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The Lion's Mouse
by C. N. Williamson and A. M. Williamson
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"The other man must have done it, the one who followed you on to the train."

"But he was never near Rog ... never near the man who ... oh, I might as well tell you right out that it was Roger who kept the envelope for me. I'll tell you the name of the other man, too. It's sure to slip out! His name is Justin O'Reilly."

"O'Reilly?" Clo echoed. "How dare the brute have a name like mine?"

"Why, so it is like," said Beverley. "But there's an 'O,' and he spells it differently."

"Beast! He'd better, or I'd have to change," snapped Clo. "Well, whatever his name is, I believe he must have stolen your papers. Can you go back, and live over again every step of the way?"

Beverley shut her eyes, and began to think aloud. "The morning after we started Roger mentioned meeting an acquaintance ... a man named O'Reilly. He didn't dream the name meant anything to me. They exchanged only a few words when Roger passed O'Reilly's table at breakfast time. Nothing could have happened then, I know. Afterward, I never heard of their meeting again through the whole journey. I should have heard, if they had, I think. Roger was with me a good deal. At Chicago.—Let me see!...

"I'm calling it back to my mind. Roger helped me out of the train. O'Reilly was out already. He stood on the platform, looking for someone—or so it seemed. We went quite close to him, but not close enough for even the smartest pickpocket in America to steal the envelope from Roger."

"Where was the envelope then?" the girl wanted to know.

"In an inside breast pocket of Roger's coat; not an overcoat. It was September. The weather was hot."

"Wouldn't it be easy for any one looking for the envelope to see that Mr. Sands had something thick and long in an inside breast pocket, and suspect what it was?"

"Any one might suspect. No one could be sure. It would have shown more plainly if Roger had worn his coat buttoned. He didn't, on purpose."

"Still, his coat not being buttoned would make it easier to steal the envelope, if somebody very clever got a chance to try."

"Perhaps. But O'Reilly could never have done such a thing. It would take a trained thief."

"Can people send off telegrams from those Limited trains?" Clo took up her catechism again.

"Yes, of course they can."

"Would there have been time for this O'Reilly chap to wire Chicago, after he followed you on board the train, and have a man meet him?"

"Yes, plenty of time."

"Well, what if he wired to some detective people, and told them to send him the 'smartest pickpocket in America'?"

"But ... the police couldn't ... wouldn't ... do such a thing!"

"I don't mean the real police," Clo explained. "Haven't you often read books about private detectives? I have. They might get reformed thieves to work for them. Can you remember what O'Reilly did next, after you both passed him on the platform?"

"No. I didn't look back."

"You don't know, then, whether the person he seemed to expect ever turned up?"

Beverley shook her head. "Roger and I went straight ahead to a newsstand where I expected to meet a person. Two or three minutes after we passed O'Reilly we were mixed up in a big crowd, almost fighting our way through...."

"Oh, a big crowd!" Clo broke in. "A chance for that pickpocket. Suppose he came the minute you had turned your backs on O'Reilly, and he sent his trained thief after you, hot foot, to get that envelope?"

"Ah, but you've forgotten something!" cried Beverley. "A thief might get the envelope: I'll admit that. But how could he have another one exactly like it, with the same seals, the same monogram, to put into Roger's pocket, when he took the original?"

"He could only have it if O'Reilly could have given it to him. Could he have done that?"

Suddenly Beverley began to see. A vivid idea sprang into her head, and was imaged in her eyes.

"You've thought of something!" Clo exclaimed. "You see how O'Reilly might have got the seal with the monogram, and the gold wax, and an envelope like the one you had?"

"Oh, yes. I do see!" Beverley groaned. "He could have brought the things from—from.... But never mind. That part's nothing to you."

"I want only to know the part you want me to know," said Clo.

"It isn't a question of what I want. It's a question of my sacred oath," Beverley answered. "There was a house where I had been, to get the envelope. O'Reilly was there, too. Someone ... no matter who! ... could have given him all the things, so he could change envelopes if he got the chance. Oh, child, I keep stumbling on to a path where I dare not step."

"We'll go back to the train," said Clo. "If O'Reilly had the gold wax and the seal, and the right kind of envelope, he could have made his plan, and sent his telegram, and had everything ready for the right minute ... in the Chicago station."

"Ye—es, he could. But it's almost impossible!"

"It's more possible than Mr. Sands' changing the envelopes, isn't it?"

"That is the one impossible thing. The worst remains. I have lost the papers! Whether O'Reilly has them or someone else, I can't get them back. Without them, I'm ruined!"

"You shan't be!" Clo cried, twining her thin arms round her idol's waist. "You must be saved somehow. We've got till ten o'clock to think."

"If I were the only one, it wouldn't matter so much," Beverley said. "But there's somebody who can be tortured as well as killed, if I have no bribe to offer. Those papers gave me all the power I had."

"Wouldn't money...." Clo began, but Beverley cut her short.

"No money I could get would be of any use," she said. "A million might be!"

"See O'Reilly and make him give up the papers!" cried Clo. "Oh, but is he in New York?"

"He doesn't live in New York, but he's here now. I know, because that man you saw, Peterson, told me. It was part of a threat he held over my head that O'Reilly and some people connected with him should be in town just now. I know the hotel he's staying in, the Dietz. But even if O'Reilly would come, how could I see him without Roger knowing? It wouldn't be possible!"

"I'll somehow make O'Reilly come," the girl promised. "I don't know how, yet, but I know I will, if you can get Mr. Sands out of the house."

Beverley shuddered. "How horrid that sounds ... as if I were plotting against him, the way women do who deceive their husbands."

"Well, anyhow, if O'Reilly took the papers, would he still have them, do you think?" asked Clo, with the sudden eagerness of one who catches in desperation at a new idea.

"It's just possible. I can see a reason why he might have been asked to keep them," Beverley answered.

"If that's so, would he put them in a bank, or a safe somewhere, or would he bring them to New York?"

"There might be a special motive for him to bring them to New York ... I think there would be a motive."

"Well, it seems to me, the sort of man I imagined he is, would be too smart to have such things on him if he came to your house, and didn't mean to give 'em back to you. It would be tempting Providence, so to speak!"

"If I were the kind of woman he thinks I am, he'd not expect me to stop short of murder to get those papers," and Beverley laughed a bitter little laugh.

"Good! If he comes to you and leaves the papers at his hotel, a certain thing will happen, but it's safer for you not to know—till afterward."



IX

THE BLUFF THAT FAILED

"You must tell me!" Beverley insisted. "Tell me at once!"

"While Mr. O'Reilly is here with you, Miss Riley without the 'O', will be at his hotel, in his room, helping herself to his—I mean your—papers."

"My child, you're mad!" Beverley gasped.

"Not so mad as he'll be when he finds out," crowed the girl. "Hurray! The whole business is settling itself in my head. The one trouble is Mr. Sands. The rest will be all right. Think what to do about him, Angel; think hard!"

Beverley thought until her brain whirled.

"I might suggest Roger's dining at his club," she said. "But how I should hate to do that! He's vexed already. He has a right to be! This afternoon he gave me a wonderful present, a rope of pearls that belonged to a Queen. It must have cost a quarter of a million! I hardly stopped to thank him, I was in such frantic haste to get the envelope to you. The rope caught in the key of a drawer; the string broke, and a lot of pearls ran all over the carpet. I didn't wait to pick them up. I ran down to you, and I was gone so long Roger went to my room to look for me. I came back and found him picking up pearls. I felt my excuses did more harm than good. Roger pretended that he had an engagement. I saw by his face he wanted to walk off his anger in the fresh air. If he does walk it off—if he comes back ready to make up, and I send him away again, perhaps that will finish it! Things may never be the same between us any more!"

"He was angry because you didn't seem to care enough for his present," said Clo. "But if you can get him out of the house for an hour or so, and at the same time prove that you adore the pearls; how does that plan strike you?"

"How could I do both?"

"Beg him to go fetch a pearl-stringer, and bring her back here himself, to-night. Say you can't rest or sleep till the pearls are restrung."

"You forget it's Sunday, and——"

"I don't forget. But I know a pearl-stringer. She isn't just any old pearl-stringer, who might thread on a wax bead here and there, and keep a pearl or two up her sleeve. She's the best pearl-stringer in New York. The big jewellers and lots of swell society women have her. It's queer the way I came to know her, but it makes it good for us. We were crossing a street, she and I. I didn't know the woman from Adam—Eve, I mean. But it was slippery, and she missed her footing. I dragged her back, just in time, and held her up. She's a little woman, no bigger than me, or I couldn't have done it. But I got her on the sidewalk again, and she was grateful. She's Irish, too, and she invited me to go and see her the next Sunday. It's out at Yonkers, where she lives, in a nice little house she's bought. I went there once. She said if she could do some favour for me, she'd love to. But it's no favour I'll be asking, except for her to come out on a Sunday evening. So the only thing is to fetch her. Do you think Mr. Sands will go?"

"It depends upon how he feels when he comes in," said Beverley. "But Sister Lake would never let you out again."

"I shan't ask her. I'll get up and dress while you see if Mr. Sands is back. If I hear from you that all's well, I'll slip out before Sister comes."

"Clo, you're wonderful!" Beverley exclaimed. "How can I thank you enough?"

"Thanks from you to me! That's good! Just wait, Angel, anyhow, till I've done something. Oh, I forgot to give you the pearl-stringer's address. It's Miss Blackburne, 27 Elm Street, Yonkers. And tell Mr. Sands to mention my name. It might make a difference. She doesn't like leaving her mother in the evenings, but she'd do it for me."

