BOARD AND ROOM

The Villa Jasmine, Mrs. Bruce’s winter home, stood in a park of palms
and shrubbery some two blocks from the Hotel de la Pax. Mr. Minot
walked thither that evening in the resplendent company of Jack Paddock.

“You’ll enjoy Mrs. Bruce to-night,” Paddock confided. “I’ve done her
some rather good lines, if I do say it as shouldn’t.”

“On what topics?” asked Minot, with a smile.

“International marriage–jewels–by the way, I don’t suppose you know
that Miss Cynthia Meyrick is to appear for the first time wearing the
famous Harrowby necklace?”

“I didn’t even know there was a necklace,” Minot returned.

“Ah, such ignorance. But then, you don’t wander much in feminine
society, do you? Mrs. Bruce told me about it this morning. Chain
Lightning’s Collar.”

“Chain Lightning’s what?”

“Ah, my boy–” Mr. Paddock lighted a cigarette. “You should go round
more in royal circles. List, commoner, while I relate. It seems that
the Earl of Raybrook is a giddy old sport with a gambling streak a yard
wide. In his young days he loved the Lady Evelyn Hollowway. Lady
Evelyn had a horse entered in a derby about that time–name, Chain
Lightning. And the Earl of Raybrook wagered a diamond necklace against
a kiss that Chain Lightning would lose.”

“Wasn’t that giving big odds?” inquired Minot.

“Not if you believe the stories of Lady Evelyn’s beauty. Well, it
happened before Tammany politicians began avenging Ireland on Derby
Day. Chain Lightning won. And the earl came across with the necklace.
Afterward he married Lady Evelyn–”

“To get back the necklace?”

“Cynic. And being a rather racy old boy, he referred to the necklace
thereafter as Chain Lightning’s Collar. It got to be pretty well known
in England by that name. I believe it is considered a rather neat
piece of jewelry among the English nobility–whose sparklers aren’t
what they were before the steel business in Pittsburgh turned out a
good thing.”

“Chain Lightning’s Collar,” mused Minot. “I presume Lady Evelyn was
the mother of the present Lord Harrowby?”

“So ’tis rumored,” smiled Paddock. “Though I take it his lordship
favors his father in looks.”

They walked along for a moment in silence. The story of this necklace
of diamonds could bring but one thing to Minot’s thoughts–Martin Wall
drooping on the steps of the Manhattan Club while old Stacy roared with
joy. He considered. Should he tell Mr. Paddock? No, he decided he
would wait.

“As I said,” Paddock ran on, “you’ll enjoy Mrs. Bruce to-night. Her
lines are good, but somehow–it’s really a great problem to me–she
doesn’t sound human and natural when she gets them off. I looked up
her beauty doctor and asked him if he couldn’t put a witty gleam in her
eye, but he told me he didn’t care to go that far in correcting Mrs.
Bruce’s Maker.”

They had reached the Villa Jasmine now, a great white palace in a
flowery setting more like a dream than a reality. The evening breeze
murmured whisperingly through the palms, a hundred gorgeous colors
shone in the moonlight, fountains splashed coolly amid the greenery.

“Act Two,” muttered Minot. “The grounds surrounding the castle of the
fairy princess.”

“You have to come down here, don’t you,” replied Paddock, “to realize
that old Mother Nature has a little on Belasco, after all?”

The whir of a motor behind them caused the two young men to turn. Then
Mr. Minot saw her coming up the path toward him–coming up that
fantastic avenue of palms–tall, fair, white, a lovely figure in a
lovely setting–

Ah, yes–Lord Harrowby! He walked at her side, nonchalant,
distinguished, almost as tall as a popular illustrator thinks a man in
evening clothes should be. Truly, they made a handsome couple. They
were to wed. Mr. Minot himself had sworn they were to wed.

He kept the bitterness from his tone as he greeted them there amid the
soft magic of the Florida night. Together they went inside. In the
center of a magnificent hallway they found Mrs. Bruce standing, like
stout Cortez on his Darien peak, triumphant amid the glory of her gold.

Mr. Minot thought Mrs. Bruce’s manner of greeting somewhat harried and
oppressed. Poor lady, every function was a first night for her. Would
the glare of the footlights frighten her? Would she falter in her
lines–forget them completely? Only her sisters of the stage could
sympathize with her understandingly now.

“So you are to carry Cynthia away?” Minot heard her saying to Lord
Harrowby. “Such a lot of my friends have married into the peerage.
Indeed, I have sometimes thought you English have no other pastime save
that of slipping engagement rings on hands across the sea.”

A soft voice spoke in Minot’s ear.

“Mine,” Mr. Paddock was saying. “Not bad, eh? But look at that
Englishman. Why should I have sat up all last night writing lines to
try on him? Can you tell me that?”

Lord Harrowby, indeed, seemed oblivious of Mrs. Bruce’s little bon mot.
He hemmed and hawed, and said he was a lucky man. But he did not mean
that he was a lucky man because he had the privilege of hearing Mrs.
Bruce.

Mr. Bruce slipped out of the shadows into the weariness of another
formal dinner. Mrs. Bruce glittered, and he wrote the checks. He was
a scraggly little man who sometimes sat for hours at a time in silence.
There were those unkind enough to say that he sought back, trying to
recall the reason that had led him to marry Mrs. Bruce.

When he beheld Miss Cynthia Meyrick, and knew that he was to take her
in to dinner, Mr. Bruce brightened perceptibly. None save a blind and
deaf man could have failed to. Cocktails consumed, the party turned
toward the dining-room. Except for the Meyricks, Martin Wall, Lord
Harrowby and Paddock, Dick Minot knew none of them. There were a
couple of colorless men from New York who, when they died, would be
referred to as “prominent club men,” a horsy girl from Westchester, an
ex-ambassador’s wife and daughter, a number of names from Boston and
Philadelphia with their respective bearers. And last but not least the
two Bond girls from Omaha–blond, lovely, but inclined to be snobbish
even in that company, for their mother was a Van Reypan, and Van
Reypans are rare birds in Omaha and elsewhere.

