I’ll interfere strong–if I think
you fellows ain’t leaving enough of little Manuel for me to caress–”

The door opened, and the immaculate proprietor of the _Mail_ came
noiselessly into the room. His eyes narrowed when they fell on the
strangers there.

“Are you Manuel Gonzale?” Minot demanded.

“I–I am.” The sly little eyes darted everywhere.

“Proprietor of the _Mail_?”

“Yes.”

“The gentleman who visited Lord Harrowby an hour back?”

“Man! Man! You’re wasting time,” O’Neill cried.

“Excuse me,” smiled Minot. “Unintentional, I assure you.” He seized
the little Spaniard suddenly by the collar. “We’re here for Lord
Harrowby’s letters,” he said. His other hand began a rapid search of
Manuel Gonzale’s pockets.

“Let me go, you thief,” screamed the proprietor of the _Mail_. He
squirmed and fought. “Let me go!” He writhed about to face his
editors. “You fools! What are you doing, standing there? Help
me–help–”

“We’re waiting,” said O’Neill. “Waiting for our turn. Remember your
promise, son. Enough of him left for me.”

Minot and his captive slid back and forth across the floor. The three
others watched, O’Neill in high glee.

“Go to it!” he cried. “That’s Madame On Dit you’re waltzing with. I
speak for the next dance, Madame.”

Mr. Minot’s eager hand came away from the Spaniard’s inner waistcoat
pocket, and in it was a packet of perfumed letters, tied with a cute
blue ribbon. He released his victim.

“Sorry to be so impolite,” he said. “But I had to have these to-night.”

Gonzale turned on him with an evil glare.

“Thief!” he cried. “I’ll have the law on you for this.”

“I doubt that,” smiled Minot. “Jack, I guess that about concludes our
business with the _Mail_.” He turned to Howe and O’Neill. “You boys
look me up at the De la Pax. I want to wish you bon voyage when you
start north. For the present–good-by.”

And he and Paddock departed.

“You’re a fine pair,” snarled Gonzale, when the door had closed. “A
fine pair to take my salary money, and then stand by and see me
strangled.”

“You’re not strangled yet,” said O’Neill. He came slowly toward his
employer, like a cat stalking a bird. “Did you get my emphasis on the
word yet?”

Gonzale paled beneath his lemon skin, and got behind a desk.

“Now, boys,” he pleaded, “I didn’t mean anything. I’ll be frank with
you–I have been a little indiscreet here. But that’s all over now.
It would be dangerous to try any more–er–deals at present. And I
want you to stay on here until I can get new men in your places.”

“Save your breath,” said O’Neill through his teeth.

“Your work has been excellent–excellent,” went on Gonzale hastily. “I
feel I am not paying you enough. Stay on with me until your week is
up. I will give you a hundred each when you go–and I give you my word
I’ll attempt nothing dangerous while you are here.”

He retreated farther from O’Neill.

“Wait a minute, Bob,” said Howe. “No blackmailing stunts while we
stay?”

“Well–I shouldn’t call them that–”

“No blackmailing stunts?”

“No–I promise.”

“Harry,” wailed the militant O’Neill. “What’s the matter with you? We
ought to thrash him–now–and–”

“Go back on the road?” Howe inquired. “A hundred dollars each, Bob.
It means New York in a parlor car.”

“Then you will stay?” cried Gonzale.

“Yes,–we’ll stay,” said Howe firmly.

“See here–” pleaded O’Neill. “Oh, what’s the use? This dolce far
niente has got us.”

“We stay only on the terms you name,” stipulated Howe.

“It is agreed,” said Gonzale, smiling wanly. “The loss of those
letters cost me a thousand dollars–and you stood by. However, let us
forgive and forget. Here–Madame On Dit’s copy for to-morrow.”
Timidly he held out a roll of paper toward O’Neill.

“All right.” O’Neill snatched it. “But I’m going to edit it from now
on. For instance, there’s a comma I don’t like. And I’m going to keep
an eye on you, my hearty.”

“As you wish,” said Gonzale humbly. “I–I am going out for a moment.”
The door closed noiselessly behind him.

Howe and O’Neill stood looking at each other.

“Well–you had your way,” said O’Neill, shamefacedly. “I don’t seem to
be the man I was. It must be the sunshine and the posies. And the
thought of the road again.”

“A hundred each,” said Howe grimly. “We had to have it, Bob. It means
New York.”

“Yes.” O’Neill pondered. “But–that good-looking young fellow,
Harry–the one who apologized to us for calling us blackmailers–”

“Yes?”

“I’d hate to meet him on the street to-morrow. Five days. A lot could
happen in five days–”

“What are your orders, Chief?” asked Howe.

At that moment Minot, followed by Paddock was rushing triumphantly into
the Harrowby suite. He threw down on the table a package of letters.

“There they are!” he cried. “I–”

He stopped.

“Thanks,” said Lord Harrowby wildly. “Thanks a thousand times. My
dear Minot–we need you. My man has been to the theater–Trimmer is
organizing a mob to board the _Lileth_!”

“Board the _Lileth_?”

“Yes–to search for that creature who calls himself Lord Harrowby.”

“Come on, Jack,” Minot said to Paddock. They ran down several flights
of stairs, through the lobby, and out into the street.

“Where to?” panted Paddock.

“The harbor!” Minot cried.

As they passed the opera-house they saw a crowd forming and heard the
buzz of many voices.

Mr. Paddock knew of a man on the water-front who had a gasoline launch
to rent, and fortunately it happened to be in commission. The two
young men leaped into it, Paddock started the engine, and they zipped
with reassuring speed over the dark waters toward the lights of the
_Lileth_.

The accommodation ladder of the yacht was down, and leaving a member of
the crew to make fast the launch, Minot and Paddock climbed hurriedly
to the deck. Mr. Martin Wall was at the moment in the main cabin
engaged in a game of German whist, and his opponent was no less a
person than George Harrowby of the peerage. Upon this quiet game the
two young men rushed in.

“Unexpected visitors,” said Wall. “Why–what’s the matter, boys?”

“Come out on deck a minute,” said Minot rapidly. Wall threw down his
cards and followed. Once outside, Minot went on: “No time to waste
words. Trimmer is collecting a mob in front of the opera-house, and
they are coming out here to search this boat. You know who they’re
looking for.”

With exaggerated calmness Wall took out a cigar and lighted it.

“Indeed?” he remarked. “I told you it might be advisable to look up
the penalty for kidnaping. But you knew best. Ah, the impetuosity of
youth!”

“Well–this is no time to discuss that,” replied Minot. “We’ve got to
act, and act quickly!”

“Yes?” Mr. Wall drawled. “What would you suggest? Shall we drown him?
I’ve come to like George mighty well, but if you say the word–”

“My plan is this,” said Minot, annoyed by Wall’s pleasantries. “Turn
George over to us. We’ll bundle him into our launch and run off out of
sight behind Tarragona Island. Then, let Trimmer search to his heart’s
content. When he gets tired and quits, signal us by hanging a red
lantern in the bow.”

Martin Wall smiled broadly.

“Not bad for an amateur kidnaper,” he said. “Will I turn George over
to you? Will a duck swim? A good idea.”

“For God’s sake, hurry!” cried Minot. “Look!”

He pointed to the largest of San Marco’s piers. The moon was lost
under clouds now, but the electric lights on the water-front revealed a
swarming shouting crowd of people. Martin Wall stepped to the door of
the main cabin.

“Lord Harrowby!” he cried. He turned to Minot and Paddock. “I call
him that to cheer him in captivity,” he explained. The tall weary
Englishman strode out upon the deck.

“Lord Harrowby,” said Wall, “these two gentlemen have come to take you
for a boat ride. Will you be kind enough to step into that launch?”

Poor old George pulled himself together.

“If you’ll pardon my language, I’ll be damned if I do,” he said. “I
take it Mr. Trimmer is on his way here. Well, gentlemen, the first to
grasp his hand when he boards the boat will be the chap who now
addresses you.”

They stood gazing doubtfully at George in revolt. Then Minot turned,
and saw a rowboat putting off from the pier.

“Come on,” he cried, and leaped on the shoulders of the aspirant to the
title. Paddock and Wall followed. Despite his discouraged appearance,
George put up a lively fight. For a time the four men struggled back
and forth across the deck, now in moonlight, now in shadow. Once
George slipped and fell, his three captors on top of him, and at that
moment Mr. Minot felt a terrific tugging at his coat. But the odds
were three to one against George Harrowby, and finally he was dragged
and pushed into the launch. Again Paddock started the engine, and that
odd boat load drew away from the _Lileth_.

They had gone about ten feet when poor old George slipped out from
under Minot and leaped to his feet.

“Hi–Trimmer–it’s me–it’s George–” he thundered in a startlingly
loud tone. Minot put his hand over George’s lips, and they locked in
conflict. The small launch danced wildly on the waters. And
fortunately for Minot’s plans the moon still hid behind the clouds.