Beverley was gone for fifteen minutes. When she flew in again she was surprised to see Clo in bed as before. But hardly was the door closed when the girl threw back the coverlet, to show that she was fully dressed.

"I was afraid Sister might pop in—by an evil chance," she explained. "I've only to put on my hat. Well, is it all right?"

"Roger will go," said Beverley. "He's 'phoning now for his car. I'm putting off dinner till half-past eight so he can have plenty of time to get home and change. He didn't make any difficulty when I told him about the pearl-stringer and wanting her at once. He agreed with me that it would be best to do such an errand himself, if it were to be done. And he was very kind. But his manner was different. I'm frightened."

"Don't be," said Clo. She was up now, had pinned on the pretty white hat, and was fastening her smart little cape. "I'll go first to the Westmorland and see our man; he said he'd be in, waiting till ten. I'll tell him things are in train, but he must give you till midnight, if necessary. From there perhaps I can 'phone the Dietz Hotel. It wouldn't be safe here. By that time O'Reilly ought to be in his room dressing for dinner. He'll see me, I'm sure, and the rest will arrange itself. Now, I'm off before Mr. Sands' automobile comes, or Sister Lake. If she finds the door shut and all quiet she'll think I'm asleep. Go back to your husband, Angel, and I'll slip away on my little jaunt."

"I've brought money for you," said Beverley. "Take this purse. There's change for taxis and lots of bills besides—fifty or sixty dollars."

Two minutes later Clo was in the street. The first thing that happened to her was a small piece of luck. She had been dreading the walk to a taxi-stand, when she saw a car about to drive away from a house near by. It was a public vehicle. Clo hailed the chauffeur and gave the Westmorland as her destination.

"Mr. Peterson" was in, according to promise.

"You again, is it? I looked for Mrs. Sands," he grumbled.

"I'm her messenger for the second time," said Clo, "and probably I shall be for the third, when it comes to settling up. If you get what you want, it doesn't matter who brings it, I suppose?"

"Then you suppose wrong. My business is with a woman, not a kid! All the same, if you've got anything for me——"

"I haven't—yet!" Clo snapped him up. "It isn't time. But I'm on to where the thing is, and how to get it. Only it may take till after ten o'clock. That's what I came to say."

"Save your breath! Ten o'clock's the time. If she doesn't want me to go back on my bargain she'd better not go back on hers."

He looked more than ever like a ferret, the girl thought.

"Mrs. Sands made no bargain as to time," she said. "And talking of time, what about the time you've done?"

Peterson gave a cackling laugh. "What's the female for 'Smart Aleck'?" he sneered. "Guessed by my complexion, did yuh? Well, I don't need to make no secret of it. My gardeens wished me good-bye and Lord bless me when the nine months they run me in for was up."

Clo thought she could come close to guessing what the charge had been, and it would have needed more than the word of a ferret to assure her of his "innocence." The man was a born sneak-thief or pickpocket. His hands were slim and small as a girl's. Perhaps if temptation had been put in his way while he "waited at the newsstand" for Beverley, all those months ago, he had been unable to resist and thus had missed his appointment. Not that the girl much cared as to this detail; it was not her affair. But it was odd, almost "creepy," how the links were being joined together in the chain of evidence against O'Reilly, the man who had followed Angel into the Limited—the man against whom Clo had presently to try her wits. What concerned her most was that her first attempt at bluff had failed. Something in Peterson's manner forced her to believe that he had indeed served out his full sentence, and for the moment had nothing to fear from the police. Clodagh hid her disappointment with a little swagger.

"It suits us just as well as you, to finish up at ten o'clock and get it over," she said. "If we can, we will. If we can't, you'll have to wait. The way things are, you have to be in with us, you see, not against us."

"Oh, do I? I ain't so sure!" he flung back. "I ain't sure my fine madam's not in the game t'other way round—and her husband, too. I know now that she and Roger Sands travelled in the same train from where she started. Blowed if I see why she'd do it, but it might be they fixed a frame-up between them. I can see why it would suit Sands, if it wouldn't her, and a man's stronger than a woman. Sands was working for John Heron at the time. That means a lot."

"It doesn't mean that Mrs. Sands would be disloyal to her word. I know she's true as steel," Clo insisted. She spoke crisply, but her thoughts wandered. They had caught at the name of John Heron; Beverley had never mentioned it. The girl had no means of guessing how it might bear upon the case now in her small, determined hands. She did not see how, or where, she could have heard it before, yet it did not sound strange to her. The feeling she had on hearing it puzzled and even thrilled her vaguely. It was as if the name, "John Heron," had been whispered into her ear in a dream—a dream not forgotten, but buried under other things in her brain. The girl was suddenly alert. There was only one fact which she grasped with straining certainty. In that buried dream there were other sounds connected with the whispered name: sounds of sobbing, as of someone crying in the dark.

"Anyhow," Peterson went on, "there was a frame-up, and those that was in it has got to pay me for what I went through. That's partly why I'm here in Noo York. If I don't have those papers by ten I'll show up at the Sands flat and ask for the missis."

"You wouldn't find Mr. Sands at home," the girl cut in. "He's out. When he comes back he's likely to go away again at once."

"Aw, he is, is he?" echoed Peterson. His personality waked up secretively, like that of some weak, night animal hiding in a wood. Clo eyed him, striving to make him out.

"Better go home, kiddy," he advised. His tone was good-natured. "Shall I see you back to where you live, or——"

"I have another errand to do," the girl announced with dignity. She had meant to telephone from the Westmorland to the Dietz, and learn if Justin O'Reilly was in; but now she determined not to do so. Better waste a little time rather than Peterson should hear her inquiring for O'Reilly. Instead of waiting to telephone, she walked to the door and asked a half-baked youth in hotel livery to call her a taxi.

"If ferret-face tries to follow I'll lead him a dance!" she thought. But ferret-face seemed to read her mind, and be willing to relieve it.

"So long!" he said. "I've got a job o' work, too. It will take me till about ten. After that I shall be lookin' for a call from you or her ladyship."

He turned his back and sauntered to the elevator. Before the taxi had arrived he had been shot up to regions above.

"So that's all right!" Clo muttered to herself, spinning toward the Dietz. Yet, as she said the words, she wondered if it was all right. Why had Peterson's whole personality made a kind of "lightning change" on hearing that Sands (whom he expressed a wish to see) would not be at home that night? Ought she to 'phone to Beverley and put her on guard? Yes, she would telephone from the Dietz, while waiting to see O'Reilly. It would be safe, because Roger by this time should be far away.



X

THE BLUFF THAT WON

Justin O'Reilly had a modest suite in the magnificent Dietz. It adjoined the luxurious suite of Mr. and Mrs. John Heron, and consisted of a small sitting-room, a bedroom, and bath. He was tying his necktie when the telephone bell rang. He grabbed the receiver as if it were a snake that had to be throttled, and gave it a grudging "Hello!"

"A lady to see you," a voice answered.

"She wasn't told I'm in, I hope? A nice thing for a well-regulated hotel if——"

"No, but she says it's important. She's Miss O'Reilly."

Miss O'Reilly! The man of that name was perplexed. The only Miss O'Reilly who, as far as he knew, could possibly call on him, was the last woman he would have expected to do so. He had come to New York largely in the hope of seeing her. She had refused to see him.

"Tell her I'll be down in three minutes," he replied.

"She particularly doesn't want you to come down. She says she has some private news for you, and asks if you'll see her in your own sitting-room."

"All right," he tried to answer calmly. "Have the lady shown up."

He rushed back into his bedroom to wrestle once more with the tie. He must be ready to receive Miss O'Reilly at the door, and his waistcoat and coat were yet to put on. But it could be managed. The suite was on the fifteenth floor, and a full minute's walk from the lift for an old person like Miss O'Reilly. Bungling everything in his haste, he tried to think what it might mean. It looked as if she must have changed her mind, and be ready to sell him her house, the dear old house on which he had set his heart. Perhaps she would demand a higher price than he had offered. Well, he must pay it somehow. Heron would lend him the money—but no, there were reasons why O'Reilly didn't wish to accept favours from Heron, often as they had been pressed upon him. As he slipped into his coat, he heard the expected rap at his sitting-room door, and hurried to open it. A page-boy, acting as guide, had run ahead of the lady, to knock.

"Miss O'Reilly to see Mr. O'Reilly," he announced, with Irish relish of the Irish name. Then he erased himself. O'Reilly stood on the threshold, waiting for the right lady to appear, and meanwhile dodged back from the wrong one, a small, slim flapper in white, who for some reason had paused before his door. She stood quite still, and stared up at him unwinkingly, as a child stares.

"I beg your pardon," O'Reilly said, wanting to laugh. "May I pass? I must look for a lady who——"

"I'm the lady," the creature in white intervened. "That is, I am if you are Mr. O'Reilly."

"O'Reilly's my name," he admitted. "But I was expecting—or—perhaps my cousin sent you?"

"Perhaps I am your cousin," suggested the girl who (Justin saw, now that he looked her deliberately in the face) had the biggest, blackest eyes, and the whitest skin he had ever seen. She had, also, red hair under a fetching hat. Although the child was no beauty, she had an amusing, elfin air.

"Delighted, I'm sure," he felt obliged to answer. "I thought I had only one cousin in the world, Theresa O'Reilly, of Gramercy Park. But——"

"It sounds like the chorus of a song; 'Theresa O'Reilly, of Gramercy Park,'" Clo was unable to resist remarking, with her strongest brogue. "Will you please ask me in?" she said. "My errand's very pressing."

Mechanically the man stepped aside and let her walk into the room. He began to suspect that he had been "spoofed." He did not invite the young person to be seated, but looked at her expectantly. Her first move was to shut the door. She did not speak.

