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"QUEER thing, coming across you outside the Cathedral like that," Captain Faulkener remarked, as he established his two guests—Flip was of the party—at a comfortable table in the coffee room of the Cathedral Arms. "Only last night I was thinking about you."
"We really wandered down this way quite by chance," Goade observed. "I hadn't meant to come so far south."
Faulkener ordered his luncheon and sipped his aperitif.
"Jolly good idea of yours," he remarked, "to spend this six months' leave wandering about quietly. The most tranquil county I know, Devonshire."
"Is it?" Goade murmured. "I was thinking of trying Mexico."
"I mean to say that somehow or other Flip and I always seem to be nosing our way into other people's troubles. We've had one or two quite strenuous weeks in the most unlikely places."
"You certainly did see through that Unwin affair," Faulkener admitted. "Shocking thing, too! Where are you going from here?"
"We haven't any plans," Goade admitted.
"Now I'm so far south I daresay I shall make for the coast."
A man, passing down the room, paused to exchange a word with Faulkener, who introduced him presently to Goade.
"This is Mr. Goade from Scotland Yard, Manton—Major Manton, the governor of our prison here."
"I know Mr. Goade quite well by name and reputation," Major Manton declared.
They talked for a moment indifferently. Then the latter passed on, and Captain Faulkener leaned towards his companion confidentially.
"I didn't ask him to lunch, Goade," he said, "because I wanted just a word with you privately."
"Not another case, I hope," Goade asked.
"No, not exactly that," Faulkener replied, after a moment's hesitation. "There's a little matter here, though, that's bothering me. I'm hard up against it, and the person chiefly concerned doesn't want me to appeal to Scotland Yard. I thought perhaps, as you were in the neighbourhood—if I could interest you—you might see if you could straighten it out for us."
"Tell me about it," Goade invited resignedly.
"I'd rather you heard the story from the person chiefly concerned. You can spare half an hour this afternoon?"
"I suppose so," Goade assented without enthusiasm. "I meant to spend the rest of the day here, anyhow."
"I'll put your name down at the club," Faulkener suggested. "There's a decent rubber of bridge there in the afternoon. Can you be ready for me at four o'clock?"
"Certainly. You won't tell me anything about the case, then?"
"Not a word."
At four o'clock Faulkener led the way to the Close, and rang the bell of a very picturesque old red brick residence, ivy-covered and with a strong ecclesiastical flavour. A dignified butler answered their summons and ushered them into a spacious library, where a tall and rather pompous-looking man, with the nether garments of a dignitary of the Church, was seated at a handsome writing table dictating letters to a secretary. He waved her away and rose to welcome his visitors.
"Dean," Captain Faulkener said, "this is Mr. Goade, of whom I have spoken to you. Mr. Goade—Dean Followay."
The Dean shook hands, and indicated two comfortable easy-chairs.
"I haven't said a word to Goade yet about this little trouble," Faulkener went on. "I thought I'd like him to have the details from you in your own words. If I might venture to advise you, Dean, I'd keep nothing back from Mr. Goade. You'll find," he continued, turning to his companion, "that the case is just as simple as it is embarrassing."
The Dean inclined his head. He had a long, rugged face with an unusually large mouth, shaggy eyebrows and iron-grey hair. Without being exactly of ascetic appearance, he certainly gave one the impression of a man whose lines had not always been cast in the easy places.
"I think," he began, his finger tips pressed together, his eyes fixed upon Goade, "that my friend Faulkener has used the right term to describe our position. It is embarrassing. I shall tell you the story of our predicament in as few words as possible, but it is necessary to enlarge for a moment on matters of my personal history."
"I should like you to tell it to me in your own way," Goade said.
