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bewilderment and curiosity. He was reluctant, perhaps, to put any further questions. Then I saw his eyes turn to the luggage-racks above. Except for his own bag, they were empty.

After that I trembled at the prospect of another question, but it did not come. He turned his attention instead to the Chief of Police. I saw his quick eyes take in every detail of the stiff, military figure, and then I saw them brighten slowly. I knew, as if by instinct, that the facts of the situation had dawned upon him. Still, he did not seem in any hurry to speak. He proceeded to make himself comfortable in his corner by taking a reclining position and raising one foot to the cushions. This took quite two minutes, and all the while he was evidently thinking things out. I felt that his thinking would have unpleasant results for me, and glanced at my helper. With his eyes half-closed he was still enjoying the spectacle.

When at last Mr. Ashdon spoke it was in quite a pleasant tone. I raised my eyes to his, and saw there a good deal more than he showed me in words. Malice? No, it was not malice. Revenge? Yes; there was something of revenge there, but it was mingled with something else; there was amusement, enjoyment and a certain playfulness; there was also a trace of contempt. Was it contempt for me? What was coming now? He was addressing his remarks entirely to myself.

"I didn't expect to see you again so soon, Mr. Crossley; but I've been thinking a good deal about you since we last met. That was a nice trick you played me by carrying off my bag!"

The tables had been completely turned. Instead of being called to account himself, he was bringing me up before the bar of judgment. With a strange sensation of helplessness, I murmured something about a mistake. "Mistake?" said the representative of Fillottsons. "Of course, my dear sir,

of course. I am not complaining in the least. In fact, I have to thank you for a very pleasant evening with an old friend. Whom should I meet when I 'went to recover my bag, but King of Burfords-Burfords of Belfast, you know, the linen people. He's staying at the 'Lion' to-night, and I've been having a chat with him. We got so busy with it that I nearly missed the train."

The "Lion" was a Leachester hotel, situated near the station. My calculations had been faulty indeed!

"As it is," continued Mr. Ashdon, looking at me pleasantly-"as it is, I've only lost six or seven hours. The Countess will get her diamonds in time, after all."

"The Countess?" I gasped; for he had evidently intended me to say something.

"Yes, the Countess, sir. I suppose it never occurred to you that Mr. Charles Ashdon should have dealings with the nobility-eh?"

He concluded the question with something like a chuckle, looking first at me and then at the Chief of Police. I can only answer for my own sensations. They were sensations of increasing bewilderment.

"Did you happen to see the evening paper at Leachester?" asked Mr. Ashdon.

How I wished that I could say "No!" I nodded helplessly. "Then, of course," he continued, "you saw the account of the great jewel robbery?"

I could not deny it. "Well," he said, leaning forward and touching my knee with his forefinger, "the diamonds stolen from the Hotel Petersburg are -in-my-bag!"

What did the man mean? I knew that they were in the bag well enough; but my knowledge only added to the difficulties of the situation. But, apparently satisfied with my confusion, Mr. Charles Ashdon went on:

"You wouldn't think it now-would you? There you had the bag in your possession for hours, and I'll warrant you never dreamt it. But if you'd been a prying, inquisitive kind of man, you'd have stumbled upon them, sure enough; and I fancy they would have given you a bit of a sensation!"

I felt warm and uncomfortable, not only because of the words, but because the man's eyes were upon my face. He kept them upon my face while he continued:

"I can just fancy, now, what a prying sort of man would have done in your place, if he'd rummaged the bag and afterwards seen the accounts in the paper. He'd have gone straight to the police with his story-and with the bag, too. And if the police were stupid enough to swallow all the impossibilities as they generally are they'd have been after me all down the line in less than no time."

With that he glanced at the Chief. But the Chief simply nodded.

"That," added Mr. Ashdon, "is just what would have happened if you had been a prying, inquisitive kind of character."

This was horrible. I felt my warmth turn to heat. I did not glance at the Chief; but I knew that he was smiling.

"By Jove!" continued Mr. Ashdon, in the same tone, "it has been a splendid joke, though. The landlord of the 'Lion' brought us the paper in the smoking-room. 'Great jewel robbery,' says he; 'sixty thousand pounds worth stolen.'-'Hullo,' says King, 'that's in your line, Ashdon!' And, sure as I live, Mr. Crossley, so it was! It was a full and graphic account of my robbery this morning from the Hotel Petersburg!"

He paused to note the effect. The Chief did not move, and I could only stare. This was almost a nightmare to me!

