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Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 5 out of 5

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gems in Europe had been under my charge, and I remembered also the
ingenious excuses by which this man had made himself familiar with
the cases in which they were kept. He was a rascal who was
planning some gigantic robbery. How could I, without striking my
own daughter, who was infatuated about him, prevent him from
carrying out any plan which he might have formed? My device was a
clumsy one, and yet I could think of nothing more effective. If I
had written a letter under my own name, you would naturally have
turned to me for details which I did not wish to give. I resorted
to an anonymous letter, begging you to be upon your guard.

"I may tell you that my change from Belmore Street to Norwood
had not affected the visits of this man, who had, I believe, a real
and overpowering affection for my daughter. As to her, I could not
have believed that any woman could be so completely under the
influence of a man as she was. His stronger nature seemed to
entirely dominate her. I had not realized how far this was the
case, or the extent of the confidence which existed between them,
until that very evening when his true character for the first time
was made clear to me. I had given orders that when he called he
should be shown into my study instead of to the drawing-room.
There I told him bluntly that I knew all about him, that I had
taken steps to defeat his designs, and that neither I nor my
daughter desired ever to see him again. I added that I thanked God
that I had found him out before he had time to harm those precious
objects which it had been the work of my life-time to protect.

"He was certainly a man of iron nerve. He took my remarks
without a sign either of surprise or of defiance, but listened
gravely and attentively until I had finished. Then he walked
across the room without a word and struck the bell.

"`Ask Miss Andreas to be so kind as to step this way,' said he
to the servant.

"My daughter entered, and the man closed the door behind her.
Then he took her hand in his.

"`Elise,' said he, `your father has just discovered that I am
a villain. He knows now what you knew before.'

"She stood in silence, listening.

"`He says that we are to part for ever,' said he.

"She did not withdraw her hand.

"`Will you be true to me, or will you remove the last good
influence which is ever likely to come into my life?'

"`John,' she cried, passionately. `I will never abandon you!
Never, never, not if the whole world were against you.'

"In vain I argued and pleaded with her. It was absolutely
useless. Her whole life was bound up in this man before me. My
daughter, gentlemen, is all that I have left to love, and it filled
me with agony when I saw how powerless I was to save her from her
ruin. My helplessness seemed to touch this man who was the cause
of my trouble.

"`It may not be as bad as you think, sir,' said he, in his
quiet, inflexible way. `I love Elise with a love which is strong
enough to rescue even one who has such a record as I have. It was
but yesterday that I promised her that never again in my whole life
would I do a thing of which she should be ashamed. I have made up
my mind to it, and never yet did I make up my mind to a thing which
I did not do.'

"He spoke with an air which carried conviction with it. As he
concluded he put his hand into his pocket and he drew out a small
cardboard box.

"`I am about to give you a proof of my determination,' said he.
`This, Elise, shall be the first-fruits of your redeeming influence
over me. You are right, sir, in thinking that I had designs upon
the jewels in your possession. Such ventures have had a charm for
me, which depended as much upon the risk run as upon the value of
the prize. Those famous and antique stones of the Jewish priest
were a challenge to my daring and my ingenuity. I determined to
get them.'

"`I guessed as much.'

"`There was only one thing that you did not guess.'

"`And what is that?'

"`That I got them. They are in this box.'

"He opened the box, and tilted out the contents upon the corner
of my desk. My hair rose and my flesh grew cold as I looked.
There were twelve magnificent square stones engraved with mystical
characters. There could be no doubt that they were the jewels of
the urim and thummim.

"`Good God!' I cried. `How have you escaped discovery?'

"`By the substitution of twelve others, made especially to my
order, in which the originals are so carefully imitated that I defy
the eye to detect the difference.'

"`Then the present stones are false?' I cried.

"`They have been for some weeks.'

"We all stood in silence, my daughter white with emotion, but
still holding this man by the hand.

"`You see what I am capable of, Elise,' said he.

"`I see that you are capable of repentance and restitution,'
she answered.

"`Yes, thanks to your influence! I leave the stones in your
hands, sir. Do what you like about it. But remember that whatever
you do against me, is done against the future husband of your only
daughter. You will hear from me soon again, Elise. It is the last
time that I will ever cause pain to your tender heart,' and with
these words he left both the room and the house.

"My position was a dreadful one. Here I was with these
precious relics in my possession, and how could I return them
without a scandal and an exposure? I knew the depth of my
daughter's nature too well to suppose that I would ever be able to
detach her from this man now that she had entirely given him her
heart. I was not even sure how far it was right to detach her if
she had such an ameliorating influence over him. How could I
expose him without injuring her--and how far was I justified in
exposing him when he had voluntarily put himself into my power? I
thought and thought until at last I formed a resolution which may
seem to you to be a foolish one, and yet, if I had to do it again,
I believe it would be the best course open to me.

"My idea was to return the stones without anyone being the
wiser. With my keys I could get into the museum at any time, and
I was confident that I could avoid Simpson, whose hours and methods
were familiar to me. I determined to take no one into my
confidence--not even my daughter--whom I told that I was about to
visit my brother in Scotland. I wanted a free hand for a few
nights, without inquiry as to my comings and goings. To this end
I took a room in Harding Street that very night, with an intimation
that I was a Pressman, and that I should keep very late hours.

"That night I made my way into the museum, and I replaced four
of the stones. It was hard work, and took me all night. When
Simpson came round I always heard his footsteps, and concealed
myself in the mummy-case. I had some knowledge of gold-work, but
was far less skilful than the thief had been. He had replaced the
setting so exactly that I defy anyone to see the difference. My
work was rude and clumsy. However, I hoped that the plate might
not be carefully examined, or the roughness of the setting
observed, until my task was done. Next night I replaced four more
stones. And tonight I should have finished my task had it not been
for the unfortunate circumstance which has caused me to reveal so
much which I should have wished to keep concealed. I appeal to
you, gentlemen, to your sense of honour and of compassion, whether
what I have told you should go any farther or not. My own
happiness, my daughter's future, the hopes of this man's
regeneration, all depend upon your decision.

"Which is," said my friend, "that all is well that ends well
and that the whole matter ends here and at once. Tomorrow the
loose settings shall be tightened by an expert goldsmith, and so
passes the greatest danger to which, since the destruction of the
Temple, the urim and thummim has been exposed. Here is my hand,
Professor Andreas, and I can only hope that under such difficult
circumstances I should have carried myself as unselfishly and as well."

Just one footnote to this narrative. Within a month Elise
Andreas was married to a man whose name, had I the indiscretion to
mention it, would appeal to my readers as one who is now widely and
deservedly honoured. But if the truth were known that honour is
due not to him, but to the gentle girl who plucked him back when he
had gone so far down that dark road along which few return.

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