Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/278

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274
LAKINGTON PLAYS HIS LAST "COUP"

bric-à-brac, the centre of which was occupied, as the place of honour, by a small inlaid Chinese cabinet—a box standing on four grotesquely carved legs. It was a beautiful ornament, and he dimly remembered having heard its history—a story which reflected considerable glory on the predatory nature of a previous Duke. At the moment, however, he was not concerned with its past history, but with its present fate; and it was the consummate quickness of the girl that made him rub his eyes.

She took one lightning glance at the other guests who were craning eagerly forward round the Indian; then she half dropped her wrap on the table and picked it up again. It was done so rapidly, so naturally, that for a while Hugh thought he had made a mistake. And then a slight rearrangement of her wrap to conceal a hard outline beneath, as she joined the others, dispelled any doubts. The small inlaid Chinese cabinet now standing on the table was not the one that had been here previously. The original was under Irma Peterson's cloak….

Evidently the scene was now set—the necessary props were in position—and Hugh waited with growing impatience for the principal event. But the principal performer seemed in no hurry. In fact, in his dry way Lakington was thoroughly enjoying himself. An intimate inside knowledge of the skeletons that rattled their bones in the cupboards of most of those present enabled the gods to speak with disconcerting accuracy; and as each victim insisted on somebody new facing the sands that came from beyond the mountains, the performance seemed likely to last indefinitely.