The Jew's Breastplate
My particular friend, Ward Mortimer, was one of the best men of
his day at everything connected with Oriental archaeology. He
had written largely upon the subject, he had lived two years in a
tomb at Thebes, while he excavated in the Valley of the Kings,
and finally he had created a considerable sensation by his
exhumation of the alleged mummy of Cleopatra in the inner room of
the Temple of Horus, at Philae. With such a record at the age of
thirty-one, it was felt that a considerable career lay before
him, and no one was surprised when he was elected to the
curatorship of the Belmore Street Museum, which carries with it
the lectureship at the Oriental College, and an income which has
sunk with the fall in land, but which still remains at that ideal
sum which is large enough to encourage an investigator, but not
so large as to enervate him.
There was only one reason which made Ward Mortimer's position
a little difficult at the Belmore Street Museum, and that was the
extreme eminence of the man whom he had to succeed. Professor
Andreas was a profound scholar and a man of European reputation.
His lectures were frequented by students from every part of the
world, and his admirable management of the collection intrusted to
his care was a commonplace in all learned societies. There was,
therefore, considerable surprise when, at the age of fifty-five, he
suddenly resigned his position and retired from those duties which
had been both his livelihood and his pleasure. He and his daughter
left the comfortable suite of rooms which had formed his official
residence in connection with the museum, and my friend, Mortimer,
who was a bachelor, took up his quarters there.
On hearing of Mortimer's appointment Professor Andreas had
written him a very kindly and flattering congratulatory letter. I
was actually present at their first meeting, and I went with
Mortimer round the museum when the Professor showed us the
admirable collection which he had cherished so long. The
Professor's beautiful daughter and a young man, Captain Wilson, who
was, as I understood, soon to be her husband, accompanied us in our
inspection. There were fifteen rooms, but the Babylonian, the
Syrian, and the central hall, which contained the Jewish and
Egyptian collection, were the finest of all. Professor Andreas was
a quiet, dry, elderly man, with a clean-shaven face and an
impassive manner, but his dark eyes sparkled and his features
quickened into enthusiastic life as he pointed out to us the rarity
and the beauty of some of his specimens. His hand lingered so
fondly over them, that one could read his pride in them and the
grief in his heart now that they were passing from his care into
that of another.
He had shown us in turn his mummies, his papyri, his rare
scarabs, his inscriptions, his Jewish relics, and his duplication
of the famous seven-branched candlestick of the Temple, which was
brought to Rome by Titus, and which is supposed by some to be lying
at this instant in the bed of the Tiber. Then he approached a case
which stood in the very centre of the hall, and he looked down
through the glass with reverence in his attitude and manner.
"This is no novelty to an expert like yourself, Mr. Mortimer,"
said he; "but I daresay that your friend, Mr. Jackson, will be
interested to see it."
Leaning over the case I saw an object, some five inches square,
which consisted of twelve precious stones in a framework of gold,
with golden hooks at two of the corners. The stones were all
varying in sort and colour, but they were of the same size. Their
shapes, arrangement, and gradation of tint made me think of a box
of water-colour paints. Each stone had some hieroglyphic scratched
upon its surface.
"You have heard, Mr. Jackson, of the urim and thummim?"
I had heard the term, but my idea of its meaning was
"The urim and thummim was a name given to the jewelled plate
which lay upon the breast of the high priest of the Jews. They had
a very special feeling of reverence for it--something of the
feeling which an ancient Roman might have for the Sibylline
books in the Capitol. There are, as you see, twelve magnificent
stones, inscribed with mystical characters. Counting from the
left-hand top corner, the stones are carnelian, peridot, emerald,
ruby, lapis lazuli, onyx, sapphire, agate, amethyst, topaz, beryl,
I was amazed at the variety and beauty of the stones.
"Has the breastplate any particular history?" I asked.
"It is of great age and of immense value," said Professor
Andreas. "Without being able to make an absolute assertion, we
have many reasons to think that it is possible that it may be the
original urim and thummim of Solomon's Temple. There is certainly
nothing so fine in any collection in Europe. My friend, Captain
Wilson, here, is a practical authority upon precious stones, and he
would tell you how pure these are."
