A ROTTEN BAD FIT

The moon was shining in that city of the picturesque past. Its light
fell silvery on the narrow streets, the old adobe houses, the listless
palms. In every shadow seemed to lurk the memory of a love long
dead–a love of the old passionate Spanish days. A soft breeze came
whispering from the very sea Ponce de Leon had sailed. It was as if at
a signal–a bugle-call, a rose thrown from a window, the boom of a
cannon at the water’s edge–the forgotten past of hot hearts, of arms
equally ready for cutlass or slender waist, could live again.

And Minot was as one who had heard such a signal. He loved. The
obstacle that had confronted him, wrung his heart, left him helpless,
was swept away. He was like a man who, released from prison, sees the
sky, the green trees, the hills again. He loved! The moon was shining!

He stood amid the colorful blooms of the hotel courtyard and looked up
at her window, with its white curtain waving gently in the breeze. He
called, softly. And then he saw her face, peering out as some senorita
of the old days from her lattice–

“I’ve news–very important news,” he said. “May I see you a moment?”

Far better this than the telephone or the bellboy. Far more in keeping
with the magic of the night.

She came, dressed in the white that set off so well her hair of
gleaming copper. Minot met her on the veranda. She smiled into his
eyes inquiringly.

“Do you mind–a little walk?” he asked.

“Where to?”

“Say to the fort–the longest way.”

She glanced back toward the hotel.

“I’m not sure that I ought–”

“But that will only make it the more exciting. Please. And I’ve
news–real news.”

She nodded her head, and they crossed the courtyard to the avenue.
From this bright thoroughfare they turned in a moment into a dark and
unkempt street.

“See,” said Minot suddenly, “the old Spanish churchyard. They built
cities around churches in the old days. The world do move. It’s
railroad stations now.”

They stood peering through the gloom at a small chapel dim amid the
trees, and aged stones leaning tipsily among the weeds.

“At the altar of that chapel,” Minot said, “a priest fell–shot in the
back by an Indian’s arrow. Sounds unreal, doesn’t it? And when you
think that under these musty stones lies the dust of folks who walked
this very ground, and loved, and hated, like you and–”

“Yes–but isn’t it all rather gloomy?” Cynthia Meyrick shuddered.

They went on, to pass shortly through the crumbling remains of the city
gates. There at the water’s edge the great gray fort loomed in the
moonlight like a historical novelist’s dream. Its huge iron-bound
doors were locked for the night; its custodian home in the bosom of his
family. Only its lower ramparts were left for the feet of romantic
youth to tread.

Along these ramparts, close to the shimmering sea, Miss Meyrick and
Minot walked. Truth to tell, it was not so very difficult to keep
one’s footing–but once the girl was forced to hold out an appealing
hand.

“French heels are treacherous,” she explained.

Minot took her hand, and for the first time knew the thrill that,
encountered often on the printed page, he had mentally classed as
“rubbish!” Wisely she interrupted it:

“You said you had news?”

He had, but it was not so easy to impart as he had expected.

“Tell me,” he said, “if it should turn out that what poor old George
said this morning was a fact–that Allan Harrowby was an
impostor–would you feel so very badly?”

She withdrew her hand.

“You have no right to ask that,” she replied.

“Forgive me. Indeed I haven’t. But I was moved to ask it for the
reason that–what George said was evidently true. Allan Harrowby left
suddenly for the north an hour ago.”

The girl stood still, looking with wide eyes out over the sea.

“Left–for the north,” she repeated. There was a long silence. At
length she turned to Minot, a queer light in her eyes. “Of course,
you’ll go after him and bring him back?” she asked.

“No.” Minot bowed his head. “I know I must have looked rather silly
of late. But if you think I did the things I’ve done because I chose
to–you’re wrong. If you think I did them because I didn’t love
you–you’re wrong, too. Oh, I–”

“Mr. Minot!”

“I can’t help it. I know it’s indecently soon–I’ve got to tell you
just the same. There’s been so much in the way–I’m wild to say it
now. I love you.”

The water breaking on the ancient stones below seemed to be repeating
“Sh–sh,” but Minot paid no heed to the warning.

“I’ve cared for you,” he went on, “ever since that morning on the train
when we raced the razor-backs–ever since that wonderful ride over a
God-forsaken road that looked like Heaven to me. And every time since
that I’ve seen you I’ve known that I’d come to care more–”

The girl stood and stared thoughtfully out at the soft blue sea. Minot
moved closer, over those perilous slippery rocks.

“I know it’s an old story to you,” he went on, “and that I’d be a fool
to hope that I could possibly be anything but just another man who
adores you. But–because I love you so much–”

She turned and looked at him.

“And in spite of all this,” she said slowly, “from the first you have
done everything in your power to prevent the breaking off of my
engagement to Harrowby.”

“Yes, but–”

“Weren’t you overly chivalrous to a rival? Wouldn’t what–what you are
saying be more convincing if you had remained neutral?”

“I know. I can’t explain it to you now. It’s all over, anyway. It
was horrible while it lasted–but it’s over now. I’m never going to
work again for your marriage to anybody–except one man. The man who
is standing before you–who loves you–loves you–”

He stopped, for the girl was smiling. And it was not the sort of smile
that his words were entitled to.

“I’m sorry, really,” she said. “But I can’t help it. All I can see
now is your triumphant entrance last night–your masterly exposure of
that silly necklace–your clever destruction of every obstacle in order
that Harrowby and I might be married on Tuesday. In the light of all
that has happened–how can you expect to appear other than–”

“Foolish? You’re right. And you couldn’t possibly care–just a
little–”

He stopped, embarrassed. Poorly chosen words, those last. He saw the
light of recollection in her eye.

“I should say,” he went on hastily, “isn’t there just a faint gleam of
hope–for me–”

“If we were back on the train,” she said, “and all that followed could
be different–and Harrowby had never been–I might–”

“You might–yes?”

“I might not say what I’m going to say now. Which is–hadn’t we better
return to the hotel?”

“I’m sorry,” remarked Minot. “Sorry I had the bad taste to say what I
have at this time–but if you knew and could understand–which you
can’t of course– Yes, let’s go back to the hotel–the shortest way.”

He turned, and looked toward the towers of the De la Pax rising to meet
the sky–seemingly a million miles away. So Peary might have gazed to
the north, setting out for the Pole.

