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The Lost Diamonds

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" You remember me the time of the 3rimean war? Ofcourse you do, though. Well, at that time I held a tolerably oug lease of my old shop in Barbican. [ did not, it is true, keep much of a show n the window; but my customers knew ;hat I had a rare and valuable stock in drawers inside, and that was enough alike for me and them. "Well, my lad, as I hare before said, it was the time of the Crimean war. It was about as near as I can remember 11 o'clock in the morning of a bitterly cold day in December - a Tuesday - when either the elush or the piereing, biting cold, or the leaden, ominous sky that oomed overhead and threatened asnowstorm, kept people who had mcney by heir fireside or in bed ; indeed, few )eople of any kind were abroad, and all hings outside were as gruesome and dis)iriting as they well could be. I had drawn near my counting-house fire, and was looking into the glowing coals, my houghts very far away from Barbican, 5. 0. My shop door opened and there entered a fine, tall, handsome-looking gentleman, who, by his dress and bearDg, was evidently a clergyman. At least '. thought so at the time, as would anyjody else, for that matter. His attire was of the best material and make, and sprupulously neat, and his neck-band was as white as driven snow. Moreover, gold-rimmed spectacles and heary seals depending from his watch-f ob gave lim not only a highly respectable apearance but stamped him as wealtliy rithal. That's to say, I thought so. Well, up he marched to my counter with ;olerably long strides, removed his hat of the flrst quality), and placed it upon ny counter (his well-arranged silver hair ecanie him immensely'), and gave me a ' good-raorning" and a smile whioh was ncalculably pleasing and good to see. ["nis man is a Christian ; goodness and gentleness beam on every feature, I nentally told myself. I put on my very )est manner and politely asked him his )leasure. " ' I have been recommended to you, sir' (he mentioned a firm wifch which I dealt largely in the way of silver). I am given to understand,' he con;inued, ' that you have a varied and very vsluable selection of ladies' diamond ornament.' "I signifled Ihat such really was the case. " ' Well,' he proceeded, ' I am somewhat anxious, sir, to see and examine some of your possessions. The fact is, my caughter - my only daughter, sir, a )ure, sweet-tempered child - is on the eve of marriage, and I (naturally, you will say) am desirous of giving her a substantial wedding present. Very good. Mind ! I want nothing gaudy; nor - pardon me, Mr. Filby - nor do I desire any artfully-contrived specimen of ;he jeweler's art of deception. I want something solid and substantial - articles hat look what they, really are - and I do not mind how high I go as to price. ' "All this was fair and sqnare and above-board. Undoubtedly my prosective customer, though a clergyman, was an excellent man of business, and one that wouldn't brook trifling. I made Bip my mind to acquiesce to his every wish - and charge him as long a price as '. reasonably could. " I placed before him several trays of sxquisite workmanship, upon which I ooked with pride. I expected, I must own, that my customer would appear surprised, to say the least, at the dazzling array. Not so, however. And ;hat's to put it mildly; for when I uncovered my goods, and looked up at ïim, with a self-satisfied look on my face, there was a look on his which bore a semblance of indifference, noc to say Jisdain. This nettled me somewhat; Itn, on second thoughts, I told myself hat it was possible he, personally, did not care for the pomps and vanities of ;his world, though anxious to procure such commodities for his daughter. "Aftercareful examination heselected a pair of diamond ear-rings (L80); a butterfly brooch- one mass of glitter and dazzle- -and a half-hoop diamond ring (the two, L152 10s.) A tolerably good morning's work, you will say. We shall see. "Well, af ter I had fltted the trinkets to superior cases, and when I had packed them in as small a compass as well as I could, the reverend gentleman feit in his pockets for the money wherewith to pay me. He drew forth from his breastpocket a goodlysized Bussia-leather case, and, tenderly singling out some bank notes and a check, proceeded to settle for his purchase. "'The check is good; you will perceive ' he began. "My dear sir," I interrupted (the check was perfectly genuine, I was convinced, seeing that it bore the signature of the firm that had mentioned my name). "'Iknowwhat you would say, sir,' he said, holding up his hand, while a look of extreme shrewdness covered his face; ' you would say that you have implicit faith in me. That is wrong - utterly wrong ! As a business man, you should be ever careful. It behooves us all to be so at times. Clearly, you know me not ; and deception abounds. For instance, I may not be a clergyman at all. I may, in fine, be none other than a knavc - a