"May I know your name?" he inquired, as they faced each other.

"The same as yours, but for a letter or two," said Clo, marking time. "That's why I may be a cousin; one never knows. I didn't come to talk about the family tree, though, Mr. O'Reilly. I came to beg—not for money, so don't be frightened."

"I'm not conscious of fear," laughed O'Reilly. He couldn't help laughing. He didn't believe the girl's name was the "same as his." "If I'm not afraid, I am curious," he confessed. "What are you going to beg for, if not money? Is this a message from my cousin——?"

Clo ceased suddenly to be impish. She had got into the enemy's fastness by her impishness, but she could go no further on that line. This man, being the exact opposite of the type expected, upset her plan. A big danger was that she might like this O'Reilly instead of hating him, he was so pleasant and gallant-looking, more a protector than a persecutor of women. She might hesitate to cheat or trick him in whatever way came handy, and thus fail the Angel on top of all her boasts. In her hot little heart Clo prayed for the wisdom of the serpent, and as her elfin face took on anxious lines, she became more interesting to O'Reilly. Her white face looked pinched and desperate. "If I were Marat, and she Charlotte Corday," was the thought that jumped into his head, "she would stab me."

"It's a good thing for me you have a cousin, or maybe you wouldn't have let me in. I know now why God gave me the name of Riley. I guess he'll forgive me for borrowing the 'O.' I was obliged to get to you somehow. That was the one way I could think of."

"It was a pretty smart way," O'Reilly flattered her. "But you haven't told me——"

"I will. Only—I think I'll have to sit down. I feel rather—queer——"

"Good lord! You can't faint here!"

"I won't, unless you make me, I'll promise that!" She had her cue now.

"Sit down, for heaven's sake!" said O'Reilly, pulling up the biggest chair in the room. Clo sank into it. Closing her eyes, she drew in a gasping breath which made her girlish bosom heave.

The man stood by, feeling absurdly helpless.

"Shall I ring for brandy?" he suggested.

"No—please!" She opened her great eyes again. "Only listen. I've come from Mrs. Roger Sands—to beg you for those papers of hers."

"Mrs. Roger Sands! Her papers? I know nothing of any papers belonging to Mrs. Roger Sands," O'Reilly exclaimed. "What papers are you talking about?"

"The ones you hired a man to steal when the train got to Chicago."

O'Reilly started. "Whose accusation is that?" he asked sharply.

"Not hers; it's mine."

"Yours! Once again, who are you? What are you in this?"

"I'm nobody! I'm only—a lion's mouse."

O'Reilly did not ask what it meant to be a lion's mouse. He understood. His mind was not less quick than hers.

"And I'm the net you hope to gnaw! Miss Mouse, your little teeth will find me tough. I may say I'm a patent, ungnawable net. The best thing for you is to go home as fast as you can and tell those who sent you——"

"I sent myself," Clo explained, with tired obstinacy. "I told you I had to see you somehow. Oh, Mr. O'Reilly, you don't look the sort of cruel pig I thought you would be. If you dreamed what Mrs. Sands is going through you'd give her back the papers. Don't pretend not to know what I mean."

"I won't pretend anything," O'Reilly said. "I do know what you mean, and I got the documents (which were not the property of Mrs. Sands) more or less as you think I got them. But no mouse, no mastodon could induce me to hand them over to your friend."

Clo's eyes travelled over his person. He looked slim and soldierly in his well-made evening clothes. There could be nothing thicker than a watch, and that a thin one, in his pockets.

"If you would see Mrs. Sands, maybe you'd change your mind," she pleaded, in her creamiest Irish voice. "Take me back to her, and take the papers along. Then, if you——"

"I can't do either," was O'Reilly's ultimatum. "I'll take you downstairs and put you in your car if you've got one, or a taxi if you haven't. But——"

"You'll have to take me home," said Clo. "I won't try to start without you. I've gone through enough. I'll just let myself collapse. I promised not to faint unless you made me. Now you are making me."

"You deserve to be thrown out of the window!"

"I have been, once," the pale girl announced. "It was four storeys up, and all my ribs were smashed. This is my first day out of bed. I thought I could manage it, if you were kind. I'd gladly die for Mrs. Sands. And if I do——"

"Brace up!" O'Reilly cried. "I'll take you home. I know where the house is. I passed it this afternoon. There was a man who——But no matter. Have you got a car below?"

Clo was almost past answering; almost, not quite. But weakness was her "cue," as well as the line of least resistance. Having now an incentive to let herself go rather than "brace up" as O'Reilly urged, she enjoyed collapsing. Yet something within was on guard, and knew that O'Reilly had to be watched.

He dashed to the telephone and ordered a taxi. Then he returned to the girl in the chair. Her eyes were half shut, a rim of white showing between the lashes. The man could not help believing the queer story she had gasped out, about the fall, and the broken ribs, and this being the first day she had left her bed. That would account for her thinness and paleness. He touched her hand, which hung over the arm of the chair. There was no glove on it, and the pathetically small thing was icy cold.

"She's fainted, fast enough," he growled. Clo heard the words dimly, as though she had cotton wool in her ears. Her duty was to trick the man, but she didn't like doing that duty.

O'Reilly gently laid down the tiny paw he had taken in his. It was limp as the hand of a dead girl. Clo would have felt less compunction if he had dropped it roughly. He took a few brisk steps, as though he had come to some decision. She forced herself back from the brink of unconsciousness to realize that he was going toward the door—not the outer door, through which she had entered, but another. He opened this, and Clo saw that beyond was a bedroom. Quickly he went to a table where stood a tall glass jug filled with crushed ice and water. His back was turned to the girl as he began pouring the jug's contents into a tumbler, but suddenly, as if on a strong impulse, he turned. Clo did not even quiver. Something told her that the thing she had prayed for was about to happen.



XI

O'REILLY'S WAISTCOAT POCKET

O'Reilly's first look into the sitting room was not for the girl. Involuntarily, it seemed, he sent a lightning glance to the left, to that side of the room farthest from the big chair where she sat. Clo's desperate need to know what was in his head inspired her with clairvoyance. Consciousness lit her brain once more. She was sure that she had read his thoughts. He feared that after all she was fooling him. He was saying in his mind: "What if she meant me to go and fetch this water while she looks for what she wants to find?"

Now Clo was certain at last, not only of his having the papers, but that they were in the room, somewhere on that left side, where his glance had flashed. It was hard to keep still, without the flicker of an eyelash; but she believed, as O'Reilly came back to her, that she had stood the test of his stare.

He moistened his handkerchief, and gingerly dabbed the girl's forehead. It was a relief to "come to," to be able to start, and draw a long breath.

"There! You're better, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes," she breathed. "I should like to go home, but I'm afraid——"

"Don't be. I'm going with you," he said. "By this time a taxi's waiting for us. Do you think you can walk if I give you my arm?"

"I'll try," Clo answered, gratefully.

No pretence of weakness was needed. She felt like a rag. O'Reilly took her by the hand, and with an arm round the slim waist raised the girl to her feet. Once up, she swayed as if she might fall, but he held her firmly. "Lean against me," he said, in a kind voice.

She had never before been so near to a man in her life. "You're very good to me," she whispered. "I should like you, please, to remember that I thank you."

"I'm sorry I said you deserved to be thrown out of the window," O'Reilly absolved himself. "Whatever else you may be, you're a good plucked one. Now, here we are at the door. Are you sure you can walk to the elevator? Hang on to my arm."

She hung on to it.

They reached the lift, which came to them in a few seconds, unoccupied save for the youth who ran it. Clodagh kept up bravely until she was seated in the taxi, and could have kept up until the end without too great an effort, for her collapse had made her feel rested. It was not, however, the girl's metier to "keep up." The task was but half accomplished. The hardest part was to come.

She knew—or thought she knew—that O'Reilly had the papers, that they were in New York; not only in New York, but in his private sitting room at the Dietz Hotel. They were in some hiding-place there; and for an instant he had feared her knowledge of its existence. He had expected her to try, while his back was turned, to steal its contents. Clo's nimble brain, deducing all this from what had happened, deduced something else as well. The man would have had no fear if the secret were impossible for an outsider to learn. It could not be impossible. It couldn't even be difficult, if she might have solved the puzzle while his back was turned. For her, O'Reilly's uneasiness was a hopeful sign. Somewhere on the window side of his private parlour at the Dietz the papers which Angel needed were hidden. Each second during the girl's slow progress to the lift, her descent, and her short walk to the taxi, was spent in sorting out these deductions.

Those big black eyes of Clodagh Riley's had not been given her in vain. One swift glance during the cold-water treatment had shown her many details useful to remember. On one side of the window was a desk. In the desk was a drawer, and the key thereof was in the keyhole. It seemed improbable that secret papers should be kept in such a place, but circumstances might have forced O'Reilly to leave them there.

On the other side of the window was a kind of buffet, with glass doors and shelves and a closed cupboard, but Clo had less hope of this than of the desk. There might be a less obvious hiding hole than either, perhaps a sliding panel in the wall. There must in any case be a key, and that key must be on the person of O'Reilly.

She would have to use all her wits to get it while they were together in the taxi! And there was the key of the suite to get also; but that would be easier. She had seen O'Reilly take the big key from a table, as they went by, slipping it into the pocket of his dinner jacket. Forced to support his half-fainting guest, he had not put on an outer coat, so the key was within reach of clever and determined fingers. Clodagh's were determined, and—she hoped—clever.

With this design burning in her head and tingling in her hands, she decided to faint again as they started for home, and keep O'Reilly occupied every inch of the way.

