A light, hesitating rap on the library door interrupted Mr. Smilk’s bitter reflection.
“Some one at the door,” the burglar announced, after a moment. Mr. Yollop had failed to hear the tapping.
“You can’t fool me, Cassius. It’s an old trick but it won’t work. I’ve seen it done on the stage too many times to be caught napping by,—”
“There it goes again. Louder, please!” he called with considerable vehemence and was rewarded by a scarcely audible tapping indicative not only of timidity but of alarm as well—“Say,” he bawled, “you’ll have to cut out that spirit rapping if you want to come in. Use your night-stick!”
“Ah, the police at last,” cried Mr. Yollop. “You’d better take this revolver now, Mr. Smilk,” he added hastily. “I won’t want ’em to catch me with a weapon in my possession. It means a heavy fine or imprisonment.” He shoved the pistol across the desk. “They wouldn’t believe me if I said it was yours.”
A sharp, penetrating rat-a-tat on the door. Mr. Smilk picked up the revolver.
“You bet they wouldn’t,” said he. “If I swore on a stack of bibles I let a boob like you take it away from me, they’d send me to Matteawan, and God knows,—”
“Come in!” called out Mr. Yollop.
The door opened and a plump, dumpy lady in a pink peignoir, her front hair done up in curl-papers stood revealed on the threshold blinking in the strong light.
“Goodness gracious, Crittenden,” she cried irritably, “don’t you know what time of night it—”
She broke off abruptly as Mr. Smilk, with a great clatter, yanked his remaining foot from the drawer and arose, overturning the swivel-chair in his haste.
“Well, for the love of—” oozed from his gaping mouth. Suddenly he turned his face away and hunched one shoulder up as a sort of shield.
“It’s long past three o’clock,” went on the newcomer severely. “I’m sorry to interrupt a conference but I do think you might arrange for an appointment during the day, sir. My brother has not been well and if ever a man needed sleep and rest and regular hours, he does. Crittenden, I wish you—”
“Cassius,” interrupted Mr. Yollop urbanely, “this is my sister, Mrs. Champney. I want you to repeat—Turn around here, can’t you? What’s the matter with you?”
“Don’t order me around like that,” muttered Mr. Smilk, still with his face averted. “I’ve got the gun now and I’ll do as I damn’ please. You can’t talk to me like—”