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ANONYMOUS

THE CHILWORTH EMERALD

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2016



First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, February 05, 1910
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Daily News, Perth, Australia, March 16, 1910 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Version Date: 2016-12-05
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.

Click here for more Sexton Blake stories



I.

IT was certainly a unique jewel in tho world of heirlooms.

Some unkind people murmured maliciously that Lady Eileen Ashe, the acknowledged beauty of a particularly brilliant season, had only preferred Lord Donald Chilworth, of Strathyre, to the ducal revenues of Peatland because the emerald would so perfectly, so supremely, crown her Irish loveliness—her raven-black hair, her eyes green-blue as an Atlantic comber, the coral redness of her lips, the almost pearl-like pallor of her exquisitely oval face.

It was on the eve of her wedding day that Lady Eileen first saw the wondrous gem. It was brought to her, and delivered by the bank messenger into her own hands, as she sat in her drawing-room in South Audley Street, discussing the mysteries of to-morrow's toilet with her mother and her mother's bosom friend, the Dowager Countess of Stoke.

The three, had clustered round it in that ecstasy of admiration that only women know how to lavish on precious stones. Their faces, indeed, were a study. The Lady Eileen had gone pale as a pearl; her mother was pink with joy and pride; while the old countess looked as if her parchment-like, wrinkled face was reflecting the green of the gem.

She started almost guiltily, and nervously thrust the stone back into Lady Eileen's hands, as the butler's gravel voice sounded from the doorway.

"There is a man insists on seeing your ladyship," he said. "He calls himself an orchid expert, and says he has an appointment."

"It's quite right, Field," said Lady Eileen. "You may show him in. He's the quaintest old man!" she went on, turning to her mother, as the butler retired. "He was waiting about the door as I went out yesterday, and he waylaid me at once. He says he has a unique orchid, of a perfect emerald green, that he has taken five years to produce. According to him, there are only two such blooms in the world, both on the one plant he has cultivated; and he wants to offer me one in memory of old Ireland, he said, with, some very pretty compliments thrown in. So I told him to come to-day."

He was certainly quaint enough looking as he presented himself. A little, very old man, with rounded, very stopping shoulders, and eyes small and black and restless as a bird's and a face so wrinkled that it seemed as though graven with spider's webs. He was carrying with the most jealous care an oblong box, some two feet in length, by one foot broad, and eighteen inches high.

Of the two older ladies he took not the slightest notice. He seemed to have no eyes save for the fair face of Lady Eileen, at whom he smiled, and nodded as at a little child.

"I have brought the plant," he cackled, in a cracked, quivering voice, "the two blooms for you to see; but I can only spare you one—only one. And only because it's you, and you're from tho old country, and are going to wed with the one man on earth for whom old Tom Curtis would give his right hand to repay all he owes to him."

"So Lord Donald has been a friend to you?" asked Lady Eileen softly, as the old man posed his box on the tablet and opened the lid.

"A friend? He, he! A friend indeed!" cackled Curtis. "But that Is a long story—too long a story now. See, my beautiful young lady—see the two gems! Look, and tell me if ever you saw their like."

He lifted from the box a short length of a tree-branch, on which the parasite was growing, and, lifting the satiny paper from the blooms, turned them suddenly towards the ladles.

"Oh, how perfectly lovely!" cried Lady Eileen, while her mother and the countess pressed to the table, incredulous and amazed.

"An emerald-slipper orchid!" cried the countess. "Such a thing has never been heard of! My dear, you must wear it to-morrow at your throat, with the emerald in your veil. It will make the sensation of the season. They're almost identical in colour. Just compare them."

And, indeed, it was difficult to distinguish between their colours, as the girl approached the jewel to the flower gem the old man held up. The orchid, indeed, seemed the more translucent of the two, and the tip was tinged with the faintest coral veining; but otherwise its green was as vivid, as unfathomable, and mysterious as that of the glowing jewel.

"But it is a veritable triumph!" cried Lady Ashe. "I cannot allow you to give it away, Mr. Curtis. A collector would give you any money you asked for it."

"I give or I keep!" said the old man stiffly. "No collector will have this plant. I am a collector myself. But I offer one bloom to your daughter, because she is lovely, because she is from Ireland, and because she is to marry Lord Donald."

