Page:The Intrusion of Jimmy.djvu/263

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245
THE TREASURE-SEEKER

sufficiency of retreat for those who sat out, in addition to a conservatory large enough to have married off half the couples in the county.

Spennie's idea had been to establish an alibi by mingling with the throng for a few minutes, and then to get through his burglarious specialty during the duologue, when his absence would not be noticed. It might be that, if he disappeared later in the evening, people would wonder what had become of him.

He lurked about until the last of the audience had taken their seats. As he was moving off through the hall, a hand fell upon his shoulder. Conscience makes cowards of us all. Spennie bit his tongue and leaped three inches into the air.

"Hello, Charteris!" he said, gaspingly.

Charteris appeared to be in a somewhat overwrought condition. Rehearsals had turned him into a pessimist, and, now that the actual moment of production had arrived, his nerves were in a thoroughly jumpy condition, especially as the duologue was to begin in two minutes and the obliging person who had undertaken to prompt had disappeared.

"Spennie," said Charteris, "where are you off to?"

"What—what do you mean? I was just going upstairs."

"No, you don't. You've got to come and prompt. That devil Blake has vanished. I'll wring his neck! Come along."

Spennie went, reluctantly. Half-way through the