"The episode of the diamond links"
(July 1896, The _Strand Magazine_)
(Chapter two of _An African millionaire, episodes in the life
of the illustrious Colonel Clay_, published in book form in 1897)
BY GRANT ALLEN (1848 - 1899)
"LET us take a trip to Switzerland," said Lady Vandrift. And
anyone who knows Amelia will not be surprised to learn that we
did take a trip to Switzerland accordingly. Nobody can drive Sir
Charles except his wife. And nobody at all can drive Amelia.
There were difficulties at the outset, because we had not
ordered rooms at the hotels beforehand, and it was well on in the
season; but they were overcome at last by the usual application
of a golden key; and we found ourselves in due time pleasantly
quartered in Lucerne, at that most comfortable of European
hostelries, the Schweitzerhof.
We were a square party of four - Sir Charles and Amelia,
myself and Isabel. We had nice big rooms, on the first floor
overlooking the lake, and as none of us was possessed with the
faintest symptom of that incipient mania which shows itself in
the form of an insane desire to climb mountain heights of
disagreeable steepness and unnecessary snowiness, I will venture
to assert we all enjoyed ourselves. We spent most of our
time sensibly in lounging about the lake on the jolly little
steamers; and when we did a mountain climb, it was on the Rigi or
Pilatus where an engine undertook all the muscular work for us.
As usual, at the hotel, a great many miscellaneous people
showed a burning desire to be specially nice to us. If you wish
to see how friendly and charming humanity is, just try being a
well-known millionaire for a week; and you'll learn a thing or
two. Wherever Sir Charles goes, he is surrounded by charming and
disinterested people, all eager to make his distinguished
acquaintance, and all familiar with several excellent investment
or several deserving objects of Christian charity. It is my
business in life, as his brother-in-law and secretary, to decline
with thanks the excellent investments, and to throw judicious
cold water on the objects of charity. Even I myself, as the
great man's almoner, am very much sought after. People casually
allude before me to artless stories of "poor curates in
Cumberland, you know, Mr. Wentworth," or widows in Cornwall,
penniless poets with epics in their desks, and young painters who
need but the breath of a patron to open to them the doors of an
admiring Academy. I smile and look wise while I administer cold
water in minute doses; but I never report one of these cases
to Sir Charles, except in the rare or almost unheard-of event
where I think there is really something in them.
Ever since our little adventure with the Seer at Nice, Sir
Charles, who is constitutionally cautious, had been even more
careful than usual about possible sharpers. And, as chance would
have it, there sat just opposite us at the table d'hote at the
Schweitzerhof - 'tis a fad of Amelia's to dine at table d'hote;
she says she can't bear to be boxed up all day in private rooms
with "too much family" - a sinister-looking man with dark hair
and eyes, conspicuous by his bushy, overhanging eyebrows. My
attention was first called to the eyebrows in question by a nice
little parson who sat at our side, and who observed that they
were made up of certain large and bristly hairs, which (he told
us) had been traced by Darwin to our monkey ancestors. Very
pleasant little fellow, this fresh-faced young parson, on his
honeymoon tour with a nice wee wife, a bonnie Scotch lassie with
a charming accent.
I looked at the eyebrows close. Then a sudden thought
struck me. "Do you believe they're his own?" I asked of the
curate; "or are they only stuck on - a make-up disguise? They
really almost look like it."
"You don't suppose - " Charles began, and checked himself
"Yes, I do," I answered; "the Seer!" Then I recollected my
blunder, and looked down sheepishly. For, to say the truth,
Vandrift had straightly enjoined on me long before to say nothing
of our painful little episode at Nice to Amelia; he was afraid if
she once heard of it, he would hear of it for ever after.
"What Seer?" the little parson inquired, with parsonical
I noticed the man with the overhanging eyebrows give a
queer sort of start. Charles's glance was fixed upon me. I
hardly knew what to answer.