With a stretch of Tarragona’s rank vegetation between them and the
_Lileth_, Mr. Paddock stopped the engine and they stood still on the
dark waters. Paddock lighted a cigarette, utilizing the same match to
consult his watch.

“Ten o’clock,” he said. “Can’t say this is the jolliest little party I
was ever on.”

“Never mind,” replied Minot cheerfully. “It won’t take Trimmer fifteen
minutes to find that his proposition isn’t on board. In twenty minutes
we’ll slip back and look for the signal.”

The “proposition” in question sat up and straightened his collar.

“The pater and I split,” he said, “over the matter of my going to
Oxford. The old boy knew best. I wish now I’d gone. Then I might
have words to tell you chaps what I think of this damnable outrage.”

Minot and Paddock sat in silence.

“I’ve been in America twenty odd years,” the proposition went on.
“Seen all sorts of injustice and wrong–but I’ve lived to experience
the climax myself.”

Still silence from his captors, while the black waters swished about
the launch.

“I take it you chaps believe me to be an impostor, just as Allan does.
Well, I’m not. And I’m going to give you my little talk on the old
days at Rakedale Hall. When I’ve finished–”

“No, you’re not,” said Minot. “I’ve heard all that once.”

“And you weren’t convinced? Why, everybody in San Marco is convinced.
The mayor, the chief of police, the–”

“My dear George,” said Minot with feeling. “It doesn’t make the
slightest difference who you are. You and Trimmer stay separated until
after next Tuesday.”

“Yes. And rank injustice it is, too. We’ll have the law on you for
this. We’ll send you all to prison.”

“Pleasant thought,” commented Paddock. “Mrs. Bruce would have to
develop lockjaw at the height of the social season. Oh, the devil–I’d
better be thinking about that luncheon.”

All thought. All sat there silent. The black waters became a little
rougher. On their surface small flecks of white began to appear.
Minot looked up at the dark sky.

“Twenty-two after,” said Paddock finally, and turned toward the engine.
“Heaven grant that red light is on view. This is getting on my nerves.”

Slyly the little launch poked its nose around the corner of the island
and peeped at the majestic _Lileth_. Paddock snorted.

“Not a trace of it.”

“I must have underestimated the time,” said Minot. “Wha–what’s that?”

“That? That’s only thunder. Oh, this is going to be a pretty party!”

Suddenly the heavens blazed with lightning. The swell of the waters
increased. Hastily Paddock backed the boat from the range of the
_Lileth’s_ vision.

“Trimmer must go soon,” cried Minot.

Fifteen minutes passed in eloquent silence. The lightning and the
thunder continued.

“Try it again,” Minot suggested. Again they peeped. And still no red
light on the _Lileth_.

And even as they looked, out of the black heavens swept a sheet of
stinging rain. It lashed down on that frail tossing boat with cruel
force; it obscured the _Lileth_, the island, everything but the fact of
its own damp existence. In two seconds the men unprotected in that
tiny launch were pitiful dripping figures, and the glory of Mr.
Paddock’s evening clothes departed never to return.

“A fortune-teller in Albuquerque,” said poor old George, “told me I was
to die of pneumonia. It’ll be murder, gentlemen–plain murder.”

“It’s suicide, too, isn’t it?” snarled Paddock. “That ought to satisfy
you.”

“I’m sorry,” said Minot through chattering teeth.

No answer. The downfall continued.

“The rain is raining everywhere,” quoted Paddock gloomily. “It falls
on the umbrellas here, and on the ships at sea. Damn the ships at sea.”

“Here, here,” said poor old George.

A damp doleful pause.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a
friend,” continued Paddock presently.

“A thousand apologies,” Minot said. “But I’m running the same chances,
Jack.”

“Yes–but it’s your party–your happy little party,” replied Paddock.
“Not mine.”

Minot did not answer. He was as miserable as the others, and he could
scarcely blame his friend for losing temporarily his good nature.

“It’s after eleven,” said Paddock, after another long pause.

“Put in closer to the _Lileth_,” suggested Minot.

Mr. Paddock fumbled about beneath the canvas cover of the engine, and
they put in. But still no red light aboard the yacht.

“I’d give a thousand dollars,” said Paddock, “to know what’s going on
aboard that boat.”

The knowledge would hardly have been worth the price he offered.
Aboard the _Lileth_, on the forward deck under a protecting awning, Mr.
Trimmer sat firmly planted in a chair. Beside him, in other chairs,
sat three prominent citizens of San Marco–one of them the chief of
police. Mr. Martin Wall was madly walking the deck near by.

“Going to stay here all night?” he demanded at last.

“All night, and all day to-morrow,” replied Mr. Trimmer, “if necessary.
We’re going to stay here until that boat that’s carrying Lord Harrowby
comes back. You can’t fool Henry Trimmer.”

“There isn’t any such boat!” flared Martin Wall.

“Tell it to the marines,” remarked Trimmer, lighting a fresh cigar.

Just as well that the three shivering figures huddled in the launch on
the heaving bosom of the waters could not see this picture. Mr. Wall
looked out at the rain, and shivered himself.

Eleven-thirty came. And twelve. Two matches from Mr. Paddock’s store
went to the discovery of these sad facts. Soaked to the skin, glum,
silent, the three on the waters sat staring at the unresponsive
_Lileth_. The rain was falling now in a fine drizzle.

“I suppose,” Paddock remarked, “we stay here until morning?”

“We might try landing on Tarragona,” said Minot.

“We might try jumping into the ocean, too,” responded Paddock, through
chattering teeth.

“Murder,” droned poor old George. “That’s what it’ll be.”

At one o’clock the three wet watchers beheld unusual things. Smoke
began to belch from the _Lileth’s_ funnels. Her siren sounded.

“She’s steaming out!” cried Minot. “She’s steaming out to sea!”

And sure enough, the graceful yacht began to move–out past Tarragona
Island–out toward the open sea.

Once more Paddock started his faithful engine, and, hallooing madly,
the three set out in pursuit. Not yet had the _Lileth_ struck its
gait, and in fifteen minutes they were alongside. Martin Wall,
beholding them from the deck, had a rather unexpected attack of pity,
and stopped his engines. The three limp watchers were taken aboard.

“Wha–what does this mean?” chattered Minot.

“You poor devils,” said Martin Wall. “Come and have a drink. Mean?”
He poured. “It means that the only way I could get rid of our friend
Trimmer was to set out for New York.”

“For New York?” cried Minot, standing glass in hand.

“Yes. Came on board, Trimmer did, searched the boat, and then declared
I’d shipped George away until his visit should be over. So he and his
friends–one of them the chief of police, by the way–sat down to wait
for your return. Gad–I thought of you out in that rain. Sat and sat
and sat. What could I do?”

“To Trimmer, the brute,” said Paddock, raising his glass.

“Finally I had an idea. I had the boys pull up anchor and start the
engines. Trimmer wanted to know the answer. ‘Leaving for New York
to-night,’ I said. ‘Want to come along?’ He wasn’t sure whether he
would go or not, but his friends were sure they wouldn’t. Put up an
awful howl, and just before we got under way Mr. Trimmer and party
crawled into their rowboat and splashed back to San Marco.”

“Well–what now?” asked Minot.

“I’ve made up my mind,” said Wall. “Been intending to go back north
for some time, and now that I’ve started, I guess I’ll keep on going.”

“Splendid,” cried Minot. “And you’ll take Mr. George Harrowby with
you?”

Mr. Wall seemed in excellent spirits. He slapped Minot on the back.

“If you say so, of course. Don’t know exactly what they can do to
us–but I think George needs the sea air. How about it, your lordship?”

Poor old George, drooping as he had never drooped before, looked
wearily into Wall’s eyes.

“What’s the use?” he said. “Fight’s all gone out of me. Losing
interest in what’s next. Three hours on that blooming ocean with the
rain soaking in–I’m going to bed. I don’t care what becomes of me.”

And he sloshed away to his cabin.

“Well, boys, I’m afraid we’ll have to put you off,” said Martin Wall.
“Glad to have met both of you. Sometime in New York we may run into
each other again.”

He shook hands genially, and the two young men dropped once more into
that unhappy launch. As they sped toward the shore the _Lileth_,
behind them, was heading for the open sea.

“Sorry if I’ve seemed to have a grouch to-night,” said Paddock, as they
walked up the deserted avenue toward the hotel. “But these Florida
rain-storms aren’t the pleasantest things to wear next to one’s skin.
I apologize, Dick.”

“Nonsense,” Minot answered. “Old Job himself would have frowned a bit
if he’d been through what you have to-night. It was my fault for
getting you into it–”

“Forget it,” Paddock said. “Well, it looks like a wedding, old man.
The letters home again, and George Harrowby headed for New York–a
three days’ trip. Nothing to hinder now. Have you thought of that?”

“I don’t want to think,” said Minot gloomily. “Good night, old man.”

Paddock sped up the stairs to his room, which was on the second floor,
and Minot turned toward the elevator. At that moment he saw
approaching him through the deserted lobby Mr. Jim O’Malley, the house
detective of the De la Pax.

