He dove into the inside pocket of his coat, produced a large morocco leather jeweller’s case, and, holding it out over the table between Carruthers and Jimmie Dale, suddenly snapped the cover open—and then, with a complacent little chuckle that terminated in another fit of coughing, spilled the contents on the table under the electric reading lamp.
Like a thing of living, pulsing fire it rolled before their eyes—a magnificent diamond necklace, of wondrous beauty, gleaming and scintillating as the light rays shot back from a thousand facets.
For a moment, both men gazed at it without a word.
“Little surprise for my wife,” volunteered Markel, with a debonair wave of his pudgy hand, and trying to make his voice sound careless.
The case lay open—patently displaying the name of the most famous jewelry house in America. Jimmie Dale’s eyes fixed on Markel’s whiskers where they were brushed outward in an ornate and fastidious gray-black sweep.
“By Jove!” he commented. “You don’t do things by halves, do you, Markel?”
“Two hundred and ten thousand dollars I paid for that little bunch of gewgaws,” said Markel, waving his hand again. Then he clapped Carruthers heartily on the shoulder. “What do you think of it, Carruthers—eh? Say, a photograph of it, and one of Mrs. Markel—eh? Please her, you know—she’s crazy on this society stunt—all flubdub to me of course. How’s it strike you, Carruthers?”
Carruthers, very evidently, liked neither the man nor his manners, but Carruthers, above everything else, was a gentleman.
“To be perfectly frank with you, Mr. Markel,” he said a little frigidly, “I don’t believe in this sort of thing. It’s all right from a newspaper standpoint, and we do it; but it’s just in this way that owners of valuable jewelry lay themselves open to theft. It simply amounts to advising every crook in the country that you have a quarter of a million at his disposal, which he can carry away in his vest pocket, once he can get his hands on it—and you invite him to try.”
Jimmie Dale laughed. “What Carruthers means, Markel, is that you’ll have the Gray Seal down your street. Carruthers talks of crooks generally, but he thinks in terms of only one. He can’t help it. He’s been trying so long to catch the chap that it’s become an obsession. Eh, Carruthers?”
Carruthers smiled seriously. “Perhaps,” he admitted. “I hope, though, for Mr. Markel’s sake, that the Gray Seal won’t take a fancy to it—if he does, Mr. Markel can say good-bye to his necklace.”
“Pouf!” coughed Markel arrogantly. “Overrated! His cleverness is all in the newspaper columns. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll know enough to leave this alone.”
Jimmie Dale was leaning over the table poking gingerly with the tip of his forefinger at the centre stone in the setting, revolving it gently to and fro in the light—a very large stone, whose weight would hardly be less than fifteen carats. Jimmie Dale lowered his head for a closer examination—and to hide a curious, mocking little gleam that crept into his dark eyes.