"I'm afraid—I'm not so strong—after all——" she sighed, as the taxi door shut, and proceeded to "flop" like a large rag doll. Her head fell on the man's breast, and rolled across to his left arm, her hat askew.

"I'm very ill," she moaned. "Something hurts so! My hat-pin——" And her voice trailed into silence.

"Poor child!" the man exclaimed, completely taken in at last. The hat-pin was sticking in very deep! Not that she minded a little pain. But the great thing was to keep O'Reilly's hands busy.

Clumsily, obstinately, he fumbled among the meshes of ostrich plume wound around her hat. The head of the pin eluding him there, he tried beneath the brim, his fingers tangling in thick waves of hair. They were soft waves, softer and silkier than the ostrich plume. No man with blood in his veins could have touched them without a thrill. The girl on his breast, her face on his arm, one hand holding her up, another caught in her hair, O'Reilly was conscious of electric shocks.

His hands and attention thus engaged, Clo got the chance she'd waited for. Delicately, stealthily, like the "mouse" she called herself, she extracted the door key from O'Reilly's pocket. So far, so good. But the next deed would try her mettle. Lightly as a flitting shadow the small fingers moved over the man's waistcoat, from the belt line to the breast. She could feel his heart thump, and almost started, but controlled herself.

Clo had noticed that men often wore a short chain or ribbon, attached to a watch, and hanging from the waistcoat pocket with a seal, a society badge or a lucky souvenir. O'Reilly wore no ornament of that sort; but there was a watch, a thin watch which she could feel through the cloth, and some flat object with it. If she could slip a finger into that pocket without his knowing!

But now they were in Park Avenue, not far from the imposing apartment house at the corner, where Mr. and Mrs. Sands lived. Clo availed herself of a slight bump, and showed signs of sliding off the seat. O'Reilly, who had just extracted the hat-pin and stuck it into his coat, steadied her with an effort. Fortunately there was no need to look out and stop the chauffeur. That afternoon O'Reilly had passed the building, informed by Count Lovoresco who lived there, and had looked up with a certain curiosity. He remembered the number, and in leaving the Dietz had been able to give the address.

The taxi stopped, and O'Reilly prepared to carry the fainting girl into the house. She would be a light load. As he got out of the taxi with Clo in his arms a man came forward.

"Won't you let me help you, sir?" he civilly inquired.

"You may run ahead," said O'Reilly. "I can manage the young lady myself."

The man who had offered his services disappeared into the house, and found the porter, a substantial person in livery. Clo conveniently revived when placed on the seat of the lift. O'Reilly sat by her side, supporting the limp body, her hat in his hand, while the porter shot the elevator up to the Sands' floor.

"Lord a'mighty!" the old fellow exclaimed, "if this ain't the poor child that's been an invalid all these weeks! Mrs. Sands will be in a way! Must be near eight weeks since this little gal was brought in on a stretcher, lookin' like dead. She ought to be in bed."

"Somebody should have looked after her," said O'Reilly.

"That's it, sir. Her nurse is out, gaddin'."

"Brute!" Clo heard O'Reilly mutter. And leaning comfortably against his shoulder she felt wicked, treacherous, because she had more than once applied the same epithet to him. Whatever happened, never would she do that again!

The elevator stopped. The porter touched the electric bell at the Sands' door, and almost instantly a manservant appeared. His cry of surprise brought Mrs. Sands herself out from a room at the end of the hall. The porter tried to explain everything; failed; broke off to question O'Reilly; O'Reilly answered; Beverley exclaimed; and among them, all was confusion. Clo, looking through half-shut eyes over her bearer's shoulder, saw a shadow flit between the portieres. Had some one come in? If so, who could it be? Or was it only the shadow of a blowing curtain she had seen? The question did not strike her as important just then, for if any one had passed it was doubtless a servant or, at worst, Sister Lake. Besides, Clo had much to think of; how to come back to consciousness quickly without rousing suspicion, and, when officially alive again, how to escape for the next errand.

The rush of air and babble of excited voices gave her an excuse to gasp, and stammer out a conventional "Where am I?"

"We'll get you to your room, dear," said Beverley; and Clo wondered if her acting had deceived Angel. "The butler can——"

"No, thanks, I'll manage her by myself," O'Reilly broke in and carried the white bundle along the hall.

"This is her room," Mrs. Sands explained to him. "If you will put her on the bed...."

"No—please! Take me on into the next room, Sister Lake's room. I must be there. I'll tell you why presently," the girl pleaded.

Beverley threw open the door between the two rooms, hurried ahead, and turned on a light.

"Now, lay me on this bed," Clo commanded.

Having obeyed, O'Reilly stood as if awaiting further orders. Clo glanced from him imploringly to Mrs. Sands. "I've gone through such a lot!" she moaned. "I've suffered so! I felt I could never get home alive. Please, Mr. O'Reilly—you've been kind—don't let it all be for nothing!"

"What do you want of me?" he stiffly inquired.

"Only for you to talk to Mrs. Sands. In that next room—my room. Nobody will disturb you. If the nurse comes back, she'll come into her own room first. That's why I asked you to bring me to it. I couldn't persuade you to give me the papers. Perhaps even Mrs. Sands can't persuade you. But I beg, I pray you, to give her the chance. Listen to what she has to say."

"Very well," he answered, grudgingly. "I'll do what you ask. But I'll do it for your sake."

Beverley had remained on the threshold of the next room. Now she retreated into it. O'Reilly followed; but at the door he turned. "Good-bye," he said to Clo.

"Good-bye," she echoed. "And thank you again—for everything."

She had more to thank him for than he knew—the contents of her tightly clutched hand.



XII

THE HORIZONTAL PANEL

Following Mrs. Sands, O'Reilly left the door between the two rooms open; but Beverley stepped quickly back and closed it.

"She's grand, the darling!" thought Clo. "Trust her to forget nothing. Her shutting that door proves how she counts on me."

The girl was deadly tired, and her head ached, yet she struggled up as the door clicked. O'Reilly had brought in her hat and dropped it on a table. There was no hat-pin, but Clo crushed the soft toque down over her masses of red hair, and hoped she was not untidy enough to be conspicuous. Unsteadily she tottered to another door—the door that led into the corridor. This faced a narrower passage to the kitchen and domestic offices of the flat. Clo would have to take that way because, if she ventured into the lift and showed herself in the hall below, the porter might take alarm. He might fear that Mrs. Sands' protegee was trying to escape for some sly purpose of her own, and refuse to let her go till he had telephoned upstairs.

In a quaint outside pocket of her new frock Clo had put the purse given her by Beverley. Through her adventures she had remembered to make sure occasionally that it had not dropped out. Now she opened the purse, selecting two ten-dollar bills and two of five dollars.

"That ought to do for 'em all," she said, "even if the lot are at home." And, money in hand, she ventured to the kitchen door. Only the chef and a woman assistant were at work.

"I'm Clo Riley, the girl Mrs. Sands has been good to," she eagerly explained. "I'm well again, and I have to go out. Mrs. Sands has a visitor, and I don't like to disturb them. Will you let me down your way?" So speaking she laid a ten-dollar bill and a five-dollar bill side by side on a table. She made no reference to the money, nor any gesture indicating it; nor did the others appear to see it.

The chef escorted her in silence to the servants' elevator. There was a button to push, and down the girl went, rejoiced at passing another stage of her journey. Five minutes more, and she was in a taxi, tearing back to the Dietz Hotel.

This time she marched boldly to a lift in a long row of half a dozen. "Fifteenth floor, please," she said, as if she owned the hotel; and was taken up without question. "Thanks to my swell clothes!" she thought. "Not far would I get in this place if I had on my old black!"

Armed with O'Reilly's key Clo threaded her way through several corridors and arrived at the door of his suite. Her fingers shook so that she could not find the lock, and as she fumbled for it, the door of an adjoining suite opened. The nerve-tried girl started as if she had been shot, and dropped the key on the carpet.

"Silly fool!" she scolded herself as she stooped to retrieve it, and to hide her face. If only the people (she knew by the voices they were man and woman) would pass before she had to look up! But they were in no hurry to pass. They had paused in front of their own door, and were talking in low tones—about her, Clo was sure!

In a big hotel, the chances were ten to one against their knowing O'Reilly. Raising her head, she tried to eye the pair with airy arrogance.

"I mustn't seem to care," she thought, and tried to wither them with a look before again attacking the keyhole. The woman was beautiful, a glorious, dark creature, gorgeously dressed and jewelled. But oddly it was the man who riveted Clo's attention, the man whose eyes gave the girl an electric shock. He was a tall, lanky, middle-aged individual, with auburn hair and a close-cut red beard streaked with gray. He walked with shoulders bent, and had no distinction, despite his well-cut evening clothes. But from under a pair of beetling black brows there flashed a light which took Clo's breath away. She didn't know what to make of his look. It was as if she'd been struck by lightning.

"My goodness, after all he must be a friend of O'Reilly's!" she feared. Even that supposition wasn't enough to account for the flash. Frightened, she slid the key into the lock, and almost falling into the room slammed the door behind her. She did not need to lock it, for without a key it could not be opened from the outside.

"I can hold the fort a few minutes now, whatever happens!"

In the corridor John Heron and his wife lingered in front of their own door.

"Well, if that's not the queerest thing I ever saw or heard of!" Heron exclaimed.

Coming out of their suite, they had caught an impressionist glimpse of a figure in white bent over the keyhole, then the figure had stooped for the dropped key, and mechanically they had paused in surprise.

"I wonder if she's made a mistake in the room?" Mrs. Heron had whispered, and Heron had returned:

"Yes, I think that must be so. She'll find it out and go somewhere else. O'Reilly isn't——"

There he had stopped short when the girl raised her head to face them; and when she presently vanished into his friend's room like a whirlwind, he neither finished his sentence nor answered his wife.