"Oh, a man who was at Nice with us last year," I stammered
out, trying hard to look unconcerned. "A fellow they talked
about, that's all." And I turned the subject.
But the curate, like a donkey, wouldn't let me turn it.
"Had he eyebrows like that?" he inquired, in an undertone.
I was really angry. If this WAS Colonel Clay, the curate
was obviously giving him the cue, and making it much more
difficult for us to catch him, now we might possibly have lighted
on the chance of doing so.
"No, he hadn't," I answered, testily; "it was a passing
expression. But this is not the man. I was mistaken, no doubt."
And I nudged him gently.
The little curate was too innocent for anything. "Oh, I
see," he replied, nodding hard and looking wise. Then he turned
to his wife, and made an obvious face, which the man with the
eyebrows couldn't fail to notice.
Fortunately, a political discussion going on a few places
further don the table spread up to us and diverted attention for
a moment. The magical name of Gladstone saved us. Sir Charles
flared up. I was truly pleased, for I could see Amelia was
boiling over with curiosity by this time.
After dinner, in the billiard-room, however, the man with
the big eyebrows sidled up and began to talk to me. If he was
Colonel Clay, it was evident he bore us no grudge at all for the
five thousand pounds he had done us out of. On the contrary, he
seemed quite prepared to do us out of five thousand more when
opportunity offered; for he introduced himself at once as Dr.
Hector Macpherson, the exclusive grantee of extensive concessions
from the Brazilian Government on the Upper Amazons. He dived
into conversation with me at once as to the splendid mineral
resources of his Brazilian estate - the silver, the platinum, the
actual rubies, the possible diamonds. I listened and smiled; I
knew what was coming. All he needed to develop this magnificent
concession was a little more capital. It was sad to see
thousands of pounds' worth of platinum and car-loads of rubies
just crumbling in the soil or carried away by the river, for want
of a few hundreds to work them with properly. If he knew of
anybody, now, with money to invest, he could recommend him - nay,
offer him - a unique opportunity of earning, say, 40 per cent on
his capital, on unimpeachable security.
"I wouldn't do it for every man," Dr. Hector Macpherson
remarked, drawing himself up; "but if I took a fancy to a fellow
who had command of ready cash, I might choose to put him in the
way of feathering his nest with unexampled rapidity."
"Exceedingly disinterested of you," I answered, drily,
fixing my eyes on his eyebrows.
The little curate, meanwhile, was playing billiards with Sir
Charles. His glance followed mine as it rested for a moment on
the monkey-like hairs.
"False, obviously false," he remarked with his lips; and
I'm bound to confess I never saw any man speak so well by
movement alone; you could follow every word, though not a sound
During the rest of that evening, Dr. Hector Macpherson stuck
to me as close as a mustard-plaster. And he was almost as
irritating. I got heartily sick of the Upper Amazons. I have
positively waded in my time through ruby mines (in prospectuses,
I mean) till the mere sight of a ruby absolutely sickens me.
When Charles, in an unwonted fit of generosity, once gave his
sister Isabel (whom I had the honour to marry) a ruby necklet
(inferior stones), I made Isabel change it for sapphires and
amethysts, on the judicious plea that they suited her complexion
better. (I scored one, incidentally, for having considered
Isabel's complexion.) By the time I went to bed I was prepared
to sink the Upper Amazons in the sea, and to stab, shoot, poison,
or otherwise seriously damage the man with the concession and the
For the next three days, at intervals, he returned to the
charge. He bored me to death with his platinum and his rubies.
He didn't want a capitalist who would personally exploit the
thing; he would prefer to do it all on his own account, giving
the capitalist preference debentures of his bogus company and a
lien on the concession. I listened and smiled; I listened and
yawned; I listened and was rude; I ceased to listen at all; but
still, he droned on with it. I fell asleep on the steamer one
day, and woke up in ten minutes to hear him droning yet: "And
the yield of platinum per ton was certified to be - " I forget
how many pounds, or ounces, or pennyweights. These details of
assays have ceased to interest me; like the man who "didn't
believe in ghosts," I have seen too many of them.
