“What a pity! what a pity!” cried Jockey 토토검증사이트 reflectively; “banks are a nuisance—if the money had only been here instead of the book!”

“What’s that in the tissue paper?” said Jess eagerly—“a pile of sovereigns, very like. Turn them out—the greedy beggar was as rich as a Jew.”

Jockey obeyed, and gave a whistle of disappointment. All that the tissue paper contained was a broken cairngorm stone, with a bit of dirty twine drawn through a hole at one end.

“There’s your pile of gold,” he said, tossing Dickie’s talisman over to Jess. “I hope you like it.”

Jess lifted the trinket and stared at it with her face slowly becoming ghastly, and her heart freezing within her.

“I’ve seen that before!” she slowly whispered, as the men stared at her in awe-stricken wonder and silence. “It was his when he was taken from me. Perhaps it is a mistake—perhaps I have not killed my own bairn. Read! read! you that can read—read what is on that brass plate on the lid of the box.”

Jockey glanced at the plate, and sprang to his feet in horror.

“God alive! it’s there,” was all he could articulate.

“What? what? tell me what?” moaned Jess, beginning to clutch at her breast with her hands, and to writhe about like one grown mad.

Licensed Hawker.”
was the awe-stricken response, and only the half of it was heard. Shriek upon shriek went pealing through that rookery. Nothing could check her outcry; she screamed at every one; tore at them like a tiger; denounced them with every gasp and mad exclamation, and finally drew to the spot the police by struggling to throw her two accomplices out at the window. They were all marched off to the Central—with the reset as a make-weight, and Jess was there put in a padded cell and watched the long night through, or she would never have seen the light of another day. The first thing that helped to soothe her was the news that Dickie was not killed, and though there was concussion of the brain, he was likely to recover. When he did recover he was allowed to visit her in prison, and put his arms through the bars and clasp her close and hear her say that she was done for ever with a life of crime.

Jess and her companions were tried shortly after, when she, on account of the peculiar circumstances of the case, and the tearful appeal to the jury by the chief witness—Dickie—got the mild sentence of two years’ imprisonment. Jockey and Lynch got ten each, as by a fiction of the law Jess was supposed to have acted under their influence.

When Jess was released, Dickie waited for her, and they vanished together.

A grand ball was being given one night in November at the mansion of the Earl of ———, a great castellated place a good bit within a hundred miles of this city. The dancing room was a perfect picture—the floor polished mahogany in mosaic work, the walls panelled in white flowered satin, with gold slips at the edges, and the whole lighted by hundreds of wax candles inserted in brackets and chandeliers of cut crystal, glittering with pendants, while flashing in the head-dresses and on the necks and bosoms of the fair guests were enough diamonds and other precious stones to have bought up the Regalia twice over.

It was in this scene of brightness and grandeur, and strictly exclusive gaiety, that the curious robbery which was to cause me so much trouble and concern took place.

In an assemblage of this kind, one would expect a thief, if he managed to get into the place at all, to turn his attention to the guests and their jewels; but such was not the case, and it was there that the first puzzling element came into the affair.

At one end of the room, partly in a large recess formed by one of the bow windows, and partly in a portion of the room screened off by a rope covered with red cloth, was a raised kind of a dais for the orchestra. This corner was at the end nearest the door, and clustered within the rope, with stands and music complete, was an orchestra of local musicians, under the leadership, for that night only, of a more distinguished player from England. This gentleman, whom I may name Mr Cleffton, had been engaged at some high-class concerts in Edinburgh, and was about to return to England when he was asked as a great favour and at a high fee to play at this distinguished gathering. To play at a dancing party was rather out of this gentleman’s line—to accept a high fee was not, so he went—much to his grief as he soon found.

About midnight, when the room was beginning to become uncomfortably warm, the guests filed out grandly to a supper room close by, and shortly after the musicians were similarly entertained in a smaller room, to which they were led through a long range of carpeted lobbies by the butler himself. Most of the players left their instruments on the seat they had occupied or on the music stand or floor—Mr Cleffton alone took the trouble to return his to its case. He was about to shut and lock this for additional security when he chanced to notice that all the others were waiting on him, and said hurriedly to the butler—

“I suppose the violins will be perfectly safe here? No one will meddle them while we’re out?”

The butler smiled lightly at his concern, and said emphatically—

“Not a soul will go near them.”

So the fiddle case was left open and unlocked, and its owner went away with his companions to regale himself upon cold fowl and tongue and champagne, or whatever wine he fancied most.

Now, when I say that Mr Cleffton fairly worshipped his own instrument, I am, I believe, giving only an ordinary case—all fiddlers, I understand, do that, and the more wretched the instrument the more devout is their homage. Whether this particular fiddle merited the slavish devotion I cannot say. It was very ugly, and rather dirty-looking; but its owner, besides never tiring of admiring it from every possible point of view, had given £40 for it, and afterwards spent a good many more, as I shall presently show, in trying to establish at law that the fiddle he had bought belonged to him; so I suppose it must have had good qualities of some kind.

When, therefore, the orchestra had finished supper and strolled back under the guidance of one of the servants to the ball-room, Mr Cleffton’s first look was towards his fiddle—or rather towards the case in which he had so tenderly deposited it before leaving the room. Then he started, and blinked sharply to make sure that the champagne had not affected his vision. The case was there, as was also a beautifully quilted bag of wadding and green silk in which he was wont to tenderly wrap the fiddle when done playing, and before inserting it in the case; the fiddle bow, too, was there, but the Cremona was gone.

“Hullo! what’s this!” exclaimed Mr Cleffton, in his quick, sharp way, and trying to smile in spite of his concern and pitiable pallor. “Which of you has been meddling with my fiddle.”

Nobody had been touching it, as they all hastened to assure him, reminding him at the same time how he had been the last to leave the room; and then, with concerned looks and widely opened eyes, they looked everywhere about the recess for the missing fiddle, narrowly inspecting every one of the instruments left; but it was all in vain—the fiddle had vanished.

“My beautiful Strad! my beautiful Strad! worth £400!” was all Mr Cleffton could moan out, as, wringing his hands, tearing at the few hairs left in his head, and almost shedding real tears of grief, he trotted feverishly and excitedly round the ball-room, peering into every corner in search of his treasure.

“Perhaps some of the servants may have taken it out to have a scrape while we were at supper,” suggested another player, keeping his own instrument tight under his arm so that there might be no danger of a second tragedy. All the other fiddlers echoed the suggestion, and, carrying their instruments under their arms, followed the distracted leader through the lobbies in search of the butler, or any of the servants likely to throw light on the strange disappearance.

The butler was soon found, and brought out from the supper room proper to hear the story of the Cremona; and in amazement and incredulity he followed the players to the ball-room, where, however, he could only stare and count over the instruments left, with the invariable result of finding them one short. Then the servants were questioned closely and searchingly, but not one of them had thought of looking at the fiddles, far less of taking one out of the room to try it, and the end of the investigation found them exactly where they had begun—that is, staring blankly at each other and saying, “Well, that is strange—how on earth could it have gone?”

By and by odd couples of the guests began to drift into the ball-room, and at length Lady ——— herself, the amiable hostess, appeared, and was informed in a whisper by the butler of the unexpected difficulty.