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there the light must proceed from the jewel itself. But perhaps it would be lighted up by Koh-i-noors, Stars of the South, and other glorious luminaries.

Not only the house but the inhabitants thereof appeared to be sadly in need of lighting up. How many times I rang, or at any rate pulled the long handle, I will not pretend to say; but at last an old woman, not at all too clean, showed me into a small square room, remarkable for nothing except that one end appeared to consist of polished steel. My card was taken upstairs, and presently Signor Nicolo himself appeared.

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Upon important business!" he said. "Ah yes! Mr George Cranleigh. Ah yes, ah yes!" He was rather a handsome little man, about forty years old, with dark eyes and complexion, wearing a black velvet blouse, gathered in with a belt, and a red scarf under it. Apparently an Englishman who desired to pass as a foreigner, and having a considerable share of Jewish blood might do so without much trouble. Whether his perpetual "Ah yes" -which I shall not repeat half as much as he did had first been assumed in imitation of some foreigner or had struck root into his tongue, as "you know," "don't you see?" and other little expletives are wont, it is beyond my power to say.

"And this you have brought me. Ah yes, ah yes." ah yes." He proceeded when I had explained my purpose; "to certify that the Prince desires me to impart to you all my knowledge concerning him. The rubies. are very fine, and the trinket very ancient. They would not be set in silver now-a-days. But I do not perceive in them, Mr Cranleigh, you will excuse my saying so, any message from the Prince to that effect."

"You mistake me, Signor," I answered with some warmth, for the man's affectation annoyed me, and I longed to call him "Jemmy Nickols," as his God-fathers and God-mothers meant him to be called; "I said nothing about Sûr Imar, who makes no pretence to be called a Prince "-that was a little rap at Jemmy-"It is his daughter who has sent me to you, because she is most anxious and miserable about her father. What she wants to know is this-can he return to his native land, from which he has been so long banished, without incurring very great danger? You can tell me or not, just as you please. The question lies between you and her. She has always believed you to be her true friend. She cannot come to see you herself of course, and her father might be angry if she tried to do so; and he would know your hand if you wrote to her. It appears to me that she has a right to ask."

"Ah yes. She has a right to ask; and more than that, it is her place to ask, that she may know how to act about it. On the other hand, the point for me is-have I any right to tell?"

I began to respect the man more, as I perceived that he really wished to do what was right, but scarcely saw the way to it, through some little complication. nor, I am not in any hurry," I observed.


"Ah, you cannot understand," he said, as if I had no power, even if I had a right to put my tongue in; "it is no reproach to you; but a young man who has never been among such things, ought to thank his good stars, and keep out of them. You English are so stiff, you can allow for no ideas. You think that all the world must have the same right and wrong as you have."

"Now, Signor Nicolo," I replied with admirable self-control, for I began to know all about him now, by the lights that break in as we go on in the dark, "if ever there was an Englishman, you are one." He looked at me steadily with eyes almost too dark for a pure-bred Englishman, and then seeing that I meant to make him proud he became proud, as he ought to be.

"Ah yes!" he said first, from the force of habit, and then he went on, as became his birthright. "Sir, I am an Englishman, and as proud of it as you are. But we are not popular among the smaller nations, because they have a lower standard. We give them everything in the way of trade, and they have not the calibre yet to enter into it. And I am very much afraid that they won't have that, till they have taken every farthing out of us. In spite of all lessons, we carry on still, as if all the world were full of our own ideas. And what comes of that? They believe through thick and thin that our only ambition is to rob them. My business lies chiefly on the Continent, and therefore I am Signor Nicolo."

Feeling the truth of this sad state of things, I took the hand he of fered me. It was not his fault, but that of our blind rulers, that to do any business he must be of foreign blood. Still it was a new light shed upon me, for hitherto my belief had been that people unlucky enough to have to live upon the land, had to bear the brunt of that British suicide endowed with the catch-penny name Free-trade.

"Now I am in this difficulty," continued the Signor, still employing the gesticulation he had learned; "on no account would I offend Prince Imar a Prince he is, whether he likes it or not-while on the other hand, I may be guilty of his death, if I stand upon

scruples. And that would be a very poor requital, for I owe him my life, and am proud to owe it to a man so great and magnanimous. Crotchety perhaps, as all great men are, and sometimes even more than that; but take him all round, such a man as you won't see in a long day's ride, Mr Cranleigh."

