When the last guest had gone, Mr Felix turned to me.
‘The play is over,’ said he. ’When I am gone, it will be repeated year after year at Christmas, at the Cripples’ Hospital. My will provides for that, and that will be my monument. But for a few years to come I hope to hold the entertainment here, in my own house. Come, you may take off your robe and wig and go in peace. I would fain have a talk with you, but I am tired, as perhaps you may guess. Go, then—and go in peace!’
Motioning the footman to fall back, he walked out with me and down the steps of the portico; but halted on the lowest step by the edge of the frozen snow, and with a wave of the hand dismissed me into the night.
I had gained the end of the street and the bridge that there spans the river before it occurred to me that I was carrying my bag, and— with a shock—that my bag still held the stolen jewels.
By the second lamp on the bridge I halted, lifted the bag on to the snow-covered parapet, thrust in a hand, and drew forth—a herring!
Herrings—red herrings—filled the bag to the brim. I dragged them forth, and rained handful after handful overboard into the black water. Still, below them, I had hopes to find the jewels. But the jewels were gone. At least, I supposed that all were gone, when— having jettisoned the last herring—I groped around the bottom of the bag.
Something pricked my finger. I drew it out and held it under the lamp-light. It was a small turquoise brooch, set around with diamonds.
For at least two minutes I stared at it, there, under the lamp; had slipped it half-way into my waistcoat pocket; but suddenly took a new resolve, and walked back along the street to the house.
Mr Felix yet stood on the lower step of the portico. Above him, still as a statue, a footman waited at the great house-door, until it should please his master to re-enter.
‘Excuse me, sir—’ I began, and held up the brooch.
‘I meant it for you,’ said Mr Felix quietly, affably. ’I gave precisely five pounds for it, at an auction, and I warn you that it is worth just thrice that sum. Still, if you would prefer ready-money, as in your circumstances I dare say you do,—he felt in his breeches pocket—’here are the five sovereigns, and—once more— go in peace.’
In the first quarter of the nineteenth century there lived at Dolphin House, Troy, a Mr Samuel Pinsent, ship-chandler, who by general consent was the funniest fellow that ever took up his abode in the town. He came originally from somewhere in the South Hams, but this tells us nothing, for the folk of the South Hams are a decent, quiet lot, and you might travel the district to-day from end to end without coming across the like of Mr Pinsent.
He was, in fact, an original. He could do nothing like an ordinary man, and he did everything jocosely, with a wink and a chuckle. To watch him, you might suppose that business was a first-class practical joke, and he invariably wound up a hard bargain by slapping his victim on the back. Some called him Funny Pinsent, others The Bester. Few liked him. Nevertheless he prospered, and in 1827 was chosen mayor of the borough.