"You should have heard us roar," continued Mr. Ashdon, "when we'd read it through, and you should have seen King's face. 'Ashdon,' he said, if you ever get safe home with that sixty thousand I'll eat my hat. Good gracious, man, what a thundering, reckless kind of thief you are! Suppose the gent who took your bag'-meaning you, Mr. Crossley-'suppose he'd happened to peep into the cases! Why, you'd be clapped up in walls in half an hour. You look a suspicious character at the best of times-you do. There's something in your eye quite extraordinarily bad and wicked; and if you got caught with those things in your bag, do you think you'd get anyone to believe your story' "

Mr. Ashdon paused to give effect to his last words. "Do you think,' said King, 'that you'd get any one to believe they were only-paste?"

Paste! At that word I gave a start. Mr. Ashdon saw it, but only made a brief pause. He went on, looking in turn at each of us:

"You see, gentlemen, King is a bit of a humorist. Of course the thing he was talking about could hardly happen. In the first place, even if my bag were taken away by a gentleman in mistake, he would never dream of turning it inside out. In the second place, no man, police or not, would swallow the story. No police-officer would be fool enough. to think that a jewel-thief would steal jewel-cases as well as jewels. No police-officer would be stupid enough to believe the report in the Echo-that a Countess would be such a numskull as to carry sixty thousand pounds about with her in genuine stones. Everybody knows, in these days, that the real jewels are kept locked up in strongrooms, while their owners wear fac similes of them in paste."

There was another pause. The last sentences had been spoken at, rather than to, the Chief Constable. He

watching me still with lazy eyes, an- sends all such orders. swered, quietly:

"Exactly. Everybody knows it."

The remark was intended for me. I suddenly remembered the scene in his office, and understood. Those last arguments were probably the very points which he had wished to touch upon when I had refused to listen further. It was his turn now!

Mr. Ashdon was slightly taken aback by his assent and there was a longer pause. Then the Chief spoke again:

"That report in the Echo," he said, "was a bit of smart journalism, at least."

Messrs. Fillottsons's representative laughed. "Smart, sir? Well, I should think so. A silly girl gives the alarm, and the right man happens to get hold of it. I pity that girl when her mistress gets hold of her. Wait a minute, though; I'll show you the jewels."

He had forgotten, for the moment, his attack upon me. A rising interest in the details of the story had turned his attention aside, and he rose to get his bag. Taking it down, he laid it upon the seat and began to loosen the straps. At the same time he kept on speaking:

. "It was a curious affair; but I daresay such things happen oftener than we think. As a matter of fact, of course, the Countess left her family diamonds at home-in the strong-room of a Russian bank in St. Petersburg. But she had a sketch made of them by an expert, and sent it to Margate & Fry's to have a set made exactly like the originals. This, you see, is the Countess's first season in England; and though she wouldn't risk her jewels by bringing them with her, she wanted to show them off all the same. Any way, no doubt she felt that she wouldn't deprive the English of a sight of her historic gems. So she took the sketch to Margate of Regent Street. Margate, of course, sent the order to us, as he

Perhaps you

know, gentlemen, that Fillottsons's one special line is-paste diamonds."

The straps were thrown off and the catches slipped back. Mr. Ashdon took out a noisy bunch of keys.

"It was rather a hurried piece of work, but I waited on the Countess yesterday with the jewels. She was not at all satisfied, as it happened, and was able to point out one or two things which could easily be bettered. A keen old lady is the Countess, and she knows all the points of her jewels, I can tell you. But she decided to wear them last night to a ball, and to send them back with me next day-that is, this morning. And I must have them back by Monday,' she says. "There is a reception at the Russian Embassy on Monday, and you must bring them back, better. I shall meet some people there who know my jewels, especially the rose diamond. I must have them back on Monday.'"

The bag was unlocked and opened. First appeared the layer of magazines, and under that the closely-packed garments. Mr. Ashdon removed them, speaking all the while. He was now a plain, good-humored commercial, interested in his subject, and ready to talk it out; and I, even in my discomfort, could not but feel a certain interest myself.

"Now," he said, “you can see how it happened. The servants knew nothing of me or of my goods. The Countess kept all that to herself; and very wisely, for in an hotel things soon get abroad. Everybody thought these were the real articles come from Russia, and the maids saw them placed in the cabinet after the ball; but they didn't see the Countess take them out this morning and hand them over to me, and she, as it happened, forgot to lock the cabinet after her. So, when I was gone to Paddington, and when she was off to Leatherhead, they found the jewels


gone and raised a scare. A smart man gets hold of it for a Press Intelligence office, and it's all over the country like a shot. And that's all about it!" That was really all about it. story was complete, with no necessity on my part for a single question. It was only too easy to see how things had fallen out. Ah, if I had only refrained from looking into those cases!

By this time the Chief of Police was looking into them. Mr. Ashdon took up the first, and held it out so that we might see the coronet upon it.

"The Lenstoi coronet," he said, briefly. Then he opened the case, and passed the diamond necklace over to the Chief. "Now," he said, "just look at some of our work. Can you tell it from the real thing?"