"I started life as a curate with no private means," the Dean continued; "I have never been possessed of private means. I have a large family, and my stipend has at no time left room for luxuries. The care of my children, therefore, becomes an important matter to me. I have four daughters, the eldest of whom is twenty years old. I will be quite frank with you, Mr. Goade. It is our ambition—the ambition of their mother and myself—to have them comfortably settled in life. There is not a great deal of young society in this neighbourhood. For this reason, my wife and I were exceedingly gratified when a fortnight ago we received an invitation from the Duchess of Exeter for our daughter to join her house party at Exeter Park for three or four days. Our daughter made her preparations and duly departed. She received the most delightful hospitality, but she returned here on the termination of her visit in a state of great distress."
The Dean paused for a moment, and played thoughtfully with his watch chain.
"I should explain," he went on, "that my daughter Florence had a godmother, a great friend of my wife's—the Princess Shibolzky, an English lady married to a Russian. We always hoped, as the Shibolzkys were very wealthy and had no children, that my daughter might benefit by the association. The revolution, unfortunately, changed all that. The Princess died in something approaching poverty. She, however, left to my daughter Florence the one remaining piece of her famous collection of jewels—an emerald pendant of great beauty and, I believe, great value. We only received the jewel a month ago. A local jeweller valued it at some two thousand pounds, and when the invitation from Exeter Park arrived I was making enquiries with a view to having it insured. Against my wishes my daughter decided to take the jewel with her. She had, it appears, a green evening dress, and the effect of the jewel, I must admit, was exceedingly pleasing. I confess that I should have had it insured before allowing her to depart with it, but I did not. She came back without the jewel, and with a very distressing story. It is a story of a few words only, and it is one which she shall tell you herself."
The Dean rang the bell.
"Will you ask Miss Florence to step this way," he instructed the butler.
The young lady duly appeared—a dark, handsome girl, almost as tall as her father, but without in any other way resembling him. The Dean introduced her, and Captain Faulkener placed a chair.
"I want you to tell this gentleman, Mr. Goade," her father said, "how you lost your jewel. You must tell him exactly what you have told us."
She made a little grimace.
"It is a horrible business," she said, "but this is just what happened. The platinum clasp was very strong indeed, and could be opened only by pushing the two ends together. Several people admired it, and Lord Geoffrey, who danced with me quite a lot, seemed particularly struck with it. Towards the end of the evening he asked me to sit out on the terrace with him. There was a slight breeze, and he insisted upon fetching me a wrap. We talked for some time, and more than once I saw the jewel flashing, and even remember now thinking what a wonderful colour it seemed against my dress. When we went in, Lord Geoffrey unfastened my scarf himself. He was quite a long time doing it, talking to me all the time, saying, in fact, rather nice things. He left me inside the room and took the scarf away. Before he came back some one had claimed me for a dance, and I had scarcely started it before I noticed that my emerald had gone—chain and all."
There was a short silence.
"I won't waste your time, Miss Followay, asking useless questions," Goade observed. "You believe that Lord Geoffrey took it?"
"What else can I believe?" she asked. "It was he who insisted upon the scarf, which was really unnecessary. He was a long time drawing it away, talking in a rather bewildering manner all the time. He went off directly we entered the ballroom— and the emerald was gone."
"You spoke to him about it, I suppose?"
"I did, as soon as I could find him, but, though I looked for him everywhere, he seemed to become invisible for at least an hour. No one seemed to know where he was. When at last I discovered him, he was in the room where wine and refreshments were being served, sitting alone. I went up to him at once and told him that my emerald was gone. I had already searched the terrace thoroughly where we had been sitting, but he insisted upon going back there again. I suggested that he should look in the scarf, and he went and fetched it, but there was nothing there. He seemed very distressed, and he promised me that he would do everything he could, but he begged me not to make too much fuss at the time, as the Duchess, who is very old-fashioned, detests anything of that sort."
"The Duchess," the Dean explained, "belongs to the old-fashioned school. The idea of a jewel robbery in her house would have filled her with horror. It is quite certain that my daughter would never have been invited there again if we had put the matter in the hands of the police in the usual way."
"She was told, I suppose?" Goade asked.
"Naturally. Florence mentioned it as casually as possible before leaving the next morning. Even then the Duchess seems to have been very cold about it."