wolf in sheep's clothing.' Saying which he laughed a laugb, whioh, somehow or other, sconieá to grate upon my ear. "Ho wever, he proceeded to pay me the amount due, as I have said. " ' Let me see,' he continued, musingly; ' it will be in all, four - three - two - ten. Good ! If you will kindly look over these, Mr. Filby, you will find there is threepence short of the required sum, which I will pay you in copper eoin immediately. ' He removed bis spectacles and pushed over to me thieo 100 pound Bank-of-England notes, ten 5-pound notes, and the check spoken of, which was for three pounds nine and ninepence. Satisfled that the notes were genuine, I looked up at my wealthy customer and found him fumbling in pocket after pocket for the copper money. " ' My dear sirl'I exclaimed, ' pray don't bother about the trifling pence. If you are satisfled, I am thoroughly so.' "'Nay,' he rejoined; 'that will not do. Business is business. You are entitled to your demand - ay, and to the uttermost farthing. I buy goods of you for a certain amount; I therefore must pay you every iota of that amount or I shall not be easy in my niind.' "Á really upright man, this; lucky the congregation that had so justly and evenJy balanced a man for their pastor. So ran my thouglits as he counted out the remaining threepence and placed them in my hand with a kind of dig, as though he were glad to get rid of them, and set his mind at ease. " Then there ensued an awful pause, awkward because, for the life of me, I could not think of anything to say; and, as for my reverend customer, he seemed in all but a brown study. At any rate he seemed by no means in a hurry to take his purchase and be gone - appeared, indeed, to wish to liuger awhile, seemingly for no earthly purpose, seeing that our transaction was at an end, and that he seemed not to care to talk. Presently he again took out his pocket-, book, counted over six or seven fivepound notes, and became absorbed in casting up some figures; that done, he began fiddling with some leaves, turning them over and over and then back again. "By way of turning my attention to 3ther matters, I took up the Ti?nes; but before scanning its pages I chanced to look toward my shop-door, and saw a tall, heavily-built man peering through the glass. He was somewhat curious to [ook upon, I must confess; for the snow that had been threatening, was fiercely, rafidly descending outside, and this man wascovered with the white, feathery ïakes from head to foot. On seeing my gaze steadily fixed at him, ñe pushed sp'en the door and entered with a firm iread. He had a kind of eagle eye, this man - eager,sidelong, piercing; thought:ul brows, too, and there was huge deermination about the lower part of his 'ace. Shaking the snow from off his soat, stamping his feet upon my shop sarpet (which I thought a rather cool proceeding), and unfastening the lappets of his sealskin traveling-cap, he ave a deep-drawn grunt of relief, and ixclaimed in a bluff, boisterous manner: ! In time, after all ! My bird's not lown, by all that's palpable ! Congratúlate" thyself, thougk man of gold nd silver and precious stones; and, 'urthermore, congratúlate me on my iptitude forscenting "Slippery Dick !" ' fhen, letting fall his voice, he added more seriously : ' You've had a narrow ;scape, sir. I've lo doubt that our reverend fiiend here has contrived to lessen your stock of goods prt tty considsrably - has been a pretended (mark that) purchaser to a very tidy tune !' " ' If you mean, sir, whoever you may be, that this gentleman has paid a good 3eal of money to me,' I returned, somewhat indignantly, 'you are right in your conjecture. But may I ask, pray, who are yon, that you enter my shop in this manner, and insult myself and customer by asking such - well, impertinent questions? Whoareyou?' I gain asked, feeling that I should te Bompelled to cali my shopman to turn bim neck and erop into the street. '' ' You'll very soon know who I am,' he returnod coolly. ' Suffice it at present that I am fully justified in what I ask and do. Bear - kindly bear with me a little. I have a stern iïuty to perform. This man is not what be pretends to be. He is a blackleg - a nanting humbug - a swiudler: in a word, as dangerous and troublesome a customer as we have to deal with !' "I looked at my customer. His face was terrible to look upon; I could ssarcely believe my eyes - the passion concentrated in his features was absolutely detnoniac in its intensity; the ebullition of rage which held possession of him shook him from head to foot. ' The boisterous stranger laid his hand heavily on the clergyman's shoulder, grasped it roughly, and whïspered something in his ear, at which his passion left him as quickly and suddenly as a flash of lightning. He became, in fact, as pale as death, and finally culminated in trembling violently, while his face assumed a kind of brick-dust hue. "I did not put this down toguilt; no,I laid it rather to the just indignation that would be naturally feit by a high -souled minister of the gospel accused of such enormities. ' 'The rough-and-reaciy intruder regard ed the reverend gentleman with unfeigned admiration, at least so it appeared to me. He folded his arms across his broad chest and stood regarding him for a few moments. Then he looked at me and winked knowingly. li ' OurOhristian friend isclever, oho ! He is doing the work of a certain evil personage who shall be nameless very admirably, aha !' he ejaoulated, reverting again to his boisterous manner. ' But we oid birds are not to be caught; we are accustomed to this kind of thing. 