CHEAP AT THE PRICE
SO FAR as concerns the mental condition of any individual, nothing is more illuminating than to observe that particular part of the morning paper to which his attention is first turned. Thus one may determine who is interested in finance, property, agriculture or politics. But should the eyes pick out the "personal column” it is a safe surmise that their owner is fancy free and possesses imagination.
It was the lure of the personal column that nerved Betty Fothergill to annex the paper as soon as it was laid or. the breakfast table, and she did it in spite of the scowl of her father, than whom, up to a few years previously, the Indian army had no more choleric and efficient officer. He was a short, red-faced man with a thick neck, bright blur eyes and an explosive manner. Till a few months ago his attitude toward things in general had been one of cheerful defiance, but of late Betty had noted a deepening of wrinkles and a little droop in the broad shoulders. She knew the trouble, which was not in any way confined to retired officers. The Colonel, in fact, was short of money.
Highfield. which he had bought on his arrival in England. was an old Tudor mansion, with mellow' brick walls clothed in ivy, and, as the agents boasted, full of old oak. Rumour had it that parts of the building were of great age. and that the lodge, some two hundred yards away, was the remnant of an outlying fortification, once connected underground with the main building. The view was perfect. the house comfortable and the rough shooting above the average.
But. reflected the Colonel grimly', if he had never bought the cursed place, but taken rooms in Half Moon Street instead, he would have been able to do the decent thing by Betty.
For Betty was engaged.
/•"VN THF morning in question, when the Tudor mansion evidenced a total lack of internal heat, he glanced across the breakfast table at his daughter, whose brown hair was just visible over the upper edge of the Times.
“What's the news from Angora?
Those Turks are making a shocking mess of things.”
The paper quivered, but Betty did not answer.
"Well?” he demanded impatiently.
“Oh, Father!" whispered the girl.
"Will you kindly—"
Betty shook her head. She was staring with round blue eyes at a paragraph in the personal column.
"Dad, listen to this!" Then she began to read in awestruck tones:
"¿500. This sum will be paid to any reputable person who demonstrates to the satisfaction of the undersigned, and by visual proof, the existence of any ghost, spectre or apparition of any age or nationality, or of either sex. Performances at any place in England within the next six weeks. Write in strict confidence to Cyrus P. Quirk, Pres. Oshkosh Spectroiogical Circle of Oshkosh,
Wis.. U. S. A.) at the Savoy Hotel,
The Colonel snorted contemptuously. "Poppycock! Tommyrot! the man’s crazy. Don’t spend your time over such rubbish—and give me that paper.”
Betty sent him a glance that was both strange and thoughtful. “I wonder if it is rubbish,” she said slowly.
"Just wait till I cut this out.”
The Colonel captured the papera moment later, and became immediately lost to the world, but the girl sat. her smooth brow puckered with wrinkles, her eyes cloudy with intense abstraction. Presently' she gave a little laugh.
"Damn those Turks,” murmured
Sne nodded sympathetically.“Dad, may I ask Bob down over this week end?"
“Eh-what’s that? You said that he couldn’t come for another fortnight.”
“He’ll come if I send for him,” she answered serenely.
The Colonel jerked himself out of Asia Minor, but he hated to be disturbed. “Yes, yes, of course; ask him if you want him, but what the devil he’s going to do with himself I don’t know.”
Betty smiled. “I think I can keep him busy.”
npWO days later Miss Fothergill went up to town.
-*■ Arriving at Charing Cross, she was met J>y a tall fair young man; whereupon the two mounted an Elephant and Castle bus and spent the next three hours rumbling up and down a not very interesting section of Greater London. Betty always claimed that she could think faster on top of a bus than anywhere else. At precisely a quarter to one she turned into the Savoy and sent her card in search of Mr. Cyrus Quirk. She knew him the moment he appeared on the broad steps that lead down to the lounge.
“Miss Fothergill?” He said, coming to meet her.
She found speech a little difficult, and smiled in a manner that disarmed Cyrus P. Quirk of any suspicions he may have entertained.
