“Look at this, sir. It was my mother’s. And I’d be a fine chap, would I not, to let a drunken scoundrel steal it and get away with it.”
It was a Neapolitan brooch, of pink coral, surrounded by small pearls. Haggerty balanced it on his palm and appraised it at three or found hundred dollars. He glanced casually into the leather box. Some faded tin-types, some letters, a very old Bible, and odds and ends of a young man’s fancy: Haggerty shrugged. It looked as if he had stumbled into a mare’s-nest.
“He said you took money.”
“Do y’ want t’ appear against him?”
“No. We sail at seven to-morrow. So long as he missed his shot, let him go.”
“Why didn’t y’ lodge a complaint against him?”
“I’m not familiar with your laws, Mr. Haggerty. So I took the matter in my own hands.”
“Don’t do it again. Sorry t’ trouble you. But duty’s duty. An’ listen. Always play your game above board; it pays.”
Haggerty started to offer his hand, but the look in the gray eyes caused him to misdoubt and reconsider the impulse. So Thomas made his first mistake, which, later on, was to cost him dear. Coconnas shook hands with Caboche the headsman, and escaped the “question extraordinary.” Truth is, Thomas was not an accomplished liar. He could lie to the detective, but he could not bring himself to shake hands on it.
On the way down the plank Haggerty mused: “An’ I thought I had a hunch!”
Thomas sighed. “Play your game above board; it pays.” Into what a labyrinth of lies he was wayfaring!
That same night, on the other side of the Atlantic, the ninth Baron of Dimbledon sailed for America to rehabilitate his fortunes. He did and he didn’t.
Thomas was a busy man up to and long after the hour of sailing. His cabins were filled with about all the variant species of the race: two nervous married women with their noisy mismanaged children, three young men on a lark, and an actress who was paying her husband’s expenses and gladly announced the fact over and through the partitions. Three bells tingled all day long, and the only thing that saved Thomas from the “sickbay” was the fact that the bar closed at eleven. And a rough passage added to his labors. No Henley this voyage, no comfy loafing about the main-deck in the sunshine. A busy, miserable, dejected young man, who cursed his folly and yet clung to it with that tenacity which makes prejudice England’s first-born.
Night after night, stretched out wearily on his bunk, the sordid picture of Lumpy Joe’s returned to him. By a hair’s breadth! It was always a source of amazement to recall how quickly and shrewdly his escape had been managed. He felt reasonably safe. Jameson would never dare tell what he knew, to incriminate himself for the sake of revenge. To have got the best of him and to have pulled the wool over the eyes of a keen American detective!