Uncle Hiram to the Rescue
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
HIS SERENE HIGHNESS. Prince Charles of Damaria, to give him his abbreviated title used on non-ceremonial occasions, after studying his morning letters fell into a somewhat thoughtful frame of mind. He summoned the young man who acted for him in all matters which required brain effort and who was sometimes alluded to as the prince’s secretary and sometimes as his chamberlain.
“Edward.” he confided, “there is a tone manifest in some of my letters this morning which I fail to understand.” “If 'l our Highness will indicate the nature of them.” the young man ventured. “I will deal with the matter.” “Hills.” Prince Charles murmured. “That is how l believe you allude to these formal communications addressed to one from a class which seems to lxalways in pecuniary trouble. I have been advised of every sort of reason, from the stringency of the money market to grave family misfortunes. which should induce one to depart from one’s usual habit and pay them. It seems to me, however, that a still more unpleasant note is creeping into the sheaf which arrived this morning. I am perhaps over-sensitive. 1 was late last night and my Faivre cachet so far has failed to afford me relief. Takt; them away with you. Edward, and tell me whether I am imagining things . . . Also be so good as to send a message informing Her Highness that if agreeable I should be glad to see her in her room within half an hour.”
Edward, known in the household and to society in general as Count Maugny, gathered up the papers.
“I will glance these through and report. Your Highness,” he promised.
Aided by the ministrations of his sombre and speechless valet. Prince Charles performed a leisurely foundation to his morning toilet. That is to say, he spent a quarter of an hour doing various exercises with a view probably to developing muscles which were apparently in a quite healthy condition, after which he spent a further period of time in an austerely decorated but in reality very luxurious bathroom. from which he emerged with a much refreshed and awakened air. The season being autumn, bordering upon winter, he was then attired in thick white silk shorts and vest and, in obedience to the first spoken word between him and his attendant, wrapped in a dark green silk dressing gown, his feet encased in slipjx'rs of corresponding hue. Afterward, with a cigarette in his mouth and a cup of fresh coffee by his side, he awaited a reply to his message. He had sent it as a matter of course and he received the reply as a matter of course. Throwing away his cigarette, he followed a sedate looking maid through the boudoir which separated his apartments from those of his wife.
Her I lighness. Princess Sara of Damaria -bom in Kansas City —was frankly and unconcealedly still in bed. She was amply supported, however, by an armful of beautiful pillows, and in a nightdress of lemon-colored silk and modern negligibility she welcomed her lord and master cordially.
“Say, you're about good and early, Charles.” she remarked. “Couldn't stay away from me any longer. I suppose.”
She extended her hand and he drew a chair to the bedside.
"If 1 had known how exquisite you looked this morning my visit might have been a trille earlier still,” he assured her.
“Although it seems to me,” he went on with a ruminating smile, “that it is not—”
Her small, very beautiful hand was pressed gently against his lips.
“Dreams.” she whispered, “not to be spoken of in this crude morning light. Be practical, dear Charles. Is anything wrong?”
“Bills.” he confided. “An unusual number and a curious unanimity of poverty among the senders.”
HE PRINCESS indulged in a slight grimace.
“Say. they're almost as bad here as over in the States.” she sighed. “They want pay for things before you have got used to having them.”
“It's worse in Paris,” he reminded her.
"Have you any idea of the amount?” she enquired.
The prince shook his head.
"You're trying me a little high, my dear,” he said in a tone of gentle reproof. “I have passed them on to Edward. He will probably send me in a résumé. The important question is: Are the dollars still rolling in?”
She embraced one long and delicate leg with her clasped fingers, which would have been a very improper thing to do if anyone else besides her husband had been in the room
“I will send to Hollins," she suggested. “If necessary he can dispatch a cable. I expect the last half million has gone."
“You are very considerate.” he murmured. “Are you by any chance lunching at home today?"
“I have just had my book up.” she told him. “We are both of us lunching at Alcester House and don't you forget it. Afterward I am having a lesson at squash for an hour,
and at six o’clock we are going to various parties -most of them amusing.”
