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Jewel Mysteries: From a Dealer's Note Book

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Dark was falling from a dull and humid sky, and the lamps were beginning to struggle for brightness in Piccadilly, when the opal of Carmalovitch was first put into my hand. The day had been a sorry one for business: no light, no sun, no stay of the downpour of penetrating mist which had been swept through the city by the driving south wind from the late dawn to the mock of sunset. I had sat in my private office for six long hours, and had not seen a customer. The umbrella-bearing throng which trod the street before my window hurried quickly through the mud and the slush, as people who had no leisure even to gaze upon precious stones they could not buy. I was going home, in fact, as the one sensible proceeding on such an afternoon, and had my hand upon the great safe to shut it, when the mirror above my desk showed me the reflection of a curious-looking man who had entered the outer shop, and stood already at the counter. At the first glance I judged that this man was no ordinary customer. His dress was altogether singular. He had a black coat covering him from his neck to his heels—a coat half-smothered in astrachan, and one which could have been made by no English tailor. But his hands were ungloved, and he wore a low hat, which might have been the hat of an office boy. I could see from the little window of my private room, which gives my eye command of the shop, that he had come on foot, and for lack of any umbrella was pitiably wet. Yet there was fine bearing about him, and he was clearly a man given to command, for my assistant mounted to my room with his name at the first bidding.