The Orange-Yellow Diamond - Joseph Smith Fletcher - ebook
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This novel takes place in the London parish of Paddington. The story opens with the murder of an old Jewish pawnbroker. Our Scottish hero, Andrew Lauriston, a penniless aspiring writer, has the misfortune of finding the body, and is accused of killing and robbing the old man. But then it’s found the pawnbroker had had in his possession an extraordinary South African diamond worth over eighty-thousand pounds – a diamond that’s now missing. It falls to Melky Rubenstein to unravel the mystery and prove the young man’s innocence. This is a great tale which you can immerse yourself in and will appeal to anyone who likes the old style crime/ mystery novels.

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Liczba stron: 370

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Contents

CHAPTER ONE. THE PRETTY PAWNBROKER

CHAPTER TWO. MRS. GOLDMARK'S EATING-HOUSE

CHAPTER THREE. THE DEAD MAN

CHAPTER FOUR. THE PLATINUM SOLITAIRE

CHAPTER FIVE. THE TWO LETTERS

CHAPTER SIX. THE SPANISH MANUSCRIPT

CHAPTER SEVEN. THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

CHAPTER EIGHT. THE INQUEST

CHAPTER NINE. WHOSE WERE THOSE RINGS?

CHAPTER TEN. MELKY INTERVENES

CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE BACK DOOR

CHAPTER TWELVE. THE FRIEND FROM PEEBLES

CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THE CALL FOR HELP

CHAPTER FOURTEEN. THE PRIVATE LABORATORY

CHAPTER FIFTEEN. CONFERENCE

CHAPTER SIXTEEN. THE DETECTIVE CALLS

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. WHAT THE LAMPS SHONE ON

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. MR. STUYVESANT GUYLER

CHAPTER NINETEEN. PURDIE STANDS FIRM

CHAPTER TWENTY. THE PARSLETT AFFAIR

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE. WHAT MANNER OF DEATH?

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. MR. KILLICK GOES BACK

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE. MR. KILLICK'S OPINION

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR. THE ORANGE-YELLOW DIAMOND

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE. THE DEAD MAN'S PROPERTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX. THE RAT

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN. THE EMPTY HOUSE

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT. THE £500 BANK NOTE

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE. MR. MORI YADA

CHAPTER THIRTY. THE MORTUARY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE. THE MIRANDOLET THEORY

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO. ONE O'CLOCK MIDNIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE. SECRET WORK

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR. BAFFLED

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE. YADA TAKES CHARGE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX. PILMANSEY'S TEA ROOMS

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN. CHANG LI

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT. THE JEW AND THE JAP

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE. THE DIAMOND NECKLACE

CHAPTER ONE

THE PRETTY PAWNBROKER

On the southern edge of the populous parish of Paddington, in a parallelogram bounded by Oxford and Cambridge Terrace on the south, Praed Street on the north, and by Edgware Road on the east and Spring Street on the west, lies an assemblage of mean streets, the drab dulness of which forms a remarkable contrast to the pretentious architectural grandeurs of Sussex Square and Lancaster Gate, close by. In these streets the observant will always find all those evidences of depressing semi-poverty which are more evident in London than in any other English city. The houses look as if laughter was never heard within them. Where the window blinds are not torn, they are dirty; the folk who come out of the doors wear anxious and depressed faces. Such shops as are there are mainly kept for the sale of food of poor quality: the taverns at the corners are destitute of attraction or pretension. Whoever wanders into these streets finds their sordid shabbiness communicating itself: he escapes, cast down, wondering who the folk are who live in those grey, lifeless cages; what they do, what they think; how life strikes them. Even the very sparrows which fight in the gutters for garbage are less lively than London sparrows usually are; as for the children who sit about the doorsteps, they look as if the grass, the trees, the flowers, and the sunlight of the adjacent Kensington Gardens were as far away as the Desert of Gobi. Within this slice of the town, indeed, life is lived, as it were, in a stagnant backwash, which nothing and nobody can stir.

