DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND
by Henry Llewellyn Williams
"AWAKE, master dear, and hearken to the bad news I'll be telling you," were the first sounds that broke on the slumber of Gerald O'Donnell, one bleak November morning, as he lay on his somewhat circumscribed couch, in a small apartment of the Caserne at St. Germains.
"Who's that?" cried the young soldier, starting up, and shaking off the stout arm which had been applied to his shoulder.
"Who is it but meself, your own Lanty M'Carthy, that has made so bould as to rouse you, that you may get out of this with speed."
"Mille diables! what fool's errand are you come on now?"
"Whisht! master, darlint! or they'll hear us colloguing, and enter without sans ceremonie."
"Golly! the Grand Monarque, Louis the Superb, or my own King James could not break in on the privacy of an officer of the Irish Brigade."
"Much them devils below cares if you were the commander of his Holiness the Pope's army, they'd walk in, and make you walk out, and away wid you to that sweet place they call the Consurgery. I wonder which of the bla'guards that you dealt wid in Paris—and sartainly we left in such a hurry, I hadn't time to go and settle wid 'em, even if you'd had the means, so the fault was in the suddent order we got, and not yours;—I wonder which of them has demaned himself by sending the civil officers to take the body of one of the Boddyguards?"
"M'Carthy, we must manage to avoid them to day, at all hazards; it is my tour of duty at the palace, and to be absent from my post would cost me my commission."
"Och, then, good luck to them claps, serjeants as they call themselves, you're safe, my jewel, for the next four-and-twenty hours, anyway; they can't take you whilst on King's guard, so I'll lead them off the scent, whilst you get drest and make the best of your way to the parade. Onct there, and I'd like to see the murthering vilian of a catch-pole that would dare put the tip of his ill-looking little finger on the finger of your epaulette!"
Away hurried the faithful Lanty to mislead the myrmidons of the law, and as he belonged to a nation, celebrated in a thousand stories, for bothering bailiffs, his master was enabled to reach the parade ground without being interrupted.
Gerald O'Donnel was a cadet, belonging to one of the oldest families in Ireland.
Their adherence to the cause of James had deprived them of their paternal acres.
The head of the house, Sir Theophilus, after witnessing the fall of two of his sons on the memorable battle-field, near Boyne Water, had followed his exiled master to France.
Unable to support his youngest boy, he had gladly accepted for him a commission in the Irish Brigade, and shortly after sought a rofuge from worldly cares in the monastery of St. Denis.
Better would it have been had he watched over his high-spirited son, who with all the impetuosity of youth, soon involved himself in debt in "the good city of Paris," his handsome person and gaiety of manner easily obtaining credit from divers tailors, cutlers, hatters, plumassiers, glovers, and tradesmen generally.
Little did he dream, or little did he heed, that these obliging Messieurs, who protested that "they were only too much honored in receiving the commands of such a gentleman as the O'Donnel," would ever become the most inexorable duns.
Still less, indeed, did he imagine that they would become so attached to their gallant cavalier, as to desire to have him in safe custody, that they might occasionally gratify their eyes by peeping at the fine bird through the bars of his stone cage.
There was an air of triumph in his look and step, as O'Donnell marched his men to the Corps, of the Guard, that attracted the notice of many of the spectators, who had assembled, as was customary, to see the parade at the usual hour.
None knew the cause of this excitement, or guessed that the proud, almost haughty bearing would be humbled on the following morning, by a scurvy bailiff.
Left to himself, he struggled to shake off the painful thoughts attendant on his situation, and gladly caught at any object which was likely to divert him from contemplating the degrading fate his past imprudence now threatened him.
The arrival of a cumberous caleche, which drew up at a small door near the grand entrance of the palace, could not fail in his present mood, to attract his attention.
But when he beheld descend from the carriage a lovely girl, whom he had seen at a ball given by Louis XIV., in honor of James' birthday, he hastened to the spot to gaze upon that beauteous face, which had so often appeared in his dream.
An old man, muffled in a cloak, observing the advance of O'Donnell, drew the arm of his fair charge through his own, and hurried away toward the postern.