“Can we see you a minute in the office, Mr. Minot?” he asked.

“Certainly,” Minot answered. “But–I’m soaked through–was out in all
that rain–”

“Too bad,” said O’Malley, with a sympathetic glance. “We won’t keep
you but a minute–”

He led the way, and wondering, Minot followed. In the tiny office of
the hotel manager a bullet-headed man stood waiting.

“My friend, Mr. Huntley, of the Secret Service,” O’Malley explained.
“Awful sorry that this should happen. Mr. Minot but–we got to search
you.”

“Search me–for what?” Minot cried.

And in a flash, he knew. Through that wild night he had not once
thought of it. But it was still in his inside coat pocket, of course.
Chain Lightning’s Collar!

“What does this mean?” he asked.

“That’s what they all say,” grunted Huntley. “Come here, my boy. Say,
you’re pretty wet. And shivering! Better have a warm bath and a
drink. Turn around, please. Ah–”

With practised fingers the detective explored rapidly Mr. Minot’s
person and pockets. The victim of the search stood limp, helpless.
What could he do? There was no escape. It was all up now–for
whatever reason they desired Chain Lightning’s Collar, they could not
fail to have it in another minute.

Side pockets–trousers pockets–now! The inner coat pocket! Its
contents were in the detective’s hand. Minot stared down. A little
gasp escaped him.

The envelope that held Chain Lightning’s Collar was not among them!

Two minutes longer Huntley pursued, then with an oath of disappointment
he turned to O’Malley.

“Hasn’t got it!” he announced.

Minot swept aside the profuse apologies of the hotel detective, and
somehow got out of the room. In a daze, he sought 389. He didn’t have
it! Didn’t have Chain Lightning’s Collar! Who did?

It was while he sat steaming in a hot bath that an idea came to him.
The struggle on the deck of the _Lileth_, with Martin Wall panting at
his side! The tug on his coat as they all went down together. The
genial spirits of Wall thereafter. The sudden start for New York.

No question about it–Chain Lightning’s Collar was well out at sea now.

And yet–why had Wall stopped to take the occupants of the launch
aboard?

After his bath, Minot donned pajamas and a dressing-gown and ventured
out to find Lord Harrowby’s suite. With difficulty he succeeded in
arousing the sleeping peer. Harrowby let him in, and then sat down on
his bed and stared at him.

“What is it?” he inquired sleepily.

Briefly Minot told him of the circumstances preceding the start of the
_Lileth_ for New York, of his return to the hotel, and the search party
he encountered there. Harrowby was very wide awake by this time.

“That finishes us,” he groaned.

“Wait a minute,” Minot said. “They didn’t find the necklace. I didn’t
have it. I’d lost it.”

“Lost it?”

“Yes. And if you want my opinion, I think Martin Wall stole it from me
on the _Lileth_ and is now on his way–”

Harrowby leaped from bed, and seized Minot gleefully by the hand.

“Dear old chap. What the deuce do I care who took it. It’s gone.
Thank God–it’s gone.”

“But–I don’t understand–”

“No. But you can understand this much. Everything’s all right.
Nothing in the way of the wedding now. It’s splendid! Splendid!”

“But–the necklace was stolen–”

“Yes. Good! Very good! My dear Minot, the luckiest thing that can
happen to us will be–never, never to see Chain Lightning’s Collar
again!”

As completely at sea as he had been that night–which was more or less
at sea–Minot returned to his room. It was after three o’clock. He
turned out his lights and sought his bed. Many wild conjectures kept
him awake at first, but this had been the busiest day of his life.
Soon he slept, and dreamed thrilling dreams.

The sun was bright outside his windows when he was aroused by a knock.

“What is it?” he cried.

“A package for you, sir,” said a bell-boy voice.

He slipped one arm outside his door to receive it–a neat little
bundle, securely tied, with his name written on the wrappings.
Sleepily he undid the cord, and took out–an envelope.

He was no longer sleepy. He held the envelope open over his bed.
Chain Lightning’s Collar tumbled, gleaming, upon the white sheet!

Also in the package was a note, which Minot read breathlessly.

“DEAR MR. MINOT:

“I have decided not to go north after all, and am back in the harbor
with the _Lileth_. As I expect Trimmer at any moment I have sent
George over to Tarragona Island in charge of two sailormen for the day.

“Cordially,
“MARTIN WALL.

“P.S. You dropped the enclosed in the scuffle on the boat last night.”

Continue Reading

BOARD AND ROOM

The Villa Jasmine, Mrs. Bruce’s winter home, stood in a park of palms
and shrubbery some two blocks from the Hotel de la Pax. Mr. Minot
walked thither that evening in the resplendent company of Jack Paddock.

“You’ll enjoy Mrs. Bruce to-night,” Paddock confided. “I’ve done her
some rather good lines, if I do say it as shouldn’t.”

“On what topics?” asked Minot, with a smile.

“International marriage–jewels–by the way, I don’t suppose you know
that Miss Cynthia Meyrick is to appear for the first time wearing the
famous Harrowby necklace?”

“I didn’t even know there was a necklace,” Minot returned.

“Ah, such ignorance. But then, you don’t wander much in feminine
society, do you? Mrs. Bruce told me about it this morning. Chain
Lightning’s Collar.”

“Chain Lightning’s what?”

“Ah, my boy–” Mr. Paddock lighted a cigarette. “You should go round
more in royal circles. List, commoner, while I relate. It seems that
the Earl of Raybrook is a giddy old sport with a gambling streak a yard
wide. In his young days he loved the Lady Evelyn Hollowway. Lady
Evelyn had a horse entered in a derby about that time–name, Chain
Lightning. And the Earl of Raybrook wagered a diamond necklace against
a kiss that Chain Lightning would lose.”

“Wasn’t that giving big odds?” inquired Minot.

“Not if you believe the stories of Lady Evelyn’s beauty. Well, it
happened before Tammany politicians began avenging Ireland on Derby
Day. Chain Lightning won. And the earl came across with the necklace.
Afterward he married Lady Evelyn–”

“To get back the necklace?”

“Cynic. And being a rather racy old boy, he referred to the necklace
thereafter as Chain Lightning’s Collar. It got to be pretty well known
in England by that name. I believe it is considered a rather neat
piece of jewelry among the English nobility–whose sparklers aren’t
what they were before the steel business in Pittsburgh turned out a
good thing.”

“Chain Lightning’s Collar,” mused Minot. “I presume Lady Evelyn was
the mother of the present Lord Harrowby?”

“So ’tis rumored,” smiled Paddock. “Though I take it his lordship
favors his father in looks.”

They walked along for a moment in silence. The story of this necklace
of diamonds could bring but one thing to Minot’s thoughts–Martin Wall
drooping on the steps of the Manhattan Club while old Stacy roared with
joy. He considered. Should he tell Mr. Paddock? No, he decided he
would wait.

“As I said,” Paddock ran on, “you’ll enjoy Mrs. Bruce to-night. Her
lines are good, but somehow–it’s really a great problem to me–she
doesn’t sound human and natural when she gets them off. I looked up
her beauty doctor and asked him if he couldn’t put a witty gleam in her
eye, but he told me he didn’t care to go that far in correcting Mrs.
Bruce’s Maker.”

They had reached the Villa Jasmine now, a great white palace in a
flowery setting more like a dream than a reality. The evening breeze
murmured whisperingly through the palms, a hundred gorgeous colors
shone in the moonlight, fountains splashed coolly amid the greenery.

“Act Two,” muttered Minot. “The grounds surrounding the castle of the
fairy princess.”

“You have to come down here, don’t you,” replied Paddock, “to realize
that old Mother Nature has a little on Belasco, after all?”

The whir of a motor behind them caused the two young men to turn. Then
Mr. Minot saw her coming up the path toward him–coming up that
fantastic avenue of palms–tall, fair, white, a lovely figure in a
lovely setting–

Ah, yes–Lord Harrowby! He walked at her side, nonchalant,
distinguished, almost as tall as a popular illustrator thinks a man in
evening clothes should be. Truly, they made a handsome couple. They
were to wed. Mr. Minot himself had sworn they were to wed.

He kept the bitterness from his tone as he greeted them there amid the
soft magic of the Florida night. Together they went inside. In the
center of a magnificent hallway they found Mrs. Bruce standing, like
stout Cortez on his Darien peak, triumphant amid the glory of her gold.

Mr. Minot thought Mrs. Bruce’s manner of greeting somewhat harried and
oppressed. Poor lady, every function was a first night for her. Would
the glare of the footlights frighten her? Would she falter in her
lines–forget them completely? Only her sisters of the stage could
sympathize with her understandingly now.

“So you are to carry Cynthia away?” Minot heard her saying to Lord
Harrowby. “Such a lot of my friends have married into the peerage.
Indeed, I have sometimes thought you English have no other pastime save
that of slipping engagement rings on hands across the sea.”

A soft voice spoke in Minot’s ear.