They went back along the ramparts, over the dry moat, through the
crumbling gates. Conversation languished. Then the ancient graveyard,
ghastly in the gloom. After that the long lighted street of humble
shops. And the shortest way home seemed a million times longer than
the longest way there.

“Considering what you have told me of–Harrowby,” she said, “I shall be
leaving for the north soon. Will you look me up in New York?”

“Thank you,” Minot said. “It will be a very great privilege.”

Cynthia Meyrick entered the elevator, and out of sight in that gilded
cage she smiled a twisted little smile.

Mr. Minot beheld Mr. Trimmer and his “proposition” basking in the
lime-light of the De la Pax, and feeling in no mood to listen to the
publicity man’s triumphant cackle, he hurried to the veranda. There he
found a bell-boy calling his name.

“Gen’lemun to see you,” the boy explained. He led the way back into
the lobby and up to a tall athletic-looking man with a ruddy, frank,
attractive face.

The stranger held out his hand.

“Mr. Minot, of Lloyds?” he asked. “How do you do, sir? I’m very glad
to know you. Promised Thacker I’d look you up at once. Let’s adjourn
to the grill-room.”

Minot followed in the wake of the tall breezy one. Already he liked
the man immensely.

“Well,” said the stranger, over a table in the grill, “what’ll you
have? Waiter? Perhaps you heard I was coming. I happen to be the
owner of the yacht in the harbor, which somebody has rechristened the
_Lileth_.”

“Yes–I thought so,” Minot replied. “I’m mighty glad you’ve come. A
Mr. Martin Wall is posing as the owner just at present.”

“So I learned from Thacker. Nervy lad, this Wall. I live in Chicago
myself–left my boat–_Lady Evelyn_, I called her–in the North River
for the winter in charge of a caretaker. This Wall, it seems, needed a
boat for a month and took a fancy to mine. And since my caretaker was
evidently a crook, it was a simple matter to rent it. Never would have
found it out except for you people. Too busy. Really ought not to
have taken this trip–business needs me every minute–but I’ve got sort
of a hankering to meet Mr. Martin Wall.”

“Shall we go out to the boat right away?”

“No need of that. We’ll run out in the morning with the proper
authorities.” The stranger leaned across the table, and something in
his blue eyes startled Minot. “In the meantime,” he said, “I happen to
be interested in another matter. What’s all this talk about George
Harrowby coming back to life?”

“Well, there’s a chap here,” Minot explained, “who claims to be the
elder brother of Allan Harrowby. His cause is in the hands of an
advertising expert named Trimmer.”

“Yes. I saw a story in a Washington paper.”

“This morning George Harrowby, so-called, confronted Allan Harrowby and
denounced Allan himself as a fraud.”

The man from Chicago threw back his head, and a roar of unexpected
laughter smote on Minot’s hearing.

“Good joke,” said the stranger.

“No joke at all. George was right–at least, so it seems. Allan
Harrowby cleared out this evening.”

“Yes. So I was told by the clerk in there. Do you happen to
know–er–Allan?”

“Yes. Very well indeed.”

“But you don’t know the reason he left?”

“Why,” answered Minot, “I suppose because George Harrowby gave him
twenty-four hours to get out of town.”

Again the Chicago man laughed.

“That can’t have been the reason,” he said. “I happen to know.”

“Just how,” inquired Minot, “do you happen to know?”

Leaning far back in his chair, the westerner smiled at Minot with a
broad engaging smile.

“I fancy I neglected to introduce myself,” he said. “I make
automobiles in Chicago–and my name’s George Harrowby.”

“You–you–” Minot’s head went round dizzily. “Oh, no,” he said
firmly. “I don’t believe it.”

The other’s smile grew even broader.

“Don’t blame you a bit, my boy,” he said. “Must have been a bit of a
mix-up down here. Then, too, I don’t look like an Englishman. Don’t
want to. I’m an American now, and I like it.”

“You mean you’re the real Lord Harrowby?”

“That’s what I mean–take it slowly, Mr. Minot. I’m George, and if
Allan ever gets his eyes on me, I won’t have to prove who I am. He’ll
know, the kid will. But by the way–what I want now is to meet this
chap who claims to be me–also his friend, Mr. Trimmer.”

“Of course you do. I saw them out in the lobby a minute ago.” Minot
rose. “I’ll bring them in. But–but–”

“What is it?”

“Oh, never mind. I believe you.”

Trimmer and his proposition still adorned the lobby, puffed with pride
and pompousness. Briefly Minot explained that a gentleman in the
grill-room desired to be introduced, and graciously the two followed
after. The Chicago George Harrowby rose as he saw the group approach
his table. Suddenly behind him Minot heard a voice:

“My God!” And the limp Englishman of the sandwich boards made a long
lean streak toward the door. Minot leaped after him, and dragged him
back.

“Here, Trimmer,” he said, “your proposition has chilblains.”

“What’s the trouble?” Mr. Trimmer glared about him.

“Allow me,” said Minot. “Sir–our leading vaudeville actor and his
manager. Gentlemen–Mr. George Harrowby, of Chicago!”

“Sit down, boys,” said Mr. Harrowby genially. He indicated a chair to
Mr. Trimmer, but that gentleman stood, his eyes frozen to the face of
his proposition. The Chicago man turned to that same proposition.
“Brace up, Jenkins,” he said. “Nobody will hurt you.”

But Jenkins could not brace. He allowed Minot to deposit his limp body
in a chair.

“I thought you was dead, sir,” he mumbled.

“A common mistake,” smiled George Harrowby. “My family has thought the
same, and I’ve been too busy making automobiles to tell them
differently. Mr. Trimmer, will you have a–what’s the matter, man?”

For Mr. Trimmer was standing, purple, over his proposition.

“I want to get this straight,” he said with assumed calm. “See here,
you cringing cur–what does this mean?”

“I thought he was dead,” murmured poor Jenkins in terror.

“You’ll think the same about yourself in a minute–and you’ll be
_right_,” Trimmer predicted.

“Come, come,” said George Harrowby pacifically. “Sit down, Mr.
Trimmer. Sit down and have a drink. Do you mean to say you didn’t
know Jenkins here was faking?”

“Of course I didn’t,” said Trimmer. He sat down on the extreme edge of
a chair, as one who proposed to rise soon. “All this has got me going.
I never went round in royal circles before, and I’m dizzy. I suppose
you’re the real Lord Harrowby?”

“To be quite correct, I am. Don’t you believe it?”

