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   Chapter 6 No.6

The Chase of the Golden Plate By Jacques Futrelle Characters: 5836

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Dick arose and offered his left hand to Mr. Randolph, who calmly ignored it, turning his gaze instead upon the reporter.

"I had hoped to find you alone," he said frostily.

Hatch made as if to rise.

"Sit still, Hatch," Dick commanded. "Mr. Hatch is a friend of mine, Mr. Randolph. I don't know what you want to say, but whatever it is, you may say it freely before him."

Hatch knew that humour in Dick. It always preceded the psychological moment when he wanted to climb down someone's throat and open an umbrella. The tone was calm, the words clearly enunciated, and the face was white-whiter than it had been before.

"I shouldn't like to--" Mr. Randolph began.

"You may say what you want to before Mr. Hatch, or not at all, as you please," Dick went on evenly.

Mr. Randolph cleared his throat twice and waved his hands with an expression of resignation.

"Very well," he replied. "I have come to request the return of my gold plate."

Hatch leaned forward in his chair, gripping its arms fiercely. This was a question bearing broadly on a subject that he wanted to mention, but he didn't know how. Mr. Randolph apparently found it easy enough.

"What gold plate?" asked Dick steadily.

"The eleven pieces that you, in the garb of a Burglar, took from my house last Thursday evening," said Mr. Randolph. He was quite calm.

Dick took a sudden step forward, then straightened up with flushed face. His left hand closed with a snap and the nails bit into the flesh; the fingers of the helpless right hand worked nervously. In a minute now Hatch could see him climbing all over Mr. Randolph.

But again Dick gained control of himself. It was a sort of recognition of the fact that Mr. Randolph was fifty years old; Hatch knew it; Mr. Randolph's knowledge on the subject didn't appear. Suddenly Dick laughed.

"Sit down, Mr. Randolph, and tell me about it," he suggested.

"It isn't necessary to go into details," continued Mr. Randolph, still standing. "I had not wanted to go this far in the presence of a third person, but you forced me to do it. Now, will you or will you not return the plate?"

"Would you mind telling me just what makes you think I got it?" Dick insisted.

"It is as simple as it is conclusive," said Mr. Randolph. "You received an invitation to the masked ball. You went there in your Burglar garb and handed your invitation-card to my servant. He noticed you particularly and read your name on the card. He remembered that name perfectly. I was compelled to tell the story as I knew it to Detective Mallory. I did not mention your name; my servant remembered it, had given it to me in fact, but I forbade him to repeat it to the police. He told them something about having burned the invitation-cards."

"Oh, wouldn't that please Mallory?" Hatch thought.

"I have not even intimated to the police that I have the least idea of your identity," Mr. Rando

lph went on, still standing. "I had believed that it was some prank of yours and that the plate would be returned in due time. Certainly I could not account for you taking it in any other circumstances. My reticence, it is needless to say, was in consideration of your name and family. But now I want the plate. If it was a prank to carry out the r?le of the Burglar, it is time for it to end. If the fact that the matter is now in the hands of the police has frightened you into the seeming necessity of keeping the plate for the present to protect yourself, you may dismiss that. When the plate is returned to me I shall see that the police drop the matter."

Dick had listened with absorbed interest. Hatch looked at him from time to time and saw only attention-not anger.

"And the Girl?" asked Dick at last. "Does it happen that you have as cleverly traced her?"

"No," Mr. Randolph replied frankly. "I haven't the faintest idea who she is. I suppose no one knows that but you. I have no interest further than to recover the plate. I may say that I called here yesterday, Friday, and asked to see you, but was informed that you had been hurt, so I went away to give you opportunity to recover somewhat."

"Thanks," said Dick drily. "Awfully considerate."

There was a long silence. Hatch was listening with all the multitudinous ears of a good reporter.

"Now the plate," Mr. Randolph suggested again impatiently. "Do you deny that you got it?"

"I do," replied Dick firmly.

"I was afraid you would, and, believe me, Mr. Herbert, such a course is a mistaken one," said Mr. Randolph. "I will give you twenty-four hours to change your mind. If, at the end of that time, you see fit to return the plate, I shall drop the matter and use my influence to have the police do so. If the plate is not returned I shall be compelled to turn over all the facts to the police with your name."

"Is that all?" Dick demanded suddenly.

"Yes, I believe so."

"Then get out of here before I--" Dick started forward, then dropped back into a chair.

Mr. Randolph drew on his gloves and went out, closing the door behind him.

For a long time Dick sat there, seemingly oblivious of Hatch's presence, supporting his head with his left hand, while the right hung down loosely beside him. Hatch was inclined to be sympathetic, for, strange as it may seem, some reporters have even the human quality of sympathy-although there are persons who will not believe it.

"Is there anything I can do?" Hatch asked at last. "Anything you want to say?"

"Nothing," Dick responded wearily. "Nothing. You may think what you like. There are, as I said, several things of which I cannot speak, even if it comes to a question-a question of having to face the charge of theft in open court. I simply can't say anything."

"But-but--" stammered the reporter.

"Absolutely not another word," said Dick firmly.

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