Jewel Mysteries I have Known/The Necklace of Green Diamonds

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THE NECKLACE OF GREEN DIAMONDS

 

 

THE NECKLACE OF GREEN DIAMONDS


I CAN remember perfectly well the day upon which I received the order from my eccentric old friend, Francis Brewer, to make him a necklace of green diamonds. It was the 2nd of May in the year 1890, exactly three days after his marriage with the fascinating little singer, Eugenie Clarville, who had set Paris aflame with the piquancy of her acting and her delightful command of a fifth-rate voice some six months after Brewer had left London to take up the management of a great banking enterprise in the French capital. He was then well into the forties; but he had skipped through life with scarce a jostle against the venial sins, and was as ignorant as a babe where that mortal septette of vices which the clergy anathematise on the first Wednesday in Lent was concerned. I have never known a more childish man, or one who held your affection so readily with simplicity. He was large-hearted, trusting, boyish, by no means unintellectual, and in no sense a fool. Indeed, his commercial knowledge was highly valuable; and his energy in working up a business was a reproach to those who, like myself, love to sit in arm-chairs and watch the ebb of life from a plate-glass window.

When he was married he wrote to me, and I laid his letter upon my table with a whistle. Not that he was in any way suited for the celibate state, for his instinct was wholly cast in the marrying mould. Had I been called upon to paint him, I should have sat him in an arm-chair by the side of a roaring fire, with a glass of punch to toast a buxom goodwife, and a pipe as long as the stick of my umbrella to make rings of smoke for a new generation at his knee. Such a man should, said common sense, have been yoked to an English dame, to one used to the odour of the lemon, and motherly by instinct and by training. I could not imagine him married to a lady from the Vaudeville; the contrast between his iron-headed directness and the gauze and tinsel of opera bouffe seemed grotesque almost to incredulity. Yet there was the letter, and there were his absurd ravings about a woman he had known distantly for six months, and intimately for three days.

"I have married," he said in this memorable communication, "the dearest little soul that God ever brought into the world—fresh as the breeze, bright as the sky, eyes like the night, and temper like an angel. You must come and see her, old boy, the moment we set foot in our house at Villemomble. I shan't let you lose an hour; you must learn for yourself what a magnificent Benedick I make. Why, the days go like flashes of the sun—and there never was a happier man in or out of this jolly city. Oh, you slow-goers in London, you poor lame cab-horses, what do you know of life or of woman, or even of the sky above you? Come to Paris, old man; come, I say, and we'll put you through your paces, and you shall meet her, the very best little wife that ever fell to an old dray-horse in this fair of high-steppers."

There was a good deal more of this sort of thing; but the kernel of the letter was in a postscriptum, as was the essence of most of his communications. He told me there that he desired to make some substantial present to the girl he had just married; and he enclosed a rough sketch of a necklace which he thought would be a pretty thing if rare stones were used to decorate it. I fell in with his whim at once; and as it chanced that I had just received from the Jägersfontein mine a parcel of twenty very fine greenish diamonds, I determined to use them in the business. I may say that these stones were of a delicious pale green tint, almost the colour of the great jewel in the vaults at Dresden, and that their fire was amazing. I have known a gem of the hue to be worth nearly a hundred pounds a carat; and as the lot I had averaged two carats apiece, their worth was very considerable. I had not learnt what were Brewer's instructions in the matter of expense; but I wrote to him by the next post congratulating him on his marriage and informing him that I would set the green diamonds in a necklace, and sell them for two thousand pounds. He accepted the offer by a cablegram, and on the following day sent a long letter of instruction, the pith of which was the order to engrave on the inner side of the pendant the words, major lex amor est nobis. I laughed at his Latin, and the amatory exuberance which it betrayed; but fell upon the work, and finished it in the course of three weeks, during which time I had many and irritating requests from him for constant and detailed accounts of its progress.

