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   Chapter 3 THE HONBLE MRS. WINSTON TO THE COUNTESS OF LANE

The Lightning Conductor Discovers America By A. M. Williamson Characters: 29928

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Awepesha, Long Island,

March 25th.

Dearest Mercédes:

I don't know whether or not I ought to take it for granted that you and Monty are hanging breathlessly on the fate of Patricia Moore; but I suppose I'm subconsciously judging you by Jack and myself. We think, talk, dream, eat, drink, nothing except her business in one form or other!

I meant to write you (about the one absorbing subject, of course) a day or two after I closed my last letter, which was a sort of "to be continued in my next" affair. But it was a case of deeds, not words. Things had to be done and done quickly. It's all rather tragic and wildly funny.

You should have seen Jack's face when he came back to Awepesha after motoring over to spy out the nakedness of the land at Kidd's Pines. It takes a lot to flabbergast Jack, as I learned when he was my "Lightning Conductor"; but he certainly did look flabbergasted this time. You know the look as well as the "feel," don't you? It makes the eyes seem wider apart and dropped down at the outer corners.

He glanced hastily about to see if I were alone. I was still in the library where he'd left me, because I didn't want to go over the house till he could go, too: and luckily I'd found enough piled-up letters and telegrams to keep me occupied.

"It's all right," I said. "Patsey's taking a walk in the garden. She's too restless to sit still. Besides, I dare say she hoped to head you off. A wonder she didn't! But perhaps she's gone down to the water to try and catch a distant glimpse of Kidd's Pines. What has become of the adored Larry? Did you find him?"

"I did not," said Jack. "I didn't find anybody-at least at the house."

"You didn't expect to find anybody but Larry, did you?" I asked.

"I expected to find servants."

"Good heavens! aren't there any?" I gasped.

"No. Wait till I tell you what happened. There's a porter's lodge, of course, but the gate was closed when we got there and nobody came to open it. Fortunately it was only shut, not locked. We drove in. It's a ripping place, my child. This can't be compared with it. Yet there's an air of neglect over everything. That didn't surprise me much. But when I rang the bell a dozen times without getting an answer it began to seem like a bad dream. I got tired of admiring the doorway, though it's a beauty, and you'll be mad about it; so I decided to investigate elsewhere. I tried my luck at two side entrances and then at the back. Not a sound. Not even the mew of a cat. Palace of the Sleeping Beauty! Not to be discouraged, I wandered along till I found the stables-fine big ones, and a huge garage. Locked up and silent as the grave. Farther on I discovered a gardener's house: door fastened, blinds down. I went back and told our chauffeur: Jekyll, his name is. He knew no more about Mr. Moore's affairs than we-only what he'd read in the papers; but he proposed running on to the village, and making an errand at the post-office: thought they'd be sure to be up in everything there. He bought stamps, and asked questions while he waited for change. It seems that Moore hasn't been at Kidd's Pines for a week, and yesterday there was a servants' strike. They stampeded in a body; hadn't been paid for months, but hung on hoping for the best till after the bankruptcy. Then as Moore lay low they decided the game was up."

"What a homecoming for Patsey!" I moaned. "How are we to tell her?"

"You won't have to, dear," she said. Which paid us out for talking at the tops of our voices in front of a long French window which I had opened. She was standing in it.

My bones turned to water, and Jack looked as if he'd been shot for treason. But there it was. She knew! And she behaved like a heroine. She wasn't even pale, as she had been when Ed Caspian broke things gently to her.

"Please don't mind," she went on, turning from me to Jack. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop at first, but when I heard what you were talking about I thought it would be no harm to listen. It would save your telling me afterward. I don't feel one bit worse than I did. Rats leave sinking ships, don't they? I always thought it stupid of them, because they might have to swim miles with waves mountains high. I shan't desert the ship! You've both been angels to me, but now I know that Larry isn't at Kidd's Pines just oversleeping himself. I want to go there at once to wait for him. Think, if he came home sad and tired after all his troubles, to find the house shut up like you found it, Captain Winston! Would you be so very kind as to let your chauffeur drive me home at once?"

"We can all three go over directly after luncheon," I suggested.

