A BIT OF A BLOW

At ten o’clock that Saturday morning Lord Harrowby was engrossed in the
ceremony of breakfast in his rooms. For the occasion he wore an orange
and purple dressing-gown with a floral design no botanist could have
sanctioned–the sort of dressing-gown that Arnold Bennett, had he seen
it, would have made a leading character in a novel. He was cheerful,
was Harrowby, and as he glanced through an old copy of the _London
Times_ he made strange noises in his 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
the morning 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 a good 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 north with 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? A Drury 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
and gracefully withdraw. But of course I’m here to look after
Jephson’s interests–”

“Naturally,” put in Harrowby quickly. “And let me tell you that should
this necklace be found before the wedding, Jephson is practically
certain to pay that policy. I think you’d better keep it. They’re not
likely to search you again. 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 our
family–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 the world look at such things. I give you my word that you can
serve Mr. Jephson best by keeping the necklace for the present–and
seeing to it that it does not fall into the hands of the men who are
looking for it.”

Minot sat staring gloomily ahead of him. Then he reached out, took up
the necklace, and restored it to his pocket.

“Oh, very well,” he said. “If I’m sent to jail, tell Thacker I went
singing an epithalamium.” He rose.

“By the way,” Harrowby remarked, “I’m giving a little dinner
to-night–at the Manhattan 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
more authentic flowers of the Florida outdoors. In the plaza he met
Cynthia Meyrick, rival candidate to the morning in its glory.

“Matrimony,” she said, “is more trouble than it seems on a moonlit
night under the palms. I’ve never been so busy in my life. By the
way, two of my bridesmaids arrived from New York last night. Lovely
girls–both of them. But I forget!”

“Forget what?”

“Your young heart is already ensnared, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” replied Minot fervently. “It is. But no matter. Tell me about
your preparations for the wedding. I should like to enjoy the thrill
of it–by proxy.”

“How like a man–wants all the thrill and none of the bother. It’s
dreadfully hard staging a wedding, way down here a thousand miles from
everything. But–my gown 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
wedding time.”

“Poor Harrowby! He keeps in the lime-light fairly well, however.”
They walked along a moment in silence. “I’ve wondered,” she said at
length. “Why _did_ you 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’m only the pawn–the baffled, raging, unhappy little pawn.
That’s all I can tell you. 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.
Girls from Peoria and Paris, from Boise City and London, passed by.
Girls chaperoned and girls alone–tourist girls in swarms. And not a
few of them wondered why such 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
I expected, Trimmer was out to call early this morning. Searched the
ship from stem to stern. I rather think we have Mr. Trimmer up a tree.
He went away not quite so sure of himself.”

“Good,” Minot answered. “So you changed your mind about going north?”

“Yes. Think I’ll stay over for the wedding. By the way, wasn’t that
Chain Lightning’s Collar you left behind you last night?”

“Y–yes.”

“Thought so. You ought to be more careful. People might suspect you
of being the thief at Mrs. Bruce’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 his little 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,
for seemingly 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 had written them. The claimant to the title languished
among the alligators of Tarragona, 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
sausage lady and her captive. My word–you should see her! A wardrobe
to draw tears of envy 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 clever boy,’ says her ladyship to me. ‘Coach
me up so I can outshine Mrs. Bruce.’ What do you know?”

“Ah–but you were the pioneer,” Minot reminded him.

“Well, I was, for that matter,” said Mr. Paddock. “But I know now it
wasn’t a clever 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 an offer 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 a notion to clean up here quick and then go back to the real
stuff. That little girl from the Middle West–I’ve forgot all about
her, of course. But speaking of cleaning up–I’m thinking of it, Dick,
my boy. Yes, I believe I’ll take them both on–secretly, of course.
It means hard work for me, but when one loves 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’s Manhattan Club and Grill. To any one who crossed Mr. Stacy’s
threshold with the expectation of immediately encountering lights and
gaiety, the first view of the interior came as a distinct shock. The
main dining-room of the Manhattan Club was dim with the holy dimness of
a cathedral. Its lamps, hung high, were buried in oriental trappings,
and shone half-heartedly. Faintly through the gloom could be discerned
white table-cloths, gleaming silver. The scene demanded hushed voices,
noiseless footsteps. It got both.

The main dining-room was hollowed out of the center of the great stone
building, and its roof was off in the dark three stories above. On
each side of the entrance, stairways led to second and third-floor
balconies which stretched around the room on three sides. From these
balconies doors opened into innumerable rooms–rooms where lights shone
brighter, and from which the chief 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 the
balconies were there before Mr. Stacy’s coming, or again they may have
set forth his own idea of suitable decoration. Looking about him, Mr.
Minot was reminded of a play like _Sumurun_ after three hard seasons on
the road. Moth-eaten rugs and musty tapestries hung everywhere. Here
and there an atrocious cozy corner belied its name. Iron lanterns gave
parsimonious light. Aged sofa-pillows lay limply. “Oriental,” Mr.
Stacy would have called the effect. Here in this dim, but scarcely
religious light, the patrons of his “grill” ate their food, being not
without misgivings as they stared through the gloom at their plates.