“I see before me,” he observed, rising, “every prospect of a well-spent day. Here is your maid. ”
The woman approached with an envelope upon a salver, which she tendered to the prince. He broke the seal and glanced it through.
“It is Edward’s summary of the various amounts involved in those documents we were speaking about. I am thankful to see it is not a large total—four thousand seven hundred pounds. He adds an unintelligible note to the effect that he may be able to get a little discount off—whatever that means—if the money is forthcoming at once.”
She stretched out her hand for the sheet of paper.
“I will pass it on to Mr. Hollins,” she promised. “He will arrange the matter. We leave here for lunch, remember, at one o’clock, Charles. Come into my little room downstairs and I will mix you a stinger first. Everything at Alcester
House is so old-fashioned.”
He raised her fingers to his lips, gave her hand a little squeeze and released it.
“Dear Sara,” he whispered fervently, “I shall drink that stinger with you before we start with great pleasure. Au revoir, my dear.”
His Highness Prince Charles of Damaria returned to his rooms to complete a satisfactory and highly effective toilet. Her Highness threw off the bedclothes and called for her bath.
MR. SAMUEL G. HOLLINS to judge by his appearance, might have been a bank president, an ambassador, or the' chairman of the world’s most important stock exchange. He was, as a matter of fact, the private financial adviser to Her Highness the Princess of Damaria, bom in Kansas City and niece of the well-known multi-millionaire, Hiram Clodd. No one knew what sum of money had been settled by her uncle on this fortunate young woman who had secured the affections of one of the few genuine semi-royal princes left in a shattered continent, and as Hiram Clodd himself never came to Europe—for fear, it was rumored, that he might be called upon to discharge the national debts of a few bankrupt countries—the matter remained something of a mystery. He still figured on the lists, however, as the second richest man in the world, so it was doubtful whether he had impoverished himself beyond the extent of a trifling fifty million dollars or so.
Whatever the sum was, the appearance of Mr. Hollins should have been sufficient security for its sagacious dispensation. He had the clean-shaven, rather heavy face, strong features and thoughtful expression of a man who dealt with large affairs. He was dressed always with meticulous care, and the very lack of variety in his habiliments was impressive. He wore beautifully cut trousers of dark grey with a faint stripe, and a coat of fine black serge, double-breasted and well designed to show off his powerful shoulders. He permitted himself a little exaggeration in the shape of a large collar, and he wore always a purple tie in which reposed a single pearl. He was a man of regular habits, and the twelve o’clock cocktail with his patroness was a sacrament which he never failed to enjoy.
“Hitting it up a bit, the lad, isn’t he?” he observed an hour or
so later when he was comfortably installed in Her Highness’s exceedingly luxurious private boudoir.
The faintest shadow of anxiety shone for a moment out of her beautiful eyes.
“Charles must spend.” she remarked indulgently. “That’s all right. He married me to spend and he’s going to do it.”
Mr. Hollins was a man of few words. He looked at the end of his cigarette for a moment as though to be sure that it was burning and then replaced it in his mouth.
“I was not well versed in the ways of princes before I came over to thisxountry,” he confided, “but there is one thing about them I may say that I have tumbled to—they are the cat’s whiskers in the way of spenders.”
“The more Charles wants,” she reminded him, “the better for you.”
“Quite so,” he agreed. “What, bv-the-bye, is the present amount?”
“Four thousand seven hundred pounds. Better call it five thousand.”
“It is a thought too much,” Mr. Hollins sighed.
She looked at him wàth wide-open eyes. She had really the air of a fairy princess to whom money should fall from the skies upon request.
“What do you mean?” she demanded.
“Your account,” he pointed out, “suffered a severe shock when we paid for that last airplane of the prince’s and the new car on the same day. I fear that it is still limping.”
“After those figures you showed me last month!” she gasped.
“Even after those. There are expenses, you know. Very heavy expenses.”
