THE THIRD RINGER OF THE BELL

John Manners was not the messenger bringing the pearls. Even if he had
been asked to bring them, he would not have accepted the responsibility
of escorting Claremanagh’s “ewe lamb” across the Atlantic. He knew
more about those pearls than he wanted to know, for he had been in love
with Juliet Phayre before he began to like Claremanagh–to like him in
spite of himself, in spite of natural jealousy, and in spite of
prejudice. It was a mere coincidence that he should be on the same
ship with Monsieur Mayen’s messenger, for with the return of Mayen from
Russia, Manners’ friendly services for the Duke came to an end.

His services for France were ended also; and he was keenly interested
in his own emotions as he touched the bell on the front door of the
Phayre house. How would it feel to meet Juliet married–and married to
a man with whom fate had queerly forced him into friendship?

The front door was a very elaborate door. It was mostly composed of
old wrought iron so delicately carved as to be like iron lacework.
Silas Phayre had imported it from an ancient palazzo in Florence and,
characteristically, had it backed with modern plate glass. The inner
side of this crystal screen was curtained with creamy silk tissue, thus
forming a sort of mirror for any one waiting to enter. Manners gazed
vaguely at his reflection behind the pattern of wrought iron, and his
sense of humour noted that thwarted love had not made of him a haggard
wreck. Fighting in France had browned and hardened him. He was lean,
but far from frail. The dark tan on his face caused his yellowish hair
to seem straw-coloured in contrast, and his eyes boyishly blue. This,
and the khaki uniform he still wore, gave him an air of being younger
than he was–twenty-eight: and the man and his image were exchanging an
amused grin when a new reflection appeared in the glass. Mechanically
Manners turned, and found himself face to face with a woman. She had
paused at the foot of the marble steps, and hesitated, as if the sight
of someone on the threshold had upset her calculations. But at this
instant the door was thrown open–not by one of the imported English
footmen whom Manners knew of old, but by an elderly Japanese. The
yellow face gave Jack a shock, but he realized that British and
American youths had been better employed than as footmen since he
himself had gone to France.

The Japanese looked past the officer in khaki to the lady, whom he
appeared to recognize and even to be expecting. This look settled
matters for her. She decided to keep to her original plan. With a
slight inclination of the head to Manners, she stepped briskly into the
vestibule. Behind her, she left a faint trail of alluring fragrance.
Even Jack Manners, who disliked artificial perfumes, breathed it in
with pleasure. He had never smelled anything quite like it before; but
he thought of an eastern garden in moonlight, and the thrill of that
picture mingled with another thrill. He had recognized the woman. He
had seen her before, but only on the stage, and now she was veiled with
one of those patterned veils almost as concealing for an ordinary woman
as a mask. But this was not an ordinary woman. It was Pavoya, the
Polish dancer; the “divine Pavoya,” the “diabolic Pavoya,” according to
the point of view. Even lacking the green glint of slanted eyes, the
fiery glow of close-banded hair through the veil, that figure in the
plain black dress would have been unmistakable. Portrait painters,
photographers, post-impressionists, and caricaturists had rendered it
familiar, in all lands, to those who had not seen the dancer herself.
Manners could hardly believe in the truth of his swift impression. It
was almost incredible that she should come as a guest to this house.
Could she have made friends with Juliet? Juliet’s cousin wondered.

The thing that happened next was still more strange. The slim siren in
black did not wait to be ushered in by the servant. She flitted from
vestibule to hall beyond, then vanished as if she knew where to go and
was in haste to get there. The Japanese did not turn his head to look
after her, but gave his attention to the man on the doorstep.

“I’m Captain Manners,” said Jack. “I’ve come to see my cousin, the
Duchess. I suppose she is at home?” He supposed this, not only
because Juliet knew that he was due on the _Britannia_, and had cabled
her desire to see him at once, but also because Mademoiselle Pavoya
must have gone in by appointment. Even before the servant answered,
however, he read in the troubled dark face that something had gone
wrong.