“I can believe anything–when I look at him,” said Trimmer, indicating
the pitiable ex-claimant to the title. “Say, who is this Jenkins we
hear so much about?”

“Jenkins was the son of my father’s valet,” George Harrowby explained.
“He came to America with me. We parted suddenly on a ranch in southern
Arizona.”

“Everybody said you was dead,” persisted Jenkins, as one who could not
lose sight of that fact.

“Yes? And they gave you my letters and belongings, eh? So you thought
you’d pose as me?”

“Yes, sir,” confessed Jenkins humbly.

Mr. Trimmer slid farther back into his chair.

“Well,” he said, “it’s unbelievable, but Henry Trimmer has been
buncoed. I met this able liar in a boarding-house in New York, and he
convinced me he was Lord Harrowby. It was between jobs for me, and I
had a bright idea. If I brought this guy down to the wedding,
established him as the real lord, and raised Cain generally, I figured
my stock as a publicity man would rise a hundred per cent. I’d be
turning down fifty-thousand-dollar jobs right and left. I suppose I
was easy, but I’d never mixed up with such things before, and all the
dope he had impressed me–the family coat of arms, and the motto–”

The Chicago man laughed softly.

“_Credo Harrowby_,” he said.

“That was it–trust Harrowby,” said Trimmer bitterly. “Lord, what a
fool I’ve been. And it’s ruined my career. I’ll be the
laughing-stock–”

“Oh, cheer up, Mr. Trimmer,” smiled George Harrowby. “I’m sure you’re
unduly pessimistic about your career. I’ll have something to say to
you on that score later. For the present–”

“For the present,” broke in Trimmer with fervor, “iron bars for Jenkins
here. I’ll swear out the warrant myself–”

“Nonsense,” said Harrowby, “Jenkins is the most harmless creature in
the world. Led astray by ambition, that’s all. With any one but Allan
his claims wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Poor Allan always was a
helpless youngster.”

“Oh–Jenkins,” broke in Minot suddenly. “What was the idea this
morning? I mean your calling Allan Harrowby an impostor?”

Jenkins hung his head.

“I was rattled,” he admitted. “I couldn’t keep it up before all those
people. So it came to me in a flash–if I said Allan was a fraud maybe
I wouldn’t have to be cross-examined myself.”

“And that was really Allan Harrowby?”

“Yes–that was Allan, right enough.”

Mr. Minot sat studying the wall in front of him. He was recalling a
walk through the moonlight to the fort. Jephson and Thacker pointed
accusing fingers at him over the oceans and lands between.

“I say–let Jenkins go,” continued the genial western Harrowby,
“provided he returns my property and clears out for good. After all,
his father was a faithful servant, if he is not.”

“But,” objected Trimmer, “he’s wasted my time. He’s put a crimp in the
career of the best publicity man in America it’ll take years to
straighten out–”

“Not necessarily,” said Harrowby. “I was coming to that. I’ve been
watching your work for the last week, and I like it. It’s
alive–progressive. We’re putting out a new car this spring–an
inexpensive little car bound to make a hit. I need a man like you to
convince the public–”

Mr. Trimmer’s eyes opened wide. They shone. He turned and regarded
the unhappy Jenkins.

“Clear out,” he commanded. “If I ever see you again I’ll wring your
neck. Now, Mr. Harrowby, you were saying–”

“Just a minute,” said Harrowby. “This man has certain letters and
papers of mine–”

“No, he hasn’t,” Trimmer replied. “I got ’em. Right here in my
pocket.” He slid a packet of papers across the table. “They’re yours.
Now, about–”

Jenkins was slipping silently away. Like a frightened wraith he
flitted gratefully through the swinging doors.

“A middle-class car,” explained Harrowby, “and I want a live man to
boost it–”

“Beg pardon,” interrupted Minot, rising, “I’ll say good night. We’ll
get together about that other matter in the morning. By the way, Mr.
Harrowby, have you any idea what has become of Allan?”

“No, I haven’t. I sent him a telegram this afternoon saying that I was
on my way here. Must have run off on business. Of course, he’ll be
back for his wedding.”

“Oh, yes–of course,” Minot agreed sadly, “he’ll be back for his
wedding. Good night, gentlemen.”

A few minutes later he stood at the window of 389, gazing out at the
narrow street, at the stately Manhattan Club, and the old Spanish
houses on either side.

“And she refused me!” he muttered. “To think that should be the
biggest piece of luck that’s come to me since I hit this accursed town!”

He continued to gaze gloomily out. The–er–moon was still shining.

Minot rose early on Monday morning and went for a walk along the beach.
He had awakened to black despair, but the sun and the matutinal breeze
elevated his spirits considerably. Where was Allan Harrowby? Gone,
with his wedding little more than twenty-four hours away. If he should
not return–golden thought. By his own act he would forfeit his claim
on Jephson, and Minot would be free to–

To what? Before him in the morning glow the great gray fort rose to
crush his hopes. There on those slanting ramparts she had smiled at
his declaration. Smiled, and labeled him foolish. Well, foolish he
must have seemed. But there was still hope. If only Allan Harrowby
did not return.

Mr. Trimmer, his head down, breathing hard, marched along the beach
like a man with a destination. Seeing Minot, he stopped suddenly.

“Good morning,” he said, holding out his hand, with a smile. “No
reason why we shouldn’t be friends, eh? None whatever. You’re out
early. So am I. Thinking up ideas for the automobile campaign.”

Minot laughed.

“You leap from one proposition to another with wonderful aplomb,” he
said.

“The agile mountain goat hopping from peak to peak,” Trimmer replied.
“That’s me. Oh, I’m the goat all right. Sad old Jenkins put it all
over me, didn’t he?”

“I’m afraid he did. Where is he?”

“Ask of the railway folder. He lit out in the night. Say–he did have
a convincing way with him–you know it.”

“He surely did.”

“Well, the best of us make mistakes,” admitted Mr. Trimmer. “The
trouble with me is I’m too enthusiastic. Once I get an idea, I see
rosy for miles ahead. As I look back I realize that I actually helped
Jenkins prove to me that he was Lord Harrowby. I was so anxious for
him to do it–the chance seemed so gorgeous. And if I’d put it
over–but there. The automobile business looks mighty good to me now.
Watch the papers for details. And when you get back to Broadway, keep
a lookout for the hand of Trimmer writing in fire on the sky.”