"And I accept your gift, Mr. Curtis," said Lady Eileen, "and I thank you very, very much for it. It is lovely, and I shall treasure it as long as it lives!"

The old man separated one of the blooms, and, with a bow full of grace, presented it to her.

"Let me but see it on you," he said, "then I shall not have lived In vain."

The girl blushed, and smilingly fastened it at her throat, placing the while the emerald she had been holding on the table.

"Will that do?" she asked, turning from the mirror and pirouetting before them.

"It's simply exquisite!" cried her mother, who, like the countess, seemed as if she could not take her eyes off this mysterious, glowing flower.

"A dream—a dream satisfied!" sighed the old man; and, turning to the table, he replaced his plant in the box, closed the lid, and, tucking the box under his arm, turned towards the door.

"I have not half thanked you," said the Lady Eileen, accompanying him across the room, and followed by her mother and the countess, who declared she must be going.

"Don't be in such a hurry, Mr. Curtis," said the countess. "I want to speak to you. You must come in my carriage. I can drop you anywhere you like."

"She wants to get at the secret," said Lady Eileen, laughing, as she returned with her mother to the drawing-room; "but I'm afraid she'll have her trouble for her pains."

"I'm afraid she will," sighed Lady Ashe. "But, Eileen, what a lucky girl you are! Of course, it would, never do to out your veil on now; but I'd like to see the emerald in your hair, and the effect it makes with the flower. Do put it on for a moment!"

"Why not?" said Lady Eileen, as she stood before the mirror, her eyes riveted on the flower. "It's on the table. Will you fix it in for me?"

"On the table, dear?" said Lady Ashe. "I don't see it."

Lady Eileen flashed round; gave one glance at the polished surface of the marquetry table, then turned very pale.

"It's gone!" she whispered. "It's gone, mother! I put it just there, where your hand is resting, while I pinned in this flower."

"Oh!" gasped Lady Ashe, sinking into a chair. "What ever will Lord Donald say? What shall we do?"

"Write and ask the Countess of Stoke to send it back to avoid further trouble," said Lady Eileen drily. "I'll send at once; and, to make doubly sure, I'll call In Sexton Blake as well."


II.

LADY EILEEN had transferred her wonderful orchid to a crystal bowl in her own boudoir. The Countess of Stoke, who had been found within ten minutes in Bond Street, and returned at once, had recovered from her second attack of hysteria, and had been embraced for the tenth time by Lady Ashe, penitent and weeping, despite the incredulous calm in her daughter's eyes, before Sexton Blake, arriving at the same, time as Lord Chilworth, heard the story of the priceless emerald's mysterious disappearance.

Sexton Blake exchanged a swift glance with the young nobleman. The position was a delicate one. Lady Stoke had a well-known proclivity for "collecting souvenirs" of her dear friends; but, in her way, she was a social star of the first magnitude, and not at all the kind of person one could accuse without positive proof. Yet it was obvious that either she or Curtis was responsible for the disappearance of the jewel.

The countess came unexpectedly to their aid, as though she had divined their thought.

"I am quite ready to be searched," she said, with no little dignity. "My coachman can tell you that flower person refused my offer to give him a lift, and that I never left the brougham till Lady Eileen's page, on a bicycle, overtook it, and asked me to come back."

Blake looked up from the table, over which he had suddenly bent.

"This Is the table, I presume," he said, "on which Lady Eileen laid the jewel when the man Curtis put down his box? And this jewel, I take it, was placed just where my finger Is pointing?"

"It is the table," said Lady Eileen, "and you are pointing at the exact spot; though how you can know it I cannot conceive."

"Will you kindly show me where you were all standing," said Blake, "at the moment Lady Eileen was arranging the flower? Lord Chilworth will please impersonate Mr. Curtis."

Tho tableau was arranged, for him in a minute. Lady Ashe was near her daughter by the mirror, the countess was standing with her hand resting on the table, Lord Donald, using his walking stick to represent the branch held by Curtis, was on the other side of the table to Lady Ashe, with his stick resting on the supposed box.

"Thank you!" said Blake, an almost ironic gleam in his eyes. "I don't think we need trouble Lady Stoke any further. I have not the slightest doubt as to how this Ingenious theft was perpetrated."

Blake turned to Lady Eileen.