“Please to walk in, sir,” said the Japanese, in stiff, correct English.
“I have a note for you from Her Grace the Duchess. She was
unfortunately obliged to go out; but I think she hopes to be back
early. If you will kindly walk into the Persian room, sir, I will give
you the letter.”

Well did Jack remember the Persian room! It had been Silas Phayre’s
great fad and favourite, and during his life had been used as a smoking
room. Jack half expected to find Lyda Pavoya there, perhaps reading
another note from Juliet; but the wonderful room, with its rare tiles
and priceless rugs and exquisite old tapestries, was unoccupied. The
servant placed an envelope on an antique tray of Persian enamel, and
presented it with a bow. Then he went out unobtrusively, leaving
Manners to study with some interest the seal Juliet had used.

It seemed superfluous that she should use any at all, as the scrawled
address showed that the writer had been in haste; but the interesting
thing was the seal itself. It was Claremanagh’s own seal, which he
kept for his private correspondence, and the ring with which he made it
had been given by the Tsarina of the Pearls to his
great-great-grandfather. Jack happened to know this, because the Duke
had ordered a copy made for Louis Mayen, with which to seal the box
containing the pledged pearls. Claremanagh had told Jack this story
before leaving France, and had pointed out the ring, which he
invariably wore. The design was an eye; and the motto underneath was,
“Je te regard.”

“Must have given the ring to Juliet,” Manners thought, as he opened the
envelope. He read:

DEAR OLD BOY:

Don’t think me a beast to be out. I really couldn’t help it. I was
dragged into accepting for a tiresome lunch party, given by a tiresome
female, in my honour: Emmy West’s sister-in-law. Some story has been
started that I was jealous of Emmy (among other women!) with Pat.
_Nonsense_! But I knew, if I refused, what the creatures would say.
Besides, I couldn’t be sure just when you’d turn up. And above all, I
wanted a chance to see you quite, quite alone. I’ve got lots of things
to tell you, that I couldn’t tell any one else. If you call while I’m
away, as I expect, stop and see Pat, who is to lunch at home, as he’s
got a bad cold. Then say you must go, as you have an engagement. That
will be true, because I now invite you to make an engagement with me.
But if he insists on your visiting us, before you go home to Long
Island, as he’s sure to, do accept. You were horrid to answer my cable
with a refusal, and say you had to go at once to your own place to
decide on some silly old improvements you want to make. That’s only an
excuse, Jack, because you didn’t quite see yourself staying in the
house with Pat and me. But you are much too strong a man to mind a
little thing like that. I don’t believe you were ever in love with me,
really. You just _thought_ you were, that’s all, from knowing me when
I was a wee kid, and always being my _bestest pal_ whom I could count
on without fail.

Oh, Jack, I do count on you now, as I never did before. So you won’t
fail me for the first time in your life, will you? I suppose this is
selfish of me, and “exactly like a woman” (as Uncle Henry used to say,
whenever I wanted to do anything he didn’t want me to do), but I can’t
help it. You’ll see, when I tell you, why _nobody_ else can be of any
use to me in this trouble.

I _have_ to write all this, though I hope to meet you so soon; because
if I didn’t, you might refuse Pat’s most pressing invitation. And
where should I be then? Don’t think for an instant that I’m tired of
Pat, and want a divorce or anything. It isn’t that at all. I adore
him as much as ever. That’s where the trouble comes in! But we’ve had
a _row_, and every day it will get worse. Why, even the seal ring,
which I’m using for this letter, has become a bone of contention–among
other things. This does need a seal, if ever a letter did, for it’s
dreadfully indiscreet and unwifely, I suppose.

Already I’ve eased my mind a little by pouring out my woes to you, as
in old times. And now for that engagement with me, which I trust you
to keep. I am supposed to go to an “At Home,” which I’m not sure isn’t
given for me. All I am sure about is that I shan’t be there. Instead,
I’ll be in the Palm Room of the Hotel Lorne (where no one we know ever
goes for tea) at five o’clock. And I shall _wait for you_, so you’ll
have to come. Afterward, if you haven’t done it before, you can see to
sending all your things to our house for a visit of _at least_ a week.
But we’ll talk of that!