“Mine,” Mr. Paddock was saying. “Not bad, eh? But look at that
Englishman. Why should I have sat up all last night writing lines to
try on him? Can you tell me that?”

Lord Harrowby, indeed, seemed oblivious of Mrs. Bruce’s little bon mot.
He hemmed and hawed, and said he was a lucky man. But he did not mean
that he was a lucky man because he had the privilege of hearing Mrs.
Bruce.

Mr. Bruce slipped out of the shadows into the weariness of another
formal dinner. Mrs. Bruce glittered, and he wrote the checks. He was
a scraggly little man who sometimes sat for hours at a time in silence.
There were those unkind enough to say that he sought back, trying to
recall the reason that had led him to marry Mrs. Bruce.

When he beheld Miss Cynthia Meyrick, and knew that he was to take her
in to dinner, Mr. Bruce brightened perceptibly. None save a blind and
deaf man could have failed to. Cocktails consumed, the party turned
toward the dining-room. Except for the Meyricks, Martin Wall, Lord
Harrowby and Paddock, Dick Minot knew none of them. There were a
couple of colorless men from New York who, when they died, would be
referred to as “prominent club men,” a horsy girl from Westchester, an
ex-ambassador’s wife and daughter, a number of names from Boston and
Philadelphia with their respective bearers. And last but not least the
two Bond girls from Omaha–blond, lovely, but inclined to be snobbish
even in that company, for their mother was a Van Reypan, and Van
Reypans are rare birds in Omaha and elsewhere.

Mr. Minot took in the elder of the Bond girls, and found that Cynthia
Meyrick sat on his left. He glanced at her throat as they sat down.
It was bare of ornament. And then he beheld, sparkling in her lovely
hair, the perfect diamonds of Chain Lightning’s Collar. As he turned
back to the table he caught the eye of Mr. Martin Wall. Mr. Wall’s eye
happened to be coming away from the same locality.

The girl from Omaha gossiped of plays and players, like a dramatic page
from some old Sunday newspaper.

“I’m mad about the stage,” she confided. “Of course, we get all the
best shows in Omaha. Why, Maxine Elliott and Nat Goodwin come there
every year.”

Mr. Minot, New Yorker, shuddered. Should he tell her of the many and
active years in the lives of these two since they visited any town
together? No. What use? On the other side of him a sweet voice spoke:

“I presume you know, Mr. Minot, that Mrs. Bruce has the reputation of
being the wittiest hostess in San Marco?”

“I have heard as much.” Minot smiled into Cynthia Meyrick’s eyes.
“When does her act go on?”

Mrs. Bruce was wondering the same thing. She knew her lines; she was
ready. True, she understood few of those lines. Wit was not her
specialty. Until Mr. Paddock took charge of her, she had thought
colored newspaper supplements humorous in the extreme. However, the
lines Mr. Paddock taught her seemed to go well, and she continued to
patronize the old stand.

She looked up now from her conversation with her dinner partner, and
silence fell as at a curtain ascending.

“I was just saying to Lord Harrowby,” Mrs. Bruce began, smiling about
her, “how picturesque our business streets are here. What with the
Greek merchants in their native costumes–”

“Bandits, every one of them,” growled Mr. Bruce, bravely interrupting.
His wife frowned.

“Only the other day,” she continued, “I bought a rug from a man who
claimed to be a Persian prince. He said it was a prayer-rug, and I
think it must have been, for ever since I got it I’ve been praying it’s
genuine.”

A little ripple of amusement ran about the table. The redoubtable Mrs.
Bruce was under way. People spoke to one another in undertones–little
conversational nudges of anticipation.

“By the way, Cynthia,” the hostess inquired, “have you heard from Helen
Arden lately?”

“Not for some time,” responded Miss Meyrick, “although I have her
promise that she and the duke will be here–next Tuesday.”

“Splendid.” Mrs. Bruce turned to his lordship. “I think of Helen,
Lord Harrowby, because she, too, married into your nobility. Her
father made his money in sausage in the Middle West. In his youth he’d
had trouble in finding a pair of ready-made trousers, but as soon as
the money began to roll in, Helen started to look him up a coat of
arms. And a family motto. I remember suggesting at the time, in view
of the sausage: ‘A family is no stronger than its weakest link.'”

Mrs. Bruce knew when to pause. She paused now. The ripple became an
outright laugh. Mr. Paddock sipped languorously from his wine-glass.
He saw that his lines “got over.”

“Went into society head foremost, Helen did,” Mrs. Bruce continued.
“Thought herself a clever amateur actress. Used to act often for
charity–though I don’t recall that she ever got it.”

“The beauty of Mrs. Bruce’s wit,” said Miss Meyrick in Mr. Minot’s ear,
“is that it is so unconscious. She doesn’t appear to realize when she
has said a good thing.”

“There’s just a chance that she doesn’t realize it,” suggested Minot.

“Then Helen met the Duke of Lismore,” Mrs. Bruce was speaking once
more. “Perhaps you know him, Lord Harrowby?”

“No–er–sorry to say I don’t–”

“A charming chap. In some ways. Helen was a Shavian in considering
marriage the chief pursuit of women. She pursued. Followed Lismore to
Italy, where he proposed. I presume he thought that being in Rome, he
must do as the Romeos do.”

“But, my dear lady,” said Harrowby in a daze, “isn’t it the Romans?”

“Isn’t what the Romans?” asked Mrs. Bruce blankly.

“Your lordship is correct,” said Mr. Paddock hastily. “Mrs. Bruce
misquoted purposely–in jest, you know. Jibe–japery.”

“Oh–er–pardon me,” returned his lordship.

“I saw Helen in London last spring,” Mrs. Bruce went on. “She confided
to me that she considers her husband a genius. And if genius really be
nothing but an infinite capacity for taking champagnes, I am sure the
poor child is right.”

Little murmurs of joy, and the dinner proceeded. The guests bent over
their food, shipped to Mrs. Bruce in a refrigerating car from New York,
and very little wearied by its long trip. Here and there two talked
together. It was like an intermission between the acts.

Mr. Minot turned to the Omaha girl. Even though she was two wives
behind on Mr. Nat Goodwin’s career, one must be polite.

It was at the close of the dinner that Mrs. Bruce scored her most
telling point. She and Lord Harrowby were conversing about a famous
English author, and when she was sure she had the attention of the
table, she remarked:

“Yes, we met his wife at the Masonbys’. But I have always felt that
the wife of a celebrity is like the coupon on one’s railway ticket.”

“How’s that, Mrs. Bruce?” Minot inquired. After all, Paddock had been
kind to him.

“Not good if detached,” said Mrs. Bruce.

She stood. Her guests followed suit. It was by this bon mot that she
chose to have her dinner live in the gossip of San Marco. Hence with
it she closed the ceremony.

“Witty woman, your wife,” said one of the colorless New Yorkers to Mr.
Bruce, when the men were left alone.

Mr. Bruce only grunted, but Mr. Paddock answered brightly:

“Do you really think so?”

“Yes. Don’t you?”

“Why–er–really–” Mr. Paddock blushed. Modest author, he.

A servant appeared to say that Lord Harrowby was wanted at once
outside, and excusing himself, Harrowby departed. He found his valet,
a plump, round-faced, serious man, waiting in the shadows on the
veranda. For a time they talked together in low tones. When Harrowby
returned to the dining-room, his never cheerful face was even gloomier
than usual.

Spencer Meyrick and Bruce, exiles both of them, talked joyously of
business and the rush of the day’s work for which both longed. The New
York man and a sapling from Boston conversed of chamber music. Martin
Wall sat silent, contemplative. Perhaps had he spoken his thoughts
they would have been of a rich jewel shop at noon–deserted.

A half-hour later Mrs. Bruce’s dinner-party was scattered among the
palms and flowers of her gorgeous lawn. Mr. Minot had fallen again to
the elder girl from Omaha, and blithely for her he was displaying his
Broadway ignorance of horticulture. Suddenly out of the night came a
scream. Instantly when he heard it, Mr. Minot knew who had uttered it.

Unceremoniously he parted from the Omaha beauty and sped over the lawn.
But quick as he was, Lord Harrowby was quicker. For when Minot came
up, he saw Harrowby bending over Miss Meyrick, who sat upon a wicker
bench.

“Cynthia–what is it?” Harrowby was saying.

Cynthia Meyrick felt wildly of her shining hair.

“Your necklace,” she gasped. “Chain Lightning’s Collar. He took it!
He took it!”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. A man!”

“A man!” Reverent repetition by feminine voices out of the excited
group.

“He leaped out at me there–by that tree–pinioned my arms–snatched
the necklace. I couldn’t see his face. It happened in the shadow.”

“No matter,” Harrowby replied. “Don’t give it another thought, my
child.”

“But how can I help–”

“I shall telephone the police at once,” announced Spencer Meyrick.

“I beg you’ll do nothing of the sort,” expostulated Lord Harrowby. “It
would be a great inconvenience–the thing wasn’t worth the publicity
that would result. I insist that the police be kept out of this.”

