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ANONYMOUS

THE BLACK DIAMOND

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RGL e-Book Cover 2017



First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, September 4, 1909
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
Manawatu Times, New Zealand, November 3, 1909 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-02-04
Produced by Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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I.

"YOUR Excellency will wear the pearls?"

The Countess Doldorf gave a little petulant shrug of her very shapely shoulders, and looked from a table all a-glitter with jewels to the lovely vision in the mirror opposite her, and then into the anxious, attentive face of Justine, her Parisian maid.

"I am tired of pearls, Justine," she said. "Open my safe and get me the black diamond pendant. I will wear only that."

"It will he ravishing!" cooed Justine. "With the amber gown of madame, and with her corn-gold hair, and her throat more fair than the pallor of a field of lilies, the black diamond will be of an exquisite taste! Yet her Excellency will remember that the clasp is not very firm, and the jewel is beyond price."

"You are insufferable, Justine, with your eternal prudence!" said the countess, with a merry laugh. "You are worse than his Excellency! He, at least, spares me sermons! Get me the black diamond."

"As madame wishes!" sighed Justine.

Flora Doldorf was the wife of one of the richest Russian nobles, famous in England, who took pleasure in lavishing on her the most costly and rare tokens of his affections that his wealth could procure.

It was her first season in London, and to-night was to be the official consecration of her success. For the King would grace the ball she was giving, and she knew that she would be the cynosure of the most critical and sceptical and vigilant eyes in Europe. In the whole world there was nothing like the black diamond.

"Madame will perhaps only wear it," Justine suggested, "till his Majesty has gone. The clasp is even more loose than I thought. A touch—but a simple touch—and it would come undone."

"Oh, it is safe enough!" said Countess Doldorf, as she moved to the door.

Carelessly conscious of an exquisite toilet, Countess Doldorf descended the stairs slowly. She hurried her pace, and in the same instant turned with a cry of alarm as a statue which she had just passed fell with a crash behind her. Paul Doldorf, startled by the crash, came racing up the stairs as Justine, with a terrified shriek, came racing down, and for a moment all was confusion.

"My dear Paul," cried the countess, "I do not know how it happened! I was hurrying to meet you, when I heard the thing crash down behind me. It is lucky I saw you, or I should have been walking slowly, and it would have fallen on me!"

"It is the—" began Justine, then paused, and stared terrified at her mistress's neck.

"What is to do, Justine?" asked Countess Doldorf coldly.

"Mon Dieu! The diamond!" whispered Justine. "The black diamond!"

Countess Doldorf's hand leapt to her throat, then fell outwards in a gesture of dismay and annoyance.

"It has gone!" she said blankly, searching the floor with her eyes.

Justine flung herself on her knees, groping from stair to stair.

"You were wearing the pendant?" asked the count.

"Yes, I had just put it on," replied Countess Doldorf. "Justine told me the clasp was a little loose. It must have jerked free when I jumped round at the sound of the crash."

"Well, it can't have gone far," said Doldorf, with a reassuring smile. But at the end of a minute the count's assurance changed to a look of consternation.

"It must have slipped into your corsage," he said, in an anxious tone.

"No; I have tried. It is not on me," replied his wife blankly. In vain they called back the servants bearing away the broken statue; in wain examined the hall and gallery, the stairs and corridor. The pendant was not to be found.

"This is very serious," said the count quietly, "For your own sakes, as well as for mine, you three men, and you, Justine, must be searched." They submitted; But the diamond had mysteriously, inexplicably vanished.

II.

"BEFORE examining the staircase, I should like to ask a question of Justine," said Sexton Blake.

In answer to a telephone summons, he had hastened to the count's house, and had heard with unconcealed interest the tale of the extraordinary disappearance.

"Justine is quite above suspicion!" said Countess Doldorf "She has been with me for years, and had she wanted to be dishonest she could have decamped with all my jewels any day."

"My suspicions do not point towards Justine," said Blake gravely; "but it is possible that she may have observed some detail that escaped your notice. I understand, count, that the maid was at your wife's side as soon as you yourself were?"