"I tried to explain that it was valuable," Florence interposed, "but she simply said that, if it had been dropped when dancing, the servants would find it and it would be returned. If they did not find it, I would probably discover it amongst my belongings when I returned home."
"I know nothing about the family," Goade admitted. "Are they wealthy?"
"Sufficiently so, I believe," the Dean replied, "but, with the present iniquitous system of taxation, no member of the old peerage or the landed gentry can be described as being wealthy. However, I imagine that the Exeters are well enough off even for their position."
"And this young man, Lord Geoffrey?"
"From all that one hears, one would consider him a remarkably well-conducted young man for his position in life," the Dean replied. "He is the eldest son, and represents the Southern District of the County in Parliament. He is spoken of as a very promising young politician."
"Any private means?"
"So far as I know, none, except his allowance from his father, which is, however, no doubt adequate."
Goade reflected for a moment. Suddenly he looked across at the young lady.
"And now tell me the rest of the story," he suggested pleasantly.
She started, visibly perturbed. A little flush of colour came into her cheeks.
"What do you mean —the rest of the story?" she demanded.
"You are keeping something back," Goade complained. "Nearly every one does. It is such waste of time if they really require help."
She remained silent for several moments.
"Well, there is only this," she admitted at last: "I met Lord Geoffrey when I was staying in London with my godmother before she died. He became quite attentive to me. It was through him, I am sure, that I was asked to Exeter Park. Since that night, however, he has not called or been near me. He was not there to say good-bye when I left in the morning. He seems deliberately to have avoided me. I couldn't help telling him about my loss, especially as he was with me when it happened. He seemed, however, to resent it."
"A little unreasonable on his part," Goade commented.
"Decidedly unsportsmanlike," Faulkener murmured.
"The point is, however," the Dean confided, "that the young man is expected here this afternoon for tea. He was lunching with the Bishop to-day, where my wife was also a guest, and she invited him. He accepted after some hesitation, I understand."
"I should rather like an opportunity of seeing him," Goade acknowledged.
"That opportunity will be forthcoming," the Dean said.
"And in the meantime, Miss Followay," Goade enquired, "which would you prefer—the return of your jewel or the exposure of the thief?"
"I should like my jewel back, of course," she admitted. "I should like also to make the thief confess."
The butler threw open the door.
"Tea is served in the drawing-room, sir," he announced.
"You will join us, I trust, Mr. Goade?" the Dean invited. "You will then have an opportunity of meeting this young man."
They crossed the hall and entered a very pleasant drawing-room; with French windows leading out on to the lawn of the Close. Goade was presented to Mrs. Followay, a handsome but tired-looking replica of her daughter, to a clergyman and his wife, and to Lord Geoffrey Fernell. The latter was a young man, tall and thin, with a slightly studious air and a reserved manner. He conversed very little with any one. Even when Florence went over and sat by his side he seemed to unbend very slightly. He discussed a recent session in the House of Convocation with the visiting clergyman, and exchanged a few words with the Dean upon a Bill which he had supported dealing with some ecclesiastical matter. His manner, however, was marked all the time with a certain aloofness. He was the first to leave, and after he had gone Mrs. Followay sighed.
"I can't think what's happened to Lord Geoffrey," she declared in a melancholy tone. "It almost seems as though you had offended him, Florence."
Florence set down her cup and turned towards the door. It appeared to Goade, who opened it for her, that there were tears in her eyes. He heard her run up the stairs, and she waved him a little adieu with one hand, her handkerchief in the other...
"A nice girl," Faulkener remarked, as the two men strolled across the Close towards the club.
"Very nice indeed," Goade assented. "I like her better than the young man."
"I think she's got hold of a mare's nest, all the same. The idea of a man in Lord Geoffrey's position robbing a girl for the sake of a trifle like that isn't credible. What do you think, honestly, Goade?"
"I agree with you."
"That's what makes the whole thing so difficult. The Followays want to recover the emerald, naturally. On the other hand, they've already irritated the young man, and they're deadly afraid of upsetting the rest of the family. You see, they absolutely dominate Society down here, and old Followay's got three other daughters coming on. That's why he was so anxious to have a word with you. He daren't come to us officially. He doesn't want to offend the Exeters, but he does want his emerald. There you are, Goade. It's up to you."
