Part 4 out of 5
"Don't" he said; "for God's sake, don't! You mustn't."
"I must," she said, miserably.
"You sha'n't. It's wicked."
"I must. It's no good talking about it. It's too late."
"It's not. You must break it off to-day."
She shook her head. Her fingers still dabbled mechanically in the
water. The sun was hidden now behind a gray veil, which deepened
into a sullen black over the hill behind the castle. The heat had
grown more oppressive, with a threat of coming storm.
"What made you do it?" he asked again.
"Don't let's talk about it ... Please!"
He had a momentary glimpse of her face. There were tears in her
eyes. At the sight, his self-control snapped.
"You sha'n't," he cried. "It's ghastly. I won't let you. You must
understand now. You must know what you are to me. Do you think I
shall let you--?"
A low growl of thunder rumbled through the stillness, like the
muttering of a sleepy giant. The black cloud that had hung over the
hill had crept closer. The heat was stifling. In the middle of the
lake, some fifty yards distant, lay the island, cool and mysterious
in the gathering darkness.
Jimmy broke off, and seized the paddle.
On this side of the island was a boathouse, a little creek covered
over with boards and capable of sheltering an ordinary rowboat. He
ran the canoe in just as the storm began, and turned her broadside
on, so that they could watch the rain, which was sweeping over the
lake in sheets.
He began to speak again, more slowly now.
"I think I loved you from the first day I saw you on the ship. And,
then, I lost you. I found you again by a miracle, and lost you
again. I found you here by another miracle, but this time I am not
going to lose you. Do you think I'm going to stand by and see you
taken from me by--by--"
He took her hand.
"Molly, you can't love him. It isn't possible. If I thought you did,
I wouldn't try to spoil your happiness. I'd go away. But you don't.
You can't. He's nothing. Molly!"
The canoe rocked as he leaned toward her.
She said nothing; but, for the first time, her eyes met his, clear
and unwavering. He could read fear in them, fear--not of himself, of
something vague, something he could not guess at. But they shone
with a light that conquered the fear as the sun conquers fire; and
he drew her to him, and kissed her again and again, murmuring
Suddenly, she wrenched herself away, struggling like some wild
thing. The boat plunged.
"I can't," she cried in a choking voice. "I mustn't. Oh, I can't!"
He stretched out a hand, and clutched at the rail than ran along the
wall. The plunging ceased. He turned. She had hidden her face, and
was sobbing, quietly, with the forlorn hopelessness of a lost child.
He made a movement toward her, but drew back. He felt dazed.
The rain thudded and splashed on the wooden roof. A few drops
trickled through a crack in the boards. He took off his coat, and
placed it gently over her shoulders.
She looked up with wet eyes.
"Molly, dear, what is it?"
"I mustn't. It isn't right."
"I don't understand."
"I mustn't, Jimmy."
He moved cautiously forward, holding the rail, till he was at her
side, and took her in his arms.
"What is it, dear? Tell me."
She clung to him without speaking.
"You aren't worrying about him, are you--about Dreever? There's
nothing to worry about. It'll be quite easy and simple. I'll tell
him, if you like. He knows you don't care for him; and, besides,
there's a girl in London that he--"
"No, no. It's not that."
"What is it, dear? What's troubling you?"
"Jimmy--" She stopped.
"Jimmy, my father wouldn't--father--father--doesn't--"
"Doesn't like me?"
She nodded miserably.
A great wave of relief swept over Jimmy. He had imagined--he hardly
knew what he had imagined: some vast, insuperable obstacle; some
tremendous catastrophe, whirling them asunder. He could have laughed
aloud in his happiness. So, this was it, this was the cloud that
brooded over them--that Mr. McEachern did not like him! The angel,
guarding Eden with a fiery sword, had changed into a policeman with
"He must learn to love me," he said, lightly.
She looked at him hopelessly. He could not see; he could not
understand. And how could she tell him? Her father's words rang in
her brain. He was "crooked." He was "here on some game." He was
being watched. But she loved him, she loved him! Oh, how could she
make him understand?
She clung tighter to him, trembling. He became serious again. "Dear,
you mustn't worry," he said. "It can't be helped. He'll come round.
Once we're married--"
"No, no. Oh, can't you understand? I couldn't, I couldn't!"
Jimmy's face whitened. He looked at her anxiously.
"But, dear!" he said. "You can't--do you mean to say--will that--"
he searched for a word-"stop you?" he concluded.
"It must," she whispered.
A cold hand clutched at his heart. His world was falling to pieces,
crumbling under his eyes.
"But--but you love me," he said, slowly. It was as if he were trying
to find the key to a puzzle. "I--don't see."
"You couldn't. You can't. You're a man. You don't know. It's so
different for a man! He's brought up all his life with the idea of
leaving home. He goes away naturally."
"But, dear, you couldn't live at home all your life. Whoever you
"But this would be different. Father would never speak to me again.
I should never see him again. He would go right out of my life.
Jimmy, I couldn't. A girl can't cut away twenty years of her life,
and start fresh like that. I should be haunted. I should make you
miserable. Every day, a hundred little things would remind me of
him, and I shouldn't be strong enough to resist them. You don't know
how fond he is of me, how good he has always been. Ever since I can
remember, we've been such friends. You've only seen the outside of
him, and I know how different that is from what he really is. All
his life he has thought only of me. He has told me things about
himself which nobody else dreams of, and I know that all these years
he has been working just for me. Jimmy, you don't hate me for saying
this, do you?"
"Go on," he said, drawing her closer to him.
"I can't remember my mother. She died when I was quite little. So,
he and I have been the only ones--till you came."
Memories of those early days crowded her mind as she spoke, making
her voice tremble; half-forgotten trifles, many of them, fraught
with the glamour and fragrance of past happiness.
"We have always been together. He trusted me, and I trusted him, and
we saw things through together. When I was ill, he used to sit up
all night with me, night after night. Once--I'd only got a little
fever, really, but I thought I was terribly bad--I heard him come in
late, and called out to him, and he came straight in, and sat and
held my hand all through the night; and it was only by accident I
found out later that it had been raining and that he was soaked
through. It might have killed him. We were partners, Jimmy, dear. I
couldn't do anything to hurt him now, could I? It wouldn't be
Jimmy had turned away his head, for fear his face might betray what
he was feeling. He was in a hell of unreasoning jealousy. He wanted
her, body and soul, and every word she said bit like a raw wound. A
moment before, and he had felt that she belonged to him. Now, in the
first shock of reaction, he saw himself a stranger, an intruder, a
trespasser on holy ground.
She saw the movement, and her intuition put her in touch with his
"No, no," she cried; "no, Jimmy, not that!"
Their eyes met, and he was satisfied.
They sat there, silent. The rain had lessened its force, and was
falling now in a gentle shower. A strip of blue sky, pale and
watery, showed through the gray over the hills. On the island close
behind them, a thrush had begun to sing.
"What are we to do?" she said, at last. "What can we do?"
"We must wait," he said. "It will all come right. It must. Nothing
can stop us now."
The rain had ceased. The blue had routed the gray, and driven it
from the sky. The sun, low down in the west, shone out bravely over
the lake. The air was cool and fresh.
Jimmy's spirits rose with a bound. He accepted the omen. This was
the world as it really was, smiling and friendly, not gray, as he
had fancied it. He had won. Nothing could alter that. What remained
to be done was trivial. He wondered how he could ever have allowed
it to weigh upon him.
After awhile, he pushed the boat out of its shelter on to the
glittering water, and seized the paddle.
"We must be getting back," he said. "I wonder what the time is. I
wish we could stay out forever. But it must be late. Molly!"
"Whatever happens, you'll break off this engagement with Dreever?
Shall I tell him? I will if you like."
"No, I will. I'll write him a note, if I don't see him before
Jimmy paddled on a few strokes.
"It's no good," he said suddenly, "I can't keep it in. Molly, do you
mind if I sing a bar or two? I've got a beastly voice, but I'm
feeling rather happy. I'll stop as soon as I can."
He raised his voice discordantly.
Covertly, from beneath the shade of her big hat, Molly watched him
with troubled eyes. The sun had gone down behind the hills, and the
water had ceased to glitter. There was a suggestion of chill in the
air. The great mass of the castle frowned down upon them, dark and
forbidding in the dim light.
A LESSON IN PICQTUET
Lord Dreever, meanwhile, having left the waterside, lighted a
cigarette, and proceeded to make a reflective tour of the grounds.
He felt aggrieved with the world. Molly's desertion in the canoe
with Jimmy did not trouble him: he had other sorrows. One is never
at one's best and sunniest when one has been forced by a ruthless
uncle into abandoning the girl one loves and becoming engaged to
another, to whom one is indifferent. Something of a jaundiced tinge
stains one's outlook on life in such circumstances. Moreover, Lord
Dreever was not by nature an introspective young man, but, examining
his position as he walked along, he found himself wondering whether
it was not a little unheroic. He came to the conclusion that perhaps
it was. Of course, Uncle Thomas could make it deucedly unpleasant
for him if he kicked. That was the trouble. If only he had even--
say, a couple of thousands a year of his own--he might make a fight
for it. But, dash it, Uncle Tom could cut off supplies to such a
frightful extent, if there was trouble, that he would have to go on
living at Dreever indefinitely, without so much as a fearful quid to
call his own.