“I will,” promised Minot, laughing. He turned back to the hotel
shortly after. His meeting with Trimmer had cheered him mightily.
With a hopeful eye worthy of Trimmer himself, he looked toward the
future. Twenty-four hours would decide it. If only Allan failed to
return!

The first man Minot saw when he entered the lobby of the De la Pax was
Allan Harrowby, his eyes tired with travel, handing over a suit-case to
an eager black boy.

What was the use? Listlessly Minot relinquished his last hope. He
followed Harrowby, and touched his arm.

“Good morning,” he said drearily. “You gave us all quite a turn last
night. We thought you’d taken the advice you got in the morning, and
cleared out for good.”

“Well, hardly,” Harrowby replied. “Come up to the room, old man. I’ll
explain there.”

“Before we go up,” replied Minot, “I want you to get Miss Meyrick on
the phone and tell her you’ve returned. Yes–right away. You
see–last night I rather misunderstood–I thought you weren’t Allan
Harrowby after all–and I’m afraid I gave Miss Meyrick a wrong
impression.”

“By gad–I should have told her I was going,” Harrowby replied. “But I
was so rattled, you know–”

He went into a booth. His brief talk ended, he and Minot entered the
elevator. Once in his suite, Harrowby dropped wearily into a chair.

“Confound your stupid trains. I’ve been traveling for ages. Now,
Minot, I’ll tell you what carried me off. Yesterday afternoon I got a
message from my brother George saying he was on his way here.”

“Yes?”

“Seems he’s alive and in business in Chicago. The news excited me a
bit, old boy. I pictured George rushing in here, and the word
spreading that I was not to be the Earl of Raybrook, after all. I’m
frightfully fond of Miss Meyrick, and I want that wedding to take place
to-morrow. Then, too, there’s Jephson. Understand me–Cynthia is not
marrying me for my title. I’d stake my life on that. But there’s the
father and Aunt Mary–and considering the number of times the old
gentleman has forbidden the wedding already–”

“You saw it was up to you, for once.”

“Exactly. So for my own sake–and Jephson’s–I boarded a train for
Jacksonville with the idea of meeting George’s train there and coming
on here with him. I was going to ask George not to make himself known
for a couple of days. Then I proposed to tell Cynthia, and Cynthia
only, of his existence. If she objected, all very well–but I’m sure
she wouldn’t. And I’m sure, too, that George would have done what I
asked–he always was a bully chap. But–I missed him. These
confounded trains–always late. Except when you want them to be. I
dare say George is here by this time?”

“He is,” Minot replied. “Came a few hours after you left. And by the
way, I arranged a meeting for him with Trimmer and his proposition.
The proposition fled into the night. It seems he was the son of an old
servant of your father’s–Jenkins by name.”

“Surely! Surely that was Jenkins! I thought I’d seen the chap
somewhere–couldn’t quite recall– Well, at any rate, he’s out of the
way. Now the thing to do is to see good old George at once–”

He went to the telephone, and got his brother’s room.

“George!” A surprising note of affection crept into his lordship’s
voice. “George, old boy–this is Allan. I’m waiting for you in my
rooms.”

“Dear old chap,” said his lordship, turning away from the telephone.
“Twenty-three years since he has seen one of his own flesh and blood!
Twenty-three years of wandering in this God-forsaken country–I beg
your pardon, Minot. I wonder what he’ll say to me. I wonder what
George will say after all those years.”

Nervously Allan Harrowby walked the floor. In a moment the door
opened, and the tall, blond Chicago man stood in the doorway. His blue
eyes glowed. Without a word he came into the room, and gripped the
hand of his brother, then stood gazing as if he would never get enough.

And then George Harrowby spoke.

“Is that a ready-made suit you have on, Allan?” he asked huskily.

“Why–why–yes, George.”

“I thought so. It’s a rotten bad fit, Allan. A rotten bad fit.”

Thus did George Harrowby greet the first of his kin he had seen in a
quarter of a century. Thus did he give the lie to fiction, and to
Trimmer, writer of “fancy seeing you after all these years” speeches.

He dropped his younger brother’s hand and strode to the window. He
looked out. The courtyard of the De la Pax was strangely misty even in
the morning sunlight. Then he turned, smiling.

“How’s the old boy?” he asked.

“He’s well, George. Speaks of you–now and then. Think he’d like to
see you. Why not run over and look him up?”

“I will.” George Harrowby turned again to the window. “Ought to have
buried the hatchet long ago. Been so busy–but I’ll change all that.
I’ll run over and see him first chance I get–and I’ll write to him
to-day.”

“Good. Great to see you again, George. Heard you’d shuffled off.”

“Not much. Alive and well in Chicago. Great to see you.”

“Suppose you know about the wedding?”

“Yes. Fine girl, too. Had a waiter point her out to me at
breakfast–rather rude, but I was in a hurry to see her. Er–pretty
far gone and all that, Allan?”

“Pretty far gone.”

“That’s the eye. I was afraid it might be a financial proposition
until I saw the girl.”

Allan shifted nervously.

“Ah–er–of course, you’re Lord Harrowby,” he said.

George Harrowby threw back his head and laughed his hearty pleasant
laugh.

“Sit down, kid,” he said. And the scion of nobility, thus informally
addressed, sat.

“I thought you’d come at me with the title,” said George Harrowby, also
dropping into a chair. “Don’t go, Mr. Minot–no secrets here. Allan,
you and your wife must come out and see us. Got a wife myself–fine
girl–she’s from Marion, Indiana. And I’ve got two of the liveliest
little Americans you ever saw. Live in a little Chicago suburb–homey
house, shady street, neighbors all from down country way. Gibson’s
drawings on the walls, George Ade’s books on the tables, phonograph in
the corner with all of George M. Cohan’s songs. Whole family wakes in
the morning ready for a McCutcheon cartoon. My boys talk about nothing
but Cubs and White Sox all summer. They’re going to a western
university in a few years. We raised ’em on James Whitcomb Riley’s
poems. Well, Allan—-”

“Well, George—-”

“Say, what do you imagine would happen if I went back to a home like
that with the news that I was Lord Harrowby, in line to become the Earl
of Raybrook. There’d be a riot. Wife would be startled out of her
wits. Children would hate me. Be an outcast in my own family.
Neighbors would turn up their noses when they went by our house.
Fellows at the club would guy me. Lord Harrowby, eh! Take off your
hats to his ludship, boys. Business would fall off.”

