Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 8 AFTER THE TRAINED SEALS

  • MR. MINOT opened his eyes on Thursday morning with the uncomfortable feelin_hat he was far from his beloved New York. For a moment he lay dazed, wandering in that dim borderland between sleep and waking. Then, suddenly, h_emembered.
  • "Oh, yes, by jove," he muttered, "I've been knighted. Groom of the Back-Stair_candals and Keeper of the Royal Jewels—that's me."
  • He lifted his pillow. There on the white sheet sparkled the necklace of whic_he whole British nobility was proud—Chain Lightning's Collar. Some seventy- five blue-white diamonds, pearshaped, perfectly graduated. His for the moment!
  • "What's Harrowby up to, I wonder?" he refleeted. "The dear old top! Nice, pleasant little party if a policeman should find this in my pocket."
  • Another perfect day shone in that narrow Spanish street. Up in Manhatta_heatrical press agents were crowning huge piles of snow with poster_nnouncing their attractions. Ferries were held up by ice in the river. _reeze from the Arctic swept round the Flatiron building. Here lazy summe_olled on the bosom of the town.
  • In the hotel dining-room Mr. Minot encountered Jack Paddock, superb in whit_lannels above his grapefruit. He accepted Paddock's invitation to join him.
  • "By the way," said Mrs. Bruce's jester, holding up a small, badly printe_ewspaper, "have you made the acquaintance of the  _San Marco Mail_  yet?"
  • "No—what's that?"
  • "A morning newspaper—by courtesy. Started here a few weeks back by a noiseles_ittle Spaniard from Havana named Manuel Gonzale. Slipped in here on hi_ubber soles, Gonzale did —dressed all in white—lovely lemon face— shifty, can't-catch-me eyes. And his newspaper —hot stuff, my boy. It has  _Tow_opics_  looking like a consular report from Greenland."
  • "Scandals?" asked Mr. Minot, also attacking a grapefruit.
  • "Scandals and rumors of scandals. Mostly hints, you know. Several reference_his morning to our proud and haughty friend, Lord Harrowby. For example, Madame On Dit, writing in her column on page one, has this to say: 'Th_mpecunious but titled Englishman who has arrived in our midst recently wit_he idea of connecting with certain American dollars has an interesting tim_head of him, if rumor speaks true. The little incident in the lobby of _ocal hotel the other evening—which was duly reported in this column at th_ime—was but a mild beginning. The gentleman in charge of the claimant to th_itle held so jealously by our British friend promises immediate development_hich will be rich, rare and racy.'"
  • "Rich, rare and racy," repeated Minot thoughtfully. "Ah, yes—we were to watc_r. Trimmer. I had almost forgot him in the excitement of last evening. By th_ay, does tiie  _Mail_  know anything about the disappearance of Chai_ightning's Collar?"
  • "Not as yet," smiled Mr. Paddock, "although Madame On Dit claims to have bee_ guest at the dinner. By the way, what do you make of last night'_elodramatic farce?"
  • "I don't know what to make of it," answered Minot truthfully. He was suddenl_onscious of the necklace in his inside coat pocket.
  • "Then all I can say, my dear Watson," replied Mr. Paddock with burlesqu_eriousness, "is that you are unmistakably lacking in my powers of deduction.
  • Give me a cigarette, and I'll tell you the name of the man who is gloatin_ver those diamonds to-day."
  • "All right," smiled Minot. "Go ahead."
  • Mr. Paddock, reaching for a match tray, spoke in a low tone in Minot's ear.
  • "Martin Wall," he said. He leaned back. "You ask how I arrived at m_onclusion. Simple enough. I went through the list of guests for possibl_rooks, and eliminated them one by one. The man I have mentioned alone wa_eft. Ever notice his eyes—remind me of Manuel Gonzale's. He's too polished, too slick, too good to be true. He's traveled too much—nobody travels as muc_s he has except for the very good reason that a detective is on the trail.
  • And he made friends with simple old Harrowby on an Atlantic liner— that, i_ou read popular fiction, is alone enough to condemn him. Believe me, Dick, Martin Wall should be watched."
  • "All right," laughed Minot, "you watch him."
  • "I've a notion to. Harrowby makes me weary. Won't call in a solitar_etective. Any one might think he doesn't want the necklace back."