“Ghosts?” he hazarded with a twinkle. “Two,” she murmured.
“Where?” His face was lean but kindly, and he had a long projecting jaw that sideslipped a little when he spoke.
“Tonbridge.” She discovered a difficulty in saying more than a word or two.
“That’s in Surrey, about thirty miles out. I went right close there to see a spectre last week: but it blew up,” he said regretfully. “They all do when it comes down to brass tacks.”
She glanced at him, puzzled. “Brass tacks?”
“Yep—the Oshkosh method of detection, and my own invention.”
Betty felt a little shaken, but summoned all her fortitude. “Ours have never blown up.”
“Good!” said Mr. Quirk. “Male or female?”
“One of each.”
“Better still,” He paused, then, with a ghost of a smile, “Stay to lunch, and we’ll dissect the details.”
It was Betty’s turn to pause now. He looked down at her with a sudden and whimsical interest. “Sit right where you are till I fetch Mrs. Quirk. I don’t know but what I ought to have said that first.”
He moved away with a quick springy tread, and the girl filled the interval with swift reflection. She had meant that Mr. Quirk should ask her to lunch, but now felt as though her nose were in a trap. The thought of the Oshkosh method—whatever that might be—filled her with alarm. Then Mr. Quirk hove in sight, following in the wake of a large and placid-looking woman, whose clothes bore the stamp of Paris. The latter murmured a “Pleased to meet you, I’m sure” and led the way to one of those intriguing little tables that overlook the Embankment.
TT WAS over the hors d’oeuvres that her host glanced first at Betty, then at his wife. “I reckon, perhaps, Miss Fothergill, that you think I’m fond of spectres, but the fact is I despise ’em. The average ghost is a mean, low-down critter that’s always making trouble when nobody’s asking for it. I made my pile in the best little two-seater runabout that ever skidded on American asphalt: then, to fill up time, I started on a ghost hunt. I control my business yet, but it runs itself. I don’t suppose you ever saw one of my cars, did you? They’re called the Quikosh:—sort of combination of me and my machine. Only part of it I’m not stuck on is the carburetor, where there’s one thing that might be improved.”
Mrs. Quirk laughed: “That’ll be all about the car, Cyrus. Why waste this young lady’s time?”
“But I’m very interested,” said Betty.
Mr.Quirk nodded. “Right as usual, Irene. Now Miss Fothergill, suppose you give me a few details."
Betty clutched the edge of the tablecloth, and drew a long breath. “Our ghosts appear only once a year, and they’re due about four weeks from to-day.”
Mr. Quirk took out a small notebook. "Fine! That’s the twentyfourth of December.”
“There’s a young man and a young woman—about the fourteenth century, judging by the man’s armour —and it seems that he is trying to persuade her to leave her husband and go off with him.” At this point Betty’s voice trembled a little, then hit a rising note and trailed on. “They’re very much in love with each other, but honour holds her where she is. Then he strides away
in anger, and she gives a sort of—What can I say. . . “Wail of anguish?” suggested Mr. Quirk.
The colour flew to the girl’s cheeks. “Exactly.”
“Have you electric light in the house?”
She shook her head wonderingly. “Why?”
“Because my observation is that spooks hit the trail the minute a house is electrified: it raises Cain with their way of doing things. Any hotel right close to your place, Miss?”
“Nothing very nice; but of course we’ll be very glad to put you up.” Betty silently pictured her father’s face— and shivered.
Mrs. Quirk leaned forward. “I’ll say that’s real nice of you!” then she stole a glance at her husband; “It’s all right, Cyrus; this is what I call genuine British hospitality. Much of a family?”
“Only my father,” said Betty recklessly. “You see you must come to us because the—the—” “Performance?” put in Mr. Quirk.
