Chapter XX. The Aftermath
 

Ed Foster and Jack Kimball sat in the library of the latter's home until quite late that night--long after the merrymakers had departed.

"If you suspect who put the bonds into your pocket," Jack was saying, "don't you think the easiest way to clear it up would be directly to accuse the suspect?"

"No," answered Ed, "for I feel that it will all come out shortly, without any unnecessary publicity. You see, the money and bonds may only have been--er--well, let's say borrowed. Just as many banks are robbed. Or the person who took it may have thought there was only a small sum in the wallet, and finding such a large one, probably became terribly frightened, and did not know what to do."

"Well, of course it's your affair," returned Jack and looked thoughtful, "but, in a measure, it affects my sister."

"It never did affect your sister, Jack, and never can. I am sorry about the wallet being found in her car, but there never was the most remote--"

"Oh, I know, of course not, on your part. But others--"

"No one ever really suspected her. And, what is more, I have it from her own lips that she would rather not have the guilty ones punished, for she thinks, as I do, that the money and bonds were not taken as a deliberate robbery."

"Well, what are you going to do--wait?"

"Yes. I shall invest these bonds so they will be safe, and then let time do the rest. I do not think we shall have long to wait. They have been holding the bank stock for me, so I have not really suffered--thus far."

"Well, you certainly are a cool one!" complimented Jack. "If I thought some one had my money--some coward, as this person must be, to keep silent all this while--I would never sleep until I had it back."

Ed smiled rather indulgently and indifferently.

"Well, you see," he went on, "I have gotten along so many years without the use of that twenty thousand dollars that I did not miss it when it was taken. Of course, I am losing interest on it, but I can easily make that up."

"Then suppose we retire?" suggested Jack, for Ed was to be his guest for the remainder of the night. "I am actually sweltering in these togs. Aren't you in a hurry to get back into yourself and be just Ed Foster?"

"No; I rather like being Adonis. I fancy I like him infinitely more than I cotton to that Foster chap," and he laughed.

"Well, you made a hit," complimented Jack.

"Thanks."

Ed stood up and surveyed himself in a pier glass. He laughed at the figure he presented, but there was a serious look upon his handsome face. Fancy Adonis being serious!

"You also made good, Jack," he said after a pause. "I don't know when I've seen a braver brave. Do you ever expect to get that stuff off your face in time to go back to college?"

"I guess it will wear off. If it doesn't I'll use gasolene from the auto tank, or take a steam bath at some lady beauty doctress's establishment." He rubbed his countenance vigorously with his handkerchief. "If it doesn't remove," he added, "I'll tell "em I've got the jaundice."

"Did you see Sid this evening?" asked Ed.

"I thought I saw him, and then I wasn't sure. He wasn't invited. Whom do you think he was?"

"I--well, I wouldn't be sure, either," answered Ed evasively. "I saw so many chaps about his size and build that it was hard to distinguish. Hastings was splendid, wasn't he? I like that fellow."

"So do I. He's perfectly square, and measures up all right. I managed to get the order for the Robinson twins' auto for him."

"You did?"

"Yes. You know, he is going to represent the Whitehall automobile concern from the first of the month, over in New City. Going to take one of their cars across country, you know. He was mighty pleased to get the order. It was Cora's idea, of course. She is just full of such ideas--always thinking of other people."

"That's right. She never does lose a chance to do a fellow a good turn. I suppose she told you about the ride when she and Paul outdid Sidney Wilcox?"

"No; but Paul did. Wasn't that plucky of her?" and Jack beamed with admiration. "Cora has a lot more courage than have some fellows I know."

"Indeed she has," and Ed's voice was earnest.

The tall clock was chiming two when the young men left the library. They had so many things in common that they talked like two girls. Just as they passed the hall door they were startled by a quick step on the veranda.

"Hello! Who's that?" asked Jack, hurrying to the portal.

"It's me--Paul Hastings," answered a voice outside, and as Jack swung open the door the young chauffeur, who was still in his costume, entered. He seemed greatly excited.

"I was afraid you'd be in bed," he panted, "and I ran until I'm all out of breath."

"But what's the matter?" asked Ed.

"Come on in and sit down," invited Jack. "We're not particular whether we go to bed or sit up the rest of the night. Come and join us. But has anything happened?"

"No; I--I can't stay," and Paul leaned against the doorway. "But I found this in my coat pocket--it's a diamond ring. I was nearly home when I discovered it. I thought some of the girls or ladies might be frantic over the loss, so I hurried back with it."

He handed over the sparkling object.

