“Goodness! Who is this man?” cried the lady, stopping short to regard the blasphemer with shocked, disapproving eyes. “And what is he doing with a revolver in his hand?”
“Give me that pistol,—at once,” commanded Mr. Yollop. “Hand it over!”
“Not on your life,” cried Mr. Smilk triumphantly. He faced Mrs. Champney. “Take off them rings, you. Put ’em here on the desk. Lively, now! And don’t yelp! Do you get me? Don’t yelp!”
Mrs. Champney stared unblinkingly, speechless.
“Put up your hands, Yollop!” ordered Mr. Smilk.
“Why,—why, it’s Ernest,—Ernest Wilson,” she gasped, incredulously. Then, with a little squeak of relief: “Don’t pay any attention to him, Crittenden. He is a friend of mine. Don’t you remember me, Ernest? I am—”
“You bet your life I remember you,” said the burglar softly, almost purringly.
“Ernest your grandmother,” cried Mr. Yollop jerking the disk first one way and then the other in order to catch the flitting duologue. “His name is Smilk,—Cassius Smilk.”
“Nothing of the sort,” said Mrs. Champney sharply. “It’s Ernest Wilson,—isn’t it, Ernest?”
“Take off them rings,” was the answer she got.
“What is this man doing here, Crittenden?” demanded Mrs. Champney, paying no heed to Smilk’s command.
“He’s a burglar,” replied Mr. Yollop. “I guess you’d better take off your rings, Alice.”
“Do you mean to tell me, Ernest Wilson, that you’ve gone back to your evil ways after all I,—”
“I say, Cassius,” cried Mr. Yollop, “is this the woman you wanted to bind and gag and—and—”
“Yes, and rap over the bean,” finished Mr. Smilk, as the speaker considerately refrained.
“Rap over the—what?” inquired Mrs. Champney, squinting.
“The bean,” said Mr. Smilk, with emphasis.
“I can’t imagine what has come over you, Ernest. You were such a nice, quiet, model prisoner,—one of the most promising I ever had anything to do with. The authorities assured me that you—do you mean to tell me that you entered this apartment for the purpose of robbing it? Don’t answer! I don’t want to hear your voice again. You have given me the greatest disappointment of my life. I trusted you, Ernest,—I had faith in you,—and—and now I find you here in my own brother’s apartment, of all places in the world, still pursuing your-”
“Well, you went and moved away on me,” broke in Smilk wrathfully.
“That’s right, Alice,” added Mr. Yollop. “You went and moved on him. He told me that just before you came in.”
“You may as well understand right now, Ernest Wilson, that I shall never intercede for you again,” said Mrs. Champney sternly. “I shall let you rot in prison. I am through with you. You don’t deserve—”
“Are you goin’ to take off them rings, or have I got to—”
“Would you rob your benefactress?” demanded the lady.