When the trinket reached him, his satisfaction was quite childish. He wrote of his delight, and of "Eugy's," and spoilt three sheets of good note-paper telling me of her appearance at the English ball early in June; and of the sensation such an extraordinary bauble caused. Then I heard from him no more until August, when I read in an evening paper that he had been returning from Veulettes after a short holiday, and had been in a great train smash near Rouen. A later telegram gave a list of the dead, in which was the name of his wife; and three days after I received from him the most pitiful letter that it has ever been my misfortune to read. The whole wounded soul of the man seemed laid bare upon the paper; the simplicity of his words was so touching and so expressive of his agony, that I could scarce trust myself to go through the long pages over which he let his sorrow flow. Yet one paragraph remained long in my mind, for it was one that recalled the necklace of green diamonds, and it was so astonishing that I did not doubt that Brewer was, for the time at any rate, on the high road to madness. "I have put them round her dear neck," he said, "and they shall cling always to her in her long sleep."

At the end of the month he wrote again, mentioning that, despite my sharp remonstrance, he had seen the jewels buried with her, and that his heart was broken. He said that he thought of coming to stay with me, and of retiring from business; but went on in the next paragraph to confess his inability to leave the city in which she was buried, and the places which kept her memory so sharply before him. I wrote an answer, advising him to plunge into work as an antidote to grief, and had posted it but an hour when the mystery of the green diamond necklace began.

The circumstances were these. My clerk had left with the letters, and I was sitting at my table examining a few unusually large cat's-eyes which had been offered to me that morning. I heard the shop door open, and saw from the small window near my desk a man in a fur coat, who seemed in something of a hurry when he went to the counter. Three minutes afterwards, Michel came up to me breathlessly and stammering. He carried in his hand the identical necklace which I had made for my friend Brewer, and which he had buried with his wife, as his letter said, not a month before. My amazement at the sight of it was so great that for many minutes I sat clasping and unclasping the snap of the trinket, and reading again that strange inscription, major lex amor est nobis, which had caused me so much amusement when I had first ordered it to be cut. Then I asked Michel,—

"Who brought this?"

"A man in the shop below—the agent of Green and Sons, who have been offered it by a customer at Dieppe."

"Have they put a price upon it?"

"They ask one thousand five hundred pounds for it."

"Oh, five hundred less than we sold it for; that is curious. Ask the man if he will leave it on approval for a week."

"I have put the question already. His people are quite willing."

"Then write out a receipt."

He went away to do so, still fumbling and amazed. The thing was so astounding to one who knew the whole of the circumstances, as I did, that I told him nothing more, but examined the necklace minutely at least half a dozen times. Was it possible that there could be two sets of matching green diamonds, two infatuated lovers who had chosen the same pattern of ornament, the same strange inscription, and the same tint of stones? Such a thing was out of the question. Either Brewer had made a mistake when he said that the necklace had been buried with his wife—a theory which presupposed his return to his normal common sense—or some scoundrel had stolen it from her coffin. I determined to wire to him at once, and had written out a message when the second mystery in the history of the trinket began to unfold itself. It came to me in the form of a cablegram from Brewer himself, who asked me to go to him at Paris without delay, as something which troubled him beyond description had happened since he wrote to me.

I need not say that at the time when I received this telegram I had no idea that a second mystery had engendered it. I believed that Brewer had discovered the loss of the necklace, and had sent for me to trace the thieves. This task I entered upon very willingly; and when I had instructed Michel to ask Green & Co.—with whom we did a large business—to give me as a special and private favour the real name of the seller of the necklace, I took the eight o'clock train from Victoria; and was in Paris at dawn on the following morning. Early as it was, Brewer waited for me at the Gare du Nord, and greeted me with a welcome which was almost hysterical in its effusiveness. This I could not return, for the shock of the sight of him was enough to make any man voiceless. He had aged in look twenty years in as many months. His clothes hung in folds upon a figure that had once been the figure of a robust and finely built man; his face was wan and colorless; there were hollows above his temples, and furrows as of great age in the cheeks, which erstwhile shone with all the healthy coloring that physical vigor can give. His aspect, indeed, was pitiable; but I made a great effort to convince him that I had not noticed it, and said cheerily,—

"Well, and how is my old friend?"

"I am a widower," he answered; and there was more pathos in the simple remark than in any lament I ever heard from him. It was quite evident that his one grief still reigned in his thoughts; and I made no other attempt to conquer it.

"You have important news, or you would not have summoned me from London," I said, as we left the station in a fiacre. "Won't you give me an idea of it now?"