“Those things do not concern me,” she objected scornfully. “I have done exactly what you asked me nowr for some months. I was told that if I did so there was no limit to the results I might not attain. Nowr you are hesitating about a paltry four thousand seven hundred. I shall cable—”
“Wait,” Mr. Hollins begged. “I was perhaps a little abrupt. At four o’clock this afternoon I will be here with five thousand pounds in notes. After that I beg for a respite until after Tuesday w'eek.”
The clouds all passed from her face. She flashed a brilliant smile upon her man of affairs. With her own fingers she insisted upon lighting the match for his valedictory cigar.
“You are really quite an old dear, Sam,” she murmured, “but you should not give me these shocks.”
“I pray,” he murmured to himself as he drank the cocktail and took his ceremonious leave, “that I may never have to give you a worse one than that at any time.”
THERE ARE certain departments whose destinies are presided over in Whitehall, the scheme of whose activities pertains partly to the Home Office, partly to the Foreign Office, partly to Scotland Yard, and more than a little to that whispered about Secret Service which has nowadays lost its glamor. Into the presence of Sir Reginald Middleton, chief of one of these, Malcolm Gossett was, after a great deal of formality, ushered. He found himself confronted by a small, nervous-looking man who was continually fidgetting with his w'atch chain and who had a disconcerting habit of flashing keen glances at a visitor just wiien the latter was imagining himself unobserved.
"Mr. Malcolm Gossett, I believe,” he said, indicating a chair. “An excellent recommendation about you from Scotland Yard; other reports, too, quite satisfactory. Before we say a word, please understand that this is strictly confidential business.”
“1 have been given to understand that already.” Gossett assured him.
“There is nothing in the shape of reputation and very little in the way of material kudos to be gained even by success.” Sir Reginald continued frankly. "If you belonged to a (¡overnment department you would be working. of course, for your salary. We have called you in to help us, and if you require excessive remuneration we should scarcely know how to secure it.”
( ¡ossett smiled.
“I am not a covetous man,” he said, “nor a particularly poor one. If the work is interesting I am satisfied.”
‘‘On the face of it,” Sir Reginald went on, “the whole affair is commonplace enough. Scotland Yard could deal with it without difficulty, but there are outside circumstances which render their intervention inadvisable. It is a matter of a weekly, almost a daily, theft of valuable jewels from the most exclusive houses frequented by the most exclusive people in London.” “That sounds serious,” Gossett murmured.
"It is serious,” Sir Reginald agreed. “Scotland Yard was first called in, of course, but I have had to use powerful influence to restrain its activities. There is just a chance that the truth might put us in a most embarrassing position and—well, you know thebluntnessofour present Home Secretary. There would
not be a thing doing except a flamboyant arrest and the police court, which would not suit us for many reasons. Therefore I am compelled to attempt to deal with this matter through unofficial channels where the law cannot la used like a battleaxe.”
“Jewel robberies, under certain conditions, are the easiest things in the world,” Gossett declared. “The disposal of the proceeds is where the trouble begins. Have you any ideas upon this point?”
“Not up to the present,” Sir Reginald admitted. “All I can tell you is that the thief himself must be an amateur, because the most valuable of the booty has been taken from rooms in which there were only a few people present and all of them guests. On the other hand, the disposal of it must be in the hands of professionals, because news has come to us of some of the jewels broken up and practically impossible of identification from half a dozen different places in the world.”
“Am I to understand that these robberies take place mostly at social functions?” Gossett enquired.
"All of them,” was the emphatic reply. "There is not a single case of what we should call burglary.”
“Can it be arranged that I should be present among the guests next time anything of this sort is likely to happen?”
Sir Reginald glanced at his visitor and n<xlded with satisfaction.
"Fortunately you are the type,” he said. "You shall have your card of invitation in due course, but there are certain conditions. Even if you see a theft, there must not be one word. You will find out the name of the person and report it to us. Let the jewel go, however priceless it may be. We will deal with that later. All we ask of you is the evidence of your eyes and the name of the person.”
“I shall do my best,” Gossett promised.