"Thanks," Goade remarked drily. "Looks so easy, doesn't it?"
GOADE spent a lazy few days in the meadows and around the quiet countryside adjoining the city. He bought a fishing rod and took lessons with some success from a piscatorial expert. He also painted assiduously for several afternoons. On the fourth morning he received a budget of communications by the midday post. He went through them, whistling softly to himself. Presently he rang up Faulkener, who appeared without undue delay. They strolled into the coffee room for lunch.
"Well, my friend," the Chief Constable enquired, "how is the great work proceeding?"
"Somewhat unexpectedly, to tell you the truth," Goade confessed. "I know all about Lord Geoffrey Fernell. Apparently—and I have every confidence in my dossier—there are few better conducted young men in this world. His chambers—in the unfashionable Adelphi, by the way—are looked after by old retainers of the family—a man and a woman of unblemished respectability. His life is one which would pass the censor in every respect. He is assiduous in his attendance at the House, and a valued member of various committees. He is also on the Boards of two hospitals, one charitable institution, and one perfectly sound commercial undertaking. The young man, as you see, therefore has interests. He attends the theatre, but he eschews musical comedy. He is a strenuous golfer, an occasional polo-player, although this season I understand that he has taken to tennis instead. His friends are all of a highly superior class. He has no entanglements, and, so far as one can gather, no extravagances. The Duke of Exeter should be congratulated. He has apparently—so far as this dossier goes—a perfect son. There will be a perfect hereditary legislator to follow in his footsteps."
"That sounds all right," Faulkener observed. "Anything else?"
Goade proceeded with his lunch for a moment in silence.
"Unfortunately," he admitted, "there does appear to be another trifling incident on the other side of the ledger. Without the slightest doubt on the seventh of July—that, I think, was the day after the dance at Exeter Park and the day upon which Lord Geoffrey returned to London—the emerald pendant lost by Miss Followay was pawned in Holborn for one thousand pounds by a young man giving the name of Geoffrey Fernell and answering in every respect to the appearance of Lord Geoffrey."
"God bless my soul!" Faulkener gasped.
"It just shows us," Goade continued, stooping down to pat Flip, "the hypocrisy that exists in our very midst. There are points about this matter which probably are puzzling you as they certainly are puzzling me, but I imagine that by proceeding calmly everything will be made clear to us in the end."
Faulkener looked up at his companion suspiciously.
"I say, Goade, you're not kidding or anything, are you?"
"I was never more serious in my life," was the prompt assurance. "I've done what you asked up to the present. I have made all my enquiries unofficially, and I have discovered what you wanted to have discovered. The Dean has now the whole position before him. As a Christian and an upright man, I presume that there is only one course open to him."
"You mean that he'll have to prosecute?"
"What else can he do?" Goade argued. "The young man appears to have behaved damnably. He was attracted by Miss Followay in London. When meeting her at the house of the Princess Shibolzky, he imagined her to be a young woman of wealth. Down in the country he discovers her to be the daughter of an impoverished Dean, existing under the patronage of his family. He helps himself to her one possession, convinced—and rightly convinced, as it seems—that the Dean would never dare to put the matter into the hands of the police for fear of offending the great family of the district. I didn't like that young man, Faulkener, the moment I saw him."
"But your dossier? What could he want a thousand pounds for? Apparently he doesn't race, drink, gamble, or keep women."
Goade nodded thoughtfully.
"Men have strange ways of getting rid of money sometimes," he observed, "and even a Scotland Yard dossier has its limitations. In the meantime what about it all? Are you coming round with me to the Deanery?"
"I suppose I had better," Faulkener observed, a little dubiously. "You must remember, however, Goade, that your visit must still be entirely unofficial."
"We'll all go unofficially," Goade agreed—"even Flip."