Captain Wilson, a man with a dark, hard, incisive face, was
standing beside his fiancee at the other side of the case.
"Yes," said he, curtly, "I have never seen finer stones."
"And the gold-work is also worthy of attention. The ancients
excelled in----"--he was apparently about to indicate the setting
of the stones, when Captain Wilson interrupted him.
"You will see a finer example of their gold-work in this
candlestick," said he, turning to another table, and we all joined
him in his admiration of its embossed stem and delicately
ornamented branches. Altogether it was an interesting and a novel
experience to have objects of such rarity explained by so great an
expert; and when, finally, Professor Andreas finished our
inspection by formally handing over the precious collection to the
care of my friend, I could not help pitying him and envying his
successor whose life was to pass in so pleasant a duty. Within a
week, Ward Mortimer was duly installed in his new set of rooms, and
had become the autocrat of the Belmore Street Museum.
About a fortnight afterwards my friend gave a small dinner to
half a dozen bachelor friends to celebrate his promotion. When his
guests were departing he pulled my sleeve and signalled to me that
he wished me to remain.
"You have only a few hundred yards to go," said he--I was
living in chambers in the Albany. "You may as well stay and have
a quiet cigar with me. I very much want your advice."
I relapsed into an arm-chair and lit one of his excellent
Matronas. When he had returned from seeing the last of his
guests out, he drew a letter from his dress-jacket and sat down
opposite to me.
"This is an anonymous letter which I received this morning,"
said he. "I want to read it to you and to have your advice."
"You are very welcome to it for what it is worth."
"This is how the note runs: `Sir,--I should strongly advise
you to keep a very careful watch over the many valuable things
which are committed to your charge. I do not think that the
present system of a single watchman is sufficient. Be upon your
guard, or an irreparable misfortune may occur.'"
"Is that all?"
"Yes, that is all."
"Well," said I, "it is at least obvious that it was written by
one of the limited number of people who are aware that you have
only one watchman at night."
Ward Mortimer handed me the note, with a curious smile. "Have
you an eye for handwriting?" said he. "Now, look at this!" He put
another letter in front of me. "Look at the c in
`congratulate' and the c in `committed.' Look at the capital
I. Look at the trick of putting in a dash instead of a stop!"
"They are undoubtedly from the same hand--with some attempt at
disguise in the case of this first one."
"The second," said Ward Mortimer, "is the letter of
congratulation which was written to me by Professor Andreas upon my
obtaining my appointment."
I stared at him in amazement. Then I turned over the letter in
my hand, and there, sure enough, was "Martin Andreas" signed upon
the other side. There could be no doubt, in the mind of anyone who
had the slightest knowledge of the science of graphology, that the
Professor had written an anonymous letter, warning his successor
against thieves. It was inexplicable, but it was certain.
"Why should he do it?" I asked.
"Precisely what I should wish to ask you. If he had any such
misgivings, why could he not come and tell me direct?"
"Will you speak to him about it?"
"There again I am in doubt. He might choose to deny that he
"At any rate," said I, "this warning is meant in a friendly
spirit, and I should certainly act upon it. Are the present
precautions enough to insure you against robbery?"
"I should have thought so. The public are only admitted from
ten till five, and there is a guardian to every two rooms. He
stands at the door between them, and so commands them both."
"But at night?"
"When the public are gone, we at once put up the great iron
shutters, which are absolutely burglar-proof. The watchman is a
capable fellow. He sits in the lodge, but he walks round every
three hours. We keep one electric light burning in each room all
"It is difficult to suggest anything more--short of keeping
your day watches all night."
"We could not afford that."
"At least, I should communicate with the police, and have a
special constable put on outside in Belmore Street," said I. "As
to the letter, if the writer wishes to be anonymous, I think he has
a right to remain so. We must trust to the future to show some
reason for the curious course which he has adopted."
So we dismissed the subject, but all that night after my return
to my chambers I was puzzling my brain as to what possible motive
Professor Andreas could have for writing an anonymous warning
letter to his successor--for that the writing was his was as
certain to me as if I had seen him actually doing it. He foresaw
some danger to the collection. Was it because he foresaw it that
he abandoned his charge of it? But if so, why should he hesitate
to warn Mortimer in his own name? I puzzled and puzzled until at
last I fell into a troubled sleep, which carried me beyond my usual
hour of rising.