But ere they disappeared, a glance from a pair of brilliant eyes went to the heart of the young Irishman, and left him transfixed to the spot, gazing after the conquering fair, as though his looks could pierce the solid carve-work of the oaken door.
How long he would have retained this statue-like position it is impossible to tell.
Fortunately, the cry of "Aux armes!" roused him from his trance, and he hastened to tender military honors to the exiled King, who, attended by one gentleman only, left the palace on foot.
For many an hour the fair form O'Donnel had gazed on, banished from his thoughts the dreaded morrow; so absorbed, indeed, was he in delicious reveries, as to be scarcely conscious of the entrance of Lanty, and the various preparations he made for "the master's dinner."
"Shure and I thought I'd never get shut of them devils incarnate, but lave me alone in the long run."
"Oh, those eyes!" sighed O'Donnel.
"By me sould you may say that! I'll engage they'll not be able to see out of them till day's dawn to-morrow, for I've sewed 'em up."
"And what a form—!"
"They're both lying on the same form, at the caberay where I gave them the treat."
"And such a foot!"
"By Jagurs, but I got the length of it, any way," continued Lanty; "there now, I'll engage there's as pretty a guard-room dinner as heart can desire. A nice tureen of pottage dever, solfrit, and a rotee, but whither it's made of beef or pig, meself don't know, but I'll engage it smells elegant!"
"Charmante fillette!" sighed O'Donnel.
"Is it a fillet of vale?" asked Lanty. "Ah now, sit down and trys."
"I've no appetite," languidly answered the stricken deer. "After such a feast!"
"Och then, the divil a mouthful you've tasted this blissed day, for to my sartain knowledge we hadn't the vally of a tas dee caffey, or a petty pang in the house; but here, the dinner's purvided by the noble Louis: he ought to have been born in ould Ireland for that same ginerous notion. Musha, what ails you, master dear? take your nourishment;" and he poured out a bumper of Hermitage: "that's a fine glass of wine, I'll be bail, and will cheer your heart; pitch sorrow to ould Scratch, and don't think of them two."
"I can think of nothing else—one of them at least."
"Your mighty particular, any way!—och, I see, sure you mane the principal, and don't care for the follower; but your soup's cooling."
With a sigh deep enough to make a furnace ashamed of itself, the unhappy O'Donnel took his seat, and for a man over head and ears in debt, and steeped from crown to sole in love, contrived to make a very tolerable dinner, Lanty plying him with the generous wine, and saying with a look of delight:
"Two bottles is the riglar allowance, but I persuaded the mayter dotel to let me have an extra one, that I may make you a cup of spiced drink the last thing at night, to prevent your draiming about those you don't want to think on; so Master Gerlad dear, tho' I'll clear away and lave you, don't be in Oh dissyspwar while you're vissy vee by yourself, but drink your wine, whilst I go look after them sleeping beauties, the curse o' Crummel on their carkishes."
The shades of evening fell on the palace of St. Germains, O'Donnel had drawn his chair closer to the rude hearth, watching the crackling logs, and thinking on those bright eyes whose fire had proved so dangerous to his peace, when Lanty re-appeared with a face of bedevilment and mystery, whispering to his master.
"There's one without that has to spake to your honor, says its on pressing business, and only to yourself."
"Is it man or woman?" demanded O'Donnel, with some undefined hope springing to his heart.
"Why then, it's nayther the one nor the other, for by the same token it's a friar."
"Maybe a message from my father, or perhaps some half-starved monk craving charity—Lanty, admit the poor devil."
"The holy father is anything but starved an plase your honour, by the size of his girdle, but you will judge for yourself." Lanty opened the door, continuing, "Step this way, your riv'ence, the master will have speech wid you."
A tall and burly figure, clothed in the habit of the Franciscan order, advanced towards O'Donnel, and throwing back his cowl, exhibited a face redolent of good humour and good living; there was no trace of fast or penance upon its round oily surface; a tint of crimson spread over his capacious cheeks and hanging jowl, whilst the deeper hue of the mulberry invaded a nose somewhat resembling, in shape, the fruit from which the colour seemed derived.
"Benedicite, my son!" said the fat churchman, "I crave a short audience with you."
O'Donnel signed for Lanty to retire.