AT a somewhat early hour that afternoon a formidable assemblage of visitors was ushered by the butler into the stately library of Exeter Park. Florence entered first, pale but determined. She was followed by the Dean, angry yet nervous. Faulkener, considerably embarrassed, came next, and Goade, with Flip—who had evaded the servitors at the door—under his arm, brought up the rear. The butler waved them to chairs. If he felt any surprise at this unusual visitation his face showed no signs of it.
"His Grace shall be informed of your presence, sir," he announced, with a little bow to the Dean—after which he took his leisurely departure.
The four maintained a grim silence during their period of waiting. Presently the door was thrown open, and an elderly lady, so true to type that she reminded one of Du Maurier's Duchesses of Punch repute, entered the room, followed by a long, lean man with frosty blue eyes, a thin mouth, and a glacial bearing. The visitors rose to their feet. The Duke and Duchess shook hands with the Dean and his daughter in perfunctory fashion, accorded some sort of salutation to Captain Faulkener, and, after a glance of cold surprise, ignored Goade. The Duchess seated herself in a comfortable chair; the Duke stood by her side.
"To what," the latter asked, scrutinising the little group through his eyeglass, "are we indebted for this, may I say, unexpected visitation?"
The Dean took the floor, and at the sound of his own voice he felt better. It was a voice which had awed the sixth form of a great public school, which had rung through the halls of many a Church Congress, which had earned for him his stole, and would probably earn for him a bishopric.
"Your Grace," he said, "I can assure you that it is with the greatest reluctance I have come here this afternoon. Nothing but a strong sense of duty could have induced me to have intruded upon you and her Grace or to have brought to your notice a matter as disagreeable to ourselves as I am sure it will be painful to you."
The Duchess raised her lorgnettes for a moment and closed them with a snap.
"Has your daughter come to make a fuss about her bit of glass?" she asked coldly. "My servants have already had orders to restore it as soon as it has been found."
"That bit of glass, as your Grace calls it," the Dean continued, "is a very valuable emerald pendant bequeathed to my daughter by her godmother, the Princess Shibolzky. There is, I fear, no chance of your servants being able to restore it, for its presence has been discovered in a pawnshop in London. I may add that, notwithstanding your Grace's disparaging reference to it, the jewel was pawned for a thousand pounds."
"And by whom?" the Duke asked.
"I regret to say, your Grace, by your son," the Dean announced, pausing for a moment to give his words full effect.
It was, at any rate, an achievement to have surprised two people who seemed incapable of feeling of any sort. The Duchess's expression was one of disdainful horror. The Duke's jaw had fallen a little, and incredulity was written in every line of his face.
"By my son! By Lord Geoffrey!" the latter gasped at last. "I never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. Dean, are you aware of what you have said? Am I to look upon you as being concerned in this—I can only call it conspiracy?"
"Your Grace," the Dean replied, "the facts are as I have stated them. My daughter was appalled at her loss. She feared to speak plainly in your house, but on her return to the Deanery she admitted frankly that the pendant was lost during the few moments when Lord Geoffrey withdrew a scarf which, without any ostensible reason, he had insisted upon her wearing. I sympathise with my daughter's sensations. She was confident that the jewel was in your son's possession, but she felt herself utterly unable to deal with the situation beyond announcing her loss."
"Let me understand this matter," the Duchess said. "There will be more to be heard of it later. Steps will be taken. I understand you to say, Dean, that your daughter, on returning from her unfortunate visit here, confided to you that her pendant was lost, and expressed the opinion that it had been stolen by Lord Geoffrey?"
"That is true," the Dean admitted. "I cross-questioned my daughter in every way, but there was no shaking her conviction."
"Let her speak for herself," the Duchess continued, with all solemnity. "Young woman, have you come here to accuse my son of having stolen your pendant? My son! Lord Geoffrey! The heir to the Dukedom!"
"I didn't want to come," the girl replied, with a little tremor in her voice. "If Lord Geoffrey had asked me for the pendant I should have given it to him. The fact is, though, that he took it. I felt practically certain that his fingers undid the clasp when he was taking that wrap away. Almost directly after he left me I saw that it was gone. Now it has been discovered in a pawnshop in Holborn, pawned under the name of Geoffrey Fernell."
