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14: The Standerton Diamonds

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Author Topic: 14: The Standerton Diamonds  (Read 39 times)
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« on: April 11, 2023, 10:51:50 am »

EDITH STANDERTON made a quick preparation for her journey. She would take her maid into Huntingdon, and go without Gilbert. It was embarrassing that she must go alone, but she had set herself a task, and if she could help her husband by appearing at the dinner of his irritable relative she would do so.

She had her evening things packed, and caught the four o’clock train for the town of Tinley.

The old man did her the exceptional honour of meeting her at the station.

“Where is Gilbert?” he asked when they had mutually introduced themselves.

“He has been called out of town unexpectedly,” she said. “He will be awfully upset when he knows.”

“I think not,” said the old General grimly. “It takes a great deal to upset Gilbert---certainly more than an opportunity of being reconciled to a grouchy old man. As a matter of fact,” he went on, “there is no reconciliation necessary; but I always look upon anybody whom I have to cut out of my will as one who regards me as a mortal enemy.”

“Please never put me in your will.”

She smiled.

“I’m not so sure about that,” said he, and added gallantly, “though I think Nature has sufficiently endowed you to enable you to dispense with such mundane gifts as money!”

She made a little face at that.

He was delighted with her, and found her a charming companion. Edith Standerton exerted herself to please him. She had a style of treating people older than herself in such a way as to suggest that she was as young as they. I do not know any other phrase which would more exactly convey my meaning than that. She had a charm which appealed to this wayward old man.

Edith did not know the cause of the change in her husband’s fortunes. She knew very little, indeed, of his affairs; enough she knew that for some reason or other he had been disinherited through no fault of his own. She did not even know that it was the result of a caprice of this old man.

“You must come again and bring Gilbert,” said the General, before they dispersed to dress for dinner. “I shall be delighted to put you both up.”

Fortunately she was saved the embarrassment of an answer, for the General jumped up suddenly.

“I know what you’d like to see,” he said, “you’d like to see the Standerton diamonds, and so you shall!”

She had no desire to see the Standerton diamonds, had, indeed, no knowledge that such an heirloom existed; but he was delighted at the prospect of showing her, and she, being a woman, was not averse to a view of these precious jewels, even though she were not destined to wear them.

He led the way up to the library, and Jack Frankfort followed.

“There they are,” said the old man proudly, and pointed to a big safe in the corner, a large and ornate safe.

“That is something new,” he said proudly. “I bought it from a man who wanted sixty guineas for it---an infernal, swindling, travelling rascal! I got it for thirty. What do you think of that for a safe?”

“I think it’s very pretty,” said Jack. He could think of nothing more fitting.

The old man glared at him.

“Pretty!” he growled. “What do you think I want with ‘pretty’ things in my library?”

He took a bunch of keys from his pocket and opened the door of the safe, pulled open a drawer, and took out a large morocco case.

“There they are!” he said with pride, and indeed he might well be proud of such a beautiful collection.

With all a girl’s love for pretty things Edith handled the gorgeous jewels eagerly. The setting was old-fashioned, but it was the old fashion which was at that moment being copied. The stones sparkled and glittered as though every facet carried a tiny electric lamp to send forth the green, blue and roseate gleam of its fire.

Even Jack Frankfort, no great lover of jewellery, was fascinated by the sight.

“Why, sir,” he said, “there are nearly a hundred thousand pounds’ worth of gems there.”

“More,” said the old man. “I’ve a pearl necklace here,” and he pulled out another drawer, “look at it. There is nearly two hundred thousand pounds’ worth of jewellery in that safe.”

“In a thirty-guinea safe,” said Jack unwisely.

The old man turned on him.

“In a sixty-guinea safe,” he corrected violently. “Didn’t I tell you I beat the devil down? I beg your pardon, my dear.” He chuckled at the thought, replaced the jewels, and locked the safe again. “Sixty guineas he wanted. Came here with all his fine City of London manner, frock-coat, top-hat, and patent boots, my dear. The way these people get up is scandalous. He might have been a gentleman by the airs he gave himself.”

Jack looked at the safe. He had some ideas of commercial values.

“I can’t understand how he sold it,” he said. “This safe is worth two hundred pounds.”

“What?”

The old General turned on his lawyer in astonishment.

Jack nodded.

“I have one at my office, now that I come to think of it,” he said. “It cost two hundred and twenty pounds, and it is the same make.”

“He only asked me sixty guineas.”

“That’s strange. Do you mind opening it again? I’d like to see the bolts.”

The General, nothing loath, turned the key and pulled open the huge door. Jack looked at the square, steel bolts---they were absolutely new.

“I can’t understand how he offered it for sixty. You certainly had a bargain for thirty, sir,” he said.

“I think I have,” said the General complacently. “By the way, I am expecting a man to dinner to-night,” he went on, as he led the way back to the drawing-room, “a doctor man from Yorkshire---Barclay-Seymour. Do you know him?”

Jack did not know him, but the girl broke in---

“Oh, yes, he is quite an old friend of mine.”

“He’s rather a fool,” said the General, adopting his simple method of classification.

Edith smiled.

“You told me yesterday that there were only two classes of people, General---rogues and fools. I am wondering,” she said demurely, “in which class you place me.”

The old man wrinkled his brows. He looked at the beautiful young face in his high good humour.

“I must make a new class for you,” he said. “No, you shall be in a class by yourself. But since most women are fools----”

“Oh, come!” she protested, laughingly.

“They are,” he averred. “Look at me. If women weren’t fools shouldn’t I have had a wife? If any brilliant, ingenious lady, possessed of the necessary determination had pursued me and had cultivated me, I should not be a bachelor, leaving my money to people who don’t care two---pins,” he hastily substituted a milder phrase for the one he had intended, “whether I’m alive or dead. Does your husband know the Doctor, by the way?”

The girl shook her head.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “They nearly met one night at dinner, but Gilbert had an engagement.”

“But Gilbert knows him,” insisted the old man. “I’ve often talked to him about Barclay-Seymour, who, by the way, is perhaps not such a fool as most doctors. I used to be rather more enthusiastic about him than I have been lately,” he admitted, “and I’m afraid I used to ram old Barclay-Seymour down poor Gilbert’s throat more than his ability or genius justified me doing. Has he never spoken about him?”

The girl shook her head.

“Ungrateful devil!” growled the old General inconsequently.

One of his many footmen came into the drawing-room at that moment with a telegram on a salver.

“Hey hey?” demanded Sir John, fixing his glasses on the tip of his nose and scowling up at his servant. “What’s this?”

“A telegram, Sir John,” replied the footman.

“I can see it’s a telegram, you ass! When did it come?”

“A few minutes ago, sir.”

“Who brought it?”

“A telegraph boy, Sir John,” said the imperturbable servitor.

“Why didn’t you say so at first?” snapped Sir John Standerton in a tone of relief. And Edith had all she could do to prevent herself from bursting into a fit of laughter at the little scene.

The old man opened the telegram, spread it out, read it slowly and frowned. He read it again.

“Now, what on earth does that mean?” he asked, and handed the telegram to the girl.

She read----

“Take the Standerton jewels out of your safe and deposit them without fail in your bank to-night. If it is too late to send them to your bank place them under an armed guard.”

It was signed “Gilbert Standerton.”

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