The long tables for the Harrowby dinner were already set, and about
them hovered 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 of Lismore. This noble lady with the packing-house
past was making a commendable effort 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 his ken,” whispered Minot, as the duchess moved away.

Paddock laughed.

“A dowdy little woman by day, but a pillar of fire by night,” he
agreed. “By the way, I’m foreman of her composing-room, beginning
to-morrow.”

“Be careful, Jack,” Minot warned.

“A double life from now on,” Paddock replied, “but I think I can get
away with it. Say, for ways that are dark this man Stacy seems to hold
a better hand than the heathen Chinee.”

In one corner the portly Spencer Meyrick was orating to a circle of
young people on the evils of gambling. Minot turned away, smiling
cynically. Meyrick, as everybody knew, had made a large part of his
fortune in Wall Street.

The dinner was much larger than Mrs. Bruce’s. Minot met a number of
new people–the anemic husband of the jewels, smug in his dukedom, and
several very attractive girls thrilled at being present in Mr. Stacy’s
sinful lair. He bestowed a smile upon Aunt Mary, serene among the best
people, and discussed with 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’s latest wife.

For once the dinner itself was a minor event. It sped rapidly there in
the gloom, and few so much as listened to the flashes of Mrs. Bruce’s
wit–save perhaps the duchess, enviously. It was after the dinner,
when Harrowby led his guests to the entertainment above, that interest
grew tense.

No gloom in that bright room overhead. A cluster of electric lights
shed their brilliance on Mr. Stacy’s pet roulette tables, set amid
parlor furnishings of atrocious plush. From one corner a faro lay-out
that had once flourished on Fifty-eighth 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 inviting smile on his face. Harrowby, his eyes bright, laid
a sum of money beside a row of innocent figures. He won. He tried
again, and won. Some of the young women pushed close to the table,
visibly affected. Others pretended this sort of thing was an old story
to them.

A few of the more adventurous women borrowed coins from the men, and
joined in the play. Arguments and misunderstandings arose, which Mr.
Stacy’s assistant urbanely 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
silence as the wheel spun and the little ball hovered heart-breakingly,
filled the room. Cheeks glowed red, eyes sparkled, the crush about the
table increased. Spencer Meyrick himself risked from his endless
store. Mr. Tom Stacy’s place was in full swing.

Dick Minot caught Cynthia Meyrick’s glance as she stood close beside
Lord Harrowby. She seemed another girl to-night, grave rather than
gay, her great brown eyes apparently looking into the future,
wondering, fearing. As for Harrowby, he was a man transformed. Not
for nothing was he the son of the sporting Earl of Raybrook–the peer
who never failed to take a risk. The excitement of the game was
reflected in his tall tense figure, his flaming cheeks. This was the
Harrowby who had made Jephson that gambling proposition on a
seventeenth floor in New York.

And Harrowby won consistently. Won, until a fatal choice of numbers
with an overwhelming stake left him poor again, and he saw all his
winnings swept to swell Tom Stacy’s store. Quickly he wormed his way
out of the crowd and sought Minot.

“May I see you a moment?” he asked. “Out here.” And he led the way to
the gloom of the balcony.

“If I only had the cash,” Harrowby whispered excitedly, “I could break
Stacy to-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
been stolen.”

“No. No. That’s no matter. I’ll arrange that. Hurry–”

“You forget, too, that you told me this morning that should this
necklace be found now–”

“Mr. Minot–the necklace belongs to me. Will you kindly let me have
it.”

“Certainly,” said Minot coldly. And, much annoyed, he returned to the
room amid the buzz and the thrill of gambling.

Harrowby ran quickly down the stairs. In the office of the club he
found Tom Stacy in amiable converse with Martin Wall. He threw Chain
Lightning’s Collar on 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
thick fingers. He gazed at it for a moment. Then he looked up, and
caught Martin Wall’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 he watched, in the little office down-stairs, a scene of vital
bearing on his future was enacted.

A short stocky man with a bullet-shaped head had pushed open the door
on Messrs. 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 a minute that you can’t raid me down here.”

“Them happy days is past,” returned Mr. Huntley dryly. “I’m working
for Uncle Sam, now, Tom. Got new fish to fry. Used to have some gay
times in New York, didn’t we? Oh, hello, Craig!”

“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 caviar crowd, 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 came
faster.

“Oh–you’re sure of that, are you?”

“Yes. Who I am isn’t one of your worries in your new line of business.
And you’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 your names, you know.”