I was aroused in a singular and effective method, for about
nine o'clock my friend Mortimer rushed into my room with an
expression of consternation upon his face. He was usually one of
the most tidy men of my acquaintance, but now his collar was undone
at one end, his tie was flying, and his hat at the back of his
head. I read his whole story in his frantic eyes.
"The museum has been robbed!" I cried, springing up in bed.
"I fear so! Those jewels! The jewels of the urim and
thummim!" he gasped, for he was out of breath with running. "I'm
going on to the police-station. Come to the museum as soon as
you can, Jackson! Good-bye!" He rushed distractedly out of the
room, and I heard him clatter down the stairs.
I was not long in following his directions, but I found when I
arrived that he had already returned with a police inspector, and
another elderly gentleman, who proved to be Mr. Purvis, one of the
partners of Morson and Company, the well-known diamond merchants.
As an expert in stones he was always prepared to advise the police.
They were grouped round the case in which the breastplate of the
Jewish priest had been exposed. The plate had been taken out and
laid upon the glass top of the case, and the three heads were bent
"It is obvious that it has been tampered with," said Mortimer.
"It caught my eye the moment that I passed through the room this
morning. I examined it yesterday evening, so that it is certain
that this has happened during the night."
It was, as he had said, obvious that someone had been at work
upon it. The settings of the uppermost row of four stones--the
carnelian, peridot, emerald, and ruby--were rough and jagged as if
someone had scraped all round them. The stones were in their
places, but the beautiful gold-work which we had admired only a few
days before had been very clumsily pulled about.
"It looks to me," said the police inspector, "as if someone had
been trying to take out the stones."
"My fear is," said Mortimer, "that he not only tried, but
succeeded. I believe these four stones to be skilful imitations
which have been put in the place of the originals."
The same suspicion had evidently been in the mind of the
expert, for he had been carefully examining the four stones with
the aid of a lens. He now submitted them to several tests, and
finally turned cheerfully to Mortimer.
"I congratulate you, sir," said he, heartily. "I will pledge
my reputation that all four of these stones are genuine, and of a
most unusual degree of purity."
The colour began to come back to my poor friend's frightened
face, and he drew a long breath of relief.
"Thank God!" he cried. "Then what in the world did the thief
"Probably he meant to take the stones, but was interrupted."
"In that case one would expect him to take them out one at a
time, but the setting of each of these has been loosened, and yet
the stones are all here."
"It is certainly most extraordinary," said the inspector. "I
never remember a case like it. Let us see the watchman."
The commissionaire was called--a soldierly, honest-faced man,
who seemed as concerned as Ward Mortimer at the incident.
"No, sir, I never heard a sound," he answered, in reply to the
questions of the inspector. "I made my rounds four times, as
usual, but I saw nothing suspicious. I've been in my position ten
years, but nothing of the kind has ever occurred before."
"No thief could have come through the windows?"
"Or passed you at the door?"
"No, sir; I never left my post except when I walked my rounds."
"What other openings are there in the museum?"
"There is the door into Mr. Ward Mortimer's private rooms."
"That is locked at night," my friend explained, "and in order
to reach it anyone from the street would have to open the outside
door as well."
"Their quarters are entirely separate."
"Well, well," said the inspector, "this is certainly very
obscure. However, there has been no harm done, according to Mr.
"I will swear that those stones are genuine."
"So that the case appears to be merely one of malicious damage.
But none the less, I should be very glad to go carefully round the
premises, and to see if we can find any trace to show us who your
visitor may have been."
His investigation, which lasted all the morning, was careful
and intelligent, but it led in the end to nothing. He pointed out
to us that there were two possible entrances to the museum which we
had not considered. The one was from the cellars by a trap-door
opening in the passage. The other through a skylight from the
lumber-room, overlooking that very chamber to which the intruder
had penetrated. As neither the cellar nor the lumber-room could be
entered unless the thief was already within the locked doors,
the matter was not of any practical importance, and the dust of
cellar and attic assured us that no one had used either one or the
other. Finally, we ended as we began, without the slightest clue
as to how, why, or by whom the setting of these four jewels had
been tampered with.