"What's the matter, Jack?" Mrs. Heron asked. "How odd you look!"

("Jack" was not a nickname that suited Heron, but his wife thought it debonair.)

"Why don't you speak?" she persisted.

"I was thinking," Heron said at last.

"Thinking what we ought to do?" his wife caught him up. "Shall we knock and ask O'Reilly if he's ready to go down with us?"

"No. We can't do that."

"I suppose not. But weren't you going to say it isn't like O'Reilly to have a girl calling on him in his rooms?"

"I don't remember what I was going to say," he snubbed her. "It doesn't matter, anyhow. After all, why shouldn't he? What is it to us?"

"Well, I feel queer about it," objected Dolores Heron. "The creature may be a hotel thief?"

"Nonsense!" fumed the man. "The girl was a child—sixteen or seventeen. We can't mix ourselves up in such an affair. Let's mind our own business."

"You needn't be so cross. I haven't done anything," Dolores reproached him. They went down together, and sat side by side on a rose-coloured brocade sofa in the immense salon generally known as the "hall." Not one of the ladies present was handsomer than Mrs. Heron, not one had more beautiful jewels or a more perfect dress, and all the men openly admired her—except her own husband.

Upstairs the girl in question was making the most of every moment. The queer little key attached to O'Reilly's watch couldn't belong to the desk, still, there might be a box inside the desk which it would fit. Clo searched everywhere and everything. At last, it seemed that nothing was left to try, when suddenly she recalled a paragraph in a newspaper. She had seen it in a Sunday Supplement. Why, yes, Miss Blackburne, the pearl-stringer, had given her the paper that Sunday long ago at Yonkers, to read on the journey home. The paragraph described the up-to-date feature added to some important hotel. Small safes had been placed in the walls of rooms for the benefit of guests, each key being different in design from every other. Clo could not remember the name of the hotel referred to. Perhaps it was this one. If not, the Dietz wasn't likely to let a rival get ahead of it. The girl stared at the wall. Any one of those panels might conceal a safe! There were lots of panels of different sizes, painted a soft gray and edged with delicate white mouldings. To test each would take hours (unless she had luck and hit on the right one first) for there might be a spring hidden in the flowery pattern of the moulding. But—it was to the left side of the room that O'Reilly had flung his anxious glance. She would begin, and hoped to end, her work on the left side. A few minutes spent in thinking out the situation, however, might save many minutes by and by. About those panels, for instance? Which were the most likely to hide a secret?

A frieze or skirting-board of gray painted wood ran round the room to a height of three feet above the pink-carpeted floor. Above this frieze, distributed at regular intervals, were large plaster panels, two on each side of the room, forming backgrounds for gold-framed, coloured prints; and between these were small, narrow panels, ornamented with conventional flower designs. Beneath and above the latter were panels still smaller, placed horizontally, and outlined with white curlicues and flutings. They were about four inches in height by ten inches in length; and on the left side of the wall there were two.

"Just the right size for nice big jewel boxes," Clo thought. "And the lower one's just the right height to open without stretching up. If I were putting a safe into a wall that's the place I'd choose!"

She passed her finger round the edge of one, the white-fluted edge, rather like the decoration of a fancy cake. Nothing happened. No spring clicked. She tried the other with the same result, then stood disappointed, only to return to the attack with new inspiration.

"I bet it pulls out!" she told herself. And—oh, joy, oh triumph!—it did pull out as she pressed her sharp little nails under the white fluting. The whole thing came away from the wall like the loose side of a box, having been kept in place by thin prongs of metal. Behind this cover was a steel or iron door of practically the same dimensions as the panel. It also was painted gray, and showed a tiny keyhole like a slit made with a pair of sharp scissors.

Clo deposited the cover close by on the desk, where it would be within reach if wanted in a hurry. Then she inserted the key attached to O'Reilly's watch. It slipped into place. It turned. It opened the small iron door, and Clo peered into the aperture. In the receptacle lay a pile of greenbacks held together with a paper band. There was also an envelope, but not the envelope the girl had pictured. It was larger, longer, wider, and thicker. It seemed to be made of coarse linen, and instead of the dainty gold seals with the monogram there were five official-looking red ones. Clo's heart contracted. It seemed too bad to be true. But there was plenty of space in this envelope to contain the other, as well as its contents.

"I'll have to open the thing and look," Clo half decided. But if she did, how could she make sure of what she wished to know? If the envelope with the gold seals had been removed, she had no means of recognizing the documents it had contained.

She took the linen envelope from the safe, and turned it over. Upon the other side was an address, written in a strong, peculiar hand: "Justin O'Reilly, care of The Manager, Columbian Bank, New York City," she read.

There was just one reason to believe that the envelope contained Mrs. Sands' papers; Clo's own strong, instinctive conviction.

Tentatively she pressed one of the seals. It cracked across. Another went the same way, and as she touched the third there came a sound of talking outside the door. "Open it for me with your pass-key, please," a man said. It was O'Reilly's voice.



XIII

"THERE CAN BE NO BARGAIN"

When Beverley Sands had shut the door between Clodagh's room and Sister Lake's, she stood silent before Justin O'Reilly.

"Well, Mrs. Sands," he said, "I must congratulate you."

"On—what?" she stammered. She looked very young and humble, not at all the proud princess who had captured Roger Sands against his will.

O'Reilly answered, still smiling his cruel smile, "It's not too late for congratulations on your marriage, is it? By the way, perhaps one wishes well to the bride and congratulates the bridegroom! I mean nothing invidious."

"You mean to hurt me all you can!" Beverley cried.

"I'm on the other side, Mrs. Sands."

"Don't I know that!" she answered bitterly. "I've known since I saw you on board the Santa Fe Limited that day last September. I expected—some one else, not you. But I guessed in an instant why you had come."

"I accepted the obligations of friendship," O'Reilly deigned to explain. "And that brings us to one of the subjects for congratulation: your friend. A wonderful young person. I congratulate you highly upon her. She informed me that she'd gladly die for you. Judging from her looks, she isn't far from doing so. I'm sure you must want to go to her now. Oh, by the by, one more congratulation: the pearls."

"How did you know?" Beverley forgot her humiliation in sheer amazement.

"Weren't you told that Heron was trying to buy them for his wife?" O'Reilly waived her question with another.

"No, indeed! They were a surprise present to me this afternoon from my husband. If I'd known that Mr. Heron...."

"You don't expect me to believe you'd have sacrificed them to Heron, or his wife, do you, Mrs. Sands?" O'Reilly laughed.

"I almost think I would. I'll give the pearls up to Mrs. Heron if you'll do as—as Clodagh Riley asked you to do. Oh, for pity's sake! I'd pay more than the pearls for those papers. I'd pay with my life if that would be of any use. I know it wouldn't. But the pearls—can't we bargain with the pearls?"

"We can't bargain at all, Mrs. Sands," O'Reilly said gravely. "I must go. I have an engagement to dine with the Herons. I should like to hear how my namesake is, and then I will be off."

Beverley had expected little from an appeal to this man's pity, but the coincidence of Heron's desire for the pearls was so strange that it ought to mean something. It seemed terrible that such a chance should be wasted. Could she persuade Roger to let her give up the pearls? O'Reilly would look at the wonderful things and report upon their beauty. The Herons might be tempted to treat with her. In any case, the scheme was worth the trial.

Silently she went to the door that she had closed, and peeped into Sister Lake's room. It was no surprise to her that Clodagh should have vanished. That was part of the plan. Her exclamation was for O'Reilly's benefit.

"The child's gone!" she cried. "That means she's feeling better. She must be in my room—or in my boudoir. Will you come with me? We'll look for her. It will be on your way out."

O'Reilly followed into the hall. Beverley, thinking quickly, went to the door of her own special sitting room, which adjoined her bedroom. A backward glance told her that the man had stopped facing the vestibule which gave exit from the flat. "Wait one moment," she said. "I'll see where Clodagh is." As she touched the door of the boudoir she was surprised to find it yielding before she turned the handle. This was odd, because she remembered shutting it the last time she came out. She had left the room only at the moment when O'Reilly brought in the half-fainting girl; and she had been particular to close the door because of the pearls. She had placed them on a table in the boudoir, ready for the pearl-stringer. Not that she feared their being stolen! Her own maid had been sent out for the afternoon. Two of the other servants had been given a holiday. Only the butler, the cook, and his assistant were at home, and all three had been in Roger's employ for years. They were above suspicion, and besides, they knew nothing of the pearls. Not a soul knew, save herself, Roger, Clo, and now O'Reilly. Roger had started off in his car before she brought the pearls from her bedroom into the boudoir. Who, then, had opened the door? Perhaps, after all, Clo had not dared attempt the second adventure. Perhaps she was still in the flat, and for some reason to be explained later, had taken refuge in the boudoir?

A glance, however, showed that the girl was not there. The electric light flashed upon a room untenanted. There was the magnificent but broken rope in its case, wound in gleaming, concentric circles, the unstrung pearls retrieved from the floor grouped together on the purple cushion. The door stood open between boudoir and bedroom. Beverley thought that this had been shut also, though she was not sure. "Clo!" she called softly. There was some slight sound, or she imagined it. Quickly she went to the bedroom door, and peeped in, flooding the place with light. Clo was not to be seen. Turning off the electricity again Beverley went out to O'Reilly in the hall.

"Come with me one moment," she said. "I've something to show you."

O'Reilly hesitated.

"Is your friend there? Does she wish to speak to me?" he asked.

