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When a Man Marries

A Mighty Poor Joke
Of course, one knows that there are people who in a different grade of society would be
shoplifters and pickpockets. When they are restrained by obligation or environment they
become a little overkeen at bridge, or take the wrong sables, or stuff a gold-backed brush
into a muff at a reception. You remember the ivory dressing set that Theodora Bucknell
had, fastened with fine gold chains? And the sensation it caused at the Bucknell cotillion
when Mrs. Van Zire went sweeping to her carriage with two feet of gold chain hanging
from the front of her wrap?
But Anne's pearl collar was different. In the first place, instead of three or four hundred
people, the suspicion had to be divided among ten. And of those ten, at least eight of us
were friends, and the other two had been vouched for by the Browns and Jimmy. It was a
horrible mix-up. For the necklace was gone--there couldn't be any doubt of that--and
although, as Dallas said, it couldn't get out of the house, still, there were plenty of places
to hide the thing.
The worst of our trouble really originated with Max Reed, after all. For it was Max who
made the silly wager over the telephone, with Dick Bagley. He bet five hundred even that
one of us, at least, would break quarantine within the next twenty-four hours, and, of
course, that settled it. Dick told it around the club as a joke, and a man who owns a
newspaper heard him and called up the paper. Then the paper called up the health office,
after setting up a flaming scare-head, "Will Money Free Them? Board of Health versus
Millionaire."
It was almost three when the house settled down--nobody had any night clothes, although
finally, through Dallas, who gave them to Anne, who gave them to the rest, we got some
things of Jimmy's--and I was still dressed. The house was perfectly quiet, and, after
listening carefully, I went slowly down the stairs. There was a light in the hall, and
another back in the dining room, and I got along without any trouble. But the pantry,
where the stairs led down, was dark, and the wretched swinging door would not stay
open.
I caught my skirt in the door as I went through, and I had to stop to loosen it. And in that
awful minute I heard some one breathing just beside me. I had stooped to my gown, and I
turned my head without straightening--I couldn't have raised myself to an erect posture,
for my knees were giving way under me--and just at my feet lay the still glowing end of a
match!
I had to swallow twice before I could speak. Then I said sharply:
"Who's there?"
The man was so close it is a wonder I had not walked into him; his voice was right at my
ear.
"I am sorry I startled you," he said quietly. "I was afraid to speak suddenly, or move, for
fear I would do--what I have done."
It was Mr. Harbison.
 
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