Smilingly George Harrowby took a cigar and lighted it.

“No, Allan,” he finished, “a lord wouldn’t make a hell of a hit
anywhere in America, but in Chicago, in the automobile business–say,
I’d be as lonesome and deserted as the reading-room of an Elks’ Club.”

“I don’t quite understand—-” Allan began.

“No,” said George, turning to meet Minot’s smile, “but this gentleman
does. It all means, Allan, that there’s nothing doing. You are Lord
Harrowby, the next Earl of Raybrook. Take the title, and God bless
you.”

“But, George,” Allan objected, “legally you can’t—-”

“Don’t worry, Allan,” said the man from Chicago, “there’s nothing we
can’t do in America, and do legally. How’s this? I’ve always been
intending to take out naturalization papers. I’ll do it the minute I
get back to Chicago–and then the title is yours. In the meantime,
when you introduce me to your friends here, we’ll just pretend I’ve
taken them out already.”

Allan Harrowby got up and laid his hand affectionately on his brother’s
shoulder.

“You’re a brick, old boy,” he said. “You always were. I’m glad you’re
to be here for the wedding. How did you happen to come?”

“That’s right–you don’t know, do you? I came in response to a
telegram from Lloyds, of New York.”

“From–er–Lloyds?” asked Allan blankly.

“Yes, Allan. That yacht you came down here on didn’t belong to Martin
Wall. It belonged to me. He made away with it from North River
because he happened to need it. Wall’s a crook, my boy.”

“The _Lileth_ your ship! My word!”

“It is. I called it the _Lady Evelyn_, Allan. Lloyds found out that
it had been stolen and sent me a wire. So here I am.”

“Lloyds found out through me,” Minot explained to the dazed Allan.

“Oh–I’m beginning to see,” said Allan slowly. “By the way, George,
we’ve another score to settle with Wall.”

He explained briefly how Wall had acquired Chain Lightning’s Collar,
and returned a duplicate of paste in its place. The elder Harrowby
listened with serious face.

“It’s no doubt the Collar he was trailing you for, Allan,” he said.
“And that’s how he came to need the yacht. But when finally he got his
eager fingers on those diamonds, poor old Wall must have had the shock
of his life.”

“How’s that?”

“It wasn’t Wall who had the duplicate made. It was–father–years ago,
when I was still at home. He wanted money to bet, as usual–had the
duplicate made–risked and lost.”

“But,” Allan objected, “he gave it to me to give to Miss Meyrick.
Surely he wouldn’t have done that—-”

“How old is he now? Eighty-two? Allan, the old boy must be a little
childish by now–he forgot. I’m sure he forgot. That’s the only view
to take of it.”

A silence fell. In a moment the elder brother said:

“Allan, I want you to assure me again that you’re marrying because you
love the girl–and for no other reason.”

“Straight, George,” Allan answered, and looked his brother in the eye.

“Good kid. There’s nothing in the other kind of marriage–all
unhappiness–all wrong. I was sure you must be on the level–but, you
see, after Mr. Thacker–the insurance chap in New York–knew who I was
and that I wouldn’t take the title, he told me about that fool policy
you took out.”

“No? Did he?”

“All about it. Sort of knocked me silly for a minute. But I
remembered the Harrowby gambling streak–and if you love the girl, and
really want to marry her, I can’t see any harm in the idea. However, I
hope you lose out on the policy. Everything O.K. now? Nothing in the
way?”

“Not a thing,” Lord Harrowby replied. “Minot here has been a bully
help–worked like mad to put the wedding through. I owe everything to
him.”

“Insuring a woman’s mind,” reflected George Harrowby. “Not a bad idea,
Allan. Almost worthy of an American. Still–I could have insured you
myself after a fashion–promised you a good job as manager of our new
London branch in case the marriage fell through. However, your method
is more original.”

Allan Harrowby was slowly pacing the room. Suddenly he turned, and
despite the fact that all obstacles were removed, he seemed a very much
worried young man.

“George–Mr. Minot,” he began, “I’ve a confession to make. It’s about
that policy.” He stopped. “The old family trouble, George. We’re
gamblers to the bone–all of us. Last Friday night–at the Manhattan
Club–I turned over that policy to Martin Wall to hold as security for
a five thousand dollar loan.”

“Why the devil did you do that?” Minot cried.

“Well—-” And Allan Harrowby was in his old state of helplessness
again. “I wanted to save the day. Gonzale was hounding us for
money–I thought I saw a chance to win—-”

“But Wall! Wall of all people!”

“I know. I oughtn’t to have done it. Knew Wall wasn’t altogether
straight. But nobody else was about–I got excited–borrowed–lost the
whole of it, too. Wha–what are we going to do?”

He looked appealingly at Minot. But for once it was not on Minot’s
shoulders that the responsibility for action fell. George Harrowby
cheerfully took charge.

“I was just on the point of going out to the yacht, with an officer,”
he said. “Suppose we three run out alone and talk business with Martin
Wall.”

Fifteen minutes later the two Harrowbys and Minot boarded the yacht
which Martin Wall had christened the _Lileth_. George Harrowby looked
about him with interest.

“He’s taken very good care of it–I’ll say that for him,” he remarked.

Martin Wall came suavely forward.

“Mr. Wall,” said Minot pleasantly, “allow me to present Mr. George
Harrowby, the owner of the boat on which we now stand.”

“I beg our pardon,” said Wall, without the quiver of an eyelash. “So
careless of me. Don’t stand, gentlemen. Have chairs–all of you.”

And he stared George Harrowby calmly in the eye.

“You’re flippant this morning,” said the elder Harrowby. “We’ll be
glad to sit, thank you. And may I repeat what Mr. Minot has told
you–I own this yacht.”

“Indeed?” Mr. Wall’s face beamed. “You bought it from Wilson, I
presume.”

“Just who is Wilson?”

“Why–he’s the man I rented it from in New York.”

“So that’s your tale, is it?” Allan Harrowby put in.

“You wound me,” protested Mr. Wall. “That is my tale, as you call it.
I rented this boat in New York from a man named Albert Wilson. I have
the lease to show you, also my receipt for one month’s rent.”

“I’ll bet you have,” commented Minot.

“Bet anything you like. You come from a betting institution, I
believe.”

“No, Mr. Wall, I did not buy the yacht from Wilson,” said George
Harrowby. “I’ve owned it for several years.”