"Come and see," Beverley persisted. She led the way into the boudoir, and reluctantly her companion crossed the threshold. Mrs. Sands pointed to the pearls. "I wanted so much to show them to you. See how wonderful they are! Mr. Heron's so proud of his wife. I could arrange some plan, I'm sure, if—if——"

A door slammed, and Beverley's sentence broke off with a gasp. Mechanically she shut down the cover of the velvet case. If Roger had come back; if, after all, he had only pretended to go for the pearl-stringer! She dared not guess what he would think at finding O'Reilly with her in his house. Too well she remembered the day of their one quarrel, when he had brought up this man's name in connection with Clo's, when he had accused her of crying it out in her sleep.

"Mr. O'Reilly," she said, very quietly, "that may be my husband coming home. If it is, you will have to meet him. It can't be avoided. But I should like to speak to him first, if you will wait in this room for a moment."

Without giving him time to answer she ran out. Minutes passed. Justin heard voices, women's voices. One, it seemed to him, was raised in anger. After all, it couldn't be Sands who had come! O'Reilly grew impatient, and fumbling for his watch he found it gone. Great Scott! Stolen! He remembered a certain small key attached to the chain. In a flash of enlightenment the whole plot mapped itself out before his eyes. Furious, his impulse was to dash from the room and denounce the chief culprit. But Beverley Sands' appeal to his chivalry stopped him like a chain round his feet.

Now she called his name, and he opened the door.

"It was my friend's nurse who came in," she said. "She threatens to leave at once. I must talk with her, try to soothe her down before my husband comes. He hasn't arrived, after all—and may not for a long time. But the way I felt when I thought he was here, shows me I oughtn't to keep you. Tell me once and for all before you go, now you've seen the pearls; is there any hope?"

"None whatever," O'Reilly cut her short. "I'm going, Mrs. Sands. You need have no fear of me where your husband's concerned, though I understand now exactly why I was brought here, why I was kept till you were afraid to keep me longer. Your little friend is as smart at picking pockets as she is at acting. Again, I congratulate you upon her. But the effort's going to be wasted. Good-night."

Beverley stood still, and let him go. She had no answer to make. Precisely what he meant by his accusation she did not understand, but she knew that, while she detained him, Clo had indeed dared the great adventure. For a moment Beverley thought of the pearls almost with distaste. That they should come to her to-day, when she cared for nothing in the world but the lost papers, was an irony of fate. She did not return to the boudoir. She forgot the mystery of the open door, and neglected to close it. She was nervously anxious to excuse herself to Sister Lake. Above all, it was her duty to defend Clo. She must confess that it was upon her errand the girl had defied authority.

"Please don't blame the child," she pleaded. "She knew I needed something done for me—a thing I couldn't do myself. So she made this sacrifice. You must forgive us both."

But Sister Lake was not to be placated. If Miss Riley were well enough to do Mrs. Sands' errands by day and night, a nurse's services were no longer needed. Sister Lake considered herself well paid, and would accept no present in addition. The butler was summoned to call a taxi and attend to sending down the small luggage. Meantime the Queen's pearls were forgotten.



XIV

THE STONE COPING

This was bad luck! Clo had not expected O'Reilly to track her down so soon. But he was at the door. There was only that frail barrier of wood, and the space of a few seconds between them! He had discovered the loss of his door key, and doubtless the other loss as well. He had guessed who was the thief, and what was the thief's motive. He had hurried home. A moment more—just the little delay of fitting in a pass key—and he would catch the culprit red-handed; he would deprive her of the spoils!

Clear as a "cut in" from some moving picture, a scene rose before Clodagh's eyes. She saw herself at grips with O'Reilly. She saw him wrench the envelope from her hands as she resisted. She saw herself sobbing over her failure and Angel's lost hopes. That picture mustn't come true! The key attached to the watch-chain, she had removed from the safe door, and had laid watch and all on a buffet. Beside them she had placed the door key. Now, as the chambermaid chattered in the corridor, and O'Reilly made light of his loss, Clodagh moved faster than any figure in a moving picture. She snatched up everything on the buffet, pushed all into the safe, softly shut the steel door, concealed it with the panel which slipped readily into its groove, and fled into the adjoining bedroom.

Lights from across a court showed that the sole doors were those of a bath and a clothes-closet. There was no way out from the bedroom. Entrance and exit to the suite were to be had only through the sitting room.

"I might have known," Clo reflected. Too late she recalled that through the nearest door had appeared the couple in evening dress. She was caught like a mouse in a trap (poor mouse, who had meant to gnaw the encircling net!) caught unless—unless! Her heart gave a leap as she saw the one way out.

The night was warm, and the window had been opened wide to let in the blue dusk. Light from opposite windows giving on the court shone upon a stone coping. It was broad, as copings go, broad enough for some white roses dropped from a window above to lodge without falling farther. It was this conspicuous splash of white on the dark stone which put into Clo's mind the word "unless."

The chambermaid was rattling her pass key in the lock. If the thing were to be done, it must be done now! Yes, that stone coping ran all the way along under O'Reilly's window as well as those opposite. It was quite fourteen or fifteen inches in width, Clo thought, and was placed twice as many inches below the window sill. It would be easy to step down on to the ledge; and only a short distance away was the window of the next room, a room in the suite occupied by the couple she had seen. That window was open, like O'Reilly's. Clo could be sure of this, because the lace curtains were blowing out in the draught from some other window. They were of thick lace covered with embroidery, and if one could catch hold of a curtain as it blew the stuff wouldn't tear. As for the stolen envelope, it was safe in one of those odd, new-fashioned pockets of hers. Hastily she made it more secure with a big pin, by which she fastened it to the cloth of her dress. Thus both hands were free. But it took courage to start!

"Oh, I must, I must do it!" she thought, her body ice, her soul aflame. "It's for Angel! If I don't look down, I shall be all right. And even if I fall and smash like an egg I'll be no worse off than before she saved me. I'll be back just where I was that day."

Uninvited, the chambermaid had followed O'Reilly into the next room. She was talking volubly, hoping that he'd mislaid the door key, that it hadn't been stolen. Clo, in making her dash for the bedroom, had quietly closed the door between, but she could hear that the two were talking.

Anyhow, the girl tried to think, it was the first step that cost! Once outside the bedroom window, plastered against the wall, the danger of being caught was over. O'Reilly would search the clothes-closet, and peer into the bath. Then he would suppose that the bird was already flown. Never would he dream that a girl would dare what she meant to dare.

Oddly enough, that reflection decided Clo to act. For the moment, fear left her free. She stepped briskly over the window sill with one foot, and landed on the ledge. It felt solid, almost comforting; but as she groped for it with the other foot, horror caught her again, poured through her veins like iced water and made her heart feel a dead thing. She tried not to think of anything except that kind curtain flapping in the wind. She clung to the window-frame with fingers so damp that they slipped on the stone. Holding on for dear life—yes, life was dear, now it hung by a thread!—she edged along, her cheek scraping the wall as she moved. One step, two, three—another would take her so far that she must let go of the window frame. Could she reach the blowing curtain? A few moments ago it had seemed to beckon. Now she depended on it the white folds eluded her hand. If the wind dropped, she was lost. She couldn't help thinking of all the things she wished not to think of. She thought of that immense depth below her narrow perch. She didn't believe the man or woman lived strong-minded enough to forget it!

As she reached out with her free arm for the curtain, a light sprang up from the room she had left. O'Reilly was there, searching for her. It had been simple to say, while she stood on a solid floor, that he would not look out of the window. But he might look out: he might hear her feet shuffling along the ledge. If his head appeared now, she would fall.

The girl began to shake all over like a winter leaf on a high branch. She would have to go, she thought. But the curtain was blowing very near, so near that she ventured another step. The lace brushed her fingers. With a last effort she grasped a fold. Courage came back. Now she had let go of O'Reilly's window frame. She had passed on beyond hope of return, and yet she had no firm grasp upon the curtain. Before it could give the support a rope gives a climber, she must slowly, patiently, draw it toward her inch by inch until she had it taut.

"Angel, are you praying for me?" she wondered. Because she could not pray for herself. She could only count. Dimly, she felt it odd that it should calm her nerves to count each time her fingers closed upon the curtain. But it did calm them.

"Seven, eight, nine, ten." The fold of lace began to be taut. Drawing it toward her, she started on once more on that endless journey of a few inches. Thank heaven, the light in O'Reilly's bedroom had been switched off. The man must have given up the chase, and gone back to the sitting room. For the present she was safe from him. But what a queer word "safe" was, just then. "Eleven, twelve, thirteen." Thanks to the curtain rope, she had almost reached her goal. "Fourteen, fifteen." She had got so far that she could let the curtain go and fling her arms over the window sill. She threw her body upon it, and lay still for an instant, utterly spent now the strain was over. But was it over? No, not yet. If her feet slipped from the coping, she would have no strength for the effort of climbing in at the window. She would hang for a minute and then—drop.

"The papers," she reminded herself, for a mental tonic. "They're so nearly safe now. Brace up, Clo! A minute more and you'll be out of trouble."

The room beyond was, like O'Reilly's, unlighted. Thank goodness, there'd be no squalling lady's maid to give an alarm. Clo allowed herself time to breathe, resting on the window sill. Then she prepared to draw herself over. Wrapping the curtain round her right hand, and clutching the lace firmly with her left hand, she found a heavy piece of furniture just inside the window. It seemed to be a dressing-table with a mirror suspended between two spiral posts. Grasping one, Clo pulled the table closer, till it refused to move. This gave a lever on which she might depend. She clung to the curtain and post, till she could plant first one knee, then its fellow, on the window sill. It seemed an easy thing to do, and would have been easy had not her strength been nearly spent. Her quivering muscles responded slowly to this last call, but they did respond. Soon she was kneeling on the window sill. Then one foot was over, groping for the floor. She had just found it when a key grated in a lock, and before she could hide behind the curtains a door opened wide. A flood of light streamed in from the corridor, and outlined her white form against the blue background of the night.