Can you picture to yourself, Mercédes, an American beauty rose suddenly transforming itself into an obstinate mule? You'd say it couldn't be done. But it can. I realized on the instant that unless I sent for wild horses to tear her to pieces, Patsey would start for Kidd's Pines within the next ten minutes, chauffeur or no chauffeur. To ask her mildly how she expected to get in would have been a waste of breath. The frail young creature was quite capable of breaking the beautiful door down with a mallet if no easier way offered!

My eyes and Jack's met. Without a word he rang, and sent word to Jekyll that he must be ready to start out again immediately. Doubtless poor Cousin John's well-regulated clockwork servants thought we'd lost our heads, for luncheon had already been put back for Jack's return, and now here we were proposing to go off without it! Yet no, not exactly without it. What could be taken with us we took in a basket: for man must eat and woman must at least nibble.

While I'd been giving hasty but apologetic orders, Pat had darted away in search of Angéle, who might, she imagined, be useful in a servantless house. I don't know how much Angéle had heard or understood, but when she appeared with fire in her eye and crumbs on her lip, I thought she looked dangerous.

We didn't say much on the way to Kidd's Pines; but inside the gates, though my heart was oppressed, I broke into admiring exclamations. My dear, there's nothing lovelier in Italy or in England! I group those two countries together in my comparison because Kidd's Pines has salient features which suggest both. The general effect of the lawns and gardens round the exquisite old house is English, or would be, if they were better kept. The tall drooping elm trees and occasional willows are vaguely English, too: but the grove of umbrella pine trees crowding darkly together on a promontory like a band of conspirators might be etched against the sky at some seaside chateau of Posilippo. I'm beginning to find out that this combined English-ness and Italian-ness is characteristic of Long Island, where I am even a greater stranger than Patricia Moore. And yet the most winning charm, the charm which seems to link all other charms together, is the American-ness of everything-oh, an utterly different American-ness from what most people mean when they say "how American that is!" I do wish I could explain clearly; but to explain a thing so delicate, so illusive, would be like taking a soap-bubble in your hand to demonstrate that it was round. It's an effect of imagination and climate: imagination which gave graceful lightness and simplicity to Georgian models; climate which has played Puck-tricks with elms and other stately trees of England, turning them into fairy trees while leaving the family resemblance. Why, there's something different even about the paint on those dear old frame houses in the country over here! In no other part of the world, not even in Italy, where colour is so important, could there be a yellow like the yellow paint on the ancient shingled house-front at Kidd's Pines. I suppose the white window-facings and doorway and pillars, and the green blinds, and the frame of cathedral elms, partly account for the indescribable sweetness of that yellow. I can't liken it to anything but primroses in a forest, seen in the level, secret light of sunrise.

My ecstasies cheered Patsey a little, and I emitted some of them in French, for the benefit of Angéle, who looked about as appreciative as a Mexican horned toad.

We got into the house easily enough, by sacrificing a window-pane in the kitchen and then undoing the catch. A sweet kitchen it was, or ought to have been if the servants hadn't avenged their wrongs by leaving a lot of dishes and dish towels unwashed. We wandered about, Patsey pretending to remember this or that, and really half paralyzed with fright lest she should find that Larry had committed suicide in one of the beautiful shut-up rooms. No such horror awaited us, however, and greatly relieved in our inmost minds, we came to rest in the dining-room, where Angéle was unpacking our luncheon with her hands and poisoning it with her glances.

There were chicken salad and heavenly rolls, pickles which made me feel a child again (a thoroughly American child), chocolate layer-cake, and various other things that thrilled me with pride of the United States. While Jack and I (starved) were trying not to eat too much for sympathetic friendship, and Pat was trying to eat enough to please us, we heard a door slam in the distance. We started like burglars caught at a stolen feast. It couldn't be Angéle, because she was darkening the room with her presence. It couldn't be-but it was!

"Larry!" cried Pat, springing up, and making a dash for the door which she happened to face. We others turned to face it also, and saw coming in a delightful boy as happy as Pan-much happier than Pan would be in modern clothes.

"She must be mistaken," I thought. "This can't be a grown girl's father. It can't be a father of anything! Impossible it should be a ruined bankrupt. It must be some younger brother of Larry's who looks like him."

