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!"
"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!"
"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?"
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?"
"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.
"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?"
"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.