“If you need any further information or instruction,” Sir Reginald concluded, "make an appointment here C2H8—and you shall have it. The cards of invitation will reach you at your office.”
“I may be wrong,” Gossett said as he rose to his feet, “but I am under the impression that you already have a suspect. May I know who it is?”
“Y'ou may not, Mr. Gossett. I would not dare to allow the name to pass my lips. Let me add one last word. A great deal, a very great deal, may depend upon your discretion in this matter. Good morning.”
A CHEERFUL little conclave of sinners. Mr. Samuel G.
Hollins, with the starchiness of Berkeley Square gone, was lounging in an exceedingly comfortable easy chair; Fred Fuller, commonly supposed to be a freelance journalist with headquarters in the Ritz Hotel bar at Paris; Mr. Edmund Spens, who had retired early in life from a respectable firm of jewel merchants in Hatton Gardens to follow an even more profitable avocation; and Lord Felixstowe, worldknown adventurer, who had triumphed over the governing fates of law and order by keeping out of prison until this well-nigh his fortieth birthday. They were all in the conventional dinner garb of the man of fashion unaccompanied by his feminine world, and their gathering was, so far as one could perceive, an entirely friendly affair. Their conversation had proceeded smoothly without any sign of strain. All that was changed by the sound of the rattling lift outside, followed by flying footsteps.
"Who’s that?” Samuel G. Hollins demanded in alarm.
He might well ask. for this was an isolated and strictly run group of flats and it was three o’clock in the morning. Fuller indulged in his natural gesture; his hand flashed like lightning to his hip pocket. The others made no movement. The hasty advent of a woman could mean no more than the jx^rtent of trouble.
It said much for the way in which the Princess Sara of Damaria had impressed her personality upon these men that they sprang at once to their feet upon her entrance. She opened and dosed the door with the swift touch of one used to such escapades, and she stood facing them breathlessly, swinging her small black cap in her hand, her lace cloak floating like a wave of jet black foam around her. “Good lord !” Mr. Spens muttered.
‘There is trouble. Your Highness?” Mr. Samud G. Hollins demanded.
She threw herself into a chair.
“There was always bound to be trouble some day or other,” site said coolly. "Bad luck that it should come tonight, though.”
She listened for a moment, dived her hand into some
mysterious place and threw a little shower of glittering gems upon the table.
"There it is.” she exclaimed. "The Rosenberg necklace. They said that she would have given it willingly to anyone who could have prcKured her the invitation for tonight. I guess that won’t stop her making the usual fuss, though.”
The sleekly brushed heads of the four men were almost touching round the table. It was Spens through whose fingers the stones trickled smoothly. He handled them like the great connoisseur he was. He could have told you the value of every one as they slipped ¡jast hyp.
"It’s the real thing,” he said hoarsely. "Rosenberg gave a hundred and twenty thousand jxjunds for them, and Rosenberg buys cheap.”
It was Hollins who broke away first from those moments of enchantment. He turned to where Sara still lay stretched in the easy chair.
"Is there trouble?” he asked.
"I guess I’ve got careless with all this easy stuff floating around,” she confessed. "I ought to have waited. I just didn’t. That’s all there is to it. I whisked the stones off her fat old carcass in less than a second and she never left off talking. She’ll never be able to tell the moment when she parted company with them. There was a stranger there. He knows. 1 caught his eye directly afterward.”
The question flashed across the room at her— from Hollins this time.
“Who was he?”
"I didn't stop to ask,” she answered. "I spilled a glass of wine over my gown and faked a bet with Sybil Casserley who should get home and change into another costume the quicker. I meant to get rid of the stones that way. I brought them to you instead. Don’t worry about me. I’ve five minutes to spare and I can still win my bet.”
HERE WAS consternation in the room. "Lily the Lifter,” she had been called in New York, free in the pigeon-house of the bejewelled aristocracy of London and Paris in the person of a veritable but semi-royal princess, to have played out her game in less than three months! It should have lasted a lifetime. It should have made rich men of them all. Spens groaned. Fred Fuller blasphemed under his breath. Lord Felixstowe had the air of one about to burst into tears. Hollins alone preserved his composure.
