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Carruthers' match crackled savagely as he lighted a cigar.
"Yes, I see," he growled. "But I don't see--you'll pardon my saying so--how vulgarity like that ever acquired membership in the St. James Club."
"Carruthers," said Jimmie Dale plaintively, "you ought to know better than that. You know, to begin with, since it seems he has advertised with you, that he runs some sort of brokerage business in Boston. He's taken a summer home up here on Long Island, and some misguided chap put him on the club's visitor's list. His card will NOT be renewed. Sleek customer, isn't he? Trifle familiar--I was only introduced to him last night."
Carruthers grunted, broke his burned match into pieces, and began to toss the pieces into an ash tray.
Jimmie Dale became absorbed in an inspection of his hands--those wonderful hands with long, slim, tapering fingers, whose clean, pink flesh masked a strength and power that was like to a steel vise.
Jimmie Dale looked up. "Going to print a nice little story for him about the 'costliest and most beautiful necklace in America'?" he inquired innocently.
Carruthers scowled. "No," he said bluntly. "I am not. He'll read the NEWS-ARGUS a long time before he reads anything about that, Jimmie."
But therein Carruthers was wrong--the NEWS-ARGUS carried the "story" of Markel's diamond necklace in three-inch "caps" in red ink on the front page in the next morning's edition--and Carruthers gloated over it because the morning NEWS-ARGUS was the ONLY paper in New York that did. Carruthers was to hear more of Markel and Markel's necklace than he thought, though for the time being the subject dropped between the two men.
It was still early, barely ten o'clock, when Carruthers left the club, and, preferring to walk to the newspaper offices, refused Jimmie Dale's offer of his limousine. It was but five minutes later when Jimmie Dale, after chatting for a moment or two with those about in the lobby, in turn sought the coat room, where Markel was being assisted into his coat.
"Getting home early, aren't you, Markel?" remarked Jimmie Dale pleasantly.
"Yes," said Markel, and ran his fingers fussily, comb fashion, through his whiskers. "Quite a little run out to my place, you know--and with, you know what, I don't care to be out too late."
"No, of course," concurred Jimmie Dale, getting into his own coat.
They walked out of the club together, and Markel climbed importantly into the tonneau of a big gray touring car.
"Ah--home, Peters," he sniffed at his chauffeur; and then, with a grandiloquent wave of his hand to Jimmie Dale: "'Night, Dale."
Jimmie Dale smiled with his eyes--which were hidden by the brim of his bat.
"Good-night, Markel," he replied, and the smile crept curiously to the corners of his mouth as he watched the gray car disappear down the street.
A limousine drew up, and Benson, Jimmie Dale's chauffeur, opened the door.
"Home, Mr. Dale?" he asked cheerily, touching his cap. "Yes, Benson--home," said Jimmie Dale absently, and stepped into the car.
It was a luxurious car, as everything that belonged to Jimmie Dale was luxurious--and he leaned back luxuriously on the cushions, extended his legs luxuriously to their full length, plunged his hands into his overcoat pockets--and then a change stole strangely, slowly over Jimmie Dale.
The sensitive fingers of his right hand in the pocket had touched, and now played delicately over a sealed envelope that they had found there, played over it as though indeed by the sense of touch alone they could read the contents--and he drew his body gradually erect.
It was another of those mysterious missives from--HER. The texture of the paper was invariably the same--like this one. How had it come there? Collusion with the coat boy at the club? That was hardly probable. Perhaps it had been there before he had entered the club for dinner--he remembered, now, that there had been several people passing, and that he had been jostled slightly in crossing the sidewalk. What, however, did it matter? It was there mysteriously, as scores of others had come to him mysteriously, with never a clew to her identity, to the identity of his--he smiled a little grimly--accomplice in crime.
He took the envelope from his pocket and stared at it. His fingers had not been at fault--it was one of hers. The faint, elusive, exquisite fragrance of some rare perfume came to him as he held it.
"I'd give," said Jimmie Dale wistfully to himself--"I'd give everything I own to know who you are--and some day, please God, I will know."
Jimmie Dale tore the envelope very gently, as though the tearing almost were an act of desecration--and extracted the letter from within. He began to read aloud hurriedly and in snatches:
"DEAR PHILANTHROPIC CROOK: Charleton Park Manor--Markel's house is the second one from the gates on the right-hand side--library leads off reception hall on left, door opposite staircase--telephone in reception hall near vestibule entrance, left-hand side--safe is one of your father's make, No. 14,321--clothes closet behind the desk-- probably will be kept in cash box--five servants; two men, three maids--quarters on top story--Markel and wife occupy room over library--French windows to dining room on opposite side of the house--opening on the lawn--get it TO-NIGHT, Jimmie--TO-MORROW WOULD BE TOO LATE--dispose of it--see fit--Henry Wilbur, Marshall Building, Broadway--fifth story--"
Through the glass-panelled front of the car, Jimmie Dale could see his chauffeur's back, and the hand that held the letter dropped now to his side, and Jimmie Dale stared--at his chauffeur's back. Then, presently, he read the letter again, as though committing it to memory now; and then, tearing the paper into tiny shreds, as he did with every one of her communications, he reached out of the window and allowed the little pieces to filter gradually from his hand.
The Gray Seal! He smiled in his whimsical way. If it were ever known! He, Jimmie Dale, with his social standing, his wealth, his position--the Gray Seal! Not a police official, not a secret- service bureau probably in the civilised world, but knew the name-- not a man, woman, or child certainly in this great city around him but to whom it was as familiar as their own! Danger? Yes. A battle of wits? Yes. His against everybody's--even against Carruthers', his old college chum! For, even as a reporter, before he had risen to the editorial desk, and even now that he had, Carruthers had been one of the keenest on the scent of the Gray Seal.
Danger? Yes. But it was worth it! Worth it a thousand times for the very lure of the danger itself; but worth it most of all for his association with her who, by some amazing means, verging indeed on the miraculous, came into touch with all these things, and supplied him with the data on which to work--that always some wrong might be righted, or gladness come where there had been gloom before, or hope where there had been despair--that into some fellow human's heart should come a gleam of sunshine. Yes, in spite of the howls of the police, the virulent diatribes of the press, an angry public screaming for his arrest, conviction, and punishment, there were those perhaps who even on their bended knees at night asked God's blessing on--the Gray Seal!
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