"Do you remember the theft of the celebrated Vatican miniatures belonging to the Duke of Melbourne?"
Drummond nodded; he was beginning to feel interested.
"They were the ones I was holding in my hand," she said quietly. "I knew them at once from the description in the papers. And just as I was wondering what on earth to do, the man himself walked into the room."
"Awkward—deuced awkward." Drummond pressed out his cigarette and leaned forward expectantly. "What did he do?"
"Absolutely nothing," said the girl. "That's what made it so awful."
"'Admiring my treasures?' he remarked. 'Pretty things, aren't they?' I couldn't speak a word: I just put them back on the table.
"'Wonderful copies,' he went on, 'of the Duke of Melbourne's lost miniatures. I think they would deceive most people.'
"'They deceived me,' I managed to get out.
"'Did they?' he said. 'The man who painted them will be flattered.'
"All the time he was staring at me, a cold, merciless stare that seemed to freeze my brain. Then he went over to one of the safes and unlocked it. 'Come here, Miss Benton,' he said. 'There are a lot more—copies.'
"I only looked inside for a moment, but I have never seen or thought of such a sight. Beautifully arranged on black velvet shelves were ropes of pearls,