Ever your affectionate cousin,
JEWEL.

P. S. You see, I haven’t forgotten your old name for me. No one except
you ever called me his “Jewel.”

When Manners had read this letter through, he sat with it for some
moments in his hand. Then, suddenly, he roused himself to realize that
it was not a document to flaunt in the open. He replaced it in the
envelope, which he slipped into an inner pocket of his khaki coat. Had
the Japanese told Claremanagh of his arrival, he wondered? Or had
there been some secret understanding between the Duchess and her
servant that Captain Manners should be left long enough in the Persian
room to read and put out of sight her sealed letter? Claremanagh had
his own confidential man, Nickson (known as “Old Nick”); why should not
Juliet have hers? There was no reason. Yet Jack hated to think that
the girl should be driven to a rather sordid expedient, and somehow
this thought dragged into his head another.

“By George!” he exploded aloud. Then he bit his lip. But the thought
could not be pushed away. Since Juliet was out, to whom was the visit
of Lyda Pavoya being made?

The Japanese seemed to be in the confidence of more than one person in
this house!

Simone had been in the act of coming downstairs, dressed for a walk
with her mistress’s English bulldog, Admiral Beatty, when a vision
flashed through the hall: a reedlike figure in black with a glint of
red hair through a patterned veil.

Simone stopped short, petrified, pulling so suddenly at the dog’s leash
that the reticent bull gave a grunt.

It took a great deal to petrify Simone. She had been through an
earthquake in Italy. She had escaped from a burning hotel in her first
year of service in New York. There had been further sensations also,
and her nerves were accustomed to shocks. But to see Lyda Pavoya, the
dancer, dart unannounced through the hall, when the Duke was alone in
the house, went beyond everything.

She was certain, despite the veil, that the woman was Pavoya. No other
creature on earth had a figure like that, or held her head so like a
light flower on a stem. The Duchess was tall and slim and graceful,
with a slender, long throat; but she had the slightness of a normal,
charmingly formed young girl. The Polish dancer was almost a thing
supernatural, a streak of living flame made woman.

Simone’s dark skin was thick, but her head was not. Her brain worked
fast. Like a general at manoeuvres, it reviewed the situation at a
glance. The Duke was at home because of a “_cold!_” He had known for
days that the Duchess would be out for luncheon, and that she was safe
not to return home _en surprise_. He must have invited Pavoya to come
in his wife’s absence. And more than this, it struck Simone that the
visit of to-day could not be the first. Togo, the Japanese (of whom
she was jealous because of her mistress’s fancy for his services),
seemed to be acquainted with the dancer. He let her pass without a
word. No doubt she had been to the house before, when the Duchess and
Simone were out of the way. Either the Duke or Pavoya–or both–had
bribed Togo, who was playing a mean, double game between his master and
mistress! The Frenchwoman resolved that she would not, after all, take
Beatty for a walk. Bending down, she unfastened the leash from his
expensive collar, on which was engraved: “Miss America from her British
Ally. P.C. to J.P.”

Feeling himself free the dog instantly turned and spraddled back to the
Adored One’s boudoir, where he was privileged to wallow among all the
prettiest cushions. Such wallowing he much preferred to a promenade
with Simone or any one else save his worshipped Duchess.

As Simone rose from her stooping posture, she saw that Togo had ushered
a man into the house. A second glance enabled her to recognize this
man, and she was more amused than surprised to see that it was Captain
Manners. Juliet had not asked her maid to deliver the secret letter,
because it would be simpler for the man who opened the door to do so,
and as the confidential mission was given to another, the Duchess had
prudently refrained for mentioning it to Simone. The latter imagined
her mistress must mentally have mislaid the fact that she herself had
seen in the papers: Captain Manners’ return on the _Britannia_, from
France.