0 dear, yes, I - your very obedient seryant, Mr. Filby - belong to the fancy iron trade, and I do my utmost to get as much of my stock on other people's hands as I possibly can.' Saying which, he unbuttoned and threw open his shaggy overcoat, and laid bare to my aze the uniform of an inspector of pólice. Then, as quidk as thought, he drew forth and iastened on the clergyman's wrists a pair of handcuffs. " 'Tnis is shocking - really horrible,' 1 couldn't help saying. " ' No sentiment, please,' returned the inspector, angrily. ' Leave me to do my work, and take care you do yours. ' '"But, my good friend,' the man of the white neckcloth exclaimed in whining tones, ' you ara utterly mistaken. I like - I in fine have naught but admiration for your zeal; but I am not the man you suppose me to be. If you wil! remove these things - they hurt my wrists - I will go - ' "'No; you wDn't.' " ' I mean I will go into the details of our transaction. The notes are good, genuine, sir ! ' "'Perfectly so,' I responded; 'I would stake my life on their soundness. ' " 'Then, sir, permit a public servant to teil you that yon would lose your life. Kindly lot me look at these sound and genuine Bank of England notes. ' "What eould I do but hand thein to him? "'Ah! as I thought,' he then exelaimed. ' "Very skillful. very clever ; decidedly so ! Pity our pious friend here doesn't contrive to turn his thoughts in another direotion ; sad that he disdains to use his talents more honorably. Given snch consummate cleverness, he miglit have surmounted almost anything by honest means. These, sir, are rascally forgeries ; splendidly worked out, 111 admit; but forgeries for all that ! ' he declared, emphatically, laying the notes down on my counter and placing his elbow on them. 'Now, I shouldn't wonder,' he resumed, ' if our reverend specimen of humanity bere did not persuade you that he desired to raake nis daughter - his daughter a wedding present.' " I said that such was really the f act. " ' Ah, jvut so 1 The old, old game ; the old story. I wonder, Dick (" Slippery Dick " ia the name by which he is known arnong us and his companions) - I wonder, Dick, you don't alter your modus operandi - it is so stupidly stale, you know.' "'Dick' looked daggers, looked as though he would like very much to annihilate the inspector on the spot, and retorted in language not at all befitting a clergyman: ' You're very clever, ain't you, now ? Pah ! T could "do " Sfty like you. It doesn't matter muoh, though. You've got me. You've trapped tne nicely. What more d'ye want? Look sharp, and let us go.' ' Trom this kind of talk I began to think him none other than what the inspector ifflrmed him to be - especially so when the man in office whipped off the silvery locks from his prisoner's head and disslosed to my wondering gaze a closelysropped iron-gray head of hair beneath. " ' I should hope you don't want fur;her proof ?' the inspector interrogated, riumphantly. "I replied that I was Batisñed. That I iad been singled out for a victim I now 'elt certain. In short, my dear boy, I vas completely taken aback, and feil nto the whole scheme." "The whole scheme!" I exclaimed; 'how? I scarcely understand." " Don't interrupt. You shall hear di■ectly; my melancholy story is fastdrawrg to a close. Well, I looked rom one to the other with perplexity on ny face. "'What are you thinking of doing, Mr. Inspector T I asked. " ' Why, take this predatory individual -this pike among gudgeons - to the staion (they'll have no mercy upon hiiu his time); and jxra must accompany us -hither. 111 take care of hese bits of paper; as in Jike manner i'll be the safe custodian of the artfullyontrived wedding-present.' Saying vhich he deposited the notes, the check md the diamonds in the pocket )f hisovercoat. " There was no ñelp for it; of course [ must go to the station. So, calling my issistant from the back room, Iinstructed lim to gei a cab, and look after business luring my absence. Of course I did ïot teil him the errand I was bound on; md, as luck would have it, he appeared ïot to notiee that anything was wrong. [t would, I must confess, have been lifficult for Thomas, my then bhopman, ;o have seen the handcuffed wrists of the pious looking gentleman; for, to his ;redit be it said, the trapped fox had iontrived to fasten the bottom buttons )f his unusually long-tailed frock coat, md, placing his hands beneath, had ihus managed to keep the iron bracelets jut of sight. Still, there was a desidedly