XV

THE NUMBER SEVENTEEN

To go back meant death, and the loss of Beverley's papers. Besides, she had been seen. For once, Clo's wits refused to work. Like a frozen flower, she remained motionless in the window.

The figure in the doorway was that of a man. The light coming from behind made his face a blank for her eyes, but the girl saw that he was taller than O'Reilly and of a different build. Perhaps it was the owner of the suite, he who had gone out with the beautiful woman. The man made no move. He stood in the doorway as if rooted to the floor. "My God!" Clo heard him mutter.

"The fool takes me for a ghost," she thought. "Now's my chance, before he plucks up courage!"

Down came the other white shoe on the carpet with no more noise than a rose-petal falling. Then followed a second of indecision. Should she risk pushing the man aside, and fleeing past him into the hall? No, her touch would break the spell. She must go on with the ghost-play, and vanish in the dark!

Light from outside showed her the open door of an adjoining room. Thence came the draught which had set the curtains blowing. Clo took a few floating steps toward the man, then dodged aside, and disappeared into the room beyond. Softly she closed the communicating door and slid the bolt. Almost opposite where she stood opened a cross passage leading to a wing of the hotel. With a bound she reached it, not daring to look behind, yet listening with the ear of the hunted for the hunter, as she ran. Coming to a staircase the girl plunged down it two steps at a time. On the floor below, however, she ventured to moderate her pace. This was the dinner hour; most of the guests would be in the restaurant, or out of the hotel for the evening; but there would be servants about. Clo forced herself to descend sedately, flight after flight of stairs, not daring to enter a lift. At last, when it seemed that she had come to earth from the top of Jacob's ladder, the stairway ended. Timidly following a passage that opened before her, she ventured into a wide, important hall.

There was a cloakroom in the hall. Ladies were going into it and coming out. Clo heard music in the distance and saw a marble balustrade. This balustrade was for her a landmark. She knew by it that she must have reached the story above the ground floor, and that the large corridor of the cloakroom opened on to a gallery overlooking the main hall. She had glanced up and admired that marble balustrade when she first entered the hotel. She had seen also a wide marble staircase leading up to the gallery. It must be near, she thought, but it was a way of exit to avoid. If O'Reilly were on guard below, or even if he had merely telephoned her description to the office, she and the stolen envelope would be promptly nabbed in the hall below. She had dared too much to be tamely taken now. Mirrors were let into the panels of the wall, and Clo paused before one, pretending to straighten her hat. She wanted time to make up her mind.

The ladies who left their wraps in this upstairs cloakroom must be dining in private rooms on the same floor, she thought. "Out there in the gallery their men will be waiting for them," the girl told herself. "And maybe that's where my man is waiting for me!"

One of these ladies, opening a gold chain bag to pull out her handkerchief, dropped a bit of paper with a number on it—Clo's favourite number, 17. It fluttered close to her feet; she stooped and picked it up. Common sense told her that the numbered slip was a cloakroom check. It might mean salvation. She walked leisurely into the cloakroom, though her nerves were a-jerk like the strings of a jumping-jack. "My cousin has asked me to come and fetch her wrap," she explained to a bored attendant. "There's a draught through the dining room. This is her check."

The woman accepted it without a word. She presently produced a long wrap of black chiffon, lined with blue. "Number seventeen. Here you are, miss." So speaking, she removed the duplicate check, which had been pinned to a frilled hood of the cloak. At sight of that hood a weight lifted from Clo's heart. It was more ornamental than practical, but it would be immensely useful to her. If she had been given her choice of cloaks, she couldn't have done better. Seventeen was bringing her luck.

"Oh, I believe I'd better leave my hat!" she said to the attendant, as if on a second thought. Unsuspiciously the woman took it, pinned a bit of paper to the lining, and handed the duplicate to Clo. "Nobody's got seventeen now, so I'll give it to you again." This seemed a good omen: seventeen for the second time! With the cloak over her arm she sauntered out of the room. Then back she went to the foot of the stairs, where was a quiet niche behind a big, potted palm, and close by was one of those convenient panel mirrors. Thus refuged, Clo slipped into the wrap, and arranged the floppy hood. It was far from becoming, for the frill fell almost to her eyes; but it hid the tell-tale red hair, and showed little of her face save the end of an impudent nose and the tip of a pointed chin. The cloak, made for a taller figure than Clo's, came nearly to her feet, and holding it together the white dress became invisible.

"Now for it!" she thought, like a soldier who goes "over the top" to charge the enemy. Head down, hood flapping, cloak floating, she sailed along the corridor and out into the gallery beyond. Yes, there was the marble staircase, and below was the great, bright hall; but in this disguise she could pass O'Reilly if he had assembled half the detectives in New York. So she tripped down the stairs, sedate, unhurried as the care-free girl whose cloak she had borrowed. Arrived in the hall, she knew her way out, and could hardly subdue the triumph in her voice as she said "Taxi, please," to an attendant porter.

"Where shall I tell him to go, miss?" came the question as she stepped into the cab; and for half a second she hesitated. By a clock she had seen in the hall it was just half-past eight. There would be time to go home, time for Angel to open the envelope and see if the contents were right, time to tell Angel her own adventures, and time to rest before keeping her tryst with Peterson.

She gave the number of the house in Park Avenue where Roger Sands lived. The door of the taxi shut with a reassuring "click." It was heavenly to lean back against the comfortable cushions! She ought to be entirely happy, entirely satisfied. Perhaps it was only reaction after so many hopes and fears, this weight that seemed to press upon her heart. Yet it was an obstinate weight. It grew heavier as the taxi brought her nearer home.



XVI

A QUOTATION FROM SHAKESPEARE

"Not easily jealous, but, being wrought, Perplexed in the extreme."

The words describing Othello's torment rang in Roger Sands' ears.

The words kept time with the purring throb of the motor that sped him on his wife's errand. Certain it was that he had not been easily jealous!

He had married a girl with a secret to keep, and he had never questioned her. He had made her a queen; and he was her loyal subject. She ruled him and his kingdom. Only to-day he had given her a queen's pearls. They were his atonement for an hour of distrust. How had she rewarded him? Roger reviewed the afternoon, since the presentation of the pearls, and there were details which he saw in a new light. So desperate had been her mysterious haste that she had broken the rope of pearls, and had not even stopped to pick up the scattered splendour.

Roger Sands' heart had been hard toward his wife when they met. He had settled upon a policy of silence for the present, while in self-protection he watched developments. He agreed quietly to Beverley's request that he should fetch the pearl-stringer, though feeling a cold, sick certainty of her motive in making it.

He went, as he had given his word that he would go, to 27 Elm Street, Yonkers. Miss Blackburne herself answered his ring: and when the name of Clo Riley was mentioned, she said at once that she would accompany Mr. Sands. Roger was kept waiting only while Miss Blackburne took leave of her mother, gathered together her materials, and packed a small bag; for it was clear that, if the pearl-stringer were to finish her work in one sitting, she would have to spend the night in Park Avenue.

The little woman, whose face seemed almost featureless to Roger Sands, was interested in the man as well as in the mission. The pearl-stringer had often heard of him in various ways; and her work took her into a set who knew, or gossiped, about his private affairs. She had listened to women's talk concerning Mrs. Sands, "the girl from nowhere," and, though Miss Blackburne was "good as gold," she did enjoy a little spicy scandal. She could in future make herself quite interesting to some of her regular clients by telling how she had worked for Mrs. Roger Sands; and not only for their sakes, but her own, did she look forward to this "job."

Secretly, Ellen Blackburne planned some day to write a volume of reminiscences, and she had a "feeling," as she sat in discreet silence beside Roger Sands in his car, that to-night she would get material for particularly good notes. She was conscious that his nerves were tensely strung. "It's just as if he were sitting in a thunder cloud charged full of electricity, with me getting some of the shocks," she told herself, thinking of her notebook, where she would make entries when she got home.

It was nearly a quarter past eight when Roger's latch-key opened the door of his apartment. Miss Blackburne was impressed, not only by the magnificence of the hall, but by the originality of its decoration.

Roger, having let himself and the pearl-stringer in with his latch-key, regretted that he had done so. He did not want to see Beverley alone just then. It would be better to have her summoned by a servant. Miss Blackburne was too observant of tiny details not to notice that he stepped back and pushed the electric bell outside the door, which he had not yet closed. And when he said to the butler: "Please tell Mrs. Sands that I have been able to bring back Miss Blackburne," the small student of character guessed at once that he wished to avoid meeting his wife.

The hall was large, and furnished like an extra drawing-room, therefore it was not inhospitable that Roger should leave the pearl-stringer alone there, with the excuse that he must dress for dinner. He was, he explained, going to his club. As he made this announcement, however, and before the butler could carry the message to Mrs. Sands, a dazzling vision appeared. It could be no other, Miss Blackburne felt, than Mrs. Sands herself; and she was right, for Beverley had dressed with unusual speed, yet with unwonted pains, in order to be ready for Roger's return.

The vision came into the hall before the butler had been able to deliver the message, and his wife's arrival whilst the man was present gave Roger an opportunity he would not miss. There was a question he wished to ask the old servant, in Beverley's hearing, but he had not expected the chance to come so soon. The butler retreated, stepping aside respectfully to let Mrs. Sands pass. But before the man could efface himself, and before greeting Beverley, Roger exclaimed, "Oh, by the by, Johnson, has any one been here since I went out?"