“Forget that. I say I can do you a favor–if you’ll promise not to mix
in my affairs.”

“Well–what is it?”

“You’re down here looking for a diamond necklace known as Chain
Lightning’s Collar.”

“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. And you’ll find Lord Harrowby in a room up-stairs.”

Mr. Huntley stood for a moment staring at the man he called Craig.
Then with a grunt he turned away.

Two minutes later, in the bright room above, that same rather vulgar
grunt sounded in Lord Harrowby’s patrician ear. He turned, and his
face paled. Hopelessly he looked toward Minot. Then without a word he
followed Huntley from the room.

Only two of that excited crowd about the wheel noticed. And these two
fled simultaneously 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 and Stacy were waiting. The sound of voices pitched low could be
heard on the balcony, 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 white envelope. Next they beheld Chain
Lightning’s Collar gleam in the dusk as Huntley 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 a white-faced girl whose wonderful copper hair had once held Chain
Lightning’s Collar.

“What does it mean?” she asked, her voice low and tense.

“Mean?” Martin Wall laughed. “It means that Lord Harrowby must go
north and face a United States Commissioner in Jersey City. It seems
that when he brought that necklace over he quite forgot to tell the
customs officials about it.”

“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 gloom of 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 mean by that? What indeed but the one thing that must not
happen–the thing he wanted most of all things in the world to
happen–the thing he had come to San Marco to prevent. He came closer
to her–and closer–the blood was pounding in his 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
bald head ascending through the dusk. It was an ordinary bald head,
the property of Mr. Stacy in fact, but to Minot a certain Jephson
seemed to be moving beneath it 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.

Miss Meyrick turned back toward the room of chance to find her father.
Minot, meanwhile, ran down the steps, obtained his hat and coat, and
hurried across the street to the hotel. He went at once to Harrowby’s
rooms.

There he encountered a scene of wild disorder. The round-faced valet
was packing trunks against time, and his time-keeper, Mr. Bill Huntley,
sat in a corner, grim and silent, watch in hand. Lord Harrowby paced
the floor madly. When he saw Minot he held out his long, lean,
helpless hands.

“You’ve heard, old boy?” he said.

“Yes, I’ve heard,” said Minot sharply. “A fine fix, Harrowby. Why the
deuce didn’t you pay the duty on that necklace?”

“Dear boy! Was saving every cent I had for–you know what. Besides, I
heard of such a clever scheme for slipping it in–”

“Never mind that! Mr. Huntley, this gentleman was to have been married
on Tuesday. Can’t you hold off until then?”

“Nothing doing,” said Mr. Huntley firmly. “I got to get back to New
York. He’ll have to postpone his wedding. Ought to have thought of
these things before he pulled off his little stunt.”

“It’s no use, Minot,” said Harrowby hopelessly. “I’ve gone all over it
with this chap. He won’t listen to reason. What the deuce am I to do?”

A knock sounded on the door and Spencer Meyrick, red-faced, flirting
with apoplexy, strode into the room.

“Lord Harrowby,” he announced, “I desire to see you alone.”

“Er–step into the bedroom,” Harrowby suggested.

Mr. Huntley rose promptly to his feet.

“Nix,” he said. “There’s a door out of that room leading into the
hall. If you go in there, I go, too.”

Mr. Meyrick glared. Harrowby stood embarrassed.

“Very well,” said Meyrick through his teeth. “We’ll stay here. It
doesn’t matter to me. I simply want to say, Lord Harrowby, that when
you get to Jersey City you needn’t trouble to come back, as far as my
family is concerned.”

A look of pain came into Harrowby’s thin face.

“Not come back,” he said. “My dear sir–”

“That’s what I said. I’m a plain man, Harrowby. A plain American. It
doesn’t seem to me that marrying into the British nobility is worth all
the trouble it’s costing us–”

“But really–”

“It may be, but it doesn’t look that way to me. I prefer a simple
wedding to a series of vaudeville acts. If you think I’m going to
stand for the publicity of this latest affair, you’re mistaken. I’ve
talked matters over with Cynthia–the marriage is off–for good!”

“But my dear sir, Cynthia and I are very fond of each other–”

“I don’t give a damn if you are!” Meyrick fumed. “This is the last
straw. I’m through with you. Good night, and good-by.”

He stamped out as he had come, and Lord Harrowby fell limply into a
chair.

“All over, and all done,” he moaned.

“And Jephson loses,” said Minot with mixed emotions.

“Yes–I’m sorry.” Harrowby shook his head tragically. “Sorrier than
you are, old chap. I love Cynthia Meyrick–really I do. This is a bit
of a blow.”

“Come, come!” cried Mr. Huntley. “I’m not going to miss that train
while you play-act. We’ve only got half an hour, now.”

Harrowby rose unhappily and went into the inner room, Huntley at his
heels. Minot sat, his unseeing eyes gazing down at the old copy of the
_London Times_ which Harrowby had been reading that morning at
breakfast.

