“You must know that I am possessed of a little trinket which, in the hands of any one who, like yourself, is a stranger in these parts, would possess no significance, but which while in my keeping is fraught with infinite menace to me.”
Hereupon, and having so spoken, she clapped her hands, and an attendant immediately entered, disclosing the person of the same negress who had first introduced Jonathan into the strange adventure in which he now found himself involved. This creature, who appeared still more deformed and repulsive in the brilliantly lighted room than she had in the moonlight, carried in her hands a white napkin, which she handed to her mistress. This being opened, disclosed a small ivory ball of about the bigness of a lime. Nodding to the negress to withdraw, the lady handed him the ivory ball, and Jonathan took it with no small degree of curiosity and examined it carefully. It appeared to be of an exceeding antiquity, and of so deep a yellow as to be almost brown in color. It was covered over with strange figures and characters of an Oriental sort, which appeared to our hero to be of Chinese workmanship.
“I must tell you, sir,” said the lady, after she had permitted her guest to examine this for a while in silence, “that though this appears to you to be of little worth, it is yet of extreme value. After all, however, it is nothing but a curiosity that any one who is interested in such matters might possess. What I have to ask you is this: Will you be willing to take this into your charge, to guard it with the utmost care and fidelity—yes, even as the apple of your eye—during your continuance in these parts, and to return it to me in safety the day before your departure. By so doing you will render me a service which you may neither understand nor comprehend, but which shall make me your debtor for my entire life.”
By this time Jonathan had pretty well composed his mind for a reply.
“Friend,” said he, “such a matter as this is entirely out of my knowledge of business, which is, indeed, that of a clerk in the