In any case, here he was, and all that was cynical in Simone laughed at
the _contretemps_. He was certain to have asked for the Duke, as the
Duchess was out. Would Togo, who had just let in Pavoya, venture to
interrupt a _tête-à-tête_, by announcing that Her Grace’s cousin had
arrived? It occurred to Simone that the Japanese had not dared to turn
away so important a person, but that, having let him in, he would find
some way of excusing the Duke.

The situation was too dramatic to waste. The Frenchwoman pictured His
Grace’s expression, faced by his wife’s cousin and loyal friend. She
had wanted her mistress to marry Claremanagh, because it was
distinguished to be the maid of a Duchess, but she had liked Manners
and received many a tip from him in days gone by. For that reason, and
for others even more important, she must help Manners catch his cousin
Juliet’s husband and Lyda Pavoya together.

Thinking quickly, she tripped down the broad marble staircase which led
to the great hall–a staircase that she was the one servant permitted
to use. She had not passed the midway landing, however, when a second
Japanese–a youth under the command of Togo–went hurrying toward the
front door.

The electric bell was not audible to any one in the hall, but Simone
guessed that a third caller had rung. In Togo’s absence with Captain
Manners, it was the duty of Huji to answer the door. The maid flew
down the remaining steps, and was in time to hear the Japanese in
embarrassed conversation with the latest arrival. This person was
speaking broken English, and Huji, not as fluent in that tongue as
Togo, could not understand.

“A Frenchman!” decided Simone. “_Mon Dieu_, it will be the messenger
with the pearls!”

She stepped forward with a smile. “_Monsieur_,” she said, “_Je suis
Française, la femme de chambre de la Duchesse. Si je puis être
utile—-_”

The newcomer turned at the words, and beamed at sight of a compatriot.
He was youngish, between thirty and forty, Simone thought. He was
good-looking, too; richly dark, as if he might be a child of the south,
like herself. His eyes were handsome, and his small features well cut;
so were his clothes. He had a neat, close-clipped moustache, and red
lips which made his teeth look white as he gave smile for smile, though
in reality they were slightly yellowed by constant cigarette smoking.
Simone approved of him. He had the air of being a gentleman, and she
was glad that fate had made them meet.

Naturally she knew of the Tsarina pearls, and that they were expected,
after tiresome delays; for Juliet was both trustful and careless where
Simone was concerned. But, save for this little comedy, she would not
have met the messenger. Vaguely the maid understood that he was
private secretary to some French financier in whose “care” the pearls
had been left; and a secretary was far above a _femme de chambre_ in
the social scale. It was a pleasant accident which enabled her to earn
his gratitude, and Simone had a sudden vision of being invited out to
dine, or go to the theatre, as a reward. Who knew how it might end if
she played just the right cards?

For a moment the two tossed “politenesses” to each other in their own
beautiful language, the Nicoise striving to speak like a Parisienne.
But there was no time to waste before the return of Togo, and after a
few flowery sentences Simone came to business. “Monsieur has arrived
on the _Britannia_, is it not?” she fluted.

This told, as she intended, that the “mission” was no secret from her;
and the way was cleared for the messenger. He showed her a
visiting-card, with which he had vainly tried to impress Huji. “Leon
Defasquelle” was the name Simone read, and its owner volubly explained
that he was awaited with impatience by the Duke of Claremanagh. “This
Oriental,” he went on, with a glance at the attentive yellow face,
“informs me, if I understand aright, that I cannot see the Duke.”

“Monsieur may have understood Huji. But it is Huji who does not
understand the situation,” smiled Simone. “His Grace the Duke is
confined to the house with a cold. Otherwise he would doubtless have
met Monsieur at the ship. As it was, he sent his own man. Was not
Monsieur received by an Irishman named Nickson?”