“How do I know that?” asked Martin Wall.

“Glance over that,” said the elder Harrowby, taking a paper from his
pocket. “A precaution you failed to take with Albert Wilson.”

“Dear, dear.” Mr. Wall looked over the paper and handed it back. “Can
it be that Wilson was a fraud? I suggest the police, Mr. Harrowby. I
shall be very glad to testify.”

“I suggest the police, too,” said Minot hotly, “for Mr. Martin Wall.
If you thought you had a right on this boat, Wall, why did you throw me
overboard into the North River when I mentioned the name of Lloyds?”

Mr. Wall regarded him with pained surprise.

“I threw you overboard because I didn’t want you on my boat,” he said.
“I thought you understood that fully.”

“Nonsense,” Minot cried. “You stole this boat by bribing the
caretaker, and when I mentioned Lloyds, famous the world over as a
marine insurance firm, you thought I was after you, and threw me over
the rail. I see it all very clearly now.”

“You’re a wise young man—-”

“Mr. Wall,” George Harrowby broke in, “it may interest you to know that
we don’t believe a word of the Wilson story. But it may also interest
you to know that I am willing to let the whole matter drop–on one
condition.”

“What’s that?”

“My brother Allan here borrowed five thousand dollars from you the
other night, and gave you as security a bit of paper quite worthless to
any one save himself. Accept my check for five thousand and hand him
back the paper.”

Mr. Wall smiled. He reached into his inner coat pocket.

“With the greatest pleasure,” he said. “Here is the–er–the
document.” He laughed. Then, noting the check book on the elder
Harrowby’s knee, he added: “There was a little matter of interest—-”

“Not at all!” George Harrowby looked up. “The interest is forfeited
to pay wear and tear on this yacht.”

For a moment Wall showed fight, but he did not much care for the light
he saw in the elder Harrowby’s eyes. He recognized a vast difference
in brothers.

“Oh–very well,” he said. The check was written, and the exchange made.

“Since you are convinced I am the owner of the yacht,” said George
Harrowby, rising, “I take it you will leave it at once?”

“As soon as I can remove my belongings,” Wall said. “A most
unfortunate affair all round.”

“A fortunate one for you,” commented Mr. Minot.

Wall glared.

“My boy,” he said angrily, “did any one ever tell you you were a
bad-luck jinx?”

“Never,” smiled Minot.

“You look like one to me,” growled Martin Wall.

George Harrowby arranged to keep the crew Wall had engaged, in order to
get the _Lady Evelyn_ back to New York. It was thought best for the
owner to stay aboard until Wall had gathered his property and departed,
so Allan Harrowby and Minot alone returned to San Marco. As they
crossed the plaza Allan said:

“By gad–everything looks lovely now. Jenkins out of the way, good old
George side-stepping the title, the policy safe in my pocket. Not a
thing in the way!”

“It’s almost too good to be true,” replied Minot, with a very mirthless
smile.

“It must be a great relief to you, old boy. You have worked hard.
Must feel perfectly jolly over all this?”

“Me?” said Minot. “Oh, I can hardly contain myself for joy. I feel
like twining orange blossoms in my hair—-”

He walked on, kicking the gravel savagely at each step. Not a thing in
the way now. Not a single, solitary, hopeful, little thing.

The Duchess of Lismore elected to give her dinner and dance in Miss
Meyrick’s honor as near to the bright Florida stars as she could. On
the top floor of the De la Pax was a private dining-room, only
partially enclosed, with a picturesque view of the palm-dotted
courtyard below. Adjacent to this was a sun-room with a removable
glass roof, and this the duchess had ordered transformed into a
ballroom. There in the open the newest society dances should rise to
offend the soft southern sky.

Being a good general, the hostess was early on the scene, marshaling
her forces. TO her there came Cynthia Meyrick, radiant and lovely and
wide-eyed on the eve of her wedding.

“How sweet you look, Cynthia,” said the duchess graciously. “But then,
you long ago solved the problem of what becomes you.”

“I have to look as sweet as I can,” replied the girl wearily. “All the
rest of my life I shall have to try and live up to the nobility.”

She sighed.

“To think,” remarked the duchess, busy over a great bowl of flowers,
“that to-morrow night this time little Cynthia will be Lady Harrowby.
I suppose you’ll go to Rakedale Hall for part of the year at least?”

“I suppose so.”

“I, too, have had my Rakedale Hall. Formal, Cynthia dear, formal.
Nothing but silly little hunts, silly little shoots–American men would
die there. As for American women–nothing ever happens–the hedges
bloom in neat little rows–the trees blossom–they’re bare
again–Cynthia, sometimes I’ve been in a state where I’d give ten years
of my life just to hear the rattle of an elevated train!”

She stood looking down at the girl, an all too evident pity in her eyes.

“It isn’t all it might be, I fancy–marrying into the peerage,” Cynthia
said.

“My dear,” replied the duchess, “I’ve nearly died at times. I never
was exactly what you’d call a patriot, but–often I’ve waked in the
night and thought of Detroit. My little car rattling over the
cobblestones–a new gown tried on at Madame Harbier’s–a matinée–and
chocolate afterward at that little place–you remember it. And our
house on Woodward Avenue–the good times there. On the veranda in the
evening, and Jack Little just back from college in the east running
across the lawns to see me—-. What became of Jack, dear?”

“He married Elise Perkins.”

“Ah–I know–and they live near our old house–have a box when the
opera comes–entertain the Yale glee club every Christmas–oh, Cynthia,
maybe it’s crude, maybe it’s middle-class in English eyes–but it’s
home! When you introduced that brother of Lord Harrowby’s this
afternoon–that big splendid chap who said America looked better than a
title to him–I could have thrown my arms about his neck and kissed
him!” She came closer to the girl, and stood looking down at her with
infinite tenderness in her washed-out eyes. “Wasn’t there–any
American boy, my dear?” she asked.

“I–I–hundreds of them,” answered Cynthia Meyrick, trying to laugh.

The duchess turned away.

“It’s wrong of me to discourage you like that,” she said. “Marrying
into the peerage is something, after all. You must come home every
year–insist on it. Johnson–are these the best caviar bowls the hotel
can furnish?”

And the Duchess of Lismore, late of Detroit, drifted off into a bitter
argument with the humble Johnson.

