Mr. Sabin was for a moment puzzled.
“What’s the job worth to you?” Mr. Skinner asked. “I am willing to pay,” Mr. Sabin answered, “according to your demands.”
“It’s a simple case,” Mr. Skinner admitted, “but our man at the Waldorf is expensive. If you get all your facts, I guess five hundred dollars will about see you through.”
“I will pay that,” Mr. Sabin answered.
“I will bring you the letters back to-night,” Mr. Skinner said. “I guess I’ll borrow that locket of yours, too.”
Mr. Sabin shook his head.
“That,” he said firmly, “I do not part with.” Mr. Skinner scratched his ear with his penholder. “It’s the only scrap of identifying matter we’ve got,” he remarked. “Of course it’s a dead simple case, and we can probably manage without it. But I guess it’s as well to fix the thing right down.”
“If you will give me a piece of paper,” Mr. Sabin said, “I will make you a sketch of the Duchess. The larger the better. I can give you an idea of the sort of clothes she would probably be wearing.”
Mr. Skinner furnished him with a double sheet of paper, and Mr. Sabin, with set face and unflinching figures, reproduced in a few simple strokes a wonderful likeness of the woman he loved. He pushed it away from him when he had finished without remark. Mr. Skinner was loud in its praises.
“I guess you’re an artist, sir, for sure,” he remarked. “This’ll fix the thing. Shall I come to your hotel?”
“If you please,” Mr. Sabin answered. “I shall be there for the rest of the day.”
Mr. Skinner took up his hat.
“Guess I’ll take my dinner and get right to work,” he remarked. “Say, you come along, Mr. Sabin. I’ll take you where they’ll fix you such a beefsteak as you never tasted in your life.”
“I thank you very much,” Mr. Sabin said, “but I must beg to be excused. I am expecting some despatches at my hotel. If you are successful this afternoon you will perhaps do me the honour of dining with me to-night. I will wait until eight-thirty.”
The two men parted upon the pavement. Mr. Skinner, with his small bowler hat on the back of his head, a fresh cigar in the corner of his mouth, and his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, strolled along Broadway with something akin to a smile parting his lips, and showing his yellow teeth.
“Darned old fool,” he muttered. “To marry a slap-up handsome woman like that, and then pretend not to know what it means when she bolts. Guess I’ll spoil his supper to-night.”
Mr. Sabin, however, was recovering his spirits. He, too, was leaning back in the corner of his carriage with a faint smile brightening his hard, stern face. But, unlike Mr. Skinner, he did not talk to himself.
R. Sabin, who was never, for its own sake, fond of solitude, had ordered dinner for two at eight-thirty in the general dining-room. At a few minutes previous to that hour Mr. Skinner presented himself.