Imagination boggled at the prospect. In the summer and autumn, when
there was shooting, his lordship was not indisposed to a stay at the
home of his fathers. But all the year round! Better a broken heart
inside the radius than a sound one in the country in the winter.
"But, by gad!" mused his lordship; "if I had as much as a couple--
yes, dash it, even a couple of thousand a year, I'd chance it, and
ask Katie to marry me, dashed if I wouldn't!"
He walked on, drawing thoughtfully at his cigarette. The more he
reviewed the situation, the less he liked it. There was only one
bright spot in it, and this was the feeling that now money must
surely get a shade less tight. Extracting the precious ore from Sir
Thomas hitherto had been like pulling back-teeth out of a bull-dog.
But, now, on the strength of this infernal engagement, surely the
uncle might reasonably be expected to scatter largesse to some
His lordship was just wondering whether, if approached in a softened
mood, the other might not disgorge something quite big, when a
large, warm rain-drop fell on his hand. From the bushes round about
came an ever increasing patter. The sky was leaden.
He looked round him for shelter. He had reached the rose-garden in
the course of his perambulations. At the far end was a summerhouse.
He turned up his coat-collar, and ran.
As he drew near, he heard a slow and dirge-like whistling proceeding
from the interior. Plunging in out of breath, just as the deluge
began, he found Hargate seated at the little wooden table with an
earnest expression on his face. The table was covered with cards.
Hargate had not yet been compelled to sprain his wrist, having
adopted the alternative of merely refusing invitations to play
"Hello, Hargate," said his lordship. "Isn't it coming down, by
Hargate glanced up, nodded without speaking, and turned his
attention to the cards once more. He took one from the pack in his
left hand, looked at it, hesitated for a moment, as if doubtful
whereabouts on the table it would produce the most artistic effect;
and finally put it face upward. Then, he moved another card from the
table, and put it on top of the other one. Throughout the
performance, he whistled painfully.
His lordship regarded his guest with annoyance.
"That looks frightfully exciting," he said, disparagingly. "What are
you playing at? Patience?"
Hargate nodded again, this time without looking up.
"Oh, don't sit there looking like a frog," said Lord Dreever,
irritably. "Talk, man."
Hargate gathered up the cards, and proceeded to shuffle them in a
meditative manner, whistling the while.
"Oh, stop it!" said his lordship.
Hargate nodded, and obediently put down the deck.
"Look here." said Lord Dreever, "this is boring me stiff. Let's have
a game of something. Anything to pass away the time. Curse this
rain! We shall be cooped up here till dinner at this rate. Ever
played picquet? I could teach it you in five minutes."
A look almost of awe came into Hargate's face, the look of one who
sees a miracle performed before his eyes. For years, he had been
using all the large stock of diplomacy at his command to induce
callow youths to play picquet with him, and here was this--admirable
young man, this pearl among young men, positively offering to teach
him the game. It was too much happiness. What had he done to deserve
this? He felt as a toil-worn lion might feel if some antelope,
instead of making its customary bee-line for the horizon, were to
trot up and insert its head between his jaws.
"I--I shouldn't mind being shown the idea," he said.
He listened attentively while Lord Dreever explained at some length
the principles that govern the game of picquet. Every now and then,
he asked a question. It was evident that he was beginning to grasp
the idea of the game.
"What exactly is re-piquing?" he asked, as his, lordship paused.
"It's like this," said his lordship, returning to his lecture.
"Yes, I see now," said the neophyte.
They began playing. Lord Dreever, as was only to be expected in a
contest between teacher and student, won the first two hands.
Hargate won the next.
"I've got the hang of it all right now," he said, complacently.
"It's a simple sort of game. Make it more exciting, don't you think,
if we played for something?"
"All right," said Lord Dreever slowly, "if you like."
He would not have suggested it himself, but, after all, dash it, if
the man really asked for it--It was not his fault if the winning of
a hand should have given the fellow the impression that he knew all
there was to be known about picquet. Of course, picquet was a game
where skill was practically bound to win. But--after all, Hargate
probably had plenty of money. He could afford it.
"All right," said his lordship again. "How much?"
"Something fairly moderate? Ten bob a hundred?"
There is no doubt that his lordship ought at this suggestion to have
corrected the novice's notion that ten shillings a hundred was
fairly moderate. He knew that it was possible for a poor player to
lose four hundred points in a twenty minutes' game, and usual for
him to lose two hundred. But he let the thing go.
"Very well," he said.
Twenty minutes later, Hargate was looking some-what ruefully at the
score-sheet. "I owe you eighteen shillings," he said. "Shall I pay
you now, or shall we settle up in a lump after we've finished?"
"What about stopping now?" said Lord Dreever. "It's quite fine out."
"No, let's go on. I've nothing to do till dinner, and I don't
suppose you have."
His lordship's conscience made one last effort.
"You'd much better stop, you know, Hargate, really," he said. "You
can lose a frightful lot at this game."
"My dear Dreever," said Hargate stiffly, "I can look after myself,
thanks. Of course, if you think you are risking too much, by all
"Oh, if you don't mind," said his lordship, outraged, "I'm only too
frightfully pleased. Only, remember I warned you."
"I'll bear it in mind. By the way, before we start, care to make it
a sovereign a hundred?"
Lord Dreever could not afford to play picquet for a soverign a
hundred, or, indeed, to play picquet for money at all; but, after
his adversary's innuendo, it was impossible for a young gentleman of
spirit to admit the humiliating fact. He nodded.
"About time, I fancy," said Hargate, looking at his watch an hour
later, "that we were going in to dress for dinner."
His lordship, made no reply. He was wrapped in thought.
"Let's see, that's twenty pounds you owe me, isn't it?" continued
Hargate. "Shocking bad luck you had!"
They went out into the rose-garden.
"Jolly everything smells after the rain," said Hargate, who seemed
to have struck a conversational patch. "Freshened everything up."
His lordship did not appear to have noticed it. He seemed to be
thinking of something else. His air was pensive and abstracted.
"There's just time," said Hargate, looking at his watch again, "for
a short stroll. I want to have a talk with you."
"Oh!" said Lord Dreever.
His air did not belie his feelings. He looked pensive, and was
pensive. It was deuced awkward, this twenty pounds business.
Hargate was watching him covertly. It was his business to know other
people's business, and he knew that Lord Dreever was impecunious,
and depended for supplies entirely on a prehensile uncle. For the
success of the proposal he was about to make, he depended on this
"Who's this man Pitt?" asked Hargate.
"Oh, pal of mine," said his lordship. "Why?"
"I can't stand the fellow."
"I think he's a good chap," said his lordship. "In fact,"
remembering Jimmy's Good Samaritanism, "I know he is. Why don't you
"I don't know. I don't."
"Oh?" said his lordship, indifferently. He was in no mood to listen
to the likes and dislikes of other men.
"Look here, Dreever," said Hargate, "I want you to do something for
me. I want you to get Pitt out of the place."
Lord Dreever eyed his guest curiously.
"Eh?" he said.
Hargate repeated his remark.
"You seem to have mapped out quite a program for me," said Lord
"Get him out of it," continued Hargate vehemently. Jimmy's
prohibition against billiards had hit him hard. He was suffering the
torments of Tantalus. The castle was full of young men of the kind
to whom he most resorted, easy marks every one; and here he was,
simply through Jimmy, careened like a disabled battleship. It was
maddening. "Make him go. You invited him here. He doesn't expect to
stop indefinitely, I suppose? If you left, he'd have to, too. What
you must do is to go back to London to-morrow. You can easily make
some excuse. He'll have to go with you. Then, you can drop him in
London, and come back. That's what you must do."
A delicate pink flush might have been seen to spread itself over
Lord Dreever's face. He began to look like an angry rabbit. He had
not a great deal of pride in his composition, but the thought of the
ignominious role that Hargate was sketching out for him stirred what
he had to its shallow bottom. Talking on, Hargate managed to add the
"Of course," he said, "that money you lost to me at picquet--what
was it? Twenty? Twenty pounds, wasn't it? Well, we would look on
that as canceled, of course. That will be all right."
His lordship exploded.
"Will it?" he cried, pink to the ears. "Will it, by George? I'll pay
you every frightful penny of it to-morrow, and then you can clear
out, instead of Pitt. What do you take me for, I should like to
"A fool, if you refuse my offer."
"I've a jolly good mind to give you a most frightful kicking."
"I shouldn't try, if I were you. It's not the sort of game you'd
shine at. Better stick to picquet."
"If you think I can't pay your rotten money--"
"I do. But, if you can, so much the better. Money is always useful."
"I may be a fool in some ways--"
"You understate it, my dear man."