Gradually, despite his preoccupation, a name in a head-line forced
itself to his attention. Courtney Giles. Where had he heard that name
before? He picked up the _Times_ from the table on which it was lying.
He read:

“_The Ardent Lover_, the new romantic comedy in which Courtney Giles
has appeared briefly at the West End Road Theater, will be removed from
the boards to-night. The public has not been appreciative. If truth
must be told–and bitter truth it is–the once beloved matinée idol has
become too fat to hold his old admirers, and they have drifted steadily
to other, slimmer gods. Mr. Giles’ early retirement from the stage is
rumored.”

Minot threw down the paper. Poor old Jephson! First the rain on the
dowager duchess, then an actor’s expanding waist–and to-morrow the
news that Harrowby’s wedding was not to be. Why, it would ruin the man!

Minot stepped to the door of the inner room.

“I’m going out to think,” he announced. “I’ll see you in the lobby
before you leave.”

Two minutes later, in the summer-house where he had bid good-by to the
sparkling Gaiety lady, he sat puffing furiously at a cigar. Back into
the past as it concerned Chain Lightning’s Collar he went. That night
when Cynthia Meyrick had worn it in her hair, and Harrowby, hearing of
the search for it–had snatched it in the dark. His own guardianship
of the valuable trinket–Martin Wall’s invasion of his rooms–the
“dropping” of the jewels on shipboard, and the return of them by Mr.
Wall next morning. And last, but not least, Mr. Stacy’s firm refusal
to loan money on the necklace that very night.

All these things Minot pondered.

Meanwhile Harrowby, having finished his packing, descended to the lobby
of the De la Pax. In a certain pink parlor he found Cynthia Meyrick,
and stood gazing helplessly into her eyes.

“Cynthia–your father said–is it true?”

“It’s true, Allan.”

“You too wish the wedding–indefinitely postponed?”

“Father thinks it best–”

“But you?” He came closer. “You, Cynthia?”

“I–I don’t know. There has been so much trouble, Allan–”

“I know. And I’m fearfully sorry about this latest. But, Cynthia–you
mustn’t send me away–I love you. Do you doubt that?”

“No, Allan.”

“You’re the most wonderful girl who has ever come into my life–I want
you in it always–beside me–”

“At any rate, Allan, a wedding next Tuesday is impossible now.”

“Yes, I’m afraid it is. And after that–”

“After that–I don’t know, Allan.”

Aunt Mary came into the room, distress written plainly in her plump
face. No misstep of the peerage was beyond Aunt Mary’s forgiveness.
She took Harrowby’s hand.

“I’m so sorry, your lordship,” she said. “Most unfortunate. But I’m
sure it will all be cleared away in time–”

Mr. Huntley made it a point to interrupt. He stood at the door, watch
in hand.

“Come on,” he said. “We’ve got to start.”

Harrowby followed the ladies from the room. In the lobby Spencer
Meyrick joined them. His lordship shook hands with Aunt Mary, with Mr.
Meyrick–then he turned to the girl.

“Good-by, Cynthia,” he said unhappily. He took her slim white hand in
his. Then he turned quickly and started with Huntley for the door.

It was at this point that Mr. Minot, his cigar and his cogitations
finished, entered upon the scene.

“Just a minute,” he said to Mr. Huntley.

“Not another minute,” remarked Huntley with decision. “Not for the
King of England himself. We got just fifteen of ’em left to catch that
train, and if I know San Marco hackmen–”

“You’ve got time to answer one or two questions.” Impressed by Minot’s
tone, the Meyrick family moved nearer. “There’s no doubt, is there,
Mr. Huntley, that the necklace you have in your pocket is the one Lord
Harrowby brought from England?”

“Of course not. Now, get out of the way–”

“Are you a good judge of jewels, Mr. Huntley?”

“Well, I’ve got a little reputation in that line. But say–”

“Then I suggest,” said Minot impressively, “that you examine Chain
Lightning’s Collar closely.”

“Thanks for the suggestion,” sneered Mr. Huntley. “I’ll follow
it–when I get time. Just now I’ve got to–”

“You’d better follow it now–before you catch a train. Otherwise you
may be so unfortunate as to make a fool of yourself.”

Mr. Huntley stood, hesitating. There was something in Minot’s tone
that rang true. The detective again looked at his watch. Then, with
one of his celebrated grunts, he pulled out the necklace, and stood
staring at it with a new expression.

He grunted again, and stepped to a near-by writing-desk, above which
hung a powerful electric light. The others followed. Mr. Huntley laid
the necklace on the desk, and took out a small microscope which was
attached to one end of his watch-chain. With rapt gaze he stared at
the largest of the diamonds. He went the length of the string,
examining each stone in turn. The expression on Mr. Huntley’s face
would have made him a star in the “movies.”