Miss Meyrick strolled away, out upon a little balcony opening off the
dining-room. She stood gazing down at the waving fronds in the
courtyard six stories below. If only that fountain down there were
Ponce de Leon’s! But it wasn’t. To-morrow she must put youth behind.
She must go far from the country she loved–did she care enough for
that? Strangely enough, burning tears filled her eyes. Hot revolt
surged into her heart. She stood looking down—-

Meanwhile the other members of the dinner-party were gathering with
tender solicitude about their hostess in the ballroom beyond. Dick
Minot, hopeless, glum, stalked moodily among them. Into the crowd
drifted Jack Paddock, his sprightly air noticeably lacking, his eyes
worried, dreadful.

“For the love of heaven,” Minot asked, as they stepped together into a
secluded corner, “what ails you?”

“Be gentle with me, boy,” said Paddock unhappily. “I’m in a horrible
mess. The graft, Dick–the good old graft. It’s over and done with
now.”

“What do you mean?”

“It happened last night after our wild chase of Harrowby–I was
fussed–excited—- I prepared two sets of repartee for my two
customers to use to-night—-”

“Yes?”

“I always make carbon copies to refer to myself just before the stuff
is to be used. A few minutes ago I took out my copies. Dick! I sent
the same repartee to both of them!”

“Good lord!”

“Good lord is meek and futile. So is damn. Put on your little rubber
coat, my boy. I predict a hurricane.”

In spite of his own troubles, Minot laughed.

“Mirth, eh?” said Paddock grimly. “I can’t see it that way. I’ll be
as popular as a Republican in Texas before this evening is over. Got a
couple of hasty rapid-fire resignations all ready. Thought at first I
wouldn’t come–but that seemed cowardly. Anyway, this is my last
appearance on any stage as a librettist. Kindly omit flowers.”

And Mr. Paddock drifted gloomily away.

While the servants were passing cocktails on gleaming trays, Minot
found the door to the balcony and stepped outside. A white wraith
flitted from the shadows to his side.

“Mr. Minot,” said a soft, scared little voice.

“Ah–Miss Meyrick,” he cried.

Merciful fate this, that they met for the first time since that
incident on the ramparts in kindly darkness.

“Miss Meyrick,” began Minot hurriedly, “I’m very glad to have a moment
alone with you. I want to apologize–for last night–I was mad–I did
Harrowby a very palpable wrong. I’m very ashamed of myself as I look
back. Can I hope that you will–forget–all I said?”

She did not reply, but stood looking down at the palms far below.

“Can I hope that you will forget–and forgive?”

She glanced up at him, and her eyes shone in the dusk.

“I can forgive,” she said softly. “But I can’t forget. Mr.–Mr.
Minot—-”

“Yes?”

“What–what–is–woman’s greatest privilege?”

Something in the tone of her voice sent a cold chill sweeping through
Minot’s very soul. He clutched the rail for support.

“If–if you’d answer,” said the girl, “it would make it easier for—-”

Aunt Mary’s generous form appeared in the doorway.

“Oh, there you are, Cynthia! You are keeping the duchess’ dinner
waiting.”

Cynthia Meyrick joined her aunt. Minot stayed behind a moment. Below
him Florida swam in the azure night. What had the girl been about to
say?

Pulling himself together, he went inside and learned that he was to
take in to dinner a glorious blond bridesmaid. When they were seated,
he found that Miss Meyrick’s face was hidden from him by a profusion of
Florida blossoms. He was glad of that. He wanted to think–think.

A few others were thinking at that table, Mrs. Bruce and the duchess
among them. Mrs. Bruce was mentally rehearsing. The duchess glanced
at her.

“The wittiest woman in San Marco,” thought the hostess. “Bah!”

Mr. Paddock, meanwhile, was toying unhappily with his food. He had
little to say. The attractive young lady he had taken in had already
classified him as a bore. Most unjust of the attractive young lady.

“It’s lamentable, really.” Mrs. Bruce was speaking. “Even in our best
society conversation has given way to the turkey trot. Our wits are in
our feet. Where once people talked art, music, literature–now they
tango madly. It really seems–”

“Everything you say is true,” interrupted the duchess blandly. “I
sometimes think the race of the future will be–a trotting race.”

Mrs. Bruce started perceptibly. Her eyes lighted with fire. She had
been working up to this line herself, and the coincidence was passing
strange. She glared at the hostess. Mr. Paddock studied his plate
intently.

“I for one,” went on the Duchess of Lismore, “do not dance the tango or
the turkey trot. Nor am I willing to take the necessary steps to learn
them.”

A little ripple ran round the table–the ripple that up to now had been
the exclusive privilege of Mrs. Bruce. That lady paled visibly. She
realized that there was no coincidence here.

“It seems too bad, too,” she said, fixing the hostess firmly with an
angry eye. “Because women could have the world at their feet–if
they’d only keep their feet still long enough.”

It was the turn of the duchess to start, and start she did. As one who
could not believe her ears, she stared at Mrs. Bruce. The “wittiest
hostess in San Marco” was militantly under way.

“Women are not what they used to be,” she continued. “Either they are
mad about clothes, or they go to the other extreme and harbor strange
ideas about the vote, eugenics, what not. In fact, the sex reminds me
of the type of shop that abounds in a small town–its specialty is
drygoods and notions.”

The duchess pushed away a plate which had only that moment been set
before her. She regarded Mrs. Bruce with the eye of Mrs. Pankhurst
face to face with a prime minister.

“We are hardly kind to our sex,” she said, “but I must say I agree with
you. And the extravagance of women! Half the women of my acquaintance
wear gorgeous rings on their fingers–while their husbands wear blue
rings about their eyes.”

Mrs. Bruce’s face was livid.

“Madam!” she said through her teeth.

“What is it?” asked the duchess sweetly.

They sat glaring at each other. Then with one accord they turned–to
glare at Mr. Jack Paddock.

Mr. Paddock, prince of assurance, was blushing furiously. He stood the
combined glare as long as he could–then he looked up into the night.

“How–how close the stars seem,” he murmured faintly.

It was noted afterward that Mrs. Bruce maintained a vivid silence
during the remainder of that dinner. The duchess, on the contrary,
wrung from her purchased lines every possibility they held.

And in that embattled setting Mr. Minot sat, deaf to the delicious lisp
of the debutante at his side. What was woman’s greatest privilege?
Wasn’t it—-

His forehead grew damp. His knees trembled beneath the table.
“Jephson–Thacker, Jephson–Thacker,” he said over and over to himself.