Argument–loud on Mr. Meyrick’s part–ensued. Suggestions galore were
offered by the guests. But in the end Lord Harrowby had his way. It
was agreed not to call in the police.

Mr. Minot, looking up, saw a sneering smile on the face of Martin Wall.
In a flash he knew the truth.

With Aunt Mary calling loudly for smelling salts, and the whole party
more or less in confusion, the return to the house started. Mr.
Paddock walked at Minot’s side.

“Rather looks as though Chain Lightning’s Collar had choked off our
gaiety,” he mumbled. “Serves her right for wearing the thing in her
hair. She spoiled two corking lines for me by not wearing it where
you’d naturally expect a necklace to be worn.”

Minot maneuvered so as to intercept Lord Harrowby under the portico.

“May I speak with you a moment?” he inquired. Harrowby bowed, and they
stepped into the shadows of the drive.

“Lord Harrowby,” said Minot, trying to keep the excitement from his
voice, “I have certain information about one of the guests here this
evening that I believe would interest you. Your lordship has been
badly buffaloed. One of our fellow diners at Mrs. Bruce’s table holds
the title of the ablest jewel thief in America!”

He watched keenly to catch Lord Harrowby’s start of surprise. Alas, he
caught nothing of the sort.

“Nonsense,” said his lordship nonchalantly. “You mustn’t let your
imagination carry you away, dear chap.”

“Imagination nothing! I know what I’m talking about.” And then Minot
added sarcastically: “Sorry to bore you with this.”

His lordship laughed.

“Right-o, old fellow. I’m not interested.”

“But haven’t you just lost–”

“A diamond necklace? Yes.” They had reached a particularly dark and
secluded spot beneath the canopy of palm leaves. Harrowby turned
suddenly and put his hands on Minot’s shoulders. “Mr. Minot,” he said,
“you are here to see that nothing interferes with my marriage to Miss
Meyrick. I trust you are determined to do your duty to your employers?”

“Absolutely. That is why–”

“Then,” replied Harrowby quickly, “I am going to ask you to take charge
of this for me.”

Suddenly Minot felt something cold and glassy in his hand. Startled,
he looked down. Even in the dark, Chain Lightning’s Collar sparkled
like the famous toy that it was.

“Your lordship!–”

“I can not explain now. I can only tell you it is quite necessary that
you help me at this time. If you wish to do your full duty by Mr.
Jephson.”

“Who took this necklace from Miss Meyrick’s hair?” asked Minot hotly.

“I did. I assure you it was the only way to prevent our plans from
going awry. Please keep it until I ask you for it.”

And turning, Lord Harrowby walked rapidly toward the house.

“The brute!” Angrily Mr. Minot stood turning the necklace over in his
hand. “So he frightened the girl he is to marry–the girl he is
supposed to love–”

What should he do? Go to her, and tell her of Harrowby’s amiable
eccentricities? He could hardly do that–Harrowby had taken him into
his confidence–and besides there was Jephson of the great bald head,
the Peter Pan eyes. Nothing to do but wait.

Returning to the hotel from Mrs. Bruce’s villa, he found awaiting him a
cable from Jephson. The cable assured him that beyond any question the
man in San Marco was Allan Harrowby and, like Cæsar’s wife, above
suspicion.

Yet even as he read, Lord Harrowby walked through the lobby, and at his
side was Mr. James O’Malley, house detective of the Hotel de la Pax.
They came from the manager’s office, where they had evidently been
closeted.

With the cablegram in his hand, Minot entered the elevator and ascended
to his room. The other hand was in the pocket of his top coat, closed
tightly upon Chain Lightning’s Collar–the bauble that the Earl of
Raybrook had once wagered against a kiss.

Mr. Minot opened his eyes on Thursday morning with the uncomfortable
feeling that he was far from his beloved New York. For a moment he lay
dazed, wandering in that dim borderland between sleep and waking.
Then, suddenly, he remembered.

“Oh, yes, by jove,” he muttered, “I’ve been knighted. Groom of the
Back-Stairs Scandals and Keeper of the Royal Jewels–that’s me.”

He lifted his pillow. There on the white sheet sparkled the necklace
of which the whole British nobility was proud–Chain Lightning’s
Collar. Some seventy-five blue-white diamonds, pear-shaped, perfectly
graduated. His for the moment!

“What’s Harrowby up to, I wonder?” he reflected “The dear old top!
Nice, pleasant little party if a policeman should find this in my
pocket.”

Another perfect day shone in that narrow Spanish street. Up in
Manhattan theatrical press agents were crowning huge piles of snow with
posters announcing their attractions. Ferries were held up by ice in
the river. A breeze from the Arctic swept round the Flatiron building.
Here lazy summer lolled on the bosom of the town.

In the hotel dining-room Mr. Minot encountered Jack Paddock, superb in
white flannels above his grapefruit. He accepted Paddock’s invitation
to join him.

“By the way,” said Mrs. Bruce’s jester, holding up a small, badly
printed newspaper, “have you made the acquaintance of the _San Marco
Mail_ yet?”

“No–what’s that?”

“A morning newspaper–by courtesy. Started here a few weeks back by a
noiseless little Spaniard from Havana named Manuel Gonzale. Slipped in
here on his rubber soles, Gonzale did–dressed all in white–lovely
lemon face–shifty, can’t-catch-me eyes. And his newspaper–hot stuff,
my boy. It has Town Topics looking like a consular report from
Greenland.”

“Scandals?” asked Mr. Minot, also attacking a grapefruit.

“Scandals and rumors of scandals. Mostly hints, you know. Several
references this morning to our proud and haughty friend, Lord Harrowby.
For example, Madame On Dit, writing in her column, on page one, has
this to say: ‘The impecunious but titled Englishman who has arrived in
our midst recently with the idea of connecting with certain American
dollars has an interesting time ahead of him, if rumor speaks true.
The little incident in the lobby of a local hotel the other
evening–which was duly reported in this column at the time–was but a
mild beginning. The gentleman in charge of the claimant to the title
held so jealously by our British friend promises immediate developments
which will be rich, rare and racy.'”

“Rich, rare and racy,” repeated Minot thoughtfully. “Ah, yes–we were
to watch Mr. Trimmer. I had almost forgot him in the excitement of
last evening. By the way, does the _Mail_ know anything about the
disappearance of Chain Lightning’s Collar?”

“Not as yet,” smiled Mr. Paddock, “although Madame On Dit claims to
have been a guest at the dinner. By the way, what do you make of last
night’s melodramatic farce?”

“I don’t know what to make of it,” answered Minot truthfully. He was
suddenly conscious of the necklace in his inside coat pocket.

“Then all I can say, my dear Watson,” replied Mr. Paddock with
burlesque seriousness, “is that you are unmistakably lacking in my
powers of deduction. Give me a cigarette, and I’ll tell you the name
of the man who is gloating over those diamonds to-day.”

“All right,” smiled Minot. “Go ahead.”

Mr. Paddock, reaching for a match tray, spoke in a low tone in Minot’s
ear.

“Martin Wall,” he said. He leaned back. “You ask how I arrived at my
conclusion. Simple enough. I went through the list of guests for
possible crooks, and eliminated them one by one. The man I have
mentioned alone was left. Ever notice his eyes–remind me of Manuel
Gonzale’s. He’s too polished, too slick, too good to be true. He’s
traveled too much–nobody travels as much as he has except for the very
good reason that a detective is on the trail. And he made friends with
simple old Harrowby on an Atlantic liner–that, if you read popular
fiction, is alone enough to condemn him. Believe me, Dick, Martin Wall
should be watched.”

“All right,” laughed Minot, “you watch him.”

“I’ve a notion to. Harrowby makes me weary. Won’t call in a solitary
detective. Any one might think he doesn’t want the necklace back.”

After breakfast Minot and Paddock played five sets of tennis on the
hotel courts. And Mr. Minot won, despite the Harrowby diamonds in his
trousers pocket, weighing him down. Luncheon over, Mr. Paddock
suggested a drive to Tarragona Island.

“A little bit of nowhere a mile off-shore,” he said. “No man can ever
know the true inwardness of the word lonesome until he’s seen
Tarragona.”

Minot hesitated. Ought he to leave the scene of action? Of action?
He glanced about him. There was less action here than in a Henry James
novel. The tangle of events in which he was involved rested for a
siesta.

So he and Mr. Paddock drove along the narrow neck of land that led from
the mainland to Tarragona Island. They entered the kingdom of the
lonely. Sandy beach with the ocean on one side, swamps on the other.
Scrubby palms, disreputable foliage, here and there a cluster of
seemingly deserted cottages–the world and its works apparently a
million miles away. Yet out on one corner of that bleak forgotten acre
stood the slim outline of a wireless, and in a little white house lived
a man who, amid the sea-gulls and the sand-dunes, talked daily with
great ships and cities far away.

“I told you it was lonesome,” said Mr. Paddock.

“Lonesome,” shivered Minot. “Even God has forgot this place. Only
Marconi has remembered.”