"That is the opinion I have formed of him. A man of the first magnitude in body, mind, and char


As yet I know very little of him; but one is struck with such a rarity at once, just as

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"As I might be with an enormous diamond. But I am surprised to hear you say that you know him so little. I suppose he keeps himself very much to himself, down there. It was I who arranged that place for him."

"I do not even know whether he has any visitors. None from our part of the country I believe. But I saw no signs of secrecy about the place. It is naturally very lonely and secluded, and out of the line of the more important roads. And he has as good as told me that he was busy about something that he did not wish to talk about. It is suspected in some quarters that his business is the forgery of Russian rouble-notes."

"No, you don't say that! What a people we are! Ah yes, ah yes! I have been on the Continent for some weeks, or certainly I must have heard that grand joke. And they will make a raid upon him soon with a search-warrant I daresay. Oh, I would give something to see that. Tell them to keep the dogs in. I know what they are. And the policeman would shoot them as soon as look, for doing the very duty they have to do themselves, only doing it with a little more sagacity. Don't forget that, Mr Cranleigh. I wouldn't have those dogs killed for a thousand

pounds. There is not a dog to compare with them in England. I knew their grandfathers in the Cau


Hereupon I told him, just to help my case, how lucky I had been by a very simple stratagem in saving the life of that glorious Kuban from a low beast of a bull-dog, and he laughed, and said "Capital! I should never have thought of that. By the by, I know something of your brother, Mr Cranleigh. He has very nearly made a diamond, and he came to me about it. Upon my word, I thought at first that he had succeeded, until I threw my test-light on it. It was the nearest approach that has been accomplished yet. I dare say, he told you all about it."

"Not a syllable. He never does, unless it is to try the effect upon me. He has the lowest possible opinion of my intellect. He has monopolised the brains of the family. But he is glad enough to come to me for more substantial things."

"Ah yes! I see. But he will astonish the world some day. What amazed me about him was not his inventive power-though that must be very great, of course-so much as the quantity of pluck he showed, at any rate I should call it so. You would have thought it the turningpoint in a young man's life, to know whether he had solved the great problem, or failed; but his hand never shook, it was as steady as mine now, and his colour never changed, he was as cool as any cucumber-the last one I bought was as hot as ginger. And when I said, 'No, sir. Not quite yet,' he made me the most beautiful bow I ever saw, and walked off, leaving the work of months with me."

"That is Harold all over. But he will never do any good. He is always on the brink of success, but

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"Do you know what Dariel is?" Nicolo was smiling in a genial manner at my levity. And then he said, to crush it in a truly British manner, "Dariel is the heiress to the throne of Georgia. She has the pink eagle on her left shoulder." "But there is no throne of Georgia now," I answered, quite uncrushed, for she might have been heiress to the throne of all the stars, without mounting any higher than she already was with me; "the Russians have got Georgia, and who shall ever turn them out?"

This will show how I had got up my subject. A month ago Georgia, for all I knew or cared, might have been the property of our former George the fourth, or still the prize of victory for Saint George and the Dragon.

"You take things as quietly as your brother Harold does. Ah yes! it must be in the family, no doubt. But I give you my word that it is true, Mr Cranleigh. Not that her father is a Georgian though, he belongs to a higher race, the Lesghians, and the highest tribe of the Lesghians. All the others, such as Shamyl, are Mahometans. Dariel's mother was the Princess Oria, the last representative of Tamara, the celebrated Queen of Georgia; and she was carried off from Tiflis-it is a most romantic story; I can't tell you a quarter of it. But there was some frightful tragedy-bless you, they are always having tragedies there and the long and the short of it is, that Imar has incurred the blood-feud. You may be sure that

he never ran away from it. He has the greatest contempt and loathing for all such horrible heathenism. After the capture of Shamyl all hope of resistance was over, for the Mahometan tribes fell away, at once. Shamyl's chief hold over those fierce races had been his position as Imaum, which confers divine command over those who belong to Islam. Ah, he was a gallant Chieftain, but cruel sometimes, ah yes, ah yes!"

"And your share in these adventures, Signor? You must have carried your life in your hands. It seems as if there can be no danger in the world, without some brave Englishman being in the thick of it."

Jemmy Nickols threw his blouse open and showed a fine broad chest, which he patted. "You are right there," he said, "it generally happens so. Ah, I was an active fellow in those days, and afraid of nobody but the Devil. And you may be sure, there was plenty of Him there. Ah yes, our nation is always on about its sailors; but to my mind the landsmen are every bit as good. However it was business that took me there, and not any pleasure in hardship.