awkward appearance about him, md the heavilylimbed inspector cer;ainly did not, by his attitude or manier, at all resemble a man bent on buyng my wares or selling me bis. Howiver, Thomas seemed oblivious to what vas taking nlace under his very nose, md hied him for a cab. " The cab brought, the two entered ïrst, while I remained behind for a few noments to give instructions to my shopaan. Then I got inside the cab, and we started for Moor Lañe Pólice Station, Fore street. I hadn't been seated long oefore I found that the prisoner's hands were free. " ' That's all right,' the inspector said, aoticing my look of surprise. ' He's promised me to behave himself ; and, between ourselves, I don't like to iron a man if I can get him to give in quietly. Besides, our designing friend, with all bis cunning, knows who he's got to deal with - that I am more than a match for him. Don't you fear, sir; he won't easily slip through my flngers !' "Well, at length we arrived at the station-house. I was the first to alight Erom the cab. and was about to enter the ítation. The inspector, still seated with his prisoner, called to me with evident wmoyance: 'There's no light in the superintendente room ; we'll have to wait a little. However, there's no help Eor it. You go into that room there, the ürst door on the right; you'll flnd newspapers and records there. Amuse yomr3elf. I'll cage my bird - put him under lock and key (safe bind, safe flnd, you know), and then I'll coma to you. I'll be here in a few minutes. If I remain a,way any length of time, ask for Inspector John Tricklet. Pray io not mention our business to any living 3oul.' "Like a fooi and the nnsuspecting ackass I was, I did as I was bid. I turned the handle of the door, and entered the room, a square, dreary apartment, possessed of nothing to speak of save a huge deal table, f our spindlelegged ehairs, a map of London and an almanac, and, excepting a framed engraving representing a life-boat making slow progress over a boiling sea, the walls were bare of pictures. In my then state of rnind the place seemed horribly monotonous. However, I took up the only newspaper the room boasted of, and seated myself to wait for the end. " It speedily carne. I hadn't been seated long before I heard the cab drive away. 'Ah,' I said to myself, 'the man in blue's too economical to let " cabby " wait; I suppose I shall be detainedhere some time. Was there ever anything so disagreeabie !' "Fifteen minutes passed. During that time I fldgeted about. There is no disguising the matter; I was terribly ptrturbed. The most idiotie thoughts passed through my brain. ' What if,' I found myself asking, 'this sham clergyman should prove mydestruction? What if, after serving his pnnishment, he should out of revenge come to my shop and blow out my brains ? What ' - But I thonght all manner of tbings wbioh I won't bother you with. Suffice it tbat anotker fif teen minutes passed. I rose from my seat, but, before I could move a yard toward the door, it opened, and a flne-looking old gentleman- evidently the superintendent - stooi before me. We were soon on good terms; I gave kim my name, and explained my advent, aud explainedwhy I was oooped in what he called bis ' private-inquiry office.' He eeemed, whenl had flnished, to labor hard to keep down a laugh. "'Well,' he eaid at length, 'you've been done nicely ! But you have tkis consolation, that others have been bit - and to a pretty tidy tune. too. You say you are waiting for "Inspector John Tricklet." There's no such party of that name connected with this station. They've carried on a similar game, varied a little, very successf ully in all the large towns in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to say nothing about what they've done abroad. Tricklet ! Ah, a yery apt name ! The game's been contrived by a trick - and he - they - have let you in the hole. You mustn't suppose me a Job's-comforter when I say that dozens have been swindled by these two clever vultures. They are nothing else; they prey ou their kind as best they may. But this is poor talk, Mr. Filby. Let me assure you, to be serious, that all that can be done shall be done. But what can we do ? What can Scotland Yard do ? They can only issue a eaution to tradesmen generally, and put the matter in the Hue and Cry, which probably won't amount to much. And between you and me, Mr. Pilby. I've repeatedly thought (and very seriously, too,) that they've got some of our fellows in their pay; I could all but swear it; for, were it not so, I am confident they 'd have been taken long ago.' " Heartily disgusted, I bade him a surly good-day, and hied me for my shop and counMng-house fire. lts genial blaze, however, cheered me not. I was dispirited and chagrined, and possessed of a deep-rooted idea that :tny hitherto clear braiu had gotten a superabundance of mud in it. I feit that I could tear my hair and beat my breast and yell out that I was profoundly miserable. "But why dweil upon the matter. The story is told. '-


Old News
Michigan Argus