"You don’t think you were trailed down here, do you?” he asked.
"Am I that sort of mutt?” she asked scornfully. “I had
planned the game for a getaway, although I never thought it would be wanted as badly as this. I changed taxis three times.”
"Is it the same party you’re going back to?” Hollins asked.
"It’s the same party and the same house," she confided. "The only thing is that there will be a lot more of us.”
“Say, that rather makes one wonder,” Mr. Hollins said mildly, “why you didn’t px)stpx>ne that prank of yours until the crowd were there.”
"You always were rather an obvious sort of idiot,” the princess observed’scornfully. “That’s the time everyone will be watching. There’s always a Scotland Yard man down for a real crush. Until twelve o’clock it should have been perfectly safe.”
"Have you any line upon the man who saw, I wonder?” Hollins enquired.
"I can only tell you,” the princess replied, "that his name is Malcolm Gossett and he’s supposed to have something to do with the Foreign Office.”
Mr. Spens groaned.
“I don’t like the sound of it.” he admitted.
The princess had recovered her breath.
“Now, boys,” she challenged them, "it’s up to you. I guess my little bluff’s played out, but I shall fight to the last ditch. If you treat me right over this necklace—say, where is that necklace by-the-bye?”
They all laughed in their own fashion. Fred Fuller’s grin was replete with silent enjoyment. There was certainly no sign of the necklace upon the table, yet Sara could not remember that one of them had left his place, or moved a limb.
"We’re not saps, you know, Lily,” Fred Fuller observed. "I don’t reckon we should get flustered if the Big Seven, as they call ’em, strolled in upon us. They could search till daylight. They’d never find that necklace.”
“You certainly are some boys,” Sara admitted admiringly. "You’re worth working for. I’m sorry I’m through.”
"Don’t say that, Princess,” Hollins begged, with a sudden return to his more formal manner. "I never had a job I fancied so much as this chamberlain business -sort of financial secretary to Your Serene Highness. There’ll be some more chestnuts to be pulled out of the fire.”
“How do you know I’m not in trouble already?” the princess asked. “That man was not there watching for nothing.”
Mr. Hollins shook his head confidently. He was a man of experience.
"If they didn’t dare tackle you with the stuff aboard,” he said, “you’re all right. I won’t say that it mightn’t limit future operations, but short of that I’ll say you’re still on velvet. Over on the other side the one thing we love is scandal. Right here they’ll play monkey tricks with their last sou to avoid it. You may take my word for it that Your Serene Highness, Princess Sara of Damaria, isn’t going to be threatened with the police courts yet awhile.”
She rose to her feet. Hollins followed suit, but she waved him back. '
“I go as I came, alone,” she insisted. "I’ll be back now in time to win my bet. Don’t any of you move. I have a taxi waiting outside the vet’s in the next block. I left a dog there a quarter of an hour ago. What about that for a bright alibi in view of any possible eventualities?”
She flitted away. Mr. Spens watched her with admiring eyes. “Some girl, that,” he murmured. “Slick as they make ’em,” Fred Fuller echoed.
"The cop« have been on half time over there since Lily the Lifter quit work,” Mr. Hollins wound up.
IS SERENE HIGHNESS, Charles, Prince of Damaria, met his wife in the great hall of Wiltshire House. Even'his magnificent imperturbability was scarcely proof against the vision of dazzling perfection which made its way joyously through the crowd toward him.
"My dear,” he declared, “you are a miracle. It seems only a few minutes since you and Sybil left us. I beg that you will present my compliments to the artist who designed your present creation.”
"Is that all?” she laughed.
"And this expression of my utter and complete devotion,” he added, an unaccustomed tenderness in his tone. “I will not only say that I have never seen you look more beautiful, but I have never seen anyone else in the world who approached you.”
She dropped him a little mock curtsey.
"If my lord is pleased,” she murmured. "And tell me, have I won my bet?”