"--but I'm not a cad."
"You're getting quite rosy, Dreever. Wrath is good for the
"And, if you think you can bribe me, you never made a bigger mistake
in your life."
"Yes, I did," said Hargate, "when I thought you had some glimmerings
of intelligence. But, if it gives you any pleasure to behave like
the juvenile lead in a melodrama, by all means do. Personally, I
shouldn't have thought the game would be worth the candle. But, if
your keen sense of honor compels you to pay the twenty pounds, all
right. You mentioned to-morrow? That will suit me. So, we'll let it
go it at that."
He walked off, leaving Lord Dreever filled with the comfortable glow
that comes to the weak man who for once has displayed determination.
He felt that he must not go back from his dignified standpoint. That
money would have to be paid, and on the morrow. Hargate was the sort
of man who could, and would, make it exceedingly unpleasant for him
if he failed. A debt of honor was not a thing to be trifled with.
But he felt quite safe. He knew he could get the money when he
pleased. It showed, he reflected philosophically, how out of evil
cometh good. His greater misfortune, the engagement, would, as it
were, neutralize the less, for it was ridiculous to suppose that Sir
Thomas, having seen his ends accomplished, and being presumably in a
spacious mood in consequence, would not be amenable to a request for
a mere twenty pounds.
He went on into the hall. He felt strong and capable. He had shown
Hargate the stuff there was in him. He was Spennie Dreever, the man
of blood and iron, the man with whom it were best not to trifle. But
it was really, come to think of it, uncommonly lucky that he was
engaged to Molly. He recoiled from the idea of attempting,
unfortified by that fact, to extract twenty pounds from Sir Thomas
for a card-debt.
In the hall, he met Saunders.
"I have been looking for your lordship," said the butler.
"Eh? Well, here I am."
"Just so, your lordship. Miss McEachern entrusted me with this note
to deliver to you in the event of her not being h'able to see you
before dinner personally, your lordship."
"Right ho. Thanks."
He started to go upstairs, opening the envelope as he went. What
could the girl be writing to him about? Surely, she wasn't going to
start sending him love-letters, or any of that frightful rot? Deuced
difficult it would be to play up to that sort of thing!
He stopped on the first landing to read the note, and at the opening
line his jaw fell. The envelope fluttered to the ground.
"Oh, my sainted aunt!" he moaned, clutching at the banisters. "Now,
I am in the soup!"
There are doubtless men so constructed that they can find themselves
accepted suitors without any particular whirl of emotion. King
Solomon probably belonged to this class, and even Henry the Eighth
must have become a trifle blase in time. But, to the average man,
the sensations are complex and overwhelming. A certain stunned
feeling is perhaps predominant. Blended with this is relief, the
relief of a general who has brought a difficult campaign to a
successful end, or of a member of a forlorn hope who finds that the
danger is over and that he is still alive. To this must be added a
newly born sense of magnificence. Our suspicion that we were
something rather out of the ordinary run of men is suddenly
confirmed. Our bosom heaves with complacency, and the world has
nothing more to offer.
With some, there is an alloy of apprehension in the metal of their
happiness, and the strain of an engagement sometimes brings with it
even a faint shadow of regret. "She makes me buy things," one swain,
in the third quarter of his engagement, was overheard to moan to a
friend. "Two new ties only yesterday." He seemed to be debating
with himself whether human nature could stand the strain.
But, whatever tragedies may cloud the end of the period, its
beginning at least is bathed in sunshine.
Jimmy, regarding his lathered face in. the glass as he dressed for
dinner that night, marveled at the excellence of this best of all
No doubts disturbed him. That the relations between Mr. McEachern
and himself offered a permanent bar to his prospects, he did not
believe. For the moment, he declined to consider the existence of
the ex-constable at all. In a world that contained Molly, there was
no room for other people. They were not in the picture. They did not
To him, musing contentedly over the goodness of life, there entered,
in the furtive manner habitual to that unreclaimed buccaneer, Spike
Mullins. It may have been that Jimmy read his own satisfaction and
happiness into the faces of others, but it certainly seemed to him
that there was a sort of restrained joyousness about Spike's
demeanor. The Bowery boy's shuffles on the carpet were almost a
dance. His face seemed to glow beneath his crimson hair.
"Well," said Jimmy, "and how goes the world with young Lord Fitz-
Mullins? Spike, have you ever been best man?
"What's dat, boss?"
"Best man at a wedding. Chap who stands by the bridegroom with a
hand on the scruff of his neck to see that he goes through with it.
Fellow who looks after everything, crowds the money on to the
minister at the end of the ceremony, and then goes off and mayries
the first bridesmaid, and lives happily ever."
Spike shook his head.
"I ain't got no use for gittin' married, boss."
"Spike, the misogynist! You wait, Spike. Some day, love will awake
in your heart, and you'll start writing poetry."
"I'se not dat kind of mug, boss," protested the Bowery boy. "I ain't
got no use fer goils. It's a mutt's game."
This was rank heresy. Jimmy laid down the razor from motives of
prudence, and proceeded to lighten Spike's reprehensible darkness.
"Spike, you're an ass," he said. "You don't know anything about it.
If you had any sense at all, you'd understand that the only thing
worth doing in life is to get married. You bone-headed bachelors
make me sick. Think what it would mean to you, having a wife. Think
of going out on a cold winter's night to crack a crib, knowing that
there would be a cup of hot soup waiting for you when you got back,
and your slippers all warmed and comfortable. And then she'd sit on
your knee, and you'd tell her how you shot the policeman, and you'd
examine the swag together--! Why, I can't imagine anything cozier.
Perhaps there would be little Spikes running about the house. Can't
you see them jumping with joy as you slid in through the window, and
told the great news? 'Fahzer's killed a pleeceman!' cry the tiny,
eager voices. Candy is served out all round in honor of the event.
Golden-haired little Jimmy Mullins, my god-son, gets a dime for
having thrown a stone at a plain-clothes detective that afternoon.
All is joy and wholesome revelry. Take my word for it, Spike,
there's nothing like domesticity."
"Dere was a goil once," said Spike, meditatively. "Only, I was never
her steady. She married a cop."
"She wasn't worthy of you, Spike," said Jimmy, sympathetically. "A
girl capable of going to the bad like that would never have done for
you. You must pick some nice, sympathetic girl with a romantic
admiration for your line of business. Meanwhile, let me finish
shaving, or I shall be late for dinner. Great doings on to-night,
Spike became animated.
"Sure, boss I Dat's just what--"
"If you could collect all the blue blood that will be under this
roof to-night, Spike, into one vat, you'd be able to start a dyeing-
works. Don't try, though. They mightn't like it. By the way, have
you seen anything more--of course, you have. What I mean is, have
you talked at all with that valet man, the one you think is a
"Why, boss, dat's just--"
"I hope for his own sake he's a better performer than my old friend,
Galer. That man is getting on my nerves, Spike. He pursues me like a
smell-dog. I expect he's lurking out in the passage now. Did you see
"Did I! Boss! Why--"
Jimmy inspected Spike gravely.
"Spike," he said, "there's something on your mind. You're trying to
say something. What is it? Out with it."
Spike's excitement vented itself in a rush of words.
"Gee, boss! There's bin doin's to-night fer fair, lie coco's still
buzzin'. Sure t'ing! Why, say, when I was to Sir Tummas' dressin'-
room dis afternoon--"
"Surest t'ing you know. Just before de storm come on, when it was
all as dark as could be. Well, I was--"
"In Sir Thomas's dressing-room! What the--"
Spike looked somewhat embarrassed. He grinned apologetically, and
shuffled his feet.
"I've got dem, boss!" he said, with a smirk.
"Got them? Got what?"
Spike plunged a hand in a pocket, and drew forth in a glittering
mass Lady Julia Blunt's rope of diamonds.
TWO OF A TRADE DISAGREE
"One hundred t'ousand plunks," murmured Spike, gazing lovingly at
them. "I says to myself, de boss ain't got no time to be gittin'
after dem himself. He's too busy dese days wit' jollyin' along de
swells. So, it's up to me, I says, 'cos de boss'll be tickled to
deat', all right, all right, if we can git away wit' dem. So, I--"
Jimmy gave tongue with an energy that amazed his faithful follower.
The nightmare horror of the situation had affected him much as a
sudden blow in the parts about the waistcoat might have done. But,
now, as Spike would have said, he caught up with his breath. The
smirk faded slowly from the other's face as he listened. Not even in
the Bowery, full as it was of candid friends, had he listened to
such a trenchant summing-up of his mental and moral deficiencies.
"Boss!" he protested.
"That's just a sketchy outline," said Jimmy, pausing for breath. "I
can't do you justice impromptu like this--you're too vast and
"But, boss, what's eatin' you? Ain't youse tickled?"
"Tickled!" Jimmy sawed the air. "Tickled! You lunatic! Can't you see
what you've done?"
"I've got dem," said Spike, whose mind was not readily receptive of
new ideas. It seemed to him that Jimmy missed the main point.
