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?"
"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?