But no! "Hello, girlie!" the tall lad exclaimed, and held out his arms. Patsey rushed into them, and was clasped. She buried her head on the boy's shoulder, and he looked at us over the top of her head, smiling. I assure you I never saw a more engaging smile, not even Pat's own-or Peter Storm's. Theirs are quite different. Pat's is childlike and winningly ignorant of life; the Stormy Petrel's is full of unexpected gleams of humour, which lighten those mysterious eyes of an Italian prince. This youth's smile at us over his weeping daughter's hat was pagan-the joyous, carefree smile of Pan.

He patted the girl's back. "Awfully sorry I couldn't meet you," he said, in a gay and charming voice, which contradicted a statement that he could be sorry about anything: the sort of voice which you know means a light singing tenor. "I've been busy," he went on, explaining himself to us as much as to Pat, "busy winning back the family fortunes."

Pat drew herself from him to look him in the face, and beam through a few tears. "You darling!" she gasped. "I might have known it! You have won them back?"

"I've made a start," he modestly replied. "I'll tell you all about it. Jove! You've grown up a dashed pretty girl. We shan't make a bad-looking pair trotting around together-what? But introduce me to your friends."

Patsey did so. When the young god Pan had met us halfway and was warmly shaking hands, one saw that he wasn't quite such an ambrosial youth as he had seemed at a distance. Instead of looking twenty, he appeared at the outside twenty-eight, wavy bronze-brown hair; big, wide-open eyes of yellow-brown like cigarette tobacco; low, straight brows and lashes of the same light shade; a clever, impudent nose and a wide, laughing mouth; a pointed, prominent chin with a cleft in it. Now, can you imagine this as the description of a nineteen-year-old girl's recreant parent, a ruined bankrupt returning to a house deserted by his unpaid servants?

After his failure to meet Pat, leaving her to arrive alone and friendless (so far as he could know), with huge duties to pay and nothing to pay them with, I'd been prepared to loathe Larry. But to loathe Pan would be a physical impossibility for any one who loves the brightness of Nature. I fell a victim to the creature's charm at first glance, and I think even Jack more or less melted at the second or third.

Larry had come in hat in hand, and had burst upon us as such a surprise that we didn't notice his costume till after we'd calmed down. When Pat had pranced round him a little in a kind of votive dance, his eyes fell upon our luncheon, and he said in French that he had the hunger of seventy-seven wolves. He then approached the table to examine the food with interest, and put down his hat. It dawned upon me only at this instant that the hat was a shiny "topper"; and as he unbuttoned a smart black overcoat and threw back a white silk muffler, lo! he was revealed in full evening dress. This at two-thirty in the afternoon!... "Curiouser and curiouser," as Alice remarked when she fell down the Rabbit Hole.

"I'm clothed like this," explained Larry, "because the house where I went last night to restore our lost fortunes was raided by the police, and I escaped by the skin of my teeth. Most of the other chaps were arrested, I saw in the papers this morning, but my usual luck was with me. I happened to hide in a place where they happened not to look-or, rather, there was a fellow who looked, but he was the right sort. A hundred-dollar-bill fixed up a get-away for me, but not till a couple of hours ago. Eyes turned the other way till I'd passed the danger zone. Then I taxied down here without waiting to eat, for I thought the poor girlie would be sure to come home to roost. All's well that ends well! Am I or am I not the 'smart guy?' I pulled a thousand dollars out of roulette last night at poor old Jimmie Follette's. Had only seventy-five to start with. The wheel gave me all the rest. I backed zero and she kept repeating. Raised my stakes whenever I won. See here, I've got the spoils on me-all but the hundred I had to shed-and twenty-five for the taxi. Let's gloat."

Chuckling, he emptied his pockets of gold and greenbacks. He was in his own eyes and in Patty's the hero of a great adventure. "What did I tell you about Larry?" she challenged us.

When he heard about the servants, he threw back his curly head and laughed. He'd been living in town, it seemed, for more than a week. "There's such a lot of red tape they tie you up in if you go bankrupt," he explained to Jack. "Never was so bored in my life! But I kept consoling myself with the thought, 'I'm sure to bob up serenely in the end. I always have and I always shall.' Now here's this money for instance. If I can make a thousand out of seventy-five, what can't I make out of a thousand? I wish I'd gone seriously in for roulette before. I might have known I'd win. We'll get some more servants and begin again, for this house is our castle. 'God's in His heaven, all's well with the world.'"