"When we reach my place I will tell you everything and show you everything. It's very kind of you to come, very kind indeed; but I'd sooner speak of such things at my own house."

"You are still at Villemomble?"

"Yes; but I have an apartment by the Rue de Morny, and am staying there now; the old home is not the same. She is dead, you know."

I thought this remark very strange, and his manner of giving it no less curious. He nodded his head gravely, and continued to nod it, repeating the words and holding my hand like some great schoolboy who feared to be alone. He was scarcely better when we arrived at his lodging, and he took me to a luxurious apartment which was well worthy of his consummate taste; but the moment he had shut the outer door his manner changed, becoming quick, interested, and distinctly nervous.

"Bernard," he said, "I brought you to Paris because the strangest thing possible has happened. You remember the necklace of green diamonds I gave my poor wife, and buried with her?"

"Am I likely to forget that folly?" I asked.

"Well," he continued, "it was stolen from her grave in the little cemetery near Raincy——"

"I know that," said I.

"You know it!" he cried, looking up aghast. "How could you know it?"

"Because it was offered to me yesterday."

"Good God!" he exclaimed, "offered to you yesterday! But it could not have been, for my servant bought it in a shabby jeweler's near the Rue St. Lazarre! Look for yourself, and say what do you call that?"

He had unlocked a small safe as he spoke, and he threw a jewel case upon the table. I opened it quickly, and it was then my turn to call out as he had done a moment before. The case contained a second necklace of green diamonds exactly resembling the one I had made, and had then in my pocket; and it bore even the memorable inscription—major lex amor est nobis.

When I made this discovery there seemed something so uncanny and terrible about it that the beads of perspiration stood on my forehead, and my hand shook until I nearly dropped the case.

"Frank," I said, "there's deeper work here than you think; this is the necklace which you believe you buried with your wife; well, what is this one, then, that I have in my pocket?"

I opened the second case and laid the jewels side by side. You could not have told one bauble from the other unless you had possessed such an eye as mine, which will fidget over a sham diamond when it is yet a yard away. He had no doubt that they were identical; and when he saw them together, he began to cry like a frightened woman.

"What does it mean?" he asked. "Have they robbed my wife's grave? My God!—two necklaces alike down to the very engraving. Who has done it? Who could do such a thing with a woman who never harmed a living soul? Bernard, if I spend every shilling I possess, I will get to the bottom of this thing! Oh, my wife, my wife——"

His distress would have moved an adamantine heart, and was not a thing to cavil at. The mystery, which had completely unnerved him, had fascinated me so strangely that I determined not to leave Paris until the last line of its solution was written. The robbery of the grave I could quite understand, but that there should be two necklaces, one of them with real stones and the other with imitation, was a fact before which my imagination reeled. As for him, he continued to sit in his arm-chair, and to fret like a child; and there I left him while I went to consult the first detective I could run against.

The difficulties in getting at the police of Paris are proverbial. The officials there hold it such an impertinence for a mere civilian to inform them of anything at all, that the unfortunate pursuer of the criminal comes at last to believe himself guilty of some crime. I put up with some hours, badgering at the nearest bureau, and then having no French but that which is fit for publication, I returned to the Rue de Morny, getting on the way some glimmer of a plan into my head. I found Brewer in the same wandering state as I had left him; and although he listened when I spoke, I felt sure that his mind was in that infantile condition which can neither beget a plan nor realize one. For himself, he had a single idea; and upon that he harped usque ad nauseam.

"I must send for Jules," he kept muttering; "Jules knew her well; he was one of her oldest friends; he would help me in a case like this, I feel sure. He always told her that green diamonds were unlucky; I was insane to touch the things, positively insane. Jules will come at once, and I will tell him everything, and he will explain things we do not understand. Perhaps you will send a letter to him now; Robert is in the kitchen and he will take it."

"I will send a note with pleasure if you think this man can help us; but who is he, and why have I not heard of him before?"

"You must have heard of him," he answered testily; "he was always with us when she lived—always."

"Do you see him often now?"

"Yes, often; he was here a week ago; that is his photograph on the cabinet there."