There remained one course for Mortimer to take, and he took it.
Leaving the police to continue their fruitless researches, he asked
me to accompany him that afternoon in a visit to Professor Andreas.
He took with him the two letters, and it was his intention to
openly tax his predecessor with having written the anonymous
warning, and to ask him to explain the fact that he should have
anticipated so exactly that which had actually occurred. The
Professor was living in a small villa in Upper Norwood, but we were
informed by the servant that he was away from home. Seeing our
disappointment, she asked us if we should like to see Miss Andreas,
and showed us into the modest drawing-room.
I have mentioned incidentally that the Professor's daughter was
a very beautiful girl. She was a blonde, tall and graceful, with
a skin of that delicate tint which the French call "mat," the
colour of old ivory, or of the lighter petals of the sulphur rose.
I was shocked, however, as she entered the room to see how much she
had changed in the last fortnight. Her young face was haggard and
her bright eyes heavy with trouble.
"Father has gone to Scotland," she said. "He seems to be
tired, and has had a good deal to worry him. He only left us
"You look a little tired yourself, Miss Andreas," said my
"I have been so anxious about father."
"Can you give me his Scotch address?"
"Yes, he is with his brother, the Rev. David Andreas, 1, Arran
Ward Mortimer made a note of the address, and we left without
saying anything as to the object of our visit. We found ourselves
in Belmore Street in the evening in exactly the same position in
which we had been in the morning. Our only clue was the
Professor's letter, and my friend had made up his mind to start for
Ardrossan next day, and to get to the bottom of the anonymous
letter, when a new development came to alter our plans.
Very early on the following morning I was aroused from my sleep
by a tap upon my bedroom door. It was a messenger with a note from
"Do come round," it said; "the matter is becoming more and more
When I obeyed his summons I found him pacing excitedly up and
down the central room, while the old soldier who guarded the
premises stood with military stiffness in a corner.
"My dear Jackson," he cried, "I am so delighted that you have
come, for this is a most inexplicable business."
"What has happened, then?"
He waved his hand towards the case which contained the
"Look at it," said he.
I did so, and could not restrain a cry of surprise. The
setting of the middle row of precious stones had been profaned in
the same manner as the upper ones. Of the twelve jewels eight had
been now tampered with in this singular fashion. The setting of
the lower four was neat and smooth. The others jagged and
"Have the stones been altered?" I asked.
"No, I am certain that these upper four are the same which the
expert pronounced to be genuine, for I observed yesterday that
little discoloration on the edge of the emerald. Since they have
not extracted the upper stones, there is no reason to think the
lower have been transposed. You say that you heard nothing,
"No, sir," the commissionaire answered. "But when I made my
round after daylight I had a special look at these stones, and I
saw at once that someone had been meddling with them. Then I
called you, sir, and told you. I was backwards and forwards all
night, and I never saw a soul or heard a sound."
"Come up and have some breakfast with me," said Mortimer, and
he took me into his own chambers.--"Now, what DO you think of
this, Jackson?" he asked.
"It is the most objectless, futile, idiotic business that ever
I heard of. It can only be the work of a monomaniac."
"Can you put forward any theory?"
A curious idea came into my head. "This object is a Jewish
relic of great antiquity and sanctity," said I. "How about the
anti-Semitic movement? Could one conceive that a fanatic of that
way of thinking might desecrate----"
"No, no, no!" cried Mortimer. "That will never do! Such a man
might push his lunacy to the length of destroying a Jewish relic,
but why on earth should he nibble round every stone so carefully
that he can only do four stones in a night? We must have a better
solution than that, and we must find it for ourselves, for I do not
think that our inspector is likely to help us. First of all, what
do you think of Simpson, the porter?"
"Have you any reason to suspect him?"
"Only that he is the one person on the premises."
"But why should he indulge in such wanton destruction? Nothing
has been taken away. He has no motive."
"No, I will swear to his sanity."
"Have you any other theory?"
"Well, yourself, for example. You are not a somnambulist, by
"Nothing of the sort, I assure you."
"Then I give it up."
"But I don't--and I have a plan by which we will make it all
"To visit Professor Andreas?"