The fresh-faced little curate and his wife however, were
quite different people. He was a cricketing Oxford man; she was
a breezy Scotch lass, with a wholesome breath of the Highlands
about her. I called her "White Heather." Their name was
Brabazon. Millionaires are so accustomed to being beset by
harpies of every description, that when they come across a young
couple who are simple and natural, they delight in the purely
human relation. We picnicked and went excursions a great deal
with the honeymooners. They were so frank in their young love,
and so proof against chaff, that we all really liked them. But
whenever I called the pretty girl "White Heather," she looked so
shocked, and cried: "Oh, Mr. Wentworth!" Still, we were the
best of friends. The curate offered to row us in a boat on the
lake one day, while the Scotch lassie assured us she could take
an oar almost as well as he did. However, we did not accept
their offer, as row-boats exert an unfavourable influence upon
Amelia's digestive organs.
"Nice young fellow, that man Brabazon," Sir Charles said to
me one day, as we lounged together along the quay; "never talks
about advowsons or next presentations. Doesn't seem to me to
care two pins about promotion. Says he's quite content in his
country curacy; enough to live upon, and needs no more; and his
wife has a little, a very little, money. I asked him about his
poor today, on purpose to test him: these parsons are always
trying to screw something out of one for their poor; men in my
position know the truth of the saying that we have that class of
the population always with us. Would you believe it, he says he
hasn't any poor at all in his parish! They're all well-to-do
farmers or else able-bodied labourers, and his one terror is that
somebody will come and try to pauperize them. 'If a
philanthropist were to give me fifty pounds to-day for use at
Empingham,' he said, 'I assure you, Sir Charles, I shouldn't know
what to do with it. I think I should buy new dresses for Jessie,
who wants them about as much as anybody else in the village -
that is to say, not at all.' There's a parson for you, Sey, my
boy. Only wish we had one of his sort at Seldon."
"He certainly doesn't want to get anything out of you," I
That evening at dinner, a queer little episode happened.
The man with the eyebrows began talking to me across the table in
his usual fashion, full of his wearisome concession on the Upper
Amazons. I was trying to squash him as politely as possible,
when I caught Amelia's eye. Her look amused me. She was engaged
in making signals to Charles at her side to observe the little
curate's curious sleeve-links. I glanced at them, and saw at
once they were a singular possession for so unobtrusive a person.
ted each of a short gold bar for one arm of the link,
fastened by a tiny chain of the same material to what seemed to
my tolerably experienced eye - first-rate diamond. Pretty big
diamonds, too, and of remarkable shape, brilliancy, and cutting.
In a moment, I knew what Amelia meant. She owned a diamond
riviere, said to be of Indian origin, but short by two stones for
the circumference of her tolerably ample neck.
Now, she had long been wanting two diamonds like these to
match her set, but owing to the unusual shape and antiquated
cutting of her own gems, she had never been able to complete the
necklet, at least without removing an extravagant amount from a
much larger stone of the first water.
The Scotch lassie's eyes caught Amelia's at the same time,
and she broke into a pretty smile of good-humoured amusement.
"Taken in another person, Dick, dear!" she exclaimed, in her
breezy way, turning to her husband. "Lady Vandrift is observing
your diamond sleeve-links."
"They're very fine gems," Amelia observed, incautiously. (A
most unwise admission, if she desired to buy them.)
But the pleasant little curate was too transparently simple
a soul to take advantage of her slip of judgment. "They are good
Stones," he replied; "very good stones - considering. They're
not diamonds at all, to tell you the truth. They're best
old-fashioned Oriental paste. My great-grandfather bought them,
after the siege of Seringapatam, for a few rupees, from a Sepoy
who had looted them from Tippoo Sultan's palace. He thought,
like you, he had got a good thing. But it turned out, when they
came to be examined by experts, they were only paste - very
wonderful paste; it is supposed they had even imposed upon
Tippoo himself, so fine is the imitation. But they are worth -
well, say, fifty shillings at the utmost."
