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The Argosy Vol. 51, No. 4, April, 1891

And Captain Ducie was rather gladdened thereby


Nevertheless,

he did not quite do that. He kept up his habit of seeing and noting little things, but without any definite views as to any ulterior benefit that might accrue to him therefrom. Perhaps there was some vague idea floating in his mind that Fortune, who had served him so many kind turns in years gone by, might befriend him once again in this matter--might point out to him the wished-for clue, and indicate by what means he could secure the Diamond for his own.

The magnitude of the temptation dazzled him. Captain Ducie would not have picked your pocket, or have stolen your watch, or your horse, or the title-deeds of your property. He had never put another man's name to a bill instead of his own. You might have made him trustee for your widow or children, and have felt sure that their interests would have been scrupulously respected at his hands. Yet with all this--strange contradiction as it may seem--if he could have laid surreptitious fingers on M. Platzoff's Diamond, that gentleman would certainly never have seen his cherished gem again. But had Platzoff placed it in his hands and said, "Take this to London for me and deposit it at my bankers'," the commission would have been faithfully fulfilled. It seemed as if the element of mystery, of deliberate concealment, made all the difference in Captain Ducie's unspoken estimate of the case. Besides, would there not be something princely in such a theft? You cannot put a man who steals a diamond worth

a hundred and fifty thousand pounds in the category of common thieves. Such an act verges on the sublime.

One of the things seen and noticed by Captain Ducie was the absence, through illness, of the mulatto, Cleon, from his duties, and the substitution in his place of a man whom Ducie had never seen before. This stranger was both clever and obliging, and Platzoff himself confessed that the fellow made such a good substitute that he missed Cleon less than he at first feared he should have done. He was indeed very assiduous, and found time to do many odd jobs for Captain Ducie, who contracted quite a liking for him.

Between Ducie and Cleon there existed one of those blind unreasoning hatreds which spring up full-armed and murderous at first sight. Such enmities are not the less deadly because they sometimes find no relief in words. Cleon treated Ducie with as much outward respect and courtesy as he did any other of his master's guests; no private communication ever passed between the two, and yet each understood the other's feelings towards him, and both of them were wise enough to keep as far apart as possible. Neither of them dreamed at that time of the strange fruit which their mutual enmity was to bear in time to come. Meanwhile, Cleon lay sick in his own room, and Captain Ducie was rather gladdened thereby.

* * * * *

M. Platzoff rarely touched cigar or pipe till after dinner; but, whatever company he might have, when that meal was over, it was his invariable custom to retire for an hour or two to the room consecrated to the uses of the Great Herb, and his guests seldom or never declined to accompany him. To Captain Ducie, as an inveterate smoker, these _seances_ were very pleasant.


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