And even as they wandered there amid the swamps, where alligators and
rattlesnakes alone saw fit to dwell, back in San Marco the capable Mr.
Trimmer was busy. By poster and by hand-bill he was spreading word of
his newest coup, so that by evening no one in town–save the few who
were most concerned–was unaware of a development rich, rare and racy.

Minot and Paddock returned late, and their dinner was correspondingly
delayed. It was eight-thirty o’clock when they at last strolled into
the lobby of the De la Pax. There they encountered Miss Meyrick, her
father and Lord Harrowby.

“We’re taking Harrowby to the movies,” said Miss Meyrick. “He
confesses he’s never been. Won’t you come along?”

She was one of her gay selves to-night, white, slim, laughing,
irresistible. Minot, looking at her, thought that she could make even
Tarragona Island bearable. He knew of no greater tribute to her charm.

The girl and Harrowby led the way, and Minot and Paddock followed with
Spencer Meyrick. The old man was an imposing figure in his white serge,
which accentuated the floridness of his face. He talked of an
administration that did not please him, of a railroad fallen on evil
days. Now and again he paused and seemed to lose the thread of what he
was saying, while his eyes dwelt on his daughter, walking ahead.

They arrived shortly at the San Marco Opera-House, devoted each evening
to three acts of “refined vaudeville” and six of the newest film
releases. It was here that the rich loitering in San Marco found their
only theatrical amusement, and forgetting Broadway, laughed and were
thrilled with simpler folk. A large crowd was fairly fighting to get
in and Mr. Paddock, who volunteered to buy the tickets, was forced to
take his place at the end of a long line.

Finally they reached the dim interior of the opera-house, and were
shown to seats far down in front. By hanging back in the dusk Minot
managed to secure the end seat, with Miss Meyrick at his side. Beyond
her sat Lord Harrowby, gazing with rapt British seriousness at the
humorous film that was being flashed on the screen.

Between pictures Harrowby offered an opinion.

“You in America are a jolly lot,” he said. “Just fancy our best people
in England attending a cinematograph exhibition.”

They tried to fancy it, but with his lordship there, they couldn’t.
Two more pictures ran their filmy lengths, while Mr. Minot sat
entranced there in the half dark. It was not the pictures that
entranced him. Rather, was it a lady’s nearness, the flash of her
smile, the hundred and one tones of her voice–all, all again as it had
been in that ridiculous automobile–just before the awakening.

After the third picture the lights of the auditorium were turned up,
and the hour of vaudeville arrived. On to the stage strolled a pert
confident youth garbed in shabby grandeur, who attempted sidewalk
repartee. He clipped his jests from barber-shop periodicals, bought
his songs from an ex-barroom song writer, and would have gone to the
mat with any one who denied that his act was “refined.” Mr. Minot,
listening to his gibes, thought of the Paddock jest factory and Mrs.
Bruce.

When the young man had wrung the last encore from a kindly audience,
the drop-curtain was raised and revealed on the stage in gleaming
splendor Captain Ponsonby’s troupe of trained seals. An intelligent
aggregation they proved, balancing balls on their small heads, juggling
flaming torches, and taking as their just due lumps of sugar from the
captain’s hand as they finished each feat. The audience recalled them
again and again, and even the peerage was captivated.

“Clever beasts, aren’t they?” Lord Harrowby remarked. And as Captain
Ponsonby took his final curtain, his lordship added:

“Er–what follows the trained seals?”

The answer to Harrowby’s query came almost immediately, and a startling
answer it proved to be.

Into the glare of the footlights stepped Mr. Henry Trimmer. His manner
was that of the conquering hero. For a moment he stood smiling and
bowing before the approving multitude. Then he raised a hand
commanding silence.

“My dear friends,” he said, “I appreciate this reception. As I said in
my handbill of this afternoon, I am working in the interests of
justice. The gentleman who accompanies me to your delightful little
city is beyond any question whatsoever George Harrowby, the eldest son
of the Earl of Raybrook, and as such he is entitled to call himself
Lord Harrowby. I know the American people well enough to feel sure
that when they realize the facts they will demand that justice be done.
That is why I have prevailed upon Lord Harrowby to meet you here in
this, your temple of amusement, and put his case before you. His
lordship will talk to you for a time with a view to getting acquainted.
He has chosen for the subject of his discourse The Old Days at Rakedale
Hall. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to introduce–the real
Lord Harrowby.”

Out of the wings shuffled the lean and gloomy Englishman whom Mr.
Trimmer had snatched from the unknown to cloud a certain wedding-day.
The applause burst forth. It shook the building. From the gallery
descended a shrill penetrating whistle of acclaim.

Mr. Minot glanced at the face of the girl beside him. She was looking
straight ahead, her cheeks bright red, her eyes flashing with anger.
Beyond, the face of Harrowby loomed, frozen, terrible.

“Shall we–go?” Minot whispered.

“By no means,” the girl answered. “We should only call attention to
our presence here. I know at least fifty people in this audience. We
must see it through.”

The applause was stilled at last and, supremely fussed, the “real Lord
Harrowby” faced that friendly throng.

“Dear–er–people,” he said. “As Mr. Trimmer has told you, we seek
only justice. I am not here to argue my right to the title I
claim–that I can do at the proper time and place. I am simply
proposing to go back–back into the past many years–back to the days
when I was a boy at Rakedale Hall. I shall picture those days as no
impostor could picture them–and when I have done I shall allow you to
judge.”

And there in that crowded little southern opera-house on that hot
February night, the actor who followed the trained seals proceeded to
go back. With unfaltering touch he sketched for his audience the great
stone country seat called Rakedale Hall, where for centuries the
Harrowbys had dwelt. It was as though he took his audience there to
visit–through the massive iron gates up the broad avenue bordered with
limes, until the high chimneys, the pointed gables, the mullioned
windows, and the walls half hidden by ivy, creeping roses and
honeysuckles were revealed to them. He took them through the house to
the servants’ quarters–which he called “the offices”–out into the
kitchen gardens, thence to the paved quadrangle of the stables with its
arched gateway and the chiming clock above. Tennis-courts,
grape-houses, conservatories, they visited breathlessly; they saw over
the brow of the hill the low square tower of the old church and the
chimneys of the vicar’s modest house. And far away, they beheld the
trees that furnished cover to the little beasts it was the Earl of
Raybrook’s pleasure to hunt in the season.

Becoming more specific, he spoke of the neighbors, and a bit of romance
crept in in the person of the fair-haired Honorable Edith Townshend,
who lived to the west of Rakedale Hall. He described at length the
picturesque personality of the “racing parson,” neighbor on the south,
and in full accord with the ideas of the sporting Earl of Raybrook.

The events of his youth, he said, crowded back upon him as he recalled
this happy scene, and emotion well-nigh choked him. However, he
managed to tell of a few of the celebrities who came to dinner, of
their bon mots, their preferences in cuisine. He mentioned the
thrilling morning when he was nearly drowned in the brook that skirted
the “purple meadow”; also the thrilling afternoon when he hid his
mother’s famous necklace in the biscuit box on the sideboard, and upset
a whole household. And he narrated a dozen similar exploits, each
garnished with small illuminating details.

His audience sat fascinated. All who listened felt that his words rang
true–even Lord Harrowby himself, sitting far forward, his hand
gripping the seat in front of him, until the white of his knuckles
showed through.

Next the speaker shifted his scene to Eton, thrilled his hearers with
the story of his revolt against Oxford, of his flight to the States,
his wild days in Arizona. And he pulled out of his pocket a letter
written by the old Earl of Raybrook himself, profanely expostulating
with him for his madness, and begging that he return to ascend to the
earldom when the old man was no more.

The “real Lord Harrowby” finished reading this somewhat pathetic appeal
with a little break in his voice, and stood looking out at the audience.

“If my brother Allan himself were in the house,” he said, “he would
have to admit that it is our father speaking in that letter.”

A rustle of interest ran through the auditorium. The few who had
recognized Harrowby turned to stare at him now. For a moment he sat
silent, his face a variety of colors in the dim light. Then with a cry
of rage he leaped to his feet.

“You stole that letter, you cur,” he cried. “You are a liar, a fraud,
an impostor.”

The man on the stage stood shading his eyes with his hand.

“Ah, Allan,” he answered, “so you are here, after all? Is that quite
the proper greeting–after all these years?”

A roar of sympathetic applause greeted this sally. There was no doubt
as to whose side Mr. Trimmer’s friend, the public, was on. Harrowby
stood in his place, his lips twitching, his eyes for once blazing and
angry.

Dick Minot was by this time escorting Miss Meyrick up the aisle, and
they came quickly to the cool street. Harrowby, Paddock and Spencer
Meyrick followed immediately. His lordship was most contrite.

“A thousand pardons,” he pleaded. “Really I can’t tell you how sorry I
am, Cynthia. To have made you conspicuous–what was I thinking of?
But he maddened me–I–”

“Don’t worry, Allan,” said Miss Meyrick gently. “I like you the better
for being maddened.”