The Duke moved slowly across the room and rang the bell.
"There is only one way to end this unpleasant scene," he announced. "You shall repeat your statement to Lord Geoffrey himself."
There was a brief silence. The butler entered, and was requested to invite the presence of Lord Geoffrey. During the interval the Duchess once more raised her lorgnettes to her eyes.
"And who is the person with that disgusting little white dog?" she asked.
"Your Grace," Goade replied, "I regret that my presence is an offence to you, or the presence of my dog. I can assure you that I am here against my will. My visits are often paid in that way. My name is Goade—Inspector Goade of Scotland Yard."
The Duchess' hand trembled. She turned towards the Dean, and her voice should have terrified him almost more than it did.
"You mean to say," she demanded, "that you have had the wickedness, the colossal impertinence, to place this matter in the hands of the police?"
"Your Grace," the Dean confided. "On the evidence before us, I might reasonably have considered it my duty to have done so. As a matter of fact, however, Mr. Goade is here unofficially. We consulted him as a friend of Captain Faulkener's. Our only desire was that the matter might be cleared up without undue delay and without publicity."
The Duchess was speechless. Just at that moment the door opened and Lord Geoffrey entered. He was in tennis clothes, and carried a racket under his arm. For a moment, as he stared through his monocle in surprise at these unexpected visitors, he bore some slight resemblance to his father.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed. "Why, how are you, Miss Followay? How are you, Dean? I wanted you for tennis, Faulkener. What's this happy little gathering all about?"
"You may well ask, Geoffrey," his mother said sombrely. "You will remember that it was at your solicitation that we invited Miss Followay to spend a few days with us recently."
"Well, what about it?" the young man enquired.
"You may also remember," his mother continued, "that Miss Followay mentioned something about having lost some article of jewellery—a pendant, I think it was?"
"I remember it quite well. We had the place thoroughly searched, but the thing couldn't be found."
"The Dean is here this afternoon to inform us that the article in question has been discovered in a pawnbroker's shop in Holborn," the Duchess declared—"discovered, it appears, through the agency of the gentleman with the dog, who comes from Scotland Yard. These people assert that the jewel was pawned by a young man giving the name of Geoffrey Fernell."
Lord Geoffrey stood for a moment as though turned to stone. Then he threw his racket on to a settee.
"My God!" he exclaimed.
"At present," the Duke interposed frostily, "your mother and I have not made up our minds whether to consider this as an outrage or a simple act of lunacy on the part of these good people. We should like to know what you have to say."
Lord Geoffrey said nothing at all. He stood for several moments with his hands in his pockets. Then he turned suddenly towards Florence.
"Did you think I took it?" he demanded.
She faced him bravely.
"I did," she replied. "I didn't want the scarf. You insisted upon bringing it to me, and when you took it off I felt your fingers on the clasp of the pendant. You took the scarf away, and I believe the pendant was in it. Anyway, you went to London the next morning, and the pendant was discovered pawned for a thousand pounds in your name."
He ignored the others and looked only at her. She met his gaze without flinching.
"If you suspected me, why didn't you mention it before?" he asked.
For a moment she hesitated; not, however, with any sign of embarrassment.
"It was my first visit here," she explained. "I didn't wish to cause trouble. I hoped that my jewel might have been returned."
"I think," the Duchess suggested coldly, "that we had better bring this most unpleasant meeting to an end. Is there any further question you would like to ask my son?"
Goade, who had been patting Flip absently for several moments, suddenly intervened.
"I should like, if I may, to ask him a somewhat obvious question," he said. "I should like to ask him whether he stole Miss Followay's pendant?"
"I thought you had already discovered that," was the unexpected reply. "Yes, I stole it."
"And pawned it in Holborn?"
There was a tense and most amazing silence. Even the Dean gasped. The Duchess was simply incapable of speech; the Duke, a most undignified looking figure, stood with his mouth open, gaping across at his son.