I had failed before and could only gaze at the lustrous pieces in mute misery; but the Chief turned the necklace over carefully, and then stood up in the centre of the carriage. Holding one of the largest jewels to the lamp, he slowly moved it this way and that, to catch the light at different angles.

"Why, you are an expert!" cried Mr. Ashdon.

The officer smiled, and gave the necklace back.

"Not exactly," he said; "but I had an opportunity to study the subject once, and thought it worth while to do so. The power of refraction, of course, is the simplest test of all."

He returned to his seat, and Mr. Ashdon began to return his wares to the bag. Perhaps he thought as he did so that it was a good thing that they were only paste after all. "It is very seldom," he said, "that I meet a person who knows the difference. You wouldn't know it, Mr. Crossley-would you? -you?"

He was returning to the attack. Once again I began to wish myself out of the carriage. His keen eyes were upon my face, and I moved helplessly be

Replacing the bag, he

neath them.
went on-mercilessly:

"It was lucky that it was you that took the bag, sir, at any rate. If it had been one of those prying, inquisitive people I have been speaking of, why, I might have got into no end of a bother. It's a good thing to travel with gentlemen."

I hated the man at that moment. The Chief, from his corner, was watching me, and I felt, though I did not see, the gleam of amusement in his eyes. With it all I could only take off my glasses, rub them for a very long time, and return them to their place. In my heart I thanked Heaven that we were nearing the end of our journey.

It was a relief that Mr. Ashdon, having been placed on the trail of business, could not easily leave it. He commenced to tell us now how the Countess's diamonds had been made, and how such articles are generally manufactured. The Chief displayed a good deal of interest; but I could only listen stupidly. There was, I remember, a curious jumble of references to "Mayence" base, rock-crystal, salt of tartar, white-lead, powdered borax, manganese and metallic oxides. There was also a considerable talk of hot and cold water, crucibles and mortars; for the making of paste diamonds seemed to be a somewhat complicated affair; but when we ran into Hinton Junction Mr. Ashdon drew himself up with a jerk. "Upon my word," he said, "here we are! I suppose we have to part now. I'm afraid I've bored you; but at least I've tried to give you a little information. If at any time, Mr. Crossley, you happen to find a hoard of diamonds in another man's bag, you will be able now to say at once whether they are genuine stones or not."

The train stopped, and I hastened to get out. The Chief followed, and stood beside me on the platform. Mr. Ashdon shook hands through the open door

and gave a quick look all round. He saw a couple of men standing together at the station entrance.

"Ah!" he said, "so your friends are waiting. Dear me, Mr. Crossley, they look very much like-policemen!"

I did not wait to hear another word. That remark explained everything. He had, no doubt, recognized the Chief at once, and had been enjoying his discovery throughout the journey. I hurried across the platform; but before I had reached the other side the Chief's hand was on my sleeve.

"It is useless to go out," he said. "We could scarcely get rooms to-night. It will be better to stay here in the waiting-room, and catch the first train back."

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"When will that be?"

He looked at his watch. "At six-fifteen in the morning," he answered, coldly.

Five hours! This was pleasant, indeed! I stood mute in doubt and helpless wrath; and while I stood the train by which we had come began to move out of the station. I saw the compartment we had occupied, and saw Mr. Ashdon in it. He was leaning back in his corner seat, looking over at us and smiling.

As you will have guessed, Mr. Ashdon's story was correct in every particular. In the morning papers it was explained that the Lenstoi diamonds Chambers's Journal.

It ap

had not been stolen, but that the Countess herself had placed them in security before going out. The subject was dropped at once as far as the public was concerned, and I should have been the last to revive it if I had not been obliged to do so in self-defence. The story is bad enough in any case, but not so bad as some have painted it. İn fact, a distorted version of my adventure has lately been published. peared first in a Boltport sheet, under the heading, "The Prying Professor, the Chief Constable and the Paste Diamonds." I was described in this as "a prying old gentleman, whose lack of the sense of humor is only less conspicuous than his conceit, his ill-temper and his love of meddling." This absurd slander gradually went the round of the county press, and certain people have at last connected it with me. It appeared in another form in a higher place. This was in the columns of the Spectator, where my recently-published Carlyle discoveries have provoked so much discussion. In a letter dated from Leachester, the inquiries which resulted in my possession of those documents were declared to be "an unwarrantable intrusion into the private compartments of Another Man's Bag!"

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My narrative, I believe, will show that I was the victim of circumstances rather than of a vulgar, prying curiosity. It will also explain why I am now so careful as to my luggage.

W. E. Cule.


"My door," saith Lowly heart, "is all unbarred,"
And sets a lamp, and keepeth fearful guard;
Pride praises God that all his bolts are strict,
And smiles at robbers while the safe is picked.

Frederick Langbridge.

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