"I had to make my own way in the world, and was tired of sitting on a stool in London. So I got a commission from the firm to Amsterdam, my father being one of the partners, and there I heard of something which sent me across Europe to meet a Russian merchant at Odessa. I found him quite a young man and very enterprising, which was not very often the case with them in those days. We became good friends, and he told me that he had heard from a brother of his, a Russian Officer then serving against Shamyl, of a wonderful discovery of emeralds they had made among the mountains of Daghestan. My knowledge of jewels

was greater than his, and he made me an offer which I could not resist, to pay all expenses, and give me all benefit of Russian protection, if I would join him in the search for this treasure; and if we found it, 25 per cent of all net proceeds.

"This was a wild - goose chase, you will say, but what young man of spirit is not a wild goose? We had a rough time of it and repented every day of our folly, but still went on with it. The Russians had an enormous army, spread far and wide, and whenever we could keep near them we got on well enough, but where we had to trust ourselves to native guides, with the help of some interpreter, it was scarcely ever safe to close our eyes. Let me see, it must have been in 1859, the last year of Shamyl's long defence. It has often been said that the Allies should have landed a large force in Western Caucasus, to help him during our Russian war. But it would not have done a bit of good. He was far away in the Eastern chain, and it would have been a stiffish march to get near him, I can tell you, and when we were there, we could have done no good. People talk of Caucasia as if it were a nation. I cannot tell you how many tribes there are; but for the most part they hate one another, and they speak about seventy languages, and cannot write any one of their own. How could you ever make a Nation of them? Russia might have conquered them a century ago, if she had been in earnest about it; and it is the best thing that could possibly happen to them now. Some little law and honesty, without any real oppression, is ever so much better than a lot of murderous freedom. And pretty freedom! Why in many of the tribes, the women have to do all the work, while the men lounge about, or rob their neighbours. My opinion is, Mr Cranleigh, that we

talk a lot of rot about civilisation. Nature won't have it everywhere; and she shows what she means, by the way she marks the places. And the worse they are in all common sense, the closer the natives stick to them.

"Well, we got a taste of the country, and the people that therein do dwell. My poor friend did not live to tell of it, neither should I, but for Prince Imar. It was in a rocky hole where you said to your self, 'Never shall I get out of this, and it must have been the Devil that got me into it,' when suddenly a score or two of thundering savages jumped out from the solid crag almost, and blocked all the horrible place both ways. I am not at all sure that they meant to hurt us; and I dare say they would have been satisfied to strip us, and rob us of our arms and money, and send our guides to the right about. But unluckily my Russian friend lost his head, and sent a bullet into the crowd in front. I cannot tell you any more than he could now, what happened in the rush that was made on us. Only that my dear friend lay dead upon his back, with his eyes upon the little blink of sky above the rocks, and that I like a fool fell upon him to protect him, when nobody could harm him any more, and a big fellow was going to give me my quietus when another man twice his size sent him spinning. All the others fell away, for he had come among them suddenly, and I heard them muttering 'Sûr Imar.'

"No Englishman shall come to harm, when I can help it. This gentleman looks like an Englishman,' he said, and I never was more ready in my life to acknowledge that. The rest of the lot could not make out what he meant, but they put down their weapons and looked at him. To cut a long story short, he took me, when the

war was over, to his own place and treated me as if I had been an invited guest, and I never knew such hospitality in all my life. I stayed there a long time, for it was not safe to travel; and there I saw the most beautiful lady that ever trod this earth. Her daughter is very beautiful; but you should have seen the Princess Oria, if you want to know the utmost that the Lord can do in the construction of the human race."

'Don't talk to me," I said, for I could not quite stand this. "You are like the rest who always talk of the past as superior to the present. But I beg your pardon, pray go on."

"I have seen a great deal of the world. Ah yes!" continued my new friend Nicolo; "and I have come to this conclusion, from all the instances within my knowledge -no very beautiful woman ever lives a life of happiness. I don't mean pretty girls of course, and all the fair women of ordinary charms. I mean the exceptional, the wonderful creatures, of perfect and enthralling loveliness, of whom there are not six in a century. They are as rare as a brilliant of three hundred carats; as yet I have only seen one, and that one was the Princess Oria."

"Then how can you argue about them all?" I enquired very reasonably. "You mean from history, and all that, I suppose. But what became of that wonder of the world?"

I should have known better than so to speak, when he was inclined to be pathetic. But absurd as it may seem, I was jealous of Dariel's own mother, when quoted against her.

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