After dinner, when the added guests invited by the duchess for the
dance crowded the ballroom, Minot encountered Jack Paddock. Mr.
Paddock was limp and pitiable.

“Ever apologize to an angry woman?” he asked. “Ever try to expostulate
with a storm at sea? I’ve had it out with Mrs. Bruce–offered to do
anything to atone–she said the best thing I could do would be to
disappear from San Marco. She’s right. I’m going. This is my exit
from the butterfly life. And I don’t intend to say good-by to the
duchess, either.”

“I wish I could go with you,” said Minot sadly.

“Well–come along—-”

“No. I–I’ll stick it out. See you later.”

Mr. Paddock slipped unostentatiously away in the direction of the
elevator. On a dais hidden by palms the orchestra began to play softly.

“You haven’t asked to see my card,” said Cynthia Meyrick at Minot’s
side.

He smiled a wan smile, and wrote his name opposite number five. She
drifted away. The music became louder, rising to the bright stars
themselves. The dances that had furnished so much bitter conversation
at table began to break out. Minot hunted up the balcony and stood
gazing miserably down at fairy-land below.

There Miss Meyrick found him when the fifth dance was imminent.

“Is it customary for girls to pursue their partners?” she inquired.

“I’m sorry,” he said weakly. “Shall we go in?”

“It’s so–so glorious out here.”

He sighed–a sigh of resignation. He turned to her.

“You asked me–what is woman’s greatest privilege,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Is it–to change her mind?”

She looked timidly into his eyes.

“It–is,” she whispered faintly.

The most miserably happy man in history, he gasped.

“Cynthia! It’s too late–you’re to be married to-morrow. Do you
mean–you’d call it all off now–at the last minute?”

She nodded her head, her eyes on the ground.

“My God!” he moaned, and turned away.

“It would be all wrong–to marry Harrowby,” she said faintly. “Because
I’ve come to–I–oh, Dick, can’t you see?”

“See! Of course I see!” He clenched his fists. “Cynthia, my
dearest—-”

Below him stretched six stories of open space. In his agony he thought
of leaping over the rail–of letting that be his answer. But no–it
would disarrange things so–it might even postpone the wedding!

“Cynthia,” he groaned, “you can’t understand. It mustn’t be–I’ve
given my word. I can’t explain. I can never explain.
But–Cynthia–Cynthia—-”

Back in the shadow the girl pressed her hands to her burning cheeks.

“A strange love–yours,” she said. “A love that blows hot and cold.”

“Cynthia–that isn’t true–I do love you—-”

“Please! Please let us–forget.” She stepped into the moonlight,
fine, brave, smiling. “Do we–dance?”

“Cynthia!” he cried unhappily. “If you only understood—-”

“I think I do. The music has stopped. Harrowby has the next
dance–he’d hardly think of looking for me here.”

She was gone! Minot stood alone on the balcony. He was dazed, blind,
trembling. He had refused the girl without whom life could never be
worth while! Refused her, to keep the faith!

He entered upon the bright scene inside, slipped unnoticed to the
elevator and, still dazed, descended to the lobby. He would walk in
the moonlight until his senses were regained. Near the main door of
the De la Pax he ran into Henry Trimmer. Mr. Trimmer had a newspaper
in his hand.

“What’s the matter with the women nowadays?” he demanded indignantly.
Minot tried in vain to push by him. “Seen what those London
suffragettes have done now?” And Trimmer pointed to a head-line.

“What have they done?” asked Minot.

“Done? They put dynamite under the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar
Square and blew it sky-high. It fell over into the Strand—-”

“Good!” cried Minot wildly. “Good! I hope to hell it smashed the
whole of London!” And, brushing aside the startled Trimmer, he went
out into the night.

It was nearly twelve o’clock when Mr. Minot, somewhat calmer of mind,
returned to the De la Pax. As he stepped into the courtyard he was
surprised to see a crowd gathered before the hotel. Then he noticed
that from a second-floor window poured smoke and flame, and that the
town fire department was wildly getting into action.

He stopped–his heart almost ceased beating. That was her window! The
window to which he had called her on that night that seemed so far
away–last night! Breathlessly he ran forward.

And he ran straight into a group just descended from the ballroom. Of
that group Cynthia Meyrick was a member. For a moment they stood
gazing at each other. Then the girl turned to her aunt.

“My wedding dress!” she cried. “I left it lying on my bed. Oh, I
can’t possibly be married to-morrow if that is burned!”

There was a challenge in that last sentence, and the young man for whom
it was intended did not miss it. Mad with the injustice of life, he
swooped down on a fireman struggling with a wabbly ladder. Snatching
away the ladder, he placed it against the window from which the smoke
and flame poured. He ran up it.

“Here!” shouted the chief of the fire department, laying angry hands on
the ladder’s base. “Wot you doing? You can’t go in there.”

“Why the devil can’t I?” bellowed Minot. “Let go of that ladder!”

He plunged into the room. The smoke filled his nostrils and choked
him. His eyes burned. He staggered through the smoky dusk into
another room. His hands met the brass bars of a bed–then closed over
something soft and filmy that lay upon it. He seized the something
close, and hurried back into the other room.

A fireman at another window sought to turn a stream of water on him.
Water–on that gown!

“Cut that out, you fool!” Minot shouted. The fireman, who had
suspected himself of saving a human life, looked hurt. Minot regained
his window. Disheveled, smoky, but victorious, he half fell, half
climbed, to the ground. The fire chief faced him.

“Who was you trying to rescue?” the chief demanded. His eyes grew
wide. “You idiot,” he roared, “they ain’t nobody in that dress.”

“Damn it, I know that,” Minot cried.

He ran across the lawn and stood, a panting, limp, battered, ludicrous
figure before Cynthia Meyrick.

“I–I hope it’s the right one,” he said, and held out the gown.

She took his offering, and came very close to him.

“I hate you!” she said in a low tone. “I hate you!”

“I–I was afraid you would,” he muttered.

A shout from the firemen announced that the blaze was under control.
To his dismay, Minot saw that an admiring crowd was surrounding him.
He broke away and hurried to his room.

Cynthia Meyrick’s final words to him rang in his ears. Savagely he
tore at his ruined collar.

Was this ridiculous farce never to end?

As if in answer, a distant clock struck twelve. He shuddered.

To-morrow, at high noon!