  • After breakfast Minot and Paddock played five sets of tennis on the hote_ourts. And Mr. Minot won, despite the Harrowby diamonds in his trouser_ocket, weighing him down. Luncheon over, Mr. Paddock suggested a drive t_arragona Island.
  • "A little bit of nowhere a mile off-shore," he said. "No man can ever know th_rue inwardness of the word lonesome until he's seen Tarragona."
  • Minot hesitated. Ought he to leave the scene of action? Of action? He glance_bout him. There was less action here than in a HenryJames novel. The tangl_f events in which he was involved rested for a siesta.
  • So he and Mr. Paddock drove along the narrow neck of land that led from th_ainland to Tarragona Island. They entered the kingdom of the lonely. Sand_each with the ocean on one side, swamps on the other. Scrubby palms, disreputable foliage, here and there a cluster of seemingly deserte_ottages—the world and its works apparently a million miles away. Yet out o_ne corner of that bleak forgotten acre stood the slim outline of a wireless, and in a little white house lived a man who, amid the sea-gulls and the sand- dunes, talked daily with great ships and cities far away.
  • "I told you it was lonesome," said Mr. Paddock.
  • "Lonesome," shivered Minot. "Even God has forgot this place. Only Marconi ha_emembered."
  • And even as they wandered there amid the swamps, where alligators an_attlesnakes alone saw fit to dwell, back in San Marco the capable Mr. Trimme_as busy. By poster and by handbill he was spreading word of his newest coup, so that by evening no one in town—save the few who were most concerned—wa_naware of a development rich, rare and racy.
  • Minot and Paddock returned late, and their dinner was correspondingly delayed.
  • It was eight-thirty o'clock when they at last strolled into the lobby of th_e la Pax. There they encountered Miss Meyrick, her father and Lord Harrowby.
  • "We're taking Harrowby to the movies," said Miss Meyrick. "He confesses he'_ever been. Won't you come along?"
  • She was one of her gay selves to-night, white, slim, laughing, irresistible.
  • Minot, looking at her, thought that she could make even Tarragona Islan_earable. He knew of no greater tribute to her charm.
  • The girl and Harrowby led the way, and Minot and Paddock followed with Spence_eyrick. The old man was an imposing figure in his white serge, whic_ccentuated the floridness of his face. He talked of an administration tha_id not please him, of a railroad fallen on evil days. Now and again he pause_nd seemed to lose the thread of what he was saying, while his eyes dwelt o_is daughter, walking ahead.
  • They arrived shortly at the San Marco OperaHouse, devoted each evening t_hree acts of "refined vaudeville" and six of the newest film releases. It wa_ere that the rich loitering in San Marco found their only theatrica_musement, and forgetting Broadway, laughed and were thrilled with simple_olk. A large crowd was fairly fighting to get in and Mr. Paddock, wh_olunteered to buy the tickets, was forced to take his place at the end of _ong line.
  • Finally they reached the dim interior of the opera-house, and were shown t_eats far down in front. By hanging back in the dusk Minot managed to secur_he end seat, with Miss Meyrick at his side. Beyond her sat Lord Harrowby, gazing with rapt British seriousness at the humorous film that was bein_lashed on the screen.
  • Between pictures Harrowby offered an opinion.
  • "You in America are a jolly lot," he said. "Just fancy our best people i_ngland attending a cinematograph exhibition."
  • They tried to fancy it, but with his lordship there, they couldn't. Two mor_ictures ran their filmy lengths, while Mr. Minot sat entranced there in th_alf dark. It was not the pictures that entranced him. Rather, was it a lady'_earness, the flash of her smile, the hundred and one tones of her voice—all, al.1 again as it had been in that ridiculous automobile—■ just before th_wakening.
  • After the third picture the lights of the auditorium were turned up, and th_our of vaudeville arrived. On t'o the stage strolled a pert confident yout_arbed in shabby grandeur, who attempted sidewalk repartee. He clipped hi_ests from barber-shop periodicals, bought his songs from an ex-barroom son_riter, and would have gone to the mat with any one who denied that his ac_as "refined." Mr. Minot, listening to his gibes, thought of the Paddock jes_actory and Mrs. Bruce.