Her lids quivered: “Yes, that’s it, takes place about three in the morning. And please don’t misunderstand me if I ask you particularly not to discuss this at all with my father. I know that must sound queer, but he would only scoff at the whole thing. He’ll know that you are coming, and why you’re coming; but the fact is he’s so sensitive on the subject that it’s wiser to avoid it altogether.” She stared straight into Mr. Quirk’s face. “You’ll have a much better chance of finding what you’re looking for, if you leave it entirely to me.”
MR. QUIRK thoughtfully cut off the tip of a long cigar. “Sure,” he said. “We’ll be there.”
Leaving the Savoy, Miss Fothergill was immediately joined by the tall young man, at whom she glanced with an expression at once perturbed and amused. But beneath her smile she felt thoroughly frightened. A joke was a joke, while Colonel Fothergill was no joke. After rehearsing the remarks of Cyrus P. Quirk, she looked up with extreme gravity on her small face:
“So you see, Bob, the thing is the other way on, and instead of believing in ghosts he despises them. His last words were that he could lick any ghost to a frazzle.” Bob Roddick pushed out his lips. “It would take a skilled plumber to do me any harm with that armour on.”
She laughed, but was only half comforted. “He’s in the same business as you, and makes what is called the Quikosh car. Did you ever hear of it?”
“Hear of it! That isn’t a car at all.”
“I thought from the way he spoke that it was something cheap.”
Roddick chuckled. “It’s a gold mine—not a car; but it has a rotten carburetor. I have a better one of my own.” “He’s evidently a rich man,” she said a little enviously, “or he wouldn’t spend his time hunting down what he calls spooks.”
“Look here, Betty; I see my way into this excursion of yours, but I’m hanged if I see the way out. The old cock will simply sit on my chest and cackle. Can’t we put the fear of the Lord into him some how?”
“I’m afraid not; and you see he’s made a business of running down ghosts. He’s got a system too.”
Roddick’s whistle lacked a single cheerful note. “You did find that panel?” he asked gloomily.
“Yes, only six feet from the fireplace. I measured it.” “Can I get down those infernal steps with armour on?” Betty looked troubled. “I really don’t know. We’ll have to put father to bed—and you can practise.”
They had reached Charing Cross. Just at the station entrance she held up her face to be kissed, then dashed for a train. Roddick stood for a moment irresolute, and presently walked thoughtfully back to his repair shop in Long Acre. Once there, he retired to a grimy office, put his feet on the desk and twiddled with his pet carburetor. He was prepared to follow Betty to the limit, but already he seemed to be peering through a suffocating visor, while the nasal and triumphant jeers of Cyrus P. Quirk echoed through the panelled hall of Highfield. Whereat the young man swore, softly and fluently.
OF TUE two hours which Betty spent that evening in vivid conversation with the Colonel, she carried away but a dim recollection. His excess of temper at first appalled, then reduced her to a condition of hysterical mirth. The Colonel was outraged. The Colonel absolutely bristled with contempt. To use the house of an officer and a gentleman for any such purpose was, dammit, a scurvy trick. He fumed up and down the hall, he jerked
open the recently discovered panel, he glared down the narrow stone steps that led apparently to an underground passage, sniffed at the damp musty air, and it was not till Betty explained that she needed the money dreadfully and that he would have no part in the performance at all, that the Colonel regained any selfcontrol whatever.
“There’s another thing, Dad: I don’t see wrhy I shouldn’t get back some of that investment you made in Texas oil shares two years ago. That w'as a swindle—-you said so yourself—while this is just a case of my wits against Mr. Quirk’s. And,” she added with a generous gesture, “after it’s all over, and if Mr. Quirk isn’t satisfied that it’s the real thing, I won’t claim the reward at all. I can’t say more than that, can I?”
The Colonel grunted, but a wdntry light crept into his eyes. “Carry on!” he said shortly, “but, mind you, I’m not to be mixed up in this infernal business.”