In an upper room of one of the more respectable houses in one of the somewhat superior streets of this neighbourhood, a young man stood looking out of the window one November afternoon. It was then five o’clock, and the darkness was coming: all day a gentle, never-ceasing rain had been bringing the soot down from the dark skies upon the already dingy roofs. It was a dismal and miserable prospect upon which the watcher looked out, but not so miserable nor so dismal as the situation in which he just then found himself. The mean street beneath him was not more empty of cheerfulness than his pockets were empty of money and his stomach of food. He had spent his last penny on the previous day: it, and two other coppers, had gone on a mere mouthful of food and drink: since their disappearance he had eaten nothing. And he was now growing faint with hunger–and to add to his pains, some one, downstairs, was cooking herrings. The smell of the frying-pan nearly drove him ravenous.

He turned from the window presently and looked round at the small room behind him. It was a poor, ill-furnished place–cleanliness, though of a dingy sort, its only recommendation. There was a bed, and a washstand, and a chest of drawers, and a couple of chairs–a few shillings would have purchased the lot at any second-hand dealer’s. In a corner stood the occupant’s trunk–all the property he had in the world was in it, save a few books which were carefully ranged on the chimney-piece, and certain writing materials that lay on a small table. A sharp eye, glancing at the books and the writing materials, and at a few sheets of manuscript scattered on the blotting-pad, would have been quick to see that here was the old tale, once more being lived out, of the literary aspirant who, at the very beginning of his career, was finding, by bitter experience, that, of all callings, that of literature is the most precarious.

A half-hesitating tap at the door prefaced the entrance of a woman–the sort of woman who is seen in those streets by the score–a tallish, thinnish woman, old before her time, perpetually harassed, always anxious, always looking as if she expected misfortune. Her face was full of anxiety now as she glanced at her lodger–who, on his part, flushed all over his handsome young face with conscious embarrassment. He knew very well what the woman wanted–and he was powerless to respond to her appeal.

“Mr. Lauriston,” she said in a half whisper, “when do you think you’ll be able to let me have a bit of money? It’s going on for six weeks now, you know, and I’m that put to it, what with the rent, and the rates–”

Andrew Lauriston shook his head–not in denial, but in sheer perplexity.

“Mrs. Flitwick,” he answered, “I’ll give you your money the very minute I get hold of it! I told you the other day I’d sold two stories–well, I’ve asked to be paid for them at once, and the cheque might be here by any post. And I’m expecting another cheque, too–I’m surprised they aren’t both here by this time. The minute they arrive, I’ll settle with you. I’m wanting money myself–as badly as you are!”

“I know that, Mr. Lauriston,” assented Mrs. Flitwick, “and I wouldn’t bother you if I wasn’t right pressed, myself. But there’s the landlord at me–he wants money tonight. And–you’ll excuse me for mentioning it–but, till you get your cheques, Mr. Lauriston, why don’t you raise a bit of ready money?”

Lauriston looked round at his landlady with an air of surprised enquiry.

“And how would I do that?” he asked.

“You’ve a right good gold watch, Mr. Lauriston,” she answered. “Any pawnbroker–and there’s plenty of ‘em, I’m sure!–‘ud lend you a few pounds on that. Perhaps you’ve never had occasion to go to a pawnbroker before? No?–well, and I hadn’t once upon a time, but I’ve had to, whether or no, since I came to letting lodgings, and if I’d as good a watch as yours is, I wouldn’t go without money in my pocket! If you’ve money coming in, you can always get your goods back–and I should be thankful for something, Mr. Lauriston, if it was but a couple o’ pounds. My landlord’s that hard–”

Lauriston turned and picked up his hat.

“All right, Mrs. Flitwick,” he said quietly. “I’ll see what I can do. I–I’d never even thought of it.”

When the woman had gone away, closing the door behind her, he pulled the watch out of his pocket and looked at it–an old-fashioned, good, gold watch, which had been his father’s. No doubt a pawnbroker would lend money on it. But until then he had never had occasion to think of pawnbrokers. He had come to London nearly two years before, intending to make name, fame, and fortune by his pen. He had a little money to be going on with–when he came. It had dwindled steadily, and it had been harder to replace it than he had calculated for. And at last there he was, in that cheap lodging, and at the end of his resources, and the cheque for his first two accepted stories had not arrived. Neither had a loan which, sorely against his will, he had been driven to request from the only man he could think of–an old schoolmate, far away in Scotland. He had listened for the postman’s knock, hoping it would bring relief, for four long days–and not one letter had come, and he was despairing and heartsick. But–there was the watch!