"But-but, Larry

dear, we owe Captain Winston heaps of money for customs duty," Pat ventured, wistfully reluctant to dash his high spirits, yet goaded by conscience. "Of course I can sell the things, but meanwhile--"

"Sell nothing!" exclaimed Larry. "Now you've come home and can sign papers, we'll mortgage the place, and then we'll be on velvet."

My heart sank, because I saw Pat in her last ditch, and presently turned out of it with nowhere else to go unless she married for money. She was in such a state of rapture at recovering Larry after all her fears, that I thought she would cheerfully consent to anything he advised, but there must have been a sensible ancestor behind the girl somewhere. "Oh, I wish we needn't mortgage Kidd's Pines!" she sighed. "It is such a dear place. I'd almost forgotten-but such a rush of love has come over me for it to-day. I'd hate to risk losing it-and we might, you know. There's another plan that some kind friends from the ship thought of this morning, when-when we heard the news-about our trouble. They're coming to Awepesha to talk it over, at four o'clock this afternoon."

She turned an imploring glance on Jack, who thereupon felt forced to help her out with explanations. He stumbled a little, for fear of hurting Mr. Moore's pride; but he needn't have worried. Larry regarded the idea as the joke of the century.

"Great Scott, what a lark!" he shouted. "I can see the advertisements! 'Hiding place of Captain Kidd's Treasure in the Grounds.' What do you know about that? Jove, we'll have digging parties, with me for the leader!"

"You must make them pay for the privilege of digging," I suggested.

"Yes! We'll call it the 'Only Extra.' I like the idea of that man-Storm, did you say his name is?-of charging some high, almost prohibitive price which limits the scope of operation to millionaires, then letting them have everything they want, as if they were guests: champagne or water, the same charge. We ought to get some fun out of this-what?"

I thanked Billiken, the God of Things as They Ought to Be, that he took it that way, for, if only Larry didn't insist on managing the business himself, I saw hope of Pat's being saved.

Our chauffeur, looking more like Hyde than Jekyll after his long wait, took us all back to Awepesha in the car, after Larry had changed his telltale clothes to tweeds, and the ruined bankrupt was the life of the party. His remarks about the expression of Angéle's back (she sat in front) and his friend the Marquise's taste in female beauty were most witty and amusing, if not in the best of taste.

I forgot to tell you that Ed Caspian brought his car down to the docks to take Mrs. Shuster wherever she wanted to go-a resplendent car of the most expensive make in the world, such a car as he would have called "Moloch" in the days when his hand was against Capital. Before we'd been back very long at Awepesha it arrived, bearing the lady and her host, but not Mr. Storm. He had preferred to travel independently, it seemed, and I rather liked him for it. No sooner were the introductions and first politenesses over between the newcomers and Larry, however, than Storm appeared. I had rather expected that he would "doll himself up"-as they say in this dear land of ours-for the visit in high society; but he had made no change, not even a tall collar.

Mrs. Shuster, enraptured with Larry and in an ecstasy between these three men she could think of as "in her train," presented "Mr. Peter Storm to Mr. Moore." "A hero of the Lusitania and Arabic," she added, "and going to be my secretary."

Larry held out his hand, and, as he shook the Stormy Petrel's, stared at him. "I seem to know your face," he said. "And yet-I can't place it. Do you know mine?"

"I think if I'd ever seen it I shouldn't have forgotten," returned our Ship's Mystery. I noticed that he did not say he hadn't seen it or that he had forgotten. And I vividly recalled how Pat, too, had had the impression that Storm's eyes were familiar-associated with some memory of long ago. Neither she nor her father, however, appeared to find any double meaning in his reply.

Well, to make a long story less long, Mrs. Shuster and Mr. Caspian had put their heads together over the hotel idea. Both had taken advantage of Peter Storm's brief absence to forget that it had originated in his brain. They spoke of "our plan," and for the moment he claimed no credit, as I should have been tempted to do. It was only when they began to develop the said plan upon lines evidently different from those agreed upon with him that he roused himself.

"In thinking it over," Ed Caspian explained to Larry, "Mrs. Shuster and I have decided that the simplest thing would be for me to advance any capital necessary to start the hotel enterprise: advertising and a lot of things like that. All in a business way of course. Miss Moore can give me a mortgage--"

"I beg your pardon," the S. M. cut him off in a voice quite low but keen as a knife. "The hotel suggestion was mine, wasn't it, Miss Moore?"