BOB RODDICK’S week end came and passed. Several times during the two nights he spent at Highfield, Colonel Fothergill rolled over in bed and could have sworn he heard a metallic clanking in the great hall and a murmur of voices broken by smothered laughter. He also noted that his daughter’s fiance let himself gingerly into his chair at breakfast and seemed disinclined for the usual long walk. Roddick, of course, was coming for Christmas, and planned to return two days before. The Colonel indulged in a long questioning stare when the young man said goodbye.
“You understand,” he barked in his most authoritative tones, “that I have nothing whatever to do with this tomfoolery?”
Bob’s eyes opened wide, “What tomfoolery, sir?” “You’ll go too far,” snorted the Colonel.
Roddick ehuckled, “I can only get about ten feet, sir!” At three o’clock on the afternoon of the twenty third, Bob and Betty were some ten miles from Highfield in a disreputable wreck of a car which was the only conveyance at Roddick’s personal disposal. The thing wTas a ruin so far as concerned its body, and groaned, rattled banged and squeaked over the best of roads. But, as to speed, outward appearances w'ere deceptive—very deceptive.
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Continued from page 21
Beneath its battered bonnet was a whale of an engine and a gem of a carburetor. When business was at its worst and the shop half idle and prospects in general a deep cerulean blue, nothing cheered young Roddick so much as to rattle out along the Brighton Road, spreading shame and surprise among the sleek aristocrats of the highway. A few wise ones—who knew the Wreck—let her pass without a struggle. Those who didn’t, suffered.
They were dawdling along, with Bob's left arm comfortably disposed, when a small car purred swiftly past, and the sound of a woman’s laugh drifted back. Bob chuckled, then sat up stiffly.
“Do you know what car that was?” “No,” she said, “and I don’t care.”
His eyes began to sparkle. “It’s a Quikosh!”
Betty started, “Bob, it’s the Quirks! He said he always stuck to his own
benzine buggy—so that’s what he must have meant.”
“Of course they’re your guests,” Roddick’s grin now covered his entire face, “but don’t you think we might give them a lead in?”
She grasped the nearest solid portion of the Wreck, and nodded.
TWO minutes later Mr. Cyrus P.
Quirk heard immediately in his rear the wheeze of an asthmatic horn. Glancing over his shoulder, he perceived a shameless conveyance of the vintage of 1909.
“Say, Irene, do you know what this darn country needs more than anything else?”
“Central heat and several million radiators and real coffee.”
“No, a scrap heap.” He touched the accelerator.
The Quikosh leaped ahead. “Trouble is,” he ruminated, “they’ve lived here so long they’ve sort of lost track of time and don’t know when a thing is out of date. That tin Lizzie behind us ought to have been scrapped before Wilson started writing notes. Beats me how the old country gets—”
His reflections were interrupted by a second and somewhat more imperative blast from behind.
“Gosh! I thought she’d have climbed a tree before this. Makes a noise like a boiler shop, eh?”
“It’s a two seater like this,” said Mrs. Quirk over her shoulder.
“Like this!” snapped Mr. Quirk viciously. “Sit tight, Irene; that pilgrim’s asked for it and he’s going to get it.” He stepped on the accelerator.
Field and woodland fled by in a swimming haze. Mrs. Quirk saw fragments of the county of Surrey, flocks of frenzied hens, groups of scampering children. She was doing England, she reflected contentedly, as fast as any American had ever done it. The little Quikosh ate up the road more and more hungrily, till the speedometer needle quivered at 53—and stayed there.
“It’s all that dodgasted carburetor will give her,” said Mr. Quirk, “but I guess it’s plenty. Where’s that car now? Bet you a fur coat you can’t see her.”
.“She’s right here.” came an awestruck whisper.
SIMULTANEOUSLY Roddick opened his throttle, while Betty ground viciously at a complaining horn. The Wreck was nosing close to the mudguard of the speeding Quikosh just as a disreputable street dog might worry the flank of an aristocratic Italian greyhound. Mr. Quirk’s gorge rose, but he knew that he had done his best. Pressure on the accelerator slackened a trifle, and with a deep-throated roar the Wreck swayed giddily by. The sound of her was that of a shipyard working overtime. Mrs. Quirk’s mouth opened as wide as did Roddick’s exhaust, while her husband’s eyes projected like marbles. They had a glimpse of a girl’s hand waving them to follow; then with dwindling uproar the Wreck reeled round a bend in the road and was lost to sight. Mr. Quirk drew a long breath:
“May I be eternally busted!” he said plaintively, “if that contraption don’t run like a scared cat.”