"Is it meself, such a night as this, to lave you widout something to drink? Share the holy father would like the least taste in life, to keep the could from the heart of him, whilst he's discoursing wid you."
Speedily he placed on table the cheering beverage, saying, "Share did'nt I tould you, the extrey bottle would be convenient?" and left his master to learn the tidings the priest had to communicate.
"My son," said the friar, with an air of mock solemnity, as he filled his glass, "you are blest in a servant—a religious turn of mind can never be better evinced than by a consideration for the comforts of the clergy." After taking the lengthened draught, he continued, "I am but a few days from our dear island, and have made this visit at the express desire of the jovial, open-hearted, hospitable lady Honeria, now with the saints."
"Dear old Aunt Norah dead!" said Gerald, smiling through tears at her pleasant image. "Then my father and myself are all now left upon this earth of the once powerful house of O'Donnel."
"Cheer up, my son, in you that house will revive, for you look, to say the least, a marrying man; but listen; your aunt interested me to deliver to you these two packets; the one contains a small bequest in gold; good soul! 'twas all she could save or spare after her donations to holy church; and the other, the only vestige left of the former glories of your face, the large diamond ring, which has for centuries been the ornament of the O'Donnel family, and which she, with much risk, secured about her own person, when the house of her fathers was given up to pillage, to those children of Sathan, the followers of Orange William. 'Tell Gerald,' were her parting words, 'to guard this ring in memory of days gone by.'"
"Her injunction shall be obeyed," said the young soldier, placing his hand affectionately on the casket, containing this unexpected treasure.
"My son," said the friar, "I now go to seek his sacred Majesty, with news from Ireland that will joy his heart. William of Nassau will not long usurp the seat of the anointed James Stuart. My mission to you is fulfilled, but my glass is not."
Replenishing his goblet, the friar drained it with a parting blessing on his countrymen, and took his leave.
"Surely never did money arrive more apropos: my debts in Paris do not exceed a hundred and seventy louis-d'or, and my poor aunt's supply amounts to a couple of hundred; and then this ring; it is indeed magnificent, and doubtless of great value. I'll wear it the moment I've paid those harpies. I'll wear it under her window to-morrow; they say there is an attraction in diamonds that ladies seldom resist."
Such was the cogitations of O'Donnel, whose heart was lightened of a load of care.
Lanty was half frantic when he learned his master's unexpected good fortune, called on all the saints in the calendar to bless the Lady Honora; and before the turret clock struck eight on the following morning, he had set off to Paris, in company with his troublesome friends of yesterday, empowered by his master to arrange the various claims existing against him.
O'Donnel, relieved from his duty, devoted more than usual attention to his toilet, and spite of the absence of his valet de chambre, sallied forth for a promenade in his best suit, his newest plume, and his easiest gauntlets; these he preferred, as he could not resist the pleasure of occasionally pulling off the left hand glove, to contemplate the sparkling ornament that adorned his little finger.
Defying the sharp air, and unwilling to conceal his finely formed figure in a cloak, O'Donnel paced up and down in front of the apartment he imagined to be occupied by the ensalver of his heart; but not a glimpse of her could he obtain.
Still he persevered in confining his walk to this portion of the terrace, and was somewhat annoyed at having his solitary promenade broken upon by a party of his brother officers, who joined him.
After exchanging his courteous salutations, without which, in those days friends could not meet, the new comers expressed their surprise at finding him so near the guard-room, after having been condemned to pass the last four-and-twenty hours within its walls.
He did not deign to comment on their various conjectures at his selection of so dull a quartier, but with a natural and pardonable vanity accepted a proffored prise de tabac for the express purpose of dazzling the eyes of his comrades.
No sooner did the pure water of this splendid bague glisten in the wintry sunbeams, than various exclamations of astonishment burst from the lips of his brother soldiers.
"Superbe!" "Magnifique?" "Lucky fellow!" "Won at play?" "A woman's cadeau?" "Plunder?" were the interjections and interrogations that beset him.
"Ni l'une ni l'autre," said O'Donnel, with an air of nonchalance; "part of my family jewels;" and walked away.
"He'd better pay that poor devil Monsieur Dechet, the marchand des gands, in the Rue St. Martin," said one of the group, "than strut about with his 'fomily jewels.'"