"No, we shall find our solution nearer than Scotland. I will
tell you what we shall do. You know that skylight which overlooks
the central hall? We will leave the electric lights in the hall,
and we will keep watch in the lumber-room, you and I, and solve the
mystery for ourselves. If our mysterious visitor is doing four
stones at a time, he has four still to do, and there is every
reason to think that he will return tonight and complete the job."
"Excellent!" I cried.
"We will keep our own secret, and say nothing either to the
police or to Simpson. Will you join me?"
"With the utmost pleasure," said I; and so it was agreed.
It was ten o'clock that night when I returned to the Belmore
Street Museum. Mortimer was, as I could see, in a state of
suppressed nervous excitement, but it was still too early to
begin our vigil, so we remained for an hour or so in his chambers,
discussing all the possibilities of the singular business which we
had met to solve. At last the roaring stream of hansom cabs and
the rush of hurrying feet became lower and more intermittent as the
pleasure-seekers passed on their way to their stations or their
homes. It was nearly twelve when Mortimer led the way to the
lumber-room which overlooked the central hall of the museum.
He had visited it during the day, and had spread some sacking
so that we could lie at our ease, and look straight down into the
museum. The skylight was of unfrosted glass, but was so covered
with dust that it would be impossible for anyone looking up from
below to detect that he was overlooked. We cleared a small piece
at each corner, which gave us a complete view of the room beneath
us. In the cold white light of the electric lamps everything stood
out hard and clear, and I could see the smallest detail of the
contents of the various cases.
Such a vigil is an excellent lesson, since one has no choice
but to look hard at those objects which we usually pass with such
half-hearted interest. Through my little peep hole I employed the
hours in studying every specimen, from the huge mummy-case which
leaned against the wall to those very jewels which had brought us
there, gleaming and sparkling in their glass case immediately
beneath us. There was much precious gold-work and many valuable
stones scattered through the numerous cases, but those wonderful
twelve which made up the urim and thummim glowed and burned with a
radiance which far eclipsed the others. I studied in turn the tomb-
pictures of Sicara, the friezes from Karnak, the statues of
Memphis, and the inscriptions of Thebes, but my eyes would always
come back to that wonderful Jewish relic, and my mind to the
singular mystery which surrounded it. I was lost in the thought of
it when my companion suddenly drew his breath sharply in, and
seized my arm in a convulsive grip. At the same instant I saw what
it was which had excited him.
I have said that against the wall--on the right-hand side of
the doorway (the right-hand side as we looked at it, but the left
as one entered)--there stood a large mummy-case. To our
unutterable amazement it was slowly opening. Gradually, gradually
the lid was swinging back, and the black slit which marked the
opening was becoming wider and wider. So gently and carefully was
it done that the movement was almost imperceptible. Then, as we
breathlessly watched it, a white thin hand appeared at the opening,
pushing back the painted lid, then another hand, and finally a
face--a face which was familiar to us both, that of Professor
Andreas. Stealthily he slunk out of the mummy-case, like a fox
stealing from its burrow, his head turning incessantly to left and
to right, stepping, then pausing, then stepping again, the very
image of craft and of caution. Once some sound in the street
struck him motionless, and he stood listening, with his ear turned,
ready to dart back to the shelter behind him. Then he crept
onwards again upon tiptoe, very, very softly and slowly, until he
had reached the case in the centre of the room. There he took a
bunch of keys from his pocket, unlocked the case, took out the
Jewish breastplate, and, laying it upon the glass in front of him,
began to work upon it with some sort of small, glistening tool. He
was so directly underneath us that his bent head covered his work,
but we could guess from the movement of his hand that he was
engaged in finishing the strange disfigurement which he had begun.
I could realize from the heavy breathing of my companion, and
the twitchings of the hand which still clutched my wrist, the
furious indignation which filled his heart as he saw this vandalism
in the quarter of all others where he could least have expected it.
He, the very man who a fortnight before had reverently bent over
this unique relic, and who had impressed its antiquity and its
sanctity upon us, was now engaged in this outrageous profanation.