Mr. Minot took in the elder of the Bond girls, and found that Cynthia
Meyrick sat on his left. He glanced at her throat as they sat down.
It was bare of ornament. And then he beheld, sparkling in her lovely
hair, the perfect diamonds of Chain Lightning’s Collar. As he turned
back to the table he caught the eye of Mr. Martin Wall. Mr. Wall’s eye
happened to be coming away from the same locality.

The girl from Omaha gossiped of plays and players, like a dramatic page
from some old Sunday newspaper.

“I’m mad about the stage,” she confided. “Of course, we get all the
best shows in Omaha. Why, Maxine Elliott and Nat Goodwin come there
every year.”

Mr. Minot, New Yorker, shuddered. Should he tell her of the many and
active years in the lives of these two since they visited any town
together? No. What use? On the other side of him a sweet voice spoke:

“I presume you know, Mr. Minot, that Mrs. Bruce has the reputation of
being the wittiest hostess in San Marco?”

“I have heard as much.” Minot smiled into Cynthia Meyrick’s eyes.
“When does her act go on?”

Mrs. Bruce was wondering the same thing. She knew her lines; she was
ready. True, she understood few of those lines. Wit was not her
specialty. Until Mr. Paddock took charge of her, she had thought
colored newspaper supplements humorous in the extreme. However, the
lines Mr. Paddock taught her seemed to go well, and she continued to
patronize the old stand.

She looked up now from her conversation with her dinner partner, and
silence fell as at a curtain ascending.

“I was just saying to Lord Harrowby,” Mrs. Bruce began, smiling about
her, “how picturesque our business streets are here. What with the
Greek merchants in their native costumes–”

“Bandits, every one of them,” growled Mr. Bruce, bravely interrupting.
His wife frowned.

“Only the other day,” she continued, “I bought a rug from a man who
claimed to be a Persian prince. He said it was a prayer-rug, and I
think it must have been, for ever since I got it I’ve been praying it’s
genuine.”

A little ripple of amusement ran about the table. The redoubtable Mrs.
Bruce was under way. People spoke to one another in undertones–little
conversational nudges of anticipation.

“By the way, Cynthia,” the hostess inquired, “have you heard from Helen
Arden lately?”

“Not for some time,” responded Miss Meyrick, “although I have her
promise that she and the duke will be here–next Tuesday.”

“Splendid.” Mrs. Bruce turned to his lordship. “I think of Helen,
Lord Harrowby, because she, too, married into your nobility. Her
father made his money in sausage in the Middle West. In his youth he’d
had trouble in finding a pair of ready-made trousers, but as soon as
the money began to roll in, Helen started to look him up a coat of
arms. And a family motto. I remember suggesting at the time, in view
of the sausage: ‘A family is no stronger than its weakest link.'”

Mrs. Bruce knew when to pause. She paused now. The ripple became an
outright laugh. Mr. Paddock sipped languorously from his wine-glass.
He saw that his lines “got over.”

“Went into society head foremost, Helen did,” Mrs. Bruce continued.
“Thought herself a clever amateur actress. Used to act often for
charity–though I don’t recall that she ever got it.”

“The beauty of Mrs. Bruce’s wit,” said Miss Meyrick in Mr. Minot’s ear,
“is that it is so unconscious. She doesn’t appear to realize when she
has said a good thing.”

“There’s just a chance that she doesn’t realize it,” suggested Minot.

“Then Helen met the Duke of Lismore,” Mrs. Bruce was speaking once
more. “Perhaps you know him, Lord Harrowby?”

“No–er–sorry to say I don’t–”

“A charming chap. In some ways. Helen was a Shavian in considering
marriage the chief pursuit of women. She pursued. Followed Lismore to
Italy, where he proposed. I presume he thought that being in Rome, he
must do as the Romeos do.”

“But, my dear lady,” said Harrowby in a daze, “isn’t it the Romans?”

“Isn’t what the Romans?” asked Mrs. Bruce blankly.

“Your lordship is correct,” said Mr. Paddock hastily. “Mrs. Bruce
misquoted purposely–in jest, you know. Jibe–japery.”

“Oh–er–pardon me,” returned his lordship.

“I saw Helen in London last spring,” Mrs. Bruce went on. “She confided
to me that she considers her husband a genius. And if genius really be
nothing but an infinite capacity for taking champagnes, I am sure the
poor child is right.”

Little murmurs of joy, and the dinner proceeded. The guests bent over
their food, shipped to Mrs. Bruce in a refrigerating car from New York,
and very little wearied by its long trip. Here and there two talked
together. It was like an intermission between the acts.

Mr. Minot turned to the Omaha girl. Even though she was two wives
behind on Mr. Nat Goodwin’s career, one must be polite.

It was at the close of the dinner that Mrs. Bruce scored her most
telling point. She and Lord Harrowby were conversing about a famous
English author, and when she was sure she had the attention of the
table, she remarked:

“Yes, we met his wife at the Masonbys’. But I have always felt that
the wife of a celebrity is like the coupon on one’s railway ticket.”

“How’s that, Mrs. Bruce?” Minot inquired. After all, Paddock had been
kind to him.

“Not good if detached,” said Mrs. Bruce.

She stood. Her guests followed suit. It was by this bon mot that she
chose to have her dinner live in the gossip of San Marco. Hence with
it she closed the ceremony.

“Witty woman, your wife,” said one of the colorless New Yorkers to Mr.
Bruce, when the men were left alone.

Mr. Bruce only grunted, but Mr. Paddock answered brightly:

“Do you really think so?”

“Yes. Don’t you?”

“Why–er–really–” Mr. Paddock blushed. Modest author, he.

A servant appeared to say that Lord Harrowby was wanted at once
outside, and excusing himself, Harrowby departed. He found his valet,
a plump, round-faced, serious man, waiting in the shadows on the
veranda. For a time they talked together in low tones. When Harrowby
returned to the dining-room, his never cheerful face was even gloomier
than usual.

Spencer Meyrick and Bruce, exiles both of them, talked joyously of
business and the rush of the day’s work for which both longed. The New
York man and a sapling from Boston conversed of chamber music. Martin
Wall sat silent, contemplative. Perhaps had he spoken his thoughts
they would have been of a rich jewel shop at noon–deserted.