“Hell!” he cried, and threw Chain Lightning’s Collar down on the desk.

“What’s the matter?” Mr. Minot smiled.

“Glass,” snarled Huntley. “Fine old bottle glass. What do you know
about that?”

“But really–it can’t be–” put in Harrowby.

“Well it is,” Mr. Huntley glared at him. “The inspector might have
known you moth-eaten noblemen ain’t got any of the real stuff left.”

“I won’t believe it–” Harrowby began, but caught Minot’s eye.

“It’s true, just the same,” Minot said. “By the way, Mr. Huntley, how
much is that little ornament worth?”

“About nine dollars and twenty-five cents.” Mr. Huntley still glared
angrily.

“Well–you can’t take Lord Harrowby back for not declaring that, can
you?”

“No,” snorted Huntley. “But I can go back myself, and I’m going–on
that midnight train. Good-by.”

Minot followed him to the door.

“Aren’t you going to thank me?” he asked. “You know, I saved you–”

“Thank you! Hell!” said Huntley, and disappeared into the dark.

When Minot returned he found Harrowby standing facing the Meyricks, and
holding the necklace in his hand as though it were a bomb on the point
of exploding.

“I say, I feel rather low,” he was saying, “when I remember that I made
you a present of this thing, Cynthia. But on my honor, I didn’t know.
And I can scarcely believe it now. I know the governor has been
financially embarrassed–but I never suspected him of this–the
associations were so dear–really–”

“It may not have been your father who duplicated Chain Lightning’s
Collar with a fake,” Minot suggested.

“My word, old boy, who then?”

“You remember,” said Minot, addressing the Meyricks, “that the necklace
was stolen recently. Well–it was returned to Lord Harrowby under
unusual circumstances. At least, this collection of glass was
returned. My theory is that the thief had a duplicate made–an old
trick.”

“The very idea,” Harrowby cried. “I say, Minot, you are clever. I
should never have thought of that.”

“Thanks,” said Minot dryly. He sought to avoid Miss Cynthia Meyrick’s
eyes.

“Er–by the way,” said Harrowby, looking at Spencer Meyrick. “There is
nothing to prevent the wedding now.”

The old man shrugged his shoulders.

“I leave that to my daughter,” he said, and turned away.

“Cynthia?” Harrowby pleaded.

Miss Meyrick cast a strange look at Minot, standing forlorn before her.
And then she smiled–not very happily.

“There seems to be no reason for changing our plans,” she said slowly.
“It would be a great disappointment to–so many people. Good night.”

Minot followed her to the elevator.

“It’s as I told you this morning,” he said miserably. “I’m just one of
the pawns in the hands of the Master of the Show. I can’t explain–”

“What is there to explain?” the girl asked coldly. “I congratulate you
on a highly successful evening.”

The elevator door banged shut between them.

Turning, Minot encountered Aunt Mary.

“You clever boy,” she cried. “We are all so very grateful to you. You
have saved us from a very embarrassing situation.”

“Please don’t mention it,” Minot replied, and he meant it.

He sat down beside the dazed Harrowby on one of the lobby sofas.

“I’m all at sea, really, old chap,” Harrowby confessed. “But I must
say–I admire you tremendously. How the devil did you know the
necklace was a fraud?”

“I didn’t know–I guessed,” said Minot. “And the thing that led me to
make that happy guess was Tom Stacy’s refusal to loan you money on it
to-night. Mr. Stacy is no fool.”

“And you think that Martin Wall has the real Chain Lightning’s Collar?”

“It looks that way to me. There’s only one thing against my theory.
He didn’t clear out when he had the chance. But he may be staying on
to avert suspicion. We haven’t any evidence to arrest him on–and if
we did there’d be the customs people to deal with. If I were you I’d
hire a private detective to watch Wall, and try to get the real
necklace back without enlisting the arm of the law.”

“Really,” said Harrowby, “things are happening so swiftly I’m at a loss
to follow them. I am, old boy. First one obstacle and then another.
You’ve been splendid, Minot, splendid. I want to thank you for all you
have done. I thought to-night the wedding had gone glimmering. And
I’m fond of Miss Meyrick. Tremendously.”

“Don’t thank me,” Minot replied. “I’m not doing it for you–we both
know that. I’m protecting Jephson’s money. In a few days,
wedding-bells. And then me back to New York, shouting never again on
the Cupid act. If I’m ever roped into another job like this–”

“It has been a trying position for you,” Harrowby said sympathetically.
“And you’ve done nobly. I’m sure your troubles are all out of the way
now. With the necklace worry gone–”

He paused. For across the lobby toward them walked Henry Trimmer, and
his walk was that of a man who is going somewhere.