While he spoke, Charles looked at Amelia, and Amelia looked
at Charles. Their eyes spoke volumes. The riviere was also
supposed to have come from Tippoo's collection. Both drew at
once an identical conclusion. These were two of the same stones,
very likely torn apart and disengaged from the rest in the melee
at the capture of the Indian palace.
"Can you take them off?" Sir Charles asked, blandly. He
spoke in the tone that indicates business.
"Certainly," the little curate answered, smiling. "I'm
accustomed to taking them off. They're always noticed. They've
been kept in the family ever since the siege, as a sort of
valueless heirloom, for the sake of the picturesqueness of the
story, you know; and nobody ever sees them without asking, as you
do, to examine them closely. They deceive even experts at first.
But they're paste, all the same; unmitigated Oriental paste, for
He took them both off, and handed them to Charles. No man
in England is a finer judge of gems than my brother-in-law. I
watched him narrowly. He examined them close, first with the
naked eye, then with the little pocket-lens which he always
carries. "Admirable imitation," he muttered, passing them on to
Amelia. "I'm not surprised they should impose upon inexperienced
But from the tone in which he said it, I could see at once
he had satisfied himself they were real gems of unusual value. I
know Charles's way of doing business so well. His glance to
Amelia meant, "These are the very stones you have so long been in
The Scotch lassie laughed a merry laugh. "He sees through
them now, Dick," she cried. "I felt sure Sir Charles would be a
judge of diamonds."
Amelia turned them over. I know Amelia, too; and I knew
from the way Amelia looked at them that she meant to have them.
And when Amelia means to have anything, people who stand in the
way may just as well spare themselves the trouble of opposing
They were beautiful diamonds. We found out afterwards the
little curate's account was quite correct: these stones had come
from the same necklet as Amelia's riviere, made for a favourite
wife of Tippoo's, who had presumably as expansive personal charms
as our beloved sister-in-law's. More perfect diamonds have
seldom been seen. They have excited the universal admiration of
thieves and connoisseurs. Amelia told me afterwards that,
according to legend, a Sepoy stole the necklet at the sack of the
palace, and then fought with another for it. It was believed
that two stones got spilt in the scuffle, and were picked up and
sold by a third person - a looker-on - who had no idea of the
value of his booty. Amelia had been hunting for them for several
years, to complete her necklet.
"They are excellent paste," Sir Charles observed, handing
them back. "It takes a first-rate judge to detect them from the
reality. Lady Vandrift has a necklet much the same in character,
but composed of genuine stones; and as these are so much like
them, and would complete her set, to all outer appearance, I
wouldn't mind giving you, say, 10 pounds for the pair of them."
Mrs. Brabazon looked delighted. "Oh, sell them to him,
Dick," she cried, "and buy me a brooch with the money! A pair of
common links would do for you just as well. Ten pounds for two
paste stones! It's quite a lot of money."
She said it so sweetly, with her pretty Scotch accent that
I couldn't imagine how Dick had the heart to refuse her. But he
did, all the same.
"No, Jess, darling," he answered. "They're worthless, I
know; but they have for me a certain sentimental value, as
I've often told you. My dear mother wore them, while she lived,
as earrings; and as soon as she died, I had them set as links in
order that I might always keep them about me. Besides, they have
historical and family interest. Even a worthless heirloom, after
all, IS an heirloom."
Dr. Hector Macpherson looked across and intervened. "There
is a part of my concession," he said, "where we have reason to
believe a perfect new Kimberley will soon be discovered. If at
any time you would care Sir Charles, to look at my diamonds -
when I get them - it would afford me the greatest pleasure in
life to submit them to your consideration."