A half-hour later Mrs. Bruce’s dinner-party was scattered among the
palms and flowers of her gorgeous lawn. Mr. Minot had fallen again to
the elder girl from Omaha, and blithely for her he was displaying his
Broadway ignorance of horticulture. Suddenly out of the night came a
scream. Instantly when he heard it, Mr. Minot knew who had uttered it.

Unceremoniously he parted from the Omaha beauty and sped over the lawn.
But quick as he was, Lord Harrowby was quicker. For when Minot came
up, he saw Harrowby bending over Miss Meyrick, who sat upon a wicker
bench.

“Cynthia–what is it?” Harrowby was saying.

Cynthia Meyrick felt wildly of her shining hair.

“Your necklace,” she gasped. “Chain Lightning’s Collar. He took it!
He took it!”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. A man!”

“A man!” Reverent repetition by feminine voices out of the excited
group.

“He leaped out at me there–by that tree–pinioned my arms–snatched
the necklace. I couldn’t see his face. It happened in the shadow.”

“No matter,” Harrowby replied. “Don’t give it another thought, my
child.”

“But how can I help–”

“I shall telephone the police at once,” announced Spencer Meyrick.

“I beg you’ll do nothing of the sort,” expostulated Lord Harrowby. “It
would be a great inconvenience–the thing wasn’t worth the publicity
that would result. I insist that the police be kept out of this.”

Argument–loud on Mr. Meyrick’s part–ensued. Suggestions galore were
offered by the guests. But in the end Lord Harrowby had his way. It
was agreed not to call in the police.

Mr. Minot, looking up, saw a sneering smile on the face of Martin Wall.
In a flash he knew the truth.

With Aunt Mary calling loudly for smelling salts, and the whole party
more or less in confusion, the return to the house started. Mr.
Paddock walked at Minot’s side.

“Rather looks as though Chain Lightning’s Collar had choked off our
gaiety,” he mumbled. “Serves her right for wearing the thing in her
hair. She spoiled two corking lines for me by not wearing it where
you’d naturally expect a necklace to be worn.”

Minot maneuvered so as to intercept Lord Harrowby under the portico.

“May I speak with you a moment?” he inquired. Harrowby bowed, and they
stepped into the shadows of the drive.

“Lord Harrowby,” said Minot, trying to keep the excitement from his
voice, “I have certain information about one of the guests here this
evening that I believe would interest you. Your lordship has been
badly buffaloed. One of our fellow diners at Mrs. Bruce’s table holds
the title of the ablest jewel thief in America!”

He watched keenly to catch Lord Harrowby’s start of surprise. Alas, he
caught nothing of the sort.

“Nonsense,” said his lordship nonchalantly. “You mustn’t let your
imagination carry you away, dear chap.”

“Imagination nothing! I know what I’m talking about.” And then Minot
added sarcastically: “Sorry to bore you with this.”

His lordship laughed.

“Right-o, old fellow. I’m not interested.”

“But haven’t you just lost–”

“A diamond necklace? Yes.” They had reached a particularly dark and
secluded spot beneath the canopy of palm leaves. Harrowby turned
suddenly and put his hands on Minot’s shoulders. “Mr. Minot,” he said,
“you are here to see that nothing interferes with my marriage to Miss
Meyrick. I trust you are determined to do your duty to your employers?”

“Absolutely. That is why–”

“Then,” replied Harrowby quickly, “I am going to ask you to take charge
of this for me.”

Suddenly Minot felt something cold and glassy in his hand. Startled,
he looked down. Even in the dark, Chain Lightning’s Collar sparkled
like the famous toy that it was.

“Your lordship!–”

“I can not explain now. I can only tell you it is quite necessary that
you help me at this time. If you wish to do your full duty by Mr.
Jephson.”

“Who took this necklace from Miss Meyrick’s hair?” asked Minot hotly.

“I did. I assure you it was the only way to prevent our plans from
going awry. Please keep it until I ask you for it.”

And turning, Lord Harrowby walked rapidly toward the house.

“The brute!” Angrily Mr. Minot stood turning the necklace over in his
hand. “So he frightened the girl he is to marry–the girl he is
supposed to love–”

What should he do? Go to her, and tell her of Harrowby’s amiable
eccentricities? He could hardly do that–Harrowby had taken him into
his confidence–and besides there was Jephson of the great bald head,
the Peter Pan eyes. Nothing to do but wait.

Returning to the hotel from Mrs. Bruce’s villa, he found awaiting him a
cable from Jephson. The cable assured him that beyond any question the
man in San Marco was Allan Harrowby and, like Cæsar’s wife, above
suspicion.

Yet even as he read, Lord Harrowby walked through the lobby, and at his
side was Mr. James O’Malley, house detective of the Hotel de la Pax.
They came from the manager’s office, where they had evidently been
closeted.

With the cablegram in his hand, Minot entered the elevator and ascended
to his room. The other hand was in the pocket of his top coat, closed
tightly upon Chain Lightning’s Collar–the bauble that the Earl of
Raybrook had once wagered against a kiss.

Mr. Minot opened his eyes on Thursday morning with the uncomfortable
feeling that he was far from his beloved New York. For a moment he lay
dazed, wandering in that dim borderland between sleep and waking.
Then, suddenly, he remembered.

“Oh, yes, by jove,” he muttered, “I’ve been knighted. Groom of the
Back-Stairs Scandals and Keeper of the Royal Jewels–that’s me.”

He lifted his pillow. There on the white sheet sparkled the necklace
of which the whole British nobility was proud–Chain Lightning’s
Collar. Some seventy-five blue-white diamonds, pear-shaped, perfectly
graduated. His for the moment!

“What’s Harrowby up to, I wonder?” he reflected “The dear old top!
Nice, pleasant little party if a policeman should find this in my
pocket.”

Another perfect day shone in that narrow Spanish street. Up in
Manhattan theatrical press agents were crowning huge piles of snow with
posters announcing their attractions. Ferries were held up by ice in
the river. A breeze from the Arctic swept round the Flatiron building.
Here lazy summer lolled on the bosom of the town.

In the hotel dining-room Mr. Minot encountered Jack Paddock, superb in
white flannels above his grapefruit. He accepted Paddock’s invitation
to join him.

“By the way,” said Mrs. Bruce’s jester, holding up a small, badly
printed newspaper, “have you made the acquaintance of the _San Marco
Mail_ yet?”