"No signs of Sybil yet,” he assured her. "As privileged guests, we do not need to present ourselves again. We might find our way into the ballrooms by the side entrance after the crowd have arrived.”
"That’s fine for me,” she declared. "I shall be able to keep my gown from being crushed until after my dance with Royalty.”
They gained a comparatively secluded comer, then the prince, whose gorgeous uniform forbade any idea of comfort, let himself down with much care into a low chair by the side of his wife.
“There are rumors,” he confided, "of another robbery.” "How exciting !” she exclaimed.
“I am not myself well versed in the value of gems,” he
Continued on page 50
Continued from page 16
continued, “but it occurs to me that your pearls, for their size, are a little insecure on that thin platinum chain.”
She fingered them softly.
“One has to take risks,” she murmured. “I expect if I lost them I could get them replaced.”
The prince nodded amiably. It was something, he reflected, to be the husband of a woman whose uncle was the second richest man in the world. He had spoken the truth when he declared that he knew little about the value of jewellery, and it would certainly have amazed him, as it would have done many others, to know that the value of those very impressive pearls was something less than the cost of the uniform he was wearing. The princess leaned toward him.
“Charles,” she confided, “there is a young man over there who crossed on the steamer with me. He had something to do with the British Foreign Office. His name, I think, was Gossett. He was very attentive and I should like to show that I have not forgotten his kindness.”
The prince, with a mild grumble, rose to his feet.
“I will fetch him,” he assented. “Afterward I will give myself the opportunity of smoking a cigarette in the lounge. My nether apparel has scarcely the elasticity which goes with comfort.”
The commission was executed and Gossett conducted with due ceremony to the princess.
I “Her Highness,” the prince explained, “wishes to remind you, Mr. Gossett, that she has not forgotten your courtesies to her on a recent crossing of the Atlantic. I shall spare you five minutes. Afterward my wife will lx* expected to take up her duties. Her hostess's circle is growing, I see.”
They both waited until His Serene Highness was out of earshot. Then she motioned him to take his vacant chair.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“You have my name correctly,” he answered. “Malcolm Gossett. As for the rest, 1 have no official position. I am here representing an almost unknown department.”
“And you think that you have solved the mystery of these extraordinary jewel thefts?” “I certainly saw you relieve Mrs. Rosenberg of her diamonds,” he replied.
“You must be a professional,” she said. “No one else could have noticed it. I have never been quicker in my life.”
“You are correct in so far that I am an ex-professional.” Gossett admitted. “I was at Scotland Yard for some years.”
HE LOOKED at him critically.
“We don't get your type in the States.” she remarked. “Just as well for us we don’t perhaps. Aren't you working a little overtime this evening, though? You can scarcely expect that, after having got away with a hundred thousand pound necklace, I am after another scoop.”
“You are perhaps right,” he answered. “I I consider my task for the evening finished. I I am really staying on for reasons of purely psychological interest.”
“Could you put that into words which a simple American girl would understand?” she asked.
“I am always interested.” he explained, “in considering the motive for everything which happens in life. I ask myself why a beautiful young woman like yourself, married to a semi-royal prince and niece of one of the richest men in the world, should run these awful risks. You can't need the money. 'You must have had training. Are you an impostor by any chance?”
“I wouldn’t call it that.” she reflected. “I am Hiram Clodd’s niece all right, and he’s the second richest man in the world, but I ran into a spot of difficulty when I married Charles. You seem quite a human person. Mr. Gossett.”
“Thanks to having married a wife almost
as nice and as beautiful as you, I think I am.”
“That sounds like the right stuff,” she declared, smiling. “I’ll make a bargain with you. Tell me your layout for tonight after this little discovery you have made, and I’ll explain why I seem to be acting cuckoo.”
Gossett reflected for a moment. In imagination he had already strayed so far from his standards of moral rectitude that he was actually beginning to wonder whether it would be possible to believe himself for those few seconds the victim of a temporary lapse of sanity.