"Yes, sir," the butler replied, "one gentleman has been. He——"

But the vision intervened. "The gentleman wasn't a visitor, Johnson," she said, a sharp note in her voice, almost an agonized note. "You ought to explain to Mr. Sands that he came only to bring Miss Riley home." Then she hurried on, snatching the explanation from the servant's mouth, though she had ordered him to make it: "The poor child came back quite done up, nearly fainting. She had to be helped in, almost carried. The man stayed just long enough to hear that she was better. Is it Miss Blackburne you've been lucky enough to find, and bring back to me?"

All this rushed out in a breath. The lovely lady in white and silver smiled at the small person in brown pongee. But Roger Sands was not a man easy to play with.

"Yes, it is Miss Blackburne," he quietly answered. "What was the gentleman's name, Johnson? Did you hear it?"

There was a trifling pause while the servant replied. Mrs. Sands was still faintly smiling, a mechanical smile, and her eyes were suddenly dull as glass.

"Yes, sir, I believe I heard the name mentioned," Johnson admitted. "I thought it was the same as the young lady's; Riley or O'Riley. As Mrs. Sands remarks, sir, he wasn't exactly calling, so the name wasn't announced. It only reached my ears."

Roger looked straight at Beverley. The gaze was a challenge. "Was it Justin O'Reilly who came?" he inquired; and his eyes said: "if your conscience is clean, you'll understand that I'm not trying to extract any confession. I give you the chance to clear yourself, here and now, that's all."

But Beverley's face was flooded with one of her painful blushes, that always came when she wanted them least. She realized, too late, that Roger had enquired of Johnson because he suspected, perhaps even knew, that O'Reilly had been in the house.

"Yes, it was Justin O'Reilly who came and stopped about ten minutes," she answered, trying to keep her voice as calm as Roger's. "But this isn't very interesting to Miss Blackburne. It was good of her to give up her Sunday evening! Shall we——"

"Just a moment, please," Roger broke in, still in that deadly quiet voice which, it seemed, could betray nothing to a stranger, but for Beverley was a knife at her heart. "I must go out presently. Before starting to dress I should like to hear the latest news about your protegee. She looked all right, and not inclined to faint, when I saw her tripping into the house, just before I came in from my walk some time ago. By the by I think Mr. O'Reilly must have been with her then. He was passing the house, I noticed."

"I don't know anything about that," the answer came slowly. "Clo didn't mention seeing Mr. O'Reilly at that time. She rested and went out again later. Johnson was speaking of her second return."

Beverley knew that her husband could easily have questioned Johnson behind her back, and then have entrapped her perhaps, through her ignorance of what had passed. He had chosen instead, to be as frank as he was hard; and while she suffered, Beverley thanked her husband for cold justice.

"I must dress now," Roger said heavily. "I am dining at my club."

Murmuring some civility to Miss Blackburne, Sands turned away. A moment more, and his wife heard his bedroom door shut. At the sound it seemed that her heart must die in her breast! She felt a sensation of physical sickness, and would have given anything not to have the pearl-stringer on her hands. Here the woman was, however, and could not be treated with discourtesy!

"You will dine with me, of course, before beginning your work," Beverley said, trying to be cordial. But Miss Blackburne smiled and shook her head. She had had "high tea" at home with her mother, and could eat nothing more, she replied, thanking Mrs. Sands.

"I'll take you to my boudoir," Beverley said kindly to the little woman in brown. "The pearls are there. You'll be surprised at their beauty."

Miss Blackburne let her hostess lead the way. "There's a drama here, all right!" she told herself. "Has it anything to do with the pearls? But I shall know soon, I bet!"

The Vision opened the door of a charming room. The light was already switched on, and the new-comer noticed that a door stood wide open between the boudoir and the bedroom, which, also, was lighted. Miss Blackburne guessed that Mrs. Sands had only just finished dressing in a hurry as her husband came into the house. Perhaps, on account of the pearls, her maid had been released from duty. Anyhow, someone had forgotten to turn off the lights, and ... but Mrs. Sands herself was explaining.

"I left the door open between my room and this while I dressed," she said, "because of what you see on this table. I thought it might as well be here, as anywhere else, all ready and waiting for you."

She made a nervous gesture, and Miss Blackburne saw on the table indicated a large oval case of purple velvet, slightly old-fashioned looking, and adorned with a splendid gold crown. The pearl-stringer knew something about crowns and coronets: duchesses, countesses, baronesses, and small fry like that. But this crown was royal. She was going to get good "copy" for her notes!

Beverley's hand moved toward the purple case. She was in a desperate hurry to get her business with Miss Blackburne over, and escape into the hall again. She must try to have a word with Roger before he went, though she dared not—literally dared not—go to his room.

"You'll see the pearls, and——" she had begun, when her ears caught the sound of an electric bell; a loud, insistent peal.



XVII

THE MYSTERY OF THE BOUDOIR

"It's Roger," Beverley thought. "He's ringing for Johnson—perhaps to ask more questions!"

"I must speak to my husband," she said to Miss Blackburne. "The pearls are in that case. There are two hundred and fifty. About thirty came unstrung. You'll see for yourself how they ought to be graduated. I'll be with you again in a few minutes."

She flew to the hall, hoping to intercept Johnson before he could reach Roger's room. But the man was not on his way there. It was the sound of the door-bell she had heard. Johnson was in the act of admitting a girl in a black chiffon cloak lined with blue. A large frilled hood pulled over the wearer's eyes hid the profile from Beverley. The girl turned; it was Clo.

"I'll go with you to your room," Beverley said, controlling her voice for the benefit of Johnson, and trying not to show how frantic was her haste. It was only when she had noiselessly closed the door of the big, bare room, that she dared let herself go.

"What's happened?" she implored. "Why are you dressed like this? Of course you haven't got the papers?"

"I dressed like this to make a get-away," said Clo. "I stole the cloak. I'll tell you everything by and by. But first, you must find out for yourself whether I've got the papers. I've got something—something in a thick envelope. That's all I know."

She threw off the cloak of the girl at the Dietz, and unpinned the pocket which held the precious package—the pocket which, thanks to the pin, had guarded its contents through the whole series of her adventures.

Beverley took the large linen envelope, not even thanking Clo. Neither noticed the omission.

"Addressed to Justin O'Reilly!" she exclaimed. "It's the right size. But what makes you think it may have my envelope inside?"

"Because it was carefully hidden in a safe in the wall. I thought of opening it to make sure. There wasn't—enough time."

"I'll open it ... now!" said Beverley. Her words were firm, yet she hesitated, and turning, the envelope over, stared at the five official-looking red seals. What if it should contain legal documents belonging to some client of O'Reilly's?

"Tap—tap!" came at the door.

Beverley laid the envelope on the glass table, where Clo's medicine bottles once had stood. Over the red seals she flung her handkerchief, lest it should be Roger at the door.

Meanwhile, Clo had answered the knock and revealed Johnson.

"Madam, the lady who came with Mr. Sands wishes to see you immediately; it's very urgent," he announced.

"Say I'll be there in a few minutes," she replied. "I can't come just yet."

Johnson departed. "Madam will come in a few minutes," he repeated to Miss Blackburne, who had been anxiously awaiting him at a half-open door. "I think," he added, "she is busy, miss."

"In that case," suggested the pearl-stringer, "perhaps you'd better call Mr. Sands."

"Very well, miss, I'll do so." Johnson turned away, and Miss Blackburne retreated to the boudoir.

But it occurred to Clo that Roger might be summoned if Beverley delayed.

"Something must be worrying Miss Blackburne," she said. "I wonder if it's anything you'd like Mr. Sands to mix up in, or if you'd rather attend to it yourself? You know, we've lots of time before ten o'clock. If the papers are in this envelope, it's all right. If not, there's nothing doing."

Just why Beverley did not want Roger to go to her boudoir she hardly knew, unless she feared that a pearl might be missing, and that Roger would be more vexed than he was already. Whatever the motive in her mind, she felt suddenly impelled to haste. Even with Clo she could not leave the envelope. Wrapping it in the handkerchief to hide the address, she hurried off with it in her hand.

"You sent for me, Miss Blackburne?" she asked, as she threw open the door.

The pearl-stringer stood by the table, looking pale and strange.

"Oh, Mrs. Sands," she exclaimed, "you told me the pearls were in their case, but they're not. I found it empty. You must have laid them somewhere else."

Beverley wondered whether she had become temporarily insane, and had hidden the pearls in a place already forgotten. But in her heart she knew that nothing of the sort had happened.

"No," she said, answering herself as well as Miss Blackburne, "I didn't touch the pearls after I put them away, and brought them in here. Oh, please don't tease me! This is too serious!"

"Tease you!" echoed Miss Blackburne. "Why, Mrs. Sands, I wouldn't do such a thing! I wish to goodness I'd insisted on your staying till I'd opened the case and counted the pearls. I don't think I was ever so foolish before! Now, maybe you'll believe that I've sto——"

"No—no!" exclaimed Beverley, calmed by the other's distress. "Of course I believe nothing so foolish. Even if you—what nonsense to speak of it!—but even if you wanted the pearls, you couldn't hide them. Let me think! Let me go back in my mind over everything that happened. I was in the next room practically all the time when I wasn't here. The door was open between. I could have seen any one who came in. Oh, the pearls can't have been stolen. There's been nobody to steal them."

"What about our little friend, Clo Riley?" Miss Blackburne asked. "Could she possibly know anything? Mightn't she help with some suggestion? I thought hers one of the brightest, quickest minds I ever met. Indeed, I owe my life to its quickness."

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