Monsieur Defasquelle shook his head sadly. There must have been a
mistake. He had hoped to find someone who would see him through the
formalities of landing, but no one had appeared. Possibly this was due
to the fact that his luggage had been placed under the Letter F instead
of D, and so the Duke’s man had missed him. Fortunately, through the
influence of Mr. Henry Phayre (still engaged in the noble work of
reconstructing devastated France), and that of the well-known New York
banking house of Phayre, there had been no difficulty with the Customs.
His–Defasquelle’s–mission had for obvious reasons been kept secret on
shipboard, but the object he brought had been declared, and instead of
being delayed at the dock, he had been aided by the authorities. It
seemed strange now to meet obstacles at the journey’s end!

“Be seated, Monsieur, for a moment,” his countrywoman cooed. “I will
go myself and tell His Grace that you have arrived. I am a privileged
person in this house!”

Huji had understood not a word of the conversation in French, but
seeing Simone start in the direction of the Duke’s “study,” he put
himself in the woman’s way. “Togo say Duke no see any peoples,” he
warned her in his best English.

“I will take the responsibility on myself,” she said. “I knew the Duke
long before Togo saw either of Their Graces.”

With a slight push she passed the boy, and in her haste almost skated
along the polished floor to the door next that of the Persian room.
There she tapped sharply, without a second’s hesitation, and waiting
for an answer she could hear her heart knock in her breast.

For a long moment that felt longer there was no other sound. The
silence behind the door seemed abnormal to her high-keyed nerves. But
suddenly, as she was about to rap again, the door was flung open. The
Duke stood on the threshold, his charming brown face less charming than
usual, because of a slight frown. At sight of Simone he showed
surprise, his scowl having been prepared for Togo.

“What is it? Has your mistress come home?” he asked. The frown had
faded; the voice was kind. But this change did not deceive Simone.
She was sure that the Duke was in what he himself would call a “blue
funk,” and the fear she imagined brought back the last picture her mind
had made of him. Quickly she saw the way to kill two birds with one
stone.

“_Monsieur le Duc_,” she said in French. “The messenger has arrived
from the _Britannia_, and is being detained in the hall by the
Japanese. He is very vexed and surprised. I took it on myself to tell
Your Grace, as I think this is a man who would go away in anger; and
that would be a pity.”

Claremanagh flushed. Simone read his confusion. Pavoya was not to be
seen, but she was in the room, hidden somewhere; there was no doubt of
that; either behind the big Spanish screen, or in the window recess
covered by velvet curtains. If Simone had not learned to control her
features she would have laughed. She knew that the wretched young man
must be thinking, “What shall I do? If I go outside this room to meet
Defasquelle, someone may walk in and find Pavoya. Perhaps it may be a
plot of my wife’s, who has come back and seen Pavoya! Yet if I receive
Defasquelle here, Pavoya will have to remain hidden, since there will
be no chance for her to escape.”

It was a case of the frying pan and the fire, and to know which was
which seemed a “toss up”. However, the Duke made the best of things as
they were, and decided quickly. “Of course I’ll see this gentleman,”
he said in rather a loud tone. “Have him sent here at once.”

“_Bien, Monsieur le Duc!_” agreed Simone; then added instantly, “And
the Capitaine Manners? Is he to be kept waiting?”

“Good Lord!” exploded Claremanagh. “Is he here, too?”

“He has been here some time,” the maid had begun to explain when Togo
appeared, his eye bright with rage. This woman had upset his careful
arrangements! He knew that she had done it to make mischief. But now
there was no circumventing her. He had heard the whole story from
Huji, and an elaborate plan to keep Captain Manners contented in the
Persian room was a burst bubble. Meekly Togo took orders from the Duke
to bring both visitors to him, Captain Manners first, because he was a
relative, and not more than five minutes later, Monsieur Defasquelle.

“Does His Grace wish me to make his excuses to the messenger?” asked
Simone, as Togo trotted off to the Persian room.

“Yes, go,” said the Duke, no doubt anxious for an instant with the
hidden one; and the maid hurried back to Defasquelle. In order to
ingratiate herself, rather than exonerate her mistress’s husband, she
threw all her charm into the explanation. In five minutes–no
more!–His Grace would receive Monsieur. Meanwhile, was there any
information, any aid, she could give–she who had known New York for
years? By the time Togo appeared to conduct the messenger, Defasquelle
and Simone had discovered that they were both of the south; he, no
farther from Nice than Marseilles. It was when the very invitation she
had wished for hovered on the Frenchman’s lips that the Japanese
intervened, and Simone hated Togo more violently than before.