“Ah–Mister Harrowby,” he boomed, “and Mr. Minot I’ve been looking for
you both. It will interest you to know that I had a wireless message
from Lord Harrowby this noon.”

“A wireless?” cried Minot.

“Yes.” Trimmer laughed. “Not such a fool as you think him, Lord
Harrowby isn’t. Managed to send me a wireless from Tarragona despite
the attentions of your friends. So I went out there this afternoon and
brought George back with me.”

Silently Minot and Harrowby stared at each other.

“Yes,” Mr. Trimmer went on, “George is back again–back under the
direction of little me, a publicity man with no grass under the feet.
I’ve come to give you gentlemen your choice. You either see Lord
Harrowby to-morrow morning at ten o’clock and recognize his claims, or
I’ll have you both thrown into jail for kidnaping.”

“To-morrow morning at ten,” Harrowby repeated gloomily.

“That’s what I said,” replied Mr. Trimmer blithely. “How about it,
little brother?”

“Minot–what would you advise?”

“See him,” sighed Minot.

“Very well.” Harrowby’s tone was resigned. “I presume I’d better.”

“Ah–coming to your senses, aren’t you?” said Trimmer. “I hope we
aren’t spoiling the joyous wedding-day. But then, what I say is, if
the girl’s marrying you just for the title–”

Harrowby leaped to his feet

“You haven’t been asked for an opinion,” he said.

“No, of course not. Don’t get excited. I’ll see you both in the
morning at ten.” And Mr. Trimmer strolled elegantly away.

Harrowby turned hopefully Jo Minot.

“At ten in the morning,” he repeated. “Old chap, what are we going to
do at ten in the morning?”

“I don’t know,” smiled Minot. “But if past performances mean anything,
we’ll win.”

“What’s the matter with you?”

Seated in the lobby of the De la Pax on Sunday morning, Mr. Trimmer
turned a disapproving eye upon the lank Englishman at his side as he
made this query. And his question was not without good foundation.
For the aspirant to the title of Lord Harrowby was at the moment a
jelly quaking with fear.

“Fawncy meeting you after all these years,” said poor old George in an
uncertain treble.

“Come, come,” cried Mr. Trimmer, “put a little more authority into your
voice. You can’t walk up and claim your rights with your knees dancing
the tango. This is the moment we’ve been looking forward to. Act
determined. Walk into that room up-stairs as though you were walking
into Rakedale Hall to take charge of it.”

“Allan, don’t you know me–I’m your brother George,” went on the
Englishman, intent on rehearsing.

“More like it,” said Trimmer. “Put the fire into it. You’re not
expecting a thrashing, you know. You’re expecting the title and
recognition that belongs to you. I wish I was the real Lord Harrowby.
I guess I’d show ’em a thing or two.”

“I wish you was,” agreed poor old George sadly. “Somehow, I don’t seem
to have the spirit I used to have.”

“A good point,” commented Trimmer. “Years of wrong and suffering have
made you timid. I’ll call that to their attention. Five minutes of
ten, your lordship.”

His lordship groaned.

“All right, I’m ready,” he said. “What is it I say as I go in? Oh,
yes–” He stepped into the elevator–“Fawncy seeing you after all
these years.”

The negro elevator boy was somewhat startled at this greeting, but
regained his composure and started the car. Mr. Trimmer and his
“proposition” shot up toward their great opportunity.

In Lord Harrowby’s suite that gentleman sat in considerable
nervousness, awaiting the undesired encounter. With him sat Miss
Meyrick and her father, whom he had thought it necessary to invite to
witness the ordeal. Mr. Richard Minot uneasily paced the floor,
avoiding as much as possible the glances of Miss Meyrick’s brown eyes.
Ten o’clock was upon him, and Mr. Minot was no nearer a plan of action
than he had been the preceding night.

Every good press agent is not without a live theatrical sense, and Mr.
Trimmer was no exception. He left his trembling claimant in the
entrance hall and strode into the room.

“Good morning,” he said brightly. “Here we are, on time to the minute.
Ah–I beg your pardon.”

Lord Harrowby performed brief introductions, which Mr. Trimmer
effusively acknowledged. Then he turned dramatically toward his
lordship.

“Out here in the hallway stands a poor broken creature,” he began.
“Your own flesh and blood, Allan Harrowby.” Obviously Mr. Trimmer had
prepared speeches for himself as well as for poor old George. “For
twenty odd and impecunious years,” he went on, “this man has been
denied his just heritage. We are here this morning to perform a duty–”

“My dear fellow,” broke in Harrowby wearily, “why should you inflict
oratory upon us? Bring in this–er–gentleman.”

“That I will,” replied Trimmer heartily. “And when you have heard his
story, digested his evidence, I am sure–”

“Yes, yes. Bring him in.”