"Yes," Pat assented, "it certainly was." She looked from one man to the other, puzzled and interested.

"I shouldn't have made the suggestion if I weren't more or less of an expert in such matters." Storm said this with almost aggressive self-confidence. One had to believe that he knew what he was talking about; that his apparently mysterious past included the management of hotels, and this instinctive if reluctant credence was a tribute to the man's magnetic power. He did look the last person on earth to be a hotel-keeper! Believing that he might have been one ought to have destroyed the romance attached to him, but somehow it made the flame of curiosity burn brighter.

"Don't you all think," he went on, "that the suggestor ought to have a voice in the working out of the scheme-that is, if he has anything to say worth hearing?"

"Seems to me this is a case for acts, not arguments," remarked Caspian. "It isn't good advice but money that's needed at this stage."

"Exactly," said Storm. "The question is, how is it to be obtained? I think it would be more advantageous to Mr. Moore and his daughter for a small syndicate to be formed than for them to get the capital on a mortgage. They are amateurs. They don't know how to run a hotel. They might make a failure, and the mortgage could be called in--"

"I wouldn't do such a thing!" Caspian angrily cut him short. "That's why I came forward-so they could have a friend rather than a business man--"

"It turns out awkwardly sometimes, doing business with friends," said Storm, giving the other a level look straight from eye to eye. So may a cat look at a king. So may a steerage passenger look at a millionaire if he isn't afraid. And apparently this one wasn't afraid, having only other people's axes to grind, not his own. "Forming a company or syndicate, Mr. and Miss Moore would have shares in the business, given them for what they could put into it: their historic place and beautiful house. Mrs. Shuster would take up a large group of shares, and would, I understand, become one of the first guests of the hotel, to show her confidence in the scheme. Isn't that the case, Mrs. Shuster?"

"Oh, yes!" she agreed. All the man's magnetic influence-temporarily dimmed by her old friend Ed in the motor car-seemed to rush over her again in a warm wave.

"Mr. Caspian is of course free to join the syndicate," continued the S. M. "But he, too, is an amateur. He may know how to live well in hotels, he doesn't know how to run them well."

"I'm not a hotel-keeper, thank heaven, if that's what you mean!" said Caspian. "But I happen to have money."

"Yes, you happen to have money," thoughtfully repeated Storm.

"Which-I suppose we may take for granted-you haven't."

"You may take that for granted, Mr. Caspian."

It was now quite evidently a duel between the two men, strangers to each other and as far apart as one pole from another, yet for some reason (perhaps unknown, only felt, by themselves) instinctively antagonistic. Jack and I were lost in joy of the encounter, and a glance at Pat showed me that, schoolgirl as she is, she caught the electric thrill in the atmosphere. Larry, too, was visibly interested. He'd opened a box of games on the table where rested his elbow, and taking out some packs of cards he had mechanically begun to play "Patience"-a characteristic protest of the spirit against dull discussions of business, even his own. He would like things to be nicely arranged for him, I suspected, but he couldn't be bothered with petty details. He seemed just to take it happily for granted that people ought to be glad to straighten matters out for a charming "play-boy" like him. The tone of the two men, however, had suddenly snatched his attention from the intricacies of Patience (a fascinating new Patience, I noticed). He was captured, but not, I felt, because of any personal concern he had in the battle. I did wonder what was passing behind the bright hazel eyes which moved from Storm's face to Caspian's, and back again.

"Well, then, if I'm to take it for granted that you've no money, where do you come in?" the late socialist was sharply demanding while my thoughts wandered.

"I don't come in," said Storm. "I act as Mrs. Shuster's secretary, and her spokesman. It seems she has no business manager, so my duties may carry me occasionally in that direction, I begin to see. If she's to have interests in this affair, I must protect them according to my judgment. My judgment tells me that they could best be protected by having an expert for a large shareholder-perhaps the largest. Such a man would have every incentive to work for the scheme's success. And I know the right man."

"You do?" Contemptuous incredulity rang in Caspian's emphasis. "Name him!" This was a challenge.

"Marcel Moncourt."

Ed Caspian laughed a short, hard laugh.

"Marcel Moncourt! Why, that man wouldn't give up his ease to manage a gilt-edged boarding-house in the country-no, not to please an emperor!"

"Maybe not," said Storm coolly. "There aren't many emperors just now a Frenchman wants to please."