"Didn't I tell you there was nothing doing when you wanted to take
those things the other day?"
Spike's face cleared. As he had suspected, Jimmy had missed the
"Why, say, boss, yes. Sure! But dose was little, dinky t'ings. Of
course, youse wouldn't stand fer swipin' chicken-feed like dem. But
dese is different. Dese di'monds is boids. It's one hundred t'ousand
plunks fer dese."
"Spike," said Jimmy with painful calm.
"Will you listen for a moment?"
"I know it's practically hopeless. To get an idea into your head,
one wants a proper outfit--drills, blasting-powder, and so on. But
there's just a chance, perhaps, if I talk slowly. Has it occurred to
you, Spike, my bonny, blue-eyed Spike, that every other man, more or
less, in this stately home of England, is a detective who has
probably received instructions to watch you like a lynx? Do you
imagine that your blameless past is a sufficient safeguard? I
suppose you think that these detectives will say to themselves,
'Now, whom shall we suspect? We must leave out Spike Mullins, of
course, because he naturally wouldn't dream of doing such a thing.
It can't be dear old Spike who's got the stuff.'"
"But, boss," interposed Spike brightly, "I ain't! Dat's right. I
ain't got it. Youse has!"
Jimmy looked at the speaker with admiration. After all, there was a
breezy delirium about Spike's methods of thought that was rather
stimulating when you got used to it. The worst of it was that it did
not fit in with practical, everyday life. Under different
conditions--say, during convivial evenings at Bloomingdale--he could
imagine the Bowery boy being a charming companion. How pleasantly,
for instance, such remarks as that last would while away the
monotony of a padded cell!
"But, laddie," he said with steely affection, "listen once more.
Reflect! Ponder! Does it not seep into your consciousness that we
are, as it were, subtly connected in this house in the minds of
certain bad persons? Are we not imagined by Mr. McEachern, for
instance, to be working hand-in-hand like brothers? Do you fancy
that Mr. McEachern, chatting with his tame sleuth-hound over their
cigars, will have been reticent on this point? I think not. How do
you propose to baffle that gentlemanly sleuth, Spike, who, I may
mention once again, has rarely moved more than two yards away from
me since his arrival?"
An involuntary chuckle escaped Spike.
"Sure, boss, dat's all right."
"All right, is it? Well, well! What makes you think it is all
"Why, say, boss, dose sleut's is out of business." A merry grin
split Spike's face. "It's funny, boss. Gee! It's got a circus
skinned! Listen. Dey's bin an' arrest each other."
Jimmy moodily revised his former view. Even in Bloomingdale, this
sort of thing would be coldly received. Genius must ever walk alone.
Spike would have to get along without hope of meeting a kindred
spirit, another fellow-being in tune with his brain-processes.
"Dat's right," chuckled Spike. "Leastways, it ain't."
"No, no," said Jimmy, soothingly. " I quite understand."
"It's dis way, boss. One of dem has bin an' arrest de odder mug. Dey
had a scrap, each t'inkin' de odder guy was after de jools, an' not
knowin' dey was bot' sleut's, an' now one of dem's bin an' taken de
odder off, an'"--there were tears of innocent joy in Spike's eyes--
"an' locked him into de coal-cellar."
"What on earth do you mean?"
Spike giggled helplessly.
"Listen, boss. It's dis way. Gee! It beat de band! When it's all
dark 'cos of de storm comin' on, I'm in de dressin'-room, chasin'
around fer de jool-box, an' just as I gits a line on it, gee! I
hears a footstep comin' down de passage, very soft, straight fer de
door. Was I to de bad? Dat's right. I says to meself, here's one of
de sleut' guys what's bin and got wise to me, an' he's comin' in to
put de grip on me. So, I gits up quick, an' I hides behind a
coitain. Dere's a coitain at de side of de room. Dere's dude suits
an' t'ings hangin' behind it. I chases meself in dere, and stands
waitin' fer de sleut' to come in. 'Cos den, you see, I'm goin' to
try an' get busy before he can see who I am--it's pretty dark 'cos
of de storm--an' jolt him one on de point of de jaw, an' den, while
he's down an' out, chase meself fer de soivants' hall."
"Yes?" said Jimmy.
"Well, dis guy, he gits to de door, an' opens it, an' I'm just
gittin' ready fer one sudden boist of speed, when dere jumps out
from de room on de odder side de passage--you know de room--anodder
guy, an' gits de rapid strangleholt on de foist mug. Say, wouldn't
dat make youse glad you hadn't gone to de circus? Honest, it was
better dan Coney Island."
"Go on. What happened then?"
"Dey falls to scrappin' good an' hard. Dey couldn't see me, an' I
couldn't see dem, but I could hear dem bumpin' about and sluggin'
each other to beat de band. An', by and by, one of de mugs puts do
odder mug to de bad, so dat he goes down and takes de count; an' den
I hears a click. An' I know what dat is. It's one of de gazebos has
put de irons on de odder gazebo."
"Call them A, and B.," suggested Jimmy.
"Den I hears him--de foist mug--strike a light, 'cos it's dark dere
'cos of de storm, an' den he says, 'Got youse. have I?' he says.
'I've had my eye on youse, t'inkin' youse was up to somet'in' of dis
kind. I've bin watching youse!' I knew de voice. It's dat mug what
calls himself Sir Tummas' vally. An' de odder--"
Jimmy burst into a roar of laughter.
"Don't, Spike! This is more than man was meant to stand. Do you mean
to tell me it is my bright, brainy, persevering friend Galer who has
been handcuffed and locked in the coal-cellar?"
Spike grinned broadly.
"Sure, dat's right," he said.
"It's a judgment," said Jimmy, delightedly. "That's what it is! No
man has a right to be such a consumate ass as Galer. It isn't
There had been moments when McEachern's faithful employee had filled
Jimmy with an odd sort of fury, a kind of hurt pride, almost to the
extent of making him wish that he really could have been the
desperado McEachern fancied him. Never in his life before had he sat
still under a challenge, and this espionage had been one. Behind the
clumsy watcher, he had seen always the self-satisfied figure of
McEachern. If there had been anything subtle about the man from
Dodson's, he could have forgiven him; but there was not. Years of
practise had left Spike with a sort of sixth sense as regarded
representatives of the law. He could pierce the most cunning
disguise. But, in the case of Galer, even Jimmy could detect the
"Go on," he said.
"Well, de odder mug, de one down an' out on de floor wit' de irons
"Galer, in fact," said Jimmy. "Handsome, dashing Galer!"
"Sure. Well, he's too busy catchin' up wit' his breat' to shoot it
back swift, but, after he's bin doin' de deep-breathin' strut for a
while, he says, 'You mutt,' he says, 'youse is to de bad. You've
made a break, you have. Dat's right. Surest t'ing you know.' He puts
it different, but dat's what he means. 'I'm a sleut', he says. 'Take
dese t'ings off!'--meanin' de irons. Does de odder mug, de vally
gazebo, give him de glad eye? Not so's you could notice it. He gives
him de merry ha-ha. He says dat dat's de woist tale dat's ever bin
handed to him. 'Tell it to Sweeney!' he says. 'I knows youse. Youse
woims yourself into de house as a guest, when youse is really after
de loidy's jools.' At dese crool woids, de odder mug, Galer, gits
hot under de collar. 'I'm a sure-'nough sleut',' he says. 'I blows
into dis house at de special request of Mr. McEachern, de American
gent.' De odder mug hands de lemon again. 'Tell it to de King of
Denmark,' he says. 'Dis cop's de limit. Youse has enough gall fer
ten strong men,' he says. 'Show me to Mr. McEachern,' says Galer.
'He'll--' crouch, is dat it?"
"Vouch?" suggested Jimmy. "Meaning give the glad hand to."
"Dat's right. Vouch. I wondered what he meant at de time. 'He'll
vouch for me,' he says. Dat puts him all right, he t'inks; but no,
he's still in Dutch, 'cos de vally mug says, 'Nix on dat! I ain't
goin' to chase around de house wit' youse, lookin' fer Mr.
McEachern. It's youse fer de coal-cellar, me man, an' we'll see what
youse has to say when I makes me report to Sir Tummas.' 'Well, dat's
to de good,' says Galer. 'Tell Sir Tummas. I'll explain to him.'
'Not me!' says de vally. 'Sir Tummas has a hard evenin's woik before
him, jollyin' along de swells what's comin' to see dis stoige-piece
dey're actin'. I ain't goin' to worry him till he's good and ready.
To de coal-cellar fer yours! G'wan!' an' off dey goes! An' I gits
busy ag'in, swipes de jools, an' chases meself here."
Jimmy wiped his eyes.
"Have you ever heard of poetic justice, Spike?" he asked. "This is
it. But, in this hour of mirth and good-will, we must not forget--"
Spike interrupted. Pleased by the enthusiastic reception of his
narrative, he proceeded to point out the morals that were to be
"So, youse see, boss," he said, "it's all to de merry. When dey
rubbers for de jools, an' finds dem gone, dey'll t'ink dis Galer guy
swiped dem. Dey won't t'ink of us."