“Captain Manners, this is Monsieur Defasquelle, private secretary to
Monsieur Mayen, of whom you have heard me speak,” Claremanagh
introduced the two men, as the messenger came in. He shook
Defasquelle’s hand and gave him one of the delightful smiles which
helped to make him popular with all types and classes.

Jack tried not to hear what Juliet’s husband and the Frenchman said to
each other. Not that there was any special reason why he shouldn’t
hear, for he’d heard Pat groan over the pawned pearls till he was sick
of the subject; and he had been drawn into the business of trying to
get them for Juliet after Claremanagh left France. But his part in the
affair was ended, and he felt that Pat would rather be alone with
Defasquelle; that he had been asked to make a third on the scene
entirely through politeness. Besides, he was grimly conscious that the
three men were not the only persons present. He was as sure as Simone
had been that Lyda Pavoya listened from behind the Spanish screen, or
the half-drawn green velvet curtains. He was angry for Juliet’s sake
that the woman should be in the house, and disgusted that she should be
hidden. Never had he come so near disliking Pat, even on the day when
Juliet broke the news of her engagement. But to his own annoyance, he
could not dislike him whole-heartedly. He even found himself
sneakingly half-sorry for the fellow. Wondering why this should be, he
was roused from his thoughts by the raised voice of Defasquelle.

“But I must beg, _Monsieur le Duc_, that you open the box in my
presence and verify the contents!” he exclaimed.

“I see how you feel, but I can’t do that, and it’s not necessary,”
returned Pat.

Jack Manners had seated himself on the club-fender that guarded the
fine fireplace. He had taken an illustrated paper to occupy eyes and
hands, but glanced up and saw on the table between Claremanagh and
Defasquelle a box neatly packed in some waterproof-looking material,
sealed with five fat crimson seals.

“It would spoil all the fun if I broke those seals,” Pat went on, in a
more human tone. “My wife must be the first to open the thing, and see
the pearls. I’m extremely sorry she’s out. But it can’t be helped.
If you care to wait—-”

“When will Madame the Duchess return?” Defasquelle enquired.

“That’s more than I know. Not till late, I’m afraid.”

“I have made an engagement in a half hour from now,” regretted the
Frenchman, taking out his watch. “It is an appointment that cannot be
put off, as the person is not free to change from one time to another.
Monsieur, I urge you to open the box. It is only fair to the Purser of
the _Britannia_, who kept it in his safe. It is only fair to me—-”

Claremanagh laughed. “Oh, don’t bother about that side of it! Those
seals alone are a proof that the packet hasn’t been tampered with since
it left Mayen’s hands. You’re his secretary, Monsieur Defasquelle, and
he trusts you completely, or he wouldn’t have chosen you, above any one
else, as his messenger. But I don’t suppose he would take that seal
ring I gave him off his finger to lend it even to you. He volunteered
the promise to me that it should never leave his hand. In fact, when I
pledged the pearls to him for two hundred thousand francs, it was he
who suggested fastening them up in a box sealed with my own particular,
private seal.”

“You are right so far, _Monsieur le Duc_,” admitted Defasquelle. “My
employer has been true to his agreement. For one thing, the ring you
had made for him with the facsimile of your seal happens to be rather
small. I do not think he could remove it from his finger if he wished
without having it sawed off by a jeweller.”

“Very well, then!” said Pat. “There you are!”