The picture was that of a finely built but very typical Frenchman, a man with a pointed, well-brushed beard, and a neatly curled moustache. The head was not striking, being cramped above the eyes and bulging behind the ears; but the smile was very pleasant, and the general effect one of geniality. I examined the photograph, and then asked casually:

"What is this M. Jules? you don't tell me the rest of his name."

"Jules Galimard. I must have mentioned him to you. He is the editor, or something, of Paris et Londres. We will write for him now, and he will come over at once."

I sent the letter to please him, asking the man to come across on important business, and then told him of my plan.

"The first thing to do," said I, "is to go to Raincy, and to ascertain if the grave of your wife has been tampered with—and when. If you will stay here and nurse yourself, I will do that at once?"

He seemed to think over the proposition for some minutes; and when he answered me he was calmer.

"I will come with you," he said; "if—if any one is to look upon her face again, it shall be me."

I could see that a terrible love gave him strength even for such an ordeal as this. He began to be meaningly and even alarmingly calm; and when we set out for Raincy he betrayed no emotion whatever. I will not describe anything but the result of that never-to-be-forgotten mission, although the scene haunts my memory to this day. Suffice it to say that we found indisputable evidence of a raid upon the vault; and discovered that the necklace had been torn from the body of the woman. When nothing more was to be learnt, I took my friend back to Paris. There I found a letter from the office of Paris et Londres saying that Galimard was at Dieppe but would be with us in the evening.

The mystery had now taken such hold of me that I could not rest. Brewer, whose calm was rather dangerous than reassuring, seemed strangely lethargic when he reached his rooms, and began to doze in his arm-chair. This was the best thing he could have done; but I had no intention of dozing myself; and when I had wormed from him the address of the shop where the sham necklace had been purchased—it proved to be in the Rue Stockholm—I took a fiacre at once and left him to his dreaming. The place was a poor one, though the taste of a Frenchman was apparent in the display and arrangement of the few jewels, bronzes, and pictures which were the stock-in-trade of the dealer. He himself was a lifeless creature, who listened to me with great patience, and appeared to be completely astounded when I told him that I desired to have an interview with the vendor of the necklace and the green diamonds.

"You could not have come at a more fortunate moment," said he, "the stones were pretty, I confess and I fear to have sold them for much less than they were worth; but my client will be here in half an hour for his money, and if you come at that time you can meet him."

This was positive and altogether unlooked-for luck. I spent the thirty minutes' interval in a neighbouring café, and was back at his shop as the clocks were striking seven. His customer was already there; a man short and thick in figure, with a characteristic French low hat stuck on the side of his head; and an old black cutaway coat which was conspicuously English. He wore gaiters, too—a strange sight in Paris; and carried under his arm a rattan cane which was quite ridiculously short. When he turned his head I saw that his hair was cropped quite close, and that he had a great scar down one side of his face, which gave him a hideous appearance. Yet he could not have been twenty-five years of age; and he was one of the gayest customers I have ever met.

"Oh," he said, looking me up and down critically, and with a perky cock of his head, "you're the cove that wants to speak to me about the sparklers, are you? and a damned well-dressed cove, too. I thought you were one of these French hogs."

"I wanted to have a chat about such wonderful imitations," I said, "and am English like yourself."

At this he raked up the gold which the old dealer had placed upon the counter for him and went to the door rapidly, where he stood with his hands upon his hips, and a wondrous knowing smile in his bit of an eye.

"You're a pretty nark, ain't you?" he said, "a fine slap-up Piccadilly thick-un, s' help me blazes; and you ain't got no bracelets in your pockets, and there ain't no more of you round the corner. Oh, hell! but this is funny!"

"I am quite alone," I said quickly, seeing that the game was nearly lost, "and if you tell me what I want to know, I will give you as much money as you have in your hand there, and you have my word that you shall go quite free."

"Your word!" he replied, looking more knowing than ever; "that's a ripping fine Bank of Engraving to go on bail on, ain't it? Who are you, and how's your family?"

"Let's stroll down the street, any way you like," said I, "and talk of it. Choose your own course, and then you will be sure that I am alone."

He looked at me for a minute, walking slowly. Then suddenly he stopped abruptly, and put his hand upon a pocket at his waist.

