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Chapter 14 JERSEY CITY INTERFERES

  • AT ten o'clock that Saturday morning Lord Harrowby was engrossed in th_eremony of breakfast in his rooms. For the occasion he wore an orange an_urple dressing-gown with a floral design no botanist could have sanctioned —the sort of dressing-gown that Arnold Bennett, had he seen it, would hav_ade a leading character in a novel. He was cheerful, was Harrowby, and as h_lanced through an old copy of the  _London Times_  he made strange noises i_is 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 th_orning 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 _ood 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 nort_ith 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? _rury 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 an_racefully withdraw. But of course I'm here to look after Jephson'_nterests—"
  • "Naturally," put in Harrowby quickly. "And let me tell you that should thi_ecklace be found before the wedding, Jephson is practically certain to pa_hat policy. I think you'd better keep it. They're not likely to search yo_gain. 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 ou_amily—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 th_orld look at such things. I give you my word that you can serve Mr. Jephso_est by keeping the necklace for the present—and seeing to it that it does no_all into the hands of the men who are looking for it."
  • Minot sat staring gloomily ahead of him. Then he reached out, took up th_ecklace, and restored it to his pocket.
  • "Oh, very well," he said. "If I'm sent to jail, tell Thacker I went singing a_pithalamium." He rose.
  • "By the way," Harrowby remarked, "I'm giving a little dinner to-night—at th_anhattan 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 mor_uthentic flowers of the Florida outdoors. In the plaza he met Cynthi_eyrick, rival candidate to the morning in its glory.
  • "Matrimony," she said, "is more trouble than it seems on a moonlit night unde_he palms. I've never been so busy in my life. By the way, two of m_ridesmaids arrived from New York last night. Lovely girls—both of them. But _orget!"
  • "Forget what?"
  • "Your young heart is already ensnared, isn't it?"
  • "Yes," replied Minot fervently. "It is. But no matter. Tell me about you_reparations for the wedding. I should like to enjoy the thrill of it—b_roxy."
  • "How like a man—wants all the thrill and none of the bother. It's dreadfull_ard staging a wedding, way down here a thousand miles from everything. But—m_own 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 weddin_ime."
  • "Poor Harrowby! He keeps in the lime-light fairly well, however." They walke_long a moment in silence. "I've wondered," she said at length. "Why  _did_ou 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'_nly the pawn— the baffled, raging, unhappy little pawn. That's all I can tel_ou. 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. Girl_rom Peoria and Paris, from Boise City and London, passed by. Girls chaperone_nd girls alone—tourist girls in swarms. And not a few of them wondered wh_uch 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 _xpected, Trimmer was out to call early this morning. Searched the ship fro_tem to stern. I rather think we have Mr. Trimmer up a tree. He went away no_uite so sure of himself."
  • "Good," Minot answered. "So you changed your mind about going north?"
  • "Yes. Think 111 stay over for the wedding. By the way, wasn't that Chai_ightning's Collar you left behind you last night?"
  • "Y—yes."
  • "Thought so. You ought to be more careful. People might suspect you of bein_he thief at Mrs. Brace'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 hi_ittle 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, fo_eemingly 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 ha_ritten them. The claimant to the title languished among the alligators o_arragona, 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 sausag_ady and her captive. My word—you should see her! A wardrobe to draw tears o_nvy 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 cleve_oy,' says her ladyship to me. 'Coach me up so I can outshine Mrs. Bruce.'
  • What do you know?"
  • "Art—but you were the pioneer," Minot reminded him.
  • "Well, I was, for that matter," said Mr. Paddock. "But I know now it wasn't _lever 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 a_ffer 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 _otion to clean up here quick and then go back to the real stuff. That littl_irl from the Middle West— I've forgot all about her, of course. But speakin_f cleaning up—I'm thinking of it, Dick, my boy. Y,es, I believe I'll tak_hem both on— secretly, of course. It means hard work for me, but when on_oves 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'_anhattan Club and Grill. To any one who crossed Mr. Stacy's threshold wit_he expectation of immediately encountering lights and gaiety, the first vie_f the interior came as a distinct shock. The main dining-room of th_anhattan Club was dim with the holy dimness of a cathedral. Its lamps, hun_igh, were buried in oriental trappings, and shone half-heartedly. Faintl_hrough the gloom could be discerned white table-cloths, gleaming silver. Th_cene demanded hushed voices, noiseless footsteps. It got both.
  • The main dining-room was hollowed out of the center of the great ston_uilding, and its roof was off in the dark three stories above. On each sid_f the entrance, stairways1 led to second and third-floor balconies whic_tretched around the room on three sides. From these balconies doors opene_nto innumerable rooms—room9 where lights shone brighter, and from which th_hief 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 th_alconies were there before Mr. Stacy's coming, or again they may have se_orth his own idea of suitable decoration. Looking about him, Mr. Minot wa_eminded of a play like  _Sumurun_  after three hard seasons on the road.
  • Moth-eaten rugs and musty tapestries hung everywhere. Here and there a_trocious cozy corner belied its name. Iron lanterns gave parsimonious light.
  • Aged sofa-pillows lay limply. "Oriental," Mr. Stacy would have called th_ffect. Here in this dim, but scarcely religious light, the patrons of his
  • "grill" ate their food, being not without misgivings as they stared throug_he gloom at their plates.
  • The long tables for the Harrowby dinner were already set, and about the_overed 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 o_ismore. This noble lady with the packinghouse past was making a commendabl_ffort 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 hi_en," whispered Minot, as the duchess moved away.
  • Paddock laughed.
  • "A dowdy little woman by day, but a pillar of fire by night," he agreed. "B_he way, I'm foreman of her composing-room, beginning tomorrow."
  • "Be careful, Jack," Minot warned.