It was impossible, unthinkable--and yet there, in the white glare
of the electric light beneath us, was that dark figure with the
bent grey head, and the twitching elbow. What inhuman hypocrisy,
what hateful depth of malice against his successor must underlie
these sinister nocturnal labours. It was painful to think of and
dreadful to watch. Even I, who had none of the acute feelings of
a virtuoso, could not bear to look on and see this deliberate
mutilation of so ancient a relic. It was a relief to me when my
companion tugged at my sleeve as a signal that I was to follow him
as he softly crept out of the room. It was not until we were
within his own quarters that he opened his lips, and then I saw by
his agitated face how deep was his consternation.
"The abominable Goth!" he cried. "Could you have believed it?"
"It is amazing."
"He is a villain or a lunatic--one or the other. We shall very
soon see which. Come with me, Jackson, and we shall get to the
bottom of this black business."
A door opened out of the passage which was the private entrance
from his rooms into the museum. This he opened softly with his
key, having first kicked off his shoes, an example which I
followed. We crept together through room after room, until the
large hall lay before us, with that dark figure still stooping and
working at the central case. With an advance as cautious as his
own we closed in upon him, but softly as we went we could not take
him entirely unawares. We were still a dozen yards from him when
he looked round with a start, and uttering a husky cry of terror,
ran frantically down the museum.
"Simpson! Simpson!" roared Mortimer, and far away down the
vista of electric lighted doors we saw the stiff figure of the old
soldier suddenly appear. Professor Andreas saw him also, and
stopped running, with a gesture of despair. At the same instant we
each laid a hand upon his shoulder.
"Yes, yes, gentlemen," he panted, "I will come with you. To
your room, Mr. Ward Mortimer, if you please! I feel that I owe you
My companion's indignation was so great that I could see that
he dared not trust himself to reply. We walked on each side of the
old Professor, the astonished commissionaire bringing up the rear.
When we reached the violated case, Mortimer stopped and examined
the breastplate. Already one of the stones of the lower row had
had its setting turned back in the same manner as the others. My
friend held it up and glanced furiously at his prisoner.
"How could you!" he cried. "How could you!"
"It is horrible--horrible!" said the Professor. "I don't
wonder at your feelings. Take me to your room."
"But this shall not be left exposed!" cried Mortimer. He
picked the breastplate up and carried it tenderly in his hand,
while I walked beside the Professor, like a policeman with a
malefactor. We passed into Mortimer's chambers, leaving the amazed
old soldier to understand matters as best he could. The Professor
sat down in Mortimer's arm-chair, and turned so ghastly a colour
that for the instant all our resentment was changed to concern. A
stiff glass of brandy brought the life back to him once more.
"There, I am better now!" said he. "These last few days have
been too much for me. I am convinced that I could not stand it any
longer. It is a nightmare--a horrible nightmare--that I should be
arrested as a burglar in what has been for so long my own museum.
And yet I cannot blame you. You could not have done otherwise. My
hope always was that I should get it all over before I was
detected. This would have been my last night's work."
"How did you get in?" asked Mortimer.
"By taking a very great liberty with your private door. But
the object justified it. The object justified everything. You
will not be angry when you know everything--at least, you will not
be angry with me. I had a key to your side door and also to the
museum door. I did not give them up when I left. And so you see
it was not difficult for me to let myself into the museum. I used
to come in early before the crowd had cleared from the street.
Then I hid myself in the mummy-case, and took refuge there whenever
Simpson came round. I could always hear him coming. I used to
leave in the same way as I came."
"You ran a risk."
"I had to."
"But why? What on earth was your object--YOU to do a thing
like that!" Mortimer pointed reproachfully at the plate which lay
before him on the table.
"I could devise no other means. I thought and thought, but
there was no alternate except a hideous public scandal, and a
private sorrow which would have clouded our lives. I acted for the
best, incredible as it may seem to you, and I only ask your
attention to enable me to prove it."
"I will hear what you have to say before I take any further
steps," said Mortimer, grimly.
"I am determined to hold back nothing, and to take you both
completely into my confidence. I will leave it to your own
generosity how far you will use the facts with which I supply you."
"We have the essential facts already."
"And yet you understand nothing. Let me go back to what passed
a few weeks ago, and I will make it all clear to you. Believe me
that what I say is the absolute and exact truth.
