“Then hand over the letter,” said Crenshaw
“Do you fancy we would be hunting it if we had it?”
“I don’t fancy—produce the goods!”
“We haven’t the goods,” Marston shrugged. “We can’t find it.”
Sparrow shook his head curtly.
“It’s the truth,” Harleston interjected. “They haven’t found the goods for the very good reason that the goods are not here. Plunge in and aid in the search; I wish you would; it will relieve me of your triple intrusion in one third less time. I’m becoming very tired of it all; it has lost its novelty. I prefer to sleep.”
“I want the letter!” Crenshaw exclaimed.
“I assumed as much from the vigour of your quest,” Harleston shrugged. “The difficulty is that I haven’t the letter. Neither is it in my apartment. But you’ll facilitate the search if you’ll depress your respective cannon from the angle of each other’s anatomy and get to work. As I remarked before, I’m anxious to compose myself for sleep. You can hold your little dispute later on the sidewalk, or in jail, or wherever is most convenient.”
“Mr. Harleston,” said Marston, “do you give us your word that the letter is not in your apartment?”
“You already have it,” Harleston replied wearily.
“Then, sir, we’ll take your word and withdraw.”
“Thank you,” said Harleston.
“He has it somewhere!” Crenshaw declared, fingering his revolver.
“My dear fellow,” Marston returned, “we are willing to accept Mr. Harleston’s averment.”
“He knows where it is—he took it—let him tell where it is hidden.”
“What good will that subserve? We can’t get it tonight, and tomorrow will be too late.”
“And all because of you two meddlers.”
“Three meddlers, Crenshaw!” Marston laughed. “You must not forget your sweet self. We’ve bungled the affair, I admit. We can’t improve it now by murdering each other—”
“We can make it very uncomfortable for the fourth meddler,” Crenshaw threatened, eyeing the figure on the bed.
“Haven’t you made me uncomfortable enough by this untimely intrusion?” Harleston muttered sleepily.
“What is your idea in not offering any opposition?” Crenshaw demanded. “Is it a plant?”
“It was courtesy at first, and the novelty of the experience; but it’s ceased to be novel, and courtesy is a bit supererogatory. By the way, which of you came up the fire-escape?”
The three shook their heads.
“I’m not a burglar,” Crenshaw snapped.
“The burden is on you to prove it, my friend!” Harleston smiled. “However, it’s no matter. Just drop cards before you leave so that I can return your call. Once more, good-night!”
“I’m off,” said Marston. “Come along, Crenshaw, you can’t do anything more here, and we’ll all forget and forgive and start fresh in the morning.”
“Start?” cried Crenshaw? “what for—home? I tell you the letter is here—he took it, didn’t he? He was at the cab.”