Jimmy looked at the speaker gravely.
"Of course," said he. "What a reasoner you are, Spike! Galer was
just opening the door from the outside, by your account, when the
valet man sprang at him. Naturally, they'll think that he took the
jewels. Especially, as they won't find them on him. A man who can
open a locked safe through a closed door is just the sort of fellow
who would be able to get rid of the swag neatly while rolling about
the floor with the valet. His not having the jewels will make the
case all the blacker against him. And what will make them still more
certain that he is the thief is that he really is a detective.
Spike, you ought to be in some sort of a home, you know."
The Bowery boy looked disturbed.
"I didn't t'ink of dat, boss," he admitted.
"Of course not. One can't think of everything. Now, if you will just
hand me those diamonds, I will put them back where they belong."
"Put dem back, boss!"
"What else would you propose? I'd get you to do it, only I don't
think putting things back is quite in your line."
Spike handed over the jewels. The boss was the boss, and what he
said went. But his demeanor was tragic, telling eloquently of hopes
Jimmy took the necklace with something of a thrill. He was a
connoisseur of jewels, and a fine gem affected him much as a fine
picture affects the artistic. He ran the diamonds through his
fingers, then scrutinized them again, more closely this time.
Spike watched him with a slight return of hope. It seemed to him
that the boss was wavering. Perhaps, now that he had actually
handled the jewels, he would find it impossible to give them up. To
Spike, a diamond necklace of cunning workmanship was merely the
equivalent of so many "plunks"; but he knew that there were men,
otherwise sane, who valued a jewel for its own sake.
"It's a boid of a necklace, boss," he murmured, encouragingly.
"It is," said Jimmy; "in its way, I've never seen anything much
better. Sir Thomas will be glad to have it back."
"Den, you're goin' to put it back, boss?"
"I am," said Jimmy. "I'll do it just before the theatricals. There
should be a chance, then. There's one good thing. This afternoon's
affair will have cleared the air of sleuth-hounds a little."
Hildebrand Spencer Poynt de Burgh John Hannasyde Coombe-Crombie,
twelfth Earl of Dreever, was feeling like a toad under the harrow.
He read the letter again, but a second perusal made it no better.
Very briefly and clearly, Molly had broken off the engagement. She
"thought it best." She was "afraid it could make neither of us
happy." All very true, thought his lordship miserably. His
sentiments to a T. At the proper time, he would have liked nothing
better. But why seize for this declaration the precise moment when
he was intending, on the strength of the engagement, to separate his
uncle from twenty pounds? That was what rankled. That Molly could
have no knowledge of his sad condition did not occur to him. He had
a sort of feeling that she ought to have known by instinct. Nature,
as has been pointed out, had equipped Hildebrand Spencer Poynt de
Burgh with one of those cheap-substitute minds. What passed for
brain in him was to genuine gray matter as just-as-good imitation
coffee is to real Mocha. In moments of emotion and mental stress,
consequently, his reasoning, like Spike's, was apt to be in a class
of its own.
He read the letter for the third time, and a gentle perspiration
began to form on his forehead. This was awful. The presumable
jubilation of Katie, the penniless ripper of the Savoy, when he
should present himself to her a free man, did not enter into the
mental picture that was unfolding before him. She was too remote.
Between him and her lay the fearsome figure of Sir Thomas, rampant,
filling the entire horizon. Nor is this to be wondered at. There was
probably a brief space during which Perseus, concentrating his gaze
upon the monster, did not see Andromeda; and a knight of the Middle
Ages, jousting in the Gentlemen's Singles for a smile from his lady,
rarely allowed the thought of that smile to occupy his whole mind at
the moment when his boiler-plated antagonist was descending upon him
in the wake of a sharp spear.
So with Spennie Dreever. Bright eyes might shine for him when all
was over, but in the meantime what seemed to him more important was
that bulging eyes would glare.
If only this had happened later--even a day later! The reckless
impulsiveness of the modern girl had undone him. How was he to pay
Hargate the money? Hargate must be paid. That was certain. No other
course was possible. Lord Dreever's was not one of those natures
that fret restlessly under debt. During his early career at college,
he had endeared himself to the local tradesmen by the magnitude of
the liabilities he had contracted with them. It was not the being in
debt that he minded. It was the consequences. Hargate, he felt
instinctively, was of a revengeful nature. He had given Hargate
twenty pounds' worth of snubbing, and the latter had presented the
bills. If it were not paid, things would happen. Hargate and he were
members of the same club, and a member of a club who loses money at
cards to a fellow member, and fails to settle up, does not make
himself popular with the committee.
He must get the money. There was no avoiding that conclusion. But
Financially, his lordship was like a fallen country with a glorious
history. There had been a time, during his first two years at
college, when he had reveled in the luxury of a handsome allowance.
This was the golden age, when Sir Thomas Blunt, being, so to speak,
new to the job, and feeling that, having reached the best circles,
he must live up to them, had scattered largesse lavishly. For two
years after his marriage with Lady Julia, he had maintained this
admirable standard, crushing his natural parsimony. He had regarded
the money so spent as capital sunk in an investment. By the end of
the second year, he had found his feet, and began to look about him
for ways of retrenchment. His lordship's allowance was an obvious
way. He had not to wait long for an excuse for annihilating it.
There is a game called poker, at which a man without much control
over his features may exceed the limits of the handsomest allowance.
His lordship's face during a game of poker was like the surface of
some quiet pond, ruffled by every breeze. The blank despair of his
expression when he held bad cards made bluffing expensive. The
honest joy that bubbled over in his eyes when his hand was good
acted as an efficient danger-signal to his grateful opponents. Two
weeks of poker had led to his writing to his uncle a distressed, but
confident, request for more funds; and the avuncular foot had come
down with a joyous bang. Taking his stand on the evils of gambling,
Sir Thomas had changed the conditions of the money-market for his
nephew with a thoroughness that effectually prevented the
possibility of the youth's being again caught by the fascinations of
poker. The allowance vanished absolutely; and in its place there
came into being an arrangement. By this, his lordship was to have
whatever money he wished, but he must ask for it, and state why it
was needed. If the request were reasonable, the cash would be
forthcoming; if preposterous, it would not. The flaw in the scheme,
from his lordship's point of view, was the difference of opinion
that can exist in the minds of two men as to what the words
reasonable and preposterous may be taken to mean.
Twenty pounds, for instance, would, in the lexicon of Sir Thomas
Blunt, be perfectly reasonable for the current expenses of a man
engaged to Molly McEachern, but preposterous for one to whom she had
declined to remain engaged. It is these subtle shades of meaning
that make the English language so full of pitfalls for the
So engrossed was his lordship in his meditations that a voice spoke
at his elbow ere he became aware of Sir Thomas himself, standing by
"Well, Spennie, my boy," said the knight. "Time to dress for dinner,
I think. Eh? Eh?"
He was plainly in high good humor. The thought of the distinguished
company he was to entertain that night had changed him temporarily,
as with some wave of a fairy wand, into a thing of joviality and
benevolence. One could almost hear the milk of human kindness
gurgling and splashing within him. The irony of fate! Tonight, such
was his mood, a dutiful nephew could have come and felt in his
pockets and helped himself--if circumstances had been different. Oh,
woman, woman, how you bar us from paradise!
His lordship gurgled a wordless reply, thrusting the fateful letter
hastily into his pocket. He would break the news anon. Soon--not
yet--later on--in fact, anon!
"Up in your part, my boy?" continued Sir Thomas. "You mustn't spoil
the play by forgetting your lines. That wouldn't do!"
His eye was caught by the envelope that Spennie had dropped. A
momentary lapse from the jovial and benevolent was the result. His
fussy little soul abhorred small untidinesses.
"Dear me," he said, stooping, "I wish people would not drop paper
about the house. I cannot endure a litter." He spoke as if somebody
had been playing hare-and-hounds, and scattering the scent on the
stairs. This sort of thing sometimes made him regret the old days.
In Blunt's Stores, Rule Sixty-seven imposed a fine of half-a-crown
on employees convicted of paper-dropping.
"I--" began his lordship.
"Why"--Sir Thomas straightened himself--"it's addressed to you."
"I was just going to pick it up. It's--er--there was a note in it."
Sir Thomas gazed at the envelope again. Joviality and benevolence
resumed their thrones.
"And in a feminine handwriting," he chuckled. He eyed the limp peer
almost roguishly. "I see, I see," he said. "Very charming, quite
delightful! Girls must have their little romance! I suppose you two
young people are exchanging love-letters all day. Delightful, quite
delightful! Don't look as if you were ashamed of it, my boy! I like
it. I think it's charming."
Undoubtedly, this was the opening. Beyond a question, his lordship
should have said at this point:
"Uncle, I cannot tell a lie. I cannot even allow myself to see you
laboring under a delusion which a word from me can remove. The
contents of this note are not what you suppose. They run as follows-
What he did say was:
"Uncle, can you let me have twenty pounds?"