  • When the young man had wrung the last encore from a kindly audience, the drop- curtain was raised and revealed on the stage in gleaming splendor Captai_onsonby's troupe of trained seals. An intelligent aggregation they proved, balancing balls on their small heads, juggling flaming torches, and taking a_heir just due lumps of sugar from the captain's hand as they finished eac_eat. The audience recalled them again and again, and even the peerage wa_aptivated.
  • "Clever beasts, aren't they?" Lord Harrowby remarked. And as Captain Ponsonb_ook his final curtain, his lordship added:
  • "Er—what follows the trained seals?"
  • The answer to Harrowby's query came almost immediately, and a startling answe_t proved to be.
  • Into the glare of the footlights stepped Mr. Henry Trimmer. His manner wa_hat of the conquering hero. For a moment he stood smiling and bowing befor_he approving multitude. Then he raised a hand commanding silence.
  • "My dear friends," he said, "I appreciate this reception. As I said in m_andbill of this afternoon, I am working in the interests of justice. Th_entleman who accompanies me to your delightful little city is beyond an_uestion whatsoever George Harrowby, the eldest son of the Earl of Raybrook, and as such he is entitled to call himself Lord Harrowby. I know the America_eople wejl enough to feel sure that when they realize the facts they wil_emand that justice be done. .That is why I have prevailed upon Lord Harrowb_o meet you here in this, your temple of amusement, and put his case befor_ou. His lordship will talk to you for a time with a view to gettin_cquainted. He has chosen for the subject of his discourse  _The Old Days a_akedale Hall._  Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to introduce—the rea_ord Harrowby."
  • Out of the wings shuffled the lean and gloomy Englishman whom Mr. Trimmer ha_natched from the unknown to cloud a certain weddingday. The applause burs_orth. It shook the building. From the gallery descended a shrill penetratin_histle of acclaim.
  • Mr. Minot glanced at the face of the girl beside him. She was looking straigh_head, her cheeks bright red, her eyes flashing with anger. Beyond, the fac_f Harrowby loomed, frozen, terrible.
  • "Shall we—go?" Minot whispered.
  • "By no means," the girl answered. "We should only call attention to ou_resence here. I know at least fifty people in this audience. We must see i_hrough."
  • The applause was stilled at last and, supremely fussed, the "real Lor_arrowby" faced that friendly throng.
  • "Dear—er—people," he said. "As Mr. Trimmer has told you, we seek only justice.
  • I am not here to argue my right to the title I claim—that I can do at th_roper time and place. I am simply proposing to go back—back into the pas_any years—back to the days when I was a boy at Rakedale Hall. I shall pictur_hose days as no impostor could picture them—and when I have done I shal_llow you to judge."
  • And there in that crowded little southern opera-house on that hot Februar_ight, the actor who followed the trained seals proceeded to go back. Wit_nfaltering touch he sketched for his audience the great stone country sea_alled Rakedale Hall, where for centuries the Harrowbys had dwelt. It was a_hough he took his audience there to visit—through the massive iron gates u_he broad avenue bordered with limes, until the high chimneys, the pointe_ables, the mullioned windows, and the walls half hidden by ivy, creepin_oses and honeysuckles were revealed to them. He took them through the hous_o the servants' quarters—which he called "the offices"—out into the kitche_ardens, thence to the paved quadrangle of the stables with its arched gatewa_nd the chiming clock above. Tennis-courts, grape-houses, conservatories, the_isited breathlessly; they saw over the brow of the hill the low square towe_f the old church and the chimneys of the vicar's modest house. And far away, they beheld the trees that furnished cover to the little beasts it was th_arl of Raybrook's pleasure to hunt in the season.
  • Becoming more specific, he spoke of the neighbors, and a bit of romance crep_n in the person of the fair-haired Honorable Edith Townshend, who lived t_he west of Rakedale Hall. He described at length the picturesque personalit_f the "racing parson," neighbor on the south, and in full accord with th_deas of the sporting Earl of Ray brook.
  • The events of his youth, he said, crowded back upon him as he recalled thi_appy scene, and emotion well-nigh choked him. However, he managed to tell o_ few of the celebrities who came to dinner, of their bon mots, thei_references in cuisine. He mentioned the thrilling morning when he was nearl_rowned in the brook that skirted the "purple meadow"; also the thrillin_fternoon when he hid his mother's famous necklace in the biscuit box on th_ideboard, and upset a whole household. And he narrated a dozen simila_xploits, each garnished with small illuminating details.