Mr. Trimmer stepped to the door. He beckoned. A very reluctant figure
shuffled in. George’s face was green with fright. His knees rattled
together. He made, altogether, a ludicrous picture, and Mr. Trimmer
himself noted this with sinking heart.

“Allow me,” said Trimmer theatrically. “George, Lord Harrowby.”

George cleared his throat, but did not succeed in dislodging his heart,
which was there at the moment.

“Fawncy seeing you after all these years,” he mumbled weakly, to no one
in particular.

“Speak up,” said Spencer Meyrick sharply.

“Who is it you’re talking to?”

“To him,” explained George, nodding toward Lord Harrowby. “To my
brother Allan. Don’t you know me, Allan? Don’t you know–”

He stopped. An expression of surprise and relief swept over his
worried face. He turned triumphantly to Trimmer.

“I don’t have to prove who I am to him,” he announced.

“Why don’t you?” demanded Trimmer in alarm.

“Because he can’t, I fancy,” put in Lord Harrowby.

“No,” said George slowly, “because I never saw him before in all my
life.”

“Ah–you admit it,” cried Allan Harrowby with relief.

“Of course I do,” replied George. “I never saw you before in my life.”

“And you’ve never been at Rakedale Hall, have you?” Lord Harrowby
demanded.

“Here–wait a minute–” shouted Trimmer, in a panic.

“Oh, yes–I’ve been at Rakedale Hall,” said the claimant firmly. “I
spent my boyhood there. But you’ve never been there.”

“I–what–”

“You’ve never been at Rakedale Hall. Why? Because you’re not Allan
Harrowby! That’s why.”

A deathly silence fell. Only a little traveling clock on the mantel
was articulate.

“Absurd–ridiculous–” cried Lord Harrowby.

“Talk about impostors,” cried George, his spirit and his courage
sweeping back. “You’re one yourself. I wish I’d got a good look at
you sooner, I’d have put a stop to all this. Allan Harrowby, eh? I
guess not. I guess I’d know my own brother if I saw him. I guess I
know the Harrowby features. I give you twenty-four hours to get out of
town–you blooming fraud.”

“The man’s crazy,” Allan Harrowby cried. “Raving mad. He’s an
impostor–this is a trick of his–” He looked helplessly around the
circle. In every face he saw doubt, questioning. “Good
heavens–you’re not going to listen to him? He’s come here to prove
that he’s George Harrowby. Why doesn’t he do it?”

“I’ll do it,” said George sweetly, “when I meet a real Harrowby. In
the meantime, I give you twenty-four hours to get out of town. You’d
better go.”

Victorious, George turned toward the door. Trimmer, lost between
admiration and doubt, turned also.

“Take my advice,” George proclaimed. “Make him prove who he is.
That’s the important point now. What does it matter to you who I am?
Nothing. But it matters a lot about him. Make him prove that he’s
Allan Harrowby.”

And, with the imperious manner that he should have adopted on entering
the room, George Harrowby left it. Mr. Trimmer, eclipsed for once,
trotted at his side.

“Say,” cried Trimmer in the hall, “is that on the level? Isn’t he
Allan Harrowby?”

“I should say not,” said George grandly. “Doesn’t look anything like
Allan.”

Trimmer chortled in glee.

“Great stuff,” he cried. “I guess we tossed a bomb, eh? Now, we’ll
run him out of town.”

“Oh, no,” said George. “We’ve done our work here. Let’s go over to
London now and see the pater.”

“That we will,” cried Trimmer. “That we will. By gad, I’m proud of
you to-day, Lord Harrowby.”

Inside Allan Harrowby’s suite three pairs of questioning eyes were
turned on that harassed nobleman. He fidgeted in his chair.

“I say,” he pleaded. “It’s all his bluff, you know.”

“Maybe,” said old Spencer Meyrick, rising. “But Harrowby–or whatever
your name is–there’s altogether too much three-ring circus about this
wedding to suit me. My patience is exhausted, sir–clean exhausted.
Things look queer to me–have right along. I’m more than inclined to
believe what that fellow said.”

“But my dear sir–that chap is a rank impostor. There wasn’t a word of
truth in what he said. Cynthia–you understand–”

“Why, yes–I suppose so,” the girl replied. “You are Allan Harrowby,
aren’t you?”

“My dear girl–of course I am.”

“Nevertheless,” said Spencer Meyrick with decision, “I’m going to call
the wedding off again. Some of your actions haven’t made much of a hit
with me. I’m going to call it off until you come to me and prove that
you’re Allan Harrowby–a lord in good and regular standing, with all
dues paid.”

“But–confound it, sir–a gentleman’s word–”

“Mr. Meyrick,” put in Minot, “may I be allowed to say that I consider
your action hasty–”

“And may I be allowed to ask what affair this is of yours?” demanded
Mr. Meyrick hotly.