Those were his amazing words. They slipped out. He could not stop
Sir Thomas was taken aback for an instant, but not seriously. He
started, as might a man who, stroking a cat, receives a sudden, but
"Twenty pounds, eh?" he said, reflectively.
Then, the milk of human kindness swept over displeasure like a tidal
wave. This was a night for rich gifts to the deserving.
"Why, certainly, my boy, certainly. Do you want it at once?"
His lordship replied that he did, please; and he had seldom said
anything more fervently.
"Well, well. We'll see what we can do. Come with me."
He led the way to his dressing-room. Like nearly all the rooms at
the castle, it was large. One wall was completely hidden by the
curtain behind which Spike had taken refuge that afternoon.
Sir Thomas went to the dressing-table, and unlocked a small drawer.
"Twenty, you said? Five, ten, fifteen--here you are, my boy."
Lord Dreever muttered his thanks. Sir Thomas accepted the guttural
acknowledgment with a friendly pat on the shoulder.
"I like a little touch like that," he said.
His lordship looked startled.
"I wouldn't have touched you," he began, "if it hadn't been--"
"A little touch like that letter-writing," Sir Thomas went on. "It
shows a warm heart. She is a warm-hearted girl, Spennie. A charming,
warm-hearted girl! You're uncommonly lucky, my boy."
His lordship, crackling the four bank-notes, silently agreed with
"But, come, I must be dressing. Dear me, it is very late. We shall
have to hurry. By the way, my boy, I shall take the opportunity of
making a public announcement of the engagement tonight. It will be a
capital occasion for it. I think, perhaps, at the conclusion of the
theatricals, a little speech--something quite impromptu and
informal, just asking them to wish you happiness, and so on. I like
the idea. There is an old-world air about it that appeals to me.
He turned to the dressing-table, and removed his collar.
"Well, run along, my boy," he said. "You must not be late." His
lordship tottered from the room.
He did quite an unprecedented amount of thinking as he hurried into
his evening clothes; but the thought occurring most frequently was
that, whatever happened, all was well in one way, at any rate. He
had the twenty pounds. There would be something colossal in the
shape of disturbances when his uncle learned the truth. It would be
the biggest thing since the San Francisco earthquake. But what of
it? He had the money.
He slipped it into his waistcoat-pocket. He would take it down with
him, and pay Hargate directly after dinner.
He left the room. The flutter of a skirt caught his eye as he
reached the landing. A girl was coming down the corridor on the
other side. He waited at the head of the stairs to let her go down
before him. As she came on to the landing, he saw that it was Molly.
For a moment, there was an awkward pause.
"Er--I got your note," said his lordship.
She looked at him, and then burst out laughing.
"You know, you don't mind the least little bit," she said; "not a
scrap. Now, do you?"
"Well, you see--"
"Don't make excuses! Do you?"
"Well, it's like this, you see, I--"
He caught her eye. Next moment, they were laughing together.
"No, but look here, you know," said his lordship. "What I mean is,
it isn't that I don't--I mean, look here, there's no reason why we
shouldn't be the best of pals."
"Why, of course, there isn't."
"No, really, I say? That's ripping. Shake hands on it."
They clasped hands; and it was in this affecting attitude that Sir
Thomas Blunt, bustling downstairs, discovered them.
"Aha!" he cried, archly. "Well, well, well! But don't mind me, don't
Molly flushed uncomfortably; partly, because she disliked Sir Thomas
even when he was not arch, and hated him when he was; partly,
because she felt foolish; and, principally, because she was
bewildered. She had not looked forward to meeting Sir Thomas that
night. It was always unpleasant to meet him, but it would be more
unpleasant than usual after she had upset the scheme for which he
had worked so earnestly. She had wondered whether he would be cold
and distant, or voluble and heated. In her pessimistic moments, she
had anticipated a long and painful scene. That he should be behaving
like this was not very much short of a miracle. She could not
A glance at Lord Dreever enlightened her. That miserable creature
was wearing the air of a timid child about to pull a large cracker.
He seemed to be bracing himself up for an explosion.
She pitied him sincerely. So, he had not told his uncle the news,
yet! Of course, he had scarcely had time. Saunders must have given
him the note as he was going up to dress.
There was, however, no use in prolonging the agony. Sir Thomas must
be told, sooner or later. She was glad of the chance to tell him
herself. She would be able to explain that it was all her doing.
"I'm afraid there's a mistake," she said.
"Eh?" said Sir Thomas.
"I've been thinking it over, and I came to the conclusion that we
weren't--well, I broke off the engagement!"
Sir Thomas' always prominent eyes protruded still further. The color
of his florid face deepened. Suddenly, he chuckled.
Molly looked at him, amazed. Sir Thomas was indeed behaving
"I see it," he wheezed. "You're having a joke with me! So this is
what you were hatching as I came downstairs! Don't tell me! If you
had really thrown him over, you wouldn't have been laughing together
like that. It's no good, my dear. I might have been taken in, if I
had not seen you, but I did."
"No, no," cried Molly. "You're wrong. You're quite wrong. When you
saw us, we were just agreeing that we should be very good friends.
That was all. I broke off the engagement before that. I--"
She was aware that his lordship had emitted a hollow croak, but she
took it as his method of endorsing her statement, not as a warning.
"I wrote Lord Dreever a note this evening," she went on, "telling
him that I couldn't possibly--"
She broke off in alarm. With the beginning of her last speech, Sir
Thomas had begun to swell, until now he looked as if he were in
imminent danger of bursting. His face was purple. To Molly's lively
imagination, his eyes appeared to move slowly out of his head, like
a snail's. From the back of his throat came strange noises.
"S-s-so--" he stammered.
He gulped, and tried again.
"So this," he said, "so this--! So that was what was in that letter,
Lord Dreever, a limp bundle against the banisters, smiled weakly.
"Eh?" yelled Sir Thomas.
His lordship started convulsively.
"Er, yes," he said, "yes, yes! That was it, don't you know!"
Sir Thomas eyed his nephew with a baleful stare. Molly looked from
one to the other in bewilderment.
There was a pause, during which Sir Thomas seemed partially to
recover command of himself. Doubts as to the propriety of a family
row in mid-stairs appeared to occur to him. He moved forward.
"Come with me," he said, with awful curtness.
His lordship followed, bonelessly. Molly watched them go, and
wondered more than ever. There was something behind this. It was not
merely the breaking-off of the engagement that had roused Sir
Thomas. He was not a just man, but he was just enough to be able to
see that the blame was not Lord Dreever's. There had been something
more. She was puzzled.
In the hall, Saunders was standing, weapon in hand, about to beat
"Not yet," snapped Sir Thomas. "Wait!"
Dinner had been ordered especially early that night because of the
theatricals. The necessity for strict punctuality had been straitly
enjoined upon Saunders. At some inconvenience, he had ensured strict
punctuality. And now--But we all have our cross to bear in this
world. Saunders bowed with dignified resignation.
Sir Thomas led the way into his study.
"Be so good as to close the door," he said.
His lordship was so good.
Sir Thomas backed to the mantelpiece, and stood there in the
attitude which for generations has been sacred to the elderly
Briton, feet well apart, hands clasped beneath his coat-tails. His
stare raked Lord Dreever like a searchlight.
"Now, sir!" he said.
His lordship wilted before the gaze.
"The fact is, uncle--"
"Never mind the facts. I know them! What I require is an
He spread his feet further apart. The years had rolled back, and he
was plain Thomas Blunt again, of Blunt's Stores, dealing with an
"You know what I mean," he went on. "I am not referring to the
breaking-off of the engagement. What I insist upon learning is your
reason for failing to inform me earlier of the contents of that
His lordship said that somehow, don't you know, there didn't seem to
be a chance, you know. He had several times been on the point--but--
well, some-how--well, that's how it was.
"No chance?" cried Sir Thomas. "Indeed! Why did you require that
money I gave you?"
"Oh, er--I wanted it for something."
"Very possibly. For what?"
"I--the fact is, I owed it to a fellow."
"Ha! How did you come to owe it?"
His lordship shuffled.
"You have been gambling," boomed Sit Thomas "Am I right?"
"No, no. I say, no, no. It wasn't gambling. It was a game of skill.
We were playing picquet."
"Kindly refrain from quibbling. You lost this money at cards, then,
as I supposed. Just so."
He widened the space between his feet. He intensified his glare. He
might have been posing to an illustrator of "Pilgrim's Progress" for
a picture of "Apollyon straddling right across the way."
"So," he said, "you deliberately concealed from me the contents of
that letter in order that you might extract money from me under
false pretenses? Don't speak!" His lordship had gurgled, "You did!
Your behavior was that of a--of a--"
There was a very fair selection of evil-doers in all branches of
business from which to choose. He gave the preference to the race-
"--of a common welsher," he concluded. "But I won't put up with it.