They reached Highfield twenty minutes later and found the contraption pulled up a little beyond the front door. A young man was tinkering with the engine. Mr. Quirk jumped out and was stepping toward him when he felt a tug at his sleeve.
“This is no way to start with perfect strangers, Cyrus! You stay right with me.”
But Mr. Quirk was consumed by a vast curiosity, and shook off the detaining hand. He had never known anything just like this before.
“Some little old bus you’ve got there, friend,” he said casually.
The young man nodded. “Fair, but she’s not doing her best to-day.”
MR. QUIRK smiled. It was just the answer he would have given himself. “She didn’t exactly die on the road.” His gaze wandered in search of a name plate. “What make is she?”
“Several, but mostly mine. She’s built of scrap.”
“That so! Well, it’s some scrap.” Mr. Quirk wondered whom he was talking to. “Have a cigar?”
The young man grinned. “Thanks. Matter of fact I did put the old thing together out of what was lying round. She’s got a Hun chassis, American gear-drive, French engine and the rest of her is crossbred—all except the carburetor. That’s a Roddick. I say, I think Colonel Fothergill is looking for you.”
Mr. Quirk turned. The Colonel was on the steps wearing a somewhat puzzled expression. Mrs. Quirk and Betty were staring at the two enthusiasts and smiling broadly. The young man wiped his hands.
“I think perhaps we’d better join the others.”
Dinner passed off more smoothly than the Colonel had dared to hope. Whatever conversation took place with regard to ghosts was between Betty and the President of the Oshkosh Spectrological Circle, and was so carried on as to be entirely inaudible at the end of the table. Mrs. Quirk, who apparently regarded her husband’s hobby as something that didn’t hurt him or anyone else, was visibly intrigued by her first visit to a real Tudor mansion. It was different, she explained, from anything in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Later in the evening, Betty joined Mr. Quirk, who was walking slowly up and down the great hall, his hands behind his back, while his glance darted swiftly from side to side.
“It’ll be right here, I reckon?”
“Yes,” she said, “just about where we are standing. Do you want to take any measurements or anything?”
He shook his head. “And the time?”
“If you watch from two till three you can’t miss it.”
“Good place up there at the turn of the stairs, eh?”
“Splendid; you couldn’t do better.” “Then since it’s liable to be a broken night, I don’t know but what Irene and I will go to bed right now. We don’t want to bust up your party, but I guess you’ll make it clear to the Colonel. From two to three, you said?”
She nodded hysterically.
“I’ll be round,” said Mr. Quirk.
IN HALF an hour Highfield was ' as silent as a tomb. The night was so dark that there was not even a glimmer at the big window on the stair landing. At the top, and on the right side came Betty’s room, then Mrs. Quirk’s, then the Colonel’s. On the left were only two, Roddick’s and Mr. Quirk’s. There came a sound of boots placed outside, then the closing of doors, then more silence.
At half past twelve Mr. Quirk’s door opened a few inches. His head projected, followed by the rest of his body. He wore felt slippers. Under his arm was a bundle. He moved very slowly, testing every step with a momentary flicker from an electric torch. Opposite Roddick’s door he halted, and listened intently to a faint irregular sound that seemed to come from within. Presently he nodded, his lips twitching, and worked carefully down the stairs. One hand was held a little behind his back. In ten minutes he returned, and shut himself noiselessly into his own apartment.
At a quarter past two, the clank of steel sounded very softly on the stairs. A second later Mr. Quirk crept out on tiptoe, and, descending like a cat to the landing, lay flat on his stomach. A subdued whisper drifted up from the obscurity of the hall, and he heard again that metallic clink. Straining his eyes, he made out something tall and white that moved near the fireplace.