  • "A double life from now on," Paddock replied, "but I think I can get away wit_t. Say, for ways that are dark this man Stacy seems to hold a better han_han the heathen Chinee."
  • In one corner the portly Spencer Meyrick was orating to a circle of youn_eople on the evils of gambling. Minot turned away, smiling cynically.
  • Meyrick, as everybody knew, had made a large part of his fortune in Wal_treet.
  • The dinner was much larger than Mrs. Bruce's. Minot met a number of ne_eople—the anemic husband of the jewels, smug in his dukedom, and several ver_ttractive girls thrilled at being present in Mr. Stacy's sinful lair. H_estowed a smile upon Aunt Mary, serene among the best people, and discusse_ith 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'_atest wife.
  • For once the dinner itself was a minor event. It sped rapidly there in th_loom, and few so much as listened to the flashes of Mrs. Bruce's wit—sav_erhaps the duchess, enviously. It was after the dinner, when Harrowby led hi_uests to the entertainment above, that interest grew tense.
  • No gloom in that bright room overhead. A cluster of electric lights shed thei_rilliance on Mr. Stacy's pet roulette tables, set amid parlor furnishings o_trocious plush. From one corner a faro lay-out that had once flourished o_iftyeighth 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 invitin_mile on his face. Harrowby, his eyes bright, laid a sum of money beside a ro_f innocent figures. He won. He tried again, and won. Some of the young wome_ushed close to the table, visibly affected. Others pretended this sort o_hing was an old story to them.
  • A few of the more adventurous women borrowed coins from the men, and joined i_he play. Arguments and misunderstandings arose, which Mr. Stacy's assistan_rbanely 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 silenc_s the wheel spun and the little ball hovered heart-breakingly, filled th_oom. Cheeks glowed red, eyes sparkled, the crush about the table increased.
  • Spencer Meyrick himself risked from his endless store. Mr. Tom Stacy's plac_as in full swing.
  • Dick Minot caught Cynthia Meyrick's glance as she stood close beside Lor_arrowby. She seemed another girl to-night, grave rather than gay, her grea_rown eyes apparently looking into the future, wondering, fearing. As fo_arrowby, he was a man transformed. Not for nothing was he the son of th_porting Earl of Raybrook—the peer who never failed to take a risk. Th_xcitement of the game was reflected in his tall tense figure, his flamin_heeks. This was the Harrowby who had made Jephson that gambling propositio_n a seventeenth floor in New York.
  • And Harrowby won consistently. Won, until a fatal choice of numbers with a_verwhelming stake left him poor again, and he saw all his winnings swept t_well Tom Stacy's store. Quickly he wormed his way out of the crowd and sough_inot.
  • "May I see you a moment?" he asked. "Out here." And he led the way to th_loom of the balcony.
  • "If I only had the cash," Harrowby whispered excitedly, "I could break Stac_o-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 bee_tolen."
  • "No. No. That's no matter. I'll arrange that. Hurry—"
  • "You forget, too, that you told me this morning that should this necklace b_ound now—"
  • "Mr. Minot—the necklace belongs to me. Will you kindly let me have it."
  • "Certainly," said Minot coldy. And, much annoyed, he returned to the room ami_he buzz and the thrill of gambling.
  • Harrowby ran quickly down the stairs. In the office of the club he found To_tacy in amiable converse with Martin Wall. He threw Chain Lightning's Colla_n 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 thic_ingers. He gazed at it for a moment. Then he looked up, and caught Marti_all'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 h_atched, in the little office down-stairs, a scene of vital bearing on hi_uture was enacted.
  • A short stocky man with a bullet-shaped head had pushed open the door o_essrs. 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 _inute that you can't raid me down here."
  • "Them happy days is past," returned Mr. Huntley dryly. "I'm working for Uncl_am, now, Tom. Got new fish to fry. Used to have some gay times in New York, didn't we? Oh, hello, Craig 1"
  • "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 cavia_rowd, 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 cam_aster..
  • "Oh—you're sure of that, are you?"
  • "Yes. Who I am isn't one of your worries in your new line of business. An_ou'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 you_ames, you know."
  • "Forget that. I say I can do you a favor—if you'll promise not to mix in m_ffairs." "Well—what is it?"
  • "You're down here looking for a diamond necklace known as Chain Lightning'_ollar."
  • "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. An_ou'll find Lord Harrowby in a room up-stairs."
  • Mr. Huntley stood for a moment staring at the man he called Craig. Then w it_ grunt he turned away.
  • Two minutes later, in the bright room above, that same rather vulgar grun_ounded in Lord Harrowby's patrician ear. He turned, and his face paled.
  • Hopelessly he looked toward Minot. Then without a word he followed Huntle_rom the room.
  • Only two of that excited crowd about the wheel noticed. And these two fle_imultaneously 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 an_tacy were waiting. The sound of voices pitched low could be heard on th_alcony, 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 whit_nvelope. Next they beheld Chain Lightning's Collar gleam in the dusk a_untley 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 _hite-faced girl whose wonderful copper hair had once held Chain Lightning'_ollar.
  • "What does it mean?" she asked, her voice low and tense.
  • "Mean?" Martin Wall laughed. "It means that Lord Harrowby must go north an_ace a United States Commissioner in Jersey City. It seems that when h_rought that necklace over he quite forgot to tell the customs officials abou_t."
  • "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 gloo_f 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 mea_y that? What indeed but the one thing that must not happen— the thing h_anted most of all things in the world to happen—the thing he had come to Sa_arco to prevent. He came closer to her—and closer—the blood was pounding i_is 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 bal_ead ascending through the dusk. It was an ordinary bald head, the property o_r. Stacy in fact, but to Minot a certain Jephson seemed to be moving beneat_t. 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.