“No–what’s that?”

“A morning newspaper–by courtesy. Started here a few weeks back by a
noiseless little Spaniard from Havana named Manuel Gonzale. Slipped in
here on his rubber soles, Gonzale did–dressed all in white–lovely
lemon face–shifty, can’t-catch-me eyes. And his newspaper–hot stuff,
my boy. It has Town Topics looking like a consular report from
Greenland.”

“Scandals?” asked Mr. Minot, also attacking a grapefruit.

“Scandals and rumors of scandals. Mostly hints, you know. Several
references this morning to our proud and haughty friend, Lord Harrowby.
For example, Madame On Dit, writing in her column, on page one, has
this to say: ‘The impecunious but titled Englishman who has arrived in
our midst recently with the idea of connecting with certain American
dollars has an interesting time ahead of him, if rumor speaks true.
The little incident in the lobby of a local hotel the other
evening–which was duly reported in this column at the time–was but a
mild beginning. The gentleman in charge of the claimant to the title
held so jealously by our British friend promises immediate developments
which will be rich, rare and racy.'”

“Rich, rare and racy,” repeated Minot thoughtfully. “Ah, yes–we were
to watch Mr. Trimmer. I had almost forgot him in the excitement of
last evening. By the way, does the _Mail_ know anything about the
disappearance of Chain Lightning’s Collar?”

“Not as yet,” smiled Mr. Paddock, “although Madame On Dit claims to
have been a guest at the dinner. By the way, what do you make of last
night’s melodramatic farce?”

“I don’t know what to make of it,” answered Minot truthfully. He was
suddenly conscious of the necklace in his inside coat pocket.

“Then all I can say, my dear Watson,” replied Mr. Paddock with
burlesque seriousness, “is that you are unmistakably lacking in my
powers of deduction. Give me a cigarette, and I’ll tell you the name
of the man who is gloating over those diamonds to-day.”

“All right,” smiled Minot. “Go ahead.”

Mr. Paddock, reaching for a match tray, spoke in a low tone in Minot’s
ear.

“Martin Wall,” he said. He leaned back. “You ask how I arrived at my
conclusion. Simple enough. I went through the list of guests for
possible crooks, and eliminated them one by one. The man I have
mentioned alone was left. Ever notice his eyes–remind me of Manuel
Gonzale’s. He’s too polished, too slick, too good to be true. He’s
traveled too much–nobody travels as much as he has except for the very
good reason that a detective is on the trail. And he made friends with
simple old Harrowby on an Atlantic liner–that, if you read popular
fiction, is alone enough to condemn him. Believe me, Dick, Martin Wall
should be watched.”

“All right,” laughed Minot, “you watch him.”

“I’ve a notion to. Harrowby makes me weary. Won’t call in a solitary
detective. Any one might think he doesn’t want the necklace back.”

After breakfast Minot and Paddock played five sets of tennis on the
hotel courts. And Mr. Minot won, despite the Harrowby diamonds in his
trousers pocket, weighing him down. Luncheon over, Mr. Paddock
suggested a drive to Tarragona Island.

“A little bit of nowhere a mile off-shore,” he said. “No man can ever
know the true inwardness of the word lonesome until he’s seen
Tarragona.”

Minot hesitated. Ought he to leave the scene of action? Of action?
He glanced about him. There was less action here than in a Henry James
novel. The tangle of events in which he was involved rested for a
siesta.

So he and Mr. Paddock drove along the narrow neck of land that led from
the mainland to Tarragona Island. They entered the kingdom of the
lonely. Sandy beach with the ocean on one side, swamps on the other.
Scrubby palms, disreputable foliage, here and there a cluster of
seemingly deserted cottages–the world and its works apparently a
million miles away. Yet out on one corner of that bleak forgotten acre
stood the slim outline of a wireless, and in a little white house lived
a man who, amid the sea-gulls and the sand-dunes, talked daily with
great ships and cities far away.

“I told you it was lonesome,” said Mr. Paddock.

“Lonesome,” shivered Minot. “Even God has forgot this place. Only
Marconi has remembered.”

And even as they wandered there amid the swamps, where alligators and
rattlesnakes alone saw fit to dwell, back in San Marco the capable Mr.
Trimmer was busy. By poster and by hand-bill he was spreading word of
his newest coup, so that by evening no one in town–save the few who
were most concerned–was unaware of a development rich, rare and racy.

Minot and Paddock returned late, and their dinner was correspondingly
delayed. It was eight-thirty o’clock when they at last strolled into
the lobby of the De la Pax. There they encountered Miss Meyrick, her
father and Lord Harrowby.

“We’re taking Harrowby to the movies,” said Miss Meyrick. “He
confesses he’s never been. Won’t you come along?”

She was one of her gay selves to-night, white, slim, laughing,
irresistible. Minot, looking at her, thought that she could make even
Tarragona Island bearable. He knew of no greater tribute to her charm.

The girl and Harrowby led the way, and Minot and Paddock followed with
Spencer Meyrick. The old man was an imposing figure in his white serge,
which accentuated the floridness of his face. He talked of an
administration that did not please him, of a railroad fallen on evil
days. Now and again he paused and seemed to lose the thread of what he
was saying, while his eyes dwelt on his daughter, walking ahead.

They arrived shortly at the San Marco Opera-House, devoted each evening
to three acts of “refined vaudeville” and six of the newest film
releases. It was here that the rich loitering in San Marco found their
only theatrical amusement, and forgetting Broadway, laughed and were
thrilled with simpler folk. A large crowd was fairly fighting to get
in and Mr. Paddock, who volunteered to buy the tickets, was forced to
take his place at the end of a long line.

Finally they reached the dim interior of the opera-house, and were
shown to seats far down in front. By hanging back in the dusk Minot
managed to secure the end seat, with Miss Meyrick at his side. Beyond
her sat Lord Harrowby, gazing with rapt British seriousness at the
humorous film that was being flashed on the screen.

Between pictures Harrowby offered an opinion.

“You in America are a jolly lot,” he said. “Just fancy our best people
in England attending a cinematograph exhibition.”