  • His audience sat fascinated. All who listened felt that his words ran_rue—even Lord Harrowby himself, sitting far forward, his hand gripping th_eat in front of him until the white of his knuckles showed through.
  • Next the speaker shifted his scene to Eton, thrilled his hearers with th_tory of his revolt against Oxford, of his flight to the States, his wild day_n Arizona. And he pulled out of his pocket a letter written by the old Ear_f Raybrook himself, profanely expostulating with him for his madness, an_egging that he return to ascend to the earldom when the old man was no more.
  • The "real Lord Harrowby" finished reading this somewhat pathetic appeal with _ittle break in his voice, and stood looking out at the audience.
  • "If my brother Allan himself were in the house," he said, "he would have t_dmit that it is our father speaking in that letter."
  • A rustle of interest ran through the auditorium. The few who had recognize_arrowby turned to stare at him now. For a moment he sat silent, his face _ariety of colors in the dim light . Then with a cry of rage he leaped to hi_eet.
  • "You stole that letter, you cur," he cried. "You are a liar, a fraud, a_mpostor."
  • The man on the stage stood shading his eyes with his hand.
  • "Ah, Allan," he answered, "so you are here, after all? Is that quite th_roper greeting— after all these years?"
  • A roar of sympathetic applause greeted this sally. There was no doubt as t_hose side Mr. Trimmer's friend, the public, was on. Harrowby stood in hi_lace, his lips twitching, his eyes for once blazing and angry.
  • Dick Minot was by this time escorting Miss Meyrick up the aisle, and they cam_uickly to the cool street. Harrowby, Paddock and Spencer Meyrick followe_mmediately. His lordship was most contrite.
  • "A thousand pardons," he pleaded. "Really I can't tell you how sorry I am, Cynthia. To have made you conspicuous—what was I thinking of? But he maddene_e—I—"
  • "Don't worry, Allan," said Miss Meyrick gently. "I like you the better fo_eing maddened."
  • Old Spencer Meyrick said nothing, but Minot noted that his face was rathe_ed, and his eyes were somewhat dangerous. They all walked back to the hote_n silence.
  • From the hotel lobby, as if by prearrangement, Harrowby followed Miss Meyric_nd her father into a parlor. Minot and Paddock were left alone.
  • "My word, old top," said Mr. Paddock facetiously, "a rough night for th_obility. What do you think? That lad's story sounded like a little bit of al_ight to me. Eh, what?"
  • "It did sound convincing," returned the troubled Minot. "But then—a servant a_akedale Hall could have concocted it."
  • "Mayhap," said Mr. Paddock. "However, old Spencer Meyrick looked to me like _olcano I'd want to get out from under. Poor old Harrowby! I'm afraid there'_ rift within the loot —nay, no loot at all."
  • "Jack," said Minot firmly, "that wedding has got to take place."
  • "Why, what's it to you?"
  • "It happens to be everything. But keep it under your hat."
  • "Great Scott—does Harrowby owe you money?"
  • "I can't explain just at present, Jack."
  • "Oh, very well," replied Mr. Paddock. "But take it from me, old man—she's _illion times too good for him."
  • "A million," laughed Mr. Minot bitterly. "You underestimate."
  • Paddock stood staring with wonder at his friend.
  • "You lisp in riddles, my boy," he said.
  • "Do I?" returned Minot. "Maybe some day I'll make it all clear."
  • He parted from Paddock and ascended to the third floor. As he wandered throug_he dark passageways in search of his room, he bumped suddenly into a heav_an, walking softly. Something about the contour of the man in the dark gav_im a suggestion.
  • "Good evening, Mr. Wall," he said.
  • The scurry of hurrying footsteps, but no answer. Minot went on to 389, an_laced his key in the lock. It would not turn. He twisted the knob of th_oor—it was unlocked. He stepped inside and flashed on the light.
  • His small abode was in a mad disorder. The chiffonier drawers had been emptie_n the floor, the bed was torn to pieces, the rug thrown in a corner. Mino_miled to himself.
  • Some one had been searching—searching for Chain Lightning's Collar. Who? Wh_ut the man he had bumped against in that dark passageway?