"About two seconds sooner, I should think," said Doldorf. "I stumbled over a chair in the hall as I dashed for the staircase when I heard my wife's cry and that resounding crash."

"It is obvious, then, that Justine must have been on the staircase, and have possibly seen how the statue came to fall," said Blake. "With your permission, I would like to see her alone."

One glance into the French maid's shrewd, secretive face told Blake that if she had anything to conceal he would labour in vain to discover it from her speech.

"Your master will have told you who I am," he said, in his pleasantest manner, "and I may say at once that they have expressed the highest confidence in yon. I want you to tell me why you were on the grand staircase at a moment when your duties would naturally have detained you in your mistress's room putting away her jewels?"

Justine's face took a sickly hue, then flushed scarlet, and her black eyes glittered spitefully.

"Is monsieur going to teach me my duties?" she said. "I do not see it was anything very extraordinary that I should he on the grand staircase. I am not ashamed of it."

"Why should you be?" said Blake soothingly.

"Mon Dieu! It is simple enough," said Justine. "I desired to see how my mistress looked as she went down, She was so radiant, I could not resist following her!"

"Very natural," murmured Blake, "and very fortunate, for you would thus have seen how it was the statue fell."

"Ma foi, no!" she replied. "When I heard the crash I had already turned to regain madame's room and put her jewels away. But at the sound of the breaking stone and madame's cry I turned again, to see the statue fallen and madame gazing at it, bewildered. And I rushed down, afraid that she was hurt."

"Even though you saw the count with her?" murmured Blake.

"What will you?" retorted the maid, with a little shrug of her shapely shoulders, "One does not question with such impulses. I saw that the count was at her elbow—yes; but I did not give him a thought. I thought only of my mistress."

"Thank you!" said Blake, a strange gleam in his eyes. "That is all I want at present."

"Justine's replies are quite satisfactory," said Blake, rejoining Doldorf and his wife in the hall. "I would like now to examine the staircase. I shall he glad, count, if you will stand where you were standing when you heard Countess Doldorf's cry."

He ran lightly up the stairs till he reached the point where they gave on to the flying gallery. From the balustrade opposite he could see all the hall, and the count standing almost beneath him, by a table littered with various books and papers. Stepping back into the gallery, he saw that he was completely hidden from anyone in the hall, but in full view of anyone above. Yet it was obvious that, had the statue that had fallen still occupied its niche on the right entrance to the gallery, he would have been able to conceal himself from the view of anyone coming down the stairs.

"So you had only eyes for madam, my catty little Justine?" he murmured, as, following the gallery, he went on to hands and knees and scrutinised the floor of the recess through a powerful lens, Then he stepped through the open window on to the balcony without, and gave a little laugh of satisfaction as he examined the leaded surface, moist with the heavy dew.

He descended to the hall again, consulting his watch.

"Well?" said Doldorf anxiously, "What do you make of it, Mr. Blake? Have you solved the problem? Or docs it baffle you as completely as it mystifies me?"

"I think I have solved the problem," said Blake coolly.

"What? You know where the pendant has got to?" cried the count.

"Can you recover it?" asked the countess eagerly.

"It is now half-past eight," said Blake, evading a direct reply. "I understand that your reception does not take place till ten. If you would care to spend an interesting half-hour, I would suggest that you take a box at the Frivolity."

"You are joking, Mr. Blake!" said the count.

"The turn I particularly want you to see," pursued Blake, meeting the count's angry gaze with an enigmatic smile, "begins at five minutes to nine. If you will be good enough to be in your box then, and to follow the instructions I shall send to you, I think I may safely say that by ten o'clock you will have your diamond again in your possession."

"And shall we not see you there?" asked the countess.

"Oh, certainly, as far as I can anticipate," said Blake. "I have a few enquiries to make, but I shall be there."

"We'll go at once, Paul," said the countess, as Blake took a hurried leave. "That man inspires me with the utmost confidence. Besides, I'm dying to know what is going to happen!"

III.

