‘How do you know it wasn’t him,’ says master very sharp. ’If you didn’t take it, how do you know who did?’
‘How do I know?’ I cried, forgetting for a moment who I was speaking to. ’Why, if you’d half a grain of sense among the lot of you, you’d know why I know it’s not him. If you felt to a young man like I feel to James, you’d know in your heart that he could not have done such a thing, not if there was fifty diamond necklaces found in fifty pockets on him at the same time.’
They said nothing, but Mr. Oliver chuckled in his collar till I’d have liked to strangle him with my two hands round his fat throat. And I went on—
’I’m as sure he didn’t do it as I am that I didn’t do it myself, and as he would have been that I didn’t if he had really loved me, as he said, instead of believing that I could do such a thing, and trying to save me with a black lie—God bless him for it.’
And James he never looked at me, but he said again, ’Don’t mind her—she’s off her head with fright about me. You send me off to prison as soon as you like, sir.’
And still none of the others spoke, but Mr. Oliver leaned back in his chair, and he clapped his hands softly as though he was at a play. ‘Bravo!’ he says, ‘bravo!’
And the others looked at him as if they thought he had gone out of his mind.
’It’s a very pretty drama, very nicely played, but now it’s time to put an end to it. Do you want to see the villain?’ he says to master, and master never answering him, only staring, he turned quite sharp and sudden and pointed to John as he stood near the door with his black eyes burning like coals. ‘You took it,’ said Mr. Oliver, ’and you put it in Mary’s box. Oh! you needn’t start. I know it’s true without that.’
John had started, but he pulled himself together in a minute. The man had pluck, I will say that. He spoke quite firm and respectful. ’And why should I have done that, sir, if you please, when all the house knows that I have been courting Mary fair and honest this two year?’
Mr. Oliver tapped his snuff-box and grinned all over his big smooth face. ’When you do your courting fair and honest, young man, you should be careful not to do it in the library with the window open. I was in the verandah, and I heard you threaten that she should never marry James, and that she should marry you; and that you would be revenged on her for her bad taste in preferring him to you.’
John drew a deep breath. ‘That’s nothing, sir, is it?’ he says to master. ’Every one in the house knows I have been sorry for a hasty word, and have been the best friends with both of them for these three weeks.’
Mr. Oliver got up and put his snuff-box on the table, and his hands in his trouser pockets. ‘You can send for the police, William,’ he said to master, ’because as a matter of fact, I saw the black-whiskered gentleman with the necklace in his hand. I did get home late to-night, but not so late as you thought, and I came in through the open door and was up in my dressing-room when that scoundrel sneaked into my wife’s room and took the necklace to ruin an innocent girl with. What a thorough scoundrel you are, though, aren’t you?’ he said to John.