"You have met the person who calls himself Captain Wilson. I
say `calls himself' because I have reason now to believe that it is
not his correct name. It would take me too long if I were to
describe all the means by which he obtained an introduction to me
and ingratiated himself into my friendship and the affection of my
daughter. He brought letters from foreign colleagues which
compelled me to show him some attention. And then, by his own
attainments, which are considerable, he succeeded in making himself
a very welcome visitor at my rooms. When I learned that my
daughter's affections had been gained by him, I may have thought it
premature, but I certainly was not surprised, for he had a charm of
manner and of conversation which would have made him conspicuous in
"He was much interested in Oriental antiquities, and his
knowledge of the subject justified his interest. Often when he
spent the evening with us he would ask permission to go down into
the museum and have an opportunity of privately inspecting the
various specimens. You can imagine that I, as an enthusiast, was
in sympathy with such a request, and that I felt no surprise at the
constancy of his visits. After his actual engagement to Elise,
there was hardly an evening which he did not pass with us, and an
hour or two were generally devoted to the museum. He had the free
run of the place, and when I have been away for the evening I had
no objection to his doing whatever he wished here. This state of
things was only terminated by the fact of my resignation of my
official duties and my retirement to Norwood, where I hoped to have
the leisure to write a considerable work which I had planned.
"It was immediately after this--within a week or so--that I
first realized the true nature and character of the man whom I had
so imprudently introduced into my family. The discovery came to me
through letters from my friends abroad, which showed me that
his introductions to me had been forgeries. Aghast at the
revelation, I asked myself what motive this man could originally
have had in practising this elaborate deception upon me. I was too
poor a man for any fortune-hunter to have marked me down. Why,
then, had he come? I remembered that some of the most precious
gems in Europe had been under my charge, and I remembered also the
ingenious excuses by which this man had made himself familiar with
the cases in which they were kept. He was a rascal who was
planning some gigantic robbery. How could I, without striking my
own daughter, who was infatuated about him, prevent him from
carrying out any plan which he might have formed? My device was a
clumsy one, and yet I could think of nothing more effective. If I
had written a letter under my own name, you would naturally have
turned to me for details which I did not wish to give. I resorted
to an anonymous letter, begging you to be upon your guard.
"I may tell you that my change from Belmore Street to Norwood
had not affected the visits of this man, who had, I believe, a real
and overpowering affection for my daughter. As to her, I could not
have believed that any woman could be so completely under the
influence of a man as she was. His stronger nature seemed to
entirely dominate her. I had not realized how far this was the
case, or the extent of the confidence which existed between them,
until that very evening when his true character for the first time
was made clear to me. I had given orders that when he called he
should be shown into my study instead of to the drawing-room.
There I told him bluntly that I knew all about him, that I had
taken steps to defeat his designs, and that neither I nor my
daughter desired ever to see him again. I added that I thanked God
that I had found him out before he had time to harm those precious
objects which it had been the work of my life-time to protect.
"He was certainly a man of iron nerve. He took my remarks
without a sign either of surprise or of defiance, but listened
gravely and attentively until I had finished. Then he walked
across the room without a word and struck the bell.
"`Ask Miss Andreas to be so kind as to step this way,' said he
to the servant.
"My daughter entered, and the man closed the door behind her.
Then he took her hand in his.
"`Elise,' said he, `your father has just discovered that I am
a villain. He knows now what you knew before.'
"She stood in silence, listening.
"`He says that we are to part for ever,' said he.
"She did not withdraw her hand.
"`Will you be true to me, or will you remove the last good
influence which is ever likely to come into my life?'
"`John,' she cried, passionately. `I will never abandon you!
Never, never, not if the whole world were against you.'
"In vain I argued and pleaded with her. It was absolutely
useless. Her whole life was bound up in this man before me. My
daughter, gentlemen, is all that I have left to love, and it filled
me with agony when I saw how powerless I was to save her from her
ruin. My helplessness seemed to touch this man who was the cause
of my trouble.
"`It may not be as bad as you think, sir,' said he, in his
quiet, inflexible way. `I love Elise with a love which is strong
enough to rescue even one who has such a record as I have. It was
but yesterday that I promised her that never again in my whole life
would I do a thing of which she should be ashamed. I have made up
my mind to it, and never yet did I make up my mind to a thing which
I did not do.'