He went out presently, and on the stair, feebly lighted by a jet of gas, he ran up against a fellow-lodger–a young Jew, whom he knew by the name of Mr. Melchior Rubinstein, who occupied the rooms immediately beneath his own. He was a quiet, affable little person, with whom Lauriston sometimes exchanged a word or two–and the fact that he sported rings on his fingers, a large pin in his tie, and a heavy watch-chain, which was either real gold or a very good imitation, made Lauriston think that he would give him some advice. He stopped him–with a shy look, and an awkward blush.

“I say!” he said. “I–the fact is, I’m a bit hard up–temporarily, you know–and I want to borrow some money on my watch. Could you tell me where there’s a respectable pawnbroker’s?”

Melky–known to every one in the house by that familiar substitute for his more pretentious name–turned up the gas-jet and then held out a slender, long-fingered hand. “Let’s look at the watch,” he said curtly, in a soft, lisping voice. “I know more than a bit about watches, mister.”

Lauriston handed the watch over and watched Melky inquisitively as he looked at it, inside and out, in a very knowing and professional way. Melky suddenly glanced at him. “Now, you wouldn’t like to sell this here bit of property, would you, Mr. Lauriston?” he enquired, almost wheedlingly. “I’ll give you three quid for it–cash down.”

“Thank you–but I wouldn’t sell it for worlds,” replied Lauriston.

“Say four quid, then,” urged Melky. “Here!–between friends, I’ll give you four-ten! Spot cash, mind you!”

“No!” said Lauriston. “It belonged to my father. I don’t want to sell–I want to borrow.”

Melky pushed the watch back into its owner’s hand.

“You go round into Praed Street, mister,” he said, in business-like fashion. “You’ll see a shop there with Daniel Multenius over it. He’s a relation o’ mine–he’ll do what you want. Mention my name, if you like. He’ll deal fair with you. And if you ever want to sell, don’t forget me.”

Lauriston laughed, and went down the stairs, and out into the dismal evening. It was only a step round to Praed Street, and within five minutes of leaving Melky he was looking into Daniel Multenius’s window. He remembered now that he had often looked into it, without noticing the odd name above it. It was a window in which there were all sorts of curious things, behind a grille of iron bars, from diamonds and pearls to old ivory and odds and ends of bric-à-brac. A collector of curiosities would have found material in that window to delay him for half-an-hour–but Lauriston only gave one glance at it before hastening down a dark side-passage to a door, over which was a faintly-illuminated sign, showing the words: PLEDGE OFFICE.

He pushed open that door and found himself before several small, boxed-off compartments, each just big enough to contain one person. They were all empty at that moment; he entered one, and seeing nobody about, tapped gently on the counter. He expected to see some ancient and Hebraic figure present itself–instead, light steps came from some recess of the shop, and Lauriston found himself gazing in surprise at a young and eminently pretty girl, who carried some fancy needle-work in her hand, and looked over it at him out of a pair of large, black eyes. For a moment the two gazed at each other, in silence.

“Yes?” said the girl at last. “What can I do for you?”

Lauriston found his tongue.

“Er–is Mr. Multenius in?” he asked. “I–the fact is, I want to see him.”

“Mr. Multenius is out,” answered the girl. “But I’m in charge–if it’s business.”

She was quietly eyeing Lauriston over, and she saw his fresh-complexioned face colour vividly.

“I do my grandfather’s business when he’s out,” she continued. “Do you want to borrow some money?”

Lauriston pulled out the watch, with more blushes, and pushed it towards her.

“That’s just it,” he answered. “I want to borrow money on that. A friend of mine–fellow-lodger–Mr. Melky Rubinstein–said I could borrow something here. That’s a real good watch, you know.”

The girl glanced at her customer with a swift and almost whimsical recognition of his innocence, and almost carelessly picked up the watch.

“Oh, Melky sent you here, did he?” she said, with a smile. “I see!” She looked the watch over, and snapped open the case. Then she glanced at Lauriston. “How much do you want on this?” she asked.

CHAPTER TWO

MRS. GOLDMARK’S EATING-HOUSE

Lauriston thrust his hands in his pockets and looked at the girl in sheer perplexity. She was a very pretty, dark girl, nearly as tall as himself, slender and lissom of figure, and decidedly attractive. There was evident sense of fun and humour in her eyes, and about the corners of her lips: he suddenly got an idea that she was amused at his embarrassment.