“But _I_ am not there,” argued the Frenchman, unfamiliar with English
idioms. “Seals can be taken off and fastened on again, I have heard,
without the change leaving a trace. I am certain these are intact.
But, putting aside myself and the Pursuer, Monsieur would not—-”

“Rot, my dear fellow!” cut in the Duke. “I trust Mayen as I trust
myself. Of course, I know–we all three know–the pearls are inside
that box. _You_ say you can’t wait for my wife to come home. _I_ say
the seals shan’t be broken by any hand but hers. Let’s be sensible!
Manners, come here, won’t you, and reassure Monsier Defasquelle by
examining these seals!” He snatched the box up from the table, and
held it out to Jack. “You’ve got sharp eyes. I leave it to you.
Can’t you swear that those five red blobs have never been tampered
with, even by the smartest expert alive?”

Reluctantly Jack came forward, and accepting the box, closely examined
the seals. “I think I’d be prepared to swear that,” he said. “All the
same, Monsieur Defasquelle is right, in my opinion. You owe it to
him–to everyone concerned, including the company who’ve insured the
pearls–to open the box before you let it go out of your sight.”

“You’re no true friend of Juliet’s, to give me such advice,” Pat
taunted him. “And I won’t take it. That’s flat. While as for the
seals, look there!” As he retrieved the package, he nodded at a ring
on the least finger of his right hand.

Both men’s eyes went to it; Defasquelle’s to note, perhaps, how
precisely the raised design of the wax resembled the sunken design on
the gold. But there was a different thought in Jack Manners’ mind. He
remembered what Juliet had written him about this ring. What had
happened between her and Pat? was the question that flashed through his
head. A few hours ago she had sealed her “secret letter” with her
husband’s ring, after some dispute concerning it. And now, here it was
on Pat’s finger again!

Claremanagh, unconscious of Jack’s disparaging reflections, began to
regain something like his old gaiety of manner. “Are you satisfied,
Monsieur?” he asked. Then, seeing that Defasquelle screwed up his
brilliant eyes in a near-sighted way, the Duke flung the box on the
table, and pulled off the ring.

“Have a good look at it,” he said, almost forcing it into the
Frenchman’s hand. “There’s a safe in the wall of this room, made by my
dead father-in-law, to keep such things as he didn’t care to send to
the bank. My wife and I are the only people alive who have keys to it,
or know the combination. Besides, my own man is the one servant
allowed in this room. So you see, Jack, I don’t need to keep the box
‘in sight’ after Monsieur Defasquelle goes.”

As he spoke, he walked toward an alcove at the left of the fireplace.
It was fitted with bookshelves; and as Manners’ eyes followed
Claremanagh he remembered the secret of Silas Phayre’s safe. Part of
the top shelf had to be pulled out from the wall (after touching a
spring) and then pushed up. Thus a small steel door was revealed, and
could be unlocked only after a certain combination of letters had been
made. Jack had not thought of the safe in years, or glanced in its
direction on entering the room; but now, to his surprise, he saw that
the bookshelf had already been pushed up, and the safe-door not only
revealed, but opened.

Claremanagh’s back was turned to him, and he could not see by a change
of face whether Pat was vexed at his own forgetfulness, or indifferent.
But Jack remembered the hidden fourth person in the room, and instinct
told him that the safe had not been opened in readiness for the pearls.
There had been some other motive. Claremanagh and the Polish woman had
been interrupted in their tête-à-tête, and it would be characteristic
of Pat if an unexpected rap on the door had caught him unawares. Could
he have been in the act of giving Pavoya a jewel from the safe when he
had been forced to answer a knock?

Luckily, no such suspicion could be in the Frenchman’s head, for he had
not seen Pavoya slip into the house. Jack glanced at him, and saw that
he had laid the Duke’s seal ring on the table beside the sealed packet.
He was looking at the safe, but showed no surprise at finding it open.
For him, it had been prepared to receive the pearls.

“_There’s_ a good little hidie-hole!” said Pat. “Now I’ll sign the
receipt, Monsieur, and you may go to your engagement with a light
heart.” He went back to the table, took the box, and tossed it into
the aperture in the wall. Then he closed the steel door, did something
to it which the eyes of neither man could follow, and pulled down the
concealing bookshelf.

A moment later he was scrawling “Claremanagh” on the paper which
Defasquelle rather sulkily put into his hand.