They tried to fancy it, but with his lordship there, they couldn’t.
Two more pictures ran their filmy lengths, while Mr. Minot sat
entranced there in the half dark. It was not the pictures that
entranced him. Rather, was it a lady’s nearness, the flash of her
smile, the hundred and one tones of her voice–all, all again as it had
been in that ridiculous automobile–just before the awakening.

After the third picture the lights of the auditorium were turned up,
and the hour of vaudeville arrived. On to the stage strolled a pert
confident youth garbed in shabby grandeur, who attempted sidewalk
repartee. He clipped his jests from barber-shop periodicals, bought
his songs from an ex-barroom song writer, and would have gone to the
mat with any one who denied that his act was “refined.” Mr. Minot,
listening to his gibes, thought of the Paddock jest factory and Mrs.
Bruce.

When the young man had wrung the last encore from a kindly audience,
the drop-curtain was raised and revealed on the stage in gleaming
splendor Captain Ponsonby’s troupe of trained seals. An intelligent
aggregation they proved, balancing balls on their small heads, juggling
flaming torches, and taking as their just due lumps of sugar from the
captain’s hand as they finished each feat. The audience recalled them
again and again, and even the peerage was captivated.

“Clever beasts, aren’t they?” Lord Harrowby remarked. And as Captain
Ponsonby took his final curtain, his lordship added:

“Er–what follows the trained seals?”

The answer to Harrowby’s query came almost immediately, and a startling
answer it proved to be.

Into the glare of the footlights stepped Mr. Henry Trimmer. His manner
was that of the conquering hero. For a moment he stood smiling and
bowing before the approving multitude. Then he raised a hand
commanding silence.

“My dear friends,” he said, “I appreciate this reception. As I said in
my handbill of this afternoon, I am working in the interests of
justice. The gentleman who accompanies me to your delightful little
city is beyond any question whatsoever George Harrowby, the eldest son
of the Earl of Raybrook, and as such he is entitled to call himself
Lord Harrowby. I know the American people well enough to feel sure
that when they realize the facts they will demand that justice be done.
That is why I have prevailed upon Lord Harrowby to meet you here in
this, your temple of amusement, and put his case before you. His
lordship will talk to you for a time with a view to getting acquainted.
He has chosen for the subject of his discourse The Old Days at Rakedale
Hall. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to introduce–the real
Lord Harrowby.”

Out of the wings shuffled the lean and gloomy Englishman whom Mr.
Trimmer had snatched from the unknown to cloud a certain wedding-day.
The applause burst forth. It shook the building. From the gallery
descended a shrill penetrating whistle of acclaim.

Mr. Minot glanced at the face of the girl beside him. She was looking
straight ahead, her cheeks bright red, her eyes flashing with anger.
Beyond, the face of Harrowby loomed, frozen, terrible.

“Shall we–go?” Minot whispered.

“By no means,” the girl answered. “We should only call attention to
our presence here. I know at least fifty people in this audience. We
must see it through.”

The applause was stilled at last and, supremely fussed, the “real Lord
Harrowby” faced that friendly throng.

“Dear–er–people,” he said. “As Mr. Trimmer has told you, we seek
only justice. I am not here to argue my right to the title I
claim–that I can do at the proper time and place. I am simply
proposing to go back–back into the past many years–back to the days
when I was a boy at Rakedale Hall. I shall picture those days as no
impostor could picture them–and when I have done I shall allow you to
judge.”

And there in that crowded little southern opera-house on that hot
February night, the actor who followed the trained seals proceeded to
go back. With unfaltering touch he sketched for his audience the great
stone country seat called Rakedale Hall, where for centuries the
Harrowbys had dwelt. It was as though he took his audience there to
visit–through the massive iron gates up the broad avenue bordered with
limes, until the high chimneys, the pointed gables, the mullioned
windows, and the walls half hidden by ivy, creeping roses and
honeysuckles were revealed to them. He took them through the house to
the servants’ quarters–which he called “the offices”–out into the
kitchen gardens, thence to the paved quadrangle of the stables with its
arched gateway and the chiming clock above. Tennis-courts,
grape-houses, conservatories, they visited breathlessly; they saw over
the brow of the hill the low square tower of the old church and the
chimneys of the vicar’s modest house. And far away, they beheld the
trees that furnished cover to the little beasts it was the Earl of
Raybrook’s pleasure to hunt in the season.

Becoming more specific, he spoke of the neighbors, and a bit of romance
crept in in the person of the fair-haired Honorable Edith Townshend,
who lived to the west of Rakedale Hall. He described at length the
picturesque personality of the “racing parson,” neighbor on the south,
and in full accord with the ideas of the sporting Earl of Raybrook.

The events of his youth, he said, crowded back upon him as he recalled
this happy scene, and emotion well-nigh choked him. However, he
managed to tell of a few of the celebrities who came to dinner, of
their bon mots, their preferences in cuisine. He mentioned the
thrilling morning when he was nearly drowned in the brook that skirted
the “purple meadow”; also the thrilling afternoon when he hid his
mother’s famous necklace in the biscuit box on the sideboard, and upset
a whole household. And he narrated a dozen similar exploits, each
garnished with small illuminating details.

His audience sat fascinated. All who listened felt that his words rang
true–even Lord Harrowby himself, sitting far forward, his hand
gripping the seat in front of him, until the white of his knuckles
showed through.

Next the speaker shifted his scene to Eton, thrilled his hearers with
the story of his revolt against Oxford, of his flight to the States,
his wild days in Arizona. And he pulled out of his pocket a letter
written by the old Earl of Raybrook himself, profanely expostulating
with him for his madness, and begging that he return to ascend to the
earldom when the old man was no more.

The “real Lord Harrowby” finished reading this somewhat pathetic appeal
with a little break in his voice, and stood looking out at the audience.

“If my brother Allan himself were in the house,” he said, “he would
have to admit that it is our father speaking in that letter.”

A rustle of interest ran through the auditorium. The few who had
recognized Harrowby turned to stare at him now. For a moment he sat
silent, his face a variety of colors in the dim light. Then with a cry
of rage he leaped to his feet.

“You stole that letter, you cur,” he cried. “You are a liar, a fraud,
an impostor.”

The man on the stage stood shading his eyes with his hand.

“Ah, Allan,” he answered, “so you are here, after all? Is that quite
the proper greeting–after all these years?”