"Might one further enquire why you stole it?" Goade continued.
"I needed the money," was the curt admission.
The young man faced his father and mother, both of them now almost in a state of collapse.
"Of course, I'm terribly sorry and all that," he said, "but after all, I wasn't the only one to blame. I have written you time after time, Dad, and told you that it was perfectly impossible for me to keep up my position upon an allowance of two thousand a year. I needed a thousand pounds very badly, and I thought I saw a way of getting it without running any risk. I meant to have returned the thing to Miss Followay later on."
The Duchess seemed to have lost all power of consecutive reasoning. She had become a limp, unbalanced person.
"You stole!" she murmured. "Geoffrey! Our son! You stole from a girl!"
"The trinket," the Duke announced tremulously, "shall be returned."
"I am not quite sure," Florence said coldly, "whether that will meet the case. You do not know, Duchess, or you, Duke, exactly why Lord Geoffrey asked that I should be invited here. I should like to tell you. I saw quite a great deal of him in London. Since he came down here I don't think that he has treated me very well. One hears now that he has become attached to a young lady in London at the Duke of York's Theatre. Did you steal my pendant to buy presents for her, Lord Geoffrey?"
The young man turned towards the door.
"I've had enough of this," he declared sulkily.
He would have left the room, but Goade intervened.
"I am afraid, Lord Geoffrey, that I cannot permit you to leave just yet," he announced.
"What do you mean?" the Duchess gasped.
"Your Grace," Goade said gravely, "your son has confessed to a theft. If Miss Followay desires to prosecute—"
"Prosecute!" the Duchess shrieked.
"Prosecute!" the Duke groaned.
"Why not?" Florence rejoined. "Your son has treated me very badly. He paid me a great deal of attention in London, and has simply ignored me here. It seems to me to be the natural course to take."
Lord Geoffrey led her a little on one side.
"With your permission," he said, turning to his father and mother, "I will discuss this matter with Miss Followay. I will give my word to this gentleman," he added, turning to Goade, "not to leave the place."
He threw open the door, and they left the room together. The Duchess turned to the Dean.
"Dean," she begged, "I think that you had better perhaps add your persuasions to the persuasions of my son. I rely upon you to see that your daughter does not remain obdurate. If Geoffrey took the trinket at all he must have taken it as a joke."
"He could scarcely have pawned it as a joke," the Dean pointed out stiffly.
There was an awkward silence. Then the door was opened. Florence and Lord Geoffrey entered. The latter wore an expression of great relief.
"It's quite all right," he declared, addressing his father and mother. "Florence admits that it was a joke. She is perfectly willing to say no more about it. We are sending the announcement of our engagement to the Morning Post to-night."
The Duchess looked across at Florence with an icy gleam in her eyes.
"So this is your price!" she exclaimed.
The Dean rose to his feet with dignity.
"Your Grace," he said, "if you take that attitude—"
The Duke intervened.
"My wife forgot herself," he apologised. "Anything is better than what might have happened. My dear," he went on, taking Florence's hand, "let me wish you happiness. Geoffrey, I congratulate you."
Geoffrey patted his father on the back and whispered in his ear. The Duke nodded.
"I will see my lawyer to-morrow," he promised.
"You shall have a town house and an adequate allowance."
Captain Faulkener rose to his feet; Goade followed his example. The Duke looked at the latter anxiously.
"Under these circumstances, sir," he said, "I presume that no further action on your part will be necessary."
"I am in Miss Followay's hands," Goade replied.
"And I," she murmured, "have made terms with the enemy."4
LORD GEOFFREY clambered into the car going home and seated himself between Goade and his fiancée.
"Goade," he confided, "you were damned good."
"I was what?" Goade enquired.
"Damned good," Lord Geoffrey repeated. "You played the Scotland Yard sleuth marvellously. Difficult people mine, but you scared them all right."
Goade pinched Flip's ear for a moment.
"You two young people," he remarked, "did quite well. There were times when I scarcely realised myself that the whole thing was a plant."