Old Spencer Meyrick said nothing, but Minot noted that his face was
rather red, and his eyes were somewhat dangerous. They all walked back
to the hotel in silence.

From the hotel lobby, as if by prearrangement, Harrowby followed Miss
Meyrick and her father into a parlor. Minot and Paddock were left
alone.

“My word, old top,” said Mr. Paddock facetiously, “a rough night for
the nobility. What do you think? That lad’s story sounded like a
little bit of all right to me. Eh, what?”

“It did sound convincing,” returned the troubled Minot. “But then–a
servant at Rakedale Hall could have concocted it.”

“Mayhap,” said Mr. Paddock. “However, old Spencer Meyrick looked to me
like a volcano I’d want to get out from under. Poor old Harrowby! I’m
afraid there’s a rift within the loot–nay, no loot at all.”

“Jack,” said Minot firmly, “that wedding has got to take place.”

“Why, what’s it to you?”

“It happens to be everything. But keep it under your hat.”

“Great Scott–does Harrowby owe you money?”

“I can’t explain just at present, Jack.”

“Oh, very well,” replied Mr. Paddock. “But take it from me, old
man–she’s a million times too good for him.”

“A million,” laughed Mr. Minot bitterly. “You underestimate.”

Paddock stood staring with wonder at his friend.

“You lisp in riddles, my boy,” he said.

“Do I?” returned Minot. “Maybe some day I’ll make it all clear.”

He parted from Paddock and ascended to the third floor. As he wandered
through the dark passageways in search of his room, he bumped suddenly
into a heavy man, walking softly. Something about the contour of the
man in the dark gave him a suggestion.

“Good evening, Mr. Wall,” he said.

The scurry of hurrying footsteps, but no answer. Minot went on to 389,
and placed his key in the lock. It would not turn. He twisted the
knob of the door–it was unlocked. He stepped inside and flashed on
the light.

His small abode was in a mad disorder. The chiffonier drawers had been
emptied on the floor, the bed was torn to pieces, the rug thrown in a
corner. Minot smiled to himself.

Some one had been searching–searching for Chain Lightning’s Collar.
Who? Who but the man he had bumped against in that dark passageway?

As Dick Minot bent over to pick up his scattered property, a knock
sounded on the half-open door, and Lord Harrowby drooped in. The
nobleman was gloom personified. He threw himself despondently down on
the bed.

“Minot, old chap,” he drawled, “it’s all over.” His eyes took in the
wreckage. “Eh? What the deuce have you been doing, old boy?”

“I haven’t been doing anything,” Minot answered. “But others have been
busy. While we were at the–er–theater, fond fingers have been
searching for Chain Lightning’s Collar.”

“The devil! You haven’t lost it?”

“No–not yet, I believe.” Minot took the envelope from his pocket and
drew out the gleaming necklace. “Ah, it’s still safe–”

Harrowby leaped from the bed and slammed shut the door.

“Dear old boy,” he cried, “keep the accursed thing in your pocket. No
one must see it. I say, who’s been searching here? Do you think it
could have been O’Malley?”

“What is O’Malley’s interest in your necklace?”

“Some other time, please. Sorry to inconvenience you with the thing.
Do hang on to it, won’t you? Awful mix-up if you didn’t. Bad mix-up
as it is. As I said when I came in, it’s all over.”

“What’s all over?”

“Everything. The marriage–my chance for happiness–Minot, I’m a most
unlucky chap. Meyrick has just postponed the wedding in a frightfully
loud tone of voice.”

“Postponed it?” Sad news for Jephson this, yet as he spoke Mr. Minot
felt a thrill of joy in his heart. He smiled the pleasantest smile he
had so far shown San Marco.

“Exactly. He was fearfully rattled, was Meyrick. My word, how he did
go on. Considers his daughter humiliated by the antics of that
creature we saw on the stage to-night. Can’t say I blame him, either.
The wedding is indefinitely postponed, unless that impostor is removed
from the scene immediately.”

“Oh–unless,” said Minot. His heart sank. His smile vanished.

“Unless was the word, I fancy,” said Harrowby, blinking wisely.

“Lord Harrowby,” Minot began, “you intimated the other day that this
man might really be your brother–”

“No,” Harrowby broke in. “Impossible. I got a good look at the chap
to-night. He’s no more a Harrowby than you are.”

“You give me your word for that?”

“Absolutely. Even after twenty years of America no Harrowby would drag
his father’s name on to the vaudeville stage. No, he is an impostor,
and as such he deserves no consideration whatever. And by the by,
Minot–you will note that the postponement is through no fault of mine.”

Minot made a wry face.

“I have noted it,” he said. “In other words, I go on to the stage
now–following the man who followed the trained seals. I thought my
role was that of Cupid, but it begins to look more like Captain Kidd.
Ah, well–I’ll do my best.” He stood up. “I’m going out into the soft
moonlight for a little while, Lord Harrowby. While I’m gone you might
call Spencer Meyrick up and ask him to do nothing definite in the way
of postponement until he hears from me–us–er–you.”

“Splendid of you, really,” said Harrowby enthusiastically, as Minot
held open the door for him. “I had the feeling I could fall back on
you.”

“And I have the feeling that you’ve fallen,” smiled Minot. “So
long–better wait up for my report.”

Fifteen minutes later, seated in a small rowboat on the starry waters
of the harbor, Minot was loudly saluting the yacht _Lileth_. Finally
Mr. Martin Wall appeared at the rail.

“Well–what d’you want?” he demanded.

“A word with you, Mr. Wall,” Minot answered. “Will you be good enough
to let down your accommodation ladder?”

For a moment Wall hesitated. And Minot, watching him, knew why he
hesitated. He suspected that the young man in the tiny boat there on
the calm bright waters had come to repay a call earlier in the
evening–a call made while the host was out. At last he decided to let
down the ladder.

“Glad to see you,” he announced genially as Minot came on deck.

“Awfully nice of you to say that,” Minot laughed. “Reassures me.
Because I’ve heard there are sharks in these waters.”

They sat down in wicker chairs on the forward deck. Minot stared at
the cluster of lights that was San Marco by night.

“Corking view you have of that tourist-haunted town,” he commented.

“Ah–yes,” Mr. Wall’s queer eyes narrowed. “Did you row out here to
tell me that?” he inquired.

“A deserved rebuke,” Minot returned. “Time flies, and my errand is a
pressing one. Am I right in assuming, Mr. Wall, that you are Lord
Harrowby’s friend?”

“I am.”

“Good. Then you will want to help him in the very serious difficulty
in which he now finds himself. Mr. Wall, the man who calls himself the
real Lord Harrowby made his debut on a vaudeville stage to-night.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Wall, with a short laugh.

“Lord Harrowby’s fiancée and her father are greatly disturbed. They
insist that this impostor must be removed from the scene at once, or
there will be no wedding. Mr. Wall–it is up to you and me to remove
him.”

“Just what is your interest in the matter?” Wall inquired.

“The same as yours. I am Harrowby’s friend. Now, Mr. Wall, this is
the situation as I see it–wanted, board and room in a quiet
neighborhood for Mr. George Harrowby. Far from the street-cars, the
vaudeville stage, the wedding march and other disturbing elements. And
what is more, I think I’ve found the quiet neighborhood. I think it’s
right here aboard the _Lileth_.”

“Oh–indeed!”

“Yes. A simple affair to arrange, Mr. Wall. Trimmer and his live
proposition are just about due for their final appearance of the night
at the opera-house right now. I will call at the stage door and lead
Mr. Trimmer away after his little introductory speech. I will keep him
away until you and a couple of your sailors–I suggest the two I met so
informally in the North River–have met the vaudeville lord at the
stage door and gently, but firmly, persuaded him to come aboard this
boat.”

Mr. Wall regarded Minot with a cynical smile.

“A clever scheme,” he said. “What would you say was the penalty for
kidnaping in this state?”

“Oh, why look it up?” asked Minot carelessly. “Surely Martin Wall is
not afraid of a backwoods constable.”

“What do you mean by that, my boy?” said Wall, with an ugly stare.

“What do you think I mean?” Minot smiled back. “I’d be very glad to
take the role I’ve assigned you–I can’t help feeling that it will be
more entertaining than the one I have. The difficulty in the way is
Trimmer. I believe I am better fitted to engage his attention. I know
him better than you do, and he trusts me–begging your pardon–further.”

“He did give me a nasty dig,” said Wall, flaming at the recollection.
“The noisy mountebank! Well, my boy, your young enthusiasm has won me.
I’ll do what I can.”

“And you can do a lot. Watch me until you see me lead Trimmer away.
Then get his pet. I’ll steer Trimmer somewhere near the beach, and
keep an eye on the _Lileth_. When you get George safely aboard, wave a
red light in the bow. Then Trimmer and I shall part company for the
night.”

“I’m on,” said Wall, rising. “Anything to help Harrowby. And–this
won’t be the first time I’ve waited at the stage door.”