Sir Charles could stand it no longer. "Sir," he said,
gazing across at him with his sternest air, "if your concession
were as full of diamonds as Sindbad the Sailor's alley, I would
not care to turn my head to look at them. I am acquainted with
the nature and practice of salting." And he glared at the man
with the overhanging eyebrows as if he would devour him raw.
Poor Dr. Hector Macpherson subsided instantly. We learnt a
little later that he was a harmless lunatic who went about the
world with successive concessions for ruby mines and platinum
reefs because he had been ruined and driven mad by speculations
in the two, and now recouped himself by imaginary grants in
Burmah and Brazil, or anywhere else that turned up handy. And
his eyebrows, after all, were of Nature's handicraft. We were
sorry for the incident; but a man in Sir Charles's position is
such a mark for rogues that, if he did not take means to protect
himself promptly, he would be for ever overrun by them.
When we went up to our so that evening, Amelia flung herself
on the sofa. "Charles," she broke out in the voice of a tragedy
queen, "those are real diamonds, and I shall never be happy again
till I get them."
"They are real diamonds," Charles echoed. "And you shall
have them, Amelia. They're worth not less than three thousand
pounds. But I shall bid them up gently."
So, next day, Charles set to work to higgle with the curate.
Brabazon, however, didn't care to part with them. He was no
money-grubber, he said. He cared more for his mother's gift and
a family tradition than for a hundred pounds, if Sir Charles were
to offer it. Charles's eye gleamed. "But if I give you TWO
hundred!" he said, insinuatingly. "What opportunities for good!
You could build a new wing to your village school-house!"
"We have ample accommodation," the curate answered. "No, I
don't think I'll sell them."
Still, his voice faltered somewhat, and he looked down at
Charles was too precipitate.
"A hundred pounds more or less matters little to me," he
said; "and my wife has set her heart on them. It's every man's
duty to please his wife--isn't it, Mrs. Brabazon?--I offer you
The little Scotch girl clasped her hands.
"Three hundred pounds! Oh, Dick, just think what fun we
could have, and what good we could do with it! Do let him have
Her accent was irresistible. But the curate shook his head.
"Impossible," he answered. "My dear mother's earrings!
Uncle Aubrey would be so angry if he knew I'd sold them. I
daren't face Uncle Aubrey."
"Has he expectations from Uncle Aubrey?" Sir Charles asked
of White Heather.
Mrs. Brabazon laughed. "Uncle Aubrey! Oh, dear, no. Poor
dear old Uncle Aubrey! Why, the darling old soul hasn't a penny
to bless himself with, except his pension. He's a retired post
captain." And she laughed melodiously. She was a charming
"Then I should disregard Uncle Aubrey's feelings," Sir
Charles said, decisively.
"No, no," the curate answered. "Poor dear old Uncle Aubrey!
I wouldn't do anything for the world to annoy him. And he'd be
sure to notice it."
We went back to Amelia. "Well, have you got them?" she
"No," Sir Charles answered. "Not yet. But he's coming
round, I think. He's hesitating now. Would rather like to sell
them himself, but is afraid that 'Uncle Aubrey' would say about
the matter. His wife will talk him out of his needless
consideration for Uncle Aubrey's feelings; and to-morrow we'll
finally clench the bargain."
Next morning we stayed late in our salon, where we always
breakfasted, and did not come down to the public rooms till just
before dejeuner, Sir Charles being busy with me over arrears of
correspondence. When we did come down, the concierge stepped
forward with a twisted little feminine note for Amelia. She took
it and read it. Her countenance fell. "There, Charles," she
cried, handing it to him, "you've let the chance slip. I shall
never be happy now! They've gone off with the diamonds."
Charles seized the note and read it. Then he passed it on
to me. It was short, but final: -
Thursday, 6 a.m.