"If you will let me see your wonderful orchid," he said, "I think I can show you in a moment how and where the emerald disappeared."

"I won't keep you a minute," said the girl, as she hastened from the room.

"A marvellous production, indeed!" said Blake, in his dryest tone, as, taking it gingerly in his fingers, he examined it under his lens. "Perhaps I might trouble one of you ladies for a ring?"

Lady Ashe handed him a superb half-hoop of diamonds, which he placed on the table in the spot where the emerald had been.

"If you will resume your positions of just now," he said, "I will take Lord Chilworth's place, and ask him to watch, but say nothing."

Again the tableau was arranged, and again Lady Eileen turned from the glass and challenged their scrutinies.

"By Jove!" murmured Lord Donald. "What a deuced nippy trick!"

They all stared at the table. The ring had gone. Lady Stoke turned very pale, and drew herself erect.

"You see how simple it was," said Slake, as he gently turned the orchid upside-down, and the ring tinkled on to the table. "This beautiful bloom is of a delicately prepared wax, and the tip of it is adhesive. The ingenious Mr. Curtis had only to turn his branch till the orchid touched the emerald, and then, recovering the branch, slip the jewel into the bottom of the flower-like calyx, and take his leave. Unfortunately for him, he made a false shot, and left the slightest stain of the adhesive on the polished surface of the table. I am afraid the rogue must have been planning this coup for some time, and if we ever recover the emerald we shall be extremely fortunate."

"He can't dispose of it," said Chilworth. "He'd be spotted in a moment."

"He could cut it up, and still reap a rich harvest," said Blake.

"Oh, Mr. Blake, you will find it, won't you?" cried out Lady Eileen, in her most pleading tone.

"I'll try," said Blake, "And, as he already has a big start, I will not apologise for hurrying away."

Half a minute later, Blake was in the open streets, staring upon the trail.


III.

THERE was a curious smile on Blake's lips as, at a quarter-past nine the same evening, he rang the bell at Lady Ashe's house in South Audley Street, and sent in his card. He was shown at once to the drawing-room, where he found the same quartette he had left there a few hours before.

"I hope this early return forebodes no bad, news?" said Lady Ashe anxiously. "Have you come-back to tell us that you have been unsuccessful In your search?"

"On the contrary," said Blake blandly, "I have been most fortunate. Let me at once set your minds at rest by assuring you that the emerald is safe. In fact, it is here, still enclosed In Mr. Curtis's ingenious trap." And he handed to Lady Eileen the counter-part of her "orchid" gently turning into her palm the famous emerald.

Lady Eileen gave a little scream of joy as she beheld the recovered gem.

"It was an interesting episode in its way," said Blake dreamily, his eyes fixed on the flushed face of the Countess of Stoke. "To search London for an artist in disguise, and of the subtle craft of Mr. Curtis was an obviously impossible task. I therefore put myself in his place, and I said to myself, 'I have got a white elephant. For my own safety, I'll dispose of it at once, at a round sacrifice, to the one person in the world who can give me away, or afford a decent price.'

"Well, to cut matters short, I divined just such a person, whose house I promptly visited, and there learned, to my satisfaction, that a man answering Curtis's description had left a box for the owner of the house at about five fifteen, with instructions that it was to be delivered, unopened into the owner's hands. Naturally, I watched the house, and nabbed Curtis as he was coming from it at a quarter to seven.

"It required some persuasion and time to make him amenable. We returned to the house where the emerald had been left, and Curtis regained from the servant, in the absence of the owner, who had gone out again almost Immediately to dine, the return of the box, in which the flower and emerald were still intact, as you may see for yourselves."

"Of course, you arrested the two of them?" said Lord Donald heatedly.

"Well, not up to the present," said Blake slowly, his eyes still fixed on Lady Stoke's now pallid face. "Curtis remains at my disposition, of course. But as to the other—did I mention she was a lady of high social position?—I thought it more humane, and just as effective, to give her the opportunity of retiring to some German spa, and residing there for seven years What do, you think, Lady Stoke?"

But Lady Stoke made no reply. She had fainted.

The same night she left town for one of the German spas.

"Of course," said Lord Donald meaningly to Blake, "she spotted the fellow at it, and terrorised him."

But for answer he only got a shrug of the shoulders and an enigmatic smile.


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.