“I think I’ll go so far as to say that that’s a bargain,” he assented. “I imagine that it has already dawned upon the authorities that these thefts have been committed by someone not outside the law—that would be impossible - but by someone whom it would be embarrassing and very distressing to accuse publicly. Hence my presence tonight because I am not bound by any official restrictions. My report is to be made to someone not concerned with the administration of justice.”
“I get you,” she acknowledged. “Now I’ll tell you about my little fix. Uncle Hiram Clodd is just the world’s last word in downright outrageous meanness. He is my only relative and I don’t think he has another. He has simply looked upon me as a new pawn in the game of saving money. He sent me to Paris to school, but he took care that I never had a cent of pocket money. When I came back with barely enough dollars to tip the stewards on the boat and sharing a cabin with another girl, I lived in one of his outrageous palaces and he gave me a dress allowance of about half the salary of a parlormaid. One of the servants in the household introduced me to a man named Hollins, a charming old dear but a crook. I became a crook. I earned enough to dress properly and even to take flying excursions to Europe. Upon one of these I met Prince : Charles. I had never been in love before or even thought of a man, and I got it bad. So j did he—honest, I think he got it almost as ! bad as I did. We were married at the British Embassy and I sent Uncle Hiram a cable. I ought to have told you beforehand that he loathes foreigners of every sort. I think he must have given a whoop of delight when he got the news. He wrote me a dignified and severe letter, sent me twenty thousand dollars and told me that that was all I had ever to hope for from him.”
“Brute.” Gossett murmured.
“Well, then I found out that Charles hadn’t any money either.” she went on. “We spent the twenty thousand dollars on our honeymoon. Then we came to England, and I was just wondering whether I should have to own up when along came Mr. | Hollins. He showed me how easy it would be to carry on the old game and, incidentally, to support my Charles in the style to which he had been accustomed. I fell for it j right away. Mr. Hollins became my private secretary and chamberlain, and Charles hasn’t the faintest idea at this moment but that the money rolls in from America.”
“I suppose you realized.” Gossett said gravely, “that it was bound to come to an end some day.”
She sighed. For the first time there was a shadow of gravity in her face, but it lasted only for a moment.
‘‘I suppose I did.” she admitted, rising to her feet. “Au revoir, Mr. Gossett. My husband is coming to fetch me and I am about to dance with a very famous personage. You are a very nice man. but I wish you hadn’t quite such highly trained eyesight.”
”1 am beginning to wish that myself.” he confessed.
IT WAS six o'clock in the morning, after crowded hours of rapturous enjoyment, when Sara. Princess of Damaria, sank into her luxurious bed. The solitude which she had dreaded had come at last. Her eyes
were hot and still tired when, after a few hours of nightmare, she was conscious of her maid standing by her bedside.
“Your Highness,” the latter announced in a tone of deep apology, “a gentleman has called with this note for you. I told him that it was impossible to think of seeing you until after midday, but he refused to leave. He said that the matter was of the gravest importance. If I have done wrong I am sorry, but I have brought Your Highness the note.”
Sara sat wearily up in bed. What did anything matter, after all, now that she was awake and back again in this world — soon to come crashing about her? There was a dull pain over her heart. She had carried herself bravely last night. It had all seemed so much easier with the music in the background, honeyed voices whispering in her ear, Charles as handsome as a god smiling proudly by her side.
“What time is it, Céleste?” she asked as she broke the seal of the envelope.
“Ten o’clock. Your Highness.”
She glanced through the few lines. They were written on a sheet of her own notepaper.
“I beg of you, Princess, however tired you may be, to see me for a few minutes as soon as possible and privately.
She tore the note into small pieces. Perhaps because she was so very young and was wearing still the rose-colored spectacles of her age. she fancied that somewhere among those few plain words there lurked a gleam of hope.
“Céleste,” she directed, “show the gentleman up into my boudoir. His Highness left word that he was not to be disturbed until one o’clock. See that no one forgets that. Come back at once. I want a quick bath and a dressing gown.”
“Very good, Your Highness.”
In twenty minutes Gossett, waiting in the little paradise of her boudoir, was surprised at the swift and silent entrance of the girl whom he had come to visit. There was a llame of anxious questioning in her eyes which brought speech instantly to his lips.
