“‘Why don’t you?’
“’Because I’m a born fool. We’re fettered; we’re prisoners of luxury.’
“Only a night or two before I had seen his wife at a reception with a rope of pearls in her riggin’ an’ a search-light o’ diamonds on her forward deck an’ a tiara-boom-de-ay at her masthead an’ the flags of opulence flyin’ fore an’ aft.
“‘If I were you,’ I said, ‘I’d sell everything—even the jewels.’
“‘My poor wife!’ he exclaimed. ’I haven’t the heart to tell her all. She don’t know how hard up we are!’
“‘I wouldn’t neglect her education if I were you,’ I said. ’There’s a kindness, you know, that’s most unkind. Some day I shall write an article on the use an’ abuse of tiaras—poor things! It isn’t fair to overwork the family tiara. I suggest that you get a good-sized trunk an’ lock it up with the other jewels for a vacation. If necessary your house could be visited by a burglar—that is, if you wanted to save the feelin’s of your wife.’
“He turned with a puzzled look at me.
“‘Is it possible that you haven’t heard of that trick?’ I asked—’a man of your talents!’
“He shook his head.
“‘Why, these days, if a man wishes to divorce the family jewels an’ is afraid of his wife, the house is always entered by a burglar. My dear sir, the burglar is an ever-present help in time of trouble. It’s a pity that we have no Gentleman’s Home Journal in which poor but deservin’ husbands could find encouragement an’ inspiration.’
“He looked at me an’ laughed.
“‘Suppose you engage a trusty and reliable burglar?’ he proposed.
“‘There’s only one in the world.’ I said.
“‘Who is it?’
“‘Thomas Robinson Barrow. Of course, I’m not sayin’ that if I needed a burglar he’s just the man I should choose, but for this job he’s the only reliable burglar. Try him.’
“He seemed to be highly amused.
“‘But it might be difficult to fool the police,’ he said, in a minute.
“‘Well, it isn’t absolutely necessary, you know,’ I suggested. ‘The Chief of Police is a friend of mine.’
“’Good! I’m engaged for this job, and will sell the jewels and turn the money over to you.’
“‘I do not advise that—not just that,’ I said. ’We’ll retire them from active life. A tiara in the safe is worth two in the Titian bush. We’ll use them for collateral an’ go to doin’ business. When we’ve paid the debts in full we’ll redeem the goods an’ return them to your overjoyed wife. We’ll launch our tiara on the Marcel waves.’
“Tom was delighted with this plan—not the best, perhaps—but, anyhow, it would save his wife from reproach, an’ I don’t know what would have happened if she had continued to dazzle an’ enrage his creditors with the pearls an’ the tiara.
“‘It will not be so easy to sell the house,’ Tom went on. ’That’s our worst millstone. It was built for large hospitality, and we have a good many friends, and they come every week and jump on to the millstone.’