"You think he'd give the preference to you!"

"Not to me. But to Mr. and Miss Moore. And"-the man glanced at his employer-"Mrs. Shuster." She flushed at the immense, the inconceivable compliment, for Marcel Moncourt, I suppose (don't you?), is as grand a chef as there is in the world, almost a classic figure of his kind, and a gentleman by birth, they say. Even Mrs. Shuster, who doesn't know much outside her own immediate circle of interests, had managed to catch some vague echo of the great Moncourt's fame. As for Larry, he became suddenly alert as a schoolboy who learns that the best "tuck box" ever packed is destined for him.

"Good lord!" he exclaimed. "You don't mean you can get the one and only Marcel to take charge at Kidd's Pines?"

"I know-or used to know-a person who can certainly persuade him to do so, and on very short notice," said the S. M.

"That settles it, then!" cried Larry. "Can you guess what I was doing? 'Ruling passion strong in death'-and that sort of thing! I was betting with myself which of you two would come out ahead in the argument and gain his point over the other. I thought-I must say-the odds were with Mr. Caspian, for gold weighs down the scales. But Marcel is worth his weight in gold. Put him in the balance, and the argument's ended. I didn't mean to take a hand in the game! I felt so confident it would work out all right either way. But with Marcel and Mr. Storm on one side, and Mr. Caspian with a gold-mine on the other, we choose Marcel-don't we, girlie?"

"Who is Marcel?" inquired girlie, thus appealed to.

Larry laughed. "She's just out of a convent," he apologized for his child's abysmal ignorance. "Marcel Moncourt, my dear," he enlightened her, "was the making of a millionaire, who would never have been anybody without him. Once upon a time there was an old man named Stanislaws, not particularly interesting nor intelligent except as a money grubber-oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Caspian, I forgot he was related to you!-but he was lucky, and the best bit of luck he ever had was getting hold of this Marcel as chef and general manager of his establishment. No one had bothered about Mr. Stanislaws before, rich as he was, but with Marcel at the helm, he could have any one he liked as his guest, from a foreign prince or an American President to a Pierpont Morgan. Of course they all tried to get Marcel away; but he was like iron to the magnet-none of us could ever understand why. It looked almost like a mystery! When there were no more Stanislaws on earth, then, and not till then, Marcel considered himself free. He had the world to choose from; and he chose to rest. He is now a gentleman of leisure. Any one starting a hotel who could secure Marcel would be made-made! But I should have said no hope, short of a Fifth Avenue palace, if that. No more hope for us than of getting the Angel Gabriel to stand blowing his trumpet in front of the door."

"There is no hope. I'd stake my life on that," said Caspian emphatically. "When I came into my cousin's money, after the poor old man's murder and all the other tragedies, I offered Marcel a salary of fifteen thousand dollars a year to come to me. By Jove, I'd have built a house to fit him. But he wouldn't listen. Tired of work was his only excuse."

"Tired of making millionaires popular, perhaps," murmured Mr. Storm to a picture of Cousin John Randolph Payton on the wall.

Caspian's heavenly blue eyes snapped with another kind of blue fire. "I should say that no power except that of blackmail could induce Marcel Moncourt to take any interest, active or financial, in our scheme down here. Perhaps that is your secret?"

If I hadn't seen the steerage passenger smile when Mrs. Shuster accused him of being a gentleman and offered him cast-off clothes, I should have expected violence. He smiled much in the same way now, to Pat's relief and Larry's disappointment. "Perhaps it is," he said. "I've always thought it must be exciting to be a blackmailer. Anyhow, it is my secret. If I can get-or, rather, if my friend can get-Marcel to put money and gray matter into Kidd's Pines as a hotel, Mr. Moore-Miss Moore, will you have him-and the Syndicate?"

"We would have him and the devil!" cried Larry.

Ed Caspian looked as if he suspected that having Marcel and Peter Storm might turn out much the same thing. But he was the only "No," and the "Ayes" had it.

Afterward Mrs. Shuster told me that Ed Caspian vowed to find out all about our Ship's Mystery if it took his last penny. So we may "see some fun," as Larry says.

But perhaps you've had enough of our scheme and schemers for the moment, Mercédes mia!

Ever your loving

Molly.

P. S. I suppose he can't be a blackmailer? He might be anything!

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