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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XXIII The Great Mogul

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It was after one such occasion that he found, on taking the stone in his hand to replace it in the safe he had had built for it in one of his cabinets, that it did not strike his eye with its usual force and brilliancy, and, on examining it closely, he discovered the absence of the telltale flaw. Struck with dismay, he submitted it to a still more rigid inspection, when he found that what he held was not even a diamond, but a worthless bit of glass, which had been substituted by some cunning knave for his invaluable gem.

For the moment his humiliation almost equaled his sense of loss; he had been so often warned of the danger he ran in letting so priceless an object pass around under all eyes but his own. His wife and friends had prophesied some such loss as this, not once, but many times, and he had always laughed at their fears, saying that he knew his friends, and there was not a scamp amongst them. But now he saw it proved that even the intuition of a man well-versed in human nature is not always infallible, and, ashamed of his past laxness and more ashamed yet of the doubts which this experience called up in regard to all his friends, he shut up the false stone with his usual care and buried his loss in his own bosom, till he could sift his impressions and recall with some degree of probability the circumstances under which this exchange could have been made.

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It had not been made that evening. Of this he was positive. The only persons present on this occasion were friends of such standing and repute that suspicion in their regard was simply monstrous. when and to whom, then, had he shown the diamond last? Alas, it had been a long month since be had shown the jewel. Cecilia, his youngest daughter, had died in the interim; therefore his mind had not been on jewels. A month! time for his precious diamond to have been carried back to the East! Time for it to have been recut! Surely it was lost to him for ever, unless he could immediately locate the person who had robbed him of it.

But this promised difficulties. He could not remember just what persons he had entertained on that especial day in his little hall of cabinets, and, when he did succeed in getting a list of them from his butler, he was by no means sure that it included the full number of his guests. His own memory was execrable, and, in short, he had but few facts to offer to the discreet agent sent up from Scotland Yard one morning to hear his complaint and act secretly in his interests. He could give him carte blanche to carry on his inquiries in the diamond market, but little else. And while this seemed to satisfy the agent, it did not lead to any gratifying result to himself, and he had thoroughly made up his mind to swallow his loss and say nothing about it, when one day a young cousin of his, living in great style in an adjoining county, informed him that in some mysterious way he had lost from his collection of arms a unique and highly-prized stiletto of Italian workmanship.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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