"DEAR LADY VANDRIFT - WILL you kindly excuse our having gone
off hurriedly without bidding you good-bye? We have just had a
horrid telegram to say that Dick's favourite sister is
dangerously ill of fever in Paris. I wanted to shake hands with
you before we left - you have all been so sweet to us - but we go
by the morning train, absurdly early, and I wouldn't for worlds
disturb you. Perhaps some day we may meet again - though, buried
as we are in a North-country village, it isn't likely; but
in any case, you have secured the grateful recollection of
Yours very cordially,
P.S. - Kindest regards to Sir Charles and those dear
Wentworths, and a kiss for yourself, if I may venture to send you
"She doesn't even mention where they've gone," Amelia
exclaimed, in a very bad humour.
"The concierge may know," Isabel suggested, looking over my
We asked at his office.
Yes, the gentleman's address was the Rev. Richard Peploe
Brabazon, Holme Bush Cottage, Empingham, Northumberland.
Any address where letters might be sent at once, in Paris ?
For the next ten days, or till further notice, Hotel des
Deux Mondes, Avenue de l'Opera.
Amelia's mind was made up at once.
"Strike while the iron's hot," she cried. "This sudden
illness, coming at the end of their honeymoon, and involving ten
days' more stay at an expensive hotel, will probably upset the
curate's budget. He'll be glad to sell now. You'll get them for
three hundred. It was absurd of Charles to offer so much at
first; but offered once, of course we must stick to it."
"What do you propose to do?" Charles asked. "Write, or
"Oh, how silly men are!" Amelia cried. "Is this the sort of
business to be arranged by letter, still less by telegram? No.
Seymour must start off at once, taking the night train to Paris;
and the moment he gets there, he must interview the curate or
Mrs. Brabazon. Mrs. Brabazon's the best. She has none of this
stupid, sentimental nonsense about Uncle Aubrey."
It is no part of a secretary's duties to act as a diamond
broker. But when Amelia puts her foot down, she puts her foot
down - a fact which she is unnecessarily fond of emphasizing in
that identical proposition. So the self-same evening saw me safe
in the train on my way to Paris; and next morning I turned out of
my comfortable sleeping-car at the Gare de Strasbourg. My orders
were to bring back those diamonds, alive or dead so to speak, in
my pocket, to Lucerne; and to offer any needful sum, up to two
thousand five hundred pounds, for their immediate purchase.
When I arrived at the Deux Mondes I found the poor little
curate and his wife both greatly agitated. They had sat up all
night, they said, with their invalid sister and the sleeplessness
and suspense had certainly told upon them after their long
railway journey. They were pale and tired, Mrs. Brabazon in
particular looking ill and worried - too much like White Heather.
I was more than half ashamed of bothering them about the diamonds
at such a moment, but it occurred to me that Amelia was probably
right; they would now have reached the end of the sum set apart
for their Continental trip; and a little ready cash might be
far from unwelcome.
I broached the subject delicately. It was a fad of lady
Vandrift's, I said. She had set her heart upon those useless
trinkets. And she wouldn't go without them. She must and would
have them. But the curate was obdurate. He threw Uncle Aubrey
still in my teeth. Three hundred? - no, never! A mother's
present; impossible, dear Jessie! Jessie begged and prayed; she
had grown really attached to Lady Vandrift, she said; but the
curate wouldn't hear of it. I went up tentatively to four
hundred. He shook his head gloomily. It wasn't a question of
money, he said. It was a question of affection. I saw it was no
use trying that tack any longer. I struck out a new line.
"These stones," I said, "I think I ought to inform you, are
really diamonds. Sir Charles is certain of it. Now, is it right
for a man of your profession and position to be wearing a pair of
big gems like those, worth several hundred pounds, as ordinary
sleeve-links? A woman? Yes, I grant you; but for a man, is it
manly? And you a cricketer!"
He looked at me and laughed. "Will nothing convince you?"
he cried. "They have been examined and tested by half-a-dozen
jewellers, and we know them to be paste. It wouldn't be right of
me to sell them to you under false pretences, however unwilling
on my side. I couldn't do it."
"Well, then," I said, going up a bit in my bids to meet him;
"I'll put it like this. These gems are paste. But Lady Vandrift
has an unconquerable and unaccountable desire to possess them.
