76 ADVENTURES OF JIMMIE DALE

“He wrote this letter to me, making a full confession of his guilt; and gave it to me, telling me not to open it unless he should not come back.” The colonel’s voice broke; then, with an efifort, steadied again. “It would have killed his mother, sir. It strained our resources most severely to pay back the money to the bank, and I lied to her, sir—I told her that our investments were proving unfortunate. Two years ago I completed the final payment without the bank ever having found out where the money came from; and then we moved up here to New York. You see, sir, it was a little difficult to maintain our former position in Louisiana, and amongst strangers less would be expected of us. And then, sir, shortly after that, I do not know how, this letter was stolen, and for two years Thorold has held it over my head, threatening to make it public if I refused his de- mands. I gave him all the money I could get. I have thought sometimes, sir, that I should put a revolver in my pocket and come down here and shoot him like a dog-but then, sir, the story, I was afraid, would come out. Yesterday he made a final demand for five thou- sand dollars. I did not have the money. He suggested Mrs. Milford’s pendant there. He promised to return the letter, and any sum above the five thousand that he could get for the diamonds. I knew he was lying about the money; but I believed he would return the letter, knowing that I now had nothing left. That is why I am here to-night.”

Again the old gentleman paused. It was very still in the room. Jimmie Dale had taken the thin metal case from his leather girdle and was fingering it abstractedly. And then the colonel spoke again:

“And so,” he said slowly, “I stole the pendant this afternoon, and pretended to-night that it was done at dinner-time, and—and pretended, too, to make the dis-