“Princess,” he confided, “at eleven o’clock I have to see the head of the department who engaged me for that lamentable duty of last night. I have to tell him that I know who is responsible for these recent troubles.” “Well?” she asked feverishly.
“In connection with them,” he went on, "I have been in telephonic communication with New York. There were questions I had to ask which only concern you indirectly. In connection with them, however, I heard a strange piece of news. I heard that Hiram Clodd, your uncle, died last night.” “Great heavens!” she murmured. “Uncle Hiram !”
“Listen,” he went on. “Partly I suppose because the financial effect of his death is of great import to the money markets of the world, the report goes out of its way to state that he died intestate.”
“How does that concern me?” she asked breathlessly.
“It means, if it is true,” he told her, “that you are his sole heiress. Your Highness— Princess—please have courage. It is so important.”
SHE HAD SUNK into a chair and the color had drained away from her cheeks. Helooked at her with allaman’s helplessness.
“You have been so brave,” he said. “I want, if I can, to help you—to save you—to keep you from telling your husband just yet. Remember this is good news. Keep on telling yourself that it is good news. Hold on to your consciousness.”
He rang the bell, watching her struggle anxiously.
“Your mistress has had rather a shock,”
he told the maid who answered it. “Bring some hot coffee at once. Don't disturb anyone.”
The hot coffee appeared as though by magic, and very slowly she recovered herself.
“All this,” she murmured, “one day too late.”
“Not at all,” he declared cheerily. “Don’t you believe it. Do as I am about to ask and I shall go straight from here to my appointment to confess myself a failure.”
“You aren’t going to tell?” she faltered. “My dear,” he expostulated kindly, “do I look the sort of man who would tell under such circumstances? You're so like my wife too,” he added, smiling.
She drank more of the coffee “Go on, please,” she begged.
“You must get back the Rosenberg neck! lace,” he insisted. “You can do that by j promising those friends of yours its value, j Then you must give me a list of the things, you have taken, and we must collect what j we can of them or establish a fund to pay for them. That’s all. As for your late friends, you needn’t be afraid of blackmail. I I '11 attend to that for you. ”
“Do you believe it is possible?” she j gasped.
“If my news is true,” he said, “and I am convinced that it is, it is possible and shall be done.”
There was a knock at the door. Céleste again made timid and apologetic entrance.
“Your Highness.” she explained, “there is a cable marked ‘Urgent.’ ”
The Princess almost snatched it from the tray. She passed it to Gossett.
“Read it for me,” she begged.
He waved the maid from the room, tore open the flap of the envelope and read.
“Am dispatching this from my apartment, 181 Park Avenue. Regret to announce death of your Uncle Hiram Clodd from heart failure last night. As his lawyer I am able to inform you that he died intestate and that you are sole legatee. You can draw uix)n me for anything up to twenty millions. Reply in any way I can serve you. Sending partner England tomorrow’s boat.
Howard Davis, Attorney.”
The next few moments were the most compromising of all Malcolm Gossett’s married life.
“I’m sorry,” Sara gasped as she wiped I her eyes, “but I had to kiss someone and ! you said I was like your wife.”
About a month later came the great surprise. Malcolm Gossett had just glanced at a certain column of The Times and laid ¡ the paper down again. For some reason or I other he felt absurdly self-conscious. Opposite to him Cynthia, looking more attractive than usual, in a rose-colored négligée, was yawning over the Daily Mail.
“Any news?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“Nothing but a stupid list oí people who’ve got titles for heaven knows what,” she replied. “I can’t—”
That was as far as Cynthia got with coherent speech for some time to come. She suddenly gripped the paper till half of it tore in her hands. There it was before her in black and white under the list of knighthoods:
“Malcolm Gossett, for political services rendered.”
“Malcolm,” she gasped as she staggered to her feet.
“Sir Malcolm, if you please,” he corrected i her as she threw herself into his arms. “And I don’t ruffle my hair too much, Lady Gossett.”