Money doesn't matter to her. She is a friend of your wife's.
As a personal favour, won't you sell them to her for a thousand?"
He shook his head. "It would be wrong," he said - "I might
even add, criminal."
"But we take all risk," I cried.
He was absolute adamant. "As a clergyman," he answered, "I
feel I cannot do it."
"Will you try, Mrs. Brabazon?" I asked.
The pretty little Scotchwoman leant over and whispered. She
coaxed and cajoled him. Her ways were winsome. I couldn't
hear what she said; but he seemed to give way at last. "I should
love Lady Vandrift to have them," she murmured, turning to me.
"She is such a dear!" And she took out the links from her
husbands cuffs and handed them across to me.
"How much?" I asked.
"Two thousand?" she answered interrogatively. It was a big
rise all at once; but such are the ways of women.
"Done!" I replied. "Do you consent?"
The curate looked up as if ashamed of himself.
"I consent," he said, slowly, "since Jessie wishes it. But
as a clergyman, and to prevent any future misunderstanding, I
should like you to give me a statement in writing that you buy
them on my distinct and positive declaration that they are made
of paste - old Oriental paste - not genuine stones, and that I do
not claim any other qualities for them."
I popped the gems into my purse, well pleased.
"Certainly," I said, pulling out a paper. Charles, with his
unerring business instinct, had anticipated the request, and
given me a signed agreement to that effect.
"You will take a cheque?" I inquired.
"Notes of the Bank of France would suit me better," he
"Very well," I replied. " I will go out and get them."
How very unsuspicious some people are! He allowed me go
off - with the stones in my pocket!
Sir Charles had given me a blank cheque, not exceeding two
thousand five hundred pounds. I took it to our agents and cashed
it for notes of the Bank of France. The curate clasped them with
pleasure. And right glad I was to go back to Lucerne that
night, feeling that I had got those diamonds into my hands for
about a thousand pounds under their real value!
At Lucerne railway station Amelia met me. She was
"Have you bought them, Seymour?" she asked.
"Yes," I answered, producing my spoils in triumph.
"Oh, how dreadful!" she cried, drawing back. "Do you think
they're real? Are you sure he hasn't cheated you?"
"Certain of it," I replied, examining them. "No one can
take me in, in the matter of diamonds. Why on earth should you
"Because I've been talking to Mrs. O'Hagan, at the hotel,
and she says there's a well-known trick just like that - she's
read of it in a book. A swindler has two sets, one real, one
false; and he makes you buy the false ones by showing you the
real, and pretending he sells them as a special favour."
"You needn't be alarmed," I answered. "I am a judge of
"I shan't be satisfied," Amelia murmured, "till Charles has
We went up to the hotel. For the first time in her life I
saw Amelia really nervous as I handed the stones to Charles to
examine. Her doubt was contagious. I half feared, myself, he
might break out into a deep monosyllabic interjection, losing his
temper in haste, as he often does when things go wrong. But he
looked at them with a smile, while I told him the price.
"Eight hundred pounds less than their value," he answered,
"You have no doubt of their reality?" I asked.
"Not the slightest," he replied, gazing at them. "They
are genuine stones, precisely the same in quality and type
as Amelia's necklet."
Amelia drew a sigh of relief. "I'll go upstairs," she said,
slowly, "and bring down my own for you both to compare with
One minute later, she rushed down again, breathless. Amelia
is far from slim, and I never before knew her exert herself
"Charles, Charles!" she cried, "do you know what dreadful
thing has happened? Two of my own stones are gone. He's stolen
a couple of diamonds from my necklet, and sold them back to me."
She held out the riviere. It was all too true. Two gems
were missing - and these two just fitted the empty places!
A light broke in upon me. I clapped my hand to my head. "By
Jove," I exclaimed, "the little curate is - Colonel Clay!"
