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- A SIMPLETON - 30/84 -


"My dear, I'm not a jeweller: but it is very large and pear-shaped, and I see no flaw: I don't think you could buy it for less than three hundred pounds."

"Three hundred pounds! It is worth three hundred pounds."

"Or sell it for more than a hundred and fifty pounds."

"A hundred and fifty! It is worth a hundred and fifty pounds."

"Why, my dear, one would think you had invented 'the diamond.' Show me how to crystallize carbon, and I will share your enthusiasm."

"Oh, I leave you to carbonize crystal. I prefer to gladden hearts: and I will do it this minute, with my diamond."

"Do, dear; and I will take that opportunity to finish my article on Adulteration."

Rosa drove off to Phoebe Dale.

Now Phoebe was drinking tea with Reginald Falcon, in her little parlor. "Who is that, I wonder?" said she, when the carriage drew up.

Reginald drew back a corner of the gauze curtain which had been drawn across the little glass door leading from the shop.

"It is a lady, and a beautiful--Oh! let me get out." And he rushed out at the door leading to the kitchen, not to be recognized.

This set Phoebe all in a flutter, and the next moment Mrs. Staines tapped at the little door, then opened it, and peeped. "Good news! may I come in?"

"Surely," said Phoebe, still troubled and confused by Reginald's strange agitation.

"There! It is a diamond!" screamed Rosa. "My husband knew it directly. He knows everything. If ever you are ill, go to him and nobody else--by the refraction, and the angle, and its being three times and a half as heavy as water. It is worth three hundred pounds to buy, and a hundred and fifty pounds to sell."

"Oh!"

"So don't you go throwing it away, as he did. (In a whisper.) Two teacups? Was that him? I have driven him away. I am so sorry. I'll go; and then you can tell him. Poor fellow!"

"Oh, ma'am, don't go yet," said Phoebe, trembling. "I haven't half thanked you."

"Oh, bother thanks. Kiss me; that is the way."

"May I?"

"You may, and must. There--and there--and there. Oh dear, what nice things good luck and happiness are, and how sweet to bring them for once."

Upon this Phoebe and she had a nice little cry together, and Mrs. Staines went off refreshed thereby, and as gay as a lark, pointing slyly at the door, and making faces to Phoebe that she knew he was there, and she only retired, out of her admirable discretion, that they might enjoy the diamond together.

When she was gone, Reginald, whose eye and ear had been at the keyhole, alternately gloating on the face and drinking the accents of the only woman he had ever really loved, came out, looking pale, and strangely disturbed; and sat down at table, without a word.

Phoebe came back to him, full of the diamond. "Did you hear what she said, my dear? It is a diamond; it is worth a hundred and fifty pounds at least. Why, what ails you? Ah! to be sure! you know that lady."

"I have cause to know her. Cursed jilt!"

"You seem a good deal put out at the sight of her."

"It took me by surprise, that is all."

"It takes me by surprise too. I thought you were cured. I thought MY turn had come at last."

Reginald met this in sullen silence. Then Phoebe was sorry she had said it; for, after all, it wasn't the man's fault if an old sweetheart had run into the room, and given him a start. So she made him some fresh tea, and pressed him kindly to try her home- made bread and butter.

My lord relaxed his frown and consented, and of course they talked diamond.

He told her, loftily, he must take a studio, and his sitters must come to him, and must no longer expect to be immortalized for one pound. It must be two pounds for a bust, and three pounds for a kitcat.

"Nay, but, my dear," said Phoebe, "they will pay no more because you have a diamond."

"Then they will have to go unpainted," said Mr. Falcon.

This was intended for a threat. Phoebe instinctively felt that it might not be so received; she counselled moderation. "It is a great thing to have earned a diamond," said she: "but 'tis only once in a life. Now, be ruled by me: go on just as you are. Sell the diamond, and give me the money to keep for you. Why, you might add a little to it, and so would I, till we made it up two hundred pounds. And if you could only show two hundred pounds you had made and laid by, father would let us marry, and I might keep this shop-- it pays well, I can tell you--and keep my gentleman in a sly corner; you need never be seen in it."

"Ay, ay," said he, "that is the small game. But I am a man that have always preferred the big game. I shall set up my studio, and make enough to keep us both. So give me the stone, if you please. I shall take it round to them all, and the rogues won't get it out of ME for a hundred and fifty; why, it is as big as a nut."

"No, no, Reginald. Money has always made mischief between you and me. You never had fifty pounds yet, you didn't fall into temptation. Do pray let me keep it for you; or else sell it--I know how to sell; nobody better--and keep the money for a good occasion."

"Is it yours, or mine?" said he, sulkily.

"Why yours, dear; you earned it."

"Then give it me, please." And he almost forced it out of her hand.

So now she sat down and cried over this piece of good luck, for her heart filled with forebodings.

He laughed at her, but at last had the grace to console her, and assure her she was tormenting herself for nothing.

"Time will show," said she, sadly.

Time did show.

Three or four days he came, as usual, to laugh her out of her forebodings. But presently his visits ceased. She knew what that meant: he was living like a gentleman, melting his diamond, and playing her false with the first pretty face he met.

This blow, coming after she had been so happy, struck Phoebe Dale stupid with grief. The line on her high forehead deepened; and at night she sat with her hands before her, sighing, and sighing, and listening for the footsteps that never came.

"Oh, Dick!" she said, "never you love any one. I am aweary of my life. And to think that, but for that diamond--oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!"

Then Dick used to try and comfort her in his way, and often put his arm round her neck, and gave her his rough but honest sympathy. Dick's rare affection was her one drop of comfort; it was something to relieve her swelling heart.

"Oh, Dick!" she said to him one night, "I wish I had married him."

"What, to be ill-used?"

"He couldn't use me worse. I have been wife, and mother, and sweetheart, and all, to him; and to be left like this. He treats me like the dirt beneath his feet."

"'Tis your own fault, Phoebe, partly. You say the word, and I'll break every bone in his carcass."

"What, do him a mischief! Why, I'd rather die than harm a hair of his head. You must never lift a hand to him, or I shall hate you."

"Hate ME, Phoebe?"

"Ay, boy: I should. God forgive me: 'tis no use deceiving ourselves; when a woman loves a man she despises, never you come between them; there's no reason in her love, so it is incurable. One comfort, it can't go on forever; it must kill me, before my time and so best. If I was only a mother, and had a little Reginald to dandle on my knee and gloat upon, till he spent his money, and came back to me. That's why I said I wished I was his wife. Oh! why does God fill a poor woman's bosom with love, and nothing to spend it on but a stone; for sure his heart must be one. If I had only something that would let me always love it, a little toddling thing at my knee, that would always let me look at it, and love it, something too young to be false to me, too weak to run away from my long--ing--arms--and--year--ning heart!" Then came a burst of agony, and moans of desolation, till poor puzzled Dick blubbered loudly at her grief; and then her tears flowed in streams.

Trouble on trouble. Dick himself got strangely out of sorts, and


A SIMPLETON - 30/84

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