Could there be any doubt that Jimmie Dale was innately a gentleman?
It was evening, and Jimmie Dale sat at a small table in the corner of the St. James Club dining room. Opposite him sat Herman Carruthers, a young man of his own age, about twenty-six, a leading figure in the newspaper world, whose rise from reporter to managing editor of the morning news-Argus within the short space of a few years had been almost meteoric.
They were at coffee and cigars, and Jimmie Dale was leaning back in his chair, his dark eyes fixed interestedly on his guest.
Carruthers, intently engaged in trimming his cigar ash on the edge of the Limoges china saucer of his coffee set, looked up with an abrupt laugh.
“No; I wouldn’t care to go on record as being an advocate of crime,” he said whimsically; “that would never do. But I don’t mind admitting quite privately that it’s been a positive regret to me that he has gone.”
“Made too good ‘copy’ to lose, I suppose?” suggested Jimmie Dale quizzically. “Too bad, too, after working up a theatrical name like that for him—the Gray Seal—rather unique! Who stuck that on him—you?”
Carruthers laughed—then, grown serious, leaned toward Jimmie Dale.
“You don’t mean to say, Jimmie, that you don’t know about that, do you?” he asked incredulously. “Why, up to a year ago the papers were full of him.”
“I never read your beastly agony columns,” said Jimmie Dale, with a cheery grin.
“Well,” said Carruthers, “you must have skipped everything but the stock reports then.”
“Granted,” said Jimmie Dale. “So go on, Carruthers, and tell me about him—I dare say I may have heard of him, since you are so distressed about it, but my memory isn’t good enough to contradict anything you may have to say about the estimable gentleman, so you’re safe.”
Carruthers reverted to the Limoges saucer and the tip of his cigar.
“He was the most puzzling, bewildering, delightful crook in the annals of crime,” said Carruthers reminiscently, after a moment’s silence. “Jimmie, he was the king-pin of them all. Clever isn’t the word for him, or dare-devil isn’t either. I used to think sometimes his motive was more than half for the pure deviltry of it, to laugh at the police and pull the noses of the rest of us that were after him. I used to dream nights about those confounded gray seals of his—that’s where he got his name; he left every job he ever did with a little gray paper affair, fashioned diamond-shaped, stuck somewhere where it would be the first thing your eyes would light upon when you reached the scene, and—”
“Don’t go so fast,” smiled Jimmie Dale. “I don’t quite get the connection. What did you have to do with this—er—Gray Seal fellow? Where do you come in?”
“I? I had a good deal to do with him,” said Carruthers grimly. “I was a reporter when he first broke loose, and the ambition of my life, after I began really to appreciate what he was, was to get him—and I nearly did, half a dozen times, only—”