“Father!” cried Miss Meyrick. “Please do not be harsh with Mr. Minot.
His heart is absolutely set on my marriage with Lord Harrowby.
Naturally he feels very badly over all this.”

Minot winced.

“Come, Cynthia,” said Meyrick, moving toward the door. “I’ve had
enough of this play-acting. Remember, sir–the wedding is
off–absolutely off–until you are able to establish your identity
beyond question.”

And he and his daughter went out. Minot sat for a long time staring at
Lord Harrowby. Finally he spoke.

“Say, Harrowby,” he inquired, “who the devil are you?”

His lordship sadly shook his head.

“You, too, Brutus,” he sighed. “Haven’t I one friend left? I’m Allan
Harrowby. Ask Jephson. If I weren’t, that policy that’s causing you
so much trouble wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.”

“That’s right, too. Well, admitting you’re Harrowby, how are you going
to prove it?”

“I’ve an idea,” Harrowby replied.

“Everything comes to him who waits. What is it?”

“A very good friend of mine–an old Oxford friend–is attached to our
embassy at Washington. He was planning to come down for the wedding.
I’ll telegraph him to board the next train.”

“Good boy,” said Minot. “That’s a regular idea. Better send the wire
at once.”

Harrowby promised, and they parted. In the lobby below Mr. Minot met
Jack Paddock. Paddock looked drawn and worried.

“Working up my stuff for the dinner the little Lismore lady is giving
to the bridal party to-morrow night,” he confided. “Say, it’s no cinch
to do two of them. Can’t you suggest a topic that’s liable to come up.”

“Yes,” replied Minot. “I can suggest one. Fake noblemen.” And he
related to Mr. Paddock the astounding events of the morning.

That Sunday that had begun so startlingly progressed as a Sunday
should, in peace. Early in the afternoon Harrowby hunted Minot up and
announced that his friend would arrive Monday noon, and that the
Meyricks had agreed to take no definite step pending his arrival.

Shortly after six o’clock a delayed telegram was delivered to Mr.
Minot. It was from Mr. Thacker, and it read:

“Have located the owner of the yacht _Lileth_ its real name the _Lady
Evelyn_ stolen from owner in North River he is on his way south will
look you up on arrival.”

Minot whistled. Here was a new twist for the drama to take.

At about the same time that Minot received his message, a similar slip
of yellow paper was put into the hands of Lord Harrowby. Three times
he read it, his eyes staring, his cheeks flushed.

Then he fled to his rooms. The elevator was not quick enough; he sped
up the stairs. Once in his suite he dragged out the nearest
traveling-bag and began to pack like a mad man.

Mr. Minot was finishing a leisurely and lonely dinner about an hour
later when Jack Paddock ran up to his table. Mr. Paddock’s usual calm
was sadly ruffled.

“Dick,” he cried, “here’s news for you. I met Lord Harrowby sliding
out a side door with a suit-case just now.”

Minot leaped to his feet.

“What does that mean?” he wondered aloud.

“Mean?” answered Mr. Paddock. “It means just one thing. Old George
had the right dope. Harrowby is a fake. He’s making his get-away.”

Minot threw down his napkin.

“Oh, he is, is he?” he cried. “Well, I guess not. Come on, Jack.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going down to the station and stop him. He’s caused me too much
trouble to let him slide out like this. A fake, eh? Well, I’ll have
him behind the bars to-night.”

A negro cab driver was, by superhuman efforts, roused to hasty action.
He rattled the two young men wildly down the silent street to the
railway station. They dashed into the drab little waiting room just as
a voice called:

“Train for the north! Jacksonville! Savannah! Washington! New York!”

“There he is!” Paddock cried, and pointed to the lean figure of Lord
Harrowby slipping out the door nearest the train-shed.

Paddock and Minot ran across the waiting room and out into the open.
In the distance they saw Harrowby passing through the gate and on to
the tracks. They ran up just in time to have the gate banged shut in
their faces.

“Here,” cried Minot. “I’ve got to get in there. Let me through!”

“Where’s your ticket?” demanded the great stone face on guard.

“I haven’t got one, but–”

“Too late anyhow,” said the face. “The train’s started.”

Through the wooden pickets Minot saw the long yellow string of coaches
slipping by. He turned to Paddock.

“Oh, very well,” he cried, exulting. “Let him go. Come on!”

He dashed back to the carriage that had brought them from the hotel,
the driver of which sat in a stupor trying to regain his wits and
nonchalance.

“What now?” Paddock wanted to know.

“Get in!” commanded Minot. He pushed his friend on to the musty seat,
and followed.

“To the De la Pax,” he cried, “as fast as you can go.”

“But what the devil’s the need of hurrying now?” demanded Paddock.

“All the need in the world,” replied Minot joyously. “I’m going to
have a talk with Cynthia Meyrick. A little talk–alone.”

“Ah,” said Mr. Paddock softly, “love’s young dream.”