A roar of sympathetic applause greeted this sally. There was no doubt
as to whose side Mr. Trimmer’s friend, the public, was on. Harrowby
stood in his place, his lips twitching, his eyes for once blazing and
angry.

Dick Minot was by this time escorting Miss Meyrick up the aisle, and
they came quickly to the cool street. Harrowby, Paddock and Spencer
Meyrick followed immediately. His lordship was most contrite.

“A thousand pardons,” he pleaded. “Really I can’t tell you how sorry I
am, Cynthia. To have made you conspicuous–what was I thinking of?
But he maddened me–I–”

“Don’t worry, Allan,” said Miss Meyrick gently. “I like you the better
for being maddened.”

Old Spencer Meyrick said nothing, but Minot noted that his face was
rather red, and his eyes were somewhat dangerous. They all walked back
to the hotel in silence.

From the hotel lobby, as if by prearrangement, Harrowby followed Miss
Meyrick and her father into a parlor. Minot and Paddock were left
alone.

“My word, old top,” said Mr. Paddock facetiously, “a rough night for
the nobility. What do you think? That lad’s story sounded like a
little bit of all right to me. Eh, what?”

“It did sound convincing,” returned the troubled Minot. “But then–a
servant at Rakedale Hall could have concocted it.”

“Mayhap,” said Mr. Paddock. “However, old Spencer Meyrick looked to me
like a volcano I’d want to get out from under. Poor old Harrowby! I’m
afraid there’s a rift within the loot–nay, no loot at all.”

“Jack,” said Minot firmly, “that wedding has got to take place.”

“Why, what’s it to you?”

“It happens to be everything. But keep it under your hat.”

“Great Scott–does Harrowby owe you money?”

“I can’t explain just at present, Jack.”

“Oh, very well,” replied Mr. Paddock. “But take it from me, old
man–she’s a million times too good for him.”

“A million,” laughed Mr. Minot bitterly. “You underestimate.”

Paddock stood staring with wonder at his friend.

“You lisp in riddles, my boy,” he said.

“Do I?” returned Minot. “Maybe some day I’ll make it all clear.”

He parted from Paddock and ascended to the third floor. As he wandered
through the dark passageways in search of his room, he bumped suddenly
into a heavy man, walking softly. Something about the contour of the
man in the dark gave him a suggestion.

“Good evening, Mr. Wall,” he said.

The scurry of hurrying footsteps, but no answer. Minot went on to 389,
and placed his key in the lock. It would not turn. He twisted the
knob of the door–it was unlocked. He stepped inside and flashed on
the light.

His small abode was in a mad disorder. The chiffonier drawers had been
emptied on the floor, the bed was torn to pieces, the rug thrown in a
corner. Minot smiled to himself.

Some one had been searching–searching for Chain Lightning’s Collar.
Who? Who but the man he had bumped against in that dark passageway?

As Dick Minot bent over to pick up his scattered property, a knock
sounded on the half-open door, and Lord Harrowby drooped in. The
nobleman was gloom personified. He threw himself despondently down on
the bed.

“Minot, old chap,” he drawled, “it’s all over.” His eyes took in the
wreckage. “Eh? What the deuce have you been doing, old boy?”

“I haven’t been doing anything,” Minot answered. “But others have been
busy. While we were at the–er–theater, fond fingers have been
searching for Chain Lightning’s Collar.”

“The devil! You haven’t lost it?”

“No–not yet, I believe.” Minot took the envelope from his pocket and
drew out the gleaming necklace. “Ah, it’s still safe–”

Harrowby leaped from the bed and slammed shut the door.

“Dear old boy,” he cried, “keep the accursed thing in your pocket. No
one must see it. I say, who’s been searching here? Do you think it
could have been O’Malley?”

“What is O’Malley’s interest in your necklace?”

“Some other time, please. Sorry to inconvenience you with the thing.
Do hang on to it, won’t you? Awful mix-up if you didn’t. Bad mix-up
as it is. As I said when I came in, it’s all over.”

“What’s all over?”

“Everything. The marriage–my chance for happiness–Minot, I’m a most
unlucky chap. Meyrick has just postponed the wedding in a frightfully
loud tone of voice.”

“Postponed it?” Sad news for Jephson this, yet as he spoke Mr. Minot
felt a thrill of joy in his heart. He smiled the pleasantest smile he
had so far shown San Marco.

“Exactly. He was fearfully rattled, was Meyrick. My word, how he did
go on. Considers his daughter humiliated by the antics of that
creature we saw on the stage to-night. Can’t say I blame him, either.
The wedding is indefinitely postponed, unless that impostor is removed
from the scene immediately.”

“Oh–unless,” said Minot. His heart sank. His smile vanished.

“Unless was the word, I fancy,” said Harrowby, blinking wisely.

“Lord Harrowby,” Minot began, “you intimated the other day that this
man might really be your brother–”

“No,” Harrowby broke in. “Impossible. I got a good look at the chap
to-night. He’s no more a Harrowby than you are.”

“You give me your word for that?”

“Absolutely. Even after twenty years of America no Harrowby would drag
his father’s name on to the vaudeville stage. No, he is an impostor,
and as such he deserves no consideration whatever. And by the by,
Minot–you will note that the postponement is through no fault of mine.”

Minot made a wry face.

“I have noted it,” he said. “In other words, I go on to the stage
now–following the man who followed the trained seals. I thought my
role was that of Cupid, but it begins to look more like Captain Kidd.
Ah, well–I’ll do my best.” He stood up. “I’m going out into the soft
moonlight for a little while, Lord Harrowby. While I’m gone you might
call Spencer Meyrick up and ask him to do nothing definite in the way
of postponement until he hears from me–us–er–you.”

“Splendid of you, really,” said Harrowby enthusiastically, as Minot
held open the door for him. “I had the feeling I could fall back on
you.”

“And I have the feeling that you’ve fallen,” smiled Minot. “So
long–better wait up for my report.”

Fifteen minutes later, seated in a small rowboat on the starry waters
of the harbor, Minot was loudly saluting the yacht _Lileth_. Finally
Mr. Martin Wall appeared at the rail.

“Well–what d’you want?” he demanded.

“A word with you, Mr. Wall,” Minot answered. “Will you be good enough
to let down your accommodation ladder?”