"Or get a decent chair or two, and a spare table, put into his quarters: the old ones have been burnt for lack of the price of fuel, and all that he may be better dressed than the rest of us. Such vanity and misery forsooth!"
These, and similar remarks, followed the departure of our hero.
Fortunately for the speakers they did not reach the subject of them, or they would have learned that he was the last man breathing who would suffer his name and character to be made a theme for levity; though having now the power to tell his accidental, unintentional, and unconscious slanderers, "By this time, gentlemen, my rascally creditors are all satisfied"—he might have contented himself with cautioning his friends not to meddle with his affairs in future.
Their observations overhead the day before must have been punished, for then they would have been unpardonably true.
Before sunset the honest Lanty returned from the capital, having executed his mission; he recounted to his master how completely he had astonished the various tradesman by his voluntary discharge of debts they had feared could only be procured by legal process.
It was whilst rendering an account of his stewardship that the eyes of the faithful domestic first fell upon the diamond ring.
"Saints presarve us! Master, jewel, but that is a magnificent bag. I'll engage Lewy Catose hasn't got such a one to wear on high days and holidays and bonfire nights; but och, what a thing it would be, if by bad look you were to lose it, or have it stolen from you, either by man or woman! My heart would break at such a misfortunate loss. Get a big iron box, Master Gerald, and lock it up, as though 'twas the apple of your eye—or—I have schame that will presarve it from harm's way, if you'll take a fool's advice."
"Out with it, Lanty!"
"Get one made as like it as one pea is to the other, only of false stones, and you can wear the rale thing by day, and the substitution at night. Devil a one will ever diskiver the differ; besides, you may be pushed for the ready coin some day, and you can raise a big sum upon that beauty, and yet make the world belave that 'tis still on the finger of ye."
Lanty so harped upon the expedience of having a fac-simile ring made, that his master acceded to the proposition, and sent the original to Paris for that purpose.
The next day found him traversing the terrace, full of the hope that he should get a glimpse of his charmer, but the same ill fortune befel him as before, she was invisible.
Day succeeded day, and still he failed in obtaining another sight of her whose image haunted his thoughts.
In due time his ring and its double reached him; the imitation was admirable, and the literal Lanty, on hearing his master express his satisfaction at the paste counterfeit, said:
"I wonder was it by baking or boiling they found out the knack of making such sparkling stones out of flour and water?"
The palace clock had chimed six, and Lanty was puzzling his brain with various conjectures as to what could detain his master so long from his dinner, when Gerald entered his barrack-room, his countenance bearing evidence of some recent excitement.
"Musha, then, 'tis meself that is glad to see you safe back this dark evening—but what ails you entirely? Something has happened to you, and oh, holy Paul, the ring's not on your finger; tell me, master, what's gone of it, and what's come of you, that your checks are like damask roses, and your eyes glisten like—what's lost for even I'm thinking."
"Fear nothing, Lanty, you shall know all. I was sauntering in the forest, this morning, tempted by the clear sky and frosty air, when I encountered his Majesty, alone; he greeted me with the most gracious condescension, and signified his pleasure to speak on a matter of some moment. It appears that the good Father who had brought me the late news from Ireland has given such details to the Royal James as renders the return of the Friar an object of the greatest consequence; but one obstacle prevented—the limited means of the Monarch did not enable him to dispatch the Friar on this important mission; and his Majesty, in lamenting the state of his coffers, without reserve inquired if I could devise some means to asist him in this emergency. Lanty, I have lent King James my ring."
"You'd better say gave, Master Gerald, dear, for sorrow the sight you'll ever get of it again."
"Psha! I have the sacred promise of James, that, as soon as Louis opens his treasury in his behalf, it shall be restored; and as a proof of especial favour, I have received a command to attend his Majesty this evening."
"The laste he could do, I'm thinking; you'll get a petty soupey, or maybe only a bisky and a glass of Osacray, for what was worth a hundred million of Ecuses."
Our young Hibernian was received with unusual distinction by the Monarch he had served.
A brilliant assemblage filled the suite of rooms, and as O'Donnel surveyed the various groups, he saw the face of her he had so often sought in vain.