“How much can you lend me?” he asked. “What–what’s it worth?”

“No, that’s not it!” she answered. “It’s–what do you want to borrow? You’re not used to pledging things, are you?”

“No,” replied Lauriston. “This is the first time. Can–can you lend me a few pounds?”

The girl picked up the watch again, and again, examined it.

“I’ll lend you three pounds fifteen on it,” she said suddenly, in business-like tones. “That do?”

“Thank you,” replied Lauriston. “That’ll do very well–I’m much obliged. I suppose I can have it back any time.”

“Any time you bring the money, and pay the interest,” replied the girl. “Within twelve calendar months and seven days.” She picked up a pen and began to fill out a ticket. “Got any copper?” she asked presently.

“Copper?” exclaimed Lauriston. “What for?”

“The ticket,” she answered. Then she gave him a quick glance and just as quickly looked down again. “Never mind!” she said. “I’ll take it out of the loan. Your name and address, please.”

Lauriston presently took the ticket and the little pile of gold, silver, and copper which she handed him. And he lingered.

“You’ll take care of that watch,” he said, suddenly. “It was my father’s, you see.”

The girl smiled, reassuringly, and pointed to a heavily-built safe in the rear.

“We’ve all sorts of family heirlooms in there,” she observed. “Make yourself easy.”

Lauriston thanked her, raised his hat, and turned away–unwillingly. He would have liked an excuse to stop longer–and he did not quite know why. But he could think of none, so he went–with a backward look when he got to the door. The pretty pawnbroker smiled and nodded. And the next moment he was out in the street, with money in his pocket, and a strange sense of relief, which was mingled with one of surprise. For he had lived for the previous four days on a two-shilling piece–and there, all the time, close by him, had been a place where you could borrow money, easily and very pleasantly.

His first thought was to hurry to his lodgings and pay his landlady. He owed her six weeks’ rent, at ten shillings a week–that would take three pounds out of the money he had just received. But he would still have over fourteen shillings to be going on with–and surely those expected letters would come within the next few postal deliveries. He had asked the editor who had taken two short stories from him to let him have a cheque for them, and in his inexperience had expected to see it arrive by return of post. Also he had put his pride in his pocket, and had written a long letter to his old schoolmate, John Purdie, in far-away Scotland, explaining his present circumstances, and asking him, for old times’ sake, to lend him some money until he had finished and sold a novel, which, he was sure, would turn out to be a small gold-mine. John Purdie, he knew, was now a wealthy young man–successor to his father in a fine business; Lauriston felt no doubt that he would respond. And meantime, till the expected letters came, he had money–and when you have lived for four days on two shillings, fourteen shillings seems a small fortune. Certainly, within the last half-hour, life had taken on a roseate tinge–all due to a visit to the pawnshop.

Hurrying back along Praed Street, Lauriston’s steps were suddenly arrested. He found himself unconsciously hurrying by an old-fashioned eating-house, from whence came an appetizing odour of cooking food. He remembered then that he had eaten nothing for four-and-twenty hours. His landlady supplied him with nothing: ever since he had gone to her he had done his own catering, going out for his meals. The last meal, on the previous evening, had been a glass of milk and a stale, though sizable bun, and now he felt literally ravenous. It was only by an effort that he could force himself to pass the eating-house; once beyond its door, he ran, ran until he reached his lodgings and slipped three sovereigns into Mrs. Flitwick’s hands.

“That’ll make us right to this week end, Mrs. Flitwick,” he said. “Put the receipt in my room.”

“And greatly obliged I am to you, Mr. Lauriston,” answered the landlady. “And sorry, indeed, you should have had to put yourself to the trouble, but–”

“All right, all right–no trouble–no trouble at all,” exclaimed Lauriston. “Quite easy, I assure you!”