Charles clapped his own hand to his brow in turn. "And
Jessie," he cried, "White Heather - that innocent little
Scotchwoman! I often detected a familiar ring in her voice,
in spite of the charming Highland accent. Jessie is - Madame
We had absolutely no evidence; but, like the Commissary at
Nice, we felt instinctively sure of it.
Sir Charles was determined to catch the rogue. This second
deception put him on his mettle. "The worst of the man is," he
said, "he has a method. He doesn't go out of his way to cheat
us; he makes us go out of ours to be cheated. He lays a trap,
and we tumble headlong into it. To-morrow, Sey, we must follow
him on to Paris."
Amelia explained to him what Mrs O'Hagan had said. Charles
took it all in at once, with his usual sagacity. "That
explains," he said, "why the rascal used this particular trick to
draw us on by. If we had suspected him, he could have shown
the diamonds were real, and so escaped detection. It was a blind
to draw us off from the fact of the robbery. He went to Paris to
be out of the way when the discovery was made, and to get a clear
day's start of us. What a consummate rogue! And to do me twice
"How did he get at my jewel-case, though?" Amelia exclaimed.
"That's the question," Charles answered. "You do leave it
"And why didn't he steal the whole riviere at once, and sell
the gems?" I inquired.
"Too cunning," Charles replied. "This was much better
business. It isn't easy to dispose of a big thing like that. In
the first place, the stones are large and valuable; in the second
place, they're well known - every dealer has heard of the
Vandrift riviere, and seen pictures of the shape of them.
They're marked gems, so to speak. No, he played a better
game - took a couple of them off, and offered them to the only
one person on earth who was likely to buy them without suspicion.
He came here, meaning to work this very trick; he had the links
made right to the shape beforehand, and then he stole the stones
and slipped them into their places. It's a wonderfully clever
trick. Upon my soul, I almost admire the fellow."
For Charles is a business man himself, and can appreciate
business capacity in others.
How Colonel Clay came to know about that necklet, and to
appropriate two of the stones, we only discovered much later. I
will not here anticipate that disclosure. One thing at a time is
a good rule in life. For the moment, he succeeded in baffling us
However, we followed him on to Paris, telegraphing
beforehand to the Bank of France to stop the notes. It was all
in vain. They had been cashed within half an hour of my paying
them. The curate and his wife, we found, quitted the Hotel des
Deux Mondes for parts unknown that same afternoon. And, as usual
with Colonel Clay, they vanished into space, leaving no clue
behind them. In other words, they changed their disguise, no
doubt, and reappeared somewhere else that night in altered
characters. At any rate, no such person as the Reverend Richard
Peploe Brabazon was ever afterwards heard of - and, for the
matter of that, no such village exists as Empingham,
We communicated the matter to the Parisian police. They
were most unsympathetic. "It is no doubt Colonel Clay," said the
official whom we saw; "but you seem to have little just ground of
complaint against him. As far as I can see, messieurs, there is
not much to choose between you. You, Monsieur le Chevalier,
desired to buy diamonds at the price of paste. You, madame,
feared you had bought paste at the price of diamonds. You,
monsieur the secretary, tried to get the stones from an
unsuspecting person for half their value. He took you all in,
that brave Colonel Caoutchouc - it was diamond cut diamond."
Which was true, no doubt, but by no means consoling.
We returned to the Grand Hotel. Charles was fuming with
indignation. "This is really too much," he exclaimed. "What an
audacious rascal! But he will never again take me in, my dear
Sey. I only hope he'll try it on. I should love to catch him.
I'd know him another time, I'm sure, in spite of his disguises.
It's absurd my being tricked twice running like this. But never
again while I live! Never again, I declare to you!"
"Jamais de la vie!" a courier in the hall close by murmured
responsive. We stood under the veranda of the Grand Hotel, in
the big glass courtyard. And I verily believe that courier was
really Colonel Clay himself in one of his disguises.
But perhaps we were beginning to suspect him everywhere.