The especial notice bestowed on him by the King induced the nobleman who acted as Chamberlain, in the little court of St. Germains, to proffer his services, should they be required, to obtain O'Donnel a partner for the dance, which would shortly commence.
Gerald eagerly inquired if his new friend knew the name of the lady leaning on the arm of an old gentleman of most forbidding aspect, and learnt that she was the niece of Monsieur Fernet, one of Louis XIV.'s private bankers; that Mademoiselle Angelique was well know to the Chamberlain, and that he would introduce O'Donnel to her for the first cotilion.
This was beyond the lover's most sanguine expectation.
The beauteous Angelique was led to the salon de danse by the enraptured soldier, and whether or no gratitude interfered with justice in the decision of James, as far as the cavalier was concerned, we cannot determine, but Gerald and Angelique he declared were the handsomest couple in the assembly.
We shall not attempt a description of what passed between the young people; we need scarcely say that O'Donnel, being an lrishman, made the best use of his time, and that the fair Angelique, without confessing that she had surrendered the citadel of he heart to the gallant besieger, permitted his applying to her uncle for an entree at their house, where he might try his chance of winning her favour.
Gerald was not the man to let a purpose cool; the following morning found him in the apartment of the banker; a passionate avowal of his love, and demand of leave to address Angelique, was received with the same cold blank look by the man of wealth as though two hearts were not concerned in the affair.
"Monsieur O'Donnel," said the banker, "a Lieutenant in the Irish Brigade, whose only wealth consists on a ring of some inconsiderable value, is not the match for my niece. I am surprised that you retain that bauble, learning, as I have done, that you are, or have been, encumbered with debt. Should you ever feel disposed to part with it, perhaps you will permit me to become the purchase; but on the other subject I must decline communication with you."
"Will you not allow me to receive my dismissal from Maam'selle Angelique? surely she should be the party to crush my hopes, and not you."
"Maam'selle Angelique is a giddy girl: here fortune is at her own disposal, 'tis true—that is"—he added, endeavouring to withdraw so important an admission—"that is, when she comes of age—with my consent: beside which, her respect for my judgment and knowledge of the world would at all times induce her to consult my wishes on a matter of importance. However, to change the subject—I've taken a fancy to your ring."
"Psha!" said O'Donnel, irritated by the manner of Fernet; "why talk about such a thing as this when a jewel beyond price is what I seek to possess?"
"Once more, pray let me beg your silence on that theme; for the rest, a thousand crowns must be of more consequence to you than a mere toy; a that price it is mine."
"That price," rejoined O'Donnel, "were about as much too low for the diamond this appears as it is too high for—paste."
"Paste, indeed!" echoed old Fernet; "come, come, I happen to know better Why King James wanted me to advance him a certain sum on that identical ring, but I never lend even on such terms."
"Well," laughed Gerald, "you may be a better lapidary than either his Majesty or myself; of course we know that no one would suspect him of an attempt to raise money on a paste ring—yet, if you really believed this diamond, why did you refuse the royal request? and why do you now offer me so mean a sum?"
"Perhaps," drily retorted the banker, "to bribe you out of your silly suit to my niece."
"You would fail, then, if you forced a diamond mine on me, in exchange for this—paste ring."
"Ha, ha," sneered Fernet, "you adheren to that story, fearful of being robbed of your only treasure; trust me it will be safer in my custody.
"At least you will not rob me of it, if you pay one thousand crowns.
"Which I will do," promptly answered he millionaire, eager to overreach this inconsequent; he seized a pen, and wrote, adding, "Give me your paste, and this order on my house in Paris is yours."
"My servant waits without, let him and one of your people witness the transaction," said O'Donnel, gravely.
"With pleasure," sniggered Fernet, calling in a clerk devoted to his interest, at the same moment that Gerald summoned Lanty.
"Here, Lucas," said the banker, "I give Monsieur O'Donnel one thousand crowns for the ring of which I told you."
The man smiled his felicitations at his master.
"Which I say is paste, Lanty," firmly uttered Gerald.
"Mark that, Mounseers," cried Lanty; "divil a harm to the master's character, if he takes the gould now—though 'tisn't as much as I'd say by his as offers, if the thing should be rale."
"That's my affair," said Fernet.