"Guv'ner," he said, "lay your fingers on that; do you feel it? it's a Colt, ain't it? Well, if you want to get me in on the bow, I tell you I'll go the whole hog, so you know."

"I assure you again that I have no intention of troubling you with anything but a few questions; and I give you my word that anything you tell me shall not be used against you afterwards. It's the other man we want to catch—the man who took the green diamonds which were not shams."

This thought was quite an inspiration. He considered it for a moment, standing still under the lamp; but at last he stamped his foot and whistled, saying,—

"You want him, do you? well, so do I; and if I could punch his head I'd walk a mile to do it. You come to my room, guv'ner, and I'll take my chance of the rest."

The way lay past the Chapel of the Trinity, and so through many narrow streets to one which seemed the centre of a particularly dark and uninviting neighbourhood. The man, who told me in quite an affable mood that his name was Bob Williams, and that he hoped to run against me at Auteuil, had a miserable apartment on the "third" of a house in this dingy street; and there he took me, offering me half-a-tumbler of neat whisky, which, he went on to explain, would "knock flies" out of me. For himself, he sat upon a low bed and smoked a clay pipe, while I had an arm-chair, lacking springs; and one of my cigars for obvious reasons. When we were thus accommodated he opened the ball, being no longer nervous or hesitating.

"Well, old chap,"—I was that already to him—"what can I tell you, and what do you know?"

"I know this much," said I; "last month the grave of Madame Brewer at Raincy was rifled. The man who did it stole a necklace of green diamonds, real or sham, but the latter, I am thinking."

"As true as gospel—I was the man who took them, and they were sham, and be damned to them!"

"Well, you're a pretty ruffian," I said. "But what I want to know is, how did you come to find out that the stones were there, and who was the man who got the real necklace I made for Madame Brewer only a few months ago?"

"Oh, that's what you want to know, is it? Well, it's worth something, that is; I don't know that he ain't a pard of mine; and about no other necklace I ain't heard nothing. You know a blarmed sight too much, it seems to me, guv'ner."

"That may be," said I, "but you can add to what I know, and it might be worth fifty pounds to you."

"On the cushion?"

"I don't understand."

"Well, on that table then?"

"Scarcely. Twenty-five now, and twenty-five when I find that you have told me the truth."

"Let's see the shiners."

I counted out the money on to the bed—five English bank notes, which he eyed suspiciously.

"May, his mark," he said, thumbing the paper. "Well, as I'm shifting for Newmarket to-morrow that's not much odds, if you're not shoving the queer on me."

"Do you think they're bad?"

"I'll tell you in a moment; i broken, e broken, watermark right; guv'ner, I'll put up with 'em. Now, what do you want to know?"

"I want to know how you came to learn that the stones were in Madame Brewer's grave?"

"A straight question. Well, I was told by a pal."

"Is he here in Paris?"

"He ought to be; he told me his name was Mougat, but I found out that it ain't. He is a chap that writes for the papers and runs that rag with the rum pictures in it; what do you call it, Paris and something or other?"

"Paris et Londres," I ventured at hazard.

"Ay, that's the thing; I don't read much of the lingo myself, but I gave him tips at Longchamps last month, and we came back in a dog-cart together. It was then that he put me on to the stones and planted me with a false name."

"What did he say?"

"Said that some mad cove at Raincy had buried a necklace worth two thousand pounds with his wife, and that the dullest chap out could get into the vault and lift it. I'd had a bad day, and was almost stony. He kept harping on the thing so, suggesting that a man could get to America with five thousand in his pocket, and no one be a penny the wiser or a penny the worse, that I went off that night and did it, and got a fine heap for my pains. That's what I call a mouldy pal—a pal I wouldn't make a doormat of."

"And you sold the booty to the old Frenchman in the Rue de Stockholm?"

"Exactly! he gave me a tenner for it, and I'm crossing to England to-night. No place like the old shop, guv'ner, when the French hogs are sniffing about you. I guess there's a few of them will want me in Parry in a day or two; and that reminds me, you can do the noble if you like, and send the other chips to the Elephant Hotel at Cambridge last post to-morrow."