For a moment Wall hesitated. And Minot, watching him, knew why he
hesitated. He suspected that the young man in the tiny boat there on
the calm bright waters had come to repay a call earlier in the
evening–a call made while the host was out. At last he decided to let
down the ladder.

“Glad to see you,” he announced genially as Minot came on deck.

“Awfully nice of you to say that,” Minot laughed. “Reassures me.
Because I’ve heard there are sharks in these waters.”

They sat down in wicker chairs on the forward deck. Minot stared at
the cluster of lights that was San Marco by night.

“Corking view you have of that tourist-haunted town,” he commented.

“Ah–yes,” Mr. Wall’s queer eyes narrowed. “Did you row out here to
tell me that?” he inquired.

“A deserved rebuke,” Minot returned. “Time flies, and my errand is a
pressing one. Am I right in assuming, Mr. Wall, that you are Lord
Harrowby’s friend?”

“I am.”

“Good. Then you will want to help him in the very serious difficulty
in which he now finds himself. Mr. Wall, the man who calls himself the
real Lord Harrowby made his debut on a vaudeville stage to-night.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Wall, with a short laugh.

“Lord Harrowby’s fiancée and her father are greatly disturbed. They
insist that this impostor must be removed from the scene at once, or
there will be no wedding. Mr. Wall–it is up to you and me to remove
him.”

“Just what is your interest in the matter?” Wall inquired.

“The same as yours. I am Harrowby’s friend. Now, Mr. Wall, this is
the situation as I see it–wanted, board and room in a quiet
neighborhood for Mr. George Harrowby. Far from the street-cars, the
vaudeville stage, the wedding march and other disturbing elements. And
what is more, I think I’ve found the quiet neighborhood. I think it’s
right here aboard the _Lileth_.”

“Oh–indeed!”

“Yes. A simple affair to arrange, Mr. Wall. Trimmer and his live
proposition are just about due for their final appearance of the night
at the opera-house right now. I will call at the stage door and lead
Mr. Trimmer away after his little introductory speech. I will keep him
away until you and a couple of your sailors–I suggest the two I met so
informally in the North River–have met the vaudeville lord at the
stage door and gently, but firmly, persuaded him to come aboard this
boat.”

Mr. Wall regarded Minot with a cynical smile.

“A clever scheme,” he said. “What would you say was the penalty for
kidnaping in this state?”

“Oh, why look it up?” asked Minot carelessly. “Surely Martin Wall is
not afraid of a backwoods constable.”

“What do you mean by that, my boy?” said Wall, with an ugly stare.

“What do you think I mean?” Minot smiled back. “I’d be very glad to
take the role I’ve assigned you–I can’t help feeling that it will be
more entertaining than the one I have. The difficulty in the way is
Trimmer. I believe I am better fitted to engage his attention. I know
him better than you do, and he trusts me–begging your pardon–further.”

“He did give me a nasty dig,” said Wall, flaming at the recollection.
“The noisy mountebank! Well, my boy, your young enthusiasm has won me.
I’ll do what I can.”

“And you can do a lot. Watch me until you see me lead Trimmer away.
Then get his pet. I’ll steer Trimmer somewhere near the beach, and
keep an eye on the _Lileth_. When you get George safely aboard, wave a
red light in the bow. Then Trimmer and I shall part company for the
night.”

“I’m on,” said Wall, rising. “Anything to help Harrowby. And–this
won’t be the first time I’ve waited at the stage door.”

“Right-o,” said Minot. “But don’t stop to buy a champagne supper for a
trained seal, will you? I don’t want to have to listen to Mr. Trimmer
all night.”

They rowed ashore in company with two husky members of the yacht’s
crew, and ten minutes later Minot was walking with the pompous Mr.
Trimmer through the quiet plaza. He had told that gentleman that he
came from Allan Harrowby to talk terms, and Trimmer was puffed with
pride accordingly.

“So Mr. Harrowby has come to his senses at last,” he said. “Well, I
thought this vaudeville business would bring him round. Although I
must say I’m a bit disappointed–down in my heart. My publicity
campaign has hardly started. I had so many lovely little plans for the
future–say, it makes me sad to win so soon.”

“Sorry,” laughed Minot. “Lord Harrowby, however, deems it best to call
a halt. He suggests–”

“Pardon me,” interrupted Mr. Trimmer grandiloquently. “As the victor
in the contest, I shall do any suggesting that is done. And what I
suggest is this–to-morrow morning I shall call upon Allan Harrowby at
his hotel. I shall bring George with me, also some newspaper friends
of mine. In front of the crowd Allan Harrowby must acknowledge his
brother as the future heir to the earldom of Raybrook.”

“Why the newspaper men?” Minot inquired.

“Publicity,” said Trimmer. “It’s the breath of life to me–my
business, my first love, my last. Frankly, I want all the
advertisement out of this thing I can get. At what hour shall we call?”

“You would not consider a delay of a few days?” Minot asked.

“Save your breath,” advised Trimmer promptly.

“Ah–I feared it,” laughed Minot. “Well then–shall we say eleven
o’clock? You are to call–with George Harrowby.”

“Eleven it is,” said Trimmer. They had reached a little park by the
harbor’s edge. Trimmer looked at his watch. “And that being all
settled, I’ll run back to the theater.”

“I myself have advised Harrowby to surrender–” Minot began.

“Wise boy. Good night,” said Trimmer, moving away.

“Not that I have been particularly impressed by your standing as a
publicity man,” continued Minot.

Mr. Trimmer stopped in his tracks.

“As a matter of fact,” went on Minot. “I never heard of you or any of
the things you claim to have advertised, until I came to San Marco.”

Mr. Trimmer came slowly back up the grave walk.

“In just what inland hamlet, untouched by telegraph, telephone,
newspaper and railroad,” he asked, “have you been living?”

Minot dropped to a handy bench, and smiled up into Mr. Trimmer’s thin
face.

“New York City,” he replied.

Mr. Trimmer glanced back at the lights of San Marco, hesitatingly.
Then–it was really a cruel temptation–he sat down beside Minot on the
bench.

“Do you mean to tell me,” he inquired, “that you lived in New York two
years ago and didn’t hear of Cotrell’s Ink Eraser?”