"He spoke with an air which carried conviction with it. As he
concluded he put his hand into his pocket and he drew out a small
"`I am about to give you a proof of my determination,' said he.
`This, Elise, shall be the first-fruits of your redeeming influence
over me. You are right, sir, in thinking that I had designs upon
the jewels in your possession. Such ventures have had a charm for
me, which depended as much upon the risk run as upon the value of
the prize. Those famous and antique stones of the Jewish priest
were a challenge to my daring and my ingenuity. I determined to
"`I guessed as much.'
"`There was only one thing that you did not guess.'
"`And what is that?'
"`That I got them. They are in this box.'
"He opened the box, and tilted out the contents upon the corner
of my desk. My hair rose and my flesh grew cold as I looked.
There were twelve magnificent square stones engraved with mystical
characters. There could be no doubt that they were the jewels of
the urim and thummim.
"`Good God!' I cried. `How have you escaped discovery?'
"`By the substitution of twelve others, made especially to my
order, in which the originals are so carefully imitated that I defy
the eye to detect the difference.'
"`Then the present stones are false?' I cried.
"`They have been for some weeks.'
"We all stood in silence, my daughter white with emotion, but
still holding this man by the hand.
"`You see what I am capable of, Elise,' said he.
"`I see that you are capable of repentance and restitution,'
"`Yes, thanks to your influence! I leave the stones in your
hands, sir. Do what you like about it. But remember that whatever
you do against me, is done against the future husband of your only
daughter. You will hear from me soon again, Elise. It is the last
time that I will ever cause pain to your tender heart,' and with
these words he left both the room and the house.
"My position was a dreadful one. Here I was with these
precious relics in my possession, and how could I return them
without a scandal and an exposure? I knew the depth of my
daughter's nature too well to suppose that I would ever be able to
detach her from this man now that she had entirely given him her
heart. I was not even sure how far it was right to detach her if
she had such an ameliorating influence over him. How could I
expose him without injuring her--and how far was I justified in
exposing him when he had voluntarily put himself into my power? I
thought and thought until at last I formed a resolution which may
seem to you to be a foolish one, and yet, if I had to do it again,
I believe it would be the best course open to me.
"My idea was to return the stones without anyone being the
wiser. With my keys I could get into the museum at any time, and
I was confident that I could avoid Simpson, whose hours and methods
were familiar to me. I determined to take no one into my
confidence--not even my daughter--whom I told that I was about to
visit my brother in Scotland. I wanted a free hand for a few
nights, without inquiry as to my comings and goings. To this end
I took a room in Harding Street that very night, with an intimation
that I was a Pressman, and that I should keep very late hours.
"That night I made my way into the museum, and I replaced four
of the stones. It was hard work, and took me all night. When
Simpson came round I always heard his footsteps, and concealed
myself in the mummy-case. I had some knowledge of gold-work, but
was far less skilful than the thief had been. He had replaced the
setting so exactly that I defy anyone to see the difference. My
work was rude and clumsy. However, I hoped that the plate might
not be carefully examined, or the roughness of the setting
observed, until my task was done. Next night I replaced four more
stones. And tonight I should have finished my task had it not been
for the unfortunate circumstance which has caused me to reveal so
much which I should have wished to keep concealed. I appeal to
you, gentlemen, to your sense of honour and of compassion, whether
what I have told you should go any farther or not. My own
happiness, my daughter's future, the hopes of this man's
regeneration, all depend upon your decision.
"Which is," said my friend, "that all is well that ends well
and that the whole matter ends here and at once. Tomorrow the
loose settings shall be tightened by an expert goldsmith, and so
passes the greatest danger to which, since the destruction of the
Temple, the urim and thummim has been exposed. Here is my hand,
Professor Andreas, and I can only hope that under such difficult
circumstances I should have carried myself as unselfishly and as well."
Just one footnote to this narrative. Within a month Elise
Andreas was married to a man whose name, had I the indiscretion to
mention it, would appeal to my readers as one who is now widely and
deservedly honoured. But if the truth were known that honour is
due not to him, but to the gentle girl who plucked him back when he
had gone so far down that dark road along which few return.
Next: The Adventure Of The Empty House
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