"Bien," added Gerald, mischievlously; "then let grasping obstinacy find out the mistake at leisure."
"When I call it paste," concluded Fernet, hastily withdrawing the ring from our soldier's finger, "then you may claim my nice and her dower, Sir; take my order.—Lucas, I have made a bargain!"
"May you always be as content with it as I am!" said O'Donnel; and pocketing the order, he walked away—followed by the exultant Macarthy.
That very evening Gerald was again sent for by the King. Louis, learning the strait into which his royal brother had been driven, had gently chidded him for not having applied to the friendship of France, and forced on him an addition to his usual allowance, which enabled James at once to reclaim and return the O'Donnel ring.
Next day, Gerald, again chatting with his fellow-soldiers, was joined by old Fernet:—our hero, aside, and in English, bade one of his friends rally him on the loss of his ring.
"Ha," commented the banker, rubbing his hands, "that diamond, Lucas was taken to a Paris jeweller, from whom I expect, every moment, to receive rather more than I gave you, Monsieur."
"More or less," said O'Donnel, "I told you it was paste."
"You did, knowing no better."
"Knowing, at least, that this answers my purpose quite as well," said the young soldier, withdrawing his glove.
"Diable!" exclaimed Fernet; "two rings, exactly alike?"
"In all but value," quote Gerald: "one for my King and myself, the other for Monsieur Fernet; and, considering the obligations under which his manner of receiving my proposal for his neice has laid me, it is natural to conclude that I should part with my family jewel to him for a third of its worth, with pleasure. The amount he offered did credit to his integrity; he scorns to take advantage of a brave man's poverty, at the very moment when he is baffling that man's dearest hopes."
"What mean you?" demanded Fernet; but are Gerald could reply, Lucas, on his way home, and closely followed by Lanty, accosted his master with,
"Oh, Monsieur, you have been insulted in my person, by that accursed jeweller; he says the ring is—"
"Paste," chorused Gerald, Lanty, and the bevy of officers.
"Paste?" repeated the dismayed Avaro.
"Yes, paste!" articulated Lucas.
"Bless me!" said Gerald, coolly; "were you young, and a man of rank, Sir, I ought to take satisfaction for this doubt of my word, given you before two witness. At it is, I suppose you know that your attempt at—I may call it—defrauding me of my diamond, here, has placed your reputation entirely at my mercy."
"That is has!" chimed in the O'Donnclites.
"Och, the negur!" shouted Lanty, "cotched in his own trap."
"Of course!" continued Gerald, "I shall feel it my duty to apprize both our sovereigns of the facts, lest they should imagine me capable of passing counterfeits. It will be nothing new for a grey negociant, a merchand, to have at tempted a miserly transaction; but the name of an officer of the Irish Brigade must not suffer injustly."
"Certainly not," coincided Gerald's amused compeers, while Fernet and Lucas stood
"Meet statues for the Court of Fear."
"It is paste, then," sighed the aged man.
"If you admit that," took up the lover, "you know what follows; you said, before your own man and mine, that when you called it so I might claim your niece and her dower."
"You did that, ould Jew—as I am ready to testify," said Lanty.
"Poo," cried one of Gerald's friends, "the canaille care nothing for breaking their words; if they were men of honour no withnesses were needful."
"Monsieur O'Donnel," pleaded Fernet, attempting to laugh, "I own that even in your candour you have been too deep for me; honesty, it seems, is the best policy, after all. I assure you my only wish was to procure, at the highest sum I could afford, a present fit for my dear Angelique—what I have purchased of you is unworthy of her acceptance."
"Oh, sir," said Gerald, "this statement accords but ill with that of your having striven to sell the ring. Its original shall be Angelique's when she is mine; pray wear the copy yourself, for my sake."
The merriment of the juvenile hearers was now so boisterous that the uncle was fain to retreat, leaning on the arm of the lover—and hoped to hush up a story so little to his own advantage, by bestowing Angelique and her fortune on the gallant son of Erin; but no sooner was she the "fast married" Madame O'Donnel, than Lanty, and wags of a higher grade, including Louis XVI, himself, revived the tale, to the constant annoyance of Monsieur Fernet, who, to his dying day, had to bear the sobriquet of THE DIAMOND MERCHANT.