No, not for an instant! I insist upon your returning that money to
me here and now. If you have not got it with you, go and fetch it."
His lordship's face betrayed the deepest consternation. He had been
prepared for much, but not for this. That he would have to undergo
what in his school-days he would have called "a jaw" was
inevitable, and he had been ready to go through with it. It might hurt
his feelings, possibly, but it would leave his purse intact. A
ghastly development of this kind he had not foreseen.
"But, I say, uncle!" he bleated.
Sir Thomas silenced him with a grand gesture.
Ruefully, his lordship produced his little all. Sir Thomas took it
with a snort, and went to the door.
Saunders was still brooding statuesquely over the gong.
"Sound it!" said Sir Thomas.
Saunders obeyed him, with the air of an unleashed hound.
"And now," said Sir Thomas, "go to my dressing-room, and place these
notes in the small drawer of the table."
The butler's calm, expressionless, yet withal observant eye took in
at a glance the signs of trouble. Neither the inflated air of Sir
Thomas nor the punctured-balloon bearing of Lord Dreever escaped
"Something h'up," he said to his immortal soul, as he moved
upstairs. "Been a fair old, rare old row, seems to me!"
He reserved his more polished periods for use in public. In
conversation with his immortal soul, he was wont to unbend somewhat.
THE TREASURE SEEKER
Gloom wrapped his lordship about, during dinner, as with a garment.
He owed twenty pounds. His assets amounted to seven shillings and
four-pence. He thought, and thought again. Quite an intellectual
pallor began to appear on his normally pink cheeks. Saunders,
silently sympathetic--he hated Sir Thomas as an interloper, and
entertained for his lordship, under whose father also he had served,
a sort of paternal fondness--was ever at his elbow with the magic
bottle; and to Spennie, emptying and re-emptying his glass almost
mechanically, wine, the healer, brought an idea. To obtain twenty
pounds from any one person of his acquaintance was impossible. To
divide the twenty by four, and persuade a generous quartette to
contribute five pounds apiece was more feasible.
Hope began to stir within him again.
Immediately after dinner, he began to flit about the castle like a
family specter of active habits. The first person he met was
"Hullo, Spennie," said Charteris, "I wanted to see you. It is
currently reported that you are in love. At dinner, you looked as if
you had influenza. What's your trouble? For goodness' sake, bear up
till the show's over. Don't go swooning on the stage, or anything.
Do you know your lines?"
"The fact is," said his lordship eagerly, "it's this way. I happen
to want--Can you lend me a fiver?"
"All I have in the world at this moment," said Charteris, "is eleven
shillings and a postage-stamp. If the stamp would be of any use to
you as a start--? No? You know, it's from small beginnings like that
that great fortunes are amassed. However--"
Two minutes later, Lord Dreever had resumed his hunt.
The path of the borrower is a thorny one, especially if, like
Spennie, his reputation as a payer-back is not of the best.
Spennie, in his time, had extracted small loans from most of his
male acquaintances, rarely repaying the same. He had a tendency to
forget that he had borrowed half-a-crown here to pay a cab and ten
shillings there to settle up for a dinner; and his memory was not
much more retentive of larger sums. This made his friends somewhat
wary. The consequence was that the great treasure-hunt was a failure
from start to finish. He got friendly smiles. He got honeyed
apologies. He got earnest assurances of good-will. But he got no
money, except from Jimmy Pitt.
He had approached Jimmy in the early stages of the hunt; and Jimmy,
being in the mood when he would have loaned anything to anybody,
yielded the required five pounds without a murmur.
But what was five pounds? The garment of gloom and the intellectual
pallor were once more prominent when his lordship repaired to his
room to don the loud tweeds which, as Lord Herbert, he was to wear
in the first act.
There is a good deal to be said against stealing, as a habit; but it
cannot be denied that, in certain circumstances, it offers an
admirable solution of a financial difficulty, and, if the penalties
were not so exceedingly unpleasant, it is probable that it would
become far more fashionable than it is.
His lordship's mind did not turn immediately to this outlet from his
embarrassment. He had never stolen before, and it did not occur to
him directly to do so now. There is a conservative strain in all of
us. But, gradually, as it was borne in upon him that it was the only
course possible, unless he were to grovel before Hargate on the
morrow and ask for time to pay--an unthinkable alternative--he found
himself contemplating the possibility of having to secure the money
by unlawful means. By the time he had finished his theatrical
toilet, he had definitely decided that this was the only thing to be
His plan was simple. He knew where the money was, in the dressing-
table in Sir Thomas's room. He had heard Saunders instructed to put
it there. What could be easier than to go and get it? Everything was
in his favor. Sir Thomas would be downstairs, receiving his guests.
The coast would be clear. Why, it was like finding the money.
Besides, he reflected, as he worked his way through the bottle of
Mumm's which he had had the forethought to abstract from the supper-
table as a nerve-steadier, it wasn't really stealing. Dash it all,
the man had given him the money! It was his own! He had half a mind-
-he poured himself out another glass of the elixir--to give Sir
Thomas a jolly good talking-to into the bargain. Yes, dash it all!
He shot his cuffs fiercely. The British Lion was roused.
A man's first crime is, as a rule, a shockingly amateurish affair.
Now and then, it is true, we find beginners forging with the
accuracy of old hands, or breaking into houses with the finish of
experts. But these are isolated cases. The average tyro lacks
generalship altogether. Spennie Dreever may be cited as a typical
novice. It did not strike him that inquiries might be instituted by
Sir Thomas, when he found the money gone, and that suspicion might
conceivably fall upon himself. Courage may be born of champagne, but
The theatricals began at half-past eight with a duologue. The
audience had been hustled into their seats, happier than is usual in
such circumstances, owing to the rumor which had been circulated
that the proceedings were to terminate with an informal dance. The
castle was singularly well constructed for such a purpose. There was
plenty of room, and a sufficiency of retreat for those who sat out,
in addition to a conservatory large enough to have married off half
the couples in the county.
Spennie's idea had been to establish an alibi by mingling with the
throng for a few minutes, and then to get through his burglarious
specialty during the duologue, when his absence would not be
noticed. It might be that, if he disappeared later in the evening,
people would wonder what had become of him.
He lurked about until the last of the audience had taken their
seats. As he was moving off through the hall, a hand fell upon his
shoulder. Conscience makes cowards of us all. Spennie bit his tongue
and leaped three inches into the air.
"Hello, Charteris!" he said, gaspingly.
Charteris appeared to be in a somewhat overwrought condition.
Rehearsals had turned him into a pessimist, and, now that the actual
moment of production had arrived, his nerves were in a thoroughly
jumpy condition, especially as the duologue was to begin in two
minutes and the obliging person who had undertaken to prompt had
"Spennie," said Charteris, "where are you off to?"
"What--what do you mean? I was just going upstairs."
"No, you don't. You've got to come and prompt. That devil Blake has
vanished. I'll wring his neck! Come along."
Spennie went, reluctantly. Half-way through the duologue, the
official prompter returned with the remark that he had been having a
bit of a smoke on the terrace, and that his watch had gone wrong.
Leaving him to discuss the point with Charteris, Spennie slipped
The delay, however, had had the effect of counteracting the
uplifting effects of the Mumm's. The British Lion required a fresh
fillip. He went to his room to administer it. By the time he
emerged, he was feeling just right for the task in hand. A momentary
doubt occurred to him as to whether it would not be a good thing to
go down and pull Sir Thomas' nose as a preliminary to the
proceedings; but he put the temptation aside. Business before
With a jaunty, if somewhat unsteady, step, he climbed the stairs to
the floor above, and made his way down the corridor to Sir Thomas's
room. He switched on the light, and went to the dressing-table. The
drawer was locked, but in his present mood Spennie, like Love,
laughed at locksmiths. He grasped the handle, and threw his weight
into a sudden tug. The drawer came out with a report like a pistol-
"There!" said his lordship, wagging his head severely.
In the drawer lay the four bank-notes. The sight of them brought
back his grievance with a rush. He would teach Sir Thomas to treat
him like a kid! He would show him!
He was removing the notes, frowning fiercely the while, when he
heard a cry of surprise from behind him.
He turned, to see Molly. She was still dressed in the evening gown
she had worn at dinner; and her eyes were round with wonder. A few
moments earlier, as she was seeking her room in order to change her
costume for the theatricals, she had almost reached the end of the
corridor that led to the landing, when she observed his lordship,
flushed of face and moving like some restive charger, come
curvetting out of his bedroom in a dazzling suit of tweeds, and make
his way upstairs. Ever since their mutual encounter with Sir Thomas
before dinner, she had been hoping for a chance of seeing Spennie
alone. She had not failed to notice his depression during the meal,
and her good little heart had been troubled by the thought that she
must have been responsible for it. She knew that, for some reason,
what she had said about the letter had brought his lordship into his
uncle's bad books, and she wanted to find him and say she was sorry.
