“Jimmie,” said Carruthers earnestly. “You know what I thought of him before. It’s like a new lease of life to get back one’s faith in him. You leave it to me. I’ll put the Gray Seal on a pedestal to-morrow that will be worthy of the immortals—you leave it to me.”
And Carruthers kept his word. Also, before the paper had been an hour off the press, Carruthers received a letter. It thanked Carruthers quite genuinely, even if couched in somewhat facetious terms, for his “sweeping vindication,” twitted him gently for his “backsliding,” begged to remain “his gratefully,” and in lieu of signature there was a gray-coloured piece of paper shaped like this:
Only there were no fingerprints on it.
THE MOTHER LODE
It was the following evening, and they had dined together again at the St. James Club—Jimmie Dale, and Carruthers of the morning news-Argus. From Clayton and a discussion of the Metzer murder, the conversation had turned, not illogically, upon the physiognomy of criminals in general. Jimmie Dale, lazily ensconced now in a lounging chair in one of the club’s private library rooms, flicked a minute speck of cigar ash from the sleeve of his dinner jacket, and smiled whimsically across the table at his friend.
“Oh, I dare say there’s a lot in physiognomy, Carruthers,” he drawled. “Never studied the thing, you know—that is, from the standpoint of crime. Personally, I’ve only got one prejudice: I distrust, on principle, the man who wears a perennial and pompous smirk—which isn’t, of course, strictly speaking, physiognomy at all. You see, a man can’t help his eyes being beady or his nose pronounced, but pomposity and a smirk, now—” Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders.
Carruthers laughed—and then glanced ludicrously at Jimmie Dale, as the door, ajar, was pushed open, and a man entered.
“Speaking of angels,” murmured Jimmie Dale—and sat up in his chair. “Hello, Markel!” he observed casually, “You’ve met Carruthers, of the news-Argus, haven’t you?”
Markel was fat and important; he had beady black eyes, fastidiously trimmed whiskers—and a pronounced smirk.
Markel blew his nose vigorously, coughed asthmatically, and held out his hand.
“Of course, certainly,” said he effusively. “I’ve met Carruthers several times—used his sheet more than once to advertise a new bond flotation.”
The dominant note in Markel’s voice was an ingratiating and unpleasant whine, and Carruthers nodded, not very cordially—and shook hands.
Markel went back to the door, closed it carefully, and returned to the table.
“Fact is,” he smiled confidentially, “I saw you two come in here a few minutes ago, and I’ve got something that I thought Carruthers might be glad to have for his society column—say, in the Sunday edition.”