“Show the gentleman in,” said I.
Now the fact is, I had just then a few guineas in my chest, and you know what a price gold fetched in 1807. I dare say that for twelve months together the most of my parishioners never set eyes on a piece, and any that came along quickly found its way to the Jews. People said that Government was buying up gold, through the Jews, to send to the armies. I know not the degree of truth in this, but I had some five and twenty guineas to dispose of, and had been put into correspondence with a Mr. Isaac Laquedem, a Jew residing by Plymouth Dock, whom I understood to be offering 25s. 6d. per guinea, or a trifle above the price then current.
I was fingering the card when the door opened again and admitted a young man in a caped overcoat and tall boots bemired high above the ankles. He halted on the threshold and bowed.
“Joseph Laquedem,” said he in a pleasant voice.
“I guess your errand,” said I, “though it was a Mr. Isaac Laquedem whom I expected.—Your father, perhaps?”
He bowed again, and I left the room to fetch my bag of guineas. “You have had a dirty ride,” I began on my return.
“I have walked,” he answered, lifting a muddy boot. “I beg you to pardon these.”
“What, from Torpoint Ferry? And in this weather? My faith, sir, you must be a famous pedestrian!”
He made no reply to this, but bent over the guineas, fingering them, holding them up to the candlelight, testing their edges with his thumbnail, and finally poising them one by one on the tip of his forefinger.
“I have a pair of scales,” suggested I.
“Thank you, I too have a pair in my pocket. But I do not need them. The guineas are good weight, all but this one, which is possibly a couple of grains short.”
“Surely you cannot rely on your hand to tell you that?”
His eyebrows went up as he felt in his pocket and produced a small velvet-lined case containing a pair of scales. He was a decidedly handsome young man, with dark intelligent eyes and a slightly scornful— or shall I say ironical?—smile. I took particular note of the steadiness of his hand as he adjusted the scales and weighed my guinea.
“To be precise,” he announced, “1.898, or practically one and nine-tenths short.”
“I should have thought,” said I, fairly astounded, “a lifetime too little for acquiring such delicacy of sense!”
He seemed to ponder. “I dare say you are right, sir,” he answered, and was silent again until the business of payment was concluded. While folding the receipt he added, “I am a connoisseur of coins, sir, and not of their weight alone.”
“Antique, as well as modern?”
“In that case,” said I, “you may be able to tell me something about this”: and going to my bureau I took out the brass plaque which Mr. Pollard had detached from the planks of the church wall. “To be sure, it scarcely comes within the province of numismatics.”