I told him that I would, and left. You may ask why I had any truck with such a complete blackguard, but the answer is obvious: I had guessed from the first that there was something in the mystery of the green diamonds which would not bear exposure from Brewer's point of view, and his tale confirmed the opinion. I had learnt from it two obvious facts: one that Jules Galimard was anything but the friend of my friend; the other, that this man knew perfectly well that a sham diamond necklace was buried with Madame Brewer. It came to me then, as in a flash, that he, and he alone, must have stolen, or at least have come into possession of, the real necklace which I had made.

How to undeceive the good soul who had entrusted me with his case was the remaining difficulty. He had loved this woman so; and yet instinct suggested to me that she had been unworthy of his deep affection. That she had been untrue to him I did not know. Galimard might have stolen the jewels from her, and have replaced them with a false set; on the other hand, she might have been a party to the fraud. What, then, should I say, or how much should I dare with the great responsibility before me of crushing a man whose heart was already broken?

With such thoughts I re-entered the apartment in the Rue de Morny. As I did so, the servant put a telegram into my hand, and told me that M. Jules Galimard was with his master. Fate, however, seemed to have given the man another chance, for the cipher said,—

"Green and Co. in error, they should have sent the stones only; necklace not for sale; client's name unknown, acting for Paris agents."

I walked into the room with this message in my pocket; and when Brewer saw me he jumped up with delight, and introduced me to a well-dressed Frenchman who had the red rosette in the buttonhole of his faultless frock-coat, and who showed a row of admirable teeth when he smiled to greet me.

"Here is Jules," said Brewer, "my friend I have spoken of, M. Jules Galimard; he has come to help us, as I said he would; there is no one whose advice I would sooner take in this horrible matter."

I bowed stiffly to the man, and seated myself on the opposite side of the table to him. As they seemed to wait for me to speak, I took up the question at once.

"Well," I said, speaking to Brewer; but turning round to look at his friend, as I uttered the words, "I have found out who sold the sham necklace to the man in the Rue de Stockholm; the rogue is a racing tout named Bob Williams!"

Galimard turned right round in his chair at this, and put his elbows on the table. Brewer said, "God bless me, what a scamp!"

"And," I continued, "the extraordinary part of the affair is that this scoundrel was put to the business by a man he met at Longchamps last month. It is obvious that this man stole the real necklace, and now desired all traces of his handiwork to be removed from Madame Brewer's coffin. I have his name," with which direct remark I looked hard at the fellow, and he rose straight up from his chair and clutched at the back of it with his hand. For a moment he seemed speechless; but when he found his tongue, he threw away, with dreadful maladroitness, the opening I had given him.

"Madame gave me the jewels," he blurted out, "that I will swear before any court."

The situation was truly terrible, the man standing gripping his chair, Brewer staring at both of us as at lunatics.

"What do you say? What's that?" he cried; and the assertion was repeated.

"I am no thief!" cried the man, drawing himself up in a way that was grotesquely proud, "she gave me the jewels, your wife, a week after you gave them to her. I had a false set made so that you should not miss them; here is her letter in which she acknowledges the receipt of them."

The old man—for he was an old man then in speech, in look, and in the fearful convulsions of his face—sprung from his chair, and struck the rascal who told him the tale full in the mouth with his clenched fist. The fellow rolled backwards, striking his head against the iron of the fender; and lay insensible for many minutes. During that time I called a cab, and when he was capable of being moved, sent him away in it. I saw clearly that for Brewer's sake the matter must be hushed at once, blocked out as a page in a life which had been false in its every line. Nor did I pay any attention to Galimard's raving threat that his friends should call upon me in half an hour; but went upstairs again to find the best soul that ever lived sitting over the fire which had been lighted for him, and chattering with the cackle of the insane. He had the letter, which Galimard had thrown down, in his hands, and he read it aloud with hysterical laughter and awful emphasis.

I tried to speak to him, to reason with him, to persuade him. He heard nothing I said, but continued to chuckle and to chatter in a way that made my blood run cold. Then suddenly he became very calm, sitting bolt upright in his chair, with the letter clutched tightly in his right hand; and I saw that tears were rolling down his cheeks.

An hour later the friends of M. Jules Galimard called. They entered the room noisily, but I hushed them, for the man was dead!