"Whew! That's a beauty!" exclaimed Jack. "A new one, too! Look, Ed! If that isn't an engagement ring I'll eat my war club! Now, what young lady, do you suppose, could have used our grounds, our hospitality and eaten of our swell supper with the malicious aforethought of becoming pledged to unite herself in the holy bonds of matrimony? Who could have done it? And then to lose the guarantee that goes with it! It's past belief!"

"It certainly is new," said Ed, critically examining the ring with its sparkling stone. "About a carat and a half, I should say. Never cost less than three hundred dollars. Whoever bought it must have plenty of cash. But how on earth did it get into your pocket, Paul?"

Ed was rapidly thinking of something that had happened to him that nigh.

"That's what gets me," replied Paul. "Of course, these costume rigs are full of holes and corners. A girl might have been dancing with me, and the ring may have slipped from her finger into my pocket. Perhaps it was too large for her, being new. But I did not notice that I danced with any one wearing it."

"Still, it might have happened that way," admitted Jack, "especially if she kept the stone turned in so no one, would see it. That's a trick they have."

"At any rate, she is sure to come back here for it," went on Paul, "and I wanted to save her any possible anxiety. I hope it belongs to some real nice girl, and if it does, don't forget to say that I found it. And you might add that I would be glad to receive a small reward in the shape of permission to show the aforesaid pretty girl the sights around here in the auto I am soon to run."

"All right," laughed Jack. "That would be some sort of reward. But, as for myself, I must confess I would prefer a smile of gratitude. Just fancy the girl receiving back her ring! Won't she flop over in a sheer state of collapse!"

"Have you looked inside the ring?" asked Ed. "There might be a name or initials in it."

"Never thought of it," admitted Paul. "Hazel, who was with me when I found it, made me hurry right back, and I didn't get a chance."

Jack lead the circlet, and holding it close to a drop-light, he peered closely at it.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "There are initials!"

"Whose?" asked Ed.

"'I.G.' Whose are they? 'I.G.' Why, of course. `I.G.'--Ida Giles! Whoever would have thought it? Ida Giles with an engagement ring!"

"And why not?" queried Ed. "Isn't Ida the bright-red, dashing sort? Lots of fellows would call her dashing, and, from what I have seen of her to-night, she certainly is bright."

"Well, of all things!" exclaimed Jack, who seemed unable to get over it. "And you're on her side, eh, Ed? Why, man, not a fellow in the whole of Chelton ever got through more than one dance with her--except Sid Wilcox, and I can't see why he sticks to her."

"Then the Chelton fellows are slow," commented Ed as he critically examined the ring. "I think Ida is quite taking."

"Was she here to-night?" asked Paul.

"She was invited," replied Jack, "for I saw her name on one of the bids Cora sent out. But I did not have the pleasure of a personal interview with her this evening, and so I can't say whether she was here or not."

"Well," remarked Paul, moving toward the door, "I guess I'll be leaving again. Take care of the ring, Jack, and don't forget to give the lady who calls for it my regards. And say, Jack, please thank your sister for me for getting the order for that car for the Robinsons. I'm going after it to-morrow morning--no, I mean this morning. It's after three o'clock now."

"Oh, I'm sure Cora was only too glad to be able to get you the chance."

"And thank you, also. I know the part you had in it."

"Oh, I didn't do anything. It was all Cora. Though of course Bess Robinson would deny me nothing," added Jack and laughed. "She thinks I'm simply perfect. I heard her tell Cora so," and Jack walked up and down in pretended self-admiration, while the others threatened to pick him up and toss him out into the cold moonlight, where they said he belonged in that particular state of lunacy.

"Ida's ring," mused Jack, after he had calmed down. "Just plain Ida. Now if it had only been Bess, Belle or--Hazel."

"No, no!" protested Paul.

"Well, all right," assented Jack. "Ida's it is." He wrapped the ring carefully in paper and put it in his pocket. "I'll take the best of care of it, Paul, of course, and I'll also collect the reward for you, and hand it over personally. You can trust me for that. But I wonder why we haven't had some inquiries from Ida before this?"

"Maybe she is so unused to it that she hasn't missed it," suggested Ed.

"No girl is ever unused to her first engagement ring," declared Paul. "Well, I'm going. Goodnight."

"This finding of things in pockets is growing interesting," remarked Ed when the door had closed on Paul. "I wonder if any of the girls found valuables in their costumes?"

"Hardly," declared Jack. "No one could ever find their pockets to drop anything in. But I'll put this in the safe and mark it `to be kept until called for.' Won't Cora and the other girls be surprised!" and he slammed the iron door shut, having, by an odd chance, dropped the diamond circlet into the very compartment that contained the bonds so strangely returned to Ed.