"I DON'T know why Blake wanted to bring us here," said Doldorf, as he gazed, half an hour later, from his box at the Frivolity at the antics of a quick-change artist who was delighting his audience impersonating leading men in London.

His wife's reply was interrupted by the entrance of an attendant with a note.

Doldorf read it, whispered a message to the attendant, and handed the note to his wife.

In two minutes (it ran) the man on the stage will impersonate you. Lean forward and draw his attention by clapping. Tell the attendant who brings this to bring you the actor after his turn to receive your congratulations. I will come with him.

SEXTON BLAKE.

"Oh, it's killing!" cried the countess, as the man in front re-appeared, mimicking to the life the appearance, mannerisms, and voice of her husband.

"Applaud, Paul, quickly!"

Doldorf, pink with vexation, leant forward and clapped, the countess joining him. A shout of delight went up from the house as they were recognised, and for a moment the eyes of the actor rested on them with an expression of obvious stupefaction, and his hand flew to his heart. It was his last turn, and, after acknowledging the encore, he disappeared in the wings.

A few minutes later the door of the count's box opened again, and the attendant introduced "Professor Julius Hake," still garbed in his last impersonation, and at the same moment Blake stepped in and softly bolted the door.

The professor seemed anything but at his ease as he listened to the count's congratulations, and, stammering his acknowledgments, made to back out, He was interrupted by Sexton Blake, who, slipping an arm through his, held him in a grip of iron.

"You are forgetting something, Julius, my friend," said the detective pleasantly. "When one impersonates so courteous a gentleman as the count, one should be complete in every detail."

"Sexton Blake!" stuttered Hake, blanching under his grease-paint.

"Yes, your old acquaintance, Sexton Blake," said the detective, in a gently ironic tone. "Come, Julius, play up to your part. Do you not see that the countess is overwhelmed with anxiety lest you should lose her diamond pendant."

"I don't know what you mean!" said Hake. And, with a sudden violent contortion, he tried to wrench himself free. But Blake's grip hardened, and at a sign from him the attendant laid hands on Hake's other arm.

"Yes, you do, Julius!" said Blake. "But, as you are so stubborn, I must do the honours."

He dived his hand into the opening of Hake's shirt, and drew out a little chamois-leather bag.

"If you will open that," he said to the count, "you will find the pendant inside. And now, Tony, you had better take Hake outside and accompany him to Bow Street."

"But how on earth did you hit on it, Mr. Blake?" said the delighted Russian, as Hake was conveyed away.

"It was really very simple," said Blake. "Thanks to your immediate search, it was at once evident that the diamond must have gone by way of the gallery and the window—that is to say, someone must have been concealed there. An examination of the balcony assured me that no one would have dared to enter or escape that way into the street. He would have been immediately caught. I picked up the marks of the man's feet on the balcony. He had evidently waited there for some time, probably till you had finished dinner, before venturing to slip out and leave the house by the front door. Of course, the maid Justine was an accomplice. She gave herself away when she told me that she saw you at your wife's elbow at the moment when she turned as the statue fell. Hake, got up as you, had been lying concealed in the gallery. Probably his intention was to raid your room while you were at dinner, but, seeing the black diamond on your wife's neck, he was seized with the idea of throwing down the statue, grabbing the diamond, and fleeing back to cover. What renders Justine's complicity beyond a doubt is the fact that she left the imprint of her shoes on the dew-drenched balcony. She evidently went there to warn him of the madness of making any attempt on your safe that night."

"But how could he get in and out?" asked the count. "There is always a footman on my door."

"The footman took him for you," replied Blake, "when he entered. And Justine got rid of him to let the scoundrel out. I cleared up that point when I left you."

"And you spotted the fellow straight off as this impersonator of the halls?" asked Doldorf.

"Ah, Julius Hake is an old acquaintance of mine!" said Blake, "I knew he was impersonating you at the Frivolity, and I knew his insatiable appetite for unique gems. The association of ideas was too strong not to subject him to suspicion. The chances were a hundred to one against the jewel being anywhere but on his person; and he betrayed its whereabouts by the instinctive gesture he gave when he caught sight of you in the box."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.