Chapter XXXV. The Allerdyke Way
 

With the recovered pearls in his hand, and Chettle as guardian and companion at his side, Allerdyke chartered a taxi-cab and demanded to be driven to Bedford Court Mansions. And as they glided away up Whitehall he turned to the detective with a grin that had a sardonic complexion to it.

"Well--except for the law business--I reckon this is about over, Chettle," he said. "You've had plenty to do, anyway--not much kicking your heels in idleness anywhere, while this has been going on!"

Chettle pulled a long face and sighed.

"Unfortunate for me, all the same, Mr. Allerdyke," he answered. "I'd meant to have a big cut in at that reward, sir. Now I suppose that young woman'll get it."

"Miss Slade'll doubtless get most of it," replied Allerdyke. "But I think there'll have to be a bit of a dividing-up, like. You fellows are certainly entitled to some of it--especially you--and two or three of those folks who gave some information ought to have a look in. But, of course, Miss Slade will feel herself entitled to the big lump--and she'll take care to get it, don't make any mistake!"

"She's a deal too clever, that young lady," observed Chettle. "I like 'em clever, but not quite as clever as all that. In my opinion, she's mistaken her calling, has that young woman. She ought to have been one of us--they're uncommonly bent that way, some of these modern misses--they can see right through a thing, sometimes, where we men can't see an inch above our noses."

"Intuition," said Allerdyke, with a laugh. "Aye, well perhaps Miss Slade'll have got so infected with enthusiasm for your business that She'll go in for it regularly. This reward'll do for capital, you know, Chettle."

"Ah!" responded Chettle feelingly. "Wish it was coming to me! I wouldn't put no capital into that business--not me, sir! I'd have a nice little farm in the country, and I'd grow roses, and breed sheep and pigs, and--"

"And lose all your brass in a couple of years!" laughed Allerdyke. "Stick to your own game, my lad, and when you want to grow roses, do it in your own back yard for pleasure. And here we are--and you'd best wait, Chettle, until Miss Lennard herself gives a receipt for this stuff, and then you can take it back to Scotland Yard and frame it."

He left Chettle in an anti-room of Miss Lennard's flat while he himself was shown into the prima donna's presence. She was alone, and evidently unoccupied, and her eyes suddenly sparkled when Allerdyke came in as if she was glad of a visitor.

"You!" she exclaimed. "Really!"

"It's me," said Allerdyke laconically. "Nobody else," He looked round to make sure that the door was safely closed; then he advanced to the little table at which Miss Lennard was sitting and laid down his parcel.

"Something for you," he said abruptly. "Open it."

"What is it?" she asked, glancing shyly at him. "Not chocolates--surely!"

"Never bought aught of that sort in my life," replied Allerdyke. "More respect for people's teeth. Here--I'll open it," he went on, producing a penknife and cutting the string. "I've signed one receipt for this stuff already--you'll have to sign another. There's a detective in your parlour waiting for it, just now."

"A detective!" she exclaimed. "Why--why--you don't mean to say that box has my pearls in it? Oh! you don't!"

"See if they're all right," commanded Allerdyke "Gad!--they've been through some queer hands since you lost 'em. I don't know how you feel about it, but hang me if I shouldn't feel strange wearing 'em again! I should feel--but I daresay you don't!"

"No, I don't!" she said as she drew the jewels out of their wrappings and hurriedly examined them. "Of course I don't; all I feel is that I'm delighted beyond measure to get them back. You don't understand."

"No, I don't," agreed Allerdyke. He dropped into a chair close by, and quietly regarded the owner of the fateful valuables. "I'm only a man, you see. But--I should know better how to take care of things like these than you did. Come, now!"

"I shall take better care of them--in future," said Miss Lennard.

Allerdyke shook his head,

"Not you!" he retorted. "At least--not unless you've somebody to take care of you. Eh?"

Miss Lennard, who was still examining her recovered property, set it hastily down and stared at her visitor. Her colour heightened, and her eyes became inquisitive.

"Take care of--me!" she exclaimed. "Of--whatever are you talking about, Mr. Allerdyke?"

"It's like this," replied Allerdyke, involuntarily squaring himself in his chair. "You see me?--I'm as healthy a man as ever lived!--forty, but no more than five-and-twenty in health and spirits. I've plenty of brains and a rare good temper. I'm owner of one of the best businesses in Yorkshire--I'm worth a good ten thousand a year. I've one of the best houses in our parts--I'm going to take another, a country house, if you're minded. I'll guarantee to make the best husband--"

Miss Lennard dropped back on her sofa and screamed.

"Good heavens, man?" she exclaimed. "Are you--are you really asking me to--to marry you?"

"That's it," replied Allerdyke, nodding. "You've hit it. Queer way, maybe--but it's my way. See?"

"I never heard of--of such a way in all my life!" said the lady. "You're--extraordinary!"

"I am," said Allerdyke. "Yes--we are out of the ordinary in our part of the world--we know it. Well," he went on after a moment's silence, during which they looked at each other, "you've heard what I have to say. How is it to be?"

The prima donna continued to gaze intently on this strange wooer for a full minute. Then she suddenly stretched out her hand.

"I'll marry you!" she said quietly.

Allerdyke gave the hand a firm pressure, and stood up, unconsciously pulling himself to his full height.

"Thank you," he said. "You shan't regret it. And now, then--a pen, if you please. Sign that."

He handed his betrothed a paper, watched her sign it, and then, picking up the pen as she laid it down, took a cheque-book from his pocket and quickly wrote a cheque. This he placed in an envelope taken from the writing-table. Envelope and receipt in hand, he turned to the door.

"Business first," he said, smiling over his shoulder. "I'll send Chettle off--then we'll talk about ourselves."

He went away to Chettle and put the paper and the envelope in his hand.

"That's the receipt," he said. "T'other's a bit of a present for you--naught to do with the reward--a trifle from me. Ah!--you might like to know that I've just got engaged to be married!"

Chettle glanced round and inclined his head towards the room from which Allerdyke had just emerged.

"What!--to the lady!" he exclaimed. "Deary me. Well," he went on, grasping the successful suitor's hand, and giving it a warm and sympathetic squeeze, "there's one thing I can say, Mr. Allerdyke--you'll make an uncommon good-looking pair!"