He ran out of the house again and back to where he knew there was food. He was only one-and-twenty, a well-built lad, with a healthy appetite, which, until very recently, had always been satisfied, and just then he was feeling that unless he ate and drank, something–he knew not what–would happen. He was even conscious that his voice was weakening, when, having entered the eating-house and dropped into a seat in one of the little boxes into which the place was divided, he asked the waitress for the food and drink which he was now positively aching for. And he had eaten a plateful of fish and two boiled eggs and several thick slices of bread and butter, and drunk the entire contents of a pot of tea before he even lifted his eyes to look round him. But by that time he was conscious of satisfaction, and he sat up and inspected the place to which he had hurried so eagerly. And in the same moment he once more saw Melky.

Melky had evidently just entered the little eating-house. Evidently, too, he was in no hurry for food or drink. He had paused, just within the entrance, at a desk which stood there, whereat sat Mrs. Goldmark, the proprietress, a plump, pretty young woman, whose dark, flashing eyes turned alternately from watching her waitresses to smiling on her customers as they came to the desk to pay their bills. Melky, his smart billy-cock hat cocked to one side, his sporting-looking overcoat adorned with a flower, was evidently paying compliments to Mrs. Goldmark as he leaned over her desk: she gave him a playful push and called to a waitress to order Mr. Rubinstein a nice steak. And Melky, turning from her with a well satisfied smile, caught sight of Lauriston, and sauntered down to the table at which he sat.

“Get your bit of business done all right?” he asked, confidentially, as he took a seat opposite his fellow-lodger and bent towards him. “Find the old gent accommodating?”

“I didn’t see him,” answered Lauriston. “I saw a young lady.”

“My cousin Zillah,” said Melky. “Smart girl, that, mister–worth a pile o’ money to the old man–she knows as much about the business as what he does! You wouldn’t think, mister,” he went on in his soft, lisping tones, “but that girl’s had a college education–fact! Old Daniel, he took her to live with him when her father and mother died, she being a little ‘un then, and he give her–ah, such an education as I wish I’d had–see? She’s quite the lady–is Zillah–but sticks to the old shop–not half, neither!”

“She seems very business-like,” remarked Lauriston, secretly pleased that he had now learned the pretty pawnbroker’s name. “She soon did what I wanted.”

“In the blood,” said Melky, laconically. “We’re all of us in that sort o’ business, one way or another. Now, between you and me, mister, what did she lend you on that bit o’ stuff?”

“Three pounds fifteen,” replied Lauriston.

“That’s about it,” assented Melky, with a nod. He leaned a little nearer. “You don’t want to sell the ticket?” he suggested. “Give you a couple o’ quid for it, if you do.”

“You seem very anxious to buy that watch,” said Lauriston, laughing. “No–I don’t want to sell the ticket–not I! I wouldn’t part with that watch for worlds.”

“Well, if you don’t, you don’t,” remarked Melky. “And as to wanting to buy–that’s my trade. I ain’t no reg’lar business–I buy and sell, anything that comes handy, in the gold and silver line. And as you ain’t going to part with that ticket on no consideration, I’ll tell you what it’s worth, old as it is. Fifteen quid!”

“That’s worth knowing, any way,” said Lauriston. “I shall always have something by me then, while I have that. You’d have made a profit of a nice bit, then, if I’d sold it to you?”

“It ‘ud be a poor world, mister, if you didn’t get no profit, wouldn’t it?” assented Melky calmly. “We’re all of us out to make profit. Look here!–between you and me–you’re a lit’ry gent, ain’t you? Write a bit, what? Do you want to earn a fiver–comfortable?”

“I should be very glad,” replied Lauriston.

“There’s a friend o’ mine,” continued Melky, “wholesale jeweller, down Shoreditch way, wants to get out a catalogue. He ain’t no lit’ry powers, d’you see? Now, he’d run to a fiver–cash down–if some writing feller ‘ud touch things up a bit for him, like. Lor’ bless you!–it wouldn’t take you more’n a day’s work! What d’ye say to it?”

“I wouldn’t mind earning five pounds at that,” answered Lauriston.

“Right-oh!” said Melky. “Then some day next week, I’ll take you down to see him–he’s away till then. And–you’ll pay me ten per cent. on the bit o’ business, won’t you, mister? Business is business, ain’t it?”

“All right!” agreed Lauriston. “That’s a bargain, of course.”

Melky nodded and turned to his steak, and Lauriston presently left him and went away. The plump lady at the desk gave him a smile as she handed him his change.

“Hope to see you again, sir,” she said.

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