“Right-o,” said Minot. “But don’t stop to buy a champagne supper for a
trained seal, will you? I don’t want to have to listen to Mr. Trimmer
all night.”

They rowed ashore in company with two husky members of the yacht’s
crew, and ten minutes later Minot was walking with the pompous Mr.
Trimmer through the quiet plaza. He had told that gentleman that he
came from Allan Harrowby to talk terms, and Trimmer was puffed with
pride accordingly.

“So Mr. Harrowby has come to his senses at last,” he said. “Well, I
thought this vaudeville business would bring him round. Although I
must say I’m a bit disappointed–down in my heart. My publicity
campaign has hardly started. I had so many lovely little plans for the
future–say, it makes me sad to win so soon.”

“Sorry,” laughed Minot. “Lord Harrowby, however, deems it best to call
a halt. He suggests–”

“Pardon me,” interrupted Mr. Trimmer grandiloquently. “As the victor
in the contest, I shall do any suggesting that is done. And what I
suggest is this–to-morrow morning I shall call upon Allan Harrowby at
his hotel. I shall bring George with me, also some newspaper friends
of mine. In front of the crowd Allan Harrowby must acknowledge his
brother as the future heir to the earldom of Raybrook.”

“Why the newspaper men?” Minot inquired.

“Publicity,” said Trimmer. “It’s the breath of life to me–my
business, my first love, my last. Frankly, I want all the
advertisement out of this thing I can get. At what hour shall we call?”

“You would not consider a delay of a few days?” Minot asked.

“Save your breath,” advised Trimmer promptly.

“Ah–I feared it,” laughed Minot. “Well then–shall we say eleven
o’clock? You are to call–with George Harrowby.”

“Eleven it is,” said Trimmer. They had reached a little park by the
harbor’s edge. Trimmer looked at his watch. “And that being all
settled, I’ll run back to the theater.”

“I myself have advised Harrowby to surrender–” Minot began.

“Wise boy. Good night,” said Trimmer, moving away.

“Not that I have been particularly impressed by your standing as a
publicity man,” continued Minot.

Mr. Trimmer stopped in his tracks.

“As a matter of fact,” went on Minot. “I never heard of you or any of
the things you claim to have advertised, until I came to San Marco.”

Mr. Trimmer came slowly back up the grave walk.

“In just what inland hamlet, untouched by telegraph, telephone,
newspaper and railroad,” he asked, “have you been living?”

Minot dropped to a handy bench, and smiled up into Mr. Trimmer’s thin
face.

“New York City,” he replied.

Mr. Trimmer glanced back at the lights of San Marco, hesitatingly.
Then–it was really a cruel temptation–he sat down beside Minot on the
bench.

“Do you mean to tell me,” he inquired, “that you lived in New York two
years ago and didn’t hear of Cotrell’s Ink Eraser?”

“Such was my unhappy fate,” smiled Minot.

“Then you were in Ludlow Street jail, that’s all I’ve got to say,”
Trimmer replied. “Why, man–what I did for that eraser is famous. I
rigged up a big electric sign in Times Square and all night long I had
an electric Cotrell’s erasing indiscreet sentences–the kind of things
people write when they get foolish with their fountain pens–for
instance–‘I hereby deed to Tottie Footlights all my real and personal
property’–and the like. It took the town by storm. Theatrical
managers complained that people preferred to stand and look at my sign
rather than visit the shows. Can you look me in the eye and say that
you never saw that sign?”

“Well,” Minot answered, “I begin to remember a little about it now.”

“Of course you do.” Mr. Trimmer gave him a congratulatory slap on the
knee. “And if you think hard, probably you can recall my neat little
stunt of the prima donna and the cough drops. I want to tell you about
that–”

He spoke with fervor. The story of his brave deeds rose high to
shatter the stars apart. A half-hour passed while his picturesque
reminiscences flowed on. Mr. Minot sat enraptured–his eyes on the
harbor where the _Lileth_, like a painted ship, graced a painted ocean.

“My boy,” Trimmer was saying, “I have made the public stop, look and
listen. When I get my last publicity in the shape of an ‘In Memoriam’
let them run that tag on my headstone. And the story of me that I
guess will be told longest after I am gone, is the one about the grape
juice that I–”

He paused. His audience was not listening; he felt it intuitively.
Mr. Minot sat with his eyes on the _Lileth_. In the bow of that
handsome boat a red light had been waved three times.

“Mr. Trimmer,” Minot said, “your tales are more interesting than the
classics.” He stood. “Some other time I hope to hear a continuation
of them. Just at present Lord Harrowby–or Mr. if you prefer–is
waiting to hear what arrangement I have made with you. You must pardon
me.”

“I can talk as we walk along,” said Trimmer, and proved it. In the
middle of the deserted plaza they separated. At the dark stage door of
the opera-house Trimmer sought his proposition.

“Who d’yer mean?” asked the lone stage-hand there.

“George, Lord Harrowby,” insisted Mr. Trimmer.

“Oh–that bum actor. Seen him going away a while back with two men
that called for him.”

“Bum actor!” cried Trimmer indignantly. He stopped. “Two men–who
were they?”

The stage-hand asked profanely how he could know that, and Mr. Trimmer
hurriedly departed for the side-street boarding-house where he and his
fallen nobleman shared a suite.

About the same time Dick Minot blithely entered Lord Harrowby’s
apartments in the Hotel de la Pax.

“Well,” he announced, “you can cheer up. Little George is painlessly
removed. He sleeps to-night aboard the good ship _Lileth_, thanks to
the efforts of Martin Wall, assisted by yours truly.” He stopped, and
stared in awe at his lordship. “What’s the matter with you?” he
inquired.

Harrowby waved a hopeless hand.

“Minot,” he said, “it was good of you. But while you have been
assisting me so kindly in that quarter, another–and a greater–blow
has fallen.”

“Good lord–what?” cried Minot.

“It is no fault of mine–” Harrowby began.

“On which I would have gambled my immortal soul,” Minot said.

“I thought it was all over and done with–five years ago. I was
young–sentimental–calcium-light and grease paint and that sort of
thing hit me-hard. I saw her from the stalls–fell desperately in
love–stayed so for six months–wrote letters–burning letters–and
now–”

“Yes–and now?”

“Now she’s here. Gabrielle Rose is here. She’s here–with the
letters.”

“Oh, for a Cotrell’s Ink Eraser,” Minot groaned.

“My man saw her down-stairs,” went on Harrowby, mopping his damp
forehead. “Fifty thousand she wants for the letters or she gives them
to a newspaper and begins to sue–at once–to-morrow.”

“I suppose,” said Minot, “she is the usual Gaiety girl.”

“Not the usual, old chap. Quite a remarkable woman. She’ll do what
she promises–trust her. And I haven’t a farthing. Minot–it’s all up
now. There’s no way out of this.”

Minot sat thinking. The telephone rang.

“I won’t talk to her,” cried Harrowby in a panic. “I won’t have
anything to do with her. Minot, old chap–as a favor to me–”

“The old family solicitor,” smiled Minot. “That’s me.”

He took down the receiver. But no voice that had charmed thousands at
the Gaiety answered his. Instead there came over the wire, heated,
raging, the tones of Mr. Henry Trimmer.

“Hello–I want Allan Harrowby–ah, that’s Minot talking, isn’t it?
Yes. Good. I want a word with you. Do you know what I think of your
methods? Well, you won’t now–telephone rules in the way. Think
you’re going to get ahead of Trimmer, do you? Think you’ve put one
over, eh? Well–let me tell you, you’re wrong. You’re in for it now.
You’ve played into my hands. Steal Lord Harrowby, will you? Do you
know what that means? Publicity. Do you know what I’ll do to-morrow?
I’ll start a cyclone in this town that–”

“Good night,” said Minot, and hung up.

“Who was it?” Harrowby wanted to know.

“Our friend Trimmer, on the war-path,” Minot replied. “It seems he’s
missed his vaudeville partner.” He sat down. “See here, Harrowby,” he
said–it was the first time he had dropped the prefix, “it occurs to me
that an unholy lot of things are happening to spoil this wedding. So
I’m going to ask you a question.”

“Yes.”

“Harrowby”–Minot looked straight into the weak, but noble eyes–“are
you on the level?”

“Really–I’m not very expert in your astounding language–”

“Are you straight–honest–do you want to be married yourself?”

“Why, Minot, my dear chap! I’ve told you a thousand times–I want
nothing more–I never shall want anything more–”

“All right,” said Minot, rising. “Then go to bed and sleep the sleep
of the innocent.”

“But where are you going? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to try and do the same.”

And as he went out, Minot slammed the door on a peer.

Sticking above the knob of the door of 389 he found a telegram.
Turning on his lights, he sank wearily down on the bed and tore it open.

“It rained in torrents,” said the telegram, “at the dowager duchess’s
garden party. You know what that means.”

It was signed “John Thacker.”

“Isn’t that a devil of a night-cap?” muttered Minot gloomily.

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