“Will my Lord not then believe in my love and go?” said a voice that was both hollow and sweet.
“Believe, fair one: aye verily, I do believe: therefore I go not alone!”
sounded a man’s tones, deep and suppressed.
“An thou lovest me, go!” pleaded the white shape.
“Good stuff,” murmured Mr. Quirk under his breath. “Darn good stuff: don’t know when I’ve heard better.”
“My charger is without, and a sturdy beast,” the male voice now held a note of impatience, “what boots it to remain and starve thy soul?”
“Boots it!” whispered Mr. Quirk, “blamed if he hasn’t got me there.”
“Forget not that I am wedded, dear one. Mine honour holds me here.”
“Wedded, forsooth, to a churl, because he hath a chest of broad pieces filched from those less base than himself.”
In the body of the hall echoed the ghost
of a sigh. Simultaneously, it seemed, the two forms drew together. There was the least clank of armour and a smothered ejaculation of feminine pain.
“Have I hurt thee, little sparrow?”
MR. QUIRK chortled far down in his throat, and pressed thumb and forefinger firmly together. Came a little spitting spark, then the great hall was flooded in a wave of blazing light. Simultaneously a male oath, deep and full, a girl’s cry and the clatter of armour. For just a second, Mr. Quirk got a vision of a six foot knight of the middle ages flat on his back, grasping desperately at a skidding breastplate that slithered across the smooth oak floor, while a girl, all in white, rubbed an injured shoulder, and stared at him with a mingling of alarm and irrepressible mirth. The light died as swiftly as it was born, and was followed by a throbbing silence. Mr. Quirk lay heaving on his stomach.
“Some performance!” he breathed softly, “some performance; and now I guess we’ll all get some sleep.”
Three hours later he was wakened by the sound of singing, that proceeded apparently from the front of the house. Slipping out of bed, he put on the carpet shoes and a dressing gown, grasped the torch and made his way downstairs. On the bottom step, he stumbled into Roddick, who was in the extreme of dishabille and carried a polished greave under each arm. The young man grinned amiably. “Merry Christmas!”
Mr. Quirk smiled. “Same to you. Some performance, eh?”
Roddick glanced at him imperturbably. “We did the best we could. Some method of yours, eh?”
The ghost detector fondled his lean jaw. “Yep, and my own invention, but I think you both did darned well. What’s that shindy outside?”
“And what are they waiting for?”
“Half a sovereign.”
Mr. Quirk moved back to his room, then to the front door. The strains of “Good King Wenceslaus” dwindled toward the lodge, and he jerked his head toward the upper hall.
“There’s some good cigars up where I live.”
Roddick grinned again. “I know where the Colonel keeps the whiskey.”
THEY talked for an hour; mechanical talk, with not one word about ghosts. Roddick felt like a self-confessed idiot, but Mr. Quirk seemed greatly interested —especially in the history of the Wreck. Finally he worked himself out, at least so it appeared, and stretched his long legs.
“Say, I’m all choked with smoke and booze: how about a run in that Lizzie of yours? We’ll have the road to ourselves, and I sort of hanker to see just what she can do.”
Ten minutes later the Wreck clattered down the drive, and Betty, who had not slept a wink, saw its antiquated shape disappear into the grey of morning. She wondered what Mr. Quirk was up to now, nor would she have been comforted could she have seen what took place on the empty road within ten miles of that Tudor mansion.
Mr. Quirk was having the time of his life, and, incidentally, giving young Roddick a lesson in the art of driving. Through the Wreck’s metallic entrails there was pouring a savage energy that delighted his soul. He rounded corners with a skid that sent Roddick’s heart into his mouth, and took the straight road at a speed that merged the protest of every complaining portion of the wreck into one high-pitched wail. At the bottom of one hill they touched sixty miles and took the opposing steep climb like a soaring falcon. Then Mr. Quirk pushed out the clutch, and nodded contentedly.
