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Chapter XXII--Detective Work
 It was on my arm. When I rolled up my sleeve, S. K. gasped. “I’ll give up,” he said. “There is something supernatural about it!”
“No,” I replied, trying to quote from him, “there is always some logical and sane explanation of things of this sort. You see, I put it there.”
He said, “You little devil!” and then he smiled unwillingly. “Think you’re funny, don’t you?” he continued.
I said I hoped so, for I was trying to be, and then I told him why I had deceived him; about Mr. Bilkins, and how, if he were not around, there would be no one to smooth things if they were rough. And I added that I couldn’t possibly spare him, that anxiety would have kept me awake all that night, and that I was sorry I fibbed.
“You’re forgiven,” he answered. “I like the story--especially the last part. . . . But--what gets me is the fact that I put off seeing a detective until this morning, when last night might have got the chap.”
“S. K.,” I said loudly, “I beg you not to get one, because that note said that if I told I’d be hurt. If you have the slightest regard for my feelings, you will do nothing, and let events care for themselves. In fact, I forbid your doing so, and it is, after all, my matter.” I ended this coolly and as if I meant it. Then I stood up, rubbed my hand across my forehead, and said: “I’ve got to get out in the fresh air. Can’t we motor?”
He said we could, and he was very baffled and upset by my manner, which was not natural.
“You’re upset by this,” he said, as he buttoned my coat for me, “and I simply won’t have it. You shan’t be made nervous and jumpy, and I----”
“You will not do anything I ask you not to, I presume?” I questioned, turning to him.
“But Nat----” he protested.
“S. K.,” I said, “if you do, it will end our friendship--that is all.”
He said, “Well, I’ll be darned!” and followed me out. S. K.’s man was in the hall dusting some old brasses that S. K. had picked up in the little hill towns of Italy, and I was not surprised. S. K. was annoyed, for he likes the work of his establishment to go on when no one is around.
In the outer hall I paused. I said I wanted a drink, and we went in again. Debson wasn’t in the hall, and I wouldn’t let S. K. ring. “I’ll go to the kitchen----” I said, and, as he protested, I ran out. Ito was there, talking to Debson. I was not surprised at that either.
Then I went back, and we went driving.
“I didn’t mean to speak that way, but I had to,” I explained after we started. “You see, your man was listening. I found Ito in the kitchen, and both Debson and Ito wear duds that come from Rogers Peet, and last week I went in there and matched the sample, and it came from one of their suits. . . . It was quite easy to match, for it has a purple cast and the weave is unusually tight.”
“Ito!” said S. K.
“Possibly,” I replied, “but I don’t believe it. . . . You engaged this man just after I was so annoyed and troubled by being followed, and when I saw the blind man so often. That ceased, and someone began to creep in my room--get in somehow--at night.”
“I will never forgive myself----” said S. K., through set teeth.
“Don’t worry; it’s over,” I answered. “All we have to do now is to arrange to bag him or them, and that ought to be simple. If I go in with you, when we return, and tell you where I am going to hide it to-night, we’ll catch him, she, or them; I know it!”
S. K. thought it was a good idea, but we stopped to see a man who is noted for solving crimes and finding who did them. In his office we made all plans, and then we started on.
“Better have lunch with me,” said S. K., and then, for the first time, I remembered Willy. S. K. was not pleased to hear that he had come. He acted quite peevish, and I was surprised.
“Why does he come here?” he asked. “Lots of good Southern colleges. All you people are always talking about the supremacy of the South, and then you lope off and leave it----”
“But if I hadn’t----” I put in.
“That,” he said sharply, “is quite different. Don’t be silly, Nat. . . . How old is this young pup?”
I told him.
“And I suppose very handsome?” he questioned further.
I admitted it.
“And has already asked you to marry him? . . . Should be locked up. . . . Like to thrash him!”
“Why, S. K.,” I protested. “I don’t think you’re nice. I’m very fond of Willy!” And for two blocks we didn’t say a word.
“Can’t you see,” he explained after that long silence, “that no man has any right to bother a youngster, or ask her to marry him, no matter how much he wants to, until she’s past the doll’s stage? . . . Here you are, having tea in the nursery, and he butts in where angels would bare their heads, and says you can ‘have him,’ if I recollect correctly. ‘Have him!’ My heavens!”
I was mad. I have not played dolls for years, and I never had tea in the nursery, because we hadn’t any; I always ate with Uncle Frank. I maintained a frigid silence. And then I made talk, deliberately manufactured the article on coldly impersonal lines, while S. K. glared ahead and answered in monosyllables.
“I believe that there is a tablet on the wall of one of the buildings of Columbia, which asserts that the Battle of Harlem Heights was enacted on that spot,” I said. “I’d like to see it.”
“No doubt,” said S. K.
I didn’t know what he meant by that, but he meant something, for his tone was full of implications.
“Perhaps Willy will take me down,” I went on.
“Possibly,” said S. K. dryly.
“He admires Hamilton,” I continued, “and I must take him to the Metropolitan to see that portrait that was painted by Trumbull. What made Burr challenge Hamilton?”
“Political jealousy.”
“Really?” I said.
“Um,” grunted S. K.
“What year did Burr kill Alexander Hamilton?” I questioned further.
“Why,” I exclaimed, “that was the year the Jumels were married. Wasn’t that strange--I mean, considering that she married Aaron Burr later?”
“It was a terrible thing for Burr to do, wasn’t it?” I said, and then I added that I was glad duelling had gone out of style and wasn’t allowed any more.
“If some of to-day’s politicians would shoot each other,” said S. K., “it would be a great thing for the country, and I don’t see how they could hit the wrong man.”
That was the longest speech he made all the way home. Something had made him very cross and pessimistic. I gave up trying to make talk and absorbed and made use of the prevailing silence. That worried S. K., who, I think, didn’t want to share the silence that he was using for an umbrella to cover his grouch. He looked at me several times as we whirled upstairs, but I pretended I was completely absorbed in the little iron plack that says the elevator is inspected by inspectors every two weeks. But of course I was not deeply intereste............
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