Accordingly, she had followed him. His lordship, still in the war-
horse vein, had made the pace upstairs too hot, and had disappeared
while she was still halfway up. She had arrived at the top just in
time to see him turn down the passage into Sir Thomas's dressing-
room. She could not think what his object might be. She knew that
Sir Thomas was downstairs, so it could not be from the idea of a
chat with him that Spennie was seeking the dressing-room.
Faint, yet pursuing, she followed on his trail, and arrived in the
doorway just as the pistol-report of the burst lock rang out.
She stood looking at him blankly. He was holding a drawer in one
hand. Why, she could not imagine.
"Lord Dreever!" she exclaimed.
The somber determination of his lordship's face melted into a
twisted, but kindly smile.
"Good!" he said, perhaps a trifle thickly. "Good! Glad you've come.
We're pals. You said so--on stairs--b'fore dinner. Very glad you've
come. Won't you sit down?"
He waved the drawer benevolently, by way of making her free of the
room. The movement disturbed one of the bank-notes, which fluttered
in Molly's direction, and fell at her feet.
She stooped and picked it up. When she saw what it was, her
"But--but--" she said.
His lordship beamed--upon her with a pebble-beached smile of
"Sit down," he urged. "We're pals.--No quol with you. You're good
friend. Quol--Uncle Thomas."
"But, Lord Dreever, what are you doing? What was that noise I
"Opening drawer," said his lordship, affably.
"But--" she looked again at what she had in her hand--"but this is a
"Five-pound note," said his lordship. "Quite right. Three more of
them in here."
Still, she could not understand.
"But--were you--stealing them?"
His lordship drew himself up.
"No," he said, "no, not stealing, no!"
"Like this. Before dinner. Old boy friendly as you please--couldn't
do enough for me. Touched him for twenty of the best, and got away
with it. So far, all well. Then, met you on stairs. You let cat out
"But why--? Surely--!"
His lordship gave the drawer a dignified wave.
"Not blaming you," he said, magnanimously. "Not your fault;
misfortune. You didn't know. About letter."
"About the letter?" said Molly. "Yes, what was the trouble about the
letter? I knew something was wrong directly I had said that I wrote
"Trouble was," said his lordship, "that old boy thought it was love-
letter. Didn't undeceive him."
"You didn't tell him? Why?"
His lordship raised his eyebrows.
"Wanted touch him twenty of the best," he explained, simply.
For the life of her, Molly could not help laughing.
"Don't laugh," protested his lordship, wounded. "No joke. Serious.
Honor at stake."
He removed the three notes, and replaced the drawer.
"Honor of the Dreevers!" he added, pocketing the money.
Molly was horrified.
"But, Lord Dreever!" she cried. "You can't! You musn't! You can't be
going, really, to take that money! It's stealing! It isn't yours!
You must put it back."
His lordship wagged a forefinger very solemnly at her.
"That," he said, "is where you make error! Mine! Old boy gave them
"Gave them to you? Then, why did you break open the drawer?"
"Old boy took them back again--when he found out about letter."
"Then, they don't belong to you."
"Yes. Error! They do. Moral right."
Molly wrinkled her forehead in her agitation. Men of Lord Dreever's
type appeal to the motherly instinct of women. As a man, his
lordship was a negligible quantity. He did not count. But as a
willful child, to be kept out of trouble, he had a claim on Molly.
She spoke soothingly.
"But, Lord Dreever,--" she began. "Call me Spennie," he urged.
"We're pals. You said so--on stairs. Everybody calls me Spennie--
even Uncle Thomas. I'm going to pull his nose," he broke off
suddenly, as one recollecting a forgotten appointment.
"Spennie, then," said Molly. "You mustn't, Spennie. You mustn't,
"You look rippin' in that dress," said his lordship, irrelevantly.
"Thank you, Spennie, dear. But listen." Molly spoke as if she were
humoring a rebellious infant. "You really mustn't take that money.
You must put it back. See, I'm putting this note back. Give me the
others, and I'll put them in the drawer, too. Then, we'll shut the
drawer, and nobody will know."
She took the notes from him, and replaced them in the drawer. He
watched her thoughtfully, as if he were pondering the merits of her
"No," he said, suddenly, "no! Must have them! Moral right. Old boy--
She pushed him gently away.
"Yes, yes, I know," she said. "I know. It's a shame that you can't
have them. But you mustn't take them. Don't you see that he would
suspect you the moment he found they were gone, and then you'd get
"Something in that," admitted his lordship.
"Of course there is, Spennie, dear. I'm so glad you see! There they
all are, safe again in the drawer. Now, we can go downstairs again,
She stopped. She had closed the door earlier in the proceedings, but
her quick ear caught the sound of a footstep in the passage outside.
"Quick!" she whispered, taking his hand and darting to the electric-
light switch. "Somebody's coming. We mustn't be caught here. They'd
see the broken, drawer, and you'd get into awful trouble. Quick!"
She pushed him behind the curtain where the clothes hung, and
switched off the light.
From behind the curtain came the muffled voice of his lordship.
"It's Uncle Thomas. I'm coming out. Pull his nose."
She sprang to the curtain, and slipped noiselessly behind it.
"But, I say--!" began his lordship.
"Hush!" She gripped his arm. He subsided.
The footsteps had halted outside the door. Then, the handle turned
softly. The door opened, and closed again with hardly a sound.
The footsteps passed on into the room.
Jimmy, like his lordship, had been trapped at the beginning of the
duologue, and had not been able to get away till it was nearly over.
He had been introduced by Lady Julia to an elderly and adhesive
baronet, who had recently spent ten days in New York, and escape had
not been won without a struggle. The baronet on his return to
England had published a book, entitled, "Modern America and Its
People," and it was with regard to the opinions expressed in this
volume that he invited Jimmy's views. He had no wish to see the
duologue, and it was only after the loss of much precious time that
Jimmy was enabled to tear himself away on the plea of having to
dress. He cursed the authority on "Modern America and Its People"
freely, as he ran upstairs. While the duologue was in progress,
there had been no chance of Sir Thomas taking it into his head to
visit his dressing-room. He had been, as his valet-detective had
observed to Mr. Galer, too busy jollying along the swells. It would
be the work of a few moments only to restore the necklace to its
place. But for the tenacity of the elderly baronet, the thing would
have been done by this time. Now, however, there was no knowing what
might not happen. Anybody might come along the passage, and see him.
He had one point in his favor. There was no likelihood of the jewels
being required by their owner till the conclusion of the
theatricals. The part that Lady Julia had been persuaded by
Charteris to play mercifully contained no scope for the display of
Before going down to dinner, Jimmy had locked the necklace in a
drawer. It was still there, Spike having been able apparently to
resist the temptation of recapturing it. Jimmy took it, and went
into the corridor. He looked up and down. There was nobody about. He
shut his door, and walked quickly in the direction of the dressing-
He had provided himself with an electric pocket-torch, equipped with
a reflector, which he was in the habit of carrying when on his
travels. Once inside, having closed the door, he set this aglow, and
looked about him.
Spike had given him minute directions as to the position of the
jewel-box. He found it without difficulty. To his untrained eye, it
seemed tolerably massive and impregnable, but Spike had evidently
known how to open it without much difficulty. The lid was shut, but
it came up without an effort when he tried to raise it, and he saw
that the lock had been broken.
"Spike's coming on!" he said.
He was dangling the necklace over the box, preparatory to dropping
it in, when there was a quick rustle at the other side of the room.
The curtain was plucked aside, and Molly came out.
"Jimmy!" she cried.
Jimmy's nerves were always in pretty good order, but at the sight of
this apparition he visibly jumped.
"Great Scott!" he said.
The curtain again became agitated by some unseen force, violently
this time, and from its depths a plaintive voice made itself heard.
"Dash it all," said the voice, "I've stuck!"
There was another upheaval, and his lordship emerged, his yellow
locks ruffled and upstanding, his face crimson.
"Caught my head in a coat or something," he explained at large.
Pressed rigidly against the wall, Molly had listened with growing
astonishment to the movements on the other side of the curtain. Her
mystification deepened every moment. It seemed to her that the room
was still in darkness. She could hear the sound of breathing; and
then the light of the torch caught her eye. Who could this be, and
why had he not switched on the regular room lights?
She strained her ears to catch a sound. For a while, she heard
nothing except the soft breathing. Then came a voice that she knew
well; and, abandoning her hiding-place, she came out into the room,
and found Jimmy standing, with the torch in his hand, over some dark
object in the corner of the room.
It was a full minute after Jimmy's first exclamation of surprise
before either of them spoke again. The light of the torch hurt
Molly's eyes. She put up a hand, to shade them. It seemed to her
that they had been standing like this for years.
Jimmy had not moved. There was something in his attitude that filled
Molly with a vague fear. In the shadow behind the torch, he looked
shapeless and inhuman.
"You're hurting my eyes," she said, at last.
"I'm sorry," said Jimmy. "I didn't think. Is that better?" He turned
the light from her face. Something in his voice and the apologetic
haste with which he moved the torch seemed to relax the strain of