“She’s hell to look at, but I’ll say she's a bird, just the same. Don’t know but what that carburetor of yours has something to do with it. Ever do much in the ghost business before?”
Bob sat up. “No,” he said shortly.
“I’m sort of let down on it myself. They always blow up. What time do you have breakfast in a Tudor mansion?” “About nine.”
“Then I guess we’ll mosey along home. I reckon to have a print off that negative by then if the sun comes out. You’ll find one on your plate. Sort of interesting picture I call it.”
“Why not send it to Miss Fothergill?” grunted Roddick.
MR. QUIRK laughed delightedly. “Darned if I don’t. Say, you’ll never guess what started me hunting ghosts. It was because I got plumb tired of another hunt I was making.” “What for?”
“A gilt-edged carburetor,” said Mr. Quirk slowly. “The thing that squirts gas into the bullengine of an auto.” He stopped the Wreck, and climbed down. “Take the cap off this one, young man, will you?”
For fully ten minutes the President of the Oshkosh Spectrological Circle stood examining a greasy brass object with long, dexterous fingers. Then he laid it on the running board, lit a cigar, picked the thing up again, and, after a pause handed it back with a gesture that was almost
“How much, sonny?”
The Surrey landscape, now just becoming visible, began to revolve round Roddick' with great rapidity. Mr. Quirk’s angular form became hazy.
“Suppose you make an offer?” That was what Roddick tried to say.
Mr. Quirk’s cigar tilted skyward. “Seems remarkable to go hunting ghosts and light onto this. What would you say to fifty thousand dollars for world rights—and I’ll throw in the agency for the Quikosh in this little old island. The agent I’ve got now is punk.” “Done!” whispered Roddick weakly. “Fine!” said Mr. Quirk, “just fine! Now we’d better hit the trail, but hold her down to fifty, for I want to smoke.”
BREAKFAST was served in the Tudor mansion at nine o’clock, the Colonel making no allowances for a festal day. As a matter of fact he felt distinctly uncomfortable. Surveying Mrs. Quirk’s genial face and her husband’s goodnatured smile, he was convinced that from an officer and a gentleman some apology was necessary. He had also a lurking fear that he had been shutting his eyes to a procedure that was not in line with the Anglo-American entente to which the papers of late had given so much prom-
inence. This entente, of course, was absurd, and England could stand on her own legs, but at the same time it was a political matter and he had no desire to offend foreigners. Mr. Quirk had tackled a cup of British coffee, brewed in his particular honour, and was trying to continue to look amiable, when the Colonel cleared his throat:
“I hope, sir,” he began explosively, “that you will not connect me with any tomfoolery that may have taken place here since your arrival.”
Mr. Quirk put down his cup with relief. “Why, no, Colonel.”
“I’m glad to hear it, very glad.”
“Cyrus don’t really expect to find anything genuine now,” murmured Mrs. Quirk. “He’s got so smart at detecting that I guess it rattles the ghosts.”
The Colonel bristled. “Do you mean that fraud has been attempted in my house?”
MR. QUIRK shot a daring glance at Betty. The girl had just opened an envelope and stared fixedly at its contents. Her cheeks were flaming. She had had a vivid half-hour with Bob before breakfast.
“I’ve got so experienced with ghosts now, Colonel, that I know more about ’em before I see ’em than the folks who own ’em. I kind of thought this would be the same thing over again and it was. So don’t lose any sleep over what happened last night. Those fourteenth century pilgrims of yours have quit for good; but I’ll say,” here he looked hard at young Roddick, “it was a mighty good show while it lasted, even if the line of talk kept me guessing, which it did. Say, did those waiters outside the front porch disturb you any?”
“Eh!” stammered the Colonel.
“I’m real sorry if they did,” here Mr. Quirk’s eyes began to twinkle merrily. “My agent told me to give them half a sovereign, and there wasn’t any more trouble after that. I don’t know but what it was cheap at the price,” he concluded reflectively.