“Such was my unhappy fate,” smiled Minot.

“Then you were in Ludlow Street jail, that’s all I’ve got to say,”
Trimmer replied. “Why, man–what I did for that eraser is famous. I
rigged up a big electric sign in Times Square and all night long I had
an electric Cotrell’s erasing indiscreet sentences–the kind of things
people write when they get foolish with their fountain pens–for
instance–‘I hereby deed to Tottie Footlights all my real and personal
property’–and the like. It took the town by storm. Theatrical
managers complained that people preferred to stand and look at my sign
rather than visit the shows. Can you look me in the eye and say that
you never saw that sign?”

“Well,” Minot answered, “I begin to remember a little about it now.”

“Of course you do.” Mr. Trimmer gave him a congratulatory slap on the
knee. “And if you think hard, probably you can recall my neat little
stunt of the prima donna and the cough drops. I want to tell you about
that–”

He spoke with fervor. The story of his brave deeds rose high to
shatter the stars apart. A half-hour passed while his picturesque
reminiscences flowed on. Mr. Minot sat enraptured–his eyes on the
harbor where the _Lileth_, like a painted ship, graced a painted ocean.

“My boy,” Trimmer was saying, “I have made the public stop, look and
listen. When I get my last publicity in the shape of an ‘In Memoriam’
let them run that tag on my headstone. And the story of me that I
guess will be told longest after I am gone, is the one about the grape
juice that I–”

He paused. His audience was not listening; he felt it intuitively.
Mr. Minot sat with his eyes on the _Lileth_. In the bow of that
handsome boat a red light had been waved three times.

“Mr. Trimmer,” Minot said, “your tales are more interesting than the
classics.” He stood. “Some other time I hope to hear a continuation
of them. Just at present Lord Harrowby–or Mr. if you prefer–is
waiting to hear what arrangement I have made with you. You must pardon
me.”

“I can talk as we walk along,” said Trimmer, and proved it. In the
middle of the deserted plaza they separated. At the dark stage door of
the opera-house Trimmer sought his proposition.

“Who d’yer mean?” asked the lone stage-hand there.

“George, Lord Harrowby,” insisted Mr. Trimmer.

“Oh–that bum actor. Seen him going away a while back with two men
that called for him.”

“Bum actor!” cried Trimmer indignantly. He stopped. “Two men–who
were they?”

The stage-hand asked profanely how he could know that, and Mr. Trimmer
hurriedly departed for the side-street boarding-house where he and his
fallen nobleman shared a suite.

About the same time Dick Minot blithely entered Lord Harrowby’s
apartments in the Hotel de la Pax.

“Well,” he announced, “you can cheer up. Little George is painlessly
removed. He sleeps to-night aboard the good ship _Lileth_, thanks to
the efforts of Martin Wall, assisted by yours truly.” He stopped, and
stared in awe at his lordship. “What’s the matter with you?” he
inquired.

Harrowby waved a hopeless hand.

“Minot,” he said, “it was good of you. But while you have been
assisting me so kindly in that quarter, another–and a greater–blow
has fallen.”

“Good lord–what?” cried Minot.

“It is no fault of mine–” Harrowby began.

“On which I would have gambled my immortal soul,” Minot said.

“I thought it was all over and done with–five years ago. I was
young–sentimental–calcium-light and grease paint and that sort of
thing hit me-hard. I saw her from the stalls–fell desperately in
love–stayed so for six months–wrote letters–burning letters–and
now–”

“Yes–and now?”

“Now she’s here. Gabrielle Rose is here. She’s here–with the
letters.”

“Oh, for a Cotrell’s Ink Eraser,” Minot groaned.

“My man saw her down-stairs,” went on Harrowby, mopping his damp
forehead. “Fifty thousand she wants for the letters or she gives them
to a newspaper and begins to sue–at once–to-morrow.”

“I suppose,” said Minot, “she is the usual Gaiety girl.”

“Not the usual, old chap. Quite a remarkable woman. She’ll do what
she promises–trust her. And I haven’t a farthing. Minot–it’s all up
now. There’s no way out of this.”

Minot sat thinking. The telephone rang.

“I won’t talk to her,” cried Harrowby in a panic. “I won’t have
anything to do with her. Minot, old chap–as a favor to me–”

“The old family solicitor,” smiled Minot. “That’s me.”

He took down the receiver. But no voice that had charmed thousands at
the Gaiety answered his. Instead there came over the wire, heated,
raging, the tones of Mr. Henry Trimmer.

“Hello–I want Allan Harrowby–ah, that’s Minot talking, isn’t it?
Yes. Good. I want a word with you. Do you know what I think of your
methods? Well, you won’t now–telephone rules in the way. Think
you’re going to get ahead of Trimmer, do you? Think you’ve put one
over, eh? Well–let me tell you, you’re wrong. You’re in for it now.
You’ve played into my hands. Steal Lord Harrowby, will you? Do you
know what that means? Publicity. Do you know what I’ll do to-morrow?
I’ll start a cyclone in this town that–”

“Good night,” said Minot, and hung up.

“Who was it?” Harrowby wanted to know.

“Our friend Trimmer, on the war-path,” Minot replied. “It seems he’s
missed his vaudeville partner.” He sat down. “See here, Harrowby,” he
said–it was the first time he had dropped the prefix, “it occurs to me
that an unholy lot of things are happening to spoil this wedding. So
I’m going to ask you a question.”

“Yes.”

“Harrowby”–Minot looked straight into the weak, but noble eyes–“are
you on the level?”

“Really–I’m not very expert in your astounding language–”

“Are you straight–honest–do you want to be married yourself?”

“Why, Minot, my dear chap! I’ve told you a thousand times–I want
nothing more–I never shall want anything more–”

“All right,” said Minot, rising. “Then go to bed and sleep the sleep
of the innocent.”

“But where are you going? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to try and do the same.”

And as he went out, Minot slammed the door on a peer.

Sticking above the knob of the door of 389 he found a telegram.
Turning on his lights, he sank wearily down on the bed and tore it open.

“It rained in torrents,” said the telegram, “at the dowager duchess’s
garden party. You know what that means.”

It was signed “John Thacker.”

“Isn’t that a devil of a night-cap?” muttered Minot gloomily.